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Ever-After: Currency & Advancement

Started by Jonathan Walton, April 20, 2003, 04:13:49 AM

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Jonathan Walton

Hey folks,

Still trying to bang out the final details of my game Ever-After (formerly called Storypunk, formerly called Quixote & Coyote).  In this thread, I'd like some specific help in getting the currency system set in stone.  Ever-After uses a currency system to create/manipulate story elements in a manner similar to the way coins work in Universalis.  However, the re-distribution system in Ever-After is rather different.

Whereas, in Universalis, character recieve coins from conflicts and by being refreshed at the end of scenes, in Ever-After, there is a specific character/player who gets assigned the Duty of being the Piper.  Once all the Drops have been spent that are going to be spent in a specific situation ("Drops" are the currency of Ever-After), the Piper "recycles" the spent Drops by redistributing them to the group, one at a time, around the circle, until the Piper runs out of Drops to redistribute.  The first player to get a recycled Drop is often the one that lost a given conflict and/or the one with the least Drops (depending on how the Piper is feeling).

Originally, I was thinking that each player would start with 7 Drops and that they would be used to create story elements, being recycled back so that no one would ever run out.  The distribution of the Drops would be the only thing that really changed.  The recycling method would ensure that everyone would get a chance to participate, since active players would run out of Drops and less active players would be forced to act in order to keep the Drops moving around.  Also, players could spend 3 Drops to support/sustain one of their Themes (defining character traits in Ever-After), causing it to grow/advance/whatever, which would cause the number of Drops to gradually descrease over the course of a story, bringing everything to an eventual halt/conclusion.

However, in recent off-forum conversations with Shreyas, I think we developed another solution that seems to support the kind of play I want more.

Quote from: I-- What if Themes were the main source of stones? So instead of starting off with no Theme-stones and having to gain them. Characters start out with an allotment of Themes and some Theme-stones.

-- To allow some leeway within the game, there are a very, very small number of additional stones allocated among the members of the Troupe (one per Player or less).

-- Theme-stones can only be used on things that relate to their Theme, but once they are spent they are redistributed just like normal stones and BECOME, for all intents and purposed, normal stones.

-- So you start out with a very small pool of stones that migrates around the group, but then, as players start bringing their theme elements into the story, the pool grows. This provides the rising action of the story.

-- As it currently stands, the "prime time" for a story is the first 20-30 minutes. After which, for every 2-5 minutes the story continues, it deteriorates, losing one Mask (story element played by a character). This provides a way for things to close down and end, as the story breaks down and story elements disappear, even though the stone pool is increasing.

-- Since the types of stories you could tell would be limited by the Themes your group had, development would happen by (somehow) working to change your Themes (instead of increasing their potency or gaining new ones). You might start out with a bunch of Dark Fairy Tale themes and want to migrate towards telling Space Opera stories, and would have to tell some pretty interesting yarns along the way.

The advancement it still up in the air, and needs more thought, but what do you think of the concept? Does it sound workable?

I hope what I'm describing there is clear.  Basically, I'm trying to follow the Torchbearer model of experience, which is "Experience doesn't make you stronger; it makes you different."  Gaining addition Theme-Drops of a specific type wouldn't necessarily be all that useful.  What would a character do with 6 Drops of "Sibling Rivalry & Betrayal"?  Do you really need 6 occurances of that in the same story?

It seems to me that 3 should be the maximum number of Drops you can gain for a single Theme.  After all, 3 is the magic number for stories, and many things come in threes.  However, it's not entirely clear to me how one should gain and/or lose and/or change the themes/theme-Drops you already have.

The themes you choose for your own character should be closely related to the types of stories you want to tell.  If you like "Sibling Rivalry & Betrayal" then pick that theme, get some theme-Drops, and spend them to make it occur in the story.

However, there are other issues besides just the experience/advancement one.

1.  Why should characters use Theme-Drops, which have limited, specific uses, when there are going to be other general Drops migrating around the circle, which have no limitations?  Especially, how do I get players to spend Theme-Drops late in a story when there will be plenty of general Drops to use (since many Themes would have already been invoked).

2.  How many general Drops should there be to start the story moving?  Do I even need them?  Can people craft stories using just Theme-based Drops?  Should all Drops originally have come from a Theme in the first place, but are released to be used for other things once they have initially been spent on creating an instance of a Theme element?

