Games Design - [E&E] What's it all about then?

Posted by: Matt On: Jan 6th 2011

So a while back I posted a bit of a teaser and experiment about my game, Enlightenment & Entropy. Joe rightly asked "what is the game about?"

Therein lies a tale.

Because I've been working on this game a fair while and like all such things the game became muddied by various redrafts and a desire to try new ideas. The version that had an abortive playtest at Ropecon 07 was a bit of a mess and part of that mess was me not being quite sure what I wanted from the game or how to explain what I wanted to the players. It had some good stuff, but mostly it needed junking and starting again from scratch. So, yeah, because I wasn't really confident in explaining what the game was about it suffered in play... strange that.

So I went away and decided to rehash the game parts. Not the setting bits, I was quite happy with most of that. I also knew I wanted a game where the setting was rich, but not overburdening and where players shifted it through play and grew the bits they were interested in. Cool stuff, but not the core of the game, the city and the shared ownership of it are means to an end. I'd got distracted by that.

It essence is a game about making stories about characters pushed to the brink by forces more powerful than themselves, the fallout that causes and the secrets it reveals. It takes a lot of its inspiration from what I consider the better bits of fantasy city literature.

As my new intro blurb puts it in more tersely: This game is a game about secrets, passions and greater powers.

To drill down a bit into that:

What do the Players do?
Push towards their characters drives, revealing the city's secrets and creating stories inspired by the works of Morecock, Leiber, Mieville, Wolfe and Gentle.

What do the Characters do?
Follow their passions and play a cat and mouse game with allegiance to the powers in the city and the forces of Enlightenment and Entropy.

What does the Director do?
Creates antagonism for the characters via factions, greater powers and their agents.

Inspirational Touchstones
Bas Lag and its denizens, particularly the social commentary.
The trials and tribulations of the eternal champion, particularly Von Bek's transformative experiences.
The Shadow of the Torturer, particularly the decaying and decadent city of Nessus.
Rats & Gargoyles, particularly the architects and geomancy
The Lies of Locke Lamora, for the low-life highlife.
Thief : The Dark Project, particularly the gloom, the trickster and the ruins beneath the city.
Film Noir, for the urban maze and driven characters.
A|State, for the grime and the layers.

So that's what its about.

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 7th 2011

That hits a lot of my hot buttons, Matt. Looking forward to seeing more on this.

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Jan 7th 2011

Matt, you've sold me just by referencing Shadow of the Torturer.

Have you read The Malachia Tapestry by Brian W. Aldiss?* A slightly under-acknowledged classic and a book that could well be an inspirational source for E&E. One of the main themes of the book is the stamping on any kind of progress, while the characters within the story come head to head with this. Likewise the Viriconium books by M. John Harrison are also worthwhile.


*From an interview a while back, I seem to remember that it was a fairly large influence on Mieville.

Posted by: Matt On: Jan 7th 2011

Gregor, yeah, I think it'll hit a few common themes of folks who frequent these boards. It was interesting reading Remember Tomorrow and seeing a few parallels, and of course there are similarities with A|State.

I haven't read The Malachia Tapestry, but I'll check it out.

Posted by: Joe Prince On: Jan 8th 2011

Sounding good Matt.

I don't know any of those references ( 'cept A/state o course) but I think E&E would still work for me. It always put me in mind of Gormenghast.

Can you say some more on the greater powers?

Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Jan 8th 2011

Oh, and there's a Director. Is that just one person or does that rotate?

Posted by: Matt On: Jan 9th 2011

Joe, yeah, Gormenghast would be a good source too, perhaps a bit more slow paced, but the crumbling edifice feel would work well.

Gregor, the return of the Director is one of the bigger shifts from the draft we played at Ropecon. I felt it needed a central juggler figure to ramp the antagonism and manage some aspects of owning the city factions. It doesn't rotate, as of the current draft, mainly as I'm primarily looking at short campaign arcs.

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