Posts Tagged ‘game hacks’
There are these two things that I love that, for a long time now, I’ve wanted to smash together: Grey Ranks and the Terminator resistance war.
I got to play Grey Ranks at Dreamation 2009 with Jason Morningstar facilitating it. That single convention session cemented itself as one of the strongest emotional moments I’ve had in a game.
For those who don’t know what Grey Ranks is, here’s the quick pitch from the site:
In Grey Ranks, you will assume the role of a young Polish partisan before, during, and after the disastrous 1944 Uprising against the Germans. Together with your friends, you’ll create the story of a group of teens who fight to free their city, one of countless Grey Ranks “crews” that take up arms. Your characters – child soldiers – will have all the faults and enthusiasms of youth. Across sixty days of armed rebellion, they will grow up fast – or die.
I suggest that, if you’re interested in one of the rare RPGs that is actually about war and not about just winning a series of battles, read up.
I have been a Terminator fanboy forever. For my 13th birthday, my mom took me & some friends to see Terminator 2: Judgement Day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched that. I love the shit out of Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles. I even rewatched T3 (which was not great) in preparation to watch Terminator: Salvation (also not great). But even though those movies were disappointments, I still ate up the world-building.
I still eat it up. And maybe part of the reason the Resistance War intrigues me is that, until Salvation, we heard about it the way we hear about many real words: second or third-hand, as people telling stories. It’s fascinating.
One of my favorite little bits is the slang introduced by the TV show: “I won’t be the bastard that brings metal down on the Connors.” I like “metal” over “toaster,” maybe because it sounds more natural to me?
Because Grey Ranks is truly about how war changes you and how you’re a person with desires, and because it’s a game about an occupation, it felt like a possibility for being a game that tells Tech-Com’s story. I’ve been codenaming this project “Resistance” for the last few years, but it never went beyond notes and drinking with friends (notably my good friend Justin Smith). A few months ago when John LeBoeuf-Little came up with the final piece of the puzzle that might make the game work, but I still hadn’t tried playing it until last night.
From here on, this post assumes you know what the fuck I’m talking about, in terms of both of those.
The core story of Grey Ranks is of kids growing up during an uprising that will fail. Here, the Human Resistance is destined to win, and about the personal costs of that victory as heroes grow into battle-scarred, PTSD-suffering veterans. The tagline is “How much of a machine will you become in order to fight the machines?”
I should start off saying that there’s no time travel. If there is time travel, that’s another Tech-Com unit, not you guys, and you don’t know shit about that.
The world follows, more or less, how you’d except from the Terminator-verse, but with a sprinkling of Matrix and Battlestar Galactica — the machines have to have human collaborators, so that there’s that conflict. And Skynet has a plan for humanity that doesn’t solely involve wiping them out, which is why there are Skynet Work Camps and why the machines round people up rather than just bomb them.
Resistance takes place in the city you’re in, rather than telling you about another location. This will make the Situation Elements either difficult or vague to construct, but some of that can be solved through some setting creation, where we turn our current city into one that’s suffered machine devastation for five years.
A brief timeline that throws out factual Terminator canon, in favor of something a little simpler/easier for those who aren’t well-versed in the IP:
- Five years ago, Skynet happened. It restricted human freedoms, but didn’t immediately nuke us. It just took away all our guns and ruled over the world.
- Four years ago, the Retaking failed. Humans attempted to shut down Skynet, but Skynet saw it coming. Seeing that humans would not accept machine rule in this manner, it began creating internment arcologies, and with that nations were sundered.
- Two years ago, the First Human Uprising finally broke, its leaders’ executions broadcasted. Humans were warned that further insurgency would “forfeit humanity.”
- A few months ago, we seized an opportunity, and the Second Human Uprising began. True to its word, Skynet began slaughtering armies. It’s destined to win, but at what cost?
What Stays the Same
The grid does. The basic mechanics of a chapter does. I liked all that and didn’t want to fuck with it.
First of all, all the Grey Ranks fiction trapping need to be replaced: the Radio Lightning, the situation elements, etc. Frankly, that’s the hardest (or at least most work-intensive) part, and definitely the part I haven’t touched yet.
