Author's Diary for Feb. 3, 2020

Sean here. Sorry about the lack of updates the past couple of weeks. Sazzy and I have had to straighten some things out. Now that we have, we can resume updating you on Covenant and my novel Crossing the Line. Look for the next episode of the podcast… soon.

I recently started the second draft of the “basic rules” for Covenant. This is a minimum viable product document that we hope to use for playtesting. I’ll be posting daily updates here while I write it. Click through for the first entry.

Some readers over in the Discord server for the System Mastery podcast said that the game was too deterministic – that is, the winner will tend to be the character with the most Discipline.

To address this, I’ve split the book into a Basics of Play chapter with the basic rules and a Leveling the Playing Field chapter with rules to make the game a little fairer. The original rules had most of the mechanics in the Leveling the Playing Field, but I’m hoping that setting them apart and adding to them will make the game a little fairer to “poorer” characters.


The Basics of Play chapter is almost done. All that’s left to do is the chapter glossary. Each chapter in the book will have a glossary of terms, including a master glossary in the back, to make the book easier to read.

I can see why people save references like glossaries to the end of the writing process, though: they’re boring, and it’s rough putting solid definitions to things that you took for granted.

I’m glad I’m doing this, though. Putting all my game terms into an organized format like this helps me see where I’m repeating myself in my terminology and my design. EXAMPLE: Both conditions and drains affect characters and can be cured. Maybe they should be combined.


Here’s my current progress on the glossary, in case you’re interested. WARNING: It’s long.

