08 August, 2012

A revised core mechanism (take 2)

OK…a slightly amended and clarified version of the core mechanism.

First, some context.

All player characters are described by three types of core trait; their people (the family who raised them), their edge (the advantage they possess) and their dance (the way they move). Each of these traits has a series of keywords associated with them, such traits may be skills or advantages associated with the keyword (different characters may have the same trait, but different keywords). Player characters gain advantage by calling on these (one of each, potentially gaining access top three keywords if they have really focused their talents in one field). Non player characters typically don’t have a dance, but significant NPCs might gain two edges (such character can still only use one edge at a time, but this improves their versatility within the story). Characters also have a range of basic non-core traits, this includes physical items (equipment, trade goods, clues, cursed items), companions (pets, henchmen, prisoners, enemies, wards), modifications (injuries, blessings, curses, exhaustion, disease) or ephemera (strategic advantages, strategic disadvantages, status, hatred, emotions), etc. Most characters will have at least half a dozen of these; they are gained and lost through play.

Basic steps:
1. Work out the traits relevant to the task.
2. Draw tokens, and allocate them.
3. Narrate the outcome based on the allocation of tokens.
4. Does the scene end, or do more actions occur?

Step 1 – Assessing the trait pool
Step 1a – Describe the specific action(s) you are taken to resolve a situation, and the colour of this action (Green = Creative, Blue = Transformative, Red = Destructive).
Step 1b – Determine which core trait keywords apply to a situation (up to 3; one each from culture, dance and edge)
Step 1c – Determine which non-core traits apply to a situation. You choose which positive traits apply to your situation, while the other players determine which negative traits apply. When a player chooses a negative for you, they gain a single gold token (regardless of whether they choose a single or double trait).The GM may apply additional negative non-core traits to a situation, to make things more difficult for a character (the GM has a limited pool of tokens they spend in order to do this during the course of the story).
Step 1d – Determine whether to keep all the positive and negative non-core traits, or play it safe and cancel out positives and negatives on a one-to-one basis. Note that double traits basically count as two traits of the same type, if a double trait is cancelled out once it becomes a single trait, and if it is cancelled out twice it is eliminated completely.
Step 1e – Determine which relationships apply to a situation (and whether they are beneficial or harmful). Any play may call out a relationship applicable to the situation; if the relationship is negative that player gains a gold token.

Step 2 – Drawing and allocating the core tokens
Step 2a – Draw a number of tokens. The total number of tokens drawn is equal to three, plus the number of relevant core trait keywords. If you have a gold token, you may spend this to discard one of your tokens and redraw a replacement from the bag (this may be done any number of times).
Step 2b – Allocate three of the tokens between the categories of success, sacrifice and story (where black = positive, coloured matching the action type = positive, other coloured = neutral, white = negative). If core trait keywords were used, a single token to each of these (these are throwaway tokens with no effect on the action's outcome).
Step 2c – Draw a number of tokens equal to the non-core traits involved (both positive and negative), don’t allocate tokens to these yet, hold them in reserve to be revealed as the effects of the action are applied back into the story. If you have a gold token, you may spend this to discard one of your tokens and redraw a replacement from the bag (this may be done any number of times).
Step 2d – If you have a loose relationship that could be beneficial to the situation, claim an extra black token to be allocated during step 3 (a tight relationship adds two more black tokens in this way). If you have a loose relationship that could be detrimental to the situation any player may call this out; if this occurs, you must take an extra white token to be allocated during step 3 (a tight relationship adds two more white tokens in this way).

Step 3 – Applying the results back into the story
Single Character Resolution
Step 3a – If the player allocated a positive to “story”, they may allocate the remaining tokens amongst the non-core traits used in the resolution. If the player allocated a negative token to “story”, the GM allocates the remaining tokens amongst the non-core traits. If the player allocated a neutral token to “story”, the GM and player take turns allocating tokens to the non-core traits (the GM allocates the first token in this manner).
Step 3b – Determine core result
Success Category
Sacrifice Category
Story Category
Black (+)
Take any step toward resolving the task (regardless of the normal associated colour), or remove an obstacle token from the situation.
No Effect
Player allocates non-core tokens as the resolution is narrated.
Coloured (+)
Perform a successful action related to the colour.
GREEN –Apply a benefit to target, or remove one of their penalties.
BLUE – Transform one of the target’s benefits or penalties to another of the same type.
RED – Apply a penalty to target, or remove one of their benefits.
No Effect
Player allocates non-core tokens as the resolution is narrated.
Coloured (0)
No Effect
Sacrifice determined by the colour.
GREEN – Opposition gains a benefit.
BLUE – A benefit or penalty changes in a way that provides the opposition with an advantage.
RED – Active agent gains a penalty.
GM and player take turns allocating the non-core tokens as the resolution is narrated.
White (-)
No Effect
Sacrifice of a type determined by the GM and the situation, or the objective becomes a step harder to achieve.
GM allocates non-core tokens as the resolution is narrated.

