Thursday, 5 October 2017

Update on Updates and Combat

Actually henceforth I will post updates on what I've got done but I won't post the material itself:

Combat essentially complete, contains systems for:
    1. Grit/Flesh-style HP system a la Wolf-Packs & Winter Snow. (+ Elegant systems for triage on dying characters, recovery, etc.)
    2. Mapping combat with abstract Zones.
      1. Systems for rapidly modifying the map, also mapping highly mobile combat (as in (eg.) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Mad Max).
      2. Systems for modelling proximity (who's near who?), movement, etc.
      3. Zone features (eg. Hazards).
    3. Initiative system sort of like the one in AD&D & Greg Stolze's Wild Talents but better in various ways (Faster, less complicated).
    4. Combat actions, special maneuvers, crippling attacks and grappling.
    5. Library of around 70 attack tags (effects/modifiers) with which attacks can be built.
    6. Rules for cover & damage reduction (+ ~dozen tags for DR).
    7. Special rules for: Surprise attacks, stealth, hostage-taking and more!
Currently working on:
  1. Crafting
  2. Mapping at two other scales: Town/Dungeon and Overworld.
  3. Modelling groups, towns, communities, organisations, etc. (Reputation, Law, Belief, etc.)
  4. Special powers
  5. Threats and Goals
  6. Conditions and physical Flaws

Friday, 29 September 2017


Still working on this actively, just not posting about it any more - you'll see it when it's done! I'll post here then, but if you're curious how things are going you can send me an email in the meantime.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Old things from old blog

Childsborne Coronet
Half-again big as a human’s head crown of small bones bound with reddenblack iron. In black heatless flame and embossed on the inwardside band of the crown are the words “EXARCH AETR”. The flame is inextinguishable.

Imbues you with the Passion: “Children are objects to be used and exploited.”

Purpose: To command children - to separate them from their flesh-parents and to unite them

  • Minor: Imbues in all children who see you a Passion of love towards you and of hatred towards their flesh-parents. After a week without seeing you, it wears off. Its Rank is equal to the Rank of your Passion.
  • Significant: Produces a Delusion in all children of yourself as a shining, benevolent fathermother-figure - soft edges and warm lights. Its intensity is equal to the intensity of your Passion.
  • Major: The development of all children subject to the effects of the crown is arrested permanently - they will die when they would have had they aged normally.

Impressions: When you touch the crown, you see (Roll 1d4):

  1. Several thousand broken children littering a battlefield. They cry and scream pathetically. Carrion birds circle and the sky is wet with tears.
  2. At the borders of a settlement, carts of food are brought forth from the left and children wearing blindfolds from the right. The settlers look thin and very tired.
  3. A house, and then a man falls backwards out the door. A girl around age 7 leaps onto his chest and beats him round the head til he stops moving. Not once does he hit back. She sees you there and runs into your arms.
  4. Children dancing in half-light around a man wearing the crown. He is howling and sobbing. He commanded them to do this.


Beneath the illusion he is a small, ugly man with long gangly limbs, broken fingernails and a mask carved of wood. He will not remove the mask. He commands the children in elaborate plays dramatising small moments of disappointment and rejection from his childhood in oblique symbolism. Naked children in bright colours tumble cross stone floors in dust and torch-crackle, and one painted black with charcoal weeps alone in a corner. A young boy pretends to be trampled - thin wiry girls with high shoulders on stilts leaping to and fro, burning with play and significance. He is tormented by sexual desire for them which he refuses to act on. He demands they wear masks at all times. A child with downcast head stands at the edge of pit teeming with tiny girls, brunettes with freckles some, showered with petals. Wilted flower in left hand and crucifix broken in right, and a wilted dove taxidermied to a mask through which wings he sees always. He has a particular love for the leading-role boys, who are lavished with fruit-honey feasts gathered from the above. Time no longer matters to the children - they are steeped in the eternal time of play and ritual. It tends to be night.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Madness, Wealth and Social Mechanics (With a Supplement to Passions)

In line with the theme of today’s post, I’ve quit university to write full time.

Note: All game terms are capitalised.

P.S. Forgive the awkward // dividers, tab doesn't work on blogger.


[[Two quick followups to the last post on Passions. They came at the end as I realised I was using the concept of violating Passions enough that it was worth abstracting:]]

Violating Passions

A Passion is Violated when its Obligations and Prohibitions are contravened. Contravention means direct harm as well as credible threats, a la Risk. There are 2 kinds of Violation:
  1. Infidelity: Violation by the character themselves.  (ie. Failure to meet the demands of a Passion Test; choosing one Passion over another when they’re in conflict.)
  2. Harm: Violation by another. (eg. An orderly person would be particularly upset if someone they asked to look after their house left it messy; A devout Christian would be particularly upset if their church was destroyed, and they’d also find it more upsetting than a nonbeliever if they saw their priest sacrificing people on the altar, engaging in bacchanalian rituals dedicated to Satan, etc).
Violations are Ranked - final judgements of Rank are left to the GM’s discretion, but should be informed by the following guidelines:

Minor Violation:
  • The Tie is harmed (eg. Your son is bullied; You’re embarassed in front of the Duchess);
  • A lesser doctrine of the Principle is contravened (eg. A pacifist sees someone pick a fight with someone else and doesn’t intervene.)
Significant Violation:
  • The Tie is seriously harmed (Eg. Your son is hit by a car and hospitalised; The Duchess discovers your criminal past);
  • A central doctrine of the Principle is contravened (eg. A pacifist beats someone unconscious in a rage.)
Major Violation:
  • The Tie is rendered entirely untenable (Eg. Your son is killed; The Duchess is married off to a foreign prince); 
  • The ultimate idea of evil inherent in a Principle is realised (eg. A pacifist witnesses someone being tortured to death.)
For each Rank that the Passion violated is below Major (3), reduce the Rank of the Violation by one.
eg. Total compromise of a Minor Tie (1) counts as a Minor Violation.

[[Note: Most likely the above will go for Goals too.

Other Note: By default, power is ceded to the GM to allow for the fast resolution of complex problems. Rather than weighing each and every factor in a given situation mechanically, the GM, guided by these rules of thumb, weighs them intuitively, in accordance with their circumstantial value. Will expand on this in the section on GMing.

Another Note: Am considering including “Anomaly” as a category of Violation, wherein you discover that the object of a Passion isn’t what you thought it was. (eg. Your friend betrays you; your son was the werewolf all along; Communism sounds good but it doesn’t work, etc.). This is difficult to model, because it’s within the GM’s power to determine to an extent that the others aren’t. By default, Ties should be a guarantee of the fidelity of their object to your expectations (eg. Friends should be reliable), but betrayal is quite an interesting plot device which you wouldn’t want to throw away lightly.

P.S. Am aware how completely absurd these multiple references to the guy’s son are, may change it in the final draft but for now there it is.]]

The Universal Passions

Risk can be understood as the Violation of a set of lower or Universal Passions, which are essentially concerned with survival and reproduction. These can be be divided into 2 broad categories:
  • I want status. (eg. I want to avoid embarrassment (Minor))
    • Feeds into desire for authority, acceptance by community, romantic attention in general, etc.
  • I want to avoid harm and displeasure. (eg. I don’t want to die. (Major))
    • Feeds into desire for wealth, food, shelter, pleasure, etc.
When you adhere to a Passion in the face of a Risk, you are sacrificing one or both of these Lower Passions in its name. However, it’s worth making clear that desire for (eg.) wealth or authority beyond the norm, as well as any attachment to a specific person, counts as a higher Passion. The essential point is that it prompts the player deviate from a mundane life-course.

