Meanderings Part 2: Setting

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Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« on: April 17, 2011, 07:12:33 PM »
I also really like the Lem quote you posted. Solaris is one of my favourites, the book and both movies, all for the same reason, all for different reasons.

I find that the book is one of the best representations of human contact with an incomprehensible alien species/society/intelligence/whatever. Humans have spent 100 years trying to understand Solaris, to no avail, and then they shoot some rays into it and their lives are destroyed in a matter of days by concrete but incomprehensible phenomena.

I was already thinking it would be nice to play a game in the AW style, but set during the/an apocalypse, where there's still society and technology, but that contact with something Other begins to break that down. What happens to individuals standing on that line?

The Other could be technology/the singularity, it could be Lovecraftian aliens like in CthulhuTech, it could be psychic vampires, it could be an alien race on the other side of the psychic maelstrom who have used up all their resources and now want to use up humanity's. A whole range of stuff could be handled, from cyberpunk cliches to psychic Japanese schoolgirls fighting ghosts to grimdark spaceships lurking around inhospitable planets to government secret agents in disposable bodies sent to do undercover work in breakaway religious sects at the cusp of inhumanity.


Theoretically, we experience reality on three levels. Obviously, there is the material universe, the primary framework that all other internal frames of reference are created to deal with. That's Level 1.

But there is also information, especially important in this digital age. As this is not necessarily a physical thing, but it also does not exist within a person's mind, it is termed Level 0. This is partly to acknowledge it's virtual aspects, as users can be fooled into thinking a digital existence is just as concrete as a material existence.

There is also the collected experiences that happen inside the mind. This is Level 2. Each person has their own Level 2 inside themselves, they share Level 1, and they require special skills and technologies in order to access Level 0.

However, our work has revealed new horizons, just as the Industrial and Digital Revolutions expanded the physical limits of the human body and mind. Level 2 can be shared. Is this the cause of our next discovery, or the result? Even more exciting is the possibility of a still-theoretical Level 3. We believe that Level 3 is the natural home of another world entirely, undreamed of by humanity.

Although our communal Level 2 experiments are still at the preliminary stages, we are confident our results are real and can be replicated by others. We have decided to attempt to contact Level 3, to create a bridge between it and Level 2, with the eventual hope of bridging Levels 3 and 1, if our findings are correct.



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Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2011, 07:53:43 PM »



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Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2011, 11:30:59 PM »
I feel like the setting I have in my head, the bridge is something that's happened in recent history. Yesterday, last century, whatever. And it's not just to level 3 to 2, but slowly worming its way into the walls, in the air, in sky, thicker in some places and thiner in others. Slowly but relentlessly replacing our nature with theirs.

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #3 on: April 18, 2011, 12:38:27 AM »
I had a mechanic for that, actually. Each character picks a background, as it relates to the "invaders," and that sets up a countdown clock.

Normies: Your life was normal, then this weird shit happened to you.

Victims: You got screwed over bad, now you've been recruited, or volunteered, or you really want to get into this shit and make a difference. Or just get revenge.

Conspirators: You've been involved in covering this shit up for most of your professional life. Most people don't know about, and your whole deal was supposed to be making sure it stayed that way.

Soldier: You've been fighting against the darkness, on the front lines. It doesn't get anymore real than this.

For every normie, add 0 to countdown. For every victim or conspirator, add 1 to the countdown. For every soldier, add 3 to the countdown.

Check the countdown and see how bad the "apocalypse" is:

0 or 1. Normal: The world is completely normal.
2. Unravelling: Strange things have begun to happen.
3. Alarms: Mass concern over strange happenings, public outcry.
4. Disaster: At least one major disaster has occurred.
5. War: All-out war is a normal state of affairs.

So now, what does "normal" mean? That's totally another conversation the group has to have.

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #4 on: April 18, 2011, 01:25:55 AM »
Oh, and I imagine that extra settings would be termed Level 1.x as they are invented and categorized.

Like, dudes fighting with cars is still human-scale, so it's Level 1, but vehicular chase and pursuit is a full magnitude above humans running, so that could be Level 1.1 with ground vehicles being 1.1.1 and jets and airplanes being 1.1.2.

Piloting giant robots would be Level 1.2, as long as they are large enough that humans cannot interact physically in a meaningful or competitive way.

Commanding a submarine avatar could be Level 1.3, and then if that avatar is of enormous size, it becomes 1.3.2, and Level 1.3 becomes the marine classification.

That's if your campaign actually has any of those arenas. It might not, but in any case, the designations are cute.



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Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2011, 05:38:46 PM »
Yeah they are cute.

I think maybe we're better served talking about the systems as a whole in a common, non-colour language. I've been working with colourful language as it were, which makes it confusing to talk about the nuts and bolts.

However, I see the outcome as two or more 'editions' where the design choices have been made to serve that particular colour/setting. One where it's closer to a 'Delta Green' sort of thing; maybe a little heavier on the subsystems; nearer in the future. That's the Johnstone edition or whatever it comes to be called. The other, further in the future; more cyber; more magical realism; striped down mechanics. That'd be my edition.

