Pivots and Kiss My Axe

I’ve made the decision to do a bit more work on Kiss My Axe: Thirteen Warriors and an Angel of Death, and in doing so, I have opened up a can of . . . I can’t tell if it’s worms or ass-whoppin’ yet.

It’s about Pivots. Now, those of you who have perused Sword Noir: A Role-playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery or the free Sword’s Edge System will know Pivots as a character’s goal, code, or other defining feature that when hit provides an Advancement, with which the player can improve the character. I’m finding Pivots to be my least favourite part of my own game design.

Pivots are intended to be hit every other session or so, which creates a couple of problems. If a character has only one pivot (characters are allowed up to three), it becomes repetitive pretty quick. Most players in the playtests and in games I know of only create one pivot. I think this is because the Pivot is the hardest part of the system, as it is supposed to be both important to the character but also difficult to achieve. In the games I’ve run, Pivots seem to be the most counter-intuitive and difficult part of character creation and game play.

So do I want to keep them in Kiss My Axe? I’m leaning toward yes, but in an altered form. What I’m thinking of doing is changing Pivots so that they are not so hard to hit and provide a Fortune Point rather than an Advancement. Advancements would then be provided through Critical Failures and GM fiat—as in at a rate decided by the GM, hopefully in consultation with the players.

What do you think? I don’t want to get rid of Pivots totally, as I think they are excellent signposts to GMs as to what kind of challenges the players would like to face. Also, I tend to honestly forget to give out Fortune Points throughout the game as I am usually too excited about the game itself (I really need to work on that).

Any thoughts?

You can find Sword Noir: A Role-playing Game of Hardboiled Sword & Sorcery here.

You can find the free Sword’s Edge System here.

If you would like to discuss this post, I’m starting a thread here.

You can buy more of my stuff here.

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1 Response to Pivots and Kiss My Axe

  1. Chris says:

    I agree that pivots are probably the most difficult thing to come up with in your system because they are significantly important to character advancement but they don’t have a really strong set of guidelines in coming up with them. So a cleverly worded pivot could come up much more often then a more specific yet likely more significant pivot.

    If your pivot is defeating a foe through wit or trickery you may potentially hit that every session. Where as if your pivot is discovering lost knowledge, that is more dependent on the GM providing some place to find lost knowledge. That or the character actively going out of his way to always try do come up with some way of doing so. Which could be good, but potentially disruptive.

    But then again it’s those pivots that are really the drives for your character in these games, it’s their reason for being so they should have some significance in the game. I think the current setup is fine. It does however require that the players and the GM be on the same page and be mindful of what the pivots are. It also is up to the GM to try and make sure the characters have pivots that are balanced in how often they can be achieved. This rate of achievement will set the town for your game.

    So with that out of the way changing what pivots do offers more freedom to what a pivot can mean. It should still be important to your character, but it can be something much more common. Under this concept pivots are more like ego boosts. Those little bits of personal achievement that make you feel good. They aren’t character defining moments they are just the little wins along the way. Suddenly winning through trickery becomes a much more balanced pivot.

    What I’m saying is, I like the current methods it just requires more forethought. Changing them to action points though is probably an easier way to use that concept.

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