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Author Topic: [Shangri-La] A New Project #1  (Read 22134 times)
Lxndr
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« on: March 16, 2005, 01:03:10 PM »

This is the first of several posts I hope to make over the next few days about things that are boiling in the Twisted Confessions background.  So, here goes...

----


Shangri-la is sort of my current Moby Dick - a game I keep trying to create, only to eventually stop, shake my head, and walk away.  It started off in FUDGE, but rather quickly expanded beyond it.  It's gone from six attributes, to three attributes, to something beyond.

The meta-concept is to create a game that can keep story continuity between without necessarily worrying about player continuity between sessions - a game that can be a "Saturday, anyone who shows can show, and we can run with them."

The setting framework that I decided would best support that goal is dreams - each session would start with the protagonists all beginning to dream, and ending with them waking up.  The idea is that not every dream is a lucid, interacting-with-the-dreamworld dream, and thus not every lucid dreamer is out there knocking about every night.  You're kind of stuck with whoever is there.  

To emphasize this, individual's dreams are off limits.  The Shangri-la story is all about the collective unconsciousness that starts where each individual dream ends.  In addition, the protagonists in Shangri-la cannot affect the real world - they are dreaming, and it is the dream world they need to be affecting.

This I am adamant about - the actual play-acted game should be entirely within the dreamworld, and yet paradoxically I want the real world to be important.  This is one of the knots I've tried to untangle, with mixed success.

-----

Here's what I've got so far, mechanically.  First, the basic die system.  It came to me in a dream, so it's fitting.  

You have a certain number of six-sided dice.  You roll them, looking for fives or sixes, which are "successes."  If a six is rolled, you may choose to remove that six and roll again, adding the successes from the second roll to the first - but if you get no successes on the 2nd roll, you lose all successes.  This can be done again and again, until either you roll only 5s and stall out, or you roll no successes and lose them all.  If you ever get down to one die, and it rolls a six, you can refresh the pool entirely, back up to what it was before, and continue if you wish.

Unmodified, the basic system is "roll one die, get one success."  There are things that can manipulate both of those variables.

The core of Shangri-la are threads and knots, different manifestations of the same basic idea - metaphoric images/ideas wrought with meaning.  I'm still working out what that actually MEANS in terms of "what you should write on a character sheet" but I've found that talking it out helps.

Anyway, the long and short of it is that threads are bonuses that come into play when the situations of the thread are in play, and actions go along with them; knots are penalties that come into play when situations of the knot are in play, and actions are taken that go against them.

The idea is that a knot could be as simple as "swords for fighting", so any physical altercation a person gets in that does NOT involve swords gets harder, but fights involving swords are still at base difficulty.  Conversely, the same thing as a thread means that getting in a fight with swords is easier, but getting in a fight without swords is no harder than base difficulty.

Knots increase the target number, thus increasing the total number of successes needed; threads increase the # of dice rolled.  I'm not sure if I want them ranked numerically, or if they're just binary switches - originally I wanted them ranked, but now I'm not so sure.

Threads and knots come from three sources - pure sapience (lucid dreamers, and certain dream-denizens), dream realms (which are collections of knots and threads), and nights (basically, each session will have a set of universal threads and knots that kind of infest the place, short term "fads" I guess).  

The details for determining threads and knots from dream realms and the ephemeral ones can wait.  As for characters... I've got a vague system coming together, but here's the general idea:



Every character starts play in the first session with exactly one thread (this is important), and a number of knots (how many, to be determined).  Over time, they would gather and lose threads and knots.

New knots can be gotten at any time - they're the dream equivalent of injuries, damage, disadvantages, et hoc genus omne.  New threads are harder to get, as they should be: with the re-rolls, more dice are a bigger benefit than more successes are a penalty.

Threads require making connections with real people - every person has one thread, and by connecting to someone else in the real world, you can kind of "borrow" their thread by tying it into your own.  Knots are all your own personal baggage.  Which means getting new threads will mostly require dealing with the between-session meta-system I haven't managed to nail down yet.  I'm also not sure about changing your "core" thread, but I think that should be a life-changing experience.

