Help needed from Harry Potter-philes

edited August 2009 in Story Games
My girlfriend is a huge crazy fan of Harry Potter. And she is generally uninterested in RPGs, although grudgingly willing to play one. So I am putting together a Lady Blackbird hack for her (and a few other friends).

Except I'm not particularly well-versed in the world of Harry Potter. I've read a couple of the books, and seen some of the movies, so I kind of know what's up, but I do want the game to feel right.

I don't want the events of the game to be to beholden to the events of the main story, so I'm setting things about a decade prior to Harry's birth ... so Voldemort and the Death-Eaters are around, but the characters won't get in the way of the established story.

What I need are some ideas for what these characters might *do*. I don't want the game to be set at Hogwarts, just in the general world of Harry Potter. I'd generally like to avoid Rowlings' characters, except for maybe a cameo.

So, if any Harry Potter fans out there have any good ideas for me, hit me up.

The characters I came up with, which I am open to changing:

-- Benjamin Stillwell, a student wizard, in his sixth year at Hogwarts.
-- Charlotte Stillwell, a student witch, in her second year at Hogwarts.
-- Gribbock, a house elf of the Stillwell family.
-- Miriam Mintwood, an unregistered fox animagus, escaped from Azkaban prison.
-- John August, an ex-Death Eater, his time at Azkaban served.

Thanks!

(NOTE: If you think it is bad of me to make my girlfriend play RPGs when she isn't interested, there is no need to tell me so, as I know her better than you do, and I am allowed to make her do things she doesn't want to do.)

Comments

  • Right off the bat, Is she OK with not using Hogwarts? For a lot of HP fans, the school of wizardry is a big part of what makes it interesting. I also think you may be making it a harder on yourself since JK Rowling doesn't show us all that much of the wizarding world outside the school.

    Also, you've got 3 characters associated with the Stillwells and two Azkaban ex-cons, which may be making the party too disparate -- but I can't really say, because you haven't told us what the premise is. Lady Blackbird's got a really good one, that starts in media res with a really clear short-term goal (escape) and a whole set of further goals leading up to the big one of getting Lady B. to her pirate friend. Have you come with a good premise yet?
  • Well, one thing important to note is that if you've got Hogwarts students in the game, you'll have to set it during the Summer holidays if you don't want to go to the school. Hogwarts is a boarding school and its students live there during term-time.

    Secondly you'll need to get the right mentality for the house elf. These are creatures that want to serve people so badly that if forced (or even tempted) to do something that might be against their master's wishes, that they'll punish themselves physically for doing it. They're in general lackeyish, with a tendency to fixate. Not that this is an absolute, there are always examples. Dobby eventually became emancipated and was offered a wage rather than self-imposed slavery, and Kreacher hated his new masters after his horribly evil mistress passed on and did his best to twist his orders to his own ends.

    What the others do is going to depend on them. The thing about the Harry Potter books is that these are just ordinary people that you might meet in the street, who just happen to be capable of magic. In general, witches and wizards don't understand or make use of technology and those that do typically mess it up horribly. If something comes up and you're tempted to use a gadget, even something as simple as a washing machine, then use magic instead. Not that you can't have magic gadgets like Hagrid's flying motorbike, but they're *magic* so they don't need to be understood.

    As for your death eaters, if they're not reformed then their usual modus operandi is to look down their noses at people who aren't from pure wizard stock (i.e. both their parents were magical) especially people whose parents were both quite ordinary. They go in a lot for psychological torture and embarrassing people, but aren't actually all that keen on hurting and killing them without good reason. They're like cats really, they like to play with their food. Again this is a generalism - some are genuinely so horribly spiteful that they will kill on a whim. Oh, also don't forget they have a horribly tacky tattoo of a skull with a snake coming out of it on the inside of their wrist, which they can use to send an inaudible 'distress signal' to Voldemort.

    Chances are if they are reformed, they'll be hiding from him. My suggestion would be if you've got one reformed death eater and one who's as nasty as ever, then the one could be looking for the other in order to drag them off to Voldemort and explain their behaviour. The typical Harry Potter story would have you believe the wrong one was the nice one for most of the book and reveal at the end you'd got it precisely the wrong way around.

    Don't know how helpful this is, but good luck with it.

    -Ash
  • Posted By: BWAWhat I need are some ideas for what these characters might *do*.
    They should go and seek some magical artifact, which is guarded by lots of complex puzzles and monsters. There should be an evil wizard who wants the artifact as well.

    I would personally set it in Hogwarts. As Danny says, the school is an important part of the story. Failing that, set it in another school, such as Durmstrang, or another established place like Diagon Alley or the Ministry of Magic.

    Graham
  • edited August 2009
    There are also competitions with other schools of magic which can turn into cooperation when some evil bloke is found to be behind some kind of scheme.

