Forum changes: Editing of posts has been turned off until further notice.

Main Menu

[Adrift] Going beyond "Parlor Narration"

Started by Cyrus Marriner, October 23, 2005, 06:19:12 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

Cyrus Marriner

This is about my Ronnies entry, Adrift, which can be found at

In the results, my entry was one of the ones categorized as Parlor Narration.  From the [Ronnies] October Winners thread:

QuoteThese games raise an interesting issue. They are essentially "I get to say what the dice tell me" procedures, organized into specific scenes and what-to-roll rituals. Unfortunately, this is not an SIS-generating procedure, any more than putting on a funny hat and voice when playing Monopoly is role-playing. These games are entirely too structured in terms of what a character "is," imaginatively speaking, and more generally, what "can happen" during play. In contrast with fairly ritualized games like My Life with Master and Polaris, I think these are marked by a complete inability for characters actually to do stuff outside the immediate instructions of the rules, up to and including making crucial choices about relationships with other characters.

Which begs the question, however, of whether these games work. Mechanically, they well might, in the sense that gears will shift and cogs will revolve. Imaginatively and motivationally? That will be a very, very local question, and my judgment at this point is that all of these entries have gone over a crucial line, to the point where the role of human input is restricted only to the end-process of resolution, too much so for it to play a conflict-generating role.

The good news is that none of them suck. I think all of them could well be brought back over that crucial boundary into the zone that I think yields successful play, with a conceptual modification, mostly affecting when Fortune is applied and how scenes may be constructed. I hope to be able to articulate how this might be done for each game in the feedback threads.

Really, this is a problem I realized the game had soon after I submitted it, and I've been thinking about ways it could change.  Here's a summary of the rules as they are now, if you don't want to read the .pdf:

The basic premise is you're part of a team of about 3-6 characters going down to explore a planet to find out if it is suitable for colonization by the last remnants of your species.  Invariably, it is not, and at least one member of the team is killed.  Then, you get back to the ship, where characters react to the death that occurred on the planet.  These two parts are handled by separate conflict systems that follow the same basic mechanics.

There are about 10-12 characters involved, with each player having 2-4 characters to play.  Each character has a survival trait, which starts at 5, and a relationship trait for each other character rated from -5 to 5.  During the mission on the planet, (called a threat) each character rolls d6's equal to their survival trait, and the GM rolls a bunch of d6's.  He selects a character, puts forward two dice, (a challenge) and narrates some sort of obstacle the character needs to overcome. ("You slip while the alien cannibals are bearing down on you.") The player then puts forward enough dice to equal the total of the two dice the GM put forward (meeting the challenge) and narrates how he overcomes the obstacle.  A player can use relationships to aid others or themselves at the expense of others; a negative relationship indicates that you can take dice from another player up to the value of the trait, while a positive means you can give dice to another player up to the value of that trait.  The GM keeps throwing challenges at you until you no longer have the dice necessary to meet a challenge, in which case your character dies.  Every surviving character adds one to their survival trait at the end.  That's how planets work.

Once you get back to the ship, you enter conflicts with other characters based on their relationships with the deceased character.  One character is designated the aggressor (the one who is coping with the death by blaming the other character) and the other is the defender (the character who survived the mission on the planet).  The aggressor gets a number of d6s equal to 5+(relationship with the deceased)-(relationship with defender) and the defender gets a pool equal to 5+(relationship with the aggressor)+(dice given to the deceased)-(dice taken from the deceased).  If the aggressor pool is zero, then there is no conflict between the two.  The aggressor rolls and puts forward dice like challenges and the defender meets the dice like challenges, and at the end of the conflict, if the aggressor has dice left, he subtracts the number of dice he has remaining from his relationship score.  If the defender has dice left, the aggressor adds the number of dice to his relationship score.  Both are capped at 5.  Then, you move on to the next planet and have another mission and repeat the process until you've only got a small group of characters remaining.

