Unexpected Implications

Unexpected Implications
Weird SOTI Thing I Ran Into

I’m really scouring the Sagas of the Icelanders rulebook in a way I hadn’t before, looking to fill in where I didn’t really pay much attention to long-term play stuff. And I ran into the passage I’ve clipped to this post.

Now…Mikael Andersson did a great job of clueing me in on how to use the Norns’ bonds they can hold with the characters: get the players to answer honest questions via Look Into Their Heart and then act on it. Neat, I dig it. Kind of wish there were other RAW moves that allowed for Bond use (beyond help/hinder) and I’m contemplating custom bond-using moves, mostly to give the Norns more ways to spend them.

But what I hadn’t noticed is that NPCs can also have bonds on the PCs. Interesting! Very interesting. I mean it’s still the GM spending those bonds, but when Fura the Seiðkona, an NPC, looks into a PC’s heart with her bond, I assume the effect is basically the same, yeah? An honest answer from the player? That seems like it radically loosens up the bond economy for the GM. I assume also that whatever actions are taken on that information are taken by that NPC, so it’s a bit more constrained than, you know, reality itself conforming to your answers.

I assume, then, that NPCs can also give meaningful gifts and generate more bonds?

Which brings me to the possibility of the Norns themselves providing gifts to PCs? And gaining bonds with them? Kind of blows my mind but it seems neither RAW-illegal nor off-tone. So I think maybe Imma make that happen.

On the broader topic: I confess I get kind of a thrill when I discover mechanical implications like this. It’s almost “emergent” but it kind of isn’t either. It’s just a legal play that’s cool and doesn’t break the game. I feel like these sorts of discoveries are only available to me when I’m wearing my rules-evaluation hat. I know many players don’t actually own that hat.

I know some of that thrill comes from the bad old days of tearing apart games to “beat” them. You know, piece together some set of powers in Exalted to achieve infinite attacks or something. So I’m constantly checking myself, too, for tonal okay-ness when I start thinking through rules implications. There’s always a kind of dark cloud hanging over the thrill. I guess that’s what they call a guilty pleasure.

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0 thoughts on “Unexpected Implications”

  1. What does a Norn giving a PC a gift even look like? Mystical like a golden thread? Or practical, like an elk dying in front of them when they’re hungry?

  2. Jason Morningstar can you unpack that a little? I’m thinking about those playbooks but I’m not sure how to apply them.

    I was disappointed to see that the bonds the Seiðkona gets through “magic” can only be used to help/hinder at a distance. :-/

  3. This right here? Also how I’ve handled gods before. They get bonds (when PCs offer them a gift) and spend it to learn about them and act when appropriate. It’s not overt stuff so much as it’s presenting challenges.

  4. Mikael Andersson man…now see I don’t really love that kind of unexpected implication.

    I’ve allowed Seiðkona bonds to Look Into Their Heart and it works fine, because I hadn’t actually read the move that closely. But I get it, “can” isn’t a limitation the way “spend a bond to lower the price” is. That’s some extremely close reading.

  5. Stras Acimovic wait wait: when the PC offers the gods a gift, the PC would get a bond with the gods right? I do remember that in the Goði moves.

    But if like…just anyone can do that, doesn’t that undercut the specialness of the Goði’s move?

    (I’m gonna wear out my alt-0240 doing all these ðs 😀 .)

  6. That is in the Goði moves – but a few things.

    1) I’ve never actually run a SotI game with a Goði in it. It’s somehow not a popular book in my groups. I’m not sure why ^_^

    2) The Goði’s moves are at-will. Often bonds in my games happen either through play (I’ll demo below) or during specific festivals and occurrences where if you end up with a suitable gift by the end, I will allow it. So if there will be a festival, and the man promised a suitable sacrifice, but the season didn’t leave him with spares – we play to find out what happens. Usually in such situations there’s a Goði present to make a sacrifice on the character’s behalf.

