Monday, 24 February 2020

PARIAH - Deleted Content

As stated in my last post, I am presently hard at work on my recently Kickstarted zine, Pariah. As that has led to me neglecting the blog somewhat, I think it's only fair to share some of that work with my readership here. 

Initial drawing by Jef Cox for the zine's cover.
The process of re-drafting the copy has been particularly arduous, as I battle with my secret desire to rewrite all the rules to b/x D&D, produce a running commentary on the design decisions while also suffering the constraints of a forty page A5 zine.

Some of the stuff I've had to omit or seriously edit (and this is prior to passing the copy over to Fiona Maeve Geist and Jarrett Crader of The MoonRat Conspiracy for editing) includes the extensive introductory notes to the game. Before I permanently delete them, have a look for yourself:

This zine provides you with all the tools you need to set up and run your own psychedelic proto-neolithic animist old-school sandbox role-playing game. But what do any of the components of that word salad actually mean?
Let’s work backwards, from role-playing games.
Chances are, if you ordered this online you’ll have some clue as to what that entails, but maybe not. Besides, maybe you’ve picked this up from  your local library, friendly local neighbourhood hobby store or downloaded a community copy online. In any case, this part is for you.
At heart, RPGs are a social activity. You and one or more other people sit down to share an experience of within an imaginary world.  Typically, one player will assume the role of gamesmaster (gm), generating an imaginary world of people, places and problems.
The remaining players will respond to that world, usually through an imaginary avatar typically referred to as a character. As their characters interact with that  world the GM responds, describing the consequences of their actions, and any changes to the world and its inhabitants those actions generate. 
Thus the game is an ongoing dialogue among the players, from which one or more narratives  emerge. That narrative might relate to events within the imaginary world, or around the table, or a combination of both.
This conversation will most likely take place in a face-to-face context, but increasingly TTRPG groups meet online using various chat applications or platforms designed specifically for playing TTRPGs. Each has its own merits and drawbacks, but the most important element is the inclusion of multiple personalities, each bringing their own personality and ideas to a shared experience.  
Readers familiar with video games will swiftly grasp the concept of interacting with an imaginary world through a character that may be quite different to their real life persona. Indeed, they may have come across the term RPG in relation to video games, and a whole plethora of computer generated RPGs exist. Many of these lay out a fairy linear narrative through which the player guides their character, while others provide more freedom of movement and interaction with the virtual world. The term sandbox is often used to describe games of the latter type, where the player is afforded the maximum freedom to navigate the world their character inhabits.
Sandbox is used in TTRPGs, too, and PARIAH falls into this category. There is no endpoint to this game but that which the GM or players set themselves. There is no “winning” or “losing” other than the achievement of your own personal targets.
Ultimately, the point of the game is to cooperate with one another to ensure an experience that is as much fun as possible for all concerned, and while one group will have wildly varying ideas as to what constitutes fun, the contents of this book might be best utilised in the generation of a game that explores survival, comradeship and the nature of consensus reality.
...or not. You might think the best use for this book is as bedtime reading to help you nod off, or as emergency fuel during a cold-snap, or… well, anything really. Everything in this book is to be taken as a guideline: do with it what you will.
PARIAH takes its cues from the earlier editions of the world’s most popular RPG, both mechanically and thematically. The GM is encouraged to adapt the rules as they see fit, to modify or even to ignore the mechanics provided herein. Player skill is valued over character skill, and characters remain vulnerable to the dangers of the world around them. Death may only be  a few die rolls away, but so too could a debilitating injury.
In the real world, the dawn of the neolithic witnessed the emergence of agriculture, cities and literacy: it was truly the dawn of history. PARIAH assumes the characters begin on the very periphery of this revolution: outcasts from societies on the very margins of burgeoning humanity. Their world is one of hunting and foraging, not of planting and ploughing.
Yet the cities exist. They promise opportunities, yet they also threaten the traditional ways.
The old ways do not acknowledge a creator god or pantheon of immortals. The old ways are immersed in a world of spirits, a world that lives and breathes and must be bargained with if one is to survive. The outcasts, far from the protective of their old tribe, will need to renegotiate their relationship with the spirits which surround them.
Animism is the belief that everything possesses its own inherent spiritual essence, EVERYTHING is alive. It is a belief system that pervades the cultures of indigenous peoples across the globe, and persists in the folklore and personal belief systems in all of the world’s cultures. As such, it can be seen as the wellspring from which all human cosmology sprung, before our relationship with nature went from cohabitation to enslavement.
Magic and ritual are powerful, but the most accessible magic lies within particular plants, mushrooms and even animals. To travel to the other realms and negotiate with powerful spirits, they must ingest potent entheogens. These experiences can be deep and edifying, terrifying and spirit-breaking, or a combination of all these things and more.
Travel to the spirit realm through the use of entheogens create opportunities for stepping out of conventional modes of play and into something entirely different: that could be narrative, tactical, ore even puzzle-based.  
That's better, I feel lighter now. 1000 words lighter.

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