Dungeon World or How I Learned to Stop Rolling and Love the Story

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Image courtesy of Lydia (CC BY 2.0)

I think the biggest revelation I’ve had recently, in terms of my understanding of roleplaying games at least, has come from playing Dungeon World. Dungeon World a game a friend of mine introduced me to a year or so ago, as a fast and furious replacement for some of the more standard and in-depth sword & sorcery style games (I’m looking at you Dungeons and Dragons). At first I was skeptical, but it quickly won me over through its simplicity, variety and also the way in which it pushed much of the heavy lifting of GMing back into the hands of the players.

Dungeon World encourages an experience in which the players really have as much responsibility for “running” the game as the GM does, and, as a person who had a run of being forever-GM for a long time, this deeply appealed to me. However, this isn’t a post about how much I love Dungeon World. What I’m going into today is the only substantial hiccup I ever encountered when running Dungeon World, and which almost had me discarding the game entirely; the question of when to make the players actually roll dice.

Dungeon World turns the normal roleplaying game experience on its head in a lot of ways; it often seems a lot like a case of convergent evolution, producing something that looks a lot like D&D, but plays completely differently. One of the ways it does this is by providing a list of “moves” players can perform, with predetermined, but with room to be interpreted, results, determined by the roll of the dice. Often these results, even the negative ones, are really just an impetus for the player or GM to make something interesting happen, with the most common result of most rolls being something along the lines of “you succeed, but then this happens”, with the “this” being left up to the GM to determine.

This might seem odd to a lot of more experienced roleplayers, as the standard definition of a roleplaying game tends to be that it is a game in which you can do anything you can imagine. A list of standard moves would seem to fly right in the face of this concept. Since the dawn of time roleplaying games have tended to follow a similar pattern, regardless of the dice used; the player states what they intend to do, the GM applies a difficulty to the task, and the player tries to roll high enough to achieve this.

In most games I’ve been part of, this mechanic is extended to almost everything a character does. Arm wrestle a guy? Sure, DC12 Strength check please. Bartering with a salesman? Okay, DC15 Diplomacy check to get a good price. We’re all familiar with this, right?  If it isn’t 100% guaranteed to succeed, you’ve got to pass a check to do it.

This is where Dungeon World threw me. In one of my sessions, a player decided to leap a fence. He wasn’t doing it to get away from an enemy or to reach an objective; he just wanted to be a bad-ass and walking around to the gate seemed like the chump’s way to get to the other side. Standard adventurer fair, right? So, assured that the game would be prepared to deal with this, I looked to the list of prescribed moves. None of them fit the task.

Defy Danger? Well, it wasn’t a high fence and there was no pending threat; the player was just doing it for fun and to look cool.

Discern Realities? There was no challenge to gauge how high the fence was, and there were no hidden traps to notice.

I was really struggling. My GM lizard-brain told me that the player should be making a check if he wanted to do this action; in reality such an action would contain some chance of failure and maybe even injury.  I’d normally call for a Strength or Athletics check without even thinking about it.  Sure the check would be easy, but the player would still have to make the roll. Dungeon World didn’t give me that option, and that’s when it clicked for me.

Dungeon World is a system that only wants you to get into mechanics when the outcome could affect the story. If my player were leaping a chasm, there would be a good chance he could injure himself or drop an item into the gap, and so a Defy Danger check could well have been called for, but only to see how such a dangerous act would affect the ongoing story.  On the other hand, if said chasm was simply a tidbit of description in the party’s travel through a twisting underground labyrinth, the players can simply describe how they crossed the chasm.  At the end of the day, your story requires the players to be on the other side of the chasm, so why make an issue of it, unless it’s meant to be pivotal to your plot?

Dungeon World is prompting you to run a game where the dice are rolled only when deciding something important to the ongoing narrative; where a mighty beast needs to be slain or evaded, a dire truth needs to be revealed, or a mayor persuaded to rally the townfolk to their home’s defence.  It reveals to you that making your heroes roll to perform mundane feats makes the whole game more mundane, and sword and sorcery is not the genre for the mundane.

This adjustment in thinking is achieved in two ways.  Firstly, the game only provides moves for interesting actions; it’s implicitly telling you that anything not listed in the moves is probably not something that you need to roll dice over.  Decide the outcome by other means.  Look at the characters, does it seem like something they could just do?  Consider whether a success or a failure is really going to make a difference to your game, or is it just going to slow everything down?  Let roleplay win the day, and allow your players to talk you around with interesting actions and dialogue.

Secondly, the game rewards failure.  This is one of my favourite features, since it means a roll’s outcome can never be bad; either you succeed by some measure, or your character is rewarded with XP. You learn from your mistakes.  This also has the interesting effect of rendering frequent rolls disproportionately beneficial to the players.  If you’re asking the party to roll for over and over again, to complete relatively mundane tasks, every failure is another point of XP; to look at it another way, the game is asking you, before calling for a roll, to consider whether a character would learn something meaningful from a failure.  If they wouldn’t, they probably don’t need a roll.  They are the heroes after all.

Dungeon World is also a game which is comfortable trusting the GM to determine when it’s not worth rolling because something can’t happen.  What’s that, you’re attacking the dragon unarmed?  Well, that’s just not enough to hurt it.  Unfortunately, even with the best of luck, your fists just aren’t going to cut it; this dragon is tougher than that.  Draw your epic longsword?  Come up with a daring maneuver to topple some heavy crates onto your foe?  Parlay with the beast to distract it from its rampage?  Now we’re talking.

This isn’t to say Dungeon World is a game in which the players can never attack a dragon barehanded; instead it’s to say that it’s a game where the GM is trusted to set the terms of their story.

The lesson I learned from Dungeon World is that, as a GM, it’s up to me to facilitate my players, without holding the game up.  Let them be the big heroes the character sheet says they should be, and only let chance into the equation when the fate of the world (or at least the player’s world) really does hang in the balance.  And that it’s also okay to sometimes say no, if it serves your story.

Between a rock and a hard place

Recently I’ve encountered a number of games, both as a player and as a GM, that have really made me think about the nature of game construction, more specifically how far games should go in providing frameworks that encourage players to take certain actions, the best way to go about doing it and whether they should do it at all.  I’ll try and explain what I mean.

