October Challenge: the quest-giver and token baggage

When a quest-giver sends one of their peers out on an adventure, the tokens used to create the quest are part of the prize, but they come with an implicit cost of sorts: facing down a difficult quest (made more difficult by infamy tokens, if you remember) ends up rewarding the successful adventurer with additional infamy. How does that follow? This dissonance between the fiction and the mechanics is not negligible, so we have to figure out either a reconciliation or an alternate approach.

It should be possible for an adventurer to choose infamy, or else one would never become an infamous adventurer in the first place, right? One of the ways to approach this is a reconsideration of Munchausen‘s interference mechanic: conceptually, the fictive purpose of that system (as opposed to its mechanical purpose, which is to provide a currency exchange between narration and the coins ultimately used to win the game) is to say, “I know you want to make your story about how awesome you are, but I’m going to tempt you into diminishing yourself in the story by offering you a point towards the actual game victory”. We can just tweak this concept slightly and say, “You are trying to spread your renown through tales of your deeds, but you can become slightly more powerful by doing infamous things”. Shades of the moral dilemma of The Force in the Star Wars films, I can’t help but notice – and then I remember the implementation in West End Games’ Star Wars RPG, with the possibility of being offered Dark Side Points for choosing to do non-heroic things.

The approach we can derive from that is to make the infamy tokens an additional reward that you can take, if you’re willing to tarnish your own reputation to get it. Let’s rewind to the example from the earlier post: Lord Crestmore’s quest, offered by Ziyi, was two renown tokens and one infamy token. Lord Crestmore can just narrate a heroic outcome to the quest and get the two renown – but the infamy token is an obstacle that has to be overcome without reward, if that’s the choice David makes. With this new approach, however, David can add in an infamous deed and scoop up that infamy token as well: he’s not quite as heroic, but he gets to go up three levels instead of two levels.