By The Stars — “Slowly Digested over a Thousand Years” — Week Thirtty-Four

10Apr07

Due to the holiday and some particularly horrid days at work, there was not much concrete progress on BTS this week. However, I have been jotting notes on the game’s biggest single weakness: Lack of a cohesive, structured story with a sense of dramatic pacing. Many of my ideas currently revolve around a large central whiteboard that will function similar to WGP’s synopsis sheet. No single concept is ready for playtest yet, but luckily, “The Myth of Planet Earth” day playtest isn’t for another week and a half.

Looking back on these last few entries, I realize I’ve been playing a bit closer to the chest than I’d originally intended. So, below the cut are the quick rules handouts I used for both the first and second playtests. Let me know what you think.

1st Playtest Rules

What are these tokens all about?

Each character has a number of Aspects—resources you can use to work toward your Oaths. Each Aspect is dispersed among nine tokens. Each token represents one portion of your Aspect’s influence in the game world. Exactly what they represent in any given scene can vary by the description you give in that scene.

How do I fulfill my Oaths?

You fulfill your Oath when you have all nine of the Aspect tokens related to that Oath. Get the attention of any players affected by the Oath and announce how you have succeeded in achieving your goal.

How do I betray my Oaths?

If, at any point in the game, another player has a conflict with you, and they bid more tokens of one of your Aspects than you did, you are in danger of betraying your Oath. You must describe an action that the other player suggests that casts doubt on your devotion to your Oath. The difference between the number of tokens they bid, and the number of tokens you bid should dictate the severity of the betrayal.

If another player ever bids more than five of your own tokens against you, you are in danger of completely betraying your Oath. You have a choice:

1 You can accept the tokens and completely betray the Oath. Describe whatever actions the other player desires of you and rewrite the Oath as they want you to.

2 You can destroy all the appropriate Aspect tokens that you and the other player currently possess. Describe how that Aspect is made worthless. While you do not betray the Oath, it is made forever unattainable. Describe how.

What is a conflict?

When one player describes something happening in the game world and another player objects in character. Both characters are vying for success within the game world. The asserting player is the Initiator of conflict. The objecting player is the Resister.

How are conflicts resolved?

Each side secretly bids a number of their Aspect tokens that they are committing to this conflict. The Initiator cannot bid zero tokens, and must bid at least one of his own tokens. Both sides reveal their bids by describing how each Aspect token in their bid helps them work toward victory. Only the side with the highest bid can describe the conclusion of the struggle and claim victory.

After the struggle is described, the side with the highest bid may take one of their bid tokens back into their purse. Exception: If the winning side only bid one token, they CANNOT take it back. Then, both sides switch bid tokens.

You cannot have another conflict with the same player twice in a row. You must have a conflict with a third player in-between.

If the two sides are tied in the bid, neither gets what they want. Instead, their efforts are both stymied by an unanticipated third force. The players must both describe how this third force keeps them from attaining victory. Bid tokens are exchanged as normal.

2nd Playtest Rules

What are Aspects and Oaths?

Each character is driven by two Oaths—one called Personal, one called Targeted. Each Oath is related to a single Aspect—a resource your character puts to use. Each Aspect is dispersed among nine cards. Each card represents one portion of your Aspect’s influence in the game world. Exactly what they represent in any given scene can vary by the description you
give in that scene.

What is a conflict?

A conflict occurs when one player describes something happening in the game world and another player objects in character. Both characters are vying for success within the game world. The asserting player is the Initiator of conflict. The objecting player is the Resister.

How are conflicts resolved?

Each side secretly bids a number of Aspect cards to commit to this conflict. The Initiator cannot bid zero cards, and MUST bid at least one of his own cards. Both sides reveal their bids by describing how each Aspect card in their bid helps them work toward winning the scene. Only the side with the highest bid can describe the conclusion of the struggle and claim victory.

After the struggle is described, the side with the highest bid takes one card at random from the opponent’s purse. This is called the spoils of victory. Then, both sides switch bid cards.

If the two sides are tied in the bid, the Initiator has a choice. He may forego the spoils in order to win the conflict, or he may claim the spoils and allow his opponent to win the conflict. Bid tokens are exchanged as normal.

You may inquire about another player’s cards, but you must do so in-character. If both you and your opponent agree, you may both reveal the spoils of a conflict before bidding.

You cannot have another conflict with the same player twice in a row. You must have a conflict with a third player in-between.

How do I fulfill Oaths?

You fulfill one of your Oaths when you have all nine of the Aspect cards related to that Oath. Get the attention of any players affected by the Oath and announce how you have succeeded in achieving your goal.

You can also fulfill your own Oath by gaining enough leverage over the character mentioned in your Targeted Oath. To do this, you must gain at least seven matching cards of that character’s color. Cards of the same color but related to different Aspects do not count. If you collect these cards, get the attention of any players affected, and announce how the affected character must rewrite their Oath in such a way that you succeed in achieving your goal.

How do I betray my Oaths?

If an opponent bids more cards of one of your Aspects than you did, you are in danger of betraying that Oath. You must rewrite one of the words in the Oath. The difference between the number of cards they bid, and the number of cards you bid should dictate the difference in meaning between the original word and the new word.

If another player ever bids more than five of your own matching cards against you, you are in danger of completely betraying your Oath. You have a choice:

1 You can accept the cards and completely betray the Oath. Describe whatever actions the other player desires of you and rewrite the Oath as they want you to. This rewritten Oath cannot fulfill the condition of either side’s Oath.

2 You can destroy all the appropriate Aspect cards that you and the other player currently possess. Describe how that Aspect is made worthless. While you do not betray the Oath, it is made forever unattainable. Describe how.

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6 Responses to “By The Stars — “Slowly Digested over a Thousand Years” — Week Thirtty-Four”

  1. Along the idea of a central whiteboard, how about something that involves 3×3 postit notes? You could have a relatively small corkboard (2’x3′) and collect character events. It may also help the players build the story as events are posted. Just tossing it out there…

    • That’s a great idea, Bill. The real thorny problem I’m struggling with is exactly which events trigger the trip to the central boards and what kind of stuff they write on the board. I’m thinking of linking it to being out-bid with one’s own Aspect, as the rewriting of Oaths have not been as dramatically interesting as I had hoped.

      • Actually I was thinking about being a bit more liberal with the trips. What seems to be missing is the flow of the story. Since the players all have their own agendas and enter into conflicts almost in a vacuum, I saw the central board as a way to promote/announce story events. So significant conflict results would get posted and then other players could review them and possibly build off these events.
        Of course I can also see the updating overtaking the game if left unchecked so the triggers needs to be formalized in some fashion. I was just thinking of our playtest session where there were a few times we said hey everyone such and such just happened like the initial party or the fight with the robot. This is the sort of thing which would have made the central board.


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