[Solar System] Keys and Specificity

Started by Paul T, March 28, 2009, 12:02:37 PM

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Paul T

Just a quick question about Keys:

Some Keys ask you to specify a subject for the Key. For something like the Key of Love, that's pretty obvious. But others are more vague. For example, if you have the Key of the Impostor, it could be read as "I'm really into impersonating others", or it could mean, "my character is pretending to be the Duke of Windsor", in which case the Key will be bought off when the character reveals her real identity.

My question is:

How strictly is it best to hew to the subject specified?

Key of the Impostor seems more fun if you let it apply to many different disguises. But what about:

* Key of the Revolutionary -- against a specific regime, or whoever's in power?

* Key of Curiosity -- the text says "the subject", but should it apply to any actions driven by curiosity, or just those relevant to that subject?

* Key of the Vow -- Can you make many vows, and use the Key to apply to them all, or would you have to buy several copies of the Key?

* Key of the Competitor -- Are you a competitive person in general, or is this about a specific rival? (This one's text specifies to "choose a particular person, social group, culture, or species.)

In my game, a player took the Key of the Rebel, to show him speaking out against his family (he's sort of an angsty teenager sort). I thought it was about his family, but it turns out he thought it means his character is allergic to any kind of strict authority.

This seems like less of a rule issue and more of a "what's more fun" issue. I'm generally inclined to go with whatever the player's interpretation seems to be.

What do you do? What works best?


The question of specificity (is that even a word?) is best left to the aesthetic senses of the group and the peculiarities of the campaign.

In the sense that a key tells us about one thing about the character that is interesting and needs to be tested by situations where the key's core is under pressure – in other words, there need to be good ways to have situations where the buy-off situation can lead to buy-off – I'd say that keys should be specific; Impostor should apply to one role, Revolutionary be directed against one specific regime or usurper, Curiosity be limited to one subject. Multiple Keys for multiple vows may be better handled as a Key of Faith (in vows in this case).

But it's not that they must be specific – for your example with the Key of the Rebel, I'd let it ride for a session or two to see how it goes. It shouldn't break things per se, since the character again needs interaction with authority figures for his key to work. And then you need to have a scene or three where following the leader might (or might not) be in the character's best interest, so he has a chance to buy-off and outgrow is rebellious phase.

Eero Tuovinen

Agreed with Harald. In general I'd say that Keys, unlike Secrets, must not be bought off the shelf - don't just read a Key in a book and accept it into your game on that basis; evaluate yourself (and I mean the whole group here) whether the Key satisfies your goals. This is also the answer to the matter of specificity: the Key should make sense to you in some configuration, and that's the configuration you should use in the game.
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Paul T