[AW - Custom Content] The Faustian

edited April 2011 in Out-Of-Game
I made a playbook! Sort of. Tell me what you think ... I'm pretty sure it's not yet fully-baked:

The Faustian

The Faustian is not actually its own playbook. Instead, it's a set of moves that can be picked up by any character, either during or after character creation. Whenever you can choose a move, either a move from your playbook or a move from another playbook, you can take a faustian move instead. There's a bit of boilerplate for that:
Creating a Faustian:

To create your faustian, choose name, look, stats, gear, and Hx as normal for your playbook. When choosing moves, take familiar as one of the moves you choose. Faustian moves can be taken as playbook moves or as moves from another playbook, either or both, even if you did not begin play as a faustian.
The intention of the faustian is that these moves can make you fairly powerful, but only at the cost of your free will. You give form to a portion of the psychic maelstrom, and you bargain with it for information, advice, and perhaps more interesting things besides. This physical incarnation of the maelstrom is your familiar (see below).

The moves work fine for any playbook. They're Weird in flavor, but they never require that you roll+anything. So, sure you can play a brainer or a savvyhead with a creepy pet. But you can also play a hardholder, dealing with ghosts in order to hold onto his power. Or a gunlugger who's pact lets him shrug off his own death. Anyone can be a faustian - you just have to give up control of a portion of your life.
Familiar: by offering up your own flesh and blood, you have given limited physical form to a fragment of the world’s psychic maelstrom (1-harm alive remote 0-armor). Name it, eg, Cricket, Woland, Candlewick, Roger, and detail it, eg, a small and misshapen animal, a mostly-insubstantial ghost or spirit, a tiny man made of flesh and clay.

When you go to your familiar seeking council, it will first ask you to promise something, large or small. If you agree, it will describe an effective course of action for you. If you pursue that course, take +1 to any rolls you make in the pursuit. If you pursue that course but don’t accomplish your ends, you mark experience.

When you go to your familiar seeking knowledge, it will first ask you to promise something, large or small. If you agree, it will tell you something new and interesting, just as if you had opened your brain to the psychic maelstrom and hit the roll with a 10+, no roll required.

When you break a promise made to your familiar, your bond with it brakes as well – both you and your familiar take 1-harm (ap).

Your familiar is destroyed if it takes any harm, but this usually only returns it to the maelstrom: a fresh gift of blood and flesh (yours) will draw it back into physical form. Spend some time and self-inflict 1-harm (ap).
I'm picturing anything from a witch's pet, to an alchemist's homoculus, to a classically Faustian infernal spirit, to a twisted version of Jiminy Cricket. And any faceless who asks to make his mask a familiar is a winner in my book.

The familiar has it's own personality and goals, and the MC should write it up as a threat, just like anything else. The faustian has no particular control over it, except as detailed here, but it can always be dealt with like any other NPC (to have it act as a spy, for instance).

Every faustian has this move, and some faustians might have only this move.

So here, you can go to your familiar for advice or information, but first you must promise it something. If you don't fulfill the promise, the only mechanical consequence is its destruction, which basically works out to: you take 1-harm now and another 1-harm later. Your familiar will always deal, even if you've never keep up your end of the bargain ... as long as you keep summoning it up, it'll keep working with you.

On the other hand, if it's not happy with you, it doesn't have to play ball. It has to tell you 'an effective course of action', not a palatable one. And it has to tell you 'something new and interesting', not what you wanted to know. And you have to make your promises before it gives you anything, so you're really buying sight unseen.

The MC needs to put bloody fingerprints on things and respond with fuckery for this to work. If the familiar just rolls over and cooperates with the faustian, this is probably too powerful a move.

Still, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, so the familiar should recognize that the occasional easy demand or surprisingly good piece of information can keep the faustian interested and coming back for more. And of course it can manipulate its faustian by picking and choosing what information it offers.

Of course, if a faustian can be lured into take more faustian moves, the familiar can start being more aggressive. The other moves all begin "when you fulfill a promise you’ve made to your familiar ...", so now the faustian has more temptation to go along with the familiar's demands, even if they are a little more extreme than they were in the past.

Note that I totally stole a mechanical concept from Christopher. Each of these moves lets you gain 1-favor whenever you fulfill a promise, which can then be spent to activate the moves. If you have multiple moves, you can spend that 1-favor on any appropriate faustian move. I'd been messing with The Devil You Know, hit on the idea of trading fulfilled promises for other people's hold, and I realized that I could rewrite the other moves to generalize that idea across the playbook.

