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Author Topic: Vespertine: Some System Help?  (Read 6284 times)
Jonathan Walton
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« on: July 29, 2004, 04:14:02 PM »

Man, it's been a long time since I've had a thread in this forum.

Anyway, I'm trying to put some finishing touches on this concept called Vespertine that I've been developing almost since I first came the Forge.  If you search for it, you can find the original threads and the notes from the 24-hour game version, but that's not really important since I'm junking most of the system.  The setting's pretty much down, but I need some system help.

Vespertine is a sequel to Jason Blair's Little Fears.  Not THE sequel, necessarily, but a possible one.  Little Fears is a horror game about kids trying to survive, escape, and triumph over scary monsters.  Vespertine is a game about teenagers trying not to become monsters themselves.  Little Fears is the battle for Innocence.  Vespertine is about resisting and indulging in the so-called Seven Deadly Sins: Envy, Gluttony, Greed, Lust, Pride, Sloth, and Wrath.  The system challange is to make it enough like Little Fears that the games make some sense together (are family, if a bit distant), but not be trapped by a system that's not meant to handle the issues that Vespertine deals with.  Also, we're trying to bring to teenage issues the kind of dark seriousness that Jason tried to get across in handling the disturbing terrors of childhood.

So here's where I'm heading...

The Seven Deadly Sins are attributes, things that you collect quantities of, signifiers of your social standing, and the "patron" traits of individual groups of monsters.  They are, in effect, the entire system of the game, because they're what the game is about.  Take a look at these associations:

Envy --> Cool --> Gothy Suicidal Social Outcasts --> Vampires
Gluttony --> Athletic --> Jock Party-Animal Booze-Hounds --> Zombies
Greed --> Rich --> Glittering Tommy Hilfiger Preps --> Goblins
Lust --> Hot --> Hippie Pagan Vegan Lesbians --> Faeries
Pride --> Smart --> Geeky Studious Valedictorians --> Aliens
Sloth --> Sneaky --> Drop Out Stoner Shoe-Gazing Losers --> Ghosts
Wrath --> Dangerous --> Punk/Metal Anarchist Rockers --> Werewolves

So, you gain quantities of a specific Deadly Sin, which indicates that your character is somewhat X (Cool, Athletic, etc.), which lets them fit in with social group Y (Goth, Jocks, etc.), which means that they are in danger of transforming into monster of type Z (Vampires, Zombies, etc.).  So your Sins tell you a great deal about your character: what they've indulged in in the past, what their key qualities are, and what crowd they're likely to hang with.

I'm imagining that characters will begin with 3-5 points of Sin distributed however they like.  Before play begins, the group plays "Truth or Dare" or some other kind of teenage confessional game, revealing where they acquired their Sins (shades of Argonauts here, for those of you following my RPGnet column and the design process).  So, if your character starts with Gluttony 2, Wrath 1, Lust 1, you'd have to come up with two instances where your character indulged in wasteful consumption (went to a frat party once and got puking-drunk, bought a 50" TV for the hell of it), one instance of rage & violence (broke some kid's nose for calling you fat), and one instance of desire & passion (snuck into an empty classroom and fondled your Winter Ball date).

Little Fears uses d6s, so I was planning on rating Sins 0-6 and having you roll under them to succeed at being Cool, Athletic, etc.  You'll notice that this means your character will start with abysmally low attributes (0s mostly) and won't be able to succeed at hardly anything at the beginning.  Well, that's why they have to gain more Sin.  I'm also imagining this to be a rather low-roll system, meaning you don't roll Athletics for climbing over a fence; only roll if a mad dog is chasing you and Old Man Phelps is screaming at the top of his lungs and loading his shotgun.  Otherwise, who cares?  Climb the frickin' fence already.

So what do I need, system wise?  Well, I need a concrete way for characters to gain Sin, which I'm currently missing.  I was thinking about having players request specific scenes where their character would do something appropriately sinful (and every Sin level requires something worse than the level before it), and then the GM tries to set those up.  For instance, if you want your character to seduce some guy and push him past his comfort point, gaining a level of Lust, you'd tell them GM that and together you'd figure out how to setup the scenes preceeding that for it to happen.  So not quite the instant service of scene requests in My Life with Master, but something a bit more negotiated.  And I need a way for the group to decide whether the character has successfully done something sinful enough to gain the level.  Also, if the character does something sufficiently sinful in the course of normal play, without requesting a scene, should they gain the level?  Or do we want to encourage scene requests by making it a requirement for raising Sin?
 
What else?  Well, I want the characters to be able to draw on "the power of Sin" to do neat supernatural things, like using Lust to appeal mystically beguiling or using Gluttony to break through a locked metal fence.  And then, when they do that, they have to roll over their Sin or turn into a monster of the appropriate Sin type (which can be very embarassing, to say the least).  But I want the level of their Sin to limit the supernaturalness of their actions, semi-Nobilis style.  But I'm not sure whether the levels are good ways of dividing that up.   You know, something Fudge-like: 1 is Coincidental, 2 is Surprising, 3 is Impossible, 4 is Mythic, 5 is Horrifying, 6 is Monstrous.  That seems a little too grainy for me, actually.  I'd like something even more intuitive.  Maybe characters could resort to calling on Sin after failing normal rolls or as a way to "up the stakes" of an encounter (damn you, Vincent!  get out of my head!), calling everyone to pull out the big guns and do even worse things, especially in opposed conflicts.

Additionally, Sin needs to be desirable until level 4 or so, and then quickly become addictive and dangerous.  Characters with 5 or 6 Sin need to be at risk of turning into monsters permanently.  I'm trying to decide if monsters can still be played or if that removes them from the game.  There might be some chance of the group changing their friend back, but it should be harrowing and an intense roleplaying experience.  Characters who manage to gain 6 Sin levels in three attributes have completed the Number of the Beast and become Demons instead of monsters of a particular variety, but that's a side note.

Adults, by the way, are completely oblivious to any supernatural goings on.  Can you do supernatural stuff in their presence?  Maybe.  I don't want to pull a Mage and make it harder with more adults around, but I don't want people becoming Werewolves in the middle of Geometry either.  Maybe you can only invoke Sin powers in high stress situations, like being yelled at by your parents, but not just sitting around doing nothing.  Other suggestions?

Finally, I've been thinking more and more about a iconic setting for this game, like My Life with Master and vs. Monsters.  So maybe all the kids would attend some repressive school, maybe Catholic school, maybe just a public school with a high reputation for discipline.  Maybe it should have to be a private boarding school, at least in the default setting.  I'm still thinking about this.  Thoughts?

