[A Reason for Blood] Lead Poisoning, Violence, and Ancient Rome

edited November 2010 in Story Games
I got sucked back into Adult Swim's delightful Viva Caligula, and an idea struck me.

- Your character is a resident of ancient Rome. You're either powerful, or connected to powerful people, and tasked with serving such interests by any means available.
- Your default option is to solve problems through violence, intimidation, or "street action": assembling mobs, political graffiti, and unflattering street theater (you know, the kind where masked actors mock the Emperor, etc.)
- If you don't want to directly confront some adversary in this manner, you can carouse with them instead. But, since Romans used leaden cups, your indulgence will make you more prone to aggression, anger, and antisocial behavior. This earns you points of Lead, which make you better at using violence.
- Eventually, you'll have enough Lead points that you die, or go insane. Maybe you could slowly flush them out of your system - maybe deliberately being rebuffed or defeated could speed the process along?

That's what I got. Whatchall think? Bonus points for players who manage to use roofing tiles or chamber pots as weapons.


  • Ancient Rome is such a fantastic setting. I always wonder why there aren't more games set in it. Here's a crazy idea: Make this a Shab-al-hiri Roach hack. Lead is the Roach. Players are Senators or similarly powerful patricians. Create a series of scenes (senate debates, temple sacrifices, war meetings, orgies) for them to move through.
  • Deal!
    Now all I need to do is play Roach. Want to try it some time?
    I wrote up this post at indie-rpgs.com also, and I added this:
    A quick, simple idea for combat resolution (not sure what else it's for, yet):
    - when two groups are going to have a scuffle, or any sort of physical confrontation where violence is acceptable...
    - each participant states their intentions, assuming nobody interferes.
    - each participant rolls initiative on a d10, and performs their action in that manner.
    - if you attack someone, it preempts their action for this round.
    - if you're a non-combatant (unarmed and untrained), you can't choose to attack.

    - if you're attacking, roll a d10. 7-10 means your target is out of the fight. Your target stops doing whatever they're doing and attacks you too, though.
    - if you're a non-combatant, you can do something like manipulate an object, grab something, etc.
    - if you're using a ranged weapon, you can pick a target and they don't automatically get to hit you back.

    - if you knock someone out of the fight, but don't want to kill or seriously harm them, you have to guard them until the fight is over, or someone else might kill them.
    - if you want to protect a non-combatant, they have to cooperate with you; if they roll better than you on initiative and don't want you to guard them, they could get away.

    I'm thinking Lead could factor into things by providing a moderate edge in combat, and making it a lot easier to provoke a fight. Of course, it eventually kills you...
    I think the tone I want to set ranges from bestial to earthy - dick joke graffiti, lots of blood and infections, sex and nudity, but the plebs involved are just trying to get by, not like these fuckin' nobs with their perversions and their fratricide. Yes, come to think of it, I definitely want to bring Roman class politics into this. Not sure how yet, but I do. Slaves, plebs, nobles, senators (effectively a subset of "nobles"), non-citizens, actual barbarians... it's rich.
  • Oh, God... reading those Roach comics makes me want to pull a sort-of-Otherkind and make Lead stand for all sorts of things, based on its uses - beauty (lipstick and face powder), health (plumbing), revelry (cups) - - in short, clearly all the fruits of civilization.
    The Otherkind reference is to how Iron was a stand-in for learning, science, rationality, and so on. These were the reasons why it was poisonous to the feral fey in the game, rather than mere physical properties.
  • This also sounds like a cross between HBO's Rome and My Life with Master.
  • That could, and should, be emphatically what I'm going for, Steve. Excellent!
    Now, to research.
    The trick will be, of course, that I don't necessarily want Roman political agents who are trying to break free of their faction, so much as I'm interested in how the politics encroaches on the rest of their lives. For many of the plebs in HBO's Rome, politics is not the center of life, but either a job or a frequent (pre)occupation.
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