[[Note: There will be guidelines for what Groups will risk in the name of a Passion of a given Rank in the section on Groups - essentially, their Lower Passions. Some consideration of collective Risk: 
The degree of reduction of standard of living.
Collective risk of death and injury. (Harm)
Reduction of status in relation to other groups. (Status)]]



“Today is the day of great triumph. There is a king of Spain. He has been found at last. That king is me. I only discovered this today. Frankly, it all came to me in a flash.”
― Nikolai Gogol, Diary of a Madman

Compulsions, Delusion and Complexes

Insanity comes in three forms: Compulsions, which determine action, Delusions, which mutate experience, and Complexes, which cover everything else. Compulsions and Delusions can be further divided into positive (+ve) and negative (-ve) components. Insanities are prefaced by their type and followed by their Rank in brackets.

Example: “Delusion: I’m invisible. (Major)”

Compulsions determine what their victim must (+ve) or cannot (-ve) do. Compulsions are rendered as imperatives. For instance:
  • Don’t lie. (-ve)
  • Kill my father. (+ve)
  • Refuse help. (-ve)
  • Speak in riddles. (+ve)
Delusions add elements to (+ve) or remove them from (-ve) their victim’s experience of the world. Delusions are rendered as statements of fact. For instance:
  • My friends have been replaced by doppelgangers. (+ve)
  • I can't remember anyone. (-ve)
  • I'm invisible. (+ve)
  • My wife never died. (-ve)
Complexes combine elements of Compulsion and Delusion, as well as other more unusual features. Some examples of Complexes can be found in the Insanity Catalogue below.

Example: In the wake of his wife’s death, McGinty begins drinking to the point of alcoholic blackout. This is represented as “Complex: Alcoholic blackouts (Significant)” The Rank of his Insanity determines the strength of his compulsion to drink, the seriousness of what he does while he’s blacked out, and the trouble he has remembering it. While the first and third components can be reduced to simple Compulsions and Delusions respectively, the second is more complex in that it doesn’t specify what he does, only that he does something bad.

===Depicting Insanity

As the source of all the PCs’ information about the world, the GM has a brilliant opportunity to distort it when communicating to insane PCs. The goal is not to lead players by the nose, but to give them enough information to run with - players generally like pretending to be insane.

Examples: Agoraphobes feel the sky falling in on them and the crowds multiplying beyond number; Scotophobes see a night full of monsters and feel things brushing past them in the dark; Messianists are the suffering protagonists of a holy drama - all their lovers are Eves and all traitors are Judases; Paranoiacs are assaulted with conspiratorial whispers and catch glimpses of interferences with food and drink; Kleptomaniacs are confronted with a world of keys dangling from pockets, of bulging wallets and "abandoned" phones.

[[Credit to WFRP 2E pp. 208-209 for this approach.]]


Quirks are Rank 0 Insanities: They influence experience and behaviour, but cannot compel any Risk.

Example: Phineas spends his spare time peeling apple skins long as can be, and then hangs them all over his bed to keep bad spirits out.

RenĂ© believes he’s terrorised by an imp which misplaces his cutlery.

Insanity Tests

When you’re presented an opportunity to act in line with your Insanity and the Risk does not exceed its Rank, pick one:

  • Do it (Compulsion) or act as if it’s the case (Delusion). Gain Will as appropriate, but distribute it to any Passion which you feel could help you pull yourself back together.
  • Spend a point of Will to resist it.
  • Roll to Keep Control:

Keep Control
When you fight your Insanity, roll+Wisdom:
18+: Clarity! Disregard all your Insanity until the scene ends.
10+: You resist the prompt and keep control (Compulsion) or see things as they really are (Delusion).
10-13: Take -1 to Maintain Control until you fail a roll. These penalties stack.
9-: You do it, gaining one less Will than appropriate.
3-: You do it, gaining no Will.

Take a penalty equal to (Insanity Rank - Action Risk).
Eg. A Major Compulsion (3) suffers a -2 penalty to resist taking Minor Risks (1).

===Duration and Insanity

Insanity can be characterised by duration as well as Rank. You can include an Insanity’s duration in brackets with its Rank.

Indefinite Insanity functions just as described above. Temporary Insanity lasts for a given duration. When presented with an opportunity to indulge it, PCs can spend Will to suppress it for a scene, or roll to Maintain Control. Permanent Insanity works the same, but it never goes away.

===Episodic Insanity (Triggers)

Insanity can lay dormant until triggered. The trigger can be attached to the end of the insanity in brackets, or worked into the statement itself. When triggered, they typically last,
Until the end of the scene.
Until the character is removed from the trigger’s presence, or vice-versa.

Eg. A shark has:
"Compulsion: Kill (Significant) (Trigger: Taste blood)"

See also the Flexible Compulsion variant of Horror Checks.

Going Insane

In games with a horrific element, players can go insane as a result of disturbing experiences:

Horror Check
When you experience something disturbing (GM’s call), roll+Wisdom:
18+: Everyone is reassured by your resolve. All present take +1 to their next Horror Check.
10+: You’re fine.
10-13: Take a Stress token.
9-: Terror! Pick an instinctive response which functions as a Significant Compulsion, or take 2 Stress tokens.
  • Fight: Attack it. The compulsion ends when it’s dead, destroyed, or it retreats.
  • Flight: Get away from it. The compulsion ends when you’re safely distant.
  • Freeze: Hide. The compulsion ends when it’s removed from your presence.
3-: Psychedelic terror! As above, but the Compulsion is Major or you take 4 Stress tokens.

If the disturbance is:

Unexpected/Expected/Sought out and confronted: -1/+0/+1

Unfamiliar/Known/Familiar: -1/+0/+1 per scene of full exposure.

Full exposure means meeting it head on, or observing it for an extended period of time. At the GM’s discretion, the exposure bonus may not count or may only count partially if the disturbance does something new.
Eg. If you expect something scary (+0) but you don’t know what it is (-1), take -1.
If something you’ve faced twice before (+2) and it sneaks up on you (-1), take +1.
If you know what something is (+0) and you go out to find it (+1), take +1.

Entities may also have a Horror rating which modifies PCs’ rolls. Negative numbers are scarier, positive numbers less so. The GM may also attach a Horror rating to specific forms that an entity takes, or things that it does.
Eg. Watching the Alien Queen give birth (-2) is more horrifying than seeing the Alien Queen (-1).
Brain Slugs aren’t actually scary, but watching them eat someone’s brain is (-1).

Concept: Stress
You can exchange Stress tokens for the following, and cannot exchange less than you’re able:
5: Gain a Minor Insanity or intensify an existing one by one degree.
9: Gain a Significant Insanity or intensify an existing one by two degrees.
When you reach 13 Stress, it’s automatically exchanged for a Major Insanity.

The GM determines the Insanity, which should be derived from the character’s Passions, as well as the source of the Stress. If a player can say why the Insanity doesn’t make sense for their character, the GM can revise it.

PCs can dissipate Stress by imposing order on their world and providing themselves with a sense of control. This means:
  • Achieving Goals [[To be detailed, and when it is I’ll likely revise these numbers]]:
    • Minor: 3
    • Significant: 7
    • Major: Lose all Stress.
  • Eliminating disturbances:
    • When you’re certain that a disturbance has been neutralised, you lose Stress equal to the amount that it’s caused you.
    • Eg. If a monster has caused you 8 Stress and you kill it (and you’re sure you killed it), you lose 8 Stress.
  • Extended rest and reflection:
    • When you take time to come to terms with a disturbance, you lose half the Stress it caused you, rounding up.
    • Eg. You find time to hold a funeral for your son. Although his body is absent, you feel the disturbance is put to rest somewhat. You lose 5 Stress.
Changing the Cost of Insanity: 
The uneven (5:4:4) cost ratio exists so that players have a meaningful decision between losing a little control now and losing a lot later. Any change to the costs should apply to all of them equally.