At a most basic level a roleplaying game can be described as a series of rules which allow people to play in an alternate world through their characters.  The purpose of these rules or mechanics is to dictate what can or cannot be done; that’s pretty much the way I have always thought about the way roleplaying games operate.  They system functions as a restriction on imagination; in a game played entirely in the mind the rules induce challenge into a scenario, they tell the players they have to roll a certain number on a die to hit an enemy or leap a gap and stop the whole thing devolving into the equivalent of the classic playground “I hit you/No you didn’t” back and forth that occurs when multiple people’s imagined excellence clashes.  I always considered them necessary to allow the hobby to be a game, and not simply friends sitting around and jiving about what would be cool to imagine (which is fine and dandy, but isn’t really an RPG).

It has occurred to me recently, however, that this understanding fundamentally ignores the first part of that description; mechanics dictate what can be done in a game, as well as forbidding players from running riot.  They provide an example to the players of the kind of actions expected of their characters, and what niches their characters can fill.  This is something I don’t think I ever considered until I started playing/running less mechanically heavy games, but now is at the core of what I think about when I start to put a game together.  When I ran Exalted, I never worried that people might struggle to envision what their characters could do, because 90% of the mechanics in that game are rules which provide examples, in the form of charms or other powers, of abilities the characters have or actions they can take in game. On the other hand when I’ve come to run Dungeon World recently, or my own cut-down version of Exalted which completely removed charms as a mechanic, the most common issue I’ve run across is players being at a loss to understand what their characters are able to do.  The lack of restrictions means that there’s nothing to tell them what actions their characters can take.

This seems inexplicable to me, at least at first glance.  The focus of these games is that players should generally be allowed to do anything that seems right (see: awesome), only rolling for a resolution when presented with a real challenge.  They shouldn’t be bogged down with a list of specific moves and techniques which are the be all and end all of their abilities, they should be doing what seems in character, whether or not it was thought of by the game designers in the first place.  These more freeform games, by their very nature, lack a lot of the structures used by other games to tell players what they can’t do, but this missing game architecture is what throws some of my players through a loop.  They want their games to list the things they can’t do and tell them the specific things they can do, because otherwise they feel like they’re at a loss as to what their character is capable of.  It’s a case of crippling indecision; if you can do anything, how do you decide what you should do?

I struggle to understand this position; if anything I always over-think my characters and feel like I’m brimming over with cool ideas that I only wish weren’t held back by the dots/numbers on my sheet.  I rarely feel the characters I build are awesome enough to really represent what I envision.  I’m trying to describe an iconic character with roleplaying rules; I’m never left with enough points to really make my character as good as he seems.  This probably leads me to more and more to love narrative games, where the character’s influence comes more from the storytelling than the mechanics.

So this brings me back, very vaguely, to my original title.  This is my rock and a hard place, my struggle to find the perfect balance.  I’m stuck between, on the one hand, systems replete with rules and mechanics that detail every possible action and exclude any other functions (without GM intervention of course), and more freeform games that encourage players to do whatever they think right for their characters, but that inevitably leave some people dumbfounded as to what they think that should be.

Unfortunately it’s a conundrum I’m not completely sure how to solve.

Welcome to the New Old School

Dungeons and Dragons 1981, by TSR
Dungeons and Dragons 1981, by TSR

My Dungeons and Dragons experience started in the first year of my university experience (some time in 2007, if I remember correctly), with me being invited to play in a D&D 3.5 game.  I’d played Exalted for years, but I was completely uninitiated into the wider world of roleplaying games.  One of my high school friends had simply asked me along to try this roleplaying thing, and I’d been hooked.  Of course, I’d seen D&D in shops and the like, but when I did buy a starter set and took it home, it seemed completely alien.

As a person who had only ever played one roleplaying game, it seemed incredible to me that other games would have so vastly different and, seemingly, more complex rules.  So I put any interest in Dwarves, Elves, Fighters and Rogues to the back of my mind, and stuck with Exalted, until late 2007, of course.

I’d been searching for a roleplaying game group to get into to get my gaming fix, and this was the only one accepting new players, so I went along and got stuck in.  I can’t say I loved my first experience with Dungeons and Dragons, but it certainly piqued my interest, and within a few weeks I had my own PHB and was exploring all the various character options and how the mechanics worked.  Discovering a new game is always fun.

Regardless, the above is all just a rather roundabout way of explaining that, as far as Dungeons and Dragons goes, I came late to the game.  3.5 always seemed old school to me, and in truth, and I never had any interest in delving backwards into D&D history.  4th was more to my liking than 3.5 ever was, and from there I’ve found other games that do a better job of hitting my fantasy adventure button (see Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay or Dungeon World).

However, this changed once again when a friend who now lives quite some distance away invited me to play in a game with him over IRC, another thing that I hadn’t done in quite some time.  I used to use it quite a bit to discuss roleplaying games when I was at home and the only other people to discuss such things with in person were the people in my weekly game.  Talking your master plan over with your players tends to take some of the suspense out of it.  So when my friend mentioned the idea of playing a game over IRC, I was pretty interested.  I think if he’d asked me 4 years ago, before I graduated and all my spare time became devoured by the unwelcome beast that is employment, I would have turned him down.  Why play online with people I barely know, when I could simply call a few friends and arrange a game?  I think having 8+ hours of any weekday devoured by work has changed my perspective regarding this though, and I was actually quite excited at the prospect.

When he finally told me what we’d be playing, I was somewhat taken aback.  Dungeons and Dragons, the 1981 Moldvay edition, is at least how he described it to me.  This friend of mine has always had a penchant for more old school and brutal gaming, so I can’t say I was entirely surprised, but as I said earlier, this kind of gaming didn’t really appeal to me.  The idea of having multiple characters, because it’s pretty much accepted that one of them is going to die, or at the very least having henchmen/hirelings, not to back you up or provide skills you don’t have, but instead to either act as an ablative meat-shield, or to once again step up when your character inevitably takes one for the team, doesn’t exactly thrill me.  Wizards with 1 spell per day, rolled randomly.  Having to make a serious choice between food or a weapon.  It all pretty much sucked the life out of it for me.

But I’d like to think I’m not one to let a friend down, so defiantly I showed my face, or nickname at least, in the chat and set about creating a character, a necessarily brutally short process.  We rolled stats, slotted them in the order which we’d rolled them and then picked a class that made as good a use of them as we could.  As concepts grew, I found myself growing fond of my character, a burly but smart fighter from the cities, come to a small town as a hired sword to aid some adventurer’s raid a sorcerer’s castle.  The fondness worried me.  Every time someone spoke of long term plans for the adventure, it was pretty much assumed that one, if not all of us, would be dead at that point, replaced with a henchman or hireling who inherited their mission, and their share of the treasure.

