Colours In Conflict - Passionate Gods 15 Minutes In To The Post Apocalypse

  • 12 Replies
Hey all! So this is a hack that I've been writing on and off roughly since I found Apocalypse World. The number of times I've scrapped all text and started anew I can no longer count. I figured at the very least I would stop hiding it in the bowels of my hard drive, even if it's in the particularly rough form it is now. Enjoy!


Colours In Conflict

Colours In Conflict is a game about the end of the world. Not leading up to it, but what happens right after. Maybe you saw the end coming, maybe you didn't, but it doesn't matter. One way or another the mists of oblivion, aether, swept in and destroyed everything except small scraps now floating in a sea of nothing. There's hope though. You play beings of deific stature, passionate creatures of great power: Malari, or Painters. The now empty world is your canvas, and primal elements and emotions are your media. As you find Keys, remnants of what was, you can bring back what was or use the nascent power to create something new. That said, aether still encroaches and threatens to take away that which you work so hard to return to the world, and the light of truth that burns within you may be the only thing that can keep it back.

Inspired by games like Mystic Empyrean, Bastion, and Nobilis, as well as other works such as Homestuck, Dresden Codak, The Neverending Story, and the Malazan Book Of The Fallen series, Colours In Conflict brings powerful, epic scale stories of creation and destruction to your table. Using a system of draws – be they from a bag of coloured stones or chits, or a deck of cards – Colours In Conflict builds on the Apocalypse World and Mystic Empyrean systems to deliver moment to moment drama. Agenda and Principles put the power in all of the players' hands to make the world move, with individual players taking ownership of various realms and dangers. Now go out and paint a new world.

What You'll Need

At least one other person beyond yourself. Three or four is ideal. Fewer is fine, and more gets... interesting. No Game Master or Master Of Ceremonies here, though. We're all just folk.
Something to draw from. Coloured beads, wood chips drawn on with markers, paint swatches. Six colours (see below), at least three of each colour. Alternately, use playing cards (9, 10, J, Q, K, A).
Writing and drawing supplies. If you're a really crazy person, painting supplies too. Pens, pencils, and paper will all do fine.
Time. At least two hours in a go preferably. Three to four is ideal.
A schedule that permits repeat games. Once a week, every other week, once a month, or something alike.

Element  Colours    Cards
 Fire         Red         9
 Air          Blue        10
Water      Green     Jack
Stone      Violet    Queen
Light       Yellow     King
Aether     Black       Ace

Playing The Game

Always say:
What honesty demands
What the principles demand
What any prepared materials you have demand
in that order.

The Agendas are the reasons you play the game. Do these always, and never do the things these aren't. You play the game:

to make each other's lives not boring.
to find out what happens.
to fill the world with ruin and wonder
to share graciously. You aren't a alone here; be enthusiastic about your fellow players' visions and ideas.
to play your character as though she were a real person

The Principles are things you should seek to do whenever you say anything in the game.

Emphasize colours. Paint the world with passion.
Go big or go home. Describe in epic scale.
Let the mists of destruction, aether, tear it down, but build a bigger world through play.
Address yourself to the characters, not your fellow players.
When the world moves, misdirect, never speak its name.
Make everything personal, and tie it to the past.
Ask lots of questions and build on the answers.
Respond with escalation and occasional victory.
Be each other's biggest fan.
Think offscreen, too.
Don't have a conversation with yourself. Don't make the other players have conversations with themselves.

The World Moves are the specific things you say when you're describing the situation to others from the perspective of the world. When people stop talking about what they're doing and turn to the table to see how the chips fall, someone, anyone, gets to pick something from this list to say, but remember, don't speak the move's name. Also, when someone draws, and the draw is Opposed, somebody pick as hard a World Move as they like and run with it. Always set up harder moves with softer moves first.

Separate them.
Put someone in danger.
Trade wounds.
Harm someone.
Take something away from them.
Show them the downside of their passions and powers.
Give them an ugly choice.
Tell them the consequences and ask.
Turn their move back on them.
Make a Realm Move or a Threat Move.

The World Tool

The World Tool represents the elemental composition of the world, varying from Realm to Realm. Elements are very important in Empyrean, and will influence actions performed in a Realm. When making a World tool, the only requirement is that its something to draw from blind. Beads or coloured chits in a bag, a deck of cards, a random colour generator. There are six elements in the World: Fire, Light, Water, Stone, Air, and Aether. Aether is the element of oblivion, the mists that came in and destroyed the world, and so opposes all other elements. The World is composed of 3 tokens of each element. If you're using cards, shuffle after each action; otherwise, simply return your draws to the tool.

