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Author Topic: Nine Worlds rules draft  (Read 6670 times)
Matt Snyder
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« on: April 13, 2003, 08:27:15 PM »

Ok, folks (and Hello! Coal), this is the item I just posted in my LiveJournal:

Well, thanks to my lovely Dana laptop thingy, the nice weather didn't keep me away from writing Nine Worlds rules. I got to enjoy the weather, sneak in some yardwork, take a walk with my "ladies," and write, re-write, edit, erase a write again.

The result? The VERY ROUGH (and sadly incomplete) version of the Nine Worlds rules is online for comment.

In way of some explanation, characters are composed of six characteristics. Arete and Hubris are the key attributes. In addition, each PC has the four Urges: Chaos, Cosmos, Metamorphosis, and Stasis. If you can slug your way through the rules draft, you should be able to see what each of these does.

I'm eager to see commentary and criticism. Bear in mind it's hot off the plate, and bound to be riddled with copy errors. I be glad to note these, but I'm really hopeful to get some analysis about the rules themselves.

Alas, back to the weekly grind tomorrow. I'll keep hammering away at Nine Worlds, though! It's coming together.
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Matt Snyder
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coal
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« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2003, 06:24:21 AM »

Very cool.  I'll run this by my group and give it a road test.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2003, 06:53:58 AM »

Quote from: coal
Very cool.  I'll run this by my group and give it a road test.


Awesome, coal. That would be much appreciated.

Some more tidbits to help run any playtest:

First, use the "rule of nines" -- let your players assign 9 points between Hubris and Arete. Then, let them allot 9 points among the four Urges. Finally, assign 9 points to Muses; characters should have 2-3 Muses ata  minimum. A Muse might be something like: "Love for woman, whose shade rests in Hades." (Muses are very much like Spiritual Attributes in The Riddle of Steel  -- Thanks Jake Norwood!)

Second, here's how to handle "NPCs" or even non-character "entities" (things like mythic obstacles, or even inanimate "difficulty" conflicts -- navigating an Aetherstorm, for example). All these things work much like characters, with the key difference that they have Power instead of Hubris and Arete. The GM makes no choice about natural or supernatural, rather simply including all of the above under the entity's "Power."

So, for example, the Hydra, a titan-spawn monster might have the following stats:

Power: 7

Chaos: 6
Cosmos: 3
Metamorphosis: 0
Stasis: 0

Note that Urges at 0 do not prevent entities from using those Urges. They're just not very good at it.

Finally, Virtue -- I'm not sure what to tell you about that. I see Virtue as the reward mechanic, but haven't fully defined for myself how this will work. Basically, I see it used as I described in the last section on the rules text -- Virtue allows players to draw additional cards, as well as act as last-ditch points for Arete and Hubris, keeping PCs "alive". You might, for example, reward a number of points equal to a character's Muse rating when he achieves some significant victory relevant to that Muse. (Note that this does not change the Muse, just that it increases the "Virtue pool.")
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2003, 07:32:55 AM »

Ok, Matt, it all looks good and workable so far. Here are my suggestions:

1) Your examples need to be less abstract. "Alexander puts a Stasis lock on Enemy X, who in turn uses a Metamorphosis attack on Alexander..." GAAAAHHH!!!! *head explodes* Yes, that's what the characters are doing in game terms, but what effects are being generated? What would an outside observer see as happening? How is Lydia boosting Alexander's Arete to keep him from dying? It is important that you stress "ground-up" thinking by your examples and emphasize it in the game. (By which I mean: "This is your goal. These are your obstacles. What do you do to get around the obstacles to your goal? These stats represent that.")

Example: "I want to sneak in to the building, bypass the alarms completely, get the information I need, and split unnoticed. However, the security is top notch, and I don't know where the pertinent info is." That's the Goal, and the Complications surrounding it.

Now for another Complication: The character's Arete is low, and she doesn't want to jeopardize it further, so she decides to go about this in a way the Eternals would approve of. (Bless Their moral flexibility!) So she decides on a two-prong approach: She uses her Chaos Urge to throw the security system into disarray, then she uses Metamorphosis to make the information over there come here to her by sneaking in, locating the info, and sneaking back out. All nice and legal (according to the Eternals, anyway...) At least I think that's how she'd do it; I'm not sure. Can you use more than one Urge to achieve a goal?  

