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Author Topic: "Passions" mechanic in GURPS  (Read 949 times)

Antiquation!

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"Passions" mechanic in GURPS
« on: October 26, 2017, 05:58:05 PM »
Reposted from my original thread on the SJgames forums; I'm bringing it here in case it piques anyone's curiosity. Original post here: http://forums.sjgames.com/showthread.php?t=152474

Pretty much what it says on the tin. I developed some houserules for bringing Passions into GURPS from Pendragon/Mythras/BRP; see below. These can be used instead of, or in addition to, Disadvantages and other social/mental traits; the mechanics of default Disadvantages and these Passions guidelines seem to overlap fairly well with some oversight. My personal intention is to combine them, utilizing Passions for big overarching character motivations and Disadvantages for purely limiting and narrow/specialized “edge” cases.

I’m putting them out here for other people to use or poke holes in. Feedback and suggestions are always appreciated, and of course, enjoy.



Passions background:

Passions originate in Pendragon as far as I know, but were included in Mythras more recently. Mythras is basically a setting-less Runequest 6. It's an RPG in the Basic Roleplaying d100 family. I will not go into exhaustive detail/advice here on actually using and developing them in play; for that, I would recommend checking out Mythras. This will be a fairly basic mechanical rundown.



Passions description (for the unfamiliar):

Passions represent several things – Loyalties and allegiances, strongly held beliefs or ideals, and emotion felt towards someone or something.

A Passion is composed from the simple combination of a verb (subvert, torment, uphold, loyalty to, love, desire) and a noun (person, place, organization, ideal, object/substance); this combination results in something like "Passion: Subvert the Church," "Love of my Country," or "Seek Sir Gallahad's respect" (or even "Desire the Iron Throne"). They are a simple character-centric mechanic designed to encourage the pursuit of in-game character arcs and to drive conflict and maintain active character goals organically within the game world.

In short, they provide skill bonuses in situations where you are pursuing your Passion, stand in for ordinary willpower where a Passion is at risk, influence/interfere with your actions depending on the strength of the passion, and they also compete with each other when multiple Passions are at odds (to see which one your character ends up aligning with in a given situation). They are designed to be added, removed, changed and “inverted” (love to hate, respect to subvert, etc.) smoothly in-game.

In BRP, they act like unique skills which have special effects depending on the circumstances and the strength/level of the Passion.



GURPS Passions (Houserules):

Note: the following assumes you are familiar with "GURPS Power-Ups 5: Impulse Buys" as well as the articles "Impulse Control" from Pyramid #3/100 (thanks, Christopher!) and "A Full Complement" from #3/65 (or Action, etc.). Though, you should be able to get the general idea without those.

Passions are treated like special attributes (special thanks to Jachra for his input) rather than an ‘ordinary’ Disadvantage + control number. There are no hard limits on the number of Passions one character can possess or acquire; each Passion stands alone with its own rating, though they can and do interact.

Adding Passions at character generation or in play is free (costing no character points regardless of the Passion’s nature or numeric rating); a new character may begin with up to 3. There is no hard minimum or hard cap to the number of Passions a character can possess, only what's meaningful to the player and the GM and what you're willing to put up with in play. Passions can be raised+lowered, gained+lost, or even corrupted+inverted+renamed in play as is necessary and appropriate. Passions are intentionally designed as a "loose" mechanic that gains more from situational interpretation during play than through strict mechanical codification. They're designed to be fairly interpretive even in Mythras. That being said, some guidelines follow.

   •   Each Passion functions like an attribute, rather than a Disadvantage w/control number (default value begins at 10, then modified by relevant skills and applicable traits from both the owner and subject of the Passion. If you have “Passion: Loyalty to Captain Cutler”, you might start at base 10 but end up adding + 2-3 from Cutler's high Leadership/Public Speaking/Psychology levels, with more modifiers +/- level of his Charisma or Reputation/Rank/Destiny/Appearance, etc. (maybe another +1 from the PC himself being Chummy) and end up at a total of 14 or 15. These same modifiers (except Chummy!) might apply even if you *hate* Captain Cutler, instead!

