# Revising Revision

And as the process of creation gets underway, things change.

In writing the initial scenario, I found a significant problem with the proposed revision mechanics. They were as follows.

Roll the assessment dice and double the result. Subtract the current progress from this result to get an assessment total. Subtract the assessment total from the current progress to get the difficulty for the revision roll. Make the revision roll, and add the amount by which it exceeds the difficulty to the current progress.

Mathematically, this is equivalent to the following.

Roll the assessment dice and double the result. Add the result of rolling the revision dice. Subtract the current progress. This is the new progress.

This is problematic, because it means that it becomes impossible to get a high total if you are unlucky enough to roll fairly high but not really high on the first rolls; the current progress is a penalty to the highest possible result. This is not the way that things should work. A current progress that is close to the implementation difficulty of the creation should mean that completing the creation is easy, but, in fact, it makes it harder.

So, I’ve changed these mechanics, to the following.

Roll the assessment dice, and subtract the conception difficulty for the creation. This gives you an assessment total. Use the assessment total to buy a revision element. Each revision element provides a number of dice to keep, and costs a certain level of assessment total. A higher cost generally means more dice, so in most cases a player will choose one of the most expensive elements she can afford. However, each revision element specifies a change to be made to the creation, so if she does not like the changes that the expensive elements specify, she might choose a cheaper one, that offers fewer dice.

The revising character then rolls an ability, and keeps the number of dice granted by the element. The total is added to the current progress.

This version of the mechanics has many advantages. First, when the current progress is near the implementation difficulty, you have nearly finished. Keeping one die will probably be enough to finish. Second, it gets rid of the doubling of the total, and relies on buying elements, which is something that I am already using in the creation of theories. That is, it makes the mechanics more unified, which is always a good thing. Finally, by introducing more elements, it adds more ways for the players to develop the world around them.

I suspect that the revision elements will normally be based on the elements used to describe a creation. Indeed, the simplest ones will simply require the addition or removal of those elements. However, there may well be cases in which special revision elements make sense. This also provides a way for personae to add to a concept that is already under development, because a really good assessment roll might allow you to buy a revision element that improves the initial concept.

Another thing that I’m noticing as I write the scenario: Kannagara material is going to be hard to write. I think it is going to be easy to play, but a lot of the work that gets offloaded onto the GM in conventional games has to be done in the writing. From a commercial standpoint, that’s not actually a bad thing: it means that published material should have substantial value to players. It does mean that writing the initial scenario is taking quite a long time.

# Development Continues

The frequency of posts to this blog is likely to drop off a bit for a while. I’m working on the playtest scenario, and while it’s coming along nicely it doesn’t lend itself to posting on the blog quite as easily as the initial, more abstract, development. In addition, things are changing as I make them concrete. This doesn’t surprise me; RPG development always works like this. Things will change again once the scenario is finished and I’ve had the chance to play it, and have other people play it.

I think I will be able to post some snippets from the scenario here, however, so look for those in the near future.

# Performing Harae

As I mentioned earlier, simple harae and misogi rituals are an essential part of any visit to a jinja, and all matsuri. I don’t think I need special rules for them; they are something to be mentioned as colour. Shinto believes that people acquire kegare through their normal activities, and the standard harae rituals can be considered to remove that impurity. That suggests that a penalty should apply to matsuri if personae perform them without performing the standard harae rituals, but that would take a deliberate declaration by the players that the personae were not performing those rituals.

However, for kegare gained as a resource statistic, something more is needed. The personae must create and perform a special harae to purify themselves.

A harae is similar to a matsuri; there is still a norito, for example. However, the mikë is replaced with haraegu, the items to which kegare is transferred, and kagura is replaced with misogi. Unlike kagura, misogi is not something the personae can fail to perform, but it can only be included if the persona has a suitable body of water available, and is willing to get wet, so including it provides an automatic 1-step bonus, in addition to any further bonuses from the design of the misogi ritual. In a similar way, harae that can only be performed by more than one person get a bonus analogous to the bonus gained from kagura. If two people are needed, the bonus is 1 step, if four, 2 steps, and if eight, 3 steps.

Every step added to the harae ceremony purifies one point of kegare from a single persona, the persona at the focus of the ceremony. The purified persona does count as one of the people performing the ceremony, for the purposes of bonuses to the number of steps.

