A Settingless, Improvisation-Driven Role-Playing System
(From the Latin loqor, to speak, and a play on the name of the Norse god Loki, the trickster god.)
Loqi is a role-playing system a bit different from others. It asks you the question "What happens?" Competing narrations are proposed by different players, and only one of them gets used. Which one depends on a host of factors, but most significantly how good the narration is for you!
Want to defeat an enemy army? Sure thing. Want to do it but take heavy losses? Even easier. Want to capture their generals, extract vital information, and inspire massive side-switching? Well things just got harder. What matters in Loqi is not what's realistic, but how your character is affected.
Note: Loqi requires several brains, paper, pencils, and a twelve-sided die.
- Basics of Play
- Evaluating Problems
- Resolving Problems
- Further Advice on Evaluating Problems
- Benefit and Harm
- Making Characters
Basics of Play
- The GM will describe aspects of the larger world—not caring for whether the PCs are privy to any information. He also describes the local situation of the PCs. This is called descriptive play.
- Players may make suggestions both for the larger world and the local situation, which the GM is encouraged to use. When he does so, he may reward the player with a point of influence for the good idea.
- The GM also proposes problems to the players, which are circumstances the PCs must deal with: they must respond, act, make a choice. Players can also propose problems by spending two influence.
There are three distinct scales:
- Story level
- Scenario Level
- Scene Level
A problem always occurs at one (and only one) of the three scales. Its results will affect the game at that same level (or a higher one).
Problems are concluded by a semi-complicated system of resolution. The resolution system decides between two competing outcomes to the problem. One is essentially positive for the PCs while the other is essentially negative (most of the time).
- One person, usually the GM will introduce a problem. He will then say “So what happens?" to whomever else is involved in it.
- That other person will think up one way that the outcome could go. If a player, this person will usually come up with an outcome that is basically beneficial to his character. If more than one character is involved, then multiple players can think up an outcome together, talking it over.
- The GM, or whomever initially proposed the problem, then comes up with an alternative outcome, usually which runs counter to the first one in terms of being beneficial or harmful to the characters.
- The resolution system is employed to decide between the outcomes.
- Whomever thought up the chosen outcome may elaborate on it a little and describe in detail what should happen. Then descriptive play resumes.
Each outcome that is proposed (there will only ever be two) is evaluated so that a net likelihood is found. The likelihoods of both outcomes are then compared to come up with final odds that either will be chosen. A die is rolled, and this makes the decision.
Evaluate each outcome on its own first. Both the players and the GM should have a likelihood tally board, with a chit to move up and down the likelihood scale, as different effects are taken into account. Begin with the chit on position zero. Move the chit up (positive likelihood change) or down (negative likelihood change) as indicated by the effects you’re considering.
There are several different kind of effects. Go down the list below, thinking of any that apply. Everyone at the table can do this together; it is not the sole prerogative of any one player.
- Character Traits
- Environmental Modifiers
- Impact (Benefit and Harm)
- Genre Conventions
- Influence Expenditures
In most outcomes, it is the actions of a character (or various characters) that bring about a resolution. If a trait is related to the actions ascribed to the character, the trait’s numerical rating alters the likelihood: raising it if the trait goes along with the action (e.g. a swordsman fighting well), or lowering it if they run counter to each other (e.g. a swordsman dropping his weapon and running away). Either way, the likelihood is changed by the trait’s own numerical rating, usually between one and four, positive or negative. (And as you would expect, a counter-running negative trait increases the likelihood.) Multiple traits, from multiple characters, may all be considered in a given problem. Traits are described more later.
Often, the immediate situation, as described previously (and at whatever scale is being used) will have direct bearing on what happens. Some actions will seem more likely, and others less so, based on everyday logic. For instance, an running safely down a rocky slope, at night, in the rain, seems very unlikely. In essence, these kinds of modifiers are traits held by the environment itself. The only difference is that seldom are they written down. Instead, the GM must choose what he thinks is an appropriate rating—with suggestions from the players.
Outcomes are generally either beneficial to the players’ characters (or at least to one of them) or they are harmful. Occasionally they are neutral. Impact describes the net benefit of an outcome, minus the net harm. A positive impact is in the end beneficial, a negative one harmful.
