Cart 0

Breakdown: Game Resources

Posted by Jason Walters on

A roleplaying or storytelling game system necessarily prioritizes certain elements while setting aside others – at least if we want our activity to remain a game and not become a scientific simulation.  Even a so-called universal roleplay gaming system must necessarily engage choices such as how to frame character abilities, narrative trajectory, and conflict mechanics, let alone just how far it will go to be “universal.” 

These choices are made according to the subject of the game, i.e. what the game is about, what sort of topics it encompasses.  And I do not believe we can separate the subject of the game from its thesis, a “statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved” (Oxford Languages’ definition).  In the case of a game, I would slightly rephrase that to mean it is put forward for the players to explore.  Designers may or may not consciously intend a thesis, but choices of mechanics will force a certain perspective reflecting the beliefs of the designer about the subject, even if only in a very broad way.  There will be an implicit thesis even if a designer does their best to avoid “imposing” such. 

For example, no matter how “complete” a game you want to make about swordplay, you will have to choose a level of detail for tactical and physical interaction, whether it will focus on swordplay as a competitive event and/or in real life combat situations, if and how it will reflect the “feeling” of swordplay, etc..  And you will ultimately be forced to make subjective decisions about what is important and how to relate that.  And now the game is making a statement (or a collection of statements) – proposing a thesis for the players to experience. 

Thus, I believe designers must explicitly consider the thesis their game is proposing.  To be sure, those playing may end up discovering their own thesis.  One cannot control the conclusions players will draw, but I believe a designer must be clear as to how their choices are adding up to the game’s statement, not leaving it to unconscious bias or misguided notions of objectivity.  This also has the critical benefit that it will clarify the purpose of the game and become a key to playtesting and design.  As one develops comfort and confidence with the thesis, the game’s elements can and must be rationalized against it:  mechanics which do not clearly support the thesis indicate that the thesis itself is not yet satisfactory (the game is not fully understood/understandable) and/or that those mechanics are unnecessary or flawed. 

Breakdown’s thesis is “highly successful and humane protagonists risk falling apart unless they manage their stress and relationships.”  But it didn’t start with such clarity, nor were the initial mechanics so focused.  Breakdown started as a general consideration of stressed protagonists dealing with emotions and relationships; to prototype, it borrowed notions from Don’t Rest Your Head as well as, indirectly via inspiration, Mountain Witch.  Bit by bit, playtesting to find out just what kind of game Breakdown needed to be led to clarifying its thesis as well as, in turn, refining its mechanics. 

For example, in a holdover from Don’t Rest Your Head, protagonists (“Pros”) started with an equal number of dice to reflect their day-to-day abilities and to provide an opportunity to engage in conflict with a greater chance of controlling the situation with neither emotional emphasis nor the backlash of “Darkness.”  But it became apparent that the capabilities of the Pros are not the focus and that this mechanic added nothing.  Playtesting further made me realize that Pros are to be functionally equally highly capable such that we can take that for granted, letting the players narrate this element as they please.  And, especially where players may only infrequently engage the conflict mechanics, this mistaken holdover led to frustrating, uninspiring outcomes at odds with the drama needed to highlight the struggle of fighting inhumanity and dealing with stress.

The thesis also becomes the driving focus for the feel of the game.  Note that Breakdown’s thesis is fairly simple and narrow, with a clear emphasis on emotion.  Therefore, I strived to make Breakdown the kind of game where, after character creation is done, the experience is fluid and the mechanics are only engaged when stress and relationships matter.  Compare that to my prior game, At the Hands of an Angry God, with its thesis that “building a utopia is challenged not only by opposing natural and human forces, but also by conflicting interpretations of ideals, factional interests, and material shortages.”  That is a complex thesis, and the game is deliberately more complex in order to highlight just how challenging (I  think) building a utopia feels, with highly restrictive mechanics that control order of play and beg players to get into lengthy bidding wars to achieve their ends, among other manifestations.

