Author's Diary for Feb. 4, 2020

And the long march on the Basics of Play chapter glossary continues. Click through for more.

The glossary for the Basics of Play chapter has slowed the Covenant basic rules book to a crawl. A smarter writer would have waited until the very end to add reference material like this.

However, like I said yesterday, there is a method to my madness.

One reason for writing the glossary now, for which I didn’t plan but I’m glad happened, is because organizing everything helps me see weak points and redundancies. I’m already planning for how I can consolidate the rules and reduce their moving parts.

There are two other reasons, though, for which I did plan.

The first of these is because I’ve learned my best writing comes out during the editing, not the actual writing. I call my editing process “ablative” because I slowly chip away at a piece of writing with multiple editing and rewriting passes. This is why I wanted to write the Basics of Play glossary now – so I could it to as much of that process as I could.

The second reason is because different players have different learning strategies. Some will learn these rules best if I lay them out in standard paragraphs. Others will learn best from bullet lists or diagrams. Still others will learn best from long lists, like a glossary of game terms.

By the way, you can thank my sister for that insight, and she has a Masters degree in education, so she better know what she’s talking about.

How players learn (and possibly misinterpret) the rules is a big worry for me because, once the rulebook is printed, I won’t be there to explain anything. So I have to include as many teaching aids and layout styles in the book as possible.

Of course, I also have to balance that against overwhelming the players with information. If they have too many teaching aids, they might not know which one they need during the game and so waste time flipping through the book and trying to reconcile different versions of the same rules.

That’s why I’m including the glossary now, before we start playtesting. I need to put as many teaching aids through as many playtesting rounds as I can. That will let me refine them and keep only the ones that are the most effective for the the largest population of players.


Here’s today’s work on the chapter glossary. Keep in mind that this is on its second draft (first draft, really, since I only added the glossary during this draft), so it’s subject to change:

  • Negative Trait: Any trait that would hinder a character instead of help xir under current circumstances (EXAMPLE: a Fighting bid when the character is trying to be diplomatic). Each negative trait imposes 1 disadvantage on the character and is considered expended until the circumstances that made the trait a hindrance no longer apply.
  • Non-Player Character (NPC): Any character played by the Force Majeure. Includes the player characters’ opponents and allies, as well as bystanders, animals, alien creatures, and robots.
  • Normal Cost: Spending 1 Discipline to increase a bid by 1. Usually happens when a bid has the same number of advantages and disadvantages. See also half cost and double-cost.
  • Opposed Bid: A bid between two characters. Represents 1 character (the attacker) trying to make a change in the game world and another character (the defender) trying to resist that change. The winner has the highest bid and gains storytelling control. The defender automatically wins ties.
  • Participant: Anyone playing Covenant. Includes the Force Majeure, who is the game’s referee and main storyteller, and the players, whose player characters are usually the game’s focus and main characters.
  • Player Character (PC): Any character played by the players. The PCs are almost always the game’s focuse and main characters.
  • Player: One of the participants in a game. Each player has 1 player character.
  • Range: The distance from a character making an attack to xir target in areas.
  • Ranged Attacks: An attack that can affect characters in a different area from the character making the attack. See also area attack and close attack.
  • Recharge Frequency: How often an asset can recharge and be re-used. Assets can recharge immediately after a bid is resolved or at the start of a character’s next round, scene, or chapter.
  • Recharging: 1. Resetting an asset after it has been used so that it can be used again. 2. Moving Discipline from  scene damage, chapter damage, or long-term damage to free Disicpline so that a character can use it again. Usually happens at the end of a scene or chapter.
  • Round: An arbitrary period of time during a scene when each participating character gets a chance to act.

That’s it for now. Meet me back here tomorrow, when I’ll hopefully have finished this madness once and for all.

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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