Author’s Diary for February 6, 2020

Radio Free Covenant - Author's Diary - February 6, 2020

We’ve finally slogged through the Basics of Play glossary. Now it’s time to have a little fun with Covenant’s rulebook. Click through for more.

Like I said yesterday, a deterministic game like Covenant has several big problems. One of these is determinism. In short, it means that the guy with the biggest numbers is probably going to win any fight, and there’s not much the underdog can do about it.

That’s why I’m so excited about the Leveling the Playing Field chapter.

First up are rules to spend the advantages that a character might have on a bid, which I originally put in the Basics of Play chapter but moved here to in an attempt to emphasize them. Briefly, anything that’s beneficial to a bid gives it 1 advantage, which can in turn affect its cost in Discipline.

With the addition of these rules, characters can “spend” their bid’s advantages for a number of different benefits. This allows a character to take advantage of superior conditions to either:

  • Increase xir bid without spending Discipline
  • Impose a disadvantage on an opponent during an opposed bid
  • Recharge a used ability or piece of gear so that it can be used during this bid

Hard-coding mechanics like this gives players with outgunned or outclassed characters a chance to prevail if they take advantage of a scene‘s environment. They give players an incentive to use strategy and to prepare the battleground instead of mounting frontal assaults and hoping for the best.

I’m really excited about the next two mechanics: sharing Discipline and traits between characters. They essentially put all of a party’s resources into one big pool from which everyone can draw. Not only that, but characters don’t have to wait to share their Discipline or traits with their allies. They can do it at any time and without needing to take a special action.

Most roleplaying games have assistance mechanics like this. However, I see sharing as one of the core ideas in Covenant. Like I said, the player characters will often be outgunned and outclassed, and they’ll only be able to pick their fights so often and only use the terrain so much.

Sooner or later, the characters are going to have to rely on each other. I want that to be as easy to do as possible.

Here’s what I wrote today.


  • Characters normally use advantages to decrease the costs of their bids.
  • A character can also spend the advantages that xi has on a bid to gain benefits during that bid.
  • Each advantage spent reduces a bid’s total number of advantages by 1.
  • A character can spend all of the advantages that xi has on a bid, if xi wants.
  • A character must spend xir advantages before she starts spending Discipline on that bid.
  • Spending 1 Advantage:
    • Increase a bid by 5, or…
    • Impose 1 disadvantage on your opponent during an opposed bid
  • Spending 2 Advantages: Immediately recharge 1 asset so that it can be used for the current bid.


  • An important strategy for characters in Covenant, as well as an important part of the game, is sharing resources like Discipline with each other.
  • If a character makes a bid, then other characters — friend, foe, or neutral — can contribute their Discipline to the bid as well.
  • Characters don’t have to wait for their turn during a scene to share Discipline.
  • Characters don’t have to take a special action or have a special ability who share Discipline.
  • Characters share Discipline to a bid at that bid’s cost. EXAMPLE: If a bid is double-cost, then a character must share 2 Discipline for every 1 that xi wants to increase that bid.


  • Characters can share traits as well as Discipline.
  • If a character makes a bid, then other characters can tap their own traits to assist the bidding character.
  • Characters don’t have to wait for their turn during a scene to share Discipline.
  • Characters don’t have to take a special action or have a special ability who share Discipline.
  • The sharing character chooses what benefits the bidding character gains, either advantages and/or the benefits listed in Spending Advantages. These benefits can be all the same or a mix of different benefits.

That’s it for now. Stop by 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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