Okay, I am on the path to a better Verge. I wrote the game over two years ago and it has been in the back of my mind ever since. I have made notes, drawn sketches, collected pictures and it even inspired my 2009 NaNoWriMo novel. That’s a lot of ideas, and the concept of the game has grown, shifted, blurred and changed in numerous ways. So, the first thing I needed to do was get a clear picture of what the game is actually about.
The original inspiration for the game was the word “fantasypunk”, and it was my intention to create a fantasy city setting with a strong cyberpunk edge to it. Page 6 of the original rules states:
It is a game of little people in a big city, doing what they can to survive in a world where a lot more is going on than they are ever likely to know or understand.
That’s a pretty good start. In fact, all of page 6 has some pretty good statements about what fantasy and cyberpunk are. As I’m striving for a fantasy-cyberpunk, my notes and work on a cyberpunk game are worth a look, too. I blogged about that a while ago.
Now, that’s a good starting point. The game is about individuals, unbeatable odds, weird magic or technology, and getting what you deserve.
The next step was to go back to the source and re-read the original 24-hour game.
There’s a lot there that I like, but a few things I am going to scrap straight away – the references to 18th Century France, for instance, just don’t sit right with my “Dickensian London / Dodge City” references. I also want to dial the fantasy elements right up. No elves and dwarves, but massive shaggy trolls that are used like cart horses, a unionised goblin underclass, and the living dead that have their mouths sewn closed and their nostrils plugged so their spirit cannot escape.
There are some things that have niggled at me for the last couple of years, too. The main ones are food, and energy. The original rules suggest catacombs of fungus that feed the populous, which I imagine are supplemented by animal produce and soylent green (ahem). But I just don’t know how these people have survived without serious nutritional issues! The second concern is how the city powers everything for hundreds (if not thousands) of years, without completely undermining the city in search of coal. There are a few solutions to this: (a) mining outposts exist beyond the cage (plausible, lots of adventure opportunities, but flies in the face of the “no gates” setting); (b) natural gas or oil wells supply the power to everything (plausible, allows for “gaslight” feel, still industrial age feel); or (c) bio electricity is used, drawing on the abundance of humanity that lives in the city (I am thinking Matrix-style “human batteries”, lends a real element of the fantastic).
Where to now?
I have some a pretty good idea of what the city looks like now. Equal parts Dickensian London, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and Gotham City. I also have a solid concept of what characters are likely to do. To be honest, both of these are pretty clearly defined in the rules as they stand. Beyond that, I want to expand on the city / background description and add some more crunch to the rules. I don’t want to go down the path of long weapon and equipment lists, but I am looking to have a more detailed combat system, and tweak characters / character generation. Onwards!
Just some thoughts to consider:
“the living dead that have their mouths sewn closed and their nostrils plugged so their spirit cannot escape”
How do they communicate? What do they consume, and how?
“natural gas or oil wells”: Swamps do generate a lot of gas because of the biodegradation. The is also a component (I don’t know the english name for it) which is pretty similar to coal, but burns less efficiently. The catacombs would be a great place to have a swamp like environment in them. 🙂 Also, there could be a kind of imaginary fungi, which they harvest, dry, and use as a kindling material.
Altogether, the idea is great, can’t wait for the next article 🙂
How do they communicate? With mime! You don’t like undead? Street performers are wierd? What could be worse? Undead street performers!
Now I almost laughed out loud 🙂
You don’t have to worry to much about realistic food problems for a fantasy setting; for instance, when you are describing huge trolls & undead slaves you’ll only need a magical explanation for food/materiel source & voilá!