Prime in the Dark

Ok, small rules hack for Forged in the Dark, which I’m calling Priming.

Priming is something that may be used as a GM option when players take efforts or risks that draw attention to an element in play (such as an item or supporting character). The effect to capture here is something akin to Chekov’s Gun (“If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired. Otherwise don’t put it there.”), when play has clearly suggested that a thing is interesting, and the GM wants to show that she too is interested.

When an object is primed, it gets a point. An object may have multiple priming points if it keeps showing up interestingly – it’s entirely at GM discretion – but the bar should be higher with each step. The primes don’t do anything until such a time that it is part of a flashback which explains why this thing is significant. When that happens, the number of primes is subtracted from the stress cost of the flashback.

Cinematic Primes

If the game you are playing is more of the cinematic/high action variety, then consider this optional rule – any excess prime (that is, prime beyond the cost of the flashback) turns into potency. This is potentially very powerful, but it also very much lines up with cinematic sensibilities.

Slow Burn Primes

Primes usually don’t last beyond one session (or one story, if they’re packed in there) but if you want the idea of a longer payoff, the Slow Burn prime rules allows for a single object to accrue one point of prime per session per player. If you’re using slow burn priming, you probably shouldn’t mix and match with regular priming, but if you do, then any excess is removed.

An Example

In our most recent game (a very cinematic one), one of the characters entered play with a giant blue teddy bear on the back of his motorcycle. What followed was a series of action-adventure stuff; car crashes, explosions and the works. For several 4-5 results. I offered “losing the bear” as a consequence, but the player chose to take other hits rather than lose the bear. As a result, it got primed three times over the course of the session.

When the player finally flashed back to revealing that the bear was full of explosives, I normally would have only charged them one stress (because it was not a stretch), but instead it was free. Also, because this was cinematic, I used the overage towards potency, so when the bear blew up, it was a big, satisfying explosion.

Addenda

* This is never mandatory for players. The GM is expressing interest, but there is never a mandate that there must be a flashback. That said, if there isn’t, then the GM will probably re-use the element later.

* There’s really no rule here. This could 100% just be done with the GM auto-discounting flashbacks based on her sensibilities. The reason for a mechanic is less about the discount and more about the signaling.

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