Full Rules


Way beginning: the first chapter

 

Chapter procedure

 

1. Consult the Clinton Oracle for four elements.

 

2. List out all the explicit and implicit characters you get.

 

3. Go around the table, and every non-GM player chooses a character. The GM player gets all the rest.

 

4. Write up your character (your characters if you're the GM player), using the character sheet procedure that follows.

 

5. Write up any significant non-character things as specializations, using the specialization procedure that follows.

 

6. Go around again, starting with the GM player. Say your character's interests in the situation. (GM player: say only one character's interests on your turn, but jump in and take another turn whenever you want. Say the rest of your characters' interests at the end.)

 

EG...

 

Interests

 

Non-GM players: the way you play the game, it's to your long-term advantage to give your characters interests that are at odds with other characters' strengths.

 

EG...

 

GM players: your characters should overwhelmingly have strong interests at odds with the other players' characters'. If you find yourself naming mostly your own characters when you announce a character's interests, STOP. Go back and try again. You should be naming mostly the other players' characters instead.

It's not to your advantage to have to play out a bunch of arguments and fights with yourself.

 

EG...

 

Use the non-character elements you got from the Clinton Oracle as focal points for conflicts of interest.

 

EG...

 

At the end of every chapter

 

1. Check out the "we owe" list. Which character's name is on top? That character's automatically in the next chapter.

 

2. That character's player gets to choose any one element, which will also automatically be in the next chapter. Write it next to the character's name on the "we owe" list. This element can be from the charts of elements, or any element that has been previously established in play.

 

The second and subsequent chapters

 

Chapter procedure

 

1. Cross the top character name off the "we owe" list. That character's automatically in. So is the thing her player chose from the element list.

 

2. Consult the Clinton Oracle for three more elements. List out all the explicit and implicit characters.

 

3. Go around the table. Every non-GM player, choose either a) one of the characters from the list you've generated, or b) your own character from last chapter. If you choose the latter, cross your character's name off the "we owe" list, the first time it appears. (If your character didn't make it onto the "we owe" list, you can't choose to play her now.)

 

4, The GM player gets all the rest of the characters.

 

5. Write up your character (your characters if you're the GM player). If you're playing a returning character, choose one of these:

 

Notice that choosing this option lets you recover any dice you've lost as the consequences of actions in earlier chapters.

 

EG...

 

6. Write up any significant non-characters as specializations, as always. Go around the table and say your interests, as always.

 

Beginning with the third chapter

 

When you create a new character sheet, you can add a specialization to it if you want.

 

At the end of the chapter, you can, if you want, cross every instance of your character's name off of the "we owe" list. This character's done.

 

Characters, Dice, Masteries

 

Stats

 

Art: faith, reserve, calculation, skill, training, discipline, experience, knowledge, wisdom, cunning, practice, carefulness, education, lore, subtlety, level head.

Grace: style, wit, wits, humor, agility, flair, presence, composure, patience, ease, rhythm, manners, class, fashion, beauty, balance, graciousness.

Guts: passion, instincts, nerve, will, resolve, determination, doggedness, balls, recklessness, brashness, boldness, daring, cool.

 

Core Endeavors

 

Asserting myself: in words, in actions, in some artistic form; acting on your faith or with confidence, taking space in a room or a conversation.

Defending myself: physically, armed or unarmed; even attacking another, if she's capable of fighting you back.

Enduring duress: enduring pain, fear, injury, cold, tedium; staying still and silent, surviving torture or illness or the elements.

Exerting myself: physically again, or mentally; lifting, climbing, carrying, running, swimming, memorizing, yelling to be heard.

Influencing others: winning them to your point of view, bullying them into submission, deceiving them, seducing them.

 

Other Endeavors

 

Very notably: doing magic.

 

But also: doing productive labor, doing burglary, building houses and walls, surviving in the wilds, making a way on the road, holding a house, cooking meals, buying and selling goods, fighting dirty, praying to the gods, speaking prophesy, smithing swords, performing feats of strength, acting a part, reciting from the ancient books, doing thuggery; making poetry, making war, making love.

 

Character Sheet Procedure

 

1. Give your character a name. Copy down her description from your list of characters present.

 

2. Assign dice to your stats. Assign two dice to each stat. In total, assign a d12, a d10, a d8, two d6s, and a d4.

 

So you might assign thusly: Art d12 d10, Grace d8 d6, Guts d6 d4.

 

Or you might assign thusly: Art d8 d6, Grace d10 d6, Guts d12 d4.

 

Or whatever other arrangement you like.

 

When you roll a stat's dice, you'll roll both, but read only the higher.

