10 September, 2012 at 9:48 am (roleplaying-games)
You can find the document we used over here, but it may change in the near future: https://semielgames.wordpress.com/2012/07/25/the-coyotes-of-chicago-playtest-document/
What follows is the playtest report I sent to Peter. He did not give any clear guidelines on what to include, so I gave him what impressions I had and what notes I made.
Players: Four, each with experience both playing and running games.
Three have played together a fair deal, one has not played with the
rest of us. One wants to be the character player while others glance
around if anyone wants to do it, so picking roles happens painlessly.
I explained the rules and the setting. Going through them again, the
only mistake we did is that we rolled one die per token plus two dice,
so one less die than we should have. This is a pretty serious mistake
- my bad.
One things that was not clarified: Is this a modern game, or maybe
everything happens during the ’70 or ’80? This caused some confusion
to begin with, but we later settled on the modern period. One
adventure sheet also made this pretty clear, but since none of us had
read those prior to playing, we did not know.
Our Alex was sharp witted (etc.) and a thrill seeker. The player
selected plot hook #3. (The badassity and roundhouse kicks and “it’s
awesome to seek danger” caused amusement among the players.)
A note on the rules: With a shared adventure sheet, who gets tokens
when the shared key moments are introduced? We gave them to whoever
introduced the moment, and I think that is what the rules also say,
but not very explicitly.
When explaining what a motif is, you refer to “your high school
English class”. That’s pretty specific to some English-speaking
countries, I’d think. Nothing serious, but a thing you may want to be
Among the world players we randomly distributed three adventure
sheets. Sheet #3 became shared. There was grumbling – why could we not
simply leave one sheet aside? (A rhetorical question, so feel free to
not answer.) We positioned ourselves around the table so that the
character player was on one side and the world players roughly on the
other, so that we could read the shared sheet.
The mystery sheets had a fair deal of stuff, so at least for me it was
difficult to master two of them. We (the world players) were confused
about who should start narration and how we should decide who speak
next. We hesitated a lot and, perhaps due to this, did not start with
the plot hook and character explained in sheet #3. Rather, we started
with Alex driving with a broken camera from some suburb towards the
I omit most of the fictional events from this report and remark on
some particular things that caught our attention. I do have all the
danger rolls listed with their goals, dangers and bonuses.
Almost every scene was directly inspired by a key moment, even after
one or two players could earn no more tokens. A couple were logical
follow-ups to previous scenes.
Often we used the danger tokens as soon as we earned them. This did
not always happen and did not bother us particularly. Two of us did
hoard them a bit to make the final scenes more dangerous.
We, the world players, switched the narrator often and nobody tried to
hog the spotlight (unless it was me and the others did not mention
it). This made scenes with several side characters work quite well
when compared to one GM playing them all, and also gave the character
player the impression that we all knew what was happening behind the
scenes, which we of course did not. After the awkward beginning it
worked out very nicely.
I did not have a theory to begin with, and moving towards the end I
had to figure out something related to prions that change one’s
perception and that’s why coyotes and people see these floating balls
of light and follow them around.
Near the beginning we had some trouble determining the goals and
dangers. In particular, the goal was often to face some danger or to
figure out something. As the game progressed, we put more effort on
making the orthogonal (and maybe even orthonormal), but it was not
always the intuitive and easy thing to do, and required discipline.
Some guidelines or rules on setting better goals and dangers might be
In particular, in one conflict the danger was that an air conditioner
was about to kill Alex and a the goal was to get Thomas away from
under it. Or the other way around. It did not matter, and making death
of Alex the stakes felt unsatisfactory. (Thomas did die but Alex
I don’t think the character player ever selected a high roll for
bonus. This might have been due to our rules mistake, but even without
it I think the situation would have been similar. Maybe we made it too
dangerous and dark?
The final roll we used as a sort of epilogue. Alex was injected with
disease (so woke up only later), did manage to save the day (and get
tenure, etc.), and doctor Behrt disappeared, but an old and cunning
coyote appeared on the campus area. The mystery was never solved in
that we did not determine if people we actually changing into coyotes,
but there were plenty of hints to that direction.