The most important difference between a harae and a matsuri is that a harae asks the kami of harae to remove kegare, and these kami are always both able and willing to do that. This means that there is no need to roll to see whether the kami are capable of removing the kegare, and also no need to roll to see whether the kami respond to the request.

This is a good thing, as the standard penalties to matsuri from kegare do apply. If the players needed to roll to see whether the kami responded to the request, they would almost certainly fail. However, that is not necessary, so that penalty is not an issue. The other penalty for performing matsuri while suffering from kegare does make a difference, however. That is, for every point of kegare held by a participant, including the persona to be purified, the number of steps in the harae is reduced by one. Clearly, there is no point having other people participate if they have any kegare themselves; the penalty from the kegare will outweigh the bonus from additional participants.

There is one final requirement. A harae must remove all of a persona’s kegare, or it cannot remove any of it. That is, if a persona has 6 points of kegare, she can only be purified by a 6-step (or greater) harae. Since her kegare subtracts 6 from the number of steps available, the harae itself must have at least 12 steps. With three elements, the norito, haraegu, and misogi, this is not impossible, but it is not easy.

This, then, is what provides the limit on taking kegare. If a persona acquires too much kegare, she will not be able to purify herself.

At the moment, I want to say that, while other personae can help to design the ceremony, or even do the whole design, it must be designed anew every time. That is, the personae cannot create a standard harae ceremony that they all use to get rid of their kegare. From a game design perspective, we need to strike a balance between the personae being able to take as much kegare as they want, whenever they want, and players never daring to take any. We also need to avoid the design of harae ceremonies becoming a chore that players need to get through to get on with the interesting parts. These are not easy questions, and they are ones that will be addressed in the playtest.

And that is the next step: writing a playtest scenario and running through it.

# Harae

Harae is normally translated as “purification”, and this is not a bad translation; harae is how one gets rid of kegare. Harae is very closely linked to misogi, which is also a way to get rid of kegare. Indeed, in contemporary Shinto it is not clear that they are really different, and it is not uncommon to see references to “misogiharae” or “haraemisogi”. The main difference is that misogi involves water, and harae does not.

When one enters a jinja, one is supposed to rinse one’s hands and mouth at the water basin near the entrance. This is an abbreviated form of misogi. On the other hand, if you participate in a matsuri, the shinshoku will wave an ohnusa over you at the beginning, after reciting a harae norito. An ohnusa is a stick with many strips of paper, linen, or thin rice-straw rope attached to it. This is a simple form of harae.

In harae, it is common for the kegare to be symbolically transferred to another object, which is then disposed of. For example, it is common to transfer kegare to a small piece of paper, cut into a roughly human shape to make a doll, by rubbing it on your body and then blowing on it. The dolls are then either burned or thrown into a river to carry the kegare away. At some jinja, people unwind a small piece of rope as part of the harae, and then the remains are burned or washed away. The idea here is that, as the rope is unwound, so too are the binding effects of the kegare on the person. The ohnusa is thought to be derived from this; originally, the kegare was transferred to the ohnusa, which was then presumably destroyed.

However, the ohnusa is also thought to be derived from the cloth offered to the kami as a gift. In the earliest days of Shinto, cloth seems to have been the standard non-food offering to the kami, and it is still sometimes offered today. That is connected to another way in which harae is performed. In some cases, kegare is thought to be transferred to items that are offered to the kami. The kami then removes the kegare from the item when she accepts it. These days, this is one explanation for the money it is traditional to offer at a jinja when you visit; your kegare is attached to the money, and then removed by the kami. This, of course, does not fit easily with the idea that kami hate kegare, but, as I have mentioned before, Shinto does not place a high priority on rigorously consistent theology.

Salt is also used in harae, often being sprinkled on the people to be purified. Salt is believed, in Shinto as in many other cultures, to have purifying properties, and it is one of the standard offerings to the kami. Sometimes, the salt used in harae is dissolved in water, which connects it to misogi.

Full misogi involves stripping naked and immersing your body in water, ideally natural water from the sea or a river. This is unusual in contemporary Shinto; the only example I am aware of is at the Okitsumiya of Munkata Taisha in Kyushu, where a whole island is the sacred enclosure of the jinja, and you must strip completely naked and purify yourself in the sea before setting foot on land. (This island, Oki-no-shima, is also the only Shinto sacred space I know of that women are still not allowed to enter.) Much more common is for men to wear a white loincloth and women to wear a short white tunic, and then immerse themselves in the water. Although this is much more common, it is still not an everyday practice; such misogi is almost always associated with a particular matsuri. For some unfathomable reason, a lot of shrines have these in the middle of winter.

