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Drawbacks and Intrigue for acquiring equipment

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  • Seraph Kitty
    started a topic Drawbacks and Intrigue for acquiring equipment

    Drawbacks and Intrigue for acquiring equipment

    Greetings all,

    I’m working on expanding the systems for acquiring equipment and services in preparation for a new game, specifically by working in ways PCs can cut corners to lower costs, or buy off potential risks by investing more. I’m specifically designing this with Mesen-Nebu characters in mind, but able to be used by any PC which desires - and able to be ignored by any player not interested in this experience without disrupting anything. My goal with this is to give players who want some rules for using a mix of skills and resources to pay for things, let them choose social consequences to lower costs, or buy off potential threats, hopefully in a way that fosters more intrigue which would be interesting to certain players, particularly the Alchemists, who are all about shifting valuables around and acquiring assets.
    I’d appreciate any brainstorming, advice, constructive feedback, or recommendations to other game systems I can look at for ideas (even outside ChroD).

    Some mechanics I’m working on:
    -Splitting a cost between resources and skills. The core book already explains that you can use an applicable, skill at the same rating instead of using resources; I would like to make a tool where using a skill for certain aspects can lower the Availability and have the rest be paid with resources- something like buying the parts, but assembling it yourself. This feels especially in character for alchemists, who often have both excess cash and high crafting skills.

    -Conditions that a player can choose to take to lower an Availability cost. The Volatile and Fragile conditions are my model for this: letting them voluntarily by an unreliable, but cheaper, equipment. Other conditions I’ve brainstormed for this include the item being tied to a crime or obviously contraband, bad PR for technically legal but definitely unpopular methods, drawing attention from feds or enemies by liquidating a suspicious amount of funds, applying poor working conditions on their employees which strain loyalty.
    This will probably be the way I let players split costs, as these “drawback conditions” could be mitigated with other skills, like repairing shoddy items, falsifying documentation, giving rousing speeches (or terrible threats), etc. Incidentally, a lot of these conditions are more in the wheelhouse of Maa-Kep to handle, and reinforce their traditional role when they assist Alchemists.

    -Raising an item’s Availability to buy off potential risks: putting in an extra bribe to erase the paper trail or ensure the sellers silence, or to retain a service even if it becomes dangerous for the provider, “insure” the equipment / get an extended warranty, make sure that they keep their end of the deal even with a better offer, springing for additional background checks to prevent sabotage.

    With these systems, I’m hoping to reinforce certain philosophies of the Mesen-Nebu: Asking someone else to make an exchange for you will always result in a bad deal, and that an alchemist can distill what is valuable from several different sources to acquire or pay for what they want. I’d also like to encourage certain types of intrigue such as trying to hire a service but a saboteur from an enemy cult slips in, or the hired goons realize they could profit more if they kept the plot-tonium for themselves, or dealings with the black market that are clearly cheaper but have other “costs” - and putting some of the levers for this kind of intrigue in the player’s hands so that, much like an alchemist, they can play with cost-benefit analysis and creatively using a range of skills to distill and exchange value.

    I’m not trying to suggest anything in the rules prevents these ideas from being tossed into a game, or can’t be used to model them - and many would be considered plot hooks that are fair for a storyteller to introduce. But I want to compile a clear set of rules that brings this explicitly to the forefront of a player’s experience, and invites (read: tempts) them to ask for these complications.

    Thanks for taking a look, I’d be interested in your thoughts
    ~Seraph Kitty

  • KaiserAfini
    Have you considered making it a zero sum game ? First you take the item's availability, that is your initial cost. So lets say a 4 dot sniper rifle.

    Next, the target can use their Resources to lower the cost. Lets say they have 3. They decide to commit 2, so now the equation is at +2.

    Now check what extra features they may want. Lets say they are doing something crazy and they need depleted uranium rounds, a rare type of anti-tank, armour piercing bullets. Lets say its worth 3 points, so now we are at +5.

    Now they check a chart of potential malus, divided into physical and social, each one weighted into points. They need to take enough to get the equation to zero. So now they take half a cartrige (-2), stolen (-2) and poor maintenance (-1 and gives the Fragile Condition). Cool, we hit zero, so now they may procure it.

