Archives for posts with tag: vendetta

Apparently tomorrow is kind of a cool day! It snuck up on me, but the time has come for Free RPG Day. That’s all well and good of course — you’ll never find me saying no to free games or a holiday revolving around that idea — but I sadly don’t have any nearby store that is participating, so it looks like I’ll have to sit this one out. A shame! Of course, it doesn’t help my involvement any that I am already 100% occupied tomorrow.

The Dark Knight Rises is shooting downtown y’see, and I do believe I’ll be down there messing around and probably taking pictures for my own amusement! They’re casting Extras and I don’t suspect they’ll choose me by any long-shot, but I might as well get out there and take a look at things, yeah? Besides, I’ll bring a bag, some materials, and I’ll spend the 8 hours I’m waiting working on gaming stuff in the lobby of a glitzy hotel! Sounds pretty cool to me. I could go for a change of scenery at this point.

Work Work Work
It’s really surprising how quickly this idea of mine went from “I love games!” to “Wow, games are work!” but I think I’ve lucked out in one particular regard: I’ve been having fun. There’s really no other way to put it, honestly. Despite all of the writing, despite all of the complaining to myself about mathematics, probabilities, genres, themes, “the promise of premise” and more — I’ve been having a blast being hip deep in this work. And I think that is incredibly to my own benefit. I’ve been writing a lot more and that is always a blast for me — I’ve been blogging here, and I’ve been getting my creative juices flowing in the PBP game of My Life With Master I’m Narrating for; hell, I’ve also gotten to enjoy the narrative spoils of testing out Vendetta although I’ve recently slacked on that. Add to that the chance I have to talk about Houses of the Blooded as the chance to play that crops up frequently with my friend Adam, and that he and I took a break from Wick’s incredible game of ven tragedy to give Remember Tomorrow a try… you’ll see I’ve been having the time of any dice-chucker’s life this past month.

I’ve played unfamiliar board games, alien card games, and experimented with ways to manipulate storytelling more recently than ever before. My head has been pounding with ideas, with concepts, with a metric ton of things I constantly feel the desperate need to get down on paper lest I lose them. I’ve been following game designers on twitter, which lead directly to me discovering a really fantastic humanitarian effort — and when I haven’t been doing that, I’ve been scanning blogs, reading design diaries, talking to people. I’ve been specializing, I guess, and so my knowledge and perspective have deepened and spread like roots. It’s been amazing, is what it’s been. I don’t really have any other way of putting it. It’s transformed a lot of ways I’ve been thinking about things — or expanded it at the very least.

Nothing super special to say today, honestly. Just a day spent looking back and being really happy.

Also, I have a present for all of you out there. Stay tuned!

Poetical descriptions for “not blogging” aside…

I feel as though I have been especially quiet on this space recently. Even with the reposting of Vendetta, I feel like I haven’t been writing much — which is an entirely fair feeling, as for the past seven days I was merely reposting what I had written a week prior. It was a nice break, honestly, but it was also draining in its own unique way. I wasn’t creating in any particularly special way (though I was sure to make some minor tweaks here and there to the document as I published its individual parts) and I think that I was missing that element of design spark throughout the whole affair. I’m going to try fixing that in the near future, and get myself back into the swing of publishing my ideas to this writing space. The creation… the making up ideas to help illustrate higher concepts, that is why I started this in the first place. I’m not in this (or attempting to be “in this”) to show off my totally cool system for swords & sorcery fantasy or whatever else you can find on the internet a dozen times over. I keep telling myself that I’m trying to write something I would love to play, and as I sit here and tinker late at night/early in the morning with mechanical ideas and storytelling caveats I find myself frequently playing a certain soundtrack.

Part of It All
I stage-manage a lot. I’d like stage-managing to be a job I get to do a lot of — a job with a legitimate paycheck, work schedule, and colleagues in the field; the whole nine yards. This past year, I was lucky enough to stage manage the Atlanta premiere of [title of show] (you can see our poster when the page loads; top immediately right of the site’s page listings). It’s a show about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical about two guys writing a musical — and it’s hilarious, and it’s uplifting in so many different ways as far as I’m concerned. This is the soundtrack that I listen to as I labor over what I could possibly be bringing to the world of gaming, wondering if I should just give up now and get myself a “more realistic” pipe dream; specifically, it’s the song “Nine People’s Favorite Thing” that get’s put on repeat… and when it’s not that song, it’s “Die Vampire, Die!” instead. And I’m either telling myself that I should be writing something that I would love, or that I shouldn’t be letting my own self-doubt cripple everything I want to be.

Some solid after-school special style advice there, you know.

My showing of [tos] was immensely lucky in that the author himself, Hunter Bell, was not only in-town at the time — but he was in the audience and stayed afterwards to talk to us about the show. He talked about his experiences with it, and what he saw in our performance; we talked about our experiences with it, and got feedback and anecdotes that tied everything together. It was really great hearing the author himself praise what we had set out to do. My highlight of this story comes when I asked him how the show looked overall… lighting transitions, sound cues, black-outs, lights-up, and all of that. I was asking how the entire package looked above and beyond the sum of its parts, how it looked as I was calling it from up in the light booth. He said it looked great, and I think the man apologized for the second act being a bitch to call lights for.

That’s just been on my mind as I write write write and listen to these songs to help motivate me; that the creator would say something like that about what is, honestly, a great show. It makes sense if you remember that Hunter Bell and Jeff Bowen wrote the original draft for three weeks and then just sent it off and hoped for the best. I think that’s what I’ve been trying to say so far. I need a bit of that cut-loose right there. Everything is a work-in-progress, but I should at least have something to point at and say “This is what I’ve accomplished,” and it will be mine regardless of what people think.

Having said all that and honestly meaning all of it: I have not yet staked the Vampire of Despair in my life, and I do not have a playable module of Children Who Play With Monsters completed. I could blame it easily on the fact that, instead, I stayed up for two days writing out the 7000 word document that is now Vendetta — and while this would be true and mildly impressive, it still represents a missed deadline that I set for myself. I’ll excuse things getting off track because of the seven-day posting spread, though, even if it also served to hamper any writing for CWPWM that I was hoping to accomplish. There was no helping that turn of events, overall. I’ll just do better in the future is what it boils down to.

