Saturday, October 29, 2011


Game Premise
Which side will you take?

It is the 22nd century and humanity's reach has expanded to the stars. Though still divided into a series of autonomous nations, collectives and trade unions, all fall under the governorship of the Hegemony, an authority set up after the invention of the Weave. This network makes use of quantum technology to 'download' objects out of nothing. When first introduced it had two humanity-changing and catastrophic events. First, overuse saw economies and in some cases the very fabric of space collapse, causing the creation of the Hegemony to ensure its use was regulated through a capitalistic system. Secondly, it opened out worlds to Heaven and Hell.

Well, sort of. It opened up two dimensions with inhabitants that claim to be representatives of heaven and hell. On the one side were the feathered angels who cherished the group and condemned the individual as immoral. On the other were demons who abhorred group-think and exalted the individual above all else. With their entry into our Universe, humans with true faith in heavenly or hellish powers and even the arms of the Hegemony, soon found their prayers could reshape reality in small but powerful ways. Both sides tried to coerce humanity into joining them before waging war in our universe. Alarmed, the armies of the Hegemony struck back, eventually becoming the victors of the three-way war. They drafted the Treaty of Pavonis Station, which restricted the entry of inhabitants of Heaven and Hell in our universe. It also made religion illegal, seen as an act of aiding and abetting the enemy.

You are an Enforcer, working to ensure compliance of the Anti-Church Act and bringing violators of the Treaty to Justice. But you have a secret. Some part of you owes allegiance to the very powers you oppose. Will you try to use your powers in secret for the good of the Hegemony? Will you subtly work to aid or undermine the many secret faith-based societies?

Game Overview
I feel betrayed by Triune. I saw an ad that told me I could have levels in 'Buddhist' and expected a hilarious Paranoia-esque game with less self-awareness and commie-mutant-traitors. Instead, I got a deep setting, a simple yet intriguing core mechanic and a massive amount of thought-provoking high-concept ideas. Dammit WJ McGuffin, how could you make a game I can accurately describe as 'faith cops in space' that I can actually take seriously? Not only is that central concept handled with a great amount of skill, there are a whole bunch of other incredibly engaging parts of the setting that turn this from what I expected to be a joke into a well-rounded, eminently playable game.

Apart from the whole 'faith cops in space', what really stands out in this game is the Weave. Not only has the author tackled the many ramifications of a network that basically means you can just make anything from nothing in ways that hold up to basic scrutiny, he's also made it a big part in upending traditional aspects of RPGs. Character death is not a big deal in this system, largely because of the Weave. This is because one of its features is the ability to store backup copies of yourself which can be uploaded if your body is destroyed. Philosophers could probably spend endless hours arguing about whether that new body is actually you, of course. There's also the fact that instead of equipment, you just have a system of credits which allow you to invest in items that you just download then and there. It's all the joys of internet shopping without the wait, not to mention the ability to get your money back once you're bored of your purchase.

The Effort System is pretty simple, yet solid. At its heart it's just a roll-under d10 mechanic. Have a Body Score of 5? Roll under 5 on a 10-sided die and you succeed. But then there's on little extra bit where the 'effort' part of the effort system comes in. Before rolling you declare whether you wish to roll one, two or three six sided dice. Every die that comes up 1-3 is a success and every one that comes up 4-6 is a failure. If you made the initial roll, count up your successes and if you didn't count up the failures. The more of each you had, the greater you succeeded or failed. So there's a bit of a gambit going on where you can take a greater risk for the potential for greater rewards.

There's a whole bunch of things in here, particularly ideas about technology, that would make for some great discussions regarding philosophical ramifications, the Weave in particular. But even apart from that there's things like sentient AI being downloaded into human bodies and having children, the blurred lines created by living technology or 3Tech (a mix of nanotech and biotech). Add this to the setting consisting of a plethora of new colonies, from a divided Mars in the midst of its own Cold War to an Earth split up into competing Trade Unions to a new Khanate set up by a wealthy Indian guy with a tenuous grasp on history and you could forget about the main premise of the game. When you remember that you can basically be in a situation in this game where you're pointing your stun baton at an angel and going “Freeze scumbag, you're under arrest for Trespassing” it's like unwrapping your presents all over again.

