Secrets and Blessings

So Randy made a fascinating comment on twitter about Gods stealing power form each other in FAE. From what I infer, he’s using a trick I like for magic in FAE, adding an extra approach (“Mantle”) which can be used to make people more super[1]. I’m going to call them blessings, just so I don’t steal Randy’s very cool term (and so I don’t presume on what he’s doing) but the idea is pretty straightforward.

The idea of power theft is super cool, but it lead to my thinking about a slightly tangential issue, that of secrecy and prominence. That is, what if there’s a limited pool of power, and its effectiveness diminishes as it gets spread around.

So, for example, the STRENGTH OF HERCULES might be available to anyone who invokes a particular ancient ritual. For the first person who does it, it’s a +3 extra approach (blessing). But if a second person does it, then now they both have it, but only at +2. A third person? +1’s all around. And as soon as a 4th person[2] does it, then the power is too thinly distributed to help much.

What I really like about this mechanic is that it makes power a huge driver of play in the setting. Powers are now secrets with genuine value. If you have one, you want to protect it. If you don’t have one, then you want to find them. And between is a balancing act of power vs. secrecy (and assassination of anyone who knows your secret).

This can get tweaked farther with other rules, especially surrounding how you get and lose these blessings. Ideally, you want to keep some key vulnerability in play when you have a blessing, like a totem or geas which means there is always some risk to your power beyond keeping your lips sealed.

This would work very well for a modern game, since this idea really goes hand in hand with secret wars and conspiracies. There might be powers and supernatural stuff, but its very nature makes it tenuous and difficult to prove substantially.

Anyway, just a random idea, but I figured I’d throw it out there.

  1. Easiest way to use these extra approaches is to make theme supplemental – let you roll approach + blessing for extra potent outcomes. Alternately, they provide a neat avenue for extra rules if you roll them on their own, allowing you to do otherwise impossible things. For example, a “Whirlwind power/approach” might be rolled to do things like fly or push things over.  ↩

  2. Exact numbers could vary. 1 person gets +3, up to 3 get +2, Up to 10 get +1 might work, for example. The numbers you use change the story a bit, which also means it might vary form blessing to blessing, with the most powerful blessings thinning out the fastest in some cases. Hell, you could build a whole campaign around the 6 vampires who have DRACULA’S BLESSING at +2 each all looking to kill each other off.  ↩

7 thoughts on “Secrets and Blessings

  1. Amazing Rando

    Randy here, and I love it. I think that you’ve just inspired the final component for Modern Gods for me. I really like the idea of keeping the power levels secret and I think that using secret declarations—handled through card bidding, perhaps—would work out well.

  2. Rob Donoghue Post author

    Additional random thought: Steal a page from TSOY and make it possible to learn power if you see it used.

    That is, suppose you can have one blessing “active” at a time (that is, one providing a bonus). If you ever lose it, you can learn a new blessing in the usual ways (arcane research or whatever) OR by watching someone use theirs. It doesn’t take it from them, but it does diminish it.

    Now, you need to be in the know to do this, so it’s not like EVERYONE can do this, but you never know who can, so there’s incentive to be very cautious about public displays of power.

    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      Entirely? absolutely not. But the ideas are so common in modern-day games that I find it hard to not consider the two things to be connected. A fair analogy would be dungeons and fantasy games. You can absolutely have a great fantasy game without dungeons, but they’re still a big part of the landscape.

  3. Dariel

    Hi! I think this would work great for a sword and sorcery game, justifying the rivalries between sorcerers. If their powers are based on access to specific other-planar beings, then every sorcerer will be very jealous of protecting their grimoires which act as ‘directories’ to a limited number of such beings. The more ‘exclusive’ your ‘contacts’ are, the more powerful you are. Great idea, thanks!

  4. Pingback: Mantles in Modern Gods—Ideas on Using & Stealing Power | Randy Oest - Randy Oest

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