Misogi and harae are often both traced back to the same mythological event, when Izanagi returned from Yomi-no-Kuni, the land of the dead, where he had been seeking Izanami, his wife. As death is a source of kegare in Shinto, he had picked up a lot of kegare there, and he purified himself on the seashore. First, he stripped off and threw away all his clothes, then he immersed himself in the water. Discarding his clothes suggests that the kegare was transferred to them, thus making it a form of harae, while the immersion in water is clearly misogi.

These rituals are very important to Shinto, so they should be important in the game. How, then, do I plan to incorporate them?

# Kegare Points

So, how will kegare work in the game? As a resource statistics, like shin’i, it will come in points. Most resource statistics, including shin’i, are spent to get good effects. Kegare is the opposite. A persona can accept kegare to avoid bad effects.

If a player does not like a die roll, she can accept of point of kegare for the persona, and reroll as many of the dice as she wants. Statistically, it is usually sensible to reroll any dice showing a three or lower, as there is a better than even chance of improvement. However, if the player needs all sixes to succeed, it makes sense to reroll anything that is not a six. If the reroll is still not good enough, or even worse than the initial attempt, the player can take another point of kegare to roll again.

A player can also choose to have her persona take kegare to aid another persona. In that case, for every point of kegare that the player’s persona takes, she can change any two dice to be sixes. Normally, changing the lowest two dice would be the best option, but if changing two dice would make all the kept dice sixes, it doesn’t really matter.

In both cases, the players make the decision whether to accept kegare after the dice have been rolled, and the result has been calculated. However, kegare must be accepted and the result altered before any further rolls are made, or further results are calculated.

The problem here is that this kegare does not seem to correspond to in-game actions or events that would be viewed as causing kegare in Shinto. We could say that the effort the persona puts into avoiding the near-disaster drains some of her energy, leaving her weaker and withered. That would fit nicely with the idea that kegare is not sin, but this is something that may need further thought.

There is no formal upper limit on kegare, but a character with kegare suffers from negative effects.

First, kegare is catastrophic during matsuri. The total number of points of kegare held by the participants is subtracted from the number of steps the matsuri has, making the matsuri much less effective. As a result, it almost never makes sense to take kegare during a matsuri, although it is quite reasonable to do so while creating it. In addition, kegare acts as a penalty to any kami’s attitude towards a persona. The number of points of kegare subtracts from the number of dice the kami keeps when deciding whether to aid the persona, even if the persona does not participate in the ritual making the request.

The negative effects of kegare are not restricted to direct contact with kami. If a player keeps at least one 1 on a die roll, then if the number of ones a player keeps, plus the persona’s current kegare, is greater than the number of dice the player kept for that roll, something really bad happens. For example, a player whose persona has 3 points of kegare is keeping 2 dice. In this case, if she keeps even a single one, something bad will happen, because 1 + 3 is greater than 2. However, if the persona only has 1 point of kegare, the player needs to keep two ones for something to go seriously wrong. If the player keeps no ones, then there is no disaster, no matter how much kegare the persona has. If the persona has 3 kegare and is keeping 2 dice, then there is no disaster as long as neither die is a 1. Obviously, this means that these disasters are much less likely if the player is rolling more dice than she is keeping, and much more likely if she is keeping more than she is rolling.

The negative effect depends on the context, but it is worse than a failure on the roll. If something is being created, this effect typically destroys all the progress that has been made so far, but the players should describe what goes wrong.

The persona may accept a point of kegare to avoid the crisis. Doing this too often, however, quickly leads to kegare totals that guarantee that even a single one leads to disaster, and make it completely impossible for the persona to interact effectively with kami, or participate in a matsuri.

If kegare builds up, personae need to reduce it in order to be able to deal with the kami again. That is the function of harae.

# Kegare

The basic framework of the game is now largely complete, but one extremely important element is still missing: kegare. Kegare is a central concept in Shinto, and is normally translated as “impurity”. This is not a bad translation, but it is also not quite right. Sometimes, kegare is referred to as “tsumikegare”, which is translated as “sin and impurity”. This is also not quite right.

