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Enter The Shadowside» Forums » General

Subject: Share a Game - Enter The Shadowside rss

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Marco Leon
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Share a Game is an RPG Geek initiative in which knowledgeable users volunteer to spend a week hosting a thread about a particular game and answer any questions about that game. This thread will have a week in the spotlight, but will always remain active if you stumble across it later.

For more information, including volunteering to host a game yourself, or to request a particular game that you would like to know more about, see the wiki page: Share a Game. And in order to receive notifications when new threads are posted, subscribe to the GeekList: Share a Game


Enter The Shadowside

I've heard before that RPG games can be divided into three categories: 1) games where you try to win, like in a sport, 2) simulations, and 3) story telling. Enter The Shadowside is firmly in category 3), although its rules are comprehensive enough to reasonably cover some of 2) along the way. It is nearly anathema to 1).

Setting

The premise of Enter The Shadowside is that there exists a parallel reality made entirely of mental and emotional energies, shaped by our dreams and hopes -but also by our nightmares and fears. This titular realm is not just the origin but the actual seat of our sentience, and the "afterlife" where we all return to after we die. Several very different organizations explore this realm for their own agendas, and the game's core dynamic is focused on the interactions between these groups. Most battles, for instance, occur against named NPCs with their own life stories and motivations, and feel for all purposes like virtual PvPs. Rational people hardly ever fight to the death, but instead surrender, flee or negotiate long before they feel their entire life is in jeopardy. There is no experience awarded for merely winning a fight; the players receive 1 or 2 points after a session depending exclusively on how well they roleplayed and how much they advanced the story.

ETS introduces the concept of Hierogamy: an arrangement between a mortal (the player character) and a Shadowside entity, where the mortal agrees to host the entity within his flesh-and-blood body in exchange for some measure of paranormal power. It is in many ways like a marriage; each is able to listen to the other's thoughts, and the couple can have entire conversations inside their heads. Mechanically their traits and abilities add together, so a character in Hierogamy is considerably more powerful than a regular mortal or a regular spirit. The Hierogamy spirit is roleplayed by the StoryHost (ETS's term for Game Master), and the StoryHost is supposed to play the spirit in such way he/she/it is generally agreeable to what the character wants to do, but remains his/her/its own individual person.

Campaign Structure

An ETS campaign can be quite long, but it roughly consist of three acts: Act I, where the characters learn the order of the world, only to see it disrupted in some Big Event, which launches Act II, where the characters strive to come out on top of the mad rush of all organizations's reacting to the Big Event, and finally Act III, the Endgame.

The details of the Endgame are kept secret from players (and from StoryHosts too until they reach their seventh session), but without fear of spoilers we can simply say it is a war-like conflict between two very different ideologies. The seven main organizations will pick one side or the other throughout the course of the campaign, and the dichotomy is designed in such way that joining one side or the other can be justified in many ways for each organization's ideology. Different campaigns will have different organizations at different sides of the Endgame, and it's incredibly interesting to explore how different, yet at the same time authentic a single organization can be at each end of the spectrum. Sometimes it feels like alt-history of the sort of "what if Mexico had joined the Nazis and allowed German troops on Texas?". You can have conversations like "What?? You had The Sisterhood of Salem and Accelletrix become allies? Holy hell, in my campaign they were at each other's throats, but to be fair I had GTS sign a pact with Somosa.", etc.

ETS avoids falling into easy concepts of "good" and "evil", preferring instead to arrange the organizations along two axis: whether they are primarily interested in helping themselves vs helping others, and whether their hierarchy is orderly and structured, versus improvised and chaotic.

The Organizations

Since ETS mostly revolves around the friction between very powerful groups with very different ideologies competing for very similar resources, it is worth throwing a few sentences for what each organization is like:

* Fujin's Blood: Based mostly out of Japan, the Cult of Fujin used to be a patriarchal, honor-bound, altruistic organization, the sworn-protectors of Japan. Hiroshima changed all that. Out of the radioactive ashes of the Cult of Fujin rose Fujin's Blood, which today is a fearsome mafia that spans most of Asia. They are still patriarchal and honor-bound, but now they want death to the west. It's as if Batman had suddenly just snapped one day and became a serial killer.