 

So let's say that you assign Art d12 d10, and I assign Art d12 d4. If we roll Art against one another, I'm capable of rolling as high as you - a maximum of 12 - but it's likely you'll roll higher than I will anyway.

 

3. Assign one stat each to your five core endeavors. You must assign each stat at least once.

So you might assign thusly: Asserting myself - Art; Defending myself - Grace; Enduring duress - Guts; Exerting myself - Guts; Influencing others - Guts.

Or you might assign thusly: Asserting myself - Guts; Defending myself - Grace; Enduring duress - Art; Exerting myself - Guts; Influencing others - Grace.

 

4. List one or a few other endeavors. List at least one or two; you may list as many as five or six, if that's how many it takes to flesh out your character.

 

Assign them stats.

 

Here's one thing you can do: "Commiting burglary - Guts." If you don't list "committing burglary," which endeavor will it be? Exerting yourself, maybe? But by listing it, you assure that when you have your character do it, no one will scratch their heads.

 

Here's another thing you can do: "Defending myself - Grace; fighting dirty - Guts." Use your endeavors to say "usually I do it with this stat, but if I do it this way I use this stat instead."

 

Here's a third thing you can do: "Description: a poweful war-sorceress, slender but commanding, with golden hair -" but don't list "doing war-sorcery" as an endeavor. When you have your character do war-sorcery, what stat will you roll? It depends! If you're having her do war-sorcery to defend herself, roll that stat. If you're having her do war-sorcery to influence others, though, or if doing war-sorcery is exerting herself - roll those stats instead.

 

If you're the GM player, give your characters only one non-core endeavor: add "-ing," to their descriptions to make them into verbs. A warlord's sixth endeavor is "warlording," a priestess' sixth endeavor is "priestessing," a wind devil's sixth endeavor is "wind deviling." I find this easier and no less interesting than detailing their other endeavors out.

 

5. Sometimes you may add a mastery.

 

Non-GM players: when it's at least the third chapter of play and your character's new, or when your character's recurring from an earlier chapter and you've chosen to add a mastery to your character sheet, per setup.

 

GM player: whenever you like, but only for one or two characters per chapter.

 

You can create a whole new mastery, create a mastery sheet for a mastery someone has already named but not created, choose an applicable existing mastery, or upgrade a mastery you already have (see below).

 

Masteries

 

Mastery sheets

 

 

For the first chapter, create a mastery sheet only if you're the GM.

 

Pass the finished mastery sheet to the player of the appropriate character, or keep it for yourself if the appropriate character is one of your NPCs.

 

Masteries are an interesting part of the game: they're your opportunity to invest in the game and its world beyond this single chapter.

 

Name

 

For the first chapter, create only one mastery. Choose something that grabs you from the elements.

 

Name it from its entry, adapting it as you like.

 

Let's say that the warrior cult grabs me. I write "initiation into the warrior cult."

 

Significance

 

By default, every mastery is worth 1d6 to one endeavor.

 

For the first chapter, the mastery must be of modest significance. This means that you choose one of the following options:

 

 

(Great significance, by the way, means that you choose two options, and extreme significance means that you choose three.)

 

So initiation into the warrior cult is of modest significance: it's worth its default 1d6 to one endeavor, and I choose that it's innate. Once an initiate into the warrior cult, always an initiate into the warrior cult.

 

Plays into

 

Name the endeavor or endeavors that the mastery contributes its die to. It's easiest, but not necessary, to stick to the five core endeavors.

 

I could choose "making war" for initiation into the warrior cult, but let's say I have a slightly different, more personal vision of what the mastery means, so I choose "defending myself." An initiate is a brother to lions even off the battlefield.

 

Vulnerable to

 

Every mastery is vulnerable to one other mastery. Name it. For chapters after the first, you can choose a mastery that already exists, if one's suitable, but for the first chapter you're naming an altogether new mastery.

 

Whenever you go up against someone who has the other mastery, you gain no benefit at all from this mastery. That's what "vulnerable to" means.

 

Notice that a mastery's vulnerability is another mastery, not to an action (like "vulnerable to being stolen"), not to a circumstance (like "vulnerable to the full moon"), not to a class of person (like "vulnerable to ghosts"). It must be a mastery, something that players could legitimately write on their character sheets and get dice for.

 

Let's say that for initiation into the warrior cult, I choose "vulnerable to: animalism." I don't know yet what animalism means, as a mastery, but I'm imagining someone calling upon their own wild instincts to out-lion the lion. Maybe for some future chapter I'll create a mastery sheet for animalism, or maybe one of the other players will - who knows?