Thanks in advance for the help.
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PlotDevice
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« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2004, 05:18:09 PM »

Quote

The Seven Deadly Sins are attributes, things that you collect quantities of, signifiers of your social standing, and the "patron" traits of individual groups of monsters.  They are, in effect, the entire system of the game, because they're what the game is about.  Take a look at these associations:

Envy --> Cool --> Gothy Suicidal Social Outcasts --> Vampires
Gluttony --> Athletic --> Jock Party-Animal Booze-Hounds --> Zombies
Greed --> Rich --> Glittering Tommy Hilfiger Preps --> Goblins
Lust --> Hot --> Hippie Pagan Vegan Lesbians --> Faeries
Pride --> Smart --> Geeky Studious Valedictorians --> Aliens
Sloth --> Sneaky --> Drop Out Stoner Shoe-Gazing Losers --> Ghosts
Wrath --> Dangerous --> Punk/Metal Anarchist Rockers --> Werewolves

So what do I need, system wise? Well, I need a concrete way for characters to gain Sin, which I'm currently missing


whee! If you want to see what I did with a similar base idea in the 24hour game last weekend, take a squiz at Sin/Zen

http://www.24hourrpg.com/entries/2004/SinZen.pdf


I had the use of the action point type pool stat of the game give a chance of uping the Passion (sin).

Hope this helps,
Evan
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Evangelos (Evan) Paliatseas

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TonyLB
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« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2004, 05:21:03 PM »

Is Sin meant to be addictive to the characters, or to the players?

And in terms of "Adults don't perceive", have you considered full Post-modernism?  

Specifically, suppose a Goth-chick actively fears and avoids the sun, flees crosses, leaps into peoples windows in the dead of night and has a mesmeric ability to command the loyalty of a geeky freshman side-kick.  Is it important to know whether she is actually a Vampire, anywhere other than the shared perceptual space of teenagerdom?
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PlotDevice
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« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2004, 05:22:41 PM »

Quote from: TonyLB
And in terms of "Adults don't perceive", have you considered full Post-modernism?  


Neverwhere! ;)
Evan
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Evangelos (Evan) Paliatseas

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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2004, 05:37:50 PM »

This is a hard one. You already have everything a trad game needs, but there's a clear need for structure in there to make it attractive in a defined way. Let me suggest a viewpoint:

The game is about teenagers trying to survive Sin while growing up, right? That's as I remember it, at least. The inbuilt thematic of the game is that teenage cliques are inherently Sinful - they are defined through their associate sins, after all. This is a strong theme, and it gives us the answer to how sin is gained: from other people.

Now, the game needs an uber-statistic in addition to the Sins themselves to reflect the importance of peer groups. Let's call this statistic Maturity for now. High Maturity means that the character has strong social ties to his peers, while low Maturity means an outcast. Also high Maturity means greater self-deception and authority, and vice versa.

Characters gain Maturity by inflicting their own Sins onto others. A character can only inflict Sin through appropriate in-game situations, and only on characters that have less of the given Sin than the character himself. This dynamic is why cliques form: innocents want to dabble in Sin, while experienced sinners want to gain some maturity from initiating their peers. Cliques are formed around types of Sin because a character can only inflict sins he's proficient in himself.

Of course GM characters can also inflict sin when appropriate, and the highest levels of Sin are probably only learnable from adults (see below) or monsters. Thus Sin levels are not capped by players' initial choices.

Now, this solves the problem of gaining Sin quite elegantly, putting it out of the player's hands and into the hands of the other players. But why Maturity? The technical reason is that IMO you'll be anyway needing an additional statistic to do all kinds of fancy correlations. I'll give some examples below, but you probably see yourself how much easier it is to work with two-dimensional structure when determining end-game conditions, for example.

Maturity itself is not good or bad per se. Characters will want it because it's the thing that helps them control their Sin: Sin itself cannot be removed, but high Maturity helps in controlling it. Maturity can drop, though, through means yet to be developed.

As I see it, there's only two endings for a Vespertine character. Either he becomes permanently a monster (the demon idea kicks ass, by the way), or he becomes an adult. The latter is not necessarily the better option, because it just means that the character has become so adept in hiding and lying about his Sin that it sublimates inside him instead of monsterizing his outsides. Monsters are honest, at least. A character would probably become an adult with a high enough Maturity value or something. Just how hollow an adult he'd be would depend on how much Sin he'd have.

Maturity is used when checking on becoming monster. Only immature or extremely corrupted characters become monsters. When a character is a monster it's up to his or his friends' Maturity to tame the monster so he can return into humanity. There's probably another option that concerns lack of sin, although it'd probably be rare, this being a horror game. Teenagers do not become monsters near adults because the highest Maturity present can be used in resisting monsterizing. The character in question can order the other to calm down or something. "Mr. Clod, do please pay attention, instead of staring at me like some kind of walking dead!" That kind of thing.

As to how to do super powers, I suggest going with upping stakes: a given conflict will always have sin values, just like a character. These will start from zero, but any participant can up the stakes instead of giving up after each round of rolling. This is only possible up to the sin value of the character and gives a simple reroll: this is represented narratively simply by more ferocious efforts, up to and including supernatural. I suggest that you not differentiate between natural and supernatural in any way rules-wise; rather, let the conflicts slide into supernatural after the natural narrative options of a given situation are used up. Like, how many ways can you try to break a door before you have to grow some fur and bigger muscles?

As to why not up the stakes, the reason is simple: the last side to up the stakes in a conflict will have to make the monsterizing roll, difficulty and type of sin depending on all the sins used during the conflict. So, if a particularly crucial conflict has my character using three points of Lust and your character using three points of Gluttony, the winning side runs the risk of becoming either a zombie or a fairy, or both, which would be wicked cool if the rules would support multiclass monsters.

The above kind of rules would encourage choices like "Do I stand up to my rights against the bully and risk taking the consequences of his violence on myself?" It works with passive participants, too, with the character taking the consequences of his own actions on himself if he fails to resist monsterizing.

To clarify, what I'm suggesting about the superpowers is that characters can always do the superpowered thing the situation requires if they are willing to up the stakes. Thus, how many rises are needed to reach actual supernatural would depend on the conflict. In a fist fight the first Wrath raise could be "I become really angry", the second "I grab the crowbar and use that", and only the third would be "I break through the door to reach him". Likewise, in a shootout (if the characters hang around with real bad people), the first raise could be supernatural: "I take the bullets without even feeling them." Thus, no difference mechanically between supernatural and natural.

Finally, about iconic setting: the assumptions about the cliques and types of Sin already define your iconic setting: an american school. This is about as strict as in MLwM, so I don't see any need to define it further. To the contrary, you could give some advice on how to redesign the sins and the cliques for a different milieu, like a MLwM Master creation.

For the game, if you're thinking of doing this for a compilation, I suggest leaving setting information altogether from the text. Just tell that it's set in a school and explain about the cliques and their monsters.

I hope some of the above is usable. Only improvised musings, as usual. I really like the game, by the way.
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Tobias
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« Reply #5 on: July 30, 2004, 01:24:19 AM »

First: I like it as well:

Second: is 'sneaky' really the best term to use together with sloth? I think I can see your reasoning (especially since it would be an interesting attribute to 'use' during play), but something like 'slouch' (which has a connotation of stealth as well - at least to me) can be cool as well.