    HP is very much in the continuation of boarding school fiction that has existed in the UK since Tom Brown's Schooldays and probably before. You could steal from any of these. My wife, Paula, is a collector of such stories, notably Billy Bunter, the Fat Owl of the Remove. These stories seem to be about evil foreigners, Bunter stealing food, psorting competitions, boys getting into scrapes.

    I've played 3 HP games. In the first, we played the characters of the series and, much as Graham suggests, looked for some magical artifact hidden by puzzles. Paula wrote a LARP which we ran, the main plot of which was that someone had stolen the snitch and various questy things were undertaken to retrieve it. Finally, I ran a game of Mortal Coil about a kind of tri-wizard contest.

    I think having the young wizards doing work experience at the Ministry might also be great fun.
  • House Elves also are really powerful. Like top-notch wizards who don't need wands. Their wish (curse) to serve is the only thing that keeps them from being a true force in the world.

    Rowling introduced other schools outside of Hogwarts in The Goblet of Fire. That could be a possible starting point.
  • It doesn't need to be done during the summer. Lady Blackbird is about escape to adventure. That dovetails nicely with the HP theme of maverick students going at it alone withh a little nod from Dumbeldore. There are a thousand crazy things the Stilwell family could need, but be too frightened to go after.

    That kind of thing could definitely bring in multiple antagonists, death eaters, truant officers from the ministry, the threat of expulsion, foreign ministry agents from whatever country (Albania! where you Know Who is rumored to be) they go to.

    My HP geekiness would definitely want to bring in Charlie and Bill Weasley in small supporting roles.

    Oh, and putting them in Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff would be an awesome way to seperate them further from canon.

    I'll try to get GeekGirlsRule to comment on this, she's run several HP games, her Amberites at Hogwarts games at Ambercon NW are an annual favorite.
  • Thanks, all. There are some great ideas in here.

    I do really like the Lady Blackbird method of dropping the characters into a tense, ongoing situation, so I plan to do that. As Clint says, there's no need to have it take place during the summer. The two students (and their house elf) will be whisked away from their studies by their godmother, recently escaped from Azkaban (unjustly accused, of course), who has a mysterious and sinister ex-Death Eater in tow.
    Posted By: GrahamThey should go and seek some magical artifact, which is guarded by lots of complex puzzles and monsters. There should be an evil wizard who wants the artifact as well.
    Right! The characters in the adventure should do the same kind of thing the characters in the books do. That's good.
  • As for locations, my plan was to print out some cards with various famous settings on them (Hogwarts, Azkaban, Department of Mysteries, Gringotts Bank, Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley), and have them lying on the table.

    So after each scene, one player picks a card they like and throws it down, and is responsible for setting the next scene in that location.

    I was trying to think of some mechanic for this, but I think letting everyone grab a setting card when they feel inspired will do the trick.
  • Posted By: OgremarcoIt doesn't need to be done during the summer. Lady Blackbird is about escape to adventure. That dovetails nicely with the HP theme of maverick students going at it alone withh a little nod from Dumbeldore. There are a thousand crazy things the Stilwell family could need, but be too frightened to go after.
    That's a good point too I guess, but if you assume an escape from Hogwarts you either have to start there, or in the Summer Holidays before the students go there, or in media res which I personally have never been fond of, which is probably why the idea didn't occur to me. I've also never played or even read Lady Blackbird, seen a few threads about it floating around but that's it. Maybe I should look at it sometime, I dunno.

    -Ash
  • Posted By: Destriarch I've also never played or even read Lady Blackbird, seen a few threads about it floating around but that's it. Maybe I should look at it sometime, I dunno.
    Lady Blackbird definitely inspired me, for this game and another. The rules/setting themselves are cool, but the idea behind it ("Grab some rules you like! Make a handful of characters ready to go at it! Start in the middle of an action scene! Go!") really got into the gaming parts of my brain and changed things around for the better.

    Respect is due.
  • Another option, of course, is to convert the Lady Blackbird plot. Begin with the PCs captured in the Hand of Sorrow, which will now be a big magical ship. Change some of the location names to Harry Potter locations. Have Hogwarts as the last location and Death Eaters hunting for the PCs. It'd work fine.

    Graham
  • Posted By: BWAAs for locations, my plan was to print out some cards with various famous settings on them (Hogwarts, Azkaban, Department of Mysteries, Gringotts Bank, Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley), and have them lying on the table.

    So after each scene, one player picks a card they like and throws it down, and is responsible for setting the next scene in that location.

    I was trying to think of some mechanic for this, but I think letting everyone grab a setting card when they feel inspired will do the trick.
    Neat. You should throw in some ringers, too, to give them room for inspiration.

