Core Game Idea

Icons for the five cardinal emotions in this RPG.

Characters in this game rely on their Emotions, instead of typical RPG attributes like Strength, Intelligence and Constitution. Now it is more important whether a Michtim warrior has a high Anger rating, or if Fear drives a hero to cowardly spy at his enemies from a patch of high grass.

I decided to eschew typical stats, because I consider them to be simply a matter of style for the game setting. However having a strong guideline for the character’s personality has probably been never this central to the core of a system. I challenge you to prove me wrong! I’d love to hear the contrary. On the other hand I want to show that emotions have value for survival. Anger, fear and grief have a bad connotation in civilized cultures; but given the right balance, they all have important functions in life.

The five Emotions (using a capital E to indicate I am talking about the game element) provide basic actions to every character.

  • Anger: Doing harm to others. Pretty straight-forward eh?
  • Joy: Bouncing up and down, running really fast, and perceiving hidden things.
  • Love: Caring for others, helping them recover from injury.
  • Fear: Dodging out of harms way. Can also be used to hide, while cover is available.
  • Grief: Recovering when knocked out, calling for help, distracting enemies.

In case you think these are too few options for a character, rest assured: Michtim characters can learn Callings to add or modify actions. These will be used to create distinct play styles in characters — even if they might have similar Emotion ratings. Every Calling introduces a unique mechanic to the game. Characters can learn any number of Callings, but they can only be attuned to a small number of talents at any one time. This leads to diversity without having players feel that they have uncovered everything there is.

Some sample Callings I am working on that will be included:

  • Tactics: Using basic actions on multiple targets. Better resource management.
  • Sorcery: Using basic actions on distant targets. Gain power for taking extra turns.
  • Influence: Cursing enemy targets with the power of Emotions.
  • Performance: Empowering allies through song and dance.
  • Catering: Providing food and beverages. Your dishes boost the abilities of others.
  • Summoning: Conjuring a spirit to act as your proxy and provide services.

A lot of the flavor of an action depends on character Style though, like Arcane, Martial or Social. You can be an angry warrior, but you could also be an angry witch. Even if a character uses the Sorcery Calling, she need not be played as an Arcane heroine. What if she is a masterful Archer instead? This can easily be accomplished by sticking to the Martial Style. This is but a small change. The mechanics stay completely unchanged, but the way you design and portray your character can be vastly different.

The Sorcery Calling introduces the ability to affect targets at range. Also it provides the ability to take extra turns to increase an actions power. Sounds like an Archer to me; taking time to aim and then fire a painful Lightning Dart (Anger) at targets. Or help out friends by launching a Restoration Injection (Love) at them. The Style does not influence the effectivity of the character.

Remember! It’s about you and what you can do with your game. Play like a boss!

4 thoughts on “Core Game Idea

  1. Nice start – and quite an interesting project. Here are some ideas i had when reading it:

    Emotions: Good for driving the game, bad for understandingi the practical side of things. The problem: emotions are intangible,and abstract. Though we all know what love, hate and grief is, it’s much more difficult to define them or express them in values (as you probably noticed when creating your ‘love’ icon).

    In life, we only get instances of emotion, moments that we’re angry about something, fall in love or get sad about some stuff. Then, emotions get tangible, real, usable. Emotions are, or arise from, relationships.

    Though emotions may act as fuel for action, they do not clearly map to real activities.You’re still using emotions as attributes – and I’m not sure if that is the right approach.

    As you’re designing for a younger audience, I think it’d be good to keep that in mind

    • Thanks for the comment, Tim!

      I think I will have to bear that in mind. As you’ve said quantifying emotions is pretty damn hard. I need to make abstractions here; but I think it is not much different from using typical skills. Taking a very varied field of learned skills and labeling them ‘Computer’ or ‘Weaponry’ is making certain assumptions what these words are supposed to mean.

      Of course I need to elaborate actions for players to take. I’ve created some one-sheet reference document for the first few of my game mechanics. I doubt it makes much sense without me explaining it on the go, but I can try to provide a download link. I will still use actions as basis for the game; the only difference is a change in the foundation.

      Instead of rolling Strength for the Attack action, I’m using Anger. In the game mechanics this is done, because every 6 that comes up on a d6 will create a Mood Marker. The character will start to get angry. You are perfectly correct about emotions only being useful in a special moment. That’s because they are fleeting. Maybe I need to rename the whole thing.

      The Emotion rating actually represents the potential for getting angry, not the currently active mood. In neuroscience this can be distinguished by talking about Neuronale Erregungsbereitschaft (NEB) versus Neuronales Erregungsmuster (NEM). The later signifies the active emotion, but the first means the general tendency for the brain to go a certain route. I have tried hard to come up with ideas to get the current model of how the brain works into the system; and I’m only at the start of things.

      It’s all a matter of abstraction again. There was a nice analogy, but I have to look up sources again. I think I got that one from the book on Schematherapie I have at home. The author was using a sea-shore to explain how the brain/body-changes take place.

      Singular actions are like the wind.
      The wind stirs up waves. In this case emotions.
      The waves carry sand which builds a beach. Through acting and feeling we build up permanent neuronal patterns (skills/behaviors).
      And after years of bringing sand to the beach it is solidified (actually this I cannot remember perfectly). Our habits affect the way we look. Muscles we built, bodily manifestations of our style of living.

      I need to look it up. I found it pretty interesting to explore in a game system (with some reductions of course).

      What do you think?

      And about the younger audience: I’m not sure I’m sticking with that constraint. I probably need to make it more clear in my first post. I am now concentrating on the Cross-Media aspect; instead of trying to work for an audience that I cannot easily grab for testing. Yeah, that’s a bit lazy on my part, but I think I will have plenty of opportunities in the future to try my hand at ‘Children RPGs’. It’s just too much to do all in one project and still expect a good outcome, I guess.

      Thanks for your input. It’s awesome you took the time to check it out!


      • Great reply and insight. I think it’s a good idea to remove the “for younger audience” requirement at the moment. Keep up the good work, I’m intrigued.

        • Thanks! You know how I care for (all sorts of) feedback, and I really value your opinion.

          I’m going to have the some-few-pages Core Rules ready today; it’s not much of an eye-catcher, and I won’t talk about setting — but I want to get the game mechanics straight soon, so I can do some testing.

          I’ll need some female players in my group though.

Leave a Reply