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Author Topic: So are these Keys & Secrets broken or what?  (Read 9600 times)
Sydney Freedberg
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« on: May 10, 2006, 06:26:30 AM »

I'm getting back in the GM-as-worldbuilder seat after two years of Capes and Prime Time Adventures, and I chose TSOY as the best way to get the old-school D&D flavor without the, y'know, appalling brokenness. The game (mini-campaign, hopefully) is set in a fallen high fantasy kingdom for that "post-apocalyptic soap opera" feel -- inspired by Tony Lower-Basch's offhand idea for "Battlestar Galactica in a dungeon!" -- but I've sketched out my own setting to use instead of Near.

What I've done, specifically, is create (1) a set of Keys representing religious beliefs, from which every player-character is required to choose one and only one, and (2) a set of Secrets, each "unlocked" by one or two prerequisite Keys, that represent the only magic in this setting. (It's a very HeroQuest approach).

I have two questions:

1) For everybody: Do these Keys and Secrets together convey a strong idea of the setting? Because other than this I'm only asking my players to read one page of introductory fiction, rather than forcing them to plow through tons of setting stuff.

2) For TSOY veterans: Do these Keys and Secrets look like they'll work in game-mechanical terms, or are some/all of them potentially broken in ways I should patch fast?

Quote
Key of the Unconquerable Sun
"Light of all the world, enlighten me!"
   All who walk in the light of day adore golden Asorion, the Sun, husband of Mother Earth, High King of Heaven, he who dies each winter at the solstice and returns triumphantly to life. But you have gone beyond this common worship and devoted yourself to his principles of learning, rationality, hierarchy, and law. You are an upstanding member of your community: men heed your words and women listen patiently. You are probably literate and almost certainly male.
   Typical backgrounds include nobleman, military officer, bureaucrat, merchant, guild member, independent farmer (not serf), or magus.
   You gain 1 XP whenever you explain to others your well-reasoned plan for solving a particular problem.
   You gain 2 XP if they actually follow your plan (succeed or fail).
   You gain 5 XP whenever you insist on taking the time to think things through to find the logical solution you're convinced must exist while everyone else is running or fighting for their lives.
   You may buy off this Key by acting in blind panic or passion.

Key of Our Mother Below
"From your dark womb we come, O Mother,  and to it all return."
   All tremble before our Dark Lady of the Earth, Svulkė, bride and mother of Asorion, she who gives the harvest and receives the bodies of the dead. But you have gone beyond and learned the secret teachings that ensure the fertility of fields and marriage beds, whispered from grandmother to newlywed for generations since before the High Kings came. Young men and maidens seek your advice, women in childbirth put their lives in your hands, farmers guiltily try your potions, and even the magi of Asorion give you grudging respect. You are probably not a virgin and you are almost certainly female.
   Typical backgrounds include noblewoman, farmwife, midwife, revered matriarch, feared witch, prostitute, or priestess.
   You gain 1 XP whenever you console the sorrowful that new life will come, or warn the joyful that they too will die.
   You gain 2 XP whenever someone does your bidding without anyone publicly acknowledging your power.
   You gain 5 XP whenever you deliberately sacrifice the life of one member of your community to save another.
   You may buff off this Key by refusing to accept the death or possible death of someone you care about.

Key of the Wounded Moon
"My life is not my own."
   All people know the tragic story of Kthonné, the moon, favorite daughter of Asorion and Svulkė, she who was seduced and violated by the First Wolf, gave birth to the Stag King of the fay, and went mad, hiding her bright face in shame and sorrow. But you were dedicated to her service by your father: perhaps because he was too poor to feed you as a girl; perhaps because he had no dowry to marry you as a maiden; perhaps because you, like the moon, were raped, and your father could not bring himself to cleanse his honor with your blood in the ancient manner. ("Raped" in this culture means sex without your father's consent; yours is legally immaterial). Now you stand apart from men and women both, empowered to heal the righteous and slay the wicked, yet never truly free.
   Typical backgrounds include Sword Virgin (woman warrior-healer) or Dagger Bride (spy and traitor-hunter; always a raped woman with no honor left to lose).
   Gain 1 XP every time you deny yourself something in deference to a male authority figure, such as a Magus, nobleman, or other devotee of Asorion.
   Gain 2 XP every time you endure danger or suffering on behalf of another, with no benefit to yourself.
   Gain 5 XP every time you do something to benefit others that would horrify them if they knew.
   You may buy off this Key if you do something you really want to do, just for yourself.