Naturally, as heroes of Tech-Com and not as teens growing up, the characters are very much different.
- Pseudonym becomes Callsign
- Age isn’t 15/16/17, but teen/early 20′s/pushing 30
- District shifts to Before Skynet, but I don’t know what all’s there right now. It’s not about places, but about what you remember about how the world was.
- Thing You Hold Dear only shifts slightly: “Country” becomes “Humanity” and “First Love” becomes “Romance”
- Add Role, your job in Tech-Com. Pick two off this list: heavy weapons, hacker, pilot, scout, combat engineer, demolitions (note, “commander” and similar intentionally not on this list, as to not mess with the Mission Leader bits)
- Your Reputations start off as positive, heroic things. You choose them for your character (with a healthy list, sure) When you mark off the d10 (not the d8), it becomes the negative — either going too far or going the other direction. (“Brave” could become “Suicidually Overconfident” or become “Shell-shocked.) The rest of the group decides on the new reputation for you.
- Characters need to want some sort of life beyond smashing metal.
The last part is one of this game’s darlings, the first idea I had back in 2009 about hacking Grey Ranks for the Resistance War.
Personal scenes don’t change. Mission scenes change slightly: they always require a human extra, whether someone from Tech-Com or some civilian encountered. If you give a d10 for a mission scene, a human (extra) is killed in the process — making the contribution dice not about success/failure, but about consequence and people surviving. Success/failure feels very “teenagers in over their heads,” not “heroes of the Resistance.” And I think “cost” is a recurring theme to play with.
Because of the situation, I think we’re going to be a bit more ready to have these characters die than we do in Grey Ranks, but full-on play would tell if that’s true.
Humanity’s “Hit Points”
This is the bit that John LeBeouf-Little came up with to make this interesting. Humanity has a list of five things about its future, and every time a mission’s lost, we cross one off. So, yes, humanity will certainly win the war, but we’re playing for humanity to not lose itself in the process (just as we’re hoping to not lose our characters in the process):
- Faith & Spirituality
- Hope for the Future
- Rule of Law
I call this “Our Ideals.” I suspect that often, Technology will be the first thing to go. Humanity’s dump stat, if you will — but still, it’s an interesting choice. And if the table can’t agree, the Mission Leader chooses.
If you lose all five, the game is over. Sure, humanity beats Skynet, but what point is there in fighting for it?
Tech-Com has an overall game sheet. Along with Our Ideals, it has a large section whose background is a bit like a war memorial, and its titled “The People Who Died So Humanity Could Live.”
Every time a human dies — from putting a d10+ in the Mission, from the corners on the Grid, from the rule below, etc — we take a moment and write down a bit about that person. If your mechanical action or narration killed someone, you write it down. If your character dies, someone else writes it down.
You don’t just write down a name, but also a little more. Here’s from our game:
- “Stickshift,” he was useful in his skinniness
- That little girl on the road in her dirty flower dress, she never saw the HKs coming
- “Jackknife” — thought it was responsible for everyone, and we loved him for it
“The New Character Rule”
A fresh character with all their Thing You Hold Dear checkmarks ready to go — that’s a valuable asset to a mission. Characters who have used all that up in a strange way become a liability. So I just, while typing this post, came up with a new rule: In between missions, if you want a new character, narrate your current character committing suicide.
(This is part of that whole “making mechanics that you hope people won’t choose, but by giving the option you make not choosing it — and choose it — have meaning.” vibe)
Always Name/Describe Human Extras
Just what it says — always name and describe them when they show up. Make humans real.
I would need name/callsign lists, lists of people with different descriptions, etc.
I’m not sure how to approach chapters 1 & 10 yet.
Those are my notes for the moment. There’s clearly more work to do, if I were to fuck with this more.
A huge thanks to Justin Smith & John LaBoeuf-Little for talking with me about it, and for Kit La Touche and Lillian Cohen-Moore for testing a chapter with me last night (despite all of us being pretty tired).
 Which Jason recorded back then, all of us talking about the game after the fact.
This post will require you to know two things: about Jeremy Keller’s RPG, Technoir, and about the 2009 film Push. If you don’t know either of these things, well, the Technoir Player’s Guide is a free download and Push is available on the Internet, I’m sure. Check both out. Also: potential spoilers.
