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Aria RPG


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jgbrowning

Explorer
Anyone want to trade an old copy for a brand new MMS:WE hardcopy?

I've been trying to find this for a while without luck.

Hell, I'll pay shipping, throw in all our PDF's as well and promise to give you a copy of our next book.

:)

Don't know if Aria is any good, but I'd like to read it. I'd like to see what it did and how it did it.

joe b.
 

Renshai

First Post
Well, I lost my copy of Aria in a move but I can tell you a little about the game.

Personally, I loved it. But finding people willing to put them time into actually playing it is a different animal all together.

Basically, Aria: Canticle of the Monomyth is a roleplaying game where the group gets together to create a myth. A fantasy world that the entire group participates in creating. Everyone worlds together with the Gamemaster to create cultures and history that mesh into what will be their campaign setting.

Once the world is done, you move on to the roleplaying. In Aria, you don't actually have to play a single character. You can actually "play" your culture. Imagine playing the elven or Numenorean culture of Middle-Earth and how they reacted to the threat of Sauron in the Second Age. And then dropping out of "Culture Mode" (for lack of a better term) to play Elrond, Gil-Galad, and Isildur. The things that happen in the point of history you decide to play in will affect the future generations of the culture you created.

That is basically it in a nutshell. It is a very fun game if you can get a good group together.

The magic and dicing system weren't bad if I recall correctly. I remember running a couple of combats and thinking how realistic the system was.

Anyway, Hope that helps some.
Ren
 
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Mercule

Adventurer
I've got it.

I ran it once a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I bumbled my way through much of it.

It's an awesome game in concept. Very big into character development and world-building. The problem was in implementation. The author (Christian Moore) was apparently trying to get his money's worth out of some 400 level English courses in college (I'll include some terms as I explain things). Also, the rules are really set up to be a very loose framework for roleplaying (mythmaking).

Several of us on the mailing list had gotten Christian's go ahead to do a second edition that was more "accessible", but it was an abortive attempt (for my part, I changed jobs and moved across state as things were just getting going). Too bad, too. It's got some real potential.

The highlights:

Aria Worlds (the blue book). If you do homebrew, you should have this book. Even if you don't follow the process completely, it's got some awesome questions in it and some ways to quantify things that you may not even think about normally. This book will add a lot of depth to any setting.

There are several different technology scales to help define exactly how advanced a given society is. The Isolation and Interaction scales also help to figure out how goods and technology flows between societies (Narritive Environments).

There's a section on societal customs, like values, basic government structure, rules of inheritance, etc.

One of the most unique concepts (and difficult to work with) is the Hierarchy of Social Estates. The HSE is basically a way to figure out who stands socially higher than whom. Who is more respected and has more pull -- the baker, the soldier, or the dock worker?

Aria Roleplay (the red book): A lot more to this book, since it basically covers everything else, including the following.

Character (persona) creation/advancement. Character points are based on age. Creation follows your path of development, almost from birth. At any given phase in your life, you'll be involved in a "Vocational Setting" (basically, a job or lack thereof). Based on that setting, you pick skills (expertises) that you develop. Basically, it's a mechanic that ensures that if you say you grew up in the desert, you don't sail like you were born on deck, but it can be rather in depth (and potentially frustrating).

There is a mechanic for character personality traits. It works a bit like the Storyteller system's Nature and Demeanor, but the traits have ratings from 1 to 10. You are expected to play "in character" based on these, but the values would also impact the difficulty of a Charm or Dominate type of spell.

Speaking of magic, the Reality chapter is not so much a magic system as it is a metasystem for creating the magic system you want. It's very loosely based on Ars Magica as a framework, but you could develop anything from D&D Vancian spells to Mage: the Ascension concentual reality. Some option would take a bit more work, of course, but they are all possible within the framework. The GM (MythGuide) is going to have to do some _significant_ upfront work, though.

If you want, you can go so far as to describe how hard it is to affect various materials with magic. You could also set it up so that certain objects served as vessels of magic energy (Omnessence) or even that a caster would have to return to a certain place to refresh themselves. Or you could have the "flow" freely available.