Knots come about as the result of failed conflicts (details to be determined) - so yes, being knotted can make you knottier.  On the other hand, my plans are that a successful conflict gives some "XP" equivalent equal to the # of successes required, so knots in turn increase the potential reward, which in turn can be used to buy off knots (along with doing other things, I'd suspect).

Okay, I gotta leave work.  I'll post more later.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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gorckat
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« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2005, 01:50:50 PM »

Cheers- i saw this post sitting in the unanswered pile, so i thought i'd give it a read, and it sounds like a way cool idea-

Quote from: Lxndr
You have a certain number of six-sided dice.  You roll them, looking for fives or sixes, which are "successes."  If a six is rolled, you may choose to remove that six and roll again, adding the successes from the second roll to the first - but if you get no successes on the 2nd roll, you lose all successes.  This can be done again and again, until either you roll only 5s and stall out, or you roll no successes and lose them all.  If you ever get down to one die, and it rolls a six, you can refresh the pool entirely, back up to what it was before, and continue if you wish.


this sounds like a d6 system (star wars 2nd edition) 'wild die' in a way.  if i understand correctly, a person would only want to reroll when they don;t have enough successes ffom the first roll, else they would lose everything.  or do you lose only the 'bonus' successes?

I also really like the idea of a game where it doens't cause plausibility fits when a PC is not present, or requiring the GM to play the character (my wife and i lost both our characters in the same session we weren;t present for once upon a D&D game- failed saves or some bs)

are you aiming for something 'narrativist'?  when confronted by a challenge, could i just declare that i 'pull a thread' (talk about pulling strings to get things done!) to grant me a bonus to performing some task, or does it require more harvesting?

tha starting thread- is that something 'belonging' the the player? a skill or representation of themselves in the dream world?

all in all, i really like the way you've presented moving about in a 'dream-world' so far, sounds cool :)
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Valamir
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« Reply #2 on: March 17, 2005, 02:12:32 PM »

Popped

Quote
Threads require making connections with real people - every person has one thread, and by connecting to someone else in the real world, you can kind of "borrow" their thread by tying it into your own.


Here's what immediately popped into my head upon reading this.

What if the above was what dreaming actually is?  Non-lucid dreamers don't dream...ever.  But when a lucid dreamer has claimed your thread, and they have dream...then you get carried along for the ride.  That strange surreal ride that they have no control over that happens when they sleep is what ordinary people call dreaming.  But Lucid Dreamers know better.  They know that those people are just passengers.


That could immediately then feed into the nature of dream space and various competing lucid dreamers.  Some Lucids might be trying to make the world a better place by taking mundane types on amazing journeys of wonder that leave them refreshed and inspired.  These Lucids might even call themselves Muses (or actually be the source of the mythology of Muses) because they leave their dreamers inspired and motivated.

Other Lucids might see dreamers as a resource...a way to get power (i.e. the bonuses conveyed by threads) and couldn't care less about the experience the dreamers have when they're along for the ride.  Some may even treat threads as currency trading them back and forth for favors or services...and accounting for those time in your dreams when suddenly your dreaming about skiing in the alps and a second later your at a college frat party where everyone has animal heads...your thread just got traded to a new lucid and you've just switched dreams.


Of course there's the opportunity for the Big Bad to be some group that wants to sever the threads.  Once a thread is severed, the human will never again dream (barring some deeply spiritual experience where they develop a new thread).

I'd put a little twist on this and suggest that the dreamscape is actually the Big Bad's home.  They aren't trying to destroy the dreams of hapless humans, they just want to put an end to the invasion of this pack of Lucid dreamers running rampant through their place.  Perhaps there are qualities of the dreamscape that benefit real humans who are exposed to it (the inspiration and wonder and waking up refreshed and revitalized).  The Lucids stumbled into the dreamscape one day and the Muses started helping others by bringing them along for the ride.  Then the less benevolent Lucids started using the threads for their own purposes.  But whatever that inspirational revitalizing force is...it's actually being drained away from the dreamscape (slowly over eons) destroying the home of the dreamscape's natural denizens.


Yeah, pretty much all of that popped into my head almost immediately on reading that sentence...must have been a pretty evocative sentence :-).  Took far longer to write down than it did to think it.
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Lxndr
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« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2005, 10:42:48 AM »

gorckat - Yeah, you lose ALL successes, whether it's your first reroll or your hundredth, which means that playing conservatively means playing until you get just what you need.  However, I'm hoping to put a system in place such that successes over the minimum required are somehow important/useful, such that people might be tempted to press their luck.

