Game Design and intent 1
The design process of Alba is ongoing – here is the first of a series of blogs in which we will discuss some of the design and the intent of the design. To begin with it is broad brush-strokes, with the intention to go into more detail in future posts. Much of the content and intent of Alba as a game is known, but we want to nail down the details before we release them all. So without further ado, here are some known facts about Alba:
ONE PEOPLE, A THOUSAND HOMES
The Albanni are one people – they share many similarities including belief and what they wear. There will be one costume guide, with the basic dress of the Albanni people. Beyond this, smaller differences will mark out where your character is roughly from and fine details will tie a village group together.
Similarly, the Albanni all believe in the same pantheon and in spirits – but which they place the most belief in, which means the most to an individual or to a group or region, will be the thing that differs.
A FICTIONAL PANTHEON
Alba is a mythical game set in a mythical world that has strong ties to ancient Britain – but it is not Ancient Britain and one of the main places this will be apparent is in the pantheon of Gods and Goddesses worshipped by the Albanni.
The Pantheon will have familiar tropes, but they are not based on the ancient beliefs of Britain. We have written them as distinct and different from the gods and goddesses you may be familiar with and we did this purposefully – to give us a space to tell different stories.
BELIEF IS YOUR ARMOUR
The druids of Alba perform many holy duties – they advocate for their people, they interpret and enact the teachings of the pantheon, they bind the spiritual heart of their village – but they also protect those who would fight.
Every druid has been shown the special ways to prepare and apply woad to those who wish to fight. This is the armour of the Albanni, and how much it will help you depends on how much you have trained to fight.
In Alba, physical armour will not be necessary – your druid’s faith and skill will protect you.
SPIRITS AND DREAMS
As well as a pantheon, the Albanni believe that animals and even the land also has a spiritual reality. Shamans dedicate their lives to understanding the spirits of the animals, and can use their magic to borrow the powers of some animals for themselves, or lend them to their fellow humans.
The Shamans also understand that in dreams, we can visit the spirits of other beings – even the land. Many Shamans are renowned for their abilities with dream-interpretation or their knowledge of what may exist within the spirit lands.
ONE PEOPLE, MANY VOICES
The Albanni are individualistic people – they are loyal to their village and their family, and while they will work together on great endeavours, they have no interest in higher government of any kind.
Alba is not a game for a One True King, nor a Leader’s Council.
Alba is a wild place – and much of the land is unknown. Outside the walls of a village, danger may creep very close. Outside the bounds of a gathering, enemies may lay in wait.
Alba will not have large battles, but there will be fights. We are currently prototyping a daytime “live area” idea whereby outside the encampments will be always live and enemies may come and go at any time. If these forces are not intercepted then they may come into the relatively safe areas of the gatherings. It is up to the hunters and warriors to decide how best to deal with threats.
THE DARK IS NOT YOUR FRIEND
As the sun falls, the encampment is surrounded by the other place. The grey world beyond our own. Great riches and even greater stories may lie in the place that looks so much like our own fields and trees, but is far more dangerous. The way into the world of spirits can be opened, if you like.
SWORDS ARE SPECIAL
The people of Alba have access to metal, and the technology to make knife-sized weapons, but the knowledge and ability to make swords is extremely rare, swords are mythical almost magical items, and next to no-one will wield one. Swords are the weapon of mythical heroes, forged by legendary metal-workers, and for every story of a hero who wielded a sword, there are five heroes who preferred the trusty spear or simple knife.
In Alba, everyone will have the ability to wield a small weapon such as knife or club. Warriors train with spears, while hunters will be skilled with bows and both may also use one handed axes, clubs or hammers with wooden shafts. These weapons and tools are all common and trivially available to all.
VILLAGES ARE NOT THE ONLY WAY
While one of the themes of Alba is community – this by necessity means that individuals must also be examined. In Alba it will be true that any hands make light work, but it will be perfectly possible to make a mark on the world as an individual, too.
The lone hunter, the druid of the mountain, the shaman who forsakes their human kin – these tropes will all be possible in the game. Working alone will mean you have a steeper hill to climb, not an impossible wall.
KEEPERS HOLD THE LEGENDS
The Albanni do not write – only a select few dedicate their lives to the accumulation and preservation of the histories of the Albanni, The Keepers. The Keepers are a special calling of druids who dedicate their lives to collecting the stories of their people – they have basic written script that they use to preserve the legends of their people, and the ability to proclaim an action memorable. Any druid may go before a sitting of Keepers to declare a great story and name a hero, but only the Keepers may record a story.
The Keepers will be NPCs or Referees – however it is an acceptable goal for a player character to wish to become one. Everyone knows that once you are accepted into the ranks of the Keepers, you must spend ten years in seclusion on their island, learning their writing. Any player character who attains the status will be able to play to the end of the event they are at, and indeed will be able to take part in the Keeper’s Sitting, but at the end of the event their character will leave play.
STORIES ARE THE CURRENCY OF ALBA
When an action is recorded by the Keepers, the hero of the story will receive a token that represents their action. This token can be exchanged for many actions that will further your story, and to help you attain a legend.
A story token may be used to cheat death, or to speak with a Goddess, to press on in battle when you should fall, or to perform a great feat of magic. Their uses will be many, but the only person who can decide how they are used is the one who earns them. How you tell your story will be up to you.
Image of Newgrange Entrance Stone is used under CC license https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0 from Wikimedia Commons