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MessagePosté le: Sam 3 Oct - 13:48 (2009) Répondre en citant Back to top

Using Themes

While Capabilities and Professions are certainly powerful, they’re only half of the game. Player characters also have Themes, which they can activate by using a Twist. These alter the world around your character, bringing certain story elements into play. Whereas Capabilities and Professions have fairly narrow purviews and well-defined results, Themes take a little more interpretation in their use.

Each game session your character starts with one Twist, which can be spent through one of the six Themes to alter the story. The higher your rating in the Theme, the more impact you’ll get by using your Twist, as the tables later on will show. There are extensive guidelines and examples on the next few pages.

In the event that a Theme isn’t directly applicable to your current situation, you can still gain some slight benefit (+2 to any roll) by being creative. For instance, say you’re dealing with someone’s emotional troubles. You don’t have an appropriate Profession, and the only Theme you have is Intrigue (Political). By spending a Twist through Intrigue, you could say that you once obtained blackmail material on a person with the same problems, and found out how he dealt with them, thus giving you a +2 bonus to your Metatech roll to help this poor guy out.

You can spend multiple Twists to achieve a higher-level effect. Each extra Twist spent increases the effective level of your Theme by one. For example, If your Romance is 2, and you really need a Romance 4 effect, you can spend three twists instead of one: one to activate Romance, and two more to bump up your effective level by two. However, you can never spend any points through a Theme with a zero rating, even if you take Complications.


You can get more Twists by taking Complications: you, the player, describe problems that your character must overcome. Generally, only rough descriptions are necessary. Your GM will fill in the rest.

When you take a Complication, you do not need to spend the associated Twist immediately. You may “bank” it, if you so desire, until the end of the current session of play.

The table below gives examples of Complications you can accept in order to get a Twist, based on your Import. As your Import goes down, the level of the Complication you must take increases.


Import Level Examples
9 1 Light wounds, some of your foes escape unharmed, public embarrassment, your friends are annoyed with you, your position or goals are revealed to the enemy
8 2 Moderate wounds, unconsciousness, major delays, your friends are angry at you, your character befriended by the enemy
7 3 Serious wounds, your character kidnapped, all your foes escape
unharmed, your property destroyed, money lost, deluded by the enemy, friends lost
5 4 Critical wounds, friends turned against you, projects ruined, reputations altered, your character brainwashed

If you want more Twists, you can take a more serious Complication, and get extra Twists equal to the difference. You can also take multiple Complications at once, which may be necessary if your Import is low.


Conversational “Undo”

The second level of any social Theme (Empathy, Intrigue, Magnetism, or Romance) can be used as an “undo button” for conversations appropriate to the Theme and your Descriptor for it. For instance, if you’re speaking at a political rally and you accidentally admit your allegiance to the opposite party, you can spend a Twist through Magnetism (Political) to take back what you’ve said and say something else. You never said that, it didn’t happen, and everything’s smooth sailing again.


Most Complications are intended to be nearly immediate, and of relatively short duration or personal scope. They can rarely affect anything beyond the character. However, Complications can also be used by the GM to create or alter Story Triggers (see page 160). Stronger Complications can influence powerful Story Triggers that have farther-reaching effects on the game.

The GM is encouraged to remember that, while Complications are meant to be a bad thing, they are also meant to be overcome. Even the worst complications should be overcome in two or three game sessions of serious work, and most should be over by the end of the session.

What follows is a more detailed description of each of the Themes and their intended uses. For convenience, we’ll repeat the tables that show what each level of the score can do.

Plot Immunity

Plot Immunity, at its core, gives you control over what happens to your own character. Plot Immunity is your way of telling the GM that you’re not interested in a particular storyline, or that you’d like the current events to be over and done with so you can get back to other parts of the game. Many times the problems you’d take care of with Plot Immunity can be solved by your party anyway, given a little legwork and perhaps some trading favors... but Plot Immunity does it all in a minute of game time instead of an hour. It’s just a question of how much you enjoy that particular problem.

Plot Immunity is also a way of telling the GM, “You can do bad things to me. I’ll be ok.” S.A. is the kind of game where weak-willed characters can be convinced to kill themselves, and where someone with the right targeting system can shoot you from beyond the horizon with “bullets” moving near the speed of light. It’s not an inherently dangerous world, but when things do escalate to violence, they can really escalate. If you have four levels of Plot Immunity, you can be held up against a wall by someone twice as strong as you, with a gun to your head, while you’re unconscious, and still have some way to get out of it. You can be trapped in jail with a Union mesh already implanted in your head and get away scot-free. Not all Descriptors work in all situations, but the more inventive you are the more versatile the score becomes. If you have Plot Immunity, be prepared to be the party’s punching bag — you can take it.


