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Living A Passionate Life


Alex Greene

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This article takes a look at an aspect of each Adventurer's makeup which is rarely used, except in dire circumstances as an "extra save roll" when the resistance skills have failed, and before the player uses up a Luck Point to make the problem go away.

This article is about Passions.

Core Rulebook

Mythras, page 282, has this to say about Passions. Bolded parts highlighted by me.

Throughout all kinds of fiction, and especially in fantasy, passion drives the plot. The desire to save the world from the evil dark lord; to pursue and gain power; to quest for glory and lost wisdom; to defend, find or avenge love. The variations are limitless and the Passions system is capable of handling them all.

Every individual is driven by some sort of passion. Passions both inform and cloud choices. The heart governs the head, and rational thinking is replaced by that overwhelming compulsion a true passion brings. There is nothing we will not do to save our loved ones. Our loyalty to leader or country drives us to selfless acts. Passions impel us, and in Mythras the Passions mechanics can help drive an entire campaign.

Passionate Themes

How and where could Games Masters and Players implement Passions in a Mythras game?

- Passions can drive an individual's choices. An Adventurer who has a loved one back home, and a Passion to love that person, will move mountains to see that person again at the end of the adventure. Another Adventurer, for instance a Fiorese from the time of the Bragoni Occupation, might find their Passion clouding their decisions, such as the Adventurer being forced to rescue a hated Bragoni from the people who had conquered his beloved city of Fioreste (which would be renamed Fioracitta).

- An adventure can be themed about a single Passion. An Adventurer could learn, at the conclusion of a story, that their beloved father, who'd died when the Adventurer was young (during a Background Event), had in face been murdered: his death had been ordered, and it had been covered up to look like an accidental death. The Adventurer might find themselves with a new Passion, Identify (My Father's Killers) or Avenge (My Father's Killers) - and this could lead them into an adventure further down the line when the Adventurer learns that a fugitive from the law has fled the city, and that the fugitive can identify who had arranged for the death of the Adventurer's father.

The Adventurer, driven by this Passion, could argue with their Ally that the Adventurer should go with the posse comitatus, over the express wish of the Ally that the Adventurer keep their nose out of this. The Adventurer could be torn by the need to keep the fugitive alive until the Adventurer can extract what they need to know. This could lead to conflict with a Patrol member (possibly even the Ally) who wants to bring the fugitive home dead, rather than alive.

- Passionate Character. What if the Adventurer's Passions were all greater than their highest skills? What if they did what they did out of their Passion of Love, rated at 103%, 30% more than their Art or Craft skills, or Unarmed, or any of their Combat Styles? An Adventurer might only have mediocre levels of characteristics and skills, but their Passion might drive them to win at all costs, whether that Passion be to Love (a recurring loved one) or Prove (aliens exist) or Identify (whoever abducted my sister). Say hello, Fox Mulder.

- Augmentation. Passion can boost even the most mundane skill check. It might make all the difference if an Adventurer's 45% Athletics check were boosted, in a chase, by the driving need to catch up to the fleeing quarry in order to beat the living daylights out of them for what they just tried to do to the Adventurer's sister.

Passionate Settings

What is it about a Passion that can transform what sounds like a mundane setting into a high-stakes story that keeps the players on the edge of their seat? How can a Passion transform a game from a simple exercise in number-crunching into a legendary quest, or a story of deeds of valour worthy of song?

Let's look at some examples of popular media settings themed around Passions.

Star Trek is driven by the need "to explore strange new worlds. To seek new life and new civilisations. To boldly go where no-one has gone before."

Babylon 5 was "our last, best hope for peace," until it failed in the year of the Shadow War, where it became "our last, best hope ... for victory."

Doctor Who is driven by the need for compassion and urgency - "Never be cruel. Never be cowardly." "Hate is always foolish, and love is always wise." "Always try to be nice, but never fail to be kind." "Just show up, and don't be horrible."

No, wait - that's Peter Capaldi's advice, not The Doctor's.

Ignore the bit about the pears. Pears are great. When other people are eating them.

Farscape's Passions, too, changed. In the beginning, the monologue was:-

Help me. Listen, please. Is there anybody out there who can here me?
I'm being hunted by an insane military commander.
Doing everything I can. I'm just looking for a way home.

However, from the third season on, the monologue had changed, revealing the new underlying Passions of the show:-

If you can hear me
Beware
If I make it back
Will they follow?
If I open the door
Are you ready?
Earth is unprepared
Helpless
For the nightmares
I've seen
Or should I stay
Protect my home
Not show them
You exist
But then you'll never know
The wonders I've seen

Driven by so many needs: the need to go home; the need to stay with his partner and found family; the need to help his partner and friends; the need to survive a coming war; the need to keep Earth safe; even the need to get a terrifying secret out of his head. No wonder the protagonist seemed to be more than a little mad, in the end - all those Passions kept tearing him apart.

Impassioned Play

A Passion can define an Adventurer more than their highest skills. An Adventurer with, say, Love as their Passion can become renowned as a Great Lover for their deep Passion for another - even if they could have higher renown as a Great Warrior (with a really high Combat Style) or a Great Magician (with Invocation and Shaping both over 100%).

Even if the Passion were only hovering around 50%, that Passion could be what defines the Adventurer, simply because more of their adventures are themed around that Passion than any of their other qualities, skills, or resources.

A Great Lover could be driven by the need to experience and share that Love Passion, possibly in a number of people's bedchambers or only in the eyes and heart of one. An Adventurer whose core Passion was Fear (Enemy) could be forced to confront and overcome that terrible Fear in all kinds of situations, to the point where they acquire a new Passion of Bravery.

Epic Ingredient

Passions bring an epic element to a setting, campaign, and individual stories. A scenario set in some dungeon disconnected from the world, little more than an exercise in crunching numbers, can never match a scenario with an attached Passion such as Avenge (My Father's Killer). A Passion can lead to a major showdown with the lead antagonist, not to simply reduce the enemy to zero Hit Points or to ensure a victory condition and end the scenario, but to satisfy a driving need to defeat this particular foe, to avenge a loved one, or to overcome a lifelong fear of this enemy which has plagued the protagonist for most of their life.

In other words, victory can mean something crucial for the Adventurers. It can be personal. And it can be epic.

Final Thoughts From The Core Rulebook

The Core Rulebook has this to say about Passions.

Games Masters can use Passions in a variety of ways, designing entire scenarios around the feelings that a character holds for a particular subject or antagonist. These can be very fulfilling for players, especially when they begin to vicariously experience the emotions gripping their characters.

This is a lesson for every Games Master and Player. By including Passions which are close to the Passions the Players have, the Games Master can create scenarios which give the Players as much of a sense of fulfilment as their Adventurers would feel. Passions, therefore, make their exploits in the game world memorable and worthy of long discussion - because even if the Adventurers' Passions are only as real as the Adventurers are, the Passions experienced by the Players are real.

And that includes the Passion Care For (The Adventurers).

Edited by Alex Greene

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