So my biggest question is: what does a "Stasis lock" look like when Arete is used to put it in Effect? An invocation to the Eternals? I don't know, because I'm having trouble visualizing it except through the terminology of the rules. The rules need to be explained in the context of how they appear in reality, or this game is going to get abstract and confusing very quickly.

And that's not just for players. The GM is going to need a rough idea of how difficult something is going to be if something is done through Arete versus something done through Hubris. In the mundane world, most things are going to have a low defense versus Hubris, because most things just aren't equipped to handle supernatural assault. In the other Worlds, it might be reversed. Or is the difficulty going to be roughly the same no matter how you go about it?  

2) My recommendation is that any Urge effect done through Arete is defaulted permanent, as the Eternals approve of it. Any Urge effect done through Hubris rebounds back to normal, unless a Stasis lock is used to make it permanent, because the Eternals don't approve and have built safeguards into reality to prevent that sort of thing. An exception to the latter ruling would be the effects of damage, of course, as entropy is a recognized universal force.

3) I recommend that players bank to improve, but can only improve if they've used one of their Muses during the course of play. That's my preference, as waiting to the end of a session seems artificial.

Other than that, it all seems fine. Playtesting is going to be crucial, and as soon as I get a working printer, I'll do just that.
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2003, 07:51:28 AM »

Okay, missed that last post about objects and monsters. Answers one of my questions. Ther character generation stats answered some of my other questions. Like what I see so far.
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2003, 08:23:46 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy
1) Your examples need to be less abstract.


Good observation. I wasn't 100% satisfied with those vague samples either. You're right that they need to be much more specific and colorful to help readers "get" the game.


Quote
She uses her Chaos Urge to throw the security system into disarray, then she uses Metamorphosis to make the information over there come here to her by sneaking in, locating the info, and sneaking back out. All nice and legal (according to the Eternals, anyway...) At least I think that's how she'd do it; I'm not sure. Can you use more than one Urge to achieve a goal?  


Yes! Absolutely. Victory is victory regardless of Urge used -- the goal is achieved and narrated, and Tricks used appropriately. Consider, if "banking" is the way to go, then ALL Tricks could be banked, with no effects taking place between either character. BUT, the victory remains. So, if you look at it that way, the allocation of Tricks does not define victory, but rather colors and rewards it. (Not sure I'll actually USE that method, but it's reasonable to imagine.)

Quote
So my biggest question is: what does a "Stasis lock" look like when Arete is used to put it in Effect? An invocation to the Eternals? I don't know, because I'm having trouble visualizing it except through the terminology of the rules. The rules need to be explained in the context of how they appear in reality, or this game is going to get abstract and confusing very quickly.


Again, this goes back to the need for more explicit examples. There need not be any ritualistic invocation of the gods for any kind of Arete-based (i.e. "natural") Stasis lock.

Here's a quick attempt at an example to help jump start you. But you're right that the game needs to get specific and graphic about the abstract mechanics to help players along.

Ok, let's say the coflict is the one you present -- sneaking around. Let's say Alexander's trying to sneak into a corporate building on good ol' earth. The corporation is a front for Kronos' latest "enterprise" in currying favor with mortals -- he's making weapons or something. Whatever.

