Pocket Worlds

Yeah, I’m excited about Lords of Gossamer and Shadow. This should be news to no one. But I was proofing the bit I’m writing for it and really got to thinking about something.

Now, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Amber DRPG (which LGS largely refined its ruleset from) one of the things you could buy with character points was a personal world (called a personal shadow) and I don’t think I’m spilling any beans to say that LGS allows something similar.

Now, the Amber item & ally rules (which shadows were a part of) were both simple and complex – there were a ton of attributes which you could invest points in to make a thing potent in one fashion or another, which lead to an array of potent and abusable personal artifacts (even before the rules got even crazier with the first supplement). it was a little screwy, but it conformed to a bit of basic math – the more points you put in, the more significant the whosiwhatsit was, as indicated by its power. For magic swords and pet dragons, this worked out ok, but it got a little bit weird with shadows.

See, for 1 point, you could have whatever shadow you wanted. Star wars? Kung Fu Hong Kong? Sword and Sorcery? Done. 1 point. This seemed crazy potent until you realized that you could also do it for free, if you just invested some time in play, but that’s what the extra points were for. Basically, you could spend more points to better protect or isolate your little private world.

And that’s where the disconnect kicked in. More points did not make a shadow more significant to play, ti made it less significant. You were spending points for extra shrink wrap around your idea, to keep it form getting dirtied up by play. Now, this was not totally unreasonable – the ADRPG GM advice was basically “screw your players, screw them hard” so it was not unreasonable to buy out of fear.

But it also introduced a more subtle problem – there was no way to signify – mechanically – that you wanted a shadow to be a part of play. If you didn’t put many points into it, it wasn’t important (as was the case elsewhere in the system) but if you did put points into it, it was untouchable.

Now, LGS handles this a little better. There are mechanical and cosmological tweaks that make personal worlds a lot more interesting, but I still found myself wrestling with it while statting up a character. See, I’d introduced a world in his story which was interesting, and had some knowledge and power that made it a place of note in the multiverse, but it wasn’t a Super Serious Place. Not a superpower, but a mere power, as it were. I spent 2 points on the world, which I think was technically correct, but I had a hard time coming to terms with that. The place was interesting and important to him – shouldn’t I signify that with more points?

Which in turn, revealed the real lesson that I have learned in Amber and other games – don’t get too caught up in communicating via points when the real kind of communication will do you better. It ultimately doesn’t matter how many points I put into a world if no one is interested in it but me. The importance of a world (or any setting element) is based not on my investment in it, but rather, by everyone else’s investment in it.

So take a minute to get out of your own head. If you have something you want to see in your game, think about ways it can make other players awesome and your GMs life easier. Do that, and you’ll have made something that matters, no matter how many points you put into it.

One thought on “Pocket Worlds

  1. Jim Henley

    Hm. Now I’m thinking about yanking the increasing returns concept from Universalis. Put as many points into your personal world as you want to earn when it gets messed with. With maybe a partial reward to whomever messes with it so they have a reason to do so? Not sure if Good & Bad Stuff are part of LGS, so I’m not sure exactly what the “reward points” would constitute.

    But imagine a personal world is defined by spending points across some small set of dimensions (Size, Exportables, Restoratives, whatever). Put ZERO points in a dim and that dim is essentially inviolate. The more points you put into a dim, the bigger the “Come and Get It” sign you’re hanging on it. Not sure if more points also makes that dim more useful to you when people aren’t messing with it.

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