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Author Topic: [ASH: A Saviour’s Heart] Full Game and System-Specific Questions  (Read 2055 times)
Thriff
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Posts: 68


« on: September 20, 2011, 01:47:28 PM »

Please read the post below for a summary of ASH. This first post is reserved for my reasons for posting and a link to the game.

Full Game PDF: http://ashrpg.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/ashrpg-v1-00.pdf


I have invested 9-12 part-time months into designing this game. A significant sum of that time was dedicated to reading other games and theories. This is the first time I’ve released ASH in any public sphere.

Some of my sources of inspiration will be more obvious than others, but I appreciate and thank all of the designers, writers, and creators that have helped me forge ASH.

I consider this current version of ASH to be a “universal” precursor to a later setting-specific game. As feedback from designers and players is received I will continue working on this universal ASH, but as of now I want to focus on ASH as a system. Note: Despite lacking a specific setting I will refer to ASH as a game because it encourages the players to create their own setting and provides examples as to how to do so.

Setting is not my concern right now. I have a setting and have already begun fusing it with the ASH system.

The ASH system requires players who are creative and interested in emergent roleplaying “RPing” or a group in possession of an individual prepared to take on session-design responsibilities.

I had 4 design goals with this game. I want ASH to encourage four things: Community, Fluidity, Customization, and Narrative Rewards. Fun too, of course, but that’s not worth attempting to quantify.

Community is encouraged when players are able to influence the in-setting environment, events, dialogue, and actions, the “fiction”. As a player I enjoy emergent sessions that demand all players’ creativity and input yet has the stability of a structured setting. ASH best provides this style when the players are prepared to devote the first session to world design. I am fine with that, others may not be. ASH is flexible to accommodate both.. I feel ASH has succeeded with the design goal because of the Narrator/Contender distinction and the integration of Context Bonuses in Resolution.
 
Fluidity is encouraged when characters can be created quickly (between 20-60 minutes) and (more importantly) when conflicts are resolved quickly (less than 5 minutes). Fluidity considers ease as well as time. As a player I don’t mind spending lots of time designing a character as long as that work is translated into my character in terms the system can process. Character Creation “CC” in ASH should be natural as opposed to labourious. Assigning AP for Identities can be difficult at times. I don’t know if assigning AP through Questions/Encounters is fluid enough.

Customization is encouraged when the game is adaptable to different settings and players are able to communicate their character concept in quantified game terms with mechanical benefits and drawbacks. I feel ASH has succeeded with this goal. A strong setting definitely requires time to prepare (often before even meeting for the session), but I’ve found no way around that set-back. Gains require time and energy.

Narrative Rewards are encouraged when the game emphasizes colourful narration and aesthetically rewarding stories. The Compulsion and Context Bonus systems seem to do this well.

Please remember the following while reading ASH:

1.) The complete game details are provided in the linked document.
2.) The ASH document is incomplete, as noted in its table of contents.
3.) I’ve designed this independently and am likely blind to many (hopefully only some) mistakes and contradictions within ASH.

My Questions

My most important questions are listed below. Answering any of these would help a great deal! All comments are also welcome. Feel free to ask me for clarification or propose questions of your own!

Readability
1.) Is the rulebook too wordy or too vague (or, worse, both)? Should I use two columns for every page?

Design
2.)Please tell me if you notice anything contradictory between one of my design goals and a design choice in the game.

GNS
3.) Which of GNS do you think this system most appeals to? In what ways? *Highly subjective (especially considering it is “universal”)

Virtues
4.) Is the connection between Virtues and Pool (through Deviancy and Class) apparent? Is the Primary Virtues mechanic too burdensome? Refer: Part Two: Steps Two and Three.

