Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rorschach Proposals

Before reading further, what would you think if you were a player in my game and recieved this:

How do you interpret that?

I'm interested in the divide between Player and DM creativity.  Hill Cantons has had some interesting posts along these line lately.

Last night I was talking with a player as we walked to another player's birthday party.  I mentioned the idea of letting Birthday Boy create the magic-user organization that was going to offer him membership.  My question was, would that be cool or seem like homework.  My player suggested I put weird symbols in the offer as a sort of middle ground.  I thought that was pretty genius because 1) the player's attempt at deciphering the cryptic message might give me clues as to what he would enjoy (or not) in a Mages Guild without breaking the suspension of disbelief by realizing I have none of this hashed out for my world yet.  2) Barrataria's vague symbol effect would be in play-- meaning I myself would have time to figure these things out as the campaign advances and revise as needed.

I realized that the symbols I would pick would be shaped by my conception of what boons/costs a MU organization might offer, so I rolled randomly for the 6 symbols in the note.  Then I rolled randoomly for their position in the note.  I'd be curious what you thought they might mean when you first read them.


  1. Great idea, and I love all of the symbols as evocative inspirations, save for the one that looks too much like a briefcase.

  2. We've played one-shots and small campaigns in newer games the past few years that give the players more "narrative control" either through resource management or improvisation. Allowing them some ability to shape the story-side of the game is one of the habits I've tried to keep as we play mostly classic D&D these days. I like your approach.

    Regarding this player assignment, here's how I see it:

    First set:
    Knowledge of the elements
    The all seeing eye
    Access to the magical battery of Xom

    Second set:

    Good luck, sounds fun!

  3. Second Set:

    Rope, which could imply binding, or or possibly being under a Geas of some sort.

    Knife, so probably sacrifice or blood.

    Plant, which is bordered by the rope, and grows downward. Combined with the other two, I'd say that it means you are bound to plant your blood somewhere, which will make a plant grow.

  4. Hmm...

    Set 1: Supernatural Power (swastika), Knowledge of the Unknown (for some reaon I instantly thought of the spinning cone at the beginning of the original Twilight Zone), and a horde of followers (looks like the NATO symbol for a Battalaion-sized unnit)

    Set 2: Patience, Faith, and Sacrifice.

    All that is based on not a whole lot!

  5. The Ladder of Ansovinus will grant me:
    1. Knowledge (Mind, Body, Spirit, Magic)
    2. Access to its 18 Libraries
    3. Material possession of some sort (magical!)

    They require of me:
    1. Probationary period
    2. If past, allegiance of the sword
    3. All I Once Knew (past, present, future, memory)


  6. Here’s my guess: We’ll be granted the powers of the four elements, transportation, and equipment. We'll be required to run around in circles looking for a holy relic and to defeat a strange monster.

    For some reason I didn’t think of these symbols so much as representing items but more as story elements. Maybe that’s the DM in me though.

    Coincidentally, I’ve been thinking about something similar lately with regard to Rorschach - writing up a race of people somewhat based on Alan Moore’s character. They don’t speak but communicate by patterns that change on their faces. I thought it would be fun to display ink blots and have a player try to figure out what it means (or rather, what the NPC was trying to communicate). It might be fun just making the blots too, using them as plot inspiration via the rorschach people, and interesting to see if the players reactions would match my own. I suppose a player might think I should run psychology experiments on my own time though.

  7. If I were a player I'd be like:

    What the fuck does this mean? It could be this, but what if it's not? Could be a deathtrap... we'd better do research.

    Though maybe in the course of the conversation I might let slip "maybe it's _____, that would be cool"

  8. I get: Elementalist Powers, an eye that sees the future, and a treasure room.

    As for what's required of me: The runes on the right and left are proper names or names of places or names of rituals I'll be put through, and the middle one means I have to murder or sacrifice somebody.

    These look cool!

  9. 1st set: I will get a cup of tears, a staircase, and a house. I think the cup of tears should be the one from the legend "The Soldier and Death.", but that's just me.

  10. First set: The first symbol reminds me of the solar cross/swastika/other representation of universal aspects - Control over some aspect of the elements or directions, the four winds, etc.; The second symbol reminds me of the Wheel of Fortune or of a wagon wheel - Enhanced Luck or significantly enhanced ease of movement; the third, (in addition to looking like a briefcase, as noted above), seems to be like a map depiction of a room without a door, or with a hidden or secret door - so, access to occult or hidden knowledge, or some power over secrets or hidden things.

    I have to admit, the first set's last symbol's resemblance to a briefcase makes me envision a tacky membership brochure: "Join today! Gain power over elementals! Enhance your luck (at the tables *and* with the ladies)! And now, for a limited time, as an added FREE bonus for new members who pay their first year's dues in full, we offer pre-paid legal services for both criminal and civil actions arising out of magical *and* non-magical acts occurring during the term of membership."

    The second set of symbols seems to be a rope, a double-hilted sword, and the solar cross, but with a root or other means of drawing things in emerging from it. In the context of being requirements, these seem to me to mean that in return for the gifts, the member would be required to be bound to the group, to defend it, and to provide support or sustenance to the group as a whole.

    I think it is a very cool idea, and I would not mind at all if a DM handed this to me. It is just the kind of thing that a secret society would pull on a prospective member: you have to agree to our terms before you can find out what they are...

  11. I read the requirements as much more specific than many above. While in spirit they seem to be something like protection, infiltration, and sustenance I imagine the specificity of the symbols means they are correlated to specific spells / rituals. Ie. By sharing in the physical damage of the others in the ladder, you gain access to their semi-magical transportation network.

    Then I'd assume it was a pyramid scheme and sign up everyone in my party for two geas and a tupperware to keep 'em fresh.

  12. Great comments all. Thanks.

    A few thoughts: yeah that damn "briefcase" sort of throws off the mood for me too, but I left it random. Maybe that will be important to figuring out what my player wants.

    Interesting to see how the answers fall on a continuum from vague events to specific items.

    While I'm hoping to learn something about my players, I'm realizing a sense of unease or mystery about this order would be a positive outcome in its own right. As Jennie says, maybe they want you bound before you know what you are binding yourself too. That makes me think, maybe the order will examine what you think the message means as a measure of your morals/ideals. A sort of job interview.

    @ze Bulette: I like that idea of interacting visually with alien entities. I think it would work best in a video game where the interaction could be dynamic. At the table it would turn into several cards to hold up which would start to mean words I 'm guessing.

    @mike: your pyramid scheme gave me an idea for a set of spells that would be cool.

  13. I'm with Zak. I'd have no idea how to interpret it. Would probably go to sages, old tombs and stuff trying to research the symbols.

  14. Ditto Zak. I think my architect is showing, because what everyone else thinks is a briefcase looks like a tomb to me. If I knew I was co-creating here, I'd enjoy getting creative, but not knowing, I'd fear a trap.

  15. P. S. Your wheel of Samsara has been badly repaired. I'm expecting it to leak karma, maybe to some entity poaching HP, per your more recent post. Unfortunately I don't think you can get a new karmic wheel, so maybe you need to get a better repair from a (cough) Karma mechanic?

  16. My take on the "briefcase" is that it looks a lot like a standard representation of a room with a single door. Perhaps it is as somple as indicating that one of the perks of membership is a place to live?

    It could also be more symbolic - perhaps indicating security.

    Carl T.