“tl;dr You have a downtime skill, but you probably don’t know what it is, or what it does.”: guest post by Jamie Hall

I say, “guest post”, but really it just floated past sunning itself, and myself and Andy Raff and myself fought it out to see who’d get to re-publish…

Strange LRP is a magical beast. I helped cook for the first event, and still hear good things about it. I enjoy reading Jamie’s words, so here some are…

“Clearly I should be writing, instead of writing about writing, but I am very happy with the Tarot-based fates that we use for Strange LRP, and I feel like rambling.

It’s not something that I really liked when I first saw it, but as with many great ideas, I’ll always adopt a strategy that shows results.

There are downsides, and I wish that we’d done something different with souls and soul-stealing, but the soul’s fate is a great storytelling tool.

It works like this: each character has a past and future, expressed as two numbers. Hedge Magicians can decode this number, and see into their soul. Characters don’t know their past and future, unless they are a Hedge Magician, or they have the Hedge Magician read their fortune. Hedge Magicians can also curse a character to change their future.

Note that Strange is a campaign, so there is room for stories to evolve gradually, and the fate plays out mostly in downtime. (Downtime, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a short submission by the player, detailing their plans for the year, and then a brief and some IC documents in response. It is non-mechanical, and you can’t lose or die. Most of the event plot is developed during this phase, because players write better narratives than me, so the outcome of downtime, and the fates of the characters, is very important).

Individual characters are affected by their fate, which shapes the outcome of their downtime. Positive or negative, the fates make for story – destined for greatness, or a huge personal loss. Either way, the character won’t fail during downtime…but they might succeed in horrible ways. It isn’t always obvious that fate is affecting outcomes…but it is. If there is ever a choice to be made between two people, then their fate is very important.

Where the system really shines is collaborative downtime, where several characters are working on the same thing. The thing I’m doing this morning is laying out some (imaginary) cards, one for each character, and prognosticating the outcomes.

The cards have synergy or dissonance. Little relationships can be imagined – two friends who argue, an unrequited love interest, a scholar who cannot concentrate while their companions are fidgeting. Characters who show natural leadership, and characters who ruin everything, just by being there.

In every cloud, a silver lining. In every silver lining, a cloud. Good or bad, it’s all more story. I’m glad that I get to mess around with this stuff.

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