Integrity
5.) Are Seek/Vow the best way of playing off the idea of PC fidelity (players RPing true to the character)? I want this mechanic to emphasize the “saviour” aspect of each character—someone Called to protect and serve an ideal or cause.  Refer: 3.3

Identities and Specializaitons

6.) Are Identities well defined? Are there too many AP (12) for players to spend at CC? Are the Persuasive Specializations organized in a natural way? Refer: Part Two: Step Four

Supernatural Powers
7.) How natural does the Expression Cost Table seem to you? Once accustomed to it I find there is very little need for referencing the table. Are all the variables worth the pay-off? Refer Step Five

Atrophy
8.) Is the 12-session time limit useful? Does it prompt the players to consider the setting as a whole, rather than only their character’s perspective? Is 12 too few/many or not necessary at all? Why? Refer: Step Five

Resolution
9.) Is there a particular type of conflict that doesn’t mesh with the Resolution mechanic of SL? Comments on the Context Bonus mechanism…? Comments on use of RPS…? Refer: 3.2

Thanks,

T
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Thriff
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2011, 01:50:33 PM »

ASH is designed for 2-6 players. These players are collectively referred to as the Fellowship. The Fellowship has a compatible agenda for roleplaying “RPing” together even though their characters may oppose one another. One player serves the Fellowship by acting as the Sessioneer—the engineer for that session.

ASH:
- can be used as a system with your favourite setting, or it can be used to guide you in creating a setting to play in.
- supports finite (single session) and non-finite (ongoing campaigns) roleplaying “RPing”.
- supports structured (a thoroughly planned setting with an authoritative Sessioneer) and emergent (a quickly established setting with a might-as-well-be-another-player Sessioneer) RPing.
- can be complex and tactical due to its Magic and Resolution system, or those same systems can be smoothed out for a greater story emphasis.
- does not use dice, cards, tables, or spinners.
- does use Rock-Paper-Scissors

You play as a character that has just received supernatural powers. These powers may be the result of a demonic contract, genetic mutation, divine blessing, a string of lucky events, or any other explanation that the Fellowship decides on.

Virtues and Pool

The more virtuous you act the more powerful you become. Power is expressed as the ability to perform better in task and conflict resolution, and (with success) enhance and direct the fiction.

Identities and Specializations

Your character is characterized by their Identities and Specializations. Identities exist on a 4-point scale and Specializations exist on a 3-point scale. Both are purchased with Advancement Points “AP” and share the same 12 lines on your character sheet. Choose wisely. Players are given 3 AP to spend whenever they’d like during the session. Identities are resources, relationships, experiences, and styles that define your character. Identities can be used in tasks or conflicts. Specializations give you an edge in conflict.

Resolution

Conflict handles social, emotional, physical, or any other contest of will between two sentient creatures. Characters accumulate Success Levels “SL” by adding the static value of an Identity + motes (optional) + specialization (optional) + context bonus.

Context bonus requires the player to argue for their character’s success based on previously established facts (or reasonable extrapolations) from the fiction. Context Bonus encourages players to add flavour and detail to their narration, lest they find themselves in an unfavourable (or disinteresting!) position. Any player can initiate conflict by having their character challenge the current narrator’s character (NPCs for Sessioneer).
 
Context bonus encourages creativity, at-will conflict-initiation discourages selfish narrators, and increased mote costs for initiating conflicts plus limited mote pools discourages unnecessary conflicts.

SL are tallied on a 10-point scale and whoever earned less SL in the conflict carries a Success Level Deficit “SLD”. Both players perform a best-of-3 Rock-paper-scissors “Bo3 RPS”. The player that wins the RPS becomes the narrator. If the loser had the SLD then they take that quantity as mote fatigue (physical damage/intellectual exhaustion/emotional stress…).

Supernatural Powers

Magic/superpowers/luck is divided into 9 Distinctions. Visualize a chart with 3 rows (Powers) and 3 columns (Domains).

The Powers are Dominating, Enlightening, and Augmenting.
Respectively: Controlling, Learning from, and Changing.

The Domains are Druid, Auromancer, and Elementalist.
Respectively: The material forms of all living things, The non-material aspects of thinking entities, and Inanimate matter and thermal energy.

Each intersection is a Distinction. All PCs choose one.
 
