Help with a Planescape hack

edited March 19 in Play Advice
I'm trying my hand at a Planescape PbtA hack right now, loosely based on Legacy, that is, players play both characters AND the faction s/he belongs to in this competition for "The meaning of the multiverse". The faction playbooks will be the original Sigil ones, and for character playbooks Im ditching the classic D&D classes in favor of archetypes or concepts more specific to the setting (say, The Fiend, The Planewalker, The Chant Broker, The (Cranium) Rat Gestalt, etc). The expected play structure has players colaborating against threats to Sigil status quo, while doing their secret war to impose their faction's outlook on the multiverse.

I'm stuck on a couple points though:

1) Advancement: I want to use Keys (from TSOY) somehow because I think it's perfect to capture the setting reality of "Belief is power", and nothing more empowering than getting rewarded by putting your belief to practice. These Keys could come from the faction playbook I think (so an Athar character would have some keys like "gain XP each time you kick an idol in front of it's believers" or something). But I'm not sure this would be the best approach. I only know 2 PbtA games which use Key-like advancement: Sagas of the Icelanders (where you gain XP after using a move on each of your relationships) and The Sprawl (where you gain XP by jeopardizing the mission for different reasons). I like the former but the later never worked for us. What other key-like advancements are there in PbtA?

2) Tags. I don't know how to call this yet, but I would like some kind of "label" or "conditions" system that affect characters, planes, etc and could be played with. So when your chaotic Anarchist steps into Nirvana (the plane of order) the conflict of the plane "law" tag with his own "chaotic" gets him a "shaken" condition that makes him weaker for the time being (say, rolling with disadvantage or getting shut down on further advancement). The same could happen as a result of a Seduce or Manipulate move.

Also, I'm thinking the ultimate prize for a faction that wins the current Era race for the meaning of the multiverse could be imprinting his views on reality, thus giving it a temporary "tag" that would also affect people and planes in that manner.

FAKE EDIT: Or maybe it's simpler to forget about tags altogether and just give each plane it's own move like "When you enter Nirvana, get -1 ongoing except if you belong to a lawful-aligned faction". AND also give each faction it's own special move for whe it wins the belief race?

Thoughts?

Comments

  • edited March 19
    Hmmm looking at it again, would it positive that characters advance solely through Faction keys? Maybe adding another factor like DW's XP for misses could be good. On the other hand having advancement solely on faction keys would make it more focused. Don't know.


    Note to self:

    Have factions provide an special move after the 3r (or 5th?) character advancement, like:

    Godsmen's "Spark of Divinity":
    You're a god in the making. Pick a small aspect of reality (bar fights, sick animals, flerting ladies) as your domain. When you do something related to that, all your stats count as +3 and add the following result to the roll: "On 12+ you impress, mesmerize or profoundly change one or more people around you".

    Also, you may expand your aspect one time as a last effort: if you are the God of Bar Fights, you can now expand it to God of Fights to deal with a, say, open warfare around you. But if you do so, the Lady of Pain comes for you later (no gods allowed in Sigil, berk) and the MC will choose:
    - you're flayed
    - you're mazed
    - you're banished from Sigil to another plane

    ...and it wont be pleasant.
  • I like the idea of each plane having its own move that occurs when you enter it, because that gives a lot of flexibility and openness. Each plane could have a thematic move to establish the theme and tone of the plane.

    But the proposed move is kind of static and limp. It doesn't spur the PCs to action, and it doesn't do a bunch to alter play. I think it might be better if it was more like "While on Nirvana, when you do [one of these flavorful examples of a good deed], you take +1 forward." that encourages players do do something, not just gain a passive benefit. It also means that people of opposing alignments might face difficult decisions. My chaotic character has a Key from my faction that gives me XP when I disrupt bureaucracy, but we're on the Lawful plane trying to get some paperwork sorted out, and I get +1 forward for following the rules. I have to decide which way to go, and the mechanics draw attention to that decision.
  • Honestly, what you're going for doesn't sound that focused. There's a lot to the Planescape setting, and it's important to think about what kind of game you'd like. I've seen at least three approaches to Planescape:

    The PCs are trekking through the multiverse seeing wonderous things solving problems. Sigil is used as a hub for these adventures. Kind of like Dr. Who or Dirk Gently in DnD.

    The PCs engage with Sigil's politics where factions clash, infiltrate, and scheme to attain power.

    The player characters have deep personal stories that must be resolved. The psychological and existentialist themes of the setting are emphasized. The emphasis is usually on mystery and discovery.

