Dispute with Troupe, Help Coming Up with Compromise?

Hello, everyone! I hope you're all having nice daycycles, however far along in yours you might be. I have a bit of a problem.

The troupe is split down the middle on an issue.

The one half says that, in building the character/covenant you want, you need to accept the logical occurrence of stories that you wouldn't normally want to deal with telling. For example, the troupe wants to have its characters involved in mundane politics because mundane politics themselves are fun and you enjoy the associated stories? Take the Mundane Politics Hook and deal with the Quaesitors, even if telling stories about deflecting Quaesitorial interest aren't fun for anyone present.

The other half, that I personally support, is that the point of the game is having fun and therefore by extension if something is doing nothing to provide, enhance, or offer structure for fun or is detrimental in those areas it shouldn't be there. For example, if we wanted a covenant where girls estranged from society for wanting to be scholars or knights could come and be equal members of the community, encouraged in their path, the covenant itself would give suffrage to these women. However, if the troupe didn't want to be involved in stories related to how the outside world reacts to this giving of equal rights, we wouldn't take the Suffrage Hook for the covenant. The logic is that Hooks are meant to result in stories, so you can still have the thing in question without it drawing stories, and it would simply not be a Hook.

I felt the second option was the more fair of the two extremes, since the lack of it being treated as a Hook meant it wasn't giving you free Boons for no story, but half the troupe remains unconvinced.

Now, everybody in the troupe is probably pretty set in how they feel about this, but they're also all pretty rational people who can understand disagreements. So I come to you guys today in search of advice. What kind of compromise could I present that gives both sides a healthy amount of what they want without strongly favoring one group? Each side has legitimate preferences, imho, even if I completely disagree with the opposing side, so I want to present ideas that can leave the whole group drawing enjoyment from the game instead of one group getting their way entirely and the other side being forced to bear the entire brunt of the decrease to overall gaming quality.

Coming up with compromises has always been a weak area for me, and this particular problem seems a bit "take one or the other" with fewer in-between possibilities as far as I can see. Can you guys help me out?

I'd go back a stage and ask each player to write a list of what sort of stories they want to participate in, along with those that they would prefer to avoid having. Then compile a consensus of them all.
Then choose the Hooks and Boons, etc, that most closely match the consensus.

From your initial post, it sounds as if the contention is over the mechanical aspects conflicting with the 'chosen stories', so put the mechanical aspects on a lower priority and agree on which stories your group wants to play in first. ie I agree with your position that a Hook that isn't being 'played' shouldn't count but can still be present for flavour.

Or, if they still can't agree, discard the entire system of Hooks and Boons - possibly by having an earthquake destroy the area or having a magical event send them plus a few belongings/resources to the far side of the world and let them build a covenant from scratch without any help. I've played in a saga that started like that and it turned out to be a lot of fun even though my magus (who was a civilised Jerbiton with spells for helping with social situations) was totally useless at surviving in a wilderness.

The other thing to look at is the characters' story flaws and virtues - use those and ignore the covenant entirely except where they match up.

Also, consider tinkering with the setting a little if Gilarius's suggestions aren't enough. If you haven't locate the covenant yet, put it somewhere on the periphery where the quaesitors don't show up much. Or perhaps just add in a few peripheral code rulings that show messing with mundanes isn't so bad as long as you don't get them angry with the Order, so the quaesitors turn a blind eye unless things get really out of hand. Then you could have the more logical occurrences without having to deal with the stories no one wants.

Obviously, this is something your troupe will have to deal with by itself - no outside "authority" can overrule it. However, this is how our troupe sees it.

We perfectly agree with the point that a Hook that generates no stories is not a Hook: you can take the "feature", but get no points from it. Let's look at your example. Your covenant has "gender equality". It's not unreasonable for this to attract no stories. Perhaps the nearby peasants think "it's a coven of warlocks and witches, each of them half man and half woman, spending their time in depraved acts - let's keep away, lest corruption befall us!"; and the grogs of the covenant are also ok with the situation by longstanding tradition. Then you can take the feature, but it does not count as a Hook either in terms of paying for Boons or in terms of the maximum number of Hooks you can have (note that if this gender equality generated stories within the covenant, even if it attracted no outside attention, it would count as a Hook).