I recognized it as Parlor Narration (though not with that specific term) fairly quickly after I submitted the game.  The limitations imposed on the character's behavior by relationships completely neutered the part of the game where you had to make choices about whether to try to help everyone survive or concentrate on your own survival.  My first fix was to change the number of dice you could take to 5-(relationship score) and the number of dice you could give to 5+(relationship score).  That way, the choice wasn't taken out of the hands of the player during character creation, but it was still limited by relationships.  Since then, though, I've realized I need a massive overhaul of the system.  For planets, I have been thinking that instead of the GM rolling a bunch of dice beforehand and putting forward challenges without any real timing to the action, I could instead run the threats on the planets like this:

1) The GM targets a character and rolls a single d6, narrating what is happening to him. (the challenge)

2) The player decides how many dice from their pool they are going to put forward to meet the challenge.  At this time, they may take a single die from another player's pool and use it in combination with their own dice to meet the challenge. (called hindering) If they can meet the value of the die rolled by the GM with a single die taken from another player, the target of the challenge becomes that player, and he has to put forward dice to meet the challenge. (this rule is just a brainstorm right now and I haven't thought about it much) Otherwise, the original target puts forth his dice, including any taken from other players, and narrates how he's trying to deal with the challenge. (meeting the challenge)

3) The GM rolls another d6, and adds it to the other d6. (a complication) If the total is less than the total of the dice put forward by the player, the character meets the challenge.  If it is not, then he must be helped by the other characters to overcome the challenge.

4) Each player, in order of proximity to the character being challenged as determined by the situation, has an opportunity to give dice to the currently challenged player in order to help him meet the challenge with an accompanying narration. (called helping) If the challenged player has enough dice to meet the challenge after this, then his character survives with the help of his comrades.  If he doesn't get enough dice, he dies.

The GM keeps challenging the characters in this fashion until enough of them die to satisfy the GM that there will be some interesting interpersonal conflicts back on the ship.

I think those changes move the planetary conflicts away from parlor narration, and put the emphasis on how far the characters are willing to go to survive, and how much they're willing to sacrifice in order to survive.  The dice taken and given will be factored into the later interactions between characters, which need to be completely overhauled.  What I want to happen in the aftermath conflicts is for the characters to attack one another for failing to save characters they cared about, and for the relationships to change.  I think, however, that instead of just running through the list and doing a dice pool for each character, a more complex system is necessary.  My current ideas are based around players initiating conflicts with other characters as they feel necessary, with a system in place for handling conflicts with multiple people, and people who didn't go on the mission, to represent stuff like talking shit about people behind their back.  However, I'm still trying to come up with a system that still gives the players choice beyond what the dice dictate.

I've also thought about adding in some sort of flashback system that the characters could use to gain dice in conflicts by invoking some traits added to character creation.  ("Yes, this is just like what my father said to me right before he died of cancer.")  That's off in the future, though, once I get relationship conflicts down.

So, does anyone have any ideas for getting the relationship conflicts beyond parlor narration?  I'm still thinking about it, but overhauling it is giving me a lot more trouble than the planetside conflicts have.  Also, do the modifications to the planetside conflict systems take it beyond parlor narration by putting a lot of choice in the hands of the players, or have I still not crossed the line?

Graham W


It's a nice game - exactly the kind of sci-fi I like. The premise of shipbound survivors searching for a home in an inhospitable universe is lovely.

And the colour text at the start is very good. It must be, because I actually read it. And I always skip colour text. I even skipped the colour text in my own game when I read it back.

One of the things that didn't work for me was that all the dice were rolled before going down to the planet. I didn't like this for two reasons:

a. It meant that, when I was on the planet, there was no way to alter the dice rolls. I could narrate something and put forward dice from my pool, but, in a sense, my narration didn't change anything. My narration just accompanied putting forward the dice. It didn't affect the dice.

b. On a very subjective level, rolling the dice before going on to the planet seemed to imply that the whole exploration phase was an extended conflict. I'd have preferred a bit more breathing room: some time to explore the planet - and for the characters to start thinking it might be habitable - before the conflicts started.

