Loyalty as a Constrained RPG Game Mechanic

What is it?

Old school RPGs (and most new school) have built in notions of teamwork, teaming up for actions, acceptable behavior amongst characters, and so forth. Today, while participating in an PBeM game, one of my team-mates got hurt and I stopped and asked "How loyal is my character to that character?" At the time, i was just trying to work out a concept of how role-istically (note: role-tastic, role-ific, and role-tacular could also work in this sentence) I was going to respond. Namely, am I more loyal to the character on the ground or to the concept of killing the baddie that put her there? Before you say "Save her!", realize she is being played by a guy and that gets rid of most of the reason you want to help her, pervert.

What if that was the whole basis of a game? What if your interconnected loyalties enabled you to do things, but also forced you to do things? I am reading Brian Keene's Castaways right now, which is about a Reality-TV show that goes wrong. Loyalty can be a big deal. Even physically. Biggest Loser has shown us that people sticking together can do more than any of them could have done separately (the hundreds of pounds lost would probably not have been lost at all if they were on their own). It also has a flavor of silliness that leads to some good constrained-RPG action.

How to use it?

I am not 100% sure. But it would go like this, each character would have four stats: Loyalty, Sufferings, Concept, and Quality. Loyalty is a numerical stat that describes how loyal the character is, and is the central stat of the game. Sufferings are the damages taken. Concept is the basic idea behind the character and can be a single word or a short phrase. Quality is sort of a secondary concept and can either specify the Concept or it can provide something of a hobby or less specific Concept.

Loyalty is between 3 and 18, with 10.5 being "average". Since you choose a whole number, this means no one can be "perfectly neutral". People with a loyalty of 3 are very selfish folk who only think for themselves. They have the ultimate freedom of task but can only rarely accomplish things in the game world. People with loyalty of 18 can do a lot of things, but spend most of their time having to help others. In the middle, there is a balance between doing things and being forced to suffer along.

Sufferings is more than just damage taken, it is a series of descriptions of hurts mental and physical that a character has to deal with. And, any time a character teams up with another, sufferings are generally shared (though in some case, it is mental issues from seeing a friend take a physical hit).

Concepts and Qualities

Actions that go along with concept increase Loyalty by +3 (for specific concepts), +2 (for more general concepts), or +1 (for very general concepts). They become penalties if they are against concepts. Qualities should have roughly half this effect. The standard is +2 for concepts and +1 for qualities.

Enforcing Loyalty

If the GM and/or other players do not think a particular player is being loyal enough, they can point it out. Any player (including GM) can make a request against a character.

One possible mechanic is that the requester can make a loyalty check against the requestee (roll 3d6 and under loyalty, with concepts of the requestee being factored in, if the request is in the concept of the requestee, it adds to their loyalty for the check). If the requestee has good reason to not participate, a reverse loyalty check can be made as an appeal (again, under loyalty). In this way, the more loyal character is less likely to get their way despite being a stronger character.

However, if the person making the request is obviously not acting on behalf of the group, then the action can only be a support action and not a team action.

Alliances and Animosities

Some characters might have alliances or animosities. These are specific other characters listed with a +/- ranging from 1 to 6. When rolls involve either one, loyalty is altered by your greatest (not cummulative) ally and animosity present in the group.

And/or: Selfishness

Possibly every character also has a Selfishness stat, that can be used to do things for the self. It would be on the same scale as the others but would be used for self-serving rolls. The caveat here would be that characters have to 1) act selfish if their stat is high and 2) it should interfere with Loyalty in some way. Not sure how, though.

Loyalty to self

A player can take Loyalty to Self as a stat if s/he is willing to take Animosity against Others equal to it. This gives a selfish character more abilities in the world, but makes it harder for anyone to help them. How this works in game terms is that intial Loyalty is chosen and then loyalty for selfish actions is increased by the "to Self" stat. However, character is penalized when trying to help someone without any direct benefit. Also, group actions that involve the character are penalized by the greatest "against Others" and an additional -1 penalty for every character that has it.

Team actions and support actions

The actually mechanic will need to be fleshed out some but I'm thinking something simple like "Team action get the highest loyalty plus one point for every team member" and "Team actions that are of a critical nature, the sort where failures can develop, are based on the lowest loyalty". Finally, actions where one team member is doing most of the actions but others are support, team member gets one point for everyone supporting but can only get as high as the highest loayalty.

Possible execution

Possibly can be turned into a PBeM game where every so often (once a month?) players can vote to kick one of the players off. High-loyalty players have to choose what is what is best for the groups. Low loyalty players can choose whomever they want.

Written by W Doug Bolden

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