Been thinking a lot about the After the Fall redesign. Got some interesting ideas. It’s coming together nicely in my mind, though there are still a few rough spots.

I’m going with a few themes in the game: Friends/relationships, self-interest vs altruism, and resources. They reflect some of the core values/problems in a resource-poor post-apocalyptic world. You need friends to get along. Your relationships define your connection to the world. Your resources are not only what you have to offer, but what you need to safeguard. Someone with no resources is in a precarious position in a world without health care or employment insurance.

In talking with Solidshadow the other day about characters and relationships I think we hammered out an interesting idea, which I fleshed out while at work. In short, each character will have a relationship with each other PC and probably some NPCs as well. Like Smallville, each relationship will be defined by a short descriptor, such as ‘Love,’ ‘Friend,’ ‘Rival,’ or even ‘Hate,’ or ‘Jealousy.’ The relationships can be used in a few different ways. Once per session, each relationship can be used to add a bonus to a roll to help (if the relationship is positive) or hinder (if the relationship is negative) the target of the relationship. The level of the relationship represents how well you know the target of it. The target of the relationship can also use your relationship with them in rolls to influence you, if the situation is appropriate. If you hate someone, and they’re trying to goad you into attacking, they’ll get a bonus based on your level of hatred. If you love them, they get a bonus to get you to do something for them. That sort of thing.

Earlier in the week I was trying to think of a set of ‘special points’ the characters can use. Like luck points, fate points, or whatever. Something to help guard against a bad roll at a point when you need a good one. I always like to have those in a game to avoid moments of frustration as a really cool scene turns into abject failure because of dice-based failure. I didn’t want them to be used all the time, so I had two thoughts. One, that they would only get a few, but each one would have a major effect, like an automatic success. Enough to save that heroic moment, but not do it on every roll. Second, I wanted to have them be more obviously a resource, something you don’t want to spend unless you have to. To that end they would only regenerate slowly, about one per session, with all of them coming back if you reach the end of a story arc.

Initially I split the points into 2 groups, Altruism points (only useable to help others) and Self Interest points (only useable to help your character). You split 6 points between the two during character creation and those were the permanent ratings, reflecting how altruistic/self absorbed the character was. I like the idea, and may still go with it, but in a discussion with Paul DuPont at rpg.net, I wondered if I could make the points more accurately reflect the character’s own resources. Leave relationships to handle social tension and use this to increase the focus on resources a bit. Perhaps three kinds of points, Endurance (for physical things), Willpower (for mental), and Luck (for anything, maybe). As you spend the points you get closer to the end of your rope. If the character is out of food and water, they can spend Endurance points to keep going, but once they run out they’re in serious trouble. If their Willpower points reach zero they have a breakdown (until their friends can help them out enough to get themselves back together). Maybe you could go into negatives, but the negatives were a penalty to that sort of thing until you rested/got the points back. Going negative on luck could give a chance for a bad luck backlash or something, depending on how far you’d stretched your luck. I’m not certain I’ll use this idea, but it is interesting. I’ll need to toss it around some tonight at work.

What I want, in the end, is the ongoing idea that your friends are what help you get through the bad spots in life. It’s a harsh world. Sticking by them is a good idea, but what if you have to put yourself at risk to help them? Will your character do it? Would your character die for them? What would the character sacrifice?

I had a Vice and Virtue system in the game, based on 7 virtues and vices representing good and bad in a desperate, resource-poor world. I’m not sure if I’ll keep them. The system is moving a bit away from universal good/bad and more towards the group dynamic. At the same time, it does fit the game world itself with the 7 gods/goddesses and 7 demon lords/ladies (Prattchet reference there), so maybe I’ll keep the reference, but not tie it into the system much.

The game idea feels pretty solid, much better than before, but there’s still so many decision to make and so much work left to do.

Pat

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