It looks as though a major influence for the conflict pattern is Dogs In The Vineyard. (Good influence). So, I guess, I'd prefer conflicts to work in a similar way to that game: that I bring things off my character sheet to affect conflicts. So, for example, I'd like to have a "I can leap sure-footedly between rocks" trait that I can use when the planet gets torn apart by earthquakes. Something like that.

The other slight quibble I have is about the Aftermath scenes. Now, I like the idea that characters should fall out after a failed attempt to explore a planet. But having a specified scene to do it makes it a bit more dull.

Those are mostly negative comments, but I liked the game a lot, and I'd be interested in seeing how it develops. Good luck with it.


Ron Edwards


I pronounce this thread the official Ronnies feedback thread!

I'll tell you what I really like about this game, and would love to experience in play: basically, it's Star Trek with an edge, "the redshirt's revenge." What if someone back on the ship really cared about Ensign Fitzgerald?

The most overtly Parlor Narration feature in the game, as I see it, is how it's determined who is going to have a beef about a given dead character. You just check your numbers and see whether you're pissed or not? And even worse, you check your numbers to see whether you back down or not, against opposition? I dunno, man. That's like being handed a script and told, "act like this." Not what I role-play for. What do you think about repairing this?

Looking at the resolution, I'm seeing a modification of Dogs in the Vineyard (not the only Ronnies entry to do this, which is fine) ... but I'm confused by helping. It seems to be zero-sum, in that if I help someone, I simply drop my own chances in my upcoming challenge. Why would I do that? On the other hand, I really like the exploitation mechanics, which are rather nasty. My only concern is that its effectiveness would be heavily influenced by the GM's imposed order for attacking characters. In other words, the system at present really privileges negative bastards if they go later than most of the other characters.

Is player-character ownership as fluid as it looks? Can I and a fellow player trade characters if we want, when we want? What about back on the planet?

Now, the GM's creative role is very clear during the planet adventures, but I think it needs more description during the Aftermath. I recognize that most of the conflicts will arise from inter-character interactions, and that's fine, but I also think very strong input from the GM is necessary regarding why they cannot colonize the planet. This should definitely be phrased in in-game terms, such as analyses or readouts, and clearly would arise from whatever happened or was discovered during the planet adventure.

Again, there's a really strong basic idea waiting here for development. I recommend checking out The Fruitful Void in Vincent's blog ...

Got it? Good. Now, going by Vincent's whirlwind diagram, as it stands, Adrift is unfortunately cursed to go 'round and 'round without ever generating a center, or as I originally put it, arriving at the eighth corner of its cube. Part of the reason for that is that the ship just drifts and drifts, never ending, never landing, sort of a reverse of Gilligan's Island. If you want to keep that element of the situation, though, then you'll have to consider just what can build and develop into more than the starting conditions, over time. Otherwise, the tenth planet-adventure really isn't going to be any more interesting than the first. I don't think that the dwindling crew is the answer, though. What that answer is, for this game, I think needs one more solid session of brain-work on your part.


Cyrus Marriner


As I see it, my main goal on the second go-around should be to make the actual changes in relationships the fruitful void?  I should be approaching the mechanics not from the standpoint that the characters need to interact so there should be mechanics for that, but that there should be mechanics that make the players want their characters to interact?  Like how the mechanics in Dogs in the Vineyard revolve around the players making moral judgments, but there isn't a mechanic like "sin" governing moral judgments?

If this is true, my thinking is that I should do a few things:

1) Make it so the players want to change their characters' relationships with other characters.  The first motivator for this that comes to mind is something that makes their bonds with other characters actually help them survive on the planet.

2) Make mechanics governing character relationships that don't rely on quantifying said relationships and then using those quantities to then determine changes in the character relationships.

Right now I'm thinking something along the lines of putting relationships into categories (hate, dislike, neutral, like, love) and then having those categories be irrelevant during the acutal interaction based on relationships, but changing them is the objective of those interactions, and those relationships in turn can be used by the players to gain mechanical advantages planetside.  Or should I not even give mechanical benefits for changing your relationships with other characters--is that taking away the fruitful void?  The more that I think about it, the more that I imagine that it is.

