Question 2

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I'll put the obligatory RPG question here, and apply it more generally to fiction writing. It's a small world - with just two living people in it, and intrusion of two more. The world is effectively empty. There are environmental hazards, but they're easy enough for the protagonist to navigate.

How, in fiction and RPGs, can we make such small worlds satisfying? Is this something you want to do?

Comments

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    I think the larger hazard here is the psychological one. Persons who stay in this small world go mad (or learn to become themselves, however you might want to frame it).

    It might be interesting to me to run a one-character game (not one-player) that portrays the character's loss of memories from their previous life. I can think of some ways to mechanize that which would spur good writing. I can see something like Bluebeard's Bride, where the character moves from location to location, finding prompts within the statues about what kind of memories are going to be surrendered there. I can see players playing various aspects of the character's psyche, having different motivations depending on whether they have been "converted" into what the character is becoming. Actually, as I write this up, it sounds fascinating. The devil, of course, would be in the details.

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    Curious - would you want to include the more explicitly dangerous environmental hazards, such as the occasional very large floods? Although in some sense predictable, the narrative makes it clear that you had to be pretty obsessive about recording data in order to successfully predict such an event. Would players be willing to do this? Or is it easier just to simplify to the water level making certain areas periodically accessible and not?

    I have a long-standing fascination with the idea that the playing board or surface changes with natural phenomena, such as tides, and I don't know of too many games that make use of this device. At least one of the many versions of Civ had landscape changes through climate change if you failed to keep on top of cleaning up pollution, and early versions of Catan required a random layout of resources, but neither of those is quite what I mean.

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    The first one I remember that had landscape changes through play was Talisman

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    For a start, the world isn't that interesting in itself: it's a collection of symbols that Piranesi relates to. Even so, most of the time we spend inside Piranesi's head as he thinks about his lot. There's very little about the world as a challenge: Piranesi has some chores, and he's able to survive in the House but the Other isn't.

    To make this world interesting, I think we'd have to do the same and get inside the character's head. There are plenty of solo RPGs around on Itch, where you journal what your character is thinking and doing, in response to various prompts (Thousand Year Old Vampire is perhaps the best-known one, which I've not picked up).

    You could also do a two-player game, of Piranesi and the Other, each with their own goals. It might be interesting to play that in the Year of Wailing and Weeping, with Piranesi trading personality for survival, and the Other... doing what? I'm not sure of Ketterley's motives other than sadistic self-aggrandisement.

    I really like @WildCard 's idea of a Bluebeard's Bride type game. But I'd frame it as Piranesi going through the House and discovering memories. I'm not sure how the "losing memories" idea would work. @WildCard , could you expand on the idea?

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    Isn't it a Burning Wheel game? Piranesi has beliefs about the world, and goals he wants to achieve. He has a home, he wants to explore it, to understand it it, to care for it and its other denizens. The other wants power, wants to maintain his sense of self and wants to get Piranesi to do his dirty work for him. They challenge each other's beliefs, and the world challenges them. They both change, as they interact with each other and the world. Sounds like Burning Wheel to me.

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    There's a lot to be said for Burning Wheel. But thinking about it, are changes in Beliefs enough to model the changes in Piranesi's self-identity from Sorensen to Piranesi to ... whoever he becomes (and is that important to the core of the book)?

    But if you were setting it up as a BW game, what would the pitch and session zero look like? Would Piranesi's player know the truth of the House, even if there character was ignorant? Or would the game go better if the GM kept that secret and revealed it in play?

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    I don't know, I think you could, as suggested above, run it as Bluebeards Bride or Burning Wheel. But I'm not sure if it would be... much fun? I think it's a very tricky one to take into the RPG medium; in the book the self-discovery / exploration runs underneath the engaging exploration and description which are pretty low-challenge. It's not a game I'd like to run, or play - "Another bloody statue?"

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    > @BurnAfterRunning said:
    >... It's not a game I'd like to run, or play - "Another bloody statue?"

    I suppose in a game you'd have to impart more particular meanings or triggers to the statues - sort of "this one points in the direction to go next" or "press the left arm on that one to open a hatch to the upper level " - whereas in the book most of them remain enigmatic and unexplained
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    I think the key with this one is in the social interaction between players. The setting offers very little. There’s a mystery to solve, but the means to solving its is either interacting the the GM as voice of the NPC, or with the GM as described of the world. I agree that sounds pretty boring. Normally, I play RPGs specifically to explore settings, and to effect that exploration via inter PC and NPC dialogue, so I don’t think there’s much in the set-up for me as a gamer. On the other hand, adapting the mystery and solution to a larger milieu with more actors might make it appealing to me. Would that look more like the TV show Lost?
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    @Apocryphal 's comment made me wonder whether the natural place to set a game is not in the "now" of the book, with just Piranesi and The Other for most of it, but in the earlier times when there were more like 10 or so people around. Why did they die? Were they cooperating or competing for resources? And so on. What I mean is that you could use the basic setting of The House without committing to the specific time period of the book.

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    Could also be interesting if the characters are each building part of the world, and as characters you might explore sections created by characters ther characters - and I mean ‘characters’ specifically, not ‘players’. Shared worlds built by players are fairly common. I’m not aware of any built by characters.
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    @Apocryphal said:
    Could also be interesting if the characters are each building part of the world, and as characters you might explore sections created by characters ther characters - and I mean ‘characters’ specifically, not ‘players’. Shared worlds built by players are fairly common. I’m not aware of any built by characters.

    In one of my games there is a character type who can create pocket universes.

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    @Apocryphal 's comment made me wonder whether the natural place to set a game is not in the "now" of the book, with just Piranesi and The Other for most of it, but in the earlier times when there were more like 10 or so people around. Why did they die? Were they cooperating or competing for resources? And so on. What I mean is that you could use the basic setting of The House without committing to the specific time period of the book.

    I'm not too sure that many of those people were around at the same time. But there are certainly plenty of people around Arne-Sayles when he was opening the way to the House. There's something there about the risk of sacrificing your personality to gain knowledge, but I'm not sure how that could be represented in a game.

    @Apocryphal said:
    Could also be interesting if the characters are each building part of the world, and as characters you might explore sections created by characters ther characters - and I mean ‘characters’ specifically, not ‘players’. Shared worlds built by players are fairly common. I’m not aware of any built by characters.

    Isn't that one of the ideas behind Amber? The characters create worlds and move between them.

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    @NeilNjae Yes, I meant to mention Amber, actually.

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