So, Alexander wants to sneak in. His goal is "get inside" and -- maybe in a later phase, maybe now -- get some information. So, he uses his Arete, and draws a lot of Cosmos. Handy. With a pretty mild 3 Cosmos tricks (against the "security" entity of the building), he gets inside, and uses the Tricks to increase his Hubris (he can't incrase Arete--it's sacrosanct). Nice! That might help in another phase with more cards. The scene isn't over yet, so he presses the conflict into a new phase. Now, his goal is "get information." There's a titan present in the building, so it's against the titan's rather nasty Power. But, Alexander wins. He earns 4 Stasis Tricks. So, Alexander's player decides that the extra Hubris he built up last phase will be really handy for a while. He decides to "lock" the Arete in place, at three higher than it was when he started the conflict. It now has a lock with rating 4. That'll be tough for his enemies to alter. Since he was also victorious and using Arete, the player narrates the scene, sans supernatural effects. In his description, he simply says that Alexander was exceptionally sneaky, but eventually got hung up -- by the gorgeous office assistant (hey, he's mortal, ya' know!?!), who started asking some tough questions. Fortunately, he's even more of a playboy than he is sneaky, and the player's narration describes how Alexander easily blathers his way out of getting caught, and then gets the secretary to spill her guts on the Titans ... and her phone number. Finally, the narrator describes the lock. He decides that the information he's gleaned (and he can make up right then and there what that info is) is some "arcane" secret about the weaknesses of the titans. The secretary mentions something about them not liking water, so he realizes he can use this knowledge as power -- thus propping his own self having the new knowledge AND can be explained as a supernatural effect he might use down the road. No gods invoked, just something he's gleaned that makes him greater for it.

Does this help illuminate? If nothing else, it shows that the game requires player to get colorful and creative in their interpretations of conflict results.

Quote

In the other Worlds, it might be reversed. Or is the difficulty going to be roughly the same no matter how you go about it?


It'll be pretty much the same. Worlds other than Earth aren't really "inverted" in terms of reality or supernaturalness, even though they're often exotic and strange themselves.


Quote

2) My recommendation is that any Urge effect done through Arete is defaulted permanent, as the Eternals approve of it. Any Urge effect done through Hubris rebounds back to normal, unless a Stasis lock is used to make it permanent, because the Eternals don't approve and have built safeguards into reality to prevent that sort of thing. An exception to the latter ruling would be the effects of damage, of course, as entropy is a recognized universal force.


Hmm, I can't see why, then, folks would ever really want to use Hubris effects, if they're temporary by default. That makes Arete effectst that much more valuable, and therefore leads to some means to couter-balance. I've been down that slippery slope! ;) I think for now I'm going to keep it as is, so the choice remains pretty much equivalent.


Quote

3) I recommend that players bank to improve, but can only improve if they've used one of their Muses during the course of play. That's my preference, as waiting to the end of a session seems artificial.


Ahh, good recommendation. That's a fine idea -- they might bank up to their Muse rating when applicable. I may just go that route.
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Matt Snyder
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2003, 09:34:25 AM »

Quote
Hmm, I can't see why, then, folks would ever really want to use Hubris effects, if they're temporary by default. That makes Arete effectst that much more valuable, and therefore leads to some means to couter-balance. I've been down that slippery slope! ;) I think for now I'm going to keep it as is, so the choice remains pretty much equivalent.


Good point. Never mind then.
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2003, 10:00:42 AM »

Quote
So, Alexander wants to sneak in. His goal is "get inside" and -- maybe in a later phase, maybe now -- get some information. So, he uses his Arete, and draws a lot of Cosmos. Handy.


Okay, so one goal at a time. That makes sense.

Now, to show you where I'm disconnecting: how would you, as a player, justify using Cosmos to break into a building, especially based off of Arete? Expert casing of the place, wearing dark clothes, state-of-the-art lockpicking equipment?  

Quote
With a pretty mild 3 Cosmos tricks (against the "security" entity of the building), he gets inside, and uses the Tricks to increase his Hubris (he can't incrase Arete--it's sacrosanct).


So if it's sacrosanct, it cannot be decreased/increased by the player? It can only go down/up under the influence of another's (allly/enemy) assault? I'm not sure how that benefits the player one way or another. Please explain.

Quote
Finally, the narrator describes the lock. He decides that the information he's gleaned (and he can make up right then and there what that info is) is some "arcane" secret about the weaknesses of the titans. The secretary mentions something about them not liking water, so he realizes he can use this knowledge as power -- thus propping his own self having the new knowledge AND can be explained as a supernatural effect he might use down the road. No gods invoked, just something he's gleaned that makes him greater for it.


Ahhh...so, it doesn't have to be an appeal to the Eternals for aid, but it can also be something useful in his assault on them.  Like arcane secrets, magic items, etc.

That should also be made explicit, that players have the ability to invent this stuff on the fly. Most gamers I know would be shocked to learn that they had that power as a player. Otherwise, the GM will have to throw that information in.