Benefit and harm can be used to describe a wide variety of changes that might affect a character’s position in the world: he himself might be changed, in mind or in body; so might his resources, his allies, his physical location, and other circumstances in the world that end up affecting him. Impact is usually closely tied to scale, so that an outcome that has long reaching effects, and influences something beyond the level of the scene will have a greater impact. A neutral impact says either that the problem was resolved with no greater implications, or that those implications do not obviously harm or benefit the players' characters.
Like modifiers, impact must be judged by the GM and the players and given a numerical rating that alters the outcome’s likelihood. This rating will usually range between 0 and 5 for an outcome that only affects the present scale. Larger outcomes automatically have higher impacts.
For a player’s outcome, a positive impact (i.e. one with a net beneficial effect) reduces the likelihood, while a negative impact increases it. Conversely, a GM’s outcome is made less likely the more harmful it is, and more likely the closer it is to being neutral.
In many kinds of games, real-world physical laws, and even logic and causality, are only minor determinants of what happens. More important are internal logic and consistency, which may have little to do with the imagined world the characters live in, but everything to do with the players and the unfolding story. Everyone knows, for instance, that the good guy always gets the girl in romantic comedies. It doesn’t matter what logical rules and difficulties would seem to forbid it: it always happens, regardless. A rule like this is one example of a genre convention.
All games have genre conventions. Most need never be stated, since they parallel real world rules, like “things fall down, not up." These rules need never be stated, but less ordinary ones often should be. Regardless of whether you play with a long list, detailing each major genre convention, everyone at the table will (or should) have a general grasp of they are like. For instance, everyone knows that people can fly in Kung-fu “wuxia" films, though your group might like to spell out specifically how it works. Setting supplements for Loqi will largely be discussions of genre conventions.
All genre conventions can be applied to outcome likelihoods just like environmental modifiers (and indeed, the line between the two often blurs into nothingness). If your group has a list of genre conventions, they may have set ratings attached to them. Otherwise the GM will have to make a ruling (and even the largest list cannot include everything, so this will inevitably happen). As with traits and modifiers, genre conventions help the likelihoods of outcomes that they are compatible with, and hinder those that they are not.
- A player's character gets killed: -7
- The gods directly intercede: -2 (but possible)
- The bad guy manages to get away, just barely: +3
All players of Loqi have a handful of influence points that sit in front of them in the form of some physical counter. Influence is earned in various ways, and may be expended in various ways. One of them is to directly influence likelihood of an outcome. With each point a player spends (the point is afterward removed from his pile) he may shift the likelihood chit one position in either direction. Players may some times be spending influence to counter-purposes, in which case a bidding war will ensue, with whoever is willing to spend more influence finally deciding the likelihood.
The likelihood for a problem’s outcome should be tallied up immediately after it is proposed. Then the competing outcome will be described, and its likelihood tallied. After this:
- Subtract the lower likelihood from the higher. This is the advantage. If both outcomes are equally likely, the advantage is zero.
- The advantage plus six becomes the odds.
- A twelve-sided die is then rolled, usually by whomever’s outcome is more likely.
- If the roll comes out higher than the odds then the less likely outcome is selected. If it comes out equal to or lower than the odds, the more likely one is selected. (If both are equally likely, a high roll goes to the GM's outcome, a low roll to the player's.)
- The person who proposed the selected outcome describes it in more detail, if necessary. Then any consequences of it are described by the GM.
Examples of Problem Resolution
Jim Faces an Orc
First, the GM introduces the problem:
Roy (the GM): Jim, you’re wading through the swamp trying to join the others when an orc jumps out from behind a rock, right in front of you. What happens?
Jim: I’m startled for a second, but then smash him in the face with my shield before running him through. I then keep running and meet up with Mel.
Roy: Okay. Alternately, the orc bellows and surprises you. Just as you’re recovering, he lunges forward and knocks you off your feet into the mud. You try to wrench your sword free but he’s already on top of you. He punches you in the stomach and face, dazing you. The next thing you know, the others are pulling the orc off you, having killed it.
Roy: Let’s do the likelihood of yours.
Jim positions his likelihood chit in the ‘zero’ spot on his tally card.
Roy: Minus one, since your weapons weren’t ready and he surprised you.