It was as alien a game to now me as D&D 3.5 was to me back then in 2007.  Few of the concepts I held true about roleplaying games seemed to exist.  This wasn’t about the characters or the story, it was about the adventure as a mechanical device.  There was little in the way of great heroes or deeds.  We were more like a group of thugs seeking to raid a historical landmark.

I should have been dismayed and left disappointed.  Not so.  I actually enjoyed myself a great deal  The game’s lack of mechanical complexity in many areas was filled in by players interacting with each other and the landscape, and while I was certainly fond of my character, the knowledge that I could easily throw another one together in as long as it took to roll 3d6 six times and pick a class cheered me up considerably.  And if I didn’t like that character, I doubt he’d exactly last long either.

We paid a boatman to row us to a mysterious isle and disembarked on a beach adjoining a mighty castle, with a small hut and a chapel built on the sands.  Accosted by three cultists in robes carrying maces we had our first encounter.  And our first character died.  Our cleric, spell-less and who started with 2 hit points was blundgeoned to death by a crazed cultist in short order, which was something of a shock to me, but it only added to the game; we went onwards speaking the name of “Flock-Father Ignatius” as a deceased friend.  So we had 3 maces, procured from our dead enemies, and we found an ambiguous magic sword in their hut, which I, as the burly fighter, claimed for myself.  Then we went inside.

That was, by and large, our first session, and in the end, I was pretty excited about the whole thing.  I think there’s a certain joy in playing something completely new, that you don’t know enough about to be able to spend hours planning your character, or at least that’s simple enough that there’s really no planning to be done, and I think some of my enjoyment came from the fact that my first character was a pretty good one, I rolled well across the board for my stats and I ended up playing a Fighter, which is something I’ve been interested in doing for a while (I’m jonesing for some sword and board action).  I survived and I prospered, and there was something exciting about that.  The game felt less safe and I felt better for succeeding in spite of the danger.  How I would have felt had it been my character who had rolled poorly for his health and died in the first encounter, I don’t know.  I like to think I would smiled and carried on, but in reality, I think that I might have gritted my teeth and felt rather chagrined about the matter.

This isn’t really a review of Moldvay D&D, or even a send up (or down) of the session that I played in; although both were very much enjoyable, I don’t feel I have enough of a grasp on either to talk about their quality.  Instead I think I’m really just being a proponent of trying something new once in a while, even if the thing itself is something now quite old.  Getting stuck in a rut in anything, even the things you do in your free time that you enjoy can really be a death sentence.  If you’ve made it all this way to the end of this post, then I commend you and would ask you to do one thing that I think would make your last 10 or so minutes of reading worthwhile and go and find yourself a new game, or at least a game that is new to you.  Gather some friends, whether in reality or digitally, and delve into something you haven’t done before.  Even if you never play it again, I don’t think you’ll come away without having learned something.

Plot Hooks

I had a conversation with my fiance last night; we were talking about a game of Exalted she had been running for a few friends and I, since a month or so before Christmas.  She’s never been confident in running games, so I tend to push her into trying to GM, as I think she can do it (and quite selfishly, it lets me play in more games…), and we’re now at the conclusion of her Exalted storyline.

I think this is probably the first time she’s had an opportunity to actually finish a game properly.  That isn’t to say we haven’t played entire story arcs in her games before, but this is the first time I think she’s hit that GM-wall of uninspiration (is that a word… spellcheck says no, but I like it) at just the right time to be able to end a game at a satisfying point.  In other games she’s run, we’ve finished a story arc, and they’ve always been fun, but we’ve always tended to lurch straight into another story, and it’s at that point she loses momentum, which is something I think anyone who has GMed a game can understand.  There can be any number of reasons for this situation, but that’s really the subject of another post, but suffice to say it looks like we might get to the end of our Exalted storyline and be able to leave the game there, which is, I feel, always more satisfying as a conclusion than leaving your characters in weird limbo, never knowing what the end of the story was to be.

And, to be honest, I’m quite proud of her for it.  I tend towards the latter fate, with most of my campaigns unceremoniously ending when I run out of ideas, get bored with the setting, or more likely get excited about something new.  So it seems that, with the main plot of her story as she set it out, she has about 1 session or less of material to go through before the story really comes to a close.  We save a town, stole some cool stuff right from under a scary badguy’s nose and killed their chief lieutenant; pretty fun stuff.  The issue that faces her now is that there are a couple of other plot hooks brought up in the campaign, and she’s um’ing and ah’ing about how to close them off.  She doesn’t really want to run any more of this game, but she feels that if we don’t resolve the outstanding issues, the series will go unfinished.

I could see where she was coming from, and I understood her point of view, but when she brought these points up, it very rapidly occured to me that I actually liked the idea of leaving some stuff unresolved.  Sure, I didn’t want to skip this last session and never see our characters conclude their epic adventure, but I also didn’t feel it was necessary for us to wander around the world addressing every last little dilemma or issue that had arisen.  I was happy with the idea that we’d done good, we’d get our rewards and then, in some mystical nonexistant future, our brave heroes would deal with what came next.  It seemed the proper way to end the adventure, knowing that there was always another one around the corner.

And then I concluded that maybe that’s something that I miss from my games.  I tend to try and make sure everything I include is a piece of plot to be used, or something essential to the story, like a Sherlock Holmes plot.  Every single object I describe ends up being some kind of chekov’s gun (yes, I know I’m using that reference slightly wrong, but you get my point).  However, when I consider this last adventure, I feel I very much like the unresolved issues; they give the feeling of a wider world.  Not every problem is for the players to solve, and certainly not right now.

So that’s my advice to take forward; leave some puzzles unsolved, some stories unresolved, some stones unturned.  You might find you like it.

Review: Dungeon World

I’ve been introduced to a new game recently, Dungeon World, and to be entirely honest I think it’s the first game I’ve played in the last few years for which I have nothing but praise. All credit for introducing this game to me goes to my friend Mike, my usual supplier of arcane and obscure indie games (or at least games that seem arcane and obscure to me, until he points me in their direction of the internet).

For me Dungeon World is my new primary fantasy adventure game. If anyone mentions to me that they want to play a fantasy game or a dungeon crawl, Dungeon World is my new go to game. Hell, I’m tempted to use it for almost any game that lends itself to a group of adventurers who fit into classes or archetypes, with some modification of course.

It’s beautifully simple; first each class has a character sheet with everything you need to know to create or play the character printed on it, including your hit dice, the numbers you can allocate to which attributes, everything. It’s all on there. No trawling through books for spells or special abilities; people pick their class and make their character, and it’s all done in about 15 minutes flat.

