by Shreyas Sampat
Update the playtest doc
To play Limitless, you need several players, each of whom will be responsible for at least one character. You may wish to give one player the responsibility of refereeing; in this case, this player is responsible for "incidental" characters, setting stages, rules interpretation, and so on. Most significant characters should be played by non-referee players, but you may consider giving the referee a character or two as well. You will also need some way to record characters (a Wiki would be nice; Limitless characters fluctuate rapidly, so paper sheets may become unwieldy) and a large number of six-sided dice. If you prefer, use a large number of small tokens, like pennies, and a small handful of dice.
Characters in Limitless
The characters of Limitless interact with the world through a variety of Methods. All characters have access to five universal Methods:
- Battle affects the world through physical action and open competition.
- Command affects the world through use of authority and charisma, by moving masses of people.
- Intrigue affects the world by moving others to action, outside the normal social hierarchy. It operates on single persons.
- Lore affects the world through application of knowledge.
- Romance affects the world by giving things significance. It is the Method of art, poetry, and love.
Some characters may have idiosyncratic Methods, which are generally narrower in scope. Most commonly, an idiosyncratic Method is a specific instance of a common Method (Lore > Symbologic Genetics; Intrigue > Tarot Reading, Insidious Pheromones; Battle > Decoherence Scimitar Combat). More rarely, one of these Methods is specifically not a specific instance of a larger Method (Black Circle Methodology affects the world by altering physical laws; Bending Diamond Initiation affects the world by manipulating time). You will still need to decide what Method these unusual Methods are connected to, but in this case, it is a matter of personal interpretation rather than any intrinsic property.
In addition to their Methods, some characters have Secret Teachings. These put two Methods in contact with one another, and allow them to apply the mastery they have over one Method to conflicts that involve the other. Secret Teachings are not transitive, however: if a character has an arrangement like Battle—Romance—Lore, then Battle and Romance are connected, and Romance and Lore are connected, but Battle and Lore are not.
More importantly, a character has a set of Passions—events that he strongly wants to occur. In the character record, a Passion is shown as the title of a document, a subtitle describing the target the Passion is related to, and finally a list of Images which lead up to the final goal.
You have five Method Points. You can spend an MP to learn a Secret Teaching which connects two Methods that you already possess, or learn a new idiosyncratic Method, which comes with a Secret Teaching connecting it to the universal Method that you consider it to be most similar to.
Take a moment and describe, in a few words, how your character understands and uses each Method he has. This will serve to give you ideas on how to depict the character's actions when he isn't using Images, and differentiate characters from one another descriptively.
Then you have ten Images. An Image is a strongly visual memory associated with an event in your character's life; making visual references to your Images is one way to succeed in conflicts in Limitless. Distribute these between any number of Passions as you like; each Image refers to some event along the character's quest for the Passion it's listed under. All of these Images have a Significance of 1. Significance represents how strongly an Image affects a character; the Images a character has, at creation, are intended as a jumping-off point, rather than to give strong direction to him.
Finally, you may add a pair of Images, one a Significance 1 Image and one a Signifiance -1 Image, to each Passion.
A Note on Passions
You must ensure that every Passion is mutually exclusive with a Passion some other character has. You can accomplish this by creating characters in a group and collaborating on Passions, or you can create characters individually and reinterpret the Passions, after-the-fact, so that they come into conflict. Either approach works fine. You may deliberately select the same Passion as another character, as well. Images do not need to be quite so collaborative.
Limitless is played in a series of scenes, which are either Confrontation scenes, where two or more characters come into conflict, or Karma scenes, where we see the results of action.
Actions are always resolved by rolling a number of six-sided dice. Discard all of the 4s, 5s, and 6s rolled, and total up the pips on the dice that remain. The result is the number of Victories the character has earned; the number of Victories is a rough measure of how much a particular action affects the world.
Significance is a measure of how important a confrontation or a memory that it generates is to a particular character.
When two or more characters come into conflict, a Confrontation can be used to decide which character gets his way. Both state their goal in the Confrontation, and then find the number of Victories needed to realize that goal (This calculation isn't important for our purposes). Next, decide what Method the characters are employing to contend with one another; generally the player who initiates the Confrontation will choose what Method applies. When it's unclear "who started it", the referee should decide. A Confrontation begins with Significance 1.
Then, the Confrontation begins in earnest. It happens over a series of Exchanges, which are as follows:
- The players place one die on each of their Methods.
- The players may take as many dice as they like from the operative Method, plus one from any Methods that the operative Method is connected to by a Secret Teaching, to allocate among actions they are performing in this Exchange. A list of actions appears below.
- The players describe their characters' actions. If one of a character's Passions is relevant to the confrontation, then either player may make a visual reference to one of that Passion's Images. This allows the player to increase or decrease that character's dice pool by the Passion's Significance.