With the way Stress is handed out, 6:5:5 to 3:2:2 is your range.As the cost of Insanity decreases, Stress becomes more threatening and players will be more likely to choose an instinctual response in an equally dangerous situation (Reverse this for an increased threshold). As such, in settings with a decreased baseline cost of Insanity, the danger of individual threats should be increased in order to increase the cost of instinctive responses. 

Within this range you can increase or decrease the cost of Insanity relative to the baseline in order to represent more and less stable characters, although going more than one point above or below the baseline will mess with the tone of the game: PCs will go insane too quickly, in which case it becomes absurd, or not quickly enough, in which case the supposedly horrific things lose their power.  An interesting consequence of this is that in games with variable Insanity cost, less stable characters will tend to instinctive responses more often (as danger is adjusted to the baseline).

3:2:2 would be appropriate for a game in which horrific things are very dangerous and they’re encountered rarely. 6:5:5 would be appropriate for games where insanity is the consequence of long, grinding encounters with horror. Here at the upper range of cost, a 6:4:4, 6:4:3 or 6:3:3 ratio could be appropriate to represent Insanity with a long gestation period and rapid onset. [[Note: Must test all this and get hard data!]]

In games where Stress can be acquired by other means, calibrate the cost of each option so that choices are as close to equally weighted as possible. [[Note: This goes for every choice the GM presents the PCs. I wrote an extended screed on this which I’ve cut and included in the Design/GMing section.]]

Flexible Compulsion: 
Where sensible, the GM can allow PCs to intensify Minor Insanity to Significant or Major on a 9- or 3- Horror Check. The GM can also swap in new choices to replace the instinctive responses at will, but should never offer more than three, nor any which are too similar, as this will confuse the players and bog down the game.

Violating Passions Causes Stress:
#1: If the object of horror Violates a Passion in some way, apply a penalty equal to the Rank of the Violation.
Eg. If you’re a devout Catholic (Significant Principle), watching your local priest sacrifice your cousin (Minor Tie) on the church altar would be much more horrifying (-2) than usual.

#2: In situations where a Horror Check would be penalised by Violation of some Passion, no penalty is applied, but the Stress is added to whatever result the PC gets:

Rank Stress // (Generic Result) // Stress (5:4:4 ratio)
Minor // One Stress // +1
Significant // Halfway to Minor Insanity, rounded down // +3
Major // Minor Insanity // +5

#3: Violations of Passions deliver Stress directly to the character:

Rank // Stress (Generic Result) // Stress (5:4:4 ratio)
Minor // Halfway to Minor Insanity, rounded down // 3
Significant // Minor Insanity // 5
Major // Major Insanity // 9

These variants suits games of psychological horror where PCs are ground down to nervous collapse by attacks on the things that they care about, and their own moral failings. Each is more severe than the last.

Returning to Sanity

PCs recover from Insanity by spending Will to resist it. For every two points of Will spent, the Insanity’s Rank is reduced by 1 and the PC is awarded 1 XP. Will is most often spent in response to Insanity Tests, but it can also be spent once a scene by PCs confronted with strong evidence of their Insanity.

When PCs return to sanity, they will realise they were insane, possessed, etc. if they didn’t already know. PCs have the option to retain cured Insanities as Vices.


Where treatment exists, it should always come at a cost, and should not return XP. For instance, treatments could: 
  • Come at the risk of further damage to health and sanity. (eg. Brain surgery)
  • Cost a significant chunk of the PC’s Wealth. (eg. Therapy, expensive medication)
  • Nullify Insanity for a given duration, but increase Stress when they’re delivered.
  • Nullify Insanity indefinitely, but increase Stress each time the PC would face an Insanity Test.
  • Allow PCs to trade one Insanity for another, or for an unpleasant Condition. (eg. Addictive drugs with their own side-effects.)
Example: Primitive Brain Surgery
When you go under the knife, roll+Stamina:
18+: Visions of another world enlighten you. You recover instantly, cure all Insanity and reduce Stress to 0.
14+: Lose 2 Ranks of Insanity.
10-13: An Insanity of the PC’s choice is changed randomly - roll in the Insanity Catalogue.
9-: Gain 2 Ranks of Insanity, new or old.
3-: Death.

[[Note: Similar points could be made about resources which allow the PCs to forgo Horror Checks. These are special cases of a broader point regarding costs and benefits which will be included in the Design section. Essentially, any benefit which isn’t bought with XP or Will should come at some other cost.]]

Insanity Catalogue

Items in bold can be used on character sheets as shorthand for the writing below, and the entire catalogue can be treated as a 2d6 chart for generating random Insanities:

1.1. Addiction (_____):
Compulsion: Indulge in _____. (eg. Heroin, Sex, Shopping)
1.2. Amnesia (_____):
Delusion: I can’t access memories of _____. (eg. My family, Violent events)
1.3. Apocalyptic Delusions:
Delusion: The end is nigh! The hour of judgement is at hand! The final conflict beckons! Etc.
1.4. Blackouts:
Complex: Combine a Compulsion whose nature the PC may be unaware of with Amnesia regarding what they’ve done under its influence.
1.5. Body Dysmorphia:
Delusion: I’m hideous. Will likely fixate on a single feature of their body. (eg. Weight, Height, Muscle, Face)
1.6. Capgras Delusion (_____):
Delusion: My _____ have been replaced with impostors! (eg. Family, Coworkers, Best friend)
2.1. Compulsive Honesty:
Compulsion: Tell the truth.
2.2. Cotard Delusion:
Delusion: I am dead.
2.3. Depression:
Delusion: Everything is awful.
2.4. Fanaticism (_____):
Compulsion: Extol the virtues of _____ and rebuke unbelievers. (eg. Christianity, Communism, Ancestor worship)
2.5. Flashbacks/PTSD (_____):
Complex. Certain triggers cause you to believe a traumatic event (in brackets) is reoccurring. For instance, “It’s THE WAR, I am surrounded by THE ENEMY, I must KILL MY WAY OUT.” (Trigger: Gunfire)
2.6. Fregoli Delusion:
Delusion: Someone is following me, and they keep disguising themselves as other people.
3.1. Hoarding:
Compulsion: Don’t throw anything away, and prevent the other PCs from throwing things away too.
3.2. Hypochondria (_____):
Delusion: I’m sick (with _____).
3.3. Insomnia:
Complex: You can’t sleep. Once you’ve accumulated penalties from sleep loss equal to your Insomnia’s rank, you can fall asleep and they’re erased.
3.4. Kleptomania:
Compulsion: Steal.
3.5. Logorrhea:
Compulsion: Talk.
3.6. Mania:
Delusion: Everything is great.
4.1. Manic Depression:
Complex: At regular intervals (eg. Scenes, Sessions), flip a coin. Heads, the character is Manic. Tails, they’re Depressed. This lasts until the next flip.
4.2. Megalomania:
Delusion: I am the most important person ever.
4.3. Messiah Complex (_____):
Delusion: I am the saviour of _____. (eg. The downtrodden, My people, The Cossacks) The player may believe they have special powers, which can be improvised.
4.4. Mute:
Compulsion: Don’t talk.
4.5. Obsession (_____):
Delusion: Nothing but _____ matters. (eg. Whittling, Mining, Revenge on the Morlocks, Collecting gold)
4.6. Paranoia (_____):
Delusion: _____ is/are out to get me. (eg. The Feds, Shopkeepers, Morlocks, Everyone) May involve an elaborate conspiracy, may simply be the assumption that people are taking advantage of you.
5.1. Pathological Lying:
Compulsion: Lie
5.2. Philia (_____):
Delusion: I love  _____. (eg. Confined spaces, The darkness, My blanket)
5.3. Phobia (_____):
Delusion: _____ is/are terrifying. (eg. Reptiles, Darkness, Sunlight, Crowds). Triggers Horror Check with penalty equal to Rank, and nullifies any exposure bonus. 
5.4. Pyromania:
Compulsion: Set fires, enjoy fires.
5.5. Rage:
Compulsion: Attack whatever’s at hand. Always involves a trigger, typically the violation of a Passion.
5.6. Suicidal Mania:
Compulsion: Hurl myself into danger.