* Malleus Diabolis: One of the oldest groups; formed during the crusades. They are religious zealots and scholars, they still report (in secret) to the Catholic Pope. Their logo is a Templar Cross penetrating a pentagram, they are premised on the idea that one can use the Devil's Hammers against the Devil himself. So they have absorbed the pagan practices and magical rites of many smaller organizations (which they have utterly smitten) into themselves. Today they're a recovering from a few bad choices made during WWII, however, and struggling to adapt to a world that simply isn't that religious anymore.

* Somosa: Short for "Somos Santos". All the spirits of people who died during the brutal colonization of Africa and the subsequent century of slavery went to the Shadowside in pain, but kept in contact with their descendants. Somosa recruits people from various African-influenced religions, such as Santería in Cuba, Candomblé in Brazil, the cult of Santa Muerte in Mexico, Vodoun in Haiti (and New Orleans, I suppose), and various parts of Africa. They are like Robin Hood, robbing the rich to give money to the poor, except Robin Hood never tortured or butchered quite as brutally. They are popular with the underclass of society, the poor and downtrodden. They are the underdog, and the irony is that they are still in slavery to the desires of burning revenge of their ancestors who utterly control them from the Shadowside.

* The Sisterhood of Salem: At first appearance they are harmless wiccans, new-agey gypsies and hippies, rejects from society, maybe a couple freaks. But the organization is actually ancient, has gone through many names, and has vast bases -underground in the sewers of most cities, as well as in giant ranches, caves in the forests, etc. They are very altruistic, they shelter those who society would see as monsters, and teach them to live with themselves and others. I don't think I'm doing this organization justice. Interestingly, in ETS vampires and werewolves are simply people in Hierogamy with crazy spirits who force them to act in crazy ways; the Sisterhood of Salem (aka Big Sis) gives these people shelter, and more importantly, a family and a home. It's all very warm-feely, yet dark.

* The Greater Thelema Society: They are (usually) rich and powerful people who are already at the top of their games in the mortal world, but now turn to the occult in search of even more. Think of Aleister Crowley, and the various secret societies with paranormal themes, such as the Golden Dawn, Ordo Templi Orientis, etc. They excel at manipulation, and have three kinds of roles to do so: Mentors, Muses and Rivals, which seem self-explanatory. Money, luxury, secrecy, conspiracy, shadowy tendrils of political or financial control -that's GTS.

* Accelletrix: Is an international corporation (headquartered in Moscow, where the law is more "flexible") that combines the ethos of mad science with corporate ruthlessness and greed. Think "Men In Black" working for profit. They have little respect for mumbo-jumbo, and instead rely on technology for nearly everything. It's the only group that neuters their Hierogamy spirit completely, referring to it as an "Energy Source" (occasionally some agents may turn-off the "sedation" and have conversations with their spirit, but that's against the rules).

* Scavenger: Think of Fight Club mixed with what the media thinks Anonymous is, make it all about paranormal thrills and knowledge, and you get Scavenger. This is the most anarchic of the organizations, and the only one that doesn't take sides as a whole during the Endgame because... there is no leadership telling the scavengers where to go, en masse. You only get individuals taking one side or another. It's all ghosts-and-the-internet, sort of a Joker card, very irreverent, using chan lingo, and their powers seem designed to make them improvisational occult McGyvers flying by the seat of their pants.

Mechanics

ETS uses two things which could be used on their own, "Jacob's Ladder" and the "World Turtle". A third element, "Belief Points" is more closely tied to the particular setting.

* World Turtle: It is simply a system of Traits: you got three physical traits (STR, DEX and END) and three non-physical traits (MND, SPI and CHA), and then three HP counters (Body, Soul and Life, more on these soon). The Traits are arranged in a structure which resembles a turtle's shell, and allows for two core Traits to combine into a surface trait (for example, STR and DEX combine to give you AGI for agility, MND and SPI combine to give you AWA for awareness, etc). The end result is a 14-Trait system, covering everything from Health to Beauty to Reflexes.