Key of the Worldshaker
"I die triumphant  if my fear dies first!"
   In these troubled times, everyone offers sacrifices to appease Gauros Worldshaker, the brooding god who brings storms, eclipses, earthquakes, and war, the cosmic rebel who alone dared defy his father Asorion when the Sun-King's tyranny would have burned up the world. But you have embraced turmoil as a way of life and made the road your home. Respectable folk step out of your way, maidens and young men watch in wary fascination, small boys follow you hoping to see a fight. You have probably taken a life and are most likely male.
   Typical backgrounds include soldier or sailor (but not officer), brigand, mercenary, gambler, and wanderer.
   Gain 1 XP whenever you ignore good advice, credible threats, or legitimate orders.
   Gain 2 XP whenever you help someone out in such a way that you receive only resentment or suspicion in return.
   Gain 5 XP when you switch sides in a conflict out of pride or principle, without any material gain to yourself.
   You may buy off this Key by pleading for help,

Key of the Ancestors
"Guide your unworthy offspring in your path."
   Everyone respects the spirits of their ancestors and knows their family legends, but you have devoted yourself entirely to your forefather's path. You can recite your ancestors' names, deeds, and sayings -- and you do so at every occasion to dispel your own doubts and rally or bully your community. You may be rich or poor, but your family is ancient, deeply rooted, and respectable. You are equally likely to be male or female.
   Typical backgrounds include noble, guild member (in which case you may have been adopted into your lineage as an apprentice), or farmer.
   Gain 1 XP every time you inconvenience yourself or others by rigidly following some ancestral custom or taboo (which, as a player, you are free to invent on the spot).
   Gain 2 XP every time you convince others to try something new because it is actually a return to the true ways of the ancestors, really it is.
   Gain 5 XP every time you cling to old ways at the peril of your life or another's.
   You may buy off this Key by openly rejecting the ancestral ways.

Key of the Stag King
"A bowl of milk for the Little Folk, flowers for the Sidhe, raw meat for the redcaps, and for the Stag King, a child."
   Everyone practices little magics, just to be safe, like throwing salt over the shoulder or saying a quick prayer to the spirit of a river as they cross. But you have devoted yourself to keeping the old bargains with the old gods alive. Asorion's magi call it backward pagan superstition; you call it being safe. And in such troubled times, more and more folk think you just might be right.
   Typical backgrounds include peasant, hunter, housewife, fisherman, petty thief, and traveling performer.
   Gain 1 XP  every time you inconvenience yourself or others in order to make some small offering to the Fair Folk.
   Gain 2 XP every time others comment on your good fortune and you attribute it to the Little People.
   Gain 5 XP every time you bargain directly with the Fay, with all the peril implied.
   You may buy off this Key by demanding that the world be fair for once.

Key of the First Wolf
"[howling]"
   Everyone knows the First Wolf raped the Moon and sired the Stag King of the Fay. No one worships his totem except the outland barbarians and inbred hillfolk -- and you. You know the truth: that all kingdoms fall, all knowledge fades, and even gods come and go, but the ancient powers endure. If other people knew what you worshipped, they would probably kill you for being a werewolf and a traitor: Are you?
   Typical backgrounds include backwoods primitive, bandit, deserter from the army, and secret agent for the Horde.
   Gain 1 XP every time you fail to conceal your contempt for "civilized" folk.
   Gain 2 XP every time you prevail when civilized folk cannot because of your strength, savagery, or cunning.
   Gain 5 XP every time you lead others to reject civilized values and embrace the way of the Wolf.
   You may buy off this Key by saving someone from the consequences of their own weakness.