Jim: Okay. But I’m a good swordsman, level two.
Roy: All right. For impact...that would be solid favorable resolution, but with no greater advantage in the scene. Minus three.
Jim has moved the likelihood chit: -1, +2, -3, for a net -2 likelihood.
Roy: Now mine. This orc is a bruiser, so he can definitely pummel you good. Plus two.
Jim: But I am a swordsman.
Roy: True. Minus two. The orc also has the thick swamp and some surprise on his side. Plus two. And while I mentioned the other characters, they don’t really come into this, since they don’t have a “rescuing" trait... I’d also say it’s a minor negative impact, since no real harm came to you, so minus three.
Roy starts his own likelihood chit on zero and then moves it: +2, -2, +2, -3, for a net likelihood of -1.
Roy: So mine’s minus one, and yours is minus two. Advantage of one to me. You roll it though. Get over a seven.
Jim rolls and gets a 7. This is under or equal to the odds of 7, so Roy’s outcome comes true (just barely, but that doesn't matter).
Roy: I think we all have a good idea what happens, right? Everyone hauls Jim out, and he’s covered in muck.
Zaphane, Psychic Grandmaster
Maria's character, Zaphane, is meeting with the local inter-galactic crime lord, in an attempt to get free passage through his space for her ship.
Bob (the GM): Zaphane arrives the audience chamber of Xocax Ill-Tongue. What happens?
Maria: Zaphane walks up to the crime boss smoothly, and confidently asks him to alloy a petty trader such as herself through his space unhindered. She focuses her psychic abilities on making him weak and distractible. He blubbers out an affirmative, and Zaphane strides out of the room. Some of Xocax's aides look at him questioningly, but he nods his assent again.
Bob: Okay. What traits do you have for that?
Maria: "Psychic grandmaster" at level three, and "loves danger" level one.
Bob: Right. Opposing that, Xocox has "cruel" at level three. He also has reason to suspect your brother of having acted against him. Minus one. I'd set the impact at minus five.
Maria: That's a total likelihood of...minus five. What's yours?
Bob: Zaphane strides up to Xocox but before she even opens her lips, four guards surround her and level rifle barrels. She glances at Xocox and tries to psychically subdue him, but he's too strong, and resists. A psychic suppressant field prevents any further tries, and Zaphane is tazed into unconsciousness. She's thrown into a cell and her ship impounded. Xocox contacts her brother. Impact six.
Maria: I have the trait "never gets captured." Level two. Plus psychic grand-mastery.
Bob: True. That's minus five. However, Xocox is cunning level two and has access to high technology, we'll say level three. That's minus seven total.
Maria: Oh, and the ship is booby-trapped. Hard to impound. Level one. And I'm going to spend two influence to reduce it.
Bob: Okay. The total likelihood is minus ten then. Advantage goes to you at level five ((-5) - (-10)). I need to roll over eleven.
Further Advice on Problem Resolution
Judging Likelihood Modifiers
The effects of the diverse modifiers that may apply to an outcome must often be judged subjectively by the GM, and evaluating a problem is much more than summing up lists of relevant factors. Many smaller factors, which would be inconsequential in isolation, may be combined into a single item which does then alter the likelihood. For instance, a fighter might be standing on wet soil, have the sun in his eyes, and have a somewhat damaged shield. None of these things is significant on its own, but the GM might deem them collectively to make fighting harder by -1.
Conversely, traits or other modifiers may some times overlap heavily in effect. In this case, their modifiers should not simply be summed up, since they are performing the same function; rather some kind of average (perhaps a weighted average) must be roughly computed. E.g. a technician who is trying to fix a computer might have the traits "computer tech 4" and "clever 2." These both apply, but are very similar. The GM might decide to just use the higher of the two (i.e. 4) or perhaps allow a little bit of the lower rating to also apply, since they are not entirely the same and may each contribute something unique (in which case he might allow a +5, say)
The Comparative Method
To evaluate modifiers, make comparisons between opposing forces directly and then consider the net effect on likelihood. This is an intuitive approach and can make evaluations go faster. Whenever an applicable modifier is thought of, consider what other factor in the outcome might work against it. E.g.
Harry's character Giuseppe is dodging his way past the town drunk in Harry's outcome to a problem. The GM and players think of what modifiers apply.