Body and Soul soak up physical and spiritual damage, respectively, but in the story this damage is played off as not too big of a deal. Even if you're dealing with guns or fireballs or other things which are normally quite lethal, as long as the damage can be soaked up by Body or Soul, the StoryHost will narrate it as if you just got lucky -the bullet got you, but it was just a fleshwound, or you ducked behind some tables and the fireball only charred the back of your shirt, etc. You can restore Body and Soul counters easily -through resting, or first-aid kits, or simple healing spells. It's all fun and games until they run out, and then your Life gets hit. For every point in damage that Life takes, you take a corresponding penalty to every single roll until healed, but Life is not easily healed. It's somewhat similar to a grievous wound -you need to be seen by a doctor, sometimes you need to call 911. You need to wear a cast, maybe, or recover for a reasonable amount of time (read, sessions). Even when you do recover, you may have scars, or a limp, or, in the case of mental damage, some form of PTSD. This damage system allows for Big Damn Heroes until they Run Out of Luck. It's both cinematic and realistic, I think. Character Death simply means you become one more spirit in the Shadowside -you can return via Hierogamy with the help of some other mortal (who will be played by the StoryHost, or maybe another player!).

* The Jacob's Ladder: is a conflict resolution system: all you have to do is add up all the forces in favor of whatever the character is attempting to do (Trait, Skill, Item, Bonus), call that Might, then add up all the forces against whatever the character is attempting to do (either the opponent's Might, or an SH-set arbitrary number), call that Difficulty. Using a ruler, connect the Might on the left with the Difficulty on the right, and the spot where the rules crosses the diagonals tells you what you need to roll in a D20 to succeed.

This system has interesting properties:
- No roll is a guaranteed win, nor a guaranteed lose. Hence, every roll matters.
- At the same time, every little point in Might or Difficulty makes a difference.
- It doesn't matter which side rolls: you have the same chances to win on a 10 vs 5, as a 5 vs 10 has chances of losing.
- It scales: the chances of a 10 vs 5 are the same as the chances of a 100 vs 50, or a 4 vs 2, or a 14 bajillion vs 7 bajillion. It's all proportional.
- You can probably use any dice, although the version that comes with ETS is graded for a D20.

Here it is:



* Belief Points: Every time a character succeeds a difficult roll (anything that requires more than 11 on the D20) he earns Belief Points. Every time a character fails an easy roll (anything that requires less than 10 on the D20) he loses Belief Points. Additionally, the SH can give or take away Belief Points at any time. Belief Points represent that character's conviction, and in the premise of the Shadowside, conviction actually translates into reality. Therefore Belief Points have two uses:
- As a "mana" pool, powering all Paranormal skills a character got through Hierogamy. The Belief Points you choose to spend in a spell become essentially that spells's "Might" which is then put against the opponent. Paranormal skills are very diverse, and frequently have their own custom rules.
- As a point pool for whenever he fails a dice roll. That's right: if you needed to roll 15 or better and you only rolled a 13, you can choose to spend 2 belief points to turn your 13 into a 15. Obviously you won't get any new points from forcing a success this way, but at least story-wise you won't fail the action. It is important you make your decision before the SH describes what happens, otherwise it becomes canon and it's too late for you to change that outcome. Sometimes when you do change an outcome through Belief Points, the SH gives you a "flashback" of what would have happened otherwise, and too many of these can have mental-health consequences to your character.

Why I like it

Because of it's emphasis on "Seeing", which is a wacky philosophy that places all the burden of authorship away from the players (and SH!). In "Seeing", the SH doesn't consider himself as much of a creator or a "God", deciding who lives and who dies and what happens next, but more of an "observer" impartially communicating the consequences to the player's own actions -but it's the players, through their characters, who are burdened with moving the story forward. This doesn't work with passive players who like to sit around waiting for something to happen. This only works with players whose characters have agendas of their own, life stories which are well fleshed out and who have things to do right out of the gate. Personally, this is the style I enjoy the most.

More Resources

* The subreddit

* The PDF at DTRPG

* The website

Over to you...

I'll be glad to answer any question you may have!
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Chad Bowser
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All of my questions are based solely on your article here. I don't own the PDF and haven't read about it on reddit.