 

Actions & Misactions

 

List at least three things that you have the right to say when your character actively uses the mastery and has the upper hand. Start these with "I," and refer to the character's opponent as "you."

 

For broadly applicable masteries, list at least two for each endeavor.

 

For far-reaching masteries, establish their reach here. "I summon lightnings and fire down upon you," "I raise an army of swaying wheat-men from the field," "I peer in as though I were a bird on your windowsill."

 

List at least one thing that your opponent has the right to say when your character actively uses the mastery but her character has the upper hand. Start these with "you" - it's your opponent speaking for your character.

 

For initiation into the warrior cult, let's say that I choose, for actions, "I tear into you without fear or hesitation," "I move faster than any person ought to," and "I smash you aside like nothing."

 

Let's say that I choose, for a misaction, "you're berserk and panicked; all you can think about is escape."

 

Masteries in conflict

 

Roll a mastery's die whenever you do that endeavor. You can choose to not use the mastery if it makes sense; the mastery's die counts when you're determining who's rolling bigger dice.

 

When your opponent wins the advantage but not a total victory, she gets to choose one of:

 

 

Masteries after the first chapter

 

Players of recurring characters choose one:

 

 

Starting with the third chapter:

When you make a new character, you can start with one mastery (of modest significance) on your character sheet. Choose one that already exists or make up a new one and create a sheet for it.

 

As GM, you should make a new mastery or two - maybe writing up one already named - pretty much every chapter.

 

Characters can have masteries without writing them on their character sheets. Writing it on your character sheet secures it for purposes of still having it at the beginning of the next chapter.

 

Example Characters

 

EG...

 

Action & Consequence

 

When do we roll dice?

 

In general, whenever your character goes to do something to the active detriment of my character's interests, we roll dice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

When do we not roll dice?

 

When your character goes to do something that's not to the active detriment of any other character, we don't roll dice, no matter how difficult or dangerous a thing it is.

 

Of course your character can do it. She's not incompetent.

 

EG...

 

What dice do we roll?

 

You check out your character sheet, I'll check out mine. Which endeavor best suits whatever it is your character's going to do?

 

You know the stat you assigned to that endeavor? That stat's dice are the dice you roll.

 

EG...

How do we read the dice?

 

Only your high die really matters, so the thing to read is your high die. Only bother with your lower die or dice if we have to break a tie.

 

We'll compare our dice a lot. Sometimes it just matters whose high die is higher, but sometimes it also matters whether your high die (supposing your high die is higher than mine) at least doubles mine, or just is higher.

 

Occasionally you'll include an advantage die - a d6 with pips - in your roll. I'll explain when in a little while. When you do, add it straight to your high stat die.

 

EG...

 

What do we do with our dice after we've rolled them?

 

 

 

 

 

EG...

 

 

Maybe my reroll is higher than your roll.

 

a) My character totally blocks or dodges the challenge. I say how.

 

b) I become the challenger, you become the answerer. Now you can pick up your dice; I say what my character does (the stronger the better) and you reroll. We continue on from there.

 

c) When this happens a couple of times in a row it makes a fun jostle upward.

 

Maybe my reroll is half of your roll or less.

 

a) My character totally sucks it up. Whatever you said your character does, that's exactly what happens.

 

b) Consequently, your character exhausts or injures my character. I lose two die sizes from a stat - the stat I use when my character exerts herself or the stat I use when my character endures duress. You choose which two die sizes (two sizes from which die, or one size each from both?) and which stat, if there's a choice.

 

Or else the two of us agree to some other outcome. It can include die penalties if we choose, or it can be entirely what happens to our characters.

 

But either of us can, at any time, fall back on the standard: your character exhausts or injures mine.

 

These consequences are in addition to the challenge coming true.

 

c) Either way, the conflict's over.

 

Maybe my reroll is less than yours, but greater than half yours.

 

I have to choose:

 

a) My character sucks it up but hangs in. I say how my character blocks or dodges the worst of your challenge, but takes some of it anyway. Consequently, your character goes forward with an advantage. The conflict continues into a new round. We both pick up and reroll our dice, but because of your character's advantage, you get to add a d6 with pips - an advantage die - to the stat dice in your hand.

 

Or else:

 

b) My character totally sucks up your challenge and the conflict ends, without going to a next round. However, unlike when your roll doubles mine, your character doesn't exhaust or injure mine, nor do we negotiate any other consequences. This is called giving, as in "I give."

 

EG...

 

Maybe your roll and mine really tie, down to the last die.

 

a) My character blocks or dodges your character's challenge. I say how.

 

b) We continue the conflict into a new round, with neither of us carrying any particular advantage forward.

 

EG...

 

So here's an example putting the whole lot together:

 

EG...