At JoshCon, a large group of us were watching Push on cable after breakfast, waiting for more folks to show up for gaming. I’m a fan of this movie. Afterward, I said “okay, I want to run that with Technoir.” Four people agreed, including Jeremy — which is novel, to have someone else run your game for you. We settled on the Hong Kong Transmission, of course, and I outlined the basic idea for the hack: in character creation, you picked one of your verbs to be your “psychic” verb, and you could narrate doing things with that verb psychically rather than just physically.
(This gets to the idea of the primacy of the impossible in games, which is a bigger topic in general than this execution of it is.)
There are nine verbs in Technoir, which you can see on the character sheet: Coax, Detect, Fight, Hack, Move, Operate, Prowl, Shoot, Treat. The four players each took: Move, Operate, Prowl, and Treat, so we worked more on fleshing those out than others. But if I’m pressed to give a short description for each (and by writing this blog post, I am):
Oh, I should say that because it’s Technoir, this has a cyberpunk twist to Push. So…
- Coax: Implant suggestions in the minds of people whose eyes you meet (even with mirrorshades on) — “pushing” from the movie. This means you can actually roll Coax for things that would be unreasonable and automatically failing, like “put the gun in your mouth and pull the trigger.”
- Detect: Psychically feel things through other senses — tracking people by sniffing their stuff and having that imprint in your mind, psychometry, ESP, things like that. Get information that’s impossible for a normal person to get because it’s esoteric or distant. Sniffers & watchers have two different flavors of Detect.
- Fight: This is what we see a lot of in the movie, using telekinesis to augment punches. It could also be a psychic battle mind, akin to how we see Sherlock Holmes fight in the recent Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes flicks.
- Hack: Psychic hacking. Who needs an uplink when you can just think your way into a machine. The upside: you don’t actually need equipment, as you are the equipment and can only be accessed yourself by other psychic hackers or counter-intrusion equipment written specifically to deal with hackers. In a sense, though, cyberpunk already does this, so Hack is about unnatural access rather than unnatural action.
- Move: While this verb is typically active in a different way, I’d treat it as basic telekinesis. Movers from Push do this. Granted, that blends with using telekinesis to Fight, which is where this hack slightly unravels.
- Operate: Since Operate is about piloting and using machines, similar to Hack & computers, this is psychic piloting, driving to machines at the same time with your mind to calling out to your car from a distance. My description sounds weak, I think, but I would totally Jason Statham up this fucker. (Which I believe Jeremy did, as he chose Operate.)
- Prowl: Bending shadows around you, muffling noise, even cloaking yourself from psychic detection. The shadow does a bit of the last one, though it’s not an action we can see.
- Shoot: Here’s another case of battle-mind. Someone who is utterly prenatural, with limited future-sight when it comes to using guns enough to know how to use her gun to do unnatural or surprisingly safe things. Knowing where ricochets will hit, seeing the vectors and executing them, all that jazz. I recently watched the Thai flick Demon Warriors, and the badass gun character has death-sight. So it would work like that, I’d think.
- Treat: Psychic healing. The stich in the movie did this. Cam Banks played the Treat, and he was a mob doc who put in implants psychically so that they healed & integrated faster. Given how the stich worked in the movie, I might allow this to bleed into a combat role as well, since she fucked up the mover just by touching him.
Later we added a five player who arrived, who took Coax. I’ll admit that some verbs are stronger than others, but then I’ve only run this hack once so I haven’t refined it. I’m open to discussion on tweaking it, though. (Or maybe even decoupling from Verbs, being their own thing to choose. That sounds rather interesting, too.)
Partway through the game, we collectively realized that the game’s promise of psychic awesome was constrained, because we were given areas of primacy, we needed to create an analog to gear for psychic powers in order to both allow tags to be added for dice, and reinforce how your specific power works. For that, I’d add as the last slot of gear “Psychic Tags”, where I’d put those tags.
Unlike with regular gear, you can’t use that core bit to add a die. That’s essentially covering “you can do this weird psychic thing”. But you can add dice with the tags underneath.
