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The universalis world-building technique and ICONS

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  • John McMullen
    In many ways, ICONS is a pretty traditional RPG. But I just read about Universalis through a roundabout method (I subscribe to Friday Gems, and this week had a
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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      In many ways, ICONS is a pretty traditional RPG. But I just read about Universalis through a roundabout method (I subscribe to Friday Gems, and this week had a pointer to The Dice Of Lifes discussion about improvising a game (Uh: http://www.thediceoflife.com/2009/09/quick-and-dirty-no-time-for-prep-no.html, if I've transcribed that correctly)), and I wondered if anyone had tried something similar for a pickup game of ICONS?
       
      Without having tried it, I'd probably use it this way: every person gets ten determination points. Now, they go around the table, putting a Determination point in and saying something they want in the night. The Determination point is spent, even if you don't get what you want.
       
      How do you not get what you want? Well, suppose I say "vampires" and Colin says, "Please, I would like no vampires in the game." So Colin puts up two determination points to outbid me. I can either exceed the bid and pony up two more determination points (in which case Colin can choose to put up more, and on we go), or accept that we're not going to have vampires today. Either way, the Determination points we've ponied up are spent. (If you both tie and have put in your last determiantion points, roll the dice, high roller gets it.)
       
      You've have to go around the table at least once and everybody contributes on their turn. When people are out of Determination points or they agree there is enough in the setting,you get to keep any Determination points you have left and add them to the characters you are about to roll up. You agree to abide by the setting you've set when interpreting your character. (Suppose I roll up a character with Mind Control, Life Drain, and hellish Strength: no matter what, if Colin won the bid on vampires, is he a stakes-n-garlic vampire. I can go for a mutant that takes life force or something; that doesn't have too much like the fantasy vampire.)
       
      This technique would formalize the random character creation, and it pretty much assumes you're not running a printed adventure because, really, you might have to shoehorn "robots" and "Regency romance" in the same adventure. *
       
      And, it's not something you'd do every time. But anyone tried something like that?
       
      John
       
      * I just thought of how...
       
      John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
      jhmcmullen@...
    • Cameron Mount
      I ve not tried that (or what I m about to suggest). Have you looked at Joshua Newman s Shock: Social Science Fiction? It s a GM-less rpg, but the specifics
      Message 2 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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        I've not tried that (or what I'm about to suggest). Have you looked at Joshua Newman's Shock: Social Science Fiction? It's a GM-less rpg, but the specifics aren't really important since what you'd really be looking it is pulling the Shock chart into ICONS. In Shock, players call out different "cool" ideas and the coolest is the major difference between our world and the sf world being created. Something like "Mutants!" would be the shock, and then players take turns coming up with issues, like "scarcity" and "colonization." (to an extent, that's the basic background for the Schwarzenegger version of Total Recall).

        Joshua's guidance is "if someone’s excited about it, go with it. If no one’s excited about it and someone says no, move to the next idea" which may not necessarily work, which is why a round-robin, the way you suggest, is at the key, but I think you're on a roll with the idea of bets and wagers for inclusion of specific elements. 

        I think 10 determination might be too much, but that's a playtesting number to try out.


        On Fri, Dec 7, 2012 at 9:53 AM, John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...> wrote:
         

        In many ways, ICONS is a pretty traditional RPG. But I just read about Universalis through a roundabout method (I subscribe to Friday Gems, and this week had a pointer to The Dice Of Lifes discussion about improvising a game (Uh: http://www.thediceoflife.com/2009/09/quick-and-dirty-no-time-for-prep-no.html, if I've transcribed that correctly)), and I wondered if anyone had tried something similar for a pickup game of ICONS?
         
        Without having tried it, I'd probably use it this way: every person gets ten determination points. Now, they go around the table, putting a Determination point in and saying something they want in the night. The Determination point is spent, even if you don't get what you want.
         
        How do you not get what you want? Well, suppose I say "vampires" and Colin says, "Please, I would like no vampires in the game." So Colin puts up two determination points to outbid me. I can either exceed the bid and pony up two more determination points (in which case Colin can choose to put up more, and on we go), or accept that we're not going to have vampires today. Either way, the Determination points we've ponied up are spent. (If you both tie and have put in your last determiantion points, roll the dice, high roller gets it.)
         
        You've have to go around the table at least once and everybody contributes on their turn. When people are out of Determination points or they agree there is enough in the setting,you get to keep any Determination points you have left and add them to the characters you are about to roll up. You agree to abide by the setting you've set when interpreting your character. (Suppose I roll up a character with Mind Control, Life Drain, and hellish Strength: no matter what, if Colin won the bid on vampires, is he a stakes-n-garlic vampire. I can go for a mutant that takes life force or something; that doesn't have too much like the fantasy vampire.)
         
        This technique would formalize the random character creation, and it pretty much assumes you're not running a printed adventure because, really, you might have to shoehorn "robots" and "Regency romance" in the same adventure. *
         
        And, it's not something you'd do every time. But anyone tried something like that?
         
        John
         
        * I just thought of how...
         
        John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
        jhmcmullen@...


      • stevekenson
        ... No, but it sounds like fun! It s less competition (as there s no bidding ) but the collaborative creation of places in a setting I wrote up for STARK CITY
        Message 3 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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          On Dec 7, 2012, at 10:06 AM, icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com wrote:
          And, it's not something you'd do every time. But anyone tried something like that?