Updates on that front though: CWPWM remains in a state where I can put together a module easily enough if I just sit down and actually commit to getting work done; package the character creation rules in with the conflict rules, include the rulings behind Flashbacks and the Fable, and throw in some examples with a prototype character sheet — and that would about cover the earliest, most simplistic testing to be done about whether or not it really plays like anything at all or if I need to rework that front. I’ll put this together some time soon. However, I’ve been distracted by other projects…

Favorite Things
The obvious one is Vendetta. I actually put together an idea for a character sheet the other day, and a friend of mine has now begun to help me test the system. I figure I’ll include updates on how this testing is going from time to time, including insights on how to improve the game, new mechanical ideas, and any set-backs, realizations, moments of genius that occur. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect, but I am anticipating the worst as my ideas might fall apart — so I figure I’ll be pleasantly surprised overall! It may be about time to put together a Page just for Vendetta at this point. If my work on it keeps up at this rate, it might wind up being my first product! But seriously, I’ve started considering putting together individual pages on this blog for my projects as they approach different levels of completion. I think I will set the criteria at:

You can have your own unique page when you’re completed; you can share a project page when you have a test module.

Beyond Vendetta, work began earlier this week on a new idea that I am very excited to explore. And once again (I’m detecting a theme in how I am inspired to design! And it’s a theme I have no problem with) it takes its cues from movies and television. This project, which for now I’m simply going to refer to as [leon], is going to be my attempt to capture the intriguing elements of humanization in stories told heavily from the perspective of the mundane people whose lives are invaded by men or women trained to kill on command. Theoretically, in this game, the players would take on the role of these everyday people who have it in their hearts to risk their lives and their livelihoods as they get wrapped up in dramas they could not conceive, desperate to save the soul of someone else’s monster.

Not A Lot To Talk About…
Yeah, I don’t have much to say today. Nothing of a lot of interest anyway! Just some mission statements, really. Work More On CWPWM. Test More Of Vendetta. Outline Some Plans For [leon]. I have a lot of notebooks in front of me right now for all of this. One is currently host to an unrelated game’s notes from a year ago; one is the current home for random phrases and ideas that I don’t want to lose, and my random scribbles linking them together with other orphaned concepts; a stack of note cards sits nearby so I can — at a moment’s notice — throw an entire concept down on a card and tuck it safely away somewhere for me to explore at a later date; and a black and red legal notebook is the place in which I am putting all of my ideas that have made it through the fires. The ideas that have some sort of shape to them, some sort of design in mind, an actual form and purpose… these guys go into the black and red notebook in excruciating detail. I’ve made myself a promise, as I was writing my information in the front cover of this book.

When I publish my first game, I will let myself write a company name on the inside cover. I’m excited to do that. It’ll be a fun objective and reward.

As always, please leave any comments, questions, or thoughts in the comment section below. What do you do when you have to grapple with excruciating self-doubt? How do you overcome your fears associated with the projects you’re working on? What promises have you made yourself to reward your continued hard work and efforts? Feel free to talk about them below!

I can, of course, be reached at alfred_rudzki[at]yahoo[dot]com for any further questions or comments. Thanks for reading!

Somehow I managed to go this entire weekend without realizing I had completely failed to post something on Friday. Whoops.

Success & Failure (cont’d)
When there are two sides to a Conflict, one side wins and the other loses; one side gets their intention, and the other does not; one side protects their Ties and the other doesn’t get their way; one side Fights or Commits Ultraviolence and the other suffers. If there are ever three or more sides in a Conflict that includes Violence dice, hell breaks loose. Rather than compare the highest die from each side to determine the winner overall, arrange your dice from greatest value to lowest value as before and compare them across the board for each side’s pool of dice: highest die vs highest die vs highest die, and so on. If the dice all match? It’s a stand-off. Look dramatically at everyone else at the table, nobody dies yet, keep role-playing. It has to be a tie for everyone involved for it to be a stand-off. Otherwise, everyone who rolled higher than the unlucky side(s) has the Advantage, and selects one character from that side and sends him to the Morgue or the Hospital as per the usual rules. Compare the next set of dice, and so on and so on until the side with the fewest dice runs out, or only one side remains.

Yes. Three-way shoot-outs are deadly, prone to barely justified alliances, and everyone gets shot. People who never deserved to get shot are almost always the first ones to take the bullet, and no one tends to walk away unscathed. And before I forget: when you have the Advantage, you are also allowed to target anyone part of your side. Like I said… barely justified alliances. Everyone gets shot.

Hey! You made it through a game session! Your character lives! He probably made some hard choices along the way… interfered with a Moment of Silence, got into a Fight, earned a Trauma, made a Compromise… It was a busy game session. But the point is, you made it. Good for you. Go ahead and select one of these options for your character: decrease your Depravity by 1 rank; increase a Tie by 1 Point; if you increased your Depravity this game, scratch off a Trauma perpetrated (remember: you can never remove a Trauma you’ve been victim to). You cannot decrease your Depravity to 0 this way. You cannot increase your Tie to 10 this way — Those changes must be done during game-play using a Moment of Silence.