- Once an Event has been referenced in a Confrontation, it may not be referenced again in the same Confrontation.
- Determine the result of actions by rolling dice and counting Victories as above.
Keep performing Exchanges until one of the characters accumulates enough Victories to obtain his goal. Then the Confrontation ends.
A goal, once accomplished, is recorded on one or another's character sheet as an Image with the Significance of the Confrontation that brought it about. These events also affect the game world!
As characters take actions that affect the world, they accumulate a varying amount of Karma, in the form of dice. At the end of a Confrontation, roll each character's Karma dice. The players work together to decide an event of the appropriate magnitude, which happens to the character. This works the same way as caculating the Victories cost of a goal, but instead of coming up with a goal and figuring the cost, you have a number of Victories and are trying to fit an effect of appropriate magnitude to it. This event is some backlash from the character's actions. In a Karma scene, narrate the event taking place. This may happen in the present of the game, the past, or even the future! It doesn't really matter; what matters is that this event, like any other, will be recorded on some Passion's chronicle somewhere as an Image.
There are several different actions that a character could take in an exchange:
- Accomplish: The player rolls as many dice as were allocated to this action, and takes the same number of Karma dice. The Victories on this action are devoted to accomplishing the character's goal.
- Desperately Accomplish: Identical to Accomplish, but any Images you referred to this turn are not used up (your character's and the opponent's both), and you double the amount of Karma dice you receive.
- Tragically Accomplish: Identical to Accomplish, but double the dice rolled for this action, and take all Karma dice from the other characters, adding them to your own.
- Prevent: The player rolls as many dice as he allocated to this action, and subtracts the number of Victories from the Victories another character received for some action in this Exchange.
- Prevent and Counter: Identical to Prevent, but if you receive more Victories than the action you are trying to Prevent, you must roll as many dice as the difference, toward your own goal, and gain twice that amount of Karma dice.
- Ameliorate: The player rolls as many dice as he allocated to this Action. He reduces his Karma accumulation by half the number of Victories, rounded down.
- Shift Focus: The player must allocate as many dice to this as the Confrontation's current Significance, and the character receives an equal number of Karma dice. The player determines a subordinate goal; from now until the character accomplishes that goal, his Victories go to accomplishing this subordinate goal instead of the main goal. When the subordinate goal is accomplished, the confrontation does not end; the character resumes service to the main.
- Escalate: This action requires as many dice as the Confrontation's current Significance, and the character recieves an equal number of Karma dice. The Significance of the confrontation immediately increases by 1. If the other characters involved do not want the conflict to escalate, they may concede the Confrontation. In this case, they may no longer act to affect this confrontation. If a character agrees to Escalate, he remains in the confrontation. As long as at least one character opposes the Escalating character, the confrontation continues, but if no one opposes him, the Escalating character's goal is realized, with the new Significance level.
In addition, the Escalating player may choose to move the Confrontation into a different Method; this must still be a Method which all the characters involved possess. Switching Methods refreshes the Images of all the characters involved; it becomes as though they were never activated.
Switching Methods carries some restrictions; a character may not switch the confrontation back to a Method that it was just switched out of. In other words, a sequence like, "Battle, Lore, Battle" is not permitted. At least two different Methods must intervene.
How Many Victories Does It Take?
So, up until this point, it hasn't been clear how much a Victory is really worth. Here it is! Generally, 5 Victories is the unit of a significant accomplishment; this is intended to guarantee that a Confrontation lasts for more than one exchange, barring one opponent's being not only massively experienced, but also dramatically superior to the other. With 5 Victories, you can give yourself an Image of the same Significance as the Confrontation's end, or give one opponent an Image with negative Significance of the same magnitude. This Image, and its effect, should derive from some relatively straightforward use of the Method. For instance, "A fingertip falls onto the floor," an Image drawn from an application of Battle. By spending extra Victories, you can apply more complex and subtle effects!
Note that new Images can be added to preexisting Passions (more often than not, the Passions that drive a Confrontation), or they can be the seeds of new Passions. However, take care! A new Passion must be opposed by one that already exists, or one that is revealed through other effects of the same Confrontation.
- Machinations of the Poet's Mind
- You apply your abilities in abstracter manners.
- Harvest of 10,000 Stars
- You increase the number of victims afflicted by your action.
- Happenstance of Heavenly Conjunction
- You set forces into motion, which will culminate in the chosen effect once certain conditions are met.
- Return to Original Operations Fist
- You create a temporary Image, which is removed at the end of the Confrontation unless someone acts to make it permanent. This is a special operation that can only be accomplished with temporary goals (created with the Shift Focus action). It costs 5 Victories per Significance level of the desired Image to achieve this goal. It can be modified as normal by the various effects above.