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Mortalcoil

A Game of Magic and Passion Revised

Brennan Taylor
writing, layout

Jennifer Rodgers
illustrations

Jonathan Walton
revised layout

Copyright 2006, 2008 Brennan Taylor/Galileo Games.


All rights reserved.
Cover illustration 2006 Jennifer Rodgers.
Interior illustrations 2006, 2008 Jennifer Rodgers.
Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro, Greyhound, and VirileSolid fonts.
Printed in the United States of America.
Book design by Brennan Taylor and Jonathan Walton.
Indexed by Krista White.
ISBN 1-887920-03-X
http://www.galileogames.com/mortal-coil

Table of contents
foreword
The new edition
notes and Thanks

Chapter One: Introduction


The Book
The Players
The GM
The Threshold of credibility
Tokens
Using Tokens
Committing Tokens
Spending Tokens
Sacrificing Tokens
chapter one Summary

Chapter Two: Theme


the theme document
Tone
Setting
The Supernatural
Setting Magic Level
Situation
Villains
chapter two Summary

Chapter Three: Character


character concept
Passions
Types of Passions
Starting Passions
Starting ability
faculties
Starting Faculties

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2
3
4
5
6
7
8
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10
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12
13
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15
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aptitudes
What Does an Aptitude Cover?
Why Shouldnt I Pick the Widest Aptitudes Possible?
Starting Aptitudes
Supernatural Aptitudes
Starting Pools
Starting Action Pool
Starting Passion Pool
Starting Power Pool
Starting Magic Pool
Supporting characters
How to Build Supporting Characters
chapter three Summary

Chapter Four: Magic


Magic Tokens
Magical Facts
Supernatural Aptitudes
Price
Backing Facts with Rules
Supernatural Items
Recovering Magic Tokens
Gaining New Magic Tokens
chapter four Summary

Chapter Five: Conflict


What Is a conflict?
Setting goals
Independent vs. Opposed Goals
Conflict Rounds
Multiple Sides in One Conflict
Basic actions
How Actions Relate to Goals
Choosing Actions
committing action Tokens
Extra Effort
Helping
The Reveal

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Matching Actions
Actions Outside Conflict
calling on Passions
Opposing a Passion
Passions in Play
Changing Passions Through Conflict
Recovering Spent Passion Tokens
Item Effects
action resolution
Desperate Reactions
Harm
Harm Effects
fatigue
chapter five Summary

Chapter Six: Power


Power Tokens
Replacing Action Tokens
Replacing Magic Tokens
Changing a Character
Gaining New Magic Tokens
Adding Nonmagical Facts
Bringing Characters into Scenes
Setting Scenes
The GMs Power Pool
Power Token Awards
chapter six Summary

Chapter Seven: Play


Players Building Story
Getting What You Want as a Player
Sharing the Spotlight
Your Characters Passions
Conflicting Passions
Creating Facts
Using Your Power Tokens
Techniques in conflicts
Side Bets

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102
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Changing Passions as a Goal


How to Use Faculties in Conflicts
Bringing a Gun to a Knife Fight
chapter seven Summary

Chapter Eight: The GM


The gMs role
Building Story from characters
Using the Theme Document
Scene framing
Keeping Things Exciting
adjudicating conflict
Setting Goals for Supporting Characters
Determining Opposing Actions
Shaking Things Up
Players in a Rut
Using Magic Tokens
Using Power Tokens
chapter Eight Summary

Appendix I: Inspiration
Appendix II: Example Conflicts
Appendix III: Sample Characters
INDEX

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125
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166
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O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!


And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
William Shakespeare

foreword
Its appropriate that Mortal Coil is a game about magic, because there was
something magical going on the first time I played it.
I met Brennan Taylor for the first time at GenCon in 2006. Yes, wed met
online before, but this was our first meeting in person. Similarly, Id read
Mortal Coil, but Id never gotten the chance to try it out. When he suggested that we play a game of it, I jumped at the chance, but when I showed
up at the Embassy Suites to actually play, I got nervous. I was going to sit
down with five people I respected but Id never gamed with before, and
I was desperate to impress them. Would they think I was a good player?
Would I be able to figure out what they thought was fun? Would they ever
want to play with me? But as soon as Brennan pulled out a blank sheet of
paper and asked What sort of game do we want to play? all that stress
disappeared. And thats when the magic started.

In The Sorcerers Apprentice, Mickey Mouse floods his masters house


when his magic takes on a life of its own. A similar thing happened to us
that night. When Judd Karlman said, I just dont want a game where I
have to kill my mother, we had no idea that our brainstorming would
end up creating a game about a magical punk band in an alternate 1970s
(in New Amsterdam, no less). But it worked. Suddenly I was caught up
in the grungy exuberance of Flaming Taft, the greatest doomed band ever.
All my anxieties, all my worries, were washed away. For three hours we just
jammed, building off each other and creating something we all bought in
to. Its a game we still talk about years later.
When I look back it, I realize that what made it work so well was that the
tools in this book provided us the means to tap into that magic. Gaming
is mediated social interaction. The genius of Mortal Coil is that it lets
you figure out how its mediated. Starting with the creation of the theme
document and continuing through play as you spend magic tokens, this
game makes you figure out what you, as the players at the table, want to
do. Then, it gives you the power to do it. Thats collaboration of the highest
order, and when its firing on all cylinders, its magic.
So why not put a little magic in your gaming? The worst that can happen
is you ended up with a flooded living room.
Paul Tevis

The new edition


Welcome to the new edition of Mortal Coil. Since its original release,
Mortal Coil has been played by groups all over the world. Ive been getting
feedback from all these players over the last couple of years, and I noticed
some of the same questions kept coming up again and again. Although
many people read and played Mortal Coil with no input from me, many
others tried and got stalled out or had difficulties. I came to believe that
the rules needed some clarification, and began work on this new edition.
All of the extra material available in this edition can also be downloaded
for free on the Galileo Games web site (www.galileogames.com/mortal-coil).
If you purchased the original edition of Mortal Coil, you do not need
to spend any additional money to gain access to the extra information
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contained in this edition. If you are interested in having the additional text
all bound together in a pretty package, as well as seeing two new pieces of
art by the talented Jennifer Rodgers, then pick up this edition. Just know
it is not required to play the first edition of the game.
Brennan Taylor

notes and Thanks


This game would not have taken its current shape without the influence of the online community of game designers known as The Forge
(www.indie-rpgs.com). Special thanks go to master game designer Vincent
Baker for his insight on game design in general. Thanks also to Russell
Collins, Jared Sorensen, Nathan Paoletta, Mayuran Tiruchelvam, Keith
Senkowski, Alexander Newman, and especially Thor Olavsrud for his
bulls-eye suggestions.
Special thanks to Clyde Rhoer and Doyce Testerman for additional critique of the revised edition.
This game owes a great deal to other games, and I have shamelessly stolen
concepts that I enjoy from many of them. These inspirational games include Universalis, Dust Devils, Primetime Adventures, My Life with Master,
Burning Wheel, Sorcerer and its supplements, and Conspiracy of Shadows.
I want to thank my dedicated playtesters, Bill Segulin, Eric Hicks, Michelle
Malloy, Jason Ang, Jon Hastings, Jason Landrian, Radek Drozdalski,
Michael Miller, Kat Miller, Michele Mishko, Glenn Vandenberg, Charlie
Hogan, Mindi Hogan, A.J. Hernandez, David Stone, and Charlie Spicer
for all of their input and enthusiasm, as well as the online originals, Bryan
Himebaugh, Frank Schildiner, Jason Brethauer, Teresa Shannon, and
Krista White. Thank you all for showing me how good this actually was.

Chapter One: Introduction

CHAPTER ONE

Mortal Coil is a role-playing game of magic and passion. The goal of


Mortal Coil is the creation of a shared world of the supernatural, and a
strong style of narrative, novel-like play. A role-playing game is one in
which you create a story together with your friends, and the rules of Mortal
Coil are designed to help you do this. While playing Mortal Coil, most of
the players will take on the role of one character, while one of the players,
the Game Moderator or GM, will present challenges to these characters
and portray the supporting cast in the story. The larger group of players
will represent the protagonists of the story and will work with the GM to
create the conflict and action.

The Book
This book is designed to lead you through the process of creating and
playing a game of Mortal Coil, step by step.
This Introduction provides some basic information to help you use
this book.
The second chapter, Theme, instructs you on how to begin to build the
world of magic in which your story will take place.
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The third chapter, Character, shows you how to create the people who
will populate and explore your new world.
The fourth chapter, Magic, describes how you shape the magical events
that surround the characters in your game.
The fifth chapter, Conflict, helps you build the conflicts on which all
stories thrive.
The sixth chapter, Power, provides tools for you to influence the fictional events you imagine.
The seventh chapter, Play, tells you how to interact with Mortal Coil
as a player and gives you tips on how to get the most out of your game.
And the eighth and final chapter, The GM, instructs the Game
Moderator player on this special role in the game.

The Players
Mortal Coil is a game, and therefore has players. Everyone sitting around
the table during a game of Mortal Coil will be a player. Most of the players will have a single character they created, and their task is to portray
this character during the game. One player has a special role, the Game
Moderator or GM. His duties are described in a bit more detail below.
Just because a player has created her character and has the task of portraying
this character at the table does not mean that she has complete control of
the character. Other players are allowed to influence the character during
play, and may use conflicts to make another character feel or act a certain
way. Also, players wishing to add details to the game relating to their own
character will also have to gain the consent of the group (see Threshold of
Credibility, below).

The GM
The Game Moderator, referred to hereafter as the GM, is a player with
a special role. Since each of the other players portrays a single character,
there is a lot of open area that is not covered. The GM takes on the role of
the world at large, including any supporting characters not portrayed by
another player. The GM has a big task, but since the story told in a game
of Mortal Coil is about the players characters, it is not as overwhelming as
it might initially sound.
The GM plays an important part in the groups overall story or situation.
The GMs job is to make sure that the world presents challenges and difficulties for the players characters. Good story emerges from conflict, and
things that are easy are often boring. The GM will ensure that the players
characters struggle to win their achievements by providing adversity, in the
form of villains, rivals, and difficult situations.
The GM will also take the role of rules arbiter when a conflict arises in the
fictional world of the game and the rules are used to determine the outcome. The GM will often present challenges from supporting characters
in these situations, but must also be mindful of her role as a judge during
these scenes. GMs should be impartial and adjudicate the conflicts with an
eye not only toward logic, but also toward drama.
There is more information for the GM in Chapter 8, complete with instructions and advice for this special player.

Throughout the book you will find examples after almost every rule. For consistency, I will use the same two example gaming groups throughout. The two
groups should give you a feel for the different things you can do with the system.
The first group consists of three players: Jason, Krista, and Michelle. Michelle is
the GM for this group.
The second group has five players: Bill, Eric, Michael, Kat, and Russell. Bill is
the GM for this group.

The Threshold of credibility


A game of Mortal Coil is a group effort requiring a high level of collective
agreement among the players. No one player (including the GM) has the
authority to make a sweeping decision about any character (even his own)
or the game world at large without at least some input from the other
players.
Group consensus is required when someone does one of the following:
introduces a new fact into the theme,
changes a character by adding a new aptitude or passion,
attempts to use an aptitude in a conflict,
introduces a supporting character, or
sets a scene or adds details to an existing scene.
These things all have something in common. When you play Mortal Coil,
you are building a fictional world with your friends. When someone adds
something new to this world, any player at the table has the opportunity
to object.
Mortal Coil is not a competitive game; it is meant to be a collaborative
one. When a player raises an objection, discuss it among yourselves and
come to a solution. As you come to understand what your group is willing
to accept, it establishes a threshold of credibility for new information to be
added to your story.
Please note: A veto is a strong power for any player to invoke. Make sure
that you use it appropriately. No one likes to play with someone who
blocks everything that comes along. The purpose of the threshold of credibility is to ensure that no player is left unsatisfied by the story told by the
game. Objections should be about what is fundamentally appropriate for
your groups game. You should not object to something just because its
going to hurt your own character in some way. The purpose of this rule is
not to protect individual characters, but rather to protect the story. Any
objections you raise need to be based in the agreed framework your group
develops for your game, as discussed in the next chapter, Theme.

Here are three examples of players invoking this rule:


Jason is playing a supernatural investigator character. He wants to introduce the
fact that magic leaves telltale traces that can be detected by a trained investigator, who can then follow them back to their source like a bloodhound. The GM,
Michelle, objects and invokes the threshold of credibility: This is going to make
it too easy for you. We wanted magic to be mysterious, and it takes a lot of the
mystique out of it if you can just trail magicians right back to their hideout
every time. The rest of the group agrees with Michelle, and Jason needs to
approach the situation in a different way. He makes a counter-proposal: Magic
leaves telltale traces, but an experienced magician can create a false trail or
cover his tracks. Only inexperienced, careless, or desperate magicians will leave a
clear trail that can be easily followed. Michelle agrees that this is a good change
that resolves her objection, and the new fact is accepted.
Bill, the GM, has set a scene in a darkened warehouse. At the back of the warehouse, the players encounter a tentacled horror from Beyond. Russell objects,
invoking the threshold of credibility: I thought we agreed to avoid Lovecraftian
details and stick to actual historical mythology. This needs to be some other
kind of creature, based on real folklore. Bill edits the scene, transforming the
horror into a monstrous three-headed doga change that serves his purposes
just as well.
Jasons character runs into trouble as he investigates the office of a suspicious
police detective. The detective has concealed evidence under a password on his
computer. Jason decides to add computer hacker to his character in order to
get past the obstacle. Krista, another player, invokes the threshold of credibility:
You said that your character was an old-school guy, used to using shoe leather
rather than technology. I dont think he would have spent enough time around
computers to be a hacker. Jason nods, and tries to think of another way to get
at the info he needs.

Tokens
All action in the Mortal Coil system involves tokens. Tokens can be poker
chips, go stones, beads, cardboard chits, or any other type of easily visible
object that players can move around on the table during play. You will need
four distinct colors of tokensabout ten of each color for every player in
the game.
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The four types of tokens are as follows:

Action Tokens: Use these tokens when your character wishes to perform a task.

Passion Tokens: These tokens represent the powerful passions that


drive each characters actions. Use them when you call upon these passions.

Power Tokens: These tokens are wild cards. Use them in place of other
tokens or add them to other types of tokens. They also help permanently improve your character.

Magic Tokens: These tokens activate all magical effects in the game
and can even create new magical facts about the game world.

Using Tokens
There are three different ways to use your characters tokens.

Committing Tokens: A token is committed when you assign it to a


particular action. Committed tokens are still in play, and are regained
after the completion of the action to which they were committed.

Spending Tokens: Tokens are spent if they are temporarily taken out
of play. Tokens are typically spent to represent fatigue, injury, or to
mark off resources that are refreshed or replenished in between sessions
of play. Spent tokens can be regained when specific conditions are met.
These conditions vary depending on the type of token.

Sacrificing Tokens: A token can be sacrificed, in which case the token


is permanently removed from the game. Only certain types of tokens
are sacrificed, usually to add new facts to the world constructed in
the game. Power tokens are always sacrificed, as these are a short-term
resource available to you as a player.

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chapter one Summary


The Players
Most players take the role of a single character and guide that character
through the fictional world of the game.
The GM portrays supporting characters and presents challenges to the
other players through the game world.
The GM also acts as an arbiter between the rules and the other players, and
adjudicates conflicts within the game.

The Threshold of Credibility


Any player, including the GM, may veto a change that affects the fictional
world of the game by invoking the threshold of credibility.
The threshold of credibility is set by the player with the most demanding
or rigorous standards.

Tokens
There are four types of tokens used in Mortal Coil: action, passion, power,
and magic.
There are three uses for tokens: committing, spending, and sacrificing.
Committing a token is used to declare actions.
Spending a token temporarily removes it from play.
Sacrificing a token permanently removes it from play.

