A neotrad TTRPG design manifesto

FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
At this point I have to say you're also coming across as a tad self-contradictory. The following:

seems to contradict:

[Emphasis mine.]

If "there are better mechanics ... or worse mechanics" for achieving a particular gameplay experience, how then is it "wholly out of bounds" to suggest that "mechanics that provide greater player authority" in the context of neotrad gameplay just are better than mechanics that don't?
When you add a clause to what I actually said it kind of changes the meaning, yeah? So no, what you said is not out of bounds, but it also isn't what i claimed was.


If anything, your remark, "Pointing out that the experience we are choosing to design for is no better or worse than another isn’t threadcrapping" comes across as doubling down on trying to make the thread about validating trad play instead of being a manifesto for neotrad design, or at least stopping up any discussion on how to further neotrad design until trad play has been suitably validated. Which, again, still comes across as threadcrapping.
How is anything I said thread crapping? Like seriously? It's something we all fundamentally agree with.
To that, I would say:
  1. Trad play doesn't need validation on this thread - I am sure there are many robust defences for trad play, and it remains the most popular style of play by far, suggesting it remains well beloved!
That which isn't being bashed doesn't need defended.
  1. It's hardly possible to draw contrasts between neotrad play and trad play without running the risk of coming across as dunking on one or the other types of play. Since this thread is "A Neotrad TTRPG Design Manifesto", it should hardly seem surprising or alarming that trad play comes out the worse for wear. One would expect that, in a thread titled "A Trad TTRPG Design Manifesto", neotrad or storygame play would be on the short end of the stick (as it were). For instance, were someone to ask me to explain at length why I don't care for country music (Johnny Cash excepted, of course), I rather expect that my explanation would - despite my best efforts - come across as slighting the genre to someone who especially loves it.
That's fair. You should have started and stopped with this instead of accusing me of being contradictory and threadcrapping. I agree with this particular paragraph to some extent, but telling me to suck it up that it's going to happen isn't a real solution either. You know what is, when someone is taking something not as you intended to tell them that's not what you intended - you know, instead of repeatedly calling them a thread crapper and all...



Are you, perhaps, perceiving other remarks on this thread as constituting some kind of attack on trad gameplay over and above drawing contrasts with a view to promoting neotrad designs, and reacting accordingly? That's what I'm getting from:
Obviously
I guess what I'm not sure about is, if you believe someone else is treating this thread as a chance to re-litigate arguments belittling trad gameplay, why are you taking the bait? Is it really worth the trouble?
If that's what they are doing, why make this about me instead of them?
 
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pemerton

Legend
We hopefully agree that to be playful and to play a game are not identical.

<snip>

TTRPG could be assessed as being playful as well as gameful.

<snip>

Based on this, let's modify my scenario. Original-Lucy indeed did want the guessing game and strategic challenges, just as I described. New-Lucy has other motives: she wants to insert herself into the fiction via a character and thereby provide first-person prompts. Can you say in what senses you take New-Lucy to be playing a game?
In the sense in which the ordinary English word "game" includes (Oxford Languages via Google) an activity that one engages in for amusement or fun. Like, Lucy's friend or mum asks here "What are you doing?" and she replies "We're playing a game". "What sort of game?" "A roleplaying game."

does it matter if she or her GM are following rules?
Matter to whom? I tend to sympathise with Vincent Baker when he says that

if all your formal rules do is structure your group's ongoing agreement about what happens in the game, they are a) interchangeable with any other rpg rules out there, and b) probably a waste of your attention. Live negotiation and honest collaboration are almost certainly better. . . .

live negotiation and honest collaboration are a) just as good as, and b) a lot more flexible and robust than, whatever formal rules you'd use otherwise.​

Yet much RPGing, perhaps a majority of it, takes place using rules in (more-or-less) just this fashion! So presumably the rules matter to those RPGers despite Vincent's admonition.