For example: A character with the Dominating Elementalist “DE” Distinction would be able to manipulate the latent thermodynamic energy from a large volume into a concentrated point on a combustible material so as to initiate an exothermic reaction (science), or be able to make a spark (because magic, duh). But that’s just at the Untrained difficulty. Summoning volcanic eruptions, earthquaking cities to the ground, or initiating blizzards in the middle of summer may be performed at higher difficulties—or not at all, that’s up to the Fellowship to decide when determining the setting.

Every Distinction Expression (usage) requires mote fatigue.
 
Atrophy

Atrophy decreases your character’s maximum allowable mote expenditure for any Expression. This forces players to be creative and tactical with their Expressions, as opposed to bullying their way through problems by simply spending more

For every (second) session your character survives, the less they can spend on any one Expression. Be creative. Be tactical. You won’t be able to bully your way through problems by simply spending more motes.

Yes, an RPG where your character’s means of interaction weakens over time.

Your body can’t handle these powers/you’ve been cursed with a time limit/the mutation is destroying your body from the inside-out may be reasons to explain Atrophy.

Integrity

You have a Seek and a Vow. Your Seek is your character’s driving goal. Your Vow is your character’s personal code of conduct. Don’t contradict either or you’ll lose Integrity. Integrity has a 3-point scale.

Your character cannot die if they have a non-zero Integrity value. If your character’s pool reaches 0 with a non-zero Integrity they will be unable to influence the fiction for a time. If your character’s pool reaches 0 with a zero Integrity they will Expire.

Expiration doesn’t mean your character has to die—they simply cannot be RPed as a character anymore. They may suffer from psychological trauma or emotional exhaustion. Regardless, let them say their good-byes then let them go. This character is no longer yours.

You can regain Integrity, but this will come at a greater devotion to your Seek or Vow than simply maintaining either necessitates.

Summary

Thank you for taking the time to read about ASH. Let me know what you think! What games could you suggest that sound similar to all (or parts of) ASH? I'd love to learn about more games.

The full game PDF is here: http://ashrpg.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/ashrpg-v1-00.pdf

T
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stefoid
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« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2011, 03:05:54 PM »

Whats your thinking behind Integrity?  Why do you have it?
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Thriff
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2011, 08:54:39 PM »

Hey Stefoid,

Thanks for taking the time to read ASH.

Integrity is a dual-purpose mechanic.

(1) It gives players an incentive to pursue (or at least not directly contradict) their Seek and Vow [Very similar to Ingenero's Motivations which I want to re-visit and carefully consider].

Seek is a character's "big picture" driving purpose/goal--often a life-time pursuit. Vow is a character's code of conduct--an internally enforced desire to act (or not act) in a certain way.*

[*Note: V1.00 (only posted edition as of now) states that Vows must use "always"/"never". This was an absurd decision and I am hereby revoking it. I know of no context that facilitates such a dichotomous definition.]

Ex: Seek: Become King. Vow: The needs of the impoverished must be taken seriously.
Ex: Seek: Find my deceased father's buried treasure. Vow: Southerners are unreliable pick-pockets.

(2) It shifts the "ultimate punishment" away from character death to role-playing.

Characters can't die unless their Integrity score is 0*.

[*Note: V1.00 states that Integrity has a 3-point scale. I am changing this to a 1-point scale to encourage the urgency of maintaining a PC's Integrity]

If a character's Pool (health/mana/fatigue...) reaches 0 when they have a non-zero Integrity they will simply be unable to affect the fiction for a scene. If their Pool reaches zero when they have an Integrity of 0 they must Expire their character (remove from the player's control forever: note, not necessarily death).

Thus characters can focus on role-playing their characters and enhancing the fiction--as opposed to worrying about losing their character in a pitched verbal/physical conflict.

I have Integrity to prioritize the fiction and allow players to role-play without risk of losing their character.

T
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stefoid
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« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2011, 09:17:01 PM »

I havent read all of it yet, just skimmed, but Integrity leapt out at me because it reminds me of an issue I have with motivations/vows/characterization in general, and that is:
one of the most intersting things to consider for the player is when their character will or wont act on them.  But if you have a stick like Integrity or a carrot like Reward Points (from Ingenero) you are only encouraging the character to act on them - never agaisnt them (or they get the stick / dont get the reward). 

