Saturday 28 March 2015

Mechanics, laid out

So my last mechanical runthrough was, I confess, a bit rambly. Here's a cleaner version. We're assuming you know standard gamespeak terms like GM, NPC, scene, and so on. There's a summary at the end.

At the start of a scene, all players discard any cards they may have and draw a hand of six cards. How do you know it's a new scene? It's when the GM says, "this is the start of a scene."

The GM takes cards for all the NPCs in the scene and makes them one hand.

Situational plays
During the scene, a player can at any time play a Trump or Court to alter the action; a Trump to influence events (we'll talk about that later) or a Court to bring in or create a Relationship (again we'll talk about that later).

The main thing is that with a situational draw like this, it has to make sense in terms of who your character is and where she is.

If it's a Trump and it's one of the ones linked to your character, the Tower Struck by Lightning or Death, everyone discards all the cards they have and draws a full fresh hand. The conflict ends. If it's a Trump and it's one of the two tied to your character's Fate, add a point to any of your Suits and draw another card.

If it's a Court, the player adds a point to his or her suit pool matching the card (so for example, if you play the Knight of Swords, you add a point to your Swords score). 

When you play a card like this, you don't draw a new one to replace it.

When the GM declares a contest (which is when something significant is happening, like when your character is pleading for an innocent slave's life in a biased court, or trying to control a damaged sky Chariot, or trying to find a way out of the City of the Golden Gates while eluding the Black Atlantean militia). 

Everyone first names their intention, what they want to achieve. I'm calling this "setting the stakes."

When you set the stakes, the one stake you can't set is a player character's death. Your opponent might be trying to kill your character but your character will not die here, because he or she is fated to die in the Catastrophe, and you know when, even if you don't know how. This doesn't mean that the stakes aren't high - but often it's the life and death of other people you are fighting for, for their freedom, for their survival.

Choosing scores 
Everyone picks a Suit and Attribute that fits, which depends really on what you're doing. 

You're stuck with this until someone plays a Trump card.

The Play
Each person in the conflict plays one card for every opponent they're playing against (usually, that means the GM will play a card from his or her hand for every player, since the GM only counts as one opponent, regardless of how many characters he or she is playing in story terms). 

Suit Bonus 
Is the card the same suit as the suit you're using or one of the Trumps tied to your Fate? Add a point to your Suit score. Do this before figuring out results.

Both sides add: 
Suit + Attribute + number on card

If you lose, you lose a point from your Suit score. If it's a draw, neither side loses a point, unless one of the players has had a Suit Bonus in this round, in which case he or she wins.

A Court card (King, Queen, Knight, Page) automatically wins unless your opponent drew a better Court Card (King beats Queen beats Knight beats Page). If you both drew the same Court, the one with the matching suit wins, then the higher starting total. If they're all the same, then it's a draw.

A Trump card mostly means the round is a tie, and something happens (depending on the meaning of the card). Everyone has the option of setting new stakes and choosing a new Suit and Attribute combination.You draw another card from the deck and add it to your hand.

Four cards are exceptions to this, though:
  • If you played one of the two cards attached to your Fate you win completely, and the contest ends. All players discard their hands and take new ones.
  • If you played the Tower Struck by Lightning, you lose completely and the contest ends (you don't want this card in your hand). All players discard their hands and take new ones.
  • If you played Death, the contest ends on a draw. All players discard their hands and take new ones.
You can, after you put the card face down and before revealing it, stall by sacrificing a point from your suit. You keep the card on the table until next round. Risky.

Winners, losers
You lose completely if you run out of points in your suit, or if you run out of cards.
If you win, add an extra point to your final suit score. These points don't go away. You keep them as they are until the next conflict, unless your suit has fallen to zero, in which case you need to take two points from one of your other suits to replenish it.

That's pretty much the mechanical basis of the game, in its current version (although obviously we need to talk about Relationships, Trump Cards and Magic a bit too). 

This is the summary
  1. Set the stakes; everyone chooses Suit and Attribute. 
  2. The Play: Everyone plays a card from their hand, face down. 
  3. The Reveal: If your card matches the suit you are using, add a point to your suit.
  4. Add Suit + Attribute + number on card for total. Highest number wins. In a draw, the player who played a matching suit wins. 
  5. A Court card wins unless it's beaten by another court card. The person who played a Court can Open a Relationship slot, or Invoke an existing Relationship. A Trump creates an unexpected event (depending on the card), forces a tie this round, and allows you to draw another card from the deck and add it to your hand; everyone can set new stakes and choose new Suit/Attribute combinations, if they choose. The Tower, the Chariot and Death end the contest, however, and everyone discards their hand and draws a new one.
  6. You can Stall after playing and before revealing by sacrificing a point from your Suit, keeping the card for next round. 
  7. The loser loses a point from their Suit. In a draw, no one loses anything.
  8. Repeat until someone runs out of cards (they lose), runs out of points (they lose, badly); or until someone draws the Tower (they lose), the Chariot (they win) or Death (no one wins). 
  9. The winner adds a point to the Suit he or she was using at the end of the contest; and you play out the consequences.