A lot of ideas about this come to me as I’m going to sleep at night. That makes posting about them slow, since I have to wait until the next day to put anything up, but I get to hammer things out in my head before they make it to the blog, too.
Here’s what occurred to me last night: at the current rate of advancement, in which you get 1 CP for a scene, +1 CP for each character involved, and +1 CP each time you hit a keyword, scenes can rack up some pretty hefty rewards. There are two reasons this could get out of control: first, we didn’t say anything about whether other players could hit keywords, narrate in other characters, etc., and so you have the potential for exploding CP totals; and second, we assume that every character gets that CP reward at the end of the scene. We also didn’t actually specify what it means to pass the scene and thus how you determine if you earned the CP or not.
That last part is the important one, I think, in the long run. My solution is to state that the character starting the scene also specifies what their goal for the scene is. In our example scene, Lakshmi’s player might say that she’s breaking into the atelier to find something expensive to sell. Now, it’s not a significant goal unless there’s something to gain or lose. The gain, obviously, is to find something that she can use in a later scene as a hook to get some money, while the converse is that if she fails, she’s on the verge of being pretty much broke. As with scene framing in House of Cards, I prefer to hang the impetus for the scene in terms of what could go wrong as opposed to what it means to succeed, so let’s say that in setting that goal, the player also wagers a consequence for failure: a stress keyword that persists for as many scenes as the CP reward for the scene would be.
Casting our minds back to the fight scene example, then, Lakshmi’s player bets the keyword “Destitute” and assigns it to yellow, reasoning that if she goes into debt, she won’t be able to pay off her contacts in town and thus lose some of their reliable information. At the end of that scene, then, since Lakshmi failed to meet the goal, she has to live with that keyword for five scenes (the final CP stakes of the scene: one just for having a scene, and then four keyword hits). We’ve now created a mechanism that makes sure that scenes are important and have lasting effects. As for the really high CP totals, there are a couple of ways we could go: either make CP totals go only to that player, or limit/restrict the addition of CP to the player who’s in charge of the scene. The first option disincentivizes other players’ participation, since they get nothing out of being in a scene. The second option is a little better, though it does imply that characters added into a scene that they’re not in charge of won’t have as much reason to whip out their cool keywords when they’re not getting a reward for it. Still, since scenes now provide significant drawbacks for failure, characters present in a scene have a reason to want it to succeed.
The rules for this seems therefore like they should read: Each player gets to start one scene during the session. Their character is present in the scene, and states a goal to accomplish during the scene as well as a stress keyword as a consequence for failure. The character of the player who starts the scene can hit their keywords to raise the CP stakes of the scene, but if the goal is not met, then the stress keyword persists for a number of scenes equal to the final CP stake for the scene. Other characters in the scene contribute +1 CP to the total for being present, but cannot hit their keywords to raise the CP total.