Legends as Mechanics

edited July 2008 in Story Games
Okay, sorry about this, but it's a bit of a long and boring story. I just wanted to nudge it around a bit.
It's inspired by a comment about legends on the necromantically-raised Ars Magica Hippy Game thread

Anyway: Synopis Follows
I've used legends and reputations in games before as a reward system for players.
Players earn legends and the rights to create what those legends are (sometimes completely, sometimes to a varying degree, depending on the rules system)

These reputations and legends spread around the game world over the course of the campaign.
Players can make use of these legends.

But these legends require a certain amount of GM flexibility and preparation. You have to work them into the game and be willing to let them change encounters drastically. That helps shake up a game which doesn't concentrate much on story to begin with, but would it work so well in a game where the rules are designed with a high sensitivity to the requirements of a story or plot arc?

Sometimes, I run a game based on the old Morrow Project RPG. It's a campaign I've run three times.

Dubbed "The Morlock Project," it tells of a group of randomly-selected and poorly-screened volunteers who get frozen in the modern day and awaken in a post-apocalyptic future USA, one which has gone the way of the Roman Empire (not dead, but no longer powerful, high tech or even educated about its own history.)

The setting has the advantage of a central myth to work from: Everybody in the semi-feudal city states scattered across what's left of the USA knows the story of the Morlocks, a group of monstrous sleeping soldiers created by the legendary king Ronald MacArthur. It is said that when the Golden Arch of Sesame Street is once more threatened by Lex Luthor Bin Laden, the Morlocks will rise again to feast on human flesh and grow strong enough to save the Union.

As players stuggle to survive, dealing with their sub-standard equipment, their own personality conflicts and the mish-mash of salvaged US culture in the paranoid and almost medieval small communities they encounter, they discover that, as part of the Morrow Project, they embody the Morlock Mythos and it becomes both a powerful tool and a guide (or warning) for finding meaning in their often chaotic and cruel new world.

There's no high magic, no supertechnology (well, not much) and no bizarre mutant powers (but the improper cold-sleep technique of the erratically-funded Morrow Project has left the characters with scars or semi-monstrous medical conditions like hyperpilosity, pica or melatonin-imbalance, making it easier for townsolk to equate them with the Morlocks.)

Okay, so it's like a low-rent gamma world without any good special effects.

But the point is, in each campaign I've played, regardless of the system, the players have really seemed to enjoy inventing new aspects of the Morlock Legend based on the actions (and disasters) they initiated during the game session.

Players who made a big impact (for good or ill) on the game world got more "lines" of the legend to write (usually it was just a simple statement that could be passed easily around the countryside as a meme) and could double-up lines if they wanted to make a particular part of the new myth really prevalent.

(The term: "The batman will ruin everything" became a sort of ominous proclomation of the end times, during one of the games.
"Watch for the Big Yellow Bird. It knows how to get to Sesame Street" became another important theme. That group went so far as to create a yellow hang-glider.)

Would something like polaris handle this well if I wanted to move in more of a story games, less-gm-influence direction, perhaps?
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