Okay, this is a little stream of consciousness since I'm changing my mind midstream here, but it seems like what I want to do is sort of create this whirlwind:

Threat->Choices about helping and surviving->characters interacting and dealing with the choices made on the planet->Threat->Making choices in light of the changed relationships between the characters->dealing with the choices->Threat

and so on and so forth. 

So, prehaps my goal should be focused on, mechanically, making choices on the planet important.

I guess my main hangup is on whether or not I should be trying to motivate the players, mechanically, to want to change their relationships, or if I should leave that entirely up to the players' control, or if I should perhaps give the GM governance over the situation?  Or do I need to find a happy medium between all three?

My instinct is that I want to make the players want their characters to interact via the mechanics, but I don't want the mechanics to decide how the characters interact; I want that to be the fruitful void.  Am I on the right track here?


Quote from: Cyrus Marriner on October 24, 2005, 06:20:10 AMOr should I not even give mechanical benefits for changing your relationships with other characters--is that taking away the fruitful void?

I'm going to disagree. Giving a mechanical bonus or penalty to a character is not the same as forcing them to use it or act on it. It provides incentive to behave in a particular fashion, without forcing them to behave in a predetermined fashion, which I believe is exactly what you're looking for.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio



I was playing Killzone this morning and I realized something: does Adrift allow for, say, the group coming to a planet occupied by an early industrial society whose entire globe is wrapped up in a deadly war? Say we're talking WWII, and the crew arrives to find everything is perfect for colonization...except for the whole "everyone trying to kill everyone else" thing.

What are the options Adrift might provide here? Can they decide to, say, help one faction establish themselves as the winners in return for political asylum and land of their own to colonize? Can they decide to "help" the natives blow themselves into Kingdom Come so they can take over the planet?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Cyrus Marriner

As it stands right now, no.  The focus of the game isn't so much finding a suitable planet as it is dealing with the relationships between people put in stressful situations where they may die at any moment.  I mean, it's certainly possible for them to find a planet to colonize, but that isn't really covered in the scope of the rules.  The whole situation would pretty much be predicated on GM fiat, and not covered by the actual rules.  That's because the whole "colony ship searching for a new homeworld" thing is a backdrop, not the point of the system.  The point is for the characters to be forced into a stressful situations where they make choices about the risks they'll take to help each other, and then deal with how those relationships.  They're not supposed to find a suitable planet, unless the GM has a good idea.

That said, it is possible that the GM could end the threat of the vast war with the characters succeeding in stopping it or getting both sides to wipe each other out, if the players worked towards that.  However, they would have to overcome the language barrier, which would be pretty big since this is low-tech sci-fi, without universal translators and the like.   Unless a character is a linguist, they might have a hard time meeting challenges through communication.  Also, it would be really hard for them to change the course of a global war, considering that their team consists of a few people, and their weapons technology is pretty much on the level of modern firearms and grenades.  Still, the GM could let them overcome the conflict.  Hell, they could colonize, and the same systems would work for a colony dealing with hazards on the planet.  Especially if their solution has an unforseen consequence, like creating giant irradiated insects or a religious faction .  The timing of threats and aftermath conflicts would just become a little more interesting in that situation, as opposed to the current divisions imposed by the setting's "explore then return" flow.

I wouldn't advise it, though, unless the GM feels the campaign has gone on long enough, which wouldn't surprise me.  I didn't really envision the game going beyond six to ten sessions at the start of the design.  I'm working on a revision of the rules, and should have them ready to post after my softball game tonight.  Hopefully they'll be more focused and clarify what the focus of the game is.




I see a potential problem/conflict here in that you mention in the text the possibility of intelligent alien humanoids being the source of the colonial impediment, but here you are stating that it is not an idea in keeping with the nature/focus of the game.

The reason I asked about the WWII stuff was because I see it as ripe for potential conflict and danger, and it does still present an uninhabitable world: not simply an environmentally unavailable one, but one uncolonizable for other reasons, cultural and political ones that might very well strike at the heart of what the game is already about: real conflicts between real people about real-world issues, with the added danger of personal survival if not the very survival of the species being at stake.

