Friday, December 14, 2012

Initiative! Locals

So we've talked about the two main types of Tags: Stunts and Connections. Stunts are things your character has or can do -- talents, items, magical powers, whatever. Connections are ways in which your character relates to or supports other characters in the group. These are the basic character elements in Initiative!

Tags are how you improve your Trait rolls. Every time you make a Trait roll, you can add one of your Tags to it. Simple enough, right?

Well, there's a third type of Tag: the Local Quality.

Local Qualities

Local Qualities are Tags that are connected to a particular location: a crowded tavern or a storm-tossed pirate ship deck or whatever. They are elements in the scene that heroes can use to dramatic or cinematic effect. A Local Quality can be ANYTHING: a physical characteristic of the locale, or a quirk of one of the NPCs, or just a declaration about how the action here is going to manifest.

Once established, any player can choose to apply the Local Quality to any Trait roll. This counts as their Tag for that roll, but there's a little wrinkle to this: Action Points.

Action Points

Of course Initiative! has an Action Points mechanic. Giving players a currency they can choose to apply for advantage at their discretion is a great idea, and works well in lots of games. In Initiative! a player can spend an Action Point to use a second Tag on a given roll, OR to create a Local Quality (and apply it to their roll). Once a Local Quality is created, anyone can use it at its current rank just like any other Tag.

But if they invest an Action Point, they get to increase the rank of the Local Quality (or create it from scratch) AND add it as a second Tag to their roll.

So there's an interesting choice here for a player -- they can use their Action Points to add one of their existing Tags to a roll, but get no ongoing benefit, OR they can invest in something which may not be as potent (all new Tags always begin life at rank "Good"), but which other players can not only make use of but also invest in. And as they invest in the Local Quality, it gets more and more powerful.

Swashbuckling Scenes

Cam Banks started a "swashbuckling" conversation on Google Plus recently, and one of the ideas that came up was the notion of introducing "themes" into battles, whereby for example, "tabletops" are the theme and so any action that involves them gets a bonus. Local Qualities allow for that sort of play -- somebody can establish a Local Quality (say, "Pit of Barbecuing Pigs") and then not only do players make use of it, but they are incented to make it steadily MORE impactful over the course of the scene.

And of course in Initiative! combat and social scenes are handled in exactly the same way, so you can establish Local Qualities in the midst of a delicate negotiation and have the same impact.

The goal of Local Qualities is to give players new options in each scene that they can make use of for their characters' awesomeness. Since Local Qualities evaporate at the end of the scene, they can make an individual fight much more memorable. Initiative! is meant to be a simple, freewheeling game of memorable stories, so the hope is that the combination of Stunts, Connections and Local Qualities allows for exactly that.