I likes. I want more. I need more. SOON!!
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2003, 06:53:50 AM »

Quote from: Spooky Fanboy

Now, to show you where I'm disconnecting: how would you, as a player, justify using Cosmos to break into a building, especially based off of Arete? Expert casing of the place, wearing dark clothes, state-of-the-art lockpicking equipment?


Sure, sure and sure. One thing you've got to consider is what breaking into the building really means to the PCs. Keep in mind, we're not talking about some predefined object to retrieve in the building. What's in the building will be decided by the players as they play it out. All that talk about The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast? Pretty obviously, this game buys into The Impossible Thing, and makes it quite clear up front that the players as a group are in charge, not the GM himself.

Let's face it, as I've said all along Nine Worlds is NOT for everyone. It requires a lot of on-the-fly creativity, and it also requires some serious consideration and interpretation to narrate events in the game, probably more so than Dust Devils.

All of the things you stated (casing the place, dark clothes, lockpicking) are valid interpretations as to how the explanation of Arete + Cosmos are "used" to get into the building. Cosmos is "building or creating stuff." So maybe it's the McGuyver Swiss-army-knife-and-duct-tape cleverness. Cosmos is also "organizing things," including abstract things .. . like courage. Maybe the PC simply steels his nerves and bolsters his courage, something the gods would certainly approve of. This wouls be a sufficient explanation, but there are MANY such valid explanations.

Quote
Quote
With a pretty mild 3 Cosmos tricks (against the "security" entity of the building), he gets inside, and uses the Tricks to increase his Hubris (he can't incrase Arete--it's sacrosanct).


So if it's sacrosanct, it cannot be decreased/increased by the player? It can only go down/up under the influence of another's (allly/enemy) assault? I'm not sure how that benefits the player one way or another. Please explain.


Sacrosanct attributes (either Arete or Hubris) CANNOT be affected by Tricks in any way. This includes by the player himself AND his enemies. What this means is this: You pick either Arete or Hubris (aka The Choice). Your choice designates the attribute you select as sacrosanct, meaning the wiles of Fate can't affect it -- this is the way things must be, whether good or ill for the chooser. However, the opposite attribute is just hanging out there unused and can either be benefitted or harmed.

So, say you pick Arete. That means you could use tricks earned to actually improve your Hubris. However, your enemies can also harm your Hubris. Fate is fickle to the attribute you didn't choose, but it's powerfully protective of the attribute you DID choose.


Quote
Ahhh...so, it doesn't have to be an appeal to the Eternals for aid, but it can also be something useful in his assault on them.  Like arcane secrets, magic items, etc.

That should also be made explicit, that players have the ability to invent this stuff on the fly. Most gamers I know would be shocked to learn that they had that power as a player. Otherwise, the GM will have to throw that information in.


Yep. Again, we're back to The Impossible Thing. Player are in control here, folks. This is overt Narrativism and Director Stance stuff. The text will make every effort to make that obvious.

That most gamers you know would be entirely shocked to learn they had such powr as a player is entirely the point of why I set out to make this game like it is. (Cue Rage Against the Machine music.... "WAKE UP!")

In the last day or two, I'm totally surprised at how unobvious that is so far. So it goes.
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Matt Snyder
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Spooky Fanboy
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« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2003, 08:21:17 AM »

As a wiser rock star than myself once said, "If you want a revolution, baby, you'll have to make your own." I forget who said it, but it sprung to mind immediately when I read your post. (I think it was The Waterboys, or some guy who was in the group.) Anyway, yeah that's not as obvious as it might seem to anyone familiar with most RPG's on the market. So be it. Let's hope that this game kicks open a few doors.

So rock on with you, Matt Snyder!

PS: Have you taken a look at Shadows in the Fog, on the Indie Design forum? Clerich, the guy who wrote it, has a nice section written in his game about how players should practice with a deck of (Tarot) cards, learning how to interpret them to get the results they want. (The Tarot cards are used to determine the effects of magic.)  You may want to include a similar section in the Nine Worlds rules, to get players and GMs thinking about how to interpret their cards so as not to slow down play. Just trying to be helpful!
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2003, 08:35:46 AM »

First, off, LOVE the rock reference. Thanks.