There's no guarantee that every crew member will see the situation in the same light: "Here's the atom bomb (now blow yourselves up!)." is a possible reaction from someone, to which another crew member may very well react with horror! What about selling the entire colony into what amounts to slavery (issues of racism) in order to secure a place on that world? The conflicts on the planet to survive are: survive against each other and the aliens.

Consider, what happens when some of the group is trying to make sure the rest of the group can't get back to the mothership to sabotage it and make sure the deal they've struck with the aliens is held up?

Otherwise, we're talking solely environmental hazards, and (IMO) that can very quickly get old, especially when you put the idea out there that the probes check to see if planets are even habitable first -- so you keep dealing with just-almost-but-oh-oops-not-quite worlds again and again. The text definitely needs to provide more guidance in this area. I think numerous examples of what makes a planet unsuitable, perhaps even a dozen or more writeups of possible planets and their attendant dangers so players/gamemasters can get a feeling for what to expect out of play would be very useful.

Now, I'm not trying to force you to change your game, if you still think this is too far outside its scope (obviously, I'm not thinking it is), just consider some of this stuff.
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Ron Edwards


Clearly the dialogue is going wrong here.

Raven, for some reason, the way you're presenting things just isn't clicking for Cyrus. I suggest it's time to give him some space; remember that ownership is a pretty strong factor in these discussions, and it can get triggered even when you don't intend to do that,.

Cyrus, I'm OK with your call that settling down to colonize isn't your priority for the game. I'm pretty sure, though, that you aren't limiting yourself just to spear-wielding natives and storms for hazards on the planet. Any chance of listing some of the things that you'd be throwing at players if you were to be running a game? Say, five or six sketchy plans for a five or six planets?


Cyrus Marriner

Quote from: greyorm on October 26, 2005, 11:58:52 AM
I see a potential problem/conflict here in that you mention in the text the possibility of intelligent alien humanoids being the source of the colonial impediment, but here you are stating that it is not an idea in keeping with the nature/focus of the game.

That's not what I'm trying to say.  I think it's a great idea for a planet, rife with all sorts of hazards that could make for very interesting play.  I'd run it in a heartbeat.  I'm saying that beating the threat as opposed to escaping--and not just this specific threat, but any threat--is, if not outside of the scope of the game, then on the outskirts of that scope.  Right now, the focus is on relationships and how the characters interact with one another under stress.  Let me hammer out this revision of the rules and it might be clearer.

Just let me see if I can't clarify a little bit right now:  As far as the current design goals go, the meat of the game is the interactions between characters.  The threat is just a tool to make those interactions more meaningful.  The goal isn't for the characters to find a world and settle down, it's for the characters to interact with one another.  The early rules don't really drive that point home, and probably actually obscure that purpose, but the new rules might make that clearer.  Once I get those rules out, I'll get down some examples of planets.

Cyrus Marriner

Alright, I've overhauled the system, and made it less numbers-based, and a bit more freeform, and tried to take away as much of the parlor narration as possible.  Here's my second stab at it:

Characters Creation still has two types of traits, with a possible third one.  There's Survival, which remains essentially unchanged and starts at 5, going up by one after each threat.  There's also the Relationships traits, which have been completely overhauled.  Instead of being rated by numbers, each relationship is given facets, statements about the character's relationship with the other characters.  ("I hate him," "I think she's a slut," "When he chews his food a million times I want to just punch him in his fucking jaw," etc.)  Instead of being mathematically factored into the system, these relationships will be invoked by the players; more on that later.  I'm also considering a third set of traits, backgrounds, which could be invoked by starting "flashback" scenes to gain traits for later use.  I kind of wish I hadn't read 3:16 before doing this, since now I feel like I would be ripping it off to add this kind of device to the game.  On the other hand, when I had the idea for it originally, I was pretty much ripping off the TV show Lost, so, um, yeah.

