Thoughts on Aria and Collaborative World-Building–Part 3–Interactive History

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From my original post I discussed the 3 corner stones of Aria’s mythmaking, MetaDesign, Playable Realism, and Myth Creation. Aria’s approach to Myth Creation, as was stated earlier, “Aria is principally a game of epic narrative interaction and mythmaking.” is develop rich detailed histories, build up a bricolage of history until it fades into legend and myth. Interactive histories focus on

Aria’s Interactive history system is quite a clever implementation of this idea. Though the section could have used better organization and summarizing, there is a good system in there.  Basically, it allows an unfolding grand narrative based on detailed society creation. It is a great interactive tool for the players to immerse themselves in the game world, to create a more meaningful communal fantasy as had a hand in its creation.

Below are my notes on the process and the details involved.

  • INTERACTIVE HISTORY
    • Supports Grand Narrative
    • Larger than single persona, play family or lineage and its effect on environment
    • Build up a mythic history as part of Grand Narrative
    • Aria Narrative Environments are meant to be dynamic changing environments
    • IH is a great tool for developing a rich Narrative Environment
    • Can intersperse Aria time with Narrative time to age environment with characters – dead character son’s matures to carry on father’s fight etc.
    • Persona’s can influence Society Trials via Leverage pools (sway the unfolding of history)
    • Players can also play whole societies or organizations through IH
    • IH are an abstract element of the Aria game, and their purpose is to foster interaction and storytelling on a grand scale.
    • The results gained from IH must be translated through the lens of the narrative environment/society to which they apply.
    • For instance, an economic regression for small society might be loss of a shipment of grain, large empire could be destruction of large part of resource base.
  • INTERACTIVE HISTORY ELEMENTS
    • Persona and mythguide determine participants in IH
    • IH’s are always describe social development
    • IH’s can be shaped by cultural elements, religious and political factions and powerful individuals, but results always turned into social effect and change in society or social group
    • SOCIETY
      • Defined as "region, area or settlement , of any type or size, containing any number of diverse Heritage groups, with those diversities coexisting as a single contiguous whole"

This is an overview of the features and process of an Interactive History. First each socieity is described by a set of attributes called Social Determinants, which have ranks assigned to them to use in the society trials and interactive history rules.

  • SOCIAL DETERMINANTS
    • Every society is described by set of Social Determinants (Attributes)
    • These correspond to the Environmental Profile from Aria Worlds Rules
    • Determinants are divided into 3 groups, Environment, Economic, and Political
    • Environmental Determinants
      • SCOPE
        • Size of a Society
        • Rated from 1-10 along Linear scale, used to compare
        • Scope scales are generic
        • Abstract Scale of Societies population
        • SCOPE

          Value         Description

          1        Village (unwalled)

          2          Town (walled)

          3         City (unwalled)

          4        Large City (Walled)

          5   Small Country/Region

          6      Medium Country/Region

          7       Large Country/Region

          8        Colonial Nation (One or more colonies)

          9          Small Empire (one or more Sattelite States)

          10          Vast Empire (many subjugated countries)

        • Scope is used as modifier in other trials.
        • Important for lower tech as limit on social change – speed and breadth of communication
      • MILITARY
        • Effectiveness of a socieites military
        • Rated from 1-10
        • Derived from socieities Philosophical Orientation and type of forces
        • No subsititue for numbers, but is a factor
        • Military Value Determination
        •  

      • Philosophical Orientation
        • Prevalent Motivations and Intentions at work in the society
        • Society will move toward its Orientation over time.
        • Orientations
          • Survival
          • War
          • Conquest
          • Equilibrium
          • Peace
          • Knolwedge/Thought
        • Orientation Aspects
          • Acquisition
          • Conviction
          • Prevention
          • Tradition
          • Stagnation
          • Revolution
        • Orientation Posture
          • Active
          • Passive
        • Society always described by its aspects and posture
      • Humanities
        • Religion
        • Arts
        • Scholastics
        • Magic
        • Rated on Prevalence, Tolerance, Diversity (1-20 high greater of attribute)
      • Technology
        • Level of Technological advancement – rated 1-20
        • Index of 7 different innovation scales
          • Dominant Materials
          • Power/Manufacturing
          • Agriculture/Environment
          • Building/Architecture
          • Transport/Communications
          • Military
          • Miscellaneous
        • Dominant Materials makes good short-hand (i.e. Stone age/Bronze age/Iron Age/Steel)

In addition to the Social Determinants, societies are described by a Set of Economic and Political Determinants. These serve to fuel the conflicts and developments created in the interactive history and to give a rich view of a society and the flow of its history.