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Chapter Two: Theme

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CHAPTER TWO

The theme is probably the most important part of creating your own game
of Mortal Coil. It sets a baseline of expectations for the game by describing the setting, the nature of the supernatural, and the feel of magic in
your game. All of the players, including the GM, should discuss what they
want and dont want in their game. If one player is thinking disturbing
supernatural horror and another is thinking of lovelorn teenage wizards in
a magical academy, it is likely at least one of the two will be upset when
play begins and one of these visions is not respected.

the theme document


The theme document is where you will record all the ideas and guidelines
that you and the other players come up with (both at the start of the game
and during the course of play). It is the backbone of any game of Mortal
Coil. As you are playing, any of the players can refer to the theme document to back up their statements, whether they are adding something to
the world or arguing against the addition of a new fact or event.
One player should take responsibility for recording the groups thematic
decisions in the theme document, as it is the foundation upon which your
game will be built. Since all players will have a nearly equal influence when
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play begins, it is important for everyone to be on the same page. The


initial brainstorming and decision-making forms the constitution of the
game; any subsequent decisions must take place within its framework.
Any player can veto something added to the theme by another player by
pointing out how it clashes with or violates something already set down in
the document, both at this step and later in the game.

Tone
One of the most important things you can establish with your theme is
the tone of the game you are about to play. Tone is the general feel of your
game world, whether it is bleak, gritty, hopeful, transcendent, or surreal. As
you discuss the basic tone, feel free to bring up books and movies that are
similar in feel, and try to list words that evoke the feel you are after. Your
group should settle on a general tone that can be described in large part
with four or five words.

The first group begins to discuss their games theme. Michelle says, Id like
something a bit spooky, a sort of X-Files vibe.
Jason: I like that, but I want to make sure that we can do something about the
scary stuff, so creepy but not depressing.
Krista agrees, adding, Id like to see a realistic tone to balance out the
supernatural.
Michelle writes Creepy but not depressing, realistic, X-Files on the theme
document as the games tone.

The second groups discussion begins with Russell saying, I want a sort of lowdown tone, maybe a bit bleak.
Eric says, I dont want the game to get too bleak, or I might have some trouble
playing. Im just not into depressing.

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Bill suggests, Lets make the game very supernatural, maybe a fantasy setting.
Russell: Im not so sure about that...
Kat says, Lets keep it grounded in the real world but have some really strong
supernatural elements.
After a bit more discussion, they settle on low-down but magically powerful
for a tone.

Setting
The next step when building the theme document is to decide where the
game will take place, and the time period in which it will be set. It could be
anywhere and anywhen. A Mortal Coil game could be set in Sumeria five
thousand years ago, or in your own hometown this year.
Fantasy or science fiction settings would work as well, but be sure to carefully define the world if using an imaginary one. Determine the basic
premise of the game. Is it historical? A fantasy?
What is the general idea of the game? Like a studio pitch, can you sum up
the concept in a nice, punchy sentence?

The first group turns to setting. Krista: Lets go with the X-Files idea and make
supernatural investigators working for a government agency.
Jason and Michelle both like that idea and decide to set the game in the modern
day with supernatural elements. They decide there is an official agency that
secretly deals with supernatural incidents. Michelle writes government agents
deal with the supernatural on the theme document.

The second group continues their discussion. Bill suggests, How about you all
portray powerful sorcerers or magical practitioners of some sort.
Russell: I dont think I really like that.

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Michael: How about we are all ancient gods, just living like normal people in
the real world, something like American Gods by Neil Gaiman.
The other players like the idea, but it still isnt fitting with Russells idea for the
game. Rather than have a game that Russell doesnt want to play, the group
negotiates. Russell comes around at the suggestion that the main setting be a
seedy bar, and that despite their vast powers, the gods mostly just hang out,
drink, bicker with each other, and all around act like normal people. They
have lost their followers and therefore lost their purpose. This doesnt seem too
depressing to Eric, and he agrees. Russell likes the gritty tone, and that makes
him happy as well. Bill writes old gods slowly going to seed in a dive bar on
the theme document.

The Supernatural
After the overall concept is settled, define some basic parameters regarding
the supernatural. Answer the following questions:
How common is magic?
What general feel should magic have: horrifying, weird and powerful,
commonplace?
What sorts of creatures do or dont exist in this world?
Can players create magical beings of their own design, or should they
stick with those from folklore?
Who knows about magic: a select few, the general population, only
folks with traditions that relate to it?
How is magic learned and taught?
Are some people innately magical, or can anyone access it?
Are there places of magical power?
This is where players can express their own individual desires about how
the game should work, like no vampires, or stay away from Lovecraft.
Mortal Coil can create a great mood when the players are in agreement on
the basic framework. Apart from strong desires, however, avoid describing
specific beings or powers during the theme document discussion. It is good
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to generate a general feel of magic at this time, such as mental powers, or


sorcerers earning magic from demonic bargains, but the specific strengths
and drawbacks of these powers will be settled later as the game is played,
through the use of magic tokens.
As a general rule, do not note down anything that would require the expenditure of a magic token during the theme document discussions (for
details on magic tokens, refer to the Magic chapter, page 47). If someone
comes up with something at this stage that seems like it would require an
expenditure of magic tokens, put that off until character creation, or even
until formal play begins.

The first group discussed the supernatural. Krista: Going back to the X-Files
idea, why not have magic thats out there but most people dont know about it.
Michelle elaborates, Yeah, magic should be powerful but subtle. The supernatural rarely leaves a trace when its gone.
Krista adds, A few people can learn how to use it, but its rare.
Jason agrees with the direction, but adds, I dont want to see any Lovecraftian
monsters or concepts. I just played Call of Cthulhu and would like to get away
from that.
Michelle notes everything down on the theme document under the heading
supernatural.

Having agreed on a theme of old gods, the second group discusses the supernatural. Russell again pushes for a grittier level of magic, but Michael says, I liked
the idea of vast godly power.
Bill agrees, Yeah, the gods should have powers that seem godlike. Their rage
should be awesome to behold.
Michael says, Because they are here, wasting away in a seedy bar, I think their
powers are diminished or dont always work.

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Eric says, Sure, an earthquake that used to shake a city will now only shake a
city block.
Bill: That sounds good. They retain their godly powers, but they are local in
scale.
Russell says, I can live with that.
Bill: Are we sticking with just gods, or do other supernatural beings exist?
Kat: I think other beings exist, like nymphs and satyrs. Those are a big deal
in Greek mythology and the gods are always chasing after them. They should
be around.
Michael says, The gods should be able to transform themselves, like into animals or elements, as well.
Bill: Hold on to that thought, Michael. Thats a fact about magic that should
be established during play. We want to stay away from specific powers at this
point.
Everyone agrees on that, and Bill determines the group is done with this phase.
He notes down the parameters of the supernatural in the theme document.

Setting Magic Level


You have the ability to determine how much or how little magic will impact your game. When setting up a new game of Mortal Coil, the players
should discuss the basic level of the supernatural they desire in their game.
Since magic tokens are used to introduce and define magic, the number of
tokens available to each player will have a powerful effect on the tone of
the game.

Low Magic: Each player starts with 5 magic tokens. The GM gets 5
tokens, plus 1 token for each player. This will create a game where
magic is rare and valuable.

Moderate Magic: Each player begins with 10 to 15 magic tokens. The


GM gets the same number of tokens, plus 2 tokens for each player. A
game at this level will have more common magical events.

High Magic: Each player begins with 20 magic tokens. The GM gets
20 tokens, plus 4 tokens for each player. Magic will be quite common
in this game, and most play will revolve around powerful magic.
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You may also set the magic level somewhere in between these levels if finetuning the level suits your world and theme better.
These levels are also set for a multisession game. If you are playing in a
single-session game, use the following guidelines instead:

Low Magic: Each player starts with 2 magic tokens. The GM gets 2
tokens, plus 1 token for every 2 players.

Moderate Magic: Each player starts with 4 magic tokens. The GM


gets 4 tokens, plus 1 token for every 2 players.

High Magic: Each player starts with 6 magic tokens. The GM gets 6
tokens, plus 1 token for every 2 players.

The first groups setting is a world with hidden supernatural events investigated
by government agents. They decide it isnt exactly low magic, because they want
a fairly regular diet of the supernatural, but its not high magic either. They
agree on moderate, and since this is a one-shot session, thats all they need to
decide.

The second group is playing a longer game. This is a world of old gods, so the
group decides that theyd like to see magic pretty regularly. Russell still doesnt
want a really high magic game, so they decide on a moderate magic setting. In
a long term game, the group needs to decide where in the moderate range they
fall. Russell pushes for a lower value, and the group decides on 12 magic tokens
for each player. The group agrees this should be enough to do some fun magical
things without tipping the game too far away from what Russell wants.

Situation
You have created a theme and setting at this point, and defined the basics
of magic in your game world. Now, you need to discuss the significance of
these things. What is your games situation? What issues are the characters
going to address through their actions? What questions will they answer
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with their choices? This is what you would discuss if you talked about
theme in a literary context, and since Mortal Coil is about creating a story
with your friends, you should answer similar questions here.
Decide on a central conflict in the game. What is the big question the setting asks? It could be as simple as destruction against survival, but there are
usually deeper levels of meaning to conflicts that exist in a story. Freedom
versus stability, youth versus tradition, nature versus civilization. or even
good versus evil are examples of the type of big conflict the group should
be thinking about at this step.
A good start is to set up some sides to the central conflicts in your game.
It is all right (and, in fact, desirable) to have more than one. These conflicts create inherent tensions within the world that will provide excellent
impetus to your stories. Players may choose a specific side, or may find
themselves torn between multiple sides of a particular conflict, creating
drama as they are forced to choose and compromise, or are driven to evermore extreme acts in service of their principles.
Once you have settled on the situation with your group, go back to the
theme document. Add details or change the ones you have written to reflect the situation your group is interested in.

The first group discusses the situation for their game. One of the situations they
discuss is obvious: human agents versus the supernatural. Thats built into their
premise. Then they talk about other possible tensions, such as secrets versus the
truth, and perhaps higher ups in the government wishing to use the supernatural for their own nefarious purposes. These all sound like good meaty conflicts,
and are written on the theme document.

The second group has to discuss this step a bit longer. Their basic premise of old
gods going to seed seems to lack a bit of conflict. If the group is not careful, they
will end up with a very static situation and the players will be at a loss for what
to do. Realizing this, Bill pushes them to come up with some tension. Some ideas
get thrown around: abandoning godhood versus clinging to your old powers,

20

sticking with the traditional ancient rivalries between gods versus evolving new
relationships, and conflicts between different religious traditions. These are all
good and can create some excellent situations in the game, so Bill writes them
down on the theme document.

Villains
Now that you have established the basic facts of your world, and set up
a situation in which your characters will find conflict, you should determine what the opposition is. Who are the characters that will oppose the
players characters? What adversity will they face when you start playing?
Each of the different conflicts should have a face on each side, whether an
individual or an organization. At this stage, a simple list of villains will help
players craft their characters in a way that is tied in to situation.

To start, the first group creates a couple of supernatural threats. An ancient


magician trying to destroy the agency by controlling other supernatural beings
and a vampire from the old west, only recently reawakened from the desert. For
secrets versus the truth, the opposition is the agencys policy not to reveal their
true work to anyone, even other government groups. This isnt really a character,
but its an important detail. Another villain is created, a higher ranking official
in the agency, who wishes to gather magical artifacts and take secret control of
the agency and perhaps the government itself. These all seem pretty good, and
are noted on the theme document.

The second group discusses possible villains. Other ancient gods are the obvious
choices, and various names are batted around: Jupiter, Odin, or Set. The group
decides that they will settle on particular gods as villains once everyone has
created a character and they all know what other gods would be appropriate.
Someone else then suggests that they have some villains that are other types of
creature, like Scandinavian dwarfs. This works for everyone, and they come up
with a svartalf villain named Norin. Lastly, they decide there is a modern priest
of some ancient religion who is trying to get his gods to exert their power and
take over again. These all get written down on the theme document.

21

chapter two Summary


The Theme Document
Records all ideas and guidelines that the players come up with.
Any player can veto something added to the theme by showing how it
contradicts the tone or some other fact already recorded in the theme.

Tone
The general feel of the game world.

Setting
A one-sentence movie studio pitch that describes the game world.

The Supernatural
Basic parameters and restrictions on magic, in keeping with tone
and setting.
Magic tokens are not spent at this phase of the game, so no details
requiring magic token use should be specified yet.

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theme
Setting Magic Level
Choose from three levels of magic: low, moderate, or high.
Low Magic: 5 magic tokens/player, +1/player for the GM.
Moderate Magic: 10-15 magic tokens/player, +2/player for the GM.
High Magic: 20 magic tokens/player, +4/player for the GM.
For a single-session game, use different guidelines for magic level.
Low Magic: 2 magic tokens/player, +1/two players for the GM.
Moderate Magic: 4 magic tokens/player, +1/ two players for the GM.
High Magic: 6 magic tokens/player, +1/ two players for the GM.

Situations
Determine what issues the characters will address through their actions,
and what conflict(s) will be present in the game world at the start of play.

Villains
A basic list of villains to get players started when crafting their characters.
Each of the principles discussed in situation should have a representative,
either a person or an organization.

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Chapter Three: Character

24

CHAPTER THREE

Now it is time to move on to the next question. You have created the
theme; your game world is ready for the protagonists to inhabit it. Who are
these characters? What do they do in this world? Of these characters, who
are you, and how do you fit in?
Each of the players aside from the GM will create a character of their own
and will take on this role in the game. There are several steps you need to
take to build this character. Use the character sheet at the end of this book,
or download one at the web site (www.galileogames.com/mortalcoil). This
sheet has spaces for all of the characteristics you will need to note down
about a character, and it also includes spaces for the tokens you will be
using in the game.

character concept
To start, come up with a quick (preferably one-sentence) description of
who you are, like a frail old man who has been alive for centuries using
magic, the nave art student, or an ancient god of the underworld masquerading as an ineffective stockbroker. This is your character concept.
Note this down on your character sheet in the space provided. This gives
you the initial shape of the character and allows you to fill in the details as
you move through the process of creating a character.
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The two players from the first group come up with character concepts. Jason
creates Karl Eckhardt, a jaded veteran agent. Krista creates Lucy Torres, a green
but hotheaded agent.
In the second group, Eric decides to play Loki, a trickster god running out of
tricks. Michael decides to play Sedna, a goddess of the sea turned trucker. Kat
decides to play Pele, a volcano goddess bitter about the changes to the world.
Russell decides to play Pluto, a god of the underworld scraping by as a shabby
stockbroker.
Well look more closely at Jasons character, Eckhardt, and Kats character, Pele.

Passions
Characters in Mortal Coil are, first and foremost, defined by their passions.
Passions are the things that are most important to the character, that drive
her to act. These are used in play to bring drama to your portrayal of a
character, and they define her motivations and connections to other individuals. Your portrayal of the character in the game should be driven by
these passions, and the GM will also use them to present situations where
your characters desires and beliefs will be challenged.
It is especially important to make sure your characters passions relate both
to the passions of other characters (both those of other players and those
taken by the GM) and to the overall theme of the game. This is absolutely
essential to a good game of Mortal Coil. Passions are the most powerful
tool both you and the GM can use to emotionally tie your character into
the story. You should make sure that at least one of your characters passions (or better, two of them) relate to another player character or to the
main situation of the game (this last must be done with the groups help,
of course).
Passions should be written as a sentence. A passion Fear: Spiders or Love:
Nancy are very bland, very broad, and dont convey much information
to the GM or the other players. Try to make them more specific and more
personal. Instead of Fear: Spiders, make your passion Fear: Spiders hide
in dark places and are just waiting to bite me. Instead of Love: Nancy, try
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Love: Nancy is worth any sacrifice. Now the other players have a much
better idea of what is motivating the character, and the GM has some clues
on how to provide situations that will work with these passions. You can
bet a character with these passions will encounter some dark holes he needs
to stick his arm in, and that Nancy will need just a little blood, darling, and
hed do that for her, wouldnt he?

Types of Passions
There are four types of passions that describe the powerful emotions that
motivate your character. These include the following:

Duty: A duty is something that your character feels obligated to do,


for whatever reason, but does not truly enjoy. Duty is generally pursued out of some sense of higher responsibility, a feeling that some
things take priority over emotion. Duties could include things as diverse as family, the priesthood, service to another individual, loyalty to
ones organization, or an abstract principle (journalistic integrity, for
example), etc. Must is a great word to describe a duty passion.
Sample Duties: I must fulfill my priestly vows; I must take care of my
father until he dies; I must never let my brother down.

