Dirty Princesses

A Game about Expectations and Danger

Progress?!? January 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — bullbar83 @ 6:59 am

Ok here we go. The point of this is to sketch out a very very rough draft of Dirty Princesses as it sits at the moment, which I will refine before Arcanacon this month. I want all of you to ask me questions and discuss anything that you find weird.

Part One: Character Creation

Character creation is a pretty simple process that’s slightly different for Princess characters and Retinue characters. Obviously the Princesses are the focus of the game, but don’t skimp on making the Retinue characters interesting. Usually in the first session, you’ll make all of your Princess characters first (because Princess creation is kind of interdependent) and once you know which Princess will be in the spotlight for this session, you’ll then make her Retinue. I’m still considering whether or not this model is boring for the Retinue players, but hopefully not. Hopefully they enjoy helping out their Princess and pursuing their own little agendas!

How to create a Princess:

1. Stats

There are four stats in this game, and stats are representative of the Princess’ most fundamental characteristics. These stats are Mind, Body, Heart and Soul.

Mind: Her mental characteristics, intelligence and wit and memory, ability to think through a situation. Represented by the suit of Diamonds.

Body: This is how tough and fast and strong she is, how generally physically fit. Represented by the suit of Clubs

Heart: This is something like charisma and measures how likeable and charming she is. Represented, shockingly, by the suit of Hearts.

Soul: A measure of luck, willpower and spirit, something of an undefinable quality. Represented by the suit of Spades.

As a Princess, you have ten points to divide between these stats, with a minimum of one in each.

Oh and you have a stat called Composure. That starts at 8.

2. Traits

Where stats define broad characteristics (of your broads), traits define what makes your character unique and special. These traits will have numerical values associated with them, just like stats.

The way you come up with these traits is by answering a few questions, then writing the answers down as your traits. I’ll list the questions and after each one, the numerical value that the trait will have.

Q1. What does my Mother the Queen want me to be? This is an important one, as it defines the purpose that your mother has guided your life towards from an early age. It is worth 5 points.
Q2. What did my Father (who is not a part of your life, you choose why) leave me? This can be anything, it can be a magic sword or a personal retainer or even an important lesson. This is worth 3 points.
Q3. What have my sisters taught me? To answer this question, you need to pick one of your sisters (another Princess character) and choose something that she taught you. You get that Trait at 3 and she gets it at 5.
Q4. What did I teach my sister? This goes the opposite of the previous question, you choose a sister you taught the trait to and you get it at 5 and she gets it at 3.

Now that’s the basics of the traits. You’ll end up with plenty more than four as the other Princesses teach and are taught things by your character. And you may not end up with them all balanced, but it doesn’t really matter because the Princesses never come up against each other.

3. The Rest

Your Princess needs a name appropriate to the setting you’re using, and feel free to give her any equipment that you think a Princess setting out on s perilous quest. At the very least she likely has a weapon and some armour, a fine steed and some smaller items.

4. The Queen

I’ll be the first to admit this section is still a bit vague and I’m still figuring out how it should work. Basically, in long term play, what your mother The Queen is like matters. So simply, each player chooses one positive trait their mother has, and one negative trait she has. That’s pretty much it, that stuff is more important to the GM.

How to Create a Retinue Character:

Creating a Retinue character is similar to creating a Princess, but a little bit simpler.

1. Stats

You have the same stats and you have 10 points to divide between them.

2. Traits

Again, similar. You answer questions to get your traits and their values. The questions are:
– What does my Princess rely on me to do? This is yor main duty in the retinue. It’s worth 5 points
– What did I do before this? Something like your past experiences. It’s worth 3 points.
– What doesn’t my Princess know about me? This one is a little tricky. It has a value of 4 if you’re using it in such a way that your Princess won’t find out about it. But if you use it blatantly, in the open, it’s only worth 1 point.

3. The Rest

All Retinue characters have a stat called Loyalty that starts at 8.

Part Two: How the Game Works

First I’ll just talk a little bit about the premise of the game and what it’s about, even though that might not be strictly necessary at this point.

Dirty Princesses is a game about a land ruled by a Queen, and it’s about how each Generation of Princesses has to leave the safety of the court to go out into the world to prove they have what it takes to rule eventually. There are a few points I need to make here.

