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Myst Reinterperted Rules
Some say that as there are infinite possible outcomes of every situation, then there are an infinity of universes resulting from each of these. Others say that dreams have form and solidity and to imagine something is to create it. Either way, itís not the point. Whether possibilities or dreams, there is a people that has mastered the art of traveling to other worlds. They are called the Díni, and they are consumed by their great Art of traveling to worlds so fantastic they could fill lifetimes.
This is a game of books and ages, and the intrigues that the Díni have an uncanny knack for getting into. A game of self-declared Gods and self-righteous men, of demons and magic and technology and worlds so fascinating and numerous they could fill a lifetime. It is a question of ethics, of noninterference policies and of determination to make a difference. It is an analysis of the ultimate tool and the ultimate weapon, and the struggle to keep it from being used inappropriately. It is Myst Reinterpreted PBeM.
Welcome to the Myst Reinterpreted PBeM. It is an attempt to take the general idea of Myst, and convert it into an RPG in which players fashion worlds and cultures from nothing, and pay the price for such power in the strife and conflict they bring. It is Not Myst. Myst never existed. Sirrus, Atrus, Achenar... never happened. The Díni Civilization never fell. Large amounts of published Myst-related literature is flatly ignored.
Why the revisions? Artistic license. Making it work as an RPG. Itís more important to me that this game has coherency and believability than it is that we stick to the book, no pun intended. I have tried to do something similar to this before, sticking to the specifics that Cyan has set forth, and it failed. Just like porting movies to games or games to books or books to movies, when the medium changes you can often create a more realistic picture by not adhering to specifics.
It might work if you think of this as a game of the Díni civilization several hundred years before it fell, at the height of their power and glory.
It should be noted here that Iím relying somewhat on general concepts from White Wolf RPGís. The character sheet I think is a good one, and many sections are similar to mine. No reason to reinvent the wheel.
The primary rule is that I, Dave Roddini, am the owner of this game. You may call me Gamemaster, Storyteller, Author, God, or ďhey youĒ. My word is law, and I donít have the time or inclination to argue. Iíll do his best to be reasonable, but within reason. I reserve all rights and powers for myself.
After that, there are three lesser rules: no one wins, no one loses, and nothing is absolute. Most important of all of these is that nothing is absolute, even the rule itself. If you believe you smell an absolute, run it by me, and I'll see if I can find a way to purge it.
Then after that, rules of the game are based on FUDGE, with the subjective character promotion and subjective character creation systems. That means that you write out who your character is in plain English, no numbers to speak of, and together weíll work out a character sheet for you.
Since this is a ďnewĒ game, and untested, I donít intend for character sheets to be all-inclusive. They should definitely illustrate who the character is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, but if you donít think of how good your character might be at needlepoint then I donít really mind. If at any point a skill is needed that is not on your character sheet, we can discuss how good your character would be at it on the fly, though donít expect to have any actual experience unless the rest of your sheet seems to support having that experience.
A good example of this is the researcher in the FUDGE manual example. If we forgot to put on the sheet that he is good in zero-g, but it makes sense that he'd have to be, then in the middle of the game we'll add ďbetter dexterity in zero-g.Ē
For the rule on gifts and traits, in ďMyst ReinterpretedĒ gifts are aptitudes, whereas traits are skills. So if your character would be very good at using computers but hasn't come across any ages with such technology, then they have a gift for computer use but are currently a terrible computer user. They canít use it to start out, but as soon as they encounter one and get to use it, they learn much faster. Another example is a flaw against linguistics. A character might not be very good with linguistics, but might have had a father who considered it important and so was forced to work harder to learn it and spent a lot of time gaining the seven languages he has. Still, itís difficult for that character to learn more.
Gifts can also be more than aptitudes. Gifts can be idiosyncrasies, conditions, and in rare cases the ability to use magic or cybernetic enhancements or whatever.