Mechanics matter, and I believe mechanics are best crafted when thoughtfully considered against a game’s thesis.  I hope you’ll see how, at least this time, it all came together to make Breakdown a truly great game as we post actual play in the near future – or when you get to play it yourself.


Design Notes

Design Journey

As discussed in Thanks and Foreword, this game’s recipe uses a dollop of Don’t Rest Your Head with a dash of Mountain Witch. The key ingredients are the spiraling of emotions and the vulnerability of trust. To explore different sources of emotional tension, Life in the Shadows generates its drama more from social pressures while The Breaking Point does so more from psychological pressures.

Originally the game started with Compassion and Fury (originally Rage) as the only Emotion Pools, with other dice reflecting professional capability and being in control, a reflection of the inspiration of Don’t Rest Your Head. But with playtesting it became apparent that many roleplayers were attracted to playing quirky, obsessive, or otherwise off-center sorts who didn’t relate well to any emotions, instead turning off feeling. And it also was obvious that characters who were emotionally shut off, hyper-focused on accomplishment, process, or obsession, could generate as much damage for themselves and everyone around them while myopically heading down their own rabbit hole. Thus, the Focus Pool joined Compassion and Fury. And it also became apparent that the Emotion Pools could as easily be reimagined a number of ways and possibly expanded; see Playing with Pools below for more on this.

The game originally included something like Don’t Rest Your Head’s Despair and Hope Coins. The Coins added too much complexity for this game with less relevance than in their original, whereas much of the same effect of enabling Darkness to create hard situations with narrative power moving in exchange back to the Pros could be realized by allowing Darkness to use Openings. And holding over Openings from one session to the next assures, in any long-running game, that there will always be a sense of forthcoming consequences: exerting narrative power and dramatic turnabouts for a Pro never occur without causing later potential reversal of fortune.

The number of Openings and their exchange was subject to much experimentation. An open economy, where the number of Openings could grow, was tried. But more than two Openings for Pros and/or an open economy proved to reduce tension for Pros by making things too easy. Only one Opening forced Pros to either become islands or have no “safe” narrative authority of their own.

Until near the end of playtesting, if the Tone was other than Darkness, all Pros in the Conflict suffered an increase in the corresponding Pool. But experience and player input demonstrated this was simply a bad idea in some cases, forcing Pros toward unrealistic ends.

The game also started with a more complex set of possibilities out of Conflicts, as well as with a whole subsystem around secrets being revealed (related to the holdover of Coins). These were jettisoned as they distracted from the game’s focus on emotional spirals and how the Pros relate to others. Many other attempts at plot-charting and secrets management were also discarded. If you are tweaking the game, unless you’re making a whole new one, consider that any focus on plot over emotion will compromise impact.

Without getting too theoretical, for those subscribing to GNS theory, first note I do not agree with the specific portion of that theory arguing a game is to solely focus on one or not more than two of the three types. Given that the GNS triad itself is an ideal typing abstracting that players in real life are typically of some mix both generally and situationally, rather I posit that a game must choose its theme and then determine if and how each of those archetypes can be reasonably engaged. That said, one could as easily argue this game’s priority is Simulationist with only a casual nod to Narrative. However, I would say that with the game’s essential theme of “how do people doing good become so overwhelmed they do bad,” the foremost mechanics will focus on that simulation and thus an obvious foremost appeal will be to Simulationist players. Narrative appeal is then supported by tools to drive to resolution, i.e. the mechanics which support whether our Pro becomes a monster or finds peace, along with guidance on plotting, how to frame Conflicts, and the building of Caring and Problem. Gamist appeal is addressed by enabling an approach to balancing accomplishment against breaking down, i.e. the tools provided in the game to support managing the Pro’s stress while being ultimately successful, on balance, across Conflicts to address the Problem and Drive. My reflections on GNS theory and how to apply in game design entail a much lengthier discussion, but I hope this provides adequate insight for those so interested.