And second, I will check out Shadows in the Fog. Sounds very interesting. Thanks!
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Matt Snyder
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2003, 08:36:17 AM »

First, off, LOVE the rock reference. Thanks.

And second, I will check out Shadows in the Fog. Sounds very interesting. Thanks!
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Matt Snyder
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"The future ain't what it used to be."
--Yogi Berra
Kester Pelagius
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« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2003, 01:30:03 AM »

Greetings Matt,

Having just perused the thread and taken another look at the rules I have to ask:  What are the chances that you can shift this design to fit a custom card set?

I ask because it suddenly struck me what it was about the rules that made me pause the first time, you have somehow stumbled upon a set of numerical and basic archetypal associations that directly relate (or could relate to) Tarot cards, specifically associations between atouts in the Major Arcana.  (viz. The Nine Muses as depending from/ruled over by Apollo, the Sun, thus when taken together as a whole form the pentad of the Pythagorian pyramid, or the exact number of sefira in the Tree of Life.)  Also, from a quick glance at your sample artwork, I see you are already half way to having intuitively created a set of template ideologues which could be used as Trumps.  Very nice.

Which, to most, probably sounds like babbel.  Apologies.  Moving on.

As I reflect upon your card based resolution system, and a mention of a "Fate" deck, I can not help but wonder if this game could not benefit from having a custom deck created for use with it.  Perhaps one that draws upon the innate imagery and archetypal associations that already appear throughout what you have written,  whether it is related to the Tarot or not.  (But, IMO, this would be easy overlay on a Tarot deck.  You even have the four courts of the Minor Arcana in place!)  Yes, I know, you'd have to get cards printed.  Which takes time.  But, once you finish the first draft of the game, with its standard gaming deck resolution system, might you consider attempting to create a deck based off of the associations which you have established?

Might be interesting.


Kind Regards,

Kester Pelagius
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2003, 07:25:53 PM »

Finally got a chance to read the Nine Worlds rules.  Sorry it to me so long.  Here're my thoughts:

Quote
The number of same-suit cards played plus the rating of the corresponding Urge is the character’s Fate for the conflict.


This seems to be a slightly confusing way of desribing this.  To me, it sounds like you're doing a standard Stat + Fortune = Result.  So why not describe it as Urge + Cards = Fate, instead of Cards + Urge = Fate?  Can you use an Urge that you didn't draw cards for?  For example, if I want to use Cosmos, but didn't draw any Spades, can I still do Cosmos + 0 = Fate?

Quote
Tricks are resources the player may use to affect opponents, allies, and even his character.


When?  The text seems to imply that you use Tricks directly after conflicts are resolved, before moving on to other things.  So there's no way to "save up" Tricks to do something big and spectacular later?

As for your questions:

1.  I really like the elastic reality, with everything "bouncing back" once conflict is over.  However, this means that you'll never really be able to chip away at stronger opponents.  If you can't take someone out in a single conflict, they'll simply bounce back and be ready to go in the next one.  Seems like you'll have to take on difficult challanges in groups, in order to ensure success.

2.  Your "Conflict Examined" passage rocks and seems perfect for this type of game (and many other indie games like it; I can see Torchbearer having a paragraph like this too).  I could totally see exactly what you meant.  You want conflicts to mean something, and I think you get that across fine.

3.  I think Virtue needs to be explicitly tied in to Muses.  Whether you gain them through conflict or not is a different question.  However, too many games have systems like this that are abstract ("a character gains virtue whenever they do something significant to support their Muse") which I think is NOT the route you want to go here.  You want something concrete, so I think "end of the session" is bad, because it turns it into an experience mechanic.

Let me digest it a while and maybe I'll have more...
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Matt Snyder
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« Reply #14 on: April 20, 2003, 08:02:28 AM »

Here are replies to both Kester and Jonathan (thanks for commenting guys!):

Quote from: Kester Pelagius
Greetings Matt,

Having just perused the thread and taken another look at the rules I have to ask: What are the chances that you can shift this design to fit a custom card set?


