Covenant Game Design: Story Control

Covenant Game Design - Game Mechanics - Story Control

(Don’t forget to tune in to the latest episode of the Radio Free Covenant podcast!)

Last week, we talked about how a character can fail forward in Covenant – that is, how they can succeed with consequences or fail with benefits. Failing forward is one kind of story control in Covenant, but not the only kind . Here are the others:

  • Characterizing: Players can characterize their bids – that is, they can describe their actions in particularly vivid ways. Doing so gives them 1 advantage to that bid. To save time, these descriptions should be no longer than three sentences and take no longer than 15 seconds to say. Players should also decide on how to describe their actions before making their bids.
  • Sacrificing: A player who wins a bid can choose to fail it in order to gain a benefit. This is called sacrificing a bid. A player who sacrifices a bid can either:
    • Recharge a trait, ability, or piece of gear
    • Automatically turn their next bid into a half-cost bid (i.e., more advantages than disadvantages)
  • Stunting: A character with a half-cost bid can choose to convert it into a double-cost bid in order to gain an immediate benefit. This is called stunting. A character who stunts their bid gains one of the following benefits immediately:
    • Gains a free use of a trait, ability, or piece of gear for the bid (i.e., immediately recharges it after using it)
    • Gains additional benefits if they win the bid (e.g., does double damage, pulls off his task in a spectacular way, etc.)
    • Automatically turning their next bid into a half-cost bid
  • Flashbacking: Players who lose bids can occasionally reverse their fortunes by using something relevant that they learned in their lives. This is called flashbacking. To flashback, a player relates an episode from their character’s life that is relevant to the bid. For instance, a character who is about to be hit by an attack may remember a defensive trick that their drill sergeant or master taught them. When the player does this, their character automatically wins the bid. A player can flashback once per chapter.
  • Complications: Some species and gear have complications. Each complication has its own effects and duration, typically one bid or the end of the current scene. Other characters can tap a complication and trigger its effects when its requirements are met, but only if they know it exists. Discovering a complication usually requires winning:
    • A fixed knowledge bid (e.g., knowing the limitations of a species or piece of gear, etc.)
    • A fixed social bid (e.g., bribing someone or piecing together rumors, etc.)
    • An opposed perception bid against the target’s stealth bid
  • Banking: If a character accomplishes one task easily, then they can devote more time and resources to other tasks. This is simulated by banking advantages. A character can bank 1 advantage per half-cost bid. Banked advantages last until the start of the character’s next turn (during scenes) or the start of the next scene (during interstitials and intermissions). Characters can:
    • Use banked advantages on bids
    • Impose 1 disadvantage on an opponent per banked advantage
    • Spend all their banked advantages to avoid being affected by someone else’s abilities (i.e., disarming, tripping, etc.)
  • Desperation: Characters may be faced with hopeless situations that require them to do something desperate, crazy, and/or stupid. When this happens, the FM should allow it once. After that, identical or similar actions should either automatically fail or automatically be at double-cost.

That’s it for now. Come back tomorrow to see how Covenant handles character size.

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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