The first point to make is that “impurity” is a better translation than “sin”. Traditionally, for example, childbirth attached a great deal of kegare to the mother, but childbirth was certainly not regarded as a sin; indeed, it was the primary function of a woman in society. (Like all religions with a history, Shinto has a history of sexism.) What’s more, physical dirt is a form of kegare, and physically washing it off is an important part of harae, and particularly of misogi, which I will discuss in more detail in a couple of posts’ time. Even more striking is the fact that being a victim of a disaster or a crime causes kegare. Sometimes, kegare is something that happens to you. It isn’t your fault in any way, but you are still impure.

On the other hand, sometimes kegare does arise from your actions. Wrong actions, like moving boundary markers in fields (this is one of the things listed in the nearest equivalent Shinto has to the Ten Commandments — it’s not a very close equivalent), cause kegare for the person who does them. People are, in some sense, damaged when they do something that is wrong. Wrong actions can also, of course, cause kegare for the victims of the action, as noted above.

The precise nature of kegare is unclear, largely because, as I have mentioned before, Shinto does not have a tradition of analytical theology. It is generally believed that having a lot of kegare is bad for you, in the same way as being ill is bad for you. Indeed, being ill might be a result of having a lot of kegare, as might any other form of bad luck. One popular etymology for “kegare” is that it comes from the words for “spirit” and “wither”, so that kegare represents a lessening of your energy. This means that you are less capable, less creative, and more prone to mistakes. It is also connected to damaged relationships with other people, and an inability to take stock of and address your own problems.

Kami really hate kegare. This is why you are supposed to rinse your hands and mouth before approaching a jinja, to make sure that you are not carrying kegare into the sacred area. Performing a matsuri while carrying kegare is a major taboo. The matsuri in which a newborn baby is presented to the kami is a good example of this. This matsuri was traditionally performed when the father and the child had been purified of the kegare caused by childbirth. However, at this point the mother was still considered to be suffering kegare, so she could not enter the jinja. Instead, the baby was carried by its paternal grandmother. This last custom is maintained today, although most shrines do let the mother attend as well. More generally, shinshoku are required to undergo purification before officiating at matsuri, to remove any kegare they have picked up in their daily lives, and anyone attending a matsuri is purified before it starts.

Kegare, then, is something that you get by doing the wrong thing, or because something bad happens to you. If you have kegare, things are more likely to go wrong, and you cannot approach the kami. In Kannagara, I want to use kegare as a general resource statistic. I’ll discuss the details in the next post.

# Reducing Resistance

A character’s resistance is not a one-off thing. If it remains at the same level, the personae have to persuade her to get involved every time the issue comes up, and that is a long-term problem for the jinja. If the resistance represents a bad relationship with another character, then the removal of that resistance represents repairing the relationship, and may be one of the persona goals.

How, then, do personae go about doing that? I do not want to introduce another set of mechanics at this point; I think we already have plenty. That means reusing a set that already exists, and the best candidate seems to be the mechanics for creating a relationship. Those are mechanics for doing something to change a character’s long-term attitudes, and that is exactly what the personae want to do in this case.

Most of the steps also make sense. The personae need to work out what to do in order to reduce the character’s resistance, and then do it. This will involve talking to the character, or her friends, and then putting together whatever is necessary. Elements can be used to further develop the character, and the reasons for the resistance, as this is being done.

The problem is setting the difficulty for reducing the resistance. There are two obvious possibilities: one is to use the resistance itself, and the other is to have a fixed difficulty for reducing the resistance by a certain number of points.

Intuitively, it should be harder to remove a stronger resistance. Both approaches meet this requirement. If the resistance itself is the difficulty, then the requirement is obviously met. On the other hand, if there is a fixed difficulty for a certain number of points, the personae will need to choose a higher difficulty, or go through the process several times, if the resistance is higher.

Bearing that in mind, I will go for a fixed difficulty. For now, I will use the same number as used when building relationships: 8. The difficulty to remove a number of points of resistance is 8 times the number of points. This will make it impossible for most personae to remove even a moderate resistance all at once, as a resistance could easily be around 20. However, they could cut it down a bit at a time.

The smallest possible cut is one point, which has a difficulty of 8. That’s easy; almost any persona will be up to that challenge. The question, then, is how to make it a good idea to go for a difficulty that’s a bit higher. One possibility is to allow only one attempt to reduce the resistance in the course of one story, or have some other way to measure the time limit. That makes it sensible to try to reduce the resistance as much as you can in the attempts that you have available. Another possibility is not to worry about it, and to let the time required to make multiple attempts serve as the limiting factor.