Third: as to setting - yeah, your definately on the school-theme here, but might I suggest - the week-long trip to camp (or something like it) with that same school? Part leisure and uncontrolled freedom, part education and 'good old healthy putting your back into it'. And the nice creepiness of dark woods or other nature settings. With the rich kids sneaking away from camp to the nearby mall, the sloth kids not getting out of their tents, the wrath kid secretly mutilating cattle (cow-tipping!) in the night.

Fourth: As to system, I'm uninspired as of yet (as in - I like what you're doing, but can think of no suggestions).

Good luck with it.
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Tobias op den Brouw

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Christopher Weeks
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« Reply #6 on: July 30, 2004, 03:43:46 AM »

I like the stats and their indication of level of sin.  And I like your desire to have those levels limit the characters' supernatural abilities.  What if sinful actions gain points of generic sin.  Sin goes up and down as it's gained and used.  You can gain sin from slothful action and spend it on lustful supernatural effects.  But the most you can spend in any one action (and thus the most dramatic your effect can be) is limited by your specific seven stats.

In order to devise how the players raise their sins, I think you need to present more about the game's theme.  If you adopt Eero's maturity and growing up idea, then I think the system for how sins are raised is different than if the point is to discover the monsterous nature of teenagers and fight to rescue your friends.  Are there good guys in this game?  How are the PCs protagonized?

Is it more horrific (and is that a goal?) for the players to actively request sin-raises or to have them happen spontaneously through play?  Making it only at the specific request of the player give it a more directed feel, but I'm not sure it's altogether good to limit the way players have characters respond to situation based on their perceived rewards.  But maybe it's not a big issue.

It feels like achieving the desire/danger effect of raising the sin stats is the hardest part.  But if you have whatever the supernatural abilites are, stiffly scaled (logarithmically?) so that five is much more powerful than four then there will be obvious lure.  If becoming a monster and being pulled back into humanity is normal for the game and expected to happen more than once, then you could make the ease of recovery inversely related to the level of sin that caused the transformation.

What if monsters have different goals (game-player reward systems?) but the other PCs are rewarded for enacting recovery?  Monsters can still be played, but they're somewhat adversarial (or something).

I like the idea that adults simply can't perceive the supernatural.  The big idots just don't have the imagination for it.  (Maybe this is why those cliques seem so much more important when you're actually a teen?)

I agree with others about the setting.  In general it's school, but could be other stuff like summer camp.  I guess I mildly disagree with your base assumption that it should be a fairly regimented and oppresive institution.  My own experiences all come from quite hands-off public schools and it seemed like my friends in catholic schools had much less of the teen-clique infighting to deal with.

Chris (somewhat rambly)
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: July 30, 2004, 04:54:20 AM »

I'm with Tobias on "Sneaky" not being quite what you're looking for on Sloth.  I think "Slacker" is a far more evocative and high-schoolish choice, but that's up to you.

But, to be honest, I think the game may sing better if you never explicitly tie the seven traits to the seven deadly sins.

You could name the stats "Cool Kid", "Jock", "Rich Bitch", "Hottie", "Geek", "Slacker" and "Psycho", and I think (my personal opinion, of course) that it will help people to see the up sides of them as well as the down sides.

I love Eero's idea that these traits are actively sought from those who have them.  The idea of infectious memes, and the way that plays into a dysfunctional master/apprentice relationship is too perfect for this setting.  The master becomes invested in the pupil, in some very strange ways.

Chris is right that you need a good way to make the sins look very attractive.  My recommendation is that you mechanically model something like self-image, which the players need to defend.  High School is a corrosive environment, filled with events and influences that eat away at self-image... climbing the rope in gym class, asking girls out to a dance, being called on for an answer in class.

Traits/Sins and (more importantly) the peer groups that go with them are the easiest (perhaps the only) defense against these attacks by fate.  If you want to survive high school with your soul uncrushed, you NEED these things, at least in some measure.
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Marhault
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« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2004, 05:23:36 AM »

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
As I see it, there's only two endings for a Vespertine character. Either he becomes permanently a monster (the demon idea kicks ass, by the way), or he becomes an adult.

This seems like a pretty important statement to me.  Jonathon, is this in line with your intent?  I would love to see an "endgame" where the levels of sin determine what kind of person the character becomes when they reach "adulthood".  Would that be worth exploring, or are you more focused on the journey than the destination?

Try this on for size.  Each character has a pool of points, Personality or somesuch, which get distributed into the Sins.  Set the system up so that Sins with higher numbers tend to "suck" points in, and raise themselves higher.  (For instance, using a Sin is an auto-success, effect limited by the level of sin, and you have to roll over your current Sin score or gain another point.)  If you reach the threshold (6?) you become a monster.  If you exhaust your Personality pool before becoming a monster, you will achieve adulthood.  Alternatively, you could include an adulthood (Maturity?) trait, and have it be a race as to which stat gets to the threshold first.  Then include an endgame phase where players narrate the kind of adult (or monstrous) lives their characters lead, based on their relative levels of sin.

I also love the idea of "hybrid" monsters.  I character who monsterizes in Lust, but who was also near to turning in Envy may become a Succubus or Incubus, rather than a Faerie.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2004, 03:37:22 PM »

Quote from: PlotDevice
...take a squiz at Sin/Zen.


I did.  It's neat!  Cool that we both decided to do 7DS games in the same week.  I didn't see anything that I want to poach directly, but it's helpful to see what someone else is doing with a similar concept.

Quote from: Tony LB
Is Sin meant to be addictive to the characters, or to the players?

And in terms of "Adults don't perceive", have you considered full Post-modernism?


Addictive to both, I think.  Sin should be enjoyable (and a little scary) to both characters and players.  After all, didn't it feel good to hit that annoying kid right in the face?  The only really bad thing about Sin is the unfortunate consequences, and I'm not talking about turning into a monster, I mean the actual consequences for the character's life.

As far as Post Modern monsters, I don't think this is the game for that.  Little Fears is very clear that the monsters are real and I think Vespertine is going to take the same route.  I have enough Post Modernism going on in some of my other games (especially Humble Mythologies), that I don't think I want it here.

Quote from: Eero Tuovinen
1.) ...how sin is gained: from other people.
2.) Now, the game needs an uber-statistic in addition to the Sins...
3.) ...the highest levels of Sin are probably only learnable from adults or monsters.
4.) Either he becomes permanently a monster, or he becomes an adult.
5.) Maturity is used when checking on becoming monster.
6.) When a character is a monster it's up to his friends' Maturity to tame the monster...
7.) Stakes mechanics.


Lots of good stuff here, Eero.

1.) Hell yes!  I hadn't even thought of that, but it makes perfect sense.  You start out innocent and then are eventually corrupted by your friends, enemies, family, and the people you happen to encounter.  To some degree, you may want this corruption and seek it out, but there should be ways for others to impose Sins on you (by forcing you into a fist fight, or sexually harrassing you, or something).