Character concepts can be emailed to me, the gamemaster, where I will evaluate them. Tell me who this character is, what motivates them, where they came from, all the whys and hows and whats. Just describe it like you would in a story. Donít worry about numbers, I just want to have an idea of who your character is. Be warned that I hold high standards for characters that play in this game and will more than likely request that changes be made. Donít get me wrong: if youíve got a personality you want to try, you can definitely play it no matter how exotic, but every strange thing must be explained and justified. Some things that I personally donít particularly like is people that are all-evil or all-good. It's not human. If a person is evil, I expect a motivation. Evil is not itís own end in these worlds, and if you want your character to consider power as itís own end, you've got a lot of convincing to do to me. Also, strange idiosyncrasy and seemingly contradictory idiosyncrasy combinations must be symptoms of a unique and creative personality and the rest of the description must reflect this Ė which is definitely encouraged.
If I approve your concept, Iíll send you a sheet, and together weíll decide on what kinds of numbers are reasonable. Once those are set, you may begin posting.
Posting shall be done in story format, third person. RPG notation is cute, but out of place here. It should include an account of the actions of the character, but more importantly the thoughts and reactions of that character. This game stresses not the what so much as the why. Think of this as a tandem story with rules. When I award experience (periodically), a heavy portion (probably the heaviest portion) of it will be based on the quality of your posts. Keep them interesting.
Co-posting is acceptable. If two players have two characters in the same room who have an extended conversation, it is acceptable to carry out this conversation on IRC or ICQ or whatever. However, I will not read the chat logs. Each participant is expected to post their side of the conversation, that is a complete record of everything that either person said as well as a description of the thoughts and reactions and actions of the character who is being posted, in story format just like the rest of the game. Also, the fact that a co-post occurred must be clearly indicated in the post. If two people have a conversation, there should be two posts to the list, each from that playerís POV. Note that since the actual chat logs wonít be posted to the list, I couldnít care less what notation or rules you use when having your conversation. Whatever gets across speech, actions, and facial expression most efficiently. Just remember that youíll be writing it like a story when you actually post it.
All posts should include time tags. This is essential for a fast game, since characters have to be able to post plus or minus a few days, and thereís no way to synchronize anything without a time tag.
Due to the extreme speed of the game, I strongly discourage controlling multiple characters for now. One should keep you more than busy.
Also, posts that are particularly relevant to other characters (such as a sent message, an exchange in a conversation, a flying fist, etc.) must include <Tag: whoever> at the end of the subject line to indicate to them that their attention is needed.
This is a low mortality game. NPCís are fair game, and Natives you can mow down like grass, but you need a player's or gamemasterís permission to kill off a character, and ďgodĒ has a sick sense of humor when it comes to interpreting the dice of those that have outstanding agreements that a character may be killed.
Don't worry about dice. I got the dice handled. If you do something you canít, Iíll let you know. If you do something thatís a stretch, Iíll leave it up to your judgment (itís your character after all), especially if it makes the plot interesting, but abuse of this leeway is a very good way to accumulate a great deal of bad karma as well as a good way not to gain experience.
The Paradigm issue is one of the chief sources of Díni dispute. It divides them into two equal camps, who can barely tolerate each other. The question is simple: do ages exist before they are written, or not until? The question is academic at best. Itís impossible to answer. All the evidence can be cross-interpreted and the only way to get to a world to find out is to write a book for it.
Over the course of history, experiments have been cast. For instance, a Díni volunteer sat in a world and kept a journal. After some time, he made a copy of the journal and moved it out of the age. Then the age he lived in was modified, and when they re-entered they found a similar man with a similar journal, but it wasnít identical. The Artists said that the modification of the Age had shifted itís essential history, and along with it the volunteerís; whereas the Explorers said that the Book now pointed to an entirely different, but nearby, Age in which a nearby Díni had placed a similar, but not the same, man.
Itís complicated. But itís a mess, and itís unsolvable.
Right now, the two camps have developed their culture independently to the point of an unspoken and unwritten caste system, and tend to live apart and in different ways, but tolerate each other. There have been bloody jihads all throughout history, ones which have destroyed and stripped countless Ages, and currently there is a very fragile peace wherein it is generally agreed that one should at least be discreet about violating the opposing paradigmís ethos.