First, traits: Giuseppe is "nimble" but, directly opposing that, the drunk is both "a large man" and, well, "drunk." Situationally, it's dark and they're in a cluttered back street, but Giuseppe has the trait "knows Florence like his own hand."
There's also a genre convention "main characters escape physical harm" which helps Harry's outcome, and isn't really directly opposed by anything per se.
Finally there's impact, which also stands alone. If Harry wanted to spend some influence, he would be directly opposed by any counter influence spent by other players or the GM (if the relevant optional rule is used).
You'll see that if one outcome is extreme in its impact and the other is mild, or if one outcome is heavily stacked with modifiers of various kinds, that the outcome will be made inevitable. Specifically, if the advantage is 6 or higher, then only one outcome is even possible. Some time this is appropriate and can be allowed, especially when it results from a player spending influence. However, most of the time it is to be avoided. Part of the GM's job is to create an outcome that is roughly on par with the player's in terms of likelihood so that both are possible: if the player makes his impact really large, the GM should do the same.
Optional Rule: Unlikely Outcomes
You may allow an alternate rolling scheme by which even very unlikely outcome are still possible. For an extremely unlikely outcome to be selected, a 12 must first be rolled on the die. Then, the advantage is reduced by 6 and the die is rolled again. If the roll is now higher than the re-calculated target number, then the unlikely outcome is chosen.
What the Numbers Mean
Impact fulfills a decidedly different function in problem evaluation than do all the other modifiers. Most basically it represents the internal logic of the game world: what outcome "makes sense" or seems appropriate. However, creating outcomes should not be an exercise in devising the most logically sound narrative. Modifiers are more than just rules, and their consideration should always be framed in terms of competing forces: on one side are forces (of the game world) that support the characters, and on the other are those that oppose them. The sharpness of a character's sword is a friendly force while that of an evil bandit a menacing one.
Since each modifier thus represents a force, the numerical ratings that you attach to them should describe how strongly the modifier embodies that force. It is not correct, therefore, to ascribe strong ratings to modifiers without strong character: you would not give a "mediocre sword" a rating of 4 because it is outstandingly mediocre. You would give it a zero, because it does not represent much of anything. In other words, numeric ratings describe how powerful a trait or other modifier is, and no adjectives having to do with extremity should be added to a modifier’s name. (E.g. "really strong sword." "Strong sword" will do, and the fact that it has a +3 will convey the "really.").
Additionally, there is one more fine point: whether or not modifiers represent something tangible in the game world itself. This is somewhat up to you. By "default," the answer is yes, except for genre conventions: all other modifiers should describe a quality that actually exists for the characters of the game. These qualities might be subtle, like emotions, but they are nonetheless real and definable. However, you may want to do things differently, and allow modifiers that describe powers which have nothing to do with the game world itself. For instance, a sword might have "+4 when used in a fight against evil," and this has nothing to do with any enchantment or magic of the sword. Rather, the players simply want the wielder of the sword to win against evil. It is a sort of genre convention that his actually unrelated to genre per se, but instead to the specific desires of the players in their role as story-tellers. How often you want to allow this sort of thing, if you want to allow it at all, should probably be discussed before-hand (if it's even on your group's "radar").
Benefit and Harm
Impact is a key factor in evaluating the likelihood of an outcome and depends on the net effect of the outcome on the player's characters, i.e. beneficial or harmful. To decide on an impact rating, the GM must consider all the different factors that might help or harm the characters and sum up their effects. This especially important in more complicated outcomes and also for beginning GMs. Once he becomes well experienced, impact ratings can be evaluated more subjectively, and far more quickly. This section will discuss common categories of benefit and harm, though it is by no means exhaustive.
This is some alteration in the tactical position of the character within the current scene, leading to (positive or negative) situational modifiers in later problems. Some times the current problem will be left unresolved, and the modifiers will apply to a second attempt. Generally tactical changes result in modifiers of between 1 and 6, and impacts that correspondingly scale between 1 and 3. E.g.
- A soldier dives behind cover or reaches higher ground. lvl 2.
- One MP convinces another to help him make his argument. lvl 2.
- A salesman offends a customer he will later try to sell a car to. lvl 2.
- A scientists fine-tunes her equipment to take readings. lvl 1.