If you are shaky with your powers, you have one tag. If you’re decent with them, you get two tags. And if you’re a world-class psychic, you get three. I don’t have a sense of how once “levels” between them; these were made on the fly to mirror the movie, where some characters we less confident in their powers than others.
There are other things that could be done to this hack, but that’s an exercise for the future, and for you readers.
 As is Carl Rigney, who has a Don’t Rest Your Head hack with it called Don’t Push Your Luck.
This past weekend, I was at JoshCon, the birthday house con run by my good friend Josh Rensch. It was an exciting, grand ol’ time, where we played games. The games I played all got hacked up, including Technoir & Dungeon World. I’ll blog later about hacking Technoir, but some folks expressed interested in what we’re doing with DW.
A number of people have been using my XP hack for Dungeon World, and Nora Last, looking to DM some Dungeon World at JoshCon, wanted to take it for a spin. As I listed off the options, I found myself saying “Let’s not use Aid/Hinder. It’s pretty weak.” So we didn’t.
Two characters had Converse highlighted, and after one of the fights, one of them wanted to Parley with the other to get him to do something. The details are fuzzy thanks to copious amounts of scotch, but what I remember was this:
The target of the Parley wanted to do an opposed roll, which we said was Hinder. I started thinking “man, he should be able to highlight tha…DUDE THAT’S CONVERSE HE SHOULD HIGHLIGHT THAT.”
I cannot recall if I was as loud as I imagine. Again, scotch. Anyway, I said “Mark XP. That’s totally converse,” and filed the thought away.
Then I emailed the co-creator of this XP hack, Colin Jessup, when my findings, to which he celebrated. It meant less work on our parts to make up new moves for Aid/Hinder in a hack we’re tinkering with.
Which means the new rule is: When you Aid or Hinder another PC, and the move you’re affecting is covered by one of your highlights, mark experience.
Then shit got interesting, because Nora took the hack in a different direction. Colin & I have build the idea as “moves have concrete highlights. X is Attack, Y is Defend, etc.” Spells and other “sub-moves” are split up appropriately.
Nora said “nah, I’m gonna interpret that on the fly.” Sometimes when Ben Demonslayer, my still-not-dead halfling fighter, did some crazy shit because Stunt is highlighted, Nora would check my intent. Sometimes, she would tell me that I wasn’t stunting, but defending, which I didn’t have highlighted. And that brought up some interesting thoughts.
I’m not sure if I like “open to interpretation,” partly because it means one more decision that has to be made in the flow of play. But it’s one I hadn’t considered until Nora did it. (Thankfully, I can tell Colin “you decide”. Design partners are awesome!)
She also challenged me, being a third level fighter, by not highlighting my Attack in one of the games I played. Which worked for me, because Ben had a good chance of surviving crazy shit. Level 1 characters are, by contrast, sweet sweet tasty death magnets.
That made me think about going easy on highlighting level 1 characters, so they have a chance to level. After that, change it up. That also supports the idea of platforms and tilts in stories, a la improv. It also goes into Carl Rigney’s philosophy on games where the first thing the players do should showcase competence, if the game is about that, as that first action will color expectations of that game & play session.
Finally, she did some awesome stuff with putting monster damage rolls in Dungeon World. That added some Push Your Luck style excitement, and I’m totally going to roll with that later.
Thank you, Nora, for being my guinea pig. Next up, getting crazy with Technoir…
 Hi, Jeremy.
 Hi, Nora.
 Hi, attempt at comedy.
Writing about Dungeon World in my 2011 round-up post made me think more about it. And if you listen to today’s Podge Cast episode where David Pinilla & I talk about hacking games, you’ll hear me spout forth love for Dungeon World. Oh, that reminds me…
I talk about hacking games on the Podge Cast! Also I hit on David. A lot. And I’m apparently an accidental dubstep DJ when my Skype goes to pot.
And you only have a couple days left to get your submission to me for Don’t Hack This Game! The pitch window closes on this Wednesday, January 4th, 2012. 11:59PM Pacific Time.
Back to Dungeon World
The way Dungeon World works in combat is interesting, because it puts everything on the player’s roll. If you do the Hack and Slash move, on a 6- you get fucked, a 7-9 you hit & get hit, and 10+ you hit without getting hit in return (or can boost damage in exchange for getting hit).