We both work on both, more or less - two similar projects with different outcomes, but both within the same problem space. 

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2011, 11:32:45 PM »
At the very least, discussion helps us flesh out each of our ideas -- and figuring out what you don't want to include is also important.

The most important thing to me is to get a functional hack that takes place during the/an "apocalypse" (so the PCs can watch society crumble), and then to play it. Which at least means I need character sheets, and once you have that, you might as well make a book, too, right? (oh, ha ha).

Anyway, with the use of setting dials and stuff, I suppose it might be possible to produce a version that accommodates exactly what you want out of this, but then again, it would have all the stuff I want attached to it as well, which could be a hindrance.

For now, we should do like a carpenter I used to work for says: If you just start nailing pieces of wood together, eventually, you'll have a house.



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Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2011, 01:20:27 AM »
I DONT think it's hindrance!

Like the peripheral moves in AW or what have you. Having too much is rarely a problem.

Besides, working on two games in tandem has already helped me out a bunch. I'm sure we'll both get more out of it in the future.

I think the "Invasion" aspect is what will tie the two together. What sort of frame work that handles that will be pretty important and significant.

Also, I agree that it's set during the apocalypse. Various dials can be set that'll work out how 'cyber' things are. But cyber's always just been a device for fucking with magic and memory. What flavour the weird comes in is significant, but mechanically not so much. Starting with the Other as the focus, we have a game that we can work on. The setting materials/playbooks/custom moves are add-ons.

In sense of colour-first design, the colour here is really the apocalypse via the invasion of the Other.
« Last Edit: April 19, 2011, 08:41:43 PM by Nathan Orlando Wilson »

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2011, 07:48:58 PM »
Okay, let's talk about the apocalypse, right after I post this dial proposal for the "special effects" in the game.

A dial and checklist to set how crazy the future is.

(brief recap: L0 is information/data; L1 is the physical world; L2 is the internal mental world; L3 is the alien world)

This dial is to determine the limits of shared experience (crossover at Level 2):

R-1   No sharing of Level 2. This is rated –1 because it is boring and you shouldn't pick it for your game. If the alien culture begins to destroy human culture and doesn't offer any profoundly new experience to humans, it would be a pretty clear fight, like WWII. This game should be like the Cold War and the War on Drugs combined.

R0   Level 2 experiences can be reduced to data (Level 0). So, recordable sense-info, stored digitally. Memories can be recorded and played back later. Like the dude who, after breaking up with his girlfriend, just wallows in his recordings of them having sex all day every day. This also makes skill chips possible, and HUD displays, and being able to access nodes that are somebody else's experiences and memories, or accessing nodes that are recordings of your own experiences.

R1   Remote viewing of Level 2 is possible. You can have avatars and other bodies and stuff and your mind/perceptions is mobile throughout Level 1 (physical reality). If this is all psychic and mystical, you probably can't record it and have Rating 0 stuff. If this is technological in nature, I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be recordable. If you're remotely controlling another body, the signals going between your two bodies have to be reduced to information, and that can be saved for later.

R2   A person's Level 2 becomes a navigable world, and ideas become concrete. So you can insert your Level 2 into someone else's Level 2. This is like Inception, The Cell, uhmm, what else? You can make an argument for mental realms that aren't one person's mind, so like The Matrix or the astral plane, as well. If this is totally psychic, you might not be able to get Ratings 0 and 1. If this is tech, you should be able to record it, though I can see a situation where you still can't project your mind into a physical avatar, just a dream-avatar.

R3   At this rating, direct telepathy and mind-meld are possible. This is rated at 3 because it is part of the apocalypse. Once a few dozen people can transfer their brains into the body of a giant squid and share their minds in one body, they become antithetical to normal human civilization. So they are one of the destructive elements. Much like the singularity happens and overnight civilization is unrecognizable, or whatever. They might be much, much happier, but we here in normal-land cannot understand them and feel betrayed and abandoned by their departure. If this is psychic, like the scene in Zardoz where the guy yells "No! I will not join you on second level!" there might not be avatars—although in Zardoz they were able to play back Sean Connery's memories on a tv screen, so there was some recording going on there.

That's still a bit awkward, but I guess it sorta works to set what kind of interactions are possible due to advanced human technology, and contact with the Other, the alien civilization that precipitates the apocalypse.

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2011, 07:50:48 PM »
And a checklist:

___ These rating is made possible by normal human technology.***
___ These rating is made possible in alien territory (Level 3 topology).
___ These rating is made possible by alien devices (Level 3 technology).
___ These rating is made possible in people who have prolonged contact with alien influence (Level 3 morphology).

So, you might be able to get full mind-meld inside alien territory (R3), but you can only record experiences with alien technology (R0). And if you spend time in alien territory, you can develop the psychic ability to project your mind into other peoples' bodies (R1) and other peoples' dreams (R2). As an example of setting up how any particular game works.

