Work Continues

I’m continuing to work on the introductory scenario.

One of the features of Kannagara is that the players can define the details of the world that their personae live in through their choices as they explore it. The players decide what the personae discover, and those discoveries define the world.

There are two versions of this. In the first, the background is defined by the game material, and the personae discover it. This is going to be an important part of the game, because this is how scenarios will be offered. In the second version, the material provides options. The players can choose to have their personae discover a character, location, or plot, or they can choose to leave it undiscovered and, therefore, not part of their world. This is even more important, because even when the background is defined for a scenario, the players will make the initial decision as to whether that scenario will happen in their game.

So, right now I’m trying to get the second part to work. I think I’ve got most of the way there, but there’s still something missing. In the introductory scenario, this has to be a minor aspect, because an introductory scenario needs to be focused, so that inexperienced players can work out what is going on. Getting it to work for something minor is proving to be difficult. Indeed, in the end I may actually drop this from the scenario, as adding too much complexity. However, before I decide whether to do that, I want to get it working, so that I can use it for important options after the first scenario.

I’m not sure how long it will take me to get this done, but I think it is the last new bit of mechanics, so once this is working it might get easier to get the whole scenario finished. Or it might not…

A Sample

Here is a sample of text from the first scenario. This section concerns the creation of the norito for a harae to purify the personae.

Norito

The rules for creating each part of the harae are the same, and we will create the norito first.

First, one of the personae must come up with a concept for the norito. To do this, roll a number of dice equal to norito knowledge, and keep a number equal to norito skill, following the standard rules, which are described again below. The quality of the idea is mainly influenced by the persona’s skill at creating norito, but the more a persona knows about norito, the more likely she is to avoid creating something with a serious flaw.

If the persona has a higher score in norito knowledge than in norito skill, keep the highest dice. For example, if the persona has a score of 3 in norito knowledge and 2 in norito skill, roll three dice and keep the best two. If the two scores are equal, keep all the dice. For example, if the persona has scores of 3 in both norito knowledge and norito skill, roll three dice and keep all of them. If norito knowledge is less than norito skill, roll a number of dice equal to norito skill, plus the difference between norito skill and norito knowledge. Then keep the lowest dice, equal in number to the score in norito skill. For example, suppose the persona has a score of 3 in norito knowledge and 5 in norito skill. The difference between the score in norito skill and the score in norito knowledge is two, and when that is added to the score in norito skill the result is seven. Therefore, you should roll seven dice, and keep the lowest five.

Add together all the dice that you keep to get the result of the die roll. For example, in the final case, suppose you roll the dice and get 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 5. The lowest five dice are 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, so the result is 14.

None of the personae have scores in norito knowledge or norito skill yet. Every persona receives 4 points with which we can buy these abilities. We may also use any points we have left over from previous scenes. If you want your persona to participate in creating the norito, it is better to have a score of at least 1 in each ability, as both will be kept at some point in the process.

All of the personae may roll once to come up with a concept, and then we can decide which concept we will use.

The difficulty of a concept depends on how many steps it will add to the harae.

1 step: Conception 1, Implementation 8

2 steps: Conception 4, Implementation 14

3 steps: Conception 7, Implementation 20

4 steps: Conception 10, Implementation 26

5 steps: Conception 13, Implementation 32

A persona may come up with any concept, as long as the conception difficulty is equal to or lower than her total on the conception roll. If her result on the conception roll is greater than the conception difficulty, she may subtract the difference from the implementation difficulty.

For example, suppose that a persona gets a result of 12 on the conception roll. She could choose to have a 1 step idea, with a conception difficulty of 1. She would have 11 points left over, so she could reduce the implementation difficulty to 0, meaning that there would be no chance of failure in writing the norito; she just needs to take a little time to write it down. She could also choose a 2 step idea, and reduce the implementation difficulty by 8 points, to 6. This idea would be easy to turn into a norito, and she would almost certainly succeed on the first roll. If she chose a 3 step concept, she could reduce the implementation difficulty by 5 points, to 15. This is likely to take some cooperation and revision, but it should be within the personae’s abilities. Finally, she could choose a 4 step idea, and reduce the implementation difficulty to 24. This is likely to be difficult to create, but if the personae really need those four steps, they should try it. Her conception roll is not good enough to get a 5 step idea.

The descriptions of all the concepts are the same: “A norito asking the kami of harae to purify us of the kegare we are carrying.” The personae understand the differences in the concepts, but they know about norito, and the players (probably) do not. Players who do know about norito may add more detail to the concept if they wish.

The second stage is for the persona who came up with the idea to start writing it down. Once again, she rolls norito knowledge and keeps norito skill. The player should choose one norito element, a phrase in the norito, to reflect what the personae has created.