And you can poke around ENworld, for example, and see examples of what people care about in relation to rules: they provide prompts to the GM; they help structure and constrain PC build, even if - in play - PC build often serves as a set of descriptors for the GM to be drawn on, rather than the sort of constraint on resolution that it is in (say) Torchbearer; and many people think that the rules matter a great deal when the PCs are engaged in combat.

I don't see that this basic orientation to rules, which was very common from the mid-80s, and was indeed cultivated by leading rulebooks (such as AD&D 2e and WW books) in the 1990s, is much rarer today. Edwards captured it by saying that, in high concept sim RPGing,

At first glance, these games might look like additions to or specifications of the Purist for System design, mainly through plugging in a fixed Setting. However, I think that impression isn't accurate, and that the five elements are very differently related. The formula starts with one of Character, Situation, or Setting, with lots of Color, then the other two (Character, Situation, or Setting, whichever weren't in first place), with System being last in priority.​

He also observes that

"Story," in this context, refers to the sequence of events that provide a payoff in terms of recognizing and enjoying the genre during play. . . .

I also recommend examining Theme carefully. In this game, it's present and accounted for already, before play. The process of prep-play-enjoy works by putting "what you want" in, then having "what you want" come out, with the hope that the System's application doesn't change anything along the way.​

Paradigms of this sort of RPGing are what Eero Tuovinen calls "GM story hour" and "Substantial Exploration", respectively

a roleplaying game activity where one of the players – the titular GM – prepares a structured agenda platter for the session of play, and the play activity itself then concerns processing through this pre-prepared content. The content is usually structured analogously to a linear narrative, so there’s “scene 1”, “scene 2”, etc. that are processed through play in the order pre-determined by the GM. . . . [and] a type of game that involves a major external reference source. This is not just a big pile of GM notes; every player may or may not be familiar with the source material, but either way, exploring this material is core to the game’s creative purpose.​

Whatever exact reason the rules matter for a particular group, in these approaches to RPGing it is not really to do with their potential function in relation to "finding out what happens" vis-a-vis whatever is "ludically crux". What is crucial to play is already known, at the outset, and as I've said play is about the players doing (imaginary) first person stuff (via their PCs) which will prompt the GM to engage in second-person revelations of the stuff to be enjoyed/explored/appreciated.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
In the sense in which the ordinary English word "game" includes (Oxford Languages via Google) an activity that one engages in for amusement or fun. Like, Lucy's friend or mum asks here "What are you doing?" and she replies "We're playing a game". "What sort of game?" "A roleplaying game."
We'll need to keep in mind our differences on that. Consistent with my focus on a design trend, I use Salen and Zimmerman's definition that games are a subset of play; most distinctly separated out by rules.

Matter to whom? I tend to sympathise with Vincent Baker when he says that

if all your formal rules do is structure your group's ongoing agreement about what happens in the game, they are a) interchangeable with any other rpg rules out there, and b) probably a waste of your attention. Live negotiation and honest collaboration are almost certainly better. . . .​
live negotiation and honest collaboration are a) just as good as, and b) a lot more flexible and robust than, whatever formal rules you'd use otherwise.​

Yet much RPGing, perhaps a majority of it, takes place using rules in (more-or-less) just this fashion! So presumably the rules matter to those RPGers despite Vincent's admonition.

And you can poke around ENworld, for example, and see examples of what people care about in relation to rules: they provide prompts to the GM; they help structure and constrain PC build, even if - in play - PC build often serves as a set of descriptors for the GM to be drawn on, rather than the sort of constraint on resolution that it is in (say) Torchbearer; and many people think that the rules matter a great deal when the PCs are engaged in combat.