But what about the "natural consequences" of some other choices? Lots of mundane interaction is generally bound to attract Quaesitorial attention (or require a lot of effort to deflect it) as you correctly point out. A big castle smack in the middle of a city and not under control of the local authorities will definitely get those authorities involved. A saint living at the covenant is bound to have some effect on the Aura. And so on. We agree that, if a troupe finds no fun in dealing with these consequences, it should not tell stories about it. However, for many troupes including ours, some modicum of realism (or perhaps more accurately "consistency") of the game world is part of the fun. So, we generally try to come up with some reason why stories that should naturally occur don't occur. Perhaps there's a powerful illusion on the castle in the middle of the city, so that mundanes perceive it as a copse of trees - with a dark and evil reputation, so no-one goes there or attempts to remove it. It's almost always possible to find one such reason, and "paying" for it with a Boon is in fact a good use of Boons according to Covenants (see p.7, "Defensive selections"):

To go back to your example, you want to deal in mundane politics, but not worry about Quaesitorial attention. Begin by asking yourself: why is it reasonable that the Quaesitors don't bother you? Maybe the entire Tribunal has decided to "interpret" the Code so that mundane interference is perfectly acceptable as long as you do not purposefully use it to wreak havoc on other covenants - then take the Felicitous Tribunal Minor External Relations Boon (so, you can mess with mundanes, but so can everyone else in the Tribunal). Maybe you are somehow blackmailing the local Quaesitors - then take the Favors Owed Major External Relations Boon (so, you can mess with mundanes, and stretch Hermetic law in other ways, while other covenants in the Tribunal cannot). Or maybe the Quaesitors (or the entire Tribunal) has decided that mundane interference is inevitable, but it's best carried out by a single covenant on behalf of everyone else, to minimize attrition or to have a scapegoat if things really get out of hand - then take the Promised Favors Minor External Relations Boon (so, you can mess with mundanes provided things don't get too out of hand, and provided you also do so when quaesitores and/or other covenants ask you to do so).

One way to see the "take-a-Boon-to-justify-an-absence-of-certain-plausible-stories" approach is this.
Think of playing a Covenant as playing a superhero. Boons are his superpowers. Hooks are his villains.
Superpowers are fun because:
a) they give a sense of empowerment by making the superhero "special" and
b) they allow you to explore the interesting stuff you can do with them.
Villains are fun because:
a) they keep the superhero challenged and
b) they allow you to explore the interesting consequences of the scenarios they create.
Boons and Hooks should more or less balance: to keep the story interesting, the greater the opposition, the greater your means should be (and vice versa).

Now, you decided having the Evil Doctor Brainwasher, who Brainwashes people into doing his evil bidding, as a Villain. You think it would be interesting confronting evil "hidden" inside normal folks - folks you then have to oppose without harming them. The Evil Doctor Brainwasher is a perfect Hook!
You suddenly realize it would not be fun to have your own superhero Brainwashed! You can obviously wave this aspect away - the Evil Doctor Brainwasher never attempts Brainwashing your superhero, even when it would be logical. This is somewhat unsatisfying. A better approach would be to say that your Superhero quested for and gained the Tinfoil Talisman - a unique artifact that gives immunity to the Evil Doctor Brainwasher's Brainwashing. This is good for two reasons. First, it makes the story more plausible: the Tinfoil Talisman is the reason why your superhero does not get Brainwashed. Second, it makes your superhero more special: unlike normal people, he can't get Brainwashed and can laugh off the Evil Doctor's evil attempts. You want the Tinfoil Talisman as a Boon!

Depends much on where your covenant is, regionally and locally. Context is very important.

If you set up a covenant full of criminals, heretics, and other outcasts, who were perfectly public about it, would the rest of the world ignore it?

Using your example, If your covenant grants suffrage to all its covenfolk, does this come up in a way that some outside authority would, or could, react? Internal politics are generally internal; are there neighbors close enough to care?

If you are running a community of (for example) heretics in the deep forest of Novgorod it is rather a different thing than if you are in Provencal.

If you want to be involved in local politics, and don't want to have the Quasitors involved in stories, the easiest thing to do is avoid that consequence is to be subtle.

If you want to run rampant and rule the local countryside, and want to not have Quasitors involved because it's not fun, scrap the Order and play a game setting from scratch.

Personally, I tend to like unintended consequences. Some are good, some are bad, and many lead to additional stories.

Someone else made a good point in another thread recently. (Apologies can't track it down to quote directly) Hooks aren't there to be sticks to hit your player with they are just story generators.

While selecting a hook should direct you to certain certain types of stories, I consider it a very broad directive. I think most any hook can generate a near infinite number of plots and themes to explore. With a finite amount of play time the Job of the storyteller is to produce the stories the troupe will most enjoy.

To use one of your examples. Quaesitorial interest is one possible type of story that can come from the Mundane Politics hook but it's not the only story. If no one in your troupe would enjoy a plot about a quaesitor showing up then don't spend time on that aspect of the hook. However, if some in troupe would feel cheated if the Quaesitorial interest aspect of the hook never comes up there is still many many way's to approach that plot. With a little work you might just find a way to make the scrutiny of the order fun for everyone.