    The malus are divided into physical (defective equipment, missing parts, etc) and social (owing a favor to the smuggler, poorly disguised paper trail, etc). If the character has a skill and a justifiable way to solve the malus, they can do so as an extended action, with one success removing one point.

    If they have a contact, ally or mentor with an applicable way to solve the malus, they can do so as an extended action as well, but only roll the merit's dot rating plus any applicable modifiers. This simulates them being busy and rewards players for doing it themselves.

    Supernatural abilities are judged on a case by case basis.

    So that is my rough sketch of it. This way you only need 2 tables (boons and malus), lets them use their contacts yet still incentivizes them to use their mundane skills. I feel this is in line with your previous posts, at least, it seems like the answer they are going towards.

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  • Seraph Kitty
    I've worked on the specific mechanics for this a little more, and here's what I have...

    When acquiring equipment or services, the player may voluntarily raise the Availability by 1 more dots to earn one of the following benefits:
    • Higher quality item: +1 equipment bonus per additional cost
    • Secondary qualities: gain a +2 bonus to a quality different to its main purpose. An expensive purse adds a bonus to social rolls; a higher premium on a phone may have better security; you hire a smuggler who is also reliably dangerous if they get caught.
    • Discretion: the vendor does not keep a paper trail that leads back to you, and won’t answer any questions without significant persuasion. Any attempts to investigate the activity have -2, paying for someone's silence adds 1 Doors to get them to talk about you, and they may have a Hostile first impression to any inquiries - all these benefits for +1 Availability.
    • Thorough background checks: reduce the chance of sabotage or infiltration by increasing scrutiny on hired services. Raises the “Availability” of a successful infiltrator by 2 dots per increased cost (max of 5).
      • this benefit makes the assumption that, for example, if an enemy knew you were hiring a body guard and wanted to plant one of their minions to betray you, that the default difficulty of that would be "Availability 1". With this benefit, you can include a more thorough investigation in the cost, to raise that Availability so that less skilled agents will be easily discovered. Of course, the player always has the opportunity to make their own contested rolls to discover a mole - but have to be paranoid enough to ask.
    • Warranty: the equipment or service is covered by some kind of guarantee, insurance, or the like. Faulty items will be replaced by the vendor, services which aren’t completed the first time will be attempted again with additional resources, returning the item reverses how resources were spent, or equivalent guarantees.
      • not real sure about this one. Paying extra for a warranty / insurance is a real-world thing we all deal with a lot, so I wanted to use that as inspiration for this system, but I wasn't sure how to make that an interesting mechanic...

    When acquiring equipment and services, the player may also choose to decrease the Availability rating by choosing a Condition which represents a potent drawback. I recommend that this reduce the Availability no less than 1 lower than the default price. This could let it stack with the above benefits, such that they pay for discretion and thorough background checks (+2 cost) but then choose three conditions (-3 cost) to net a -1 Availability from the default price. But, you know, storyteller discretion to make sure its not going overboard and still makes narrative sense.

    Since players have the chance to gain a Condition when they roll an Exceptional Success, I make the assumption that it requires an Exceptional Success to get rid of or avoid the drawback Conditions (of course, supernatural powers might get around that). This makes them pretty hard to get rid of once the player chooses to take them, but does give them a chance to choose drawbacks that play to their skills and potentially avoid them. I added "mitigation" to the Conditions to explain this possibility, while explicitly stating that if a player mitigates a Condition without resolving it, they don't get a Beat.
    Fragile and Volatile are from the core rules. I modified them a little for this system. I wrote the others, using existing conditions for guidelines. I tried to make them general enough to apply to many different circumstances - and therefore different ways of handling them. I'd appreciate feedback (and more ideas!)

    The equipment or service is dangerous, and prone to backfire on those using it. Any failure achieved on a roll which uses the equipment or reflects the service occurring is automatically turned into a Dramatic Failure.
    Possible Sources: Achieving a failure on a Build Equipment roll; reducing an Availability rating by one; deliberate sabotage inflicted by another character.
    Resolution: When a character suffers a Dramatic Failure from using the equipment or service. This grants a Beat to each character affected by this, and removes the Volatile Condition. If the equipment continues to exist, the bonus it provides is reduced by 2 dice (which can make it a penalty).
    Mitigation: a character who recognizes the faulty qualities may attempt to repair the equipment before it becomes a problem. This requires earning Exceptional Success on a roll to repair, using an appropriate Skill. If successful, it removes the Condition, but this does not count as resolving it, and does not earn a Beat.