- A mason sets up an efficient command structure for his underlings. lvl 2.
- A knight loses his weapon in a battle. 3 pts.
As part of an outcome, a character can gain a new trait, or have an existing trait altered (either in nature or in rating) or removed. A newly created trait that is beneficial leads to a positive impact, while a beneficial trait that was removed would lead to a negative one. The converse of course holds true for harmful traits. The impact associated with a trait change depends on three things:
- The magnitude of the change.
- The trait being affected.
- The permanence of the change.
Larger changes are of course associated with great impacts, as are broad traits and traits that are critical to a character's identity or effectiveness. Additionally, trait changes are usually not permanent: often they last only for a single scene or through the scenario. The longer lasting it is, the greater the impact will be. Use the following table as a guide, but values can range up significantly (it presumes average kinds of traits being affected; being neither trivial nor particularly broad):
|Rating Change||Lasts the Scene||Lasts the Scenario||Permanent|
Note: The pattern above should be easily discernible should you need to find impacts for larger trait changes.
- A character is injured, with "hurt leg" level 3 for the scenario. lvl 6.
- A pilot increases his "flying" skill 1 level. lvl 4.
- A character's stocks go up, so that his "wealth" trait increase by 2. lvl 8.
- A character's car needs to go to the shop for the scene. Normally it's "hot-rod 4." lvl 8.
A significant relationship is established, dissolved, or modified in strength. Relationships are often kept track of as trait, but not always: generally if it is a trait, it will be more permanent, and so any changes to it will have a larger impact. But relationships are also a bit more complicated than other traits, and often used, so they deserve special consideration.Relationship changes will often extend beyond the current scale, so the impact will often be fairly large. Conversely, if the relationship will be finite in time, either due to its own nature (e.g. a crime lord is placated...for a while) or to circumstances (the character moves out of town and will never sees the crime lord again), then its impact is lowered. Of course, it also depends on just how powerful the relationship is and also how useful, or detrimental, it will probably be. For instance, befriending a street bum would (generally) have less impact than befriending the local police chief.
All these qualities will be multiplicative, and not additive in terms of the impact. The table below summarizes what you should consider when evaluating a relationship and also shows possible impact ratings and multipliers, centered around a base-line value.
|Change in relationship strength||new friend / enemy||1 – 4|
|Influence of the person||about the same social status||x0.5 – x2|
|Length of the relationship||long-standing (months or years)||x0.25 – x1.5|
- A fellow knight pledges his aid in the upcoming campaign. lvl 5.
- The president owes the character a favor. lvl 10.
- A street-urchin vows to hurt the character, who is a young prince. lvl 1.
- A mob boss grows irritated. lvl 3.
Traits can describe almost any quality or asset that a character possesses. They are not limited to positive, beneficial attributes, but include anything important about a character, even if it is not to his own liking or may tend to harm him. Here are some examples of things that can be traits:
- Skill or natural talent, e.g. “swimming"
- Intellectual shortcoming: “can’t do math"
- Possession: “the manor at Hardwick"
- Strong relationship: “friend and tutor Sir Melbroke"
- Title or other indicator of social status: “knight"
- Behavior: “always wakes at dawn"
- Temptation: “can’t resist the bottle"
- Fate: “destined to marry Duncan"
- Religion: “favors Odin"
- Luck: “will fall down any kind of hole, any day of the week"
- Age: “old woman"
- Physical qualities: “lithe and attractive"
- Profession: “baker"
- Genre archetype: “docile monster with a heart of gold"
Traits can be described by single words, phrases, quotations, or metaphors: anything that gets the message across. Obviously, traits can be either broad or narrow; of everyday or only occasional use. What they must always be, however, is important: if a trait would say nothing about your character, relative to the other characters in the game, then don’t have it.
Traits are rated numerically for how powerful they are, relative to how powerful they ever could be (in any character). They range from one to four. Since skills commonly serve as traits, here’s a table showing how that might work out:
|Trait Level||Skill||Number per Professionals|
|4||Experienced Professional||1 / 5|
|5||Expert||1 / 50|
|6||Master||1 / 1,000|
Influence has been mentioned at various times through these rules. It is the universal currency of Loqi. Influence can be spent to:
- Alter the likelihood of an outcome (discussed in Problems).
