Keys in Agon

July 8, 2008

Through talking with Eric about how to make Keys work in a competitive environment, we came up with this. It seems right to call it “Hubris,” but that already has a designation in Agon, the kinda shakey rules for Bringing Down the Pain in non-combat situations. While I think that idea has potential, I think it’s unfortunate that such an important term got paired with mechanics that are less than stellar in play (both confusing and overly complicated). In any case, this is my second best choice for names, though it has a more Christian / Agonia connotation, thanks to Ecclesiastes.

VANITIES

The heroes are not merely passable warriors, but the best there is at what they do. However, considering yourself to be the pinnacle of human achievement in particular respects means that you often have to step up and prove your worth to would be challengers. That’s what these rules do.

Vanities are ideals that a hero strives to hold themselves to, despite whatever odds stand against them. They generally come in a couple different forms:

1. Tied To An Ability (“I am the greatest horseman who ever lived” / “The sweetest singer since Orpheus”).

2. Tied To A Personal Code (“I will never allow a child to come to harm” / “Ill-guarded riches deserve to be plundered”).

3. Tied to a Particular Quest. Quests themselves are already Key-like, in that you gain Glory for completing them, so you can’t tie Vanities to their completion. You may, when appropriate, tie Vanities to completing Quests in a particular fashion. For example, “We shall leave none of those foul demon-worshippers alive” or “By my honor, it shall be done within a fortnight.”

Vanities should generally not be tied to Oaths, as they are often fickle and fleeting in Agon, as one hero tries to gain advantage over another. If you owe someone an Oath, you owe them an Oath, but you don’t need to stake your entire purpose on repaying them.

INVOKING VANITIES

Vanities are flags that the GM and other players should hammer against as much as they like. If you take the Vanity, “I will not allow a child to come to harm,” what you are effectively saying is put children in danger so my character can show off his devotion to their safety by protecting them. Or if you claim you’ll complete the Quest in a fortnight, you’re saying please place all manner of obstacles in my path, attempting to delay my journey, so I can speedily overcome them. When such a situation occurs you have three choices:

Choice A: Attempt to act in accord with your Vanity, as normal. Save the children!

Choice B: Stake part of your character’s valor on preserving their Vanity. Take a -2 to all rolls directly involving saving the children (in combat, this generally means a penalty to hit those who would harm children or a penalty to shielding them from harm, not to positioning, armor, abilities, and the rest). However, if you succeed in your Vanity, gain an extra 2 Glory (in combat, double the Glory you would normally get for killing Vanity-related foes), as you have proven your devotion and your deeds will thusly be remembered.

Choice C: If you have recently staked your valor on this Vanity and failed, abandon this Vanity. Maybe you will still try to save the children, maybe you won’t, but you’ve come to realize that it’s not as important to you as before; it isn’t what gives your life and deeds meaning. You gain 5 Glory and a point of Fate for abandoning a Vanity, as you grow in infamy and tragedy.

Quest-based Vanities are abandoned, without consequence, if the Quest is completed. If the Quest is abandoned, heroes with Vanities related to that Quest gain an additional point of Fate.

GAINING VANITIES

Characters can start with a Vanity, if their player likes. If not, they can be gained in play. This typically happens when…

1. Raising a Trait to d10 or d12. You’re pretty good at this. Maybe you’re the best there is?

2. When You Encounter Something That Offends Your Personal Code. Wait, let’s get this straight. There is a golden cow statue that is being transported on an unarmed ceremonial barge to the Temple of Zeus… and your group of heroes is not going after it? You’re appalled!

3. Taking on a Quest. Bah, you could complete this Quest blindfolded. Clearly you should up the challenge by claiming that you’ll complete it even more gloriously than required.

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