•   Passions should be rolled against to see if they take effect, either at the beginning of a scene or on a spot basis when Passion-related actions/events arise. They can even be rolled against other Passions via Quick or Regular Contests, to see which one wins out in influencing your character in a given situation (or to prove which of multiple characters has the strongest of a specific Passion, like Loyalty to the People of Gallia in order to draw a legendary magic sword from the stone); you could even use 'minimum entry' Passion requirements to gain access to certain effects, such as requiring a character to foster Uphold True Justice to 18 or better in order to lift or move the hammer Mjolnir (but not necessarily use its powers)!

•   Passions rated lower than 8 or higher than 13 are either very neutral/passive in nature or a significant influence on much of what a character does, respectively. If a character’s Passion for his cult rises above 18 and the player of the PC felt that the character's story had been satisfied at that point (ideally as part of the conclusion to an adventure that heavily featured his Passion), he might very well be retired to NPC status as a fully-fledged cultist fanatic!

•   Passion ratings shift, invert, appear or cancel out depending on events in the game. This is highly dependent on the circumstances, how the player feels his character would react/respond/change according to the stimuli in question (if at all); it can be done either gradually or dramatically, as is appropriate. (quick example: the PC is betrayed by Captain Cutler, and a close friend is grievously injured in the ensuing domino of events; the player decides he will keep his passion at the same rating, but now it has changed from “Loyalty to Captain Cutler – 15” to “Despise Captain Cutler – 15” instead! If it were a slighter breach of faith, he might simply lower the rating by one or two [or by 1d-4; or on a successful Passion roll, it might not change at all!])

•   Successfully activated Passions can be used to replace the core attribute of any skill roll which is immediately and directly related to pursuit of the Passion (ex. if you are defending your wife who is being attacked by parrying the attacker’s blade with your knife, and you have Passion: Protect my Wife Gwen - 17, you could replace your paltry Knife – 12 at DX + 3 with Knife – 20 at Passion + 3 instead, for that single action; this is considered both 'immediate' and 'directly related' to pursuit of your Passion because if you fail your parry, it directly opposes your Passion's verb [Protect] as well as risking its subject [Gwen] who might very well die!). If your Passion activates and you are acting directly against it, opposing a Passion higher than the base attribute for a given skill applies a penalty equal to the difference. The Passion might even actively Influence the PC - applying its margin of success over his Will defense, if winning the ensuing contest, as a penalty to the PC's Self Control rolls for relevant disadvantages, perception checks, or other relevant rolls (per "Influencing PC's" in either the Basic Set or Social Engineering) where the PC must act against the intent of his Passion. Passions can also be used as a complementary skill under certain circumstances, for instance when the native attribute is a higher level or if the Passion would have a more muted/conservative effect (ex. As a bonus to multiple long-term Hiking rolls to get back home to your sickly son).

•   If a specific scene is either rooted in or heavily related to one of your Passions (like if the entire scene is about you finally showing up to save your wife), roll against the Passion at the beginning of the scene; on a success, you gain 1 Impulse Point on an ordinary success or 2 points on a critical success (critical failure might warrant some kind of crisis of conscience, extreme overreaction, temporary mental stun, etc.). These points disappear either at the end of the triggering scene or the scene following it, and can only be applied to actions or outcomes related to pursuit of the Passion. Beware, as if you need to act directly against your Passion in that significant scene then the GM may be able to use those Impulse Points against you, as if they were Villainous Points!

•   Can stand in for Will under appropriate circumstances during contests, resistance rolls, etc. like resisting torture to extract intel from you if you have Loyalty to the Motherland. Rule of 16 does NOT apply to resistance rolls where a Passion stands in for Will!

•   Can behave like an ‘unfriendly’ skill, and initiate Contests against your actions (even a "reverse" complementary skill) or another competing Passion, where your actions (or another Passion) would go directly against the active Passion in question! If a new Passion comes into play which conflicts with one already active, the newly activated Passion must win the ensuing contest to overtake the currently active one.

