Measuring Relationships

One of the main themes in Kannagara is building relationships between personae and characters, including kami. In the section on matsuri, I suggested that the strength of a kami’s relationship with a persona might be the number of dice she keeps when deciding whether to answer a request. It is time to look at the mechanics for relationships in a bit more detail.

A relationship, by definition, has to involve at least two people. One of them might not know that the other has a relationship with them, such as when someone longs for a celebrity, but if there is only one person involved, it is not a relationship. Even so, certain aspects of a relationship do belong on one side: the way that each person thinks about the other. I will call these attitudes, and I will discuss them first.

First, because I want to keep the mechanics as unified as possible, attitudes will be represented by numbers. These numbers will be used as numbers of dice to either roll or keep. What will the numbers represent?

The first, easy, point is that higher numbers represent a stronger attitude. The next question is what sort of attitude should be possible. Attitudes can be positive or negative, but there are also several different types. Because the attitudes will have game effects, the descriptions should be chosen with that in mind. Each type of attitude will have a particular kind of effect. At the moment, I’m looking at the following list.

Awe: The character thinks that the persona has excellent personal qualities, and is worthy of emulation.

Contempt: The character thinks that the persona is inferior to her.

Doubt: The character thinks that the persona is unreliable, and will lie and cheat.

Fear: The character wants to avoid suffering harm from the persona, and thinks that such harm is a serious risk.

Hate: The character wants to cause harm to the persona.

Hope: The character wants to get benefits from the persona, and thinks that this is a real possibility.

Love: The character wants to help the persona.

Trust: The character thinks that the persona is reliable, will keep her promises, and will tell the truth.

These attitudes obviously form pairs: Awe/Contempt, Hope/Fear, Love/Hate, Trust/Doubt. It would be possible for a character to have high scores in both hope and fear for the same persona, but that would not be normal for the other relationships. It shouldn’t be impossible, however — a love/hate relationship is a staple of fiction, and it does happen in real life. Similarly, awe and contempt can go together, attached to different aspects of a person. On the other hand, high levels of both trust and doubt do not make much sense. You can’t think that someone will both tell the truth and lie, at least not easily.

The attitudes held by the two sides tell us about the kind of relationship. An entirely one-sided relationship, such as that between a fan and a celebrity, has attitudes on only one side, probably including awe. An ideal relationship has high levels of love and trust on both sides. A codependent relationship has high levels of hope on both sides. A bad relationship has a high level of awe, love, hope, fear, and doubt on one side, and a high level of hope, contempt, hate, and trust on the other.

A character would probably have default levels for these attitudes, which are applied when dealing with someone she doesn’t know. High default levels of love and trust make a good person who is prone to exploitation, while high default levels of doubt and fear represent someone who is paranoid. High levels of doubt, hope, and contempt indicate a manipulator. High levels of doubt and love represent a good person who has experienced a bad environment. High levels of awe, hope, and doubt represent someone with low self-esteem.

Right now, I’m not sure whether these traits will be used to describe how personae feel about characters; I think I might leave that to roleplaying. If I do, then these traits would be traits of the persona, not the character; the way that the character feels about the persona is, for game purposes, a feature of the persona. The default traits would be features of the character, of course, but if the persona has a score in either or both of the pair, that overrides the defaults.

The next question is how these traits are used: how are they converted into dice?






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