As a world player I enjoyed solving the puzzle of what was happening,
and also of giving the other players ideas and prompts and seeing what
they did with them. One of the players, the one who got sheet #4, was
unsatisfied with it. It was just a bunch of random stuff. He used it
well but it could have been better. Maybe sheet #4 should have been
the shared mystery sheet? That might have worked out better.
Peter compensated for the playtesting through villages.cc .
31 October, 2011 at 4:51 pm (game design)
One GM, bunch of players. Players may not get to play the same characters every session.
Characters are, for example: Hunter, Moon, Wolf, Spider, Woman. Those work as both names and descriptions – Moon is exactly and only that, a moon.
(So no, you can’t play Conan the barbarian. You can’t play Conan. You can play [the] Barbarian.)
Player characters have contracts with other characters (player and non-player alike). Contract has value at most +3. Characters may also have oaths, with value -3 or more.
When player character tries to get another character to do something, player rolls 2d6+contract (with that character). E.g. Wolf wants Forest to provide bountiful meat for its young. Man wants Star to guide him home. Spider wants to catch Sun in its web. Soldier wants her Gun to slay her enemies. So, roll this whenever you want to do something to someone or want someone to do something.
- On 10+: They do it if you promise to do something later; +1 contract when you fulfill that promise, -1 contract if you don’t. You may deny the deal at no cost.
- On 7-9: They do it if you first do something for them; +1 contract if you do, -1 contract if you cheat. You may deny the deal at no cost.
- On 6-: They may or may not do it, and make a demand. If you do it, +1 contract; if you don’t do it, -1 contract.
When player character wants to use the power of another character, the player rolls 2d6+contract. This is serious magic – roll to run as Hare, shine as Sun, burn as Flame.
- On 10+, +1 contract and the power does what you wanted.
- On 7-9: Select one. A: The power works as desired, but -1 contract. B: The power works mostly or almost as desired, but there are complications. C: The power is of no help at all, but +1 contract.
- On 6-: -1 contract and the power is of no help at all.
At the end of a session, each player character goes through the other player characters. Tell them to mark +1 contract if they helped you and kept to the spirit of their agreements with you, and -1 contract if they hurt you or wiggled out of agreements with you. You may tell them both, neither, or only one, according to their play.
If contract has value +3 and it increases, then instead set it to be +1 and get a permanent power. E.g. Flame never hurts you, you can see through darkness as if the Sun always shone, your sense of smell rivals that of Dog.
At any point, any player character may swear an oath. The character can no longer be played by the GM at all, ever. When player select their characters, they must always first select the oathsworn ones. The oath starts at the value +1. Player character can swear several oaths (though make sure they are genuinely different).
If player character breaks an oath, the player takes it off the character sheet and they get -1 to all contracts, current and future. This stacks. The character still needs to be selected first when players pick their characters.
When character accomplishes something major in accordance with their oath (i.e. gets closer to fulfilling it, or acts as a paragon to all who aspire to follow the oath), +1 oath.
At the beginning of each session (where the character is in play), -1 all oaths.
When player character uses their inherent strengths to make their oath true, roll 2d6+oath. E.g. Knight has sworn to rescue Prince and faces Dragon in fair combat.
- On 10+: Everything goes fine or there’s complications and +1 oath.
- On 7-9: Choose: There’s complications or -1 oath and everything goes fine.
- On 6-: Choose: Break your oath or -1 oath and it all goes wrong.
If oath has the value -3 and would decrease, the character instead leaves play, quickly and in a miserable way.
If character ever completes an oath, then they leave play. Check the oath’s value.
- -3 to -1: They live their life miserably after.
- 0: And none know what became of them.
- 1+: And they live happily ever after.
- Higher than highest thus far: And they live in extreme bliss ever after. The player has serious bragging rights. Keep score.
When character leaves play, that particular character can never be played again by anyone.
I usually cook something moderately edible and feed everyone before we play Amber. Nothing fancy, as my kitchen barely has room for two people to stand (the joys of living in a student apartment), but generally something edible.
I do this for a few reasons.
First one: Fed gamers are happier than hungry ones, and as we are eating people get to talk about comics, games, daily life and politics.
Second one: I like offering people food to eat.
Third: Amber has player contributions – players get points for their characters by agreeing to write game reports, draw trump cards, etc. I’ve got a GM contribution to balance things a bit. This shows certain commitment to the game, which I think makes it better.