3.  Originally, I was thinking that the Muse (another Duty, like the Piper; the person in charge of starting stories off) would have a specific number of Drops that s/he could use to get things moving at the beginning.  Perhaps one for every 2 minutes spent in the After-Once (the time between stories), so a standard 15 minute stint between stories would give him/her around 7 Drops to begin the next story.  Good idea?  Bad idea?  If i go with the plan that all Drops should originally come from Themes, does the Muse get non-circulating, imaginary "ghost Drops" to start the story, and  the players together continue from that point by spending their own Drops (which would be recycled back)?  Or does the Muse spend their own Theme-related Drops in building the initial situation.

All ideas, comments, and such are very helpful, since I'd like to have a system soon for my next playtest.

Jack Spencer Jr

Here's a link to the second page of the currency thread. Scroll down a little to the post where Ron goes over how he would change TOON and a few other games. Reading your post immediately brought this thread to mind.

Jonathan Walton

Hmm... Neat thread Jack, but I fail to see how it relates to what I'm talking about here, aside from using the word "currency."  The currency that Ron et all are talking about in that thread is the currency used in character creation, while the currency in Ever-After and Universalis is used in actual play of the game.

Am I missing something?



I think that perhaps the Theme drops should be the only one's fueling the story.  As each story is being set up by the Muse (that's right isn't it?), the members of the Troupe get to invest a certain number of Theme drops from one of their character's themes.  The size of that investment would indicate how powerful the setup should reflect that theme.  The piper could collect those theme drops invested and re-distribute those before the story begins, and that becomes the limit of the general drop currency during the specific story.

Any theme drops not invested in the setup could then be used to support a specific theme in the course of the story.

In this way, if you limit the members of the Troupe to between 1 and 3 drops per theme, the amount of general currency will be limited, and it will force the troupe to use their remaining theme currency within the story.

In terms of advancement/change - perhaps at the end of the story, and Themes that are down to 0 drops (either through initial investment or use during play) could said to be spent - and at that point could either be changed or re-invested.  Any general drops in a Troupe members possession would have to be either re-invested in a Theme at 0, or used to constitute a new Theme for that Troupe member.

Just a thought.


"Oh, it's you...


Maybe you shouldn't have any free drops to begin with, but at the same time give every player a small pool based on their role in the story--so the Muse has drops specifically for getting things going and so on.  That way the characters' roles are reinforced by drops dedicated to that purpose, and only once things get going does play open up.

Of course, I'm not sure how well it would work with all the different roles--the piper for instance--but it might be something to think about.


Jack Spencer Jr

Quote from: Jonathan WaltonAm I missing something?
Perhaps I'm seeing something that's not there. Earlier in the thread, Ron did mention that currency is traditionally handled at character creation, but some games have currency issues throughout play.

What I saw was a similarity with this question:
Quote1. Why should characters use Theme-Drops, which have limited, specific uses, when there are going to be other general Drops migrating around the circle, which have no limitations?
And this bit here:
QuoteSo, if you're well beefed on Plot Points, then spending 5 or more points initially for a Schtick is idiotic - you should buy NO Schticks, take your 8 possessions, and then spend Plot Points as you go for whatever Schtick you feel like at the time.

What I saw was the similarity in "why should the player use *this thing here* when they can get the same effect with *this other thing.*

For TOON Ron says to chuck starting Schticks since you can get them by spending Plot Points anyway and Plot Points are not hard to come by. This streamlines the game without sacrificing a thing as far as play goes.

So the question is, can you bag the Theme-Drops and just use the general drops to the same effect without having to muck about with the Theme-Drops at all? Can the game be streamlined by doing this or would something be lost by doing so? Is the something lost important or can it be ditched as well or replicated somehow using the general Drops?

These are all questions to ask yourself. I suspect you've already asked yourself these questions since you've posted the question here.

There is a chance that you had already found that Theme Drops can be romved from your game but are reluctant to do so. This is normal and I have a bit of advise I found in Stephen King's On Writing. When talking about little thing that should be removed from a story but the writer is reluctant to remove them because the writer enjoys them, King quotes Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, "Murder your darlings." If this is the case, and I can't tell you if it is or not, then you are best to take Sir Quiller-Couch's advice.