The Character
Step 1) Name, Age and Home Authority
Since the intent of this step is to get you to think about your character's personality, I'm going to actually plot that part out first even though it's not explicitly listed. I'm also basing this character (very loosely, mind) on a friend of mine. So, this guy was from a young age part of a Christian underground that practiced their faith in secret. Percy Wyndham was a strong supporter of the forces of Heaven. He even found that his faith had been rewarded by the powers that be, bestowing him with the power to transmute liquid. However, as he was approaching the end of his teens, he received transmissions via the Internet (surprisingly, mankind still uses the Internet, or at least some form of it, in the 22nd century) that revealed some ugly truths about angels, included atrocities inflicted on innocent humans during the war. At first confused, then angry, Percy left the cult he had been raised in. After spending a long period soul-searching and doing extensive research he came to a conclusion.
While slavish devotion to the ideologies of Heaven or Hell was not ideal, there was obvious evidence that allegiance to them in some way had quite tangible benefits which humanity could take advantage of. The Hegemony's banning of prayer-based power was throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Percy joined the Office of Treaty Enforcement, where he works both to limit the influence of angels, demons and religion on humanity while at the same time seeking some alternate way of promoting the powers of faith.

I think Percy should be somewhere around his mid-twenties, so I'm going to go with 26. The book notes that thanks to the Weave people don't have to look like their chronological age (biological age is a bit of a meaningless term now), but I think the he's still quite happy with how he looks.
Home Authority is the part of the Hegemony your character originates from, whether it is Earth, the Sol System or one of the many outer territories. I'm going to pick the Alpha Centauri Collective, a direct democracy based on the planet Alpha Centauri 2. It's got a solid religious and particularly Christian underground, so I think it's ideal.

Step 2) Attributes and Domains
Every character in Triune has three broad stats called Attributes, which are Body, (general physical capabilities), Mind (general mental capabilities) and Spirit (general interpersonal capabilities). I have 15 points to spend in each, with 1 being human minimum, 9 maximum and 4 average. I'm going to give Percy a 6 in Mind, because his is a crusade of ideas. I'm then going to put 5 in Soul and 4 in Body.

Now, each Attribute has three sub-stats called Domains. These are more focused areas of each skill. Depending on your rating in the skill, a certain number of these Domains will be Strengths or Weaknesses, with the higher ratings giving you more of the former and the lower ratings giving you more of the latter. A Strength gives you one success before you even roll when using the domain, meaning your victories will be generally better, while a weakness gives you one failure, deepening your losses. Because Percy's Attributes fall within the 4-6 range, he gets one domain that's a strength, one that's a weakness and one that's simply average for each.

We'll start with Body. I'm going to put the strength in Speed, in this case meaning that he's generally quite twitchy and is good at reacting to things. The weakness will go into Fitness, originating from a, shall we say 'experimental' binge when learning about the benefits of the Hellish path that didn't do his body any favours. That leaves Muscle as the average domain.

For Mind, I'm putting the strength in Creativity, which comes from a willingness to learn and experiment in all kinds of ways that sometimes produce fabulous results and interesting ideas. The weakness is going into Awareness, mainly because he can get incredibly focused on something when he's interested in it. Finally, the average goes into Intelligence.

Last up is Soul. The strength for this one will be Will, reflecting a drive to succeed despite having a fairly lonely viewpoint. The weakness will be Charisma, which is not so much due to not being personable but rather a willingness to offend or upset in the pursuit of the right course of action. That leaves the average in Empathy.

Step 3) Resources
Resources are stats tied to your attributes, Health, Resolve and Spirit. The former two reflect your physical and mental well-being. If they get reduced to 0, you die or go insane. With the Weave, however, you can just re-download your body sans horrific injuries or mental instability, making death and insanity mere inconveniences. The latter is important because it's the fuel for prayers. You roll against your Spirit score every time you want to use a prayer. If you succeed, the prayer works and your spirit is lowered by 1 point. Fail, and the prayer doesn't work but your spirit goes up by 2 points. Quick sidenote, your spirit refreshes when you are uploaded from the Weave, so you come back from the dead with your full arsenal of heavenly (or hellish, or hegemonic) mojo.

With a 4 in Body and a 6 in Mind, Percy's Health and Resolve are both 12. All characters start off with a Spirit of 12, Percy included.

