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Passions and Elements in Play


Ian Absentia

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Over in the RuneQuest forum, we kicked off a discussion of our experiences with how Passions and Runes in RQG actually work in play.

Of particular interest, Eff suggested the following as a way of expressing or manifesting the natures of Runic elements that I thought looked awfully appropriate to a reimagining of Nephilim's elemental pentacle.

On 3/26/2022 at 2:48 PM, Eff said:

What I would also do is perhaps derive positive and negative traits from the Runes, like Passionate in the previous post coming from Air, and so you might (sticking to Elements) have something like this:

Dark 55% - Cruel 55%/Patient 55%
Water 75% - Mercurial 75%/Adaptable 75%
Earth 40% - Ruthless 40%/Pragmatic 40%
Fire 60% - Arrogant 60%/Insightful 60%
Air 50% - Reckless 50%/Passionate 50%
Moon 30% - Impractical 30%/Intuitive 30%

And then you could adjust ratings within these pairs, but you would also tie them to other aspects of the character, such that they are what drives most of the character's actions and capabilities- having a high positive Fire trait should make it very easy to take actions that require reasoning, but it normally comes with a high negative Fire trait that limits your ability to trust other people's capabilities. Or something like that, this is very sketchy. 

As Eff admits, this is a formative thought, and it's not unlike other ideas that have been floated for Nephilim in the past (see Revised Metamorphoses, Personality Traits from Chronicle of the Awakenings).  The paired Traits potentially dovetails nicely with ideas I've long had about pairing Shouit (identifying too much with the mundane) against Khaiba (identifying too much with the magical), and how the Nephilim lies in the dynamic tension between the two.  I'm interested to see where one might take it from this dive board.

!i!

Edited by Ian Absentia
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Well, it seems REALLY interesting! I must go and recover that thread in the RQ forum...

My main problem with this approach is that it seems to add a further layer of complication to the rules. Also, how often would I, as a GM, remember to ask the player to roll on these personality traits (á la Pendragon), or my players to check them before deciding their course of action? I usually tend to run published adventures, so anything that is above and beyond the official rules tends to be forgotten, or at least be rarely used...

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On 4/20/2022 at 6:41 AM, mandrill_one said:

My main problem with this approach is that it seems to add a further layer of complication to the rules. 

This is, of course, the nature of any rule variant or addition.  It either solves a problem that existed before (which, arguably, Passions and Traits would not) or they add a feature that effectively changes the emphasis and possible the direction of a game (which, I think, Passions and Traits would).  There's a middle path, too, paved with the decades-old complaint of "What do I do with this character?" that might combine both solution and direction by providing a more inspirational mechanic for guiding players through the psyche of a very different character who will do things very differently.

I think back to one of the very early publications of Greg's Traits rules in Wyrm's Footprints No.14 that were provided to help GMs (though, notably, not players) portray the inhuman nature of dragonewts.  The Nephilim are similarly not human (let's all take a deep breath and say it together: "Nephilim are not awakened humans"), but I think we've come far enough, in terms of both game mechanics and conceptual complexity, to make the most of mechanics that help show us how to portray a different character differently.

As far as adapting established adventures, yeah, this might not help -- see Paragraph 1, Sentence 2 above.  Either it'll help make sense of things as written, or require adaptation to make it work.  Or junking them entirely.

!i!

Edited by Ian Absentia

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On 4/20/2022 at 9:41 AM, mandrill_one said:

Well, it seems REALLY interesting! I must go and recover that thread in the RQ forum...

My main problem with this approach is that it seems to add a further layer of complication to the rules. Also, how often would I, as a GM, remember to ask the player to roll on these personality traits (á la Pendragon), or my players to check them before deciding their course of action? I usually tend to run published adventures, so anything that is above and beyond the official rules tends to be forgotten, or at least be rarely used...

Well, in the month or so since I wrote that, I've kind of developed the idea towards having freeform-ish choice of positive and negative traits (and probably, if I actually made an Effyquest hack, something which displaces much of the skill list in order to accommodate 16 ability ratings becoming 32, or possibly even 48 for especially complicated characters) and I think that might make it, paradoxically, a bit easier to retrofit a hack like this into existing adventures? Because I would probably write adventures for such a game where the Pendragon-style Trait checks are focused on supernatural presences and a fairly indie/storygame/narrativistic "Does this help or hinder the player?" so that it comes down to "make checks on negative, make checks on positive, check higher of Air, check lower of Fire, flip coin". Which could go right into the margins of a game book. 