Jonathan Walton

Thanks for all the comments.  The different perspectives are really helpful to hear.  Like Jason, I was originally leaning towards doing away with general Drops in favor of all-Theme-Drops, but I also really like Piers idea of Duty-specific Drops (however, similarly, I'm not sure what they would be used for in some cases).

Couple other options to think about:

-- After Drops are recycled, players have to reinvest them in particular Themes, so there are no general Drops.  I get 2 Drops back from the resolution of a big conflict, and put them back in "Sibling Rivalry & Betrayal" and "Cold-Hearted Authority."  The problem with this is that players are limited to spending Drops on the same Themes over and over, so unless there's a really easy way to change your Themes, I don't think this will work.

-- A better idea: give general Drops a more limited scope whereas Theme Drops give you director/author stance over the entire story.  For example, in Ever-After story elements are defined by Masks, which are created by the Masker (another Duty), and are represented by names written on index cards.  General Drops are spent whenever you want one of your Masks to do something.  The prince talks to the king.  The cow jumps over the moon, whatever.  If there are conflicts, then you bid general Drops and try to resolve it.  However, Theme Drops allow you to change the entire nature of a conflict or insert new story elements into the game, by creating an instance of your Theme.  The Muse then constructs the beginning of the story using donated Theme Drops, because only they can create new elements.  General Drops can only manipulate what's already there.  Theme Drops would also supercede whatever other Drops were being used to affect a scene.

However, while I like option 2, I'm still unsure about an advancement system for it.  Perhaps, we could follow Jason's suggestions, and have spent Theme Drops, at the end of the story, be refreshed or alloted to new Themes.  However, it makes sense to me that you have to create instances of a Theme in order to strengthen it.  

Perhaps, if you create an instance of a Theme just through Mask manipulation, and not through spending Theme Drops, you can cause your Theme to grow to a larger capacity (gaining another Theme Drop).  This could also be a way to create new Themes.  You come across a Theme occurance during the story and claim it, then, after the story is over, you can allocate an existing Theme Drop to that new Theme.


Shreyas Sampat

I'm not clear on how general Drops (Drops of what?  Tears?  Blood?) are weaker than Theme Drops, so I'm going to try for an example.

Julnar the mermaid is trying to find a bride for her son, Badr Basim.  She finds out that the Sea King's lovely daughter Jauhareh is just coming of age.  Someone starts a conflict about whether the Sea King will find Badr worthy.
With general Stones, they could just bid it out and narrate something like, "The Sea King finds it unthinkable to wed his daughter to a landsman" or "Badr handily impresses the Sea King with his excellent manners and radiant presence."

With Theme Stones, one could create a Quest for the Treasure, "Badr, I will only allow you to wed my daughter if you retrieve for me my crown, that the Roc of Alexandria stole from me."
Or a Duel: "Only the man that bests me in combat my have the hand of Jauhareh."
Or a Meddling Princess: "Badr, I will not marry you unless you pass Three Tests..."

Jonathan Walton

Drops are drops of water from the Ocean of Streams of Story.  What else? :)  I had pondered blood or tears too, but I think Story Water is best.

I think the problem is that, technically, you could use general Drops to do anything that Theme Drops can do.  So the character who has the Mask of the Sea King spends drops to have the Sea King declare a Quest or a Duel.  Or the character with the Mask of Juahareh spends Drops to meddle and create three tests.

Remember that characters/elements in Ever-After aren't created like they are in Universalis.  They're made into Masks and then assigned to a player/character who determines everything about them.  There's no trait buying or that kind of stuff.  It's all about what characters do, not what they are.  Also, this means that the players aren't fighting over what happens in the story.  Nobody can say "I think the Sea King should reject Badr Basim as a son-in-law" except for the character with the Mask of the Sea King.  Now, if there is a dispute between the Sea King and Badr Basim (or they have that duel) then the two players with those masks could bid Drops to determine the outcome.

However, in the new framework, Theme Drops allow characters/players to control the larger structure of the story.  Say I'm playing Don Quixote, who is the Piper of his Troupe, and currently has the Masks of Badr Basim, the Sea, a magic ring of power, and a storm.  Now, Don Quixote wants the Sea King to give him (as Badr Basim) some great task to accomplish, but there's no real way for him to ensure this, especially if the character with the Mask of the Sea King has other ideas.  Still, if Don Quixote wants to spend a Drop from his Theme "Against Impossible Odds," he can declare that the Sea King places a hopeless task before Badr Basim (which he or the Sea King's player would then determine).