Fourth: I think that everyone benefits from eating with other people once a while. This includes roleplayers living by themselves or in cell apartments.
This habit I highly recommend.
Easy food without recipes
Soup: Take some source of protein and enough cookable vegetables to make the food not too depressing. Add sufficient fat so the food contains enough energy that people won’t get hungry. Add salt and spices.
Omelette/etc.: Take eggs. Take whatever bits and pieces of edible matter you can find. Cook those that need it. Once everything else is ready and on the hot frying pan, add the eggs, salt and spices.
Meat and veggies: Take a lot of vegetables that can be eaten with little preparation. Fry meat or some other source of protein, add spices and salt.
So, we were playing Amber. There is this one NPC, lady A!Gyre of the house Meria, that holds a lot of very limited power and has been using it once or twice. She is also hidden in a place that is very hard to reach, even for Amberites. And nobody knew she was there.
One of the player characters got in the contact with agyre. The form of contact was conversation through an old TV display, barely capable of showing colours. The picture was blurry. And on the other side there is this woman-like entity sitting on a far too tall black throne. She has a black featureless mask covering her face, and is made of stone, is the colour of stone, or is just covered with dust.
Some negotiation about who built this certain trap, and a’Gyre demands something in exchange for the information. Simeon, the character who had in his life played the part of Bond-like secret agent, offers a hot night (as reads in the session log – the exact phrase I can’t recall).
A_Gyr had not moved from her seat in ages, so the offer was surprising. She was a fairly unknown chaos entity, so it was surprising to me, the GM.
The two did end up in bed, but we not comfortable with playing through that. I and the player in question did play it out a bit – not the physical stuff, but more the emotional side and building trust and psychical meddling that happened.
My typical preparation for the Amber game is as follows: I have a list of stats for the NPCs, I know what many of them are up to, I have a relationship map which illustrates some of that. Further, I have the next scene for each character somewhat prepared, based on what their plans were at the end of the last session. I may also have a random scene or a few ready, for when the circumstances make it possible (if some NPC has prepared it) or when a good opportunity arises.
I also know, with varying levels of details, what has happened in the past. I also know something about how different powers and items of power function, but exploring this is a significant part of play, so much of it is unknown to me.
I knew a little about aGyre’s motivations, but nothing about personality. Would she accept Simeon’s offer? Could have gone either way, so I left it open for a bit, but than later said yes. In very certain terms – Simeon was at her court, such as it was, full of monsters and entities of unknown powers and intentions.
In Apocalypse world, one of the principles is to look at everything through crosshairs. Consider killing whoever your attention lands on, and do not try to maintain the dignity of NPCs. This does not translate to Amber as such as especially the elder Amberites demand some extra consideration, but in the situation – why not? I don’t have a precious plot to save, so why try to maintain status quo, and not let an adventurous Amberite get it on with a lady of a Chaosite house?
This is something for me to think about, and for something for other game masters to also consider, supposing they are playing a game where big and powerful NPCs roam the lands. Should there be a status quo that you strive to maintain? Why not let the player characters kill Elminster (or maybe fuck Elminster) – the consequences will create enough material to run the game for next sequence of sessions, and the players will be happy. Maybe I’ll look at the elder Amberites through crosshairs – blood curses expected.
14 September, 2011 at 9:53 pm (game design)
Suppose you have a specific experience or method of playing and then build a game so that it reliably creates that experience. Or maybe you play a game in certain way and want others to be able to do so, and to accomplish this you rewrite and possibly redesign the game you are playing to be accessible to outsiders in the way it is to you.
On the other hand, suppose you play in a certain way and build or tweak a system so that it supports you as well as is within your reach. Maybe you even write the results and publish them. (It might be called a fantasy heartbreaker or a set of house rules.)
The second method is not geared towards creating legible documents. The text is generally incapable of teaching the method of play that works so well for the designers. The first method requires very much writing and thinking that is mostly wasted effort if you are simply designing for your own play.
There is Amber, the only real place, of which other worlds are but shadows. There are also the courts of Chaos, ever changing, easily molded. Then there is Abyss, from which (almost) nothing has ever returned.
One way to think about it would be to take Pattern as the center of order and stability and lack of change, while have Logrus represent change and instability. But Abyss clearly is emptiness, which is totally unchanging, and still Abyss lies close to the Courts, which seems suspicious.