    Part of the coolness of L.B. is the tight focus -- it's five characters with a goal, here's the setting, now go! I think some kind of tightness would help. If you don't have a tightly focused premise, maybe a focused time would work -- set the game during the Quidditch championship, or over Christmas so there's a only a little time to do things in. Instead of it being a whole novel, it would be like one of the longish chapters in the Harry Potter books where the kids go explore something on their own.

    How were you going to handle magic? The L.B. sorcery system is kind of its own thing.
  • Posted By: DannyKPart of the coolness of L.B. is the tight focus -- it's five characters with a goal, here's the setting, now go! I think some kind of tightness would help.
    Right! I agree completely.

    That's really what I was looking for from this thread. Almost all the comments have been helpful, but what I really want are some ideas like this.

    Given the characters above (or a similar set), what sort of things would be most appropriate for them to do? I think Graham's comment was good; there should be an evil wizard (Voldemort? Or just someone Voldemort-y?) who wants to get a thing, and the characters have to get it first.

    But what's the thing? Where is it? What are the traps and monsters? What personal conflicts set the characters at one another in small ways?

    I don't care so much about referencing or re-creating specific Harry Potter things, just that the game be suitably Harry Potter-ish.
  • Posted By: DannyKHow were you going to handle magic? The L.B. sorcery system is kind of its own thing.
    I was thinking broad categories could be the traits (Charms, Hexes, Defense Against the Dark Arts, House Elf Magic, etc.) and specific spells or effects could be tags. So one students could have "Trained at Hogwarts" as traits, and "Petronus Charm" as a tag, for example.

    But I'm not wedded to the LB rules. It's just a good jumping off point. I'd be fine having each character with a list of spells they could call on, each one with a small dice pool of its own, to be used as appropriate when the spell is cast. ("I've got +3d for my Cruciatis Curse. I'm totally going all Death-Eater on the guy.")
  • If you're set on the characters going after something, I'd have it be a person. Maybe a member of the Stillwell family? I'm not sure how the other two characters come in, maybe the missing Stillwell knows their innocent?

    To tie it all together: Tobias Stillwell, Ministry of Magic informer, spent years undercover as a Death Eater. One fine summer day, two rough-shod people (Miriam and John) barge into the Stillwell home with wands drawn. Ben, Charlotte and Gribbock are the only ones home, and report the Uncle Tobias has been gone for several days, most mysteriously. Miriam and John claim to be Aurors, and everyone sets off to find Tobias...

    ...only to be faced with half a dozen Death Eaters outside their door. Begin scene.


    I'm not completely happy with this since:
    -It's not as clean as Lady B
    -Too many of the characters share motives/methods (The Stillwells all want their Uncle back, the others need his information and are pretending to be Aurors)
  • Well, you said your girlfriend is a huge crazy fan... will she mind if you break canon? Because, according to JKR, the first person to escape Azkaban was Sirius Black. If so, Miriam Mintwood's background is a no-no.

    About ideas, the Stillwells work for the Department of Mysteries and disappear while their children are at school. The parents don't respond to letters so they call their house elf, bringing some clues. They go out and some detective work later, they find that the mcguffin is at Hogwarts. Cue final battle inside the Shrieking Shack while the children visit Hogsmeade.
  • Awesome stuff, guys, thanks.

    Searching for a lost family member is better than a thing, to my mind. And I love that Uncle Tobias was undercover as a Death-Eater. Maybe he knows John August from way back. And Miriam Mintwood was his SECRET LOVER. Or, you know, something like that. Also, Death Eaters outside the door? Excellent! Go!

    Torque, point taken about Azkaban. There's another wizard prison, right? I guess I could use that one. Or Miriam Mintwood *was* the first person to ever escape, but she didn't get the credit. She's the Rosalind Franklin of imprisoned wizards.
  • I kinda want to run the equivalent of an accelerated GED for harry potter type wizards. Sure some lucky kids get to go to hogwarts but sometimes either due to accident, nature or just plain distance, magical education doesn't start until most wizards are long past a school. Instead of preppy little houses , and points, and caring and genuinely nice headmasters and mistresses, we get phil who is an okay wizard but a rotten people person, the basement of a church who doesn't really realize whats going on (and wants to keep it thatway) and a bunch of almost squibs trying to explain to the exprisoner that 'we believe you didn't commit those crimes that that the evil cursed necklace made you do it, but you have a magical gift which is why the necklace worked on you and you have to train it because otherwise you'll go on to commit more random accidents

    So my guess.

    If your going to have adult concepts, have adults concepts but dont have a 2nd year running arround
    If your going to have the school be a complex metaphor for what its like growing up lonely and junk like that, dont have convicts show up
    If your going to have childish fun and wonderment in harry potter town, you probably want to start from year one in hogwarts (potentially setting it after the novels) most of the cast is still there to be used, but you dont have to worry so much about canon.
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