 

Fatal consequences

 

Narrating a fatal blow puts you in a nice, strong bargaining position, if you want the other player to accept that their character's dead instead of just injured.

 

If you like, you can read "take the blow" to mean "take the blow unless it's fatal, in which case you get to somehow block or dodge the fatal part, unless your dice are already low."

 

But maybe look at it this way instead. We know what the baseline for consequences is - exhaustion or injury. If you make your challenge be something whose natural consequences would exceed exhaustion or injury, you should be prepared to scale back to exhaustion or injury afterward. It's not like I cheated you out of me being stomped to paste by your war elephant - we both knew when you made that challenge that it probably wouldn't entirely come true.

 

Negotiating consequences

 

Consequences: you come up with them, the winner and loser together, once somebody's won and somebody's lost.

 

The dice back-and-forth makes sure that everybody knows exactly what their character has done. "Exhaust/injure" establishes the baseline for consequences, upon which the players may elaborate, according to what happened during the back-and-forth.

 

Here's the total winner, suggesting consequences as alternates to "I exhaust or injure you."

 

Legit: "You cross 'mastery of the necromantic arts' off your character sheet."

 

Legit: "My character gets 'mastery of the necromantic arts.'"

 

Not legit: "I add 'mastery of the necromantic arts' to my character sheet."

 

You can lose things from your character sheet as consequences, you can't add things to your character sheet as consequences. You can add something to your character sheet only during setup for your character's next chapter.

 

Ben: Legit? Your character loses three Guts and gains one Art. Your character loses three Guts and gains a specialization "demon-marked," which adds Guts to demonology.

 

Legit, yes indeed.

 

Press me and I'll get technical: you can't add die sizes to your character sheet, but you can completely move die sizes around.

 

Also legit: "now you defend yourself with Grace instead."

 

An example

 

I'm the GM. You're the player. My npc is Althesa, a warrior-priestess of a truly bloodthirsty cult. Her interest is to drive all foreign influences out forever. Your character is Irin, the lieutenant of the prince sent to pacify the region. His interests are to marry a priestess of the cult (in order to create a tie by blood between the two groups) and to do the prince's dirty work so he can keep his hands clean.

 

My character comes into your character's chamber in the middle of the night, to kill your character.

 

We roll. You roll your defending yourself, Guts, d12 d6. I have "warrior-priestessing" as an endeavor, so I roll it, my Art, d10 d8.

 

Your high die is a 4. Mine's an 8. I'm the challenger.

 

"I cut your throat while you sleep," I say.

 

You reroll. It comes up a 7. You do a partial block or dodge and I get the advantage. (Also, because my dice are better than yours and I didn't double you out the gate, your name goes on the we owe list.)

 

"I wake up when you come in, but I don't realize the danger I'm in - I figure you're a prostitute bought by my captain and sent to me. I catch your wrist, but only when you've got your dagger to my throat."

 

We both roll fresh. You roll an 11, but adding the d6 advantage die, my roll's a 15 (ouch).

 

"While we're grappling, I slip a long spike, a needle holding up my thumb and forefinger spread as far as they can out of my sleeve with my other hand. I stab it straight into your ear."

 

You reroll. A 6. My roll doubles yours, I totally win.

 

First of all, you have to take the blow. "Oh hell," you say. "Yeah, you stab me in the ear. Crap, dude."

 

Then we negotiate additional grief for you. Either of us can simply insist that it's exhaustion or injury, my choice - and let's say that exhausting or injuring your character means that you lose two die sizes from Grace - but let's hold that back. Is there something else we like better?

 

"I totally kill you," I say. "I totally kill you right in the ear."

 

You think about it for a while. Your name's on the we owe list; being killed won't take it off. You can continue to play this character, in flashback, as a ghost, all kinds of ways. But, "nah, I'd rather just be exhausted or injured than killed. But how about you make me deaf in that ear?"

 

"Deaf in that ear and lose one die size from Guts," I say.

 

"Done. And you leave me for dead."

 

"Yeah, okay."

 

So what we've just done is, we've established that me deafening you in one ear and taking one die size from your Guts, and leaving you for dead, is equivalent to me taking two die sizes from your Grace (for exhaustion or injury) - and we've chosen the former.

 

Make sense?

 

 

What do we do with the "we owe" list?

 

The "we owe" list is the backbone of the long-term game.

 

 

 

EG...

 

What do we do when...?

 

Someone rolls an advantage die.

 

An advantage die is a d6 with pips. You get one in a round of conflict where you and your character seized the advantage - but didn't win outright - in the round before.

