Vessels Mechanics (Part 1)

The “Vessels” game I’ve been working on has been a struggle. Questions needed answering: what do emotions really do in a group situation? What is the right way to model influencing those emotions?

I had a conversation with a friend on G+, who’s a subject matter expert on the brain. This was thoroughly enlightening, and gave me a model to work from.

In the game, the basic cycle of manipulation is:

  1. Disrupt. The community’s emotional state will want to stay how it is, and effort is required to shatter it.
  2. Discover. What happened in the wake of the disruptive act(s)? What is the community hiding? What new factors will come to light?
  3. Direct. Having found points of leverage, the PCs must now act to take advantage of (or circumvent) the community’s mood to arrange things in a new, more satisfactory, fashion.

PCs will have backstory elements that give them an advantage with one or more stages this process.

What opposes the PCs at each stage?

The disrupt stage has two opposing forces: the risks the PCs are willing to take through their actions, and the strength of the undesirable emotion.

The discover stage is the chance for the players to make truth declarations about the situation, perhaps with a currency earned through successful disruption, perhaps some other way. There should be a limited supply of currency you can spend to make advantageous discoveries, and a possibility of surprises.

The direct stage is when PCs try to shift conditions in their favor. This can come from the discoveries made in the last stage, and/or from the community’s own requirements. For example, a story of forgiveness may not be possible in a town whose inhabitants are thirsty for blood and vengeance, and attempts to structure such a story should be resisted or have a higher cost.

Players repeat the disrupt-discover-direct stages until they arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. There should be a limited number of attempts they have to get this right, to add an overall risk to the situation.