But the things that really make Dungeon World my new system of choice and future life partner are still to come. Firstly, the sheet that the players fill in prompts them to make characters beyond the numbers and abilities they are choosing. It asks them to pick a build, and a style and a look, which means that those players who would normally just put the numbers on their sheet and give no thought to how their characters would act or appear are prompted to go that extra step and inject some real life and personality into their characters.

The second gem hidden at the heart of this system, something which I feel is really unique, is that it gives just as much support and page-space to the GM as it does to the players. Obviously most games have pages of rules which allow the GM to run the game, but often it’s the equivalent of handing someone a toolbox and asking them to build a shelving unit, but without any instructions as to how to go about doing this. Obviously, some people know how to do this from scratch anyway, and that’s fine for them, but Dungeon World provides the GM with his own rules and systems to go about building their world and running their game.

With regards to world building it provides sheets to fill in for GMs to use in planning their adventures, but put together in a similar way as the player sheets to encourage you to create a world, challenges and antagonists, but without just assuming you would know how to pull a story out of nowhere and put it together in a manner that plays well, which is an assumption I think too many games make.

Actually running the game is a very strange experience for an old school GM, but one that I now wish all games would embrace. Initially any encounter generally sparks off in one of your already created set-pieces, which you are prompted to create using the world building system mentioned above. These set-pieces have built in consequences for player actions, and built in antagonists and challenges, but all built in by the GM when they put the campaign together. Furthermore GM/NPC actions are generally only taken as a result of player actions. The bad guys don’t get their own initiative, they react only in response to player’s actions. Sure, if they lie in ambush or initiate a combat, the antagonists might make the initial attack, but there’s no roll to see if they hit the players. It’s the players who defy danger, and their roll decides whether they succeeded, failed or somewhere in the middle, and prompt the GM to make a further action.

To people who’ve been playing roleplaying games for a long time, it seems a strange system, but even to an experienced GM the dance of action and consequence between players and the games master really take a lot of weight off of your shoulders. You’re not single handedly running the whole universe like some kind of massively powerful next generation console; you’re simply sitting at the helm of the adventure, tugging levers occasionally and pressing the odd button, to prompt the machine that is Dungeon World to further adventure.

In short I cannot recommend this system enough; at its core it has something for everyone. It’s ideal for brand new players, as it’s one of the simplest games to pick up and play I’ve ever seen, while still having enough depth and complexity to fund sessions and sessions of play. It’s also well placed for introducing players who have only played more “crunchy” systems, such as any of the Dungeons and Dragons games, to games where narrative is more important that the powers written on your sheet. It carries over just enough elements from classic roleplaying games to avoid looking like a totally free-form adventure system, but isn’t constrained by any of the same issues that I find drag games like that into the dirt, bickering about weapon ranges and base attack bonuses. Finally, I think it’s a breath of fresh air for any GM; it puts some of the onus of running a game back on the players, leaving you free to really enjoy the adventure, which I feel is a feature lacking from most other games out there. Classically as a GM you tend to think of yourself as “running” a game for your players; I think Dungeon World is one of the few games in which the GM can really say he’s playing as well.

Dungeon World can be found at http://www.dungeon-world.com and I heartily recommend checking it out.

Scion: Fixed

I’ve played Scion a couple of times over the last few years, and, while the concept is one that I love and always makes me want to play it at the mention of its name, the actual execution of the game leaves something to be desired. When we first discovered Scion: Hero amongst the shelves of our local gaming store, we were pretty excited. From Exalted and World of Darkness we were pretty well associated with the Storyteller system White Wolf so loves to use in its games, and the idea of playing what seemed like a modern-day more streamlined and easier to understand version of Exalted seemed pretty exciting. However, in the first session our ship rapidly ran aground, when we ran across a number of problems.

Following here is a list of the house rules and modifications to the Scion system that I’ve found helpful when running the game, and hopefully solve some of the problems I’ve run across.

Character Creation
The first problem we ran across when playing Scion cropped up during character creation; namely that your character’s ratings in your magical attributes/powers is limited to (permanent Legend rating -1), meaning that when you build a character with 0xp, the maximum ratings they can possess in their supernatural stats is a massive 1. While I know some people will like the feel of only being sort ofsupernatural, for me it runs against the grain of what Scion is about. You’re young godlings; even at a low level it should feel epic, and I think having 1 dot being the max level of power just doesn’t provide that feeling. As such, when I’ve run games, I’ve done so with the following rule in place:

All Scions are created with a starting Legend score of 3 as standard. This is to represent at least a little time and experience with their powers and abilities, and results in a character who has enough experience to be assigned missions from gods and expect to complete them. If Storytellers want a lower powered game, where players have only just come into their powers and have had little chance to use them, then a Legend score of 2 could be allowed, but at default it starts at 3.

Epic Attributes
The second issue we experienced is the simple scale of the Epic Attributes. Obviously, the bonuses they offer start small, but because they’re on an exponential curve, they rapidly offer massive bonuses, which can mean even a small difference in the number of dots of epic attributes can result in massive differences in effectiveness, even to the point, at high levels, where there is little to no point rolling due to the difference in automatic successes. This problem also rolls over and has an effect on damage and soak, which I talk about below, but for the moment, I’ll just concern myself with the Epic Attribute system itself.

Epic Attributes do not add automatic successes; instead they add dice to the roll.

After all, everyone loves hefting huge handfulls of dice, and while, at high levels, it might be a truly ridiculous amount of dice, it at least keeps the power balance competitive. Invest in dice rollers people!

Damage and Soak
Okay, so because of the above issues with Epic Attributes, Scion’s damage system has evolved as a sort of broken version of Exalted’s system. More specifically, because characters with Epic Strength are not applying bonus damage dice but instead are applying automatic damage successes, it completely knackers the classic Exalted soak system, as traditionally soak is removed from damage dice pools before they are rolled, most often down to a minumum number of damage dice. If this was done in Scion, it’d be of no use, since Epic Strength would be added on post-soak doing a truly ridiculous amount of damage.

