Synapse: Review Part 3 (final)

Conversational Resolution: there’s a mapped out way to figure out how to essentially manipulate NPCs by appealing to their self-interests. Those self-interests are the same as the Motivations that we see when creating a PC – so they are the same semantic terms, but with the NPCs individual values. As a PC you aren’t meant to know what the NPC motivation values are. There’s a process to do it through conversation with rolling dice. I guess it’d be a good mix of role-play and roll-play.

So the method, I read, is to start with a skill. I’ll use the Ratling, whom I’ve named Kirigi. So the situation is a market trader in the deep Byzantine-like streets of the city of Imjin (from Khara Thel). Kirigi is engaging the trader in a Haggling situation for a hand-lantern that Kirigi needs to do work in a cave. Kirigi wants to appeal to the merchant’s Blame Avoidance by stating that some of the goods are like the stolen stuff that the watch are on the look out for. The GM would check the disposition towards the character at the start. I find it a page further on past the method. So we’ll say it’s Indifferent (no mods). Unfortunately the write up is out of order. It puts the disposition part after the method of how to perform the “conversational resolution”. It’d be better if each component was discussed and the method put last – as a finale or summary.

Back to the process. I wonder what else is in weird order so read the whole lot instead of doing as I go. So I read the whole lot and think that it’s clumsily written but the ideas are very good.

Kirigi tries the skill roll. Appeal to the Merchant’s ‘Blame Avoidance’. Secretly the disposition is one. The merchant is negative to Kirigi, and all Ratlings. Also done secretly is the motivation values: Acquisition is the Merchant’s highest at 7 and Blame Avoidance is at 4, leaving 3. The Merchant has 4 resistance dice. Since Kirigi is ‘Attractive’ the NPCs resistance dice are reduced by 1. Leaving 3. The GM puts 4 dice on the table, Kirigi’s player reminds the GM of the Attractive trait and the reduction of the dice, leaving 3 dice on the table at the start of the Haggling process. This is to give an idea of the first few seconds and the receptiveness of the Merchant to that tangent of conversation. It’s a great abstraction I think.

Kirigi decides to push on thinking he has the goods to take on this slightly hostile merchant. Kirigi is Trained in Haggling, for +2 dice, the attribute is Empathy for 4 dice, and he has the Persuasion talent for +1 dice. Total dice is 7. The three dice fall for the Merchant, and each is 3, no successes. Kirigi rolls his 7 and only gets one success. Kirigi gets the price of the hand-lantern down but the GM secretly determines that the merchant now has a rivalry against Kirigi which further increases the resistance dice by 1 point.

I think that’s a pretty good mechanic. It will require the GM to keep lots of notes about NPCs that will recur in the game. Tracking their dispositions to the PC (and possible each separate PC).

Stress

This section is pretty good. As soon as combat starts you incur stress. Stress forces a Stability roll. So if Kirigi incurred 2 points of stress from Mental Anxiety he has to make a Stability roll and get two successes (2 points of stress). Extra successes will reduce the stress incurred. If Kirigi had Willpower talent he would add something. Not sure what. Probably an extra dice since that’s what the Talents do for skill.

Coping

A list of mechanics to cope with stress. I really like the idea. You have to Relax or Cope. Relaxation is permanent reduction of Stress. Coping is when Stress is higher than the Stability of the character. With a Willpower roll. Successes reduce stress by a point but not below your Stability. I read on and find that coping actually moves the stress point to something called Residual Stress. I guess this is compartmentalised stress – or emotional stuff that the character has swept under their rug of consciousness. You can’t get rid of these Residual stress points until after you remove normal stress. I’m unnecessarily reminded of Maslow. Lots of stress will take at least one die off any amount you roll.

Trust Points

The flavour and fluff on these brings up the distrust that is common when something negative happens to a player. Trust Points can be used as an award for going along with the GM’s story events. Ie. let your PC be arrested and you get a trust point. The player decides whether or not to do this, retains their freedom of choice, but knows that the GM is putting them in a tough situation for a story reason. In return the player can use the Trust Point to get an automatic success with every dice rolled – after the fact. So it’s possible that the Trust Point can get the PC out of the situation if it can be brought to one dice roll for determination.

Summation

Synapse has a lot of very good premises – in particular Culture, Life Experience and Motivations –  but needs extensive playtesting and revision for Attributes, Skills and Combat.

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Synapse: Review Part 3 (final)