Step 3c (Quick Resolution) – To determine additional successes and sacrifices, the
 non-core tokens are applied to the non-core traits. The Player may do this, the GM may do this, or they may take turns. Each token may increase the beneficial result of the action, increase the sacrifice involved, or do nothing at all. If a relationship has been applied to the situation, it may count as either a positive or a negative trait and tokens are applied to it from the pool.
Positive Trait
Negative Trait
Black (+)
Explain how the positive trait has made the situation a step closer to resolution. (Counts as a Black success)
Exhaust the Trait
If the relationship was beneficial and a black token is applied to it, gain the benefit described.
Coloured (+)
If the token matches the colour of the action, gain a suitable bonus (counts as a Coloured success); otherwise no effect.
No Effect
A relationship allocated a coloured token has no effect.
Coloured (0)
No Effect
If the token matches the colour of the action, gain a suitable bonus (counts as a Coloured sacrifice); otherwise no effect.
A relationship allocated a coloured token has no effect.
White (-)
Exhaust the Trait.
Explain how the penalty has caused the objective to become a step harder to achieve. (Counts as a White sacrifice)
If the relationship was detrimental and a white token is applied to it, gain the penalty described.
Once all tokens have been allocated, give a quick description about the achievements gained through the action (total successes) and the problems encountered along the way (total sacrifices). A sentence for each should suffice.
Step 3c (Dramatic Resolution) – Dramatic resolution works the same as quick resolution except that every time a token is allocated, a sentence of description is provided. This type of resolution should be reserved for moments of tension in the story.

Multiple Character Resolution
While most aspect of event resolution remain unchanged, it often becomes necessary to determine who is acting first when multiple characters are acting (regardless of whether they are opposing or co-operating with one another). To accommodate this, the player with the highest number of white tokens may act first or choose to hold their action (ties are resolved with the player holding the most tokens choosing to act first, if this still results in a tie, resolve randomly).

Steps 3a and 3b remain unchanged.

When step 3c occurs, the unfolding of multiple character resolution is always done in the dramatic style. Each player takes turns describing the specific actions of their character. Each action consists of a single sentence describing a single token as it relates to either the allocated success, sacrifice or non-core trait tokens. These sentences also reveal the benefits and penalties applied throughout the scene as a result of these actions, future sentences within the same scene need to take these benefits and penalties into account. This may change the intended course of action for a character.

Once a player has narrated their character’s action, the next player takes their turn. Once all players have described their action, the cycle begins anew.

If a player runs out of tokens to narrate, their character is left to the mercy of the descriptions provided by other players with tokens remaining.    

Step 4 – End or Continuation?
If no players with characters active in the current scene want to press matters, the scene ends. As long as a single player with an active character wants to perform additional tasks, the scene continues with the action sequence beginning anew.
So the basic mechanism of the game works with active characters interacting with their environment to gain advantages and disadvantages; then using those advantages to aid their allies or hinder/injure their enemies, and trying to avoid the disadvantages from causing too many complications.

When character earn new non-core traits (whether beneficial trait through successful actions, or detrimental traits through sacrifices) players must consider the nature of the trait.

Traits like injuries or enchantments that fade over time start as situational traits (ending at the end of the scene), beneficial traits upgrade with additional successes (increasing to short term, then long term and finally permanent) or degrade with sacrifices; detrimental non-core traits upgrade with sacrifices or degrade with successes.

Traits like equipment do not fade over time, instead they start as single use items (equivalent to a double negative penalty), then upgrade to “limited use” (equivalent to a single negative penalty) and “regular use” (equivalent to no penalty). When an item is brought into the story through a successful action, its status is typically fixed; as an example, one success might find a single stick of dynamite (a single use item), two successes might find a few sticks of dynamite (limited use), three successes might find a box of dynamite (regular use).

The idea of scenes, acts and stories still works in basically the same way that it always did. Different traits have different degrees of permanence within the narrative.

A few in-play examples should help to clarify how the whole thing works.
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