Maybe you use threat's of an investigation to keep your players mundane interactions subtle and careful. The challenge and stories come out of the Magi keeping there influence quiet.

Or if that's not your troupes cup of tea. Maybe when the Quasitor show up he's more interested in a cut of the action then prosecuting the players. Creating a story that either about resource management or moral choices.

Or rather then making a visit from a Quastor threatening and dramatic you could make it a moment of comic relief. An incompetent or silly investigator can be just as fun as a brilliant one, particularly if your regularly challenging your players in other ways.

Not that any of these would work for your specific troupe.The point is if you figure out what turns your players onto and off of certain plots you can usually have your cake and eat it to.

Ah, that's interesting. I forgot about that little excerpt in Covenants. Using those Boons to justify why certain stories aren't being told is actually a really good idea. I'll make sure to mention that idea to the troupe when we come together again.

Contorting the plots into more enjoyable things seems interesting too, with things like dealing with a bumbling incompetent Quaesitor who will probably give us the green light as long as he likes us. Then we're getting the "logical consequences" one half wants, and getting all-around enjoyable stories and still having room for things that catch the players off-guard but are nonetheless fun. Making every encounter involving a rule into the exception of said rule would stretch the "logical" part of logical consequences a bit, but I think the troupe ought to be mostly agreeable.

Thanks a bunch, guys!

Well obviously you cannot take the Mundane Politics Major External Relations Hook since it specifically states Quaesitors will be interested.

But you could take Tame Nobleman or Local Ally Boons to represent your freedom to interfere. Or take Favors or Protector to explain how and why you have to. You could also use Felicitous Tribunal or invent a Tame Quaesitor Boon to kill those stories.

If the problem is that you cannot balance Boons with Hooks, then wait until you've played enough to know what to retcon.


This is where the idea of "script immunity" comes into play.

Do you want to deal with mundane politics but not with Qs? Give your covenant script immunity from the Qs. Maybe in your Order, they have better things to do, what with all the demons and occultists running around. Or maybe they are weak. Or maybe your covenant is explicitly given a warrant to deal with the mundane world on behalf of the Order so the rest of the Tribunal doesn't have an excuse. Or maybe the senior magus NPC at the covenant who never leaves his lab is a Q himself, or has bought off, diverted or frightened them into leaving you guys alone. Or maybe the Troupe agrees to treat the Qs in your Tribunal as "keystone kops," so that stories involving them will be rare and always for comedic effect.

The bottom line is that you can have your cake and eat it too.

Start with the result you want and work your way backward. If your scenario is fun and consistent, the justifications will work themselves out.

Finally, the entire Covenants book consists of suggestions and guidelines; Boons and Hooks are scaffolding to give you guys ideas. You don't need to balance them, you don't need to use them.



If one group wants to deal with the logical consequences of certain things, then they should, I mean that's what they think is fun right?

The simplest compromise is simply to have their characters responsible for this aspect of the selected hooks. However, they, as players, may not wish to have their characters so involved, in which case they need to consider dropping the requirement. It's one thing for a player to say, hey, we need to do X if we choose Y and not be willing to take responsibility for doing X.

Groups should have to deal with the logical outcome of their choices, if only to keep them making good choices rather than thinking life is consequence free. If a magus goes around killing entire cities, for example, he shouldn't be able to cry "But stories about me on the run from Wizard's March aren't FUN!"

The thing is, though, if you're going to involve yourself in mundane politics, unless you're very subtle you'll eventually attract attention from the Quaesitors. So you might as well take the Hook. If you do take the Hook, that doesn't mean you AUTOMATICALLY are crawling with Quaesitors, though, it just means that you have to interact carefully. So your stories aren't "How do We Fool the visiting Quaesitor?" but "How do We Influence the Mundanes Discreetly?" Do it right and you NEVER have to play hide the evidence, there IS NO EVIDENCE.

Similarly, your covenant could have Sufferage but keep it concealed from outsiders. The end result is your stories change from dealing with people who hate that you have Sufferage to doing stuff to keep the Sufferage under wraps. Each Hook and Boon can provide several different kinds of stories, so discuss with the troupe which angles would be more fun.

I could be missing something, but it sounds as if this actually is not a disagreement over a single issue - it's 2 different issues.

One issueis "believability" - if you have a Hook, then predictable stories and complications related to that hook should not be handwaved away. Hermetic Politics = HERMETIC POLITICS, not just "the convenient and easy parts of Hermetic Politics".