Note that it is intentional that whoever has initiative wins more often, when the number of dice are equal in Conflict, while the guidelines heavily promote Pros most often having initiative. This is an easy aspect for tinkering (you won’t undermine the game in spirit) but consider what guidelines the Darkness player will need. Changing ties to go to Darkness will dramatically increase the number of unsuccessful Conflicts for Pros and encourage more use of Openings; I would even tend to recommend that for play groups heavily into drama and with players who like to see their Pros a bit tortured. But then Stakes need to even more carefully ensure the Pros are not frustrated by lack of forward momentum. Conversely, giving all ties to the Pros simplifies things a bit but decreases tension for the Pros and reduces the effectiveness of surprise moves by Darkness.

Playing with Pools

Optionally, at the discretion of the play group, players could distribute their 7 dice across the Pools as they wish, so long as each Pool has at least one. But they must always start by choosing one Pool as Overwhelming, one as Steady, and one as Vulnerable.

For deeper tinkering or repurposing this game into something else, you could try eliminating the Maximum concept and the Overwhelming/Steady/Vulnerable distinction entirely, enabling any Pool to easily grow to more than 6 dice. This will allow players to be far more emotionally versatile; it will also help players who want to avoid Snapping or Breaking Down to do so more easily. It removes the essential focus on the imbalance of emotional range in Pros.

Pools could be revised. There’s already a hint of this in the More on Using and Assigning the Emotion Pools section with the discussion of how Compassion, Fury, and Focus may be reinterpreted. But you could instead explore entirely different emotional ranges, such as “Bravery/Fear,” “Happiness/Sadness,” and “Engaged/Tuned Out.” Or different behavioral ranges, e.g. “Creating,” “Destroying,” and “Sustaining.” You could go further, entirely refocusing these away from emotions or behaviors into broad themes such as “Outwardly Damaging,” “Inwardly Damaging,” and “Only Learning.”

Pools could be removed and/or added. Maybe you want to drop Focus to only play with strongly emotional Pros and add “Responsible” as a third emotional range, a catch-all for feelings of guilt, obligation, duty, bonding, shame, pride, commitment, and loyalty.

Generating Settings

Other settings can be used. To create a different setting, it is recommended to describe it by using the same structure as seen in the WORLD OF… chapters above. There are also key principles to bear in mind in any setting creation:

  • The setting must provide external pressures on the Pros

  • The setting cannot be focused on procedural details and documentary-styled minutiae; the rules don’t support that, and it will conflict with the over-the-top emotional releases of the Pros

  • The roles for the Pros must be collegial or otherwise bonding; it cannot be easy for them to avoid each other or accomplish great things without each other


If you tweak or invent a new game partially based on this, let me know: tweet me @zornwil or send the publisher a note, I’d love to hear! You’re also invited to send questions and comments.

“I Don’t Know What to Do When…”

Sometimes one can get stuck while playing, wondering what to do next. This section is organized like a “Frequently Asked Questions” resource, listing commonly asked questions with instructions and references for resolution.

“Our group is just plain lost!”

Don’t panic! Pause and consider where you are in the game and what you want to do next.

If you aren’t already doing so, use the Outlines section, just following this one. See if you can find where you are, and you should be able to see what next steps are possible.

Otherwise, if it’s an issue of what action to choose or how to do something, peruse the questions below and with any luck you’ll find your way. If not, discuss as a group how you want to go forward and simply cut ahead to where you want to be, so long as everyone is happy.

“I’m facilitating, how do I prepare and plan for the first session?”

Reread the ORIENTATION chapter, especially focusing on the Settings and Characters, Choosing a Setting, and Materials for Play. Talk with your players about what kind of game this is and what they want to play. Then focus especially and slowly on the CREATING CHARACTERS chapter; you can walk through it section by section as a group and especially should do so if you and most players are unfamiliar with roleplaying games.

Review the Outlines section, just following this one, especially the “First Time Setup” outline in that section. Keep the outlines handy for play.

