Despite my silence on here, project Social is still very much on my mind. Especially the way I intend to do backgrounds, or classes, is something I have been mulling over quite a bit.
Chris McDowall's latest project 'Primordial System', in which he attempts to make a game with primarily qualitative design in mind, has been really inspiring for me as a way to use backgrounds to worldbuild, while also making them weird and interesting.
Because the point of project Social is to have a less individualistic focus, I do still want backgrounds to embed you in a subculture of the Valley, but I want to do so in a way that makes these subcultures interesting and intruiging, almost like secret societies.
The basic layout for my 'backgrounds' at the moment is this:
Every background ties your character to a group that lives in the Valley. These groups all have goals and secrets. Only members of these groups have access to this knowledge.
Goals all rely on the Valley becoming a more prosperous and safe place, but conflict in the ways in which they mean to accomplish that and in how they think the Valley ought to function once it is prosperous and safe.
This creates a nice bit of dramatic tension, if not between the characters (who are free to choose if they remain loyal to their groups or not) then at least between the various groups living in the Valley.
Secrets are facts about the world that are only known to a particular group. They guard these jealously and will attempt to silence those who share truths with non-members.
Some secrets are little tricks you can immediately immitate, others are skills aquired over a long period of time and some are the result of pacts made with supernatural beings, but all could be learned to other people.
Here is an example of what I mean:
Once we toiled in the mines and one day we will once more.
- Self-determination: The mines are soaked in our blood, sweat and tears. They are ours in everything but name. The Town ought to correct this wrong.
- Vengeance: The Mountain God killed too many in the Great Collapse, no transgression warrants such a response. We will see to it, he dies for his actions.
- Vocal memory: Before entering a cave, yell really loud to let your voice know where the exit is. The bigger the cave, the louder the yell will have to be. Once inside, if you ever need to find your way back, yell loudly and follow your voice outside.
- Bat whisperer: If you gift a bat a plump bug, you can whisper a message to it that it will deliver to someone else in the cave. Almost like an echo, the further the bat has to go, the less distinct the message becomes.
- Petal dowsing: To avoid digging into underground streams or lakes, throw lotus petals in the air. If they clearly move away from somewhere, there is a lot of water in that direction. This doesn’t work as well in most places above ground due to vegetation containing a lot of water.
- Burried Secrets: The porous quality of limestone allows it to store messages if you use special phrases to bury the message. These are only shared with those who know the phrase used to bury the message in the rock. It is common to mark the location of such a message so the recipient of the message knows how to unlock the message.
- Living Maps: Polished granite hides a ground map of the region it grew in. You have learned to interpret these maps, as the shapes of vacant areas hint at what sort of caverns might be present and the presence of certain minerals suggest elevation levels. As long as these maps remain part of their mountains, they will update as the mountain changes.
- Enemy of Life: Iron is a disease, hence its feverish complexion. To be able to use it safely, it needs to be purified by fire. However, you know of ways to get a workable iron without purifying it in fire. Cold iron contaminates, infects; humans can’t touch it for too long before falling ill, fae and Gods can’t touch it at all, lest they become corrupted.
- Periscope Shovel: Fits neatly in any backpack, without compromising on useability. Given a day in a well supplied workshop, you can make these yourself.
- Bone Pickaxe: A deal made with the God of the Soil allows your family to dig up bones from the family grave. Pickaxes made from these bones are infused with the wisdom of your ancestors, warning you if you are about to make a fatal mistake your ancestor has made before.
- Boom Sticks: Your family has managed to produce explosives that can be detonated with unprecedented control. You can make a batch of 10 of these in a day of hard work, provided you have access to basic chemicals, an absorbent substance like flour or wood pulp and something to contain the explosive mixture.
- Song of Fire: As long as you sing this song, a flame will continue to burn without exhausting its fuel source.
- Song of Ease: As long as you sing this song, long treks laden with packs will feel like an afternoon stroll.
- Song of Glimmer: Each verse in this song is about a known metal. While singing the verse of a given metal, it will start to audibly hum.