Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Behind Gently Smiling Jaws: Seven Realms of Memory for Seven Who Went Before

What I am currently trying to come up with is a way to allow DMs to match the seven different memory realms in the crocodile's mind to the the Seven Who Went Before, whether randomly or purposively. The seven memory realms are (currently) as follows:

  • Memories of Ruin, based on the aftermath of a meteor strike
  • Dreams Beneath the Ice, when the crocodile was slumbering beneath a glacier during an ice age
  • The Infinite City on the Water, an ancient port city which the crocodile once saw
  • The Dreamtime of Man, when Homo Erectus walked the earth amongst megafauna 
  • The Trade Winds, when the crocodile witnessed ancient colonisation of Polynesia by long-forgotten civilizations
  • The Primordial Swamp, which is the crocodile's very distant and very warped memories of the era of the dinosaurs, as well as its own mother and siblings
  • The Ziggurats Under the Sea, which the crocodile saw from the surface of the ocean on its wanderings
Each of these memory realms can be shaped by interlopers to the crocodile's mind, because they can act to attempt to change its memories - which will then cause things to come into existence there. So, for instance, they might teach one of the five varieties of feathered men in the Infinite City on the Water to use black powder weapons. Now the crocodile dimly remembers them that way, albeit imperfectly. All of the Seven Who Went Before have affected things in a different memory realm in some way: all of them have forged their own palace or land or kingdom or whatever there, and imposed elements of order (although most of each memory realm remains untouched, of course). 

Each of the Seven does this in a different way. So Xu Fu attempts to impose a kind of idealised Chinese legal order on things; Jorge de Menezez tries to rouse armies of conquest; Pape Jan tries to forcibly convert everything to Christianity, etc. But this will manifest itself in different ways depending on which memory realm the DM allocates each of the Seven to (again, whether randomly or purposively). So the DM might decide the Xu Fu has made his home in The Trade Winds memory realm, thus "infecting it" (for want of a better term) with his Chinese court wizard ideals. On the other hand, he might decide that Pape Jan has made his home in The Dreamtime of Man, and has begun prosletyising amongst the reptilian psuedo-Homo Erectus things that live there and sewing the seeds of holy war between them. A different DM who picks up the book may decide to put Xu Fu in The Primordial Swamp, and Pape Jan in Memories of Ruin, and things will change accordingly. 

It makes things complicated. But I'll figure out a way to make it work. 


  1. I'm going to defy your convention wisdom and comment on a content post. (Although this could arguably be considered a process post).

    This has been the most intriguing Gently Smiling Jaws installment yet. Combining the Seven Who Went Before characters into the different realms suddenly makes them more tangible, and thus game-able. A Venetian city with birdlike creatures is a great image, but imagining them with black powder weapons is something I can build an adventure around.

    I'm curious to see how you'll solve the design challenge of giving GMs the option to have different visitors impact different eras. Will you develop 49 different realms? Develop 7 in detail and have suggestions for the other 42? Will there be some random element?

    I think you could avoid that and still have a more interesting game product than 99% of what's out there. But what keeps me going back to books like Yoon Suin and Vornheim is the idea that even without the tinkering I do as a GM, I know that my version of those worlds is unique. I hope you're able to retain that element for whatever this ultimately turns out to be.

    1. Thanks, Mark. Yes, that's the idea - it's all very well saying, for example, it's an infinite Escher-painting vision of a quasi-Venice full of weird bird things, but there's nothing much for the PCs to do there other than try to survive. There needs to be something for them to do. That's where the Seven Who Went Before come in - they've begun, in places, to impose some sort of structure on things. (There are also going to be ways the PCs can do that too, but my thoughts on that are still in quite an embryonic stage.)