I don't see that this basic orientation to rules, which was very common from the mid-80s, and was indeed cultivated by leading rulebooks (such as AD&D 2e and WW books) in the 1990s, is much rarer today. Edwards captured it by saying that, in high concept sim RPGing,

At first glance, these games might look like additions to or specifications of the Purist for System design, mainly through plugging in a fixed Setting. However, I think that impression isn't accurate, and that the five elements are very differently related. The formula starts with one of Character, Situation, or Setting, with lots of Color, then the other two (Character, Situation, or Setting, whichever weren't in first place), with System being last in priority.​

He also observes that

"Story," in this context, refers to the sequence of events that provide a payoff in terms of recognizing and enjoying the genre during play. . . .​
I also recommend examining Theme carefully. In this game, it's present and accounted for already, before play. The process of prep-play-enjoy works by putting "what you want" in, then having "what you want" come out, with the hope that the System's application doesn't change anything along the way.​

Paradigms of this sort of RPGing are what Eero Tuovinen calls "GM story hour" and "Substantial Exploration", respectively

a roleplaying game activity where one of the players – the titular GM – prepares a structured agenda platter for the session of play, and the play activity itself then concerns processing through this pre-prepared content. The content is usually structured analogously to a linear narrative, so there’s “scene 1”, “scene 2”, etc. that are processed through play in the order pre-determined by the GM. . . . [and] a type of game that involves a major external reference source. This is not just a big pile of GM notes; every player may or may not be familiar with the source material, but either way, exploring this material is core to the game’s creative purpose.​

Whatever exact reason the rules matter for a particular group, in these approaches to RPGing it is not really to do with their potential function in relation to "finding out what happens" vis-a-vis whatever is "ludically crux". What is crucial to play is already known, at the outset, and as I've said play is about the players doing (imaginary) first person stuff (via their PCs) which will prompt the GM to engage in second-person revelations of the stuff to be enjoyed/explored/appreciated.
I certainly agree that rules matter in different ways to different players, as well as in some similar ways to most players. It's hard to draw a boundary around what play it might be possible for a set of constitutive and regulatory rules to facilitate.

I'm directing thought more toward motives and predicted consequences for TTRPG designers incorporating mechanical innovations from indie-games. One such mechanic, appearing everywhere, is that of flags. How is play under the YZE made different by their incorporation into the text? Assuming that players are able to make their play to any significant extent about them, it drags their play to a different place.

I agree with Baker that GNS is inadequate to describe this. I don't observe the new rules having some consequence via creative agendas. The play itself is reconstituted. (And I've noticed GMing norms stifling that.)

Regarding what is settled gamefully, and what playfully. To my reading your example showed that players may care about immersing in character and incrementally revealing a story. Games are play where that follows rules. Those pursuits matter to them, it is an experience they desire to have; voluntarily opting into. A friend finds his daughters approach play the same way that you described.

One could perhaps immerse in character and incrementally reveal a story without following rules. So what are these rules like? You have to do X to reveal increment Y. (Be in the right place. Make a perception check.) You have to be someone like this. (Be a knight, be a vampire.)

Why opt into those rules? And as a designer, why add innovations from indie-games to them? Why would that make the resultant rules more appealing? (Better enable players to explore and express in rule-following play what matters to them.)

I felt that we ended up talking across each other. Hopefully the above can ameliorate that to some extent.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Not to go to far down this rabbit hole, but a narrative to me (didn’t realize there was another definition) need not be deep or complex, it can be a single sentence. He was angry. That’s a narrative. It was raining. That’s a narrative. The king decreed that taxes would increase. Narrative again.
I agree. Cited was a definition for the sort of sequential narrative we recognise as stories. Stories are narratives. Another kind of narrative is description. You give some examples.

"The city of Follen stands at the mouth of the river Tel." "Brand is a bowman". "The Bay of Tel is rainswept in winter. 1-5 on d6." "My character is a bard. Rollo."

A collection of narrative snippets can give rise to a distinctive, shared game world, in which play can unravel its own unique form of narrative. "Brand leads me to the city of Follen, where I take ship for Distar. Her decks are made slick by constant rain, which unfortunately sends me over the side when I assay an acrobatic performance."

Generally, I look for signifiers, a signified, and narration. Where auto-narration is also on the table. Whether to count words on the Ironsworn "Action" oracles table as narrative is something I'm still pondering. I suspect they ought to only be counted narrative in conjunction with the priors going in, which they very obviously adjust (joining as signifiers, leading to adjusted narration through reflection on what is now signified.) It's a remarkable process!
 