The Final Scene
The end-game. The climax. Time to see what it’s all come down to. The Final Scene is triggered whenever any character’s Depravity reaches 10 Ranks, or one of a character’s Ties reaches 10 points. If a character manages to reach Depravity 10, then they are all consumed by violence — disconnected from the world around them, no empathy, an angel of death in lead and gunsmoke. If a character manages to get a Tie up to 10 Points, then they have discovered their life’s passion — their one, absolute object of affection or personal destiny that they will leave behind their sordid past to achieve. Below are rules for each possible outcome. There is a lot of overlap, and a lot of possible upsets as each situation affects everyone else at the table and brings them into the same high stakes situations as your character. As in the fiction: When one character get’s close to making a life for himself, everything gets that much harder… people get jealous, get stupid, get ideas. And when your character really gets bad, everyone else gets jumpy and expects the knife in their back before the day is out…

Angels of Death, Robed in Lead, on Wings of Gunsmoke
When one character reaches Depravity 10, consider all brothers to be at Depravity 10 when dealing with him. When one character reaches Depravity 10, no brother may sacrifice a Tie to avoid being sent to the Morgue. That’s how these stories end. Lots of tears, lots of bullets, lots of body bags. At Depravity 10, few problems are not solved by Ultraviolence — remember that when negotiating for your Vendetta, or the girl you love, or the brother you hate… Also, when one character has reached Depravity 10, no characters may share sides except for Ties. And would you really put them in the line of fire just for a few more dice? Really? Your goal at this point is to secure your Vendetta (which no one should be making easy for you), and do whatever your crew thinks would be appropriate for securing the safety of your highest valued Tie.

When one character reaches 10 Points in a Tie, they’ve found their calling and want out of the life of violence and struggle to start again with whatever their Tie may be — school, family, ma, the open road… But their dream requires setting right everything in the past. When one character reaches 10 Points in a single Tie, all brothers are considered to have 10 Points in a single Tie — and they should immediately declare what Tie it will be. In addition, any character who has a Vendetta with this character is now considered to have Depravity 10 so long as the Vendetta exists. No character may Compromise using their 10 Point Tie… you can’t be determined to leave your life of crime behind if you’re hawking your ma’s jewelry to feed your escape. Now’s the time to draw a line in the sand. Your goal at this point is to get out the game by committing to a new life — narrate the scene involving your 10 Point Tie and include a legitimate cross-road between their new life and old… then, as if you were rolling for Trauma, roll Violence dice equal to your Depravity against dice equal to your number of Ties. If the Humanity dice win, the character gets out. Give him a bittersweet denouement. It’s only so good. If the Violence dice win, the character can’t rise above himself. Immediately increase his Depravity to 10 and follow the above rules.

In the above, the phrase “consider all brothers to [X],” where X is a score for a certain trait, should be treated to mean: for all intents and purposes where it would matter, treat the trait at the specified value; however, any other derivative effects pertaining to the End-Game are not triggered by this effected score. ie, when my Tie reaches 10 Points, your Vendetta with me means you are now considered to be Depravity 10; however, that does not make anyone else at the table Depravity 10.

Final Thoughts
This game was put together hastily, in a very stream of conscious manner. It’s not perfect by any stretch. It may not be balanced. The End-Game especially needs an overhaul just because it reads in a clunky manner — but the amount of blood and last second reversals it can generate is actually nearly exactly how it should be. I’ve already started working on a second version of this, only because I openly acknowledge the size of the pools of dice needed to play this game in it’s current form. The second version is currently tinkering with dice sizes in the style of Dogs in the Vineyard which is definitely interesting enough. It’s influences are here, in this text, if you look at it: the idea of escalating from protecting your Ties, to Compromising, to Fighting. Then Ultraviolence existing as a complete separate thread for the stuff your character doesn’t love but wants to control. It’s there. In the future, I’d probably gut some of DitV‘s mechanics and use them in Vendetta2.0, with shifting relationships and changing dice values. I’m also looking at inflicting status conditions on the people around you, in the manner of Jonathon Walton’s Geiger Counter (built off of Vincent Baker’s Afraid rules) and Remember Tomorrow. The ability to make a character [alone], [unarmed], [injured], [armed] and the like as the end result of scenes of role-playing is immensely intriguing, and fits with part of the idea I’m having… that you could achieve those with either Fighting or Talking… but you’ll have an easier time of one or the other. Just some thoughts.

I will be playing this game with a friend and I’ll be sure to post some notes about it at a later time. Thanks for suffering through a week of these reposts! Back to real work.

Tools & Weapons
On the subject of violence, certain tools and weapons would understandably make it easier to force your will on others — it turns out, a lot of arguments lose their steam when your rebuttal is baseball bat. If a character possesses a Tool (which we’ll define as anything typically treated as a “melee weapon” in other games), he may treat two additional dice as Violence dice — suddenly makingFighting more likely to go in his favor, and more likely to increase his Depravity as a result. A Gun (those are the two options: Tools & Guns) functions similarly for the sake of this game, with one more terrifying perk. A Gun will either add one additional die as a Violence die, or it will treat all dice involved as Violence Dice. A Gun is the edge in Ultraviolence, and a Gun makes a normal Fight a death-wish.

Thicker than Water
Ties are your character’s tether to this world; their link to the mundane and beautiful. Ties are what your character is about, what he lives for, who he lives for… and a couple considerations and exceptions exist regarding them. For one, Ties can keep you from going too far — they can calm you down, call you back to reality when you’re in the throes of a destructive frenzy. Those scenes where someone important is telling the character that the goon “ain’t worth the trouble?” Those are what I’m talking about. If you pick a Fight in the presence of a Tie of yours, it takes an additional success on the Violence Dice to succumb. This means it takes at least 2 successes on Violence Dice to send the victim to the Hospital, to inflict Trauma, and to increase your Depravity by 1. In the presence of a Tie, in fact, it is impossible to send a victim to the Morgue. Successes from Violence Dice still count as successes; the first is essentially a “freebie” Humanity die in the presence of a Tie. Committing Ultraviolence in the presence of a Tie, however, reduces its value by 1 Point.Ultraviolence can’t be reeled in — that’s counter to the very point of it; your Ties cannot stop it, cannot save you from it.Ultraviolence functions normally around Ties, including sending characters to the Hospital, Morgue, Trauma, and Depravity. It can’t really be stopped. Be careful who you cut loose around.

Success & Failure
Basically, assume that you’re going along with whatever is happening in the game. The Narrator narrates, and you’re interacting withe NPCs, the Ties, the Antagonists, your brothers… but when something doesn’t click? When you want control? When you don’t want to play into the frame the Narrator has provided? Then it’s time for Conflict. Conflict isn’t about you the player getting control technically although that is how it works out; it’s about your Character getting control of the situation going on around him.

