Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Thematic System, optional rules


The premise of the game can optionally involve special rules in order to flavor the game. Some examples of such optional rules are:

Dungeon Crawl - The possible player roles are: fighter, rogue, cleric, wizard. When roles win conflicts against non-player roles, they acquire "treasure points." These treasure points may be spent to automatically win conflicts, e.g. "I snap the rod of lightning over my knee and thusly invoke its power, thoroughly frying the brains of the orcs before me. I found the rod of lightning from my last adventure." They may also be spent to establish strongholds. For every five treasure points spent on a stronghold, the stronghold gains a level. For each stronghold level, the player gains a new role who may act in the stead of the role who owns the stronghold.

Heroic Fantasy - Roles get "heroic reputation" for accomplishing difficult feats, such as slaying powerful monsters or surviving difficult journeys through hostile terrain. Heroic reputation may then be spent to either win conflicts of soul traits or to put the role's heroic exploits into written records. When a role has stored at least twenty points of his heroic reputation into written records, he is effectively immortalized and becomes a mythical god of legend.

Romantic Drama - When a role wins a conflict, the player of that role chooses to either add or remove a "relationship point" between her own role and any other role in the game. When two roles reach ten relationship points and have a lead of at least two points above all other relationships, they get married and the game ends.

World War - Each role is a whole nation, and soul traits are expressed through culture, economy, military vehicle design, military doctrine, propaganda, etc. Each role begins with ten "victory points." When a role wins a conflict, it chooses to either gain a victory point or cause the opposing role to lose a victory point. Victory points can also be spent to automatically win conflicts, i.e. stall for time. When a role has no victory points left, it may choose to either surrender, or keep on fighting to the bitter end in the hopes of winning future conflicts. Roles who lose conflicts while having no victory points left to spend must sacrifice points from their soul traits.

The Thematic System

Inspired by The Window, Risus and the like, but also less-abstract games such as The Riddle of Steel and Cortex.


Instead of characters, players control aggregations of "Soul Traits," which are called roles in this game. These can be represented by a single character for each player, a group of characters who each represent one of the traits, a whole nation of people, or something else. The scale for each player should be determined while planning the game. The Game Master may also wish to prevent things from becoming too abstract by handing out a list of roles, such as "barbarian hero," "helpful wizard," "damsel in distress," or "sociopathic robot assassin" and allowing the players to choose from the list. Each player should probably start with five Soul Traits.

Some example Soul Traits are:


Then, start with 10 points and allocate them amongst the Soul Traits, with a minimum of 1 point allocated toward each. Putting more points towards a Soul Trait means that it is much stronger.

The way that these soul traits are most-commonly used is dependent on the role. For example, the barbarian hero role expresses his strength by being very good at killing things with swords, or expresses his independence through excellent survival skills. The helpful wizard role expresses her freedom by magically-loosing bonds of any type, or expresses her mysteriousness by magically-hiding details about her true self. The damsel in distress role expresses her dependence by compelling the barbarian hero to rescue her, or expresses her chivalry by being in courtship with a noble knight. The sociopathic robot assassin role expresses his challenge by daring people to bite his shiny metal ass, or expresses his evil by gleefully butchering organic life forms.


There are a few ways that competition between Soul Traits can be initiated:

Both Active: Conflict. The entities involved have entered a situation where only one of them can continue to exist at the end.

One Active, Other Passive: Imposition.

Both Passive: Contradiction. The entities involved simply cannot work toward the same purpose, and must either part their separate ways or convince one another.

There are a few ways that competitions can be resolved:

1. Roll a cubic die (d6) for each Soul Trait involved. The higher roll wins and thus holds its ground or gains ground. A tie means that neither of the Soul Traits is gaining ground.

2. One of the players chooses to reallocate a point, taking it away from the Soul Trait in competition. The opposing Soul Trait automatically wins. If this results in a Soul Trait reaching 0, then the player must place the point towards a new Soul Trait that was not there before.

3. One of the players chooses to reallocate a point, taking it away from an unrelated Soul Trait in order to boost the one which is in competition. The opposing Soul Trait automatically loses. If this results in a Soul Trait reaching 0, then the player must later place the point towards a new Soul Trait that was not there before.

4. One of the players chooses to spend a point, permanently losing it from the Soul Trait in competition. This Soul Trait automatically wins. This can never result in a Soul Trait reaching 0.

If both of the Soul Traits involved use some method that is supposed to guarantee victory, then they must go back to the die-rolling method.


A point should be gained after every session, allocated however the player desires.

If a Soul Trait was in competition multiple times in a session, even if it lost, it may gain a point.