FableForge wrote:

Mechanically their traits and abilities add together, so a character in Hierogamy is considerably more powerful than a regular mortal or a regular spirit. The Hierogamy spirit is roleplayed by the StoryHost (ETS's term for Game Master), and the StoryHost is supposed to play the spirit in such way he/she/it is generally agreeable to what the character wants to do, but remains his/her/its own individual person.


So you have essentially two players portraying one character? How have you found that works in practice? Without having read the book to see if there are any constraints on what the ETS can do as the Hierogamy, what checks and balances are in place to make sure the game doesn't essentially devolve into the ETS taking the story where he wants it to go by dropping subtle (or otherwise) hints as a character's hierogamy spirit?

Can the player change out Hiergamous spirits if he wants different powers?

FableForge wrote:

The details of the Endgame are kept secret from players (and from StoryHosts too until they reach their seventh session), but without fear of spoilers we can simply say it is a war-like conflict between two very different ideologies.


I might be misreading this, but I get the feel that there's a White Wolf-esque meta-plot going on. Is that the case? If not, how do you keep things secret from the EHS?


FableForge wrote:

Since ETS mostly revolves around the friction between very powerful groups with very different ideologies competing for very similar resources, it is worth throwing a few sentences for what each organization is like:


Are the characters members of these organizations or are they just pawns in the struggle between the orgs?

FableForge wrote:

* The Jacob's Ladder: is a conflict resolution system: all you have to do is add up all the forces in favor of whatever the character is attempting to do (Trait, Skill, Item, Bonus), call that Might, then add up all the forces against whatever the character is attempting to do (either the opponent's Might, or an SH-set arbitrary number), call that Difficulty.


Are there guidelines for setting the difficulty, or are they truly arbitrary?

FableForge wrote:

In "Seeing", the SH doesn't consider himself as much of a creator or a "God", deciding who lives and who dies and what happens next, but more of an "observer" impartially communicating the consequences to the player's own actions


Does the ESH do anything else beyond arbitrating the die rolls? Based on comments higher above, it sounds like he has little to do with campaign creation? In that case, it could almost be GM-less (or, GM-ful depending on your interpretation) if you replace the ESH with player driven narrative and set difficulties on the ladder.

FableForge wrote:

-but it's the players, through their characters, who are burdened with moving the story forward. This doesn't work with passive players who like to sit around waiting for something to happen. This only works with players whose characters have agendas of their own, life stories which are well fleshed out and who have things to do right out of the gate.


How does the game drive active players forward? What mechanics are in place to prevent things from devolving into a quagmire of either "Well, what do you want to do next?" or a melee between players as they argue over which way their characters would go?

FableForge wrote:

I'll be glad to answer any question you may have!


You say that now.

I think the premise is interesting. I like a good secret war, conspiracy style game. I just have some questions about the mechanics.
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Marco Leon
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cjbowser wrote:
All of my questions are based solely on your article here. I don't own the PDF and haven't read about it on reddit.

So you have essentially two players portraying one character? How have you found that works in practice?


Pretty awesome but it drains the SH like nothing else. I've been an SH ever since I started roleplaying 15 years ago or so, and the relationship that exists between a player character and his hierogamy spirit is incredibly intense. There is beauty in this, if you know your players (and if you don't you soon will), but it's tiring as hell. At the end of a 4 hour session I would be emotionally and mentally drained for the rest of the day, but incredibly satisfied. Like... just had a great meal and ate way more than I should have, kind of satisfied.

cjbowser wrote:
Without having read the book to see if there are any constraints on what the ETS can do as the Hierogamy, what checks and balances are in place to make sure the game doesn't essentially devolve into the ETS taking the story where he wants it to go by dropping subtle (or otherwise) hints as a character's hierogamy spirit?