So I would have Abyss be emptiness while Logrus is everything. They are very close to each other, since neither can separate things from each other: None lie in Abyss, while all of them are in Logrus. Pattern, then, is structure – very far from nothing and everything. This is how an Amberite might see the situation.
But what of the Chaosite perspective? Certainly nothing is the ultimate in structure, for it (vacuously) has all the structure imaginable, and so Abyss must lie somewhere behind Pattern and Amber, if looked at from Chaos.
What of the Abyssian point of view? Well, it is empty, so there must be nobody looking, and so the issue is moot.
And what of Corwin’s pattern? Suppose it is another center of order. Is it compatible with the pattern of Amber, or do they simply not interact at all, or are their conceptions of order constantly struggling? And how does all of that look from whichever perspective one takes?
This all reflects on the use of powers when moving through Shadow. By Pattern-walking both Abyss and Logrus are distant from Amber, but maybe for the Chaosites, however they move, both Pattern and Abyss are distant places. Or do some Chaosites wield the powers of Abyss, or do some other entities? Then, for them, both Logrus and Pattern would be far, however they move.
Yet, as a further complication, it is tedious to shift Shadow near Amber. What of the other powers, and how well does Pattern work near the other centers of power? What of Corwin’s pattern, and initiates to it?
Levels or skills should advance when they are used, but Basic roleplaying (Runequest, Call of Cthulhu, Stormbringer, etc.) makes it awfully slow, while Burning Wheel’s approach requires inelegant tables and book-keeping and system mastery.
The idea is: For each class or skill write a list of fictional actions.
So, for fighter in old school game:
- Fight a superior foe
- Fight against superior numbers
- Protect an ally in combat
- Avenge someone close to you (kill the orcs who burned your father’s farm, say)
- Recover an ancestral weapon or piece of armour
- Use an ancestral weapon or piece of armour
- Recover a weapon or piece of armour of legendary status
- Use legendary equipment
- Slay a beast of legend
- Lead an army
- Survive a siege
- Be the master of a company of mercenaries
- Conquer a castle
- Establish a stronghold
- Keep a stronghold
Whenever an action is accomplished, mark it.
Once you have marks equal to next level or rank, erase all marks and increase the level or rank by one.
Note that the list includes things that fighters do, and likewise people who do those things are fighters, to some extent at least. At low leves fighter only need to fulfill their role in the party, while at high levels they need to build a legend of their own and influence the world in order to advance.
As a further bonus, this gives a nice way of estimating NPC strength. See how many things you mark, and that is an upper bound for their level. How many things they certainly have marked at the same time? That’s the lower bound. Lord of a castle in an area of constant warfare certainly has led an army, survived a siege and kept a stronghold at the same time (so level at least three), but may also have conquered a castle, led mercenaries, protected an ally in combat, fought against superior numbers and against a superior foe and avenged someone close (so at most level nine).
It is easy to change the conditions and at the same time change what fighters are in the setting, and who are fighters in the setting.
For further complexity, training: Obviously it could be yet another action. But maybe it is automatically erased when the character stops training. Otherwise, better action would be to train under famous/more skilled/legendary master.
Or consider: Add some actions that depend on character race or alignment.
Or: Have players build the list when starting play, or adding a new entry at the beginning of each session, or when someone levels up that class or skill.
There’s some limitations, of course. You would not want to do this in a game system with huge list of skills, or then you would have to have each character only develop a handful at a time.
Skill reduction can be handled like this, too. Write one action, or several actions, or absences of actions. When they are marked, the player has the option of reducing the skill or class level in question. If the players opts to do so, then they get some compensation equal to the marked actions and the marks are erased. Some tokens, say.
Similar rules: Magical items in Earthdawn (IIRC), keys in Solar system (the reduction is buy-off), this thread about Dungeon world.
In other news
I’m running two Amber games at Tracon (if there are players – last year it was an anime convention with some roleplayers huddling in a corner) and maybe giving away some rpg and maybe fantasy books I no longer use.
There has been several updates and one playtest of diceless/nopaton, which now lives on Google docs. It is still in Finnish. The major change is that now there are some principles for playing it. And there is rotating player (and hence game masters, sort of).