I should point out though - you remove the six and roll the rest of the dice again.  All of them.  You don't remove the six and roll it again.

I'm aiming for something relatively 'narrativist' I suppose.  But I don't want threads OR knots to come forth too easily, or all of a sudden every fight becomes a swordfight if you have that swordfighting thing.  Knots have their own balancing factor - the more knots in play, the harder the potential difficulty, but the more "reward" you get if you succeed.  On the other hand, bringing in threads makes things easier.

Perhaps (as a lightbulb goes off) that's what the bonus successes can be for.  You need 6 successes, you roll 7.  That extra success can be banked and spent, later, to bring a thread into a future conflict.  Without banked successes, you can't bring a thread in.  So, run out of banked successes, and you're for some reason unable to use your sword anymore.

On the other hand, this means tracking two sets of values.  Banked successes (which will get a special name) which can be used to weave threads into a conflict, and XP (which should also get a special name) which can be used for character improvement.  Hrm.  Compared to some games, that's nothing, I guess.  We'll see if it becomes too cumbersome in play.

On Threads and Connections

I know how men in exile feed on dreams of hope.

The starting thread is something that definitely belongs to the player (or rather, his protagonist).  It is their defining image/etc.  Quite literally, a starting character is "hanging by a thread."  They have no other threads - no substantial connections to people.  In the real world, they're cut off, feeling powerless and growing desperate.  This is what drives them into the dream world.

Ralph's kind of turned my concept of the cosmology on its head.  See, he's got the Lucid dreamers picking up threads in the dream world to help non-lucid dreamers.  In my view, most people don't need to lucid dream, because their interactions in the real world are enough to anchor them - it's connections in the real world that weaves people's threads together after all.  And people can share these threads - that's how tapestries exist.  I'm tied to my friends, my family, etc., and they're tied to other people that I'm not tied to, and so on...  Remember, this includes sharing threads BETWEEN dreamers.

The dreams of non-lucid individuals (which always exist, but are generally strongest in deep levels of sleep) are like tiny mountain streams that feed the dreamworld itself.  Just outside of person's dreams (which are inviolable), closest to the real world, is a warped reflection of the real world, a sort of looking-glass thing (my nickname for it is "The Funhouse").  As you go farther away from the Funhouse, further away from the real world, the realms become more, well, fantastic.

At the edges of the dreamspace, the Dream Lords live.  They scheme, they plot, they think in ways totally alien to humanity, but their actions affect the tapestry of the dreamscape, which in turn affects the real world.  Sometimes they and their agents ally, sometimes they and their agents fight, and nobody can really be sure why the winds change when they change (or why sometimes their agents fight in one area and are allied in another).

The way I figure it, some Lucid Dreamers work for the Dream Lords (who are also sapient, and therefore can be a source of threads, maybe even multiple threads per Lord).  Some are just kinda hedonists, escaping into the dream world instead of using it to improve themselves (maybe sharing threads amongst each other, probably borrowing occasionally from other rare sapients in the dream world).  The rest are using their dreams to make their real world better.  

In theory, starting protagonists aren't in any of these categories yet, since all they've got is just the one thread, but over time they can move into, or between, any of them.  Or any other category, really, cause I'm sure there's ones I haven't come up with, and it's really hard to pigeonhole people into categories anyway.

----

What I'm trying to hammer out right now are incentives to encourage the players to explore geographically (oneirographically?) - in other words, to wander between the various realms in the dream-setting.  I want a game where the players have ample reason to venture to the various dream-settings, eventually going closer and closer to the more alien realms where the Dream-Lords exist.

But I don't want to do that by DISCOURAGING people from staying in comfortable places, y'know?  If they want to be one of them dreamers who make the dreamland their home instead of trying to better their real world, that should be a possibility too.

One potential encouragement is that the farther away from the "Funhouse" you get, the more knots:threads ratio the dream realms have... so the more potential XP you might get as the knots pile on.  But is that enough?  Should I let that be enough?
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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Lxndr
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« Reply #4 on: March 20, 2005, 05:15:48 PM »

Ideas, all thinking out loud:

1.  Even though threads don't have values, relationships do.  Relationships at zero can be built up, but don't give access to the thread in question.  Relationships above zero give access to the thread in question.