As an example, _my_ Reality used several types of magic.
--Thaumaturgy was based on the principles of words of power. All thaumaturgic magic fit into three categories for duration: Instant, Permanent, and "Concentration" (as long as the caster continued to speak the weaves, actually). Thaumaturgy excels at manipulating and conjuring energies, but it has difficulty actually creating anything and you can forget about directly impacting anything living. Thaumaturges are incapable of cooperative effects. Reckless use of thaumaturgy often results in burn-out.
--Rune Lore uses mystic symbols to tap into the energy inherent in various objects. Because of this, a rune actually consumes the object it is scribed upon -- rune casters tend to like stone. Rune casters are excellent diviners and passible healers, but have difficulty with energy. Madness often finds its way to rune casters.
--Witchcraft taps the energy of living things. Witches usually deliver their spells through potions, poltices, and the like. Most often, these mixtures contain herbs, leaves, and other plant components, but animals are even more charged with life than plants and fresh animal ingredients are often used for more potent rotes. Of course, humans are the highest of the animals and have the most energy within them. In extreme circumstances, witches have used (usually) willing sacrifices to power their greatest rituals. Also, witchcraft lends itself to cooperation and a large coven using a willing human sacrifice is capable of affecting an area of hundreds of miles, blessing (or cursing) the land for years to come. Witches are most known for their power to heal and harm those with whom they deal and are more than passible fortunetellers.
--Necromancy is the quickest path of power for those willing to take it. By burning souls, the necromancer harvests large amounts of energy which he can use to "force" his way through powerful arts. Most people greatly despise necromancers, though, because a damaged soul _never_ heals. Elves are especially wary of necromancers because they do not find final rest when they die, but are reborn -- with any necromantic scars still there. Someone who has had a bit of their soul drained away becomes less passionate (an impact to the personality ratings I discusses above). This is something they will never recover from.

Another interesting aspect of the Aria system is the inclusion of "Narritive History". Here, each player takes the role of a society and plays for a few years. There are rules for advancing (and losing) technology, military campaigns (not minatures, this is fairly abstract), coups, etc. Characters also gain XP during Narritive Time.

All this encourages the passage of time, so that (in theory) you have an organic game. Characters move on and their children may take up their roles. Events unfold over several generations of PCs, etc. Very cool idea. Helps to integrate the characters into the campaign world.

Even though we've gone the route of the very straight-forward 3E, I still refer to my Aria books on occasion. I think either of the books is worth getting, if you get the opportunity.

Here's a couple of sites to look at:
Geoza
Juha Vesanto's page

It's been a while since I've looked at either page, but Geoza was more complete last I looked. Still, Juha Vesanto is probably the expert on Aria (besides Christian himself), so I'd definitely check out his site.

Edit: oh, yeah. If you have any more specific questions, I'd be happy to answer anything I can. If you find the books and decide to run a game, _definitely_ post here first. I've got a whole list of stuff that I screwed up the first time and I'd rather save someone else the pain.
 
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FireLance

Legend
jgbrowning said:
Anyone want to trade an old copy for a brand new MMS:WE hardcopy?

Sorry, jb. The offer is tempting, but I'd rather hold on to my copy. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have, though.

krunchyfrogg, I never played it, probably because it had incredibly complicated mechanics. It's been a while since I read through the books, but I recall that every character was defined using over ten attributes, and you could only improve about four of them. Don't ask me why.

In my view, the most interesting thing about the system was that it extended the idea of attributes to countries, rating them on (if I remember correctly) accessibility, tech level, wealth and so on. Like characters, nations could also undergo "trials" and improve, e.g. whether a particular technological innovation would become widely accepted by the populace. I seem to recall a Dragon Magazine reviewer mentioning that it would allow players to play entire countries.

Too bad about the mechanics, though.
 

Hikaru

First Post
Mercule, did you participate in the WotC game search? Your world (what we can sense of it through its magics) interested me more than the worlds of even the semi-finalists we know.
 

mythusmage

First Post
I have a copy of both, and they aint for sale. Invaluable resources, even if both of them rely on information gained from vetting anthropolgy and sociology classes.:)

The only thing I can advise is getting in touch with Christian via Decipher Games and asking him if you could get a PDF of the books from somebody. Or if he knows of somebody with extra copies.

BTW, there was a '2e' project on the Aria mailing list, but that died. Last I heard Christian Moore and Owen Seyler (Aria's co-author) were trying to get the money together to do an official Aria 2e.

When you do get a copy you'll notice that sometimes the charts disagree with the text. In such cases, trust the text.

One last thing. A few years back I talked with Christian and crew at Last Unicorn Games about Aria. He pretty much fessed up that the books were horribly overwritten, and that now (as of the time of the conversation) he would certainly write in a more accessible style.
 

Soldarin

First Post
I think I got a copy of both books when Atomik had a big sale of old materials (5 euros a piece, I took home some 20 odd books. Felt like christmas -well Sinterklaas, actually, but most people wouldn't know what I meant). This thread has made me eagre to go find them in the pile of (still) unread books and dig in. Thanks. ;)
 

bret

First Post
Sorry to disagree with many of the previous posters, but I thought this game stunk!

I agree it had some good ideas.

