Sunday 20 July 2014

A Game Within a Game

Wow, who would have thought that starting a second blog and then starting a new job with an almost 2-hours-each-way commute would have been so detrimental for my "Billy Goes to Mordor" output. I never would have guessed...

But, I'm still hanging in there.

So, speaking of never knowing what to expect, I've been reading Tad Williams "Otherland Volume 1: City of Golden Shadow". I picked up this one, together with Robert Heinlein's "Stranger in a Strange Land", while swapping books with a friend. I expected the latter to be great, with it's epic title and cool cover-art, while I didn't have high hopes for "Otherland" with it's over-long title and being by an author I had never read nor had recommended to me. So, of course, I'm loving "Otherland" after I finally gave up on "Stranger" 100 pages in.

A Story Within A Story

Otherland starts out jumping back and forth between a number of apparently unrelated Cyberpunk and Fantasy stories, each of them quite compelling. But, halfway through, it's clear from a number of hints that some(and presumably all) of the stories are somehow related, though it's still largely a mystery how.

One of the narratives I found particularly compelling is that of Thargor the Barbarian. Thargor is fairly standard Swords & Sorcery Barbarian, off adventuring with his buddy Pithlit the Thief. Not quite Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, but still pretty good stuff. They end up encountering something truly weird and we soon find out that the two are actually young kids playing an MMORPG in virtual reality. The Fantasy adventure quickly becomes a Cyberpunk tale as the kids are sucked into a high-stakes game of intrigue.

The story really plays in with the book's general theme of the strange mixing of realities created by the proliferation of VR and the Net. The youths' RL(Real-Life) personas reflect, but at the same time contrast with, their bad-ass PCs. This is particularly pronounced in "The Deadly Tower of Senbar Flay" where Thargor's bravado and Orlando's cocky confidence as his online avatar, clash so starkly in the following scene where he lies awake in bed, worried his parents will ground him and aware just how vulnerable a child like him would be if the mysterious criminals should come after him in RL.

A Game I'd Like to Run

Typical Gen Y'ers as seen by an aging DM?
I think there's a great basis for an RPG adventure here. Tell your group to make High-Level DnD PCs and start an adventure. Then, once they're sufficiently deep-in (maybe towards the end of the first session) have them hit the anomaly and reveal to them that they are actually kids playing an MMORPG. Then they need to create CP2020 PCs(perhaps using Cybergeneration rules) and they can investigate the anomaly in the MMORPG, online using their computer skills, and in RL. The stakes get increasingly higher since dying in the MMORPG just loses you your current PC, while online activity can get you in trouble with the law and other groups, and in RL you can die, get sent to Juvy, etc.

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