A carjacker tears the character out of a car.
“No, he doesn’t. Conflict.”

The Irish crime boss comes and starts collecting protection money from your shop’s till.
“No, he doesn’t. Conflict.”

Your Brother takes your shotgun from under the bar to deal with the guys messing with his car out front.
“No. He Does Not. Conflict.”

You roll Conflict for control of the action. You roll Conflict when the scene is going somewhere your character doesn’t want it to. You could roll to change someone’s opinion after hearing them speak — or you can nod along and agree, and only roll against him when he expects you to act accordingly. That’s your call. Playing along until the last minute? Nipping the problem in the bud when it first comes up? Your calls. You roll when your character wants to steer the course of the action in the scene.

Select the number of dice as appropriate to the Conflict, as outlined above. Remember that you can only use the same die pool once in a scene — so if you fail to use your Ties, you can’t roll again until you FightCompromise, or Commit Ultraviolence — all of which change your die pool. You can try again in a different scene, but understand that it’s possible the conditions have changed and you may not get your way! Or it may be harder for one reason or another! These are the risks of maybe not being willing to draw the gun — you already know the risks of being more than willing to draw the gun. With the number of dice ready, you throw them and arrange them in descending order: highest to lowest. Compare the highest die with the highest single die of your challenger; in the event of a tie, compare the next two highest dice; in the event of a tie, compare the next two highest dice… until you determine a winner.

In the case of a full-tie (each die is the same), the larger die pool is the winner always by Violence, unless the winner chooses to give up. If the die pools are the same size, then the scene is interrupted in such a way that the conflict is moot for the time being. It can be revisited in a later scene, but for now neither side has gotten its way. Take note: A Violence Die beats a Humanity Die of the same value (Violent 3 beats a normal 3).

Since you roll for control of a Conflict, you are always rolling against someone. That’s another player’s character (and one of your brothers) or a character being run by the Narrator, and maybe even more than one. There is not a limit to the number of characters able to take part in a Conflict for control of the outcome, but there are a couple caveats here. Any time a Brother is in a scene with you and on your side (meaning, the exact same Intention declared) choose which of you will roll his dice, and give him a bonus Humanity die or Violence die — of the assisting Brother’s choice. Follow the usual rules for Violence Dice and Depravity for both Brothers, unless their Depravity is unequal. In which case, the Brother with the lower Depravity score and only that brother suffers the effects of Violence dice.

Jeez. You act like you’ve never seen a guy bleed before, Joey. Grow up.

Stay tuned for Part 7

The Guts, The Balls, The Heart
This said, the ability to send someone to the Morgue is not entirely in the player or the character’s hands. Remember: choosing to send someone to the Morgue or the Hospital is a choice available only when a character succeeds in a Conflict through the use of Violence dice. Succeed but not on Violence dice? It’s a scuffle, punches are probably thrown — but everyone walks away. A little bloody, a little bruised, but everyone walks away. Succeed on the Violence dice? Everything goes pear shaped. Too far. Depravity. To send someone to the Morgue: when you succeed on the Violence dice, you must also in the same dice pool roll lower than your current Depravity. Take note: with Depravity ranked 0 or 1, you cannot send someone to the Morgue. Even if you really wanted to, even if it made perfect sense to save your family. You can’t bring yourself to do it. You care too damn much. Sorry if you agreed to do a hit to get your Brother the cash he needs; you won’t be able to go through with it. Should probably find a way to resolve that.

So, the only way to send someone to the Morgue is to get your Depravity up. Remember, that means Moments of Violence, or picking Fights and winning them on your Violence dice — but if your Depravity is 0 or 1, you’ll only have 1 or 2 Violence dice in a fight… what’re the odds you’ll increase your Depravity? Ya know… if you wanted to, that is (because of course you don’t). More generally: how can you increase your chances of sending someone off to the Hospital, just to get them out of the way for a while? There’s a reason for weapons. Makes violence easier, turns out.

A History of Violence
So, an NPC or a brother is doing something that your character takes issue with. Something he doesn’t want to happen. Something that you, the player, would rather not occur in the story that is being played out. You could raise your voice slightly and request ever so sweetly that the story not go that way, or you could deal with it and resolve it like so (actually, that’s a lie. You don’t have a choice. This is how to do it). You may start a Conflict to get your way. Each participant states their Intention in the Conflict; you likely state something different than what the NPC just proposed, while the NPC probably just restates their original point… it’d make sense, wouldn’t it?

  • If the Conflict is an immediate threat to one of your Ties in the scene, or if it is not an immediate threat and the Tie is not in the scene: you receive a number of dice equal to the full Point value of the Tie.
  • If the Conflict is not an immediate threat to one of your Ties in the scene, or is an immediate threat and the Tie is not in the scene: you receive a number of dice equal to half the full Point value of the Tie, rounded up.
  • If the Conflict is important enough to you, you may bring additional dice into play: you receive a number of dice dependent on Compromising, Fighting, and Committing Ultraviolence.
  • If the Conflict does not involve your Ties in anyway: you receive 0 dice and must go along with the conflict, unless you bring dice into play.
  • If you participate in a Conflict: you may not initiate an identical conflict in the same scene; something in your die pool must change.

Dice brought into play by your Ties are, essentially, Humanity Dice. They’re dice there for the betterment of those around you, because you care about them — they represent a willingness to stand up for them, what you think is right; a force of presence, confidence, and intention that may help you get your way. Humanity Dice aren’t 100% friendly. These dice still represent lying, cheating, stealing, intimidation, kidnapping, and extorting as much as they represent persuasion, requests, confidence, and other positive influences. The point is that these dice are fueled by you doing it for what matters to you. You roll these dice in defense of your Ties. If these dice — for all the discussion, debate, screaming, and plate throwing they represent — do not get you your way, you have options.