•   Above all, this is just a set of tools. Conversation and agreement between the player+GM is absolutely paramount with regards to adjudicating the effects and limitations of this system. Use your best judgement, and remember that these are only guidelines and suggestions, not a straight jacket; the best ruling is the one that not only makes sense, but is also the most fun!
« Last Edit: October 30, 2017, 01:48:36 AM by Antiquation! »
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Antiquation!

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"Passions" mechanic in GURPS
« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2017, 03:53:02 AM »
Two additional guidelines:

   •   Consider using the detailed modifiers for Continued Relationships from page 43 of "GURPS Social Engineering" for guidance during situations where a Loyalty or Love or similar might either come into question or strengthen due to the actions of one of your Passion's subjects, or for modifiers bestowed by a long-lasting relationship.

•   As a campaign switch: NPC's are likely to have at least one of their own Passions, too! Even just one or two 'generic' ones for a few faceless baddies, Highwaymen "Desire for Coin - 12," Troll "Protect my Spawning Ground - 15," etc. Important NPC's in particular should have Passions, ideally two or more; these can be a handy way to keep track of your NPC's relationships, important desires and other ties to the game world and the PC's, all of which you have hopefully already begun sketching out and thinking up for your world by the time you write their Passions down! I recommend checking out Mythras and its ilk for more great inspiration and examples of NPC (and monster) Passions.
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Skarg

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"Passions" mechanic in GURPS
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2017, 10:28:32 AM »
Interesting!

Seems like it asks for a lot of attention, interpretation, creative thought and judgments about when and how to apply it.

So it seems like that could either be rather interesting, and be a good fit for a player who is an experienced roleplayer (and not a munchkin) who could be trusted to do almost all of the management of this. I've even ended up doing something along these lines when I've played GURPS characters, in that I'm thinking of their psychology in a way that's more than the sum of their ads & disads.

Or, it seems like it could be way too complex and too much to think about, especially if you had a group of starting characters who all had three passions going on, and the GM were supposed to keep all of them in mind.

It also sounds like it could devolve into disagreements with players, especially munchkins. I'm imagining a player coming to me wanting to run an extremely passionate character and deciding to say OK and then actually resolve it as them having Delusions and Overconfidence and/or Odious Personal Habits instead, without telling the player.

And even without munchkinism, it seems like there are some not-easy questions and grey areas of what to allow for using passions as skill/attributes, and how to calculate levels and so on. I think there's an issue with allowing passion to translate into ability.

Antiquation!

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"Passions" mechanic in GURPS
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2017, 12:43:50 PM »
Quote from: Skarg;1006092
Seems like it asks for a lot of attention, interpretation, creative thought and judgments about when and how to apply it.

Absolutely. I think the majority of the necessary extra attention comes from the players and simple common sense, but certainly by the very act of implementing this system you would be drawing a significant amount of attention and focus to it. In this way, these rules might function better as a replacement for or simplification of Disadvantages rather than a supplement to them, ala the native systems I pulled Passions from which don't really have Disadvantage mechanics like GURPS does.
 
My personal playtesting groups are both using Disads+Passions, as I'm trying to stress test them as much as possible and see where things break.
 
Quote from: Skarg;1006092
So it seems like that could either be rather interesting, and be a good fit for a player who is an experienced roleplayer (and not a munchkin) who could be trusted to do almost all of the management of this. I've even ended up doing something along these lines when I've played GURPS characters, in that I'm thinking of their psychology in a way that's more than the sum of their ads & disads.

Trust in your players (ideally RP-focused ones) and vice-versa would be pretty vital to this system working at all, let alone smoothly, but ideally the players are able to take on the vast majority of the cognitive load from Passions themselves (which seems to be the case, so far; Passions also tend to be fairly focused due to the verb-noun structure, so it should hopefully be pretty obvious when context demands one should enter play). So far we haven't had issues remembering them ("tracking" them seems like too strong a word for it, the way I've been using the system) as they're pretty simple and should obviously align with who the PC's actually are and what they're doing in play.  
 
