A proposed alternate Hillfolk economy

So in Hillfolk / “Dramasystem” here’s my take on the ideal flow of the game:

Scenes are resolved naturally, and tokens flow post-hoc to reflect that.

The 2-spend “force” is jarring and we don’t want that.

The “force”, though, is necessary to correct when the economy is lopsided. If one player has been consistently shot down.

The drama is lopsided & the token economy is lopsided to match that.

What’s dumb about Hillfolk as written, though, is that though even though the force corrects the lopsided drama, it makes the token economy even more lopsided, and counters are even worse. The lopsided economy spirals out of control making it more and more lopsided, causing more and more forces, until the session ends and the econ resets.

Instead, have the two-spend and three-spend go to the bank instead of to that player.

I.e. new econ as follows:

When you give in (naturally or by being forced or countered) you gain one.

When the scene ends naturally and you don’t give in, you lose one (if you have any).

If you want to force instead of ending the scene naturally you can spend two (to the bank) and when you want to counter you can spend three (to the bank).

This should choke out the econ but that’s by intent; leaving the econ as a minimal safety valve on the natural flow of scenes.

Currently, in our group, we’re not really all on the same page on whether or not the “forces” are worth it since they are so jarring. So our current rule is that we are experimenting with not using them, since we have lots of procedural scenes anyway, giving in gives you a reward that’s usable in the procedural layer, and that in and of itself is hopefully incentive to give in. I still want to cook up some meaningful alternative to the “force” rule for more pure drama based games because the whole “meaningful concession but not exactly what they asked for” thing is so weird. All soap opera games: Smallville, Burning Wheel, TSoY, Monsterhearts etc all have this problem: you can get “forced” to have your character do something that you don’t want them to do. [Not talking about vampire hypnosis or w/e, that’s fine, I’m talking about coming around emotionally.] Dogs though works because you can escalate. Either when you give in on the “talking” arena, you’re fine with giving in, or you escalate into an arena where you are fine with giving in.

Also our hillfolkery [within our D&D game] has slowed a trickle this last half-a-year since I stopped “babysitting” the reward of drama tokens. I wanted it to be more player-initiated since it started getting more and more fuzzy about what was a petition and what was just aimless needling or bullying. I wanted more clarity, them grabbing a token and going “So tell me about this plan of yours…”

One idea is this… instead of “forcing”…

when the scene starts, you place a token from the bank between the two of you.
You can take the tokens and give in. If you want to sweeten the deal, you can add more of your own tokens to the pot. Wordlessly. That can only work if we also find a usage for having a bunch of tokens.
(Translating them to a procedural resource such as XP or HP is useless in a pure drama game.)


  • What rules in Monsterhearts have this problem?
  • Asking because I hate forces but didn’t find it a problem in Monsterhearts, maybe the move ‘call them on their shit’ could be cleaned up a little. (or I'm playing totally wrong)
  • edited June 2019
    Huh, looks like I was looking at some fan added basic moves that had this problem, some campaign wiki had the "Persuade a Player" move added in
  • Do you mean 'shut someone down?'. Interesting, I've never used that as a force. Although given I refuse to play in games with hard forcing it's possible I drifted the rules. I play as conditions are stuff that someone else says about you, or the condition has to be accepted or suggested by the player. I guess I am drifting.
  • No wait. I do it like this.

    If there is no crowd, then the person being shutdown has to agree that they are being shut down.

    If there is a crowd then the shutdown condition is what other people are saying about them, so that’s not actually causing them to change their mental state.

    That seems to accord with the rules as written.
  • *oh sorry didn't see your edit
  • You could introduce a mechanic like ‘spend 3 drama tokens’ and the other player will tell you what will cause their character to give in. This might defeat the whole point though because it’s a meta-level negotiation.
  • I always had the idea of taking from the piggy (bank). But feeding the piggy sounds better. Now we have 3 actors and 6 ways for the tokens to circulate.
  • My favourite part of this is the idea of “sweetening the pot”. Having both players add in tokens, with the one giving in eventually getting all of them, has a really nice unspoken way or representing emotional pressure without taking us out of the roleplaying. I’ll think on that; it has some potential!
  • edited June 2019
    Paul, right, I like that aspect of it but then ultimately why do you want tokens?
    Edit: to clarify: tokens can only be a motivator if you can use them for something
  • edited June 2019
    Well, in your current formulation of the rules, their value is severely diminished, which could be a problem. I’d want to fix that, in order to use that rule/mechanic.

    The way you’ve combined tokens (which stack) with Inspiration (which is just on or off) has painted you into a corner in this sense. But I think that, as a mechanic in general, it has potential.
  • It has, but that can be ripped out; but the stacking problem is minor compared to this problem:

    the tokens are only useful in procedural scenes (which for us no problem since we do a lot of those, but for when we want to do an all-drama game or mostly-drama game [with the D&D layer as the "guns on the table"] we're sol because we have nothing to spend these "rewards" on in the drama layer)
  • Isn’t pressuring each other to give in to your petitions enough for that?

    What are the tokens used for in Hillfolk?
  • Isn’t pressuring each other to give in to your petitions enough for that?
    Of course not.

    Wordlessly of course, but via gestures saying: “I’ll add one in so the pool is now worth two.” “OK, I’ll raise and now it’s worth three.” Why in heckfire would you even care about some dinky old tokens that aren’t used for anything.
    What are the tokens used for in Hillfolk?
    Forces & counters. Which is what we want to get away from.

  • edited June 2019
    Admittedly, the appeal of a pile of tokens is reduced when you can't force or counter, but it does still change your ability to influence the other characters going forward, doesn't it?

    I can kind of see it either way; for instance, you would need to value the current petition LESS than the potential to get your way in the future due to having a pile of tokens, and if that rarely happens, then you'll never want to accept the tokens at all.

    On the other hand, if the players enjoy the back-and-forth - see the tokens as an affordance mechanism, or as a reminder that "oh, I guess it might be my turn to give in now, because Alice has all the tokens, which means I haven't in some time..." - it could work well for the group. I could see dramatically-minded players taking into account the token quantities when roleplaying their characters. ("Alice has lots of tokens right now, so she must be having a good hair day. I'm a sucker for nice hair!")

    Personally, I'd want it to have more "teeth", just like you.

    It's a common design problem with games that have such economies, in my experience. They need to be integrated with our game functions to remain salient.

    What if you had some kind of status/affordance which had to do with token amounts?

    A simple one might be "you can't be a petitioner in a scene if you don't have at least 3 tokens; otherwise, you can only refuse or grant other characters' petitions". So, now, the people with 3+ tokens are the ones who run the show and get to follow their agenda; the others just react, and, at best, get to keep what they already have.

    Another could be something like, "the person with the most tokens always gets the last word", or whatever aspect of your roleplay you can imagine it being interesting to place some constraints on.

    What if the GM had a rule where they can only create a new scene with the characters who have the most tokens?

    Or anything that's bad that happens, happens to the person with the least tokens? (Fate turns against them, enemies decide to finally take action, etc.)

    Making it GM-facing could take the pressure off the roleplaying concerns for the players, if that's desired.

    Just spitballing here; I have no idea what the content of your dramatic gaming is like, really, so I doubt any of these are actually good ideas for you, but maybe one will inspire something. :)
  • "Whoever has the more tokens at the end of session has the more tokens at the end of session." is enough with some players but "richest sets the scene" is nice too !
  • A simple one might be "you can't be a petitioner in a scene if you don't have at least 3 tokens;
    Messing with the scene econ!! Is a great idea actually!

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