When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...

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When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« on: January 30, 2012, 04:37:28 AM »
So awhile back I was working on a series of custom playbooks which were perhaps best described as The Tom Waits Sessions, and one of them was called The Crossroads: someone who had gone down to the crossroads and traded his soul to the devil for the ability to play the blues. The book never quite came together -- it always ended up feeling a lot like a Skinner add-on -- and part of the problem was that the core concept seemed like something that could happen to any PC, rather than a PC in of itself.

So I decided to just make it into a set of custom moves instead:

The Bargain
When you sell your soul at the Crossroads, you receive an instrument. Choose any move you can make, special or basic, other than Act Under Fire. You no longer roll dice when you do the move; instead, you automatically hit a 10+. You also receive a physical token of the exchange, branded with the sign of the devil and strangely warm to the touch. It may or may not relate to the move you have chosen.


The Devil's Instrument
Whenever you make use of your dearly-bought abilities, roll +cool.

On a 10+, it's ok -- the power flows through you like wildfire, but it remains under control. The MC holds 1.

On a 7-9, it's just too much -- the MC holds 1, and choose one:

* You accidentally hurt somebody you care about.
* A witness to your ability is driven mad.
* A witness becomes deeply suspicious about the origin of your abilities.
* A witness becomes obsessed with you and your talent, beyond all reason.
* You gain a feature of an animal; a snake's tongue, a cat's eyes, a tail, etc.
* The next time you sleep, you wake up five years older.
* A past witness reappears unexpectedly.

On a miss, it's even worse.


The Devil's Due
MC hold accumulated from The Devil's Instrument lasts indefinitely. At any time, whether as part of a hard move, in reaction to a failed roll or mixed result, or just because she wants to, the MC may spend a hold to purchase effects from the 7-9 list, above, on a one for one basis.

If at any point the MC accumulates 5 hold, they may spend all of it to claim the debt's ultimate price. The PC's soul and life are forfeit to the Devil, and he may do with them as he wishes. If the PC misses a Devil's Instrument roll with more than 5 hold already accumulated, the MC has no choice.


Look of the Damned
When you Act Under Fire, don't roll +cool. Instead, roll + the value of the MC's accumulated hold.

--

The way the moves work, which is hopefully fairly obvious, is that the PC can stave off damnation by tempting the MC to spend her accumulated hold on the 7-9 values, rather than allowing it to build up to the critical 5+ range. (Or, of course, they can use their power relentlessly until they have achieved all that they wanted, and then lose their soul.)

What I need help with is coming up with some more juicy 7-9 choices -- particularly ones that will tempt the MC.

It is also possible that there should be two seperate lists -- one for the 7-9 results, and another longer list of MC options -- but I'd rather avoid that if possible. As such, immediate effects (or effects that can easily be combined with existing MC threats or moves) are ideal.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2012, 04:49:49 AM »

I also considered adding (to The Bargain): "If you have advanced the move in question, you automatically hit a 12+." But I prefer the idea that while the Devil will let you get everything you think you want, he won't ever help you transcend the limitations of the Apocalypse itself -- that's his game, after all.






Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2012, 08:07:33 AM »
I really like this one. Might steal it. Though I would make the change:

"When you sell your soul at the Crossroads, you receive an instrument. Choose any move you can make, special or basic, other than Act Under Fire. When using your instrument, you no longer roll dice when you do the move; instead, you automatically hit a 10+."

That lets players choose whether they actually does use their hell-given power. All you need to do is keep throwing situations at them where they really need that 10+. And now we can get extra drama if somebody steals the instrument, and the player wants it back.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2012, 04:33:04 PM »
What's interesting to me, from a player motivating perspective, is that choosing to use the power also denies them an experience circle for rolling. That alone would save it for really important things.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2012, 05:01:08 PM »
Only if the stat has been highlighted. So GM and highlighting player might conspire not to highlight that particular stat.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2012, 06:47:38 PM »
True, but consider this example with you as the player:
You're in a position where you could Go Aggro or Manipulate. Hard is marked, Seduce or manipulate is Instrumented. Which do you do? Do you roll Hot, roll Hard or take the 10+? What if your Hot's really low? Sure, its more complicated than that but its an interesting trade off.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2012, 02:56:15 AM »
That lets players choose whether they actually does use their hell-given power. All you need to do is keep throwing situations at them where they really need that 10+. And now we can get extra drama if somebody steals the instrument, and the player wants it back.

I'm glad you like it and you're welcome to change it however you like.

That said, argh no. This is not a decision you get to take back, or half-take, or take only when it is convenient for you! This is selling your soul because you want it so bad, and then seeing if selling your soul was actually enough to get it.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2012, 04:09:09 AM »
That's a fine distinction that I hadn't really considered before. Let me give another example. Say you have an Angel with Sixth Sense.