And so, in Scion, soak works differently as well; it’s applied after damage is rolled, which makes sense, since otherwise Epic Strength would remain unsoaked and pulversize everyone. But now we have a different problem; because the soak of most enemies needs to be of the level that it can effectively soak the damage of a character of a similar level with a decent level of Epic Strength, it means that soak values have shot through the roof compared to classic Exalted soak values, as damage has now done the same. The problem with this? Well, let’s say you’re a character without Epic Strength, and rather than 20 damage successes on a standard attack, you can expect maybe 5, 10 on a good day; the enemy with a soak of 15 is pretty much invulnerable to you now. Scion doesn’t have much of a developed combat system (when compared to Exalted’s host of charms), and so there are no options for working around this. You basically just can’t hurt the guy unless you’re real lucky, wheras Mr Epic Strength over there is doing damage every turn.

My solution to this is as follows (bearing in mind the above rule; Epic Attributes now add dice, not auto-successes):

Soak is applied to an attacker’s damage pool before it is rolled, reducing the number of dice in the pool on a one-for-one basis equal to the number of points of Soak a target has. This is limited to a minimum of 1 damage die, and cannot be reduced below this number.

Weapon Speed
Another issue that raised its head is that, using the Relic rules, it’s quite easy to create a weapon which has a speed of 1 or 2, which means that, in a game where most actions are speed 5-6, you’re taking an action around 3 times as often as everyone else. While this certainly sounds cool, especially as part of an occasional use power or boon, as an effect that is always active whenever you use the weapon, it gets a little ridiculous. As such, I always go with the following rule:

The speed value of an attack cannot be reduced below 3, regardless of source.

Restrictions in Choice; or Why I Prefer 4th Edition

I’ve written before about how I prefer D&D 4th to 3.5, and, at this point, I’ve played both enough to really have a feel for both systems. I feel like 4th Edition is simpler, but definitely more restrictive. There’s less freedom to mix and match abilities and classes, and to create something truly unique with the mechanics. 3.5 is a game that you could play in almost any fantasy setting; want a game where magic is rare and unknown to players? Then restrict it to certain classes and have everybody simply walking round, using feats and swinging their swords with max base attack at everyone. Same if you want to go in the other direction; magic users only game? Well, there’s a magic user for every possible eventuality and even just the standard wizard has enough variety in its spell choice to let you play a party of them without stepping too much on each others toes.

The same cannot be said of 4th Edition. Even with the classes that have had the most time to build up a variety of powers and feats, once again such as wizard, there is little room to have multiple members of the same class in the party. Sure, your Daily powers might be different, but 60% of the time you’re probably going to be using the same At Will powers. Even with the Essentials products or variant classes from certain sourcebooks, there’s just not enough choice regarding powers or change to the class’s base mechanics to enable multiple members of most classes in a party.

As an example of this, in my current 4th edition game, a new player was looking at his options for building a character, and was really interested in the class of Sha’ir, which I personally love and think is a great class for flavour that I’m glad they ported over from 3.5. However, we already have a classic wizard in our party, and when I looked at Sha’ir, all it really was is a wizard with a cool familiar and a few unique mechanics; fun stuff, but when it comes down to the session to session business, he’d be throwing much the same stuff out as our wizard friend.

But, I hear you cry, Sam, I thought you liked 4th Edition? And in truth, its lack of ubiquitous variety is actually the very thing I like about it. I don’t want my D&D to have the potential to be any setting with any combination of characters. I actually want my D&D to be just that; high fantasy adventure. If I want to play a game of badass wizards doing wizardry, I’ll play Ars Magica, or Mage (either the Ascension or the Awakening). If I just want to be a group of sword swinging adventurers getting by on their skill and wits, I’ll play Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. However, if I want to be a diverse party of adventurers who go questing, with a wizard, a cleric, a fighter and a rogue, then I’ll play D&D, and, in fact, I’ll play 4th Edition, because it has plenty of options but only for doing the things that a D&D game should be about, and to be honest, I feel like I could do with more structure in my roleplaying games.

One of the most stressful things for me is when I play in a game with a million different options, because I’m one of those people that wants to find the best character for me in a game; I don’t want to make something and just go with the flow. I’d actually prefer to be able to do that, but what can I say, I’m something of a perfectionist. 3.5 is a game like this for me; there are probably a hundred books for that game, each with 5+ different classes or prestige classes in there, and I can spend literally weeks of stressful late nights pouring over books and pdfs, trying to find the right class or combination thereof, to make the character I want. With 4th Edition, I just take a look at the index of available classes and pick what I want to be. I can choose which type of that particular thing I want to be, but I can be sure that whatever I make, it’ll fit comfortably within those classic roles.

Everything else aside, I think it’s this quality that draws me to 4th over 3.5; it seems like a more directed game. It knows the experience it wants to give to players, wheras 3.5 wants to be, or at least ended up being, a little of everything, and not really succeeding at any of them, at least to me.

Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to be a player in quite a few games, which is something of a novel experience for me. In the past, I’ve been the much-lamented “forever-GM”, and so being a player in no fewer than 3 roleplaying games on a weekly basis is some pretty unusual. I’m used to running 3+ games a week myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever been a player in more than 1 game at a time, and I think this strange convergence of events has made something very apparent to me that I don’t think I’d ever really come across before; GM fatigue.

For those who’re unclear what I’m talking about, GM/DM/ST/Whatever Fatigue is, in truth, the gamekiller and is probably the number 1 cause of the collapse of roleplaying games, at least in my experience. It’s when the person who actually runs the game, creates the game world, keeps track of the course of the adventure and makes the world actually come to life gets, at best, a general feeling of ennui about the adventure they’re running, or at worst, comes to hate the game and world that they have to devote large amounts to time to keeping alive. You come to care less and less about your game and its world; you stop planning your sessions a week in advance and filling all your spare time and paper with notes, and instead your sessions become hurried things you slap together a scant half hour before your game starts. You’re no longer enthused to tell your story or make your world live, and in the end you tend to simply go through to the motions so that the weekly game that’s been running now for 6 months doesn’t die a death. And then it does anyway, because eventually you get to that session where you’ve got nothing planned, and you’ve got so little inspiration for your game that you can’t even come up with something new on the spot, so you tell your players that you’re taking a break this week, or you’re not feeling well, or your parents are visiting, or whatever excuse comes to hand.

Sometimes that’s it. Sometimes, you just need that little break. Sometimes you just need to think about something else for a couple of weeks, and then your enthusiasm for the setting bubbles back up. You’re watching a film and something a character does makes you think about how you could do it better, or it just inspires you to want to finally get to your climactic conclusion. You plan a session or two, fired up again, message your players, tell them it’s on again, and everything picks back up.

