Sunday, May 17, 2020

Player Assumptions: Kaleidoscope World-building, Chapter 1

Summary: First post delving into the player character assumptions and how I will incorporate those into the world of Kaleidoscope. A continual flux of work in progress fun.

Kaleidoscope World-building, Chapter I

Okay, so since the previous session report was rather short and the fact that we won't be playing this upcoming Monday, it gave me more time to write a full post dedicated to the “assumptions” and the world-building. Let's cut to the chase!

The first batch of assumptions were:
#1 Raina (Witch) - believes that the farmer’s wife is in league with something unholy or otherwise involved in the creation of the beast (this stems from the account that the creature was scared of the woman)
#2 Shine (Specialist) - thinks that there are more people like Dr. Brenner and that something akin to an alchemist guild exists somewhere in the world
#3 Torus (MU) - found the ways of religious pilgrims peculiar and thus thinks that the “Church” has very little presence in these parts of the world (in contrast to the “Old Religion"), which in turn probably makes the villagers skeptical (based on the way the pilgrims are travelling the world)
#4 Gybon (Cleric) - simply doesn’t trust Dr. Brenner and has a sense that the man is hiding something

""I am half sick of shadows," said the Lady of Shalott"
by John William Waterhouse
So, the main idea for this is that I can take any of these and use them in any way/shape/form, injecting them into the world. However, seeing as how some of these points (in this case, #1 and #4) aren’t really relating to the world and are more story related, I decided to actually use them as such and see if I can steer the story itself in a certain direction. 

First, the obvious ones, points #2 and #3. I liked both these assumptions and have decided to use them literally. The “Church”, currently for a lack of a better name, is still young in religious terms. I imagine that the institution has several temples already built, situated only in a few major cities. The pilgrims and priests have recently started going out of said cities to spread the faith across the countryside. Preaching about a monotheistic religion has met stern resistance from the people indoctrinated into the more usual polytheistic beliefs of the world, either through a form of pure disbelief and indifference, or, as seen in some places, boiling that led to outright violence.

To make it clear, the entity behind the beliefs of the "Church" is not yet defined. In game, we have addressed "it" with a relative resemblance to the Christian deity, but no names have been spoken yet. This is a conversation with Gybon's player that I plan to have in the upcoming week, to discuss whether we want to keep his God relative to our world or will we conjure up some other form of fantasy.

On a similar note, the alchemist guild is also a thing of the major cities. As such, I imagine that at least one of the "perks" of the cities is that they are a melting pot of obscure sciences and knowledge. There are only a handful of these cities out there, but they are dense sprawling locations, perhaps dangerous and deadly, yet useful in controlled doses.

Which makes us move to our local alchemist Dr. Brenner, where point #4 vastly changed what I initially envisioned for this NPC. I presumed that the good doctor would be a run-of-the-mill quest hub of sorts, someone who is rich and willing to pay for services of the local adventurers, generally misunderstood by the rest of the villagers due to his extraordinary profession, albeit with quite benign intentions. 

As mentioned, point #4 morphed this. The element of distrust has been a growing constant, mostly fueled by Gybon, slowly creeping under the skin of the rest of the party. It seems highly cinematic, only one of the four thinks something is amiss, while the others are oblivious, a slow boil which might eventually spill and burn everyone involved.

How will this assumption reflect on the game? Well, Dr. Brenner indeed was a member of an alchemist guild in a city from which he made an effort to disappear. He was, in fact, banished from the guild due to being discovered as a person dabbling in necromancy, the dark sibling of the alchemical craft. My initial thoughts are that surely he isn't the only one that has dealings with dead things and, seeing how this is an underground hobby, acquiring a certain dose of rivalry within such circles is a given.

"Edward Kelly" by Thomas Pennant
Thus for Brenner, staying in the city would result not only in absolute banishment and blacklisting in alchemical circles, but probably in death from his less public peers. Exile and retreating to the countryside in order to continue with his studies was the only choice.

As such, he will not be an antagonist per se, but more of an important figure with an ulterior motive. The whole situation with Polde’s consciousness inside the body of Catobleas, switching bodies/consciousnesses and general weirdness of transmutation is screaming alchemy/necromancy and it will be ripe for various ideas. I actually think that the thunderstorm from “last night” was maybe a result of him invoking some dark ritual to gain the knowledge necessary to figure out the next step. 

I have a crude sketch in my head about what Brenner might want as an end goal, but for now I don’t want to think too far in the future. Instead, he will use the party to acquire the components needed, but whether or not these ingredients will actually be used to help Polde or not, I am yet to conjure. But overall I like his current position, as it can swing in many different ways.

The final point (#1), I admit, was kind of difficult for me to use in a meaningful way without morphing the story too much, especially since I like the fact that you actually don’t know how old the Catoblepas is, where it originally comes from, who the initial victim is and whether or not it has a consciousness of its own or is it just an empty vessel. All these points I didn’t want to meddle with, yet I didn’t want to ignore the assumption of the player, at least in this first round.

I opted with a mundane, but relatively amusing way of using this assumption. Ivana, the wife of the farmer, has started believing and praying to the one God of the “Church”, while her husband remained indifferent and maybe even scornful as a result. Yet when this whole Catoblepas mess happened and has affected him, he perceived it as some form of punishment for mocking her beloved God.

Not sure if the players will ever discover this or whether they will actually care, but it seems like this is a nice way of fleshing out some details and it tells a lot about the character of these NPCs.

In the end I just have to say that this is an interesting process and I'm looking forward to asking my players for more. I decided to ask more sporadically however. Initially I planned on getting the assumptions after each session, but it kind of seems like overkill now. Instead, asking for assumptions after each module/adventure/chapter sounds way more reasonable.

That’s all for now, hope you enjoyed the read!

1 comment:

  1. Good stuff! World building is much easier if you build what the players are itnerested in interacting with.

    I can totally see the players eventually going to the big city, visiting the alchemists guild, and unwittingly reveal Brenner's hiding place or Catoblepas research :)

    Also, wasn't Dr. Brenner the name of the villain in Stranger Things? :D

    "Ivana, the wife of the farmer, has started believing and praying to the one God of the “Church”, while her husband remained indifferent and maybe even scornful as a result. Yet when this whole Catoblepas mess happened and has affected him, he perceived it as some form of punishment for mocking her beloved God."
    The reverse is also possible: the farmer believes the transformation is the Old Gods' wrath (the Old Gods wanted to display that they still have the power over mortals)?..