Each Malar has one of the five elements they're primarily composed of, and two that they lack. No Malar has aether as a part of them. When you draw from the balance to determine the results of actions, compare the draw to your own elemental makeup. If the draw is of your dominant element it is considered Aligned. If the draw is either aether or one the elements you lack, the draw is Opposed. Otherwise the draw is Neutral. On any Opposed result, the World moves against you (q.v.). Most moves will also have something special happen when drawing a particular element. This happens in addition to the basic effect from an Aligned, Neutral or Opposed draw..

Aether – What is it?

Aether isn't. That's the big thing. Aether is what you no longer see in the place of a sunrise. Aether is what's there when that place right there used to be your home and now it's gone. Aether is what's left over when there's that emptiness inside because your only friend just told you how much they hate what you've become. But it's worse than that, because it's taking everything away right before your eyes.

Places touched by the mists of aether start to rend and fade. Drifting off until they're just more swirling fog of nothingness. Mortals who interact with aether, well, it gets in them. The creature becomes hollow, and dim. It'll die, in it's own good time, and it's heartbreaking to see it keep going. The aether that's seeped into it corrupts anything it touches but keeps its vessels safe. The aethertouched creature cannot be harmed even as it falls apart. Luckily (or not, as it may be), Malari cannot be infected by aether. They start to fade, just like land, and buildings, and plants, but at least they don't become enemy to those they once cared for. They do that well enough on their own.

Basic Moves

When you take action at risk to yourself or others, name what it may cost you, and draw from the world's balance. If  Aligned, you succeed without cost; if Neutral, you succeed at cost.

When you charge into battle against mortal creatures, draw. If you draw Aligned hold 3, Neutral hold 1. If you draw Opposed hold 1 anyway; the world still moves against you. While you have hold, your majesty protects you from any mortal creatures. Spend your hold to:
Clear a way out of the battlefield for others.
Kill any mortal creatures without mercy.
Prevent harm from coming to another.
Additionally if you draw Air, the wind gathers around you sending mortal creatures flying back.

When you brutally assail another Malar, you not only hurt them, you see into them. Wound them and draw. If you draw Aligned, ask 2, Neutral ask 1.
Why does this cut so deep?
What emotion does this draw forth in you?
How do you plan to respond?
Additionally if you draw Fire, primal flame infuses your strike and the wound you deal is deep; inflict a second wound. One way or another, if they are in a position to, they may wound you as well.

When you hide your nature to move unnoticed, you may with ease. If you wish to draw on your power in your disguise, draw. Aligned, you may pass the ability off without notice among mortal creatures. Neutral, use it more than once and your nature will be revealed. If you draw Stone, the earth itself is ready to keep your secrets; should you be discovered, you may slip away without notice through stone or natural ground.

When you hold fast and defend another, draw. If you draw Aligned hold 2, Neutral hold 1.While you have hold, you may wound anyone who moves aggressively toward your charge. Spend your hold to:
Learn the hidden weakness of a foe you face.
Learn the hidden strength of your charge.
Draw out a known strength in your charge.
If you draw Stone, you may root in place with the strength of the mountain and cannot be moved unless you will it.

When you enter a new situation with other Malari, draw and ask any one question about the state of things from another Malar's perspective; they must answer honestly. If you draw Aligned act as though you were Aided when acting on the answer. If you draw Opposed ask anyway, but the world still moves against you. If you draw Light, the truth shines through to you here; at any point you may ask one more question about this place, being Aided by the answer.

When you confront aethertouched beings with the truth of the coming world, say a few words and draw. Neutral or Aligned, the light in you shines strong, and the invulnerability of the aetherlings fades for now. If you draw Aligned, tell us what new insight your light has given you into the nature of aether. Further, if you draw Light, your heart shines bright casting the aether completely from mortal creatures near to you; they are freed.

When you use calm words to settle tempers, draw. If you draw Aligned, the power of your words reverberates deep, and heals wounds in all who listen to what you say. Aligned or Neutral, say how any mortal creatures present will react, following your words; they will do so until something interferes. Malari forge their own way. Additionally if you draw Water, calming mists flow to all who can hear you, and none may commit violence while you continue to display peace.

When you Aid another with their action, they draw and extra token from the balance and discard the worst result. Whatever cost, you face it too.

When you Hinder another's action, tell us what it costs you. They draw an extra token from the balance and discard the best result.

First Session

Someone say this aloud:

"So it happened. Aether rushed in from all sides bringing about a great calamity. World ended. Not much left but a few shards of places floating in... nothing. Still, we got each other. And this last Grand Temple here. Looks like the great spirit in there, one of the Varwe, kept us together when the calamity hit. Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go put things back together again. Just keep an eye out for the hounds. They got a mean bite."