[[These last 6 I thought were iffy for various reasons, so I left them off the main list for the timebeing:]]

6.1. Auditory Hallucinations:
Complex: Your character can hear everything said by the player to your left, and interprets (1d6/2, rounded up) commands/Session as Compulsions. The GM can pick another player to be the PC’s voice at their discretion.
6.2. Compulsive Spying:
Compulsion: Spy on everyone you know.
6.3. Invisible Man Syndrome:
Delusion: I’m invisible.
6.4. Pathological Credulity:
Delusion: Everything that anyone tells me is true.
6.5. Reincarnation Complex (____):
Delusion: I am (_____). (eg. Hitler, Christ, My Dad.)
6.6. Thought Broadcasting:
Delusion: Everyone can hear my thoughts.



Wealth ($) is currency and value. Wealth ranges from 1 to 5, and each Wealth value is worth five times the previous value. Wealth values are further modified by a multiplier ranging from 1 to 5. This provides ~4500 degrees of Wealth.

Wealth box: # = base value, # of circles filled = multiplier.
($4x1, 3x3, 1x2)

Example: First World Family Incomes:

Wealth // Yearly Income  // Weekly Income // Example Item (Transport)

$1: Poor // ($5,000 to 25,000/year) // $100 to $500 // Old Bomb
$2: Middle Class // ($25,000 to 125,000/year) // $500 to $2,500 // Used Car
$3: Well-to-do // to 750,000/year) // $2,500 to $12,500 // New Car
$4: Rich // ($750,000 to 4,500,000/year) // $12,500 to $62,500 // Luxury Car
$5: Super Rich // ($4,500,000 to 22,500,000/year) // $62,500 to $312,500 // Yacht

Example: Wealth Multipliers

$1x1 = 5,000
$1x2 = 10,000
$1x3 = 15,000
$1x4 = 20,000
$1x5 = 25,000 = $2x1
$2x2 = 50,000
$2x3 = 75,000
$2x4 = 100,000
$2x5 = 125,000 = $3x1

Adding and Subtracting Wealth

As well as adding and subtracting whole amounts (eg. $3x2), some mechanics will ask you to add or subtract partial quantities:
  • $Nx modifies the left side. (eg. $2x3 + $1x = $3x3)
  • $xN modifies the right side. It never exceeds 1. 
    • eg. $3x4 - $1x = $3x3;
    • $2x1 - $x1 = $1x5 - $x1 = $1x4;
    • $2x5 + $x1 = $3x1 + $x1 = $3x2.
[[Note: I did work out a system for $xN modifiers where N>1, but decided the benefits weren’t worth the extra complexity:
  • When it would reduce a value below Nx1, it flips and modifies the left side. (eg. $3x2 - $x3 = ($3x2 → $3x1 → $2x1 → $1x1))
  • When it would increase a value above Nx5, keep adding to the right side and convert the values when you’re done (eg. $3x4 + $x3 = $3x4 → $3x5 → $3x6  → $3x7 = $4x1 + $3x2)
Use it if you like.]]


Assets are objects with a Wealth value, marked in brackets following its name. This is also referred to as its Asset value.
Eg. Dog ($1x2)

When beginning a campaign, GMs should peg certain resources at baseline Wealth values depending on their utility. This index can be adjusted and fleshed out as play proceeds, but each value should begin with at least two items.

Example: Fantasy Setting
$1: A sword, a week’s lodging at an inn, a lizardman's trinkets.
$2: A horse, a small feast.
$3: A nice cottage, a reliable assassin, a lavish party, an orc warchief's tribute.
$4: A fine ship, a caravan of wagons.
$5: A castle, a fleet of ships, a dragon's hoard.

GMs can eyeball the worth of objects by comparing them to the worth of other objects indexed at a given Wealth value.

Worth more than a sword, but not quite worth a horse? $1x3
Almost but not quite worth a cottage? $2x4
Worth a little more than a sword? $1x2

For the sake of simplicity, Wealth values are never mixed. This means nothing which costs ($3x2 + $2x4 + $1x3). There is one exception: If a PC almost has enough for something (eg. It costs $3x4 and they have $3x3, $2x4 and $1x3), and they really want it, the GM can allow them to pay everything they have for it.

Buying and Selling

Sell Something

When you sell something on the appropriate market, and it’s…

  • Pristine, you get its Asset value back. (Loot such as jewellery, gems, and art objects are assumed to be in pristine condition.)
  • Used, you get the higher of (its Asset value - $1x) or (1/2 its Asset value, rounded up).
  • Damaged, but salvageable, you get the higher of (its Asset value - $2x) or (1/4 its Asset Value, rounded up).
  • Junked, the GM can give you a price if it’s made of something valuable.

When you’re selling a lot of stuff, add it all up under each category and then apply the value modifier to the sum.

Buy Something

Buying common items is a straightforward exchange of Wealth for Assets.

When you go into a market looking for something unusual, roll+Charisma.
18+: You find it at a steal - -$x1
14+: You find it for a fair price
10-13: The GM picks one:
  • It costs + $x1.
  • You find something almost like it.
  • You find someone who recently sold it, and they might be willing to introduce you to the buyer.
  • It’s not legal here - but you’ve found someone who knows where to get it.
  • You’ll have to trade something in: a favour, or a valuable object.
  • The product is second-rate.
  • Specialty Market (The place to get the thing in question): +1
  • Bustling Market (Cosmopolitan commercial nexus): +1
  • Small Market (Towns): -1
  • Rarity: -1 to -2
The GM rules what can and can’t be found in a given market.

Making Money

Incomes of all kinds are represented as a source of Wealth, followed by its value and interval (if it’s regular). All regular incomes should use the same interval if possible.
Eg. Teacher ($2x1/Week); Raiding seaside villages ($2x4/Month); Trust fund ($3x1/Season).

===Betting and Gambling involve players risking Wealth with the uncertain hope of winning more. It’s best used sparingly as a fun diversion, or to spice up a scene. The mechanics which follow also cover risky investments.

Any contest or game of chance can be substituted as a resolution mechanic. If players aren’t interested in setting up a game of poker, the following simple games can be played:

Coin Flip: A game for one player.
The player puts forward his bet, and if it’s agreed upon, the GM flips a coin:
Heads: The PC doubles their bet.
Tails: The PC loses their bet.

Two-Up: A game for two players. 
Each player puts forward their bet, and once it’s agreed upon, one of them flips two coins: 
2xHeads: They win.
2xTails: Their opponent wins.
Heads & Tails: Flip again.

Thirty-Five: A game for any number of players. 
Starting from the GM and moving clockwise, players roll 2 or 3 dice every turn until they choose to stop, keeping count of their total. 
The winner is the player who gets as close as they can to 35 without going over it. 
If two players’ scores are equal, the player who got there in the fewest rolls wins.
If a winner can’t be determined, start the game again.