Fear: A fear is something that terrifies your character and motivates her
quite strongly out of aversion. Fear motivates the character to avoid
the object of the fear, or, if that is not possible, to cower or bargain in
attempt to avoid harm (real or perceived). Fears can include phobias,
other individuals, or more abstract things such as loneliness, abandonment, etc.
Sample Fears: I wont ever be alone again; I am terrified of enclosed
spaces; do whatever it takes to keep Mr. Sampson from getting angry.

Hate: A hate motivates your character through his loathing and longing to destroy something or someone. This passion is similar to fear,
but your character is motivated to attack instead of avoid. Your character will do what he can to harm, hinder, or otherwise damage the
object of his hate. This attack need not be overt. The character Iago in
Othello is an excellent example of a character who hates, causing his
enemys downfall by pretending to be a friend. Hate could be directed
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at an individual, the mob, drug dealers, ones self, certain nationalities


or skin colors, the police, an activity, etc.
Sample Hates: Vampires are abominations and cannot be tolerated;
get the cops before they get you; no one else cares about me, so why
should I?

Love: A love is someone or something that your character cares deeply


about. As with duty, your character is motivated to act selflessly toward
the object of her love. Your character will willingly make sacrifices on
behalf of her love, and will help and protect the object of her love.
Of course, just because you love something doesnt mean it loves you
back. Love can also inspire jealousy. Love can be directed at an individual, a group, an activity, some abstract concept (art, for example),
ones self, etc.
Sample Loves: Sarah is my reason for living; there is no higher calling
than music; Mother is the most amazing person alive.

When choosing passions for your character, you are not required to choose
one of each type. You can even choose two or more passions of the same
type if you desire. The four types are provided to guide and inspire you
when writing your characters passions, not to restrict you.

Starting Passions
All characters have five points to spend on their passions. These points
should be distributed among the things your character cares about. It is
rare and really rather unhealthy for an individual to have only one passion.
A characters passions, even if he has five 1-point passions, represent things
he cares about. Because they appear on his passion list, he feels strongly
about them in some way. That is why passion ratings begin at strong at
rank 1. Even a rank 1 passion is important to the character. The rankings
of the passions are listed below:

1: Strong. This passion is your characters calling. This passion motivates her on many levels, and she will go out of her way to make time
for this passion.

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2: Powerful. Your characters depth of feeling has increased for this


passion, and she makes sure some part of her life revolves around this
passion.

3: Profound. Your character devotes most of her time and energy to


the pursuit of this passion. This passion has become the main focus of
her life, but she still has room for other things.

4: Feverish. Your character is nearly consumed by this passion. It is


constantly in her thoughts, and she rarely takes any action not somehow motivated by this passion.

5: Obsessive. Your character is completely ruled by this passion. She


thinks of nothing else, and every action she takes is considered through
the prism of this passion. Passions of this level are extremely pathological and unhealthy.

Jason thinks a bit about the situation and Kristas character and takes the following passions:
Duty 1: I have to keep people safe from magical threats.
Fear 2: Lucy will get killed like my last partner.
Hate 2: Those damn bureaucrats always keep us from finishing the job.
As you can see, he has aimed one passion at another player character, and created another motivation, the hate, that will bring him in direct conflict with
the agency and eventually the villain within the agency that was created in the
theme document. His third passion motivates him to do his job. These are good
passions.
Kat creates some passions for Pele:
Love 1: I am secretly crushing on Pluto.
Fear 2: If I get too angry, Ill lose control and destroy everything.
Hate 2: Outsiders come in and ruin everything.
Kat takes a look at these and sees some potential problems. The first love passion

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points at another player character, so that one works. The fear is pretty vague,
and thinking about it, Kat realizes that it will probably push her toward taking
no action instead of taking positive action. That could kill some of her fun, so
she decides to change it. Thinking about the last one, she realizes its a bit vague
as well and will be hard to implement, so she decides to change it too. Her final
list looks like this:
Love 2: I am secretly crushing on Pluto.
Love 1: I like to lose control, the damage I cause is someone elses problem.
Hate 2: Norin always comes in and ruins everything.
She switched the value on the first and second passion because the crush on Pluto
now seems more interesting to her. The second passion is a love of destruction,
which will motivate her character to act and cause all sorts of problems. That
should be fun. And now the last passion points at a named supporting character,
which ties Pele into the situation.

Starting ability
Once passions have been defined, you should have a pretty good feel for
your character already. Next, round out your character by describing the
specific things he can do.
Characters can begin the game at any of four different skill and experience
levels. Most characters are assumed to begin at a relatively unskilled level.
The GM should look at each players character concept and decide whether
that character has experience and ability above the assumed baseline and
modify that characters starting level accordingly. This call is up to the GM,
with input from the players, of course.
The upper two levels of character skill are special, and they represent a
supernatural origin for the character. This makes them subject to the
threshold of credibility (page 8). The GM has the authority to decide at
what level a character starts play, but if another player objects to either
the ancient or ageless categories, they can use their veto at this point. Its
important that everyone be on board with the starting power levels. The
difference between a novice and a veteran is not as significant as the difference between these and the supernatural starting levels.

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The more powerful a character is at the beginning of the game, the more
restricted he will be during play. Lower level characters begin with an advantage in power tokens, and also have greater room for growth. Higher
level characters will end up basically static.
The following rankings determine starting ability:

Novice: The default starting level, for characters with average faculty
and aptitude. The vast majority of the people in the world fall into this
category, as they have not done anything extraordinary in their lives
to this point (anything requiring peak physical and mental abilities or
intensive, long-term training).
Novices begin with 5 points in passions, 10 points in faculties, 7 points
in aptitudes, and 5 power tokens.

Veteran: This indicates characters who have had intensive training and
who consistently have been in situations requiring peak physical and
mental ability; such people include athletes, soldiers, martial artists,
expert debaters, con artists, and the like.
Veterans begin with 5 points in passions, 11 points in faculties, 9
points in aptitudes, and 3 power tokens.

Ancient: These characters have lived longer than a normal human


lifetime, either through sorcery, because they are undead, or by some
other unnatural means. Ancient beings must be at least 100 years of
age, and must be sustained by some means to avoid the deterioration
of time.
Ancients begin with 5 points in passions, 13 points in faculties, 13
points in aptitudes, and 1 power token.

Ageless: This indicates the character is an immortal being who has


been around for thousands of years, such as an ancient god, an angel,
or an immortal fairy being. If you are playing an immortal being more
youthful than this, choose one of the three starting ability levels above,
as this level is reserved for only the very oldest of beings.
Ageless characters begin with 5 points in passions, 15 points in faculties, 15 points in aptitudes, and no power tokens.
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Jason looks at the list. Hes described his character as a veteran agent, and
Eckhardt is not a supernatural being, so he decides to make him a veteran
starting level. Even though he is older, he is in top form because of the many
supernatural threats he regularly faces. Michelle agrees.
Kat looks at the list as well. Pele is a goddess, so she chooses the ageless starting
level. All of the players characters in her game will be starting at this level.

faculties
Faculties describe four areas of ability that all characters possess. Faculties
are rated according to each characters individual ability. They all describe
some mental or physical characteristic of your character. These include the
following:

Force: This measures your characters size, strength, and physical power. Big characters, tough characters, or those who are merely strong
should have a good Force score.

Grace: This measures your characters poise, quickness, beauty, and


perception. Deft characters, agile characters, or those who are light on
their feet should have a good Grace score.

Will: This measures your characters force of will, mental fortitude,


and sheer cussedness. Determined characters, focused characters, and
those who simply refuse to give up should have a good Will score.

Wits: This measures your characters quickness of thought, cleverness,


and ability to make mental connections. Smart characters, quickthinking characters, or those who are able to come to swift conclusions
should have a good Wits score.

The number of points assigned to each of these faculties indicates your


characters relative strength in that area. Your character can have no
more than 5 points in any particular faculty. Faculty levels are described
as follows:
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0: Lacking. Your character completely lacks any capacity whatsoever


in this area.

1: Disadvantaged. Your character is subpar in some way.

2: Average. Your character has a normal level of ability in this area.

3: Talented. Your character transcends average ability.

4: Exceptional. Your characters ability is well above average.

5: Peak. Your character is in top form, and has few, if any, rivals in
this area.

Starting Faculties
Novice characters have 10 points to distribute among their faculties. More
experienced characters have more points to distribute. Veteran characters gain an extra point to distribute among their faculties for a total of
11. Ancient characters start with 13 points, and ageless characters start
with 15.

Jasons character is a veteran. He takes his 11 points and distributes them as follows: Force 1, Grace 2, Will 4, Wits 4. Jason figures Eckhardt is a bit physically
feeble due to age, but his mental abilities are sharper than ever.
Kats character is ageless. She has 15 points to distribute, and she assigns them
to her faculties as follows: Force 5, Grace 3, Will 5, Wits 2. Kat figures that
Pele, as a goddess of volcanos and violence, will have strong physical ability and
powerful force of will. Her easy rage does make her vulnerable to trickery, so she
deemphasizes Wits.

aptitudes
Aptitudes describe your characters vocations and avocations. Aptitudes are
characteristics, skills, and habits that your character has picked up over the
course of her life through training and repetition, or just through natural
33

gifts. Your character is further defined through her aptitudes; choosing


them wisely will considerably flesh out your character. Aptitudes are relatively general, such as outdoorsman or physician. Characters may share
some aptitudes, but even aptitudes of the same name or similar names will
often be very different from character to character.
An aptitude is a noun that describes a profession or ability. Aptitudes are
not verbs. Marathon runner is an aptitude, running is not an aptitude.
Safecracker is an aptitude, lockpicking is not an aptitude. The sentence,
My character is a blank, should sound natural if you have chosen properly. There is no set list of aptitudes; you may use whatever makes sense for
your character.
Sample Aptitudes: Sharpshooter, occult scholar, cop, orator, burglar, football player, liar, knife thrower, barroom brawler, video game player, runner,
arm-wrestler, etc.
Feel free to include adjectives to modify the aptitude. An aptitude called
vicious killer is appropriate, for example.

Jason tries out his choices for Eckhardt. Eckhardt is a veteran supernatural
investigator and government agent. He chooses supernatural investigator and
government agent as two aptitudes, along with mentor and cynic. Jason
thinks all of these will work, as they are all nouns. He tries them out. Eckhardt
is a supernatural investigator. That works. The others fit as well.
Kat picks some aptitudes for Pele. She decides that she is a volcano goddess,
and that Pele also knows how to put them away at the bar. Coming up with
an aptitude for that is a little tougher. Drinker? Drunk? Kat doesnt want Pele
to be trashed all the time, so maybe not. How about barfly? Pele is a barfly.
Yeah, that works. Pele is also a brawler, as a goddess of violence, but Kat wants
to spice that up a bit. Pele is a ruthless brawler. Thats also good. She adds
ruthless brawler to the sheet. Pele is also the goddess of the dance, so there
should be something related to that as well. Dance doesnt work, its a verb.
Dancer will do.

As with faculties, characters can have up to 5 points assigned to any aptitude. The number assigned determines your characters general skill in the
aptitude.
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1: Novice. Your character has an edge over those with no aptitude,


but otherwise does not have more than a passing familiarity with the
aptitude.

2: Competent. Your character is comfortable using the aptitude, and


can consistently use it successfully.

3: Skilled. Your characters level of training transcends average ability.


Most tasks performed using the aptitude are routine, and your character inserts a bit of his own flair in the performance of the aptitude.

4: Expert. Your characters aptitude is far above average, and your


character has developed new techniques. Others in the field respect
and emulate your character.

5: Master. Your character is considered to be one of the masters of his


craft. Among those who practice the aptitude, your character is likely
to be known as among the best in the world.

What Does an Aptitude Cover?


How wide-ranging are aptitudes? That is generally up to group consensus.
Aptitudes should be assumed to be useful in any task that could reasonably
be considered routine for a real-world person described by the aptitude.
Some include more skill sets than others, obviously. An expert knifethrower is not going to have as many distinct applications of his skills as an
expert physician. When playing, you will propose the use of an aptitude for
a particular conflict. If the rest of the group agrees that it could reasonably
apply, you are welcome to use it. The more specific your aptitude, the less
resistance you are likely to get. A skilled surgeon is going to have a better
argument for the open-heart procedure you are proposing than a plain old
skilled physician will.

Why Shouldnt I Pick the Widest Aptitudes Possible?


The general or specific nature of an aptitude matters only when it is being
tested against someone else with a similar aptitude. Whenever two aptitudes are directly opposed, the character who possesses a narrower, more
specific aptitude gains a +2 bonus in the conflict (bonuses are explained
35

in the Conflict chapter, page 61). During a conflict, the GM will decide if
your aptitude is broader or more specific than your opponents. Because of
this rule, choosing an aptitude is a balancing act between broad applicability and a narrow, powerful focus.

Jasons character, Eckhardt, gets in a physical conflict with a supporting character, Duncan. Both have pulled pistols on one another, and Jason has the
Government Agent aptitude. He argues, and Michelle agrees, that Eckhardt
would have some basic training in firearms as an agent. Duncan, however, has
the Gunman aptitude. Shooting people for money is what he does for a living.
In this case, a one-on-one test of pistols, everyone easily agrees that Gunman is
a more specific aptitude than Government Agent, and so Duncan earns a +2
toward success in the conflict.

Starting Aptitudes
Novice characters normally have up to 7 points to distribute among their
aptitudes, and cannot be anything more than skilled (3 points) in any one
aptitude. Veteran characters gain 9 points to distribute among aptitudes,
and can assign any level to their aptitudes they wish (up to 5). Ancient
characters start with 13 points, and ageless characters start with 15. Ancient
and ageless characters may also assign any level to their aptitude they wish
(up to 5).
Jasons character, Eckhardt, is a veteran, so he starts with 9 points to distribute among his aptitudes. As a veteran, he can assign up to 5 points to
any individual aptitude. He allocates the points as follows: Supernatural
Investigator 4, Government Agent 2, Mentor 1, Cynic 2.
As an ageless character, Kats character Pele has more points to work with.
She has 15 points to distribute among her aptitudes, and she does so as
follows: Volcano Goddess 5, Barfly 2, Ruthless Brawler 4, Dancer 4.

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Supernatural Aptitudes
Characters may end up with some supernatural aptitudes, such as vampire or magician. These are treated just like regular aptitudes, except you
must activate the supernatural ability by spending a magic token the first
time you wish to use it in a session (see the Magic section for complete
details, page 52). Once a supernatural aptitude is activated, you may call
on it again as often as you like in the course of the same session without
needing to spend another magic token.

In Jasons lower-powered game, his character is merely a normal human being


investigating the supernatural. None of his aptitudes give him any particular
powers.
Kats character Pele, however, is a goddess in a higher-magic game. She decides
that her Volcano Goddess aptitude is definitely supernatural. During play, she
wishes to use one of the powers that Volcano Goddess confers. She spends a magic
token. She may now use any Volcano Goddess powers for the rest of the session.
She does not need to spend another magic token to do so.

A supernatural aptitude by itself does not allow a character to do anything


until it is defined, which also requires the use of a magic token. For example, sorcerers may be able to smell the lingering effects of magic. This is
a fact about sorcerers, and until someone establishes it in play by sacrificing
a magic token, sorcerers in the game do not possess this ability. Additional
facts about supernatural aptitudes may be added at any time, by any player,
and should be added to the theme document.
Specific abilities conferred by supernatural aptitudes are not set during
character creation. You may have some ideas what the aptitude allows
you to do, but these are not added to the theme document until play
actually begins.
Make sure any supernatural aptitudes are clearly marked as such on the
character sheet. No other action needs to be taken at this time, but the
threshold of credibility applies to the creation of supernatural aptitudes.
They must fit with the definition and description of magic provided in the
theme document.
37

Kats character, Pele, wishes to use her magic to cause a minor earth tremor.
Up to this point, no one has explicitly stated that volcano goddesses even have
this power. Kat will sacrifice a magic token and create that ability for volcano
goddesses.

Starting Pools
Your character has four pools of tokens, as described in the introduction.
The final detail you need to add to the character is to determine the size of
these pools. Each one has different requirements, described below.

Starting Action Pool


The number of tokens in your characters action pool is equal to 3 plus his
highest faculty.

Eckhardt has a 4 in both his Will and his Wits faculties. These are his highest
faculties, so Jason adds 3 and notes that Eckhardt has a starting action pool of 7.
Pele has a 5 in both her Force and her Will faculties. As the highest faculties, she
adds 3 for a result of 8. Kat notes this in her characters action pool.