There were at least three things that got in the way of finding/using those ideas:
1. The writing style. It reads like a college paper -- maybe a master's thesis on anthropology or sociology. It is very difficult reading, when with a different writer I think it would have been interesting.

2. The terms. They had a terminal case of NIH syndrome. They made up terms for everything, and none of them match generally accepted terms. It is worse than Blue-Speak for those of you familiar with that.

3. The mechanics. Roll a d10. A 1 is a critical failure, a 10 is a critical success. Yeah, fully 20% of the rolls will be criticals. The criticals are frequent enough that they totally dominate play.


Our gaming group tried to use the rules. It was a lot of work, and not worth it in the end.

As a background resource, the material is valuable but difficult to use. As a game, I hated it.

What is MMS:WE?
 


mikey6990

First Post
Joe,

I have aria worlds, if you want to work something out. It is a neat book, but just was so much more that I needed at the time.

Mike
 

jgbrowning

Explorer
mikey6990 said:
Joe,

I have aria worlds, if you want to work something out. It is a neat book, but just was so much more that I needed at the time.

Mike

Send me an e-mail at josephbrowning@exp.citymax.com and we'll work something out.

I'll have to ship it to you sometime next week, because in about a hour I'll be heading off to Chicago for the game day!

:)

Drop me an e-mail and when I get back next week I'll respond and we'll figure things out. Thanks!

joe b.
 

woodelf

First Post
FireLance said:
krunchyfrogg, I never played it, probably because it had incredibly complicated mechanics. It's been a while since I read through the books, but I recall that every character was defined using over ten attributes, and you could only improve about four of them. Don't ask me why.

Too bad about the mechanics, though.

The mechanics are, overall, less complex than D&D3E. The only part that is more complex is the basic die roll--that's a bit of a beast. But it gives you a much smoother curve of results, rather than a flat distribution with abrupt ends. With an Aria roll, you can generate any result, regardless of your ability--but the vast majority of results will fall pretty close to your ability. (There are 10 level of result--5 failures, 5 successes--and if you had "no" chance of succeeding, you might need to roll 4 1s (on d10) in a row just to pull off a bare success.)

The only thing about Aria that is more complex than D&D3E is the need to build your own setting. Even the default game (without Aria: Worlds) starts from the assumption that you'll codify reality (and thus magic), then create the societies (and possibly histories), then figure out the castes and vocations within those societies, then create families, then create characters within those families. But, if you have a built setting (ambitious GM, use one of the examples in the book, use one that you found online), the game runs as or more-smoothly than D&D3E, and requires a lot less bookkeeping and rules knowledge.

Oh, the multiple attributes is actually a gem of an idea (though Aria is neither the first nor the last to use it): Basically, the premise is that most character conceptions (in any RPG) don't strongly involve all aspects of the character--they're focused on a few areas. IOW, you can sum the character up using only half-a-dozen broad traits ("dumb, uncouth, powerful warrior" "book-smart but socially-inept wizard"). So what Aria does is give you 16 attributes to play with, but 10 (or more) of those are considered average. You pick up to 6 of them to be above or below average (or maybe it was 6 above, + 2 below), thus defining your character. The reasoning is that, for the most part, you were just going to be jiggering points for points' sake for the rest of those attributes (because they didn't really apply to the concept), so we'll just cut to the chase and make them average. It also helps the game balance issues--you can't make a whole bunch of stats that you weren't going to use anyway really low just to jack up your other scores--and verisimilitude--most people aren't freaks with every single way you could rate them coming out very high or very low.
 

woodelf

First Post
bret said:
There were at least three things that got in the way of finding/using those ideas:
1. The writing style. It reads like a college paper -- maybe a master's thesis on anthropology or sociology. It is very difficult reading, when with a different writer I think it would have been interesting.

2. The terms. They had a terminal case of NIH syndrome. They made up terms for everything, and none of them match generally accepted terms. It is worse than Blue-Speak for those of you familiar with that.

You're right, none of their terminology matched the "generally accepted" terms in RPGs. However, if you weren't already brainwashed by previous RPGs, the terms were, if anything, clearer. Let's say you come across the term "alignment", and can't find the definition in the gamebook--so you go to a dictionary. Good luck. With Aria, the equivalent terms are Personality Trait, Motivation, Passion, and Obsession. If, again, you don't have access to the game's definition, and pull out your dictionary, you'll end up with almost exactly the game definitions of the terms. Ditto almost all the rest of the terms in Aria: they break with RPG tradition, in favor of English. [One major exception is the magic chapter, where part of the problem is pressing into service a language [English] that simply doesn't have the right terms to talk about these sorts of things.] With most RPGs, the larger your vocabulary, the more confusing the RPG is (V:tM was particularly bad that way). With Aria, the larger your vocab, the clearer it is.