Key of Old Man Chaos
"Omnipotent is he, and blind, and mad."
   Everyone knows Old Man Chaos created everything that is. Everyone knows he did it by accident and will one day destroy the universe just as blindly. Nobody actually worships him: That would be…crazy.
   Typical backgrounds include deviant, cultist, or sorcerer.
   Gain 1 XP when you embrace what others find repugnant.
   Gain 2 XP when you achieve personal advantage amidst chaos and ruin.
   Gain 5 XP when you risk your life or sanity, or that of another, for unnatural power.
   You may buy off this Key by recoiling in horror from what you have done.

Quote
Secret of the Solar Magus
   You are a magus of Asorion, trained to serve society as priest, natural philosopher, and wizard -- though you hardly see those functions as distinct. You can transcribe the divine wisdom of the Unconquerable Sun to a scroll of incantations and instructions to guide his loyal people.
   You must prepare the scroll by daylight (not moonlight, not candlelight). Spend one hour and one point from your Reason Pool for each bonus die you wish to the scroll to convey to its user. You must designate a specific character to read the scroll (either yourself or any other literate person), a specific Ability that person is to use, and a specific purpose (e.g. "defend the King," "defeat the Horde," "harvest the crops"). Once the designated character has read the scroll, he may use its bonus dice when rolling the designated Ability for the designated purpose once, at the time of his choosing.
   If the wrong person tries to use the scroll, or the right person tries to use it in the wrong way, there is no effect: the scroll is not wasted, but it doesn't provide any bonus dice to that roll, either; it just waits for the right circumstances.
   You can designate a woman as the reader (assuming she is literate), but your fellow Magi would disapprove.
   Cost: 1 Reason per bonus die.
   Requires Key of the Unconquerable Sun (you must worship Asorion) and Secret of Scribing (you must be literate).

Secret of Our Dark Lady
   You are an initiate of Svulkė, schooled in the secret arts of birth and death. You can imbue potions with the dark power of the Earth itself.
   You must prepare your potions in darkness -- either underground or on a night with no moon. Spend one hour and one point from your Reason pool for each bonus or penalty die you wish the concoction to convey. You must designate a specific Ability to enhance or penalize, and a specific circumstance which will trigger the magic to take effect (e.g. "at the first full moon," "in childbirth," "when you next see an unmarried woman"). You cannot use the magic on yourself. The first person to drink the potion will receive its bonus or penalty dice the very first time they try to use the designated Ability in the designated circumstances.
   If you drink your own potion, or if someone else drinks it but the appropriate conditions never arise, it is wasted.
   Whether the drinker knows what they are drinking is completely irrelevant to the potion's power.
   Cost: 1 Reason per bonus or penalty die.
   Requires Key of Our Mother Below (you must worship Svulkė).

Secret of the Full Moon
   You are blessed by the bright Moon, whose light reveals to you the plotting of your enemies. Whenever you are rolling in a Conflict against someone who is trying to hide anything from you -- themselves, another person, an object, a secret -- you may spend any number of points from your Instinct pool and receive that number of bonus dice.
   The character does not have to know or even suspect something is being hidden to use this Secret. The player and the GM should collaborate to allow its use whenever the character is walking into an ambush or talking to someone who seems totally innocent: It is a kind of divine sixth sense, not conscious magic. If the player tries to use this Secret when no one has anything to hide, she gets her Instinct points back.
   Cost: 1 Instinct per bonus die.
   Requires Key of the Wounded Moon (you are a Sword Virgin or Dagger Bride) or Key of the First Wolf (you are probably a Horde scout or spy).