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pemerton

Legend
One could perhaps immerse in character and incrementally reveal a story without following rules. So what are these rules like? You have to do X to reveal increment Y. (Be in the right place. Make a perception check.) You have to be someone like this. (Be a knight, be a vampire.)

Why opt into those rules? And as a designer, why add innovations from indie-games to them? Why would that make the resultant rules more appealing? (Better enable players to explore and express in rule-following play what matters to them.)
Suppose that someone is doing what you describe - being a knight, or a vampire.

What does it add to that experience to have the game tell you to track encumbrance? Or to have a rule for the chance to find secret doors if you search for them. Or to have combat rules appropriate to a miniatures wargame? Nothing. The adapation of "indie" innovations gets rid of this cruft, and aligns the rules better with the sorts of player-side "prompts" that make sense for the game. This is Eero Tuovinent's point about how Hickman

push[ed] the AD&D content delivery chassis to its extreme ends and beyond in an effort to deliver a true high fantasy epic via a game structurally very poorly suited for the purpose.​

Hickman's project would be improved by having a "content delivery chassis" that is better suited to his purpose, that is, better suited to "deliver[ing] a true high fantasy epic", because it conforms to these points:
  • Chekhov’s gun. “If you have a pistol, then it should be fired” it means that mechanics should not appear just to give unlikely options or false promises. Once a rule has been designed, there should be a fair probability that it comes into play in every session. In this way, players can be sure that everything they learned is useful and the GM has not to memorize useless rules. This is also true for the character sheet, it should report only skills or traits that are effectively used by players.
  • Bounded bookkeeping. Limited use of tables (from critics to equipment), long lists or other means that require browsing the handbook too often. This saves time and keeps the players’ attention alive.
  • Wide GM Support. Like Modern RPGs, neotrad don’t underestimate the GM job and give her all the means to manage the rules (with a fair number of samples) as well as the players at the table. Also, rarely a neotrad game uses the battle grid, relying more on abstract “zones” and other means to manage the fictional positioning.
And of course, these better-suited rules would make "rule zero" unnecessary.

I don't think it has to be any more complicated or mysterious than this.
 


pemerton

Legend
I'm not familiar with a notion of narrative which makes free-standing assertions or descriptions count as narratives.

I'm not an expert on "narratology", or structuralist poetics/semiotics more generally, but the notion of structure is pretty key. A free-standing assertion or description doesn't constitute, or create, a narrative structure.

I'm even less of an expert on video games and narrative, but there is some discussion of this to be found on the Wikepedia page on narratology <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narratology> (footnotes omitted):
:
Marie-Laure Ryan distinguishes between "a narrative" as an object that can be clearly defined and the quality of narrativity, which means "being able to inspire a narrative response”. This allows her to understand video games as possessing narrativity without necessarily being conventional narratives. Astrid Ensslin builds upon this, explaining that "games have the potential to evoke multiple, individualized narrative scripts through world-building, causal event design, character development and other elements that players interact with the intention to solve problems and make progress". . . .

Murray argues that narrative structures such as the multi-narrative more accurately reflected "post-Einstein physics" and the new perceptions of time, process, and change, than the traditional linear narrative. The unique properties of computers are better-suited for expressing these "limitless, intersecting" stories or "cyberdramas." These cyberdramas differ from traditional forms of storytelling in that they invite the reader into the narrative experience through interactivity i.e. hypertext fiction and Web soap The Spot. Murray also controversially declared that video games – particularly role-playing games and life-simulators like The Sims, contain narrative structures or invite the users to create them. She supported this idea in her article "Game Story to Cyberdrama" in which she argued that stories and games share two important structures: contest and puzzles. . . .

Nonlinear narratives serve as the base of many interactive fictions. Sometimes used interchangeably with hypertext fiction, the reader or player plays a significant role in the creation of a unique narrative developed by the choices they make within the story-world. Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden is one of the first and most studied examples of hypertext fiction, featuring 1,000 lexias and 2,800 hyperlinks.

