Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Rules summary to playtest A

I'm running a playtest game of curse the darkness on Friday. As such, I need to note the workings of the system as I'm seeing it now. This post is mostly just for summary's sake. What I would like from the dedicated band of systems tinkerers (and man, you guys are awesome) isn't so much suggestions on how to change the system, but on what I'm missing that needs to be there so I can run the game.



  • Distribute 10 points between Focus, Stability, Stamina and Humanity. Minimum is 1, max is 5.
  • Define Scopes (1 per point in Attributes) - optional.
  • Sacrifice a point in Humanity to be an Opener, or a point in anything to have a cool piece of gear that's hard to come by.
  • Name and quick description.

Game Setup:

  • Decks: 1/player (Character decks) + 1 (Reserve deck), and 1 for the GM. GM's deck is shuffled and set aside.
  • All aces removed from Character decks. Separate into suits, shuffle suits, deal out cards to each player equal to Attribute for the appropriate suit (Hearts = Humanity, Spades = Stamina, Clubs = Stability, Diamonds = Focus).
  • The rest of the character cards are kept separated for Refreshes.
  • Players choose one card at random from each suit to be the Action card for that Attribute. It is placed face up in the appropriate slot on the sheet, with the other cards of that suit face down below it.
  • Players each draw X cards from the Reserve deck (x = number of players, excluding GM) and place them face down in their Reserve.

Character Challenges:

  • GM describes the situation requiring the Challenge (or player initiates). GM assigns a difficulty, which he may or may not tell the player, depending on the situation.
  • Player can: Play the current Action card in that Attribute (equal to/higher than difficulty succeeds, card is discarded, top Action card revealed); play the Action card from a different Attribute at a higher difficulty (GM's discretion; otherwise plays the same way); play the Action card but pay a Memory point to keep it; play the Action card but keep it (only if the card value > difficulty by 3 or more).
  • A player can expend multiple cards on a Character Challenge if the Challenge is within a character's Scope.
  • A player can expend a card with a lower value than the difficulty. By itself, this means the character fails at the action, but the player can use this as an opportunity to get shed of a low card or to define a Scope.
  • Player can use Character Challenges to define Scopes. A player that does so receives a Memory point. The GM can require a Scope for specialized knowledge, but the player still gets the point.
  • If player has no cards in an Attribute (he is Exhausted), he may draw a card from his Reserve (Exhaustion Draw). If it is the correct suit, he can keep it. If it's not, he can pay a Memory point or give the GM a Between point to keep it. He can keep drawing until he gets the right suit, but this depletes the Reserve.

Removal Challenges:

  • GM assesses which players are initially involved in the challenge. GM draws 5 cards from the GM's Deck, adds them to any cards gained from Memory point expenditure.
  • GM describes the situation. Player(s) explain responses. GM plays a card of a given suit, player responds. This continues until all four suits are represented (either party can pass, and you don't have to play even if you can). Players can "open" a suit. At this point, the player can up the stakes by playing a new card of any suit. When the players pass, the GM can play one more card.
  • Player of highest card in a suit defines it, starting with the highest card on the table (ties go: Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts, Spades). Definitions are: Fail/leave, succeed/leave, fail/stay, succeed/stay.
  • If a suit isn't represented, it is defined last. If two aren't represented, the GM defines them both.
  • Resolution deck is composed of aces from the Character decks + the highest cards from Suit Assignment + two cards from the Reserve decks of all involved players + 2 cards from the GM. GM can spend Between points to remove cards from the deck before drawing, players can spend Memory points to do the same.
  • Players cannot choose not to put cards into the Resolution deck. They must put two cards from the Reserve (if they have them), though they can choose which ones.
  • Players and GM can choose the cards their removing before the Resolution Draw (so you choose the suit you're removing, otherwise it doesn't make much sense).
  • Active player draws for Resolution. Players can choose to draw for their own Resolution or accept another player's. Player that assigned that suit gets narration rights.

Memory and Between:

  • Players can give the GM Between points. Doing so allows a player to keep a card during Exhaustion draw, to Refresh a pile (points equal to the Attribute), or the Reserve (2 points).
  • Players can spend Memory points for any of those things, as well as spending Memory to remove cards from the Resolution Deck.
  • Every time the players spend a Memory point, the GM draws a card and sets it aside for use in Removal Challenge.
  • Players get Memory points for bringing up and discussing fallen characters, for discussing their own histories, for defining Scopes or for helping to define the world.
  • Players are not permitted to take notes on other characters.
  • Shutting down a Memory exchange grants the GM a Between point, but it allows the player in question to change the Action card on the appropriate Attribute.


  • Jokers beat any other card, except another Joker (black jokers win ties).
  • If a player draws a black joker, he immediately passes it to the GM and something unpleasant happens to him.
  • If a player draws a red joker, he can keep it or put it on the table. If he puts it on the table, he gets to swap out any one of his Action cards or discard the active one and draw a new one (and take his chances). No Between point for that. Doing so increases any existing card-caps by one. Any player can use that joker, but only once.
  • The player can use a red joker to Refresh any pile on the table, even if they don't control it.
  • The GM can use a black joker only in Removal challenges.


  • If an Attribute pile is empty, you can do an Exhaustion Draw from the Reserve.
  • If the Reserve is empty, you can spend 2 Memory points or a red joker to Refresh it.
  • Reserve is automatically Refresh after a Removal Challenge.
  • Character decks get discarded by suit. Reserve gets discarded separately and reshuffled when there's no deck to draw from.


  • A player can assist another player, donating an Action card during a Character Challenge at a -2 penalty to the face value (so it's usually more economical to just take on the Challenge yourself, but that might not always be possible).
  • During a Removal Challenge, a player can donate cards from his Reserve to make up the difference for a player that doesn't have 2 card in his Reserve, but the total is always 2 Reserve cards/player (before spending Memory to remove them).