The basic premise is a simple feedback loop:
The world produces tension
Tension creates art
Art transforms the world
From the point of view of the artist, they are subjected to tensions and use technique to create art from these tensions. The art then transforms the world and changes the tensions.
I've also decided to make this a game about breaking paradigms. That is new forms of art are much better at changing the world than old forms of art. At the start of the game their are dominant techniques in each of the artforms (poetry, painting, sculpture, drama and architechture). Characters are proficient in the standard techniques but also have some skill in a new technique. It is the development of this technique and its clash with the old art that generates some of the tensions in the game.
Character sheets will be rather different from the usual. There will be technique stats which start off as:
Old Art technique 4
New Art technique 1 (this should be given a name such as Vorticism, Agrandicism or anything else the player likes)
Each technique applies to a particular form and whilst there is only ever one old art technique there can be any number of new ones. So you might have
Romantic Poetry 4 (old)
Surreal Poetry 2 (new)
Modern Poetry 1 (new)
These indicate number of d4's thrown to change tension into art.
Apart from the technique stats, the rest will be about relationships. Artists can have relationships with individuals (such as other artists, models, landlords, critics) or with groups (le tout Paris, customers at the Herisson Funamble, gravediggers). There will also be something about the nature of the relationship, friendship, monetary, notoriety. Example relationships are:
My model Marie, love
Landlord Alphonse, money
Old Guard critics, appreciation
Play will progress by scene (possibly in the same manner as My Life with Master, possibly told in retrospect as the PCs meet up in the Herisson Funambule for an absinthe at the end of the day, I'm not sure yet).
In a scene an artist can do one of three things:
- start a relationship
- end a relationship
- escalate an relationship
The first two are fairly self-explanatory. The last is about turning a relationship into a conflict. The conflcit will then generate tension that the artist can use to create art. A conflict is the same a relationship except that there is some bone of contention between the two parties. Escalation is about increasing the amount of tension generated by that relationship.
There is no way to reduce a conflict beyond ending it and starting a new one with the same person/group. Example conflicts are:
My model Marie, love but I play around (1)
Landlord Alphonse, money but I don't pay the rent (2)
Old Guard critics, appreciation but they don't like my art (1)
At the moment relationships are dealt with entirely through narration. There is no resolution mechanic except by player fiat. I am considering whether it is necessary to have some other stat that governs how much control the artist has over their relationships. I'm not sure it's necessary but some players my prefer it. It might be that control+technique=some fixed number to impose some limit on skill (subject to art transforming the world).
At the end of each day, simply roll technique in d4s and total tension in d6s.
If technique > tension then generate one point of art. This can be used to transform the world immediately or saved up to the next day. Each 5 points of art thus generated can transform the world by one point. The maximum of this is limited by the standing of this art in the world
if technique = tension then something interesting happens (see the Horror Revealed MLwM)
if technique < tension then the art fails and art points generated affect the world in a different way from that which the artist envisioned. This could be things such as going on a bender for a number of days equal to the difference between the scores, destroying a relationship, changing the standing of that art form.
Each art form has a standing in the world which is affected by the artist's succes or failure and the kind of success attempted. Starting standings are:
Old Art technique 10
New Art technique 1
If New Art's standing drops below 0 it's discredited and cannot transform.
Transformations can be about changing stats, standing, changing relationships or conflicts. The maximum amount of change is determined by the standing of the art according to the following table:
Standing - Max Change
1 - 1
2 - 1
3 - 1
4 - 2
5 - 2
6 - 3
7 - 1
8 - 0
9 - 0
10 - 0