    The equipment or service won’t last long; it ceases to function (or possibly exist) after a number of uses equal to the trait used to acquire it. If purchased with resources, this number is the item’s Availability rating; if build or acquired through supplemental means, it’s equal to the Skill dots of the creator. This cannot be applied to single-use services.
    Possible Sources: failure on a Build Equipment roll; reducing an Availability rating by 1 dot
    Resolution: When the equipment cease to function or the service is abandoned; any character who was directly benefiting from its use gains a Beat when this is resolved.
    Mitigation: A character may attempt to repair a Fragile item or squeeze more uses out of it. Doing so is a repair roll using an applicable Skill, which suffers a penalty equal to the equipment bonus; if successful, the character may gain an additional number of uses equal to their rating in this Skill. This may only be done once per scene, and requires investing additional materials of some kind.

    Contraband (persistent)
    The equipment or service is currently illegal. It may be obviously illicit, such as drugs or criminal activity, or it may be an otherwise tolerated item that was used in a recent crime, or be provided by someone wanted by the authorities. This Condition should not be used to reflect items or actions that are restricted in a specific type of place that would be easily avoidable – such as not allowing any weapons in a courthouse – unless the majority of the scene in which its used will take place there.
    If authorities spot the Contraband item (or a wanted person) they will seize it, by force if necessary, and may have uncomfortable questions or penalties for characters involved.
    Possible Sources: reducing an Availability rating by 1 dot; deliberately acquiring illegal items or services; a character being identified as committing a crime.
    Gain a Beat: authorities identify the contraband item or wanted person, and attempt to seize them. This grants a Beat to all characters inconvenienced by this.
    Resolution:The item is taken away, or the character arrested, and is removed from the scene. All characters who had been benefiting from it, or were implicated in a crime as a result, gain a Beat. Resolving this Condition requires that the subject be removed from the scene in the control of the authorities; characters may attempt to reclaim it or them, which may re-apply this Condition. However, if characters escape with the item, this Condition remains unresolved.
    Mitigation:Characters may attempt to avoid attention with Skills such as Stealth, Larceny, and Subterfuge. Any encounter with the authorities in which they successfully smuggle the Contraband does not earn a Beat.

    Bad PR
    The character has done or obtained something which, while not illegal, is offensive to the general public and has become widely known. Such offenses could include controversial statements, involvement in a sweatshop being revealed, pornography, ties to a dictator, or similar things which draw ire from the public, but are within the letter of the law. This adds one or more Doors in Social Maneuvering actions (or a similar penalty) with most other characters in the setting – if not due to offending them directly, then due to their concern with their own appearance.
    Possible Sources: reducing an Availability by one dot; the public becomes aware of the character’s actions and a significant number of people risk a Breaking Point; the actions of a rival to smear or expose the character.
    Gain a Beat:the player may voluntarily choose to have an NPC regard their character with a Hostile first impression due to this Condition, in order to gain a Beat. If their impression was already Hostile, even due to the events surrounding this Condition, no Beat is earned.
    Resolution: This Condition is resolved when the character makes amends in the view of the public, usually requiring that they change the underlying cause of the Condition, or other public relations ploys. This requires earning an Exceptional Success on a relevant roll, or covering the relevant costs.
    Duration:Public attention may wane if the character keeps their head down. If they do not resolve it, the Condition elapses at the end of the Story (or about 3 months); this does not earn them a Beat. If the Condition elapses in this manner, a special interest group forms to take up the cause, represented by a new rival Cult.
    Mitigation: the character may attempt to placate public opinion with a variety of public relations ploys, however these might have limited impact if they do not resolve the underlying source. They may avoid the worst of the penalty by acting through intermediaries or seeking associates that aren’t bothered by public opinion; such actions should suffer an additional penalty of -2.