2.) Well, there are two uber-statistics from Little Fears that we could potentially port over: Soul and Fear.  Personally, I've always hated most Fear Mechanics (like Sanity in Call of Cthulhu), because they don't do anything to make the game play any scarier and often make things LESS scary by normalizing them ("How scary is he?" "2d6 SAN loss.")  I'd much rather focus on making events actually scary or at least uncomfortable.  Soul, however, seems potentially interesting, and might serve as a version of your Maturity.  More on that below.

3.) Yes!  YES!  Adults and monsters are the ultimate corruptors and teachers of evil things!

4.) Well, yes.  That's what I was originally imagining.  In Little Fears, you lose your Soul or you become a teenager.  In Vespertine, you lose your Soul (by becoming a monster) or you become a 20-something, with a job and responsibilities.  But the effects of your Sins might still haunt you.

5.) Or Soul, but a good idea.  I think you're right about needing a meta-trait.  So you roll over Sin X to draw on its powers, but roll against Soul to not become a monster?  How do you lose Soul?  By becoming a monster?  That might work, but it seems a little circular.

6.) I think this idea has lots of potential.  So you can try to turn into a monster in the presence of friends or teachers, but they can use their Soul or Maturity or whatever to keep you in check.  Maybe certain adults in postitions of authority over the characters (such as teachers and parents and policemen) have a kind of permanently active Maturity that they project, which helps to keep people in line.

7.) You know, your ideas here aren't bad either.  I think I'll end up tweaking them quite a bit, but something like this might just work.  I like being able to escalate to larger and larger values of Sin.  I'll have to think a bit and come back to this.

Quote from: Tobias
...is 'sneaky' really the best term to use together with sloth?


Quote from: TonyLB
I think "Slacker" is a far more evocative and high-schoolish choice


I was originally thinking of "Sketchy," which has most of the connotations that I want (lazy and up to no good), but I thought that might be more recent slang.  Did you guys call people "sketchy" in high school?  I just don't know what you'd roll against Slack for.

[quote"Christopher Weeks"]What if sinful actions gain points of generic sin?[/quote]

See, this is the way the game originally was, but I couldn't get it to do what I wanted.  I'm kinda loathe to head back in this direction actually, unless you can convince me that it really makes things work better.

Quote from: Christopher Weeks
If you adopt Eero's maturity and growing up idea, then I think the system for how sins are raised is different than if the point is to discover the monsterous nature of teenagers and fight to rescue your friends. Are there good guys in this game?


First, you don't need to discover the monstrous nature of teens.  Everybody knows that teenagers are monsters.  Just read any guide to parenting ever.  And the teenagers know all about how Jackie Andrews turned into a zombie at the Senior Ball last year and ate her date right there in front of everybody.  It's a given.

Are there good guys?  No, not really.  That would mean there are bad guys.  There are just kids all doing the kinds of things that kids do.  The PCs are clearly the protagonists of their own lives, but not necessarily of anyone else's.  Most of the school could ignore them completely, or they could be the popular kids.  Whatever.  The point it to survive and keep your friends from doing anything too stupid or dangerous (if you're the responsible kind) or just to have fun and loose your mind (if you're the irresponsible kind).

[quote"TonyLB"]I think the game may sing better if you never explicitly tie the seven traits to the seven deadly sins.

My recommendation is that you mechanically model something like self-image, which the players need to defend.[/quote]

On the first point, I just don't think that's going to happen.  It's a cool suggestion, like the Post Modern monsters one, but I just don't think it fits the feel that I'm going for here.

The second one, however, is a really cool idea, and one that I've been wondering about today.  Do we really need a seperate attribute though, or can your assortment of Sins serve as your way of constructing your identity and self-image?  Identity is clearly different than Maturity, but they are related and they both help you rationalize away your Sins and live a relatively normal life.  Good possibilities there.

Quote from: Marhault
Would that be worth exploring, or are you more focused on the journey than the destination?

I also love the idea of "hybrid" monsters.


See, I don't know that there necessarily needs to be an endgame for Vespertine, but I might be wrong here.  Maybe we could have the game wrap with a kind of counseling session, where the characters and players speculate about their futures without really setting anything in stone.  After all, part of the fun of graduation is not knowing what happens next.

Does having hybrid monsters overcomplicate things too much?  I wonder about that.  Would there also be tribes of succubi running wild in the woods with the werewolves and goblins?  I think that make things a little messy.  Then again, having characters transform into completely different types of monsters, based on their Sin expendatures, doesn't really make good aesthetic sense either.  Maybe everyone picks a Sin to "major" in?  But then they become splats and that's not so good.  I don't want "werewolf characters" and "zombie characters" and the like.  More thoughts?

Thanks for the input, guys.  If you have any other thoughts, keep them coming.  I'll try to draft up some new rules, based on your suggestions, this weekend, and then get back to you.[/quote]
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TonyLB
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« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2004, 04:18:40 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton
Well, yes.  That's what I was originally imagining.  In Little Fears, you lose your Soul or you become a teenager.  In Vespertine, you lose your Soul (by becoming a monster) or you become a 20-something, with a job and responsibilities.  But the effects of your Sins might still haunt you.

FWIW, I think that letting people become nominally happy adults just by surviving loses much of what differentiates teenagerdom from childhood.

The teen years are when kids start consciously forming their identity.  The great fear is not that they will fail to become an adult, but that they will become an adult they despise.

Getting a date isn't about what happens this saturday... it's about "If I do not get this date then I will never get a date, and I will end up sixty years old, alone, crazy, in a ratty house coat, living with twenty seven cats!"

My opinion?  If they let their Soul get too crushed then you should doom them to precisely this sort of end-game:  They rent videos to people who are happier and richer than they are, while living in their parents basement with the dust-covered guitar that they once dreamed of playing as the handsome lead of a rock band.  Or whatever is an appropriate nightmate-adulthood for them.

Now, really... does being just a little addicted to the blood of innocent victims sound that bad by comparison?
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2004, 05:13:41 PM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Lots of good stuff here, Eero.


Yeah, although I'm not sure if I got it all out as clear as I should have. It's absolutely terrifying to invest some ideas into a game by some other guy and just wait if he "gets it" and uses the ideas. Speaking of which, what's the news on Humble Mythologies ;) Anyway, I like what you have with Vespertine here. Just don't lose the best parts of the 24h version: the descriptions of the cliques and the monster ecology/culture. That's the central bit of milieu and setting, and all you really need: by saying that geeks become aliens ruled by queen Titania you've really defined the game in all important respects.

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1.) Hell yes!  I hadn't even thought of that, but it makes perfect sense.  You start out innocent and then are eventually corrupted by your friends, enemies, family, and the people you happen to encounter.


I'll just clarify that the reason an innocent would look for Sin would be because it helps to cope with social (and other) challenges; I had this in mind, but it seems that it didn't get through to the post. The central idea of the game should IMO be that you can avoid sin by accepting failure, but what good are you then? That's the point of the stake resolution I suggested.