Secret of the New Moon
   You carry the curse of the lunatic Moon, whose darkness shrouds you from your enemies. When you are hiding anything from anyone -- yourself, another person, an object, a secret -- you may spend any number of points from your Instinct pool to give whoever is trying to find out your secret that number of penalty dice.
   As with the Key of the Full Moon, the character does not have to know someone is looking for her or trying to uncover her secret for the player to use this Secret.
   Cost: 1 Instinct per penalty die.
   Requires Key of the Wounded Moon (you are probably a Dagger Bride, although some Sword Virgins have this Secret as well) or Key of the First Wolf (you are probably a Horde scout or spy).

Secret of the Unshaken
   You walk the wandering path of mighty Gauros Worldshaker. Each time you are injured (physically, emotionally, or socially), you may immediately spend any number of points from your Vigor pool to gain that number of bonus dice for your next roll against whoever or whatever injured you. You cannot use these dice to hide, run, or negotiate, only to stand your ground and fight back.
   Cost:1 Vigor per bonus die.
   Requires Key of the Worldshaker (you must worship Gauros).

Secret of Ancestral Wisdom
   You are a faithful descendant of your venerable ancestors. Any time you fail a roll, you may invoke their blessing and remember their wisdom by spending a point of Reason for a bonus die to your next roll trying to solve the same problem.
   You can only use this Secret after you have tried and failed relying on your own resources.
   Cost: 1 Reason per bonus die.
   Requires Key of the Ancestors (you must revere your ancestors).

Secret of Faerie Lore
   You know the old pagan lore and can call upon the old contracts with the Fair Folk. At any time, you can perform some small ritual or recite some rhyme (feel free to invent one) to summon the Fay to you: 1 point of Instinct for petty goblins, 2 points for more powerful fay like redcaps or sprites, 3 points for the Sidhe, 4 points for the Stag King himself.
   The summoned faeries will arrive before nightfall or sunrise, whichever comes first. Once they arrive, you're entirely on your own to deal with them: Beef up those Social Abilities first.
   Cost: 1-4 Instinct.
   Requires Key of the Stag King.

Secret of the Outer Darkness
   Straining your mind and body to their utmost, you can summon unspeakable powers forth from primordial Chaos. Once they arrive, you're on your own.
   It costs 3 points from your Vigor pool to summon a demon, reduced to 2 points if you destroy a thing of beauty or kill an ugly creature during the summoning, and reduced to 1 point if you sacrifice a beautiful person. The demon appears at once and may or may not be interested in bargaining with you.
   Cost: 1-3 Vigor.
   Requires Key of Old Man Chaos.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2006, 08:14:06 AM »

Wow, I totally want to combine Worldshaker and Unconquerable Sun now.  My guy insists on having a well-reasoned plan, but won't listen to anybody else.  I get double-XPs for being an uncooperative jackass!  Wheee!
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Andrew Cooper
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2006, 08:42:14 AM »

Yeah, what Tony said.  Too bad you can only pick one of those Keys.  The uncooperative jackass would be a hoot to play; although, he'd probably honk off the other players.

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TonyLB
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2006, 08:58:54 AM »

Oh ... "one and only one"?

Eh.  If you want character classes just call 'em character classes.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2006, 09:10:25 AM »

Heh. Yeah, there're reasons why I said "one and only one" of the Keys, although I could be convinced otherwise. They're not really character classes, since the only abilities that are Key-specific are the magic Secrets: You can layer them on top of any of the standard Keys, Secrets, and Abilities in the TSOY rulebook (http://www.anvilwerks.com/files/tsoy_revised_secrets_and_keys.pdf). They're intended to work more like HeroQuest's recombinant "Keywords" (where you pick one each of religion, homeland, and occupation).

And they're designed to interact: If Player A takes Unconquerable Sun, and Player B takes Worldshaker, they can mine each other for XPs in gleeful disharmony ("Do it this way!" "Screw you!" -- that's 1 XP apiece right there). Likewise someone with Wounded Moon really needs a male character with Unconquerable Sun or The Ancestors to alternately defer to and horrify. Our Mother Below/Our Dark Lady totally needs a male power structure to subvert for her own purposes (2 XP for somone else doing what you want, can't use potions on yourself) . First Wolf and Old Man Chaos need respectable people around so they can make 'em unhappy. Etc. etc.