When you cheat on a bet, the GM makes a concealed roll:
+Dexterity for sleight of hand. (eg. Substituting loaded dice, hiding cards up your sleeve.)
+Intelligence for more involved cheating. (eg. Rigging races, fixing fights.)
10+: You win the bet.
13-: Someone gets suspicious. At the GM’s discretion, they’ll call you out, shake you down or expose you at a later date.

PCs cannot spend Will to upshift the result of this move. The GM should usually give PCs a chance to get rid of evidence of their cheating if someone gets suspicious. This should require some cleverness or fast-talking on their part.

If the PCs get too lucky, the GM can have someone throw them out or bring them before the owner.

===Bounties, errands, odd jobs, missions - the bread and butter of adventure. A bounty is a deed with a $ reward listed in brackets afterwards. It’s best used in games where the PCs are nomadic adventurers. [[Note: ie. The game’s style is picaresque, episodic rather than strung along a long arc. Will be defined clearly in the section on GMing]].
Eg. Johnny: Kill 10,000 Goblins ($2x1); Adenoid: Return the Slab ($2x4)

Typically, the PCs should be presented with a list of Bounties to choose from, whether they be found on a notice board, mailing list, or by an afternoon’s gossip.

===Loot is Wealth found in the course of adventuring, represented as an Asset. It’s best used in games where the PCs are nomadic adventurers, incapable of earning regular incomes.
Eg. Dragon’s hoard ($5x1); Buried treasure ($3x2); Old Man Gacy’s diamond stash ($4x1).

===Passive Incomes provide Wealth automatically at regular intervals. They’re best used in games where the PCs are agents of a higher power, or where mundane financial concerns would bog the game down.
Eg. Black-ops budget ($3x3/Mission); Inheritance ($3x1/Month).

===Work is a commitment of time and effort in exchange for Wealth. It’s best used in games where PCs have to juggle a mundane life and mundane financial needs with a secret, adventurous life. 

If a character can’t reliably meet the demands of a job, or if the work itself is risky, the GM nominates the stat most relevant to the job at hand and you use the following move:

When you work an unreliable job, roll+(Stat):
10+: You earn the income listed.
13-: There’s trouble.

Eg. They’re working two jobs, they’re adventuring on the side; they’re salesmen, drug dealers or pirates.

The trouble depends on the nature of the job as well as the character’s personal life. It could be an injury, an insane divorcee showing up at work, the discovery of a corrupt operation (and their knowledge of your discovery), the middle manager’s possession by astral parasites - anything. As a rule, it will affect both their professional and their secret life, and put their employment at jeopardy. It should also fold into the character’s adventuring life so that it can be resolved in play, without excessive diversion from the other characters’ activities (unless player and GM are willing to resolve it in a Vignette).

[[Note: Vignettes are little 1-on-1 microsessions, typically conducted over instant messaging. More on this in the section on GMing.]]

The Availability of Work
When work is a part of the game, GMs may run into the problem of what happens when a PC loses their job. For your average setting, assume the following:
  • Bad, steady jobs (enough to cover cost of living, maybe +$x1) are easy to come by.
  • PCs can usually get NPC friends to pull some strings and get them a better job, but their friends will want something in return.
  • At the GM’s discretion, unreliable work offering the income of an average job can easily be found. (eg. Organised crime, highway robbery, etc).
GMs may also enjoy coming up with random occupation charts for occasions like this, and to use with their NPCs. 

Example: An Occupation Chart for a Modern Setting
When the PCs seek employment, roll on the Bad Jobs Chart to determine what they find:

1d6 Bad Jobs
  1. Manual Labour
  2. Office Clerk
  3. Checkout
  4. Copywriter
  5. Delivery Boy
  6. Fast Food

Losing Money

===Expenditures return certain benefits in exchange for a certain amount of Wealth at regular intervals. This should be the same interval used for regular incomes. If a PC can’t or won’t pay the amount listed, they lose whatever benefits it offered. They’re represented as what the Wealth is going towards, then how much and how often in brackets:
Eg. Rent ($1x3/Month); Protection money ($2x1/Month)

In settings where mundane finances is a concern, the GM may wish to set a basic Cost of Living expenditure for all characters. In the event that they can’t afford it, deny them one of the following:
  • Transport
  • Communications (Phone, Internet)
  • Shelter
  • Electricity
  • Dignity (Independence, a tidy appearance, etc.)
===Losses work like Expenditures, but offer nothing in return. The PC may not know where they’re going, in which case their destination is represented as “???”. [[Note: Will be fleshed out with the section on running organisations in the section on Groups.]]

Alternative system: Simple Wealth

PC Wealth, as well as the Wealth value of good and services, ranges from 1 to 5. PCs can’t buy anything that costs more than their Wealth.
Buying something with cost equal to your Wealth reduces your Wealth by 1. You can sell stuff for its Wealth value - 1.
Exceptional goods/services are worth +1. Shoddy goods/services are worth -1.
An arbitrary number of goods/services are worth +1.

Horses cost 2 Wealth.
You could get a stubborn old horse for 1,
An arbitrary number of shoddy horses for 2,
An exceptional horse or an arbitrary number of horses for 3, 
An arbitrary number of exceptional horses for 4, 
And at Wealth 5 you could get an arbitrary number of exceptional horses without suffering any financial strain.

An arbitrary number might be: Enough horses, bows or suits of armour to equip a warband; enough cows to start a stable; enough wagons to run a trade caravan. Enough uranium to make a bomb would not count as an arbitrary amount, but enough uranium to stock a fleet of bombers would.

For the purposes of Influence and Compel, Wealth can be Demanded and counts as Leverage as follows:

Rank // Leverage // Demand 
Minor // (NPC Wealth) - 1 // (NPC Wealth) - 2
Significant // (NPC Wealth) // (NPC Wealth) - 1
Major // (NPC Wealth) + 1 // (NPC Wealth)


Social Mechanics

[[Note: Examples use the traditional D&D stat spreads.]]

===When to Resort to a Roll?

Social interaction should be resolved by roleplaying first. As with any other mechanic, players should only roll when:
  • The stakes are significant.
  • The outcome of an action is unclear.
  • The most likely outcome is not the most interesting.
  • Failure is as interesting as success.
Additionally, keep the following guidelines in mind:

If a PC provides another NPC an opportunity to act in line with their Passions or pursue a Goal, they’ll do it if there’s no good reason not to and they don’t think that they’re being taken advantage of. If a PC gets to the end of a long screed intended to convince the King to go to war, and it’s a particularly impressive screed, give them the war. You should feel when this is appropriate. 

If a PC is consistently friendly towards an NPC who has no reason to believe they’re being taken advantage of, that NPC will develop a +ve Tie towards them. The Rank of a Tie achieved this way is capped at the Rank of the greatest Risk taken in line with the NPC’s Passions. If you risk your life for someone, they’ll feel indebted - of course! In this way, PC and NPC could arrive at Major Ties of mutual regard without a single roll. Conversely, if the PC is unusually cruel, the NPC will develop a -ve Tie with Rank capped at the Rank of the greatest Violation perpetrated against them.

[[Note: For future reference, mutual Ties would make an interesting basis for several mechanics - call them “Bonds”.]]

===Concepts: Invoked Passions, Supporting Passions, Contradictory Passions

An NPC’s Passions are invoked when the PC takes an action which is relevant to them. Supporting Passions are those which, when Invoked, provide cause to go along with what the PC wants. Contradictory Passions are those which, when Invoked, provide cause to resist the PC. They count against Supporting Passions of equivalent Rank. For the purposes of this mechanic, Insanities and Goals also count as Passions.

When determining the outcome of an action, the GM can sum up the Ranks of all Invoked Passions and apply it as a modifier to the roll. If this modifier is more/less than +/- 3, the action should typically succeed/fail without a roll.