Starting Passion Pool


Characters start each session with a number of passion tokens equal to the
number of passions they possess. If your character has three passions, she
has three passion tokens. A character with only one passion has only one
token. The value of the individual passions is not considered when assigning passion tokens.

38

Eckhardt has three passions. Jason notes 3 in his characters passion pool.
Pele likewise has three passions. Kat notes 3 in her characters passion pool.

Starting Power Pool


Your characters starting power pool is determined by starting level. Novice
characters begin with 5 power tokens, veteran characters begin with 3
power tokens, ancient characters begin with 1 power token, and ageless
characters begin with no power tokens. Additional power tokens must be
gained through play.

Jasons character is a veteran, so he begins play with a starting power pool of 3.


Kats character is ageless, so she begins play with no tokens in her power pool.

The GM also starts with a pool of power tokens to use for all of the supporting characters. The GMs pool refreshes at the beginning of each session, and the GM is never awarded power tokens during play. The GMs
pool of power tokens is equal to one token for each player in the game
(including the GM herself ), plus one additional token for each ancient or
ageless character in play.

In our first group, there are three players including the GM. Both characters are
mortal, one is a veteran and the other a novice. The GM gets 1 token for each
player, and has a total pool of 3 tokens.
In the second group, there are four players plus the GM for a total of five players.
The GM gets 1 token for each player, for a total of 5 tokens. Bill then notes that
all four player characters are ageless. Thats an additional 1 token each, so his
starting pool for this game is 9.

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Starting Magic Pool


Starting magic tokens are determined by the level of magic set for the
game.

Low Magic: Each player starts with 5 magic tokens. The GM gets 5
tokens, plus 1 token for each player.

Moderate Magic: Each player begins with 10 to 15 magic tokens. The


GM gets the same number of tokens, plus 2 tokens for each player.

High Magic: Each player begins with 20 magic tokens. The GM gets
20 tokens, plus 4 tokens for each player.

You may also set the magic level somewhere in between these levels if finetuning the level suits your world and theme better.
If you are playing in a single-session game, use the following guidelines
instead:

Low Magic: Each player starts with 2 magic tokens. The GM gets 2
tokens, plus 1 token for every 2 players.

Moderate Magic: Each player starts with 4 magic tokens. The GM


gets 4 tokens, plus 1 token for every 2 players.

High Magic: Each player starts with 6 magic tokens. The GM gets 6
tokens, plus 1 token for every 2 players.

In the first game, the group is playing a one-night session. They use the single
session guidelines, and Jason and Krista note down 4 magic tokens. The GM
counts the players, three, including herself. She gets one token for every two
players, so she gets one extra token. She notes down 5 magic tokens.
The second game will be long-running, so they use the regular magic token rules.
Each player begins with a magic pool of 20. There are five players in the game,
including the GM. Bill gets an extra 4 tokens per player, so he has an additional
20 tokens. Bill combines this with his starting 20 tokens and notes that he has
a total pool of 40 magic tokens.

40

Supporting characters
The villains you created during the theme phase should feature prominently on the list of player character passions, but that list should never have
been intended to be final and comprehensive. New villains and supporting
characters will crop up during the process of creating your character.
Every character mentioned in one or more of the player characters passions
who is not a player character himself needs to be created as a supporting
character. Also, many additional supporting characters will appear during
the course of play.

How to Build Supporting Characters


The GMs cast of supporting characters are basically the same as player
characters, and are created in the same way. When creating a new supporting character, choose a starting ability level and assign points as described
above. You will end up with a full character with whom the other players
can interact. When portraying that character, the GM has access to passions and the supporting characters action pool, just like the players have
access to their own characters pools. The main difference is that the GM
has a general pool of power tokens and magic tokens that all of her supporting characters must share, while the players each have their own pool
of power and magic tokens.

Bill notes that Kat has mentioned Norin the dwarf in one of her passions.
This means that Norin needs to be built as a character. While the players are
constructing their characters, Bill quickly puts Norin together in the same way,
except that as a supporting character Norin does not have his own individual
power or magic pools.
Bill builds Norin as an ageless character as follows:
Norin the Svartalf
Force: 4, Grace: 2, Will: 4, Wits: 5. Action Pool: 8.

41

Leader 4, Craftsman 4, Mean Little Cuss 3, Slick Salesman 4.


Hate 3: Ill bring down all of those hoity-toity gods. Duty 2: Ive got to help
my own people get a leg up against the gods. Passion Pool: 2.

The unique needs of the GM sometimes require a bit of flexibility. You may
not always have time to create a supporting character before play starts.
Someone may introduce a supporting character in a scene, or you may
need to introduce one yourself to serve some function in a scene. In this
case, you can simply create the character on the fly, only filling in the passions, faculties, and aptitudes that are immediately relevant to the scene.
Note down whatever values you assign to this character, and if you think
she will appear again, fill her out completely between sessions.

Eckhardt is chasing a mysterious figure. As he wheels around a corner, Michelle


tells Jason that the figure whirls on Eckhardt and draws a gun. Michelle has not
written anything down about this mysterious character, who is a henchman of
a supporting character that she has already created in detail. Michelle quickly
notes down some relevant stats: Force 4, Gunman 4, and a powerful passion:
Hate 2: I hate the cops. This will carry Michelle through the current scene,
she thinks, and she can fill in the rest of this supporting character later (if he
survives this encounter).

If a supporting character doesnt have a passion that relates to one of the


player characters (or another pivotal supporting character) or to the main
plot line of the game, you need to take a very close look at that character.
Why is this person in the game, and why does he merit a full character
sheet? The game is about the player characters, so make sure you are making good choices as a GM when you introduce a supporting character.

Bill checks that Norin is built to effectively interact with the characters. He gave
Norin a passion of hate for the gods. That alone ought to cause a lot of trouble.
Norin should be a good supporting character.

42

chapter three Summary


Character Concept
A one-sentence description that sums up the character.

Passions
Each characters passions must relate to one or more of the other characters
(player characters and/or supporting characters) as well as the theme.
Four types of passions:
Duty: something the character feels obligated to do.
Fear: something that terrifies the character.
Hate: something the character wants to destroy.
Love: something the character cares deeply about.
All characters have 5 points of passions.

Starting Ability
Four different skill and experience levels:
Novice: 5 passions, 10 faculties, 7 aptitudes, 5 power tokens.
Veteran: 5 passions, 11 faculties, 9 aptitudes, 3 power tokens.
Ancient: 5 passions, 13 faculties, 13 aptitudes, 1 power token.
Ageless: 5 passions, 15 faculties, 15 aptitudes, no power tokens.

43

chapter three Summary


Faculties
Four areas of ability:
Force: size, strength, physical power.
Grace: poise, quickness, perception.
Will: force of will, mental fortitude, sheer cussedness.
Wits: quickness of thought, cleverness, the ability to make mental
connections.
No more than 5 points in any one faculty.

Aptitudes
No more than 5 points in any one aptitude.
May be used in any task that could reasonably be considered routine for a
real-world person described by the aptitude.
The character in a conflict with a more narrowly defined aptitude gains a
+2 advantage for the action.

Starting Pools
Four pools of tokens:
Action Pool: equal to 3 plus highest faculty.
Passion Pool: equal to number of passions (not passion value).
Power Pool: varies by starting ability; novice: 5, veteran: 3,
ancient: 1, ageless: 0.
Magic Pool: varies by game magic level. Low magic: 5, moderate
magic: 10-15, high magic: 20. In a one-session game, low magic:
2, moderate magic: 4, high magic: 6.

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character
GMs Starting Pools
GMs Power Pool starts each session with 1 token for each player (including the GM), plus 1 token for each ancient or ageless player character.
GMs Magic Pool varies by magic level. Low magic: 5 plus 1/player,
moderate magic: 10-15 plus 2/player, high magic: 20 plus 4/player. In a
one-session game, low magic: 2 plus 1/every two players, moderate magic:
4 plus 1/ every two players, high magic: 6 plus 1/ every two players.

Supporting Characters
Every character mentioned in one or more player characters passions needs
to be created as a supporting character.
Supporting characters are constructed in exactly the same way as player
characters, but do not have individual power or magic pools.

45

Chapter Four: Magic

46

CHAPTER FOUR

Mortal Coil is a game in which magical things can happen. In Mortal Coil,
however, the effects of the supernatural are not specifically defined when
play begins. Instead, your fellow players and the GM will define magic
for your game during theme and character creation, and then continue to
define it during play.

Magic Tokens
Magic tokens are the currency used in Mortal Coil to add magical details
to the world. They are either spent or sacrificed to bring magical powers,
events, and items into the game.
Spent magic tokens are moved to the spent area on the character sheet.
These tokens are unavailable for the player to use as long as they remain in
this area. All spent magic tokens return between sessions of play. A session
ends after you stop playing and everyone goes home. The next time you sit
down to play, the spent magic tokens are moved back to the usable stack.
47

Kat decides to activate Volcano


Goddess, one of her characters
magical aptitudes, in order to
use a magic power. She spends a
magic token:

Kat has a pool of seven magic


tokens:

48

Later, Kat decides to introduce a


magical event into the game, the
opening of a magical portal to the
stronghold of the Svartalf. The
existence of the portal had already
been established by a magic token
sacrificed in an earlier session. She
spends another magic token to
activate the magical portal for the
current session:

At the start of the next session, Kat


will recover her spent tokens:

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Sacrificed magic tokens are removed from play altogether. Once sacrificed,
magic tokens do not ever return.
Kat decides to sacrifice a magic
token to create a new magical
fact: Volcano Goddesses can cause
earthquakes. The token is taken
out of play and she now has six
magic tokens:

Kats character has seven magic


tokens:

This token will never return to


Kats pool of magic tokens. It is
gone for good.

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Magical Facts
The most powerful effect a magic token can have is to add a new fact about
magic to the game world. Any player, including the GM, may sacrifice a
magic token and add something to the game theme. These added details
are new facts about how magic works in the game. You may sacrifice a
magic token to add something completely new to the game (e.g. Vampires
lurk in the night to prey upon the living.), or they may be sacrificed in a
similar fashion to add further facts about something already on the theme
document (e.g. Vampires can transform into bats.).
As new facts are added, they are written in the theme document. The
theme document will evolve and be refined in this way. As such, it is important to remember that new facts must be consistent with those already
present in the theme document. Facts must follow the tone and setting
details that have been laid out in the theme, and the threshold of credibility
definitely applies.
You cannot directly contradict existing facts by sacrificing a magic token.
However, you can define them more narrowly. For example, another player
creates the fact that angels can inspire debilitating awe in those who view
them. You cannot now contradict this fact, but you can add an additional
fact that narrows or clarifies this existing ability, such as an exemption from
the power for people who have seen demons.

During play, Eckhardt is fleeing from a vampire. All that is known about vampires at this point is that they are undead, and that they kill people to suck their
blood. Eckhardt flees across a tiny stream, and at this time Jason decides to add
a fact to the game world. He sacrifices a magic token and announces, Vampires
cant cross running water. This is added to the theme document next to the
entry on vampires, and the vampire is unable to follow him across the stream.

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Supernatural Aptitudes
Magic tokens must also be spent for you to use a supernatural aptitude
during play. So long as you are invoking an existing fact, you do not sacrifice the token, but merely spend it.
Once a token is spent to activate a particular magical aptitude, that aptitude is now available for the duration of the session. As mentioned above,
a session ends when everyone stops playing and goes home. From the point
you spend the magic token up until the session ends, you may use the
magical effects of your supernatural aptitude as many times as you like
without spending another magic token.

Kats character is a goddess. It has already been established that Volcano


Goddesses possess a power that can cause an earthquake with the stomp of a
foot, and Kat wishes to shake the building she is in to intimidate the dwarf
Norin. Kat spends a magic token, and can now take the action. She stamps her
foot and the building shakes.
Later in the same session, Kat wishes to use her characters power again, this
time to collapse the columns around the entrance to the Svartalf s stronghold.
Since her Volcano Goddess aptitude was already activated earlier, she can use
this power without spending an additional magic token.

If you wish to use your supernatural aptitude in a way that is not written
on the theme document, you must first add the ability to the theme document by sacrificing a token as described above. Once you have added an
ability to your aptitude, you may then activate your supernatural aptitude
by spending a magic token and use the new ability immediately. If you
have already activated the aptitude with a spent magic token, you may
use the new ability immediately without any further expenditure of magic
tokens.

Kat decides that Pele needs a new power. She has the supernatural aptitude
Volcano Goddess, and Kat wants to give Pele the ability to ignore heat, as would

52

befit a goddess who lives in a volcanic caldera. She sacrifices a magic token
to create the new magical fact: Volcano goddesses are unharmed by even the
greatest of heat. She has not yet used a magical power associated with Volcano
Goddess in this session, so she then spends a second magic token to activate the
supernatural aptitude. Then Kat has Pele walk up to a furnace and use her
newly defined ability to thrust her hand inside to recover the key a supporting
character just threw in.

Price
There is only one rule of magic that Mortal Coil specifically mandates for
all games. This is a variation on the law of the conservation of energy: All
magic has a price that must be paid for using it. Whenever a new type of
magic or magical effect is introduced, you must also specify a price characters must pay for its use. This can be almost anything, limited only by your
sensibilities, imagination, and the threshold of credibility.
A price must restrict the use of the power in some way. A poor price is
one so low that there is no inconvenience to using the power. A good
price makes the use of the power something that has significance. In some
games, prices may be only a minor inconvenience to the character or a rare
occurrence that blocks the power. In others, the prices may be quite high,
perhaps so dangerous that powers will be used only rarely. The relative
difficulty of the price will depend on how magic was defined in the theme
document.
The price for any new fact is always determined by a different player than
the one who introduced the fact. If a player introduces a new magical fact,
then the GM sets the price. When the GM introduces a new magical fact,
a player must set the price. As a general rule, when it is the players turn
to set the price, the player group brainstorms together and determines the
price. If the group cannot decide, there are a couple of ways to determine
who has the final say.
A player may buy the right to set the price on a GM-introduced fact by
sacrificing a power token. If another player wishes to set the price instead,
he may sacrifice additional tokens to take that right away, with the right
going to the highest bidder. Players may also buy the right to set the price
away from another player in this way, if they wish. Only the player who
53

introduced the fact is barred from bidding to set the price. Whichever
player sacrifices the most power tokens gets to set the price. Only the player
who wins the bid must actually sacrifice his power tokens.
If no one wishes to purchase the right to set the price, the player with the
most magic tokens chooses the price (this will typically be the player who
has added the fewest facts to the theme document). If there is a tie, and
neither player wishes to sacrifice a power token to take the right, flip a coin
or use some other random method.
If any player, even the one who created the fact, has an objection to the
final price, she may invoke the threshold of credibility to veto the price.

Michelle introduces a new power for vampires to the theme document, stating
that as undead beings, vampires are unaffected by aging. Jason suggests that the
price vampires must pay for their unaging status is that they must drink human
blood to sustain themselves. Krista thinks that the price must be highervampires have to kill their victims for the blood to effectively sustain them. Jason
likes this, and the players set that as the price. Michelle writes the new fact and
price in the theme document.

Backing Facts with Rules


Sometimes a fact or price will be self-evident and needs no further backup
from the game rules. Other times, a fact or price must trigger a rule effect
in order for it to function meaningfully in your game. When the GM or
another player feels that a new fact or price needs some mechanical weight,
it is appropriate to back up the fact with a rule.
Here are two types of rule effects that are often appropriate:

Conflict Trigger: With this option, when the fact comes into play, it
immediately triggers a conflict with preset consequences. The potential
outcomes for the conflict are set when the fact is introduced; whenever
the fact comes into play, the appropriate players resolve the conflict.

54

Jason creates an artifact, a magical jewelers loupe that allows a character to see
the true nature of whatever he views through it. Michelle sets the price: Viewing
the true nature of supernatural beings is damaging to a mortals mind. Everyone
agrees that this is a good price, but is somewhat vague. What form does the
damage take? Michelle decides to set a conflict trigger. Whenever a mortal gazes
through the loupe at a supernatural being, he must initiate a conflict of Will.
The consequences will always be the same: If the mortal wins, he will see the
true nature of the being he views through the loupe but will suffer no harm. If
the mortal loses, he will still see the beings true nature, but he will also gain a
1-point passion of either Love or Fear for the being he sees through the loupe.