Haraetamai kiyometamae — a phrase asking the kami to purify the persona. This would normally go near the end of the norito.
Moromoro no tsumikegare aramuoba — a phrase asking the kami to do something if the persona has any kind of kegare. Tsumi is kegare that a person gets because of something they deliberately do, and tsumikegare indicates both kinds of kegare. This would normally go before a request for purification.

Haraedo no Ohkamitachi — a general term for all the kami of harae.

Seoritsuhime no kami — a female kami of harae, a kami of rivers.

Haya’akitsuhime no kami — a female kami of harae, a kami of sea currents and tides.

Ibukidonushi no kami — a male kami of harae, a kami of the wind.

Hayasasurahime no kami — a female kami of harae, a kami of the underworld.

Izunomë no kami — a female kami of harae.

Kamunaobi no kami — a kami of harae, normally portrayed as male.

All the kami names would normally go before the request for purification, but could come before or after the “moromoro” phrase.

The Japanese phrases are actually included in the norito, while the English explanations are (obviously) not. Norito are written in archaic Japanese, which is not quite the same as modern Japanese; these are the forms for use in a norito. Players who know how to write norito may include appropriate phrases that are not on the list.

If the result of the roll is equal to or greater than the implementation difficulty for the concept, the norito is complete at this stage. For example, if the persona rolled a 12 again, she would complete a 2 step norito, with an implementation difficulty of 6, but not a 3 step norito, with an implementation difficulty of 15. If the norito is not completed, the result of the roll is the progress total towards completing it. For a concrete example, let us say that the concept is for a 3 step norito, so the progress total is 12. The persona includes the phrase “haraetamai kiyometamae”.

If the norito has not yet been completed, the next stage is for a persona other than the one who came up with the idea to look at the draft, and make suggestions for revisions. To assess the draft, the persona should roll norito skill and keep norito knowledge. The main influence on assessment is how much the persona knows about norito, but a persona who is better at creating them is more likely to offer useful advice.

It is harder to make useful comments on a more elaborate concept, so the player subtracts the conception difficulty from the result of the die roll to get the assessment total.

For example, suppose another persona, with 2 dice in both norito knowledge and norito skill, tries to assess the example 3-step norito, and rolls an 11. The conception difficulty for a 3-step norito is 7, so the assessment total is 11–7, or 4.
The assessment total is used to buy a revision element. Each revision element has a cost, to be paid out of the assessment total, and grants a number of dice to keep when trying to revise the norito. A revision element can only be used once for a given norito, and only a single element can be chosen when assessing the norito. In most cases, this means that the player should choose the most expensive element she can afford. However, each revision element fixes some feature of the norito, and the player may wish to avoid including or removing a particular feature, and so choose a different element.

In addition, a revision element may only remove an element that is already present in the norito, and may not require the addition of an element that is already present. It is, however, possible for an element to be added, then removed, then added again. Anyone with experience of writing will know that this is entirely realistic.

The following revision elements are available.

Add one of the elements given above: cost 1, dice 1.

Remove one from the norito: cost 1, dice 1.

Add another phrase that the player knows is appropriate to a norito: cost 1, dice 1.

Include “ashita no migiri, yube no migiri o asakaze, yukaze no fukiharo koto no gotoku” — a phrase from the oharai kotoba, the oldest known harae norito. It likens the removal of kegare to mist being blown away by the wind, which is appropriate here because of the mist in the kamikakushi: cost 4, dice 2.

Include “nigitae, aratae o nagehanatsu koto no gotoku” — a phrase referring to casting away clothing, so if this phase is included in the norito, the haraegu must include removing one or more items of clothing (see later): cost 7, dice 3.

In the example, the persona has an assessment total of 4, and so chooses to recommend adding “ashita no migiri, yube no migiri o asakaze, yukaze no fukiharo koto no gotoku”, giving 2 dice to keep.

The revision of the norito can be carried out by any persona who has read the norito and heard the assessment. The persona who made the assessment always qualifies, and the persona who originally wrote the norito qualifies if she has heard the assessment. However, a third persona who has both read the norito and heard the assessment may also carry out the revisions.
To revise the norito, the player rolls norito skill and keeps the number of dice granted by the revision element. The total is added to the progress total for the norito. The revising personae also chooses one element to add to the norito.

In the example, the revising persona has 2 dice to keep, and gets a total of 9. Added to the current progress total of 12, this takes the total to 21, more than enough to complete the norito. She chooses to add a reference to Ibukidonushi no kami, since a kami of wind is an appropriate match to the phrase about wind blowing mist away.

If a single revision does not allow the completion of the norito, a different persona may assess the revised norito, and make a new suggestion. However, each persona may only assess a norito once, and the original author may not assess it at all. (Normally, a persona may assess something more than once if she sleeps in between assessments, but in this case the personae are not going to sleep in the kamikakushi.)

The personae may work on more than one norito at once as a group, although one persona may only be working on one norito at a time. When they have finished, they can choose the one that they like best to use in the harae.

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.