The Emergency Stash

Sometimes campaigns “go nuclear,” changing in one brief instant from business as usual to a meltdown of epic proportions. The Transcendentals become unreachable, or the Union and Stardwellers go to war, or a dozen other dangerous possibilities. For these times, we recommend that the GM hand out an “emergency stash” of Twists, perhaps 2-4 of them depending on the level of the emergency. Unlike normal Twists, these don’t vanish at the end of a session: they stick around until the players use them up.

An emergency stash is the GM’s way of saying, “The universe is going to be playing hardball now. Anyone who doesn’t want to get hit with a bat, here’s your way out.”



Twists vs. Other Abilities

When comparing the effects of Twists against the use of Capabilities or Professions, Twists win. Period. The effects of Twists last until counteracted by player actions, so characters who use Plot Immunity to avoid a fight cannot end up back in the fight just because the bad guys are chasing them. They might end up in other fights, or return to the fight of their own accord, but the bad guys on their own can’t restart the fight.

A character with a Core Value rated at 6 or higher has some resistance to the effect of Twists. Players wishing to make such people act against their Core Values must spend two Twists rather than one.



Changing Descriptors

Anyone can use a Twist to change a Descriptor on one of their Themes. The change is instantaneous and permanent, until another Twist is used to change it again. For the sake of character believability, we suggest not doing this too often, but sometimes a major change of character makes a lot of sense.


Like the other Scores, Plot Immunity serves to show something about your character every time you use it. When your tough-as-nails Old-Worlder struggles stoically through a freezing snowstorm, it gives your gaming group a particular mental image. When your Tao courtesan’s former lovers keep saving him from certain death, it lets the group know about his past and the kind of love he inspires.

Taking Complications to use Plot Immunity might seem a bit bizarre. Isn’t the purpose of P.I. to retain control over your character? Consider this: if your highest capability is 5 (at which level you can still use Meshes and Dermal Nanobots), and you have P.I. 3, you can escape from a supernova blast (certain on-screen death) with nothing worse than a drained bank account or a serious wound. Worthwhile? I think so. If you’re not actually in the scene, you can get to safety with only a moderate wound. How? Just walk on-screen later (when the GM allows it) and say something like, “Wow guys, you had to be there.”

Let’s say the danger is less severe: an annoying secretary is stonewalling your proposal. You could take time to sweet-talk her, but you’re in a rush. (In game terms: minor problem, obvious solution, requires P.I. 2.) You walk into the room, close the door behind you, and take the “befriended by the enemy” complication. Fifteen minutes later the door opens, you leave with a smile on your face, and the secretary smiles as she calls up Mister Big to tell him she’s infiltrated your group. Your character might not know, but you do, and you’ve just handed the GM a part of the plot. GMs like it when players do that kind of thing.

Taking a complication doesn’t make your character’s life unpredictable, it makes it more predictable. You know that you have a betrayal headed your way, or a wound, or public ridicule. You, as the player, can consider beforehand what your character might do in response to these.

The on/off screen rules lead to a bizarre effect in which characters are slightly less effective when the camera is on them. That’s all part of the genre. When someone unexpectedly brings two dozen Mechanican air calvary to a battle, and explains by saying, “Oh, I just called in an old favor,” everyone should accept it and move on. If you don’t like that effect, simply make all of the off-screen effects cost as much as the on-screen ones.

Plot Immunity Scores
1. Evade likely off-screen death.
2. Evade minor problems with an obvious solution. Evade certain off-screen death.
3. Evade major problems that have an obvious solution, or minor one without any obvious solution. Evade likely on-screen death.
4. Evade major problems with no clear solution. Evade certain on-screen death.
5. Have events off-screen make the current catastrophe simply go away. Note that for dealing with a single problem, this is a great way to utterly write yourself out of the plot and have no fun. However, it’s a good way to handle multiple crises at once. Just step off-screen.

The player must state, and GM must agree with, any “obvious solutions.” A note to GMs: players without Plot Immunity should not be treated as if they have a “kick me” sign on their back.

Tough as Nails, Allies, Badass, Overlooked, Resilient, Invisible, Too Insane, Support Network, Family Ties, Deus Ex Machina, Redshirt Sacrifice, Overconfident Foes

A Roamer with Plot Immunity 2 (Sudden Windfalls) and one Twist is thrown a hundred yards through the air by an angry Taoist. He flies out of sight. This counts as “likely off-screen death,” so he spends his Twist for a P.I. 1 effect. How fortunate that there was a haystack behind that barn!

Our hero has been imprisoned without cause, and he has to pay a ridiculous fine or stay in jail. Clearly someone out there hates him. His player, not interested in this sideplot, has no Twists available, but has Plot Immunity 3 (Support Network). He takes a Complication to get a Twist, and spends it for a P.I. 2 effect. This minor problem, with an obvious solution (money), goes away as he calls a friend and raises the money in less than an hour.

