The Counter Economy

tools-of-the-tradeWhen I ran my playtest session of The Dee Sanction this week, I handed out a bunch of counters – but, by the end of play, not many had moved from their starting position.

I can see why – I do need to more firmly state the existence of challenges and, therefore, the need to roll dice… and in turn, the need to adjust and spend counters to ensure success.

Challenge + Dice = Counter Economy

Achieving success means spent counters. Driving success or suffering failure can mean all sorts of movement in pool sizes.

Essentially, the mechanic around the counters currently breaks down that you can:

1. Spend them to help yourself
2. Spend them to help others
3. Lose them when you fail in a challenge against an opponent
4. Lose them if you choose to ‘take the hit’ for someone else
5. Gain them if you choose to selfishly help someone
6. Gain them if you do something spectacular, funny, etc.

We saw only a little of the first two, because we didn’t roll many dice. When we did, they got spent – but I didn’t reinforce the fact that those pools have another purpose… they’re the difference, in some measure, between life and death. That neatly leads on to…

Losing a challenge (3.) could mean combat or it could mean getting hurt, being imprisoned, falling foul of bureaucracy, or whatever. It represents the physical and notional damage suffered by someone at the sharp end of a failed roll – and when you have zero pool points left you’re out of action. That might mean dead if someone then chooses to deliver a coup de grace or you’re out of touch with anyone who might help you recover. It could mean imprisonment or getting snared in red tape.

If you have acquired Incriminating Evidence – which we didn’t touch on in this session either – you can buy it off by taking damage (4.) instead of another team member. I touched on that in more detail in my recent post on cancelling out your guilty secrets.

If you help someone by spending points to get them a success, you might choose to withhold the reward of that success for yourself (5.) to increase your own personal power or access. It’s a bit like taking the credit for the success of others. I also covered that in a post, on selfish success.

Right at the end of the list (6.), you have the chance to earn points as a reward. For example, one player in this session did an excellent turn with the creepiest tone of voice since Doctor Hannibal Lecter chatted amiably with Clarice Starling.

Between these options, I would expect to see the player pools expand and contract throughout the game, forcing tough decisions in the mid or late game, and more consideration of the value in teamwork spending. One of the players commented on his expectation about this – and it comes as a fair point. The character sheet held on to a largely unused collection of counters that just sort of cluttered the play surface without serving much purpose.

As I mentioned yesterday, I need some tight pre-game patter to highlight how the mechanics work. Not knowing that the counters represent some measure of your livelihood devalues them. I have an inclination to make better use of the white space on the current character sheets to included a few more pointers and brief guides. A note on the Power and Access pools about ratios of expenditure to influence success, for example, would be a good addition – and some mention that if Power + Access = zero or less, you’re in a lot of trouble!