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blut_und_glas

Filling the Void - 20 Questions, 20 Effects

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The game of 20 questions seems to be one of the aspects of the current beta rules that get talked about a lot here on the forums. Mostly, in my impression, by pointing out perceived flaws with it, such as it being too restrictive or too cumbersome.

Personnally, I find neither to be the case. I do have my own criticism of it, but that focuses on there being too many questions which are non-restrictive, i.e., questions which do not force you to make specific mechanical adjustments to your character, empty questions.

Below is my take on how these empty questions might be "filled" by adding mechanical aspects to them. I threw in my opinions on the other questions for good measure, though that was mostly done to help myself with structuring my thoughts.

Now, I originally put this together based on the initial beta rules (pre-update). I chose to let my initial thoughts stand but appended them (where applicable) with additional ideas/reactions following yesterday's release of the first update.

Question 1
This gives us our clan, along with in-built stats. Great.

Question 2
Family, again with associated stats.

Question 3
School, which is in itself a collection of game effects and also determines our starting gear and some further stat bonuses.

Question 4
How do we stand out? Answer: By gaining a final Ring increase. Wonderful.

Question 5
This gives us our initial Giri. Good enough, giving its intended role in setting up dramatic conflicts and driving the ebb and flow of Honor, Glory and Status.

Question 6
Ninjo, as the second half of the Giri-Ninjo pair. Good so far, same as above.

Question 7
Opinion about one's clan, with associated Glory or skill increases. Nice combination there (though I personally feel that having all clans have two [or more] skills to choose from would be a bit better - at the moment the Crab stand out like a good thumb on an otherwise sore hand).

The update goes one step further than I did in the parantheses above, just making this any one skill (which the character does not yet possess) without limitations based on clan. Now, that is a huge step in the wrong direction in my opinion (also, just lazy). The original version told us something about our Clan and their outlook and how we could relate to that, by virtue of using a closed list (though having just one entry on the list was maybe not optimal). Now, we stand at pick anything, then make something up. By the same logic, we could have Question 1 read something like "Choose a Ring and increase it by +1. Think about how this Ring increase relates to your Clan."

Question 8
Feelings about Bushido, giving either Honor or a choice of skill increase. Again, well done.

Question 9
Greatest accomplishment and a Distinction to match. Others have pointed out the risk of a disconnect here, as the Distinctions do not necessarily lend themselves well to be woven into accomplishments, but to me this appears very solid.   

Question 10
What holds our character back? An Adversity probably, which is just what we get. Fitting.

Question 11
Feeling at peace, linked to a Passion. (NB: Great mental images to be had here, so far probably the best question in regard to an evocative wording in my opinion and by quite a wide margin.)

Question 12
Fear and Anxiety. Did someone feel clever when naming this? Anyway, straightforward combination (though quite a bit less inspiring than the preceding question due to that very straight forwardness if you ask me).

Question 13
Who have we learned from the most, with "the most" meaning either an extra advantage or an extra disadvantage (with a skill tagged onto it, though the disadvantage appears the more interesting bit).

Question 14
A striking detail about our character. And nothing to go along with it, making this the first of the empty questions.

"Striking detail" is something that appears as a fitting description for many of the sample Distinctions and Adversities, so this might be an easy fix to fill this question.

The update went with a piece of equipment instead - so something physical, fitting in with the idea of a striking detail. This feels like a nice change from the traits we collected up to now, though at the same time it also feels like a bit of a missed opportunity to shine yet further light on the person instead of the things they surround themselves with.

Question 15
Reaction to stressful situations, i.e., outbursts. I am sitting on the fence with this one as it does tie in with mechanics but it does not really give the character anything as no matter what we do at this point, when the time comes for an actual outburst to happen we are back to choosing (or building) a manifestation (and effect) for thatt specific situation.

Maybe give the character's default outburst defined at this stage some slight bonus? Like burning off an extra 1 Strife, whenever the default outburst is chosen?

Unfortunately, the update does nothing to help with the emptiness of this question and even makes the proposed quick fix unworkable as Unmasking now resets Strife to 0 anyway. Maybe have the default Unmasking regenerate a Void Point or give an extra XP or something in a similar vein. Bears further thought (a bonus not to our own character but to witnesses of our Unmasking might also be an idea).

Question 16
Pre-existing relationships! ...or non-existing relationships, as far as mechanics are concerned...

So, we have a whole basketload of mechanical elements dealing with relationships, status, interaction - and yet none of them make an appearance under this question?

Easy addition would probably be to just once more dig into the (dis-)advantages. Unfortunately, while we do have a ready-made type identifiying which of them fit best under this heading, as not all Interpersonal (dis-)advantages tie neatly into the idea of pre-existing relationships, but ones like Ally, Blackmail, both Betrothals and so on definitely do. Maybe make this a choice between either gaining +5 Status or choosing both an advantage and a disadvantage from the applicable ones.

The update offers its own take on a mechanical side to this question, and like before, it is equipment once more. Definitely a possibility, though I really have to say that to me this does not read as the most natural fit for the question.

Question 17
What our character's parents think of them. Nice question, unfortunately also an empty one. Which in a setting so dominated by notions of family and lineage appears odd.

