[Fifth World] Basic mechanics

edited August 2007 in Game Design Help
Hello everyone!

I'm fairly new around here, but still excited about this whole "story games" idea. I've been working for a while now on a game called the Fifth World, and a lot of the things I hear about story games sound a lot like things I'd like to see in the Fifth World.

Anyway, v. 0.2 came out last year, and it got a review on RPG.net that was ... well, deserved, I would say. v. 0.2 isn't something we're too proud of, so there's a reason it doesn't start with 1. So, we're working hard on v. 0.3, which I'm hoping to make much more story game oriented. It's going to be an open source setting and an open source system, all running off a wiki (thefifthworld.com), but we figure, we need to have the basics of a working game going before we'll really be ready to open it up to the whole world, or who would care?

Which brings me to the basic mechanic. v. 0.2 used a roll & keep system like Legend of the Five Rings, which I suppose is fine, but it doesn't do much to add to the story. The Fifth World takes from the Emergence mythology of Native American cosmology and the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012, to posit what I've called a "post-apocalyptic, pseudo-utopian" world. Global warming's changed the planet completely, civilization's collapsed, and humanity's better off for it. It shares a lot in common with some ecotopian fiction. The emphasis on the game is on relationships: human relationships that form your tribe or band, as well as relationships with other-than-human persons in an animistic world. Characters aren't defined in terms of skills and attributes, but in terms of their relationships: groups they belong to, inititiations they've undergone, spirits that guide them, and so on. The focus of the Fifth World is very local: specific places, with their own genius loci that lives through all the inhabitants there (in that, we do have a GM right now, more or less: the guy that plays the land. The land's a character like anyone else. I'm also thinking of rules that would pass that around a little more--intergenerational campaigns where players play clans instead of individuals, for instance. I'm open to being talked out of having a GM of any kind, though, if someone can convince me it's worth it.)

Which brings us back to the basic mechanic. I love games like Deadlands or Dogs in the Vineyard, where the system helps tell the story. I want to come up with something like that for the Fifth World. But at the moment, I'm lacking for ideas. What kind of basic mechanic would emphasize ecological relationship or small group/personal/local mythology?


  • The very-most-basic would be something like, "You have regular old stats and skills. But..."

    * ...any time your character does something that takes into consideration the ecological relationship or tribal structure (helping a person because they are from your tribe, etc), you get a bonus die."


    "...all your d6es become d10s"

    Something like that. Just a small mechanical benefit for doing it. Another route is conversion to TSOY or adaptation of TSOY's "keys". Key of the Tribe, Key of the Ecology, etc.

    Them's the basics, anyway.

    Also, I tried DLing the old rules/character sheet but the links from the Wiki didn't seem to work...

    Good luck!

  • Posted By: jasonThe land's a character like anyone else.
    That's where you should start. How awesome would it be if there was a player who played the world? Not the GM, but a player whose character was an actual piece of land. Like, one player gets to be the genius loci that you were talking about. Perhaps they get to describe parts of the setting, assign bonuses to character actions, create challenges and opposition, but they can't (except perhaps in extraordinary circumstances) talk directly and in-character to the other players. The other players have to intuit what the character wants from the descriptions and bonuses provided by the player.

    That's my off-the-wall idea for the day, anyway.
  • edited September 2007
    Thanks! Sorry I've neglected this; it's a hell of a month for me, lots of things going on.
    Andy wrote:
    Another route is conversion to TSOY or adaptation of TSOY's "keys". Key of the Tribe, Key of the Ecology, etc.

    We actually have a flagging mechanism, though I think we've already wrapped it into the setting more tightly than that. See, every person is defined less in terms of what they "are," than how they relate. High up among those relationships are your various spirits, which largely determine your personality. So, you have a totem spirit, the protective spirit of your clan or such, which looks over a group you belong to. You'll generally have one. Then you have your own guardian spirit. If you're really powerful, you might have two. A shaman is defined by the fact that he has a familiar spirit. All of those are animal spirits; on top of that, you might have one or more ancestor spirits.

    All spirits have their own personality, usually the personality of the animal in question (the nice thing about ancestor spirits, is that they're more freeform; you can come up with new ancestors with different personalities). Spirits grant blessings and inflict curses (advantages & disadvantages, effectively), and they also have a certain amount of favor. When you act in accordance with your spirit's personality, you gain the favor of that spirit. So, if you have a Badger totem, you'll recieve favor with Badger if you pick a fight you didn't really need to pick. So another player can tell the player with the Badger totem, "Nuh uh, you can't get out of this situation that peacefully; you want to pick a fight." And you can gain favor with Badger by doing so, or burn through a point of favor to resist. You can then use favor to gain blessings from the spirit, or to gain bonuses at tasks they oversee (Badger can help you with herbalism, for example).
    Andy wrote:
    Also, I tried DLing the old rules/character sheet but the links from the Wiki didn't seem to work...

    Because they're not there. Which could be a good thing for me. :) But I suppose I should put them up anyway. Sigh.

    Update: Added them to the Version 0 page on the wiki. We're using Google Docs for v. 0.3, so the format might change, but now v. 0.1 and 0.2 are there. I'm none too pleased with v. 0.2, so bear in mind that very few of the concepts there are going to survive into 0.3 (although I do like the basic ideas of the magic system), and none of the writing.
    Simon C wrote:
    That's my off-the-wall idea for the day, anyway.

    I think you're right. The more I think about it, the more excited I become about the idea. That the "Land" player also plays the NPC's makes some sense in an animistic sense, since animists believe that everything that lives in the Land is another manifestation of it. But tying that role more explicitly into just another player, with a particular character, rather than the story-god, I think that may be a very good way of bringing home the animism through the gameplay.
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