Don’t expect to do more in the first session than create the Pros, try out a few Scenes, and engage a couple or so Conflicts. Your goal in the first session is to get an idea of the system and how the Pros will behave and relate. Don’t try to do more unless you and your play group are experienced roleplayers and you have plenty of time. You can take time between games and/or in the beginning of the next session to more seriously develop story ideas and get into the action.

“Which Emotion Pool should I use?”

If you haven’t already, be sure to see Determine Approach section, page 38, and especially the examples in that section on page 39.

If that doesn’t help, you might be overthinking it. Most of the time you can go by a quick superficial take: is the Pro acting on emotions that are basically empathetic or charitable? Then it’s Compassion. Or is the Pro acting on emotions that are basically tense or angry? Then it’s Fury. Or is the Pro shut off or disconnected? Then it’s Focus.

If it’s still not obvious, then base it on the Tone you want to see. Or, if that does not help, finally consider what might be a subconscious motivation.

If you’re still stuck, I recommend:

  • pick the Steady one if the Pro is unthinkingly acting, as that is the Pro’s normal safe choice

  • pick the Overwhelming one if the Pro sees the Conflict as critical, as that is typically the Pro’s do-or-die choice

  • pick the Vulnerable one if the Pro is confused or feeling weak, as that is the Pro’s soft spot

“I can’t figure out a good Snap or Break.”

See the examples of Snapping on page 44 and the continuation after that regarding Breaking. Also see “A naïve kidnapping,” page 47 in the Some Example Conflicts section

If you’re still unsure, remember it can be simple and obvious, or can be something the Pro missed due to their emotional state. Ask the group for suggestions, there’s a good chance that other players will come up with something you’ll like.

Some simple go-tos for each of the Emotion Tones are:

  • Fury: lash out at someone else – anyone else, especially another Pro or loved one

  • Focus: forget to do something important or ignore someone’s needs

  • Compassion: turn your pain inward and do something self-destructive or make a great sacrifice

“I can’t figure out a good Darkness Tone Outcome.”

See More on Darkness Tone, page 59. There are also many examples throughout the text, see the following:

  • Examples in bullets on page 42 near start of Outcomes section

  • In the Some Example Conflicts section, see “Luciana deals with an impatient parent” on page 45

  • In the Some Example Conflicts section, see “Dr Rar versus Dr. Gupta” on page 47

  • In the Some Example Conflicts section, see “A Dark Trade” on page 50

  • Also see “The con or heist with the complex ending” on page 63 in the More on Problems Bigger than Single Conflicts (Moving Plots Forward) section

  • In that same section, see page 63, “How to make someone fall in love? (or otherwise change a state of mind)”

“I don’t want to lose this Conflict.” / “I shouldn’t lose this Conflict.”

The obvious way to win a Conflict is to Seize Narration, see Using Openings: Seizing Narration, page 34.

Also see how Pros can combine efforts via Helping near the beginning of the Determine Approach section, page 38.

Remember that a Conflict is only engaged if there is reasonable doubt as to what may happen or if the Tone is of interest. If the Pro clearly should win, then either there should not be a Conflict at all or the Stakes should be set about some detail of the Conflict aside from simple winning or losing, such as whether an obligation is entailed or whether a complication follows.

Finally, remember Pros have vast power in framing Conflicts. If you don’t want your Pro to lose a Conflict but none of the above options are available, try to forestall or avoid the Conflict altogether. Do something else and come back to the Conflict later when the Pro is better prepared. But be prepared to accept the consequences of delayed action.

“The plot is stalling, we’re going nowhere.”

See the section More on Problems Bigger than Single Conflicts (Moving Plots Forward), page 59.

“I can’t figure out how to assign Darkness dice.” / “How can I assign Darkness dice without tediously fumbling through the book?”

