“Fixing” Everway, part one

Let’s start off with one important point: Everway is a good game. It has a lot going for it: its aggressive multiculturalism, its extensive use of examples to guide new players, its production value, its use of art as part of the play experience (especially the vision cards), and for me in particular, its embrace of heavily narrative play.

It’s that last part that gives many other people trouble, though. Criticisms of the system focus on its mechanical lightness, perceiving that it relies too heavily for some on gamemaster* fiat. In rereading the game in preparation for Glorious and Fearsome, I can see the validity of that criticism: the laws of fortune, drama, and karma are great in principle, but just handing them to the gamemaster and saying “pick the one that seems right” rubs more traditional players used to more structure the wrong way. Everway is heavily improvisational in the course of actual play in ways that the character creation process doesn’t quite prepare you for. (And the character creation process is, for many RPG players, the only part of the system they really have to interface with to the extent that they have to “understand” it.)

For Glorious and Fearsome, one of my first tasks is to take the engagement that players show in the process of creating their characters and make it carry through into sessions of play. A player is telling the gamemaster what they want to be important in the game through the choices they make when they pay their points. Everway gives that a nod with the law of karma, but I’m explicitly creating a hierarchy of the three laws in which karma gets first place. The vaunted Fortune Deck (in G&F, the Story Deck) is used if karma doesn’t clearly resolve the issue, as per the law of fortune, and only if the card drawn doesn’t point to a satisfying resolution does the law of drama come into the picture.

*By the way, Everway uses the term “gamemaster”, but I’m replacing that with “storyguide” for Glorious and Fearsome. More on that in part two.

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