Author’s Diary for February 10, 2020

When your characters face their Kobayashi Maru, their only way out may be to toss the Vulcan into the dilthium reactor. Find out more below the fold.

Sean here. Remember last week when I said that failing forward might not be appropriate for a science-fiction roleplaying game like Covenant? That’s because I want the game to have scenes like Tom Godwin’s short story The Cold Equations, where the characters face deadly consequences for being unprepared, especially in space. Failing forward, or “succeeding with consequences”, might prevent that or be inappropriate for that kind of game.

Well, I have a confession to make: before I even wrote that post, I came up (maybe) with a solution: letting one player character sacrifice xirself so that the rest of the PCs can live.

Getting back to The Cold Equations – and ignoring its many technical and political problems for a moment – that’s how Godwin resolves his story: he throws a character out the airlock so that the rest of the characters can live. In roleplaying terms, one character sacrifices herself so that the rest of the party can live.

Covenant will handle this, at least during playtesting, by offering two incentives to players who want to sacrifice their characters:

  • Storytelling Control: A player who sacrifices her character gets storytelling control from the Force Majeure (FM). The FM determines the details, but the player gets to describe xir character’s heroic death and how xi saves the rest of the party.
  • Karma: The next character that the player makes gets the same number of assets, ties, Discipline, and tokens as xir sacrificed character. In addition, xi gets an additional five tokens to pay for assets like traits, gear, and abilities.


  • A player can sacrifice xir character if xir party is in an unwinnable scene.
  • A sacrificed character doesn’t necessarily have to die. However, xi is removed for the rest of the story.
  • To sacrifice a character:
    1. The FM determines the effect of the character’s sacrifice, either:
      • The party escaping the scene
      • The party emerging victorious from the scene
    2. The FM tells this to the player who is sacrificing xir character, along with any other details that xi should include in xir description.
    3. This player then gains storytelling control until the end of the scene and describes its resolution, including how xir character is lost.
  • When a player sacrifices xir character, xi can make a new character with the same number of assets, tokens, ties, and Discipline, plus 5 additional tokens as good karma. This character can be introduced during this story or a future story.

That’s all 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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