Your character may try to Compromise if they wish. Decrease a Tie the character possesses by 1 Point in order to roll a number of dice equal to it’s Point total before you Compromised. You try to get what you want, but you sacrifice the integrity of one of your Ties in the process… you offer the money from hawking parts of Pa’s car, you offer money from the bar’s cash till, you beg and plead in the name of your lover; you try to better your chances of getting your way by putting up something else’s worth in your own place. If you get your way, it has nothing to do with you. It will only be because of the Compromise. The Point spent is lost regardless of success or failure. The dice earned persist for the whole scene. The character may Compromise in defense of his Ties, his brothers, or for an unrelated Conflict.

The character may also try to Fight if they wish. Add to your pool of dice a number of Violence Dice equal to 1 + your Depravity rank in order to Fight. You try to get what you want, and you’re willing to throw a punch to get it. Willing to scuffle, willing to swing, willing to kick and scream and bite and bleed — but it’s all for her (or him… we don’t judge!) and you don’t forget that; you try to better your chances of getting your way by throttling the skulls of the people who disagree. If you get your way, the philosophers in the audience might question if it was worth it (hint: you should too). If you succeed on the Violence Dice, then you increase your Depravity by 1 rank, and you also take a Trauma — as does your victim. The character may Fight only in defense of his Ties and his brothers.

The character may also, if he chooses, Commit Ultraviolence. Add to your pool of dice a number of Violence Dice equal to 1 + twice your Depravity rank in order to Commit Ultraviolence. You get what you want. This is not about protecting any of your Ties. This is you, and only you. Your character can never make the claim that he did this for anyone but himself — and he knows it, whether he admits it or not; your character gets his way by putting himself first and damn everyone else. He get’s the mob boss to trust him, but only by shooting you in the gut; he get’s that goon to put his gun down, but only after stomping his hand to mush; he sets you up to take the fall, and the police take you down — he saves you from the fire, but immediately turns around and throws the arsonist into it. Someone gets hurt. Someone will always get hurt. The character may never Commit Ultraviolence in defense of his Ties — he may Commit Ultraviolence when he could otherwise use a Tie, but it’s an admission that he is doing it for himself. The character may Commit Ultraviolence in defense of his brothers.

Stay tuned for Part 6

Trauma happens. Bad things happen. It can be concerning; it can be scarring, physically or mentally or emotionally. Violence is hard to deal with regardless of who you are — be it the perpetrator or the victim. The difference you see is that the perpetrator will numb himself to the monster he may become, while the victim will likely always bear the burden of what they experienced. In any Fight where someone wins through the use of Violence dice, participants take Trauma and add it to their character sheet. Write down a sentence about the situation that warrants the Trauma! And the Trauma relates back to it. Maybe you now have issues travelling alone at night, hyperventilate on the train, have a bum leg, or can only think about how you look with the stitches in your cheek — Trauma causes problems in your ability to interact with and relate to the world around you.

During play, someone who knows your Trauma can call on it to stop your character from participating in a scene while your character suffers the effects. You freeze up in a crowd of people if that’s your thing, or you can’t keep role-playing a scene because you start having a fit; maybe you can’t draw your gun because you have the shakes. Your Trauma can never be used to stop you from participating in a Conflict that involves your Ties, but it does grant an extra two dice to anyone you’re rolling against in that situation. If someone calls on your character’s Trauma to keep you from interacting with a scene, you have the option to bury that Trauma deep down inside and ignore it… not the healthiest solution, but the option exists. Take one die for each Tie you possess and one Violence die for each point of Depravity you possess and roll them; regardless of success, you can now participate in the scene — however, if success shows on the Violence dice then you only manage to overcome your momentary fit by detaching yourself from the experience, and those around you. Give yourself another rank of Depravity, and the cycle of violence continues.

Be sure to keep track of how much of your Trauma features you as the perpetrator and how much features you as the victim (You should be writing all these down anyway!) because it will be important in the game. At the end of any session where your Depravity increased, you can cross off any single Trauma you possess that your character inflicted. You may never cross off any Trauma you were victim to. Retreating deeper into senseless destructiveness can save you from a lot of heartache, but it won’t save you for too long.

Medical Records
As mentioned above, if your character’s success in a Fight comes from the Violence Dice rolled, then it means he has gone too far. One punch too many, one bottle too conveniently within reach, one moment of violence — and something has gone horribly awry. If you succeed due to Violence Dice, you must decide to send the victim to the Hospital or the Morgue.

The Hospital
When sent to the Hospital, a character cannot participate in anyone’s scenes other than those that take place at the Hospital; he cannot himself even call for any scenes until he has called for a Moment of Silence (see below) at the Hospital. Should there by any Conflicts while at the Hospital, the character cannot Fight or Commit Ultraviolence — they can only use their Ties (which, remember, unless directly threatened are only worth half Points) or Compromise. Sending a character to the Hospital is the “safer” option when you succeed on a Violence die: 1) it removes a character from play for a small amount of time while your character achieves his intention, 2) there is no Depravity requirement as there is for The Morgue (see below). As mentioned above, it gives the victim the opportunity to call for a Moment of Silence.

The Morgue
When sent to the Morgue, a character is removed completely from the game; he cannot call for any more scenes, period. There are no last words in crime tragedy that are not curses and bile. You do not impart some sort of vital knowledge onto those you leave behind; they do not learn from your words, only from your actions — and eventually, your death. If you had something important to say, you probably should have said it before the thug pulled his gun on you. However, you do have one chance to survive. You have to muster all of your will to do it, hanging on for something you love; something important to you.

If sent to the Morgue, you can redirect yourself to the Hospital by sacrificing your highest-ranked Tie (Come Back from the Brink). The life of violence costs you something very dear as your loved ones leave you, your Ma suffers a nervous breakdown, your car is stolen while you were bleeding in the gutter… You come back from the brink, only to find what you came back for no longer wants you. Understandably, you could ruin someone’s life this way. It’s good that you have your brothers backing you up, huh? Right? When you sacrifice a Tie to Come Back from the Brink, you follow the rules above for being sent to the Hospital, with one change. You receive twoMoments of Silence. Role-play them wisely. If you were on your way to the Morgue, chances are you need them.