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2.) Well, there are two uber-statistics from Little Fears that we could potentially port over: Soul and Fear.


Soul'd work, sure. I'm partial to the idea of Maturity myself, mainly because of the nifty dependencies I outlined: Maturity is gained by spreading Sin, and it makes higher levels of Sin possible, finally culminating in adulthood, either as an evil adult who harnesses his sin, or a more-or-less hollow one denying his.

The idea of being a sequel is of course very important, too, so if you can make Soul central to the design, don't hesitate.

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4.) Well, yes.  That's what I was originally imagining.  In Little Fears, you lose your Soul or you become a teenager.  In Vespertine, you lose your Soul (by becoming a monster) or you become a 20-something, with a job and responsibilities.  But the effects of your Sins might still haunt you.


There are two logical consequenses you should address yourself: 1)do you leave the door open for a second sequel, or is the story of a person finished when he becomes an adult, and 2)is there multiple ways of reaching adulthood, or is getting Sin->Maturity (or whatever) the only way? Are all adults "dead inside" to some degree, or are there some special individuals who "win"? The answers to those two affect some bits of design IMO.

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5.) Or Soul, but a good idea.  I think you're right about needing a meta-trait.  So you roll over Sin X to draw on its powers, but roll against Soul to not become a monster?  How do you lose Soul?  By becoming a monster?  That might work, but it seems a little circular.


If going with Soul, I'd say that it's lost by losing human ties. That way monsterizing can reflect on it in all kinds of positive or negative ways when people abandon you or flock to you, depending on how you play your monsterhood (I've always thought it fascinating how in Vespertine the cliques are in a love/fear relationship with their totem monsters).

Gain, on the other hand, would have to come from something else than spreading Sin to make sense. To preserve the logic, I suggest that Soul'd be gained by serving your friends. Sin, on the other hand, would in this scheme be self-enforcing - the mere fact that you have Sin means that you act in a certain way. Gluttony 2 - bang, you're a smoker. Every character associating with you has to make Soul checks now and then against your Sin scores to not gain the same habits.

This system removes the straight connection between the uber-stat and the Sins, and replaces it with something rather more refined. You gain Soul only if you have friends, but those same friends will give you their Sins if you're really friends - and you give your Sins to them.

The only problem with this approach is that there is a bunch of stuff you could use Maturity for that is kinda central here - growing up, learning to be independent from parents and authority, that kind of thing. Soul is a different kind of focus. How about using both? That'd probably leave one or the other with too little to do.

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6.) I think this idea has lots of potential.  So you can try to turn into a monster in the presence of friends or teachers, but they can use their Soul or Maturity or whatever to keep you in check.  Maybe certain adults in postitions of authority over the characters (such as teachers and parents and policemen) have a kind of permanently active Maturity that they project, which helps to keep people in line.


Indeed, this is what I'm thinking. I've not read Little Fears (man, I'd like to get it for Arkkikivi if I found Jason's email somewhere), but I understand that adults are handled in a somewhat nonsystemic way in it. In Vespertine you can find a balance - the characters are almost adults, after all.

The question I posited earlier? What do you think will happen to a character when he becomes an adult in metasystem sense? Do the Sins change into something else? Does the character lose his individuality systemwise? Although you never need these answers in the game, you'll need them to depict adults in a coherent way.

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7.) You know, your ideas here aren't bad either.  I think I'll end up tweaking them quite a bit, but something like this might just work.


Believe me, it's golden stuff ;() Or at least think of something better, don't you dare mess up this jewel of a game.

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The second one, however, is a really cool idea, and one that I've been wondering about today.  Do we really need a seperate attribute though, or can your assortment of Sins serve as your way of constructing your identity and self-image?  Identity is clearly different than Maturity, but they are related and they both help you rationalize away your Sins and live a relatively normal life.  Good possibilities there.


IMO the whole point of the Sins is that they define who you are. Suitably bleak view for a horror game. Their problem is that they are self-directed emotionally, and thus do not themselves define the social layer of the system, only the psychological. That's why were looking for more system.

How about a three-partite statistic as the uber-stat, those are always fun... Characters could have Identity, Maturity and Soul, interlocked in interesting and symmetrical ways, feeding to and from the Sins and the actual situations. That way we'd get all these different themes and premises we're struggling with lined neatly in the game, with none being left out.

The problem with suggesting Maturity, Soul or Identity, as examples, is that we are instinctively looking for a multipath system that has power to tell us a little more about characters and their changes. It may be that one statistic simply isn't enough. Using Soul would bring the spiritual aspects of the setting to fore, and would focus the game onto the idea of innocence. Using Maturity would focus on development and the transient nature of teen years. Identity would be a totally social statistic, implicating a very dependent worldview. It could be best to use all three to catch all these ideas. Think on it carefully, it's quite a step to go adding this many statistics when you already have the basic resolution system in place.

Anyway, if you'd use it, how would it work? You could go with Soul dropping all the time, with the points going into the other two. That's AFAIK how Little Fears does it. Too bleak for me, I'd rather go with a view where teenagers, first discovering love and the wonders of human culture can actually gain quite high levels of Soul, going forth into adulthood as little idealists.

Another option would be to steal from the Death of Valedictorian, with Soul feeding into Identity, Identity feeding into Maturity and Maturity feeding into Soul... except that Maturity would actually drop the value of Soul in certain situations.

There are other ways, even quite complex, to interlock the three; for now, however, I'd like to look at what would be the relationship between the Sins and this happy trio. Any or all of the above could be used as the "damage" traits for Sin attacks. Characters could use their Sin to attack others, lowering their Maturity, Identity or Soul as the situation dictates. On the other hand, Sins could conseivably also add to all three in the right situation: you can define yourself through flaunting your Sin, maturing is about familiarizing yourself with Sin, even Soul can be elevated by Sin, as opposed to soul-killing puritanism.

Think on it.

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See, I don't know that there necessarily needs to be an endgame for Vespertine, but I might be wrong here.  Maybe we could have the game wrap with a kind of counseling session, where the characters and players speculate about their futures without really setting anything in stone.  After all, part of the fun of graduation is not knowing what happens next.


No need for endgame per se; it is a powerful tool, however, so you could consider it. Especially as the Sins and possible other statistics are quite suitable for it: "Soul higher than Maturity?" off to Chicago you go... on the other hand, if you want to be grim, then surviving is enough.

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Does having hybrid monsters overcomplicate things too much?  I wonder about that.  Would there also be tribes of succubi running wild in the woods with the werewolves and goblins?  I think that make things a little messy.  Then again, having characters transform into completely different types of monsters, based on their Sin expendatures, doesn't really make good aesthetic sense either.  Maybe everyone picks a Sin to "major" in?  But then they become splats and that's not so good.  I don't want "werewolf characters" and "zombie characters" and the like.  More thoughts?


