This post is one of a series describing the design of a prospective RPG called the Wall. You can find more posts here.
This records my first test run with the Wall rules. This is basically a thought experiment, running through the rules to see if they work in a basic sense. I do this as an example of play, which helps me get a grip on how the rules interact before I actually bring it to a table.
As mentioned in the rules rundown, an Episode is basically a single adventure, set to be run in one or two sessions. It can be part of a larger campaign, but should have a beginning and an end. Each Episode indicates what is at stake, and while this is provided narratively, it has mechanical repercussions.
For the test sessions, we’re going with:
Food riots have begun in the Fifth Quarter, one of the middle class sections near the river. Order is threatened and the Company’s influence among the Elites is at stake.
So, at the end of this Episode, the PCs will either have improved or degraded the city’s Order and their Influence with the Elite.
Each Episode is broken into Scenes. For the first test, that Scene’s goal will be: Gain a basic knowledge of how the riot started.
The decision is to canvas the area in uniform and try to get answers. Here is the character sheet for PC1. We’re going to call her Beatris.
Beatris is leading this as she has the least Distance and the highest Sympathy. Her Distance is 3, meaning she needs three successes to prevail. This is Heart which is a d6 and Open, which for Beatris is d6. The player decides that Beatris is going to be Subtle about this, so that’s a d4. Authority provides a d8 as a free die when wearing ones uniform, but that also requires one to be acting Open or Subtle – Hidden is actually trying to avoid anyone knowing the Occupiers are involved so Authority doesn’t work with that. The player wants that free d8, so the PCs are acting in uniform.
Beatris has the Element of Persuasion so that gives her another d6. Since she can apply her Concept of Good Cop, she can wager Sympathy (dealing with Dispossessed) to shift one die up or down. She shifts her Heart d6 to a d4, wagering 1 Sympathy. That Sympathy is lost if she fails but she retains it if she Prevails.
Any 4 or above is a Success, so with higher dice, it’s easier to get a Success. However, rolling the max on a die (4 on a d4, 8 on a d8) allows another die of the same kind, which means if you are trying to hit a large number of Successes, it’s sometimes better to have a d4. Also, rolling a 1 with a die shifted by the use of Concept (as below) is a failure but allows another die of the same type, meaning that d4s can be really useful, especially when shifting dice.
She rolls a 2 on her Heart d4, a 1 on her Subtle d4 (not the one shifted by Concept, so not a re-roll), a 5 on her Element d6, and a 5 on her Authority d8. That is a failure, but it is a negotiable failure. When the PC attains at least 1/3 of the necessary Successes (rounded down) needed to Prevail, it’s a “Negotiation.” If Beatris both pays another Sympathy and adds some kind of narrative problem for her character, she can Prevail.
What happens to the Sympathy? She is dealing with the Dispossessed, so it goes to Distance. She had wagered one and then paid one, so her Sympathy drops 2 and her Distance increases to 5. This is dealing with Order, so she can drop Order by 1 and her Distance will only increase by 1.
What does it matter that Order drops? If Order drops to 0, PCs cannot wager Influence. If Harmony drops to 0, they cannot wager Sympathy, and if Peace drops to 0, they cannot wager Distance. If these are 4 or above, they provide a bonus d6 and if they are above 7, they provide a bonus d8 when dealing with a specific Faction: Order for the Elites, Harmony for the Dispossessed, and Peace for the Occupiers.
Beatris’ player says that now she owes an NPC a favour. Estarda who owns a coffee house, was the one who gave her the information. Estarda said that the riot started after a Preacher delivered a pretty extreme sermon about the evils of the Elites and claimed they were hording food.
This whole process takes place before the scene, and then the GM and players narrate the scene, adding details.
So far, so good. The rules seem to be okay. Next time, we’ll try another.