I’ve been working on specific mechanics today. I’ve had a lot of ideas I liked, though none are quite there yet.
Here’s what I want to do (I’m intentionally not jumping into specific mechanics):
The core conflict is connection and regaining humanity. The characters have to work to regain their memories to remember what they need to do to resolve the curse. They also have to reach out and find ways to work together, even though all the recovered memories give them reason to fear and hate each other–the characters intrigued and plotted and schemed against each other in the past to get on the voyage. There are some other factors (the Seabirds act as consciences of a sort, prodding them painfully by making them face their own less than savory pasts, while the Star is tied to their driving Desire which isn’t resolved and the Queen in the flashbacks represents everything they were originally scheming and fighting for) but that’s enough for what I’m discussing this post.
On the one hand, the characters have to form connections because it’s the only way to play the game. But I’ll tie features of the setting in to make that drive make sense (from the Seabirds, Star, etc., to the certainness that it’s the only way to resolve the curse, to the fact that they can’t really help it). But that isn’t the focus of this post.
The game basically requires the characters to make connections with each other now that they’re dead because they have to work together to succeed in resolving their cursed state. But it’s not a question of player’s simply deciding to get along; the core conflict system (probably the only conflict system) in the game is that it’s hard to connect or to accept someone else reaching out, especially based on the characters’ shared history, current state, and own issues. (In fact, the other conflicts, such as the intriguing to get goals for the voyage in the flashbacks are a part of the present-day conflicts to connect).
(Note that connection is probably not the word I’ll use in the final version–I don’t want to force it to be “good”. Dominating others into following you works in addition to trying to resolve issues or form meaningful emotional connections. The main trick is cohesion on the ship rather than a ship of vipers.)
To add some pressure, it’s a bit of a race. The flashbacks act as a timer of sorts for the campaign. As a sort of game within the game, all the characters are competing for the Queen’s FAVOR (which is how you “win” the intrigues in the past). Only one character will win the FAVOR. I’m still deciding what other benefits there are for winning the Queen’s FAVOR, but it’s worth noting that it isn’t optional–you can’t pull your punches towards getting it. The main effect of a character winning the FAVOR is that it triggers the END-GAME, a flurry of conflicts that resolve the curse one way or the other as well as individual characters’ resolutions.
To put it more simply–connecting is always a conflict and the other character(s) always oppose you (whether they want to or not). You try to connect in the present and they oppose you through a flashback of them getting the better of you, betraying you, etc. If you win, you increase your Connection. If you lose, it’s harder and harder to trust or reach out later.
But if you don’t succeed at creating enough connection on the ship by resolving enough of the bad blood and/or by establishing
An Outline of the Conflict System
- Player turns go in order around the table
- On a player’s turn, they try to connect with another character
- The acting player frames the scene in the PRESENT
- The target character frames a FLASHBACK
- The target character rolls (or draws a card or whatever I decide on)
- Both players narrate the outcome and close the FLASHBACK (emphasizing how the target used, betrayed, or hurt the acting character)
- The acting character, back in the PRESENT, has to roll to connect against the roll the target made in the FLASHBACK
- (Effectively it’s an opposed roll, though the target player rolls in the FLASHBACK and the acting player rolls in the PRESENT)
That’s the core. There are some gaps. For example, the FLASHBACK scenes are how FAVOR is competed for. Also, increasing SILENCE or VIOLENCE is a risk (see below). The exact mechanics are still in progress.
Note that there may be more rolls than just the two (one by target player in FLASHBACK and one by acting character in PRESENT), but the above is teh heart.
Some Rough Notes on Stats
All characters are assumed to be competent in the polticial, intrigue arena. There are no social stats or skills or anything like that. There might be some modifiers (such as bringing the DESIRE in to a scene), but it’s assumed that the characters are pretty equal–making it largely come down to the dice.
In fact, most likely the only stats will by HUMANITY, which is the sum of your VIOLENCE, SILENCE, and CONNECTION scores. You can’t do much without those scores (see below) but they’re particularly important for the End-Game mechanics, too.
VIOLENCE: is your tendency to react to threats (perceived and actual) by going on the offensive. It’s basically the “fight” reaction in a social context. It is about hurting the other person but isn’t particularly about physical violence (in fact phsyical fights have no meaning except as narrative description of intrigue or social interactions and have no mechanical representation)
SILENCE: This is pushing others away, closing off, withdrawing, etc. Any action to avoid, hide, or protect by withdrawal (including hurting others to get them to leave you alone). Basically it’s the “flight” reaction in social situations.
CONNECTION: This is raised in play when you successfully connect. It’s your ability to avoid SILENCE or VIOLENCE and instead interact, dialogue, etc.
Exactly how CONNECTION will work is up in the air. For one thing, I don’t want to force “positive” behavior, and I see dominating others into following you as a viable path to getting ship unity. I have several ideas how this will work, but I’m running out of time for today.
This will be a stub because I’m out of time. The fate of the ship is based on scores and factors in play up to that point. It could be a tragedy or a tale of redemption. I’ll also intentionally leave the answer of what redmeption means vague–whether it means returning to life happily, being released form the curse to rest, etc., will be left up to the group and the campaign. There will be guidelines in the rules for narrating the outcome.
Yeah. I know it’s mushy; I’m still working out the details. I’m still in a preliminary stage of the process and everything above is subject to change. I think tomorrow I’ll talk specific mechanics (whether talking about what I decided on or else putting up the conflicting ideas and areas I’m stuck and asking for comments).