The first is that it’s not a competition. The Princesses genuinely want the best and most appropriate one of them to rule. They know that if that isn’t them, they will still have positions of power and influence and wealth and responsibility. They will still help the land. So the game isn’t about competition or treachery or backstabbing. Not yet anyway.

Secondly, despite the terms of Queen and Princess and the medieval setting that they tend to evoke, the game isn’t inherently tied to a medieval setting. It could be a space opera, or steampunk. The playtest campaign I’m planning on starting is a modern urban setting inspired by Sin City, Saints Row and The Wire. So you definitely aren’t constrained in the setting.

Now, what is the game about thematically? For me, it’s all about the difference between the person your parents expect you to be, and the person you are. It’s about how you can never really tell who you’ll end up being. I hope the rules convey that theme, but I just don’t know yet.

1. The Rules Themselves

So the game uses cards. There is one deck between all players, with the Jokers and Kings taken out. The Queen is the highest card, because in the setting the Queen is the highest authority.

Essentially, a game session is made up of scenes and there are a few different kinds of scenes. Usually, the GM will go around the table and give each player a scene of the type of their choosing. The player whose ‘turn’ it is is considered to have their character in the spotlight, front and centre. That’s not to say that the other characters can’t be in the scene and do cool stuff, but the spotlight character gets the lion’s share of attention.

At this exact moment, the scenes are a bit vague. Here is how I see them though:

Action Scene: Call for an Action Scene when you want a bit of excitement. The purpose of an action scene is to blow off some steam, plus you’ll earn resources to help you deal with the big challenge at the end of the session.

Drama Scenes: Like Action Scenes, but obviously focused on Dramatic events more than, well, Action. I probably need a better name for them. Like Action Scenes, they give you resources towards the end of the game.

Composure Scenes: These are scenes where the Princess is doing something to restore her Composure. A Composure Scene will restore a certain amount of Composure but I haven’t decided how much yet. Two points seems ok in my head, but I don’t know.

Support Scene: These are where the Retinue characters really get to shine. I’m thinking, but haven’t decided for certain, that these have to leave the Princess out, to represent the fact that they are ‘behind the scenes’. These will give the Princess bonuses in future scenes and conflicts.

Challenge Scene: There is one of these per session and it’s a big deal. Essentially, each session is a sub-quest on the Princess’ main quest. What the Challenge Scene represents is the climax of this sub-quest. It’s difficult and the Princess won’t necessarily win. What also happens in a Challenge Scene is that either the conflict itself or the outcome will relate in some way to the traits of The Queen, and no matter what happens it will change the Princess’ relationship with her mother and make her a different person. Challenge Scenes, afterward, also change the traits of the Princess a bit. They’re a big deal.

Now when you set up a scene, the GM will describe the situation and set up a situation for the players to deal with. Roleplaying occurs, people describe what their characters are doing. At some point during the scene though, you’ll reach a moment where you aren’t sure what should happen next. This is the point of conflict and this is where you pull out the cards to see what happens.

Here’s how it works in brief, I’ll explain it more fully afterwards.

1. Everybody declares what they, roughly, want to achieve in this conflict and how they are going to achieve it. Their method will be connected to one of their stats and therefore one of the suits of cards.

2. Everybody draws a hand of cards. Princesses draw cards equal to their Composure. Retinue draw cards equal to their Loyalty. The GM draws one card for every other player and may spend as many Adversity points as they wish to draw one extra card per point spent. Also, if you have a trait appropriate to the conflict and can describe its use, draw cards equal to its value.

3. Everybody looks at their cards. First of all, find the highest card of the suit that you’re using in this conflict. Then, add your Stat value to its value. Then look for any other cards of a matching suit. Each one adds one to the value of the highest card.

I should note that Jacks are worth 10 and Queens are worth 12.

4. Queens and Jacks have special effects.

Queens can:
– Be put aside and are worth one Composure or Loyalty after the conflict, but they don’t add value to your hand or have any other effect if you do this.
– Played on someone else to make them discard their highest value card of the same suit
– Played as if they matched the suit you’re using, but add 2 points of value instead of 1.

Jacks can:
– Act as any card of any suit and equal or lower value.
– You can discard them to swap one card of your choice with one other player’s card of their choice.