See the section More on Determining Darkness Dice, page 54. While there is much more detailed guidance given later, it all derives from this section. It is entirely appropriate to quickly determine dice based on this section and not bother to go find more specific examples and setting guidelines.

There are plenty of examples in the Some Example Conflicts section, starting page 45.

In the Ideas for Darkness’ Forces and Dice Ratings section starting page 70 there are examples and guidelines for the Life in the Shadows setting. In the Common Opposition and Dice Ratings section starting 83 there are examples and guidelines for The Breaking Point setting; those also apply for common opposition in Life in the Shadows.

The below index summarizes the many types of opposition across the above references.

  • Accidents – in general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Natural barriers, weather, accident, etc.”)

  • AI Super Computer (Carthage), an artificially intelligent super computer: page 71, including:

    • Shutting down / stopping the AI

    • Hacking or fighting against the AI

    • AI learning ability

    • Chipping away at the AI

    • Resources assisted by the AI

    • Reasoning with the AI

  • Arson – see Fire section starting page 84

  • Authority figures (one’s own or other organizations’), page 87, including:

    • Types of authority figures

    • Persuading authority figures

    • Tricking authority figures

  • Club (trendy, large, powerful) / Club owner – see Darkness Dice for Duvalle and The House starting page 75

  • Con – same idea as a trap, in general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Traps, plans, other ‘set ups’”)

  • Counter-surveillance (powerful government agency) – see Darkness Dice for Gladstone, starting page 77

  • Criminal investigations, page 85, including:

    • Interviewing

    • Informants

  • Duvalle and The House, a club-based entrepreneur with shady connections and the club/its staff, page 75, including:

    • Charming and powerful manipulator

    • Club surveillance

    • Underground city tunnel access

  • Enemies (major ones in general), page 86, including:

    • Changes in power level

    • With and without organization/resources

  • Environment – in general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Natural barriers, weather, accident, etc.”)

  • Fire-related, page 84, including:

    • Diagnosis/risk determination

    • Rescues

    • Containment

    • Arson investigation

  • Forensics research and analysis, page 85, including:

    • Time pressures

    • Planted evidence, framing

    • Complex evidence

    • Lack of resources

  • Frame job

    • In general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Traps, plans, other ‘set ups’”)

    • Re evidence left to frame someone, see Forensics of All Sorts and Otherwise Research-Based Opposition starting page 85

  • Gladstone (Special Agent Jennifer Gladstone), an extraordinary black operations agent: page 77, including:

    • Crew of elite agents

    • Extraordinary black ops agent

    • Counter-surveillance

    • National secret agency Intelligence gathering

  • Greys, an off the grid group with considerable on-grid presence/power: page 73, including:

    • Revealing The Greys

    • Making deals with The Greys

    • Surveillance by The Greys

  • Hacking:

    • In general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Facing specialists in any skill”)

    • Against a powerful AI, see Darkness Dice for Carthage (also listed above) starting page 71

  • Interrogations, see Criminal Investigations starting page 85

  • Interviews, see Criminal Investigations starting page 85

  • Medical treatments, page 83, including:

    • Treating diseases/conditions, including diagnosis, symptoms, curing

    • Social and legal fallout

    • Lying/ashamed patients

  • Nature – in general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Natural barriers, weather, accident, etc.”)

  • Off the grid group – see Darkness Dice for The Greys starting page 73

  • Organizations:

    • Leaders/authority figures, see Authority Figures and Other Leaders, starting page 87

    • Under the control of an AI, see Darkness Dice for Carthage starting page 71

    • Secret agency, see Darkness Dice for Gladstone starting page 77

  • Races

    • Against time, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Natural barriers, weather, accident, etc.”)

