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Tales of the Arabian Nights» Forums » Variants

Subject: Mini-Roleplay Traditions / The Eternal Encounter rss

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Alex Baker
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As people have been saying, this game is really less about strategic decisions than the ride you go on and the story it tells. When my group played the old edition we adopted a sort of mini-roleplay variant that helps build storytelling and generally just makes things even more fun. Its not about actually changing any rules, and I think most people do at least a little bit of this naturally when they play anyway, but here's some traditions we adopted that are really enjoyable:

At the start of the game, we have each player verbally give a one or two sentence description of a character they’re playing, just enough to act as a seed for some light roleplay to guide your decisions, and to lend dramatic impact to the consequences you face. For example, you might decide "I’m a monk from the far east, exploring this land. A devout pacifist, I seek only knowledge and compassion". Then you can use this character sketch to guide your gameplay decisions, choosing starting skills like Scholarship, Wisdom and Enduring Hardship, and then choosing reactions according to your character sketch, helping people, avoiding foes and calmly withstanding dangerous situations.

Having a character concept also helps you to weave a story around the results you achieve. If a monk-like character like this acquires Master-level Scholarship, this is a very big deal to him! But what if you acquire Weapon Use, does this represent a change of perspective? Has he given up his peaceful ways? What if your character becomes Grief Stricken, suddenly this status represents the fall of an indomitable will, and provides more drama than it would usually carry. We would usually follow such twists of fate with conjecture about what this meant had happened to the character, and a little story arc would often emerge.

To keep it simple, your character might just be a broad character archetype, all that matters is that you and the other players have a seed of who you are to work with, and it can really grow on its own as you play. For example:
- A Master Thief: Possible skills: Stealth and Stealing, Weapon Use, Quick Thinking. Steal, seek treasure and generally be a jackal.
- A Manipulative Fallen Vizier: Possible skills: Beguiling, Seduction, Courtly Graces. Schmooze everybody in sight, rejoice at achieving great wealth or status.
- A Vampire: Possible skills: Magic, Seduction, Acting and Disguise. Here’s a slightly more wild idea, but one that allows you to put a new thematic twist on events that happen. Your romantic exploits, your triumphs in combat, all manner of events can mean something slightly different through this lens. Meanwhile you avoid seas, try to stay in cities, never enter places you weren’t invited and take every opportunity to accost someone alone...

We’ve also seen fun stories with less serious character sketches like A Caveman, James Bond, A Viking, A Blind Swordsman and Aquaman. Sometimes a little bit of background can help, if your character was an orphan, is seeking revenge, used to be a criminal or once nearly drowned, these sort of details can add a new angle to a given encounter. Everyone can pick a character with a level of seriousness and detail that fits the way they want to play the game, or not pick one at all if they don’t want to.

Sometimes it becomes a stretch to fit the things that happen into your story, and sometimes a good character arc is ruined by an incongruous series of events, but all this often makes the events hang together more strongly, sparks the storytelling spirit, and generally is more fun. In my experience, if you just throw the idea out there and say "for example, my character is going to be..." and later throw out a possible thematic interpretation or two of someone's paragraph results, the other players will jump on board.


Bonus Thematic Variant: The Eternal Encounter!

The last few times we played, we said that when the game ends, everyone takes one more turn and has one last encounter. Whatever happens during this encounter represents their character’s destiny for the rest of their lives. Sometimes this doesn’t really work, but ending with any kind of positive or negative result can easily be spun into a miniature tale, telling of someone’s endlessly prosperous or cursed days. Final encounters where you are imprisoned, lost or driven mad get a maximum tragedy bonus In any case, positive or negative result, it’s almost always a fun note to end on.
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R. L. Lloyd
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We more or less do this when we play though its typically another player spinning a quick tale explaining how your ending fortune (or misfortune) carries on. I also find that we naturally start to tie our stories together as we are wrapping up the game.
 
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Christian
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This is a very interesting approach.
I will use your thread to suggest some kind of "variant" too, well not more of a variant than yours, as you will see.
If I take the opportunity and add too your thread it is because I think it can complement your idea, not by mere hijack instincts

This idea tackles a bit in the "there is no strategy, just a roller coaster story ride". Granted that will not add Go deep strategy but some long-term playing that works (I've played it many times).
One last caveat : I can guarantee it worked with the old edition, so I think there was some sort of internal consistency in the paragraphs construction (well, of course there was !). I suppose it has been carried over to the new paragraphs, but, alas, I've not played the new edition yet (still drooling).