5. For every card of a different suit that is higher than your highest value card of the suit you’re using, subtract one from your total value.

6. The highest total value wins, and then gets to decide the outcome of the conflict, describe how it all goes and generally win and make yourself look good.

That’s the basics of it, for an Action, Drama and Challenge scene. A Challenge scene will have a few extra things tacked onto it due to the important nature of it.

Now depending on who wins, different things will happen.

GM Wins: The Princess loses Composure equal to their lowest card. All the Retinue characters lose Loyalty equal to their lowest card.

Princess Wins: She takes the highest card that wasn’t the main suit and puts it aside, keeping it for the Challenge Scene.

Retinue Wins: Gains Loyalty equal to their lowest card.

Now if we’re talking about a Support Scene it’s a little different. It isn’t really a conflict. What happens is that the Retinue character descibes how they’re helping the Princess behind the scenes and they can lose one Loyalty to give the Princess +1 to one stat or trait for the next conflict. They cannot go below 1 Loyalty.

Composure Scenes are different again.

That’s a summary of the system. I feel like I’m tinkering with some unknown machine and digging into it’s guts here because a lot of this is getting made up as I go, getting rewritten as I figure out how it all fits together. So if something doesn’t make sense, tell me and make me explain it.

There are a few items of GMing that are yet to be included in this, partly because I want to wrap it up while it’s still making sense and partly because I haven’t figured them out yet.

So that’s it. If you read all of this I thank you. I would really appreciate any questions, queries, comments or criticisms you have.


6 Responses to “Progress?!?”

  1. kymmy Says:

    My goodness huge post! Im not sure you have to keep out the king cards, you simply have to declare them as being of lesser value. Perhaps you could have just one King card in there of the suit of the princess’s choice. This card could represent a rare appearance by the King in association with the reason why the king is absent with their lives…they have come back to offer something in relation to the suit they represent. So I’m a little confused, does each person manage a princess and a retinue card? or is there just one person with a princess and everyone else has a retinue card?

    • David Says:

      Well part of the thing with leaving the King out of the deck and having the question about ‘What did your father leave you?’ is that the King is flat out gone. No dramatic return or anything like that. It’s up to the players why he’s gone (Dead, Exiled, He was never known in the first place), but he’s gone.

      Each person has one Princess character and they have one Retinue character for every other Princess character. The way the game plays, at least to me (the designer…) is that one session Player A plays as the Princess and everybody else is Retinue. Then next session it’s Player B as the Princess and everybody as her Retinue. And so on.

  2. John Reid Says:

    That’s sounding really good. I like the way the trait-generating questions guide players toward the kind of characters they should be making and also establish pre-existing relationships between the characters (which Spirit of the Century does so well).

    Making the retinue secret trait much more powerful if used in secret is fantastic. Makes me want to make complete bastard retinue member with a sweet spot for his princess.

    I was initially confused that the retinue has to spend Loyalty to help the princess but upon reflection I suppose that sets up the game with a limit on what the princess can ask of her retinue.

    If there isn’t supposed to be in-fighting between the princesses, I’d take the open ended options on the Queens & Jacks and focus them on the specific conflict (e.g. a princess with a Queen can only play it on the GM to force the GM to discard the highest card in that suit).

  3. Andrew Says:

    With regard to the scenes, why do you have to choose a scene at the beginning, rather than choose an action type?

    • David Says:

      I’m not really sure to be honest. It’s just the way it occurred to me. What do you mean by choosing an action type rather than a scene?

      • Andrew Says:

        Let’s take a system like Palladium as an example. There are no scene types, but there are action types. When a character wants to fire a weapon, the rule is d20+modifiers compared to a target number. However, when a character wants to pick a lock, the rule is d100+modifiers compared to the skill rating. The action type is connected to a rule or mechanism.

        Having scene types, on the other hand, forces the players to only take one kind of action. If you have a Support Scene, but the fiction takes a turn to violence, how do you handle it? I suppose you can either insist in the rules that no violence is allowed in a support scene, or you need to account for an interruption to the scene.

        This is the dilemma that struck me also with Siege. I wanted to have scene types so that the story had a kind of structure to it, but I couldn’t resolve the problem of the fiction going against the scene type. I’ve decided upon action types instead, but will probably have a little section for the GM about scene types and ideas for sequencing them.

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