There are no checks and balances whatsoever! Muahaha! This means the success of the game is based purely upon mutual trust between players and SH. Unlike other games, the SH here is not an adversarial figure, and his job is in no way to antagonize the players. The SH is expected to play along a hierogamy spirit that generally agrees with the playing character and gets along well enough -although some players specifically ask to experience what is like to be in a "bad spiritual marriage" -purely for roleplay reasons- in which case the SH obliges. In case of a real disagreement though, the player character ultimately controls his own physical body, and all the spirit can do is bitch about it in his mind. Which is no small thing: imagine if your wife had direct access to make herself heard inside your head whenever she wanted -in fact, without even wanting it Zero privacy. But yeah, the mortal character in the end is the one in control.

As for the SH using the hierogamy spirit to drop subtle hints: this is a feature, not a bug -as long as it isn't abused! If it is though, we have bigger problems than rules alone could patch. Again, it's either mutual trust or bust.

cjbowser wrote:

Can the player change out Hiergamous spirits if he wants different powers?


Player characters can learn powers (called "Paranormal Skills") from any organization anytime without having to change spirits. The only requirement to learning new skills (paranormal or not) is to actually roleplay the process, that is, finding a tutor, taking lessons, practicing, etc. Once the SH has deemed the character's spent enough time roleplaying the learning process, he allows the character to spend one experience point into the new skill.

Changing spirits ("divorce") is nearly impossible except for the Scavenger organization, and even then is hard and perilous. They are together until death does them part -which come to think of it, is the easiest way to break up.

cjbowser wrote:

I might be misreading this, but I get the feel that there's a White Wolf-esque meta-plot going on. Is that the case? If not, how do you keep things secret from the EHS?


There's really big text in the core book saying "Don't read beyond this page unless you're an SH with six sessions under your belt". Will that be enough to keep secret things secret? Heh, I don't think so. Will ~anything~ be enough? Probably nope. Still, the nature of the Endgame (and the fact that different organizations take different sides during each campaign) makes it so that you can enjoy it even if you know what the secret is. The secret, after all, is just details about why the war is waged, and it's possible outcomes, but it doesn't -and can't- prescribe what happens. What actually happens is always up in the air, to be decided at the table.

cjbowser wrote:

Are the characters members of these organizations or are they just pawns in the struggle between the orgs?


Characters are members, indeed. They are expected to grow in rank, and towards the end of a campaign, some become very influential -in rare cases becoming the actual bosses of their chosen organization.

cjbowser wrote:

Are there guidelines for setting the difficulty, or are they truly arbitrary?


Most difficulties relate to an opponent, and therefore all the SH has to do is calculate the opponent's Might. Arbitrary difficulties are needed for actions which no person with traits may oppose -such as swimming across a river, for instance. In those cases yes, the core book does provide some guidelines, and the Jacob's Ladder has certain difficulty levels written across the right side, meant to apply to the 30-scale. Same for Mights too, it has certain levels on the left for Humanity, Hierogamy and Divinity.

cjbowser wrote:

Does the ESH do anything else beyond arbitrating the die rolls? Based on comments higher above, it sounds like he has little to do with campaign creation? In that case, it could almost be GM-less (or, GM-ful depending on your interpretation) if you replace the ESH with player driven narrative and set difficulties on the ladder.


The SH is the busiest guy at the table, which is why I said things are draining His jobs, in no particular order and all due at the same time, are
1.- to roleplay the hierogamy spirits of most everyone.
2.- to "see" the world and how it reacts to the characters in ways that are much deeper than the short-term "did the action succeed or not". For example, ruling that Joe needed to roll 5 or better to hurt a taxi driver, and that since Joe rolled a 19 the taxi driver took 14 points of damage and died, is easy. Keeping in mind that there was a security camera watching Joe, and that within a few days an APB will be issued against him, and remembering that the next session when Joe uses his credit card at a strip joint and 30 minutes later the cops show up, is a bit harder. I've always said one trait of a good SH is the ability to keep a lot of things in motion in mind -without saying them. Wheels within wheels; some pay off right away, some pay off a little later. Some take months. The SH has to keep them all in mind, and keep his mouth shut until they actually take place. During the Endgame, this becomes awesomely and beautifully chaotic. The SH has to keep a virtual chessboard in his head, for what all organizations are doing, and only surface those details which matter in the "right here right now". It's a tough, but beautiful beautiful job. I love it. And I think all good GMs or DMs or STs (etc) are this way.
3.- to fairly establish difficulties, grant bonuses and penalties to rolls, and reward or take away Belief Points as warranted.

cjbowser wrote:

How does the game drive active players forward? What mechanics are in place to prevent things from devolving into a quagmire of either "Well, what do you want to do next?" or a melee between players as they argue over which way their characters would go?


