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Author Topic: [Solar System] Oratory & telecommunications  (Read 5407 times)

Posts: 19


« on: May 11, 2009, 09:56:35 AM »

Hello, Forge. I'm running a Battlestar Galactica campaign using the Solar System rules. My PCs are the officers of the Battlestar Actaeon and the civilian ships that gathered around it, and one of the major ongoing story lines is the struggle to form some sort of sensible government. We had an interesting problem last session, when a politician PC wanted to make a speech over the wireless to build popular support against the military. My initial temptation was to model it as an Effect, but given the reality of the situation, the effect seemed like it could be implausibly strong and overly short-lived. An opposed conflict would have made me feel easier about the stakes, but since the Commander genuinely doesn't care about the opinions of the civilians in the fleet, he had no interest in trying to oppose anyone's attempt to organize them. Re-reading this forum, it seems like there are some interesting options in the thread on Conflicts against nothing, but I had trouble figuring out what sort of Harm someone could take from giving a speech over the radio.

Anyone have any thoughts on how to solve this in a way that respects the fiction and preserves the value of being a Master at Oratory? I have a feeling that the problem is all in my lack of creativity and not in the system.

My real name is Jason Larke.
Eero Tuovinen
Posts: 2775

« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2009, 06:35:04 PM »

Battlestar Galactica - a good topic!

I'd probably go with an Effect created out of the Oratory check, myself. It is somewhat transitional, but only as a mechanical effect - the influence of the speech in the fiction would anyway depend on what was being said and how much of an effect it were narrated as having on the population. The usefulness of the Effect, on the other hand, would depend solely on what the player decided to spend it on. Also note that he could renew his support by doing more speeches to gain more Effects, keeping himself in the bonus dice. The typical pattern would be to roll yourself an Amazing (4) success, spend a couple of dice in critical spots, then roll another check, burn the last couple of dice to improve it, then have a refresh, maybe, spend dice, replace Effect and so on and so forth - a constant stream of bonus dice which helps renew itself is pretty useful, and more importantly, satisfying in that it helps keep the constant toil of drumming up political support up in the fiction. Whenever the character has a scene, it starts or ends with him working on a new speech or other political maneuver.

Of course that's bogus if the local crunch landscape doesn't value bonus dice or overvalues them. Perhaps they're more easily available elsewhere or something like that. In that case one option is to make sure the Effect has some other use apart from burning it as bonus dice. For example:

Secret of Popular Support
This politician has the support of the populace on his side. Roll a free Oratory Effect to represent the support. The player may spend one level from the Effect strength to reveal how an introduced NPC is the character's political supporter. Alternatively, he may introduce a completely new NPC for the same cost. The Effect may be used for bonus dice as well, but only one die per check, unless there is a popular demonstration in the character's support in the scene. However, should the character ever fail in an Oratory check made to renew his Effect, he loses this Secret as the populace gets tired of him.

Something like that could be used to make the Effect created by Oratory behave differently as a source of mechanical benefit; it'd also include its own stakes in a sense, as every time the character rolled to enhance his mechanical support, he'd risk losing the Secret. Note especially the part about Effects being limited like Pools in providing bonus dice: if it seems like Effects are being too powerful in comparison to other mechanical options in your game, you might want to consider instituting that as a general rule: spending Effects for bonus dice is limited just like they were Pools, forcing the player to spend his Effect over several checks instead of blowing it all on one. Then you can have Secrets that remove this spending cap for those characters and situations that need it, just like Pools may, or you could just say that Effects can be blown all at once only in situations where the Effect is obviously exactly the right thing for it; in default situations you'd have to settle on spending it one die per check.

As for setting Harm for this sort of thing, I wouldn't worry about it as a Story Guide - I tend to first decide that I want Harm and then figure out the justification, often in cooperation with the players. In something like a political radio speech I'd expect the Harm to be about getting beaten up by supporters of the opposition in some backroom after the failed speech, for example. Or just disappointment and depression caused by the shattering of the character's self-image as a glib speaker. It could even represent straight shunning - people look at him funnily as he walks by after his ridiculous speech. Whatever it is, effectively you don't have to care about it anymore after the Harm has been established and the situation rolls on: afterwards it's just a Vigor/Instinct/Reason type Harm sitting there, waiting to be removed.

Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Posts: 449

Harald Wagener - Zurich, Switzerland

« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2009, 12:28:45 AM »

Jumble of thoughts: If the commander does not care how the civilians organize themselves, a simple check on Oratory should suffice, maybe getting bonus dice from the telco system. He might care later though, if the civilian organization creates problems.

If someone cares about it, it's a conflict. The speech may be one of the volleys. Cf. the BSG presidential elections where different public debates can be seen as a volley each, the discovery of New Caprica is the result of a solar-system like draw, the attempt to forge election results a failed volley on the old president's side which leads to giving and losing in the end.

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