October Challenge: the infamy economy

One of the issues that I alluded to earlier, and which has now come up in the questing of hapless Lord Crestmore, is that if the tokens being wagered over story-telling have moral factors attached to them (renown and infamy), they will carry that baggage with them wherever they go. Thus, to pick up our example, if David (Lord Crestmore’s player) successfully narrates the quest given to him by Begoña, then he picks up the tokens that she used to set the terms of the quest – meaning Lord Crestmore picks up an infamy token. Not that this is a bad thing, but it does prompt one to wonder how to properly reconcile the connotations borne by the tokens with the facts of the narration. The immediate solutions are unsatisfactory: Do we stipulate that Lord Crestmore must do something untoward in overcoming the hazards of his quest, and earn the infamy token? That is, I feel, an unnecessary and unwanted constraint on the tale-teller. Do we allow David to instead draw three tokens fresh from the bag instead of taking the three tokens on the table? That could result in actually accruing more infamy, and potentially exacerbates the issue. Allowing the audience to discuss whether and how much infamy an adventurer’s quest might warrant would be fair but also bogs down the flow of play in requiring a discussion phase following every adventure. I can think of novelic examples of just that sort of pacing, but they’re also Victorian two-volume domestic doorstoppers that don’t really fit the mood here quite right. I’ll have to think on this further.

In the meantime, on with the thought experiment. Let us assume David has no difficulty meeting the requirement of narrating Lord Crestmore’s journey to the south, sans armor, to finagle the password to the Doorless Keep out of the invisible nomads, and then to acquire the Chalice of Life from said Keep. He does so in the stipulated seven sentences (since, as indicated before, the adventurers’ level determines how much space they have to tell their tale). A property that may be important to note for later examination: a player who overcomes a difficult quest and thereby earns more tokens goes up to a higher level, allowing more sentences in which to cover their own narration. Is this imbalanced? We’ll see. Right now, David has picked up three more tokens; however, in the interim, recall that all the players have served as quest-giver and spent a number of their tokens to give someone else a task. He may or may not also have used tokens to either help or complicate another adventurer’s narration. Let’s say that he put down a whopping four tokens as quest-giver (2 infamy and 2 renown, for the sake of discussion), but since Lord Crestmore’s quest was the first one given, nobody else has had the chance to narrate yet, and so no others have been risked for interference. Even so, the poor Lord Crestmore, with a net change of one fewer token, is now down to sixth level through no fault of his own! This just will not do. A random draw from the bag might palliate the loss (and even if it were a black token, that would put Lord Crestmore at the same level of infamy he had going into the quest – though again it’s conceivable that a player might end up with more infamy through a random draw than their original count, and this might be undesirable). However, we want a more elegant solution.

A brainstorm: quest-giver tokens might go into a central pool as quests are levied against players. Once the questing begins, players might be able to highlight specific heroic or nefarious deeds and pull a corresponding token from that central pool to reflect the actuality of their deeds. This poses a bit of an issue for the adventurers whose tales fall toward the end of the line, as the pool may be heavily weighted toward one or the other type of token, but that may be a solvable issue. There would have to be a cap on the number of tokens one could take from the central pool, to avoid an early quest from draining it too much, but should that cap be equal to the number of tokens that were assigned to the quest to begin with (in Lord Crestmore’s case, three tokens again), or should adventurers be allowed to take as many as would allow them to return to their previous level (which would allow David to make up to four draws from the central pool to return to seven)? Further, would adventurer aid or hindrance still go directly from player to player, or would it be added to the pool instead? I think in this case the baggage of token type is a useful thing to remain in play: again, these are social connections in action, and a hero visibly receiving assistance from another hero looks good for the recipient, although it’s debatable whether or not having to overcome unexpectedly difficult odds makes one appear more ruthless and dangerous. Obviously, attaching categories to the tokens complicates the Munchausen economy considerably, because it effectively splits the single currency into two parallel currencies with their own distinct uses.

And I haven’t even gotten into whether classes might be introduced or not….