  • Ability: A special power that a character can use under certain circumstances. A type of asset. See also traits and gear.
  • Advantage: Anything that helps or is favorable to a bid. Usually, each separate helpful or favorable circumstance to a bid contributes 1 advantage to that bid. However, some powerful circumstances can contribute more than 1 advantage to the bid, at the Force Majeure’s discretion. See also disadvantage.
  • Area: An arbitrary part of a scene’s map, either a single room or an arbitrary part of a larger space. The Force Majeure should rule on how many characters an area can hold.
  • Area Attack: An attack that affects all characters in an area. See also close attack and ranged attack.
  • Asset: Anything that a character can use to make or modify bids. Assets include traits, abilities, and gear.
  • Attacker: During an opposed bid, the character trying to make a change in the game world.
  • Attribute: Anything that is inherent to a character. Attributes include biochemistry from species and size
  • Biased Bid: Any bid that allows one character to make xir bid after everyone else finalizes theirs.
  • Bid: How characters spend their Discipline to make changes in the game world. The cost to increase a bid is modified by how many advantages and disadvantages it has.
  • Catharsis: The reward that a character gets for fulfilling the conditions of a goal.
  • Chapter: A series of related scenes, usually building to a climax where some plot threads are resolved and others are introduced. Part of the story of which the characters are a part. See also scene.
  • Chapter Damage: Any damage to Discipline that is recharged at the end of a chapter. Usually represents psychological trauma, lethal weapon damage, or anything that seriously damages a character’s reputation or honor. See also free Discipline, scene damage, and chapter damage.
  • Character: Anyone or anything that can make a change in the game world or in other characters. Includes animals, robots,  and vehicles as well as people. See also non-player character and player character.
  • Close Attacks: An attack that can only attack characters in the same area as the character making the attack. See also area attack and ranged attack.
  • Condition: Anything that imposes an effect on a character for longer than a single bid. Usually impose advantages and disadvantages to specific bids, but can also impose other effects.
  • Condition (goal): The requirements that a character must fulfill to succeed at a goal. If xi fulfills these condition by a certain deadline, then xi gains the goal’s catharsis. If xi doesn’t, then xi loses the goal’s stakes.
  • Cost: The amount of Discipline a character must spend to increase a bid by 1. See also double-cost, half-cost, and normal cost.
  • Cure: The requirements that a character must fulfill to get rid of a drain. Until the character fulfills the cure, the drain continues to cause damage to the character.
  • Cycle: How often a drain does damage to a character.
  • Damage: Any loss of Discipline by a character. Typically moves Discipline from a character’s free Discipline to either xir scene damage, chapter damage, or long-term damage. If a character does not have enough free Discipline to cover the damage, xi is incapacitated.
  • Damage Severity: Whether the damage to a character’s Discipline does scene damage, chapter damage, or long-term damage. Can be increased (EXAMPLE: scene damage to chapter damage) or decreased (EXAMPLE: chapter damage to scene damage) in steps by abilities and other effects.
  • Defender: During an opposed bid, the character trying to resist a change in the game world. Always wins ties..See also attacker.
  • Destroy: One way to use an asset for a bid. Once the bid is resolved, the asset is removed from the game. Usually represents the most powerful use of an asset. See also expend, tap, and exhaust.
  • Drain: Any effect that does damage to a character over a period of time, like poison, disease, or being set on fire. Each drain has a cycle, or how often it damages the character; a magnitude, or how much damage it inflicts every cycle; a severity, or whether the drain does scene damage, chapter damage, or long-term damage; and a cure, or a requirement that the character must fulfill to get rid of the drain.
  • Double-Cost: Spending 2 Discipline to increase a bid by 1. Usually happens when a bid has more disadvantages than advantages. See also normal cost and half-cost.
  • Disadvantage: Anything that hinders or is unfavorable to a bid. Usually, each separate hindering or unfavorable circumstance to a bid contributes 1 disadvantage to that bid. However, some powerful circumstances can contribute more than 1 disadvantage to the bid, at the Force Majeure’s discretion. See also advantage.
  • Discipline: Represents all of a character’s expendable resources, including physical and mental health, social standing, and money. What characters spend to make bids. Characters who take damage move Discipline from their free Discipline to their scene damage, chapter damage, or long-term damage.
  • Downtime: The time between scenes and chapters in a story. Characters can perform certain bids, like crafting items and gaining new assets, only during downtime. They also have only a limited number of bids that they can perform during downtime. See also interstitial and intermission.
  • Duration: How long a condition affects a character. Xi can end the condition before the duration runs out with the correct cure.
  • Effect: What a condition does to a character.
  • Elimination: When a character is taken out of play due to running out of free Discipline from chapter damage or long-term damage. A type of incapacitation. An eliminated character falls unconscious and is removed from the game if xi doesn’t regain Discipline before the end of the scene. See also exhaustion.
  • Exhaust: One way to use an asset for a bid. Once the bid is resolved, the asset cannot be used until the end of the chapter. See also expend, tap, and destroy.
  • Exhaustion: When a character is taken out of play due to running out of free Discipline from scene damage. A type of incapacitation. An exhausted character falls unconscious, but will wake up at the end of the scene, when xi recharges xir scene damage. See also elimination..
  • Expend: One way to use an asset for a bid. Once the bid is resolved, the asset can be immediately re-used again. See also tap, exhaust, and destroy.
  • Fast Drain: One type of drain. Has a cycle measured in rounds. Automatically cured at the end of the round (or at the end of the next round when contracted during downtime).
  • Fixed Bid: A bid that is made against a target set by the Force Majeure. Represents a character trying to overcome an obstacle in the game world.
  • Force Majeure (FM): One of the participants in a game. The lead storyteller who runs all non-player characters.
  • Free Discipline: A source of Discipline on which characters can draw. Depleted by bids and damage.
  • Gear: Any item that a character either carries or to which xi has access, like a workshop or a vehicle. A type of asset. See also traits and abilities.
  • Goal: A special trait that characters can choose to have. Goals have conditions that must be fulfilled by a deadline. If the character fulfills the conditions, xi wins a catharsis. If xi doesn’t, xi loses stakes. See also major goal and minor goal.
  • Half-Cost: Spending 1 Discipline to increase a bid by 2. Usually happens when a bid has more advantages than disadvantages. See also normal cost and double-cost.
  • Incapacitation: When a character is taken out of play due to running out of free Discipline. The type of incapacitation depends on the damage severity of the damage that reduced the character to 0 or less Discipline: either exhaustion (caused by scene damage) or elimination (caused by chapter damage or long-term damage).
  • Intermission: A type of downtime between chapters in a story. See also interstitial.
  • Interstitial: A type of downtime between scenes in a story. See also intermission..
  • Limitation: The kinds of bids affected by a condition.
  • Lingering Drain: One type of drain. Has a cycle measured in minutes or longer. Only removed when the affected character uses the correct cure. However, the Force Majeure may rule, at xir discretion, that a lingering drain is cured at the end of the current chapter.
  • Long-Term Damage: Any damage to Discipline that must be regained through roleplay with other characters, completing plot points, or having cybernetic implants installed. Usually represents lasting psychological trauma, losses of limbs or organ function, brain damage, or anything that permanently damages a character’s reputation or honor. See also free Discipline, scene damage, and chapter damage.
  • Magnitude: The amount of damage that a drain inflicts on a character every cycle.
  • Major Goal: Any goal whose conditions must be fulfilled by the end of the current story.
  • Minor Goal: Any goal whose conditions must be fulfilled by the end of the current chapter.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Come back tomorrow for more.

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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