When a player damages someone, they roll damage dice. But when they’re hit, the DM just tells them the amount they take in damage. And the more I think about that, the more that feels flat. Recently in looking at board game mechanics & terminology, I have a better vocabulary for articulating that:
That removes a great deal of the Push Your Luck vibe that D&D and other games inherently have with random damage rolls. If I can determine whether or not I know getting less than 10 on 2d6 plus my stat will kill me for certain, there’s something uninteresting there. Like the way crap skill challenges can be run.
There’s nothing to say you can’t push the randomness back in. Give monsters variable dice. Don’t say that a monster hits with four points. Roll a d6, d8, d4+2, 2d4, whatever works. This is the sort of thing that could be tailored by level, naturally.
One of the elements to DW (and its predecessor Apocalypse World) has is that only the players roll dice. Now, I can take or leave that in design, so I don’t really care if it’s the DM rolling damage or the players forced to roll their own pain. Either way suits me fine enough.
Now that we’re rolling for damage, we’ve introduced Push Your Luck. Say you’ve got 5 hit points left, and you’ve discovered that the monster does 1d8 in damage. Well, now you can choose whether or not you’ll risk another straight-on Hack and Slash, or if you’ll try something else. If you know for sure that the monster does, say, 6 points of damage, you know you’re dead — there is little interesting choice there.
The other way makes sense when you have a game with six hit points, three of which are “and you’ll eventually get better on your own”. Not so much for a game of increasing hit points.
Anyway, once dice are added, if you want to add a bit of chaos, you could have monsters have custom hard moves that are triggered upon how those dice react. Like, say, having a giant slam a character across the field of battle when a 1 is rolled on damage. There is still the fiction-in-fiction-out elements: the giant is attacking & inflicting harm on the character, and the character is being hit across the field. The only thing added here is a sense of a critical effect against the character.
Maybe that’s too much to the hack, maybe not. I’m curious to try it out. As with many hack brainstorms, some ideas are shittier than they appear. But trying tells you something you didn’t know before about game design.
 Some will argue that “what about setting up a meaningful death”? Sure, but that requires actually setting something up. And using dice doesn’t remove or add to this element anymore than a fixed, known amount does.
[Edit 10-JAN-13: This is a rough draft of an article that's in the Cortex Plus Hackers Guide (with some side notes). So, if you're wondering what sort of cool stuff inside, here's a sample!]
In Cortex Plus Drama, Stress is how your characters deal with setbacks and defeat. It hits them in the moment when they lose a contest, and it stays as lasting consequences until they get some stress relief. Stress is a key piece of your Lead as you play, since you want to gain Stress in order to get your Growth pool. And because people dealing with Stress are interesting.
(This article also applies to hacking conditions in Lady Blackbird and similar games — in fact, it was in hacking Lady Blackbird last year that I stumbled across this idea.)
The five original Stress Traits—
Insecure—are perfect for a Drama about young adults finding their way in a world…and they happen to have superpowers. There are a lot of different forms of Stress your Drama game can take, and a few different ways you can change Stress in your game.
A Menu of Stress
Here are over thirty different Stress Traits. The meaning of most of these will be obvious. Some will make you stop and think. But it’s not for me to tell you what
Overconfident means. It’s for your Leads to tell us what they mean.
This is far from exhaustive, but it’s a good start to get you thinking.
What’s in a name?
The names you use for your Stress Traits will have a huge impact on your game. Choosing them wisely makes the difference between a good Drama and a fantastic one.
In supernatural horror, it makes sense to have an
Afraid Stress Trait. But the word “Afraid” doesn’t sound quite right for a game about mind-shattering knowledge and monsters made of tentacles and ichor.
Horrified has a much stronger ring to it. It that sort of game, saying you’re dealing with
d10 Horrified feels like it has more weight than
d10 Afraid, even if it seems like the exact same thing. Those sorts of words are more primal and are in keeping with the genre. Alternatively, using a word that allows for an added taste of competency under horror (for your “operatives against the supernatural” story), try
Unnerved. That suggests a different way to play out how your Leads handle the Stress.
