Friday, December 4, 2009

Chronic Spanning-Related Achronal Nascency Syndrome

When I converted Continuum to Gumshoe, I wanted to include rules for flaws / hindrances / limits. Whatever you want to call them, I tend to like the things, as they allow for some differentiation of the characters. Gumshoe has nothing like it, so I had to invent a system whole-cloth.
An armless aside: Continuum had a Limits system, but it wasn't much to my liking. All the flaws were of equal value, and you rolled up the specific flaw at random. I was always stunned by the notion that you take a flaw for 2 extra character points for some Firearms or Athletics skill, and then have a 2% chance of rolling up "no arms". I mean really, no arms? As a random flaw on a character you're already committed to play and have finalized all other details of? I find myself having to check the cover of the rulebook. It is Continuum, even if this chart seems borrowed from Hackmaster.
So I made a very open-ended flaw system. Everyone must create one flaw for their character, and may choose a second flaw if they'd like. The mandatory flaw starts rated at a "1", and if you'd like a few extra points, either flaw may be raised as high as "3".
Numerical Values, and how the flaws work: The number value corresponds to roughly how often it will come up in the game. At the time, I'd been expecting 4 hour sessions, and the idea that a really bad flaw might sometimes bite you 3 times in 4 hours seemed believable. I now know we're running fairly tight 3-hour sessions, and the most I've activated someones flaw was twice in one session - and that just once out of 4 or 5 sessions we've been running now.

The idea was supposed to be that I'd activate the PCs flaw, and they'd have to roleplay it or pay several points of something to overcome it. If you had taken "kleptomaniac" as your flaw, and the GM activated it, you'd either have to try to steal the obvious trinket, or pay a few points of Stability to fight off the impulse. I was trying to recreate something that felt a bit like the Hubris system in 7th Sea, with some back-and-forth mechanics manipulation by pPlayer and GM alike.

So far, because of my awesome group, every instance the person has chosen to just play it out and give in to their flaws. I'm a little worried that by the time a situation comes up where someone wants to resist their flaw, they'll have forgotten it's even an option.
The point of all this rambling is that one of the players came up with this crazy notion that her character would have a flaw that was inspired by the movie The Time Traveller's Wife. Her character hasn't mastered how to span,
Spanning, for those not familiar with Continuum, is the art of time-travel and teleportation. All PCs can blip through time and space more-or-less casually.
and instead ends up at the desired place and time, but naked and suffering from temporary amnesia. I almost veto'd this flaw. It flies in the face of some major aspects of the setting - that the Spanning tech is second nature to the PCs, and that exposure of time-travel to the ignorant masses is a big no-no. The player in question is a great role-player, however, and was no doubt going to be an asset to the game, so, with some trepidation I said yes.

And thus was born Chronic Spanning-Related Achronal Nascency Syndrome. It's a rare disorder, and a flaw that plays with the definition of what spanning is. Are you really the same person you were before you teleported? If all your cells ceased to exist, and then were rebuilt somewhere, somewhen else, would you still be the same person? In some sense, one could argue that a spanner is reborn everytime they span, and her character's flaw is evidence in support of that argument. The true definitions of "self" and "birth" are something the Midwives, Physicians, and Thespians could debate in some cloistered Corner somewhere, so in that way it fits the setting.

It has resulted in a slower start to the campaign than I'd envisioned. My plan was to zip through Span One as quickly as the players could handle. Instead, everything's taken longer, because the PCs have to maneuver around the reality that one of them will end up naked and confused everytime they span somewhere. It's slow-going, but it's fun.


SiderisAnon said...

So, if the PCs know that she's going to end up naked, and she knows she's going to end up naked, can't she take off her clothes and give them to another PC to carry?

If I were one of her friends, I'd get myself some easily collapsed jumpsuits (like in survival kits), a few photos of the two of us together to convince her we're friends, and a mirror so I can show her that she's the one in the photos. Put it all in a pack and carry it with me just in case.

r_b_bergstrom said...

can't she take off her clothes and give them to another PC to carry?

Absolutely. The players have taken a few of the steps you mention.

The nudity is the less severe part of the drawback. The amnesia complicates it rather much. The character in question is the only member of the group with any fighting skills, for example, but they're not going to take a naked amnesiac into battle if they can avoid it. There's definitely ways around this disadvantage, but it does slow things down a lot.

A starting character ("Span One") can only carry about 10 lbs of stuff with them when they span. Depending on the temperature where they span to, the PC will be wearing 2 to 5 lbs of their own clothing, which doesn't leave a lot of room for emergency gear for the other PC.

SiderisAnon said...

[i]"A starting character ("Span One") can only carry about 10 lbs of stuff with them when they span."[/i]

Does that mean the character with the flaw can't carry any weight at all? Then where do their clothes and possessions end up? Do they just randomly fall out somewhere in time?

Or are they all ending up in that secret universe where all the missing socks from the dryer end up?

Spikey said...

It sounds like the sort of flaw that while slowing down some of the game, adds a bunch of character building and group dynamics that more than make up for it.

r_b_bergstrom said...

@ SiderisAnon - Her clothes stay behind, dropping to the ground whereever she was when she spanned away. Which reduces her ability to use time-travel as a clandestine and stealthy escape means. Carrying her wallet's a bad idea, too.

r_b_bergstrom said...

@Spikey - I have to agree with you. Yes, her flaw is slowing down the game, but it's resulting in some very memorable scenes. We won't be forgetting her character any time soon.

So, over all, it's a good thing, ...but it's not the campaign I thought I was going to be running. And that was a bit of a shock at first.