I, too, tend to think about character psychologies and I think parts of this system have the potential to fill in some of the cracks between Disadvantages nicely if you're able to suspend your disbelief a bit in the process.
I almost see this system as encouraging theatre/play-like tragedies, encouraging people to go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole in pursuit of their most significant Passions, driving them into conflict with each other. I don't quite see these as 'narrative' rules per se, but they are certainly leaning in that direction and could be used more heavily as such; I prefer to look at them as primarily a vaguely sim-like modelling tool for developing and 'hooking in' additional facets of character motivations and loyalties, though, so my interests in playing with and developing these guidelines is mostly filtered through that lens.
 
Quote from: Skarg;1006092
Or, it seems like it could be way too complex and too much to think about, especially if you had a group of starting characters who all had three passions going on, and the GM were supposed to keep all of them in mind.

Agreed. There's certainly mental overhead here, and if you're already tracking Disads that goes doubly. Fortunately in the few sessions I've used this system (so far), it doesn't seem to have been much extra fuss. Due to the fact that Passions are all effectively 0-point Features, we haven't felt it necessary to drag them into the forefront all the time either for boon or bane purposes; so far they've come up pretty organically, and have been easy and straightforward enough to handle without it feeling like an unnecessary chore.
 
Then again, we also haven't spent hours tying our brains in knots trying to come up with clever ways to use them either, which feels like it could be an easy trap to fall into for many others. I am sure that if these rules are used more rigorously and frequently (which I should probably be doing, come to think of it) there will probably be stumbling blocks in play, as well. I'll see what I can find and post notable changes, I'd like to get them to what I feel is at least a modestly tested/usable state.
 
Quote from: Skarg;1006092
It also sounds like it could devolve into disagreements with players, especially munchkins. I'm imagining a player coming to me wanting to run an extremely passionate character and deciding to say OK and then actually resolve it as them having Delusions and Overconfidence and/or Odious Personal Habits instead, without telling the player.

This is significant and accurate. You really need to be on the same page with the player and able to reach consensus with them of some kind, or at minimum be able to keep a tight leash on Passions in general and when they come into effect. As with most any GURPS game, the player should really be in charge of their PC and the GM should really be in charge of the game world to a large extent (there are some exceptions but fairly rare and limited, ala Influencing PC's in Basic Set/Social Engineering [if you even use this rule at all!]); due to Passions teasing a bit at the border between these two traditional roles, if consensus can't be reached I think it's best to simply exclude this system entirely and temporarily revert to the default assumptions of play (GM gets the world, player gets his char), either for that specific situation/scene, that player in general, or the entire campaign depending on the severity of the issue/disagreements you encounter.
 
Basically, normal GURPS guidelines and advice should still apply, and when this system would conflict with those core assumptions, stick to the basics! Among many others, I know for a fact that those work for my group.
 
Quote from: Skarg;1006092
And even without munchkinism, it seems like there are some not-easy questions and grey areas of what to allow for using passions as skill/attributes, and how to calculate levels and so on. I think there's an issue with allowing passion to translate into ability.

Yep, I would venture so far as to say the system is almost entirely grey area as currently written, which as with any set of rules designed around interpretation harbors the immediate risk of drawing too much focus, attention and discussion during play. Your concerns about Passions translating into ability is also a valid one, which I've noodled over quite a few times over the last week; I actually think someone interested in using these rules would be best served by picking and choosing from the bullet point guidelines above, and entirely cutting the rest for a given campaign. Hopefully this would serve to both simplify the system as well as cut options which are extraneous or inappropriate for a given campaign.
 
I've been considering the creation of a 'streamlined' version of these guidelines which would cut some of the options outright (on-the-fly skill replacements being one of the first on the chopping block), focusing on exactly how they can be used, etc., but I have more playtesting to do and additional feedback to receive and digest before I make any drastic changes.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2017, 04:25:45 AM by Antiquation! »
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