This originally started as one idea, but after some consideration I think it may be better suited as two games. The only problem is that now I have two concepts I'm equally interested in and enough time to work on one.
They're a little vague and undeveloped right now. I'm hoping to get some input and criticism on the ideas here, and that it will help me decide what I like and dislike about each idea, and which one I want to ultimately pursue.
I'm not crazy about the name, but it's an adequate placeholder.Summary
Pseudomodern-day RPG. A group of misfits living in a boarding school fight against the malevolent denizens of a strange and alien fairy tale-like hidden world, with the help of their once-forgotten imaginary friends.Many children have wonderfully vivid imaginations and elaborate fantasy worlds, true, but most of them forget about their imaginary friends and make-believe adventures when they grow up, too.
You tried, but no matter what your mind always went back to those days -- flitting in and out of pretend doors into a strange land covered in vines and roses, searching for mysterious treasures, and gleefully running from creatures born out of your most intense dreams. You were of course always accompanied on your adventures by your imaginary friend, your closest companion. The two of you were thick as thieves and you were confident that, just like Peter Pan, you would never grow up.
You matured a lot earlier than you were ready for, on the day you finally found a treasure. You burst into your home after a narrow escape, covered in scratches and dirt, wearing a triumphant smile, and clutching a magnificent diamond tiara in your hand.
It wasn't until you noticed your mother's shocked expression as she took in your unkempt appearance and the jewelry that was really in your hand that confusion set in. Even as a child you suspected something was strange about the situation, and your mother's bafflement and agitation -- and the accusations of stealing, followed by a subsequent three month grounding -- all but confirmed it. You had a big imagination sure, but you couldn't have just conjured that up from scratch. You began to question how much of that other world was simply playing pretend.
You decided to withdraw from your adventures in that other world, and your "best friend" by extension. After that point you seemed to have a normal enough childhood, even if you compensated for your experiences by acting the part of a very serious and sensible kid.
They never went away, though. When you least suspected it, you would catch a glimpse of a door that wasn't there before out of the corner of your eye, or see your friend around the corner in the mirror. And now that you are old enough to have gained some perspective, that place seems much more strange and malevolent than than wondrous.Places & ThingsThe Other World
There's another world out there, hidden behind strange doors that often randomly appear on the edge of vision, but disappear upon closer inspection -- only children and other seemingly imaginative people are capable of accessing it. The doors that do appear in our world typically stand out instantly as a bright, neon yellow. Once inside, a way out will usually present itself as well. Most of the time.
While the atmosphere of Somnium isn't outright hostile, it has a pervasively surreal and alien atmosphere despite its fairy tale-like appearance. Most of the residents -- the "Fey" -- are friendly enough, even if they are a little loopy, but they all live in fear of the ruthless tyrants that control their feudalistic society.
All things considered, physics bahave fairly normal in Somnium with the occasional hiccup or two. You may find yourself in a treehouse after crawling down an underground tunnel, or maybe you can't seem to find your way down a ladder until you decide to climb UP it. There's an entire town of people out there that's sick of changing colors every time they bump into something.Imaginary Friends
I need to give them a name so I don't have to just keep calling them imgainary friends. Daemon, Eidolon, and Chimera fit well enough in this context, but since Chimera is already heavily associated with a particular folklore creature and Eidolon is used in a Final Fantasy, I'll just call them "Daemons" for now. I'm not sure if I like it.
A lot of kids -- known as "anchors" in this context -- have had imaginary friends of various shapes and sizes. They provide friendship and care when a child is in need, and return to Somnium fulfilled after the child matures.
The companions of the main characters aren't so lucky. Because of the main characters' strong ties to the hidden world but their unwillingness or inability to acknowledge it, they live a miserable half-life. They can't move on, and neither can their Daemons. As unfulfilled Daemons they can never stray too far from their anchors, and the long time spent alone and ignored has warped a few of them into morose creatures, and turned others angry and bitter.
I like the idea of them having their own thoughts, personalities, and motivations, and playing a large part in both the story and the gameplay. While they might always be loyal to their anchor, the time spent apart has given them a degree of separation from each other that many kids don't have. They may give the characters skills in battle, or stand in for them altogether.
Another reason I'm fond of the imaginary friend idea is because it gives you an instant visual clue about a character -- someone who imagines themselves accompanied by a rowdy girl in a lion headdress will be very different from someone who prefers the company of something hairy and fanged, for example.Alcott-Monroe Academy (Known to most simply as "Monroe")
A grade 9-12 boarding school for troubled teenagers. It has a reputation for its extremely strict rules and heavyhanded disciplinarians, and it is also known in theory for getting results and graduating many rehabilitated and well-adjusted young men and ladies.