Bonus or Penalty: With this option, when the fact comes into play, it
will confer a +2 bonus or a 2 penalty (see the Conflict section, page
75) upon one or more characters for purposes of a particular action or
set of actions. It often makes sense for the price to include an opposing
bonus or penalty to counteract the one conferred by the fact.

Kat is playing Pele, the goddess of volcanoes, and she introduces the fact that
volcano goddesses have the power to cause those around them to grow more
contentious and irritable, leading to fights. Everyone agrees that this needs to
be backed up by the rules. Bill proposes that anyone attempting to perform a
non-violent action when this power is in effect must suffer a 2 penalty. Violent
actions are unhindered.

These two options are not the only way a fact can be backed by a rule. A
fact can trigger some other process, such as forcing a character to use a passion token, adding or changing passions on the characters sheet, or causing
an action token to be spent. If the person setting the price feels that a rule
is appropriate, and everyone else agrees, just about any game rule can be
added to a magical fact or price.

55

Supernatural Items
If your character has an item with supernatural abilities, you must spend
a magic token to activate the item the first time you wish your character
to use it, just like a power. The item may then be used in play to confer its
magical abilities onto a character, and can be used throughout the same
game session without spending any more magic tokens. Once the session
is ended, the item is no longer considered activated.

Jason wants his character to


examine a new supporting
character in a scene with his
magical jewelers loupe to determine if the person is in fact
a magical being. Jason has not
used the loupe so far in the session, so he spends a magic token
to activate it.
Once Eckhardt has looked
through the loupe, he puts it
back in his pocket. Jason may
have Eckhardt use the loupe
again later in the same session
without needing to spend a
magic token.

Items must have a price that goes along with their magical abilities as well,
but this price usually affects the user rather than the item.

56

Recovering Magic Tokens


It is important to note that magic tokens are for players, not for characters
like some of the other tokens in the game. Spent magic tokens are regained
between sessions of play. A session ends when the group stops playing and
everyone goes home.
At the beginning of the next
session, she recovers all of them,
starting fresh:

Kat spent two magic tokens


during the session:

57

Gaining New Magic Tokens


The only way for you to gain new magic tokens beyond your current supply is to purchase them with power tokens. The cost for buying new magic
tokens depends on the magic level of the game.

Low Magic: Sacrificing four power tokens earns you one additional
magic token.

Moderate Magic: Sacrificing either two or three power tokens earns


you one additional magic token. (Which of these levels applies should
be set at the beginning of play, when crafting the theme document.)

High Magic: You can convert power tokens into magic tokens on a
one-for-one basis.

Whenever a player purchases a magic token, the GM also gains one or


more magic tokens. In low- to medium-magic settings, the GM gets one
additional magic token when a player purchases one. If you have chosen
the high magic setting, the GM gets two additional magic tokens whenever
a player purchases one.

Kat has sacrificed most of her starting pool of magic tokens. She decides she is
running low on magic tokens. Since this is a moderate-level magic game, she
sacrifices two power tokens to gain one new magic token. Bill, as GM, gains one
additional magic token.

58

chapter four Summary


Magical Facts
Sacrifice a magic token to add a new fact to the theme document.
New facts must match the tone of the theme and cannot contradict
older facts.
Each fact has an associated price.
The player who establishes the fact cannot set the price.
Facts can be backed with rules:
Conflict Trigger: The fact immediately triggers a conflict with preset consequences when activated.
Bonus/Penalty: The fact gives a +2 or 2 to certain characters or
actions when activated.

Supernatural Items
Must be activated with a magic token.

Magic Tokens
A player resource, not a character resource.
All spent magic tokens are regained between sessions of play.
New magic tokens must be bought with power tokens:
Low Magic: 1 magic token costs 4 power tokens.
Moderate Magic: 1 magic token costs 2 or 3 power tokens.
High Magic: 1 magic token costs 1 power token.
The GM gains a new magic token whenever a player purchases one. In a
high magic setting, the GM gains 2 each time a player purchases one.

59

Chapter Five: Conflict

60

CHAPTER FIVE

The game rules are meant to serve the story in Mortal Coil. You use your
tokens to affect the outcome of your characters actions in the game, allowing you a considerable degree of control over these actions rather than
relying on the random outcome of dice. You never need to worry about
failure due to bad luck on a critical roll.
Supernatural powers and magic spells just work, they do not rely on
chance. However, you often will not know how many resources you must
expend for your desired result. The drama is preserved because you decide
how hard your character will try to succeed.
As in all stories, the major driving force in a game of Mortal Coil is conflict.
In a conflict, you will apply your characters basic ability with his skill or
knowledge in an effort to overcome some opposing force, such as another
character or characters or some object or situation that blocks your characters way to the desired outcome. In short, a conflict is a situation in which
your character must take a risk in order to achieve a desired outcome.
61

In order for your character to act in a conflict, you must commit at least
one action token. A token is committed when you move it out of your
characters pool and place it with one of her four faculties. Committed
tokens are returned to the pool immediately after a conflict round, except
under special circumstances, and may be immediately reused in a subsequent round.
There are many ways to use tokens in conflicts, and these are discussed in
detail later in this section.

What Is a conflict?
A conflict is a particular action or series of actions that requires your characters total attention. A conflict is any instance in which your character is
pitting himself against another character or against the world in general,
attempting any action in which the outcome is in doubt and is also essential to the story.
For the most part, everyday actions (like shopping, walking, mowing the
lawn, etc.) are not conflicts. There is little reason to believe, barring some
exceptional circumstance, that your character will fail to perform the task,
nor is the consequence of failure particularly interesting or relevant. When
tensions rise, when skill and aptitude are required to succeed, when success
is important or even vitalthis is when conflict occurs.

Eckhardt and Lucy arrive in a small Arizona town. They go to a local motel and
check themselves in. Finding the motel and checking in are actions that lack
drama, and there is no conflict.
After the characters visit the diner attached to the motel, they return to their
rooms. A supporting character has broken in and is rooting through Eckhardts
luggage. He pauses, hearing Eckhardt and Lucy approach. How will they react
to finding him there? Will he try to escape or confront them? This is a conflict.

62

Setting goals
When initiating a conflict, each player involved must first state the goal his
character is attempting to achieve. This is called setting goals, and it defines
what your character wants out of the conflict. For example, if your character gets in a fight in a bar, your goal may be to get out of the fight without
getting hurt, whereas the GM may state that the supporting characters
goal will be an injury to your character.
The key to setting these goals is to make sure that the result is interesting
whether your character succeeds or fails. Either way, something driving
the story forward should result. The GM should not set the goals of her
supporting characters merely to block your desired outcome, but instead
to ensure that if her supporting character succeeds, the characters actions
have actual consequences within the story.
The scope of your conflict should not be overly specific. Each conflict
will cover a number of individual actions that are aimed at the same goal,
but the goal should not be too narrow. For example, each handhold your
character grips while climbing a sheer cliff is not an appropriate conflict,
instead, your character reaching the top of the cliff in time to stop the
villain from throwing your characters lover over the edge is a more proper
conflict. Similarly, engaging in a drunken argument is an appropriate conflict, but each individual shout, grab, or scuffle within the argument is not.
Some outcomes require certain conditions to be met under the rules. A
goal of killing someone is just fine, but even if you win the conflict you
may not be able to actually kill the other character. A certain threshold of
success is required for that outcome. Keep the mechanical restrictions in
mind when creating your goals.

Eckhardt and Lucy have determined that a witness has vital information
for them. The witness, a bikers girlfriend, doesnt want to talk to them, but
Eckhardt and Lucy have tracked her down to a gas station nearby. A conflict
begins as Eckhardt and Lucy arrive on the scene.

63

Jason declares Eckhardts goal in the scene: to get the witness to tell him what she
knows. Lucys goal is the same.
Michelle then states the witness goal: to get Eckhardt to leave her alone without revealing anything. The witness biker boyfriend is also in the scene, and
Michelle sets a goal for him as well: to scare off the government spooks. Hes got
secrets he doesnt want snooping government agents to find out.

Independent vs. Opposed Goals


Opposed goals are easy to understand. Two characters are engaged in a
conflict, and if one of these characters achieves her goal, the other character will be unable to achieve his. This is an appropriate setup, and many
conflicts follow this form.
Sometimes, though, the two characters will have goals that can both potentially be achieved at the same time. These are called independent goals.
This is a lot trickier in play. If the characters involved in a conflict have
goals that can both be achieved, the first step is to make sure that some
other character wishes for the goal to fail. If no one is interested in stopping
a character from reaching her goal, a conflict is not called for. Conflicts
only occur if there is some sort of active opposition for a goal. If there is
no character attempting to block a goal, settle the goal outside of conflict.
Once you have determined that another character will be attempting to
block a goal, the conflict can commence. The players involved will all be
seeking to hinder one another in addition to achieving their own goal.
This does make an interesting conflict. All of the characters may succeed in
achieving their goals, or all may fail.
You may also find a combination of these situations, especially when there
are more than two characters involved in a conflict. Some goals could be
opposed, and some could be independent. Although this raises the complexity, it is allowed.

Jason and Krista push their characters into conflict with each other. Jasons
goal is to go up to the foremans shed and confront him. Kristas goal is to stop

64

Eckhardt from going to the shed. This is a pretty clear example of opposed goals.
If either character is successful in achieving his goal, the other cannot also succeed.
Bills supporting character, Norin, and Kats character, Pele, get into a conflict
with each other. Bills goal is for Norin to humiliate Pele in front of the other
bar patrons. Kats goal is for Pele to give Norin the beating of a lifetime. At first
glance, these goals may seem opposed, but they are actually independent goals.
Norin could receive a savage beating and still humiliate Pele at the same time.

Conflict Rounds
Conflicts are settled using a series of rounds. Within each round, each
character may take up to four actions and attempt to achieve their goals.
When a round has ended, all committed action tokens are returned to the
characters action pools and another round may commence.
Often, conflicts will be resolved in a single round of actions. If this is the
case, return all committed tokens to the action pool and narrate the results
of the conflict. Sometimes, multiple rounds of conflict are required.
To determine if another conflict round is needed, examine each characters
goal at the end of the round. Has the character achieved his goal through
his actions within the round? If not, has another character taken actions
that make it impossible for the character to achieve his goal within the conflict? If the answer to either of these questions is yes for all of the characters
involved in the conflict, then the conflict is over.
If the answer to both questions is no, then another round of conflict is
called for. All committed action tokens are returned to each characters
pool, and everyone begins to plan actions for their character. Continue
with as many conflict rounds as are needed to determine whether every
character can achieve his goal.
Conflicts with multiple players and antagonists are likely to get complicated and will probably require two or more rounds of actions before all of
the characters goals are resolved with either success or failure.
65

Using Bill and Kats conflict from the previous example, a round of actions has
gone by. Pele has soundly beaten Norin to the ground, and has defended herself
against his sarcastic remarks by smashing his mouth as he tries to speak. The
actions are resolved, and Kat has clearly achieved her goal. Norin has not yet
achieved his goal. Even though he lies beaten and bloodied on the floor of the
bar, nothing about the results of the conflict prevents him from continuing to
pursue his goal. Bill calls for a second round of conflict.
In this round, Norin is hampered by the massive beating he has just endured,
but he still tries to croak out some insult that will humiliate Pele. Exasperated
by his continuing hectoring, Pele drags him out the back of the bar and slams
the door. Norin lies in the alleyway, now out of earshot of the other patrons. He
can no longer pursue his goal of humiliating Pele, at least not until he heals up
a bit. Bill declares the conflict over.

Multiple Sides in One Conflict


You will often run across the situation where more than two characters have
goals for a conflict. First, determine which goals are opposed and which are
independent. Make sure that every player involved in the conflict is quite
clear about what each of the characters in the conflict wants. Once all of
these interactions are relatively clear, the players will have a better idea of
how they will need to allocate their resources. Conflicts generally need to
go for multiple rounds if there are a lot of characters involved.

A conflict has arisen between Pele, Loki, and Norin in the seedy bar where they
all hang out. Lokis goal is to convince Pele to go home with him. Bill decides
that Norins goal is to call in a favor that Loki owes him and get him to embarrass Pele. Peles goal is to get Loki to humiliate Norin instead.
Bill looks at all three goals. Norins goal and Peles goal are directly opposed.
Only one of the characters can succeed. Lokis goal is independent to these other
goals. It is possible for Loki to humiliate either Norin or Pele, fulfilling the other
characters goal, and still get Pele to come home with him. It will be a lot harder
for Loki if he agrees to Norins plan, but it is still possible.

66

Basic actions
Actions are a direct comparison of two or more characters abilities. Your
character will be testing one of his faculties and one of his aptitudes against
someone elses faculty and aptitude. Whichever character has the highest
total of faculty and aptitude is successful in the action, with the degree of
success depending on the difference between the two totals (explained in
detail below).
Each action needs to be directed against at least one other character.
Generally, you cannot direct an attack action against multiple characters,
unless you have some power or item that allows you to affect multiple
characters (a blast of flames, an automatic weapon, etc.). You can also take
defensive actions, which can potentially apply to any other character attempting to harm yours. Other types of actions that drive toward your
characters goals are also appropriate, such as grabbing items, running,
climbing, etc. Depending on the actions of the other characters, these may
also end up directed against more than one character.
Action tokens are required to initiate any conflict. Add the action tokens
committed to an action to the faculty and aptitude total to reach the total
for comparison. Players choose their actions and allocate tokens secretly,
then all of the players reveal their choices at the same time. All tokens are
considered to be committed at the same time, and all actions take place at
roughly the same time; there is no initiative or turn ranking in Mortal Coil.

A conflict erupts, and Jason tries to determine the actions Eckhardt should take.
There is a dangerous gunman and a weasely snitch opposing him. The gunmans
goal in the conflict is to warn Eckhardt off, Eckhardts goal is to get one of the
two to tell him who they are working for, and the snitchs goal is to avoid getting
hurt.
Jason decides one of his actions will be to intimidate both of the other characters
with a drawn gun in order to get them to talk. This may not work on the jaded
gunman, but Jason hopes it will take the snitch out of the equation. For a
defensive action, Jason decides Eckhardt will dodge behind a desk to avoid being
shot if it comes to that.

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How Actions Relate to Goals


When choosing actions for your character, you need to remember the goals
you stated for the conflict. This can be the trickiest part of the conflict
system. The actions your character takes in a conflict should move him
toward his goal. Simple goals, such as taking something from another character or harming another character often have easy, obvious actions. More
complex goals, like getting another character to admit she still loves you,
may require some creative thinking. Just remember the ultimate outcome
you desire in the conflict, and work toward that with your actions.

In the situation in the bar, Eric has to decide what actions Loki will take related
to his goal of convincing Pele to go home with him. Eric thinks Loki would use
his jokes to charm Pele. He also knows that the other characters are going to try
to influence his actions, so Eric decides to use Lokis willpower to brush off their
attempts as a defense.

Choosing Actions
There is a bit of a trick to determining the actions your character should
take in a conflict. Once all of the players involved have declared their goals,
think about how your character would go about trying to achieve his goal.
Some will rely on their mental abilities, others are more physical. You can
play to your characters strengths. If Force is your characters highest faculty,
it makes sense that he will almost always try to use his size and strength to
solve problems.
Its important to remember what the goals of the other characters in the
conflict are. These goals will give you a clue regarding what they may do.
When you choose your actions, pick one that will further your goal, but
also remember to choose another action that will help defend your character against the actions of others, if necessary. You really dont want to get
caught out with no defense if another character is acting against yours.
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The GM also has a role in this part of the conflict if supporting characters
are present. As GM, you control the actions of the supporting characters.
For each supporting character in the conflict, you need to choose actions
secretly just like the players. You must also try to anticipate what the players are going to do and use the supporting characters actions to help them
achieve their goals.

committing action Tokens


Once a conflict is initiated, your character uses his faculties and aptitudes
to attempt to influence the outcome. In order to bring these to bear on the
conflict at hand, at least one action token must be committed. You move
one or more action tokens forward, declaring what faculty and aptitude the
action token is drawing upon.
Your character will often perform several actions in the same conflict. Each
of these actions must have at least one action token committed to it. Your
character cannot perform an action in a conflict without committing an
action token to do so.
Each action taken in a conflict round must use a different faculty. Since
you have only four faculties, your character can perform a maximum of
four actions at once in a conflict round. So long as there are action tokens
in your characters pool and he is not yet using at least one of his faculties
for an action, he can potentially perform additional actions within the
same conflict round.
There is no restriction on the number of times you may use an aptitude.
Each action may use only one aptitude, but you could potentially use the
same aptitude for every action in a conflict round.