 

Whenever the rules call upon you to look at your high die, add your advantage die straight to it. Just go ahead and pretend that you rolled their sum on your high die (no matter how impossible that might've been).

 

An advantage die lasts for a whole round - the initial cast and any rerolls you might make. It goes away at the end of the round, although of course you might win a new one for next round.

 

EG...

 

Someone uses a specialization.

 

You can use a specialization you've got listed on your character sheet whenever your character takes action appropriate to the specialization's endeavor - just declare that you're using it.

 

When you use a specialization, roll your usual stat dice according to the endeavor, plus roll dice for the stat the specialization names. Only the highest die matters, as always, unless you need to resolve a tie.

 

That's unless I'm using the specialization your specialization is vulnerable to - which you can suppose I will be, if I've got it on my character sheet. In that case, you don't get to roll dice for the additional stat.

 

If you come to be the challenger, you can, if you choose, use one of your specialization's formal challenges. But likewise, if I'm the challenger I can use your specialization's opponent's challenge against you.

 

Using a specialization's listed challenges doesn't have any effect on anyone's dice, but it can have tremendous effect on what our characters do and the outcome we finally negotiate.

 

EG...

 

There are more than two of us involved in a conflict.

 

Well, maybe the third character is helping one of ours.

 

Let's say that it's Mitch's character and she's helping your character.

 

In that case, you and Mitch both roll your dice as usual, but only the high die between you matters. You both roll, but you make only one challenge or answer, together.

 

Whichever of the two of you rolled the high die, that's the one who says the challenge or answer on your shared behalf.

 

If together you ultimately totally lose, I can exhaust or injure you both, or else we all have to agree to some other outcome.

 

On the other hand, maybe there are legitimately more than two sides to the conflict.

 

Your character's taking action against mine, mine's taking action against Mitch's, Mitch's is taking action against mine - but not the same kind of action as yours or wanting the same kind of outcome.

 

In that case, all three of us roll as usual.

 

The player with the highest roll is the first challenger. Let's say it's you. You say what your character does, the stronger the better. You also name your answerer - me or Mitch.

Let's say that you name me. I become the answerer.

 

But first, any player whose roll is higher than mine can choose to interfere with you. That person becomes the answerer instead.

 

EG...

 

Anyway, the answerer - let's have it be me after all - I pick up my dice and reroll them as usual. We compare our two rolls and resolve as usual, up to the point where one or the other of us has seized the advantage - put the d6 with pips next to your dice and remember to roll it in with your stats when the conflict finally goes forward into a next round - or else one of us has been put out of the conflict.

 

EG...

 

So now, other than the two of us, who has the highest roll showing? (Mitch does.) Now it's Mitch's turn to challenge. He says what his character does and names his answerer - me, again. If there were anyone else remaining with a higher die than mine - you don't count because you've had your turn - they'd have the choice to interfere; otherwise I reroll and Mitch and I resolve as usual.

 

EG...

 

If it's your turn to challenge and your answerer's already out of the conflict, by the way, you can either change your interests in the conflict and, y'know, stab your friend or something, or else you can drop out of the conflict yourself.

 

EG...

 

Repeat this whole process down the line, highest roll to lowest, until everyone has challenged, answered, or dropped out. At that point, everyone who's still in the conflict goes forward into a next round. Pick up your dice and reroll them - this is a new first cast - and don't forget your advantage die if you won one.

 

How about a quick recap?

 

Okay.

 

When to roll:

 

 

What to roll:

 

 

Procedure:

 

 

How about a total overall example?

 

Okay.

 

EG...

 

Why does this game have a GM?

 

Three reasons.

 

1) Because someone needs to describe the world ("don't skimp" is what the final text is going to say), start scenes, end scenes, intercut scenes - intercutting scenes is wicked important - and finally call the session done. Someone, in other words, is in charge of pacing, and that person needs to see the conflicts and events in the game from a more removed position than everyone else.

 

2) Because every PC is, potentially, a recurring character. Not every character in a chapter, however, deserves to be a potentially recurring character. Someone has to play the characters who don't matter.

 

3) Because if everyone's playing the same game, adversity will tend toward the middle - no one will want to be the harshest, no one will want to be the easiest. Putting one player in charge of being harsh gives the game its teeth.

 

Here's a rule you'll like, though, that I meant to include in the documents but failed to. Beginning with the third chapter, you can rotate GM players. Every chapter, you need someone to do those three things, but no reason on earth they need to be the same person from chapter to chapter. The only restriction is that in any given chapter the player whose character tops the "we owe" list can't be the GM player.

 

(It starts with the third chapter to give everyone a chance to develop a shared vision. Lots starts with the third chapter, you'll notice.)