Example: The PC, a Luambeji tribesman, is attempting to incite war against the Zambesi. The Luambeji have a spirit of masculine pride (Significant Principle), and the loss of their fishing grounds would constitute a Significant reduction in their Standard of Living (The will to resist which counts as a Significant Passion). However, they also fear the Zambesi (Minor), and war against them is intuitively felt to be a Significant Risk (counts as a Significant Passion). The following two sentences invoke all of these Passions:

“Are we men or toothless crones?! How long will we allow the filthy Zambesi to plunder our fishing grounds?”

If this were an attempt to incite war against the Zambesi, the GM would judge the Passions invoked sufficient to allow a roll, and add a +1 modifier (2 + 2 - 2 - 1 = 1). See the moves themselves for more information.



When you try to get an NPC to do something, declare your Demands and your Leverage. If they don’t deem your leverage sufficient, or they can’t carry out your demand, they’ll refuse. This could mean they:
  • Take offense, or retaliate violently.
  • Point you to someone else who might be willing to help you.
  • Tell you what more they might want from you.
  • Tell you what they could do for the leverage you're providing.
If the NPC deems your leverage sufficient, roll+Charisma:
14+: They'll do it before you make good on your leverage. 
10-13: The GM picks 1:
  • They'll do it once you make good on your leverage. 
  • They’ll demand something more of you.
  • They’ll do something like it.
  • They won’t do a perfect job of it.
(The PC’s Leverage) minus (the Rank of the Demand made, as well as any Contradictory Passions), is applied as a modifier to the roll.

Compelling Groups:
When you try to get a Group to do something, declare your Demands and your Leverage. If the GM deems your leverage sufficient, roll+Charisma:

14+: They’ll do it, and you can continue to direct them as long as long as you’re able and the direction is clearly relevant.
10-13: They’ll do something like it, and you can’t control them.

Here follow definitions of Demand and Leverage, as well as guidelines for weighing each:

===Demands: What you want them to do. The Rank of a demand corresponds to the Risk you're asking an NPC to take, as outlined in the section on Passion Tests. 
eg. Kill someone; give someone a message; give you something.

You can demand Wealth and Assets according to the rank of your Leverage and the Wealth of the NPC: 
  • Minor Leverage is worth (NPC Wealth - 2x) (eg. $3x4 > $1x4, $3x1 > $1x1)
  • Significant Leverage is worth (NPC Wealth - 1x) (eg. $3x4 > $2x4, $3x1 > $2x1)
  • Major Leverage is worth (NPC Wealth - x1) (eg. $3x4 > $3x3, $3x1 > $2x4)
So long as you’re not regarded as untrustworthy, a promise to repay the money boosts your Leverage by one Rank.

Extended fundraising campaigns are best handled with the Goals system, or with an array of Missions offered by the GM.

Leverage: Reasons why they should do it. The Rank of your Leverage corresponds to the degree of Risk that an NPC is willing to take in exchange for it.
eg. They're a friend of yours; you’ll pay them if they do; you’ll kill them if they don’t.

Supporting Passions, when Invoked, count as Leverage of equivalent Rank. Contradictory Passions nullify Leverage of equivalent Rank.
eg. Bertholdt convinces Anna to run drugs between London and Amsterdam (Significant Demand) in exchange for the money she needs to send her Nephew (Significant Tie) to an elite boarding school.
Ricky’s Major Goal is to own a pig farm. You have one you’re willing to offer him (Major Leverage) if he’ll bomb parliament for you (Major Demand).

Payments and Gifts with no specific relation to a Passion or Goal count as Leverage with Rank depending on the Wealth of the recipient, as well as the value of the Payment. A Payment's final Rank value is left to the GM's discretion, but the following makes a good rule of thumb:
  • (Their Wealth - 1x) is equal to a Minor Leverage,
  • (Their Wealth - x1) is equal to a Significant Leverage.
  • (Their Wealth + 1x) is equal to a Major Leverage.
The rank value of payments is also influenced by the Passions of the recipient. Some rules of thumb:
  • Contradictory Passions and Goals nullify Payments of a Rank equal to theirs, effectively adding that amount to the cost of any Payment made.
    • Eg. Principles of honesty, lawfulness and orderliness would reduce the value of bribes.
  • Supporting Passions may also nullify Payments of a Rank equal to theirs, although not necessarily to the same degree. Greedy NPCs, if clever, wring every cent that they can from the PCs.
    • Eg. Principles of greed would tend reduce the value of bribes, but something like drug addiction or a Goal requiring a specific amount of money wouldn’t.
Example: Natanya (Wealth $3x2) has a Minor Principle of lawfulness. For a Minor Payment, Boris would have to offer her $2x4 ($2x2 + $2x2). If she had a Minor Compulsion - let’s say, a heroin addiction - it would negate her Principle of Lawfulness.

===The prospect of Romance with a passably attractive person usually counts as Significant Leverage.

===Credible, inescapable Threats provide Leverage equal to the Violation threatened. As aforementioned, this will typically result in a -ve Tie towards you of Rank equal to the Violation. Making Threats is risky, as threatened NPCs will escape and seek revenge if possible.
eg. You kidnap somebody's child (Major Tie) and threaten to cripple them (Major Leverage) if they refuse to carry out your demands.

You threaten to kill someone (Major Leverage). If they're in a position to get back at you, they will likely develop of a Tie of hatred towards you. If not, resentment - or fear, which incidentally would add Leverage to further threats.

===Carrying out a demand: Someone who’s carrying out a Demand will do whatever it takes to accomplish it, so long as they’re not risking more than is justified by the Leverage invoked. Some rules of thumb:
  • If carrying out the request puts them at greater Risk than they expected, they’ll abandon the mission if possible. 
  • If not, they’ll demand compensation if they make it out in one piece.
  • If you compensate them and they don't believe you intended to put them in harm's way, they’ll forgive you.
For the sake of simplicity, it’s assumed that they won’t encounter any unforeseen difficulties if the PCs don’t interfere with what they’re doing. If trouble occurs due to facts that the PCs were unaware of when they made the request, they should usually gain some information which is as useful as the NPC’s carrying out the demand would have been.

[[Note: There will be a big chart to equate all the Rank values of every mechanic which interacts with the Passions system (Wealth, Leverage, Demands, Reputation, etc.) I will likely fold the Rank values of the various forms of Leverage here into the chart and refer to it in the final version, rather than laying it all out here, because it’s also relevant to eg. Guidelines regarding what constitutes sufficient action to trigger the Inspire move.]]


Make an Impression

When you try to impress an NPC you've met for the first time, roll+Charisma.

18+: They gain a Significant Tie of desirable tenor towards you.
14+:  They gain a Minor Tie of desirable tenor towards you.
10-13: They gain no Tie towards you, but they’ll treat you politely.
9-:  They gain a Minor Tie of undesirable tenor towards you.
3-:  They gain a Significant Tie of undesirable tenor towards you.

How the Passion is expressed is a function of the NPC’s other traits.
Example: NPCs might regard PCs as fraudulent, pompous or tacky; noble, seductive or powerful, depending on how they present themselves.

Group Impressions: 
When the PCs make an impression as a group, roll with the highest of the PCs’ Charisma.
When impressing a group, the result describes the general feeling of the group - certain individuals may differ from the group in their opinion of the PCs.

Modifying Reputation: 
The results of the roll may be modified by an existing Tie towards the PCs. Results above/below +/- 3 indicate frothing love/hatred:

18+: +2 Ranks.
14+: +1 Ranks.
10-13: No change in Rank, but tending away from immediate hostilities.
9-: -1 Ranks.
3-: -2 Ranks.