Ages are created when they are written. The Artists hold that an Age is given form by the person who created it. True, the inhabitants of that age will have memories and possibly a very complex history, but this is created along with the age: the Artists believe themselves capable of actually creating history. The Díni are gods, Creators in their own right, and every time they set down to write an Age, they are fashioning it out of nothing.
Some believe that since they created the Age, it is theirs to do what they wish with. These are the monsters and the tyrants of the Díni, as well as the well-meaning Díni who believe so strongly in their principles that they will sacrifice anything for them. The Artists tend to hold natives to be inferior and childlike, often withholding information and to be protective of them, thus stunting their growth and smothering them.
On the other hand, as creators of the Ages, the Artists often feel a responsibility towards their creations much as a parent might feel toward their children. They can be motivated to protect their creations at all costs and take grave offense to the trespassing of other Díni or even natives of other ages.
The most horrible thing for an Artist to do when he cares about his Ages is to create a doomed Age. There is no greater sin than to fashion people only so that they may die slowly or all at once. One may as well poison his own children.
In general, Artists see themselves as creators, and only very rare ones ever get over the slight (or occasionally pronounced) superiority complex. Artists see the Explorers as was wasters and squanderers of ages and despise their lack of respect for what they have created and self-respect since they have created it. The more opinionated ones, especially those with the more pronounced superiority complexes, group the Explorers with the natives they love so much. This leads to a great deal of tension.
Artists tend to live in a more ďstableĒ society, declaring one Age their home and staying there forever much like typical Americans. Unlike Explorers, they have a concept of ďowningĒ an Age and can be extremely territorial, especially with Explorer trespassers who try to pass themselves off as natives.
Lastly, Artists usually feel uncomfortable at being in someone elseís Age, because who knows what changes that person might make while the they are inside? Risky, even with the closest friends. After all, if the Age they are in is modified, then so are they, and who is to say what a man might become when a few random changes are made to him along with the rest of the age?
All ages already exist, and to write one is to open a doorway. The Explorers see ages as an infinite sea of possibility, and to write an age is to merely provide a way of traveling to it. Their passion is not to create or to fashion, but to find, and they savor the journey.
Many see themselves as anthropologists rather than creators. They believe strongly in the principle of look, donít touch, and can be maddeningly impersonal when it comes to the treatment of natives. After all, each Age is merely a possibility, and there are infinite possibilities, infinity of which are doomed and infinity more of which have problems. These problems are as worthy of study as the virtues; they can be learned from, and they are unique from Age to Age. They have no compunctions writing a flawed or doomed age because it was flawed or doomed anyway, so why not journey to it and learn from it? However, there are some with a ďMessiah complexĒ who deliberately link to doomed or dying ages in an attempt to rescue the inhabitants.
The greatest sin of an Explorer is to destroy it from within, using mundane means such as inciting a revolution with the inhabitants or planting explosives. One may write whatever they wish and they may change the book in any way they deem necessary, but to directly interfere in the course of the age from within is unconscionable. The Tree of Possibility is large and delicately spread out; to modify one age is to rob the Tree of a branch, and what kind of arrogance would that take? The problem here is the definition of ďdestroyĒ. Some radicals say that an age is tainted as soon as a person links to it, because by just being there, breathing the air, creating footprints in the soil, they have already destroyed one possibility and duplicated another. Others say as soon as a Díni makes his origin known to the inhabitants. Still others see it as attempting to openly rule the world, and the most open-minded are satisfied with anything short of the utter destruction of world itself.
Explorer society is very nomadic. They journey from world to world, rarely putting down roots, and have consequently become very good at seeing the potential in an Age right away, gaining from it, and moving on. The Artists, with their complaints about the creation of countless doomed Ages, sometimes tend to hunt them, and the Explorers are good at evading them and are also good at turning the relative immobility of the Artists against them and taking their own tolls for the sin of destroying existing Ages.
Books, Links, and Ages
The ability to create books is what makes the Díni who they are. It is, in fact, perfectly acceptable for a native to call themselves Díni once they have mastered the Art, and it is also not uncommon for a man born of Díni parents to be denied the title if he fails to learn to Write.