    There's a lot to work with here, but it's hard to give direct advice until I understand your priorities. TsoY's keys work well for engaging players with theme. Saying "these cultures/factions/races have access to these keys/abilities" works really well for getting players to think about what it *means* to be an elf/human/slave or a tiefling/sensate/anarchist/etc. It just depends what you want your game to be about.
  • Good comments here.

    That said, I like the "Spark of Divinity". It makes me think of Terry Pratchett! :)
  • Paul, that's the goal. Abilities that match each faction belief, but also the setting's own slightly cinical and humorous tone. I would love to play a "God of Bar Fights" myself and carry a broken bottle of beer (or billiard cue) as a weapon. ;-)

    @NickWedig , you're right, that move example is bad. I'll come up with ones that spur players in directions more strongly. In fact, I will avoid D&Dism like "alignments" altogether and keep it focused on individual planes' concepts.
  • edited March 20
    Honestly, what you're going for doesn't sound that focused. There's a lot to the Planescape setting, and it's important to think about what kind of game you'd like. I've seen at least three approaches to Planescape:

    The PCs are trekking through the multiverse seeing wonderous things solving problems. Sigil is used as a hub for these adventures. Kind of like Dr. Who or Dirk Gently in DnD.

    The PCs engage with Sigil's politics where factions clash, infiltrate, and scheme to attain power.

    The player characters have deep personal stories that must be resolved. The psychological and existentialist themes of the setting are emphasized. The emphasis is usually on mystery and discovery.
    Good question. I'm not sure myself, but I would say it's mainly second point with a bit of the third. The first one is definitely not in the scope (assuming it will continue as a Legacy: Life Among the Ruins hack, that is). Visiting planes is expected but not, you know, the point of play.

    The play loop alternates between "zoomed out" scenes where players control factions and "zoomed in" scenes where players control their characters. The kick-off is opening an "age" (it could be a season, a year, decade, etc) with a meeting between factions where they establish threats and their course of action(s) to deal with those. Then they "zoom in" to their characters to follow through with the plan(s), as a team or separated. All the while seeking opportunities to scheme and pile up resources so each faction take the lead in the "belief" race, which is worth a "prize" at the end of the Age. (I still haven't decide what this prize will be, but I want it to be a way to imprint their belief on reality. It will be a move of some kind ).

    I guess it's not really different from default Apocalypse World: players have external threats to deal with - which spur them to colaborate to some degree - all while scheming against each other and taking care of their own business. Only here players also control Factions directly in a race for power, and see how they evolve through time.

    Did this explanation help?

    Edit: reading this again, I understand the point about a lack of focus. I never played Legacy (only read it) so I don't know for sure how this structure is supposed to play out at the table. I imagine that, as with any traditional playset, it could be used any way the GM and group wish (though the structure for "faction-first" play seem strongly ingrained in it). I found Legacy recently and got positively surprised with the idea of faction-play so the first thing I thought was making a Planescape hack for it but honestly, I'm not sure it's the best framework for my long running desire to see Planescape in PbtA form.
  • edited March 27
    I'm ditching factional play and keeping this focused on the characters. Things were too difuse.

    The idea is to keep characters defined by two playbooks ( faction + archetype) but now the player just controls his/her own character pursuing it's personal goals and agendas. Faction continue being important but just as these "sponsors" in the background. Here goes a brainstorm of character concepts based on the setting's own fluff. If anyone thinks of more, feel free to add to the list:

    The Fiend
    The Celestial
    The Knight of the Post (a rogue)
    The Cutter (a street fighter)
    The Blood War Vet (a soldier)
    The Box (an automata, rogue modron, mimir, etc)
    The Gestalt (of cranium rats, or something else)
    The Ratcatcher
    The Fallen Dabus
    The Gate Seeker (a portal hunter)
    The Tout (a street kid, courier)
    The Planewalker (a member of the guild of same name, or a general traveller)
    The Planar Peddler
    The Chant-Broker
    The Factotum (a clerk)
    The Proxy (a god chosen)
    The Priest
    The Screeder (a mage)
    The Clueless

    If anyone have a jaded 19th century London nickname for "Monk" lemme know.
  • edited March 29
    I'm wondering on the pros and cons of simpler vs more elaborated Keys. Consider these for a basic fighter:

    A) (from Dungeon World)
    "When you defeat a worthy opponent, mark XP"

    or

    B ) (from Crowsmantle)
    "You enjoy overpowering others. Gain 1XP when you defeat an opponent one-on-one. Gain 3XP when you defeat an opponent stronger than you. (Buyoff:) Gain 5XP when you suffer a defeat, and take a new key over this one."

