Thursday, 24 May 2007

Pentasystem: Capsule Summary

Let's see how compactly I can summarize the Pentasystem. It's useful to pull back from the detail and boil it down like this. I may occasionally contradict yesterday's draft slightly here; it's still in process. Some of the terminology is likely to change, too.

The basis of the Pentasystem is the five categories: Physical, Mental, Emotional, Creative and Quintessential (which has to do with identity). There are five pools, five arenas, five realms, and five grounds of conflict, all with the same names.

The pools work like TSOY pools, and the arenas and the grounds of conflict are closely linked to them. The realms are slightly different; they represent, respectively, things, knowledge, relationships, skills and characteristics. All attributes of characters, situations and setting elements are placed on a grid of arenas vs realms - for example, the physical arena/emotional realm intersection represents blood relationships, and the quintessential arena/physical realm intersection is emblematic gear, like a policeman's badge (or a Dog's coat).

Depending whether you are going for characters who are average or above average for their setting, everyone gets a character rating between 15 and 20. Each player distributes this many points among the five categories (minimum 1, maximum 5 for each), and creates attributes (wherever they like on the grid) which total to this many dice.

The number of points in a category determines:
  • the starting level of the pool;
  • the success number on the dice rolled in an area (6-sided die, roll equal or less, so 1 is always a success and 6 is never a success);
  • the default number of dice to roll if you have no attribute to use in a realm.
Attributes are like Dogs traits or FATE aspects, except that they also take in skills, gear and so forth. They can have "twists", which come in two types. An "uptwist" is an advantageous side of the attribute, and gives rerolls on failures; a "downtwist" is a disadvantageous side to the attribute, and forces rerolls of successes. Using an uptwist costs pool points, using a downtwist refreshes pool points (this was inspired by Thematic Batteries in Full Light, Full Steam).

In a conflict, as with Dogs escalation you can bring in further resources by shifting the ground of conflict (five grounds, remember, same as the five categories). Each time you do this, the consequences increase. I haven't fully worked out how, but basically you end up with more or stronger twists and potentially more attributes, affecting the attributes you declare "at risk" in the conflict.

These are distinct from the attributes - of characters, situation or setting - which are "in question" in the conflict. These are directly affected - strengthened, weakened, changed, protected, destroyed - by the winner's margin of success in the conflict (winner's successes minus loser's successes, or just winner's successes less an "inertia" figure for unopposed rolls - haven't figured out yet how inertia works).

If an attribute is central to your character's self-definition, you can "lock" it, meaning that it will always be true, unaffected by consequences, and can't be put in question. Unlocking it, however, releases more power, as well as being narratively interesting and serving as a "hit me here now" flag.

Special Effects (like TSOY Secrets or FATE stunts) do unusual narrative and mechanical things, and basically give you an API to tinker with the standard way the system works.

You buy additional Special Effects, influence on the setting and other goodies using pentapoints (like TSOY XP or FATE points), which are earned when attributes turn up in the fiction which you have declared some of your own attributes to be "enmeshed" with. This is also inspired by FLFS, this time the Situation Engineering rules (in turn inspired by Dogs town creation), as well as by TSOY Keys. Basically the idea is that you set yourself up to earn points by coming up with ways that your character is engaged with the other characters, the setting and the situation - which should produce gameplay that everyone is invested in, especially since setting and situation creation is a group activity.

I think that's basically it.

Oh, and further to yesterday's post - I decided I'm going to go for the fantasy-steampunk setting. I mean, the way I've set it up, it not only has dwarves, gnomes, elves, steampunk, mecha, zeppelins and magic, it also has theme: gender roles, racism, forbidden love, rebellion, industrialization and its discontents, generational conflict, postcolonialism (the elves, as former imperial masters), a nascent empire, haves and have-nots both economic and magical, rivalry among the several philosophical approaches to magic (specifically designed as an analogy for the open source/closed source debate in software development)...

Steam. Theme. Mechanical reinforcement for caring about the setting, situation, and other people's characters. Mechanical reinforcement for taking a beating now so that you can be unstoppable later. Sounds like a storygame to me.

EDIT: new version 0.3 completed, merged with the Acts of Increasing Desperation material (so there's now plot-level advice as well as character-level mechanics, and it's 33 pages long).

No comments: