Sunday, March 30, 2014

Multiversal Menace

I'm back for a bit, and doing one of those "thinking out loud" posts. I feel like this idea has to have some legs to it, though.

I've been revisiting a lot of the games I've played (or wanted to play) throughout the years and stumbled on this weird old gem called Live A Live, which was made by Square back in the halcyon days of 1994. It looks like it was fairly standard game-play wise, but the structure was fairly unique; the game featured several characters with their own unique scenarios that took place in various points in (fictional) history. Playing through all of them unlocked a sort of prequel scenario, and completing that led to the final battle.

All the scenarios feature a final boss, all of which share a similar naming convention. The exception is the prequel chapter - it's there you find out why that is; it starts out as a paint by the numbers affair that spirals downwards catastrophically. I won't go into too much detail here, but it ends up with the lead - a classic knight in shining armor - with his best friend's blood on his hands and his beloved dead via suicide. Betrayed by everyone he held dear, he swears to make the rest of humanity understand his despair by inflicting it upon them. So powerful is his oath that he transforms into a demon king and actually manifests into the various time periods presented in the previous parts of the game in an effort to inflict pain and suffering on those involved. The final chapter involves the united protagonists attempt to finally defeat him.

I really dug this whole thing and was kind of sad it never made it over here, (ten year old Rey would have ate it up) but I also figured this would be a fun idea to apply to tabletop gaming. Sure, I've had NPC's that have shown up in multiple campaigns in various game systems before, but this was a bit different. The villain in live A Live,
True Form(s) take Center Stage

1) Shows up in multiple aspects and times simultaneously

And

2) Always has a form appropriate to the scenario at hand. He's everything from a cannibalistic god to a professional wrestler that murders his opponents as the game progresses.

In fact, the only consistent thing about all his various appearances is a similar nomenclature and a desire to kill as many people as he possibly can.

This could make for a terribly fun villain, but its kind of a hard set up for a typical RPG campaign. If in the hands of a single GM it could take years and years to set up if you don't devote an entire campaign to the idea (which could be fun too). That loses something though; the video game actually had different writers and artists create each scenario to ensure it would be unique. The wonderfully diverse community that has built up around FLAILSNAILS G+ games inspires a different option.

One person creates a villain of sorts. They should have a powerful, simple motivation - the example above is fun, but others are possible. It just needs to be something that can be applied to varied locales. "Unite the Orcs" doesn't quite work because not every world will have Orcs. "Make all creatures equal" is a good one because it deals with a far more universal concept. Give this villain as powerful of a back story as required and decide on a place of origin. A primary skill set might be fun, even if its whether they depend on brawn, wit, or external forces to get the job done. What's most important is that whatever it is, it can be translated into various genres and themes.

Brainstorm with as many other GM's that you know at once. Each one should stick an appropriate version of this villain in their game. From there, it's pretty simple - there ought to be something cool that happens if all the versions of this villain are vanquished or foiled and something else if they are entirely or partially successful. Maybe they subconsciously learn from one and others victories and mistakes, like some sort of transdimensional organic skynet? Its the sort of thing where communication between the Game Masters involved would be fun and profitable.

Nothing may come from it all, or it may become a big focal point for everyone. Some sort of crossover between games could be fun as well, if impractical. If I've learned anything from gaming for all these years, it's that the best stuff come from gestalts.

5 comments:

  1. Just a note - this game can be played now with an emulator and this English languarge fan translation patch: http://agtp.romhack.net/project.php?id=lal

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    1. Oh awesome! I guess that explains why there was so much discussion about the game in English speaking countries...

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  2. I rated this as Crazy + Awesome

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  3. This is really creepy to me, in that I'd never heard of it, but back in 1989-90 I ran a superhero game (Villains & Vigilantes) in which the heroes faced a "multiversal menace" caused by "a classic knight in shining armor" who "betrayed by everyone he held dear... swears to make the rest of humanity understand his despair by inflicting it upon them"

    The mechanics of the threat were rather different, in that instead of directly manifesting in the various universes, the villain was somehow destroying them by eroding their physical laws/accelerating entropy. The players' adventures in hopping from universe-to-universe were substantially unrelated, but had the common thread of trying to sniff out and get closer to the real threat, until finally they found a way to "lock themselves out" of the multiverse and get to the villain's castle for the final battle.

    I can't conceive of a channel by which my idea could have found its way to Japan, so I guess this must have been one of those "morphic resonance" things...

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