Blending Up 'SpiteSeed'

Michael O. Varhola

On the Game Blender Challenge episode of "d-Infinity Live!" each of the co-hosts was given three randomly-selected games or game books from the shelves of their colleagues and had to create, on the fly, a treatment for an original role-playing game using elements from them. (In the image above, an actualized Ammonite player character participates in the destruction of Smallville H.S. and prepares to wreak vengeance on one of his tormentors.)

My sources of inspiration were Nightbane, a modern urban fantasy horror RPG published by Palladium that is reminiscent of the Clive Barker film Nightbreed and which was given to me by Clint; Complete Warrior, a strikingly unbalanced 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons slambook assigned to me by Brendan (a book he knew in advance that I hated and admittedly included because of that); and Teenagers from Outer Space, an RPG of anime whackiness assigned to me by Will. 

Based on these diverse sources, my creation was an apocalyptic RPG that I dubbed "SpiteSeed" that incorporates key elements from them, some dictated by the person assigning it and others selected by me. Elements I decided to incorporate include using the D&D book as a hook for making this an OGL/d20 system game (Why reinvent the wheel, right?); a lazy and hackish approach to art, inspired by Palladium games in general; mechanisms that would ultimately break and invalidate my own game, based on the shoddy and pandering Complete Warrior; and adolescent angst inspired by Teenagers from Outer Space; and a title suggestive of and alliterative with the seminal work behind Nightbane. Setting is a small town somewhere in any state that is neither on the East or West Coast. 

In SpiteSeed, players develop teenaged characters that are largely skill based but which are good enough at what they do that their players should feel that they are special. They then participate in a series of scenarios in which NPCs like misanthropic teachers, psychotic jocks, and dysfunctional adults serve as the main antagonists. Despite their great abilities, however, the characters enjoy only minor and sporadic successes, and their many failures will be accompanied by insults and humiliations at the hands of their tormentors and the realization that the things they are good at are largely irrelevant or unrecognized. 

But as they become increasingly frustrated, the characters' will start to become aware of the things that make them truly special, namely that they are the spiritual descendants of beings mentioned in various ancient scriptures, to include Angels, Demons, and Ammonites from the Bible, Jinn and Afreets from the Koran, and others as strange and terrible (e.g., a fat kid might realize that his spiritual ancestor is, in fact, the Biblical Behemoth). As they transition into their Actualized Forms, the characters will acquire new powers related to their supernatural heritages and be able to use them to more effectively overcome the obstacles before them and, even more, wreak vengeance on those who have made their lives more difficult than they had to be. 

Initially, minor powers can be used to tip the balance in the characters' favor (e.g., a fledgling Jinn might use its power over wind to deflect the football during the big Friday night game and cause the school's team to lose, a young Demoness might cause a teacher to behave lustfully toward a student and suffer the consequences of doing so). As these abilities improve, they will quickly lead to an increasingly game-wrecking imbalance inspired by Complete Warrior (a developing Afreet will be able to burn the gunlocks off of his stepdad's firearms, a Midianite will be able to use its horrifying true form to terrorize teachers alone in their classrooms after hours). Ultimately, as the endgame approaches, characters will acquire powers that allow them to inflict the most horrific vengeance upon their enemies and even to annihilate them institutions and community that has so sorely failed them. By the time the final session of the campaign is played, the high school will be a pile of rubble, the town will look like a warzone, and the body count will be ... well, Biblical! 

A few notes of interest to the game: 

* Characters will receive in-game bonuses, benefits, and rewards if their players are able to relate their activities to the scriptural activities of their supernatural archetypes, accurately quote relevant passages from ancient sacred texts, and the like. This will help create the impression that SpiteSeed has occult overtones and boost its popularity among a certain demographic of gamers. 

* 100% of art in SpiteSeed will come from public domain sources, be re-purposed from other things the publisher has produced, be stolen off the Inernet, or be hand-drawn by participants in the project who have no previous professional art credits. 

That is SpiteSeed in a nutshell! Hell, at this point I am actually considering developing it into a real game, like I did with Chaps & AppsTM (C&ATM) after another one of our challenge episodes. Questions and comments are welcome!