There are two major types of Books. Age Books, and Linking Books. Basically, Age Books actually create/find the age depending on one's philosophy, whereas the Linking Books merely provide a much easier to create means of alternate access for that world.
All books have certain rules: for instance, the writer must be living, so no androids or machines, and no use of typewriter either. Special books and ink are used to create the effect, though certain more bizarre kinds of books require different ink or paper.
The traveler must always be living, and this goes for specialized books such as prison books. Note that this rule says living, not necessarily human. Algae qualifies, and can be very useful in rescuing imprisoned men.
Begin with a blank book. Many characters control or have access to Ages on which there are factories and resources that produce them Ė often in complex chains of transportation requiring the input of several ages for ink, paper, binding, and assembly. Then, begin writing the Age itself Ė a process of describing it in the book in exacting detail. Post to the list that you are writing an Age, and describe it in a more general fashion to me. I might ask you some questions about it, and decide how it ďturns outĒ at which point I post it. What Iím looking for is stable Ages, ones which are creative but not impossible and fit the idiosyncrasies of your character. The more detail with which you describe your age, the better it will turn out, whereas if you leave essential things out, Iíll decide for you.
This is not to say that you should describe every grain of sand. Word count will get you nowhere. Iím looking for detail that adds color. Just think of yourself as designing a great new character, and describe your Age the way you would the character.
Since the game moves by in real time, the time that is required for the two of us to discuss the Age is the time that it takes for your character to write it. If you want to fashion a new age, no matter how small, expect it to take several days, maybe more than a week. A good example is Myst Isle, even though again Myst Isle itself does not exist in this game. Larger Ages, for instance Islands large enough that you cannot see one end from the other, may take a month. Something like Ireland may require several years, and something the size of Earth would require several lifetimes.
You may, of course, cooperate with another character to speed the process up. This still, of course, requires several characters working on it, so a team of a hundred very skilled Writers might have been able to Write Earth (but not the rest of the universe it exists in) in about ten to twenty years Ė and require a Book the size of a comfortably-sized bedroom. Also note that the Law of Diminishing Returns applies. The more people you add to a project, the less efficient each one is because they spend time doing nothing more than ďworking withĒ the rest of the team and keeping it together.
Modifications to Ages are possible if you have the Age Book. This takes substantially less time. A very minor modification might require seconds, but this is only to be done in extreme circumstances and requires intimate knowledge of the composition of the book (having written it yourself helps a lot). The problem is, if you change just one sentence, it probably contradicts with something else in the book and more than likely renders the entire thing unstable. It'll work if you need something fast, but you better go back and fix it later. To do it right, a half an hour is usually good, and larger modifications might take a few hours.
Don't expect to make major, fundamental changes to the Age (like removing the existing culture and replacing it with a new one) This can often take longer than writing a new one from scratch, and is risky. If it backfires, the age could collapse.
The most interesting effect of this modification is that not only do you affect the present in that Age, you affect the past. If you write in a large boulder off the west side of the Isle, and go there and talk to the inhabitants, youíll find that to them, it has been there all along, and furthermore they may have even given it a very inconvenient religious significance that wasn't there before, or someone may have built a house on top of it, or even some disaster may have befallen that rock long ago that removed it entirely from the Age. This phenomenon is the biggest piece of evidence that the explorers cite to make their point, assuming that actually changing history is impossible.
NEVER MODIFY AN AGE WHILE IN THAT AGE. This is immediate suicide. While modifying the Age, you are modifying yourself, who is modifying the age, creating a different modification, which further modifies you. A single stray mark in the margin of an Age book, while inside that Age, will create an endless loop of change that quite literally rips the age out of existence. The fabric of space and time can only take so much strain, and change like that shreds it.
As ways of committing suicide go, this one is by far the most dishonorable. Itís a good way to become disowned by friends and family, but also a very good way for a spiteful and disillusioned Díni to make a hell of a point.
Some radical Explorers don't believe that the Age is actually destroyed. They have various explanations, but they are all in the minority and fewer still have the courage to actually see what happens first hand.