          No, but it sounds like fun! It's less competition (as there's no "bidding") but the collaborative creation of places in a setting I wrote up for STARK CITY has some similarities.
          _____
          Steve Kenson
          stevekenson@...
          www.stevekenson.com





        • John McMullen
          Fortunately, I am a backer for that so I m sure I ll see it eventually. (Which reminds me that I forgot to add my two cents on whether it should contain the
          Message 4 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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            Fortunately, I am a backer for that so I'm sure I'll see it eventually. (Which reminds me that I forgot to add my two cents on whether it should contain the Great Power revisions or not.)
             
            John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
            jhmcmullen@...

            From: stevekenson <stevekenson@...>
            To: "icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com" <icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com>
            Sent: Friday, December 7, 2012 10:57 AM
            Subject: [icons-rpg] Re: The universalis world-building technique and ICONS



            On Dec 7, 2012, at 10:06 AM, icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com wrote:
            And, it's not something you'd do every time. But anyone tried something like that?

            No, but it sounds like fun! It's less competition (as there's no "bidding") but the collaborative creation of places in a setting I wrote up for STARK CITY has some similarities.
            _____
            Steve Kenson
            stevekenson@...
            www.stevekenson.com









          • John McMullen
            Yeah, ten might be too much, but you want people to have at least several so that there can be bidding. Maybe five instead? Or (Number of elements you want +
            Message 5 of 5 , Dec 7, 2012
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              Yeah, ten might be too much, but you want people to have at least several so that there can be bidding. Maybe five instead? Or "(Number of elements you want + 2*number of players)/(number of players) so there can be bidding.
               
              Most superhero campaigns have a strong element of "like our world but..." so you're just talking about elements you want to see that night. (Yes, some of them might be background elements, but keeping it open like that is part of what I like about the idea: one group with "mutants" and "ninjas" comes up with a background where the mutants are persecuted in secret and destroyed by human-supremacist ninjas and the other comes up with the concept of a group of mutant ninjas. Both are good.)
               
              The idea of selectng from the shock table might work, too.
               
              It's also okay to roll up on the random adventure table and say, "The setting is Earth As We Know It But With Respected Supers. Let's go!"
               
              Or have a random table (probably not a useful table, but ideas):
               
              2d6 Roll    Element
              2        All powered people are persecuted
              3-4     A subset of powered people (e.g. mutants) is persecuted.
              5        Heroes are not trusted
              6        All superpowers have a single source
              7        Super attacks are lethal unless specifically stated otherwise
              8        Heroes are trusted (there are mask so they can testify)
              9        The super-geniuses are not useless and are changing the technologies of the world
              10-11  The heroes specifically are persecuted
              12      A villain of some stripe rules the world
               
              John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
              jhmcmullen@...

              From: Cameron Mount <cameron.a.mount@...>
              To: icons-rpg@yahoogroups.com
              Sent: Friday, December 7, 2012 10:52 AM
              Subject: Re: [icons-rpg] The universalis world-building technique and ICONS



              I've not tried that (or what I'm about to suggest). Have you looked at Joshua Newman's Shock: Social Science Fiction? It's a GM-less rpg, but the specifics aren't really important since what you'd really be looking it is pulling the Shock chart into ICONS. In Shock, players call out different "cool" ideas and the coolest is the major difference between our world and the sf world being created. Something like "Mutants!" would be the shock, and then players take turns coming up with issues, like "scarcity" and "colonization." (to an extent, that's the basic background for the Schwarzenegger version of Total Recall).

              Joshua's guidance is "if someone’s excited about it, go with it. If no one’s excited about it and someone says no, move to the next idea" which may not necessarily work, which is why a round-robin, the way you suggest, is at the key, but I think you're on a roll with the idea of bets and wagers for inclusion of specific elements. 

              I think 10 determination might be too much, but that's a playtesting number to try out.


              On Fri, Dec 7, 2012 at 9:53 AM, John McMullen <jhmcmullen@...> wrote:
               
              In many ways, ICONS is a pretty traditional RPG. But I just read about Universalis through a roundabout method (I subscribe to Friday Gems, and this week had a pointer to The Dice Of Lifes discussion about improvising a game (Uh: http://www.thediceoflife.com/2009/09/quick-and-dirty-no-time-for-prep-no.html, if I've transcribed that correctly)), and I wondered if anyone had tried something similar for a pickup game of ICONS?
               
              Without having tried it, I'd probably use it this way: every person gets ten determination points. Now, they go around the table, putting a Determination point in and saying something they want in the night. The Determination point is spent, even if you don't get what you want.
               
              How do you not get what you want? Well, suppose I say "vampires" and Colin says, "Please, I would like no vampires in the game." So Colin puts up two determination points to outbid me. I can either exceed the bid and pony up two more determination points (in which case Colin can choose to put up more, and on we go), or accept that we're not going to have vampires today. Either way, the Determination points we've ponied up are spent. (If you both tie and have put in your last determiantion points, roll the dice, high roller gets it.)
               
              You've have to go around the table at least once and everybody contributes on their turn. When people are out of Determination points or they agree there is enough in the setting,you get to keep any Determination points you have left and add them to the characters you are about to roll up. You agree to abide by the setting you've set when interpreting your character. (Suppose I roll up a character with Mind Control, Life Drain, and hellish Strength: no matter what, if Colin won the bid on vampires, is he a stakes-n-garlic vampire. I can go for a mutant that takes life force or something; that doesn't have too much like the fantasy vampire.)
               
              This technique would formalize the random character creation, and it pretty much assumes you're not running a printed adventure because, really, you might have to shoehorn "robots" and "Regency romance" in the same adventure. *
               
              And, it's not something you'd do every time. But anyone tried something like that?
               
              John
               
              * I just thought of how...
               
              John McMullen (Searching for a .sig)
              jhmcmullen@...





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