I dont have a good answer for how to get around that.
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stefoid
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« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2011, 06:21:48 PM »

Nitpicking while reading, but why use terms 'sessioneer' and 'fellowship'? 
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Rubbermancer
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Posts: 51


« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2011, 08:31:44 PM »

Well, presumably the character will have in-game motivations that are very real and immediate when they don't react on them, ie: avoiding death, nabbing a cool artifact, etc.  I think that might be something that will solve itself, if the GM takes care to tempt them with the right "evil carrots".
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Thriff
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2011, 10:18:14 PM »

Stefoid,

I don't think you're nitpicking at all! Your question is actually very important, because, fundamentally, your question is about words. And words are very important.

I use the term Fellowship because I needed a term that referred to every person at the table, regardless of their position as player or Sessioneer. I chose the word  "Fellowship" as opposed to group, party, or adventurers because it better aligns with the purpose of ASH.

Everyone who meets to play ASH must share compatible Agendas; they will have gathered as a community seeking to fulfill a mutual goal and even though that goal will vary depending on group, everyone playing must be committed to the similar goal (think GNS, technology, tone, setting, number of sessions, duration of sessions...). The characters being role-played may be sworn enemies of one another, but that doesn't de-value the importance of the players uniting as fellows bound in Fellowship.

Sessioneer is a port-manteau of Session and Engineer; this is because the Sessioneer is the engineer of the session. They craft the setting that all of the players will be role-playing in and then faithfully represent that setting as the fiction develops due to the PCs' interaction with the setting.

They are not a Storyteller--everyone playing the game is responsible for encouraging a story. They are not a Game Master, no single person holds that much authority in ASH. And they certainly aren't a Dungeon Master, what with the lack of dungeons and all...

The Sessioneer serves the Fellowship by creating an initial setting and representing that setting as the players go around exploring, provoking, and ultimately "mucking" it up one way or another.

I hope this answers your question. Let me know if any others come to mind.

T
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stefoid
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« Reply #8 on: September 23, 2011, 06:06:25 AM »

Well, presumably the character will have in-game motivations that are very real and immediate when they don't react on them, ie: avoiding death, nabbing a cool artifact, etc.  I think that might be something that will solve itself, if the GM takes care to tempt them with the right "evil carrots".

So in-game circumstance is up against meta-game carrot and/or stick?  I can see how that could generate some tension some of the time, but my own preference is for the competing factors to be all in-game.
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stefoid
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« Reply #9 on: September 23, 2011, 06:21:51 AM »

Stefoid,

I don't think you're nitpicking at all! Your question is actually very important, because, fundamentally, your question is about words. And words are very important.

I use the term Fellowship because I needed a term that referred to every person at the table, regardless of their position as player or Sessioneer. I chose the word  "Fellowship" as opposed to group, party, or adventurers because it better aligns with the purpose of ASH.

Everyone who meets to play ASH must share compatible Agendas; they will have gathered as a community seeking to fulfill a mutual goal and even though that goal will vary depending on group, everyone playing must be committed to the similar goal (think GNS, technology, tone, setting, number of sessions, duration of sessions...). The characters being role-played may be sworn enemies of one another, but that doesn't de-value the importance of the players uniting as fellows bound in Fellowship.

Sessioneer is a port-manteau of Session and Engineer; this is because the Sessioneer is the engineer of the session. They craft the setting that all of the players will be role-playing in and then faithfully represent that setting as the fiction develops due to the PCs' interaction with the setting.

They are not a Storyteller--everyone playing the game is responsible for encouraging a story. They are not a Game Master, no single person holds that much authority in ASH. And they certainly aren't a Dungeon Master, what with the lack of dungeons and all...

The Sessioneer serves the Fellowship by creating an initial setting and representing that setting as the players go around exploring, provoking, and ultimately "mucking" it up one way or another.