I can only speak from experience, but I never need to nudge my players to go anywhere, and in certain ways I don't care where they ultimately go. I'm not in control. I'm in the passenger seat, narrating the view. Normally I would say it's the players who are at the steering wheel, but when players "See", they too, would say they are passengers and it's the ~characters~ who are at the steering wheel. At which point the men in white show up and take us in a van to the funny house.

Has it ever happened to you, that your character surprises you? That he makes a decision you didn't know or think he would do? In a weird way, as if he had a mind of his own? It happens to writers sometimes, from what I've heard, "finding their voice". Or "this is writing itself". It's the sort of feeling that you can't really describe, but you know it when it's there. I've heard the term "flow" too. Enter the Shadowside aims to ease players into that.. flow, into that somewhat zen state where characters appear to be "playing themselves". Good characters will never sit around waiting for what to do next. They have things to do, they have debts to pay or collect, and no time to waste. As SH, I just have to keep up the pace and give them back the consequences they earn fair and square. I make it clear to my players that I'm not here to entertain them; this is not a theater. I'm not here to tell them a story; this is not a novel. I'm not here to lead them; this is not a tour. I'm here to show them how the universe reacts to their choices, and the burden is on them to make those choices and go and do whatever the hell they want. Usually the players who are used to follow a linear path get turned off at this point. This is okay. As long as the majority of the party takes ownership of their own lives, even the passive ones will eventually realize how awesome it is to be in full control. Absolute freedom is scary, and never boring unless your character is a boring person -but who would roleplay that?

Lol, I didn't expect to rant so much This Share-A-Game thing is awesome.

Hit me more!
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Philip Stephenson
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Hey Fable! No questions, just stopping by to see what's up. If anyone is wondering, I'm one of the writers, specifically for Tian Shi (if you don't know it, don't worry. Without any spoilers, it's one of those things in the back of the book you aren't supposed to read for a while.)
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Marco Leon
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Enter The Shadowside » Forums » General
Re: Share a Game - Enter The Shadowside
Kingbirdy, thanks for the segue; I forgot to mention "Open Canon".

Basically: anyone who truly cares can write materials for the Shadowside, sell them and pay zero royalties. All it takes is collaboration: the good-ole back-and-forth between creative people to make sure different books don't contradict one another and the whole remains coherent. Most of it takes place in reddit, and some of it takes place over email. The reason things are split into separate books is accounting: one book to exactly one author makes finances easy.
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Aaron Tubb
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Thanks for continuing the "share a game" tradition!

This sounds like a really interesting/unique RPG. What an interesting conflict resolution system; do you like it better than the standard skill roll vs target number present in many other RPGs?
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Marco Leon
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Aarontu wrote:
Thanks for continuing the "share a game" tradition!

This sounds like a really interesting/unique RPG.


Thanks Aaron!

Aarontu wrote:

What an interesting conflict resolution system; do you like it better than the standard skill roll vs target number present in many other RPGs?


I think I've grown used to it. I'm sure the other systems have their advantages too, but in the end I prefer to have just one dice doing one roll to account for everything, say, in melee, for the Traits of both combatants, the knife of the attacker and the bullet-proof vest of the defender, and the martial arts training of the attacker and the martial arts training of the defender, and the fact that the attacker is going precisely for the gut and the fact that the defender doesn't want to hit back, plus the fact that the attacker is on higher ground, and the defender is demoralized (those go into Bonus/Penalty) -all those things... boiled down to one single roll of one single D20.