So, Ropecon is done. I played one game of D&D 3,2 (rough estimation), which was okay since the sights along the railroad track were nice, and game mastered one game of Dogs and one Amber throne war. Dogs was mediocre, Amber went well, but I picked up no particular lessons from either. A few more contacts, though.
For Ropecon game masters there is GM loot, from which I picked up Tähti (Star would be the English translation), a game about maoist teenage mutant girl band in near future Finland, designed by Mike Pohjola. It is basically freeform with some fortune cookies thrown in for good measure and inspiration. The people one should play in the game are quite alien to me, as is the background of girl bands. There is some advice, but not enough to get me interested. So not my game. If anyone local wants to GM it, I’m giving it away. Or, if there’s no takers, I’m giving it away at some con (Tracon, maybe) to someone interested in GMing it. If there’s still no takers, well, bookcrossing plus some convention ought to do the trick.
I also bought Vincent Baker‘s Apocalypse World a bit after the con, when the Arkenstone people were able to actually sell games, and not only sandwiches. (It is somewhat complicated.) From simple read-through it is a good game, which does most of the things I like about Burning Wheel, but adds useful rules for game mastering and is lighter on rules that involve players. The game mastering tools should be highly applicable to traditional games that do not focus on combat, or only on combat, and where there is not a ready storyline to follow. World of darkness, Amber, Burning Wheel, maybe Solar system, that sort of stuff. I posted a bit about applying it to Amber on the AW message boards.
Also worth a read: Baker’s post on concentric game design.
And for the Finnish audience: New version of nopaton. Sekä laajempi että yksinkertaisempi kuin edellinen.
I developed the ideas of previous post a bit, cleaned them up, and wrote them down in Finnish. It is not done yet. It is free of copyright, so do whatever you will with or to it. Here’s the link: diceless
WordPress does not allow uploading .tex or .txt files, so if you want the .tex source for the PDF, feel free to ask. You can then recreate the PDF with LaTeX and easily modify it, change the appearance, remove the aesthetically unpleasing hyperlinks, or whatever you want to.
I also have two other PDFs that may have content of interest. I have not really worked on them for a while, and if I do so, it will include rewriting and in case of the old school project redesign from scratch. The projects are scifi material for Solar System (in Finnish) and yet another attempt at old school system (in English). Links: huomisenvarjot and OSrpg. A fair warning: The writing and presentation are horrible. These are more first drafts than anything else.
As previously, the .tex and .bib (bibliography) files are available on request.
Now I’m off to meet relatives and then to Ropecon, where I’m running one throne war of Amber diceless and one town of Dogs. Back online after a bit more than a week.
This is an idea for a method for world creation and for playing a preferably high-powered fantasy rpg. This is rambling and overtly detailed, but the idea was making my sleep difficult so I had to write it somewhere.
Consider, how in Amber diceless, there are four attributes (psyche, strength, warfare, endurance) which correspond to different arenas of conflict – though endurance is more of a supporting attribute, but let us ignore that for now. Since the attributes are auctioned from a common pool of resources, balance between them is not a great problem.
Consider computer strategy games, real-time or not, with fantastic creatures. For example: Battle for Wesnoth, Heroes of might and magic, and Warlords & Warlords battlecry. (Various iterations of each, naturally.) Typically they have various factions which are often tied to races/species or cultures. The factions have certain mechanical tendencies. In Wesnoth drakes breath and resist fire and are individually tough, orcs rely on hordes of damaging units while elves fight and move exceptionally well in forests and have strong archery. There are also thematic trends. In Warlods battlecry, dark dwarves have war machines and magical technology, demons have summoning and souls, while orcs have aggressive and simple units.
Suppose there are at least three players and maybe a game master (not counted as a player here). I’d like to have four or five players for this. Each player selects one theme or venue of conflict or something similar. This could be: warfare, beauty, horse, runic magic, dream, faith, water, thunderstorm, cunning, politics, candle, sword, economics, alien technology, mutant, spider. There are constraints on this, but they are soft and social. Group can and should discuss what sort of elements they want – consider that everyone select an animal, or a Greek or Chinese element, or some form of magic, or maybe a tarot card or horoscope. Or just have a chaotic soup and see what emerges.