Destruction: If at any point an Age book is destroyed, it is inaccessible. Any Linking books that point to it go blank, as they would if an Age is ripped out of existence. Unlike modifying an Age within an Age, the Artists and Explorers disagree on the exact meaning of this. The Artists believe that the Age is destroyed as surely as if it has been ripped out of existence, and will either kill or permanently imprison the perpetrator for genocide and destruction of ideas. The Explorers believe that it is merely inaccessible, which is a shame because it was probably an interesting world, but no more a shame than modifying an Age book to point to a different possibility.
Linking Books - General and Specialized
These are substantially easier to create than Age books. Creation of a Linking Book requires generally the same amount of time regardless of the complexity of a world, just as long as the writer knows the necessary phrases. Note that while yes, an Age book can be used to link to an Age (and when creating the Age you often specify where the Age book links to when used directly), Linking books are the primary means of getting there and are much more convenient.
Making a General Linking Book requires the same kind of special book that an Age book requires, and also requires access to the Age you are linking to. This is because the Linking book is written using standard phrases but at the destination location in the Age.
The second type of linking book, a Specialalized Linking Book, is slightly diferent. With this type of linking book you do not need access to the age itself. However you must have intimitate knowledge of the Age book or a copy of a Specializied Linking Book for the age. The process, for a well-understood Age book and a clearly defined destination, usually takes two to three hours. For a poorly understood Age, a penalty of time is incurred for finding the relevant phrases as well as a certain risk of failure Ė either creating a nonfunctional book or a book that links to the wrong place.
If a Specializied Linking book is being exactly copied, the process can take about an hour depending on how fast the writer can copy. A General Linking Book can be written in about a half an hour. However, a General Linking Book must be written in a single session and in a single location in order to work. Of course there is no risk of failure other than typos, which for a well-disciplined Díni will never happen unless the Gamemaster happens to despise him. =]
Modifying a linking book to link to a different part of the Age is more or less impossible. Well, it might be possible for a Specialized Linking Book, but it would be much faster to just write an entirely new book than to try to carefully modify the old one without causing it to go blank.
Other books are possible. These include Prison Books, Trap Books, etc. They will not be covered here, but if you have an idea for an interesting type of Book, let me know and we can give your character the knowledge of their construction, depending on how powerful your character already is.
Idiosyncrasies are part of a personís writing style and have to do with the way a person thinks. Mild idiosyncrasies indicate a personality and a definite view on the world, whereas strong ones indicate eccentricity and possibly mental conditions. These should be listed in the ďgifts and flawsĒ section.
Feel free to make up your own idiosyncrasies, but be warned that they will have to be explained and justified with character traits in detail.
Displayed below are a list of ideas. Many of the more extreme ones (especially magically advanced) require serious character quirks to buy, as well as anything under the ďradical" category.
If you do have a tendency to create worlds with magic (which as an idiosyncrasy is on the ďvery restrictedĒ list), you have to specify exactly how your character sees magic. A general tendency to create magical worlds is unacceptable. How does your character see the invisible forces that bind the universe together? Do they believe in the Elements, Light and Dark, Chaos and Order, what? What do they consider possible, and what do they consider impossible? I am more amenable to characters with these idiosyncrasies if they base their general magical system upon an existing rules set for a game or RPG, since these tend to be more developed, stable, and tried-and-true. And of course, if a person has such an idiosyncrasy, magic in each of the Ages they create will be slightly different, but there will definitely be a theme.
Try to make your own idiosyncrasies up. I believe best characters are the ones with the most creative idiosyncrasies. And always, ask yourself what way of thinking or philosophy or misunderstanding is this idiosyncrasy a result of, and how does that affect how the character acts?
Ultimately, Ages are mirrors into the souls of their writers. To know an Age is to know the person who wrote it, and vice versa. Fighting who you are when writing an age is not only almost impossible, it is a good way to make sure you hate Writing and to write a lot of dead or doomed Ages.
The following is a hardly comprehensive starter list of idiosyncrasies, to give you some ideas.
surrounded by water
surrounded by desert
surrounded by steep cliffs going down or up
entirely underground, surrounded by rock
Mammoth frogs, no living creature above three inches, etc.