One advantage of using a fixed difficulty is that the same mechanics can be used to persuade a character not to intervene in the personae’s project. Normally, a character intervenes when the personae have accumulated a certain number of points towards their goal. By using these rules, the personae can add to the threshold at which the character takes action, and if they raise it high enough, the project will succeed before the character does anything to interfere.

At this point, I think I have, finally, described all the core dice mechanics for the game. I still don’t have a role for harae, however, and that is what I would like to discuss next. It is, as I have mentioned before, a central part of Shinto. The purpose of harae is to remove kegare, so the first step in incorporating harae is to decide what kegare is in the game. That will be the topic of the next couple of posts.

# Overcoming Resistance

As I mentioned in the last post, a character’s resistance will be a number tied to a description. To overcome it, personae roll dice.

The easiest way to do this is to have the resistance be the difficulty for the die roll, and, as yet, I don’t see any reason to make things more complicated. That still leaves the question of what the persona’s player should roll, and what she should keep.

I think that the player will roll the persona’s social skill. This will be something like persuasion or etiquette; the skill list will be worked out a little bit later. This means that someone with a high social skill is more likely to get a good result, but that charm and persuasiveness can only get you so far. Other things, the dice kept, are more fundamental.

The dice kept will be set by the strength of the persona’s relationship to the character, as long as the relationship is backed up by appropriate attitudes. Trust and love will be the most common, depending on whether the persona is trying to convince the character that something is a good idea for the character, or to do it because the persona wants it done. If the persona makes promises or threats, however, hope or fear might be appropriate. It isn’t really possible to use hate or doubt to get someone to do what you want.

Sometimes, this will be obviously hopeless. If the character’s resistance is 13 and the personae only have a two die relationship with her, they have no chance of overcoming the resistance. First, they need to either strengthen their relationship with her, or reduce her resistance. This is a good thing, because it reinforces the themes of the game. The personae need to build a relationship to get what they want, not kill things.

In many cases, however, rolling the dice will make sense, because the personae might succeed. What will be the effect of this roll? Right at the beginning of this blog, I talked about the effects that success on a die roll could have, and the need to avoid simple failure. In this case, I think there are two main choices: success might create an option, or change the context.

Success creates an option when it gives the personae another route towards the main goal, one that involves the cooperation of this character. For this to be appealing, the new route needs to be easier than the ones available beforehand. For example, if the personae need a ceremonial mask for a matsuri, and the character has one but is reluctant to lend it, overcoming her resistance lets them use her mask. If they cannot overcome it, the personae will have to make a mask, which will take time and effort.

Changing the context, on the other hand, will normally mean bringing more people within the benefits of reaching the goal. If a matsuri grants bonus dice to everyone present, convincing a character to attend means that she also gets the bonus dice. Of course, since characters do not actually use bonus dice, this would, instead, contribute to strengthening her relationship to the jinja, which in turn contributes to building the jinja up.

The players need to describe what the personae say to the character, and how the character replies. These decisions will be based on the elements describing the character’s personality, and on what the players have decided to have the personae do. This part of the interaction with the character is brief and simple, so the rules do not need to provide much structure. On the other hand, building a relationship is much more complex, as we saw earlier, and there, the rules do provide more structure for developing the character’s personality. What about reducing the resistance? That should also tell us more about the character, and so I will discuss it in the next post.

# Character Resistance

The ways in which characters become obstacles to the personae will be defined with numbers, to fit with the rest of the mechanics. However, I think they will be defined with simple numbers, not dice.

This is because the active force in the game should be the personae, not the characters. The personae drive things forward, and make the decisions that change things. In mechanics, that means that the personae roll dice and succeed or fail. The success or failure of character actions depends on how well the personae do at preparing for those actions, not on a die roll made for the character. In any case, since there is no GM, there is no-one to roll on the characters’ behalf.

The first class of statistic is nothing but a number, representing the character’s resistance to a certain sort of action. For example, “Hates Masao” would serve as the resistance if the character were asked to do anything to help Masao, or work with Masao on a project. Similarly, “Blames the kami for his mother’s death” would be a resistance to getting involved with the jinja. The description of the resistance guides the players when they describe how the character reacts as the personae interact with her, and face her resistance. Personae can either try to overcome those resistances in particular cases, or reduce them in the long term. Both of these options will be considered later.

The second class of statistic is more complex. If characters never do anything at all without direct prompting from the personae, the game will not be very plausible, and players will find it hard to suspend their disbelief. Therefore, characters need to act.

