The Inheritance Trilogy: The Roleplaying Game?

woman wearing a t-shirt with RPG stats, from Zazzle.comNow, don’t get all excited. Nobody’s offered or expressed any interest whatsoever in creating a game out of the Inheritance Trilogy. It’s just that a fan mentioned the idea on Twitter, and it intrigued me, so I’m bringing the question here:

How would an RPG based on the Inheritance Trilogy work?

For now, let’s go with tabletop RPGs rather than a video game. Not that the idea of a Squeenix or Atlus take on 100K wouldn’t thrill me — ohholycrapyesitwould — but there’s so many ways for games like that to be formulated. Tabletops, though, are a little more strict. They need rules, stats, procedures.

And how on earth would someone apply that kind of quantitative rigor to a character like, oh, Nahadoth? His stats would change on a constant basis. The act of attempting to write down his stats would be a defiance of his nature and cause warps in the fabric of reality. The game would have to account for this by making changes to every other character, creature, and setting’s stats. And what about a character who’s elontid (the category of godlings whose nature fluxes and wanes — e.g., Lil, the goddess of hunger, who responds to the desires of everyone around her)? Their stats would vary depending on the context. It would be a numerical nightmare.

…But maybe my thinking on this is too limited. After all, I’ve never tried to create an RPG before, and have no idea what the process might involve. So I’ll throw this out to you. If you were making an RPG out of any of the books of the Inheritance Trilogy, how would you do it?

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17 Responses »

  1. You might try avoiding “hard stats” all together and go with a more organic “relative stats” system. There’s an excellent dice-less gaming system based on Zelazny’s Amber novels that really orients the players towards role-playing rather than bookkeeping. Check it out… it might give you some inspiration (’cause an RPG based on the Inheritance Trilogy would be awesome).

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Diceless_Roleplaying_Game

  2. If it were me, I wouldn’t use any of the book characters. Just take the setting and the types of characters. And I’m used to MUSHes without stats, so I’d just make it a consent-based rp. Neatly avoiding the main problem you just posed. :)

  3. I think you’ve got something with the contextual stats – that’s not a problem, it could be your primary mechanic!

    I can sort of envision something like the D&D (4th edition at least, the only one I’ve played) grid, but it wouldn’t have to correspond to physical space so much as alignment; you’d move around it to align yourselves with/against the other characters, who would all be doing the same thing, and you could anticipate their moves in an almost chess-like fashion.

    You’d need some very simple visual system for calculating the stats so it wouldn’t get too math-heavy; maybe some kind of code wheel-type device? And I’d keep the number of stats low, like maybe just three or four per character, and have the complexity of the game come from the ways in which they change and interact. Maybe instead of hit points, you would defeat other characters by draining any one of their stats completely (or just having a big enough difference between your stats and theirs).

    This system could allow for complex interactions beyond just fighting – it could be convincing someone to do something for you, or hiding a secret, or setting up alliances between people. Lots of possibilities here…

  4. Interesting that you should bring this up. There’s been a discussion recently on another writing website about translating a book series into a tabletop RPG (short answer: apparently it’s hard… which is not the same thing as “not worth doing” of course). The beginning of that discussion is here: http://www.magicalwords.net/faith-hunter/kickstarter-one/ There’s a second post, but apparently it’s not live yet. (It went out on the blog’s RSS feed, but it’s not up on the site yet.)

    That said… I think if we’re talking about gods (and godlings) as playable characters, then starting with the idea of “stats” is limiting. The traditional D&D-style “Strength, Wisdom, Intelligence, Charisma, Etc…” stats don’t adequately represent beings for whom those qualities aren’t relevant. In typical God-terms… his/her Strength is infinite: whatever the situation, s/he’s stronger than mortal-you. Likewise Intelligence: s/he’s almost certainly smarter than mortal-you, too.

    But that doesn’t mean that “stats” as a game mechanic, per-se, aren’t entirely relevant. The deal is to get down to what actually defines a character, what makes one character different from another, what makes a character stronger or weaker than another. What about a given character is relatively constant over a fixed time period? Thinking about stuff like that can start to suggest alternate ways of defining and codifying a character for purposes of use in a game.

    A more experienced game designer than I would better be able to handle stuff like this. I’ll just say I’ve seen game systems that had no stats and game systems that had radically different stats than what we’re traditionally used to in D&D and D&D-like clones (stuff like “Swagger” and “Moxy” and “Wears a Really Cool Hat” as useable game stats).

    As a baseline, I’d wager than to get an enjoyable game experience out of 100K, just for starters you’d have to step away from the traditional D&D model. (It’s already no fun playing with a mixed group of Epic Level Characters and Level-one characters, and that only begins to approximate the power imbalance of playing with Gods and Mortals in the same play group.)

  5. It sounds like you’re thinking about a fairly “traditional” RPG (i.e. similar to D&D, with stats, classes, levels, etc.).

