Master Mines

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Passion Trading

So I have decided that characters are going to have passions in NGHB which are pretty much the same thing as Passions in Mortal Coil.  My general idea is that a passion is some goal or desire or aptitude that can work their way into a roll (for instance “I am the best mecha pilot”, “I will do anything to protect my little sister”,”The Galactic Empire must be toppled.”  Each will have a level associated with them which is a number starting with 1 and reaching to probably 10 or perhaps infinity.

If a passion can be applied to a roll, the player gains one dice to his pool no matter the level.  However, if the player is willing to give up on that passion, they may dump all their dice into their pool for one roll at which point they have to select a new passion which is somehow related to their original goal.  So if I really need to do well on a mecha piloting roll and I have “I am the best mecha pilot ever” (3) I can add all 3 dice for one roll but at the end, my character will change.  He or she will become less cocky and perhaps take “I will be more cautious when flying” (3) or “I will learn to solve problems without fighting.” (3)

 The new passion becomes like a flag to the GM who can see on the character sheet where the player is taking her character.

My questions: 1)  Does this make sense (I don’t its particularly groundbreaking) 2) More importantly, does anyone see any pitfalls in the 1 for 1 trade?  Note in the example “I want to be the best mecha pilot” (3) becomes “I will learn to solve problems without fighting” (3) and not (2) or (1).

Note that through advancement, players will be able to increase their passions and perhaps decrease them in favor of more advancement points.



September 27, 2007 - Posted by | Mecha


  1. One thing jumps out at me here. The way you describe it, the rating for a passion is only ever used in the case that you then replace the passion with a new one.

    An alternate suggests itself to me: Passions that are applicable provide one free die, but can be permanently lowered to provide more. So “I want to be the best mecha pilot” (3) provides one die in any conflict involving mecha piloting, but if I want more help, I can get up to three more dice from this passion, permanently lowering the rating down to zero. How this mechanic translates to the story is unclear to me, though.

    Having mechanics that can be tapped for basic use, but then expended for greater benefits at a cost sounds solid, and promotes a feeling of real, meaningful choice.

    Passion ratings could also work like Fate/Style/Story points, but categorized based on story-related actions. Like in SotC, the GM can tap a passion in the game, but rather than getting a nebulous point to spend later, my passion goes up by one point, that I can later spend to get an extra die.

    Lowering a passion to zero then triggers character development. I replace the old passion with a new passion with a rating of zero, meaning that I can’t use it until the GM taps it and raises the rating above zero.

    Anyway, those are my initial thoughts on it.

    Comment by btaggart | September 28, 2007 | Reply

  2. I had a similar idea, but thought of it in terms of “risking” a passion. Are you at a crucial moment where you need to push your “be the best mecha pilot” passion to the limit? Awesome — borrow from it.

    Here’s the thought: you can borrow any number of dice from your passion, up to its rating (this includes the “just use one die” option). But you’re risking burning out this way.

    To illustrate this idea, let’s assume you’re looking at a die pool system for a moment. Your Passion Dice are a different color, which is important. When you roll your dice, in addition to counting up your successes in total you also lower your Passion rating by the number of successes it gave you. So, if you roll three Passion dice and those dice add two successes, that Passion’s down to one die.

    Now couple this idea with a way of recharging Passions — both mechanically & in the story — and it could be interesting.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | September 28, 2007 | Reply

  3. Interesting… Mechanically I like what both of you are saying. Compelling the passion is a good way to raise it, I like that. The risk the passion idea also gives me a “the candle that burns twice as bright lasts half as long” vibe tht I think is very anime-ish.

    The one contention I have that is perhaps not explained well is that my feel is that when a character drops one belief in anime and replaces it with another, that new belief is as strong or stronger as the old.

    Sort of like the Tinker who stops being a Tinker and picks up the sword in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. That Tinker stops being peaceful and starts being OVERLY aggressive. That’s why I had the mechanic where passion points are swapped wholesale.

    Interesting stuff from you guys.

    Comment by commondialog | September 28, 2007 | Reply

  4. I think you can keep that vibe if you keep track of, say, a Passion Rating & Passion Spent.

    I should point that that for your idea, you should be aware that you are somewhat linking Passion with a character’s competence. You may wish to understand what it means in your game to have a passion change, and know how that will affect competence accordingly.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | September 28, 2007 | Reply

  5. So the main problem I see with the original idea is similar to the problem Mortal Coil has with passions. In Mortal Coil passions are described as things you are passionate about and the idea is you will use them a lot. The problem is the mechanics of the game make it less likely you will use a high ranked passion as your passion chips equal the number of your passions. So a passion of 5 means one chip, which means the passion only mechanically effects the game once. Which means you aren’t constantly being rewarded for using this passion.