In line with making the personae the centre of the story, however, even these actions will be reactions to things that the personae do. A character will be tied to a goal as a possible obstacle, and will take action that causes problems for the personae when they reach a certain stage in achieving the goal. The players, of course, all know that this will happen, because they have all read the scenario. The personae, therefore, also have a general idea that this character is opposed to the goal, but they do not know how to stop her. Investigating the character uncovers the reasons for her opposition, using the normal investigation rules, and the detailed reasons are created by the players as part of this process. The personae can then, if they wish, do things to postpone her interference, or to make it less of a problem when it happens. They might also fail at this, making her intervention even more of a problem than it would have been otherwise.

The game mechanics of the character’s opposition will be defined by the scenario, and may be modified by the actions of the personae. The description of her opposition, however, will be defined in play, based on the way the character and the situation have been developed. The scenario will provide elements that help to guide this definition, but they may not all apply, as the players may have taken things in a direction the scenario writer did not anticipate. Reacting to the character’s opposition may involve creating something, investigating something, or overcoming the character’s resistance, just as in the first sort of obstacle.

How, then, do personae overcome a character’s resistance? That is the topic for the next post.

# GM-Free Scenarios

Why do characters come into conflict with personae? Because the characters want things that differ from what the personae want, or because the personae want things from the characters that the characters are not immediately willing to give. That, of course, is the in-game reason. The meta-game reason is that conflict with characters is one of the things that drives the story, and makes the game exciting. For the same reason, creation and discovery are difficult, and personae might fail, or at least have to accept something that does not quite live up to their hopes.

For creation, the players can decide what their personae are trying to create, and then use the rules to see whether they succeed. For discovery, the die rolls determine how useful the information is, and the available elements shape its content. For interaction, I think I can do something similar, which leads me to a conclusion about the fundamental structure of the game.

I am going to try to make it work without a GM.

However, my default position will be that the players are working from an existing scenario. This scenario might have been written by one of the players, or might be something that they have purchased. At least one of the players needs to be familiar with the rules of the game and the structure of the scenario, and things would probably go most smoothly if all the players were. However, in play, every player has a persona, and every player is working towards resolving the scenario in the way the personae want.

This means that a scenario needs to be playable by someone who has read it. For conventional RPG scenarios, this is not possible, because if you have read the scenario, you know everything that is going to happen. However, a lot of recent narrativist games do away with this assumption, and I’m going to follow in their footsteps. Kannagara will have scenarios that work better if everyone has read them, and reading a scenario should make you want to play it.

One way that Kannagara differs from most recent narrativist games, however, is in the level of rules. I don’t think it’s as complex as it initially looks, but it is a complex game. This means that the scenario will have to provide the elements necessary to support these complex rules. I suspect that, slightly counter-intuitively, this will actually make the game easier to play. Players will not have to decide what their personae do from an infinite menu of possibilities. Rather, at each point there will be a list of options to choose from. Players who are familiar and comfortable with the setting will, of course, be able to choose elements of their own, but that won’t be required. Creativity is hard, which is why I think it would be fun to play at succeeding, and why the game needs to make it easier to create in the game than to do it for real.

Of course, if the scenario is just a list of choices, people will not be inspired to use it. Motivation to play will come from the goals offered in the scenario. This might be possible transformations of the personae, discoveries about the world, or the creation of a great jinja. It could also be forming a good relationship with a kami, or resolving deep=seated conflict between characters.

In order for the game to be interesting, however, the scenario must also offer obstacles and conflicts. The rules for creation and discovery provide obstacles already; if a particular creation is defined as being difficult, then the personae need to find elements and improve their abilities before they can complete it. Characters are another source of conflict and obstacles. They might directly oppose the personae, but more often they have goals of their own that create an indirect obstacle. For example, the personae might want a character to do something she is unwilling to do, or a character might want to do something that will, incidentally, cause problems for the personae.

A character’s role in the scenario, then, is defined by what the personae can do for her, or how she gets in the personae’s way. That is not everything about the character, of course, but the rest can be defined by the players in the course of portraying her. The rest of the character can even have game mechanical effects, by defining what the personae need to do to win the character over. This is one way in which the scenario will be unpredictable, even to people who have read it.

While mechanics will be involved with the all aspects of the personality of characters, they are essential to describing them as obstacles, and that is the issue I will look at in the next post.