June 12, 2012

Why Hillfolk Lacks Magic, Laser-Wielding Dinosaurs

Some gamers interested in DramaSystem have expressed a preference for an intial setting even more deeply geeky than a reimagined early Iron Age. Though no two ask for the same alternate setting. This excerpt from the rule book explains the choice of introductory setting.

In many classic roleplaying games, the characters become vehicles for the exploration of deep, endlessly fascinating settings. DramaSystem aims for a different sort of pleasure, one in which you leave the game remembering its people—the people you collectively created—and the things they did. To bring this experience to the forefront, it lets the background recede into, well, the background.

Hillfolk’s iron age setting is designed to appeal to at least one spectrum of geek-culture tastes, what with its swords, archaic period, imagined history, and epic clash of empires.

However, it does quite intentionally set aside a central element of popular nerdly properties. It takes place in a world without fantastical powers, whether granted by magic, futuristic technology, super mutations, or their various equivalents through other genres.

Beneath their genre-specific skinning, all of these function the same way. They’re super powers. They add flash, glamor and unique, trademarked detail to procedural stories.

By omitting the super powers, Hillfolk helps you to move faster to the heart of DramaSystem, the creation of dramatic narratives. The first time you play it, the group will, instinctively and understandably, lean toward the procedural scenes that drive other roleplaying games. Over time, as the play style manifests, procedural scenes become less frequent. Eventually you’ll start skipping over them, agreeing that certain practical outcomes have already occurred, in order to get back to the character interplay.

Having habituated yourselves to the style, you can move on to as outlandishly geeky a setting as your heart desires. Whatever flavor of super powers you choose will by that point support the game's core dynamic, instead of keeping you from it.