Organization pays

Last night we had a little design session for Soft Horizon. We didn’t have enough people to play through and we had some outstanding issues that needed to be hammered flat, so we set up the recorder and talked through some ideas. Toph found a nice little piece of organization in our seven stats, and it echos (faintly) things like the Kabbalah, so that’s pretty cool. Basically we have seven stats and when you line them up like this:

History      Piety

Warfare      Courtesy

Violence      Sorcery


You get some cool stuff. First, the left-hand column is full of direct actions. These are skills that you use to effect results directly. Violence is for smacking guys. Warfare is for winning strategic battles for objectives. History is for knowing (and, from the player’s stance, creating) the worlds and their facts. On the right hand side are indirect skills: Sorcery is for summoning and enslaving things to do your bidding. Courtesy is for manipulating people (powerful people!) to get your objectives met. Piety is for influencing gods.

On the vertical axis is a change in scale. At the top we have world and inter-world scales. Next we have large groups. Then strictly interpersonal. And at the bottom, we have the skill that is only about you: how much can you take?

So by arranging them like this we also wind up with a character sheet.

And that turns out to be pretty cool. Plugging in the character stats for a character I already created, Kar Zetf, we get a nice representation of his skills in a well organized fashion. We cross out Piety because that’s his REFUSAL. We circle Violence because that’s his IDENTITY. And we underline Sorcery and Tenacity because those are his EXPERTISE. The remainder are his COMPETENCES, the skills he has as a side effect of his real choices. That works, it looks cool, and it’s easy to read and to write. No numbers, no math, and precious little writing even. And its easy to see the relationship between choices.

Happily, it does what any good graphic does: it tells me something new. I note that Kar has only interpersonal and individual skills as selections. He’s about himself and his immediate surroundings and not about others and large scale events. And, happily, this gives me his duty: clearly his duty is Harlequin, the Harbinger of Wild. His objective is to make worlds more about freedom and individuals and less about order and organization. I didn’t know that until I drew the character sheet and saw something new on that map.

That’s cool.

Soft Horizon character no shield


7 Responses to “Organization pays”

  • Robert Slaughter Says:

    I *really* like this. Numberless but descriptive character sheet; throw on a few aspects and its really cool. I like how you found something additional once you lined things up in the V.

    What do “mythos”, “dusk, and “dresden” do?

  • halfjack Says:

    The bottom of the shield is the planar map, so Mythos, Dusk, and Dresden are the three worlds that were designed during character creation. Not a critical part of the sheet, but there’s space there at the bottom that begs to be used.

  • Roger Says:

    I bet if you took all the character sheets of all the players and lined them up and held them against a strong light, you could see if any stat had been ignored by everyone.

  • Doug Says:

    That’s really interesting. It seemed to me that the concept joining the aspects in the right hand column was Influence in a social sense: you influence gods with Piety, leaders with Courtesy, and monsters/people with Sorcery, respectively. While the left hand column aspects revolved around creation/destruction. But that interpretation might not fit your goals.

    The character sheet begs to be transformed into a Character Coat of Arms emblazoned with devices and charges representing the character’s Stats and choices. Each Stat could be represented by a symbol and the depiction of that symbol would represent the status. Say Tenacity is a Lion. A Lion Dormant would represent your Refusal, a Lion Guardant would simply be the Stat, a Lion Rampant would be the Identity. (Not sure how to show the Expertise). A symbol for each created world could occupy the bottom of the Shield.

    The idea is probably too complicated to be a default. I just like the idea of having a Coat of Arms that actually displayed game content about my character. Since the position of the Stats on the Shield lets you know which one is which, each character could even choose different symbols for each Stat (perhaps tied to their character history), as long as the rules for visually indicating the Status of the Stat were consistent.

    I’ll stop now. Neat stuff.

  • halfjack Says:

    I’m actually leaning away from the shield on advice from my wife who suggests that calling out pseudo-medieval fantasy is actually contrary to our interests in Soft Horizon which is kind of true. We have, however, been thinking about Duties being represented by images inspired by tarot trumps. Not literally those images, mind you, but that style and concept.

    I like your interpretation of the RHS as “influence” though in a way that’s another way to say “indirect action” maybe. Anyway, it shows that the representation is rich, and if players find their own interpretations in it, then that’s even cooler.

  • Doug Says:

    I agree that the shield design strongly suggests medieval Europe, though coats of arms have been used in settings like Dune and Amber. Oh well. Perhaps for a game somewhere down the line.

    The Tarot-style inspiration sounds cool. The games Everway ( and Artesia ( each use Tarot variations that are very evocative, encoding ideas about the broader settings of each game. Even a simpler implementation of the designs would be interesting.

    At first blush it seemed to me that the application of Strategy can also be indirect (commands carried out by others who act directly), and I don’t have a good grasp of what History entails, so the Influence theme was just a different and perhaps superfluous way of grouping Piety, Courtesy, and Sorcery. Thanks for letting an outsider get a glimpse of the creative process involved in exploring these concepts and translating them into a game.

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