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Erics character Loki will be taking two actions in the conflict. First, he will try
to make jokes to impress Pele. Eric will use Lokis Wits faculty and his Trickster
God aptitude for this action. To defend Loki against the efforts of the other
characters, Eric will use Lokis Will faculty and Stubborn Cuss aptitude. Each
of these tasks uses a separate faculty and is an action to which Eric commits one
or more action tokens:

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When in conflict with another character, action tokens are usually committed to at least one offensive and at least one defensive action. After the reveal, a characters offensive action will be matched with another characters
defensive action. If your character is opposing more than one opponent,
the GM must decide which actions are aimed at which opponent. Often,
each offensive and defensive action is aimed at a single opposing character,
but depending on the described action, more than one opponent may be
affected by an action (firing your pistol will only affect one other character,
but knocking down a burning support beam to collapse the roof could
potentially affect many other characters). This applies whether the conflict
is a debate, a contest of skill, or an all-out brawl. The GM has the final say
on which actions oppose which.

Erics first actionthe jokes using the Wits facultyis aimed at only one other
character, Pele. However, he will use his defensive Will action to defend against
both other characters. Michelle agrees that the Will action will apply to both
opponents.

Extra Effort
If you believe your characters basic faculty and aptitude and a single action
token are not sufficient to succeed in an action, you may commit extra action tokens to apply extra effort to the task. Any extra action tokens spent
are added to your current faculty and aptitude total for the action.
You must decide how many tokens you wish to commit before the action
is revealed. Your character may not retry a failed action in the same conflict
round, but must initiate a new action in the next round. You must also deal
with any consequences arising from the initial failure before you can make
a second attempt.
Any character may add extra effort to any of their own actions, and supporting characters may add extra effort to their own actions as well.

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Eric knows that one token in each action is definitely not going to be enough.
He wants to convince Pele, but he also really doesnt want to be a pawn in the
argument between Norin and Pele. Eric decides to put more effort into resisting
their manipulation, but a little extra into his seduction attempt.
Eric is using Lokis Wits faculty (5) and his characters Trickster God aptitude
(5), plus the action token he has committed to his flirting jokes. This total is 11
already; Eric is pretty sure this will go a long way toward success. Jason decides
his character will use only a little extra effort and he commits one more action
token to the task. He adds the extra action token to his characters faculty plus
aptitude total, increasing it to 12:

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To resist, Loki has his Will faculty (2) and his Stubborn Cuss aptitude (3), plus
the one action token already committed, a total of 6. He adds a lot more effort:
five more tokens. These extra tokens increase the total value to 11:

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Helping
Many times, you will want to assist another player in a conflict. You will
take an action during the conflict round in which the result will help
another character complete his action, such as grabbing someone in a
fight, lifting your friend to help him climb up a fire escape, or standing
threateningly in the background if your friend is attempting to intimidate
someone. The action you take needs to be resolved first, before those of
the character you are helping. If you are successful, you will give the other
character a bonus to his action.
In a conflict, your helping action is almost always opposed. Your helping
action must overcome the opposition in order to be useful to the character
you are attempting to aid. Outside of a conflict, or if your action is unopposed, you must match or beat a difficulty determined by the GM (see
page 77) in order to help the other character.
If you fail, you are no help to the other character. If you succeed, the target
character gains a +2 to his action.

Pele is beating up Norin. Pluto, no friend of Norins, wants to help the goddess
deliver the smackdown. Hes not going to deliver the blows himself; he just wants
to aid Pele. Pluto uses an action to grab and hold Norin to make it easier for
Pele to pound him. Since he is helping Pele, Plutos action is resolved first. He is
successful in a physical contest against Norin, and is now holding him, giving
Pele a +2 on her beat up Norin action.

The Reveal
It is important that no one gains any advantage by knowing what an opponent is going to commit by way of tokens. All players should consider and
commit their tokens as desired in secret before they learn what the other
players have committed. This way, no player gains an unfair advantage over
the others by waiting to commit until he has seen other players actions.
All parties to the conflict should write down their token use or commit
their tokens under cover of their hand or some other sort of screen. When
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everyone is ready, it is time for the reveal, and all players announce how
they have allocated their action tokens.
The reveal is a vitally important part of the conflict rules. Everyone must
pick a faculty and aptitude for each action they are planning to perform,
and decide how many action tokens (described on page 71) and passion
tokens (described on page 78) they will commit before anyone reveals the
total. All of these decisions must be made before the reveal. Only power
tokens (described on page 103) can be used after these totals are revealed,
so it is important to choose a strategy and allocate tokens carefully.
Power tokens are the only type of token that can be added after the reveal.
The use of power tokens is discussed in greater detail in the Power chapter,
page 103.

Bill, Eric, and Kat choose their aptitudes and faculties secretly, and each commit action tokens behind their hands. Eriks choices are to use Wits and Trickster
God plus two action tokens for charming jokes, and to use Will and Stubborn
Cuss plus six action tokens to resist the influences of his opponents. Kat decides
to use her Will plus Ruthless Brawler plus two action tokens to intimidate Loki
into joining her against Norin. For defense, she uses her Wits plus Barfly plus
five action tokens to use her drunken obtuseness to deflect any remarks or verbal
attacks. Bill has Norin use Wits plus Slick Salesman and three action tokens to
schmooze Loki into turning on Pele, and he will use Will plus Mean Little Cuss
and four more action tokens to deflect any incoming attacks with sheer rudeness.
Bill asks if everyone is ready, and when the answer is yes, all three players move
their hands away and declare what abilities from their sheets they are using for
the action.

Matching Actions
Once each player reveals his actions, the GM has a vital role to play. Each
of these actions must be matched against the other actions that the characters have taken in order to determine success or failure. Let logic be
your guide. Most of the time, actions will match against one another in
an obvious way. Sometimes it may not be as obvious which actions oppose
one another, and that is when GM discretion is important.
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If someone is throwing a punch, and another character has allocated for a


dodge, its pretty clear that the dodge is a defense against the punch. But
what about a situation where someone is making cutting remarks? What
is the defense against that? After each player has described his actions, as
the GM you must think about which actions will make other actions impossible if successful. If one characters success makes another characters
success impossible, these actions are opposed. If one characters action is to
stare down a hostile opponent, if she is successful, the other character will
be unable to throw that punch he allocated.
As the GM, you are the authority on which actions oppose others. As soon
as the reveal occurs, you should quickly take charge and begin opposing
actions against one another and adjudicating the result. When there are
multiple characters involved in a conflict, its very important to make sense
of all of the actions and their results. Dont forget the rule that aptitudes
that are more specific gain a +2 bonus against those that are more general.
You are the final authority on which actions defend against other characters attacks. Listen to the players arguments, but make your decisions
authoritatively and quickly.

It was revealed that Lokis actions were charming jokes directed at Pele and
stubbornness as a defense; Peles actions were to intimidate Loki into turning on
Norin and resisting overtures with feigned (or real) drunkenness; and Norins
actions were to use a hard sell on Loki and to defend himself with brash rudeness. Looking over all the actions, Bill announces that both Peles and Norins
attacks are matched against Lokis defense and Lokis attack is matched against
Peles defense.
Kat is using Ruthless Brawler against Lokis Stubborn Cuss, and Bill rules that
Stubborn Cuss is more applicable in this situation, giving Loki a +2 in this
particular matchup. Likewise, Bill thinks Barfly is more specific than Trickster
God, and gives Pele a +2 to her defense in that matchup. The rest of the aptitudes seem relatively evenly matched.

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Actions Outside Conflict


You may want to take actions when no character is opposing you. These are
actions that take place outside a conflict, with no active opposition from
another character. Many times, actions outside conflict are not important.
Given time and some creativity, a character can probably achieve most of
what she wants if no one is opposing her efforts. When time is a factor, or
the task she wants to achieve is particularly difficult, there is a simple way
to determine success or failure.
Just as you do in a conflict action, choose a faculty and an aptitude and add
them together. You may not use action tokens or passion tokens to increase
this score outside of a conflict. You may use power tokens to add to this
total, however. There is one exception allowing you to use action tokens,
described below.
Whether or not an aptitude applies to this type of action is much stricter
than it is within a conflict. If the aptitude does not obviously and directly
apply, it may not be used in an action outside conflict. This is subject to the
threshold of credibility, but the GM also has a veto power if he feels the use
of the aptitude is implausible.
Once you have determined the total, compare it to this table. When the
GM sets the task, he will choose a difficulty from the table. If you equal or
exceed the associated number, you succeed in your task. If your total is less
than the number, you fail.
3: Routine, requiring minimal skill or ability.
4: Easy, attainable by most people.
5: Harder, requires a bit of fitness or skill.
6: Difficult, requiring more raw ability or knowledge.
7: Challenging, must be within the characters specific area of expertise.
8: Knotty problem, requires great skill and innate ability.
9: Not for the faint-hearted, only the top individuals can overcome it.
10: Near the limit, requires peak conditioning and masterful skill.

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You can also have quick opposed contests between two characters outside
of the conflict system. Just add the faculty and aptitude each character
wishes to use, remembering the +2 bonus for narrower aptitudes matched
against broader aptitudes, and whichever character has the higher total is
the winner.
As mentioned above, there is one circumstance under which a character
can use action tokens. If you are falling a bit short of the required difficulty,
you can choose to spend action tokens to reach your goal. These tokens
represent great fatigue or injury from attempting a task beyond your ability. You may spend as many tokens as you like for this purpose, but they
are recovered only after the character can receive rest and healing (see page
95). Action tokens spent outside of conflict cannot be recovered until after
the next conflict in which the character is involved.

Jasons character Eckhardt wants to get into an apartment, but the door is
locked. Jason tells Michelle that Eckhardt will kick in the door, hes in a rush.
This isnt really a conflict, a locked door is just an obstacle not determined resistance. Michelle thinks that if Jason cant kick it in, he will have to take a longer
time trying to pick the lock and the owner might return, so the outcome will be
interesting one way or the other. Its just a cheap apartment door, so Michelle
sets the difficulty at 5, requiring a bit of fitness or skill. Jasons character uses his
Force (1) and his Government Agent aptitude (2) on the grounds that government agents often kick in doors. The total is 3, which is insufficient to break
the door in. Michelle says, Youre an old man, and just not able to produce the
force necessary to knock it. Sal is coming back in an hour; hopefully you can
pick the lock quickly.

calling on Passions
During play, your character can call on one of her passions when performing an action. If the action has a direct and positive relationship to
your characters passion (for example, she is attempting to help a person
she loves, or to hide from something she fears), you may spend a passion
token to gain a bonus on this action equal to the value of the passion
called upon. Thus, if your character has passions valued at 1 and 4 points,
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respectively, she will gain either a +1 or a +4, depending on which passion


she calls upon.
You must decide to use a passion and add it to your action total before
the reveal.
You can call on more than one passion in the same conflict round,
but each individual action can be influenced by only one passion in a
round.
You may also call on the same passion more than once in a session,
but each time you call on a passion, you must spend a passion token.
When your initial pool of passion tokens is spent, your character can
no longer call on her passions during that session.

Norin has the passion Hate 3: Ill bring down all of those hoity-toity gods. Bill
thinks this would be a good passion to call on in the current conflict. Hes trying
to turn two gods against one another, so he can use the passion on his hard sell
toward Loki for a +3 bonus. Before the reveal, Bill moves one of Norins two
passion tokens into the stack for that action:

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If you choose to call on the same passion more than once, you are required
to permanently increase the passions value by one. Your characters passions must always total 5, so you must choose a different passion to reduce
in value whenever one of your passions increases in value. This does not
change the number of tokens available for the current session, but if a passion is reduced to zero in this way, it could change the number of passion
tokens available for the next session. You immediately gain the benefit of
the new higher value for your passion and can apply this higher value to
your current action.

The conflict between Norin and the gods moves into a second round. Bill again
decides to call on Norins passion of hatred for the gods. He uses Norins second
passion token to call on the passion for another action. Norin no longer has any
passion tokens after this, and will not be able to call on his passions for the rest
of the session.

Because this is the second time in the same session Bill has called on this
passion, Norins hate increases to a value of 4. Since all of the passions
must total five, Norins only other passion decreases to a value of 1. Norin
immediately gains the benefit, and may add a bonus of +4 to his action that
calls on the passion.

Opposing a Passion
If your characters action directly opposes one of her passions (she is trying
to face the object of her fear, or betray someone she loves), she must commit an extra action token just to perform the action. The GM can ask that
you do this a number of times per session equal to your characters passion
value (up to four times for a feverish passion, or two times for a profound
passion, etc.).

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Jasons character, Eckhardt, is facing the deadly vampire behind a string of


attacks. The vampire has called up a swarm of rattlesnakes and the serpents
have surrounded Eckhardts partner, Lucy. Michelle tells Jason that if he tries to
do something other than rescue Lucy from the snakes, he will be going against
his passion Fear 2: Lucy will get killed. Jason decides to attack the vampire
anyway, confident his partner will escape. He must commit an extra action
token just to perform the action.

Passions in Play
The higher ranked the passion, the more likely it is that some conflict
involving it is going to occur. Characters with a one-point passion will end
up involved in a conflict because of it on occasion, and characters with
five points in a passion are unlikely to take any actions that do not directly
relate to the passion. This may seem strange, since the higher the passion,
the fewer passion tokens a character has. This just means you will be unable
to mechanically invoke the passion. Passions should be used to guide how
you portray your characters feelings throughout the game, even when the
tokens are not used.
Passions are not static. They will rise and fall depending on how they are
used and what is important to the character at the time. In short, passions
are meant to reflect what the character feels right now.
New passions can be added to your character if some event has taken place
during play that you believe will change your characters passions. If you
wish to add a new passion to your character, and the GM and the other
players approve, you must spend a passion token and add the new passion
to your sheet. Since characters may never have more than 5 points in passions at any time, you must reduce one of your characters other passions
when adding a new one, to keep the total at five. This is the only way you
may add a new passion to your character outside of conflict.

81

Erics character Loki has been


humiliated in front of everyone
by Norin, who then stood back
and laughed. Eric decides that
he needs a new passion to reflect
Lokis anger due to the event.
He tells the group that he wishes
to create a new passion, a strong
Hate 1: Ill make sure Norin
gets his. Because of the game
events leading to this change,
everyone else agrees that the new
passion makes sense. Eric spends
a passion token:
Eric then adds the new passion
to his sheet and reduces Lokis
Love 4: I cant help making
trouble to a 3.

Changing Passions Through Conflict


One of the goals you can have in a conflict is to change or adjust the
passions of your opponent. This is a particularly potent goal in terms of
the story. You shouldnt be trying to change passions in every conflict, but
on the occasions that you do have this as a goal, the conflict will be very
thematically powerful.
You can only make a 1-point change in any passion during a conflict. You
can cause one of your opponents passions to increase by one point, cause
one of your opponents passions to decrease by one point, or add a new
1-point passion to your opponents sheet.
You cannot change your own passions in a conflict. You have other ways
to manipulate your own characters passions, and changing them cant be
your goal.
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Again, characters may only have five points of passions. Any change that
adds a new 1-point passion, or causes a passion to go up by one point,
requires that the character lower another passion by one point. If the goal
was to lower a passion by one point, the character must raise another passion by one point to compensate, or add a new 1-point passion.

Pele really hates Norin, and she wants her fellow gods to see things her way. She
gets in a conflict with Pluto over the dwarf, and states that her goal is to get
Pluto to hate Norin as well. She achieves her goal with a lengthy jeremiad on
Norins many crimes, and Pluto finds himself hating Norin as well. He adds a
new Hate 1: Im going to get rid of that bastard Norin to his sheet. He reduces
his Love 2: Still in love with Proserpine by one, making it a rank-1 passion.

Recovering Spent Passion Tokens


Passion tokens are refreshed at the
beginning of every session, up to the
number of passions your character
possesses when the session begins.
This can change from session to session, as passions are lost or added.