The other issue is purely game-mechanics based - that if a Hook is not counted as "a Hook", then it's just color and fluff and should not be a big deal, one way or the other. So the Covenant has a Covenenant of the Militant Arm of St. Mary Magdalene, an order of female knights - if no Hook is taken for that, then no stories NEED arise from it, all good.

And both are correct.

Believability is important - without it logic, actions and cause/effect become meaningless, and in- and out-of-game rewards for good play lose their taste.

Game balance is important too - the Rules is the Rules, and no Player wants to be burdened unnecessarily for a decision they did not make (or a Hook they did not ask for/agree to).

The compromise is simple, literally - Keep It Simple, S*****. Don't include strong story elements in the Covenant that are not desired as Story elements, and don't include formal Hooks in the math that are not interesting to (most*) all players.

  • If the Players cannot agree on what is/not interesting for the story, then either split it down the middle and have them agree to go 50/50 - or possibly find a new group, because these guys need to grow up and learn to play nice. :wink:

The SG's interpretation is the decider imho. Where you have a split decision, let the SG be the arbiter. I know that might mean players don't get the exact story they want, but the person running the stories and doing most of the heavy lifting should guide the setting. Sure skip or hand-wave whatever game aspects you like (mundane aspects of life, etc), but you can't demand a good story to come from a SG who fundamentally disagrees with the premise.
And if you're not willing to play through the Hook, then you don't get the mechanical adjustment in build points for the Hook. If half the group won't play it, it is removed. That aspects gets watered down, and is just fluff.
And then consider that if half the players demand that something be skipped then perhaps the troupe has some thrashing to do. Let 'em argue it out.

I finally had a spare moment to read the description for Mundane Politics Hook. IMO, the hook portion of the description is the involvement of Quaesitores conducting investigations, and not the mundane interference or invovlement in mundane politics. So, if the troupe enjoys the covenant interfering with mundanes and stories related to mundane politics, don't take the Hook, and be involved in the mundane interactions you like, probably only rarely with some Quaesitores investigating what the covenant is doing just to maintain some suspension of disbelief with regards to the mundane interference clause of the Code...

On a "games rules" level, no, there's no necessity to deal with the obvious consequences of your choices. My favourite example of this is the Castle Hook. Say you've played a game where you had a castle and you did all of the "lord wants a knight, bishop wants a chapel" thing. In the next saga you'd like a castle but you don't want to do the same stories again. It's absolutely fine to just say "We have a castle, but it's cosmetic and we are not taking the Hook points for it, and we just don't tell those stories." of course that's fine. People telling the medieval myths did that themselves: all of those castles in the Waste? Where did their bread come from? In modern stories no-one says "Why don't Superman's boots fly off at supersonic speed and leave craters in the ground?" because the answer is "Where the fun in that?"

Boring consequences are not necessary from a "rules" level. The point is, though that the rules are just there to force you to discuss play contracts, and some of your players are expressing a strong preference for verisimilitude.

So, this isn't a rules discussion. This is a "group having different needs for this to be fun" discussion that is being abstracted out into a "Do the rules allow this?" question.

Good grief, why?

No: take the hooks you like and the boons you like. Whatever you do don't tell stories which everyone hates. Are you not mortal? Is not your life made up of precious, unnumbered days?

That's rules as written, yes.

As I said in my earlier reply: this is not really a rules question: your interpretation of the rules is correct.

I think you have misunderstood the other side.

I really have a hard time believing that half your group is demanding you bore them rigid.

Er... No, this isn't a "group having different needs to have fun discussion abstracted as a rules discussion", this is just a discussion about half the group wanting something different from the other half. I only brought up rules as a passing comment; My concern is coming up with solutions that keep all my friends happy and having fun.

Another comment I wanted to make towards the people who have posted: the divide isn't exactly just over realistic consequences. I mean, a game where you could do anything without adverse repercussions would be rather boring, and often the results of a character's actions yield better stories than the performing of the action. But those consequences and the stories that come with them are acceptable because they're sources of more fun and satisfaction, if only for the players rather than the characters. I generally believe that a story shouldn't be told if, regardless of SGing quality, the content will cause the players' ending reaction to be "thank god that stupid crap is over, now we can get back to enjoying our game." Half the group (including the SG) disagree with me, despite reacting the very same way to those stories. That is where the divide is.

Anyway, I'll suggest the ideas presented in this thread to them on thursday, and hopefully we reach some kind of conclusion.

Do post the outcome of the discussion here!
It's always interesting to see how different troupes handle issues such as this.

lol I don't know your friends so I cannot comment know what will really make them happy, but the right drugs solve everything.