I was reading Dune for the first time last month when the idea for an RPG hit me. You see, I didn’t care about Paul Atreides at all; I think the whole becoming a super-mutant-messiah grew to be a bit passe. What I did love was the dynamic that Leto had with with Gurney, Duncan, Wellington, Jessica, and Thurfir.
Seeing that dynamic further, went on to bolster my love of the 5 Man Band . In this case Leto is the Captain, he’s the Central Figure and the main quest giver. Just his last name alone is a MacGuffin the party wants to protect. Thinking along the lines of Strands of Fate (as I am apt to do) He himself is an Organization with resources to be managed.
Each party member (mentioned above) has a loyalty and love for Leto. As they are only the second rung of the pyramid they all command a “wing” in his empire. Each Player has Minions and Mooks loyal to them, and resources they are each manage; in concert or conspiracy.
So lets shift gears while I pen my ideas for Fealty.
First of all let me state that this idea transcends Genre. Each player has an intimate relationship with the Fentral Figure to whom they have sworn fealty. He could be a King, an Admiral, a Regional Governor, a Demon, a CEO. The point is his power is both insulated (to a Kingdom, Ocean, Planet, Plane, or City), and has multiple arms (R&D, Security, Transportation, Logistics, Espionage etc…).
Secondly, the Player Characters are not level one noobs. They’ve known eachother for a long time, they get along well, they have stories and shared experiences; for the most part they have a common goal. This isn’t a quorum of bickering vampires trying to get the upper hand on each other to see who can kiss the ass of the Prince best. The King loves each and every one of them in different ways, has fought beside them, earned their trust: if one of them betrays him (or the group) it would have to be for very dramatic reasons.
I imagine that the first session would be taking turns throwing ideas into the pot as the Players build up the background of this Central Figure (CF). In doing so, they will also be thinking of ways they can hook themselves into his back-story. Additionally, by building up the CF, the players will also work together to create the Organization he is the head of. In doing this they cement which Perk they all share by being in his orbit, as well as build up the stats and abilities of the underlings they have under their command.
This also augments and enhances the roles of the 5 Man Band.
- The Leader may be the Head of HR or a Manager over production.
- The Brains could oversee Research and Development, or be the chief Wizard for the Kingdom.
- The Carnie may run an orbital Espionage unit, or lead her Elven Scouts into enemy territory.
- The Muscle could be the Chief who oversees security, or be the personal Champion of the King.
- The Socialite could be the personal Planner and Organizer of the Company, or the Ambassador and Truthsayer for the Kingdom.
Again, there is an emphasis here. The authority of the Players is well established, they have “people” they can order to perform certain tasks. As play progresses the relationship the Players have with their Mooks will come to light as well. They needn’t all be faceless minions. The power can fractal, so that each of them has 3-5 folks who are trustworthy and integral to that branch of their arm of the CF’s power.
Now, I’m not saying this idea is earth-shattering, but this primer would be a breath of fresh air. While so much is left to the discretion of a Storyteller when they first start their games, it’s tempting to make every Campaign a serialized epic about how the players meet each other and come to power. In Fealty the objective would be to allocate the resources at your disposal with the Authority of the CF, and the cooperation of the other Players. To hang on to the power and uplift the Central Figure. A rising tide lifts all ships.
This implies that in Fealty the camera is pulled back a bit, and yes, it does certainly encourage that. Rather than being a close-up of play from the point of view of the main characters all the time, it will be common need to consider Squad Scale play as well.
I imagine a sci-fi scenario where a the beginning of the session the Players are given updates about their resources.
- Leader: Your Envoys have returned from the Tech Conference with exciting new contacts.
- Brains: The new robotic tank prototype we are building is 80% complete and can begin trails next week.
- Carnie: Our scouts have not checked in from the far side of Montague 3 for Five rotations.
- Muscle: A fleet of Red Star mercs have dropped into the edge of the system and are making demands.
- Socialite: REMINDER: Princess Wylee will be arriving on site tomorrow to tour our Production.
Each of these updates becomes a message that can be ignored. But the social play comes from when the Players update the CF, seek his council, and talk amongst each other on how they can trade/allocate resources to solve their problems. This style of play also lends itself quite well to Hex Crawls; and who doesn’t love Hex Maps?
Not unlike the game Microscope, (where you slice up a timeline and drill down into and define the interesting parts) In time the might of the CF’s banner may even need to be swung to confront other Organizations; just as House Atreides and House Harkonnen were want to feud for generations. This is exciting as the same fractal that is used to create Player Characters, Organizations, and their Central Figure, can easily be extended into doing the so for the opposition as well.
This is the seed for the idea behind Fealty. The Players are bound together in their common loyalty for a being they help to shape, all the while managing integral parts of his empire.
I would write this as a light (genre agnostic) supplement with some meaty seeds to start groups thinking of what they might like to throw into the stew they are all helping to prepare.
If this is something you’re interested in co-developing, beta-testing, or just plain giving me feedback on: lets talk. As always the comments are open below, and all interaction is appreciated. I’ll be putting together some cursory ideas into a document (borrowing from Space Trouble and C0NGL0MERATE) on how to make the creation of the Central Figure and Organization, smooth, fun, and interactive. I’ve already begun disseminating a poll to select individuals that will help me gather my first round of Play Testers.
Image used created by MacRebisz and is not the commercial property of AmberDawn Games.