Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Cornerstones of Conspiracy

Verisimilitude is really important to me, even when I'm not running a "sandbox" style of game. The key to making your setting believable is to really understand how it works. Sooner or later, the players will ask some crazy question out of left field. When they do, you want to be able to answer it quickly while remaining confident that the answer doesn't contradict other statements you've made (or will make) about the setting. To be able to do so, you have to really understand the foundations of your campaign, and how things are behind the scenes, and how things got to be the way they are now. One way to get there is to ask yourself lots of questions about the setting.

I feel that the following three questions are ones the GM should know the answer to when running any modern-day game (or any game with time travel). They aren't the only questions I'd contemplate, but they are biggies with far-reaching implications. The questions are:
  1. What was the Templar's Treasure, and where did it go?

  2. What really happened in Roswell in 1947?

  3. Who shot JFK, and why?
Crazy, huh? Those three questions answer over 90% of modern conspiracy theory, and will of course be of greatest value to a game dealing with such theories. However, they also fill in tons of other background details that creep into every corner of modern reality. Is god real and powerful, a meek absentee landlord, or just a mass delusion? That depends on your answer to question #1. Is mankind alone in the universe? That depends on your answer to question #2. Is our government a flawed but admirable system of, by and for the people - or is it nothing more than a brutal weapon of class warfare wielded by The Rich? That depends the answers to 2 and 3.

I suppose it's more honest to say that the answers to those questions depend on the various facts about the setting, rather than the other way around. A weather balloon crashing in Roswell doesn't necessarily mean there's no other intelligent life in the universe, for example, but that's just splitting hairs. It's more useful to ask yourself the three simple questions than to confront the big picture from a purely abstract vantage point. While dealing with an abstraction, it's easy to fall into the trap of contradicting yourself without realizing it, or leaving things in an unresolved quantum state. The questions force you to be concrete, and expose unintended contradictions.

But of course, there's a fourth question, the one that really brings the campaign alive:
4. What impact does all this have on the characters in my game?

1 comment:

r_b_bergstrom said...
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