I hope this answers your question. Let me know if any others come to mind.

T

If you think its important enough to warrant inventing a word or using a word in an unfamiliar way, to underline a point, then go for it.  But Id suggest that if the meaning is close enough where a familiar word in a familiar context will serve, that makes it easier for readers to take in.

For instance your game also uses the terms seek and vow, which it goes on to describe as a characters goals and code.  Why not just use the term 'goal' and 'code'?

Another instance: a trait is a fairly common concept in an rpg and 'identities' seem to be extremely traitish to me.  Why not just call them traits?
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Rubbermancer
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Posts: 51


« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2011, 06:39:23 AM »

The carrot/stick isn't really metagame though, not in a bad sense anyway; on the one hand, your character is encouraged to follow his seek and vow through said mechanic.  This encouragement is both to the player and to the character, so I see how that could be interpreted as metagame, but I don't see that as a bad thing, as the character's goals and the player's goals align by default in this case.  And on the other hand, in-game elements (evil carrots) tempt a character to pursue things anemic to his seek/vow.  It sounds a lot like life to me.  The only tension I see arising from it is good plot tension and character exploration, and I suspect that Thriff had something like this in mind when he designed the seek/vow system.
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Thriff
Member

Posts: 68


« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2011, 01:03:58 PM »

Rubbermancer,

I don't know when "evil carrots" entered the scenario. :P! More on that below.

Stefoid,

You're right that there are more than a few terms in ASH that could be serviceable if replaced by a more historically common term. You've listed quite a few and you've definitely made an effective argument for each.

Fellowship-Party, Sessioneer-GM, Identities-Traits, Seek-Goal, Vow-Code

I know that using the second term in each pair would make the game easier to approach and understand from the get-go, but I'd be sacrificing the accuracy and aesthetic that I believe the first term offers. It's a trade off with no correct answer, but I'm very glad you pointed this out to me.

As of now...

I think Fellowship doesn't increase the barrier of entry too greatly--and, to the best of my knowledge, (outside of DnD and DnD-esque) party isn't too common of a term. So it stays.

Even though GM is more common, it definitely doesn't fit with my system, setting, or design goals. Can't make that change.

Traits for Identities is interesting. This one is the best example of the more common term being serviceable without being as accurate as the term I chose. Identities are the multiple traits that identify a character. By using the term Identities I hope to emphasize that whatever a player chooses as an Identity must be a core feature of their character's being. I think of the relationship between the two terms as follows: every single Identity suggests a host of traits that the character may have.

Seek and Vow are on the verge of revision to Goal and Code. Seek will survive, Vow won't. There are 2 reasons I prefer Seek over Goal. (1) "Goal" seems too mundane to me. The purpose of ASH (my idealized designer's version) is to focus on PCs that are trying to save something of infinite value to them, thus the Saviour sub-title. This something of value may be an ideal such as courage or honour, or perhaps a town or country. It may even be saving a person, a family member or a romantic interest , from physical harm or emotional trauma.

(2) This is an instance where a more common term is actually detrimental to the game. If players read, or more likely skim, a section on goals (which they likely won't because "everyone knows what goal means") then they will just make up anything that would work as a "goal" in any number of systems they've already played. This, coupled with my first reason, is why I think Seek is a better choice than Goal.

I prefer Code because it is actually more accurate than Vow. A Vow suggests that the character is aware of their behaviour, but some Vows may be biases or social/economic/racial stereotypes that plague a character's world-perspective [similar to some Motivations in Ingenero]. So ya... you've got me here. Vow is now Code. Thanks for the insight!

Stick vs. Carrot

Thanks for your perceptive clarification of stick/carrot Rubbermancer! Just be careful not to give me too much credit (ego and all that :P).

I think you've phrased the Integrity mechanic better than I have: "the character's goals and the player's goals align by default".

I wanted dramatic and practical tension to arise in multiple ways in ASH, and you've identified exactly how I intended tension to arise due to the Seek/Code/Integrity mechanic: "in-game elements (evil carrots)... [which] tempt a character to pursue things anemic to his seek/vow".

