Fading Suns Designer Diary – April 2018

Last month we talked about “social combat,” what we call the influence system.

One of the effects of influence is to impose a state onto a character. This is a mental or social condition that affects the character’s behavior and perhaps even their thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. They’re most often temporary — fleeting, even. But some can last long enough that therapy might be required to resolve them.

I thought we’d reveal a bit more about those states for this month’s diary. Please realize that this system is still a work in progress. There’s a lot more detail than we reveal here, but it would be tedious at this stage to talk in too much depth about victory-point costs and other such specific rules.

We hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse.

States

States are effects that are imposed upon characters through various means, from special weapon effects (i.e., a stunner pistol causing a target to become Stunned) to characters influencing other characters (i.e., using the Impress command maneuver to make a target become Commanded) to bearing more high-technology than you can psychologically handle (i.e., an energy shield’s tech compulsion is to make its user Reckless).

(Wait — tech compulsion? What’s this? We’ll reveal more in a future diary.)

Intensities

Most (but not all) states are part of a spectrum from mild intensity to major intensity to severe intensity. It costs VP to place a target in any of these states.

Persistence

States don’t last forever. They come and go. Each state has a specific time frame — its persistence — during which it is in effect, after which it simply goes away. This can range from Instant (one round) to even Chronic (requires therapy to resolve).

Someone in a particular state can take a primary action to try to shake it off (a Focus skill maneuver) and end its effects before its duration is over.

Using States

The influence system isn’t magic. It’s designed to start modest: influence maneuvers (like befriend, convince, deceive, etc.) impose only mild states. Characters can then build on those states to intensify them (up to major and severe) as well as reinforce them (increase their persistence). But they have to work at this.

Occult powers (like psi and theurgy) can skip over the modest part and go straight into delivering a major or severe state.

States delivered by weapons, such as a stunner pistol’s Stunned or a flamegun’s Distressed, can be mild or major, but are rarely severe.

Sample Physical States

Dazed (Mild)

[Dazed • Stunned • Unconscious]

Your coordination is awry. You suffer a -2 penalty on rolls involving physical actions and perception.

Deafened (Major)

You cannot hear. You cannot succeed with any activity or perception that requires hearing. This includes any type of mental or social influence that requires you to hear your target. On the bright side, sonic attacks, such as from a screecher pistol, are unfavorable.

Disoriented (Major)

Your perceptions are seriously awry. Your actions are directed at random targets, instead of the person(s) you think you’re targeting.

Fatigued (Major)

[Enervated • Fatigued • Incapacitated]

You are extremely weak. You suffer a -4 goal-roll penalty on all actions involving physical activity. In addition, you must spend 1 VP to perform any action that requires a roll, even if there is normally no cost. You spend this before the roll is made.

Mangled (Major)

You have suffered a wound that requires surgery before you can heal. Someone with Remedy skill can operate on you to remove the Mangled state, which then allows you to heal via Revival, Respite, or other medical care. Elixir can also heal Vitality regardless of the Mangled state. Certain theurgic rites can ignore the Mangled state to heal Vitality and even remove the state, allowing for natural healing.

Sample Mental States

Afraid (Major)

[Nervous • Afraid • Terrified]

You feel under threat. You suffer a -4 goal-roll penalty to undertake any action except perception-oriented ones or to dodge or stonewall, as you constantly scan your environment for threats.

Commanded (Mild)

[Commanded • Compelled • Controlled]

You have been given an order and must execute it, although you don’t have to like it. If this state’s duration ends before you can accomplish the order, then you no longer need to obey it.

Deceived (Mild)

[Deceived • Duped • Deluded]

You’ve been hoodwinked but you don’t know it. You believe that your influencer is telling the truth, so long as what they say has some plausibility. You won’t, however, necessarily believe outrageous statements (i.e., the Prince of your house is a hironem disguised as a human). You are inclined to fall for whatever your deceiver says: you won’t spend VP to boost your Resistance against any persuasion influence they attempt against you.

Elated (Major)

[Wowed • Elated • Overjoyed]

You’re full of good cheer. Your persuasion attempts against others gain a +4 goal-roll bonus, as your demeanor is nonthreatening and infectious, but you find it hard to coerce others: -2 goal roll. It’s an effort for you to consider physically attacking someone. Unless it’s for self-defense, you must spend 1 VP before you make any physical attack rolls.

