Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Callisto Game Set on Tekumel?

Cover art by Juan Ochoa
Callisto is a new RPG by Brad Murray inspired by the Braunsteins: large scale, multiplayer tabletop miniatures games in which players control a signature character and a unit. These kind of miniatures games have roleplaying elements, as well as political ones.

Jon Peterson's massive Playing at the World has described the influence that Braunsteins played in the early history and development of RPGs. I was fortunate to experience one for myself in June 2013. It was GMed by Jeff Berry at the Fantasy Flight Game Center.

Jeff Berry GM's the June 8, 2013 Tekumel Braunstein
Callisto isn't a miniatures rules set. It's a brief 16-page set of rules for running an email-based RPG in which the players 1) run a character with specific goals and objectives to accomplish in the world, and 2) each has a Power as a player (not a character): a particular sphere of narrative authority in which they can make declarations about outcomes. For example, I am currently playing an engineer in a space-station based game run by author Brad Murray; my unique domain as a player is that I can declare things to have been fixed. Other players might have a Power to decide:
  • Background details of the political scene
  • The outcome of naval battles
  • The outcome of land battles
  • Whether magic is real and the outcome of magical events
You play by writing in-character letters to other characters that your PC knows; these are delivered as an email to the other PC, with a CC to the GM. Moves (of PC, ships, military units) are made through direct private communication to the GM; rules inquiries are made in the same way. 

The GM's role is primarily facilitative. They draw a map of the world/setting where the game will be played. GMs also develop an event that will be the basis for the opening moves of the game. They are privy to all PC moves and communications, as well as to player declarations with respect to the players' individual domains of narrative authority. The GM creates "news" updates based on PC communications, actions, and events, and may insert new developments that advance the story in certain ways.

The default mode of play is email communication, with some kind of central message board where the GM can communicate in-world news and game system rulings. But I am wondering if you could use this game at a convention, particularly one like U-Con, where there is a Tekumel track of gaming over a few days time. It seems like you could use physical letters, posted onto a physical bulletin board along with in-world news and rulings from the GM. The pace might be 1-2 player letters/moves per 4 hour convention event cycle, with letters and news only being posted during the breaks between scheduled tabletop game sessions. I could see this kind of Tekumel Callisto adventure happening at the scale of events and characters in a particular village, temple, clanhouse, or town. 

Something to think about for U-Con this fall...

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