Disfunctional relationships = power.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #5 on: May 10, 2006, 09:25:38 AM »

Oh, yeah!  I totally neglected the interaction with standard Keys, because I'm stupid that way.  It's not "One thing to define a guy" it's "One thing in addition to all the other stuff you've already got from the rule-books."  Cool.

That does really liven things up though.  Worldshaker + Conscience + Coward + Masochist + Outcast is starting to look very attractive.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #6 on: May 10, 2006, 09:31:40 AM »

As I was driving in to work today, I was thinking Flags, Bangs, and Kickers, and I thought, "Of course, Tony likes to screw his characters as hard as he can, so he's easy to GM for...."

Worldshaker + Conscience + Coward + Masochist + Outcast is starting to look very attractive.

Q.E.D. This Key combo will make a character really miserable, but man, will it rack up the XPs. Plus it'll give plenty of opportunities to "buy off" a Key, which should really be "cash in," because it's "do this thing, erase the Key, and get 10 XP right freakin' now."
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #7 on: May 10, 2006, 09:46:21 AM »

P.S. I think the rules don't let you to take all your starting "advances" as Keys -- they're supposed to be a mix of Keys, Secrets, and bumping up your various stats (i.e. of ability to gain more XPs for the future and of ability to do stuff now, i.e. acceleration vs. velocity). Am I reading this right, folks?
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Ricky Donato
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2006, 01:26:25 PM »

You are not allowed to advance in the same thing twice in a row. So you cannot buy 2 Keys in a row - you would have to spend an advance in some way in between those 2 Key purchases. If you start with 5 advances (the default), then you could buy a Key, increase a pool, buy a 2nd Key, increase a pool again, and buy a 3rd Key. So the best you could achieve at start is having 3 extra Keys, plus the one you start with, meaning 4 Keys - which is a heck of a lot, considering you can't have more than 5 Keys at one time.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
rafial
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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2006, 01:47:12 PM »

These look pretty cool... Let me proffer a rules variant on key buy off that we are testing in our own TSOY Tales from the Aether game.  At least in our (one session) of play, it has really helped mitigate against deliberate key abuse and promote key goodness.
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Ricky Donato
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Posts: 156

Just chillin'


« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2006, 05:06:32 PM »

These look pretty cool... Let me proffer a rules variant on key buy off that we are testing in our own TSOY Tales from the Aether game.  At least in our (one session) of play, it has really helped mitigate against deliberate key abuse and promote key goodness.

The whooshing sound you hear is me snatching this brilliant idea for myself.
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Ricky Donato

My first game in development, now writing first draft: Machiavelli
shadowcourt
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Posts: 153


« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2006, 07:40:07 AM »

Sydney,

Just wanted to add my sentiments to the many, and say that I was similarly impressed with these Keys and Secrets. Those are all fiendishly exciting, and give a real sense of a scary cosmology for the world.
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Sydney Freedberg
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« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2006, 07:57:12 AM »

Thanks. We've had our first session and I'll be posting an Actual Play about it soon.

Interestingly, the custom keys my players took were:
- Wounded Moon (specifically, a Dagger Bride)
- The Ancestors (used to custom-build a specific religious order with its own deity, all invented by the player)
- First Wolf

The Wounded Moon's player (Tony) also, out of enlightened self-interest, asked for two male authority figure NPCs, at least one of whom is Unconquerable Sun (the other could be Sun or Ancestors, I've not decided yet) and some powerful females as role models as well (I'm thinking Our Dark Lady for that). Which leaves us with no PC representatives of the "mainstream" religions of the culture (Sun and Earth), interestingly -- everyone prefers kicking hard against those authority figures.
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