In reality, the most severely troubled are transferred to a private wing where the school indulges in scaled-down forms of many of the disturbing and inhumane mental health treatments of the time, such as metrazol shock, fever therapy, and electroshock, until they are old enough to be transferred to an adult mental asylum. For the majority of the student body, they are simply taught military-like discipline and given varying amounts of medication. They quickly learn to keep their heads down around the school's staff, for fear of joining the poor souls in the private wing.Game Concept
I want to do something with a Jazz Age aesthetic, meaning the game is set sometime in the twenties or thirties. The date is kept intentionally vague along with the exact location of the school to hopefully increase the feeling of tension and isolation.
When several new students arrive at Alcott-Monroe for the start of term and realize they all share the same "delusion", they are shocked and astounded. After a month or two period of living day-to-day under the strict rules of Alcott-Monroe with little time to consider the implications, a group of rebellious students, many from the private wing, decide to take action and open the doors to Somnium, an act that seems to drag the school itself into the other world, or perhaps causes the other world to seep into the school and the surrounding area. Whatever the case, it is now impossible to leave.
The adults are quickly overpowered by the rebel students and locked in captivity, and the situation quickly devolves into various groups of kids vying for control for the school. In all the pandemonium, the main characters are the students that have decided for varying reasons to set things right. They venture through the curtain of thorns and past the veil of vines, into Somnium, searching for a solution.Themes
One of the major themes I want to emphasize aside from the obvious ones would be the cycle of abuse and cruelty. Many of the students have suffered nothing less than torture under the care of the staff of Alcott-Monroe, and they're all too eager to return the favor now that they're the ones in power. The protagonists will have to decide for themselves if they want to rescue the adults and spare them from a similarly abhorrent treatment. Similarly, most of the otherwordly citizens of Somnium live in a feudalistic society under a small group of extremely wicked Fey, subjected to their cruel whims because they're powerful enough to protect them from the ravenous and murderous creatures that inhabit the world outside of their little communities.
It's not a theme, exactly, but I really enjoy fairy tales, folklore, and mythology of all types and I really want to try and blend various such figures seamlessly into a strange little Alice in Wonderland-style world.
Exile / Memento Mori
A more traditional, fantasy kind of RPG. A group of dying exiles decide to make a pilgrimage to Teres Sol, the ruined capital of an ancient magic empire, to try and find an answer or solution for their condition.Setting
Teva Torah is a dangerous wasteland of sand and mirage, where the ruins of cities great and small alike dot the wounded landscape and only the largest communities are able to truly thrive.
Magic is an exceptionally rare trait, and is essentially considered a disease. Those born with the ability to use magic are powerful to be sure, but they are also wracked with physical and mental pain and often have great difficulties controlling their abilities. They rarely live past their mid-twenties, at the latest. This, combined with certain events in the world's history, has led to the general population feeling quite a bit of distrust and hostility toward the afflicted. When someone is discovered to be able to use magic, they are branded an 'Aberrant' and driven away from civilization, to live the rest of their short lives in exile.
This has lead to the founding of a few Aberrant-only communities, but they rarely thrive very long; aside from the lack of hospital land and the exponentially increasing amount of monsters, the Aberrants' short lifespans and the hatred of the outside world means that the towns are either destroyed by raids, or the inhabitants simply waste slowly away, leaving their children standing alone in a village of the dead.Game Concept
The main characters are young adults in their early to mid-twenties who know they don't have much time left. Though each has his or her own motivation, they unite as a group to go on a pilgrimage north to Teres Sol, a city fabled for being the birthplace of magic and the capital of an ancient sacred empire. It is said that Aberrants were once called 'Magi' there, were referred to with reverence and respect, and even lived comfortably into old age. Some want to investigate and find an answer for their condition, some hope that if they find the city, they will discover the secret of a long life. Others simply want to find a meaningful place to die.
Whatever the reason they each have a firm determination to reach their destination, even if they must wade through prejudice, avoid the clutches of the so-called "Aberrant Purification" squads, struggle to control their own powers, and try and make peace with their own impending death.Themes
The two main ones would be coming to terms with your mortality and living your life to the fullest, and the unthinking brutality of prejudice.
I think using butterfly imagery well would help convey the themes of the game in a subtle way, because they're often used to symbolize metamorphosis, and the beauty and fragility of life.