If a Tie remains +ve or -ve post-modification, its tenor remains the same. If not, its tenor changes to one that’s desirable or undesirable, as appropriate.

Example: The Knights of the Quivering Thorn have a Minor Reputation as good men across the province. If they got a result of 18+ to make a good impression on an NPC who was familiar with them, they'd boost that reputation by 2 Ranks to Major - a fanatical devotee!



When you try to influence an NPC, declare which Passion you want to instill in them. If the GM deems your action sufficient, roll+Charisma:
10+: If possible, the NPC’s most relevant Passion is strengthened by one Rank, and its nature is shifted to resemble the Passion you wanted to instill. If not, the most relevant Passion opposing it is weakened.
10-13: The nature of the resulting Passion is distorted in a small but significant way.
Eg. A love of hard work becomes a love of wealth, a hatred of invaders becomes a hatred of all foreigners, a hatred of sinners becomes a love of virtue.

PCs can instill and destroy Minor Passions freely, so long as no Passions oppose the action. In order to strengthen a Passion past Minor, or to weaken it below Significant or Major, they need to Invoke at least one Supporting Passion of equal or higher Rank.
Eg. You could only intensify a Significant Passion to Major Rank if you invoked another Major Passion, or two other Significant Passions.
You could only weaken a Significant Passion to Minor Rank by invoking another Significant Passion or two Minor Passions.

The sum of (Supporting Passions in excess of those necessary to allow the move) minus (Contradictory Passions) is applied as a modifier to the roll.

[[Note: Influencing a Group’s Passions may work differently, as the Rank of a Group’s Passion refers to its demographic penetration, ie. the rough proportion of group members who hold that Passion at Minor, Significant and Major Rank. Complicated stuff! Which is why I’ll have to leave it for another post.

Other note: I’ll elaborate on this in the section on NPCs, but Passions work differently for them because they’re never really faced with Passion Tests - they just tend to act out the Passions they’ve already got. Instead, there are mechanics (such as the above) for influencing their Passions, and mechanics to determine how their Passions change over time.]]

An attempt to Influence could mean a speech, a dance, a look, getting into a fight - practically anything, so long as someone experiences it.



When you tell a plausible lie, roll+Charisma. 
10+: They believe you without question.
14+: Gain two Deception tokens.

You can spend Deception to take a 10-13 result on subsequent attempts to lie. Any Deception left unspent is lost at the end of the scene.

For a more complex social mechanic:


When you try to fast-talk an NPC, roll+Charisma.
10-13: Gain a Bluster token.
14+: Gain three Bluster tokens.

From the moment of their reply, you have 5 seconds to come up with a response. Whatever you say, your character says too, although the GM will ignore minor stammering. If you stop talking for more than 5 seconds after their reply, your character does too. This lasts until the exchange ends.

You can spend Bluster to:
  • Compel an apparently innocuous action (Minor or less; must not take more than a few minutes)
  • Have a plausible lie believed without question.
  • Lift the time limit on your response and, if desired, consult the table about what you should say.
Once you’ve expended your Bluster, you can pause the conversation and roll again to refresh it. If you succeed, the 5 second rule is in action again. Any Bluster left unspent is lost at the end of the scene.

[[Note: I came up with this move to represent what Milady does towards the end of The Three Musketeers. It's a good book!]]


Discern Intent

When you observe or interact with someone, you can roll+Wisdom. 
10-13: Gain 1 Insight. 
14+: Gain 3 Insight.

Spend Insight to ask one of the following questions:
  • How do you feel about _____?
  • What do you want from _____?
  • Are you lying/putting on an act?
(_____) must be present in the scene or alluded to in some way that the subject is aware of for it to be a valid subject.

[[Note: By default, players can have no direct knowledge of NPCs’ Passions, and are instead gathered indirectly by this move and by, for instance, responses to attempts to Compel. Powers which reveal Passions are fine, however, although they should . Powers which do everything for you aren’t fun, working with imperfect tools to overcome obstacles is fun - more on this in the Design section.

I have a more complex system for learning about other characters’ traits in the works, but I wanted to get this post done - it’ll be included with the next update.]]

Next: Discern Character + Conditions, then Combat, then War, then Powers.

P.S. 8400 words by Christ that's the last time I try to write three sections at once.

Sunday, 30 April 2017


Passions grew in the revision, so social mechanics and insanity will come next time. A section on Emotions was cut and will be included with Insanity.

Thus far, there are three other sections which will feature more, specialised information on Passions:
1. Goals and Threats
2. NPCs
3. Storytelling


Passions are the urges and drives which spur the PCs on to action and bear them up in the chaos of adventure. They fall into one of two categories - Ties and Principles.

Ties are the relationships that define your character, whether that’s venomous hatred towards an ally who deserted you in a moment of need, or a simple love of your homeland and its people. Ties are rendered as an object followed by the tenor of the Passion in brackets. For instance:
  • “Thousand Scars Veteran (Hatred)”
  • “The Carpathian Highlands (Love)”
  • “The Banksia Men (Fondness)”
Principles are the creeds, ideals, traits and cravings that define your character. Principles are rendered as sentences. For instance:
  • “The strong should hold open dominion over the weak.”
  • "Nobody is irredeemable."
  • "I worship Ulalia and embody her ideals."
  • "I am a just king."

===Defining Passions

Passions should be short and evocative - a Tie’s tenor should not exceed 3 words, and a Principle shouldn’t be more than a short sentence.

Tie or Principle?

Many Passions can be rendered as Ties or Principles. If the Passion in question can be rendered as a Tie without sacrificing too much of its content, do so.

The Domain of Passions: Obligations and Prohibitions

In each case, Passions consists of obligations and prohibitions: that which the Passion compels you to do or refrain from doing.

As with skills, Passions should be broad enough that they could reasonably come up every session, and narrow enough that it can't be made relevant to every problem (primarily for the purpose of spending Will, which is detailed below). If a Passion seems to be coming up too often, it should be pinned down to some specific obligations and prohibitions.

Where possible, leave the question of what a Passion means open, and dramatise answers in play through the PC's response to the moral dilemmas the GM has posed. Love, for instance, is rarely only jealous, submissive, romantic, or lustful.

Unifying and Dividing Passions

Players will often want to condense their Passions: To unify some Principles under the banner of a code of conduct; to unify some Ties under the banner of a family, clan or circle of warriors. This is perfectly alright, and these higher-order Passions should be treated like any other.

This is also a good way to take Passions which, on their own, would be too narrow: Dietary restrictions, superstitious habits, points of etiquette and so on.

If a PC defines themselves mostly by their adherence to a moral code, it's a good idea to split its facets up into separate Passions.

Inappropriate Passions

If someone thinks a PC's Passion contradicts the desired tone of the game, discuss why, and change it or the game’s tone as necessary. As long as the players come up with a rough idea of their desired tone before the game, this shouldn’t be a problem.

[[Tone to be discussed in a short comment on running games in another section. Examples: Horror, heroic adventure, noir, etc.]]

Will and Rank

Passions are ranked according to what you’ve sacrificed for them, which determines the extent to which they define you. There are three ranks: Minor, Significant, and Major, which are alternately referred to as Rank 1, Rank 2, and Rank 3 Passions.

Will is the reserve of willpower and motivation held by each of your Passions. Minor Passions can hold one Will, Significant Passions two, and Major three. You can spend Will 1-for-1 to upshift the result of actions in line with your Passion.

Example: A hermit with a Principle of self-reliance and seclusion could channel his Will towards getting away from people and supporting himself once he'd done so, so long as he refused any help which he was offered.

Ties, Rank and Valence

Where relevant, Ties directed against an object will be represented with a negative Rank, and Ties in favour of an object will be represented with a positive Rank. This means Rank ranges through 7 degrees, from 3 to -3, describing Major Ties for and against an object respectively.