Sixth sense: when you open your brain to the world’s psychic
maelstrom, roll+sharp instead of roll+weird.


Now Sixth Sense is a move. In theory you could opt not to use the move if Weird was highlighted. You'd be using the move Open Your Brain instead of the move Sixth Sense. I've never seen it come up but its one of those things my mathematical brain noticed while browsing through the rules. In the case of Bargain, its pretty explicit that you don't roll ever. So ignore the roll Hot vs take 10+ example.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2012, 04:32:59 PM »
Quote
Now Sixth Sense is a move. In theory you could opt not to use the move if Weird was highlighted. You'd be using the move Open Your Brain instead of the move Sixth Sense.

That is not how I would interpret Sixth Sense, myself, or moves in general. The move says 'when you use this other move, or do this thing in the fiction that triggers that move, roll this way instead'. There is no implicit 'optionalness' to moves in the game -- moves that are optional (or create options) specifically say so. Compare for example to another Angel move, Professional Compassion: "you can choose to roll +sharp instead of roll +Hx when you help someone who's rolling." Similarly, you can't choose to not use a basic move: if you do it, you do it. Moves that increase harm, such as Merciless, are always in effect; they are part of who your character is.

Of course there is room for the fiction to intercede, if it would somehow constrain a character from making use of their special moves; the most obvious example being the Battlebabe's Impossible Reflexes, if the character is restrained or knocked unconscious or something (though even there one must consider the word 'impossible' in the title.)

In any case, whether or not you think regular moves work this way or not, I would recommend having the various Crossroads moves be non-optional. You can't back out of that sort of deal, and part of the trouble the move creates is that even when you are using your instrument (the metaphorical part; i.e. the move itself) for something that may not be related to your soul-selling motives, it still costs you.

You are no longer capable of simply seducing someone with your good looks, or relying on your natural talent when being Artful & Gracious: the moment you even think about wanting something, you get it. And then you pay the price for getting it.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2012, 04:45:07 PM by Daniel Wood »

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2012, 04:43:42 PM »

But also, anyone have any cool ideas for other bad side-effects of wielding the Devil's own magic? For these moves to have legs it can't just always be a 5-and-out proposition. I want juicy enough consequences that the MC is tempted to keep the PC indebted forever.

I just thought of one more, related to a suggestion above:

* Someone else gains possession of your instrument (the physical object itself.)

In general these moves depend somewhat on the implicit assumption that, since this is a world that still has The Devil, it is also a world where there are God- or at least Devil-fearing folk around -- folk who hate and love The Devil and his ilk even more than they hate and love all the usual thugs, rapists, cannibals and murderers who populate the post-apocalypse. The MC's 'witnesses' need real teeth, whether they are violently opposed or dangerously entranced or innocently vulnerable to the PC's unholy power.

*

Jwok

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Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #10 on: March 13, 2013, 06:50:12 PM »
So, sorry if ressurecting this thread is bad form, but I thought this was a really neat idea and wanted to pitch in some thoughts in answer to your request Daniel.

So, here are some ideas that come to mind for the Devil's Instrument effects.
  • You leave a trail of clear, unintended destruction in your wake.
  • A swarm of creatures (insects, rodents, what have you) swarm and die around you.
  • Nearby animals become crazed, fleeing uncontrollably or beating themselves to death attempting to.
  • All nearby water freezes. Once thawed, the water is found undrinkable.
  • Someone nearby is unexpectedly spurred to violence, likely against a loved one.

These are probably better as MC only options, but who knows.
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Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #11 on: March 14, 2013, 04:16:04 PM »

Cool, I was just thinking about this move the other day, as I am MCing a new campaign -- but sadly it is not quite the right fit. I should probably just finish the other playbooks/moves from the related series, at some point.

Those are excellent suggestions, too -- it's interesting to compare them to my original list (which I am now reading with fresh eyes), in that they are all like, one half-step more concrete. As in actual things that happen, physically, in the environment, whereas most of mine are kind of situation-developments. Both approaches are good but I wonder about combining them -- probably it would be fine. I particularly like the spurred-to-violence and frozen water ones.

Some of the others seem to fall under the 'witness suspicion/madness' effects -- like, they would be a reason for somebody to become suspicious, or a fictional explanation of why somebody was driven mad. Hmm.

Re: When you sell your soul at the Crossroads...
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2013, 11:33:56 AM »
Love what you're doing here, Daniel. The idea is approaching the game from an angle I'm not used to considering, so it's stretching my creative muscles.

Here, have some Devil's Instrument effects:
*You keep playing, and playing, long after you wish you could stop.
*You develop an infernal appetite (live rats, human flesh) or thirst (blood, toxic waste)
*When you decline to have sex with someone, it's acting under fire (yeah, even if they're ugly and unwashed)
*You're marked with a tattoo/brand that show's who you sold your soul to.