I have good thoughts on hybrids, let me. Consider: the defining element of a one-stat monster is that it's tied socially and mythologically to others of it's kind as well as the clique it represents. Maybe it's a little less scary for that, or scary in a different way. Demons, on the other hand, are something far more evil and bad. What is between the two?

My answer is that the two-stat monsters are lovecraftian abominations. Each is unique, no races, only individuals. They are shunned and leered on by all monster types they are mixed from, and the player customizes the monster from the types it represents. This gives them a niche without complicating anything.

In practice I suggest the resolution method I mentioned earlier: when checking if a character monsterizes, check for all his sins. If there is two, the character becomes an abomination specified on the spot. If there are three or more, he becomes a demon, which are a whole another matter. When trying to unmonsterize the character all his active Sins are summed to get the difficulty of doing it. If the sum is over 6, it's permanent. Most abominations and nearly all demons are permanent. Good reason to focus on one Sin if you're going to monsterize yourself.

Succubi are demons, by the way: the type of demon the character becomes is defined by the players when it happens, based on the Sins. Greedy demons become tentacled or snakey, Glutton demons become amorphous masses, Lusty demons become succubi of different kinds, pride demons become fallen angels, envy demons become shadow entities, sloth demons become psychological forces, wrath demons become red, and so on, with all demons having the traits of at least three Sins in them to some degree. The demons belong into the hierarchy of hell, unlike abominations. The mere fact of Sin ties them together, while common monsters are tied by their specific sin. The abominations are the truly doomed monsters, with no purpose or friends.


Thoughts on a wholly different matter, the dice system: I mention above that there is a hard limit on when a change into a monster is permanent. This is because of your chosen system, roll-under with d6. The same limit is of course in other things, too. Remember to account for it to avoid grief, there are all kinds of inconvenient situations with this kind of systems.
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« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2004, 07:14:09 AM »

More thoughts, after having the weekend to think a bit.

I'm thinking about having a meta-trait called "Self" which combines elements of Maturity and Self-Esteem and Identity.  I think having more that a couple meta-traits gets messy, so I'm playing with just having this one for now.  How many points of Self can you have? 6? 8? 10?  Who knows?

As Eero suggested, you have to gain Sin from others (peers, adults, monsters).  An encounter where there is an attempt to transmit Sin is called a Lesson.  More experienced sinners "teach" their sins to the more innocent.  The teaching of Sins is usually initiated by the elder, but sometimes a less experienced person can attempt it, since nobody really knows how much Sin other people have and there's a lot of bluffing involved in teenage interactions.  Bobby may talk a good fight, but he may have never hit anyone in his life.  He just intimidates people so that he doesn't have to.

Players initiate a Lesson by saying something like "I'm going to teach you/him/her/them a lesson."  And then declare the Sin they want to use.  I don't have a resolution system that I really like yet, but I have Vincent's "Dogs in the Vineyard" on my brain, so here's some initial thoughts.  The "teacher" rolls dice equal to their Sin, behind their hand so no one else can see the results.  Perhaps you could even roll "fake" dice of a different color, which wouldn't count but would make other people think you had more dice than you did (or maybe this is a GM trick, and all the players would have a general idea of what each other could do).  The student rolls some dice too, but I'm not sure what these might be.  Maybe equal to Self?

Then, the teacher begins by putting a single die forward, which the student can counter or accept.  Countering requires a die of at least equal size (countering a 4 would require a 4/5/6).  Acceptance means playing a die of lesser size.  This process continues until either the teacher decides to stop (because they ran out of dice or just want to quit the lesson) or the student submits to the lesson or the student runs out of dice (teacher's victory) or the student escapes the encounter (not quite sure how this happens, yet) or one of the players indicates that play has gone beyond their comfort zone.

Each die put forward by the teacher is the equivilent of some attempt to teach the Sin.  Wrath can be taught by beating the snot out of someone, for example, or encouraging the student to beat the snot out of someone else or commit some senseless act of violent destruction.  Lust can be taught only through semi-positive sexual encounters (though intercourse doesn't have to happen, at least at the lower levels).  The violence of rape, which will be handled very carefully in the text and in the game itself, almost always comes from Wrath and Gluttony, not Lust by itself (and there will be a long section about player consent and responsible handling of sex and violence).  As such, there should be some way for characters to "up the ante" by switching from one Sin to another and getting more dice.  For instance, you're teaching Lust by making out with someone and then say "you know, you're not as good in bed as Jeremy" and immediately switch over to Envy.  Tactics like this would encourage players to be creative in their sinning.

What do the different dice stand for?  I'm trying to decide.  Maybe something like:

1 Words
2 Taunts
3 Deeds
4 Dirty Deeds
5 Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (yes, like AC/DC)
6 The Unthinkable

Obviously, if you roll all 6's, you might just decide to abandon the encounter and not use any of them.  Just because you roll the dice doesn't mean you have to do the deeds.

Additionally, maybe if the student bids Self dice to try to resist the assault, each die that counts as an "accept" die loses them a point of Self.  And every point of Sin taught gives the teacher another point of Self, though they have to roll against the Sin to gain it (since they feel pretty dirty afterwards).

And maybe you can call on the supernatural powers of Sin safely, as long as you have more Self than Sin.  So a guy with Self 6, Wrath 5 is okay.  He's probably not a very nice person, but he's rationalized most of that away.  Sin 6 is never possible to rationalize away.  If your Sins are greater than or equal to your Self, you have to roll against Sin every time you use it, to avoid becoming a monster temporarily.  And it should be really easy to lose more Self while you're a monster, unless your friends can get you under control.

Self 0 is when you become a monster permanently, then.  Having Sins of 6 makes this pretty easy to do, since you start becoming a monster more and more often, which is a sure way of losing Self fast.

What do you all think?  Am I getting close?
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« Reply #13 on: August 03, 2004, 09:42:32 AM »

Quote from: Jonathan Walton

Players initiate a Lesson by saying something like "I'm going to teach you/him/her/them a lesson."  And then declare the Sin they want to use.  I don't have a resolution system that I really like yet, but I have Vincent's "Dogs in the Vineyard" on my brain, so here's some initial thoughts.  The "teacher" rolls dice equal to their Sin, behind their hand so no one else can see the results.  Perhaps you could even roll "fake" dice of a different color, which wouldn't count but would make other people think you had more dice than you did (or maybe this is a GM trick, and all the players would have a general idea of what each other could do).  The student rolls some dice too, but I'm not sure what these might be.  Maybe equal to Self?


Use some Pool, everyone else does. While Sins are always rolled in full, you could use Self as a general Pool-type die pool, used to gamble with. So you could choose how many dice to use from Self, but you'd also risk losing those dice.

When teaching Sin, both players should roll their relevant Sin and as many Self dice as they want to. Familiarity with the sin should help in "resisting" the lesson, you see. Also, you should probably limit the Sin increase to only one point per Lesson - otherwise Sin will rise too fast.

