What is the Hero's Journey?
Campbell, who is one of the most famous studiers of mythology and folk tales, claimed that all heros in myths followed the following pattern: 1) a call to adventure (and refusal of the call), 2) a descent into the "underworld", a fantastic world separated from the normal world, 3) an ultimate low point, "the belly of the whale, 4) the learning of special skills/powers, 5) the return home, and the bringing back of a "boon".
There's a few problems that I have with his basic model (not to mention his later elaborations), but I won't be going into that now. Rather, I'd like to propose my own take on The Hero's Journey, serving as the core philosophy for the Journey System. It goes as follows:
- A hero is born with a destiny (some purpose to fulfill, however big or small)
- The hero grows into a stable life
- Something upsets the stability of the hero's life
- The hero is given opportunities to accept or reject their destiny
- The choices of the hero have far-reaching consequences: either causing the downfall of the enemy (accept destiny) or a costly victory against the enemy (reject destiny), or even a costly defeat at the hands of the enemy (rebel against destiny)
- The choices will involve increasing effort and sacrifice on the part of the hero, if Wyrd is accepted
- The hero returns home, and must learn to cope with the change at home, the change within himself, or both
As a quick note, I don't believe this is the pattern that all heroic stories fall into. Rather, this is one type of hero, the main type that will be encouraged in this system. There is definitely room for other types, however, and the interaction between all of them will be something to add interest and variety within the course of gameplay.
A Touch of Wyrd
The Old English word "wyrd" is one of my personal fantasy favorites, particularly in conjunction with the above concept of The Hero's Journey. In a nutshell, it roughly corresponds to the English "fate", or "destiny". Wyrd is a guiding force, of some supernatural origin, which shapes and guides the life of someone. Within the world of the Journey System, I would go a bit further.
I propose that wyrd, here, is something which (in the tradition of Robert Jordan) can shape and direct events, when a person is acting in accordance with their own personal wyrd. Thus, when someone continues to act in accordance with their Wyrd, they gain more and more ability to shape important events around them. Not in a flashy, overt way, but a more subtle way. Maybe things just "line up right", or maybe a critical strike turns aside, or a foe stumbles at just the right moment. Anything to help turn events in accordance with Wyrd.
Wrapping it Up
You may have, if you were looking closely, noted that one of the steps in my Hero's Journey was that of effort and sacrifice. This keys exactly into the sort of system I was talking about: a system that rewards you for expending effort. I also had another thought while writing this up: what if you replaced Experience with Wyrd? Thus, you get rewarded for sacrificing much in order to accomplish goals. What do you think?