I started with an idea, 'What if Role Playing Games, which are games with no clear 'Victory Conditions', have the concept of winning them built into them from the start'.
My next thought was, 'What if obtaining [the traditional concepts] of wealth and power were not a factor in those games'. I felt the need to clarify this for myself to get a better idea of where I was going with this, so I quantified it a little further. "What if there was a game in which the PCs start out reasonably powerful, with no need for wealth or in the traditional sense. What would PCs in such a game be motivated by? What would they wish to achieve?'.
That's when I remembered this image by artist Alex 'Abiogenisis' Ries...
Contact by Alex Ries
According to the artist this painting depicts 'a Metahuman' meeting the Birrin on their home planet of Chriirah.
The Birrin are Mr. Ries' original species of which he has made numerous incredibly beautiful and fascinating images, but it is not that particular creature design (as incredible as it is) that I want to focus on at this time. Rather, I would direct your attention to his so-called 'Metahuman'.
Ries describes this Metahuman as a post-Human being, something more than the mere Homo Sapiens of the present day. He says that the scene takes place many thousands of years in the future, with Humans coming in many different shapes and sizes. Baseline Humans still exist, largely because the individuals have chosen to exist in our current, more recognizable form, though even these people would have some modifications.
The number of ideas this generated in my head is essentially incalculable. .
The key one though, the basis for this entire post and set up by the previous entry is this:
Picture a game where you play a Metahuman of this type. A being of vast knowledge, great power, and existing in a form of its own choosing. What is this game like? What does your character, and their companions (the other PCs) do? What are their goals?
Wealth? Ha! The very idea. What is wealth to this entity? What are material things at all?
It is possible there is a material, or perhaps several materials, in the universe/multiverse that enable their massive physical forms to function. Perhaps many of their abilities requires the absorption or similar integration of resources. It could be that while treasure is not a thing, certain materials are still needed. However, it is equally possible that can simply change energy into matter with a thought. What then?
Does their power increase? Their skills? How would experience work?
Experience, as per the true meaning of the word and not so much the abstract points used as game mechanics, would [to my mind] be one of the few things truly valuable and worthwhile to such a being. Therefore, although they might not get new abilities at certain arbitrary 'levels' [a concept I always found sort of ridiculous], when they learn something new they might somehow get the power to incorporate what they've learned into their personage.
For Example: A Metahuman observes an intelligent species at a primitive stage of development that nonetheless has harnessed static electricity and the electrical pulses from weather phenomena as a tool/power source. They have done so in a way that other species have not. By investigating this anomaly, the Metahuman understands how to perform the effect itself, thereby gaining the power to absorb and utilize electrical current.
The concept I am focusing on is one I've toyed with before in a different form, but it boils down to, 'Imagine an RPG that skews the basic conceit that you start off average [or even lowly] and then amass power and treasure as you go forth'. In the game dynamic I describe above, you begin as a being of immense power when compared to most other RPG characters. Being more powerful for its own sake is barely a concern, and wealth is essentially meaningless. What then is the game about? What then are your PCs goals. What would these post-Human entities, several thousands years ahead of our present, want, need, and value?
Just ruminating on a possibly impossible game.
What do you think?