First up, you'll all need names. Something powerful, or something secret. Something lost, or something great and true. Angelic, demonic, names of avatars, names of gods or goddesses, or of something far older.

Next, talk about the Farwe that kept you alive and safe. Why are you its chosen? What form does it take? Which of the elements does it represent? What quality of that element does it embody most? What quality of that element do you embody most?

After that, talk about yourselves. One element is the primary element of your being. Which is it? How does that show up in your body? How does that present in your personality? Two other elements are lacking in you. Not absent, just coming up short. How does that affect you? What does that do to how you look and act?

Some passion roils deep in your heart. You're a being of passion and energy given form, so this strong emotion helps to form you. How does it change how you look? What ability does it give you? Write down this passion, just a word or two, and write out a move that represents what it gives you. The move should take the form of:

You have the ability to [do some sort of active special power]. When you take action at risk with it and draw [Element], [special effect happens].
You have [some sort of passive special power that has a constant effect].
You have [a special capability] that you can use to exert dominance over a situation. When you do, draw and gain hold. While you have hold, you have a dominant position. Spend that hold to gain concrete effect from that dominance.
You have [ability that grants uncommon perception]. When you make use of it, draw, and ask questions based on your draw.

Ex: Wandering Spirit – The wandering spirit give your gossamer wings. You have the ability to fly gracefully and with great speed. When you take action at risk with it and draw Air, you may become one with the wind itself, going anywhere it can.   

Finally, talk about what surrounds you. Can you hear the cries of dying Malari? What's the landmass you're on made of? What's the Grand Temple look like?

You can feel the pull of a Key nearby, a shard of creation holding the essence of a Realm in it. How far away does it feel? Is this mass you're on big enough that its got hiding places the Key could be, or must  it be on another floating rock out there in this sea of oblivion?

Think about what kinda mortal creature might have been drawn to the warmth the Key, and how violently it might protect the one thing keeping it safe. Or how the Key itself could be tainted by the aether, and how you might deal with that. Now you're ready to go. So go. Save the world.

There'll be two more passions coming your way that will further change who and what you are. The first time someone reminds you about your past actions and you take it to heart, defining yourself through their words, take a new passion. The first time someone reminds you about your past actions and you feel revulsion, vowing not to be that person, take a new passion.

Okay, after putting off reading this because TLDR instinct kicked in, I finally read it.

This actually looks really cool. I especially like the pull/alignment system a lot. I can see pulling as a very fun exercise.

The Basic Moves are all pretty darn cool too. They instantly inform the setting and I find them very appealing to do. I especially want to "hold fast and defend another" cause that is just awesome.

Good sir, I will happily play this. I am intimidated by it, because it's very different than what I'm used to. But I think it would stretch some new muscles for me.

Inspired by Ben Lehman's approach in Bliss Stage and other discussions on involving peoples real lives in gaming, a new thought on the first session thing. Instead of vaguely defined godforms in an also vague apocalypse, kick off with the world around the players being destroyed, and the players themselves being the Malari. I love me some meta, after all. How's this as a kickoff text:

"Alright folks, that's it. Fifteen minutes ago, everything ended. Mists of oblivion, aether, rushed in from outside existence and just... erased everything. Everything except this place we're standing, right here. Look around. What clues are there here to the great spirit that chose this place to save? What building nearby is it's temple? Right now, we are all that's left, and we've been empowered to be Malari, painters of reality, reformed of base element and passion. We'll need items of great power, keystones, to rebuild the world in our image. Luckily there's one not too far away."

From there, proceeding to ask questions that fill out the character playbook, like about the Name(1) at your core, and the passion that empowers you, and your elemental composition.

(1)Speaking of, especially with this concept I want "Name" to really have heft. How's this sound - "When you invoke the power of your name, draw as if Aided. If any card you draw is Aether, your name is changed by the brush with oblivion. Alter it, and it's meaning." Q.V. root syllabic meaning. Lots of thoughts.

Should have an updated draft posted tomorrow.

So, to sum up decisions made on Google+ and in some private conversations, current changes include making it "The player's themselves against the end of all things" as mentioned above,  changing an agenda from... whatever it was before to "To destroy the world and then fill it with wonder" and removing the mirroring principle, changing another agenda to "To play as though you've lost everything that ever mattered," as well as clearing up and changing some moves.