- Introduce a problem.
Players can introduce a problem by spending 2 influence. They notify the GM of their intention, and he will find a convenient stopping place. The player will then describe the initial set-up for the problem, and what it is. He must then pose the question "What happens?" to someone, just as the GM would. If the problem requires an immediate response from a character, the question should generally be addressed to that character's player. But the decision is up to the problem-creator and the GM can be asked to give his outcome first. After this, the problem is resolved normally, unless the player wants to spend an additional 2 influence to take over from the GM for the entirety of the problem. If he does, he will describe the competing outcome, evaluate the outcomes, and make all other necessary decisions. Once the problem is resolved, control return to the regular GM.
Influence can be gained by proposing an outcome that everyone thinks is clever, interesting, amusing, or really helpful. The GM will gauge when this occurs. Usually he will give between 1 and 5 influence, but some times more. Influence can also be earned by accomplishing goals (see below).
With this rule in place, the task of giving influence-based rewards is no longer the GM's alone. Any player can elect to give some of his influence to another player (up to five at a time). This should be done in reward for a good role-playing (which includes good ideas, good acting, telling a good joke, and so on). However, the player being rewarded gets twice as much influence as is given, so there is a net gain of influence all around.
Optionally, your group can allow the GM a limited supply of influence to apply freely to such problems as he will. The chief use of this influence would probably be to balance problems with very high advantages that tilt towards the players, just to keep things interesting. He should probably be given 10 points, or some other number, per session of play, with no carry-over between sessions.
Goals are things that the players want to see happen during play. They really describe actions that players take, though they can make reference to what players are able to have characters do as well. Goals are rated numerically for how important they are. Whoever fulfills a goal gets its rating's worth of influence. Often more than one person will fulfill a goal at the same time, in which case both people get the value (it is not split between them). There are two kinds of goals: specific and non-specific.
Specific goals each describe a very particular action that could occur in the game. Often these are things that can only happen once, though if not, only the first instance counts. They are usually grand in nature, difficult to accomplish, or can only happen after many other things have already occurred. Some examples:
- Michael's character defeats a dragon. 10 pts.
- The king marries. 8 pts.
- The dragon Yrgildi dies. 5 pts.
- A nemesis is created, pursued, and finally defeated. 15 pts.
- Jane's character finally loses at gambling. 4 pts.
- Someone uses the word "betwixt" in a narration. 3 pts.
- Robin falls off her chair laughing. 5 pts.
Once a specific goal is fulfilled, it disappears and is no longer a goal. If anyone repeats the action described by it, they get no influence.
Non-specific goals describe actions that can be done any number of times and will always earn a player influence points. Usually their ratings are substantially lower than those of specific goals. Examples might be:
- A player describes his own character losing and being rescued by other characters. 2 pts.
- A player successfully describes a John Woo-style action sequence. 3 pts.
- The annoying recurring character, Jesmond the Imp, appears. 1 pt.
- A player tells a joke and everyone laughs. 3 pts.
Obviously, you can have very serious or very silly goals, depending on the style of game you want to have.
Goals are established in three places:
- By the setting itself. If you are making the setting, obviously you'll be creating these; otherwise you'll be reading them somewhere. Usually setting-based goals have to do with the imagined world itself, and not the players, but not always. Ratings vary.
- In preparation for play, when characters are being made and everything it being planned. Everyone should make up at least one specific goal and one non-specific goal. Assign base ratings of at least 5 total, and no more than 10 total. Triple or quintuple the ratings for specific goals. The GM can make up as many as she feels are necessary.
- At the beginning of each play-session. Everyone should try to come up with at least one goal that can be fulfilled either during the present session or in the future. This should be a specific goal, and its rating should be between 3 and 10. If someone wants to introduce a non-specific goal, he should talk about it with the whole group and get approval. It's rating should probably be between 1 and 5.
Strength is something like a trait but is also a changeable resource, like influence. Every character has a strength rating. It represents the character's grit, endurance, will, or energy. Most characters have a strength of around 10, though some more and others less (however, usually no more than 20 and no less than 5).
Yet strength as just discussed is in fact a character's nominal strength; what he has at his best. During the course of play, a character's effective strength rating will fluctuate, first falling and then being regained.