Kat used all of Peles passion


tokens last session. When the
group sits down to play at the
next session, she refreshes all of
Peles spent passion tokens:

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Erics character, Loki, changed


in the last session. He used to
have two passions, he now has
three. This increases Erics passion pool to 3. When he sits
down to play, he refreshes his
passion pool up to three:

Item Effects
Some items will add to your characters ability to succeed in actions. These
bonuses are added to your characters faculty plus aptitude total to determine the success or failure of an action. When using the item, your character will gain a bonus based on how relevant the item is to the conflict in
which it is being used. Like other judgment calls of this nature, the players
and the GM should discuss whether there is any disagreement. The GM
has the final say, but this is subject to the threshold of credibility.
Items that are used for the precise purpose for which they were designed
give your character a +2 bonus to the action using the item. Items that
were not designed for the use to which they are put, but could be used
for the action without any awkward problems, give your character a +1.
These bonuses are determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the best
judgment of the GM and players involved.
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Other circumstances can affect item use. For example, firing a handgun
beyond about 30 feet could be considered to reduce the bonus, and if the
shooter, the target, or both are moving, the bonus could also be reduced.

Jasons character, Eckhardt, draws his gun on the gunman and the snitch in an
effort to intimidate them. The group agrees that this is one of the precise purposes
for which a handgun was designed, so Jason gets to add a +2 to his action.
In a bar brawl, Pele picks up a barstool and bashes it over Norins head. This
is not really what a barstool was designed for, but it will certainly serve this
purpose. Pele gains a +1 in her action.

action resolution
After the reveal, and after actions have been matched against one another
by the GM, its time to determine who is successful. To determine success, you compare your characters combined faculty and aptitude total
plus adjustments from tokens against your opponents total. If your total
is greater, your character succeeds. If your total is less, your character fails.
If both totals are equal, both characters achieve either a costly or a partial
success. The difference between your characters total and your opponents
total determines the degree of success or failure as detailed below.

5 or more: Abject Failure. Your characters efforts are completely


fruitless, and she must suffer the greatest harm that can come to her
as a result.

3 or 4: Complete Failure. Your character does not succeed, and


must deal with any consequences of failure.

1 or 2: Near Success. Your character fails this time, but sees how she
could succeed with another attempt. Whether she has the opportunity
and tokens for another attempt is a different issue.
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0: Qualified Success. Your character succeeds, but poorly. There is


something wrong with the way she has succeededperhaps interfering with another action, succeeding by injuring herself, etc. In an opposed conflict, both characters succeed, but the outcome will be less
than satisfactory for both.

+1 or +2: Success. Your character succeeds, albeit not in any spectacular fashion. The task is done.

+3 or +4: Complete Success. Your character thoroughly succeeds;


achieving something a bit beyond what she might have been intending
to do.

+5 or more: Spectacular Success. Your character nails the task beyond


what might be normally expected. Additional beneficial side effects
related to the success of the task may (and most like should) occur.

After Bill decides how the actions match up, Erics character, Loki, ends up
defending himself against two other ageless beings, both trying to get him to
turn on the other.
Eric adds up the result of his action: Will (2) plus Stubborn Cuss (3) plus 6
action tokens. His result is 11.
Bill determines the outcome of Norins attack: Wits (5) plus Slick Salesman (4)
plus 3 action tokens. His result is 12.
Comparing the two, Bill sees that Norin has succeeded against Eric. He only got
+1 against Erics total, the result is a simple success. Bill describes how Norin
begins putting the hard sell on Loki, gradually convincing him that he should
be rude to Pele.

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Desperate Reactions
Sometimes, a character will take an action his opponent has not anticipated, and the defending character will have no action set as a defense. This
is exceptionally bad for the defending character. The attacking character
must only overcome the defending characters faculty to succeed, rather
than faculty plus aptitude plus action tokens. This is called passive defense.
There is an option if you really need to defend your character in this situation. You may reallocate your tokens to give your character a defense against
this unexpected assault. If you commit two additional action tokens from
your action pool, you may add one of your characters aptitudes in defense.
If your action pool is empty, you may pull an action token already allocated
to another action. However, you may not commit any additional action
tokens to also add extra effort to your defense.
If you really need those extra action tokens, you can spend one action
token as fatigue to add in your characters aptitude and also commit as
many additional action tokens as needed to your characters defense.

Jasons character, Eckhardt, is confronting a gunman and a snitch. Jason committed to two actions: an intimidation against the gunman, and dodging
behind the desk for defense. The gunman, however, is not making a physical
assault. He doesnt even pull his gun. Instead, he opts to threaten Eckhardt, an
intimidation action. Jason didnt anticipate a social attack, so he has no action
tokens committed to stop the gunman. The gunman uses his Will faculty (2)
and his Cold-Eyed Killer aptitude (4) along with his four committed tokens to
stare the older man down, but Jasons character may only use his Wits faculty to
resist, since he has no reaction allocated and Will is already being used in the
intimidation action. The gunmans total is 10 (Will 2 plus Cold-Eyed Killer
4 plus 4 action token) and Jasons is 4 (Wits 4). This is a really bad result for
Jason. The gunman could break him with this result, a +6, a spectacular success.
To avoid this, Jason decides on a desperate reaction. Jason commits two action
tokens in defense, pulling the last one from his pool and the other from his other
defensive action. His character may now also use his Cynic aptitude to brush off
the intimidation. He adds his Cynic (2) into the mix. His Wits plus Cynic is
still only 6, so he still fails, but this is a less devastating defeat. The gunman has
a complete success (+4) rather than a spectacular success.

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Jason decides this still isnt enough. He takes one of the action tokens from the
defensive action and spends it:

He can now commit extra action tokens to his defense. He pulls all of the tokens
from his physical dodge and puts them in Wits, raising the total number of
action tokens to five. Jasons total for the action is now 11, and he can resist the
gunmans intimidation.

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Harm
Some conflicts will cause mental or physical damage to your character if
she fails. In other conflicts, her goal may be to cause harm to another character. Physical conflict can result in harm to the character, but characters
suffer harm from mental assaults as well, which cause them to be shaken,
demoralized, or suffer a complete breakdown.
The degree of success or failure in the conflict in question should be the
primary guide to the level of harm caused or suffered. The players and the
GM should decide together which possible harm result makes the most
sense based on the current action, keeping in mind the goals set for the
conflict. The GM generally has the final say, subject to the threshold of
credibility.
Abject failure (5 or more) can result in serious wounds, maiming, or
even death for the character harmed.
Complete failure (3 or 4) generally means a light or serious wound,
but could possibly result in maiming if the consequences of failure are
high enough.
Near success or qualified success (0, 1, or 2) generally indicates a
scratch or light wound.
You must consider character death very carefully before choosing that result. As in popular fiction, an important character in Mortal Coil does not
die unless it serves the story. Characters can die to establish whats worth
dying for, to escalate the conflict, or to make a final statement. Both player
characters and supporting characters serve these purposes when they die.
A supporting character will sometimes be killed by a player character, and
in this case, the player is the one shaping the story with this death. When
player characters die, this is generally decided by both the player and the
GM together.

The gunman in the earlier example would have soundly beaten Jasons character
if Jason had not spent action tokens to reallocate. At a -6, the damage would
have resulted in serious mental harm. His character might have been anguished
or even broken (see below).

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Harm Effects
Your character may suffer damage effects multiple times, but only the effect
for the specific level of harm is suffered each time. The effects can be suffered an unlimited number of times. For example, if your character suffers
a light wound result twice, you must spend two action tokens, one for each
light wound.

Scratched/Shaken: Your character must immediately spend an action


token because of the injury. The token can only be regained with medical attention (first aid) or some other outside intervention (a pep talk
in the case of mental harm, for example). Unlike other harm effects,
additional scratches after the first do not force your character to spend
more action tokens; once a scratch is healed, though, your character
must again spend an action token if he receives another scratch.

In a scrap with Norin, Pele lost


a physical contest by 1 point.
Norins slash with the broken
bottle put a long but shallow
scratch on her arm. Kat moves
one action token into the spent
pool to represent the wound:

Later, she gets in a fight with


another god and loses by 1 point
again. Bill rules that she has
another scratch, but she does
not need to spend an additional
action token.

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Lightly Wounded/Demoralized: Your character must immediately


spend an action token because of the injury. Each subsequent light
wound requires your character to spend another action token. The
tokens can only be regained with several days of recovery (after medical attention is received in the case of physical harm).

Eckhardt is threatening Sal, a lessthan-brave snitch. He succeeds


in intimidating the other man,
beating him by 3 points. Michelle
rules that Sal will be demoralized.
He moves a token from his action
pool to his spent pool:

Dragging Sal along, Eckhardt


confronts Sals boss. Sals boss uses
an action to terrify Sal, succeeding
by 2 points. Again, Michelle rules
that Sal is demoralized. He moves
a second action token to the spent
pool:

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Seriously Wounded / Anguished:


Your character must immediately
spend two action tokens because
of the injury. Subsequent serious
wounds require your character to
spend another two action tokens.
The tokens can only be regained
with weeks or months of physical
or mental therapy.

The gunman opened up on


Eckhardt, and he cant make it
through the door in time. He
fails by 5 points, and Michelle
rules the damage is a serious wound. The bullet passed
through Eckhardts lung, but is
no longer in his body. Bleeding
and in great pain, Eckhardt
staggers off. Jason moves two
tokens from his action pool to
the spent area:

Maimed/Broken: Your character must reduce one of his faculties permanently by one because of the injury. Your character must do this
every time he is maimed or mentally broken. This is permanent harm;
points lost in this way are not recoverable unless they are bought back
with power tokens (see page 105).

Pluto has convinced Proserpine to come see him in an attempt to win her back.
He fails terribly while talking to her, losing by 6 points. Proserpine lets loose on
him with her true opinion, that he is a vile, insensitive, worthless loser, and she
stalks off. Russell decides that Proserpines words have broken Plutos spirit. He
reduces his Will faculty by one, permanently.

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Killed: Your character is dead. This result can come about in a nonphysical conflict as well, but in such a case your character will usually
have been driven to suicide. Note that immortal characters cannot be
killed under ordinary circumstances. For these characters, the maximum result is typically maimed.

Pele has finally had it with Norin. His latest prank has cost her a close friend,
and she grips him around the neck to choke the life out of him. She gets a
spectacular success on the action, beating him by 7 points. Kat tells Bill that
Pele really wants to kill him. So, in front of his dwarf cohort and her fellow
gods, she snaps his neck.

fatigue
All sorts of activities, whether mental or physical, cause people to become
tired. Fatigue reflects a combination of factors: mental fatigue, physical
exhaustion, emotional shock, the aftereffects of adrenaline, strain from
overextending oneself, etc.
As noted previously, if you reallocate one or more tokens during a conflict
round, you suffer fatigue, and one reallocated token must be spent. If you
use an action token performing an action outside of conflict, the action
token is also spent.
Also, your character becomes fatigued if you commit all of your characters
available pool of action tokens at once. Committing all of your tokens in
this fashion is called going all in. After the conflict is complete, one of
the action tokens committed is spent; the rest are brought back into the
available pool as normal.
As you might have already realized, you can allocate all but one of your
action tokens in a conflict round with no penalty. Most players will allocate
all but one action token in every conflict round. This is appropriate, and is
good strategic play.
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Eckhardt successfully convinces


gunman to put the gun down and
be reasonable. Now that the defensive action is over, Jason brings
back all his committed action
tokens but one, since he used his
entire available pool in one action. The remaining action token
is spent and he cannot recover it
until later (Jason views this as an
action token well spent):

Jasons character is confronted


by the gunman in a dark alley.
Michelle announces the mans
goal is to kill Eckhardt (or cause
as much harm as the resolution of
the situation will allow). Wanting
to avoid this, Jason decides to go
all in, committing all of his action tokens to an attempt to talk
the man into putting the gun
down:

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Recovering Spent Action Tokens


Action tokens spent due to fatigue within a conflict are recovered with rest.
Your character can recover one of her spent tokens by doing something
restful or rejuvenating for an hour or two, such as napping, relaxing in a
bath, listening to music, or drinking a couple of beers.

Jasons character Eckhardt has


gone all in on two conflicts, and
currently has two spent action
tokens:

He dozes in his car for an hour


or so, and one of his action tokens
returns to his pool:

Action tokens spent due to harm may not be recovered by rest, but must be
regained in the way specified by the particular type of harm.
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Action tokens spent to achieve an action outside of conflict are considered


either fatigue or harm. The first action token spent outside of conflict is
always lost due to fatigue, but any further tokens can be ruled as harm
by the GM (strained muscles, etc.). These are recovered the same way as
fatigue and harm suffered during a regular conflict, with one exception.
Characters can never recover these tokens until after their next conflict.
This means that tokens spent performing an action outside of conflict are
always unavailable for the characters next conflict, no matter how much
rest and healing she has had in the meantime.

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chapter five Summary


Conflict
Any situation where the outcome is in doubt and is essential to the story
is a conflict.
Goals state the results of success or failure in a conflict.
Goals can be opposed or independent (able to succeed or fail independent
of each other).
When all actions are resolved, the conflict round ends and all committed
tokens return to the pool.
If all characters have either achieved their goal or have been definitively
blocked from achieving their goal, the conflict is over. If not, begin another
round of actions.

Basic Actions
All actions in a round take place at roughly the same time.
Your characters actions should be aimed at achieving your goal.
Actions outside conflict compare faculty plus aptitude against these
difficulties:
3: Routine.
4: Easy.
5: Harder.
6: Difficult.
7: Challenging.
8: Knotty problem.
9: Not for the faint-hearted.
10: Near the limit.

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chapter five summary


Opposed actions outside of conflict use a simple faculty plus aptitude
comparison.
You can spend action tokens to raise your total outside of conflict, but the
tokens do not refresh until after your next conflict.

Committing Action Tokens


At least one action token must be committed to take an action.
Each action in a round must use a different faculty.
Action tokens committed to an action add to the faculty plus
aptitude total.
Helping another character adds +2 to the other characters action if the
helping action is successful.
Commitment of tokens is noted secretly and then revealed by all participants at the same time.
Power tokens are the only type of tokens that may be added to an action
after the reveal.
The GM matches all actions against one another, determining which actions oppose each other.

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conflict
Calling on Passions
Players may call on a passion in a conflict by spending a passion token.
Passions give a bonus equal to the passion rank.
Each action can be influenced by only one passion.
If a character goes against a passion, he must spend an extra action token
just to perform the action.
If a passion is used more than once in a session, it must increase in rank by
one point. Another passion must be reduced by one.
To add a new passion, spend a passion token and note a new 1-point
passion on the sheet. Another passion must be reduced by one to add the
new passion.
Passions can be raised or lowered one point or a new 1-point passion can
be added as the goal of a conflict.
Characters recover all passion tokens between sessions.

Item Effects
Items grant a bonus when used for an action:
+2 if used on the specific task for which it was designed.
+1 if used on a task it was not designed for, but that it could still
serve to perform.

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chapter five summary


Action Resolution
The difference between totals in an action determines success or failure:
5 or more: abject failure.
3 or 4: complete failure.
1 or 2: near success.
0: qualified success.
+1 or +2: success.
+3 or +4: complete success.
+5 or more: spectacular success.

Desperate Reactions
If an action is unopposed, the defender may only use passive defense.
Passive defense is equal to the defending characters faculty alone.
Committing two action tokens allows a character to add an aptitude to
passive defense.
Spending one action token allows a character to use a regular action instead
of passive defense.

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conflict
Fatigue
Going all-in and committing all action tokens causes one of the tokens
to be spent.
Action tokens spent due to fatigue may be recovered by rest.

Harm
Harm can be suffered by the loser of a conflict. Degree of success or failure
determines level of harm:
Abject Failure: serious wounds, maiming, or even death.
Complete Failure: light or serious wounds, possibly maiming.
Near success or qualified success: scratch or light wound. Types of harm
and their effects:
Scratched/Shaken: immediately spend an action token. Additional
scratches after the first do not force the character to spend an additional token.
Lightly Wounded/Demoralized: immediately spend an action
token.
Seriously Wounded/Anguished: immediately spend two action
tokens.
Maimed/Broken: permanently reduce a faculty by one.
Killed: the character is dead.

101

Chapter Six: Power

102

CHAPTER SIX
Power tokens are special tokens that can be used to get a little something
extra in various circumstances during game play. They can also be used to
add new details to your character, take brief authorial control of the game
and bring in the elements you desire to a scene, or even raise your magic
token total.