The idea to add background traits is a response to Graham's feedback, in that it will give the players something to do during the threat.  However, with the redesign of relationships, that might give the players something else to do without adding an extraneous element.  I don't really like the idea of having "good rock-jumper" types of traits, since the main focus of the game is on the interactions between characters during the threats over just surviving the threats.  However, if I can come up with a good system for the background flashbacks it could certainly make for a good mechanic for fleshing out characters.  But for right now, I'm going to shelve the backgrounds idea until I've got the relationships and threats working properly.

Threats have been changed, mechanically.  They still follow the same basic principles, but are less arbitrarily decided by the GM.  Instead of the GM deciding who to challenge, all characters are challenged at the same time, sort of in an initiative system.  Here's the process:

1) The GM rolls a single d6 for each player involved in the threat.  This is each character's challenge.  If this is the start of the conflict, the players all roll their characters' survival scores, again in d6's.

2) The challenges are resolved in order from highest to lowest--6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1--with challenges showing the same number being resolved simultaneously.  Resolving a conflict is the following process:

2a) The GM narrates the nature of the challenge to each player with a challenge being resolved.  ("You see a superheated gas cloud burst through the floor and begin filling up the room in front of you.")

2b) All challenged players narrate their characters' response to the challenge and put forward any number of dice totalling any value. ("Shit, I close the door!")

2c) The GM rolls a second die for each player with a challenge being resolved, and adds it to the value of the first die, comparing it to the total value of the dice put forward by the player.  If the player's value is higher, he meets the challenge, and we move on to the next challenge to be resolved.

2d) If the player's value is less than the value of the challenge, then his character encounters a complication, with accompanying narration.  ("The gas, growing ever hotter and increasing in pressure, screams through the seams in the door, scalding you.")

2e) Now it's up to the other players to help him out.  Each character (in some order, I'm not exactly sure how it should be defined at the moment--perhaps by highest showing die) chooses if they want to help the character in trouble.  It's worth noting that I've taken out hindrances for the moment; now selfishness can be expressed by opting not to help.  You're already getting a bonus by keeping dice you might have otherwise given, there's no reason to add a mechanical benefit on top of that.  If a character wants to help, he has to invoke one of his relationship traits.  ("Shit, I can't let my best friend die!")  It doesn't necessarily have to be a relationship trait with the character in trouble, ("I love Lisa, and she would hate me if I let him die.") nor does it have to be a positive trait. ("I despise him, but when he dies, I want him to know I killed him.") When a character invokes a relationship trait, he can give any number of dice to the character in trouble.  If more than one player is resolving a challenge at the same time, then each player in a position to help chooses which player he will help, if any, but he cannot help more than one player at a time.  Players currently resolving challenges can also help other characters who are also resolving challenges at the same time.  Each time a character helps another character, note how many dice he contributed to the character, since that's still used in the aftermath.  Oh, and you can only invoke any given facet of a relationship once.

2f) If a character has a high enough total to meet the challenge after being helped, he survives the challenge.  Otherwise, he dies.  Either way, move on to the next challenge.

3) Once all challenges in the round are resolved, the GM rolls up a new set of challenges, and the process is repeated until the GM stops the threat.  At the end of the threat, each surviving character's survival trait goes up by one.

Then, once the threat is done and the characters are off the planet, the aftermath conflicts start.  They've been completely changed, and the terminology is a little clunky at the moment, so my apologies if this is confusing.  Instead of going down the threats one by one, each character gets a pool of unrolled dice, and then decides which relationships they want to commit those dice to changing.  Here's the procedure, as I envision it:

1) Each player gets ten unrolled dice, plus however many dice they gave to other characters during the threat, to kind of represent the general goodwill a person who risks his life for others will gain.

2) Each player takes some number of their dice and indicates which character they want to have interact with their character, (I'm thinking they put them next to the appropriate relationship on their character sheet and hide it somehow) and then all players reveal who they have committed dice to, and how many dice they have committed.

3) Starting with the highest bid and proceeding to the lowest, each player declares what their character, the aggressor, wants to get out of the interaction to which they committed their dice.  ("I want her to fall madly in love with me."  "I want to present an air of mystery.") 