    There has been a lot of innovation in RPGs over the past 10 years, to the point where a game can be anything between classic D&D and an improvisational write-your-own adventure collaboration.

    Check out The Forge for a selection of the most recent thinking in RPG design: http://www.indie-rpgs.com

  6. I just want to put in a request for a card game. Just so we can see the pretty pretty chars on the cards. :)

  7. I also suggest a more story-heavy, mechanics-light system. I highly recommend checking out the Nobilis system. I’m not a huge fan of the in-universe mythos, but the system is also based on beings acting according to their nature. I believe the rules explain how one accounts for parts of the world being retroactively changed. The system is also diceless. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobilis This kind of system does put a lot of work on the gamemaster, so they become the principle storyteller and/or the director of a collaborative performance experience.

    You can probably ignore everything about Excrucians, though. I don’t think that The Inheritance Trilogy has anything vaguely like them.

  8. As a former avid Tabletop RPGer and former buyer/ mgr of a FLGS, I would be all over the idea. Would the players be humans, demons or godlings? What time period would it be set during (I think a few years pre- the trilogy or post would be best). How extensive are your notes? I am not a fan of diceless systems (too many damn larp moments), I prefer point based ones like White Wolf’s World of Darkness and GURPS.

  9. I’m imagining something like the D&D skill system, but with a potentially infinite set of traits instead of skills, and success/failure determined by GM fiat plus die roll. eg. you want to convince Naha not to destroy your human lover? Well, tell me how you’re going to use one or more of your traits to do it, describe it, then roll a die and hope he takes pity on you..

    Of course, Naha and Enefa wouldn’t be able to be playable characters in a conventional campaign setting. But Shiny or any of the godlings would be fine.

  10. @Erratio
    I would allow players to play certain godlings but it would depend on when the game was taking place. I think people should make their own characters with a good backstory, then again I was a hard GM.

  11. I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve never done an RPG from the ground up. I’ve always implemented my games using an existing rules set. I’m largely a fan of point-based systems, but have played a number of other types.

    The first point to establish would be the power level – are you going to let the players be major gods? For that you’d want something pretty free form like Amber or Nobilis or some of the other dice-free storytelling focused systems. That’s going to give you a feel very like having people create fanfic in your universe – playing with your characters plus some new ones they’ll invent for their own stories.

    If you want something that encourages the universe to stay more or less as is, then you want to declare the major characters off-limits. Let the gamesmaster run them based on the books, without resorting to game mechanics to determine outcomes. As soon as you give them statistics, you start diminishing them, making it at least theoretically possible for mere mortals to best them if the dice fall just right. I think that would change the feel of the setting. A clever person might persuade a god to do something, but only by being clever and persuasive. I think that’s just too subjective to reduce to rolling dice.

    If I were doing the project I’d limit players to ordinary folk, Arameri who aren’t too far up in the power structure, and maybe minor godlings. You need to keep the characters more or less balanced in power, so that everyone in the game gets to have fun.

    You could do that two ways. You could use a D&D type model, in which specific class/race combos have defined ranges of abilities. Or you could use a point-based model – you define a number of points the player has to use, costs for varies backgrounds/powers/skills, etc., and possibly ways to get extra points by taking interesting handicaps, and let the players build what they want. Champions/Hero system and GURPS are prime examples of that type.

    Either could be fun. There are a *lot* of literary worlds written up for GURPS. If you’re really finding the idea attractive, it might be worth approaching Steve Jackson Games (who make the GURPS system) about the project.

  12. How important is character-based roleplaying? The worldbuilding seems like a perfect match for a “4X” game (like Settlers of Catan, Civilization or Alpha Centauri), where each player takes the role of a nation or faction, forming unstable alliances with the other players.

  13. I appreciate that someone already mentioned the Amber RPG that was awesome in so many ways but was so open all the games I ever knew of or ran ended with the universe shut down for extensive repairs … I have not gotten through but would live a crack at writing an innovative system for simulating the setting…. So many independent ideas in gaming have been circulating lately and many are abstract and creative socialogical ways.

    In my experience games have bern best when they inspire action from the characters rather then reaction to a games master by the players… Mayhaps 100kingoms could be a shared storytelling setting by all the players playing multiple roles both as deity and mortal…. Not sure yet had bot considered it but I’m direct will as I read the books…….

  14. Great ideas here, and it’s fascinating to see all the ways that it could actually be done. Just a note, though — I’m not actually interested in doing this. It would be fun if I didn’t have a day job and a writing career competing to eat my soul, but as it is I don’t have either the time or the money to invest in creating an RPG. I wouldn’t say no if some company that knew what it was doing approached me and showed interest, and I wouldn’t care if fans (non-commercially) tried to make it work. In the latter case I’d think of it the way I do fanfic — a labor of love and existential flattery that I’m all for, but can’t look at. (Might look at the art.)