And it's not that hard to figure out: the character sheet comes with spots where you can pre-calculate many frequent mights (adding Trait plus Skill plus Item) so many times it goes like this:

SH: Joe, you've stabbed James's gut. What's your harm?
Joe: 23
James: 21 to resist, and I want to roll.
SH: [slides ruler] James, give me a 12.
James: [rolls an 8]
SH: 4 damage points to James.
James: Body ran out. I'm at 10 out of 11 LFE [jots down on sheet].
SH: The stab pierces through James's armor. James, you feel a painful sting, like a burning wound. A blood stain starts growing over your shirt; you stagger backwards and your vision turns blurry for just a second. Some girl starts screaming behind the bar, the music stops. Everyone is staring at the two of you in the middle of the floor. A couple folks flip open their phones; some to take video, some to call the cops.

Lol, I could go on

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Kevin Heckman
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"What makes a man turn neutral? Lust for gold? Power? Or were you just born with a heart full of neutrality?"
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Why StoryHost instead of GM, or even just Story Host? Are RandomCapitals a consistent aesthetic choice used throughout the game?

What are the biggest influences on the game? What does this game do that your favorite game(s) didn't?
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Karl Larsson
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I love these kinds of games, In Nomine, is an old favorite of mine.

A structured campaign like this can be very fun. When reading, it feels less like a full RPG one can get really involved with over many years, and more like a campaign (thought a long one).

I don't think I like the ladder thing. Using a ruler during resolution seems like an obstacle. That being said, I admire anything that dares to be inovative. How about a rule that says, if you fail, the game master gets to hit you with that ruler... or maybe not.
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Marco Leon
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dysjunct wrote:
Why StoryHost instead of GM, or even just Story Host?


I think it's to highlight the different philosophy, see:

GameMaster is the "Master" of the "Game". Like all masters, he owns it. Also, it's a Game.

StoryTeller is the "Teller" of the "Story". It's more of a Story now, but he's still the Teller of it.

StoryHost is just there to let the Story happen. The host arranges the locale, invites the guests, turns on the music, (may occasionally send bouncers to kick out the drunkards) but usually just stands out of the way letting the party goers enjoy themselves. There's a whole chapter on "Seeing" that explains this better, but basically the SH is very hands off when it comes to -driving- and very hands on when it comes to adjudicating consequences short term and long term to the PC's decisions. He plays the World.

dysjunct wrote:
Are RandomCapitals a consistent aesthetic choice used throughout the game?


Not that I notice? It may be a personal flaw of mine. Sometimes I write like a CrazyPerson.

dysjunct wrote:
What are the biggest influences on the game?


There are lots:

1.- Fantasya was a homebrew game played by very few people in Mexico from 1996 or so until 2000. Fantasya came up with the World Turtle, and the basic Might vs Difficulty mechanic, but it used a table instead of a ladder, and the formula for the table was very simple: Minimum Dice to roll = Difficulty - Might + half the dice. It didn't have nearly all the properties of Jacob's Ladder. (woot, I found an old-timey character sheet!)



2.- Vaxia.org (still alive today!) was built as an online version of Fantasya, and sometime in 1999 or 2000 it introduced Jacob's Ladder. You can still see it there today. Furthermore, Vaxia had a place called "GHOUL" (Gaunth's House Of Unwanted Lifeforms, I think, and Gaunth was a character from Fantasya who was doing the same thing there) which was basically a city-sized Big Sis coven. One of Vaxia's players who was very involved in Ghoul is now the head writer for Sisterhood of Salem.



3.- Grittie

Grittie was an extremely emo comic that formalized the concept of Hierogamy, the Shadowside (Vaxia had a sort of Shadowrealm too, which also came from Fantasya), and some organizations such as Fujin's Blood, GTS, and towards the end a machine which would go on to Accelletrix, etc. It was 40 issues, 13 pages each, full color.



4.- Scavenger

SCaV3NG3R was going to be it's own feature length movie, and originally the comic that came at the beginning of the core book was meant to become a promotional item for that movie. That project changed a lot, suffice to say. At one point, Scavenger had a point-and-click game-making engine that allowed anyone to make games that flipped between this world and the shadowside. It's still functional, I believe, but turned off when the movie plans fell through.

5.- The Unnaturals

The Unnaturals was going to be a feature length movie too, and also had a comic made (notice a pattern?). The Unnaturals was about taking Vaxia's GHOUL and putting it in modern days, so some of the tone must have inspired the Big Sis org today.

dysjunct wrote:
What does this game do that your favorite game(s) didn't?


