Sword of the Soul: Review

by Tristan Brightman

(Hey, tris, is there a place we can keep the text of this game that’s a little more accessible? KF is not totally link-friendly.)

Sword of the Soul is a game that Tris wrote for me for the True Meaning of Friendship Game Design Challenge. Thanks, Tris! It is the seed of something quite cool, I think. I particularly like the idea that each action scene is mapped to a grid, with a meaningful layout. I’m just going to go down section by section, red-penning as I would with a text I’m marking up for revisions.

Setup

Here we learn how to create characters and locations. Characters are constructed out of Motivations, which are things they want or want to do. I like this! On the other hand I feel like we are left out in open water a little with regard to guidance; there are countless different stories you could tell by arranging them in different ways (think about the stereotypical black-and-white fantasy cast, or the tangled, loyalty-blurred wuxia movie, or the swashbuckling story where allegiances are like outfits…) and countless different non-stories you could tell by arranging Motivations poorly (We all want pie! Except Ned, who is a piemaker. Pie for everyone!), and so it’d be beneficial to have an overseeing hand here. Come to think of it, here’s a spot where you could put in an oracle like in a Wicked Age or a genre dial of some other kind.

I’d like some guidance regarding location maps, too, mostly wrt how many features to have and how to arrange them. It’s not a big deal that this isn’t in this version of the text; I think it will take some testing before we can really figure out where the sweet spot lies. Some idea seeds about “areas of interest” would be welcome as well, although I see and appreciate that this is intended as a space to make the game your own. As it stands, it reminds me in a good way of the Set-Piece Battles essay I wrote about running cool fights in Exalted.

I think maybe maps can have walls.

Fighting

On your go, if you have any “Strike” counters next to you, you may either take the blow, or try to defend them, by starting your sequence with a number of blocks, or dodges. Once you have decided, the player(s) who placed the strikes rolls one d6 per strike. Any die showing 4+ is a hit. You then roll your dodge/block dice. For dodging, a 3-6 blocks an attack, but forces you to move the Dodge rate away from your opponent. For blocking, a 4-6 blocks an attack.

I think that we can simplify this, numbers-wise. I like that you are forced to move some distance with dodges. Here is a thing that has a lot of potential—like suppose that your map is a vertical plane cut through a bamboo grove, and you must always Dodge downward a long distance, and the Move rate is significantly lower? Cool!!

I think that movement could use some clarification, maybe the Move rate is a cap on how far you can move in a turn? Else you may be unable to reach some spots on the board (think about chess bishops). What directions are okay?

Your action sequence must be narrated as flowing from one of the motivations used to drive it.

Suggestion: We don’t need this, as long as we narrate this in the defence process. I think maybe the constant harping on motivations isn’t always what we need, but we need it at these critical points, eh?

a remark

What happens when we’re not fighting? How do we interpret dodging and blocking in the context of a battle of words?

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One thought on “Sword of the Soul: Review

  1. Hey Shreyas!

    Thankyou for reviewing this!

    I don’t have anywhere sensible to put it, I’m afraid (otherwise I’d have posted a link on KF, not the whole text).

    I think the points you make highlight an inconsistency in how I put the game together. In setting up motivations, I assume that everyone is competant and working towards a fun game. Then, when I’m talking about actions, I assume everyone needs holding by the hand to come up with good description.

    The idea was that the “visual effects” of everyone’s actions would reflect their inner motivations. Someone motivated by hatred looks totally different in movement to someone motivated by desire, for instance.

    I think you’re right that I harp on about motivations 🙂

    Move rate is a cap on how far one move action takes you, I don’t think this has to be in a straight line, and it certainly is allowed for characters to move less than this.

    Your bamboo idea is strong.

    Dodging and blocking in social situations:

    Blocking is a flat denial of the strike in some way – “But surely Phyrsis’ 2nd theorum already renders your point moot”. Dodging is avoiding damage, while conceding ground “Um…that may be so, but look! The lady Elphemore – she has a crystal redolent of the ancient glory of the Llaxi!”

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