Divine Machine is the name of a setting I came up with for a what became a long-running campaign using OVA: Open Versatile Anime, if a campaign that ended on kind of a sour note because of things like my shortcomings as a GM at the time. Even so, I really like the setting that came out of it, and I definitely want to do something with it again. Like Beyond Otaku Dreams it’s another project I’m not going to get into any time soon, but which I feel like blathering about a bit on my blog.
At the heart of the multiverse is the Divine Machine, a great mechanism that takes up an entire universe, its parts made of solid information, where godlike beings create and shepherd entire universes. Magic is real, but it’s ultimately a way of accessing the Divine Machine in limited ways, and not available in all universes. The multiverse is home to a number of interdimensional nations, notably the Northstar Alliance (an interstellar civilization that expanded to be an interdimensional one, and which uses magic-tech kind of like the TSAB in Lyrical Nanoha), the Ix (terrible xenocidal cyborgs, which are kinda like Daleks), and the Holy Velkan Empire (expansionist mage supremacist religious fanatics). Looking back at my notes on the campaign, there was just a ton of really neat stuff in it that I’d like to do something with.
The huge campaign I ran before that was Star Sorcerer (which I’d toyed with renaming Ether Star or some such), which took place in an interstellar civilization that had rediscovered magic and refined it into “ether science” that in turn was behind a lot of their technology, including most of their faster than light travel and communications. I actually made some of the Star Sorcerer characters a key part of the Divine Machine campaign as part of an overall pattern of dropping characters from other things in now and then. Although I’d always intended for the Northstar Alliance to use magic-tech, if I do a full Divine Machine RPG I’ll definitely fold the Galaxy Alliance from Star Sorcerer into it, since they feel a bit redundant when they’re side by side.
The big question is how the heck to make some kind of actual game out of it, especially given that I’ve made such a ludicrously broad setting. I’ll most likely have the game concentrate on some kind of elite troubleshooting squads from the Northstar Alliance, but that still means I need a game that can encompass a very wide range of characters and situations. At some point I’d like to make an RPG along the lines of one of F.E.A.R.’s SRS games (Alshard and its relatives), but that would let me make maybe a dozen solid archetypes through a lot of work. Right now I’m envisioning something in the general orbit of FATE, PDQ, and Cortex+, explicitly including a story mapping mechanic a la Pathways and Entanglements. Defining things in more narrative terms makes it easier to cover more ground without a ridiculous amount of design work, plus I’ve found that games like Spirit of the Century and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying are a lot closer to the type of game I really wanted all along than OVA. I really need rules that can gracefully scale from a fistfight to literally universe-shaking conflicts. I can see the overall shape of the game in very general terms, but it’s going to be a while before I can really make time to properly work on it.
OVA is great if it’s the kind of game you do want, and I’m not just saying that because I’m friends with Clay. I always say it’s the game that BESM was trying to be but never quite pulled off.