The selected elements are the attributes all characters have. Now each player needs paper for character sheet. There’s an auction for each attribute. For the order of attributes, determine randomly or as follows: Each player selects a number between one and hundred. First auction the attribute associated with the second highest number, then the third highest, …, and finally the highest.
The auctions happen pretty much as in Amber diceless. Each player has hundred points. The player whose element is auctioned does not participate in the auction, while every other player does. First participants each make a blind bid. These are listed and public. Any bid after this must exceed the highest bid thus far. 99 is absolute maximum bid, while 0 is the minimum. If there is chaos, proceed as follows: The lowest bidder first has an opportunity to bid higher, than the second lowest bidder, and so on until everyone has had an opportunity. Then repeat until done. All bids are binding. If players do not use all their points, or bid in excess of them, they get corresponding amount of good or bad karma or fate or luck or stuff (use whichever term has not been selected by any player as an element). Optionally, you can allow upping the attributes in secret, up to the number of points equal to any higher bid minus one.
For each attribute, calculate the total number of points bid on it (so whatever the player who selected that element bought is not included in the total). Sort the attributes correspondingly. The attribute with the highest total is the most relevant, and so on.
Now you need an empty paper for a map. A4 or A3 should be quite enough. The player who selected the highest attribute starts by drawing some place that is the center of her element roughly in the middle of the map. It could be a kingdom, a mountain, a forgotten and ancient statue, crashed alien spaceship, or some other reasonably evocative location. The player names the location and gives a brief description of it, thereby explaining how it relates to the player’s element. This also further defines the element – consider: Fire as the element, and the location is a city with its citizens fiery of nature and red of complexion, or the location a lonely mountain that occasionally spews forth liquid fire, or a huge forest through which fires often run. Each gives a very different view of the element. Take another paper, write the element in the middle of it, and write down some of these associations (or use a list instead of mind map).
The other players do the same in order of their attributes, always selecting some large empty area of the map (consider established locations and edges as not empty and stay some distance away) and telling what place there lies and how it relates to their element. There are few limitations: Anything associated with one element can’t be associated to another. E.g. if quick thinking is associated to fire, it can’t be associated to speed (with fire and speed as elements). For each element again take a paper and use it for a list or mind map.
Now, for each attribute, rank all player characters. The one who selected the attribute is always first and must use corresponding points (at least highest bid + 1 points, that is). The ranks, not the points, are used for resolution most of the time, but more on that later.
The lowest ranked player character gets some vulnerability or weakness or curse related to the attribute – the nature of this should be discussed by at least the player who selected that attribute and the player whose character is involved. Write new stuff on the relevant attribute page as thus required. Examples (format: attribute – weakness): Warfare – crippled, faith – marked as evil, insect – small and fragile, politics – never accepted as honest, candle – cursed to turn to stone in sunlight. The second lowest ranked character has no special power or vulnerability. As for others, it depends on the number of players.
If there are three players, the first ranked gets one perk or benefit or blessing or whatever related to the attribute. If there are four, first rank gives two benefits while second rank gives one. If there are five, second and third rank give one, other as before. In case of six players, fourth rank gives nothing particular, others as before. Perks should be discussed among the involved players or everyone in case of first ranked characters. They can be special powers (consider e.g. trumps in Amber, magic in various fantasy settings) or extraordinary physical capabilities or networks of contacts or items of power.
At least now, but earlier if the inspiration strikes, players should tell who their characters are. Typical stuff – description, some bits of history perhaps, some mannerisms, some beliefs and goals, friends and enemies. So on. The character may or may not have ties to the locations. To help in character creation, players (and GM) should decide on the power level of play. The easiest way is to set up the number of points that most people have. If it is 10, then player characters are quite powerful, like the gods in myths of ancient Greeks. Something like 100/(number of players) + small bonus would give very competent player characters, while larger bonus would reduce the competency. Hundred points for everyone would make players characters ordinary in terms of stats, and anything above that would make player characters below normal. See resolution below for details.
Using the map, fractally
To start playing, select some spot from the map. Go with consensus, have the player with the highest karma decide, take median of x- and y-coordinates of the established locations, or act as follows: Let the player who selected the least influential attribute select a spot, and then have the player with next least influential attribute either (1) move it halfway towards the location she established or (2) move it directly away from the closest established location, exactly doubling the distance, then go through rest of the players in the same order. The result may be an unestablished location. Or possibly have every player select one location for their character.