WeakeningsCharacters can lose strength temporarily in consequence of an outcome, and this is referred to as a weakening.. Weakenings can occur in any level problem (i.e. scene, scenario or story). The impact of a weakening is much less than that of a trait change: generally every level of weakening implies an impact of 2 (so a weakening of 5 would have an impact of 10). A weakening can happen for many different reasons:
- Strenuous activity, e.g. climbing a high wall
- Injury, e.g. being punched in the face
- Stressful circumstances, e.g. having a vicious argument
- Lack of food or rest
Lost strength is recovered naturally at the end of every scene, though only in part, and wholly at the end of the scenario. When a scene ends, or there is some kind of intervening period within the action of the game, then all weakened characters get back a certain amount of strength. Usually this amount is 2, but it can vary a lot, depending on the type of scenes involved. E.g. if one scene follows directly on the heels of the last, then only a single point might be regained, while if one scene is considered to come three months later, then the GM might decide that all of it is. Often between 1 and 5 points will be regained at once in this way. At the end of a scenario, if there is a definite end, all characters should regain all their lost strength.
Additionally, strength can be regained, just as it is lost, as part of an outcome. However, the impact for suddenly regaining strength is always more than that of losing it: every point regained implies an impact of 4. Thus, waiting for the end of the scene is always easier than regaining strength through an outcome.
Since losses of strength are short-lived, and do not last through scenarios, it may seem that they will never apply to story-level problems. However, it may happen that the character experiences a weakening during the course of the problem (because of his action or surrounding circumstances). There is not much difference between such a weakening and a simple situational modifier, but for consistency's sake the GM may choose to use the strength rules instead. Such weakenings must be named for every story-level problem the character goes through, and nothing of them needs recording.
The Effects of Strength Loss
When characters lose strength, their overall performance in all problems suffers: they have less vigor, energy, and will to do whatever task. A character suffers no penalties from his regular strength score, even if it is very low, but as soon as he loses any strength, his performance drops, according to the table below. Effectively the character gains harmful traits with a rating equal to that listed, which decrease the likelihood of positive outcomes.
|Strength||Strenuous Action||All Actions|
Note: The above table may be customized heavily for a given game, in accordance with genre conventions, etc.
There are two kinds of modifier: those for strenuous actions and those for all actions. Modifiers for strenuous action are applied to a problem's outcome if the character is doing some kind of action that would significantly test the character's will, endurance, or grit; his strength in other words. These kinds of actions are certainly not limited to physical activity:
- Keeping a night watch
- Taking an exam
- Writing brilliant prose
The second kind of modifier applies to all outcomes where the character successfully takes any other kind of action (i.e. a non-strenuous action). This includes almost all outcomes, so these modifiers are essentially universal. There may be some outcomes where success depends entirely on luck or outside forces however, and they are excepted from it. The two modifiers are not cumulative, so for strenuous actions, only apply the strenuous action modifier.
A character who's strength falls to zero is considered out: either from fatigue or injury he collapses or even passes into unconsciousness. Which one depends on the circumstances, but is basically up to the player. Characters who are out may speak with other characters in a limited way, but are not very useful and cannot take part in any problems (even purely oral or mental problems; they're too dazed to be helpful).
Dying (Optional Rule)
Normally zero is the lower limit for a character's strength. However, with this rule it can go negative, either from an extreme weakening before the character was out or from subsequent weakenings inflicted on him. When a character's strength reaches -5, the character is considered dead: he is worn out, spent, or fatally injured. The GM may allow some spectacular problem to resuscitate a character from this state, but generally -5 is curtains. Alternately, you could choose some other cut-off point, like -10.
Making characters in Loqi is fairly painless, but will take some inspiration. After you've sat down with the GM and the other players in your game, decide what kind of characters everyone is going to have. You should base this on the kind of game you want to play, with consideration given to the following items:
- The setting you're using, e.g. “Arabian Nights”, French Middle Ages, World War II.
- The mood or style of your game: light, serious, comic.
- What genres you're emulating: Elizabethan romances, high fantasy.
- What kinds of things you want your players to be doing: solving puzzles, fighting bad guys, saving the universe.
