Saturday, July 20, 2013

About Golden Age (My RPG in Progress)

This post is eventually going to be the "About This Book" page for the RPG I'm currently working on with Michael Strauss. Both of us have some prior freelance game-writing experience with White Wolf, but this is our first time designing a whole game on our own. He's handling the most of the rules and systems, and I'm taking care of the setting and flavor. Even though I should be packing for Pennsic right now, I got very inspired tonight and thought I should indulge that while it lasts. I also think I'm going to have an easier time writing the book once I've laid out exactly what my goals are. I really like the new open development model that White Wolf and Onyx Path have been using, so in the spirit of that, I'm sharing this with the world at large. I hope you enjoy.

Golden Age is a role-playing game about angels, demons, magic, myth, politics, and peace in the Middle East. Please be aware that this is a game for mature, responsible people. While we make every effort to be tasteful, this book does not pull punches when dealing with sensitive issues such as slavery, cannibalism, prostitution, ritual sacrifice, or religious zealotry. This is because the real, historical Middle Ages contained plenty of each, and because this game is designed to work well as a horror game if you so choose. If reading this book makes you want to do anything violent or dangerous, put it down and seek psychiatric help immediately.

Golden Age is also a role-playing game with an important message. We have chosen the Golden Age of Spain as our historical setting because scarcely anyone alive today can remember a time when Jews, Christians and Muslims could peacefully coexist in the Middle East. Few seem to be aware that southern Spain in the Middle Ages was host to kingdoms in which rabbis and imams studied each other's scriptures while philosophy, science, and the arts flourished. It would be a gross oversimplification to say it was an entirely peaceful time, and the idea of religious tolerance was foreign to the medieval mind . . . but for the most part, the people of that time and place still seem to have done a better job of tolerance than we often do today.

Golden Age is an alchemical game. Alchemy in the Middle Ages concerned itself not with literally turning lead into gold, but rather used that idea as a metaphor for the Great Work of perfecting the self. An alchemical game is a game designed to make the player a better person, not by some arbitrary external standard, but in whatever way or ways that player finds most compelling. Most often, this involves learning something new, changing your own outlook or personality, or using the game as a way to let go of something that's been bothering you. Experienced gamers will already know what we mean here, because they've likely had alchemical experiences in games before.

Golden Age is a game about the occult. In his groundbreaking study of role-playing games Shared Fantasy, Gary Alan Fine found that up to thirty percent of gamers have an interest in the occult. That's a cause of RPGs including so much magic and mythology, not an effect of it, so we make no apology for being interested real-world magical practices ourselves. Part of the alchemical intent of the game is to allow players to learn occult basics such as tarot, the Tree of Life, the four elements, and the signs of the zodiac simply by playing the game over time. If that doesn't interest you, don't worry, because you'll forget the parts that bore you anyway. Just in case it needs to be said, this book will not enable you to accomplish cartoony feats like floating in the air or throwing fireballs, so if that's what you're after, please do us all a favor and go talk to a shrink instead.

Ultimately, this game is whatever you make it. It can easily work as a geopolitical game, a mystery / horror game, or a high fantasy game, and probably also in other styles we haven't thought of. It also can work just as easily as a tabletop or a live-action (LARP) game, though for live-action we obviously recommend using the tarot system rather than dice. Part of our motivation in designing it was to steep it in a mythology that gets very little screen time in fantasy gaming or literature. To our knowledge, no pen-and-paper RPG based on Middle Eastern mythology has ever been widely published until now. There have been several games about angels or demons, but none of them have included playable races like djinn, ifrit, ghuls, golems, dybbuks, Apkallu (fish-people), or Bouda (were-hyenas). Most of the fantasy out there has traditionally stayed reasonably close to Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons, with elves, dwarves, halflings and the like. Quite a lot of it is excellent, but we wanted to break new ground. We've always found the mythology and magical lore of the Middle East to be fascinating. It's certainly every bit as rich as the myths underlying more standard fantasy settings, as you will see below.

No comments:

Post a Comment