[Solar] Opposition Resource?

Started by Simon JB, October 12, 2008, 09:34:51 PM

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Simon JB

Greetings! It's been a while, I've been busy finishing a year-long campaign and starting up a bunch of new attempts. Stands to see which ones become long-runners!

Getting comfortable in Solar the way it is, I'm now itching to mod it! Not much, mind you, I'm very happy with the way it runs, with the rythm of the pool economy and the keys and everything else.

However, one thing is high on my wishlist for a plugin tool (uhm, it's a really short list, by the way). I would like to come up with an economy for the resources of the opposition, since I feel a bit uncomfy with the way the opposition's pools are totally arbitrarily set by me, the SG, when the PCs enjoy such steadily defined refresh mechanics. For example, I'm not at all sure about when it's reasonable to refresh opponents' pools.

What I would like is to have a bowl of pool markers from which I draw a number for an opponent to use in a conflict with the PCs. When I spend pool points they're gone, they don't go back into my bowl. When that opponent is out of the picture I would probably choose to mark down her remaining pool, if I think she'll return soonish, or return half her remaining pool and discard the rest.

This requires some well-reasoned mechanic for how many points to put in the bowl to start with, as well as for when to add points to it during the game, and how many to add.

What I want is a running economy for the opposition's resources, parallell to the PCs pool economy, with a feeling of ebb and flow in how bad things are or could be for the PCs, a sort of "dramatic potential energy" so to speak.

Some basic ideas for the refresh is of course to tie it to the character's refreshment scenes. Perhaps the bowl recieves the same number of points as the refreshing character, independent of how large her pool is, or perhaps the opposite, with the bowl recieving a number equal to the character's full pool, independent of how many points are refreshed. The latter would seem to encourage players to exhaust their pools before refreshing. Good or bad? Perhaps players can heal their harm by putting points in the bowl instead of paying their own pool?

Any thoughts on this? Do you already have a version of such rules? Has it been tried and rejected? Any suggestions on the refresh mechanics?



I have no big ideas on how to implement this, but I don't think it's necessary. In the standard TSOY rules, opponents need to be "legal where created" and get their pools halved. Solar System does not talk very much about this, as this may be very much dependent on the type of campaign you want to run.

I played Universalis and PtA a week ago, so my thoughts are the following. Sorry for being incomprehensive and inconclusive.

a) Limit the abilities of NPCs relative to the PCs as they are when they first enter the campaign. Don't give them advances. NPCs that are hard opponents in the beginning will become less daunting over time ...

b) Only refresh NPCs' Pools when they are in a refresh scene with the PCs – may not always be easy, but it may be a way to give your characters additional levels of intimacy with the NPCs. As a corollary, only allow refresh scenes for PCs if the players suggest at least one NPC to be part of it. Quite heavy-handed, I'm not sure if i would like it.

c) Refresh NPCs' Pools during Star Wars d6-like Cut Scenes, where the players get to learn something about them. Applicability may be genre-dependent.

d) Refresh NPCs' Pools according to Pool Points spent by PCs ... this is a bit like drama dice in 7th Sea if I'm not mistaken. May lead to a crude way of mechanically-imposed dramatic reversals. I'm sure I miss about three more parts to get this working.

Eero Tuovinen

When I play, the NPCs are essentially card-board cutouts, not protagonists. What this means is that they don't really have internal lives outside of their interaction with player characters. This attitude shows up in the way they develop experience, for example - my NPCs do not get xp and score Advances (except PC sidekicks, note), they get rebuilt when necessary. The fact that this NPC is now stronger than before is a narrative fact of the story ("He spent the last three years training for your next duel with Mongol shamans.") which is reflected by rebuilding the character's statistics, not any sort of mechanical process. Essentially, because we do not play the events that happen outside PC scenes, we don't mechanize them, either. The xp processes are there for the player characters exactly because we want to focus on their development, so using those same mechanics for NPCs seems counterproductive to the goal of focusing on the PCs.

The same holds true for the Pool economy, too. I write in the booklet about how my NPCs don't get "half of what a PC would get" as their initial Pool; instead, I give them Pools based on how complex they are as characters; simple one-off extras get small Pools, complex, conflicted and interesting characters get large Pools. (That's just a fitting mental tool that provides me with a simple gauge detached from the actual situation in play, nothing more; I could base this on other considerations as well if they gave me the results that I wanted as the SG.) And when these characters are out of the scene, they might reneve their Pools. Think of it this way: if a character that was in the last scene comes into the next scene without a Pool reneval, I'm stating a narrative fact: he didn't have time to recuperate. If he comes back with full Pools, though, I'm stating another fact: he did have time for rest in between the scenes. So what I'm doing, really, is not based on any sort of NPC-playing rules, but on the rules on dramatic coordination: my job as the Story Guide is to, among other things, frame new scenes. As part of that scene framing I determine the state of the setting, which just happens to include whether the NPCs in the scene are rested or not.

That dramatic coordination point is important: the NPC gets new Pools because I decide to frame a scene where he is rested, not the other way around. I don't first decide to refresh him and then frame a new scene; I decide to have a scene wherein it makes sense for the character to be rested, and on the basis of this narrative fact, I refresh the Pools.

The same principles, incidentally, hold for Harm as well - if my NPC breaks his collarbone at gets a level 4 Harm, that Harm is going to stick around until his collarbone heals, not the other way around. The normal healing mechanics are for PC use.


That being said, if I wanted to remove SG judgment (insofar as there is any in this; I don't personally feel these choices onerous at all) from the process or emphasize it, I like Harald's suggestions! Especially option c) is hilarious, and something I might well use at some point. I'm amused by the pressure to have cut-scenes to refresh my NPCs.

The bowl is an interesting option, too. I don't know that I'd know off-hand how to use it as the SG, my style of Solar System play being so rooted in the narrative reality of the game, but I guess it would help the SG feel like he's being constrained from creating too powerful NPCs. The bowl pool could be refreshed based on many factors, really. My own first inclination would be to throw in a couple of chips after every scene, simply enough. Perhaps playing with the bowl would bring up some better refreshment option for it.
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