You should realize that the system you're proposing is very detailed as far as lesson details go. You'd have easily a dozen snippets of description in a single Lesson. That would mean that either you'd have to use a similar system elsewhere to ensure balance of focus, or you'd have to change this into Vespertine: the Lessons in Sin.

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Then, the teacher begins by putting a single die forward, which the student can counter or accept.  Countering requires a die of at least equal size (countering a 4 would require a 4/5/6).  Acceptance means playing a die of lesser size.  This process continues until either the teacher decides to stop (because they ran out of dice or just want to quit the lesson) or the student submits to the lesson or the student runs out of dice (teacher's victory) or the student escapes the encounter (not quite sure how this happens, yet) or one of the players indicates that play has gone beyond their comfort zone.


You should leave escaping entirely as an in-game matter. If the situation is such that there is a reasonable chance to escape, and the character wants to, he can. That way the burden of making the situation difficult to escape is on the teacher, as it should be.

In this kind of system it's easy to give additional depth by giving the opportunity to reroll. I'd link this to the narrative detail - reroll one unused Sin die for every attempt to get the other side to acknowledge your expertise ("Hey, sure, I know whatcha talkin' about!"), and one Self die for every effort to assert your independence/control over the situation ("Silence, fool! You know nothing of the finer points of natural sciences!"). Thus the player who used more Sin or Self would likely reroll more of that kind of die, and correspondingly supply that kind of dialogue as well. Efforts fueled mainly by Self would be dialogue-wise primarily about social control and self-image, while those powered by Sin dice would be about pure, actual sinning.

Have you considered splitting the statistics into permanent/temporary pools a la WW? Dramawise this could be beneficial - you could have fast rises and drops in the effective values used, but also slower movements. WW does this kind of mechanic more or less perfectly, so just consider copying it - a permanent Self value and a temporary one, with the latter being based in the former, but fluctuating quite fast. All changes would be to the temporary value, with the permanent one dropping by one point whenever the temporary drops to zero, and rising by one when the temporary reaches six (or whatever).

Using die pools will remove the hard caps in ability values, by the way. Nothing stops you from having larger Sin or Self values if you want to.

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Each die put forward by the teacher is the equivilent of some attempt to teach the Sin.  Wrath can be taught by beating the snot out of someone, for example, or encouraging the student to beat the snot out of someone else or commit some senseless act of violent destruction.  Lust can be taught only through semi-positive sexual encounters (though intercourse doesn't have to happen, at least at the lower levels).  The violence of rape, which will be handled very carefully in the text and in the game itself, almost always comes from Wrath and Gluttony, not Lust by itself (and there will be a long section about player consent and responsible handling of sex and violence).  As such, there should be some way for characters to "up the ante" by switching from one Sin to another and getting more dice.  For instance, you're teaching Lust by making out with someone and then say "you know, you're not as good in bed as Jeremy" and immediately switch over to Envy.  Tactics like this would encourage players to be creative in their sinning.


Developing from the above suggestions: after the initial Sin is defined and the Self dice chosen, everything rolled and the comparing of die values started, either player could have a chance at any point to up the ante by adding another Sin. This'd be possible by just narrating the situation in such a way that it's sensible. In this case the players would have the opportunity to add more Self dice into the challenge.

This would be an useful mechanic anyway, as it gives the players an opportunity to correct their Self die expenditure afterwards, if the other player has invested an unexpectedly large amount of dice.

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Additionally, maybe if the student bids Self dice to try to resist the assault, each die that counts as an "accept" die loses them a point of Self.  And every point of Sin taught gives the teacher another point of Self, though they have to roll against the Sin to gain it (since they feel pretty dirty afterwards).


This is in itself too fast, I suggest adopting the permanent/temporary split if you want to have characters losing from five to a dozen points per encounter.

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And maybe you can call on the supernatural powers of Sin safely, as long as you have more Self than Sin.  So a guy with Self 6, Wrath 5 is okay.  He's probably not a very nice person, but he's rationalized most of that away.  Sin 6 is never possible to rationalize away.  If your Sins are greater than or equal to your Self, you have to roll against Sin every time you use it, to avoid becoming a monster temporarily.  And it should be really easy to lose more Self while you're a monster, unless your friends can get you under control.


With this kind of system you should probably differentiate between magical and ordinary uses of Sin - if I've understood it correctly Sin, can be used both for suitable supernatural tricks as well as ordinary challenges? I suggest that Self protects only from the ordinary kind, while you'd have to make a check every time you use the magic, even for minor things. This way the high-Self valedictorian would be quite safe from becoming a martian as long as he keeps to the right side of the road, never venturing into the world of the monsters, using his Pride to effect supernatural effects.

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Self 0 is when you become a monster permanently, then.  Having Sins of 6 makes this pretty easy to do, since you start becoming a monster more and more often, which is a sure way of losing Self fast.


Or, more exactly, Sin 0 is when you become a monster permanently the next time you become a monster at all. This way you don't have to try to figure out the type of monster from the highest Sin or whatever - it's the Sin that causes the transformation in the first place. Causes some suspenseful moments as well, when you race to get some Self before something triggers the monsterizing.




I'll go through this once more to make sure that I've got it right. I'll also add some random suggestions. Feel free to ignore, I'm not writing with any consideration.

Characters have Sin scores and a Self score. Sins are from 1 to 6, while Self can range freely. At character creation the players divide (character age)-12 points between the Sins, setting Self to five points.

Self has both a permanent and a temporary value. The values are equalized once each day in a Reflection scene, which is requested by the player. In this scene the player lowers or heightens the permanent value, depending on whether the temporary value is under or over it's current value. If a Reflection scene is not played within the day, the GM sets one for the night, when the character dreams of his day (nightmares/pleasant dreams depending on whether Self lowers or rises).

When temporary Self reaches zero, permanent Self drops by one and the temporary score is reset to the permanent value. When temporary Self goes over the permanent score, it's reset to one, and the permanent score rises by one point. These adjustments happen in a scene immediately after the scene causing the changes, wherein the character demonstrates his newly learned attitude.

Challenges are initiated when appropriate. Character has to conventionally be able to do what he is trying, or else has to use magic. A character using magic automatically wins a challenge over a non-magical opponent, but has to struggle against the dark forces instead. Two magical opposing forces have to fight a challenge against both each other and the dark forces.

All challenges are either Lessons or magical challenges, depending on whether any magic is used. These differ in stake: in addition to any in-story consequenses of winning or losing, the Lessons can cause changes in the scores of the participants, while magical challenges can only cause transformations.

Transformation is what may happen during a magical challenge to one or more participants. The most common one is monsterizing, but there are others: in Vespertine, characters can only die as a result of a magical challenge, which is also a transformation of a sort. A third example would be cursing, which is a common result, intented or not.

