Master Mines

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Better articulating my overall goal

As I’m working on Know Thyself for this Monday, thinking about the Power 19 and my design goals in general, and chewing on what’s working for my game and what’s not, here’s what I’ve come up with:

I don’t want my game to only be about regaining memories. I want memories to be regained as a consequence of what happens during the course of the “present” narrative or conflict resolution. Paul’s game is focused on memory recall, and that’s awesome (no, seriously, this isn’t a gimme comment, his game reads like something I want — and will after playtesting my own game — to thrown down at our weekly board/card/one-off game group). But I don’t want my game to be just about recall.

I want to capture people reacting to who they are, and I want to capture this in relation to some goal — whether that be escaping the palace, winning a bet against the Master (which was in the original design and is on the cutting room floor right now because it doesn’t add to play), or something else either universal or personal. This is made up in the twin issues I call Initial Motive Force and Play Inertia — how do we get things going and how do we keep them going? It’s also the “So, Ryan, this is a neat idea, but what do I do with the game?” issue.

The mode of play I’ll be testing out on Monday will be decentralized (i.e. GM-less) mode where each character is separate, which I’m calling “Ships Passing Through The Night” mode. So far, this consists of drawing a card from the Room deck, having one person frame the scene for you, another play your adversity when the conflict comes, and then rotating around. Ideally, I want to preserve, possibly enhance some, the sense of randomness or chaoticness that will keep the travel (hey, Daniel!) between scenes for a character surreal & dream-like. That’s one of the points of the game my first playtest loved, and it brought forth a neat element in play: the sense that you could end up being not just a person, but a god, abstract idea, or something else.

So, I want the game to be both about memories regained and about the present situation of dealing with an issue in this strange place, and I want to keep the game feeling surreal/dream-like.

The way I’m looking at achieving Initial Motive Force is to add one thing to the proto-character creation: a question. This would be your only memory when you “wake up.” Something like “Where’s my sister?” Part way through the game, as you learn about who you are, perhaps you better understand why you’re looking for your sister and define either what your character would want or wouldn’t want to have happen. The endgame is about whether you succeed. Something like this would hopefully put success as a more equal footing as the memory element of the game.

Incidentally, I just marked up a deck of playing cards for Know Thyself. This could make for an expensive, laborious ashcan to produce.


June 17, 2007 - Posted by | Know Thyself


  1. That endgame sounds a bit like A Penny For My Thoughts’ endgame. Which is to the good, really, but I am wondering how the palace is factoring in thematically right now.

    Comment by misuba | June 17, 2007 | Reply

  2. Thematically…I’m not sure. It’s a setting, a framework, but I’m not sure where “thematically” comes in with this game.

    One element that I’ve been chewing on (which Jeff mentions about Paul’s game, actually), is that Know Thyself would be an awesome way of creating characters for another game that have an immediate motivation — a kicker, if you will — at the end of the Know Thyself session.

    I didn’t get time to write up the skeleton of the new rules this weekend, but I’d better get crackin’ since I have a playtest in 17 hours…

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | June 18, 2007 | Reply

  3. Ryan, going back to the technique of the Memory Palace, the way it works is that you have “items” in the various “rooms” that you mnemonically tie up to the memory you want to remember. Characters in KT begin with four attachments that, I think, would make for perfect mnemonic items using the idea above.

    How about making the mnemonic items (MI) characters begin with not only clues to their identities, but “shadows” (or reflections/illusions) of the real MIs, hidden somewhere in the palace. When the MI is found, it becomes a real attachment to the character and unlocks the memory(ies?) that were mnemonically grafted onto it. Example:

    I create a male PC that appears naked with these “shadow” attachments: a scar across his chest, a pocket knife, a pocket-size book of Psalms and the smell of a woman’s perfume. These items provide a clue as to my identity, but they are also reflections of actual mnemonic items stored somewhere in the palace that will unlock key memories about me. As I go about the palace, I encounter a statue in the Garden of Apollo with a scar across his chest: that is my mnemonic item. I touch it and it immediately grafts itself onto my body (making my scar a very real thing, not just a reflection of one) and unlocking (after the conflict in the room, and maybe the conflict here is being able to unlock the memory from the MI) a key memory tied up to it. Whether the memory is directly related to the shape of the MI or not is up to each player, but it must conform to the suit that you assigned to that item because we are going on the assumption that you assigned suits to items based on an unconscious understanding of how each item’s memory relates to the theme of a suit.

    Why make this adjustment? I feel it takes advantage of the themes of the Memory Palace technique, it gives attachments more of an active role aside from being suit representatives, and reinforces the theme of the palace: this isn’t just a palace for the sake of it being a stately mansion or something like that, this is each character’s Memory Palace (whether because they actually knew the techniques of ars memoriae or because, subconsciously, we store information in similar ways) and you are wandering it in search of the stored shards of your self.

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | June 18, 2007 | Reply

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