    • Against an opponent, consider their ability, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Facing specialists in any skill”)

  • Secret agents:

    • In general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Facing specialists in any skill”)

    • For elite agents, see Darkness Dice for Gladstone starting page 77

  • Social conflicts:

    • In general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 54

    • Interrogations, see Criminal Investigations starting page 85

    • Interviews, see Criminal Investigations starting page 85

    • With an AI, see Darkness Dice for Carthage starting page 71

    • With authority figures, see Authority Figures and Other Leaders, starting page 87

    • With patients, see Medical Treatments section starting page 83

  • Specialists of any sort, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Facing specialists in any skill”)

  • Surveillance

    • By a powerful government agency – see Darkness Dice for Gladstone, starting page 77

    • In a club – see Darkness Dice for Duvalle and The House, starting page 75

  • Traffic jam – in general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Natural barriers, weather, accident, etc.”)

  • Traps – In general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Traps, plans, other ‘set ups’”)

  • Underground tunnels – see Darkness Dice for Duvalle and The House, starting page 75

  • Urban barriers / interference – in general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Natural barriers, weather, accident, etc.”)

  • Weather – in general, see More on Determining Darkness Dice on page 55 (“Natural barriers, weather, accident, etc.”)

In-Game Resources

All material in this section may be freely copied.


The following outlines provide a quick summary for each stage of play. As you become accustomed to the game, you’ll probably only need to occasionally consult the Conflict Outline and the Outcome and Recovery Outline; until then, it is strongly advised to keep all Outlines at hand.

First Time Setup

  1. Determine any “no go” topics.

  2. Determine which setting (Life in the Shadows or The Breaking Point) you want to play.

  3. Distribute materials for play.

    1. Ideally four different colors of dice with enough of each color for all players.

    2. Note-taking material.

    3. Each player besides Darkness’ gets a Protagonist Profile and Protagonist Game Sheet.

    4. Two distinctive tokens (for Openings) per Pro player.

  4. Design Pros and document Story Guide.

    1. Each Pro has a Problem, Drive, Caring, and Success.

    2. Each Pro has one of the Emotions (Compassion, Fury, or Focus) assigned to be Overwhelming, one of the remaining two to Steady, and the last remaining one to Vulnerable.

    3. Each Pro gives one Opening to another Pro who does not yet have an Opening token from another player.

    4. Darkness records a Story Guide based on player input and Game Starters.

Each Session

  1. Add any new “no go” topics (if this is your second or later session).

  2. Each Pro player should have that Pro’s updated Protagonist Profile and Protagonist Game Sheet with Emotion dice and Opening tokens.

  3. Free Narration is engaged until a Scene is framed or Seize Narration happens. If Seize Narration happens immediately proceed to the Conflict Outline, below.

  4. Scene is framed.

    1. Be clear on where it takes place, who is in it, why is it happening.

    2. Roleplay until the Scene is played out or until a Conflict is declared, in which case see the Conflict Outline below.

  5. If a Conflict has happened, conduct Outcomes, including framing any Scenes as needed. Darkness should take notes as needed on Story Guide.

  6. Free Narration resumes, go back to step 3, unless it is time to end the game, in which case continue to step 7 below.

  7. At game end, record any updates as needed on the Protagonist Profile, Protagonist Game Sheet, and Story Guide.

Between Sessions (may be done end of session or beginning of new session)

  1. If there is any gap in time for Pros to reflect and react, each Pro may have a single Pool reduced or increased 1 die, or the Maximum dice allowed for one of the Pro’s Pools may be increased or decreased by 1.

    1. If all Pool’s Maximums are below 6, the Pro must be Retired.

    2. In case of extended break, feel free to allow greater changes.

  2. Darkness prepares a new Story Guide, updating the old one based on the prior session.

Conflict Outline

  1. At any point before step 4 below ends, any player may Seize Narration; after step 4 and until step 6 begins, only those Pros in the Conflict may Seize Narration.

    1. If Seize Narration was invoked during Free Narration, frame a Scene for the Conflict.

    2. The player Seizing Narration gives an Opening to their opponent.

  2. Someone initiates: initiator states Stake and Approach first.

  3. Determine what is at Stake; what are the likely consequences?

  4. It is clarified which Pros are in the Conflict. Each Pro’s Approach is chosen based on any desired Emotion Pool, whether Competing or Helping, and generally narrated accordingly. Use this stage to clarify any Stakes as needed.

