Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Special Post: Amaranthine RPG Needs You

Welcome to a very special edition of Dark Corners, please don't mind the extra length. Today I have a post collided with an almost interview with David A. Hill Jr. of Machine Age Productions, makers of Maschine Zeit--I hope to discuss that game later. David and the crew are running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the print run of Amaranthine right now. Additional funds pledged will mean additional game materials will be available sooner and your pledge earns you items like copies of the game, and those bonus materials and products as per your pledge. I am very excited about this game. As the teaser says, "Leap across rooftops to battle the enemy you've fought fifty times before. You know that every time you meet, one of you will die. It cannot be you; in this life, you have too much to live for."

Amaranthine is a role-playing game where the fabric of the setting, of the back-story of the characters, is heavily influenced by their past lives. One of the key aspects is something called the Relationship Wheel. When David and I began talking about Amaranthine I mentioned that I rarely touch on game mechanics here from a dice standpoint, but rather the effect. What it does for the story the GM and players are forming. David told me, "Almost every important roll in Amaranthine stresses a relationship." Of course this is apparent in the talks on the site, and he also summed it up well when he said, "The effect of the Relationship Wheel is really the important part anyway. The dice are just a mechanism to see that happens."

The Relationship Wheel is part of a system that stresses escalation of conflict or tension, and the character interaction aspects in the game. My interest focused on the current effect this has on the characters within one life's cycle, as opposed to where it was in the past--if you will, a focus on the here and now of your game. It is built into the character's psychological make up to push their relationships, strain them... a good metaphor is pulling the bond your character has with someone important to them like an elastic band until it snaps back. Often it hurts your finger because you did it wrong. There's the pain when it hits, or it pulls too far and it breaks on both sides at once, half snapping back, the other half lashing out at the other end. When you get into love triangles or a conflict-à-trois--like I've previously discussed--then pulled or broken, if something was loaded in the elastic the question becomes what was it targeted at--intentionally or not--and what damage does that payload do?

David said, "I like to look at it like Spider-Man and Mary Jane. As he goes swinging around on rooftops saving the world, it adds tension to their relationship. Sometimes, he needs to do specific things with her to really cool down that side of it."

Also a part of the game is the idea that the Amaranthine do not do it just once. Even in a single lifetime they do it over and again even when they know it will hurt. I imagine they can't help it. It's hard to break a habit like that.

Talking about how this also works with mortal--or really in this case practically immortal--enemies David told me, "It's sort of a fight or compliance with fate. Say I've killed you three times before. When we meet, and you remember that, are you going to assume I'm -not- fated to kill you? Of course you're going to assume it. So, you might try to kill me. It causes this vicious cycle, because then of course I'll attack back."

In the first post describing Amaranthine it was said that "Amaranthine isn’t about resolving conflicts, it’s about exploring them, creating them, fostering them, then watching them explode." I see this as especially true when we are talking about the meta-game level where players are working to push and strain, to create conflict, to add drama and get something out of it both as players, and for their characters/in-character. That's a fascinating aspect.

In a bit of contrast David told me, "When I say we don't focus as much on success or failure, I mean to say Amaranthine are awesome. For the most part, we assume they'll win. Or at least, they -can- win if they're willing to put enough on the table. Really, we're more concerned about those kinds of hard decisions."

I had to ask myself, what does the character get out it? Heartache is likely. Death is a possibility. I imagine as the cycle continues the highs become higher and the lows become lower--I touched on this in my haunting cycle of escalation two weeks ago (Don't Wear Us Out, Josh)--but what is being gained in the highs? On one hand if we're talking about personal relationships there's great sex, there's a strengthening bond. Professionally there are big deals, favours owed, mergers or coalitions, the benefit of more influential networking, etc.

I asked David, do the Amaranthine become aware in their own way that they could build karma up to their benefit? Do the more villainous or mercenary amongst them escalate conflicts with their adversaries for the express purpose of getting the upper hand the next time around, whether, as David said, in direct conflict with that adversary or through undermining them via their associates?

His answer was, "The karma question is one I've not touched on yet. It's something I've been thinking about. Fate and destiny are ingrained heavily into what Amaranthine is, so of course that's one way to look into it. We spend a bit exploring the weight of responsibility when you know more, and are capable of more than anyone else."

Back to that first post on the Machine Age Productions site, there is a description of the Relationship Wheel as having two ‘neutral zones’ along the wheel, and a ‘hot’ zone and a ‘cold’ zone. ...if the wheel is for a lover, the hot zone might offer bonuses when trying to influence them. The cold zone might offer bonuses to resist a strong emotional response when they’re in danger. With a nemesis, the hot zone might offer a bonus to all-out, guttural attacks against them. The cold might offer bonuses to attacking their sycophants to indirectly harm them."

All in all this looks like another fascinating game from David and the crew at Machine Age Productions. Again, if this game interests you please consider donating to the Amaranthine Kickstarter for the print run and other materials.

Mood: thrilled.
Music: Infinite Dreams by Iron Maiden and Crazy by Aerosmith.

Iron Maiden: Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
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Aerosmith: Get a Grip
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