Step 4) Faith and Prayers
Much like Troubleshooters in Paranoia, Enforcers in Triune are all secretly involved with the very things they are tracking down. Each character has three different faith Paths, a Heavenly Path (Christinaity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and a melting pot of Chinese and Japanese religious tradition known as Shenism), a Hellish Path (One of the Seven Deadly Sins) and finally a Hegemonic Path (military, politics, bureaucracy, media, the service industry and nobility). Yes that's right, you can have faith in branches of the Hegemony, which is still illegal. In fact, the guy who was first convicted for worshipping the Hegemony is on the most wanted list. Every character starts off with 1 level in each of their three paths and possesses a corresponding prayer. Throughout play, character can gain Faith Points, and gaining three of them allows you to increase levels in your path, giving you access to more powerful prayers.

It is also possible, however, to lose faith points and losing three will force you to go down a level in one of your paths. This can result in negative path levels, with corresponding failures as you find that path controlling you instead of vice versa. A Jew finds themselves unable to concentrate on the words of others over the voices of the dead, an enforcer who exults in anger finds themselves giving into their rage and a follower of the power of politics finds themselves unable to make decisions for fear of upsetting the status quo.

For Percy's Heavenly Path I'm going to obviously pick Christianity and the prayer I mentioned in his backstory, Transubstantiation. This allows him to transmute one litre of liquid he's touching per faith level (so, 1) into any other liquid he chooses, which seems potentially powerful. It's also a fantastic example of one of this system's drawbacks, the unbalanced nature of these prayers. Christians get this, while the first level Muslim prayer Ghowas' Lesson causes an opponent to drop whatever weapon they're holding, without damaging said weapon. So, alchemy versus temporary inconvenience. Not exactly a hard choice.

For his Hellish Path, I'm going to go with Pride. Of all the personal attributes that Percy had been taught were sins, he found this one the most problematic. After all, how can one do anything without confidence in one's own abilities? I'm going to pick the prayer Intimidate, which is actually a Hellish prayer open to all Hell paths rather than specifically pride. This allows him to reduce an opponent's Tell Die Number (the number you need to roll under to succeed) by 1 point. He can do this even after they've rolled, turning a success into a failure.

Finally, the Hegemony Path. I'm going to give him Media, because Percy was not only given his original epiphany through its power, but he also sees it as the centre of ideas and how they are spread. If he's going to find a way to get people to accept his radical ideas on faith, it will be through the internet. The prayer I'm selecting is Demos, which allows Percy to discover the actual age, biological sex and birth authority of his target, which is useful for sniffing out infiltrators.

Step 5) Budget and Gear
With access to the Weave actually sitting down and purchasing items is a bit of a waste. The book recommends giving each Enforcer 5 Credits with which they can purchase things as needed. However, each character also gets one item that is Off-Weave. Manufacturing from non-weave materials is illegal because it can't be tracked by the Hegemony (they have a system for tracking everything that gets uploaded), but if they're going to betray their basic duty, then why not have an illegal item? I'm going to give Percy a Salamandy, a nifty piece of 3Tech which is kind of like a cross between a salamander and a USB. It can slither into computer and hack them allowing the user full access to files.

The Finished Product

Captain Percy Wyndham
(Christian 1, Pride 1, Media 1)
Body: 4 (Muscle 0, Speed +1S, Fitness +1F)
Mind: 6 (Intelligence 0, Creativity +1S, Awareness +1F)
Soul: 5 (Charisma +1F, Willpower +1S, Empathy 0)
Health 12, Resolve 12, Spirit 12
Prayers: Transubstantiation, Intimidate, Demos
Gear: Salamandy, 5 credits

How I'd Run It
The book offers a number of different ways to run Triune, with the Traditional Method supposedly being the default way of earnestly supporting the Hegemony's aims in upholding the Treaty. However, the only way I could see myself running this is with the Competitive Method, each character secretly working towards their own agenda with no small amount of backstabbing and skulduggery. You'd need the right group of players of course. The game would also heavily involve the Khanate of Olympus Mons simply because the idea of a modern autocratic government founded by a rich solipsist that also happens to be sort of the Casablanca of the conflict between the communist Free Martian Republic and the anarcho-capitalist Martian Corporate State (White Mars) only has the potential for awesome.

1 comment:

  1. Nice character, melds well with the setting. You're right that transubstantiation seems overpowered, specifically in this way. Overall it seems like a good game, I think I've heard of it before.
    The mechanic is something I haven't heard of before. Seems eminently workable, and open to flexibility with the adding and subtracting of dice. It does seem prone to the WoD idea of dramatic failures; i.e. that your gun only jams if you're shooting a moving target through a wall while blindfolded.

    Again, great work