I’ve always been fascinated by human interaction, what creates motivation in people to interact, and what facilitates interaction. When I started out with roleplaying games in 1984, I was nine years old, had no game preferences at all besides Monopoly and Yatzy. I was blown away by the dices we rolled in the Swedish BRP clones we got in our hands, and couldn’t almost understand how cool it was to have a friend ‘s older brother guide us through mazes and labyrinths guarded by monsters. With time, we explored other games and started to shape opinions on what was good and what wasn’t. And slowly, preferences were formed. When I look back today, I can still remember what we experienced then, the feelings from the stories that emerged among us, and how we took them with us.
What I noticed early, and what I still feel today, is there is often a discrepancy between what a game says it wants you to feel, and what you are actually forced to interpret from the rules. The interpretation is a layer of cognitive load a brain has to process or bypass before the actual fiction can happen. And more complex rules or mechanics require more focus from your mind, while simplicity makes the transition smoother. This means that your brain is forced to do a context switch every time you are in the fiction, but need to discuss or wrap your head around mechanics, and thereby leaving the narrative to do a calculation.
Here, story games did its magic for me; reducing mechanical load, not only in complexity but also in terms of control – leaving much more room for narration and interaction, aspects of gaming I always thought were more fun. And with distributed narration authority, the Gamemaster can focus more on facilitating narration, rather than taking full responsibility for it. But to me, many story games still rely much on numerics to get the job done, to describe a character, or to say something about the world. Sometimes, I agree, it is necessary, but often, it isn’t.
Based on this, one of the design goals when I started with this project, was to reduce the gap between the narration and the mechanics further. One of the core concepts introduce facets instead of numerics and values. Facets are short descriptive terms meant to say something to the players about the characters and the world. They should be seen as fictional truths, and can be addressed in conversations and assumptions in play, and can work in three ways;
1) As Fiction
The facets are always there for you to build on, talk about, and invite others to interact with. Facets are preferably used as fiction when you want to do something that isn’t very difficult or challenging. If a facet is present, make use of it in your narration!
Example: If a river is frozen solid, the players can assume everything that comes with it. As a part of the fiction, there is no need for rolls or discussion about solidity. If the nearby stone bridge is razed, anything about that facet can be used as fiction; passersby can hide there, and stone resources can be extracted. Narrate anything that suits the fiction.
2) As Influence
As facets are aspects of the fiction everyone can deal with, anyone can use them to their advantage. If you as a player can argue why a facet is to your advantage when facing a challenge and the Gamemaster agrees, you may roll with advantage. The same goes the opposite way; the Gamemaster may force you to roll with disadvantage if you ignore facets presented in the fiction that complicates things for you. Dis/advantages in Forged Facets are added dice to the dice pool and makes you either drop the best or the worst result from it.
Example: If a band of outlaws chases you, you could make good use of the ruins of the razed bridge to hide in, from the example above. But if you decided to dash over the frozen river, which is a clear open space, you would easily be spotted and gain a disadvantage when trying to escape.
3) As Difficulty
A specific set, called core facets, make up your dice pool when attempting to face a challenge. The core facets; traits, backgrounds, and expertise, each add a die to your pool if that facet is relevant for the situation. When using them, you present your potential after a user story-like model;
As a ________ with a _________ background, and expertise about ________, I try to… [rolling dice].
Add any or none of your facets applicable in the context, and explain how they relate to your actions. If a situation only allows you to use one or two, formulate the presentation accordingly. Once you get the hang of it, and the rest of the players get to know your character, the presentation can be shortened appropriately. The model is malleable and should be adjusted to fit your style, so reformulate it to your liking.
Example: Cerelinde is a witch from the far ends of the northern kingdoms. She has the trait patient, a wilderness background, and expertise in crafts. If she were trying to discern a secret from a feverish, sluggish old dying woodchopper she cares for, she would roll one die (patient) to meet the challenge. If she were hunting in the forest, hiding and waiting for a deer to come by, she would roll two (patient + wilderness) dice to see if she can catch it. If she were foraging the windy summits for rare but powerful herbs to brew a healing potion, she would roll three dice (patient + wilderness + craft) to see what the outcome would be. Other facets would benefit her in different ways, as would these facets in other contexts. So as long as Cerelined’s player narrates what she is doing, and can explain how she does it, different facets can be used and generate a broad set of outcomes.
With all said above, facets can provide you with a tool to talk about character aspects and mechanics without leaving the narrative, without being forced to step completely out of character and sort out resolutions to actions. The simple mechanics governing them allows anyone with a minimum of math skills to partake in the calculation of possibilities and odds, without sacrificing granularity or emotional investment. Facets facilitate means to experience play and the setting while staying immersed.