Specific Surreal Quality
The Díni Are a Race of Gods: Technology and Ability Rules
Donít let me forget that the Díni are godly. This is a rule that I have a hard time abiding by, because itís difficult to correctly enforce, but it is important to the game. If I appear too constricting, remind me of this rule and maybe repost with a better explanation of why whatever technology is reasonable.
Essentially, there is no limitation to technology in the game, save for those imposed by books themselves. In other words, no machine, no matter how advanced, can use linking books or in any other way travel from one Age to another. Living entities are required for that. This also means that remote surveillance cannot work across the Age lines.
Other than that, technology can do a lot. But players must observe the following guidelines:
All things take time
You might be able to build a village from nothing, or learn vast quantities of information, or teleport, or become invisible, or fly, or anything that you have ever read in any science fiction or fantasy book, but all things take time. The technology that does these wonders is difficult to build, or acquire, and often requires sacrifices in order to gain. Either Impose sufficent sacrifices on your own character, or tag the gamemaster to think them up for you. If youíre unsure, just tag the gamemaster anyway, and see if what he says is fair.
Cause before effect
Even the Díni are at the whim of the laws of physics. While any given Díni can understand the vast majority of the physical laws, and the civilization as a whole understands them all (except those pertaining to books wherein research still continues), all Díni use causes to create effects, not the other way around.
The vast majority of all technology that already exists is likely not designed to accomplish a specific purpose, but is designed to accomplish a general goal, and can be used (sometimes stretched greatly) to do whatever is needed. This means that a device that decodes a quantum locking mechanism, a specific kind of lock that requires specialized means to bypass, is likely not going to exist already. However, if a set of machines exist to perform general information gathering and object manipulation operations quickly, perhaps at the expense of a few days these machines can be modified to crack the quantum lock, and once perfected be able to perform the crack in a matter of seconds. In such a case, it is not likely that the exact machine that is perfect for the job already exists. When it comes down to it, the exact machine that is perfect for the job almost never exists just because no one can conceive of all possible situations and build perfect machines for them. Think up something close, and then make do with it.
Beware of side effects
I will, from time to time, impose side effects on technology which I believe to be too powerful, too rashly used, or just plain unnecessary. For instance, at one time, a character used a machine to find and steal a linking book to an Age. Carelessly, he did not specify which linking book he desired. Consequently, the machine stole from a different, uninvolved party, who happened to be a powerful Díni guildmaster, and who promptly offered his full services to the careless characterís current foe.
On the other hand, if youíre playing a stupid character and you know it (sometimes stupid characters are the most fun), then abusing technology is definitely a characteristically stupid thing you can have your character do.
History, Culture, and Society
This section is empty.
It is a great and gaping void, wide as the Star Fissure and with as many possibilities.
I will not sit down and spend the time and creativity to think up the background for the entire story. It would be time-consuming, boring for me, and steal the fun of it from you. Go ahead, and make it up as you go along. Itís about the only thing I let you make up as you go along, so enjoy it as much as you can. Want it to be just like the Cyan Díni history? Cool. Want it to be totally different? Cool. Youíll have to run everything by me, of course, so I can make sure that none of it contradicts whatever else there is, but Iíll do my best to make it blend.
There is one exception to this: No Earth cultures or cultural foci. Period. There are billions of worlds, and the meaning of the game is that something different than what weíre used to is the norm. Now donít get me wrong: a lot of things that are present in our culture will have modified parallels in others. For instance, all cultures will likely have drugs, and those that have mastered electricity will probably have something like a telephone that they use, or maybe even holograms. But the drugs wonít be cocaine and marijuana and the telephones wonít work off of four-wire CAT3 cables with RJ-9 jacks, and they probably wonít dial anywhere near the same way ours do. What am I saying? Different cultures do different things differently. When your culture develops something vaguely like a telephone, itís going to need a lot more of an explanation than the word ďtelephoneĒ and itís going to need to fit the circumstances of the culture that developed it, not the culture that is predominant in the northwestern quadrant of Earth.