In his book Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Espen Aarseth conceived the concept of cybertext, a subcategory of ergodic literature, to explain how the medium and mechanical organization of the text affects the reader's experience:

...when you read from a cybertext, you are constantly reminded of inaccessible strategies and paths not taken, voices not heard. Each decision will make some parts of the text more, and others less, accessible, and you may never know the exact results of your choices; that is, exactly what you missed.​

The narrative structure or game-worlds of these cybertexts are compared to a labyrinth that invites the player, a term Aarseth deems more appropriate than the reader, to play, explore and discover paths within these texts.​

I don't see anything here that eschews structure, or suggests that a single, free-standing assertion can constitute a narrative.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
Suppose that someone is doing what you describe - being a knight, or a vampire.

What does it add to that experience to have the game tell you to track encumbrance? Or to have a rule for the chance to find secret doors if you search for them. Or to have combat rules appropriate to a miniatures wargame? Nothing. The adapation of "indie" innovations gets rid of this cruft, and aligns the rules better with the sorts of player-side "prompts" that make sense for the game.
Forbidden Lands tracks encumbrance in order that what you have on you can matter during forays far from villages. 4e has extensive combat rules. These are not inevitably at odds with flags, scene closure mechanics, attritional conditions, etc.

Rather I'm interested in the playful/gameful divide you seemed to propose in your example. Expressing identity and revealing story were described to most matter to the player. To my reading, game rules were described to serve that ends, but not be crucial to it. The obvious question is - what happens in the absence of those rules? Is what matters to the player still successfully achieved. If so, why do they choose to play a game?

One option is that while game play isn't central, it is supplemental in a way that inspires or elevates the play. What matters most is being shared playfully, but not developed gamefully. Unless the rules are indeed aligning "better with the sorts of player-side "prompts" that make sense for the game." But that returns to addressing with rules what's ludically-crux (in this case, rules that inspire and regulate the desired form of conversation.)
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
I'm not familiar with a notion of narrative which makes free-standing assertions or descriptions count as narratives.

I'm not an expert on "narratology", or structuralist poetics/semiotics more generally, but the notion of structure is pretty key. A free-standing assertion or description doesn't constitute, or create, a narrative structure.

I'm even less of an expert on video games and narrative, but there is some discussion of this to be found on the Wikepedia page on narratology <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narratology> (footnotes omitted):
:
Marie-Laure Ryan distinguishes between "a narrative" as an object that can be clearly defined and the quality of narrativity, which means "being able to inspire a narrative response”. This allows her to understand video games as possessing narrativity without necessarily being conventional narratives. Astrid Ensslin builds upon this, explaining that "games have the potential to evoke multiple, individualized narrative scripts through world-building, causal event design, character development and other elements that players interact with the intention to solve problems and make progress". . . .​
Murray argues that narrative structures such as the multi-narrative more accurately reflected "post-Einstein physics" and the new perceptions of time, process, and change, than the traditional linear narrative. The unique properties of computers are better-suited for expressing these "limitless, intersecting" stories or "cyberdramas." These cyberdramas differ from traditional forms of storytelling in that they invite the reader into the narrative experience through interactivity i.e. hypertext fiction and Web soap The Spot. Murray also controversially declared that video games – particularly role-playing games and life-simulators like The Sims, contain narrative structures or invite the users to create them. She supported this idea in her article "Game Story to Cyberdrama" in which she argued that stories and games share two important structures: contest and puzzles. . . .​
Nonlinear narratives serve as the base of many interactive fictions. Sometimes used interchangeably with hypertext fiction, the reader or player plays a significant role in the creation of a unique narrative developed by the choices they make within the story-world. Stuart Moulthrop's Victory Garden is one of the first and most studied examples of hypertext fiction, featuring 1,000 lexias and 2,800 hyperlinks.​
In his book Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature, Espen Aarseth conceived the concept of cybertext, a subcategory of ergodic literature, to explain how the medium and mechanical organization of the text affects the reader's experience:​
...when you read from a cybertext, you are constantly reminded of inaccessible strategies and paths not taken, voices not heard. Each decision will make some parts of the text more, and others less, accessible, and you may never know the exact results of your choices; that is, exactly what you missed.​