Okay, so what is the thing.
Just this : at the beginning, choose a goal for your character, something along "I'll be a great explorer/sailor/priest//magician/whatever". That's it. So what ? Well the first time I've tried it and saw it succeeded I thought "wow, great but maybe a coincidence", so I tried again and it worked again. And again.
So while I don't really disagree with the "random story ride" view, I can say that in this game you can have your destiny in your hands.
The trick is (I think) you must have played the game a few times for this to work. And secondly you can of course, as your experience with the game grows, choose more complicated goals ("I'll marry a princess"). Of course, you do not always succeed, but that's what makes it fun.

So now you understand why I suggest this little variant here : I think the two variants used jointly can greatly expand the story feeling and immersion, because now your character has a past and a destiny he strives for, a goal in life ! I'll definately try both at once the next time I will have the chance to play this fantastic game.
Thank you Alex for sharing your idea.

Cheers.
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Troy Hoffpauir
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I like doing things like this but it might be fun to change things up a bit by giving your character's different powers, abilities and detriments that you must deal with as you go along.

For example:

Tale of the Invincible Warrior-You are a venerable warrior who, after the last war, were granted a magical yet cursed blade. You are now unbeatable in combat and have powers that mortal men dare not dream, however you have found that when you use your combat abilities the Gods will curse you with terrible fortune. Will you face this destiny and break your curse or will your decend into madness and become the Scourge of the Known World?

Game Setup-
Mastered Weapon Use and Mastered Magic-You cannot loose these skills for any reason. If you use these skills then the player to your left will choose a "Cursed Status" to gain. Cursed Statuses include: Beast Form, Sex Changed, Enscorcelled. If you have all three "Cursed Statuses" then gain the Insane status. You may loose any of the statuses in the normal way except Beast Form cannot be cured by using your own Magic Skill.

Under Geas x3-Each time you complete a Geas you may choose once "Cursed Status" that you are no longer able to be affected by. You are still driven Insane if you are "Cursed Three Times". If you loose all three of your Geas's during the game then you may use your Weapon Use and Magic Skills without fear. You may still win the game while "Under the Sword's Geas" but you can still be placed under another Geas where you cannot win the game.

If you ever gain the Imprisoned Status for any reason gain the Outlaw status instead. If you gain the Outlaw Status or Imprisoned Status a second time then you are Scorned. When you are no longer Scorned then loose the Outlaw status instead.

You are an Invincible Warrior, you cannot be Crippled or Wounded for any reason.
------------------------------------------------------------------------

What do you guys think? I am also working on another character idea featuring a cursed princess.
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Alex Baker
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I like both the ideas mentioned here - I think anything you can to do scaffold the game's events is a step in the right direction.

The idea of building sort of prestige classes (to borrow the old Dnd term) to play is interesting - I like the idea that you have some special rules that apply to you. This is sort of taking the stuff I described to the next level, in that instead of just having a concept that allows for thematic tweaks in the consequences you have, there are actual game-affecting changes to what happens.

It would be fun to build a whole bunch of these kind of themes and put them on cards, inventing and building them up over time and having people draw/choose/create one each game. They wouldn't be perfectly balanced, but as long as no one created some clearly broken all-advantage character, it could be fun.

I'll think on it, fun stuff!
 
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Troy Hoffpauir
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Another Prestige Class that I thought up at work yesterday.

The Tale of the Exiled Efreet

For some reason you have angered the King of all Efreets and he has sentenced you to wander the human world as a human with your powers locked until you have made amends with your suffering. To make matters worse, the Efreet King has seen fit to give you a magic lamp which will make the wishes and desires of the humans come true. You have been transported to Bahgdad and the the Efreet King is now watching chaos that is about to unfold.

Game Setup-Begin the game with the Magic Lamp but no skills at all.

Gameplay-
If another player ends his turn in the same space as you he may use the power of the Magic Lamp without fear of having a Vengeful Efreet encounter the lamp is not lost once the power is used. The player who used the lamp's power then takes a marker to document that he has used the power of the Lamp.

You have a Mastery of all skills if an Encounter mentions an Efreet.

Once you have reached your chosen "Win Formula" reveal it to the other players. Your Efreet powers are now unlocked and you are able to Exact your vengence on the other players. You now have full movement on both sea and land and no longer have encounters. When you end your turn in the location of another player choose any encounter from paragraphs 1-81 in the Book of Tales. If the encounter turns out Negatively for the player then you have exacted your vengence, once you have exacted your vengence on all of the players who have used your lamp then you may return to the Dusky Lands on the map and win the game.
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