4) The character to whom the dice were committed, the defender, decides how many dice they want to commit to resisting that accomplishment.

5) If two characters committed dice to each other, then the two accomplishments will be resolved at the same time, with the player with the lower bid commits dice to resisting first, followed by the higher bidder.  If the initial bids are equal, both characters bid blind.

6) Once you have the conflicts, resolve them in order of highest initial aggressor bid to lowest.  Resolution works a lot like meeting challenges during threats:

6a) Both players roll the dice they bid. (d6's) I'm not sure if this should be done blind so the players don't metagame against one another.  Otherwise, I'll have to put a cap on how many dice an aggressor can put forward to keep these conflicts prolonged.  (i.e., the player says, "I love you!" puts forward way too many dice for the defender to meet, and the defender has no choice but to reply, "Okay, I love you too.")

6b) The aggressor puts forward any number of dice as his initial challenge, accompanied by narration.  If you want to try to end it in one blow, put forward a lot of your dice, and drop a sledgehammer. ("I'm the one who murdered your father.") This is presuming I go with the blind bids instead of capping the dice limit.  I like the idea of somebody trying to win one of these conflicts with one statement and putting forward all their dice, but I don't like the idea of them doing it when they've counted up all their dice and see they have more than the defender.

6c) The defender puts forward enough dice to meet the challenge, or concedes the interaction to the aggressor, in which case the conflict ends.  Either way, the action should have accompanying narration.

6d) If both players are aggressors, they take turns trying to advance their agendas.  If one player concedes in the face of the other's challenge, he gets to put forward challenges to advance his agenda until he runs out of dice or the other player concedes.

6e) If a character wants to add more dice to his pool, he can invoke a relationship just like how it's done during threats to gain one more die.  He can also invoke his relationship with respect to how much he helped the other character, gaining a number of dice equal to the number he gave to that character during the threat.

6f) If the aggressor wins, the defender adds a new facet to their relationship trait with the character that reflects a shift in their character's attitude in the direction the character wanted.  For example, if the defender lost a "I want her to fall madly in love with me" interaction, she might add "I'm drawn to him and intrigued by his behavior," or "I have a thing for bad guys."  The aggressor gets to add a facet to his relationship with the defender, based on whatever the character feels.  In the previous example, he might add "Damn, she's beautiful when she smiles," or perhaps "What a rube."

6g) If the defender wins, the defender and the aggressor get to add a new facet to their relationship traits with one another, based on whatever they got out of the conversation.

7) Then, move on to the conflict with the next highest initial bid by the aggressor and repeat the process until all the conflicts have been resolved.

That's how the aftermath conflicts work now.  Hopefully, this gives the players lots of choices as to what they want the other characters to feel about their character, and prioritize how much of a commitment they want to make to advancing that agenda.  The terminology needs to be cleaned up a lot, but for now I think I have a good outline to build on.

A few things from the earlier rules are gone.  Now, instead of having a large crew that gets whittled down to a few characters, with players having multiple characters initially, the crew size is set to the number of players involved.  When a character dies, the ship thaws out a new crew member and the player makes a new character.  This would, of course, require at least four players to get a good interaction between characters.  However, if I have any good ideas for how to handle players having multiple characters at once, that isn't necessarily a done deal.  I do like the idea, but I run into the problem that seems to have brought Vincent's Ars Magica fishbowl to a halt: What if my characters are on opposite sides of the same conflict?  The setup of this game even exacerbates the problem, since it revolves around the characters being on opposite sides of the conflict.  An off-the-top-of-my-head idea: perhaps players would bid for the rights to own characters somehow?  Make the characters not subject to individual ownership, but more along the lines of a "character pool" the players draw from.  That could certainly make character death more relevant to the game, whereas my revision is kind of an "Oh Jim's dead let's just unfreeze another Jim" thing.

Actually, now that I think about it, I like this idea a lot.  Especially if I added in backgrounds, this would allow a character to be kind of a bare bones outline at creation, and then each player could add their own unique type of depth, along the lines of the character.  I don't really have any experience with bidding systems, though.  Does anyone know of any good systems or writings on bidding systems that I might want to mine for ideas?

