The problem was, I didn't need another game. I wasn't getting to play the two games I was already trying to run as it was. How was I going to work in time to test a completely new RPG, which promised lots of interruptions in play as we rejiggered the rules time and again, when I couldn't get people to show up for games run with stable rule sets?
So instead, I decided to put the project back on my friend, who was thinking of running something, and I told him I'd write him a game he could use. We had a series of conversations after that about what this game would be. I found great success in using the 3 question method when beginning Shadowitz, and I wanted to follow suit with this game.
For those unfamiliar with the three questions of RPG design, they are:
- What's the game about?
- How is it about that?
- How is that fun?
I felt pretty confident I could answer numbers 2 and 3 on my own, but I needed that first answer from him. We went back and forth about a bunch of stuff. He wanted a detailed world, something in the fantasy genre, and a game in which the opposition could be predominantly human (or demi-human). Monsters made poor drama, he thought. It was too easy to solve every problem with slaughter. Better to have an opponent who was more like you, where killing the opposition wasn't a clean moral decision or the easy fix.
This, by the way, is why his games are awesome.
Anyway, all of that was good information to have, and I noted it all down, but it still didn't say what the game was about, so I pressed.
"Adventure." No, that's not what it's about. That's what they'll be doing.
"Fantasy." No, that's the genre.
"I guess I've always liked stories about reluctant heroes who'd rather not be questing. You know, like in Gladiator." *record scratch*
He did that on purpose, I'm sure. Gladiator's my favorite film of all time, so of course that would resonate with me. I'm also a big fan of pathos whenever I get a chance to play rather than run. Happy is boring. You always strive for it, but there's a reason fairy tales stop the telling once the protagonists hit a happy point. There's nothing more worth saying. The way that Gladiator wrapped a heroic struggle around a core strive for simple happiness that ran counter to all that badassery was awesome. It's also something I'd never seen done in an RPG. That was what this game was going to be about.
Now, something else I learned from Shadowitz is that the 3 questions are a fantastic starting place, but they're not the totality of useful basics. So, once I had that very cool answer to question #1, I looked back at the list of notes I had from our other conversations and put together a short list of goals that would serve as my objectives in this game's design.
So, here's what I'm after in designing Heroes of Destiny:
- Make the choice to be heroic a hard one mechanically
- Place an emphasis on character identity over powers/abilities/equipment
- Keep magic rare and special; it should not become a utility
- Make the game mechanics simple, quick to learn and quicker to use
- Mechanics on the GM side should be minimalist, leaving him free to spend the bulk of his attention on the narrative at all times