[Anemic, good word. I like reading the many good words I near-always neglect!]

You're also right to mention that the Integrity mechanic can be seen as (and I think is) a meta-game feature. But I can't think of many mechanics that aren't... However, if necessary, I would agree that Integrity is better classified as "stick" over "carrot".

You're right that this sounds a lot like life. I don't think I was consciously considering that when I was designing. But that helps with the fluidity of the game I suspect.

The GM's "evil carrot"

If you want to play ASH with a "strong" GM that structures a specific scenario for a specific setting and has a specific (anticipated) course of action that the PCs will attempt in a specific chronological order then that's fine. This is the "railroading/structured" style and there is nothing wrong with that! Structured-emergent styles fit along a continuum (similar to the Virtues idea) and a happy balance is where players will be happy. That balance can be nearer one extreme than the other, and every person will have a different "happy place".

ASH knows this and accommodates for it. If you want a railroad approach then the GM's "evil carrot" comment makes perfect sense and can be applied with the ASH system.

I, however, prefer playing emergent games and thus default to considering ASH with that perspective in mind. This is why I used the term Sessioneer over GM for this particular role. The Sessioneer engineers the setting and then reacts to the PCs' involvement within that setting with the utmost fidelity. The Sessioneer doesn't guide the PCs, because the Sessioneer has no ultimate goal* for the PCs!

*[Some readers may have noticed that "complete session's goal" refreshes all of a character's motes (pg 15). This goal must be agreed upon by the players and Sessioneer before the session even begins. "Goal" is used differently here than a character's Seek (which always exists) and a Sessioneer's goal (which only exists in a highly structured session). This detail still needs to be explicitly stated in Part Four: Sessioneering.]

Summary

Vow is now Code.
Thanks for the different method for explaining Integrity.
Railroading with "evil carrots" is not a bad thing.

Thanks,

T
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stefoid
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« Reply #12 on: September 23, 2011, 02:13:07 PM »

It might work out, but for some reason it troubles me, even in my own game.    For ASH, maybe its the fact that Integrity is a stick - Its like: which is worse, missing an opportunity to make $10 or having $10 stolen from you? 
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Rubbermancer
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Posts: 51


« Reply #13 on: September 23, 2011, 02:36:23 PM »

OK, evil-carrot railroading is all well and good, but you don't want to railroad.  I feel you; you want to maintain the "temptation" bit that the evil carrot methodology brings to the table, without the necessity of linear plot events.  ...Dare I say it:  Evil Weenie?  Like a carrot, but more bendy, and... well, god knows what they put in those things, right?  It's the shape of the weenie that's important.  The skin, the idea.  The rest is just floppy pseudo-meat.  Strewn liberally over the background of your fertile Sessioneer mind, a handful of Evil Weenies could leave you comfortably half-prepared to throw temptation at your players. 

Am I right in thinking that's what you're going for?  If so, I recommend you stop the presses immediately, and rename the Sessioneer sections of the core rulebook The Mechanical Soil for an Evil Weenie Tree in Your Mind.
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Rubbermancer
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« Reply #14 on: September 23, 2011, 02:42:36 PM »

Quote
It might work out, but for some reason it troubles me, even in my own game.    For ASH, maybe its the fact that Integrity is a stick - Its like: which is worse, missing an opportunity to make $10 or having $10 stolen from you?

That's a very interesting question, possibly the root for an extensive study in player psychology.  I've seen plenty of games whose mechanics are based on leveling down rather than up, and the focus becomes more like trying to grip the sides of the abyss and thereby protract your inexorable descent into hell, madness, what-have-you.  They can be fun, but some of them go too far, or are too narrow in scope.  I think that this "lesser of two evils" aspect of the ASH system is a nice touch, a perfect, middling daub of difficulty on the vista.  I wouldn't want to see the whole painting with that colour (as I said, some systems go too far), but that daub is... pleasing.  My two cents, speaking as a prospective player with my own tastes.
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