Friday, August 7, 2009

PC Mortality House Rule for Wilderness of Mirrors

Wilderness of Mirrors is largely a game about narration rights. However, it provides precious little in terms of guidance as to what is or isn't allowed when you're narrating. Technically, if you wanted to narrate "a nuclear bomb kills everyone but me", the only thing stopping you is the fact that no one would ever game with you again. Obviously, that extreme an action is out of bounds, but there's no good guidelines in the rulebook to what is or isn't acceptable.

On page 12 of the rulebook, under the label "Solution #2" (the second of three possible ways to handle the mechanic of putting the mission on a time deadline), there's some helpful advice regarding "permanent damage" and how the GM needs full narrative control to inflict any lasting injuries on your character. (Attaining full narrative control isn't easy for the GM.)

Sadly, this "permanent damage" rule is only mentioned in one of the three options of how to handle that mechanic. If using "Solutions" 1 or 3, the issue of how to deliver such injuries is a little unclear.

More importantly, the game is rife with inter-party conflict. The rulebook actively encourages the GM to create situations where one PC is ordered to plant a bomb to kill another. That begs the question, can a PC kill another PC? Can they narrate permanent injury to a PC? If the answer to either of those is "yes", then how do you defend yourself? The game has no contested rolls, partly because until someone's narrating the results, you wouldn't know if they're attacking you.

The Two-Chip Rule:
Here's my proposal, which replaces the "permanent injury" rule, and is intended to work with any of the three "solutions".

Each PC starts the game with two poker chips (or colored stones, etc ), one each of two different colors, let's say red and blue.

While you have the blue chip, the narrator cannot give you any permanent damage. He can still wound you, even describe that you're captured, etc, but escape remains likely and your future actions are in no way penalized. Any time his narration (or veto) wounds you, he may choose to take away your blue chip. If you don't have a blue chip any more, when the GM's narrating (not just using his veto) he can give you permanent damage. So, the GM has to "set up" his big moves against players by first stripping their blue chip in some harmful development. It takes a one-two punch to really hurt a PC.

While you have the red chip, no other players can incapacitate you, nor give you permanent injury. If a player narrates some sort of harm to you, however, they may choose to remove your red chip. Thereafter, for the rest of the session, any time a player narrates harm to you, they may choose to give you a permanent injury or incapacitate you. Note that even if Player A makes you discard your red chip, you become vulnerable to actions from not just Player A, but also B, C, D, etc.
The reason I put in the "gang-up" aspect of this rule is because Wilderness of Mirrors lacks a detailed initiative system. I didn't want an inter-party conflict to be determined solely by who acted first. This way, the timely intervention of another PC can tip the scales.
The GM can't kill you, no matter what. There's only two ways a PC can die:
  1. That PC's player may narrate their own character's death, via heroic sacrifice, suicide, or enemy action.
  2. Another PC may kill them, but only if the target PC currently has no red chip, and has already been incapacitated by a PC's action. So a PC can be killed by another PC, but it takes 3 successful narrations to do so. The three narrations could be performed by 1, 2 or 3 different players, however.
Once per session, a narration (not a veto) that details healing, medical treatment, the passage of large spans of time, etc, may include the restoration of your blue and/or red chip(s).

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