2.  Starting knots are determined by how many value-zero connections a character has to start.  Thus, the more value-zero connections you have, the more knots/issues you have to worh through.

3.  Dream Lord relationships do have the potential to give multiple threads.  One for each point in the connection rating.

4..  There are "ranks" to Lucid Dreaming - various levels of awakening.  Starting characters are at level 1, which gives them access to JUST the funhouse.  Once you get to level 2, you get access to all dream realms that are one step away from the Funhouse, and so on.  Higher-level dreamers can escort lower-level dreamers up higher, but will be dangerous for the 'sidekick'.

5.  XP cannot be earned in a realm that is below your level.  On the other hand, banked successes still can.  Recall, both of these are going to get better, more appropriate names.

6.  XP needs to be useful enough to want to collect, yet not so important that you can't live without it.  XP will be connected to raising your level/rank/whatever.  Unless levels have more to them than just access to new levels.  Perhaps each new level allows a dreamer to get another thread of their own, apart from any connections?

7.  Bonus successes will be spent to allow threads into conflicts.  They will also be used to remove/resolve knots.  Other things too, I'm sure.

8.  XP only being earned in realms that are equal/greater than one's level reduces the positive portion of knots as discussed earlier.  This is an issue that needs to be resolved, either by restricting the GM's ability to bring knots into conflicts, or adding more 'carrot' to knots.

9.  Idea in two parts:

a.  Part the First:  Personal knots cannot be resolved without addressing them and wrestling with them.  Thus, trying to avoid knots means you can't remove them from your sheet.  (You can't resolve regional/temporal knots)

b.  Part the Second:  Revise earlier XP statement.  XP earned is now equal to "difficulty of roll, minus the difference between the realm's rank and the dreamer's rank."  Thus there's a diminishing returns, rather than a binary switch.  Thus if you're in a realm one rank below your level, the XP of all rolls is reduced by one.  And so on.  So, it is now technically possible to gain levels and never leave the Funhouse, but it requires more and more knots to do so.

10.  But what about the connections, which in turn determine the threads that are always with you?  XP, banked successes, or something else?  Right now I'm thinking something else (oh no, 3 things to track!).  Every time you use a connection thread successfully, your connection rating goes up.  Every time you use one and the conflict fails, it goes down.  At zero, you can't use it anymore.

11.  So, how does a level 0 connection become and/or return to a level 1 state?  And how do you get new connections?  (I'm assuming that, barring death, a connection never goes below level 0).  No Actual Play will occur in the real world, and yet the cultivation of real world connections is important.  Obviously XP is out, as that's meant to mimic entirely how much experience your character has.  Banked successes, maybe?
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Lxndr
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« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2005, 10:27:50 AM »

Nobody is answering my posts anymore, but there's still views, so hopefully this thread is useful and positive and stuff.  Anyway, more stuff:

Having connections raise every time a thread is used is way too quickly.  Plus, it puts connection-threads way too significantly higher than realm-threads and ephemeral-threads.  

Here we go, again, on my own:

* Using a connection thread allows you to checkmark the connection.  This gives you the opportunity to raise its value by one with some sort of reward system (banked successes, I think).  On the other hand, this also opens the thread up to the attentions of the dreamlords, who can muck with your relationship and cause it to fall by one (through the GM spending a limited resource).  This still allows connections to fall to zero, but it stops one dream from turning a beautiful relationship into a horrible one, or vice versa.

* In order to allow connections to get better even without using threads, every character can raise any one real life connection by one point, for each between-session period (representing effort and actions in the real world).  Connections with people in the dream-world are only able to be raised through thread use.

* A new connection is always level 1.  In the real world, this can be done by using the free point at any time.  Dream-world connections, you need to take on their thread as a knot (though you can work off/buy off the knot later).  

* The free point can also be used to recover zero point relationships in the real world.  Zero point relationships in the dream world need to be reestablished as if they were completely new (see above).  If you already have their thread as a knot, you have to work it off before you can take their thread again, at which point you get that knot back.