Whenever player characters come to an empty place on the map, check how far away it is from the elemental locations established in character and world creation. For our purposes, there are three possibilities. The simplest is that one of the elemental locations is clearly closest to the new location. Then the related player describes and draws the new location on the map. Slightly more complicated: There is only a minor difference in distance between two elemental locations. Then whichever is closer dominates – the player may choose to either describe or draw and name the new location. The other involved player does the other thing, of course along the lines established by the first one. If two elemental locations are equally far away, then use the ranking of the attributes to and go as per previous point. If more than two are involved, then divide the tasks further.
You can use a similar method for drawing maps of smaller locations, such as those on the map. First, establish order of the attributes by distance of this location to the elemental locations, breaking ties by dominance order of the attributes if required. Second, have the player related to the first attribute place something related to that and in accordance with the description of the location on the map. Have everyone do this. These are the new elemental locations on this map. For space between them, use the previous rules. Zoom in as necessary.
For resolution I think the Amber diceless would work fine. If some event is left unresolved by common sense, then check if it relates to some attribute. The mind maps or lists are helpful for this. If the issue is included, then use the relevant attribute. If there are several that could be used, then check whichever is dominant (use either the global ranking or the geographical methods – I’d be inclined for the latter and getting rid of the global attribute ranking altogether, since it seems cumbersome), and add some related word to that attribute’s list or mind map.
Once the dominant attribute is determined, proceed as in Amber: There is a ranking of attributes established by the players. Any NPC either follows it or has rank zero (above highest player character – this is not recommended to be the case), half ranks (between the player character ranks), and one entire rank for those that are below all the player character ranks. Higher rank eventually wins a conflict, unless there is something to tip the odds. Half a rank of difference requires only minor contribution to overcame, while each complete rank of difference requires one significant factor. These judgment calls should be done by the game master or by uninvolved players or by consensus. Aggressive or defensive tactics and feints (and whatever equivalents) count as significant circumstances, as do smart decisions in general. Edge in karma implies extra opportunities for making decisions and in particular retreating.
To add a new player, have that one know the previous elements and select a new one. The player then spends points on all or some of these, possibly changing their dominance order, and is ranked as others are. The player character gets one good perk on their attribute and nothing from others. Players draws to a new part of the map or large unclaimed territory far from the others – consider adding a new A4, for example. That player describes the location as normal and is then ready to play. The new attribute should be written down as the others were.
At some intervals players are allowed to shift points from pools to others. I’d go with one point per session, but it might be more meaningful to move five points every five sessions, or whatever. The pools are: particular attributes, karma. Further, change can happen in play: Some ritual or training might allow moving points, maybe even in powerful manner. Being exposed to new source of influence (see adding players, above) may or may not allow immediate transfer of points. This is up to the fiction and game master or consensus or the player associated with the new attribute.
I would not allow character development in the form of adding points, though that might be reasonable if there are entities with more points than the player characters have.
Cool powers and trinkets and curses and affiliations to groups may be gained and lost in play. Maybe karma can be allocated to a particular item or group, if someone wants to.
In an auction, players should bid most on what they find interesting and evocative (it will tend to become useful), and less of what they don’t feel intellectually comfortable with (if something is emotionally or socially uncomfortable, deal with it by talking and aborting or going on with it in spite of that, knowing you can trust the other participants). Having your attribute first in the auction is a benefit, since in that case you know how much you must spend on it – the others must guess.
You can have GM participate in character and world creation, or decide who is the GM after creating characters, and use the GM’s character as an NPC.
You can have each player establish something about the setting before drawing anything on the map, in the same order. These should relate to the attributes the players selected, and be such as – this world is a huge network of caves, people here have skin the colour of copper, birds are divine, there are dinosaurs.
It is reasonably easy to use this as a world creation and detailing process and playing by some completely different rules. By converting the attributes established here to some other system one can even use the characters generated herein as sketches for characters in some other system. Or they can be used as gods of the setting, with the elemental locations their holy places and centers of power. Cosmology and world creation in the same deal.
The fantasy genre is almost arbitrary – it is an easy and well known basis for many roleplayers and allows for varied elements.
Anyway, this is completely untested, so use with care, or steal ideas with abandon. I like the mapping mechanics.