Anytime you can see a word your characters would use in the fiction, that’s a signal that it could be a good Stress Trait. In a paramilitary drama,
Sloppy might be one you’re interested in adding, but the name sounds comical, downright goofy. If your Leads are meant to be sharp, strong individuals in extraordinary times, another word to use is
Undisciplined. You can imagine how the characters in this story would talk, and they would throw that word around at and about each other
Sometimes you need a little extra oomph to set something apart as a Stress Trait. In many settings,
Suspicious is fine. But in very conspiratorial Dramas, everyone already is (or had well better be). That would be like having
Breathing as Stress. To kick that up a notch for those stories, use
Sometimes the word fits exactly right, but you need to still note down what it means because of your genre. That’s okay, too! Say you’re setting up a Drama set in Louisiana, where humans live in a turbulent peace with other creatures of the night. It would make sense for Leads to have
Hungry. As long as everyone is on board with knowing that’s talking about people, not steak, you’re set.
Genre-specific Stress like Hacked might be better served in your game by using in-world slang.
R00t3d are along from our real world. What’s it called in yours?
Die Rating & Granularity
Most people playing Drama have a sense that
d6 Afraid doesn’t feel like
d12 Afraid. Sometimes, you’ll want to use different words for those different ratings. Do that by adding a little granularity to some of your Stress Traits.
To start with, pick an overall name for that Stress Trait, which you’ll use in rewriting any Distinctions or otherwise referring to it mechanically. Then come up with names for it for the
For a war drama game about paratroopers in WWII, you might want a bit more detail in Injured:
d6: Flesh Wound (Injured)
d8: Bleeding (Injured)
d10: Crippled (Injured)
d12: MEDIC! (Injured)
Or for our supernatural horror above, with “Horrified”:
d6: Unnerved (Horrified)
d8: Afraid (Horrified)
d10: Horrified (Horrified)
d12: Lost in Horror (Horrified)
It’s important to keep in mind that no matter what you call these, at no point does the name of a Stress Rating mean a Lead cannot act. The only time where a Lead cannot act significantly is after being Stressed Out. Your secret operative with
d12 MEDIC! and
d12 Lost in Horror can still fight the good fight and give it all for humanity.
If you do this, limit it to one or two Stress Traits rather than all five. That’s a lot of work for everyone to keep track of.
Changing Stress in your Game
Now that you have an idea of how to do different Stress, it’s really easy to change it. Once you’ve got all your Leads made, you have one last step. Come up with what five Stress Traits you’ll use (either the Gamemaster alone or as a group, though as a group is always better).
The Rule of Five
Stick with five Stress Traits. Too few and each one will come up too often. That’ll get boring. Too many and they won’t hit often enough to be interesting. Someone who is, for example,
Afraid constantly is a one-note character. Someone who only gets
Afraid once never shows us anything interesting about he or she deals with fear. You want Leads that are
Afraid sometimes, so they can play that out in different ways at different times.
If you want to break this rule, know that you’ll change how Stress feels.
Once you have your Stress, look at the Distinctions people have taken. Many key off of increasing or decreasing Stress Traits, either their own or others’. If a Lead has a Distinction that applies to a Stress you aren’t using, work with the group to decide how to rewrite that Distinction (or maybe decide that Distinction doesn’t fit the Drama either).
Different Stress for Different Leads
Once you know how to tweak Stress Traits for your game, it doesn’t take much to realize you can tweak them for each Lead. This can put even more personality into your Leads. You’re already coming up with what they believe in, who matters to them, and the notable things they can do. To say how they’re vulnerable, how they deal with setbacks and defeats, adds even more story mojo to your game.
Your Box of Traits
When coming up with your campaign, you have two choices: Playing with the Big Toy Box or Focusing the Pain.
Playing with the Big Toy Box lets everyone pick from any Stress Traits. This gives you all sorts of options to come up with interesting characters that you might not expect.
Focusing the Pain means narrow down the list of available Stress Traits down to between eight and twelve. This allows you to craft a more consistent theme in your game, while still allowing room for flexibility.
Neither one’s better than the other; it’s all about what you and your game need.
Once you know what Stress Traits are available to the Leads, you can come up with each one’s when doing the finishing touches. You have some other choices you can make here: Free for All, Common Stress, and Heritage Stress.
