Building Relationships

Creating and improving relationships with characters, and quite possibly between personae, should be one of the central activities of personae in Kannagara. Given the design philosophy of the game, that means that we need rules for building a relationship.

I don’t want to introduce something completely new, so I will use the structure of the perspiration stage of the creation mechanics. For creation, the inspiration stage sets the target for the creation, and the effects of the completed work, but that is not necessary for building a relationship. The effect of the completed work is a 1 point improvement in the relationship, and the difficulty depends on the current state of the relationship.

The equivalent of an embodiment roll is a roll to actually do something for the character. Here, the number of dice rolled is determined by the skill necessary to perform the action. Even giving someone a gift requires adherence to the rules of etiquette, after all. The number of dice kept is determined by the nature of the action, and how effective it is likely to be. The action itself will normally be designed using the full creation rules, and other personae may help to design the action. In some cases, they may all be able to participate in carrying it out. In this case, the number of dice to be kept when performing the action to improve the relationship will be an important feature of the thing being created.

Going through this process once will generate progress towards improving the relationship, but it probably will not complete it in most cases. It normally takes more than one action to build a relationship with someone, unless you are aiming for a very weak and casual relationship. So, a level 1 relationship might be within the reach of a single roll, but that should not be expected for one at level 3.

The place of the revision rolls is taken by a roll to assess how the character has reacted to the action, which provides guidance on what the persona should do next. Here, the persona rolls something like empathy, a skill involved in assessing how people feel. The number of dice to be kept depends on how well-suited to the character the action was. This is not the same as the number of dice measuring how effective an action is likely to be in general. Something can be quite minor, but very well suited to someone, or a major undertaking, but not close to her interests.

Note that the actions performed to build the relationship do not need to succeed, although the rules do model the fact that things move more quickly if the actions go well. That is, the result of the roll to perform the action may not be high enough to count as success in the action, while still improving the relationship. This is because, in this context, it really is the thought that counts. Putting a lot of effort into doing something for someone does improve the relationship, even if you are not completely successful in your action. A dismal failure won’t help much, but that’s reflected by the lack of progress personae get if they roll badly.

If you are only aiming for a weak relationship, you do not need to understand the other person well, or adapt to them. This reflects reality. I don’t drink, but if someone buys me a bottle of wine as a gift, that will contribute to making me feel more positive towards her. On the other hand, if she is trying to build a deeper relationship, she needs to find out that I don’t drink. That is reflected in the rolls that take the place of revisions. If the action is well suited to the character, the total on the revision roll is likely to be high, allowing the personae to make fast progress towards a higher relationship target.

This suggests that there will be another stage, before the personae even design the actions they will perform. They will try to find out about the character, to respond to her likes and desires. That links in to the general rules for discovery, and so it is something I will come back to a bit later. First, I need to make the rules for building relationships a little more concrete.

The Ties That Bind

Attitudes are not quite the same as relationships. A character might really trust a persona, believing that the persona never lies and always keeps her promises, without feeling that he has any particular tie to her. If she tells him something, he will probably believe it, but most of the time he doesn’t think about her, and she probably doesn’t think about him. The same applies to most of the other attitudes, although it is harder to see how it could be true of love and hate.

In game terms, however, I want to make relationships into something separate from attitudes, even for love and hate. The relationship between a persona and a character is a single number, and it is the same on both sides. There are no default relationships, so even a score of 1 in a relationship is significant. In cases where it matters, the same number is used on both sides; relationships, in game terms, have to be mutual. That means, for example, that a persona who has a strong relationship with a kami uses the same number for determining whether the kami answers her requests, and in determining her responses to the kami.

To give relationships an impact on the game, I want to use them as bonuses or penalties to the number of dice rolled for other actions. If a persona is trying to help someone she loves, she can get bonus dice to roll, increasing her chances of performing at the peak of her ability. Similarly, if someone she trusts has told her that a course of action is the wrong one, she takes a penalty to perform it; her confidence is undermined because, at the back of her mind, she wonders whether she is doing the right thing.

While these bonuses and penalties emphasise the importance of relationships, requiring them for every roll would really bog down play. The players would have to decide which characters might be affected, and thus which relationships were relevant, for every action. That would take far too long. Instead, I want to borrow an idea from FATE, specifically its use of invoking and compelling Aspects.

If a player wants her persona to get a bonus from a relationship, she has to spend a point from a resource statistic. That gets one relationship as a bonus to the number of dice to roll for one test, as long as the group agrees that the relationship is relevant and appropriate. If no-one else thinks the relationship is relevant, there is no bonus, but the player does not have to spend a point. Similarly, the relationship might not be appropriate; if the relationship is strong, but the attitudes on both sides are hatred and contempt, the relationship cannot provide a bonus to attempts to help the character.

In this case, the player may spend the point after rolling the dice without the bonus. It might make more “sense” to require the point to be spent first, but I suspect it is more fun in play this way around. In addition, while a player can only invoke a particular relationship once on a given roll, she can invoke other relationships as long as she has points to spend. (Note that, if the player starts off with fewer dice to roll than she keeps, she will have to reroll all the dice when she invokes a relationship. If she started with more, then she can just roll more dice.)

On the other hand, another player can give a player a point to say that a particular relationship causes problems. The second player receives the point, and then can choose whether to take the relationship as a penalty on the rolled dice, or to abandon the action out of consideration for the relationship. Of course, this is also subject to the group agreeing that the relationship is relevant and appropriate. In this case, the relationship can be invoked before the player rolls the dice, because one of the options is abandoning the action. Other players may also invoke the relationship after the roll, as long as the roll succeeded. In this case, the acting player may choose to declare that she never took the action in the first place, or she may adjust the dice and roll again. If she started off with more dice than she kept, she will need to reroll everything, but if she started off with fewer, she can just roll additional dice.

I think it would be a good idea to have a limit on the number of points that players can use to invoke other personae’s relationships to cause trouble. A simple way to do this is to have it cost one point from the invoking player’s pool, but have it grant two points to the other player. Of course, players will need an initial score in the pool, but that is no problem. The precise nature of this resource statistic is something to be decided later. Next, we need to start looking at how personae can change attitudes and build relationships with characters.