And then sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes that first week break becomes two. You realise you didn’t write a session this week either, and since you’ve already skipped one week you’d rather not rush a session now. You’d rather take two weeks, but have a great session when you’ve had time to think about it. But then, you still can’t think of anything, you still can’t get inspired, so you push it back another week, and now your players are asking questions. They know what’s going on. Anyone who owns their own set of dice has seen it before. They’re enjoying the game, but they’re your friends too, so they don’t want to push. And so it ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper, as you all just stop talking about the game, and life goes on.

In my experience, GM Fatigue is a simple result of something as all consuming as world building being on such a demanding schedule as a weekly game, or even a monthly game, especially after your initial adventure idea has been used up. Once you’ve beaten the orcs threatening the village, you might have some vagues ideas about killing the orc king, or stopping the hordes attacking the kingdom, but it’s not as clear as the original idea any more, and it’s less exciting. You’ve just had your hack and slash, dungeon crawling fix, and so you either need to up the ante, or change what’s going on, or you’re just rinsing and repeating the same game again. So you move further away from your original ideas, the things that interested you about the game. It’s kind of inevitable.

So, why, you ask, have I started experiencing this so much recently? I think that, in truth, it’s because I’ve suddenly become blessed with so many awesome friends who’re volunteering to run games for me, and throwing ideas around for games, that it’s just easier for me (and some of my other friends as well) to hang up our GM hats. In the past, when I was one of the few people in my circle of friends regularly running a game, I felt that I couldn’t just give up on games, even if I, as a GM, was totally bored with them.

After all, there’d be no-one to take over. If I stopped running, that adventure, that slot in the week, that chance to get together with my friends and roll dice, would disappear. But now, if I decide to take a break (which I just have with one of my games that’s run for a few months now), one of my friends immediately steps up to run something else. It’s a pressure release valve that I just didn’t have before, and I’m not 100% sure whether it’s a good thing. Obviously, in general terms, it’s great. Having a circle of friends who share my interests to the extent that they’ll happily step in to run something is wonderful. But in a personal sense, I’m not sure if that release of pressure isn’t making me a worse GM. Am I missing out on experiences and great games that could go on longer, by taking the easy way out and ending it? Or am I just giving something it’s due and ending it while it’s in its prime?

If you’ve got any thoughts, please let me know in the comments!

Kickstarter; is it for everyone?

I got an email from White Wolf around Christmas time, letting me know that they had the release of another game-line in the pipeworks; Mummy: The Curse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on some inside track, I’m sure thousands of people got the same email. However, I had been looking forward to news about this gameline for a while now; it’s the first line from the World of Darkness series produced by Onyx Path, who are a group who have a truly nebulous relation to White Wolf that I’ve been trying to figure out for a little while now, and I’m quite excited to see what they can come up with. That, and Mummies are cool.

So, I cracked open then email as quick as I possibly could, to find a link to a Kickstarter, showing me all the various rewards and bonuses I could get for funding this project to completion. Now, normally, I’m quite a fan of Kickstarter. I’ve pledged to quite a few projects that I’ve either really wanted to see made or at least really wanted to get an early version of, and I really like the idea that creators can now cut out the middle man and go right to their potential audience/customers to get their funding. Great stuff. And I was completely ready to crack open my PayPal account to pledge £20 or so and (hopefully) get me an early version of the Mummy PDF or something along those lines. However, then I saw the rewards and was largely stopped in my tracks.

Firstly, and most importantly, if I want to get a copy of Mummy: The Curse, even a PDF copy, I have to cough up $25, which is pretty much just the same price I would be paying if I simply wait for it come out on DriveThruRPG (a great place to go to pick up your pdfs, by the way). Sure I’ll get some wallpapers (woo, like I don’t have enough of those already), and I guess I’ll be listed as a “Cultist”, but really it feels a bit stingy. Surely, if Onyx Path/White Wolf want our support in getting their project off the ground, they could at least give some real benefit to all those people who are going to be supporting them from the beginning and pledging their cash without even seeing anything of the finished product. Instead, WW/OP seem to be taking a cynical standpoint, only giving as much away for a pledge as it would actually buy that supporter once the product is out. It’s not even an early copy; at least it doesn’t say so if it is. This doesn’t feel to me like the creator/audience feedback loop that I’ve had from Kickstarter in the past, where a person who really isn’t sure their product is going to exist at the end of it is asking for help from their audience, but also giving that audience a bit of special treatment in return for their investment. This feels like something very different, and it was only later on, when I was thinking the idea over in that classic zone of ponderance, the shower (and yes I just invented a word, so what?), that I really hit upon what was bothering me.

What’s bothering me is that whether it’s White Wolf or Onyx Path funding the project, this isn’t a creator saying to an audience “we really need your help to get this thing going” it’s a big company, a company I actually like, but regardless a company none the less, basically saying to their prospective audience “we’re not going to take a gamble on this line guys, if you want it, put your money down in advance, cover our costs and then we’ll give you a product; a product that 5 years ago, we simply would have put into circulation for you to buy off of our own backs”. It’s asking supporters to shell out well in advance, for nothing more than the same product they would have got anyway, and you can bet this item would end up being produced regardless of whether this Kickstarter had met its goal or not. I mean, the delivery date for the product is February 2013; they can’t be using this money in order to support the writing of the book. It’s clearly already there. What they’re asking is for people to put their money on the table so that they as a company can be sure they’re going to make back their costs before really putting their hat in the ring with this product.

And what’s so wrong with that? On one level, nothing I guess. White Wolf isn’t the biggest company in the world, it’s not like we’re talking about Microsoft or IBM here. They’re probably struggling the same as most people in the current economic climate (don’t’cha just love hearing that?). Why begrudge them a chance to make some money without as much of the risk? I think my main objection in this area comes from the feeling that, to me, Kickstarter is about getting things off the ground that, without the support network of fans and interested parties, would never see the light of day. Big business wouldn’t touch some of these concepts because they just wouldn’t make enough money, or at least they don’t think they’d appeal to a large enough audience. But with Kickstarter that’s okay, you can go right to the people who want this thing and get your funding, and then everyone feels they’ve put a little something in to get out something they wouldn’t have had before. This Mummy Kickstarter really doesn’t have that same feel to me. This book would have come out regardless. Yes, it may have taken longer and people wouldn’t have got a lot of the little benefits that come from it, but they’re not asking for help to get something new and innovative done. They’re just using up the goodwill of their fans to avoid some risk themselves.

