Secret Writings of the Ash Ock

Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem

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So I started reading the draft rules for an RPG I backed on Kickstarter, Perseverant. Loved the concept, and I like what I see in the rules. Looks good as a standalone game, but also has ideas that can be borrowed for other RPGs.

Basic concept: Survival roleplaying. You might be stranded in space, traveling through a desert, or some other 'wilderness'. Whether you are working together or against each other, you are working through a series of scenes to reflect the journey.

Play is structured into challenge scenes and social scenes. Challenge scenes are the action scenes where you deal with problems, like falling through thin ice, being attacked by wolves, or maybe having your camp set on fire. Social scenes are played in the aftermath where you interact with the other players, for good or ill. The two kinds of scenes play off each other, with challenge scenes generally reducing your character's resources and social scenes recharging them. (Optional rules also give the group as a whole one-time uses of other resources.)

I can see similarities with some other systems, but the combination of these characteristics looks great. Here's a short summary of some of the ideas in the game.

* You create relationships to two other characters as part of character generation. They don't have to be positive relationships. So the group has some shared backstory.
* Characters are defined using other traits: history/backstory, method (how you act), cause (what you belief in), and fear (what you are afraid of). These are described narratively and in play you are looking for situations where you can justify their usage. I think you are supposed to have one of each, but the draft rules aren't clear here. Both relationships and traits remind me a lot of Fate Aspects, but also the attributes in PDQ / Swashbucklers of the Seven Skies.

* A challenge scene requires the party to generate successes (the total is a random number that's greater than the number of players and goes up to twice the number of players). Reminds me of D&D4e challenges, or coop boardgames like Battlestar Galactica and Dead of Winter where you collectively have to generate successes.
* Each person gets one opportunity to narrate how they help resolve the challenge. For each trait or relationship they can justify, they roll a die. 50 - 50 chances to roll a success or failure for each die. Each success contributes one to the challenge, each failure exhausts a trait (to be justified narratively, doesn't have to be one used in the challenge). Exhausted traits can't be used for future challenges. Someone who is out of usable traits dies or gets separated from the party. I like the idea here of temporarily reducing what a character can do; and using these same resources reminds me of PDQ.
* Instead of acting directly in the challenge, you can give up your turn help or hinder someone which case you can pick some of their dice and reroll them. Slightly different effects to you depending on which you decide.
* If you fail to get any successes, you receive a personal setback, which blocks a character trait until it is resolved at some other time. Narratively feels a lot like a FATE consequence. If the group fails to resolve a challenge, there's a group consequence as the challenge failure is narrated, and everyone gets a setback.

* After a challenge, everyone gets to frame one social scene if they want. You frame conflict scenes to recharge one of your own cards or camaraderie to recharge some group of other people's cards. (On paper, always better to cooperate, but this is a roleplaying game.)

* There are rules for directly engaging in PVP with other characters. Conflicts always generate new relationships between the participants and otherwise give you an opportunity to narrate a change in the status quo, which could include a setback for someone.)
* You can betray the group! Gets you lots of successes or restores all your exhausted traits, but the person you betrayed gets a setback. You can also sacrifice yourself to automatically beat a challenge.
* Generally, death is a narrative choice. You can't kill someone's character without permission, and even if you sacrifice yourself, it doesn't necessarily mean you died. You might be separated from the group and reappear later (with penalties).

It feels like the designers have a good sense of narrative; I haven't read the gamemastering/facilitator section deeply, but the gist of it seems to be to have players justify decisions narratively, and to support the story. Players have some veto rights on things.

I'm putting this into my pile of "mini games" that I'd like to try to run as one-shots: Noirlandia, Questlandia, Fiasco, Microscope, Kingdom, Perseverant.


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