Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Relationship System

So far, I've talked about a lot of goals, theory, and big concept type stuff, so how about something crunchy now. The word "relationship" comes up in my answers to the Power 19 below more than a few times, and with good reason that I'll have to devote another post to, later. So the mechanics for relationships plays a pretty big role in the game. They provide the primary means of defining a character, after all.

A character's relationships always relate to someone else: another human, a community, a land, an other-than-human person, a tradition, etc. These others have their own agendas, philosophies, likes, dislikes, etc. When you honor a relationship (do something that other approves of, do something nice for the other, give something to the other, honor the other, etc.), you gain a relationship point. When you dishonor that relationship, you lose a point.

Now, the part where this becomes interesting. Other players can challenge you. Let's say someone insults you. You could shrug this off and walk on by, which would make things easier for you. But you have a Badger totem, and Badger has a very beligerent attitude. Another player challenges you--wouldn't Badger want you to punch that guy in the face, rather than just walk on past? Now you can either burn one of your relationship points with your Badger totem to ignore the challenge and walk on past anyway, or you can gain a relationship point with Badger by clocking the guy.

Players familiar with the FATE or FUDGE systems will undoubtedly recognize the similarity to aspects, which provided an obvious inspiration here. But FATE and FUDGE reinforce that literate worldview found in most RPG's, wherein we "are" concrete objects, made up of particular characteristics. The relationships in the Fifth World offer a similar mechanic, but they play back into the animist view of the self as "that which relates." These still act as flags, but they shift the definition of self from an inviolate object, to a nexus of relationship.

You can burn relationship points for bonuses in the resolution system, or you can use them to obtain blessings (think of things like Feats in d20, or advantages in some other games). So the powers and abilities that make your character more powerful come from your relationships.

Relationship points can determine things like who will go with you on your adventures, who you might marry, and so forth. When relating to a community, we call relationship points "standing points," and they accumulate to allow you initiation into the community's secrets, or you can burn them to call on the community for help. When relating to spirits, we call relationship points "favor points," and they can offer some of the widest opportunities for greater power.


Anonymous said...

this is really terrific... a game that includes all facets of life ecologically speaking is one that will foster what we do in real life later on... you are approaching the genius present in this atavistic movement toward restoring our evolutionarily developed ways of living. wow.
i realize there is much more that can and needs to be written and in saying that i will attempt to add to what has been written on this page about 'relationship'; i hope this is useful to you.

there are hundreds of stories about badger and coyote in naturalist type books; what is of interest is the stories that come from indigenous peoples is the relationship between these two people (badger and coyote). badger isn't necessarily the grumpy, mean, and aggressive type we imagine him always to be in western thinking; badger is quite the digger, coyote knows this and literally follows badger around watching him did for wood rats. as the wood rats run for out of the hole coyote snaps them up!! badger and coyote are even see "playing"; in some stories the two are married! like astrological signs of modern times these attributes of totem are complimentary and work together; coyote understands badger and badger appreciates coyote...; a relationship or match made on earth! i will find the titles i glean such stories from and pass on later.


Jason Godesky said...

B, thanks! Those stories about Badger provide the kind of material that would define Badger as a character, who relates to other characters, like the ones you make in the game. But it sounds like you understand where I intend to go with this, and it sounds like you feel pretty excited about it. I hope I don't let you down!

Jordan said... could lose one relationship point with badger...but then, by taking the "higher road", increase your relationship point with that individual. So, you could choose to have relationship points very spread out, among a lot of individuals, but none of them in high keeping, or only a few relationships, but very strong. This provides an excellent avenue for people to explore loyalty.

I think this gain one, lose one idea could work for every action that you take. And it need not only apply to two things. You perform an action, gain a point with two individuals, but lose a points with four other individuals.

This will require constant upkeep, in terms of maintaining healthy, balanced relationships with those you love.

Very real life you might say.

Jason Godesky said...

Now you've hit upon the dynamics that make the game interesting, Jordan. With so many persons to relate to (human or otherwise), and so many competing interests, the real question often becomes how you can walk that tightrope, and balance all those competing and often mutually exclusive interests.