    So here’s an example of how I’ve done things. Two of my players have to go fetch the Seiðkona because it’s winter and their goats are very sick. On the way some strangers come out of the forest, and they realize they’re bandits and will kill them. They strike first, and without honor, but swear a blood oath to Thor that they will never reveal what happened. Of course, at the next Allthing they’re called out for this by the daughter of the bandit leader, and they have to spill. They break a blood oath sworn to a god. Thor obviously notices and claims a bond. This is clearly a custom move – but everyone at the table thought it was obvious and intuitive. Apply bond as described above.

    I don’t make this super frequent, but it’s enough in the game to bring in certain themes from the linked threat charts, and make the players feel like the fates/gods are meddling.

    It’s a little shorthand on my GM side because I can sit down at the start of a session, check bonds with things like fates and gods and use that to weave a session.

  7. This is all good stuff, but unpacking my comment – I follow the lead of the players whose characters are in touch with the mystical and divine in establishing both the color and the efficacy of magic and religious stuff (beyond what in-play playbooks demand). If they are out talking to the Landvættir and fucking around with the Gods like they are real people, that’s how the world works. If it’s all bad luck and horse-heads, same.

  8. Paul Beakley, I hear you on my lawyering of the spellweaver move – my justification in taking the move that literally is that, in my humble opinion, the spellweaver move as “supernatural buff” is faaaaar less interesting than the spellweaver move as “I’m placing my life in the hands of a weird witch woman and by Odin I hope I don’t live to regret it”. I interpret the bonds as a sort of placebo power the petitioner grants the Seiðkona, and if they trust her (and they were right to do so) things will go well for them, and if they have misgivings (or their trust was unfounded), then things will go badly. So if a seiðkona at my table wanted to thoroughly abuse the power granted them, I’d personally allow it, as I feel it falls in line with how I interpret the move.

  9. Mikael Andersson oh totally agreed. It’s intuitively correct and practically much more interesting. Hell, I’m half-tempted to extend the “at a distance” element to Look Into Their Heart.

  10. Lex Larson I don’t think so! I don’t know anyone who doesn’t, at least in some form, in SotI. I wrote a whole big thing about r-maps the other day.

    That wasn’t the weird part I was highlighting here. It was the (mechanical) bonds from NPCs to PCs.

  11. Paul – if I had to guess, and I do have to only guess – my players tend to like families and family problems. Sometimes they’ll have a crazy witch sister that lives in the swamp – but the Goði is a community member with their own life, physical location and agenda. They won’t be wintering and sharing the pain of the family. It’s not a “this playbook sucks” reaction I think folks just want to play other stuff. A good metric is: we’ve almost always had a Matriarch in play.

  12. 90% of my games have been about the Goði’s family. His son is a Huscarl, his wife is a Seiðkona, his daughter is a Skjaldmey or whatever. Goði + Matriarch is an unstoppable combo when they get along (which is never).

  13. In our current game, the Goði is the older brother of The Man. I hear you about the community leadership role stuff, Stras Acimovic! This was the first time we also dug into the inevitable family entanglements of the chief having a family with obligations and expectations. It’s been really good and fraught: he’s already been caught red-handed trying to favor his little brother in acquiring land. I think at this point I’d have to say I’ve been selling my Goðar short by kind of over-emphasizing their obligations and not their family entanglements.

  14. Lex Larson we’re talking about the actual economic unit, yeah? Bonds you have to spend for some moves? Lucky! It just totally flew under my radar.

  15. I can also tell you why if you or anyone else cares: It’s because this is the only PbtA I’ve ever run into where the GM uses (some of) the common moves. Unique, as far as I know, until Undying came out.

    NPCs don’t have Hx with the PCs in Apocalypse World, for example. But they do hold debts in Urban Shadows and I believe the rules are samesies for PCs and NPCs in that case, but also explicitly called out.

    Eh, I’m a pretty close reader but sometimes I trip over things. It happens.

  16. Paul Beakley Yeah, in the Monsterhearts game I’m in, there’s a complex web of relationships between NPCs and PCs, some of which are narrative, some of which manifest as bond-moves. We started out developing them collectively as colorful backstory, but then it just made sense for there to be enough history between the PCs and most of the NPCS to articulate it in the same way.

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