Thursday, March 14, 2013

SA 2.0 Dev Blog #11: Blood Oath

This is What I'm Not Writing About

  I had originally started writing a post about the powers used to kill people dead. Unfortunately there's some discussion we're still having around certain powers that need to be resolved before that post can be completed. Specifically we're working with the concepts surrounding Element 1, 2, and 3 in the game. Currently the replacing nature of element attacks makes element 3 superior in almost every way to element 1 and element 2. (As a shifter I prefer element 2 simply because of the lack of solid level 2 powers available compared to level 3 powers).
  Really, no character benefits from having both element 1 and element 3. Also, the choice nature of element is horribly uncannon. I rarely see element used for anything but fire even though the specific gift or power that the power represents if often times specifically another element. For Black Furies it represents Wasp Talons, for Corax it's Hummingbird's Dart. Also powers that should specifically have elemental restrictions (such as something from Rego Aquam or Creo Ignam which under the current system allow people to go Darth Vader on someone) don't really have rules to restrict them making any restriction a significant nerf rather than something that helps define flavor of an attack.
  In attempting to balance this out we want to split out attacks that generally do Agg (fire), attacks that always do Agg (A new <type> of damage called Agg), attacks that do agg to a specific faction (silver, sunlight, stygian steel), and attacks that don't generally do agg to anyone (water, stone). I'll say that balancing this with the new energy limitations has been a significant challenge and we're not there yet. But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. I'm here to talk about blood oath.

One of the Weirdest Rules at SA

  The current blood oath rules represent one of the weirdest and most awkward rules in all of SA. I'm specifically talking about the 5 blood is too much rule. Now this rule has a lot of history as to how it came into being. There's much of that history I don't even know. But currently 5 blood in one sitting creates a blood oath that lasts for 24 hours. This means that vampires will routinely share 4 blood (also blood vials are 4 blood) and then stop specifically to avoid getting oathed. This represents a number of problems from a canon perspective. In canon a blood oath is formed by drinking a single point of blood from a single vampire on three different occasions. Then bam, you're oathed. Drinking from another vampire at all is considered very dangerous and is often times used as a punishment.
  Additionally the regular sentence for blood oath is 1 year to life, in SA 24 hours is the timeline. Looking at the rules for blood oath this makes sense. It's a relatively easy thing to get out of if you don't want to be bound because it basically makes you the total slave of your regent. Blood Oaths can very easily strip away the playability of a character turning you into an unwilling butler. Because of this the 24 hour timer makes sense for the current rules set but the current rules set doesn't do a great job matching canon.

The Problem with Canon

  One of the issues that you encounter using canon as a base line is that canon isn't really designed for LARPs. Where it has been converted to Minds Eye Theater it's designed for a slower pace, rock-paper-scissor's LARP where everyone can pull out their character sheet. So there's a number of things that are just plain difficult to do in a LARP setting. One of which is to take OOG notes. While teaching allows for a somewhat sensible pause to find a pen and write down what is being taught, blood oaths don't always offer the same flexibility. If we tried to move to a 3 sip total system (or 3 sips within a year) someone would need to track this. I've seen notable issues at LARPs where people were arguing about if this was drink two or three, when the last one was and if it still counted. One thing we don't have much of in SA is across game tracking. There's a couple of questions about taint, what you were taught, some stuff like that. But nothing as stat intensive as tracking one drink from Cecily, two from Morosa, two from Brennis, one from... you get the point.
  In the end if we wanted a more canon system we'd need to keep it manageable for players. Also the length is another issue. While a year in a tabletop game is fine, it feels excessive in a LARP. Especially considering that in a tabletop game you can leave, go to France and meet fine and interesting people there. In a LARP you can go to Durham but what happens in Durham, stays in Durham. Finally, if we wanted it to be more canon it needed to be more adoration less slavery. The do every command the person wishes is a bit overboard. You should want to please them, but becoming under a long term "Obedience: Do as I say" isn't generally the best form of character development. This doesn't mean that the teeth need to be kicked out of a blood oath but some toning down and ramping up seemed in order.