  • ECONOMIC DETERMINANTS
    • Resources – rated 1-20
    • Level of exploitable resources in environment
    • Low values lack of resources, no surplus
    • High values, lots of resrouces, high surplus
  • EXPLOITATION
    • 1-20 rated, average amount socieity exploits its existing resources, 1pt=5% usage
  • TRADE
    • Amount of trade, both imports and exports, practiced by society
    • Low value = almost no extra-communal/international trade
    • High value great amount of international trade
    • Qualification of trade depends individual society and its neighbors, as well as philosophical orientation
  • POLITICAL DETERMINANTS
    • Key Elements
      • Important Political leaders or factions in the setting
      • All society must have a Ruling Agency at all times
      • Can be single individual, small group, or larget segment (white landowners!)
      • Define prominent individuals, their motivations
      • Key Elements can be sent on Missions/Actions (Diplomacy/Embassy)
      • Presence can affect difficulty of related Society Trials
      • If using Key elements, should be limited based on scope (4 per point of scope?)
    • POWER
      • Relative level of power held by Ruling Agency
      • Ability to get things done, not necessarily right to do them.
      • Rated from 1-10, 1 is limited power, 10 near absolute power
    • Authority
      • Vested right to act and exercise power – checks and balances, legal framing/divine right etc
      • Rated 1-10
    • Suppression
      • Difference between Power and Authority
      • High suppression equals unrest
      • Suppression is related to personal freedom in some societies
    • Consent
      • Popular mandate given to those in power, rated 1 to 10
      • Revolt, Unrest, Dissatisfaction, Satisfaction, Contentment ratings
    • Relations
      • Relationships with other societies or social elements
      • Rated from 0-10
      • Hostile, Poor, Suspicious, Neutral, Friendly ratings

Finally, we move on to playing the History, which lets us create an unfolding Grand Narrative as the societies act and react to events and actions by other societies they interact with. A history of its great struggles emerges.

PLAYING THE HISTORY
Interactive Histories are played out in Aria Time – which range from 1-10 years
For IH, 5 years is recommended length.
IH’s are done in Historic Intervals equal to the length set for Aria time
Within each interval societies can perform a number of Internal and external actions
Actions Per Interval    Situation   Actions
Base Internal Actions per Interval      2
Base External Actions per Interval    Scope/2
Orientation Aspect: Stagnation         -1
Orientation Aspect: Revolution         +1
Active Orientation Posture                +1
Passive Orientation Posture              -1
Societies can also resist the effects of Disasters, Critical Junctures, and Reactions
Society Trials resolve all actions and result in Improvements, Regressions and Incidentals.
Players or Mythguides take on role of societies
Should ‘roleplay’ the socities based on their profile and aspects
By investing themselves in this role, and embodying the society and its people struggles, a rich interactive history can be built
Players and Mythguide should be familiar with the societies themselves for best results (collaborative creation is best for this)
Historic Interval (IH Turn)
Events Phase (number of optional events/disasters to deal with)
Internal Actions phase
    Resolve Critical Junctures (mandatory events when Determinants reach certain values)
    Declare Internal  Actions
           (Civil War, Develop/Invest, Elections, Exile, Fundamental Shift, Intrigue, Power Negotiation, Observation, Technological Research, Sponsor Key Element, Taxation)
External Actions Phase
     Resolve Critical Junctures
     Declare External Actions
          (Alliance, Blockade, Covert Negotiations, Diplomacy, Embassy, Espionage, Intimidation, Invade, Observation, Overtures, Raid, Recall Military/Embassy/Exile, Sanctions, War
Resolution Phase
       Make Society Trials to resolve Actions
       Determine Effects of Actions
       Apply Regressions/Improvements, Incidentals and Reactions

By creating this shared history and following major events among lineages and organizations, a strong, believable history is build up for the players, by the players. This collaborative world-building leads to more invested players as they don’t have to wade through an info dump, but create it. It also leads to rich narrative record and ‘living, breathing’ world.  This is the single most innovative system included in Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth, and is a great way to stretch the borders of traditional roleplying setups and more deeply involve the players in their communal fantasy. Imagine when “let me tell you about my character’, becomes “Let me tell you about our game world.”

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