The narrative structure or game-worlds of these cybertexts are compared to a labyrinth that invites the player, a term Aarseth deems more appropriate than the reader, to play, explore and discover paths within these texts.​

I don't see anything here that eschews structure, or suggests that a single, free-standing assertion can constitute a narrative.
It's a digression, but essentially I see ambiguities around inferred versus (putatively) prescribed narrative. The contention is not that "a single, free-standing assertion can constitute a narrative" but that a collection of signifiers, not arranged as a linear story, can. Players traverse the "text" and infer the signified from the signifiers with a consistency that justifies the claim that the non-linear, dynamically disclosed structure is indeed narrative.

I am thus agreeing with Ryan when she

...distinguishes between "a narrative" as an object that can be clearly defined and the quality of narrativity, which means "being able to inspire a narrative response”. This allows her to understand video games as possessing narrativity without necessarily being conventional narratives. Astrid Ensslin builds upon this, explaining that "games have the potential to evoke multiple, individualized narrative scripts through world-building, causal event design, character development and other elements that players interact with the intention to solve problems and make progress". . .​
They are narratives (the whole assemblage) but they are not conventional narratives. I've labelled the former ludonarrative to firmly resist interpretation as a synonym of story.
 
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The reason I think game narratives are unconventional is rooted in two levels.

On one level, the narratives events are experienced first-hand by the player. Even though its largely the same story, playing as Harry Potter is very different from reading the books, despite them mostly being from his perspective.

But on another level, there is a dynamic thats produced due to that first hand experience that can be readily compelling in of itself. The metanarrative of a game thats a function of what happens within it and how the player(s) react to it.

That metanarrative can actually go several layers deep; sports games for example have extraordinarily complex metanarratives, despite the fact that their biggest consumers are often denigrated as slackjawed idiots.

And ultimately, this is why when game genres were decided upon, you don't see many overlaps with what you'd see in books or TV; games are laid out in genres that describe their experiences, not the thematics of a plot.

That, in turn, also reveals the overall appeal of the sandbox. To be able to go into a game and have the full freedom to expression, through the games systems, to make your own experience.

That was the big appeal of RPGs for me, as they can be sandboxes with virtually unlimited systems on a practical level. This is why I find it disappointing how many refuse to or scoff at the idea of running their games as true sandboxes.

Which isn't necessarily not understandable. Much as I think its over wrought, there is still that desire for a story to result from play, and many do want such stories to resemble conventional plots.

And my thinking is that we're never going to see games that can support sandboxes and will fully form a conventional plot; it just won't happen because its a game, so unless, like we see in video games, the plot is prescribed and forced, it ain't gonna happen.


HOWEVER. There are quite a lot of things that occur in conventional plots that are worth exploring to see if they can be produced organically through play.

The Shadow of Mordor/War games for example have pretty well codified the means of organically producing and paying off Revenge and Betrayal as game experiences, among others. While the system is genuinely amazing, the fact that it exists within a relatively fixed and forced plotline is a big shortcoming, and limits its potential.

========

As Ive linked before, building a more elaborate, systemic sandbox that can organically produce these interesting plot elements as experiences has been my goal, with the added difficulty of making it practical to run on Tabletop. (Which I'm finding some success at actually)

Ultimately, I want to build a game where you can experience all the dramatic upheaval of many kinds of stories, whilst relying on conventional storytelling to only enhance whats produced, rather than to be the source in of itself.

That is, what storytelling will exist will be within the Content of this system, while its mechanics are all about storymaking. That delineation is important, as Content is what a game uses to give context and meaning to its mechanics.

Ergo, if we have a game system thats systemically producing a Revenge experience, then that games Content needs to contextualize it and give it meaning.

This is why in the Shadow games that the various Orcs all end up with procedurally generated personality characteristics that mostly relate to how the player as Talion interacted with them, though IIRC many had some to begin with.

