Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Nuts & Bolts #119 - RPG Blog Carnival - Supah Seekrit
Last week, I discussed the fact that secrets in RPGs don't tend to remain secret by the very virtue of PCs tending to learn and uncover hidden knowledge or facts, though such knowledge may remain known by limited or few people by story's end. If you want to use some kind of secrets in your game you have decide what they are first. So, to that end, here's a breakdown of the big categories and some examples.
A secret or hidden person can fit any number of potential stories. It may be a the last heir of a powerful lineage. A witness, hidden away to protect them before the trial of a criminal. A powerful wizard with the means to solve a problem the party has. Or even one or more members of a secret society. Secrets of this nature often resolve around people hidden for their own protection, or as a result of lost knowledge (such as birth records). The hidden person may be actively hiding, hidden without their knowledge, or even unaware that they are hidden at all!
Example: The Last Archmage - Tal-zor the Fey Touched has not been seen in decades, but only he possesses the raw magical might to defeat a threat to the realm. The PCs must locate Tal-zor and convince him to return and save the kingdom.
Secret places are either hidden on purpose or lost. Lost may be due to mishap, time, or other factors. These kinds of places could be secret lairs (villainous or heroic), lost temples or libraries, secret panic rooms, hidden labs, hard to reach or remote natural places (caves, groves, lakes, even planets), or even alternate dimensions or worlds (the Upside Down anybody?). Unlike a hidden or secret person a location is (probably) not mobile, and (probably) not actively avoiding detection. There may be special skills or objects needed to find out open a secret location, and they may be protected by those who are aware of the secret.
Example: The Planet of Ack-tum - What do you do with an object too powerful to be destroyed, but too dangerous to keep around? You hide it in the deepest, darkest, most remote and desolate system in the galaxy! Rumor has it that Ack-tum exists in a stable pocket within a trinary system of singularities. The PCs must track down not only the location, but the means to access Ack-tum to retrieve an alien artifact.
Secret things are like secret places, they are either being hidden, or have been lost. Rings of power, rare gems hidden in rubbish statues, holy relics, illicit substances, and segmented weapons. These things may be hidden in plain sight; a powerful rune weapon disguised under layers of grime in the back of a junk shop. Or they may be kept in a hidden location. Segmented items may be broken into parts that each function as a lesser item but only when joined with their other components reveal their true power.
Example: The Will of Mr. Boddy - A millionaire has died, but his will is missing. With no heir and no will the state stands to take possession of the dead man's estate, unless the PCs can find Mr. Boddy's Last Will & testament.
Skills & Knowledge
Secrets in their purest form in some ways. A lost thing or place can be found in time even by accident, but secret knowledge is another thing entirely. Secret Seven Finger Kung-Fu, the lost magical techniques of flesh sculpting, the secret bloodlines of the last prophet, and the real assassin of the king. These kinds of secrets tend to survive by the will of a select few, or perish as those who know them perish. Hidden or secret knowledge may be lost among the stacks at a library, or hidden away in a secret place, or even held by a select few, or one person.
Example: The Master of the Divine Steel Badger - The warlord Jang-Lu is crushing all who stand before him, sweeping across the empire with his army in an unstoppable wave of blood and death. The warlord and his army all practice Furious Tiger Kung-Fu which has proven superior to all other forms. Rumor has it that there is only one counter to the Furious Tiger style, that of the lost art of the Divine Steel Badger. The PCs must track down the secret techniques of this form. Is it hidden in a scroll in an old monastery, or does a master still practice the style in some remote location?