When a challenge is initiated, the primary Sin it epitomises is determined. Both sides of the challenge add this many dice to their pool. Then both can take as many points of temporary Self as they wish, and add that to their pool in secret. The dice are rolled in secret from each other. The challenge itself is narrated by the players taking turns, each taking one of the following actions:
1) Present a die: the player puts up a die from his pool. The other player has to immediately accept the consequences or counter with a at least as high die, in which case both dice are discarded. This is represented as some action the character takes to achieve his goal.
2) Reroll a die: the player rerolls one die in his pool. This is accompanied by an appropriate bit of dialogue/preparation.
3) Escape the conflict: if there's no insurmountable reason for not being able to do so, the character can always simply escape, losing the conflict.
4) Escalate the conflict: the player can narrate the conflict to take a turn that represents some other sin than the one last chosen. Both players add a number of dice equal to this new sin in their pools, and a number of Self dice as well, if they wish.

The conflict is won by the player who doesn't escape. If neither do and dice are all used, it's a tie. The players might want to escape to avoid the consequenses of the dice. Every die presented in the conflict that's not blocked by another die has a consequense. In a Lesson conflict the consequense is either losing a point of temporary Self or gaining a point of the current Sin (the latter only possible if there is a character/force present with a higher value in the Sin). In a magical conflict the consequence is either a lost point of temporary Self or a transformation. In both cases choosing the latter option ends the conflict, sometimes in a way that's indistinguishable from losing.

Characters whose temporary Self drops to zero become monsters of the Sin that was last harnessed for the conflict.

Magic conflicts are conflicts where at least one side is using the dark magic Sins provide. At lower levels this is not actually "supernatural" from our perspective, just highly unconventional. For example, in an environment where most kids have never even seen a gun, brandishing one can be Wrath magic of third degree. Similarly contraceptive equipment can be seen as magic of Lust in the first or second degree, and so on.

A character can use magic in a conflict if he has a sufficiently high level in a Sin (or several Sins). As a rule of thumb, extreme but natural (in the sense discussed above) feats, resources and coincidences are level three or below, while levels four to six are supernatural:
4: Clearly supernatural feats of local order
5: Capability of doing ritual stuff and permanent effects
6: Contacting demons and other extreme stuff
The character has to also know how to do the magic in question, but the teenagers are always assumed to know, unless the player decides otherwise (adults have forgotten, and thus aren't usually sorcerers). The different Sins do different kinds of magic, affecting their own part of life. The methods are also different, but that's just special effects. Cool magic is about candles and mirrors, Hot magic is about sex, Smart magic is about alchemy, Sneaky magic is about drugs, Dangerous magic is about berserking, self mutilation and shapeshifting, and so on.

If a magical effect is narratively sufficient for a situation and is not resisted with magic, it always succeeds. If there's magic vs. magic, the normal rules apply. In both cases the magic user has to also have a simultaneous (taking turns between conflicts) conflict with the dark forces: the forces roll the appropriate Sin (or Sins, if multiple were used to achieve the magic), while the character cannot use the same Sins (although he could conseivably draw strength from other Sins). Escaping from the conflict with the dark forces ends the magic effect as well.

The consequense dice from the dark forces conflict cause transformations on the sorcerer; his own dice cause additional details in the magic, allowing exact control of whatever forces the sorcerer has loosed. Unlike other conflicts, transformations do not end the conflict against dark forces. The first consequence of a dark force die is always changing the character into a monster of the type of Sin the die derives from. If additional die of the same type gets through, the sorcerer takes a curse as well. Third and further dice cause loss of Self. Dice from multiple Sins of course change the character into an abomination.

The consequense dice from magical conflicts cause transformations on the other side. This is also the case if an automatic victory is caused. The transformation can be into a monster, a curse, or death. The monster type depends on the Sin used in the conflict.

All in all, a little complex system for my tastes. Can be developed, though.
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Jonathan Walton
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« Reply #14 on: August 03, 2004, 11:04:09 AM »

Hey Eero,

More good stuff but, like you say, some of it is a little dense, especially when compared to the relatively rules-lite Little Fears.  I agree with a lot of it, though.

The idea of the optional Self pool is sweet.  If you don't draw on Self, you're not risking anything, but you're not as likely to win the conflict.  That's exactly the kind of mechanic I was thinking of.

Sins can definitely only increase at a rate of one level per lesson.  I was assuming that from the beginning, but I guess I never made it explicit.  As for the density of the Lesson mechanics, the game really is about Sin.  The monsters stuff is a cool, secondary aspect, but that's not where the real horror is.  The real horror is in what you do BEFORE you become a monster, the stuff that makes you a monster in the first place.  This is the stuff that every parent is afraid of.  "It's 11pm.  Do you know where your children are?  Do you know what they're doing?"

Since the Lessons use a different set of mechanics, though, I think characters can probably just use Mundane or Supernatural sin effects to escape from Lessons, since normal sin rolls don't require the same kind of dice pools (in my mind) and wouldn't, therefore, interfere with a Lesson in progress.

The reroll idea is cool, but I'm not sure that I like the context you give it.  But if I can figure out a way for rerolls to really add something significant to the Lesson process, I might use them.

I had thought about stealing WW's permanent/temporary resource system.  The earlier versions of Vespertine explicitly used them.  However, they're not really in place in Little Fears (which, in actual play, can cause problems when players lose Soul and gain Fear too quickly).  In some ways, you can simulate the permanent/temporary thing by just making people roll against Self a lot, with a low chance of actually chaning the score.  That's more what I was leaning towards, but having a temporary score does have some clear advantages.

On the normal use of Sin (not in Lessons), I agree that the Mundane/Supernatural split should be clear.  In my mind, it goes like this:  to show off how Cool you are, you try to roll under Envy.  If you fail (or if you don't want to bother with the initial Mundane attempt), you can make yourself Supernaturally Cool (or do something impossibly Cool), but then have to roll over your Envy or risk turning into a monster.  In the case of dueling Supernatural Sins, both parties try to roll over the other person's Sin to win (which is a very Little Fears style mechanic), and then roll over their own Sin to prevent transforming.  This can lead to ties and standoffs, which is fine.

Your system summery is close to what I want, but not quite there.  I think I'd rather have a fixed cap for Self, to keep it fairly low and risky, since really high Self values would make descent into darkness less likely.  What if we cap it at 6 like everything else?  Otherwise, Little Fears caps meta-resources at 10, which would also make sense.

Also, I don't really think "magic" is the best way to describe the supernatural powers that Sin provides.  Sin changes teenagers into monsters, so I think that the "magic" of sin should be a partial transformation or a act of power resembling something a monster would do.  So auras of seduction and fear would work, leaping onto rooftops, ripping somebody in half, communicating with animals, that kind of thing.

Looks like we're getting close, but I'd really like to playtest this before I write up a final version of the game.  It'll probably have to be online, though, and fast.  I've already contacted Hive, the guy who did illustration and layout work for Little Fears (including the amazing cover), and he's agreed to do iconic images of the Sins and the teens and monsters that embody them.  Exciting, exciting, exciting...
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