(Oh come on, don't tell me you haven't been in a relationship like that in the real world, nonetheless a dream world.)

Okay.  It's about time to collate all this into a single pre-alpha-stage document which can then be posted for perusal.  Any comments while I work on that would be much appreciated.
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Alexander Cherry, Twisted Confessions Game Design
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gorckat
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« Reply #6 on: March 21, 2005, 11:27:57 AM »

don't worry- i'm still here :)  just took me awhile to process what i was reading, and i actually just printed it out because my eyes were burning trying to wrap my head around this :?

anyway- in regards to you're concern about tracking 2 values- just tell people to go to wal-mart or target and buy a $5 pack of poker chips (i love poker chips) and one color can be for banked success and the other for that other thing- maybe there could even be some sort of 'pot' at stake for the dreamers (although this could just be my reading of The Pool earlier influencing my thoughts...)

actually, why not just have them be used for the same thing- i can use my successes now for a short term victory/advantage, but saving them for use before the next 'dream' will let me take-down or resolve him/it/whatever for good

question (and this could just be me flailing at an idea i in its infancy that i don;t wholly understand) but could the PCs be targets of the dream lords because they are isolated from others so much that they are trying to anchor themselves in dreams- do the dreamlords need them for some purpose, does 'losing' in the real world and then the dream world allow them to 'own' you for real world machinations or some other use?

i can't wait to see a rough draft- the idea just invigorates me so!  this looks like a lot of fun to explore and play with- good luck getting it together

Cheers
Brian
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Lxndr
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« Reply #7 on: March 28, 2005, 05:05:27 AM »

I'm working on getting all this organized still.  Maybe I'm a bit too much of a perfectionist, but I'm not putting out the alpha-test until it reads RIGHT to me, you know?
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gorckat
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« Reply #8 on: March 28, 2005, 05:52:08 AM »

sounds sweet- didn't mamma used to say if it ain't worth doing right, don't do it at all?  

nah- she just used to beat when it wasn't good enough :P

can't wait to see it
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Lxndr
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« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2005, 10:08:59 PM »

Okay.  The pre-alpha document is available.  Obviously there's a lot more work that needs to be done, but this is a good start, I hope.

http://www.twistedconfessions.com/files/shangri.doc

Good luck!
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Mike Holmes
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« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2005, 01:06:43 PM »

Quote
In each dream, each Awakened can bring their own threads into a conflict once for each tier level they have, without cost. They can also bring in any thread from an active relationship for free once for each level that relationship meets or exceeds their tier (they may not bring in threads from relationships that are below their tier level at all). After these free limits are maxed out, the cost is simply one spooled victory per thread.

OK, first adventure we sit down to play with first tier characters. I come to a conflict, and can bring in my one thread for one die. I cannot bring in any relationships because at level 0 they're allbelow my tier. So I get one die. Likely I lose this conflict with no victories and get a knot. Next time I confront something, I have no dice. What happens then?

Using this rate of progress, it's going to take some characters several sessions to get to tier two and/or have any victories spooled. It sounds like to me. So what am I missing? Is it the rule for ganging up?

Quote
If the character got no victories at all, or lost their victories in a reroll, they get either a new knot, or an extra knot level in an existing knot that was used in the conflict.
Who decides? The "Weaver" is introduced late, and there's no general notes on what they're about.

Mike
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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2005, 02:23:39 PM »

Heh. Obviously I need to make things clearer in the text.  But that's what this is for.  Thank you, Mike.

You get one die for free in any conflict. Bringing in a thread gives an additional die, so you'd be rolling two dice if you brought in your one beginning thread.

The Weaver is basically the GM, and yeah, I don't have nearly enough of that.  But it's meant that the player decides their own "damage".
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« Reply #12 on: April 26, 2005, 06:14:53 AM »

Quote from: Lxndr
You get one die for free in any conflict. Bringing in a thread gives an additional die, so you'd be rolling two dice if you brought in your one beginning thread.
OK, I see. Still, that means an expected value of two-thirds with two dice, 44.44% chance of failure, 44.44% chance of a single victory, and 11.11% chance of two victories.

