Venn is a temporary code name for the live gaming project that Dan & Brian are working on. This page is a creative brainstorm draft which outlines the setting, plot framework, and goals of the game.
Abstract: "Venn" is a live action role playing game featuring live boffer combat set in a fantastic version of the real world. Players assume the role of travelers who use an intermediary organization to visit our setting. While there, they will cooperate and compete within a heroic narrative.
During the Age of Enlightenment, western civilization embraced science and reason over magic and superstition. Magical traditions like alchemy gave way to the birth of empirical sciences like chemistry. The rational revolution brought us out of the dark ages, aiming at transforming every aspect of life into something which could be examined, measured, and understood.
But there is another Earth, one that exists in a time line parallel to ours. For simplicity's sake, we will call this place Terra. Upon a surface reading, Terra shares our history up until the mid 1600s, where it takes a dramatically different turn.
Western civilization on Terra did not enter the Age of Enlightenment like we did. On Earth, we abandoned magical traditions like alchemy in favor of rational sciences like chemistry. Our Terran neighbors, however, did not distill the secrets of chemistry from their magical studies. Instead, they discovered that alchemy and ceremonial magic actually worked. Lifespans were lengthened, lead was transmuted into copper (the transformation of lead into gold would not take place for another few centuries), and there was some limited success in scrying and augury. Empiricism was the new fad, and the scientific method was used to perfect magical and alchemical techniques. The academies of learning which began to appear in Europe in the mid 1600s focused on mystical, rather than scientific study.
Oddly enough, everyday life on Terra did not turn out to be much different than everyday life on Earth. Scientific inventions such as gunpowder, antiseptic, and the printing press have magical counterparts on Terra such as salamander dust, undine tincture, and Badenberg's living quill. By the year 1950, Terrans had horseless carriages, and a basic long distance communication system based on aetheric spirits. Magical waste presents similar problems as pollution - ergo Terra is also experiencing environmental problems such as climate change. It seems that whether we embrace magic or science, our fate is the same. We are still humans: confused, conflicted, vulnerable creatures who constantly flirt with our own destruction.
The simultaneous activation of the Large Hadron Collider on Earth and the Primal Auric Ouroboros on Terra pierced a hole through the veil between worlds. There are now a few channels, gates through which matter may pass. These channels are small, secret, privately controlled, and poorly understood.
A few of these gates exist in New York. The scientific community of earth is uninterested in this discovery, dismissing accounts of the other world as hallucinations - a product of contact with radiation. One channel has been found in an old office building leased by Aporia incorporated. Aporia sells weekend trips to Terra, provided you follow the rules of the agency they've paired with on the other side.
The characters in our game are regular people from earth. You do not have to play a character, you can be yourself. When you come through the gate at an Aporia facility, you find yourself in the strange-but-familiar world of Terra.
On Terra you will have different abilities. It seems that people from earth can learn terran skills very quickly - far more quickly than the natives. While it takes most people years to learn basic transmutation at the Académie des Arts Arcanes in Paris, people from earth may be able to master these skills in a few weeks or months. Some theorize that people from earth are more sensitive to magic (due to their lack of contact with it), and are therefore more adept at working with it.
You may come through the gate for any number of reasons - exploration, intrigue, vacation, to make a life for yourself on the other side.. but you will soon find yourself in a position of power. A few Terran organizations have begun to hire and recruit people as they come out of the gate, using them as mercenaries, diplomats, or troubleshooters. These people have no history or roots on Terra, meaning that nobody will miss them if they disappear. Kidnapping and forced labor is not unheard of.
No matter what your fate is when you cross the gate, you will soon be embroiled in world politics, making decisions which affect the lives of countless Terrans.
Genre: we are running a live boffer-combat fantasy game which focuses on interactions between teams or individual players and NPCs. Our tone is heroic while remaining morally relative - ie the players may endeavor to be Good Guys, although their conflicts will not be literally choosing between good and evil.
Fantasy? we are borrowing some of the trappings of sword & sorcery fantasy while avoiding tolkein's tropes. Our game will involve swords, magic, monsters, treasure, and mythological elements. You will not see Elves, Orcs, or anybody called "The Dark Lord".
There are a few possible formats for Venn events
- one-shot modules, run at an Aporia office accessible from NYC
- weekend events, run at an Aporia portal located at a campsite in New York state.
- festivals, larger annual or biannual events which aim for huge attendance. Festivals
In both cases, the players show up to the event in their real world clothes, and are greeted by a representative of Aporia Inc. The check-in process will look a lot like a waiting room, complete with a hot secretary (if possible). Players will be given gear and have their powers explained by a Q like character. After stepping through the portal, they find themselves in a world which looks a lot like the real world, but with a different history, and LARP rules.