    I think the advantage of A is being simpler and more elegant, but it's so simple that it could drift to the side and make the player forget it completely. B is the opposite, I think: it grabs the player attention, makes it mind it more, but that same structure could potentially make it feel more awkward (non-natural?) to pursue during play.

    Thoughts?
  • B is richer.
  • edited April 4
    B is richer.
    Yep, I'm going with B.

    I would like the Faction playbook to be some kind of Front too, more or less like what the Turncoat playbook does with it's "Cabal": https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B9cu0IVYfHtiTFlOUm1xN25aN28/edit

    Has anyone seen this?
  • edited April 15
    Another idea:

    Have emotional Conditions as a central concept:

    - Inspired (+1 ongoing),
    - Shaken (-1 ongoing and xp advancement locked),
    - Enraged (+1 ongoing but you always collaterally hurt people around you, be it physically with damage, or verbally by applying the Shaken condition).


    What applies conditions?

    - the "Influence" move (think Seduce or Manipulate from AW, but different).
    - Planes (at chargen pick an alignment for your character - Chaos or Order. You're automatically inspired/shaken on aligned/unaligned planes from you. Ie: a Chaosman is inspired in Limbo, but shaken in Nirvana).
    - the "Meditate" move. It allows you to erase any conditions applied, assuming you have time and solitude to do it.


    Exceptions?

    - Dustmen will have a move, "Corpses don't cry", making them immune to Conditions altogether.
    - Godsmen can Inspire people more easily.
    - Sensates can transfer any condition from someone else to themselves.
    - Bleakers will have a move that let's them apply the Shaken condition easily (and resist it easily too). Heh, they're barmy afterall.
    - Cyphers will have a move that makes their condition dependant on the current weather: Inspired when the sun is high, Shaken when it's raining, Enraged on a storm. "One with the planes" and all that, right?
    - Mercykillers have one that makes people feel guilty, thus Shaken, but only if they first Enrage themselves with righteous (yeah right) fury.
    - Harmonium get people easily Enraged with their demagogy. Watch out.
    etc.

    How to resist conditions?

    - Have a strong Earth stat. By the way, I'm thinking of making the stats the inner planes: Earth (resist), Fire (fight), Air (mind), Water (influence).

    Thoughts?
  • edited April 15
    You are building the game around Godsmen Maybe make it compulsory for beginners.
    Now as a player of such a god, what would I do, where would I go ? Would I walk down the planes looking for opportunities (following my Key)? Take orders ? Or what ?
  • edited April 17
    Another idea: having a paired set of stats, Chaos and Order, that must sum to zero. So if you got Chaos 3, your Order is automatically at -3 and vice-versa. And these could be tested and shifted during game (by planes or player moves?) Just like a set of Pendragon virtue traits.

    Ie: Perhaps stepping into Limbo (the plane of ultimate chaos) enacts a Chaos test? What if its successful? Are you now Inspired (thus taking +1 ongoing)? What if its a fail? Regardless, how does it change you? Does it? Could we ask the player to say how and, maybe even shifting the stats so it's now Chaos 2, Order -2 ? And how does it affect it's belief-based abilities (based on Planescape default factions - Godsmen, Chaosmen, etc) ? Does they stop working if that stat goes below a threshold?

    Hmmm....
    You are building the game around Godsmen Maybe make it compulsory for beginners.
    Now as a player of such a god, what would I do, where would I go ? Would I walk down the planes looking for opportunities (following my Key)? Take orders ? Or what ?
    I think I just want to do ye olde traditional "setting exploration" here, where basic play format is the GM coming up with its adventure of the week based on players flags and keys.

    Only I'd like an engine that focuses on characters beliefs and convictions and changing one another minds (with or without sticks) without the martial emphasis of D&D, and found PbtA could be an interesting fit.

    And yep, I'd totally use Keys.
  • Do the races in the left appear fun to play? And are they D&D-apropriated ? I know Planescape more from the Torment videogame (and the core box that I have here). So I'm not sure.

    image
  • edited May 7
    Art, fonts, layout are awesome. You should proofread the text again.
  • edited May 7
    The stabilizers seem less fun, because they are anti-dynamic. Harming as a goal doesn't seem right for Tieflings. It's rather a side effect. I think you want to merge them with demons ?
  • What do you mean by "stabilizers", DeReel? I don't know if I got that.

    About Tieflings, they usually have some kind of demon ancestry, that's what inspired the idea. But I agree it's not the best one. Any suggestions ?
  • edited May 8
    The chaotic ones with the ability to Stabilise chaos are anti dynamic. They are problem solvers alright, but their power doesn't seem fun to me.
    If tieflings are demonic, then evil is on the table. I thought they were only chaotic, and pictured them after Korrigans and Fey.
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