Perdido Street Station via TSoY

edited November 2007 in Story Games
Working my way through China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, and the massive selection of truly bizarre species and thaumaturgy present in New Crobuzon seems to just scream a TSoY hack. Keys and Secrets really lend themselves to the creation of varied player races. Want to just brainstorm on how this would work. Obviously, I'll be better off to handle this after I finish the novel, but I want a place to brainstorm as I progress, and I like to have the thoughts, opinions, suggestions, and criticisms of others while I do so.

So, thoughts?


  • I love Perdido Street Station and wholeheartedly support your efforts. So, for starters, I think this is a great idea. How to go about it? Hell if I know. Let me think on it over my long, unpaid, holiday weekend. It'll be more productive than thinking about how much it sucks to be a contract worker.
  • Yeah,I honestly don't see anything outside of the just gross generics of Risus that could manage the menagerie of Cacti,Vodyanoi, Khepri, and Remade (especially Remade) with any satisfying crunchyness.
  • China Mieville based a lot of the stuff on his early play of D&D. There was an issue of the Dragon in which he talked about the things he liked in the game. and they statted up a bunch of stuff. That said, D&D with the hacks for keys in D&D Clinton did would be very cool.
  • Posted By: NikoYeah,I honestly don't see anything outside of the just gross generics of Risus that could manage the menagerie of Cacti,Vodyanoi, Khepri, and Remade (especially Remade) with any satisfying crunchyness.
    I actually think that GURPS Hellboy would work fairly well.
  • edited November 2007
    Actually, the GURPSlite with Hellboy could work... but GURPS just feels a bit stilted for something like PSS. Hmmm.

    As far as DnD... never been a huge fan of the system as a whole. I mean, I play it as much as would be expected with 20+ years of gaming under my belt, but it's always been at its core a miniatures game for me. Always so clumsy.
  • Chad Underkoffler's PDQ system could do it extremely well, I think.
  • TSoY mechanics + Perdido Street Station?

    Once this holiday is over, I'm all over this thread like feathers on a Garuda.
  • Hm. Can you talk a little more about how you'd do that, Judd? I would generally think that the heavy pre-construction element of tsoy would interfere with like the continuous slow reveal of new setting elements that's such a large part of PSS; I guess you see it differently, or you've got some way to do tsoy-on-the-fly?

    (I mean, personally I'd just use Mortal Coil and skip all that...)

  • Let's specifically touch on one of the subsidiary reasons I'm choosing TSoY-- I have access to it. Not so much Mortal Coil. Yes, I've got access to DnD, Hellboy, and PSS-- but of those (other than PSS) don't really catch the feel of PSS as well as the TSoY mechanic. TSoY has a good bit of the character drama needed for a good PSS game built into the mechanics-- GURPS tends to be rather soulless, so too DnD. TSoY (as shown with Goblins) captures the tragedy of, say, the Remade right on the character sheet.
  • GURPS slake-moth stat block (plus an artist's rendition that looks nothing like I imagined a slake-moth to look like..)

    btw, I finished Perdido Street Station just today! :D
  • Heh,looks like a Gieger take on a cave cricket...

    Just met the slake-moth, and so far looks to me more shadow and kalidiscopic (spelling, eesh) wings.
  • If I did Perdido Street Station (and I'm unlikely to), I'd probably use D&D or something like it (which is a weird thing for me to say). I guess for me the thing that makes the setting so compelling is the way the fantastic is made mundane. The world is full of these incredible wonders, who have to go and get jobs and pay the rent. It's a world where the rules are weird and arcane, but consistent and observable. I think it would be a mammoth project, but making a D&D mod for the setting seems like the best way to achieve something approaching that. D&D has the familiarity, but also the bizarreness, to carry that off. It's got the same feeling of rules that make absolutely no sense, but fit together into a cohesive system. It would feel right to me to be considering the properties of Scabmettler blood to decide if it provides damage reduction or an AC bonus, or to be figuring out the Will save required to resist a Slake Moth. It's the kind of world where even the most wonderous, other-worldly beings have mundane concerns, where enough physical force can overcome almost any metaphysical threat. I think that's what the author's comments in Dragon boiled down to, that he liked D&D for the rigid categorization of the fantastical, for the dissection of wonder into coherant stat blocks.

    Of course, the other element of the setting is that around every corner is another unique marvel, completely unexpected and yet an important part of the city's ecosystem. This is possible in the books, but it seems pretty impossible for a roleplaying game, without some kind of ninja tricks from the GM. That's assuming, of course, that you use a traditional GM structure to approach the the game. I think that's a path that leads to madness. You'd need one of those much-idolized savant GMs, dedicated to reproducing the setting in glorious detail, doing hours of statting up, and also improvising additions to the setting which feel on a par with what's already been created. It would be an almost impossible task. I think perhaps a better, saner way to approach it would be as a series of short stories, perhaps with a rotating GM or with shared duties, to limit the amount of work done at any one time.

    I'm not saying that it can't be done with TSoY, and indeed I think you could have a great game like that, albeit subject to the same problems as playing in any setting from a novel or film: That the source material is already telling the story that the setting is built to support. Interestingly I think this is less of a problem with New Crobizon, and that's probably the greatest weakness of the books, that they're a fantastic setting with kind of irrelevant-seeming stories attached. PSS felt like a third-party RPG module - a little adventure that didn't seem to build on the vision of the setting that was so evident. The Scar had the most satisfying storyline, it felt like something that could only happen in New Crobizon, but then kind of didn't go anywhere. Iron Council was great, and felt like it was going to really make a mark on the setting, only to end, literally, with nothing happening. It seems like the author is so in love with his setting that he's not prepared to have any significant changes happen. Just like an RPG setting, all the "metaplot" happens outside the story presented in the book. In that sense, playing D&D in the setting is likely to feel very much like the books - a bunch of events happening in the setting, with no lasting impact.
  • TSoY has some neat features that would tie well into a wild fantastic story like Perdido Street Station. However, Mieville's stories tend to deal with huge power differentials (some characters are just about all-powerful, otherless are almost completely impotent) and a strong focus on the theme of powerlessness--how does the individual stand up against powers so much greater than him or herself that they can barely be grasped?

    As I understand it, a fundamental aspect of TSoY is that everyone is more or less on even footing. Even the little goblin slave-boy can defeat the great sorcerer--we're all "human", after all. So you might run into problems trying to model that whole gamut of "powerless nobody" to "earth-shaking influence" in TSoY.
  • Posted By: Chris Petersonplus an artist's rendition that looks nothing likeIimagined a slake-moth to look like..
    Yeah. Isn't the SLake-moth describes as being somewhat more ... human-like looking? It's been a bit since I read PSS but I think I remember something like a human-like face with the feelers/antennas for eyes or something.
    Could be wrong though.
Sign In or Register to comment.