Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anthropomorphics

It's Easter today! What goes with Easter? Bunnies! Why? Because the Christian Church stole the holiday from pagans, who celebrated Easter (or Ostara; nobody really knows what it was called before the Christians got hold of it. All are merely guesses) as a fertility rite. Thus, symbols of new spring (like baby bunnies and newborn chicks) were common, and the Church just knicked those and said, "They're symbols of Christ's resurrection! Yeah, that's it!"

So to tie in this week's gaming post with the bunny theme, I will discuss an idea that I worked on, briefly, with a friend of mine many years ago. The idea was "Anthropomorphics." We had originally intended it to be a GURPS sourcebook, but that idea never came to fruition.

The idea was that you would play animals. There were three campaign styles: realistic, cinematic, and silly. Realistic is just that: you play an animal in a realistic manner. This campaign style is generally best suited for people who (out of some masochistic reason) want to play someone's pet. However, it can include things such as the Watership Down setting. That is, all the characters are playing one type of animal, living in a colony (a warren of rabbits, a pride of lions, a murder of crows, et c.).Cinematic campaigns have various levels. They all include some amount of unrealistic behaviour, from the simple and straightforward (such as Lassie, in which the animals behave normally aside from their ability to use rather human-like thought patterns and to communicate effectively with humans despite their lack of speech) to the more overt (such as films like Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, in which the animals can speak to each other and exhibit remarkably human-like behaviour).

Silly campaigns are the straight-up unrealistic ones. The most obvious classification is the Saturday morning cartoons, with characters like Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. It needn't be that overt, though; the film Mousetrap shows an example of a silly campaign without anthropomorphising the animals (physically, at least).

There are other potential uses for this idea as well. What about a person that gets transformed into an animal through some spell? Just one example is The Tenth Kingdom, in which Prince Wendell gets transformed into a dog for the majority of the series.

We had even started developing optional rules for cross-species communication. The basic idea was that, if using these rules, an animal could communicate with someone from the same genus but different species at a -2 penalty. Different genus but same family, -4. Different family, but same order, -6. And different order but same class, at -8. Thus, a house cat (class mammalia, order carnivora, family felidae, genus felis, species sylvestrus) would speak to other housecats normally, to a black-footed cat (genus felis, species nigripes) at -2, a tiger (family felidae, genus panthera) at -4, a dog (order carnivora, family canidae) at -6, and a lemur (class mammalia, order primates) at -8.

Anyway, not sure how interesting that is to anyone, but if you're interested, I recommend the Animal Diversity Web from the University of Michigan. It's good for descriptions of animals, as well as discerning their taxonomic classifications.

That's it for this week! See you next week, and until then,

Game on!

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