But then, what do I know; the Kickstarter just hit $75,199 out of $30,000, making them over 250% funded and they still have 7 days to go. Maybe I’ll just go take another look at the rewards…

Getting the Gang Together

Does anyone else have problems getting their gaming group together? I’ve been playing roleplaying games for years now, and the capacity for trouble when assembling a group of gamers has never ceased to amaze me. Even now, when my gaming groups seem to be getting ever smaller, it’s almost impossible to get a regular weekly game together. It seems like getting just 3 people together for a session should be easier than assembling the monumental 7 people games I used to run/play in back in university, but, if anything, it seems harder to keep these small games running, possibly because the loss of even one player means that we can’t run the game that week, whereas 5/7 was a good turnout in the old days.

People call the day before, or even an hour in advance, or maybe just drop you a text.

“Hey dude, I’ve got an early start/late finish today/tomorrow, so I can’t make it tonight. Sorry!”

I can’t blame them, I’ve done it myself. Work builds up, the house is a mess, maybe you’ve even got family commitments (maybe even your own kids?!) or you’re just totally wiped out from shitty, thankless days at the office. Unless the game really grabs your interest, it can be hard to turn down an evening that consists of a warm comforting meal on your own sofa in front of some of your favourite tv/films/video games before collapsing into bed for a few extra hours, at least compared to the amount of sleep you’d get after hauling yourself back from a game late at night.

This has got me to thinking, am I asking too much? Sure, when all my friends and I were lazy university-going bums, it was easy for us to make the time. After all, we pretty much had nothing but time on our hands, even those of us that went to lectures. Admittedly, we probably should have been doing more work and less roleplaying, but still, we had anywhere 2 and 4 weekly games going on at that time, and there were few weeks those games didn’t run.

However, nowadays, almost 5 years on, that’s all changed. Most of us have full time jobs now, we’ve moved further apart (geographically) due to affordability and work, and, obviously, we have less time. It’s fine to head out to a game at 6pm on a weeknight if you’ve only been to 3 hours of lectures that day, but doing the same after 8+ hours of workday is significantly more challenging. On top of that, our games have started to begin later and finish earlier as well. What used to be a 6pm through to 11pm affair is increasingly becoming a 7:30pm to 10pm session, which now only manages to run about once every other week, rather than weekly. Maybe weekly games are just not a realistic affair in an, and I’m loathe to use this work, “adult” world?

Having spent a not insignificant amount of time on various internet forums that talk about roleplaying games, it seems to me the more common format in games for work-a-day chumps is a monthly, or maybe, if you’re lucky, twice-monthly game, potentially running for longer than I’m used to (sort of a roleplaying day than an evening session). Maybe this would work better in our now grown-up roleplaying world, allowing us to fit our gaming in on our increasingly rare days off, but ensuring that people can make that bit more effort to attend, with only the one commitment a month.

I think I might give it a go with my next roleplaying endeavor; perhaps less is more?

Legendary Saga

This is a basic set of rules for Legendary Saga. My goal here is to keep it as lean and simple as possible and to make it as easy to pick up as I can. For that reason I’ve left out a lot of the “welcome to roleplaying” elements that feature in most books. I assume that if you’re here, you probably know terms like “GM” and “d10”. If not, my apologies; let me know and I’ll always be willing to add a little section for people who might be new to this kind of stuff.

Some people might not like the idea of a game where all but the most important actions are decided narratively by the players, but I feel that it works as long as the players are behind it as well. As always with roleplaying, it’s not about winning, it’s about telling your character’s story, and so people should feel safe that players are going to try and resolve the narrative in a way that is interesting for the characters involved. However, it does still retain the random element, and important events that have story consequences are still resolved with a dice roll.

This game owes a lot to a number of other games which either inspired me to make this by being great but needing a simpler system, or by having awesome ideas I’ve cannibalised for this. Big ups to Exalted, Prime Time Adventures and Lady Blackbird, amongst many others.


  1. Glossary
  2. Characters
  3. Narrative Time
  4. Action Rolls
  5. Health and Soul
  6. Dramatic Points
  7. Progression


1. Glossary

  • Action Roll – A roll made when a player wishes their character to take some significant action. Not necessary for every act, only those of plot importance. This dice pool is built by tagging Elements.
  • Drama Point – Granted to a player by either the GM or a fellow player when he does something awesome or describes something impressively.
  • Element – A word or short phrase describing a facet or aspect of a character, which, if tagged in the character’s description of his action, can grant a die to the action pool.
  • Flaw – An element of a character that deducts dice from related action rolls, but grants Protagonist Points in return.
  • Experience Point – An indicator of a character’s progression. 5 points will grant the purchase of a new Element.
  • Health Point – Representative of the wellbeing of a character’s body. Can be spent to enhance a roll.
  • Protagonist Point – Representative of a character’s plot importance and power. Can be spent to enhance a roll.
  • Soul Point – Representative of the wellbeing of a character’s mind. Can be spent to enhance a roll.

2. Characters

A Legendary Saga character is essentially a list of descriptive elements that come together under different headings to describe the character’s abilities and personality. These elements can then be tagged when a character is doing something to provide dice for his action pool, so the more a particular action connects with the character’s description, the better chance they have at succeeding at that action. Generally, characters start with a number of elements under different headings, and, as the game progresses, may develop more elements as their character progresses. Elements are generally one word to a short sentence, describing a certain aspect of the character, generally something he is good at or that exemplifies his personality.

For instance, a character who is good with a sword might have “Greatest Swordsman in the Kingdom” as an aspect, which he could tag any time he got involved in an action roll involving swordplay. The same character may also have “Can never back down from a duel”, and so if he was in a duel with swords, he could tag both, or if it involved guns or anything else, he would only be able to tag the second element. As stated below, each element tagged adds a die to your action pool.

As standard, characters divide their elements up under the following categories: Talents, Attachments and Supernatural. They receive 20 Talent elements, 10 Attatchments and 10 Supernatural elements. This is obviously just a standard value; for higher flying games more can be allowed, or the ratios moved aroun (for example, in games with no supernatural elements).

Talents are innate characteristics of the character, related to his physical or mental capabilities or learned skills and abilities. Essentially, talents should be elements of a character that do not depend on anything but the character’s body, mind and wits to be put into play. Good examples of elements that could be described as talents are Incredible Shot, Strong as an Ox, Winning Smile, Keen Eyesight, Master Investigator.

Attachments are external to the character, and represent either his belongings, connections to others or just status in the world. These should generally be descriptive of things the character has access to, either in broad or specific terms, or how other people see him. This is also the best area for describing things the character cares about and is attached to in the world. Good examples of elements that could be described as attachments are Billionaire, Head of the Secret Lodge, The Holy Sword Veritas, 9 Terrible Oni Servants, Space Battleship Orion, The Zion Company, The People of Orai Village.