Is that clearer?


To sort of come full circle--and I hope this doesn't bring you back to exactly where you started--maybe you don't need to differentiate between Theme Drops and ordinary Drops, but instead have Themes control what you can do with your Drops.

In other words, rather than separating the Drops, the player consults the Themes to work out what they can do with the Drops--it has to be in Theme if you want to introduce new elements (if that isn't your role).  

If that works, then the number of Drops used under the rubric of each Theme during the story can be recorded, indicating the strength of particular themes associated with the player.  At the end of the story some sort of assessment of the use and change of themes, as well as the accumulation of new themes would be made for each player.   This could even be done without any record, because what you remember about the story should indicate what was important about it.  

Would this work, or is it goes back the way you came?

Also, another, much more radical idea:

What do you think about the merits of unequal distribution of Drops?  

What I mean is this: One way for the roles in the troupe to become hardwired, is for the Drops to redistributed unequally amongst the different players, based upon their roles, and according to the stage the story is at.  Thus, the Muse would start out with an excess of Drops in order to initiate the story, but as the story was established, these Drops would be reallocated more and more to other members of the Troupe as they became more important.  By the end, the Ender (or whatever they are called now) would end up with almost all the Drops to carry into the After-Once and only there to be handed over to the Muse so they could begin again.  And the Piper would control the pace of the story by deciding when to shift reallocation of Drops between characters.  

As far as how that might work, I'm thinking of something as simple as having the different players sit in a specific order based upon the point in the tale when they are most important, and simply having every reallocation start from the person whose 'stage' is in the ascendant.  The cycle would begin with the Muse work its way through to the ender, with the Piper sitting between the two, and deciding when to switch.  This way, whoever is most important always gets a drop when they are reallocated, and is the first to get two when there are more than the number of troup members to hand out.  

Taking a momnet to look again at the way you have the roles defined currently, I'm not too sure how well it fits in.  Muse and Masker pretty obviously start things out and the Gardener gather things up, but the Intermediary and Grand Comptroller are sort of parallel to the whole system. The dynamic might work though.  

Anyways, I think this sort of shifting responsiblity would give an interesting momentum to the stories, and give the Piper a concrete way to 'call the tune'.  It'd just be important to balance a preponderance of power with enough opportunity for everyone to contribute.  

Hope my wild ideas are useful in some way.


Jonathan Walton

Piers, your suggestions rock, but would you mind deleting the 4 extra copies of you last post that accidentally showed up?  It would make reading this thread a lot easier.

Here's a weird model that just came to me, based on Piers suggestions, some unrelated ideas that were floating around in my own head, and, strangely enough, the new Marvel Universe RPG that's getting released about a month from now:

1. When players recieve Drops, either at the beginning of a story, or by the Piper recycling spent Drops, the players allocate them among their resources, including:

- their Duty
- their various Masks
- their various Themes

2. Drops allocated to a Duty can only be spent on performing that Duty.  The Muse is likely to allocate the majority of their starting Drops to Duty, because they have to use them to create a beginning to the story.  The Piper has to spend a Duty-Drop to recycle the pool of spent Drops.  The Maskers has to spend a Duty-Drop for each Mask s/he creates.  The Conductor spends Duty-Drops to communicate OOCly with all the players, coordinating things.  The Intermediary doesn't spend Duty-Drops during strories, but has to save some up over the course of the story, in order to use immediately afterwards.

This opens up the possibility that jobs can be performed badly.  If the Piper suddenly doesn't have any Drops in Duty, but the pile in the middle of the table is growing and growing, and players are running out of other Drops to spend, the Piper's in a bind.  They needs Drops to do their job, but they have to do their job to get refurbished with Drops.  Likewise, if other situations creep up (and they always do) when you need Drops in Duty and haven't allocated them, you're going to look bad.

3.  Drops placed on Masks are used to make that Mask do something (talk, walk, sleep, fight, fly around, etc).  Conflicts between various story elements can be solved by bidding the Drops their various Masks have been allotted.  This means that certain Masks can look more powerful and intimidating simply due to the amount of Drops that have been allocated to them.

4.  Drops placed on Themes, as I have explained before, allow you to control parts of the story outside of simply manipulating Masks.  They also allow you to create new elements in the story (which should then probably be assigned Masks by the Masker).

