It all started December of 2008. Seattle was shut down by an abnormally harsh snowstorm for about a week and a half, an event we here affectionately refer to as snowpocalypse. Everything shut down and I was sitting home experiencing a case of cabin fever. So what do you do when you have all the time in the world and you’ve exhausted your bookcases, movie collection and the Internet? Write a roleplaying game of course! Naturally I didn’t write the whole thing in that week and a half, but it was a start.
I had the idea for a long time. A game of social warfare… Not being a particularly big fan of dice grinding and dungeon delving, ground I covered and exhausted long ago, I knew I was interested in something different. There are games that do social warfare well, such as Vampire: The Masquerade being the main one that comes to mind. I played that a lot as well and have longed for something different.
Now it’s April of 2011, and I’ve been working on this project consistently for nearly two-and-a-half years. All this time I’ve been working on this project I didn’t realize the behemoth it’s become. I printed out a copy of my work and (single sided) it’s about 800 pages long. Perhaps I’m out of control, either way I am lucky enough to have a good friend who’s worked in the gaming industry who is an excellent content editor. I plan to pay her well to help me with this and buy her a really nice dinner for saying yes to my request for help.
What is my definition of a game of Social Warfare?
Simply put it’s a game that places the emphasis on social dynamics and conflict with rule mechanics that support social scheming, social climbing and high drama.
Vision, or at least part of it…
I feel that so many games have beautiful and elaborate systems centered on combat. There are so many in fact that there seem to be dozens of systems and mechanics to appeal to every type of gamer from the realist to those disposed to the more narrative style. I have encountered several games that have given a nod to social gaming, but even these, in my experience, seem to be simply giving us a morsel, the focus was on something else, usually combat. Now please before you read any further I want to make it clear I have nothing against combat and my vision (which I’ll get to shortly) does not in any way exclude combat in my game, in fact I hope that it’s as dynamic as the social warfare aspects. It’s been my experience that most social elements of a game are limited to the whims of gifted storytellers who are frequently flying by the seat of their pants. It’s my hope to develop a system that supports social elements of a game and the intricacies of intrigue and skullduggery with comprehensive rules that are not overly complicated but functional.
The Frame Work of My Setting
My setting is a fantasy world in an era very similar to our own Renaissance period. It is a world populated by humans, there are no elves, dwarves or similar denizens of what I would consider high fantasy settings. My world I would consider low fantasy, meaning I see it as being similar to our own world during the renaissance with more fantastic elements such as magic, being subtle and rarely seen, though they do exist. The game takes place in the capital of an empire in decline where four estates, Those who Rule (nobility and landed gentry), Those who Pray (cults and spiritual leaders), Those who Toil (the common folk and tradesmen) and Those who Reveal (scholars and artists) are engaged in a struggle to either keep or gain power. As an age of enlightenment begins the boundaries that have separated these estates begins to crumble so too does the stability they once provided. This is of course where the social warfare piece comes into play.
The Meta Plot
“There were once many gods and they created all things. The gods created the stars, the moons, the mountains and seas, even the blades of grass at your feet. The gods created all manner of creature, animals, insects, humans and even demons. Once all life existed together in this world and the gods walked among us.”
“We, humanity, were the gods favorites and they blessed humanity with souls that continue to exist even when our mortal coils rot in the earth. Demons became jealous of our divine gifts and they protested the gods who were unmoved by their pleas. Their jealousy turned to madness and the demon’s attacked the gods. The peaceful paradise was broken as the gods waged war against their ungrateful creations. Humanity found itself at the center of this war and sided with the gods, save for a traitorous few. Even the gods had their traitors who sided with demonkind as fallen gods.”
-Zadorra Grand Theologian of the Cult of Alloria
War of Souls
Thousands of years ago the gods defeated demons and condemned them to damnation imprisoning them behind the Celestial Seal. This expended the Gods strength and they retreated promising mankind they would return as long as they continue to exalt them. This is the primary dogma of most cults when attempting to inspire their followers. Despite the sacrifice the gods made for mankind there was a flaw they couldn’t foresee, mankind had the power to summon demons through the seal. In the absence of the gods and through the power of their mortal thralls, demons can temporarily leave their prison and continue their war against humanity in an attempt to steal their souls. Demons spread corruption like the plague and mortals who fall victim to their manipulations might find their soul claimed by a demon condemning them to damnation.