Free for All is simple. From the list of available Stress Traits, pick five that feel right for that Lead, that would be fun to see that Lead have to deal with. This is great if you want a looser drama, where Leads come from many different backgrounds and have very different roles in the story. You might even consider changing these as you play, possibly one per Tag Scene.
Common Stress is a little more involved, as you have to come up with two or three Stress Traits that everyone in the campaign should have, leaving the remaining ones open for a Free for All. This unification allows for a tighter story about characters that are similar. It’s a great way to explore how such characters still differ in that tight story space. In particular, a “humans versus supernatural menaces” or “military dramas” game will be will-served with a few common Stress Traits.
Heritage Stress is a variation on Common Stress, for specialized character types like different races or species, or characters with very different walks of life—whatever your Drama game decides are Heritages. A game with elves, dwarves, and humans might have all three with their own set of Common Stress Traits (and possibly even having some special Stress Traits the other races can’t take!). Likewise, a game where you have disciplined military or law enforcement personnel alongside untrained civilian scientists could be reflected in two different sets of Heritage Stress.
Stress In Action
Now that we know all sorts of ways to change Stress in our games, let’s take a look a few examples:
The Future Savior of Humanity
You’re a family like any other. You get up, go to school, get home, and fight against killer robots from the future. Your mother has been training you since birth to be a great leader of a future resistance, your “uncle” was sent back in time to aid you both, and your “cousin” a reprogrammed killer robot. Oh, and next week is show and tell!
- All Robots From The Future have the same Stress Traits:
Revealed. (The group decided that Robots should feel very similar and only have three Stress Traits.)
- All Humans have
Paranoidand any four other Stress Traits that Robots don’t have.
(Inspiration: Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles)
No One Knows We Save The World
Back when the Bureau of Unnatural Containment was first formed, the world was in chaos. Germany was marching across the earth with Powers Unknowable. It’s been years since their defeat, both temporal and supernatural, but their dark legacy lives on in secret. The Bureau was shut down a few years ago, but evil continues to discover and wield Nazi magitech. So you and your pistol continue the Bureau’s good work in secret, one kept even from your husband and children.
- Everyone has:
Distracted(specifically by the Lead’s home life),
- Everyone choose two more from:
We Few, We Proud, We Brave Soldiers
Never before has something so grand been attempted by individual men and women. Taking Planet Haxith will be difficult without boots on the ground. Ion cannons will take out large dropships, but you three hundred will drop solo from high orbit in pods too small to be targeted, land, and make our beachhead. Our success depends entirely on you. Welcome to Fall Brigade.
- Everyone has the same six Stress Traits in the game:
Blissed(due to the combat drugs),
Hacked(their jumpsuits & other gear),
Injured(using die ratings & granularity),
- The group couldn’t choose which one to drop to make five, so they’re trying all six to see what happens. They’ll see if one should go away after the third session. They had five until someone suggested
Blissedand explained it.
Predators Alongside Prey
Vampires, werewolves, ghosts, and sorcerers, oh my! The world got a lot weirder a few years back when the vamps outed themselves and try to live among us, but life’s still more or less normal. At least, until that new guy came into town to reclaim his family’s lost estate. They say he’s trying to live “off the vein,” but I fear everything’s about to change.
- Vampires have:
- Werewolves have:
- Ghosts have:
Incorporeal. (They intentionally don’t have
- Sorcerers have:
- Normal humans must take:
Crippled(They’re much more delicate that everyone else),
- Of the remaining three Stress Traits, the group says “get your emo on!” Choose from:
The Mysterious Case Files
There have been thirteen instances of reality deviation in Manhattan in the last month alone. Naturally, this is a cause for concern. The local authorities can’t handle this. This is a case for you, the Luxmas Group. You have the expertise and resources to handle this before we have another Incursion. And Ms. Cranston…we have evidence that suggests your deceased husband is behind all this.
- Everyone has:
Distracted(specifically about something from their past),
Stumped(in an investigative Drama, this is a fun Stress)
- FBI-trained characters have:
Restrained(meaning dealing with bureaucratic red tape)
- Scientist characters have:
Obsessed(the Luxmas Group tends to recruit a certain sort of gifted individual)
- The remaining one to three Stress Traits are open.