A Moment of Silence
These are the times of peace in your otherwise hectic, violent, stressful, panicked life. They are likely few and far between. A player can call for A Moment of Silence at any time if they so choose, and the Narrator is expected to frame a scene relevant to the character, his Ties, and the player’s request — typically with a specific Tie in a certain situation. Ideally, A Moment of Silence is a beautiful moment intended to define the character and present a new side of their personality, or a deeper understanding of something already known. The catch is this: a Moment of Silence cannot have any Conflict. If you are taking a Moment of Silence, the Narrator has the right to bring into play a number of facts equal to the Points invested in the Tie present in the scene — he may use other NPCs as mouthpieces for these facts, if he so chooses, but they are incontrovertible without a Conflict as per the normal rules. This is the time for another character to make a play for their Vendetta if they hope to chance no resistance. If the Moment of Silence completes itself without interruption, then the character may shift a rank of his Depravity into one Point with the appropriate Tie; or he may even shift one Point from the appropriate Tie into one rank of Depravity — a Moment of Violence. This is the one of only two way to increase this score without a Fight; at the cost of your Tie. Use this knowledge wisely.

Stay tuned for Part 5

Inglorious Violence
So I’ve talked a lot about Ties and Vendettas (which are vital peoples/places/things to you, and have Points), and Depravity (which is ultraviolence and has a rank). What about this idea of violence being the last resort? About it being the choice that can be damning? That violence is the first step in the crime tragedy that leads to every bloody footstep to follow, winding to an ignominious fate? Conflict. We’re talking about Conflict. We’re talking about why Conflict matters to people, and why people react the way they do; why someone tries to break someone’s face, and not make a deal. We’ll define a Conflict as any action within the game that the player or the character disagrees with…

The Narrator says that Mikey Ferraro comes into your bar and is talking about how much of a nuisance it is when store-owners in the neighborhood get high-and-mighty with him, and he’s behind the bar grabbing himself something to drink on your dime and you just found out Ma’s rent is come due and she has no money? You’ve got something to say.


If one of your Ties is directly threatened (and I mean directly — gun pointed at your girlfriend, you’re evicted from your apartment, someone is smashing up your car) you declare the intent of your conflict and roll a number of d6’s equal to the Points invested in that Tie. If your Tie is not directly threatened (the Tie is absent from the scene where the threatening is happening, for example), you declare your intent and roll a number of d6’s equal to half of the Points invested in that Tie, rounded up. If none of your Ties apply and you still want to say “NO!” to the direction the NPC’s are heading with the story, you have a few options at your disposal. You can Compromise or you can Fight. Otherwise, it’s assumed they gain your compliance through cajoling, threatening, incentivizing — whatever works for your group.

Compromise & Fight
If you Compromise, you give up ground in some way to appease the NPC with whom you’re having Conflict, to help ensure you get your way. You may decrease the value of one of your Ties by 1 Point to take its value (before decrease) in dice for a particular Conflict; your character chooses to bring that Tie into the Conflict himself, damaging that relationship in the process, to give him an edge. In the above scenario, if your character doesn’t have Tie: My Bar for full points or Tie: My Ma for half points to deal with whatever challenge Mikey Ferraro may be presenting, the player could decrease — for example — Tie: My Car for dice… and maybe he begins selling pieces of that car to Mikey, to try and cover his Ma’s rent. Who knows! It’d be different for every character every time! When you do this, the point is lost regardless of success or failure. Add another Fact to your Tie.

If you Fight, you’re going for the throat. There is no persuasion, there is no coercion, there is no getting your way — if there were, you would have tried to Compromise. Or maybe you did, and it didn’t work — but you still won’t give up. Now you’re here. When you Fight, you add one Violence die (a die differentiated from the others by its color) plus an additional number of Violence dice equal to your Depravity to whatever pool of dice you may have.

So, if you’re Fighting for one of your Ties, you at least have that connection to bring you back down to humanity and maybe save you from any scars… but if not, then the only dice you’ll be throwing will be Violence dice.

Now, for disclosure: You can Fight, succeed, and not succumb to darker instincts, though! It is possible — it means you got into a fight, but you did not go too far. Someone probably got hurt, sure — but no one was sent to the Hospital or the Morgue. This means, in the Fight you succeeded on any die that is not a Violence die. However, if your success in a Conflict comes from a Violence die, then you succeed only by going too far — you are going to send someone to the Hospital or the Morgue (your choice, with conditions). You may narrate this resolution however you deem appropriate, but the point is it goes too far and is damaging. To the person, to relationships, to feelings — beyond typical violence; the kind of action that causes Trauma. In addition to Trauma, when succeeding on a Violence die, you increase your Depravity by 1 rank.

ie, Let’s say that Antony Ribasso (remember him from further up?) is the character who owns the bar (remember that from further up also?) that Mikey Ferarro is rummaging around in for a drink. He’s complaining about his protection racket, nursing a shiner, pouring out some gin and you tell him to stop — you can’t let any tabs slide, you gotta cover Ma’s rent. He laughs, oh that old broad, she still not paying? That’s a shame, but he keeps pouring.

You roll dice for the Conflict. Antony in this example has Tie 4: My Bar and Tie 3: My Ma — the biggest bonus would come from the bar, so he takes 4 dice for that +1 for each additional Threatened Tie. Antony collects 5 dice and tries to Compromise with Mikey. Y’see, Antony has Tie 2: Phil (one of the members of the Crew at the table) and he declares while spending a Point of that Tie that “Phil owes Mikey some money.” With that Tie now damaged, Antony has 6 dice, and he throws them, promising to go with Mikey to collect on Phil next time… but he does miserably. No success. The Tie with Phil is now 1, regardless.

Finally, Antony decides a Fight is the only way to go. He still has 6 dice since a Compromise will last a whole scene, and he adds 1 Violence die for going into a Fight. Looking at Antony’s character sheet, the player notes that he started the character off with Depravity 2 and he now adds an additional 2 Violence Dice. Throwing 9 dice total, he is likely to succeed! But if he succeeds off of his Violence dice, then he has begun a walk down a road painted with blood. If he does succeed off the Violence Dice, Mikey will wind up in either the Hospital or the Morgue, Antony will have Depravity 3, and both characters will take Trauma.