A Union patrol sweeps past our heroine as she hides. They are about to detect her with their nanobot cloud. She has Plot Immunity 3 (Deus Ex Machina) and one Twist. Her player takes a Complication to get a second Twist, and spends both of them for a P.I. 4 effect: this major problem goes away. Their nanites fail to report her thanks to a computer virus introduced last week by a malicious Stored hacker. Our heroine, unaware of why she wasn’t discovered, says a mental prayer and goes on her way.

A Replicant character and his many duplicates are combing a crime scene for clues. The criminal wants to ensure that no one can find him, so he shoots them all with an Inversion Beam from 30 kilometers away. This invokes the Instant Death Cutscene Rule (see page 106), giving the player a chance to respond. He invokes Plot Immunity 4 (Send In The Clones), evading certain on-screen death. That wasn’t really his original self in that room; his original was elsewhere and is pretty mad that so many instances just got vaporized.


Intrigue is primarily oriented towards obtaining information for your character. The information you find isn’t necessarily difficult to figure out or understand (one uses Comprehension for that), it’s just hidden. Higher levels of Intrigue let you discover facts more deeply hidden. If you prefer a more active approach, you can also use it to spread disinformation to existing spy networks, with higher Intrigue ratings lending more believability and a deeper level of penetration to your false intel.

A significant portion of spy work is, to be honest, rather boring. Most of it is done by mesh-enhanced analysts reading a thousand newsfeeds at once, automated programs combing the infosphere, and people with “desk jobs.” Even people doing “human intelligence” — that is, actually spying in person — spend 99% of their time with their heads down and without any significant danger. The other 1% of the time, they’re running for home because someone might have found out who they were. Luckily, the Intrigue Theme assumes that all of that happens in the background. Your character is either doing the interesting end of spy work (and thus hearing things directly), or the guy in charge (and thus reading nicely-formatted and well-written reports from whatever agency you’re part of). All the boring stuff happens behind the scenes.

Intrigue can also get your character involved in politics. You can choose to work legitimately (for example, a senator might hire you as an aide) or through less savory methods (you might blackmail a senator into endorsing you for a position). It can get you the ear of important government officials, a very useful thing for a Patent Inspector whose life or job are in danger. It can get you into closed sessions of a governing body, or get you access to a copy of the “deleted” transcripts from such sessions. If you want to get elected and make some changes, Magnetism is a better way to go. However, if you only want to lurk around the edges of the existing power structure, go with Intrigue. It’s not any safer or more effective, but it keeps you out of the public eye.

One thing you can’t do with Intrigue is change a piece of information the GM has given you. For instance, let’s say you spend Intrigue and find out something you don’t like. You can’t then say “I’m going to dig deeper and find the real truth behind what’s going on,” and expect the GM to alter the plot for you. Intrigue, like all Themes, is a trump card. Once the GM tells you what’s going on, it’s final. This isn’t to say that there’s no deeper layer of truth... but your level of Intrigue is insufficient to discover it, and that’s that. If you want to dig deeper, you’ll need to spend more than one Twist at a time.

If you want to be a movie-inspired superspy, you’ll be better off with Romance and Plot Immunity; a point or two of Intrigue is all you’ll need. Intrigue is designed for more realistic spy work, more subtle and somewhat more dangerous. Intrigue and Comprehension together will get you just about any information you could hope for. Intrigue and Magnetism make for a very well-informed leader. Intrigue and Empathy is perhaps the most compassionate combination — people just come to you and talk about their problems, and you put together the pieces yourself.

Intrigue Scores
1. Gain knowledge which, while not exactly secret, is not publicly known either.
2. Obtain secret information.
3. Obtain highly classified and protected information. Have a few low-placed spies.
4. Have many spies in areas of low and middle importance. Obtain information whose very existence is classified.
5. Secretly direct a major civilization’s spy network to your own aims.

Eavesdropper, Pillow Talk, Digital, Political, Instant Insider, Stumble Upon, Psychohistorical, Spy, Government Newsfeed

Our group has been attacked at a fancy dress ball, ruining the event. The spymaster can’t figure out what’s going on after a few rolls, and so a Disciple of the Void spends a Twist through his Intrigue 3 (Eavesdropper) score. He overhears the security detail muttering about the low-tech fabrics the attackers wore, and how only Roamers and Old-Worlders make that kind of thing. There’s a Roamer encampment not far from here — the chase is on!

One of our heroes seeks government office, but has little chance in the closely-packed Replicant political scene. He uses his Intrigue 2 (Instant Insider) score and a Twist to find some good blackmail material on his least favorite politician. Suddenly there’s an open spot in the race.

A Tao undercover agent is attempting to listen in on a conversation, to no effect — surveillance countermeasures prevent him from hearing what’s going on. He uses Intrigue 4 (Stumble Upon), and sure enough it turns out someone else has the room bugged already, and he can bargain for a copy of the tape.

MessagePosté le: Sam 3 Oct - 13:48 (2009) Back to top

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