    Your model is the same. I’m only rewarded when I change the passion not when I use the passion.

    What exactly are you trying to reward for? Is change your main concern? Do you want it to happen a lot? Are you alright with that diminishing the passion and putting the focus on the change? Do you want the characters to have values that they have encouragement to change at appropriate times, or is the challenge in adapting to the constantly changing character?

    Comment by iamclyde | September 29, 2007 | Reply

  6. Hey Clyde, I was going to do away with passion chips entirely.

    And you grok the point of the original mechanic entirely. You are rewarded for changing your character because part of what entices me is the change of a character over time.

    However, what Ryan’s post about risking Passions got me thinking. I think my original idea forced the change too quickly. I am trying to figure out a system whereby change happens a little more slowly and that as passions become stronger, they detract from other passions.

    So the game becomes, at least partially, an exercise in determining how to grow one’s character and whether it is better to have 5 dice in I want to be a mecha pilot or was it better to have 3 dice in I want to be a mecha pilot and 2 in I love my wife.

    Comment by commondialog | September 29, 2007 | Reply

  7. Hi Chris,

    Here comes my arrogance. I think I hear what you want to say but I don’t think you are saying it well, because the question of 5 dice in mecha pilot versus 3 dice in mecha and 2 in I love my wife doesn’t sound interesting to me.

    To me it sounds like you are wanting a game where the character has multiple pressures pushing on them, and they have to make hard decisions. The interesting part isn’t the dice but the conflict, rising tension, and resolution i.e. story. It sounds like you want to focus more on an internal character based story, and less on the action element that your games name implies.

    Am I ‘hearing’ you correctly, or are you actually excited about the manipulating of who the character is for tactical concerns? This would be a totally valid way to push for a gamist game. Is that actually what you are after though?

    Comment by iamclyde | September 30, 2007 | Reply

  8. You are hearing me correctly. The game is an exploration of the changes in a character throughout a mecha anime TV series.

    I’m not going to shy away from combat, I do want it to be an element, but not the main element. I don’t expect to publish 50 pages on mecha combat tactics, though I do feel I’m shorting the genre if I don’t spend some time on it. Still, I expect the parts on character development to be far more than the time spent on combat.

    NGHB as a name comes from a time when I was thinking what sounded like a cool mecha anime series name. Since then I’ve kept it as a working title.

    Comment by commondialog | September 30, 2007 | Reply

  9. Hi Chris,

    Cool. Then the problem doesn’t seem to be allowing and encouraging change. It seems to be that you want innately conflicted characters, who resolve their conflict, and then change. You want this to happen as a process of the game and not happenstance. This is an interesting problem to have. I can’t think of anything that tackles this way of telling stories that are driven by internal conflict deliberately. The only think I can think of offhand was a game called Wandering Monster High School, and it was kind of heavy handed, and too loose at the same time. I’m not sure if Kynn ever finished it, but it’s here:

    Specifically it’s the part about having two goals that you don’t achieve… if you look at the game.

    If I’m wrong and change is your main concern, I think there are many well established models we can point you towards for inspiration.

    Comment by iamclyde | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  10. Clyde, would Fudge-like descriptors make this idea more interesting in your mind — such as “Strong Passion” vs. “2 Dice in this Passion,” etc. Or is the mechanic itself uninteresting to you?

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  11. I’ll check out Wandering Monsters High School.

    I think I am having trouble seeing the distinction you mention above. Changing for change sake seems to me to be silly, I would prefer the change happened because of conflict. So I am not sure which of the two buckets you mention that drops me in.

    To explain, I see a character’s passion as his conflicts. The passion is “I want to be the best mecha pilot” not “I am the best mecha pilot.” But perhaps I need to include a Don’t Rest Your Head element of looking beyond just the surface to really delve into what a certain passion means. Just thinking out loud…

    Comment by commondialog | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  12. Chris,

    On my way to work, I hit on something about this. You find change interesting, so you want to work it in. But, I think you’re trying to force it to happen too often — if change is an often occurrence, is it still interesting?

