Covenant Game Design: Discipline

Covenant Game Design - Game Mechanics - Discipline

Well, I told you yesterday that Covenant has some strange rules – so strange, in fact, that new players would need transcripts from a full play session to get their head around them. I should elaborate, huh?

Covenant is a tabletop roleplaying game, similar to Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder. The players control characters (known as player characters or PCs) in the game. One player is the game runner or game master, called the Force Majeure or FM in Covenant. The FM controls nonplayer characters or NPCs, which represent everyone with whom the PCs interact – enemies, allies, monsters, robots, etc. So far, so good, so vanilla.

However, players and the FM don’t roll dice to accomplish tasks. Instead, they spend a highly abstract, finite resource called Discipline that periodically renews itself. (Vehicles and robots have something similar called Endurance that works the same way) Discipline represents all of a character’s resources, including:

  • Physical Resources: The character’s strength, endurance and agility, as well as their ability to dodge attacks and take hits
  • Intellectual Resources: Training, education, life experience, resourcefulness, logic, and intuition
  • Mental Resources: Mental endurance, grit, and the ability to keep going no matter what
  • Material Resources: Ammunition, money, fuel, energy for technological gadgets, and specialized resources, like bandages, antidotes, and medicine for healing injuries
  • Social Resources: Political capital, contacts, good will, and the ability to persuade and/or threaten people into doing what you want
  • Financial Resources: Money, trade goods, assets, and the ability to take out loans

This isn’t as unusual or innovative as it seems at first. There are other diceless RPGs, like Amber, and some of these have a measure of resource management, like Nobilis. Discipline was inspired by a number of Wizards of the Coast mechanics, including the d20 Modern’s wealth bonus.

We think that Discipline is a logical progression from the “hero points” or “brownie points” used in other games. In fact – early in Covenant ‘s development, when it still used dice – characters only used Discipline as hero points and story control.

However, Discipline’s roles expanded until players were able to spend it on bonuses to their rolls on a 1-to-1 basis. It was at that point that we decided to get rid of the dice and make Covenant diceless. That one change opened up a lot of possibilities, as well as created a lot of headaches.
So how do players use Discipline? Tune in tomorrow, when we talk about bids.

Published by radiofreecovenant

A podcast about the science-fiction roleplaying game "Covenant" and the urban fantasy novel "Crossing the Line", soon to be published by Black Opal Books.

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