As for the writing style: yes, it's very complex and specific. It is *not* transparent, but it is clear. Contrast with, say, the D&D3E PH, which is written quite simply--and very confusingly. Simple writing is not always best. Should Aria have been written with a simpler style? Sure. But it hardly requiresa college education to read. It's not incomprehensible, just dry. Heck, it's easier reading than the AD&D1 DMG. Oh, and it's nothing compared to even undergrad-level sociology texts.


3. The mechanics. Roll a d10. A 1 is a critical failure, a 10 is a critical success. Yeah, fully 20% of the rolls will be criticals. The criticals are frequent enough that they totally dominate play.
Well, don't forget that all a "critical success" means is that you get to roll again, and possibly move the result one step more favorable. Because of the 10 levels of failure/success, a crit success is rougly equivalent in actual game impact to beating the DC by 5 [in D&D3E]--it might have an impact in some situations, but rarely a huge one.


Our gaming group tried to use the rules. It was a lot of work, and not worth it in the end.

As a background resource, the material is valuable but difficult to use. As a game, I hated it.

We had problems with the chargen--it *is* fairly intensive, and requires a fair bit of math. But play wasn't a problem. In fact, once you've got a finished character, it's one of th eeasiest games to actually play that i've used--right up there with BESM.
 

mythusmage

First Post
I'm re-reading Aria: Roleplaying again, and I've just read the die roll mechanics. A '1' (as it turns out) does not mean an automatic success, nor does a '10' mean automatic failure. I'll elucidate.

On a 1 the player rolls again. If the second die roll indicates a success, the degree of sucess is raised by one grade. Otherwise there is no change. On a 10 the player rolls again. If the second die roll indicates a failure, the degree of failure is lowered by one grade. Otherwise there is no change.

So a player who needs a zero on a d10 to succeed in a task who rolled -in succession- a 1, 1, 3 on the die would get a partial success instead of the partial failure he would've gotten otherwise.

It means that a Persona (using "Aria Speak" here) with no 'realistic' chance could do something "Mythic" (more "Aria Speak") with a long enough sequence of 'ones' on the die, while another Persona with loads of training and ability could be the victim of a monumental flub with a long enough sequence of 'tens'.

This could be simulated in d20 games, but I'll be explaining how over in the 'homebrew' forum.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
Hikaru said:
Mercule, did you participate in the WotC game search? Your world (what we can sense of it through its magics) interested me more than the worlds of even the semi-finalists we know.

Yes I did. I didn't even make the first cut.

My ego says that two things kept me from doing so. 1) Not being able to cover what I wanted to in one page. 2) Some lingering doubts about converting my magic system(s) into D&D (or even d20).

I _very_ much appreciate the comments, though. Honestly, I hope to be able to put it together in a presentable fashion for at least a "Player's Guide to Albathador" for my own players. If that happens, I'll probably at least put up a .pdf for download somewhere. Right now, though, what I've got is a pile of notes for one world and several game systems.
 

Mercule

Adventurer
bret said:
Sorry to disagree with many of the previous posters, but I thought this game stunk!

You aren't the only person who doesn't care for it. Ironically, the fellow who introduced me to Aria Worlds (which prompted me to pick up Roleplay) thinks it's an unplayable game.

Then again, he thinks 3E is almost unplayable, too. About the only game he does like is Hero. *shrug*


3. The mechanics. Roll a d10. A 1 is a critical failure, a 10 is a critical success. Yeah, fully 20% of the rolls will be criticals. The criticals are frequent enough that they totally dominate play.

I think you grossly misread the mechanics.

As an example (without too much boring detail), I worked up some probability tables while playing with magic. Here are the odds of the various results for an "average" roll:

Code:
[COLOR=burlywood]
Mythic           00.04%
Extraordinary    00.36%
Superior         03.60%
Complete Success 26.00%
Marginal Success 10.00%
Marginal Failure 10.00%
Complete Failure 30.00%
Serious          14.00%
Miserable        05.40%
Catastrophic     00.60%
[/COLOR]
 
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krichaiushii

First Post
Some threadcromancy here....

I referenced Aria over on the WotC boards, and the best link my poor googlefu could find was this thread.

I own the blue book, but apparently need to seek out the red one, as well.

For what its worth, I have only used the book for ideas.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Yeah, I bought Aria - both books. And twice, after I lost my first copies.

Fascinating books. Showed signs of a trend of great ideas, lousy development that would continue to plague the LUG designers through many future products.

My copies still sit in my bookshelf.

Cheers!
 

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