Signed and sealed: when you fulfill a promise you’ve made to your familiar, either mark xp or gain 1-favor.
This basically just makes it like the familiar's hitting 7-9 on a manipulate check every time it makes you promise something. Now you mark xp when you fulfill a promise! If you plan on doing whatever your familiar asks of you, that's pretty sweet.

I'm thinking about changing it to just: "when you fulfill a promise you’ve made to your familiar, mark xp." That way, you can have your cake and eat it too ... I don't think that would be overpowered, since it really just means that the familiar can step up its demands even further.

Then we have these two:
The devil you know: when you fulfill a promise made to your familiar, gain 1-favor. You can spend favor, 1 for 1, to cancel hold held over you by another character.

Just like an angel: when you are unconscious or dead, you can talk to your familiar freely, no matter where it is. Additionally, when you fulfill a promise made to your familiar, gain 1-favor. You can spend favor, 1 for 1, to:
• Regain consciousness.
• When past 9:00 on your harm clock, heal 1-harm.
Straightforward enough. I'm not sure that The Devil You Know is really worth taking, in most games. I mean, if the brainer's gunning for you, sure. Or if your MC likes to use custom moves that give NPCs hold over people. But otherwise, it might not see enough use.

I'm wondering about combining The Devil You Know and Just Like an Angel into a single move (adding "If someone has hold over you, reduce that hold by 1" to the Angel list).

Last move:
Make a wish: when you fulfill a promise made to your familiar, gain 1-favor. You can spend favor, 1 for 1, to demand (through your familiar) that the maelstrom deliver to you any one person or thing that strikes your fancy. Whatever you name, it comes to you, but it comes with strings very much attached.
The strings might be freaky maelstrom strings, or they might just be a previous owner. Or maybe that person comes, but not alone, and not unarmed. Or he's less than fully-intact when he arrives. So yeah, this is basically just another take on Lost and Fingers in Every Pie.

And a nonexistent move:

I'd thought about adding an augury move, where your familiar gives you an 'in' with the world's psychic maelstrom, resulting in access to augury. Or possibly your familiar does augury-like things on your behalf. It makes sense, but I didn't think of any particular interesting way to execute that.

Plus, I might have too many moves, as is. For this type of thing, I think I should probably only have something like four moves.

That's it, as far as mechanics go. Note, though, that any promise your familiar demands of you follows the above rules. If you use seduce/manipulate, for example, you and your familiar still take 1-harm if you break that promise. And if you fulfill the promise, you might get 1-favor if you have a move that says that.

Hm ... no other final notes that I can think of, so comments?


  • edited April 2011
    You only ever get one favor for fulfilling a promise? Even if you have more than one move that delivers favor?

    What's going on under the hood of the devil you know? I'm trying to figure out how to make it feel necessary. It feels like rolling signed and sealed in with the devil you know makes more sense than just like an angel.

    Do familiars take harm from normal sources?

    Do you take harm when they do? It seems like you've implied it in a comment but it doesn't actually say that (or I'm missing it).
  • edited May 2011
    Familiars are physical, real, and alive (1-harm alive remote 0-armor). All appropriate rules apply: they take harm. But you don't track their harm since, as it says, "your familiar is destroyed if it takes any harm".

    You can bring back a destroyed familiar by bleeding for it, self-inflicting 1-harm. So you don't take harm with your familiar, no matter how much it took, but you have to take 1-harm to bring it back.


    You only get 1-favor per promise fulfilled. I suppose I could move that note into the Familiar move, but it would require some awkward language ... I wouldn't want people to be gaining and tracking favor before they have a way to spend it. Suggestions on clearing up the language?


    The Devil You Know is the move I'm least happy with. I could drop it, but I like the idea ... the implementation, though, might not be working.

    The idea is that by cooperating with your familiar, you get some protection from outside influence - the maelstrom is your master, and it guards its property. I link it to Just Like an Angel because those are two side of the same coin, one physical and one mental/social. Ah, though Just Like an Angel used to have a more active element (letting you burn favor to block incoming harm), so the removal of that might be why you don't see the comparison.

    Regardless, I figured that hold over someone is usually how AW represents mental or social control/insight, so it made some sense to let the familiar take that away in exchange for services rendered. But yes, that's awkward enough that I too am trying to figure out how to make it feel necessary. I wouldn't be against a complete rewrite, if I saw another way of approaching the idea.

    I think that it could be good on certain characters. Like, a con-artist operator whose familiar gobbles up hold from Read a Person, if the reader still succeeds after being hit with Opportunist. Or in a game with a manipulative skinner and/or brainer, anyone could use it (though maybe you could just shoot the skinner/brainer, instead). But it's still very niche.
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