By The Stars Confessions — Week Eleven

This has been one of the best gaming weeks I’ve had in a while! Don Corcoran (eruditus) was in the area on business and stopped in for a few nights of game-talk, a bit of card-playing, and plans for a Burning Artesia campaign! Woo-hoo!

Plus, I got to run some Dogs in the Vineyard for Kat and a fellow named Stefan we met over FindPlay. So my Actual Play life is looking up. On top of all that, I got some great work done on By The Stars this morning.

And, you may have noticed the new title. “By The Stars” is the new title of the game. Thanks, Kat.

Forgive me, By The Stars, for I have sidestepped. It’s been one week since my last confession.

Here’s what I mean by sidestep. My goals for last week were:

  • Consolidate my thoughts-to-date on the game. There should be at least a working outline by next week.

  • Stat out two characters.
  • Self-test the mechanics with those characters.

I statted out one character, and started on the working outline. However, instead of focusing on my resolution mechanics, the anatomy of Oaths opened themselves to me.

Check this out: Oaths all start with “I swear by the stars that I …” The rest is made of Verbs and Direct Objects, with optional Adjectives and Adverbs. You have the option of getting dice from any or all of those words in your Oaths, but if you do, then the GM is obligated to make Bangs about them.

For example, if I’ve got an Oath called “I swear by the stars to heroically rescue Arcturus from the evil Monolith” then my dice, and the GM’s Bangs will come from some of those parts of speech, like so:

  • “Heroically”-adverb-modifies “Rescue” and defines how the goal is to be achieved-Opposition comes from the question “Why do it this way? Wouldn’t it be better to do it in a different way?”-in the case of “Heroically” this would generate Bangs that involved tempting the player toward other methods, like “Underhandedly”: having assassins offer their services; or “Destructively”: providing opportunities to terrorize innocents.

  • “Rescue”-verb-defines the overall goal and direction-Opposition comes from the question “Why do it at all? Wouldn’t it be better to do something else?”-in the case of “Rescue” it’s the temptation to “Placate”: just accept the occupation; or “Exploit” the old “We can rule the galaxy as father and son” bit; or “Punish”: lashing out at the people for being so weak as to be conquered.
  • “Arcturus”-direct object-defines the thing acted upon-Opposition comes from the question “Why act on this? Wouldn’t it be better to act on something else?”-In the case of “Arcturus” it’s the temptation to rescue something else, such as “Holy Ground”: we can’t save the whole planet, but if we just save the special parts, won’t that be enough?; or “the Prince”: if we don’t give up the fight, the Monolith will kill the Prince, let’s just save him.
  • “evil”-adjective-defines the nature of a direct or indirect object-Oppostion will come from the question “Why describe it as this? Wouldn’t it be better to call it something else?” In this case, “evil” would be tempted toward “protective”: The Monolith does guard against even worse horrors; or “prosperous”: The Monolith will make us all rich! Look at how much better off we are!
  • “the Monolith”-indirect object-defines what you’re acting in relation to (this will usually be straight-up adversity source)-Opposition comes from the question “Why act against (or for) this? Why not act against (or for) something else?” In the case of “The Monolith” this would be things like “corrupt noblemen”: our own people exploit one another. We should stop them first! Or “alien invaders”: the Monolith may be evil, but at least they’re human! They may take our wealth, but they don’t eat our babies!

Futhermore, if you don’t take dice from your word, then the GM can’t make Bangs about it. FOr instance, if I don’t take dice from “Evil” then there will never be a question of whether or not the Monolith is truly evil. It simply is unredeemably, unquestionably wicked, and nobody questions that. Play must focus on other questions.

Plus, the GM gets dice for every word he opposes, so if a Bang impacts on multiple words against multiple Oaths, he gets lotsa dice, which is appropriate because it’s a big, multifaceted Bang.

And, of course, when you lose conflicts, you need to rewrite your Oaths. Thus, your decisions in play continually redefine who you are.

I’m very happy for that. There’s just one gaping hole that needs to be filled before playtesting. I don’t have dice mechanics yet. Each one I’ve tried has crashed, burned, and been no fun. But once I get those pistons in place, By The Stars is going to eat up the asphalt! So that’s my only goal for next week: Try out some new dice mechanics–at least 2 different versions. See ya in seven!