We could again go with (dis-)advantages (they are just so flexible!), in which case we could probably make this the counterpart to the question 16 sketch above, making another limited list to choose both an advantage and a disadvantage from or to gain +5 either on Honor or on Glory. On the other hand (again because the advantages and disadvantages are so well suited for all of this), we may slowly be risking to overload our characters with traits. So what other mechanical effect could we tag onto our parents' opinion of us? How about manipulating Derived Attributes instead? We gain either +1 Resilience or +1 Composure, depending on how our parents' brought us up and think of us now.

The update hands out an extra skill instead. Workable, though to me at least also a bit less inspiring than the Resilience/Composure thing.

Question 18
Our honored ancestor! Complete with honored ancestry table. Nice, though it does feel strange to have this as the only random part of character creation. Maybe either throw in some more random elements for other questions as well or have an option to choose a heritage (which might get tricky with the heritages currently presented do to the potentially decisive bonuses hidden away in the less probably corners of the current table).

Lo and behold! The updated added that very option for choosing heritages.

Question 19
A name. And no effect.

Quick fix: As we are named for our ancestor and we currently make two heritage rolls under question 18, just move one of the two rolls here, and have the choice which roll to take happen during question 19. However, this obviously does not go together with free selection of heritage.

Question 20
Our death. Our meaningless, meaningless death. "This has no mechanical implications" - honestly? That was the point at which I very nearly put down the beta rules and decided not to bother with it anymore. A game of - supposedly - "samurai drama", a heavely (narrative) mechanics ladden game of samurai drama, and death is supposed ot have "no mechanical implications"? Totally useless!

So, salvage options:

  • After loading all of the other empty questions with mechanics, we just might consider not to add anything here, making death stand out on the basis that it is the only thing here without an added mechanic. That would be pretty much a cop-out, though.
  • A simple option would be to hand out a minor bonus on Glory, Honor or Status, with a rationale running along lines of a glorious death in battle, laying down our life in the direct service of our lord, or a death being talked about for years to come or something like that.
  • An involved option could be to craft something like the heritag table, giving some 10 different death scenario outlines with various effects tagged on.
  • Seeing that Void Points already play into death (what with Last-Ditch Effort), we might harness that connection, and have our ideal death (our death wish?) somehow interact with Void Points. That might be positive, negative or maybe even both. Perhaps we cannot spend Void Points on Last-Ditch Effort when confronted with the death we envisioned all along - after all, this is how it was always meant to end, wasn't it? Or we gain a free use of Last-Ditch Effort the first time (or even the first time every session) that we face a death not of our own choosing - not being meant to happen like this and so on. Or maybe we immediately gain a Void Point when entering a scene that matches our idea of our death scene, but we may then not spend any on Last-Ditch Effort (basically meaning we can throw around some more techniques or Seize the Moment).

The update still refuses to give us anything here. Totally useless.

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I like where they're going with the Heritage tables.  Letting a player pick any of the first result and then rolling for the second result is much better.  Now they need to expand the options, maybe 20 or so heritage options.

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For question 20 I think we can take a rather weird mechanic from DnD 4E.

In general every samurai gets the following ability:

Destiny sees your end clearly. Choose a fitting end for your character. When you are dying in a diffrent way than described, you may spend a void point: After the scene, you recover from you fatal state in a save location.

Depending on what end you choose you are subject to other effects:

  • In a Duel - You can not back down from a challenge. Whenever you are challenge you must accept.
  • On the battlefield (For Bushi only) - The Way of the Samurai lies in Death. During a skirmish or mass battle you double your focus value.
  • Sepukku - You are not a virtues type and it will get to you one day. Your character gains an additional Flaw disadvantage.
  • Of old Age - Nothing interesting ever happens to you. All your honor, glory, and status gains are halved.

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45 minutes ago, Yandia said:

For question 20 I think we can take a rather weird mechanic from DnD 4E.

In general every samurai gets the following ability:

Destiny sees your end clearly. Choose a fitting end for your character. When you are dying in a diffrent way than described, you may spend a void point: After the scene, you recover from you fatal state in a save location.

Depending on what end you choose you are subject to other effects:

  • In a Duel - You can not back down from a challenge. Whenever you are challenge you must accept.
  • On the battlefield (For Bushi only) - The Way of the Samurai lies in Death. During a skirmish or mass battle you double your focus value.
  • Sepukku - You are not a virtues type and it will get to you one day. Your character gains an additional Flaw disadvantage.
  • Of old Age - Nothing interesting ever happens to you. All your honor, glory, and status gains are halved.

Heh, when reading the OP's thoughts regarding Question 20, I had this exact idea, down to listing specific scenarios with related rules. Needless to say, I absolutely agree with your idea.

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9 hours ago, Yandia said:

For question 20 I think we can take a rather weird mechanic from DnD 4E.

In general every samurai gets the following ability:

Destiny sees your end clearly. Choose a fitting end for your character. When you are dying in a diffrent way than described, you may spend a void point: After the scene, you recover from you fatal state in a save location.

Depending on what end you choose you are subject to other effects:

  • In a Duel - You can not back down from a challenge. Whenever you are challenge you must accept.
  • On the battlefield (For Bushi only) - The Way of the Samurai lies in Death. During a skirmish or mass battle you double your focus value.
  • Sepukku - You are not a virtues type and it will get to you one day. Your character gains an additional Flaw disadvantage.
  • Of old Age - Nothing interesting ever happens to you. All your honor, glory, and status gains are halved.

I feel like there should be a murdered option here. But the mechanic does seem like a very good idea.

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