Age of Sorcery
Gameplay and Campaign Structure
The game will be broken down into the following structural elements:
- A scene is the smallest unit of the game. Scenes will detail the way one or more characters overcome some challenge in their lives. A challenge can be as large as defeating a powerful opponent in combat or politically outmaneuvering the ruler of a kingdom, or as small as discovering a piece of information about a plot element. A scene will typically cover a few hours of in-story time and rarely, if ever, cover more than a day.
- A chapter is a group of related scenes that connect into a cohesive whole Chapters can be as small as a single scene, depending on the needs of the story, but will typically cover several scenes which all drive toward a specific story goal.
- A book is a collection of chapters which detail some significant change in the world, such as the rise or fall of a kingdom, the discovery of a new land, or the birth or death of a deity.
- This is the collective story of the characters, told over many years, possibly (hopefully? grin) multiple generations.
- Off-screen time
- It’s likely that some players will want to detail things that happen with their characters outside of a scene. In that case, we’ll deal with it in the form of emails or IMs between the GM and the player. Once some off-screen detail is established, it will be the player’s responsibility to update the wiki or their character sheet with the appropriate details.
Scenes will be played out via email, in a series of Exchanges.
The GM will initiate a Scene by sending an opening narration to one or more PCs. This narration will include the Book and Chapter of the Scene, potentially including a title to help set the tone. Any exercise in writing is better with a known goal in mind, so the GM will include several additional pieces of information for the use of the players. Note that the characters may or may not be aware of any particular piece of information.
- Place : The GM will include the location where the scene is occurring to help set the tone.
- Challenges : When the GM sends the Opening, they will include one or more Challenges that the players are expected to overcome in the Scene. This will help everyone involved know the goal of the scene and the general direction in which to proceed.
- People : Optionally, the GM may include one or more NPCs who will potentially be involved in the Scene. This isn’t to limit options, but rather to give players an idea of what the GM has in mind, and help guide their expectations. People can be brought into a scene by the GM or the players, whether included in the initial People list or not, depending on the flow of the narrative.
Executing an Exchange
Players will “take their turn” by replying to the group with a narration of their character’s actions in the scene. To start off, players will be asked to limit their narration to 300 or so words, just to give everyone a chance to weigh in, and to prevent inadvertently running away with the story. ( This is a game, after all, not just a collective storytelling exercise. :) ) If a player needs time to compose their action, it’s acceptable to send a group email saying that you’re working on a reply and requesting no other actions be taken by other participants until your Exchange is sent. This will reserve the player’s opportunity to respond to the situation. (Within reason. We can have discussions of action order in IM or similar, if necessary.)
In order to keep dialogue moving, all participants in a scene will be requested to reply to Exchanges in which another character (PC or NPC) takes no action except talking. If the player’s character has nothing to add, simply reply with “No Action” or similar. As always, replying with “Exchange in progress” or some other indicator that you have a reply and need time to type it is acceptable.
If a character is taking action in their Exchange reply, the GM will respond before other players are allowed to act. The reply may be a narration of the outcome of the Exchange, or it may simply be an acknowledgement, allowing other players to get an Exchange in before things progress.
Modifications to an Exchange
Once a player has made their Exchange, the GM will reply with an acknowledgement. If the action the player is taking seems to diverge significantly from the character concept, or doesn’t make sense to the direction the Scene is taking, the GM may ask for edits to the action or dialogue.
There must be exceptions to every rule in a cooperative endeavor. If anything set out above doesn’t work for a particular scene, speak up! Reply to the group, or IM the GM privately and say that something isn’t working for you. The point of these rules isn’t to handcuff people, but to give everyone a chance to have input and to know how that input will be applied to the story.
In order to supply a little more game mechanic to this process, we’re going to borrow a page from other games. When the GM sends the Opening to a Scene, each player will be given a number of Exchange Points in one of three flavors.
- A Strength point may be spent any time you feel your action plays to the strengths of your character, guided by your One Unique Thing (OUT, from here on because I’m lazy) and Backgrounds.
- A Weakness point may be spent any time you feel your action plays to the weaknesses of your character, similarly guided by your OUT and Backgrounds.
- A Subplot point may be played any time you feel your action involves some goal important to your character personally. Again, your OUT and Backgrounds will help determine when this is appropriate.
Along with these three types of points, the GM will occasionally give suggested courses of action during a Scene that may result in an additional Asset or Goal point if a character takes some variation on that course of action.
Subplot, Asset, and Goal points accumulate to your character and will be noted on your sheet. Strength and Weakness points are set by the GM at the beginning of each scene. (Normally from one to three points per Character.)
Challenge Points and Scene Outcome
So, you have Exchange Points. What do you do with them?
When the Scene is opened, the GM will also assign a rating to each Challenge, and possibly to some of the Persons in the Scene. The players involved in the scene must spend a number of Exchange Points equal to the sum of the Challenge and Person points set by the GM to complete the scene.
Once the requisite number of points have been spent for a given Challenge or Person, the GM will indicate if the outcome was Strong, Weak, or Ambiguous. If more Strength points were played than Weakness points, then the outcome was Strong. If more Weakness than Strength, the outcome was Weak. If the number of points was tied, then the outcome is Ambiguous. Asset and Subplot points work toward overcoming the challenge, but do not contribute to the outcome being Strong or Weak.
In the case of a Strong or Weak outcome, the player spending the last required point on that aspect of the scene will narrate the outcome. For a Strong outcome, the challenge is overcome and things worked out well for the players. For a Weak outcome the challenge is typically still overcome, but there is a cost to the character(s), or some unexpected complication to their goals. In the case of an Ambiguous outcome, the GM gets to narrate the way in which the challenge is overcome.
Once a Scene is resolved and all final Challenge outcomes have been narrated, the GM will consolidate the scene into an Adventure Log entry. (Bonus points to players who are willing to take on that task!)