Tashiro (tashiro) wrote in roleplayers,

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Cycles and Setting

This is in relation to my earlier post / reply about 'what I want to see in a fantasy game'.
About five years ago I was chatting with a gamer friend of mine about setting and how to do a campaign.  It is understood that most story arcs have a cycle to them like this:

Heroic Person on Throne.  Time of Peace (high point of civilization)
Bad Guy Comes and Destroys Peace / Slays Heroic Person (beginning of descent)
Time if Darkness (low point)
Hero Rises, Leads Rebellion (rise of next age)
Hero Defeats Bad Guy, Rules (upper level, near peak)
Culture Becomes Stagnant/Decadent, New Bad Guy comes.

Now, I've seen games where the hero's just claimed the throne, and the PCs are helping keep the kingdom intact, or the villain is in power, and the PCs are helping overthrow them to put the hero in place.  These are all well and good, but I had a different idea...

What if these cycles are encoded into the setting, they're a part of the paradigm?  And what if the bad guy has just risen?  In other words... it is time for that kingdom to fall?  Now, it may be that civilization doesn't know about these cycles... or only the wise do, or there could be portents, signalling the fall of that kingdom.  (A recent manga I've been reading addresses this, it is recognized that the Mandate of Heaven has passed, and people know this and are turning against the ruling Emperor).  What do the PCs do?  Do they side with the just ruler and try to keep the kingdom intact, knowing it is probably a lost cause?  Do they risk destroying the metaphysical Wheel of Ages, not knowing what this will bring about?  Do they side with the villain or try to get someone else to take the place of the fallen ruler if/when that ruler falls?

The idea of starting a campaign with the fall of the kingdom, and the rise of a ruler, is appealing.  The heroes could watch everything around them crumble, and then try to pick up the pieces.  Or they could try to find someone to help start the cycle of rebirth, and 'speed up' the Wheel.  Add a mechanic or system to represent the turning of the Wheel, and things could get more interesting.  Push things too fast, and you don't know what will happen.  Try to stop the Wheel, and risk breaking it and trapping your world in a specific Age... and one you don't want.

I have considered doing a campaign where the nation is at peace, but the ruler is the villain.  His law is merciless, but it is just.  People live in fear of him, but they respect him as a ruler who keeps to the laws and punishes those who abuse those laws.  The heroes are opposing him... but as far as anyone is concerned, they're the bad guys, because the heroes are trying to destroy society and bring it down.

Just some thoughts;.

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