    Still, to answer some of the questions that have been asked along the way —

    Quinn, I agree that contextual stats would probably need to be a feature, not a bug, of this game. The gods/godlings are inherently contextual; they all have affinities and antitheses and these dictate both their actions and strengths at ay given time.

    Rick, you’re right; I’m not all that familiar with gaming these days. Haven’t played since college, which was almost 20 years ago for me. :) That’s why this discussion is so cool; I’m hearing about all kinds of innovations now.

    J. Andrews, I would be in favor of a card game for pretty pretty pictures!

    Masteradept, if I can ever figure out how to flip my worldbuilding wiki over from a friend’s private server to something more public, you’ll see how extensive my notes are. :) And I would imagine an RPG in any world of mine would need to involve gods, godlings, humans, and demons, all finding ways to relate to each other despite wild power differentials. That’s what the novels are about, in a way.

    Kathryn, the Three would have to be pretty static in a game like this. I suppose it’s GM’s discretion whether any players would get to be one of the Three, but there could never be more than three, or less, without severe consequences to everyone and everything in the game. Theoretically the game could take place in an alternate universe, if players wanted to be a *different* Three, but they’d have to remember that whatever affinities they decide upon for the three main gods would a) need to complement each other in some way, and b) dictate how the whole universe works. If they decide one of this new Three is the goddess of EXPLOSIONS!!1!, then there would need to also be a goddess of Chilling The Hell Out, and maybe a god of Quietly Egging Everybody On And Cheering When Stuff Goes Pear-Shaped. This is silly, but hopefully you see what I mean. And per what I told Masteradept, I don’t think I’d want everyone at the same power level. No one in the trilogy is at a similar power level. Everyone’s got their own strengths and weaknesses relative to everyone else, and even a seemingly all-powerful god (though none of them are all-powerful, note) has got hangups and needs and fears which might make a seemingly weak human stronger in many ways. Power isn’t just about who can smite whom.

    sfisacity, I can see how that might be interesting. Especially if the game is set post-Broken Kingdoms, in which godlings spread all over the world and settle in various cities and countries. I don’t know how interesting the game might be if it’s just humans contesting each other politically — or rather, I don’t know how unique the game would be. There are plenty of RPGs out there about the game of thrones, pun intended. It’s the creator’s call, but I would hope a game based on my work would focus more on the impact of myth and religion on the world, or on the presence of active, involved gods, or both.

  15. I presently run an active game of the Dresden Files RPG. Another Book IP-to-RPG conversion, this game uses the FATE engine. At first I was leery of it because I am used to the very structured and mechanical systems of D&D’s various incarnations, and to a lesser extent White Wolf’s Storyteller. Having run games from GURPS to Twerps to D&D (going back to the dinosaur edition), I can say that FATE is by far my current favorite.

    The core to a FATE game is a feature called an Aspect. This is a short statement about a characteristic. For instance one of my players is a blessed champion of an amalgamation of the Amerindian deity Raven and the Celtic Morrigan (it takes explaining, but it’s fascinating study). She is based around a lot of Raven’s sardonic and trickster core and has aspects like “Look What Followed Me Home” and “It’s Better To Ask Forgiveness Than Permission”

    In game she can use the abilities to gain currency (Fate Points) by accepting complications caused by them. She can later spend this currency by using other aspects (such as “I Know Raven’s Will”) to affect the narrative. The best aspects are those which can be used to help AND hinder the player.

    I think this system could work very well for Inheritance. I can easily see several of Yeine’s traits expressed this way, not to mention Oree’s. I (shamefully) haven’t read KoG yet, but it’s on my list. (I really was hoping for an audiobook of that! *sigh*)

    If they hypothetical you is interested in learning more about the FATE engine, the core is free, and it’s here: http://www.faterpg.com/

  16. @Zero: While I’ve never played the FATE system (I discovered it after a physical move that separated me from the gaming community with which I was familiar), I’ve read about it extensively… and I definitely had it in mind when I penned my comment above. Note the “Wears a really cool hat” stat that I mentioned, which IIRC was given as an example of a useable stat (or aspect, if you will) in some forum or other in which the game was discussed.

    In that regard, it would actually be doable, from the designer’s persepective, to pre-design some of the major gods of the setting as examples in a core rulebook for a FATE-inspired 100K Kingdoms RPG adapatation.

  17. Fudge.

    I use Fudge for everything, I gotta admit. It’s rules light while still maintaining its random element, but it’s endlessly customizable as long as the GM is keeping a heavy hand on the story to keep people from wandering off the rails. There’s an option for narrative-based combat that’s generally only going to be limited by imagination. And when you have someone around who, say, changes the nature of reality just by being there, well, you could randomly roll stats up and down for both characters and environment, so it’d be a good way to screw with the universe.

    And pretty much everything you need is here. http://www.fudgerpg.com/

    …GURPS is also an option. I haven’t found anything yet that GURPS can’t do.