ETA: Some helpful links at the bottom of the page.
I’ve been reading through Steven Erikson’s excellent Malazan Book of the Fallen series. I know every fantasy reader prefers their fiction a little differently, so I won’t try to convince you of anything other than this: I think he is an excellent writer, and the series has really hit home with me. It makes me want to create something as…meaningful I guess. Something as epic.
Hopefully, one day, I’ll get my act together and write – not to be an author professionally, but to satisfy that desire within me. Until then though, I take some pride in having helped with something similar. And I hope that, with the help of some of you, I might do the same again. Ready for the pitch? Here it comes…
Eight and a half years ago, while looking into some lesser known RPG’s, I visited the website of one of my then favorites, The Legend of Yore. It was, in creator Brennan Taylor’s words, his own personal fantasy heartbreak (maybe I yearn for my own?). You can find the story behind its inception here. After its publishing, perhaps as a way to drum up sales, or just to share and enjoy his creation, or maybe to get help to flesh it out, or maybe all of the above, Brennan created The Interactive History of the Known World. A narrative game, using simplified FUDGE rules, where each player took control of one nation in the LoY setting (“The Known World”). Turns were once every two weeks, written in narrative style, with bonus actions given for extra in character narratives, with each turn equalling a season. Brennan collected our turns, rolled the dice, and gave us a basic narration of the results, along with some random NPC events elswhere in the world. We wrote stories around these and our new actions, and two weeks later, it happened again.
All told the game ran for 30 months. I did two seperate stunts in the game that lasted perhaps two thirds of that. And it was truly epic. Since the dice controlled all in what was an essentially unweighted fashion, we could make our characters as powerful or as weak as we wanted – it all balanced out in the end. Child savant Archmages, reincarnated Witch-Kings, legendary Generals. The narrative stood seperate from the mechanics – and the interplay between the two – the tension – helped shape the stories. After awhile though, the stories bogged down because we discovered some flaws in the mechanics..and the players. Brennan maintained that he was too busy to continue, but I always suspected it was for a different reason entirely. Our shared narrative had become a never ending war. Because we had no mechanics to actually “resolve” anything other than the actions we took, nobody ever died, nobody was ever truly defeated. You could suffer legendary losses on the fields of battle…and devote all your actions to war the next season, with close too, if not the same, chance of victory as you had three months before without a scratch on your grand army. Nobody took any cultural, or trade related actions. Everything was war. Players wanted to keep their actions secret. In the belly of the shared story, we had birthed a monster of a deformed game.
As this became more obvious, I hammered out a set of rules to deal with the problems that had cropped up. The players looked over them, some things were adopted, some not. But in the end, it was too little too late, and I knew it. The doors on the game closed for good. When I finished my most recent Erikson read (Memories of Ice, for the fans out there), all of this was playing through my head. I dusted off the copy of the rules I had written, and began making changes from a half-decade’s worth of additional gaming experience, and reflection.
So if you’ve followed me this far down the dusty trail…you’ve probably guessed where this is headed.
I want…need…to do this again. With some people who are willing to, together, write a story with me. An epic story, with epic characters. Where empires can rise and fall, players can come and go, but the story keeps churning. Do you have the itch too? The system is read, and kinks can always be worked out as we go. We just need a place to put our stories, and some people to write them. Is that you? Let me know…
Link to the archives of the Interactive History game: http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/theknownworld/
Link to Brennan Taylor’s design company, Galileo Games: http://galileogames.com/
Link to Brennan’s Galileo Forum on IPR: http://www.indiepressrevolution.com/forum/index.php?board=12.0
Email where you can let me know if you have interest in playing: silver elf 4 at aol . com (no spaces, and replace the “at”, obviously).