Reckless (Major)

[Impulsive • Reckless • Heedless]

You throw all caution to the wind. You act first in the initiative queue but you cannot spend VP to raise your Resistance and any dodge or stonewall maneuvers you perform are unfavorable. In addition, your descry rolls (made by the GM) to notice what’s going on around you are unfavorable.

Sample Social States

Befriended (Mild)

[Befriended • Bolstered • Encouraged]

You like your influencer. Your attitude moves left on the Attitude Chart by one step. For instance, if you were neutral toward them, you’re now friendly. You will not initiate a physical attack or coercion against your influencer, although you can respond if they attack or coerce you.

Converted (Major)

[Convinced • Converted • Indoctrinated]

You adopt the belief, idea, or scheme that your influencer has conveyed to you. What’s more, you want to spread that idea by proselytizing. In non-stressful moments you will attempt to convince allies and friends of its worth.

Humiliated (Major)

[Mocked • Humiliated • Mortified]

You are a laughing stock. You suffer a -4 goal-roll on any influence attempts. If you were an ally or friend to your influencer, you are now neutral for as long as this state lasts and until they apologize. If you were unfriendly, you’re now an enemy. If you were an enemy, you might challenge your influencer to a duel or plot their demise somehow.

Inspired (Major)

[Roused • Inspired • Incited]

You are greatly moved by your influencer (or their performance) and take their words or actions as a call to action. You will seek to enact the ideal they communicated. It might be harassing foreigners, inveighing against the Hazat, or volunteering at a soup kitchen. Until you’ve done something concrete to express this ideal you will suffer a -2 goal-roll penalty on actions that don’t contribute toward its expression.

Shamed (Major)

[Castigated • Shamed • Penitent]

You are guilt-ridden, a sinner in the hands of an angry god. You will truthfully answer questions put to you by your influencer in detail, so long as it concerns you or your immediate associates, but you won’t reveal deep secrets of your faction (such as troop movements, locations of secret bases, identities of spies). Questions whose answers might put your allies in deadly peril might trigger a reflexive shake it off roll.

More to Come

This is just a peek at what’s in Fading Suns 4th edition. Check back next month for even more reveals and maybe some news and gossip from the Known Worlds in 5018. Thanks for reading!

— Bill Bridges, Product Line Manager

14 thoughts on “Fading Suns Designer Diary – April 2018”

  1. KrisP says:

    So these states can be applied to players and NPCs right? Not sure how I feel about telling my players how they are feeling about an NPC because the dice tell them to, or revealing to them that they’ve been duped via the deceived state family…

  2. Shawnh says:

    This is sounding more and more like an onyx path Chronicles of Darkness garbage pile.

  3. Dailor says:

    Fading Suns 2nd was a great game. We all love it. Of course, time moved on and we begin to see where the rules did not work very well. I never ever heard anybody complain about missing formalised states, though.

    The shields making combat tedious, high whiff-factor, point-based-chargen having the characters with very different power-levels, cybergear being too complicated, having too many skills and attributes, a badly organised book … all these are things that were discussed. States solve no problem the game ever had. They just add a level of complexity that I – personally – feel annoying.

    And I approve with Shawnh: complications and tilts drove me away from CoD. So that is a bad game to take an example from, if people like me (want the game to be in the background as much as possible) shall be in the target audience.

    But: You can’t please all gamers. I know that. So if you feel, Fading Suns always needed states and it will play better with the book keeping of states, by all means do that.

  4. Hum. While It’s interesting to propose gamification of social interactions, I’m just concerned that more mechanics don’t make for a better system. For a minimalist like myself, this seems like a whole lot of system to deal with something I can resolve through role play with a single decision. This management of character states sounds like something you might implement in a computer game, not something a GM would want to keep track of on the tabletop. I’ll be interested to see what your play testers have to say about it.

  5. Søren says:

    I will buy the new FS for the (hopefully updated) world descriptions and atmosphere – not interested in the rules at all. But it does seem like something that could be just roleplayed.