But my experience with Nephilim is zero. 

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Though a Lunar through and through, she is also a human being.

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2 hours ago, Eff said:

[...] so that it comes down to "make checks on negative, make checks on positive, check higher of Air, check lower of Fire, flip coin". Which could go right into the margins of a game book.

Thanks Eff (and everyone else, of course!) for elaborating. Would you mind further explaining what you mean by "make checks on negative, make checks on positive, check higher of Air, check lower of Fire, flip coin"?

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4 hours ago, Eff said:

But my experience with Nephilim is zero. 

A sort of artsy-fartsy way of describing it, in RQG terms, would be to say that you play a character who has donned godform and is acting in accordance to that deity's Runes rather than their normal human motivations/awareness.  But instead of Runes, every Nephilim is composed of varying degrees of five fundamental Elements, superimposed on their normal physical/mental stats:

Air / Earth / Fire / Moon / Water

And this is where I saw the overlap with your nascent EffyQuest -- sub out Moon for Darkness, and the two are a close match.  As I mentioned above, way back in the day, others introduced emotional Traits to pair with a Nephilim's Element ratings, but they didn't set up the dynamic tension of a positive vs negative expression that you suggested.

!i!

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3 hours ago, mandrill_one said:

Thanks Eff (and everyone else, of course!) for elaborating. Would you mind further explaining what you mean by "make checks on negative, make checks on positive, check higher of Air, check lower of Fire, flip coin"?

Sure! 

So the way I'd put it is that my mechanical inspiration here is, of course, Pendragon Trait checks. But Pendragon has a confined list of virtues and vices to use in opposed pairs, and while I'm borrowing the pairs, the RQ/Gloranthan Runes are broader concepts that merge together a number of things and often aren't entirely coherent. So instead, my notion is that for each Rune you have a positive trait- a particular concept or alignment you have with the rune that generally benefits you in your life, and a negative trait, one which generally hurts you in your life, and what these specifically are are picked out by the player from a list of associations in your given Gloranthan source material, or created like a Fate-style Aspect in conjunction with the GM or the whole group. 

But because of that, I can't just say, if writing an adventure, "Ah, here's a saucily seductive elf lasciviously combing out their leaves and winking, test Lustful." So instead, my options as I see it are the following:

1. Check an aspect, positive or negative, to see whether the PC gets a chance to really shine or whether they complicate things for themselves somehow. 
2. Check a Rune, positive or negative or core value, for the same reasons, but in an atmosphere where there's some kind of immediate symbolic association. 
3. Check a Rune's higher value (tied values allow players to pick), meaning that whether the trait is negative or positive, it's likely to happen, and so this is a moment where character psychology is meant to be provoked
4. Check a Rune's lower value (tied values mean flipping a coin), meaning that whatever is being tested is unlikely to happen unless PCs put effort into boosting it, and so this is a moment where PCs have a chance to activate an alternate narrative pathway from what would normally happen, giving them an opportunity to feel like they've exerted some agency. 

And these can be corralled down to shorthand and put in marginal notes, so that you can edit an existing book or PDF relatively easily and annotate these additions. But in addition, you could of course tailor things to specific players and their freeform-ish choices, but that would require more work to fold it in. 

21 minutes ago, Ian Absentia said:

A sort of artsy-fartsy way of describing it, in RQG terms, would be to say that you play a character who has donned godform and is acting in accordance to that deity's Runes rather than their normal human motivations/awareness.  But instead of Runes, every Nephilim is composed of varying degrees of five fundamental Elements, superimposed on their normal physical/mental stats:

Air / Earth / Fire / Moon / Water

And this is where I saw the overlap with your nascent EffyQuest -- sub out Moon for Darkness, and the two are a close match.  As I mentioned above, way back in the day, others introduced emotional Traits to pair with a Nephilim's Element ratings, but they didn't set up the dynamic tension of a positive vs negative expression that you suggested.

!i!

Ah! Very interesting. 

Though a Lunar through and through, she is also a human being.

Eight Arms and the Mask

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