Spirit of the Century: Compels and Agendas

The following are some house-rules about compels, scenes, and agendas.  I haven’t had the chance to playtest them out; if you do try them, please let me know how well they work.

House-Rule 1:  You don’t just get to be important in any scene you like.  Sure, you might be there, standing around in a corner somewhere, but by default you don’t get to do anything useful.  This doesn’t confer any sort of immunity, however — innocent bystanders get shot just like anyone else.

House-Rule 2:  The way you get to do something useful in a scene is by being Compelled.  The specific Aspect that is Compelled is, in effect, your Agenda — why the character is involved in the scene.  You get a Fate Point for this Compel, of course.

House-Rule 3:  If you want to be involved in a scene but can’t or won’t pick an Aspect to Compel, you can take a Minor Consequence, and then Compel that.  Assuming your enemies don’t give you a Consequence first.

House-Rule 4:  Since you’re very likely to want to Invoke your Agenda during the scene, you get one free Invocation with no Fate Point cost.

Discussion:

I’ve been a big believer in starting scenes with Compels, and this is a more extreme extension of that.

The underlying problem I’m trying to fix with this is characters who just kinda wander around scenes without any clear motivation or agenda.  By Compelling themselves in, they know why they’re in there and what they want, and so does everyone else.

Although this is the main thrust of these house-rules, I think there are also some useful secondary effects that may arise.

Consequences have a tendency to be pretty weak as far as Aspects go.  “Twisted Ankle” is… well, weak.  “That Bastard Shot Me!” is nice and strong, and exactly the sort of thing I expect people to use for Compelling themselves in.

It encourages teamwork Aspects — things like “Always There For My Friends” and “All For One, One For All.”  Of course, characters with those Agendas need to actually be in there helping their friends.

The last rule seems like a good idea — otherwise you get a fate point for the Compel, spend it back when you Invoke, and after all the chip shuffling nothing much has changed.  It seems like a good idea to further encourage characters to pursue their Agenda, and this seems like a decent way to do it.

It may come to pass that in a particular scene, no one can or will Compel themselves into it.  This is a great signal to the GM that they’re just not interested in the scene, so everyone can just skip over it.

I think it’s also a good hint to the GM about when he’s playing his cards too close to his chest.  If someone can’t get involved because he doesn’t know the shopkeeper is secretly a Nazi, then the pressure is on the GM to get that fact established sooner rather than later.

Examples:

Example 1:  Nazi Shootout

Scene Setup:  The characters are casually hanging out in their favourite zeppelin hangar when suddenly Nazis burst in and start shooting up the joint.

Biff McClung Compels his own “Nazis! I Hate Those Guys!” Aspect to enter the fray, guns ablazing.

Timmy Dootz Compels “I Wanna Be Like Biff When I Grow Up” to tag right along.

Madama Lechiffre decides to take the Minor Mental Consequence: Fainting Spells, Compels it, and passes out so that she can pull some of her quasi-magical stunts.

Big John remains in the background until a Nazi mook hits him with the Minor Physical Consequence “That Bastard Shot Me!” at which point he goes totally berserk.

Example 2:  Library Research

Having escaped the Nazis who turned out to be zombies full of tentacle spiders, the gang decides they need to read up on these eldritch horrors.

Doc Sausag has all sorts of researchy sorts of Aspects; he goes with “Insatiable Thirst For Knowledge” and digs into it.

Madame Lechiffre is at it again; she’s still carrying around the Moderate Mental Consequence “Such Things Should Not Be”, so Compels that to again enter some sort of trance.

Lord Orangutan isn’t really the reading sort, so he could easily sit this scene out.  On the other hand, he could take a Minor Mental Consequence such as “Lord Orangutan Grows Impatient!” and Compel it to, say, leap from stack to stack and haul down reams of books from the topmost shelves.

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