5.  Like Nobilis' Rite of the Last Trump, there needs to be a way for players to reallocate Drops when they are in dire need.  Maybe the Piper needs to recycle the pool, maybe the protagonist is in danger of losing to some schmoe, maybe it's just the perfect time for one of your Themes to occur.

My first thought was a system of "strikes," where characters basically recieve bad marks for mismanaging their resources.  Maybe when the character recieved 3 strikes, they would be ejected from the story and have to wait for everyone else in the After-Once.


Injecting this degree of Gamism and resource-management into the game does a great many things.  First, it gives the Intermediary something real to do.  If the success of the story really depends on people performing their jobs well, allocating resources properly, communicating and anticipating when they'll be needed, and picking up the slack when someone fails or gets booted out of the story, the social contract is going to be in constant need of work (the way I originally intended it) and the Intermediary can try to sort things out.

However, a great many people who might otherwise be attracted to Ever-After might balk at the seeming competitiveness and the feeling that you can "lose" (in a way) by playing it badly.  The game would want to uphold the belief that characters failing at particular roles could be just as exciting and dramatic as them succeeding, but whether that could be properly communicated to players is another matter.  It might run the danger of becoming Diplomacy the RPG, with people becoming more cooperative than competative.  The drafts I've seen of Ron's Gamism essay seem to warn against accidentally letting Gamism become the focus when you didn't intend that, and this looks exciting but scary because of that.

All in all, I think this system is full of potential, bringing some themes back to Ever-After that I thought had been shunted off to the sidelines, but I'm a bit uneasy.  While watching "The Real World" is amusing, it's probably much less fun to be one of those people squabbling in the apartment and having to liev through it.  Would players be able to seperate themselves from their characters enough to not make failure personal?  Would that destroy my whole attempt to make Ever-After into "Universalis, but with immersion"?



Rather than ejecting a Troupe member from the story for bad mis-management, allow one of the Duties (probably the Piper) to 'loan' out Drops to Troupe members in need of them - and then provide some counterbalancing by allowing the Muse to add complications to the story for the offending Troupe member one a one per Drop basis.

Alternately, if you are going to allow the players to use Drops at the end of the story to replenish some of their Themes, or start new ones, the borrowing character would need to pay off her debt before being allowed any kind of story awards in this regard.

Just a couple of suggestions, because I beleive that a 3-strikes rule would highlight Gamisim more.  That's not a bad thing, but it does change the tone of the game in subtle and far reaching ways.  My guess is, that since the game appeals more to those tending to prioritize Narrativist decision-making, Troupes playing the game in that vein may well drift the rules by jettisoning the 3-strikes rules.


"Oh, it's you...

Jonathan Walton

Hmm...  Well, see how this works to you.

Any player can give/loan Drops to any other player.  However, most of the time, the other players are also going to have their Drops invested in various resources (Duty, Masks, Themes) and can't just let you have them, because invested Drops have to be spent on that resource.  Now, if the Piper recycles the pool and there's not enough Drops to go around (or players think that a specific player needs more Drops), they can choose to invest their Drops in another player.

But, it would be quite possible for another player to take a Strike, free up a Drop, and give it to another player.  For instance, if your Piper has 2 Strikes and needs another Drop to recycle the pool, maybe someone else should take a Strike to help them out.  Otherwise, somebody else is going to have to take over as Piper for the rest of the story.  

While I'm definitely sympathetic to preserving the Narrativist feel of Ever-After, I think being booted out of the story, along with the destruction of Masks that happens after the time limit, helps support some of the themes that weren't getting supported in the old model.  If the only way to get rid of your Strikes is to bail in the middle of a story, everybody'll have to do that eventually.  I really think it would be fun to watch a group scramble to try to cover for a member who's waiting for them in the After-Once.

However, maybe it would be possible to make Strikes part of the social contract.  The Intermediary would help the group reach consensus about how many Strikes would be appropriate for a given session.  Default could run anywhere from 3-10, depending on the experience of the group, since beginners would take a while to get a handle on this distribution thing.  Troupes, if they liked, could even agree to jettison Strikes entirely, but they would, by default, be a part of the rules.

And I'm still wondering about the number of Drops that each character should get in the beginning.  Perhaps there could be a Troupe-wide advancement system, where a Troupe starts out with a certain number of Drops (20-30, depending on the number of members) and then gains Drops for accomplishing various things.  The Piper would then be in charge of distributing Drops at the beginning of a story, and wouldn't necessarily have to do so equally (though that would be an obvious way to do it).