Supernatural elements are not always applicable depending on the game being played. They are capabilities of a character that mark him out as something other than normal. These do not have to be overtly supernatural, depending on the playstyle, but without any supernatural elements, it is assumed characters are limited by the capabilites of natural humans. It is important to note that any powers or capabilities not defined by a character’s supernatural elements are not assumed to be possible. A GM may allow some cool improvisation on the fly, but if you don’t note down that your character can hurl lightning bolts, don’t expect to be able to do so. Good examples of supernatural elements are Master of Storms, Fly Like an Bird, Mountain-Tossing Strength, Laser Eyes, Master Sorcerer, Demon Summoner, Hypnosis.

Each character also has flaws. There is no minimum or maximum number of flaws allowed for a character, but they essentially work as anti-elements; every time a description or action would tag one of a character’s flaws, he deducts one die from his action pool for each flaw tagged. However, for every die lost, the character regains a Protagonist Point, even if this would take him beyond the normal limit of 10.

Lastly, every character has 3 other stats Health, Soul and Protagonist Points (PP). Each of these is rated 0-10, and starts at 10 at the beginning of each story arc (not session). As described below, Health and Soul are measurements of a character’s wellbeing physically and mentally, and can be lost as a consequence of failing an important roll, or spent as a resources to bolster your success. The complete loss of one of these stats can result in your character being rendered immobile and helpless and is the only real state in which a character can be killed. Protagonist Points, on the other hand, are representative of the character’s story importance and his drive to succeed against the odds, and are a resource that can be spent more freely to bolster dice rolls, with no real consequences for running dry beyond not having any more to spend!

3. Narrative Time

The largest unit of gametime is generally a story arc, the equivilent of a single film, series or book. It links many individual stories into an overarching plot, and may consist of any number of sessions. A session is a single evening or day of play, and is divded into scenes, the same way as a film or tv show might be. Essentially each scene should be the resolution of some point of story, although it doesn’t have to be a part of the story central to the plot. As long as either the game or the character’s own personal story is being furthered in some way, it can serve as the basis for a scene. Generally, the GM will set out the scenes that will be played, but it is also a good idea for, at least once a session, the GM to ask the players if there are any scenes that they feel need resolving, in order to ensure everyone’s character gets equal screen time.

Often a single scene may only involve a single action roll, or perhaps none at all if it focused heavily on the roleplay and interaction between characters, but there is no limit to the number of action rolls that can be made, if the context of the scene keeps changing, or if new elements are being introduced or even if players are at crossed purposes. All these can incur further action rolls to resolve the scene.

4. Action Rolls

In any scene where a player wishes to achieve an outcome he must describe what action his character is going to take, and by doing so he can “tag” elements of his character. The GM is the final word on which elements a player can tag; as a rule, unless a player has evoked that element of his character in his description, then it cannot be tagged. Action rolls are only required for important story altering actions, such as the outcome of a battle, the end result of an epic seduction attempt, a mighty leap across an impossible distance, etc… Most actions a character takes should simply be dealt with narratively, even ones his character stands a chance of failing. If it is irrelevant whether he wins a bar brawl or loses, then it should be up to the player to narrate how this happens in a way that he feels most suiting to his character. Only actions with important consequences really require action rolls.

Each tagged element grants a d10 that can be added to the player’s action pool, and a d10 result of a 7 or more is a success. A 10 counts as two successes. This pool does not denote a single action, instead it represents his actions over the entire scene, although, if circumstances change, a further roll may be required (if an on foot chase suddenly becomes a car pursuit for instance). Furthemore, at any time a character can spend a Protagonist Point to add a d10 to his pool. There is no limit on the number they can spend on a single roll. In addition, a character may burn a point of health or willpower on a roll, indicating singular personal effort, in order to add a single automatic success to the results of his pool.

The number of successes required to complete a task is set by the GM. In a static situation where the players are only opposed by the environment, it is common to simply set a difficulty number the players must overcome (generally from 1 – 5, depending on difficulty), which is the number of successes players must gain on their dice roll. On the other hand, if the players are opposed by an enemy of importance, it may be that the Storyteller will create an opposing pool for that enemy in the same way that the player’s pools are created, and they must overcome the number of successes the enemy achieves in order to reach their goal.

Finally, in most situations the failure of the roll means nothing more than that; the players characters do not achieve their goals and must go about it some other route or try again later. However, in difficult or dangerous situations the characters may incur some negative consequences as a result of their failure. As such, on these dangerous rolls, a failure may incur the loss of a health point (if it is a physically dangerous situation), or a soul point (if it a social or mental contest). Generally the loss of only 1 point is required, but if the situation is especially dangerous, they may lose as many points as the difference between their roll and the difficulty of the task.

5. Health and Soul

As well as being currency to boost the effectiveness of a roll, loss of all of a character’s health or soul points renders him incapacitated. The character cannot act beyond either laying in convalescence (health points), or sitting essentially comatose (soul points). This is generally the only state in which a character may actually be killed, after he has sacrificed every shred of his body or soul to a cause. A character may recover a lost health, willpower or protagonist point at the start of each scene; not one of each, just a single point.

6. Dramatic Points

Each time a player does something awesome enough to impress the other players or the GM he is rewarded with a dramatic point, which can be converted directly into a dice for his current pool, or to regenerate a lost point of Willpower or Health, or a Protagonist Point. This cannot increase these pools beyond their limit of 10. The Storyteller can hand out an unlimited amount of these points each scene, but players can only hand out a number equal to the players at the table. If a player wishes, he may ask for a short scene in which he either does some deep roleplaying for his character, or indeed with another character at the table, either as a flashback or simply as the game progresses in order to earn Dramatic Points. These scenes can be almost anything imaginable, but should only be a way to reward excellent roleplaying, not for simply refreshing empty pools. If a player squanders his scene without really working on his character or their relationships, they should leave empty handed.

7. Progression

Every session, a player is rewarded with a single experience point for having attended the session and interacted with the other players; five experience points purchase a new element for the character. This should generally represent some advancement or progression shown by the character during the game, and does not have to be spent straight away, but instead can be saved for when a player has had time to roleplay some advancement he would like his character to benefit from.

Players also gain a single experience point the first time they are awarded a Drama Point per session per person at the table. So, if there are 3 players plus the GM at the table, a single player can earn a maximum of 3 bonus experience this way; 1 for the first time each fellow player gives him a drama point and 1 for the first time the GM gives him one.