    Slave Rebellion
    Enough costs have been cut that the employees associated are frustrated, threatened, or demoralized. This might result from risking their safety through inferior parts or disrepair, or from draconian management practices, or even from not offering compensation equal to the task. Those who can, abandon their duties; those who stay work slower and with worse quality. For actions which rely on this labor source, double the interval of time between rolls on an Extended Action or service for as long as this Condition persists, and apply a -2 to each roll; any equipment produced has its bonuses or effectiveness reduced by 1.
    Possible Sources: reduce an Availability cost by 1; workers suffer Lethal harm or risk a Breaking Point carrying out the task
    Resolution: addressing the needs of the workers or rallying their support through other means. Doing so may require paying the original costs involved, or earning an Exceptional Success on a relevant roll to inspire, intimidate, or bribe them to resume work with full effectiveness.
    Duration: if not resolved, this Condition expires when the relevant task is completed; the player does not earn a Beat if this happens.
    Escalation:If a laborer loses a dot of Integrity or suffers Wound Penalties carrying out the task, then the work force starts an armed uprising, goes on strike, or otherwise turns against the character and halts the project. If this happens, the character gains a Beat.
    Mitigation: if possible, the character may continue the task without the aid of these employees, suffering appropriate penalties, but this will not be possible for all actions. Discontented laborers may be temporarily inspired by appealing to their Virtues and Aspirations, bribery, intimidation, rallying speeches, or other methods. Only one such action may be attempted per Chapter (or day); if successful, it earns one roll at the usual time interval and bonuses; an exceptional success may resolve this Condition.

    The Feds
    Your actions drew the attention of the authorities or of an enemy. You may have liquidated assets so quickly as to draw suspicion, had a bribe reported, an agent tipped off the people they were investigating, you took advantage of stolen money or goods, or some other suspicious behavior. As a consequence, somebody is now trying to squeeze your assets and restrict your activities. While this Condition persists, the character must reduce their effective Merit dots in either allies, contacts, mentor, resources, retainer, status, or the rating of Reach, Grasp, or Assets, as though the trait was being blocked. If a specific enemy doing this, use the rating of one of their appropriate traits, otherwise reduce the rating by 3.
    By default, the trait reduced should be the most applicable to accomplishing the task which earned this Condition, or their current activities. The traits being blocked may change as the character changes tactics, but only once per Chapter (or about a day) – reallocating resources like this is slow.
    Possible Sources: reducing an Availability cost 1 dot; the actions of an enemy to counteract you; a failed roll involving covering up an illegal act or going unnoticed.
    Resolution:This Condition can be resolved in a variety of ways which force their enemies to back off. The character might be arrested and accept an appropriate punishment to end the pursuit of the authorities (or set someone else to in their place), they may counteract other rivals or reduce their ability to provide this opposition, they may negotiate to end the opposition, or may assume an alternate identity not under such scrutiny, or may abandon certain plans and assets to end the pursuit. Resolving this Condition through meaningful effort or sacrifice earns a Beat.
    Duration: This Condition will elapse at the end of the Story (or about a month), under the assumption that after a significant amount of time, the character is able to stay off the radar long enough to loosen the opposition, or gradually pay any debts or reparations needed to appease their enemies. If the Condition expires in this way, it does not earn a Beat.
    Mitigation: while a trait is reduced, they have others which they can rely on to attempt their goals; changing tactics, staying off the radar, and misdirection are some of the tactics they can pursue to mitigate the consequences of this Condition. Once per Chapter (or day), the character may make a relevant roll (often Subterfuge or Stealth) contested by the enemy’s Investigation; if successful, the character may choose which traits are blocked; the Storyteller may restrict which traits are eligible for the player to choose from to ensure that the blocked trait still makes tactical sense for their enemies, even with false or limited information.

    Last edited by Seraph Kitty; 06-23-2019, 01:06 AM.

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  • Sith_Happens
    The first of those (splitting across multiple traits) seems like it’d make it too easy. Also your specific example is already covered by Build Equipment. I like the other two ideas though.

    By the way, note that (Relevant Trait Dots) >= (Availability) is for being able to acquire the equipment or service without a roll. Personally if I were in your shoes the first thing I’d come up with is a standard/consistent method by which to determine how hard a roll to acquire something should be.

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