    1. Competing means the Pro is competing to win the Stakes.

    2. Helping means the Pro has chosen a Competing Pro to whom half their dice will be given.

  5. Resolve consequences and the Tone of the Conflict.

    1. Each Competing party rolls all dice of the corresponding Emotion Pool as defined in the Approach; Helpers roll half the dice (round up) of the Pool corresponding to their Approach and those results are given to the Competing Pro they are Helping.

    2. If someone is Seizing Narration, they win; otherwise, whichever of the Pro(s) and/or Darkness Competing wins if having the most 1, 2, or 3 results on the dice rolled. In case of tie, party with initiative wins.

    3. The Tone is determined by the Emotion of the die with the highest result. If Darkness is tied for highest result, Darkness’ player may drop out and let Pros’ dice determine Tone.

  6. Narrate resolution and perform immediate adjustments.

    1. If the Tone is not Darkness, add 1 to the Emotion Pool as the Tone for each Pro who used the same Emotion in their Approach as the Tone.

    2. If the Tone is not Darkness, each Pro who used an Emotion Pool not the same as the Tone chooses either of the following:

      1. add 1 to the Emotion Pool corresponding to the Tone;

      2. or decrease the Emotion Pool used by 1 die;

      3. or do nothing if their Emotion Pool corresponding to the Tone is at Maximum.

    3. If the Tone is Darkness and Darkness won, Darkness’ player may increase by 1 die any Emotion Pool for each Pro in the Conflict.

    4. The winner narrates how the Stakes were achieved, respecting the Tone.

      1. Note carefully for roleplaying purposes that any Pro with 6+ dice in a Pool is on edge, see also the Outcome Outline, below.

      2. If Seize Narration is in play:

        1. if the Opening is originally from the opponent, describe how they are compromised/set back/embarrassed;

        2. If the Opening is originally from a 3rd party, describe how they are compromised/set back/embarrassed;

        3. If the Opening is one’s own, describe how one is opening to be compromised later (as with giving an Opening normally).

Outcome and Recovery Outline

  1. Any time before a Conflict starts or after Conflict resolution, including before checking for Snapping or Breaking, below, any Pro may perform any one of the following to reduce a Pool 1 die:

    1. give an Opening to another player (including Darkness); narrate how this relieved or mitigated the stress;

    2. or execute a Scene immediately, if possible, in which the Pro tries to deal productively/positively with their emotions.

  2. Check for Snapping or Breaking: after a Conflict (only):

    1. any Pro with 6 or 7 dice in a Pool Snaps, narrate a Scene in which the Pro creates or escalates a charged situation, causing a clear narrative setback or disadvantage (promoting distrust by others, imperiling oneself or one’s allies, directly causing harm [emotional or physical] to oneself or a loved one, etc.);

    2. any Pro with 8 dice in a Pool Breaks, reduce either of the other Pools by 1 die (unless both are at 0), narrate a Scene as with Snapping but make it bigger and more dramatic. The Pro has become a broken, dysfunctional person, unable to effectively participate in any Conflict. They are discharged from or quitting their role, at least temporarily, having a mental breakdown, in rehab, etc. Or the Pro may Retire instead.

  3. To recover from Breaking, a Pro may perform the actions in step 1 (as above) to reduce a die in the relevant Pool or suffer the consequences of a Conflict in which they reduce 1 die in the relevant Pool.

Player Pages

The Protagonist Profile is used to document basic information about the Pro, including their Name, Problem, Drive, Caring, and Success. The Protagonist Game Sheet is kept in front of the player during the game, with each Emotion and its dice associated as appropriate to each of the Overwhelming, Steady, and Vulnerable placeholders. Opening tokens are placed in the Openings placeholder on that sheet.


Share this post

← Older Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.