Utopia Descending – Talking About the New Horizon
Many of you know me from either Dystopia Rising or one of the games I made for the Chronos LARP system. Some of you are from ye-olden-times and remember when I was writing mechanics documents for networked fan club LARP groups, and some of you know me from some of my smaller projects. Like you over there Pepperidge Farms… you remember.
A project that been given much of my attention over the past year and a half is a project known as Utopia Descending. Some of you know the game world and already participate in it, some of you think it’s some sort of after story for Dystopia Rising. On behalf of Evan and I, I would like to give some design theory and massive differences in the design system we made for DR and what we made for UD.
First, the name. The choice of name was to point out the parallel but different thematic relation between Dystopia Rising and Utopia Descending. Dystopia Rising is about the idea that a dystopian situation happened, and what is left over in the world is attempting to build back up and recreate society in a post-fall world. Dystopia Rising isn’t the story about things being the worst, but the story of picking yourself back up after the worst day happened. Utopia Descending is a different mythology where the world has reached a perfect Utopian concept in the pre-story, but is now slowly starting to fall apart at the edges based on the nature of drama in culture.
In Dystopia Rising you hunt for scraps, herbs, and resources to build a means for survival for yourself and the community you choose. In Utopia Descending getting resources as a character is incredibly simple. The more loyal and better performing you are in regards to your in-character corporation, the higher you rise and the more perks you get. Your rewards from your corporation are an ongoing analogue where characters are promoted and demoted regularly as scandal and conflict arises.
Beyond the parallel concepts having a relation of “turning points”, Dystopia Rising and Utopia Descending are completely different creatures not only in story but also in design.
Here are some of the biggest differences in the design category.
1) Players don’t build their own armory. Equipment is given to you when you go on away missions including your weapons. The better of an item you get, the better the actual physical representation you use is. Your melee weapon will be lighter, longer, and have more tangible advantages.
2) You don’t have to go to game to play the game. Get a membership, register your character, and connect with a chapter. You can play online via remote RP, event chats, and even broadcasting as a plot persona with story ran for you between live events (as a large meta design). Utopia Descending uses a ton of trans-media technology and integrates available media into the narrative tools. Your character has a facebook page, could have multiple media resources, and actually engages not only other registered players but also the “home viewing audience.” Can't make it to a game but still want to help with translations of the base language found by rift creatures? Feel free to play remotely from home or on the go.
3) Utopia Descending is designed in a way where each individual Utopia Chapter has the ability to influence and really define the local reality. It has been written into the narrative of the world that when a Looking Glass Rift opens in a region, that not only is the area influenced thematically but it is also mechanically influenced as well. This means the base weapons and technologies used at each chapter is different, each local theme and story is different, and the individual chapters can choose to give post game reports to the Utopia Descending LLC to have local games influence the ”global narrative.”
4) Game can happen whenever you want. Because the system is so rules light and offers opportunities for combat heavy games, games without combat at all, games that are American Freeform in design, and games that happen virtually people can apply to run all different sorts of Utopia Descending events.
5) With each game being more individual, there is less in the way of training and printed support materials provided for Utopia Descending game runners. We give you systems and templates to work with, some cannon sample materials to use, and then set you free to do what you like in your local bubble. With the freedom to run what you like comes the responsibility to figure out how to run what you like.
6) Because resources are linked game to game, and games are linked to their local businesses, resources and materials gained at game stay at that game. This allows games to run “high loot” or “low loot” scenarios without the actions taken in another chapter influencing it.
7) Utopia Descending is not an XP based character sheet system. Instead of buying individual skills you just choose what download you would like at an event (completely changing your “character sheet”). In doing different combinations of downloads players can change their skillset event by event depending on what they feel like playing.
8) You can travel game to game in Utopia Descending, but traveling means your character is literally going to a play space where the rules and story may be different than they are accustomed to. You may go to an airsoft based Utopia Descending game one week and a completely Freeform RP event in a rented club another week.
9) Utopia Descending functions heavily based on player plot requests. While there is still a game owner making story for your game, requesting plots and story arcs are the primary story focus for Utopia Descending. Traditional LARPs have story tellers guessing what the players are in the mood for, investing into what they think a group of players will like, and regularly plots flop just because “it wasn’t the right plot for the right players or maybe not at the right time”. With player plot requests being the primary focus of Utopia Descending (and the subsequent world reaction based on what the players do during those story arcs) there is a lot less of “wasted plot efforts” because players are being given exactly what they are asking for.
10) Costuming for your character can ramp up or down based on a meta-tool called “rift exposure”. If you feel like doing heavy Tier 3 makeup for your character, or do visible changes, all you have to do is create a story where you have spent too much time near the Rifts and it has changed your characters appearance (or even how they act). If you want to ramp down your costume for an event for any reason (maybe the props got broken or you have things you need to do right after game) you can do so just by having your character assigned to jobs further away from the Looking Glass Rifts.
11) Not all Utopia Descending games have to follow the same mechanics, they just need to be transparent in regards to what players should expect at individual events and experiences. Want to run a parlor-larp style version of Utopia Descending? Sure! Want to run a combat-sport focused version of Utopia Descending? Sure! Want to have a chapter that regularly deals with scenarios on the paintball or airsoft field you own? Sure! Own a bar or club and want to build it as a Utopia Themed space with live events periodically that are for the players? Bangarang! Just let us know how you want to run it, and we will figure out the contracting.
So how do you go about opening a Utopia Descending? That is coming very soon. We have been handling the bureaucracy and design work to ensure that all the hiccups and paperwork hurdles we learned about creating and expanding DR are avoided and taken care of ahead of time. This way we don’t need to redefine terms, operation procedures, and business practices to expand from a single run game into a full network and instead can just start with the network in mind from the initial mechanical focus.