These characteristics are a form of storytelling. While they were generated as a result of play, their post-play inclusion as Content is a story being told.

If an orc shows up who now bears the nickname One-Eye and he has a huge eye patch, one might recognize and remember that this Orc is probably the same one you stabbed in the face.

But you don't need to know or remember that to understand how this Orc got these characteristics; his features tell that story. And thats before he opens his mouth and curses you for taking his eye.

The Content is where my system is really going to shine, because unlike a video game, I don't need to preprogram a complex procgen system and thousands of lines of VA or figure out how to make AI VA viable.

I can instead rely on improv, supported by the games systems, to handle the load and broaden what can be experienced, and thus what kinds of stories can be made.

While my system doesn't work like the Nemesis system does, it can produce the same results. An NPC Orc could be elevated to the status of a KPC (by fiat easily enough, but Im theorizing on systems for it), and this then grants them the ability to take on Motivations and Passions, which are what will systemically define them as a Character.

An Orc that goes through this is, lets assumed, doing so on the basis of seeking Revenge on the player. They will gain the Take Revenge Motivation, and will have a Passion relating to their hatred for the Player.

As part of the specific Motivation and his elevation to KPC, more characteristics will result so as to contextualize it, and drive the story being made.

Who is the Orc? Lets say this Orc is from OrcTown, and is an Archer. Lets say as part of his ascension to KPC, he gains another Motivation relating to becoming a more skilled Hunter.

Why is the Orc seeking revenge? He lost an eye to the players blade. In the context of my game, he would have been left alive with the Blinded Wound.

How will he take revenge? This Orc was an Archer, so he'd be inclined to ambush the Player; perhaps even assassinate them from afar if given the opportunity. If the Orc is able to satisfy his Hunting Motivation in the meantime, he will prefer the latter.

When will he do it? In the context of my game system, this Orc was probably left alive with a Blinded Wound. It'd take a few weeks at the standard rate for him to recover, on the assumption he could stabilize his wound, and then he'd be out for the Player.

And finally we'd have the Quantum Quest; stat blocks for generic questlines that break down the general "plot" of the quest and detail how long they can take on automation. These form the basis for Acts and streamline setting up and paying off these experienced on the fly.

For sake of example, lets say the Revenge Quest is a simple matter of going from a Recovery Period to a Seeking Opportunity Period, and then to the act of Revenge.

Ergo, this is what will be set up (note the die sizes for time are arbitrary for the sake of example):

The Orcs recovery will be tracked first; within 1d4 Days, roll to stabilize the Wound. If unsuccessful, the Orc simply dies.

Otherwise, roll 1d6 Weeks to Recover, and roll 1d8 Weeks to update the Hunting Motivation.

If the Hunting Motivation is satisfied first, the Orcs Stealth skill will increase by 1d8.

At the end of the Recover period, a new Complication arises through the Seeking Opportunity step; roll 1d4, if a Complication or Encounter Roll rolls 3 of that number, the Orc will ambush the Player as part of that Complication or Encounter, or separately if it doesn't make sense together. Whether or not this is done with stealth will depend on the other Motivation; a Stealth Attack has a much higher chance of being successful.

As far as running it, the Time triggers would be tracked on a Calendar and on the Orcs new KPC sheet which would hold the details.

Meanwhile, Improv and mild procgen handles the context. I as Keeper decide to just roll randomly for the Orcs Passions and Motivations. Lets say he ended up with a Greedy Passion, in addition to the others already mentioned. Greedy <-> Generous is one of the Personal Reputation scales, so this Passion reflects a basic personality for the KPC.

So when I introduce this Orc in the Ambush, I'd then of course make mention of why hes doing it, but then perhaps throw in a comment about hes gonna get that trinket the player carries, and how hes gonna fetch some nice coin for it. Heck, if the Players manage it, that Passion could even be exploited to avoid the encounter.

====

While a little rough still, its proving quite potent, if only because I can easily do what Nemesis does all on tabletop, in a system that, in time, will support a far wider range of experiences.
 

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