At the moment, though, I think that's a playable system without any extra rules.  I'm toying around with how to mechanically run backgrounds.  Do I need some sort of fortune way to resolve the background flashback, or do I leave it entirely up to drama?   I want to enable involvement for multiple characters in any one aftermath conflict, so I'm thinking about systems for that.  Also, players might need to be able to target multiple players with their bids in the aftermath conflict, but I suppose that's easy.

Anyway, I'd like some feedback on the overhauled system before I try to go any further with it.  Thanks.

Callan S.

Hi Cyrus,

Am I getting you right in that basically what happens on the planet is really just shit that happens and it's how the PC's cope with it that matters?

I wonder if Ron and Raven are starting to concentrate on the planet and what happens there (rather than just using as grist for the coping mill), because they don't know what they are supposed to do in play. Do you really roll to see who has a beef with who and whether you back down, etc? That's probably eliminating play for them as well, from the spaceship side.

I think their trying to work on getting some play in there. But I suspect you've already got play, it's just not clear and present. With the 'who's got a beef' rolls and backdown rolls, how do you see player reactions occuring? Is it about something like the players drawing/inventing conections of behaviour, between characters. Like Jim got really pissed off at Drew, after a giant space ape stamped Mike to death. And then the player draws some 'situation X results in reaction Y' observation from that, about giant ape attacks and what they trigger in Drew? Inventing a causal link, perhaps?

Philosopher Gamer

Cyrus Marriner


Yeah, that's what i'm going for.

In the original version of the rules, yeah, whether or not the characters care about each other was decided by math.  Which was, essentially a foolish way to go with it because, as much as I like math, it takes away completely from the roleplaying.  Pretty much you went down to the planet, which was where you made your only decisions in the entire game: how much you helped and hindered each other player--and even this was limited by a number on your character sheet.  Everything else was just about adding numbers and rolling dice to find out what happened, which sucks.  I'll freely admit that, and I can't blame Ron and Raven for concentrating on the planet, since that was the only place you got to make even the shadow of a decision.  I was thinking, "Hey, it'll be cool to see how the characters interact," but then I restricted it to algorithms so it pretty much was the roleplaying equivalent of interaction in the Sims, but less complex and with fewer choices.  I should have been thinking about how the players interact with one another, and designing a system to aid and encourage those interactions and give them meaning.  I think the revised rules have done that, although there are a lot of ways I can add complexity to the interactions..

The latest revision of the rules is in my post just above, though I suppose a summary would be nice, and more than adequate for purposes of this discussion:  The players decide what their characters want to do, in the form of bidding to create dice pools to advance their agendas with other characters.  Whether or not their agendas (and I hate that word, it feels too formal for what I'm going at here) are advanced is up to fortune, but the players decide how badly they want something by bidding.  Still, they can influence the fortune aspect of the game by invoking facets of their relationships to gain more dice.  The facets of their relationships are essentially single-sentence descriptions of how the character relates to another character.  Pretty much, in the revised rules, I'm trying to give the player control over everything once they get back to the spaceship, except for when other characters want to resist them, in which case I feel fortune is the way to go.

I want to expand the relationships system to the point where you can invoke your relationships with other characters not involved in the conflict to invoke the opposing character's relationships with those other characters, and maybe even trying to affect a character's relationships with other characters who aren't involved in the conflict.  I also want to tie back in the importance of character death regarding character interactions on the ship.  For right now, though, the previous paragraph is pretty much the gist of how player interactions work now.


Cyrus, I'd love to see a complete example of play with the mechanics being used as you envision them. That would really help me see how you're tying this all together here, especially how you see all these conflicts and so forth occurring and resolving once in play.

Any chance you would be able to type up something like that soon?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Cyrus Marriner

Good idea, Raven.  I've got a fair amount going on right now, but I've started on it and should have one done in a couple of days.  I'll probably post the planetside portion when its complete, then the relationships when I get some more time.