  6. Michael Wolf says:

    I think this concept of States needs to be refined much more carefully. I see a value in having defined effects that come from you being poisoned or exhausted or drunk but concepts like Befriended, or afraid or In Love are much harder to define universally as everyone expresses them differently. As a case in point I wouldn’t imagine that someone who’s afraid would suffer no penalties to try to escape a threat but these rules seem to indicate otherwise. I think social States need to be more carefully developed and in many cases, it would be good to evaluate if they have a value at all.

  7. Jay says:

    Ehhhhh. Social states … no. I’ve seen many games try to implement something similar and it just never feels right unless all the players are 100% fine with random dice possibly resulting in mechanical affects to their roleplaying. It’s the roll enforcing a role which isn’t optimum.

    I get why such a thing would be nice, in theory, in that the insanely charming foe befriends you so you don’t call them out for a duel, f’rex, but I don’t know many players who’d be OK with such a thing happening and having a mechanical affect on their remaining roleplaying. The more I’m seeing of the system the less and less I’m finding any reason to read further diaries.

    It’s one thing for a state during an earthquake to impose an “unbalanced” state to everyone or something similar for being exposed to the vacuum of space etc, quite another for someone to befirend you giving them immunity from being attacked first by you. Plus an attitude chart? Charts and tables and classes and levels? I mean, I liked Rolemaster back in the day which was essentially Excel the RPG and I memorised all the tables but for a modern system? Just … I can’t fathom why the step back to random tables, charts and the like unless it’s just the current trend/fad for writers? Seems very old-school after so much development and change in the games. Guess I’ll just have to wait for the next time free-form and point-buy type systems become the vague thing again! 🙂

  8. Bill Bridges says:

    Heh. You know, it’s funny but, although I have a long association with White Wolf and Onyx Path, I had no idea what that had to do with states in the comments here and on FB. You see, “conditions” weren’t part of the CoD rule set back when I worked on it. I had to actually google it to jog my memory. Since I haven’t actually played the games with that system, I didn’t remember anything about them.

    The basis for my use of states comes more from playing other games, like 13th Age and, yes, D&D. Those use mainly physical “conditions”, but there’s no reason you can’t use the idea for mental conditions. Hence, states in FS4e. As I look over the Onyx Path CoD conditions online, there’re not dissimilar in concept and design, so I can understand how someone who dislikes that system might be rather trepidatious about seeing something similar here.

    The design will certainly change as we work toward a playtest draft — in fact, the state system has already changed since I posted the above snippet. (There are now two stages, not three, of intensity.) But why are they here at all? For one, with the sheer variety of causes and effects in a universe as large as FS, it’s easier to refer to pre-written systems rather than writing whole new effect descriptions each time a weapon or psychic power provides a similar effect. The main motivation, though, is to provide characters with means other than combat for getting their way. Yes, this can be simply roleplayed out — and it still should be — but in FS4e there will be a mechanical reason for characters to build up ranks in Charm and Impress rather than throwing all their ranks into Shoot.

    Fading Suns depicts a future medieval society where social roles have concrete power. Nobles order people around all the time, and the amazing thing is that most people actually do what they tell them to. This isn’t just because they rationalize that the noble’s legal right to bring force to bear means they should just capitulate to save their hides. It’s also that they (often, but not always) believe the noble has a divine right to boss people around. Priests also have a similar power when it comes to telling people what to think. Even guilders have an aura of privilege about them that gives their words power.

    The influence system is meant to display this kind of power. But it’s not a magic system. Characters don’t go around mind controlling others simply by exerting skill at Charm or Knavery. They can nonetheless influence the behavior of others in ways that alter behavior and motivations. None of this is new to RPGs. The usual course is for the GM to call for some form of social ability roll/check and then make up an effect based on the roll result, modified by the player’s roleplaying. The system is already there so far as using social rolls. It’s just less systematic about the results. FS4e simply gets more detailed about those results. But none of the influence rules replace the players’ and the GMs’ ability to make their own calls about anything in the game. They are examples of methods for resolving specific social actions, not an iron cage in which all such actions must be kept.

    I hope you’ll bear with us as we hone all these designs into a workable system. Forthcoming diaries won’t just be about the rules. We’ll look at what’s been going on the in Known Worlds, too. The Town Crier’s Guild reports give glimpses, but we’ll also spell it out more forthrightly as we progress.