Hi Jonathan.  I've been wanting to comment on this thread but I'm having a little trouble getting my mind around the concepts in the abstract: Themes and Masks and such.  I having trouble linking ideas like "use a drop to support a theme" with actual in play activity.  I tried checking out your site, but the link for storypunk seems to be broken.

Could you write up perhaps a play example that demonstrates what a player is actually doing when he invests in a mask.  Perhaps I'd be better able to help if I understood it better.

Jonathan Walton

No problem, Ralph.  This has all been pretty abstract.


Here's a little mini-Troupe, with members, duties, and themes (and the capacity of the Theme in parens):

-- Duty: Muse
-- Duty: Conductor
-- Theme: A Story Within a Story (2)
-- Theme: Love That Burns Radiant (1)

-- Duty: Piper
-- Duty: Masker
-- Theme: The Clever Man Always Triumphs (1)
-- Theme: Bad For Some is Good for Others (1)

-- Duty: Intermediary
-- Duty: Gardener
-- Theme: Luck is Always With the Downtrodden (3)
-- Theme: Laughter Cures Everything (1)

They all sit around in the After-Once discussing what kinds of stories they want to break their way into next.  Monkey wants to do high adventure stories.  Anansi wants to do a quiet, domestic tale of friendship and struggle.  Scheherazade is indifferent as long as there's magic in it.  Monkey, who still has some Drops invested in Intermediary from the last story, spends a point to arbitrate an outcome: the story will begin as a domestic tale of friendship & struggle, but a myserious magic entices the characters off on an adventure.  Monkey might also spend Intermediary Drops on things that might be "Rules Gimmicks" in Universalis, changing the number of possible Strikes, moving Duties around to different players, changing the way you gain or strengthen Themes, etc.

But, a basic outline of the story decided upon, Anansi collects all Drops (spent and unspent) and rations them out to the players.  The group currently has a full allotment of 21 Drops, so Anansi gives 7 to each player.

They distribute them as such:

-- Duty: Muse 6
-- Duty: Conductor 1
-- Theme: A Story Within a Story 0(2)
-- Theme: Love That Burns Radiant 0(1)

-- Duty: Piper 1
-- Duty: Masker 5
-- Theme: The Clever Man Always Triumphs 0(1)
-- Theme: Bad For Some is Good for Others 1(1)

-- Duty: Intermediary 0
-- Duty: Gardener 0
-- Theme: Luck is Always With the Downtrodden 3(3)
-- Theme: Laughter Cures Everything 1(1)

Monkey, having little use for all 7 Drops at this point (both his Duties don't come into play until much later) invests 2 points in Scheherazade's Muse Duty, giving her a total of 8 Drops there.

Scheherazade has 8 Drops to spend in opening the story.  She begins the tale thusly:

1.) Once upon a time, in the Kingdom of Wu...
2.) there were two friends, the King of Wu...
3.) and one of his closest advisors, the eunuch Zhou Wen.
4.) Every day, the King would sit and play chess with Zhou Wen...
5.) causing all of Wu to fall into disarray, because it received no attention from its King.
6.) Because of this, many of the people were angry at Zhou Wen and wished for his death or removal.
7.) The King of Wu began to fear for the life of his minister and called Zhou Wen to a private meeting in the palace.

Notice that each Drop is spent to introduce a single fact (the setting, a specific character, a specific action, a specific situation, etc.).  With 7 of her 8 Muse Drops spent, Scheherazade declares that she is finished.

Next, Asansi creates some Masks.  Each Mask requires two thing to make it up, a designation (name, description, etc) and a character to wear it.  Anansi creates the following Masks:

1.) The King of Wu (assigned to himself)
2.) Zhou Wen, eunuch minister (assigned to Monkey)
3.) Angry People of Wu (assigned to Scheherazade)
4.) Mysterious Magic (assigned to Scheherazade)

Notice that Anansi doesn't have to create a Mask for everything that the Muse describes.  There is no Mask for the Kingdom of Wu, after all, just one for the angry people in it.  Also, Anansi has created a mask for the mysterious magic that they all agreed would be a part of the story, even though it hasn't made an appearance yet.