One Event

  Time periods in SA exist in a number of exponentially increasing increments. Most all aspects of the game fall into one of the following time periods: Immediately, 10 seconds, 1 minute, 10 minutes, 1 hour, at sunrise/sunset, or one event. There's some slight variation on length as some powers may last until sunrise or sunset or until the end of an event. But generally speaking these are the timeframes the game is based around. (As a side note a power tends to last for anywhere from half to double of it's stated duration on average considering counting speeds). I'd like to note that 24 hours isn't really one of these timeframes. It exists currently in the single case of Blood Oaths but once you reach this kind of duration it is better to revert to something that is more clearly delineated. For length of a blood oath the duration of these that makes the most sense is in the event magnitude. But tracking 6 events (one year) becomes a significant difficulty, especially since the question of alternate characters and missing games makes it a murky question.
  In the end the best way to handle this in a way that players can track without difficulty is to make a blood oath last for an event. But the possibility of ongoing blood oaths needs to be real to give them a strong canon feel. So rather than focusing on the duration of the oath, we made a rule that focused on the way to get rid of it. An blood oath lasts until a thrall has been played for a full event without consuming any blood of their regent. This gives ample opportunity for the oath to be upkept while preventing it from simply being dodged by playing other characters. It does mean that if an oathed character attends an event and their regent doesn't they can become free of their bondage. In a LARP setting this seems fair for the characters on both sides of the oath.

Three Drinks?

  The three drinks rule from canon is a real problem especially at a LARP. With an endless time frame it works fine but I've already discussed how this becomes a problem. When we look at time frames the only real one we have to work with is one event or sunrise/sunset. Trying to remember if you drank at the last event or not is too problematic to include. If we're going to cut down the time, in order to make blood oaths remain viable we'd also need to cut down the drink requirements. The problems with one drink have been apparent, especially if we're moving to a sip system. However, two drinks is a manageable number within a single event.
  Canon would dictate that these would need to be on different nights (resetting at sunrise, or sunset). One option was to have the "day" reset at both sunrise and sunset to open up the number of opportunities for creating a blood oath. The concern with this was that it would make oathing an NPC virtually impossible. The majority of NPCs see a couple of hours in game per event. Our game doesn't make following them home, going to their house and finishing the oath after sunset an option. If oathing an NPC was to be a functional possibility it would need to have a shorter gap between drinks than any measure of days.
  This brought us to our other time period options. With the number set at two drinks, immediately felt way too short. You could just grab someone and feed them once, stop and feed them again. This lacked some of the planning, plotting, RP and scheming that should be involved in bonding a target. 10 seconds and 1 minute faced the same problems as immediately. 10 minutes or 1 hour seemed to be closer to the right number to place as a gap between drinks in order to form a bond. With several NPCs staying IG for not much more than an hour it could make it incredibly difficult for someone to catch an NPC before they head off if you had to wait an hour. This left 10 minutes as the most reasonable time frame. It's enough time that if you're using force to create the bond you could have killed the person anyway and it is short enough that you probably don't need to watch the clock to have another chance to pull off the oath. Most importantly, it's long enough to require a good scheme as to how you'll pull it off.

  Final decision: 2 drinks within the same event, but not within 10 minutes of each other.

But What Does it Do?

  Considering that we had added steps back into the oathing process we could have steps of oath mean something. This means that one drink brings up that feeling of affection and interest (possibly making the final step easier to pull off). It brings the canon back to the power of a vampire's blood drawing you towards them.
  We also moved more canon with the power that the oath holds over you. No longer do you obey every command, you simply can't break powers with willpower that your regent uses on you. So you can get dominated around like a slave, but it's costing the regent energy to do so.

All of the following effects apply to a Thrall:

    Thralls always see their regent in the best light possible. Any negative characteristics are overlooked, and the best of intentions are always assumed.  The thrall has a very deep affection and respect for the regent that may or may not manifest as romantic love.
    Thralls may not use willpower to break from any power used by the regent.
    A thrall will never willingly harm their regent. This means the thrall will not attack the regent, and will make every effort to ensure that the regent does not come to harm. If a thrall thinks that staying close to a regent and fawning over them would be dangerous for the regent, they will keep their distance, and so on.
    A thrall will do everything within their power to protect their regent. This includes defending them from attacks, lying for them, and volunteering any information they think will help protect their regent.
    If a thrall comes under the effect of a power that forces them to act in a fashion contrary to the oath, the power takes priority over the oath.
    When the oath expires, the former thrall still sees their former regent in a positive light, and assumes that all emotions and actions they performed were of their own free will. It requires a great deal of evidence for a former thrall to see their actions as anything other than their own choice. The change in view from thrall to former thrall is seen as natural, as if the former thrall’s infatuation with their former regent had simply faded.

As you can see these rules are still very favorable for creating thralls and the increased duration makes it a very nice thing to have. But it gives the thrall a bit more flexibility as to how a thrall will play his character. Overall we like this approach because it's more canon, more fun, and doesn't require that weird 4 is fine but 5 is bad thing that is currently floating around at game.

1 comment:

  1. No criticism this time.

    I approve of this change.