So, let's say you want to play a combination of Inception and Lacuna. Lacuna mentions monitors, but let's go with the movie for a bit here. So, there's no R0; shit can't be recorded. There's no R1, either—you can only project your mind into someone else's dream-world. So, R2 is made possible by technology. To connect with the first contact theme, we'll say the device is alien technology. So, alien technology produces R2 effect only. Bam, done. What if we want Matrix-style skill chips? Then we say human or alien technology makes possible R0 effects.

And maybe there will be some rules advice for how to do all that stuff in the game, different rules for each rating and whatnot.

*** Actually, I'm somewhat leary of even allowing normal human technology doing much, but if say alien tech allows R2 and R3, then human tech allowing R0 and R1 should be okay. But if all your effects from R0 to R2 are provided by human tech, the apocalypse part of the game is kinda cut-out and you're just playing cyberpunk. Which tech causes R3 effects doesn't matter that much, because it's inherently alien.

I should also note that this dial doesn't really address stuff like your Moth mechanics, it just addresses the Levels 0/1/2/3 dichotomy that I set up to correspond to the arenas that the Deep stat uses.



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Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2011, 10:40:16 PM »
Yeah, that could work.

I think some of the elements need to be broken down a little more, and they don't need to be progressive.

Sensory Compression: Personal experiences can be reduced to data, stored, replayed and transmitted.

+Possible applications: Experience Playback,  Ability or Knowledge Uploading / Skill Chips/ Rapid Learning.

Sensory Broadcasting and Receiving: Full sensory experiences can be sent and received.

+Possible applications: Augmented Reality, Sensory Experience Hacking or Jamming, Remote Viewing, Remote Control (of other bodies or machines).

Mind Transfer: Cognition can be removed from a particular body and stored elsewhere.

+Possible applications: Mind Uploading, Ego Back-ups, Resleeving, Strong AI.

Psychic Landscapes: Mental realms or virtual realities are places were one can go.

+Possible applications: Shared Virtual Reality, Dream-sharing, Inception, Solipsism, Quiet.

Hivemind: Communal cognition and blended minds.

+Possible applications: Ending the World.

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2011, 11:45:51 PM »
Yeah, exactly!

Mind Transfer: Cognition can be removed from a particular body and stored elsewhere.

+Possible applications: Mind Uploading, Ego Back-ups, Resleeving, Strong AI.

You may note this technology was a conspicuous absence from all the stuff I wrote up. This is like the main conceit of Eclipse Phase yeah? I have a lot of problems believing in this one. The implications are pretty much just as "destructive" to society as mind-share, probably more so.



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Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2011, 12:01:14 PM »
Yeah, I'm with you on that one.

I was gonna say which one's I wouldn't want included in my setting that was one of them.

It can go in the category of the eschaton with the Hivemind.

On that note, from what I've studied in school about cognition and embodiment, it's likely impossible in the eclipse phase sense. Cognition is coupled with the body and its environs. Thinking that its possible to separate the two relies on an odd physicalist dualism: everything is mechanical meat but only some of that meat has a soul, a soul that we can make a perfect copy of. If it is possible, the continuity of consciousness and the Chinese Room problems start to rear their heads in a big way. Furthermore, the technological sophistication that would make it possible is probably a good ways off.

Also, I don't really find the whole thing that interesting unless you start to really in though the implications.

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #13 on: April 20, 2011, 11:57:07 PM »
Right. We're not doing a whole lot of disagreeing here.

Re: Meanderings Part 2: Setting
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2011, 12:17:56 AM »
So, this is probably the kind of stuff that goes in the MC's chapter on Fronts or whatever. How do you go about building the Apocalypse/the Eschaton?

The end of the world is here. Some sort of alien culture from another dimension has come to invade the earth. They are alien life forms. They are demons from hell. They are inhuman gods. They are angels come to take the holiest among us to heaven. They are beings from beyond time and space. Whatever they are, they are actively hostile to humanity's way of life and are working to destroy it. Blah blah blah.

Damaging how?

They break the rules of the natural world. Physics, gravity, the laws of matter and thermodynamics, energy flows differently. This could be pretty extreme, or just really subtle. Maybe these creatures just work by a different set of rules, maybe they can transfer this ability to people, maybe their natural environment works by different rules and their "terraforming" or resculpting humanity's environment so they can live in it—and we can't.

They destroy the physical infrastructure that people live in and rely on. Maybe it's just war and they bomb the shit out of cities. Maybe they corrode metal and steel, or pollute the water or the air. Maybe they disrupt the flow of electricity, and knock out internets and human tech.

This could also maybe be two different categories: built environment and biosphere. So maybe in one game they only destroy human tech, and in another, they just poison the environment. Or if they tend to cripple humans or manifest as a type of disease, that could be a third sub-category or new category. The body as an infrastructure that can be attacked.

Social Constructions
They destroy state powers, governments, capitalist economies. They make it so that human governments can't function anymore. Or maybe they destroy things like love and friendship, and make it so that people can't trust each other anymore. Or maybe they destroy language altogether, so people can't communicate with each other at all.

They destroy people's minds, their conceptions of reality and themselves. They destroy perceptions, cognition, reason, willpower, intellect.

Those are some of the arenas the MC can attack the PCs in, to create an interesting and unique Other.