Well, there's two ways to see this question: What does Shadowside have that other's don't? that's an easy answer. More interesting to me is why do I prefer Shadowside over other games? Since it's Share-A-Game I'll give you both!

The first one:

1.- Jacob's Ladder: I'm pretty sure no other game uses something like this. It has it's advantages, although obviously I'm biased.

2.- World Turtle: Although I've never seen them, I don't think the concept of mixing some traits to produce other traits is all that novel, so I'm sure other games do that, but the World Turtle is a bit more than just that, what with the different HP counters, and the way it splits between physical and spiritual, etc.

3.- Belief Points: is sort of novel when put together, but is really just the combination of three mechanics which probably exist separately: one that rewards or punishes your dice rolls depending on whether they were easy or hard and whether you aced them or not, another that functions as an MP pool, and another that allows you to squeeze success out of failed rolls. But I'll say this: it ties to the fluff really well.

4.- The philosophy of Seeing: Well, I'm pretty sure I've seen writers refer to it as "finding your character's voice". And really, I think it has happened to all of us, when we're so deep into a game and we've become so familiar with our character, that at some point it feels like the character is making decisions on his or her own, without us. But Shadowside tries to make this an explicit objective, which I think it's a bit idealistic, but noble. Reaching this state of "zen", where the story plays itself while everyone gawks, is definitely a weird and incredibly awe-inducing feeling, if it has ever happened to you. It doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it's worth the effort.

5.- The Shadowside fluff also feels like a coherent single theory to explain all things supernatural and towards the end, most religion. It appeals to the atheist in me. Plus, the organizations feel all like archetypes, so I instinctively know what feels in and what feels out for each of them.

I think the real answer though, the second one, is that this game invites so much organic creation (for example, Open Canon, where everyone can collaborate and become an official canon writer then keep all the profits of their books (shameless plug: the first book made in just such way was just released a couple days ago) but at the same time, it encourages the SH to let the players drive, and it encourages the players to let the characters drive, and if you reach that point where everyone feels we're not really playing with puppets in a pretend-stage anymore, but someway somehow peering through into an actual "world" where things are actually happening.... well, it's self-delusional but the emotional effect is magnified like you can't imagine.

So yeah, all of the above. The fluff is appealing, the mechanics fit well into it, it invites you to be creative, and at the same time leads you to the "flow" state.

Sorry about a rant, I blame the Share-A-Game thing for making me feel I have a duty to be wordy
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Marco Leon
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karlkrlarsson wrote:
I love these kinds of games, In Nomine, is an old favorite of mine.

A structured campaign like this can be very fun. When reading, it feels less like a full RPG one can get really involved with over many years, and more like a campaign (thought a long one).


Thank you!! Indeed, the precursor of this game, Fantasya... I played from 1996 or so until 2000. Some of the happiest times ever. Then Vaxia, which succeeded Fantasya, I played from 1999 or so until about 2006ish. Shadowside has three acts, but it shouldn't rush through them. It's perfectly fine to play Act II... forever!

karlkrlarsson wrote:

I don't think I like the ladder thing. Using a ruler during resolution seems like an obstacle. That being said, I admire anything that dares to be inovative. How about a rule that says, if you fail, the game master gets to hit you with that ruler... or maybe not.


Well, I'm obviously biased (and also used to it, after having used it for so long) but there are certain properties the ladder has that I like, for example that there are virtually no guaranteed wins or loses in any roll, and at the same time, every little thing (point, modifier, item, etc), matters to the roll. I've seen one or the other before, but not together except for the ladder. Also, it scales like crazy, say, if you are pitting a might of 100 vs a difficulty of 10 (extreme example!), all you'd have to do is measure 10 vs 1. And finally, it lets whoever is most comfortable actually do the roll. When attacked, some people prefer to roll to their own defense, others prefer to let the attacker roll his own dice. The ladder makes it so that it doesn't matter.

Yadda yadda, I could go on It comes down to a preference that has grown on me over the years
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Dave Bernazzani (@rpggeek)
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Awesome thread - I've learned a lot!!

Dave
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