Your ideas aren’t babble, but I’m sticking with the standard playing card sets for a couple reasons. Firstly, an most importantly, regular cards are readily available and require no occult knowledge or interpretation from the players. Second (a lesser point) the regular cards have a more modern feel. The game is already drenched in myth and ancient-ness. I see the “modern” cards as coloring a more up-to-date version. Call it balancing color.

Finally, the above presume I’d use Tarot cards. Using some wholly original card set is just plain unworkable as I see it. It’s too expensive to have them printed, and I haven’t figured out a way to do it ‘garage band’ style like my games are produced.


Quote from: Jonathan Walton


Quote
The number of same-suit cards played plus the rating of the corresponding Urge is the character’s Fate for the conflict.


This seems to be a slightly confusing way of desribing this.  To me, it sounds like you're doing a standard Stat + Fortune = Result.  So why not describe it as Urge + Cards = Fate, instead of Cards + Urge = Fate?  Can you use an Urge that you didn't draw cards for?  For example, if I want to use Cosmos, but didn't draw any Spades, can I still do Cosmos + 0 = Fate?


Good point on phrasing -- I’ll be fixing that. As for the 0 Urge routine, you CANNOT perform an Urge for which you have no cards. You CAN use an Urge with rating 0, and you may use an Urge with only 1 card played (i.e., you are not required to have matches).

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Quote
Tricks are resources the player may use to affect opponents, allies, and even his character.


When?  The text seems to imply that you use Tricks directly after conflicts are resolved, before moving on to other things.  So there's no way to "save up" Tricks to do something big and spectacular later?


Currently, that’s correct. I had planned on using the “Virtue” metamechanic to create a kind of Trick battery. However, in light of other comments, I’m ditching Virtue. Instead, character’s can “bank” Tricks into Muses. The effect is that they’ll earn more cards in hand for relevant conflicts. However, currently there is no way to “spend” Muses points as Tricks. I may include that, especially because I’m very much inclined to allow players to “spend” Muses to restore either Arete or Hubris when they reach 0 in a conflict (thereby a mechanic to avoid quick and ugly character termination).


Quote from: Jonathan Walton
1.  I really like the elastic reality, with everything "bouncing back" once conflict is over.  However, this means that you'll never really be able to chip away at stronger opponents.  If you can't take someone out in a single conflict, they'll simply bounce back and be ready to go in the next one.  Seems like you'll have to take on difficult challanges in groups, in order to ensure success.


You are correct, sir! Entirely on purpose because 1) you’ll be facing off against some real nasties (titans, their monster spawns, etc.) and 2) the point is coordination among players, even though their Muses may conflict. This hasn’t been expressed in any way, yet, but the game will work in ways like Riddle of Steel and Dust Devils in that PCs may conflict among one another, but when the chips are down, they better work together to defeat some really powerful foes.

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
2.  Your "Conflict Examined" passage rocks and seems perfect for this type of game (and many other indie games like it; I can see Torchbearer having a paragraph like this too).  I could totally see exactly what you meant.  You want conflicts to mean something, and I think you get that across fine.


Thanks! I actually think it’s a bit of clubbing the reader over the head (hence the edit questions). I think it needs more elegance in the prose, but I’m heartened to know I’mon the right track.

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
3.  I think Virtue needs to be explicitly tied in to Muses.  Whether you gain them through conflict or not is a different question.  However, too many games have systems like this that are abstract ("a character gains virtue whenever they do something significant to support their Muse") which I think is NOT the route you want to go here.  You want something concrete, so I think "end of the session" is bad, because it turns it into an experience mechanic.


Give the man a cigar! As I explained above, virtue will be subsumed by the Muses. That is, there is no longer virtue -- only Muses which can act as currency in certain situations. Acquiring rewards will likely be such that you earn X amount in any victorious conflict using that Muses (where X is either a standard rating or one decided on-the-fly by the GM), AND/OR you earn additional Muse points when and if you Bank them on your own from Tricks earned.

Hope that gives some insight to how you guys have been helpful (believe me, you have!), and some insight for everyone reading. The engine’s humming nicely with these tune-ups.
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Matt Snyder
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