Stay tuned for Part 4

Ties & Depravity
You have 10 points to split between Ties and Depravity. Every Point put into Ties can either represent a new Tie, or increasing the intimacy of a Tie you already possess. Every Point put into Depravity increases the level of disassociation between your character and the havoc he wreaks on those around him — it is not a list, like Ties are. It is a value, where the low-end (0) represents an empathy with humanity that will impair your ability to commit random acts of violence, and the high-end (10, let’s say) represents the complete divorce between the actor and the action.

For fun, let’s say “Tie 1” will typically be the middle-ground for typical objects, and the low-end for feelings and relationships (so your Car won’t be a lot more than Tie 1, and your fledgling crush will start here and soar). “Tie 5” will be the upper-limit for objects of monetary value, the middle-ground for objects of sentimental value, the middle-ground for feelings, and the low-end for obsessions, life goals, and the most important relationships (so the collector car will stop here, but the car you built with pa right before he died can have more Points; your girlfriend may sit here snugly, while your dreams of being an architect only begin here). Ties can exist beyond 5 Points, but not at character creation, let’s say. Ties are not important, usually, because of what they are — they’re important because of what they represent; because of the feelings they trudge up deep inside your heart. A car may be important to you, but really it’s the promise of the open road that it represents… a watch could be important, but it’s actually the perfection of timing and its reflection of a God-crafted universe. Go beyond the obvious. Figure out why your character would protect these things.

At Character Creation, you may place all of your Points into Ties and none of them into Depravity if you wish! However, no single Tie may have more than 5 Points. In fact, while we’re on the subject: you cannot begin play with a Depravity greater than 2… so you’d better spend some time on thinking about your Ties. Make them really good! Write them down! Give them names! DEFINE THEM. They do not start and end with whatever pithy phrase you concoct to encapsulate them. If they’re people, make sure the Narrator knows so he’s bringing them in as NPCs. If they’re things — let the Narrator know so he’s bringing them into play! The Ties are the real point of play here.

For every Point invested in them, you’re going to define one hard-and-fast fact about the Tie that everyone at the table will respect. You can feel free to count whatever facts are implied by the name of your Tie as “free” (ie, you don’t have to waste a fact clarifying that “Tie 5: Ma” is, in fact, your Ma). They’re the NPCs and plot points you care about — you want to look at them in the game world and you want to ask questions like ‘is this thing worth violence?’ and you want to see what happens when the dice tell you, this time, yes.

Also… be sure to pick a Vendetta.

A Vendetta in this case is going to be one Tie from another player’s character, that your character intensely disagrees with or disapproves of or has some sort of bone to pick about. That brother drinks too much… that brother needs to lay off the dope… that brother could do way better than that girl… and don’t get me started on Pop “leaving you” his motorcycle. Every player should have at least one Vendetta chosen; if you want to, hell choose more (but they have to come off of a different brother each time, until there is no one left who hasn’t been picked on by you — then you can continue to choose, following this rule). I’d love to hear about a group that goes ahead and plays this half-constructed game and has everyone picking a fight with everyone else about everything.

Vendettas are begging you to amp up the drama of the game — because Vendettas invert what I told you earlier about Ties… remember how your Tie is something you’re willing to pick a fight over? Well, Vendettas are that too — but in order to take them, stop them, destroy them, own them or something similar enough that any positive motivation doesn’t really shine through; jealousy and over-protectiveness are fine motivations. And a Vendetta automatically has a number of Points invested in it equal to the Tie it is linked with. When brothers come into conflict over this Tie, they’ll be on even footing — until other factors come into play (like who is willing to throw the first punch). And brothers most certainly will come into conflict over Vendettas. Especially since when you have a Vendetta, you define a number of facts relevant to the Vendetta’s subject — just like the owner did when they took it as a Tie. However, one of these does have to be “I don’t like X.”

ie, Joey Ribasso has 3 Points in his “Tie: Ladyfriend Elise.” She’s obviously Joey’s “Ladyfriend” and her name is “Elise,” but what else? Joey’s player defines three more facts: Elise is Joey’s Dealer, She’s a Niece to some Irish jerk, Joey’s Ma loves her!

Antony Ribasso — Joey’s Brother — takes his Vendetta with Joey and has “Vendetta: Joey’s Ladyfriend Elise.” This automatically has 3 Points in it, and Antony must create three facts. Antony’s player decides on: I don’t like Elise, She doesn’t know I don’t, She’s been stealing small amounts of money from Joey.

Since it’s a Tie, Joey is willing to get in a fight over Elise. Since it’s a Vendetta, Antony is willing to pick a fight over Elise. Not necessarily Depravity mind you — he can argue with Joey just fine without it turning into violence; any actions taken against Elise herself will count as Depravity however. Someone will get hurt somehow, and your character does it for himself and no. one. else.

Be sure to pick at your brothers for the Vendetta you have whenever it seems appropriate. You’re deciding right here, right now in character making that — yeah, it would be fun to have an issue with that. So, if that’s the case, then play it up. You want to control that Tie for your own good, and so does he. Go for it. If a character ever manages to succeed in a Conflict meant to resolve their Vendetta and decide it’s fate, the winning character gets whatever intention they declared at the start of the Conflict — and their Vendetta is now replaced by a new Tie worth the same number of Points as the lost Vendetta. This Tie must make sense as an extension of the Vendetta, and holds all the same facts the Vendetta did, plus more to reflect the context of the new Tie! The number is equal to the Points in the Tie, as before. The character who failed the Conflict does the same listed here, but reversed; their Tie now becomes a Vendetta.

The brothers finally explode over Joey’s relationship with Elise. The rest of the crew is willing to let Joey go on sleeping with her — even if they don’t approve — but not Antony. No no, not Antony. It’s his way or the highway. That’s just how he is. They get into a Conflict (and why not? It’s a Vendetta, and Antony is in position to get himself a new Tie out of it!): Joey’s Intention is ‘Get Antony off my back so I can enjoy my damn night,’ while Antony’s is ‘Get my brother to give up that no-good blood-sucker!”