Also cutting out the current "First Session" stuff, moving it into another doc until I can fix it up, and hammering out some Realm stuff. Pursuant to a conversation with +Kirk Mitchell, in the remnants of the world at the start of things, as well as at the tattered edges of Realms where reality meets aether and things get more fluid, coming up with some "When You Feel X, Y Obstacle comes into being" moves. "When you express dread of the long night ahead, Chapel Perilous is there." That kinda thing, except more refined, essentially merging some metaphor and reality.

Sharpening the pickaxe and mining Neverending Story, The Fall, and Sognami for anything of transferrable value.

Cheers all!

Updated draft here:

Added info on keystones and realms. Updated intro. Clearing things up,  and getting a good idea of how things are going to look. Play sheet and realm sheets will be primarily composed of questions,  and some answers.  Realms will also have  emotional moves that express metaphor as reality, if I can make it work like it works in my head.  Fingers crossed.

Thinking about realms. Here's what I'm looking at:

When you release the power of a keystone to create a realm, take personal ownership of the realm and answer the following questions.
o What is the terrain like?
o What are the mortal populations like?
o What technology does it encourage?
o Who is it's guardian?
o Why does it remind you of home?

For each of these, assign an element. Add these elements to the World Tool when interacting with this realm.

When you have time, not immediately, think about how that realm interacts with the emotions of Malar there, and how the elemental balance of the realm affects the populations. Come up with 2-4 Emotional Moves for the realm.


I unleash into the world the Land Of Wind And Shade. The terrain is rocky with great canyons of violet stone and blue sand, with heavy, low clouds blowing around in the near constant winds (air). The Squamids, with fleshy scales and lizard-like heads, roam in a confederacy of tribes (water). Great quantities of oil bubble up from deep chasms, encouraging diesel-based machinery among the Squamids, who build articulated wheeled vehicles to help them traverse greater distances (Fire). A group of Squamid Malari calling themselves the Scales of Justice protect the land and it's people (water). The land reminds me of the hoodoos my parents and I used to go to when I was young (Stone).

When your anger boils over, the crude bubbles up around you, lashing out at the source of your anger. Left to it's own, it will "fix the problem."

When you act with impatience, the canyons shake, and rend, and split, forming a maze. The following realm moves are open when the world would move: make them lost, hide the truth from them, and offer revelation at a cost.

When you smile truly, without a care, the wind picks up, and will take you anywhere in any realm you wish to be.

Kay, I officially don't know how it took me this long to get it out there as simple as this, and put it into words and not just subtext but Tommy Rayburn triggered it.

Thesis statement for game. Premise in a nutshell. "World ends and you're a psychologically damaged, emotionally powered immortal with the power to make any world except the one you miss so much" is what I'm going for.

Working on evoking that last bit here and there, but it's slow going.? Thoughts?

Play Card! Bi-fold. Mostly self explanatory, far as I'm concerned. Please, if anything seems confusing, ask :D I'm really open to criticism.

Also, death. Death is important. Death means something. Not dying when you "should" means a lot.

"When you are struck by something you know will kill you, say this: "And that is how I was to die." If that's all there is to say, release your hold over the world. But if there is a memory that drags you back, forces you to keep on, tell us what it is. Tell us how even though you should have died, you get back up. Write down what you've lost, and write down what can now never kill you."

Something significant I'm thinking on. First up, I'm ditching the superfluous technology question in realm creation. It's needless. Replacing it with, right after the question about why it reminds you of home, the question, "But why is it wrong? What is missing?"

The answers to these questions, I figure, are immutable. You, while you're alive, bind the realm and keep it safe. Aether cannot destroy the realm as long as you're around. I mean, it can threaten and destroy things in the realm, sure, but it can't do something that will falsify any of the questions. (Might get rid of the guardian question, too, come to think.) Anyway, part of the death move is that you let go of your hold over the world. That means that the part of you that keeps any realm you've unlocked bound has let go. It is no longer protected from aether. At the same time, that thing keeping it "wrong", that's gone. Not that the place is going to get swallowed up immediately, or that it's instantly going to resemble home. Just, it's no longer stagnant. It can now really grow. And you will never get to see it.

Things are getting much clearer now. Thinking about splitting it up into several documents so I can really view separate sections individually. Anything struck out is stuff that I've essentially abandoned, but keeping around in case it sparks something. Anything in parens is stuff yet to be done.

I may be ditching the "questions" move. It's feeling kind of like it doesn't fit. I'm also struggling with whether or not to keep the "5 elements plus aether" approach or to shave off Light. Grumble.

Extra attention to the new move, the "Create Something" move. I think it's pretty cool. Now I just need to formalise how the wrong-things align into threats. Work in progress.