So close to half of players will see no development due to their one contest. I guess my point is not so much the odds, but that you only give them one chance to use their thread. Meaning that other than this one use, until they go up a level, they will mostly have a 33% chance to succeed at anything with that default die. Let's say that they have 4 contests. We'll assume that they win the one with the extra die, and they should win one other contest. Meaning that they get 2 EXP for the session, if I have it correctly (I assume that we're not going to hit the characters with larger difficulties than one, else they'll only be able to win one of them, and only 11% of the time for that one).

Do you have any estimate of how many dice EXP you'd want the players to have before they level up to the next tier? How many sessions do they have to stay at this level? I mean, let's say that the requirement is 10 EXP. That means that using the model I have, they'll be getting 1.5 EXP per session. That means 7 sessions at his level. It also means 2.5 failures each session, for a total of 17 or so total. That means that a character is going to have accumulated a lot of knots before next level.

Note that all of this ignores the re-rolling on 6s rule. But at this level using the rule actually decreases your expected value. Which is not to say that I don't think that players will use it, I think they will. But that'll just make it longer to get to second tier.

Quote
But it's meant that the player decides their own "damage".
Sounds cool.

Mike
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« Reply #13 on: April 26, 2005, 06:52:46 AM »

Well, one chance to use their thread for free.  After that, there are two methods to bring a thread into a conflict:

(1) Spooled victories.  Sure, you start with none, but you can convert heddles into spooled victories, or get some with a particularly lucky roll.  Plus, there's the Spindle.  If one person loses on a reroll, their victories can potentially be picked up by the next person, if they win.

(2) Heddles spent by other players.  They can use a heddle to bring a thread into a scene FOR you.  Alternatively, they can bring their own character in as an ally.  Either way, this can increase the # of dice rolled as well. In theory, players are encouraged to spend these heddles, since only by reducing the number of heddles they have can they get a turn of their own.

I'm hoping that will be enough.  Playtesting will let me know.  What do you think?

Finally, tiers are just one way to advance.  Players will also be able to raise their relationships, which will give them access to more threads (and more free uses of said threads) even before rising up in tier. Even without any spooled victories, they may raise one real-world relationship for free after each session.  So by session two, they'll have, minimum, two separate threads they can call upon, once each for free.
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« Reply #14 on: April 26, 2005, 08:36:48 AM »

Quote from: Lxndr
(1) Spooled victories.  Sure, you start with none, but you can convert heddles into spooled victories, or get some with a particularly lucky roll.  Plus, there's the Spindle.  If one person loses on a reroll, their victories can potentially be picked up by the next person, if they win.
For spooled, well, odds are long against getting any of these, until higher tier. For the spindle, again, there will not be many rerolls, so little to take.

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(2) Heddles spent by other players.  They can use a heddle to bring a thread into a scene FOR you.  Alternatively, they can bring their own character in as an ally.  Either way, this can increase the # of dice rolled as well. In theory, players are encouraged to spend these heddles, since only by reducing the number of heddles they have can they get a turn of their own.
Well, this assumes that they don't spend them, instead, on making Knots. Spending them this way is more effective at getting your turn to come up (as it gives the heddle to the other player), and it sound to me like a fun way to mess with other players.

I'm not saying that players won't donate them to help other players (especially because you get to play by inserting your character). But, OK, let's assume that half are spent this way. That means that half of the players get one extra die, meaning another .5 for those players, or .25 on average. So we're up to 1.75 EXP per session. Heck, let's call it 2. How many sessions do you want players to wallow about at this level of potency?

Here's a thought. How about leveling up with EXP equal to the level of the tier. So it only takes 1 EXP to get to second tier. Should happen sometime in the first session. Then it takes 2 EXP to get to the second? Or will this produce too many tiers over time? Is there some reason to keep threads limited?

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I'm hoping that will be enough.  Playtesting will let me know.  What do you think?
Yeah, it probably is a playtesting issue at this point. See how the pacing of play affects these figures. What's really not accounted for in my model is how many times players will end up in conflicts of some sort.

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Even without any spooled victories, they may raise one real-world relationship for free after each session.  So by session two, they'll have, minimum, two separate threads they can call upon, once each for free.
True. Why not start with a level one relationship? Put another way, why force the players to do without relationships the first session. What's the purpose of the level zero relationships?

Mike
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