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Heroic Sacrifice

Posted by Doug on June 24, 2009

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been working intermittently on writing up a rules document for a second (or ninth, depending on how you’re counting) version of the Mecha Monogatari RPG. One of the concepts I’ve borrowed from the Bliss Stage RPG is that of character ownership, an understated concept that resonates with what I want the Mecha Monogatari RPG to be (a cooperative storytelling game with randomized task resolution).

Basically, the player who “owns” a character is the one plays that character—they select the character’s actions, they chose what skills they advance, and they have at least a large degree of control over the character’s ultimate fate. In the Mecha Monogatari RPG, the rule is that, given that death is final, the player who owns the character gets to chose whether or not any given dire situation causes the character to die.

The reason for this is because I feel that major character death should not occur as the outcome of some random rolls—it should be a major story element. Certainly, a character may be seriously injured due to battle or “accidents”, and this may result in them spending a considerable length of time convalescing, or with injury-related penalties until they have had a chance to heal. But the question becomes “Why would a player willingly let their character die?”

The permanence of death is one of the themes I am trying to work into the rules; the idea that the living must press on despite great loss is another.  The world of the Mecha Monogatari is often a grim one, but all is not dark.  I am also trying to work in the themes of teamwork and the interdependence of friends…the concept of nakama also plays into this.

So what I’m currently thinking is including some sort of framework for a player and the game master to work together to arrange for the player’s character to have a heroic (or at the very least dramatic and story-advancing) death, with the end result being that the character’s surviving friends/nakama gain a permanent bonus of some form—maybe a special ability, or a conditional bonus, or the like.  The “explanation” for this (if one is really even needed) is that the memory of the fallen continues to inspire those who knew them long after their death.

Like Kamina said, “Real men don’t die even when they’re killed.”

Now, the question becomes, how to codify this?  What limits need to be placed on this technique’s use?  What should be the necessary preconditions for such a sacrifice to occur?  How many “sacrifice” abilities can a character possess?

Also, the player whose character died—how should that player be rewarded?  Should the “reward” merely be intangible, in the form of the appreciation of the other players who benefit from the sacrifice?  Maybe the player could start their new character with a similar ability, above and beyond what a new character would normally start with?

Lots of questions, this brings up.  Fortunately, I have a lot of time to think about stuff like this these days…

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