Elise is Joey’s 3 Point Tie, so that makes her Antony’s 3 Point Vendetta. Since Elise is not actually the object of the intentions, each brother gets half their Points (rounded-up) in dice. They each have 2 dice to try and succeed with, unless they take greater measures. Let’s assume they do not come to blows — they do not Fight, they do not Commit Ultraviolence. If Antony wins, he will replace “Vendetta 3: Joey’s Ladyfriend Elise” with something else… maybe “Tie 3: My Squatter, Elise” with three new facts: “Turns out Elise has no place of her own — that’s why she was staying with Joey,” “No job means no money — means taking singles out of Joey’s wallet when he wasn’t looking,” and “She’s starting to get obsessed with me.”

Joey similarly transforms his Tie into a Vendetta and likewise adds three new facts. It is likely that the facts paint Antony in a very unflattering picture as a ladyfriend-stealing scumsucker. Whoops.

Stay tuned for Part 3

We’re playing it loose this time around, with just a bundle of very general thoughts. Nothing too exciting (maybe), but some random thoughts on concepts, mechanics, and the like. Some of this is just free-floating ideas I have, and some of this is actual stuff I’ve been trying to work on to no avail. So, let’s hop to it… [EDIT: I’m leaving this up just to show what I meant to do… about one paragraph in below, I ditched the Bullet Point it was and just ran with it. So. Yeah. Let’s call this idea Vendetta for now, shall we?]

Random Thought Round-Up [EDIT: as of 11:30, this header is now “Crime Drama”]
I like tragedy more than I like comedy. Comedy is cool and all, but tragedy is cooler. The end, full stop. The fall of tragic characters is very exciting — Aristotle was right about that. And this lead-up has me thinking about crime dramas or crime tragedies… the notion really interests me. I remarked recently to a friend that “hey, Houses of the Blooded could totally run a mafia game. Make the House names Italian, change the Domains-Provinces-Regions to Territory-Turf-Rackets, and you’re more or less there.” Close, anyway. The ideas that really interests me about crime drama are: Firstly, the sheer barbarism necessary to perform legitimate violence on someone else; and the aspects of familial ties, legacy, fraternity, and the inevitable sacrifice and betrayal of competing aims.

As I sit here typing this as it comes to me, I check NetFlix and find that Godfather and GoodFellas are not on View Instantly which kind of sucks for the purpose of my approaching this… But The Black Donnellys comes to mind. A short-lived NBC crime family drama that followed the story of four black (as in, dark featured)-irish brothers in New York City whose father was killed by Italian gangsters while they were young. Watched out for while growing up by a business associate of their father (and Irish mob boss) the brothers grow up and get by for the most part… Tommy goes to art school, Kevin gambles, Sean is a hit with the girls, and Jimmy is a dope addict with designs to grandeur. Their delicate position in life comes crumbling down after a stupid job gone wrong: in the end an Italian is dead, one of them takes a merciless beating, and Tommy commits two murders to protect his brothers.

The moment of the pilot where Tommy walks away from everything he could have been for his brothers informs the tone of such scenes of violence throughout the series. If it’s the protagonists doing it, they’re not always good at it… and they can’t always go through with it; the violence is painful or damaging to the one perpetrating it. That interests me. It doesn’t glorify the violence, and is downright tragic about it to a degree. So that interests me. So, let’s try something.

I Don’t Know How I Found A Topic In My Ramblings
Everyone at the table, except the Narrator, is a member of The Crew. The Crew is family. They’re more than family — they’re brothers. You hide things from your parents, and you lie to your kids; but brothers? You just pick on them and scuff their knees. You care. That bond is sacred. It’s different. And it means you’re never, ever going to take it lightly if one of them doesn’t have your back. Oh, also, the women at the table? They’re brothers too. It just has a ring to it, that’s why I go with it.

Your Crew is drawn along some sort of lines… figure out what that is. Racial lines? Haitian, Honduran, Irish, Italian… I dunno, you figure that out. Or maybe they’re just lines of association: you actually are siblings, you’re from the same orphanage (Four Brothers was another interesting one), you grew up together in the same neighborhood.

Also, you all have Ties: people, things, situations that you live for — the girl next door that you pine after, your gambling addiction, your bar, your Ma (why yes, you could make a Tie one of the other people at the table; I think that’d make for an extremely tightly focused game? Possibly. This is stream of consciousness! We’ll see — however, you don’t have to, because protecting your brothers touches on something else… Ultraviolence). These’re the things you would put your life on the line for; if your character is willing to fight for it, it’s a Tie, I figure. Playing an alcoholic who can “quit anytime” he wants? Sounds like a Tie. A casanova who loves them and leaves them as a way of life? Could be a Tie, if he wouldn’t back down when called a pig. If you would fight the carjacker, punch out the drunken brawler, or take a bullet for Ma — then the Car, the Bar, and the Mom are Ties. The things introduced as Ties are all going to be NPCs, Sets, and Props when you play.

In addition to having Ties, you also have Depravity — this may be ultraviolence depending on your group (and you should confirm this at the start of the game) but it will always be some level of violence gone too far regardless. Find your player group’s comfort level, and go just one hair too far on the dial. Find your group’s 10, and spin that dial towards 11 ’til the switch is fit to snap. This is shooting the man you hate, this is assaulting with a baseball bat the man threatening your brother with a lawsuit; this is getting into bed (figuratively maybe, and literally definitely) with the mistress of the meanest, deadliest thug in town — this is business violence is what it is; violence because it destroys. This is action done to damn, not to protect. If there is no immediate threat and your intention is at the expense of someone else, we’re looking at Depravity here. But what if you aim your ultraviolence at the man feeding your brother’s addiction — surely you’re doing it to protect your brother? If it transgresses against your brother’s Ties — it is Depravity, and you’re a traitor. There is always the chance (and the likelihood) for your Samaritan routine to go stupidly wrong when trying to control someone’s world for their own good.

Stay tuned for Part 2