Once you know what kind of characters you're playing in general, a character can be made for each player. Everyone should discuss everyone else's character. You should consider what everyone's strengths as players are (e.g. Bob always plays “the funny guy”, Jane is good at leading), and how the different characters in the game will interact.
With a basic character concept, you then just have to assign traits. There is no point system for buying traits in Loqi. Instead, just choose traits (with the help of the other players) that reflect the way you think the player should be. Everyone at the table should try to work at about the same scale in terms of trait breadth. I.e. you could decide to only work with a few very broad traits, or you could decide to break things down in more detail, but everyone should be doing it in basically the same way. (This isn't a hard and fast rule, but it makes things easier for everyone.)
Don't forget to assign a strength rating as well, if you're using the strength rules (10 is considered normal). Each player should probably start with 10 or so influence as well.
And that's it! Particular setting guides may provide more strict rules for character generation, including lists of specific traits to be chosen. Such rules must be highly genre- or style-specific though, so none are included here. If you're having trouble thinking of ideas for a character, ask the other players or look to some source material, like a book or movie.
Donald and his fellow players have decided to play a super-hero game using Loqi. They sit down to discuss the game, and further decide that their characters should be decidedly “Silver Age” in nature, having no grey side. They are unconcerned with a tight-fitting back-story to link the heroes; it can easily be imagined that they team up simply for the purpose of fighting crime and evil.
Donald conceives of a hero themed around black-smithing, who he will name The Iron Master, or “Tim” for short (a bad joke, but it's not a serious game). He describes his initial thoughts to the GM and the other players and hears what they have to say. Together they create traits for Tim, though Donald obviously leads the discussion, and the GM has some particular say over what trait ratings are reasonable—since it's a super-heroes game though, he allows most anything. They decide to give Tim:
- Forge and repair simple gadgets, 3
- Meaty, 4
- Has a big hammer, 1
- Accustomed to heat and smoke, 3
- Protective apron, 1
- Gruff, 3
Donald also decides that Tim has a very high strength: 14 in fact. This pretty much completes The Iron Master, though Donald later decides to add “secret smithy hideout, 3” after the players realize they will need some bases of operation.
Changing A Character
Characters do not have to remains exactly as they are when first created. They can change and evolve as play goes on, not just in the players' minds but through traits as well. They can gain or lose skills, friends, enemies, equipment, and behaviors; anything that traits normally describe. There are two ways for a character to be altered: freely and through problems
“Free” character change is the done purely on the whim of the players and GM, and comes when they think it appropriate. Generally, the character's player proposes a change, and after brief discussion, the GM approves it (or doesn't). Free character change is most commonly used to define traits that a character has theoretically always had, but which have not yet been necessary to the game. For example:
A Viking warrior needs to out-drink someone in a contest, but drinking has never come up in the game before and the character's player had never defined a drinking trait for him. However, everyone agrees that, being a thick-headed fellow, the warrior should be good at it. Therefore, “drinking mead, 2” gets written down.
Problem-based character change, on the other hand, depends on the mechanics of the game and is generally harder to bring about. It consists simply of introducing a permanent trait-change to a problem's outcome, as discussed in Problems under Benefit and Harm.
Rachel wants her character to become an expert horse rider, so she has her attends lessons. The GM proposes a problem:
“Horse riding is hard, and you only have a few months to learn before you have to leave for France. What happens during your three months?”
Rachel describes her character's efforts, and in the end her outcome includes her gaining a level 2 “riding” trait. The GM's outcome instead has the character becoming frustrated and not managing to learn anything significant.
Now they procede to resolve the problem, like any other. A level 2 trait change has a large impact associated with it (the GM decides on 10), since the trait is permanent, making the outcome unlikely by itself. However, Rachel has some influence saved up and spends it. In the end she rolls well and her outcome is chosen. She adds the new trait to her character sheet.
You can use both methods of character change in your game, depending on circumstances and your own preference. It may be that you decide to allow free changes only for retroactive character definition (as in the above example) and not for anything else. But you could alternately use free change for everything, and disallow permanent trait changes through problems entirely.
Primary inspirational credit is owed to S. John Ross's Risus and CLinton R. Nixon's Donjon. Thanks are also given to Paul Czege for The Pool and Ron Edwards for various role-playing techniques discussed in Sorcerer.