Example: A Minor Tie of love towards a dog is Rank 1. If it fell 3 Ranks, it would proceed through indifference (Rank 0) to a Significant Tie against the dog, whether it be hatred, fear or disgust.


PCs will often have interests or habits which neither pose much risk, nor offer them much cause to go out on adventures. If these quirks cannot be assimilated to a broader motivation, there's no need to represent them with a Passion, although they can be written down as roleplaying notes.

Example: Artaxerxes loves wine and fine cheeses, but has no particular love for the high life besides. He often indulges his tastes in the city between adventures.

Passion Tests

A Passion Test occurs whenever you have an opportunity to act in line with your Passions at significant risk to yourself. When, in the name of a Passion, you risk:

  1. Embarrassment, injury, or inconvenience, take 1 Will and raise its rank to Minor if applicable.
  2. Scandal, crippling injury, or detour, take 2 Will, 1 XP, and raise its rank to Significant if applicable.
  3. Exile, death, or compromise of a goal, take 3 Will, 2 XP and raise its rank to Major if applicable.
Passion Tests are ranked according to what a PC could reasonably risk in the name of their Passion. If the PC could not reasonably risk more than would get them 1 Will, it's a Minor test of Passion. So on for Significant and Major tests.

If a PC refuses to risk anything in the name of their Passion, or risks less than they reasonably could, lower its Intensity by one and erase any excess Will. PCs can always choose to risk more than they're expected to, but they won't be penalised if they don't.

PCs are also encouraged to test each other's Passions, whether as a means of manipulating one another or otherwise.

[[The precise meaning of inconvenience and detour will be elaborated in the context of Goals and Threats.]]

===Judging Risk

What constitutes a significant risk is left to the GM's discretion, but a good rule of thumb is that it be more likely than not, or certain to result in a bad outcome. More than anything, it's important that the GM be consistent in their judgements.

Underestimating Risk

If all at the table have underestimated the risk of a given course of action; if a series of bad rolls make things worse than they should have been; if they were simply never sure of it, the GM can choose to reward PCs with Will and XP befitting the risk, so long as they do not swerve from their commitments when trouble has reared its head. 

The GM can never revoke Will and XP they’ve already given.

Unreasonable Risk

An unreasonably risky action is one which is significantly likely to do more harm than good to the cause of the Passion in question.

Examples: Herod hates the Romans who have occupied his land. He would be penalised for refusing to risk rescuing a fellow of his from the Roman Guard, but he would not be penalised for failing to walk directly to Caesar's palace and throw rocks at him.

To give a more nuanced example: If on the following day Herod was meant to lead a raid intended to recapture 20 prisoners, he would not be penalised for refusing to risk capture by the Guard in an attempt to, say, rescue a few prisoners on their way to the Guard's prison camp.

===Dying for your Passions

By default, facing death in the name of your Passions offers no benefits beyond those listed above. The GM may give the PC the option of spending all their Will to achieve some specific end - for instance, holding off marauding foes long enough for the rest of the party to escape - but I personally find it more rewarding to leave all that to chance.

===Indulging Passions

Players can also declare unprompted, often during downtime, that they're sacrificing something to their Passions. In this case, they declare what they're doing and suggests a rank. Once a rank is agreed on, the GM narrates consequences appropriate to it and distributes Will and XP accordingly.

Unlike a Passion Test, indulgences cannot raise the rank of a Passion.

Examples: A spoiled young dilettante prince hosts a night of feast and debauchery and wakes up with his palace trashed and several treasures stolen. (Significant Indulgence)

His father exiles a sensible courtier over a slander against the young prince. (Significant Indulgence)

Retroactive Indulgence

In certain circumstances, the GM may offer PCs the chance to declare retroactively that they made some sacrifice in the name of their Passions.

Example: A young Legionnaire of the Roman army sets off with his comrades in arms. He is known to be of a retiring disposition (Significant Principle), and it hasn't yet been established whether he has been socialising with his fellow legionnaires. The GM asks whether he has, and his player says no, that the young man has instead been keeping to himself and studying classic poets. The GM declares that relations between the man and his fellow legionnaires are frosty, and that this will probably come back to bite him. In the event that it does, the player is awarded Will and XP in accordance with the risk incurred.

On the other hand, if his player had declared that he had in fact been socialising with the legionnaires, he would have gained a Minor Tie of comradeship towards them, and lowered his principle of reclusiveness to Minor rank.

===Conflicting Passions

Internal Conflict

Sometimes, a PC's Passions’ obligations and prohibitions will come into conflict. Internal conflict is a wonderful source of drama, and so minimising potential conflict between Passions should not be a goal unless you want to focus on interpersonal or external conflict.

Only directly contradictory Passions should be prohibited, and even then only in chargen. Competing Passions can emerge in play as a PC's personality develops.

GMs are encouraged to come up with moral dilemmas which pit PCs' Passions against one another.

Internal Conflict and Passion Tests

When a PC satisfies one Passion at the expense of another, the compromised Passion's rank is lowered and the preferred Passion's is raised according to the degree of compromise. Judging the degree of compromise is largely a matter of feel, but following rules of thumb will come in handy:

In the event that a Passion is compromised irreparably, the preferred Passion is raised to its old rank. Any compromise short of utter betrayal is one rank lower. In the case of Major Passions, the rank can be lowered once more if losing two ranks feels excessive.

Example: Johnny Murgatroyd Jr. loves his cat (Minor Tie), but he's a greedy son of a bitch. When someone offers to buy his cat off him for $200, he takes the money. As a result, he loses his Minor Tie towards his cat and gains a Minor Principle: "I love making money!" 

Interpersonal Conflict

Before play begins and after players have come up with their PCs' Passions, they should be compared to make sure they won't lead to irreconcilable differences in the party. Beyond that, it's left to each group to decide whether they want to minimise in-party conflict and to what extent.

===Starting Passions

I recommend starting with 1 Major and 2 Significant Passions. These can be generated before play begins or over the course of the first session as players are exposed to the setting.

===Gaining Passions

If a PC wants or expects to gain a Passion, they can pencil it into their Passions list and leave the rank unmarked.

===Changing Passions

During downtime, or in the wake of a significant event, players may feel that their PC’s Passions have become obsolete or untenable. In this case, they’re allowed to change those Passions and retain their Intensity and Will, so long as their new Passion responds to the old in some way.

At the GM’s discretion, the changing Passion’s intensity may be lowered by one rank, to represent spiritual exhaustion. This should be done if the change is a radical one - for instance, a complete reversal of position - or if the Passion is changing too rapidly - more than once in a session, or 2 sessions in a row, say.

Additionally, Passions may develop as they graduate to a new rank in the wake of a Passion Test.

In the wake of a wrestling match which proved more difficult than expected, Milo's contempt for his foe Lucian matures to a grudging respect.


Vices only ever get in the way of achieving one's goals or adhering to one's Passions. Vices are not ranked, and they can only be indulged. This provides Will and XP as usual, but Will is distributed to Passions which the PC feels could redeem their indulgence or guide them away from the vice in question.

Example: McGinnis is addicted to cocaine. One day, while on cocaine, it occurs to McGinnis what a great idea it would be to rob a bank. He leaves 20 incoherent voicemails on his friend's phone before speeding off to the bank with some hosiery on his head, trying to load a shotgun and steer and rearrange the hosiery so he can see, all at the same time. After causing several accidents, he makes it to the bank. The cocaine begins to wear off, but he's terrified of what will happen if he stops, and so he heads in.


NEXT TIME: Madness, Wealth and Social Mechanics