Liberation Game System

In conjunction with developing Ontolosna as a storytelling world and as a genre, we are also developing a rules system adapted to the types of story we wish to create. Below is a quick summary. More detailed explanations with examples will be added as the system is playtested and finalised.

John Machin has developed a simple yet elegant game engine based on our discussions of the nature of genre exploration in Ontolosna.

The base engine is our variation on the Buddhist emotional realms encapsulated in the Wheel of Becoming, elaborated for example in the Thodol Bardo or Tibetan Book of the Dead. We describe a series of psychological realms of emotion and desire through which characters trace an arc. These are the Hell Realm, Hungry Realm, Human Realm, Blissful Realm and Aji or Liberation Realm. Rather than different lifetimes, our Ontolosnan version records emotional realms that change through action and expressed emotion, for Ontolosnan Giftings are for the most part exclusively focused on life before death.

Jewels and Poisons

The engine’s two stats comprise running markers of Jewels and Poisons, that is, of positive and negative emotional clusters and dispositions. As you use your jewels and poisons you will advance or fall between realms. These pyschological realms dictate how you relate to external and internal worlds, and how effectively your actions resonate in the wider cosmos. Skills and knowledge – including your training in various Giftings and your relationships with various Devi Kut – may add to your chance of success. Die rolls based upon jewels and poisons can be modified by Heart, the engine’s third component.

The Realms are associated with key emotional and cognitive states.

[System description removed – we’re back in beta!]
[more like alpha! 😉]


John Machin lists the following as overt and conscious influences on system design:

  • Luke Crane’s The Burning Wheel and Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game are big ones. Jewels and Poisons are basically like Emotional Traits/Nature stats.
  • D. Vincent Baker’s Dogs in the Vineyard and Apocalypse World for two principles; one each. First: say yes or roll the dice; Second: only the players roll dice.
  • Robin D. Law’s HeroQuest [2.0] for the Heart/Hero points stuff, keywords, and the way abilities are gained.
  • Gregor Hutton’s 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars for the whole ‘you have two stats’ thing. In this game I figure you have ‘being a selfish human bitch’ and ‘not being a selfish human bitch’.
  • Some really big complicated simulationist games as a ‘how not to’ for this game. I like ‘poking in holes with ten foot poles’ as much (or more) as the next guy but that’s just not right for this kind of game.

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