Playing Shadows Over Camelot knocked me out – it was hugely inspirational regarding Grey Ranks, which operates on similar principles. One thing I immediately realized is that the Things You Hold Dear can be collective rather than individual – instead of hit points you don’t want to lose, they become bonus dice you want to burn. Also – there will be five, and they will all be different, chosen by players. Who needs to see a “My Faith – destroyed!!!!” scene over and over? So here’s what I’m thinkng…
Nine scenes across three acts. The acts are just there to organize play into three discrete sessions.
In each scene every player will be contributing two dice to a common pool. These are a standard spread – d4, d6, d8, d10 plus the rest d6 until you have two per player. The individual dice can be changed in size by invoking or destroying group resources (Things You Hold Dear or Things You Want To Be).
When you replace a default die with a larger die through invoking or destroying a group resource, it allows the players following you a better chance of success. It won’t help you at all. These carry over into later scenes, so the last player in the rotation can still contribute.
Each player will take the lead in narrating two moments in each scene. His vignette is a personal moment, probably in flashback, that probably deals with love. The mission takes place across multiple moments – one per player – and each player contributes to its overall success or failure.
To begin a scene, each player, in turn, selects a die from the common pool. Then this is repeated, with each player giving another player a second die from the pool. So you choose one, and somebody else chooses one. You can apply them however you like to your two moments.
There is no order to action, but each player must have each of these two scenes in every scene. When everyone has had a vignette and the last mission moment has concluded, the scene ends.
Each player will be assigned one die from the common pool by another player after choosing one for themselves. He’ll then choose which to apply to the mission and which to apply to his vignette. The goal is to roll over the current scene number, which indicates general success. Rolling under the scene number indicates failure and harm. Rolling the scene number exactly has some cool special effect.
So you’ll want to assign the best dice you can to your friends, but you’ll also want a good die for yourself.
CONSUMABLE GROUP RESOURCES
So there are five slots for Things I Hold Dear, with perhaps twice that many choices – all prefaced by “My” – My Country, My Family, My Faith, and so forth.
Each Thing Held Dear can be invoked and later destroyed. Invoking a Thing Held Dear means you are incorporating it into your mission or vignette scene, and it allows you to substitute the die for another unused die held by another player. These dice scale up from d4 to d12 when invoked, and down from d12 to d4 when destroyed. So the first time a Thing Held Dear is invoked, that player has an extra d12 to work with. And the last Thing Held Dear that is destroyed similarly offers a d12. But the last Thing invoked isn’t that special – in fact, it’s less than special with a d4. Similarly, the first thing destroyed is just the harbinger of more horror to come, with a d4.
There are also five slots for Things I Want To Be, again with lots of choices like “Heroic”, “Lucky”, “Romantic”, and so on. These work exactly the same way – they are community resources that are invoked and then destroyed to gain mechanical advantage. Closer to end-game, especially in act three, those dice won’t just be nice, they’ll be required if you want to succeed.
This grants a meta-pool of twenty dice across ten thematic bits, of which only sixteen are actually beneficial. But to get to the good stuff, you’ve got to commit to the bad (d4) or just unremarkable (d6). You swap these out for a die in the common pool.
CONSUMABLE INDIVIDUAL RESOURCES
You also have the ability to use your narration to increase your own die sizes.
If you include a situation element in your narration for either vignette or mission, that element is “burned” and you can raise the size of one of your own dice by one size. For example, from d6 to d8.
If you tie vignette to mission thematically, you also raise a personal die size of your choice. (This is a renewable benefit, actually)
There’s a five by five grid, an axis of love and duty. Every character starts dead center, perfectly balanced.
Every successful mission moves you left, toward numb atavism or brutal degeneracy.
Every successful vignette moves you up, toward nervous breakdown or shell shock.
Every failed mission moves you right, toward exhaustion and abandonment.
Every failed vignette moves you down, toward suicidal despair.
If you reach any corner your character is out of the game.
ANDY, SHANE, and MATTHEW are starting scene four. They begin with the common pool – since there are three of them, the pool looks like this: 1d4, 3d6, 1d8, 1d10.
They make their first pass to allocate dice. ANDY magnanimously takes the d4. SHANE takes a d6. MATTHEW takes the d10, to hisses of disapproval.
This leaves 2d6 and 1d8 on the table. SHANE immediately gives the d8 to ANDY, which leaves a d6 each for him and MATTHEW.
ANDY starts with a mission moment and puts forward his d4. He narrates in a situation element, crosses it off, and bumps his die up to d6. He rolls and gets a 3 – a failure. He moves one position right on his track.
MATTHEW is up next with his vignette. He puts forward his d10, because he needs to succeed – his track position is already dangerously far down, into depressed territory. He rolls a 7 and succeeds, moving to the up on his harm track.
SHANE continues the mission ANDY started, gambling a d6 will carry the day, and it does. He moves left on his track.
ANDY has his vignette, and uses his d8. He fails again – bad luck – and moves down. However, he narrated in a Thing Held Dear – My Faith, in this case, the third Thing introduced into the game thusfar. It allows him to substitute a d8 for another remaining die, and he swaps out SHANE’s remaining d6.
SHANE has his vignette next, using his new d8. He ties it to his mission with his narration and bumps it up to a d10, rolling a 5 and succeeding. He moves up one on the track.
Finally MATTHEW finishes the mission, rolling a d6 and succeeding. He moves left on the track.
The scene ends.
This all makes perfect sense in my head. I know I’ve been reworking this for a year, but this feels solid and good. Testing will tell.