During some plotlines, players will come back through the gate and solve problems on Earth (with LARP rules).
A lot of our marketing will take the form of Terran elements which have bled onto Earth. We will intrigue potential customers with ARG-like elements which blur the line between the game and the real world. Potential (and existing) customers can go on scavenger hunts, interact with NPCs hanging out in public places, solve puzzles, and get a taste of the game's story before they actually go.
All of our weekend or evening events culminate in a big freaking party. This includes music, drinking, and the opportunity to socialize with other players and NPCs in a more casual setting. The party should be cool enough that you might want to attend even if you don't care for boffer LARPs. If you like cold beer and celtic music, you're going to have a great time. Because we're not in a rigidly period genre, we can have electric instruments, amps, lighting, etc.
Venn's story is partly an allegory for the real world. We have created a fictional version of the world which allows us to explore real world issues and themes through a fantastic narrative. Characters may engage in plot lines which discuss the cold war, civil liberties, and immigration reform, albeit in an entertaining fictional context.
Weekend plotlines will address salient current events. These are thematic, not literal interpretations of those events. For example, if we run a plotline based on Arizona's immigration reform, we may center the drama around shapeshifters or extraplanar entities trying to become US citizens, not Hispanic people. America's addiction to oil can manifest in our game, but not about oil itself. We will endeavor to pick issues which are interesting to discuss and say something about human nature.
If we present our setting successfully, we will have given players a new point of view in understanding world politics and current events. We can also build very engaging plotlines because our players will already be emotionally involved in them.
As writers and directors, we will not embrace partisan interpretations of history and current events - we will provide a platform which includes a spectrum of ideas and points of view.
Note: the allegory is not explicit! We will never come out and say "This is a metaphor for X Y or Z"... or "This is a LARP about contemporary politics." If anything, we will try to obfuscate and confuse what we are allegorizing so that we can be comfortably be fiction and not political commentary.
Differences between Earth and Terra
- Fashion - fashion on Terra consists of LARP gear. We also have the opportunity to market otherwordly fashion accessories which also serve as an advertisement for our game.
- People in one world do not have mirror counterparts in the other world. Terra has something like an atomic bomb, but it wasn't invented by a character equivalent to Einstein. The current president of Terra is little like Barack Obama. (to discuss: how similar is Terran government?) Some people theorize that everybody does have a double in the other world, though it's unlikely your double shares your family, profession, or social status. If this is true, it potentially provides a way for people from Earth to assume Terran identities. (to discuss: building this into the game as a way of playing a native Terran in later seasons)
Real World things that have a magical equivalent on Terra
- Oil / Electricity - Terrans use a similar energy which draws upon a finite natural resource
- Telephones / Cell Phones - some Terrans have sigilized tuning forks they can use to communicate with one another. This is still pretty rare on Terra.
- Cars / mass transit - There are also something like cars, but the highway system on Terra isn't as good and often involves offroading through the dangerous countryside. To get further distances, people utilize short range teleportation centers (called teleports). This method of travel is as costly, risky, and effort intensive as driving to that place. Teleports are also a place of high security and surveillance, due to their recent usage in terrorist acts.
- Gunpowder - there are guns on Terra, but they are shorter in range and less deadly. Swords and shields are still common in warfare.
- Medicine -
- computers - on Terra you may have a familiar or an intelligent gemstone which can perform certain tasks for you, with the same basic range of capabilities as a laptop
- the Internet - on Terra this is an astral communication network which seems to be taking on a life of its own.
- The Stock Market?
- Television - A Terran televiewer is a wooden fixture which houses a large magnifying glass facing the viewer. Behind the lens, a scrying gemstone is suspended. By peering into this gemstone (or watching the lens), you can remotely view a play going on somewhere else in the world, live.
Things which are more or less the same in both worlds
- Books (although the publishing industry is totally different)
- Money & Banking
- the US Government (secretive orders such as freemasons have a larger role)
- war in the mideast
In our narrative, Magic is a symbol for technology. Not everybody on Terra is skilled in magic, just like how on earth, not everybody can build a microwave from scratch.
Magic cannot do much that technology cannot accomplish. No spell has been invented that makes you invisible, or able to fly. There are spells, however, which cure diseases, instantly communicate with others, and give you crazy druglike trips.