There are now 11 spent Drops in the center of the table (7 Muse Drops + 4 Masker Drops).  Since nobody has any Drops allocated to their Masks, and therefor can't do anything besides spend Theme or Duty Drops, Anansi chooses to spend one of his Duty Drops to recycle the pool.  With the Piper Drop added to the rest, a total of 12 Drops are recycled.  Anansi allocates them as follows:

Anansi -- 5
Monkey -- 5
Scheherazade -- 2

Scheherazade gives Anansi a look, but Anansi explains that Scheherazade has just exerted a ton of influence over the story, and that she should give Anansi and Monkey a chance.  Besides, her two Masks probably won't make a major appearance for a while.  Scheherazade nods agreeably.

The players allocate the new Drops so that it now looks like this:

-- Duty: Muse 1
-- Duty: Conductor 1
-- Theme: A Story Within a Story 1(2)
-- Theme: Love That Burns Radiant 0(1)
-- Mask: Angry People of Wu 1
-- Mask: Mysterious Magic 0

-- Duty: Piper 0
-- Duty: Masker 1
-- Theme: The Clever Man Always Triumphs 0(1)
-- Theme: Bad For Some is Good for Others 1(1)
-- Mask: The King of Wu 5

-- Duty: Intermediary 0
-- Duty: Gardener 0
-- Theme: Luck is Always With the Downtrodden 3(3)
-- Theme: Laughter Cures Everything 1(1)
-- Mask: Zhou Wen, enunch minister 5

Monkey allocates all 5 of his points to Zhou Wen's Mask, anticipating the conversation with the King.  Anansi does similarly, placing 5 Drops on the King's Mask, quite forgetting his responsibilities, for now his Piper Duty has no allocated Drops, which may spell trouble later on.  Scheherazade puts one Drop into her Theme "A Story Within a Story" and one into the Mask of the Angry People of Wu.

Since there are no scene divisions in Ever-After, play simply moves around the circle starting to the left of the Muse, with each player either playing a Drop and adding something to the story, or "tapping out" (passing by tapping on the table, letting the action continue around the circle).  Play follows this line (A = Anansi, M = Monkey, S = Scheherazade):

A: spends a Drop from Mask: King of Wu
    "So, Zhou Wen, it seems that we cannot continue like this, playing chess all day and leaving me no time to tend to my duties as lord soverign of this land."[/list:u]
M: spends a Drop from Mask: Zhou Wen
    "So it seems, Your Majesty.  However, I believe I can convince the people that our daily chess games do more to benefit the Kingdom of Wu than would Your Majesty spending all his time on matters of state.[/list:u]
S: taps out

A: spends a Drop from Mask: King of Wu
    "Ah, Zhou Wen, you are very clever indeed, but this task is beyond even you.  However, if it pleases you to try, go ahead.  If the people kill you and tear your body apart, I will ensure a proper burial for any limbs that I can recover.[/list:u]
M: spends a Drop from Mask: Zhou Wen
    "Your Majesty is most gracious.  Your servant will depart immediately."[/list:u]
S: taps out

A: taps out

M: spends a Drop from Mask: Zhou Wen
    Zhou Wen departed the capital of Wu and went about the countryside, pretending to be a minister who tired of courtly life and planned to become a hermit in the Western mountains.[/list:u]
S: spends a Drop from Mask: Angry People of Wu
    Everwhere Zhou Wen went, the people complained to him, "That damned Zhou Wen!  Every day our King plays chess with him and ignores matters of state!  If he were only here right now so we could tear him to pieces!"[/list:u]
A: spends a Drop from Theme: The Clever Man Always Triumphs
    But Zhou Wen explained to the people that it was better that the King payed no attention to them.  After all, were not the warlords always burdening the populace with harsh taxes, drafting peasants into the army to go off and die in faraway lands, and forcing them to build massive public works projects?  Wasn't it better that the King of Wu played chess all day, growing wiser and more virtuous and letting the people live as they please?  Then, when the day finally came that the people needed their King to defend them in battle, the King of Wu, thanks to his incredible tactical mind honed on chess, would be undefeatable.  This convinced the people utterly.[/list:u]
M: spends a drop from Mask: Zhou Wen
    So Zhou Wen returned to the King of Wu and annouced the success of his endeavours.[/list:u]


So what do people think of that kind of model?  Can you see it working?  I haven't really gotten to the point in the example where the problems would have arose, but that's a basic model for things working.