Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Web of Fate: A Galaxy of Blessings

Okay, guys! Now that we've talked about all the Aspects and Talents, you know what stats you roll to do things and what kinds of heroic roles you'll be taking on when you do them. The next step is doing things out of the ordinary - using magical powers beyond mortal capabilities. It's time to talk about the Web of Fate!

We've touched on the Web a little bit in the past, but usually not in-depth, and accompanied by statements along the lines of "This is impossible to explain without pictures" and "But it's great, we promise." Our incredible digital artists are still working on the shiny and fancy graphics they are so excellent at, and those aren't ready for public unveiling yet, but we really wanted to talk about the Web and share our excitement about it with everyone. So, with long-suffering artist charity, they sent us over a picture of some of their written notes so we could use that.

So, obviously that's going to require some explanation. Let's do it!

The Web of Fate is a grand web of different Blessings, which are bonuses that Heroes can gain as they progress through their stories. Some Blessings provide unique powers that Heroes can use to perform actions they otherwise couldn't - things like creating an illusion, cajoling an enemy into parlaying or increasing their speed to superhuman levels. Others provide simple dice bonuses to various things, including various Talent rolls or a character's Speed or Sight. And still others provide extra channels of resources, such as Purpose or Inspiration, or bonuses that enhance the effectiveness of previous Blessings. (All the different symbols in the image above represent different kinds of Blessings.)

Each Talent has its own "section" of the web, in which are contained all the Blessings that have to do with that Talent's area of influence. For example, the Blessings in the Sovereignty portion of the web involve laying down laws, giving ironclad orders, increasing your importance relative to other people in the room and ostracizing those who don't obey you. The Blessings that don't provide powers but are instead bonuses to other things are also more likely to be related to that Talent, so that it's more likely that you'll find bonus points of Purpose here than something less related like Mettle.

Players can progress along the paths of the Web in any direction they want, provided that the Blessing they want to choose is connected to others that they already have. The only rule preventing them from going anywhere they want is that there are three tiers of advancement in the game, and that they can't cross into Blessings from a later tier until they have achieved that tier. Heroes can get Blessings by purchasing dots of stats that come with a free Blessing of their choice, or by directly purchasing new Blessings in the Web.

Here's where things start getting really neat, though. The picture above is a single Talent's portion of the Web, but you'll see some little black arrows pointing off to the side from it, two at each tier level. These are the places where, if a Hero so chooses, they can jump from one Talent's skillset in the web into that of an adjoining Talent. Once a Hero has the Blessing that has an arrow leading off of it, they can then begin to buy Blessings in the next Talent's portion of the Web, allowing them to branch out into related skills if they want to. A Warrior-heavy Hero who has been investing in Weaponry, for example, might make their way up to that Blessing and then decide to cross over and dip into the next-door Blessings of Tactics, gaining the ability to not only be a force on the battlefield but to have some skills in leading their fellows as well.

Technically, this means that any character can literally go anywhere on the Web that they want to. If you wanted to move laterally into other Talents' areas of the web, you could go all the way around the entire giant shebang if you wanted to, or only branch out into things that you plan to make major parts of your skillset, or even just pick a few and concentrate on them and never try to branch out. Different character builds have myriad options for customizing their abilities and collecting as focused or varied a skillset as they want to have.

(We know this is probably leaving all of you with a lot of questions about XP and investment and how to spend your points, but since that's a big discussion all on its own, we'll leave it for another day. A day not too far away!)

Aside from the many, many options for going various directions on the web, one of the biggest unique features of gameplay for a lot of games will probably be tracking various characters' progress on the Web. HJ is a game about all of the players cooperatively telling a heroic story together, and we therefore suggest tracking their progress together; stickers, dots or just writing different characters' names next to the Blessings they have not only keeps track of where they all are as they move to advance, but gives the entire game a visual perspective on where everyone's strengths lie and how they can interact with one another. This is another thing that's hard for us to show without a visual aid... but we trust in your fertile imaginations.

These are not the only powers in the game, of course - the Domains and their attendant Spheres have powers of their own, which will need to wait for another day. Until then!