While some people must spend years learning magic at formal institutions, people from Earth can learn it as fast as they can spend XP. :P
Magic is considered a natural force, much like how electricity harnesses energy already present in nature. There is a technobabble explanation for how magic works, highlighting that like technology, it is something which can be studied scientifically and empirically. Terra is not a world without science, it's a world without significant technology.
Terran religion is very similar to Earth's religion. On Terra, during the enlightenment, religious people became obsessed with new ideas. These new religions have a similar effect on the world as their analogues, but are defined /flavored differently.
The events of the 1600s undermined the development of the judeo-christian belief system. Concurrently, the expanded understanding of magic and the rising prominence of certain figures within the community presented new options for people. This caused them to look back and find truth in ancient religions which had a better connection to this natural magical force. This led to the rise of Azteca, [NAME FOR PAGANISM], and other "fringe" religions.
Most contemporary real-world religions still exist on Terra, but they very small - they are seen as outdated, medieval, and on the fringes.
Where Christianity and Islam are the major forces present in the real world, on Terra the major tension is between factions of
- Mithrans - (Christian analogue) After the enlightenment, the Christians became oriented onto Mithras, an older version of Jesus. Belief in Christ is now seen as somewhat backwords and antiquated, like greek mythology.
- Islam - (analogue for Islam) these guys were originally Mithrans, but ended up worshipping a newer prophet in the Mithran tradition.
- Judiasm - (analogue for Judiasm) kabhallaa is the only remaining remnant of judiasm, and it has taken on a new name -
- Buddhism -
- Hindu - remains more or less unchanged from the real world.
- Azteca - Azteca is an analogue to south american religions such as the aztecs and incans. On Terra, Aztecs and Incans have always possessed powerful war magic. Because of this, when they were discovered by the [Christian analogue], they were not conquered. Afterwards, the aztecs realized that europe was rich with treasure and human sacrifices, and led a bloody campaign on european soil. Azteca is now a major world player, but it has inherited many of the conquestador stereotypes and flavor we attribute to christianity.
- Native American religion -
- Paganism - analogue for the various pagan religions.
- Steampunks - This is an atheist sect which has discovered limited uses of technology. On Terra, these guys are the equivalent of people who are into the occult.
Magic cannot prove or disprove the existence of divine entities. Prayer is not magic. Jesus did not do magic, his supernatural feats are attributed to the divine.
Magic is seen as an everyday phenomenon. Regular people do not regard it as any more fantastic or supernatural than we regard cell phones and computers.
The veil between worlds is a selectively permeable membrane. Certain things cannot pass between worlds. This includes anything that would drastically change either world. For example, a Terran magic sword becomes a regular sword when it passes through the gate. If a Terran mage learns how to build a microprocessor in our world, he forgets that knowledge as he passes through the gate home.
The laws of physics in both worlds are slightly different. Gunpowder, for example, simply does not work on Terra. Electricity is too wild to be contained and utilized. Likewise, if you learn magic on Terra, it does not work when you return.
There seems to be a force which keeps the Gates from becoming widespread knowledge.
- Live events - stage a sword fight or some kind of scene in a public place. Another game rep hands out business cards to everybody that stops to watch.
- Interactive elements woven into everyday life. (see also: ARGs) There should be game puzzles you can solve by reading the graffiti at a certain subway stop. Get players thinking and talking about the game between events with their non-player friends.
- IG blog - we maintain a blog which looks like a regular news blog, but it only contains news from the game world. Viral potential: intriguing, hard to ignore headlines such as "French parliament outlaws necromancy", "Russian spies assassinate dignitary in Poughkeepsie". Nowhere does the blog explain that this is fiction, but there is a link to the main game website.
- Fashion - sell garments and accessories which are fashionable in both worlds. Pins, buttons, scarves, belts, bracelets, necklaces, patches, etc -- anything we can customize.
- Familiars - Each player can own and customize one familiar, a living spirit imbued into a stuffed animal. The stuffed animal also contains an RFID chip which may trigger certain things in the game. (ie, If you bring a water-familiar near a water node, you'll hear an animal sound which means your skills are reset)
- Social Networking Site - the game will have a social networking site which players can use to link up and talk about the event. I recommend a platform like elgg which is open source and therefore can be customized as needed. (note: this requires the participation of a software guy fluent in php) This in turn makes it very easy for players to spread info about the game over facebook, twitter, etc.
- Incentivize player creation / distribution of media - Players should be able to take photos and video during the game. You should get points for posting game footage or reactions on youtube or your blog. We need a reward mechanism to encourage people to develop and maintain websites (wikis, forums, etc) about the game.