Originally posted August 2006

These are some rules I threw together last night after having the idea on the drive home. They’re intended to be used for non-contact LARPs, but might work alright, slightly modified, for tabletop as well. The intention is to create a game where players are rewarded for going along with others and are limited in their ability to purely impose their intentions on others without giving something back, no matter how high their stats. A secondary intention is to provide a rules set where players can resist actions (primarily social) that would negatively impact their character concept, at a price.

Karma Contract

Each player at the LARP starts with 20 counters worth of Karma.

When players have a conflict, either player can choose to make an OFFER to settle the conflict.

For example:

I punch you in the face.

OR

I convince you to come with me.

The player figures an applicable statistic, and can hide up to that many Karma counters in his or her hand.

Once the OFFER is made, the other player can choose to ACCEPT, RESIST, or COUNTEROFFER.

If the player chooses to ACCEPT, he or she takes the Karma offered by the first player and then carries out the suggested action.

For example:

Ouch!

OR

Alright, let’s go.

If the other player chooses to RESIST, he or she hides as many Karma as desired (up to the maximum he or she possesses) in her hand. Both players reveal the Karma in their hands. If both totals are equal, or the resisting player’s total is greater, the action was resisted. If the initiating player’s total is greater, the action was successful. If the totals are not equal, the difference is given to the other player.

For example:

Player 1 OFFERs to punch Player 2 in the face
Player 1 hides six Karma counters in her hand (her maximum brawling skill)
Player 2 RESISTs
Player 2 hides seven Karma counters in his hand (he had seven or more Karma counters remaining)
The players compare and find that Player 2 wins
Player 2 barely dodges the punch to the face
Player 2 won seven vs. six
Player 2 gives one Karma counter to Player 1 (seven minus six)

If the other player chooses to COUNTEROFFER, he or she describes a conflicting action and then hides Karma counters in her hand up to the maximum of her appropriate skill. Both players reveal the Karma in their hands. If both totals are equal, neither action was successful. If the totals are unequal, the player with the highest total succeeds in his or her action. If the totals are not equal, the difference is given to the other player.

For example:

Player 1 OFFERS to convince Player 2 to come with her
Player 1 hides five Karma counters in her hand (her maximum socializing skill)
Player 2 COUNTEROFFERS for Player 1 to leave him alone and go away
Player 2 hides three Karma counters in his hand (his maximum socializing skill)
The players compare and find that Player 1 wins
Player 1 ignores Player 2’s attempt to brush her off, and convinces him to go with her
Player 1 won five vs. three
Player 1 gives two Karma counters to Player 2 (five minus three)

Complications:

The Karma counters awarded to a player usually indicate the magnitude of success for the other player. In combat, each counter indicates a level of damage. In social situations, each counter indicates roughly a minute that the player basically complies with the first player’s suggestion. Counters gained because the winning player was RESISTing have no effect other than increasing the available Karma for the resisted character.

Only one OFFER can be made per turn for combat and other physical activities. Only one OFFER can be made roughly every five minutes for social activities (and these five minutes must be spent roleplaying the conversation that leads up to the OFFER).

Equipment may modify the effect of certain actions, but cannot modify the amount of Karma available to each party to offer.

Multiple individuals acting against a single target resolve their actions individually.

Passive challenges:

In certain situations, players may wish to interact with the environment as portrayed by the staff. If there is an active component to the challenge, OFFERs are made normally, with a staff member OFFERing, RESISTing, or COUNTEROFFERing with Karma. If there is no active component (the player is making an OFFER to a static situation or object), a passive challenge is in effect.

If the player has enough time to observe the difficulty of the challenge, he or she simply declares her rating in an applicable trait. If that is enough to succeed, he or she gives the staff member one Karma counter and is successful. Some complicated challenges may be broken up into multiple stages, requiring more than one Karma counter for total success.

For example:

Player 1 OFFERs to climb a wall when under no pressure, and declares an athletics-related trait total of 6
The staff member describing the wall decides that is enough to climb the wall
Player 1 gives one Karma counter to the staff member and succeeds at climbing the wall

If the player does not have enough time to observe the difficulty of the challenge, he or she must make an OFFER normally. If that is enough to exceed the challenge difficulty, the action is successful. The Karma counters OFFERed are compared to the actual difficulty of the challenge, and any counters beyond the difficulty are given to the staff member describing the challenge. If it is not enough to succeed, no counters are lost but the player will have to wait to try again.

For example:

Player 1 is trying to flee from a combat, and OFFERs to climb a wall
Player 1 hides five Karma counters in her hand (she can OFFER up to six counters, because of her athletics-related trait total)
The staff member describing the wall decides that the wall is resisting with four counters worth of difficulty
The player and staff member compare, and discover that Player 1 was successful
Player 1 gives one counter to the staff member, and climbs the wall
(If she had OFFERed only four counters or less, she would have been unsuccessful. If she had OFFERed six counters, she would have given two to the staff member)

Variations:

  • Players start with exactly 20 counters at the beginning of each game. They will be most successful if they have no counters at the end of each game. Counters may need to be changed out each game to prevent players from holding on to their counters from previous games.
  • Players keep any counters they had from game to game. New players only get 20 counters for their first character. The counters available in the game will be highly variable, as new players coming in, players ceasing to come, and counters put into and removed from the game by staff NPCs and challenges will be hard to track. However, there is no issue with players holding onto counters from game to game.
  • Players are given 20 new counters at the beginning of each game and keep any counters they have left over at the end of each game. Players can “cash out” their Karma at the end of each game for extra experience at a rate of 10 to 1. Players that routinely lose challenges or accept OFFERs will grow faster than characters that are regularly successful.

Remaining questions:

Should players announce their maximum potential bid when making an offer, or leave it entirely up to a guessing game/bluff?

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