    I think there’s a danger that we tend to have, of turning something that’s interesting (in part because it doesn’t happen often) into something that does happen often. I think we kill what’s awesome about that element.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  13. Chris,

    You might also check out Hero’s Banner, which is entirely about being forced to choose between three incompatible goals.

    Comment by ptevis | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  14. Sweet, another reason to check out Hero’s Banner.

    I find it interesting that both you and Clyde have mentioned incompatible goals. At one level, I guess there are going to be continuums. For instance, I can really work at game design and spend all my team reading and researching, but then my family life suffers. However, I am also in favor of you can have everything you want, you just have to work really hard to get it. I think that has its place in the game.

    Comment by commondialog | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  15. That’s an important design decision to make. Question: What (in the game) makes it possible or not for you to get everything you want?

    Comment by ptevis | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  16. Hi Chris,

    Yes. Incompatible goals as a function of the design is what I got from your writing. It appears I was indeed reading you slightly wrong then. If you want to have a motivation for change I think keys from The Shadow of Yesterday are a good example. Keys give you xp for doing stuff, you can decide to give up a key and it gives you ten xp. Of course if you are smart you spend some of that ten on a new key. This motivates people to change, but I don’t think it’s strong enough that they will go crazy as they no longer can ever get experience for doing the actions of that old key.

    Hi Ryan,

    It’s not the mechanics, it was the focus I was reading into it. It sounded like a game where we manipulate who the character is to gain mechanical advantages. So gaining mechanical advantages is dependant on our plot twisting ability. I’m sure a game like that would be a big hit, but I personally don’t find it interesting. However since that’s not what Chris is talking about it’s all good.

    Comment by iamclyde | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  17. I’m not giving up on incompatible goals. I just wonder how well it fits the genre the way it is stored in my head.

    Comment by commondialog | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  18. Very well, if I understand the genre correctly. The mecha genre isn’t *really* about big robots. It’s some sort of story — love story, coming of age story, war story, reluctant-hero story, child-hero story, etc. — that happens to involve giant robots.

    What are the primary influences for your game? Name some specific media.

    Comment by Ryan Macklin | October 1, 2007 | Reply

  19. Chris, quick question, just to get things clear in my head: How is this game different from Bliss Stage?

    Don’t get me wrong, I WANT another giant robot game, so this isn’t a “I like that one, why would I like yours,” but give that one is also about giant robots and relationships, I think it’s a question you need to have an answer to (and if you have answered it already, I apologize and link me).

    Comment by Daniel M. Perez | October 9, 2007 | Reply

  20. It seems to me like you might be creating a degenerate combo (in Magic the Gathering speak). Why wouldn’t players abandon their goals at every scene and rewrite new ones? In fact, why not just write the same one in different words?

    Since you’re thiefing from Mortal Coil why not do so more fully? Acting on passions should increase them, in my opinion, while reducing something else elsewhere. Giving up on a passion should mean that you lose efficacy in relation to it rather than momentarily being better at it.

    Perhaps you could have different categories for passions? Perhaps your score in that passion represents the most you can do in a conflict of that sort?

    What if you could lose passion if you failed at a conflict that involved it? What if the more passion you used increased the likelihood of your losing the passion permanently if you fail?

    You also might want to consider making the new passion have to be the opposite in some way from the passion it came out of (citing the Jordan example you gave).

    I think making passions rub up against one another and be in tension is a good way to make sure that you get some grist/meat out of the process. Make them trade-offs, make focusing on one instead of others hurt.

    Also, since you want them to change and you don’t want it to be change for change’s sake, why not give them an overarching goal they’re going for, a destiny or something?

    Comment by robertbohl | October 11, 2007 | Reply

  21. Daniel,

    It’s a really good question about Bliss Stage and while I demoed Bliss Stage twice, I won’t say that I 100% grok it, but I believe this answer to be accurate.

    Bliss Stage to me was about the value a character places in the relationships he/she has with other characters, both in terms of how they specifically feel about individual people and in general their ability to have relationships.

    I think I am dropping the ideas of the PCs playing the non-protagonist and am looking to model the game after ensemble-type shows (Gundam Wing) which characters have to work together to solve issues. I may reincorporate that, but it doesn’t feel right at this time.

    So the game becomes more about personal choice. To answer Robert’s comment, I am trying very hard to come up with ways to have pros and cons to either a small number of weak passions or one very strong passion.

    Comment by commondialog | October 13, 2007 | Reply

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