  9. Bjørn Søndergaard says:

    Looks to me like the Stages system is a glorious idea!

    It allows the not so socially adept or charismatic players to portray demaogggues and Neal Caffrey-like characters just like combat systems have allowed unathletic types to portray Conan for decades even without any knowledge of how to properly grip and swing a sword.

    If a player wants to roleplay an encounter (of any kind!) just roleplay it – then add the Stage based on the RP excbange rather than a dieroll — or ignore STages all together.
    If a player prefers to roll dice and build a character with certain non-combat skills it now makes rules-wise sense to do so because the system does not have the same built-in obvious dump-stats-with-no-combat-value.
    Having rules in place to handle certain events that happen often in a game and/or setting makes perfect sense and arguing against a portion of said system is not unlike railing against having a task resolution system or a combat system because like I said: the same argument applies there as well: why not just roleplay it and communaly agree on the outcome of events in the group? Really then no system is required at all. Having a system doesn’t forece one to use it. Not having a system forces one to houserule. It also means that all characters social skills are equal to what the player brings and that hardly seems sensible when we do not require the player portraying a Cossac to bring his own chainsword 🙂

    I’m all for it and the systems I’ve used that have emulations of “Social combat” or the like, seem to encourage players to diversify and make more interesting characters.
    Sure it can all be roleplayed and described without the use of dice – but so can combat. I really don’t see the difference but I can certainly see the appeal in adding Stages.

    Especially since it seems to accentuate and suppert the setting premises as described in Master Bridges’ post above.

    I’m certainly looking forward to the new edition 🙂

    There – that was my 10 Talons 🙂

  10. carpenter117 says:

    If what my poor (and still bleeding) eyes saw in this new update is finest example of the new art we will be seeing in the Brave New Corebook ™, then… No. Just… No.

    Try again.

    1. Eric Simon says:

      Definitely not. That’s a piece from an old edition of Fading Suns.

      We haven’t started on the new art yet (other than the updated logo), so I have been mining the classic books for images to go with the Designer Diaries.

  11. Chris p says:

    I get that you want to put a name to something that essentially already happens in games but there’s a solid line between ‘while the man’s story certainly seems strange, as far as you’re concerned he is telling the truth’ and ‘the story seems strange but you’re still convinced he’s true to his word – you are deceived’.

    One leaves the outcome open to interpretation, the other outright spells out that the NPC has lied. I was thinking maybe there’s a way to use that state in a hidden way, but the mechanics give it away. ‘i want to spend VPS to resist this guys charms’ ‘actually, you really don’t, and you feel strongly about not wanting to’

  12. Markus Justinian Aprentice says:

    Dear all.
    I don’t understand the problem with the states effect that I’m percieving.
    States are the logical consecuences of the previous mind combat design diary.
    If you find your CHARACTER facing a Experienced Con Man and your CHARACTER is a fool your are going to leave the room with that precious pice of irradiated Moon and no money.
    It is the same as your CHARACTER facing a Experience Vorox and your CHARACTER is a poor combatant and is going, with great luck, to leave with at least a crippling injury, and a status of mutilation.
    Perhaps the main issue is that there is a lot of states and can be difficult to remember (what Mr Bridges has told us that they are reviewing and imho I would like not to be to much shortened).
    Perhaps we must remember that it is roleplaying (managing advantages and flaws) not a mid way impersonation (character has the physical attributes written on your sheet but mental ones are Mines and if my character is mesmerized I am mesmeraized) and more important of all it that is is a rule set that can be adapted to your game style.
    Let’s wait and be constructive and if there is things that don’t seem to fit let them explain and debate if necessary.

  13. Dave R says:

    I’m really liking the recent additions and this seems like an interesting mechanic. Temporary and long term effects on characters have been something I’ve been using home-rules to do for ages. But I also feel like there is a modicum of feature creep being introduced to the game-play. Declare action, check for conditions that modify your action, Roll dice, get VP, spend/bank VP, determine success/failure, apply effects/roll damage, check to see if new conditions applied, check to see if you have any temporary VP left to discard. I’m sure once you get used to it it will not feel like so much paperwork per action, but it seems like it could be overwhelming at first.

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