Goodbye Special Effects

By | October 29, 2016

Special Effects have been in Forthright Open Roleplay for a while now. They were a distillation of some early ideas we had for “words of power” that could be used to create spell effects. Assemble the right words in the right order, and voila you’ve got a cool power.  Originally, this was intended to be done in play, which just slowed things down. Eventually, this was broken into a list of Boost-like abilities. But over time, it’s turned out that this structure is kind of confusing.

My Thursday night gaming group is filled with some of the smartest people I know, and they’ve been gracious enough to let me inflict various iterations of Forthright on them for years now. I do a lot of refining by looking at the questions they ask me and learning where their confusion is with what’s been written. And the most recent set of questions has involved the Special Effects section.

The center of that section is a list of example Special Effects. Let’s take a look at “Earth,” which indicates that using it causes immobilization. This was originally written to reflect the idea that, if you added the Earth special effect to an attack, that attack would behave normally and immobilize. The effect was the immobilization, that Earth was causing it was flavor.

The problem with that flavor is that it was interfering with the Cosmetic Rule. The Cosmetic Rule boils down abilities to their effects, regardless of how you achieve that effect, in order to let players describe their actions however they like as long as they can accomplish the thing they’re trying to accomplish. Given that, it shouldn’t matter if a player uses Earth or Fire or Wind or Sound to immobilize someone. In this case, the example is actively interfering with players’ ability to own their own fiction.

Additionally, the question arose if Earth was consequently the only way to immobilize, since it was the only Special Effect in the list that indicated it could immobilize.

All told, this let me know that I needed to re-craft the Special Effect section to make the effects the powers directly, removing the flavor. That would overall interfere less with understandability.

But once I started doing that, I realized that all I was doing was creating multiple lists of Boosts, given that one of the Boosts available to players allows them to pick a Special Effect to use.

As a result, we’ll be streamlining that list and incorporating it into Boosts. We’ll also be adding specific sections about crafting powers, rituals and gear using Boosts to identify overall costs (in XP, for gear and powers, or time for Rituals).

As always, we welcome comments in the space below!