Theme Music

A Social RPG

By Tim C Koppang (9.13.01)

Visit: From the desk & mind


      --- The Premise & Back Story


Coming soon...


      --- Game Setup


Number of players: 4 or more.


You will need a large bank of songs and a method for playing them in random order.  MP3s work great for this purpose, but CD changers, or even radio can get the job done.


You will need 5 six-sided dice for each player, unless you want to pass the dice around as the need arises.  The later method can slow down play however.


You will need a pool of poker chips or other such counters: 5 for each player plus a number of additional chips equal to the number of players.  For example, if there are four players than you will need 24 chips.  Place all of the chips in a central location where everyone can reach them.


Nominate one player to begin the game as the Maestro.  Unlike most other rpgs, Theme Music does not require a Game Master.  The Maestro is not the Game Master.


      --- Character Creation


See Example Character (RandyAl.htm) for now...

Characters do not need to play an instrument, or have any musical talent whatsoever.


      --- How To Play


Each player shares the responsibility for creating a detailed setting and story within the context of the game.  At any given time one player dons the name of Maestro and has slight power beyond that of his fellow players, but his title only lasts the length of a song.


A game of Theme Music consists of a series of interlocking scenes, connected (sometimes artificially) by the players.  To begin a game put your MP3 player on random mode and hit the play button.  With each new song begins a new scene; the mood and action of that scene is dictated by the background music.  If a thoughtful piece of classical music leads into "Kung Fu Fighting," then the characters may forget their thought provoking conversations and break out into combat and mayhem.  Encourage cut scenes; don't feel locked into only one location or time.  Let the music be your guide as you create a story.  Pay attention to style, lyrics, tempo, and all other aspects of the song.  By the end of the game, your success depends on whether or not you, as a group, were able to tell a coherent tale in the face of ever changing tunes.


      --- Task Resolution


The majority of actions a character will perform automatically succeed.  Task Resolution only plays a part in the game when a player desires his character to rise above the norm.  Then, a player spends chips in proportion to the "cool" level he hopes to achieve and rolls some dice.  A character either succeeds or fails in his action; there is very little middle ground.


Task resolution, to use a bit of rpg-theory lingo, plays out as "fortune at the start."  You roll the dice before deciding the character's actions or even declaring what the character's intentions are.  In order to roll dice, you must first buy them with chips from your pool.  You can trade one chip for one die, and afterwards place the spent chips in the center pot.  The amount of dice you roll determines the maximum level of success a character can achieve in any action.


1 die....... mostly mundane actions

2 dice...... above average actions

3 dice...... memorable actions

4 dice...... a notch above most actions

5 dice...... truly heroic/unbelievable actions


A player may only purchase 5 dice at any one time.  After purchasing his dice a player than must achieve a number of successes equal to his dice total.  For example, a character attempting an unbelievable action must earn 5 successes to accomplish the feat.  Any 4, 5, or 6 scores a single success on a single die.  Unmodified attempts can prove very difficult.


Using your character to modify task resolution: coming soon...


When a player succeeds he may then narrate any action of the appropriate success level or lower.  Keep in mind that actions are of an indeterminate length of time and, depending on the situation and scene, can last hours or seconds.


On the other hand, when a character fails he must also narrate an action.  The failure should be of a level equal to the attempt; what would have been a truly heroic success, translates into a truly heroic failure.  Failure has a place in any story, and should not be viewed as losing.  Instead players are encouraged to narrate with the same amount of zeal they would have if their character had succeeded.  Normally when a roll fails, the player gains his spent chips back.  If he attempted a mundane action and failed, he gains one chip back.  However, if a player is willing to forfeit his spent chips permanently, then he can in turn narrate a partial success.  This choice should be discouraged, but is included for those situations that may lead to dire results.  The partial success can be of a level equal to the number of successes the player did roll, meaning that partial success requires at least one success.


      --- Chips


Chips are used exclusively for Task Resolution, but earning chips is another matter altogether.  To earn chips a player must participate in the action and make use of his player's traits.  By completing certain actions either in-game or out of game a player may take chips from the center pot.  If there are no chips in the pot, then that player is out of luck.  He must wait until other players spend chips in order to earn more.  A player with no chips may only direct his character to perform unspectacular actions.


Earning Chips


Using a Prop in one of the two specified ways....... 1 Chip

Fulfilling a specified Motivational goal............ 5 Chips

Completing half of a Weakness....................... 1 Chip

Linking the previous scene to the current one....... 1 Chip

Narrating a proper failure.......................... Chips equal to the number spent


Fulfilling Motivational goals: Cross off Motivations that no longer apply to the character, and immediately create a new goal for the character.  Add the new Motivation to the character sheet.  The new Motivation may be derived from the completed one, or run along a different line altogether.


Completing Weaknesses: A beginning character has only 50% of his sheet filled out.  By taking on a new Weakness, the character earns a chip.  The first time a new Weakness is written on the character sheet, complete it's name and one of the two situations required.  A player earns another chip when the second situation is completed.  A new Weakness may only be taken in a situation when that Weakness would affect the character directly.


Linking Scenes: The Maestro is responsible for declaring what type of scene will take place during the new song, but the remaining players must come up with a bridge connecting the previous scene to the current one.  The Maestro dictates what happens, but the other players must create a reason why it happens.  Only one player may earn a chip for linking scenes.  The chance to link scenes proceed clockwise, beginning with the player to the left of the Maestro.  A player may pass or narrate his link, but only receives a few seconds to begin his narration.  The Maestro decides when "time is up," and then passes the chance onto the next player in line.  The Maestro may not link scenes and play proceeds without a link if no one creates one in the first pass around the table.


      --- The Maestro


The role of the Maestro passes clockwise around the table, so that each player will have a chance much more than once to call the scene type.  When a song ends the roll of the Maestro changes hands to the next player in line.  The Maestro is responsible for choosing a scene type when a new song begins, and then directing the others during scene linking.  Scene types are meant to act as loose guides, allowing plenty of room for creativity.  Examples may include fight, heartfelt conversation, high action, slow motion, drama, film noir, love, revenge, and many others.  A Maestro can only choose one scene type per song.


In addition, the Maestro has veto power.  At anytime during the course of his scene he feels that a player has compromised the integrity of the game with an action, the Maestro can veto that action.  Unless the veto faces a unanimous objection from the other players, the player in violation must retract his action or tone it down to within the range of believability.


Normally, veto power extends to all players at all times.  When, in the course of the game, all players decide to alter any aspect of the story or game, that alteration is automatically accomplished.