Using Power Tokens


Power tokens are always sacrificed. They do not regenerate, but new ones
are periodically awarded during play. Sacrificing power tokens grants certain benefits, as described below.

To Replace Action Tokens


A power token can be sacrificed to take the place of an action token that
you would otherwise be committing or spending. The result of the action
is determined as if the power token were an action token; the action token
for which you substitute the power token is not committed or spent.
A power token can also be sacrificed to be used as an action token if you
have no action tokens left in your pool. Each power token sacrificed in this
way acts as a single action token. Applying this rule, you can use power
tokens to add action tokens beyond what you would normally have in
103

a pool to your actions in a conflict. Even if you have only six action tokens normally, by adding power tokens in conflict you could end up with
eight, ten, or even more equivalent action tokens for the conflict round.
Of course, all power tokens used are sacrificed and have no effect on your
normal action pool.
Unlike standard action tokens, power tokens may be sacrificed for use as
action tokens after an action is revealed in order to change the outcome of a
conflict. When used in this way, the changed outcome should be described
in a way that incorporates chance. The power token represents luck when
used like this, and the result of the action will reflect some lucky break that
your character has had thanks to the expenditure.

Erics character Loki is trying to resist the slick words of Norin, but ends up with
a total of 11 against Norins 12 after the reveal. Eric really doesnt want to lose
this contest, so he decides to sacrifice 2 power tokens to raise his total to 13 and
gain success for the action.

To Replace Magic Tokens


You can also sacrifice a power token in the place of a magic token that
you would otherwise be spending. The supernatural event is activated; the
magic token for which you have substituted the power token is not spent.
A power token can be sacrificed to be used as a magic token even if you
have no magic tokens left in your pool. Each power token sacrificed in this
way acts as a single magic token.
You can never use a power token to take the place of a magic token that is
being sacrificed. Power tokens cannot be used to add magical facts to the
theme document.

Jason wants his character to use his magical jewelers loupe. He is running low
on magic tokens, so he decides to sacrifice a power token instead of spending a
magic token.

104

To Change a Character
Power tokens can be sacrificed to change your characters faculties or aptitudes. These are permanent adjustments to your character and can be made
at any time, subject to the threshold of credibility.
Aptitudes may be permanently raised one point by sacrificing a number of
power tokens equal to the new aptitude level. Aptitudes can be raised to a
maximum score of five. Characters may never have more than 15 points
of aptitudes. If you wish to raise a characters aptitude and the character
already has 15 points of aptitudes, you must lower another aptitude by
one to do so. Raising the aptitude still costs the normal amount of power
tokens. Aptitudes may be improved any number of times, limited only by
the maximum rank, total points, and available power tokens.
Faculties may be permanently raised one point by sacrificing five power
tokens. Faculties can be raised to a maximum score of five. Changes to faculties are restricted depending on the starting power level of the character.
Novices may change each of their four faculties only once. Veterans may
change only three faculties during the course of a game. Ancient characters
may only change one faculty, and ageless characters may not change their
faculties at all. Generally, such a use of a power token should represent
some fundamental change to your character that has occurred in the course
of a scene or several scenes.
The only exception to the rule governing faculty increases is when your
character has suffered maimed or broken harm. In this case, you can spend
five power tokens to restore the affected faculty to its previous level, even if
the rules would normally prevent this.

Jasons character, Eckhardt, has been helping Kristas character, Lucy, during
the course of the session. Jason thinks Eckhardt should be learning more about
training and inspiring another person, so he sacrifices two power tokens to raise
his Mentor aptitude from 1 to 2.

105

Erics character Loki is ageless and started with 15 points of aptitudes. After all
the brawling thats been going on at the bar, Eric decides Loki is learning how
to fight. He sacrifices a power token to create a new aptitude, Barroom Brawler
at 1. Since he already had the maximum number of aptitudes, he reduces one
of his other aptitudes, Shape Shifter, from 4 to 3.

To Gain New Magic Tokens


Power tokens can be sacrificed in order to gain new magic tokens. The cost
for buying new magic tokens depends on the magic level of the game.

Low Magic: Sacrificing four power tokens earns you one additional
magic token.

Moderate Magic: Sacrificing either two or three power tokens earns


you one additional magic token. Which of these levels applies should
be set at the beginning of play, when crafting the theme document.

High Magic: You can convert power tokens into magic tokens on a
one-for-one basis.

The GM gains one or more new magic tokens whenever a player purchases
one. In low-to medium-magic settings, the GM only gets one additional
magic token when a player purchases one. If the players have chosen the
high magic setting, the GM gets two additional magic tokens whenever a
player purchases one.

Krista has sacrificed most of her starting pool of magic tokens. She decides she is
running too low on magic tokens, and sacrifices three power tokens she has saved
to gain a new one. Since this is a moderate-level magic game, the GM gains an
additional magic token as well.

To Add Nonmagical Facts


Power tokens have another use. Spending a power token allows you to create nonmagical facts in your scene. This is very similar to adding a fact to
the theme document with a magic token, only in this case you are adding
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a nonmagical fact to the current scene as it is happening. You can sacrifice


a power token to introduce a new item or situation to the scene, such as
finding a gun in your friends glove compartment, or having a supporting
character reveal a secret love for another character.
How much leeway a player has when spending a power token is up to your
own group, and the same rules that apply to adding magical facts apply
here as well. If a player has an objection, the situation should be discussed
and possibly adjusted as needed. This use of power tokens is subject to the
threshold of credibility.

In a scene in a bar, one of Bills supporting characters has opened fire with his
gun. Russell thinks this is going to attract the wrong kind of attention, and
sacrifices a power token, announcing that the gunfire has been reported and the
police are on their way.

To Bring Characters into Scenes


Similar to the way you can bring in items and situations, you can also have
any character arrive in a scene by sacrificing a power token. You can insert
your own character, another players character, or a supporting character
into an ongoing scene with this method. All you are doing is introducing the character to the scene. Once the character is in the scene, he is
portrayed by whichever player normally has control of the character. Player
characters are controlled by their own player, and supporting characters are
controlled by the GM.
Just like introducing new facts, other players may object if they wish to.
This ability is ruled by the threshold of credibility.

Eckhardt is confronting the gunman and the snitch in an office. As the characters banter, Krista decides that Eckhardt will need some backup. She sacrifices a
power token and says, As they talk, Lucy comes down the hall outside. Hearing
the voices, she moves quietly up until she is outside the door and listens.

107

To Set Scenes
Normally, the GM sets every scene by describing the time and place and
deciding which characters are present. As a player, you can sacrifice a power
token to take on this role. If you sacrifice one power token, you gain the
privilege to set the next scene. You determine where it takes place and who
is there. The GM then assumes her normal role, and you play through the
scene as usual.
The same rules apply to you as to the GM. You must have the agreement
of the group when you set the scene, because this power is subject to the
threshold of credibility.

After a massive fight in the bar, Bill thinks about what scene to set next. He
doesnt have to make a decision because Eric sacrifices a power token and sets the
next scene: In the dim halls of the dwarfs, Loki appears, walking down toward
the empty throne where Norin used to sit. From the shadowed recesses, the forms
of hundreds of svartalfar emerge, armed and grumbling.

The GMs Power Pool


The GM starts each session with a pool of power tokens. The GMs pool of
power tokens is equal to one token for each player in the game (including
the GM herself ), plus one additional token for each ancient or ageless
player character in the game. This pool refreshes at the beginning of each
session; the GM is never awarded power tokens during play.

In the old gods game, there are four players plus Bill, the GM. All four players
have ageless characters. Bill starts with one power token for each player including himself, plus one token for each ageless character, giving him a total of 9
power tokens.

108

Power Token Awards


During play, the GM and other players will award characters with power
tokens. A pool of power tokens equal to twice the number of players at
the table (including the GM) should be placed in the center of the play
area. During play, when you bring in your passions, perform an especially
interesting or innovative action, or create atmosphere for the game in a
really evocative way, any other person at the table can nominate you to
receive a power token. If the group agrees, the power token is awarded to
you immediately and you can use it whenever you see fit. The GM is not
awarded power tokens.
When you act in a scene in an especially effective way, take a course of
action that seems particularly appropriate for your character, create a description that really brings life to the game world, or perform some task in
a spectacular fashion, you should be considered for a power token award.
Passions are key in determining if a token is warranted. If you convincingly
portray your characters passion, a power token should always be awarded.
Your group will come to a consensus over time regarding what deserves
to be rewarded with a power token. This will differ from group to group
and game to game, but after a session or two, it will be pretty clear what
everyone in the game feels should be rewarded with power tokens.
All players should get at least one power token each session. If the session
ends and a player has not received a power token, she may add one to her
pool immediately. No single player may be awarded more than three power
tokens in a session. If tokens remain in the pool at the end of the session,
they are discarded between sessions.

Jason invokes Eckhardts passion for keeping people safe and pulls a mine worker
safely out of a collapsing tunnel. Krista suggests he get a power token for this,
and everyone agrees. He takes a token from the award pool and adds it to
his own.

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chapter six Summary


Power Tokens
Power tokens are always sacrificed.
A power token can take the place of a committed or spent action token.
A power token can take the place of a spent magic token.
A power token cannot take the place of a sacrificed magic token.

Changing a Character
Aptitudes may be raised by one point by sacrificing power tokens equal to
the new aptitude level.
Aptitudes may be raised to a maximum score of five.
Aptitudes may be improved any number of times, but a character may
never have more than 15 points of aptitudes.
Faculties may be raised by one point by sacrificing 5 power tokens.
Faculties may be raised to a maximum score of five.
Changes to faculties depend on starting character level:
Novice: may raise each of the four faculties by one.
Veteran: may raise up to three faculties by one.
Ancient: may raise one faculty by one.
Ageless: may not change faculties.
When a character has suffered maimed or broken harm, the player
may spend power tokens to restore the faculty, regardless of the
above restrictions.

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power
Gaining New Magic Tokens
New magic tokens must be bought with power tokens:
Low Magic: 1 magic token = 4 power tokens.
Moderate Magic: 1 magic token = 2 or 3 power tokens.
High Magic: 1 magic token = 1 power token.
The GM gains a new magic token whenever a player purchases one. In a
high magic setting, the GM gains 2 each time a player purchases one.

Scene Power
A power token can be sacrificed to add a nonmagical fact to the game
world.
A player can bring any character or supporting character into a scene by
sacrificing a power token.
A player can buy the right to set the next scene by sacrificing a power token.

Session Power Pools


The GM starts each session with 1 token/player, +1/ageless or ancient
character.
Main power pool is equal to 2x the number of players + GM.

Power Token Awards


Each player is awarded at least one power token per session.
No player may be awarded more than 3 power tokens in a single session.
The GM does not receive power token awards.

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Chapter Seven: Play

112

CHAPTER SEVEN

Youve now read the rules, but now we should discuss how to effectively use
them. There are a lot of tricks that can make your Mortal Coil game better.
This section is aimed at players controlling characters. The GM player gets
her own chapter, which you can find right after this one.

Players Building Story


If you are playing a character, the game is about you. The players control
the protagonists of the story, and the game should revolve around them
and what they care about. Although the GM will set scenes and control the
game pacing most of the time, you are responsible for helping that along as
well. You are not there to passively experience the GMs plot, you are there
to collaboratively guide story and help the GM achieve what you want out
of the game.
As a player, you have story power. You can create magical facts with your
magic tokens, and these in turn create new things to hang plot on. When
you create a fact, you are giving a signal to the other players about things
you are interested in the game. By the same token, the other players are
doing likewise.
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You also have power tokens. These give you a strong influence on the direction of the game. You can use power tokens to set scenes, bring your
character or another character into a scene, or even add details to the game
world. Use these to move play in an interesting direction and to help the
other players do the same.

Getting What You Want as a Player


No one should ever have to play a game that isnt fun. For Mortal Coil to
work, it is important to communicate with the other people at the table.
You need to be clear about what you want out of the game and what direction you are interested in seeing the game go. If you dont express what you
want, you will end up disappointed, and the other players may not even
know they have done something you dont like.
You also need to listen and pay attention to what the other players are
doing at the table. They should be communicating their desires to you as
well. You should be trying to help them achieve what they want, just as
they should do the same for you.
Mortal Coil has a powerful tool to help everyone do this. The threshold of
credibility is there to help ensure that no one is left behind in a game of
Mortal Coil. Every single player has the ability to veto any contribution to
the shared fiction of the game world. Use this power wisely, but remember
it is there if the game begins to take a direction you dont like. Invoking the
threshold of credibility is a good opportunity to call time out and get the
group to have a short discussion about the game and its direction.

Sharing the Spotlight


Its fun to be the center of attention. Because its fun, make sure you arent
the only one doing it. All of the players should get some spotlight time
during the course of a session. If you notice that another player hasnt been
participating in a lot of scenes, use a power token to create a scene for that
character, or bring the character into another scene in progress. Try to get
your characters story to intersect with the other players. The GM will try
to give everyone and equal role, but use your resources as a player to help.

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Your Characters Passions


When you built your character, you wrote down a list of the things that
motivate your character to act. These are your characters passions. The
passions you wrote down send a signal to the GM about the direction youd
like your characters story to take. The GM will be taking inspiration from
these passions to drive the story. Shes going to be looking for areas where
your passions and those of the other players intersect, either to reinforce
a direction, or to bring your characters into conflict with each other. Play
will naturally revolve around these intersections.
Its very important to make sure that the passions you choose indicate a
direction you want the game to go. If you pick a passion that points in
a direction you, the player, are not interested in, you are going to have a
very unsatisfying game. Passions are one of the tools through which players guide play. When crafting passions, first make sure that they motivate
your character to act. Passions that go nowhere are going to be boring in
play and will rarely come up. Since passions are a potent resource for you
in conflicts, if they never factor in, you will never be able to tap into that
strength.
The second function a passion serves is to define the character. Characters
in a story are defined largely by their motivations. Characters with no motives tend to be boring. Passions communicate very clearly to the other
players exactly who your character is. Think about what the passions say
about your character as you write them. They are an excellent way to add
nuance to your characters portrayal in the story. A tough-guy character
who always presents a hard-bitten and cynical attitude becomes far more
interesting and complex when you know he has a passion demonstrating a
deep fear of his friends coming to harm.

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Conflicting Passions
Passions can also be used to create great story tension. When two passions
oppose one another it leads to conflicts that test them against one another.
Basing passions on the central conflicts laid out in the theme document
will bring these themes into stark relief during play. Passions might conflict
between two characters, in which case the issue will likely be hashed out
between the two characters by way of arguments or even full-on conflict.
Until one or the other character changes a passion, the tension will remain
and continue to come up and drive story.
Another really interesting way to use passions is to create conflicting passions right on your own sheet. Characters can feel conflicted, and having
two passions that are mutually incompatible means that your character
cant make up his mind. A character might hate his ex for leaving him,
and at the same time still love her. This makes for really interesting choices
during play. While in conflicts you can call on one or the other of the
conflicting passions, indicating which rules the character at the moment.
You can play out this conflict as long as you like, and you may find that
the character begins to resolve the conflict as you go. If you use one of the
passions more often than the other, that passion will begin to gain the upper hand and eventually rise at the expense of the other passion, resolving
the conflict.

Creating Facts
As a player in Mortal Coil, you have the ability to add things to the game
setting through your magic and power tokens. This gives you a lot of power
normally reserved for the GM. You can use this ability to really shape the
game setting and the events in the story. This is restricted by the consent of
the other players, of course, and they all have similar power, but you can
nudge things in the direction you are interested in seeing things go using
these tokens.
When the theme document was created, there were probably things that
inspired you, and when you built your character, you were thinking about
direction the magical setting could go. Your magic tokens are there to allow you to continue the creation process through play. You should use the
magic tokens to add abilities and powers that help your character, but also
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think about how these new facts build on what has been laid down already.
Use your ability to create facts to add detail to the setting that is interesting
to you. Build up the world with your contributions and shape and define
the setting as you play. With everyone at the table doing this, your group
will create a really interesting world and you will probably be surprised at
the result.
Dont forget that you can create any magical fact you want with your tokens. You dont have to restrict yourself to things that your own character
can do. You can sacrifice tokens to change the powers of creatures the GM
introduced. You can add restrictions to the powers of vampires, for example, such as stopping them from entering a house uninvited or crossing
running water. This is a powerful tool, and you should not hesitate to use
it during play.

Using Your Power Tokens


Another resource available to you as a player is your pool of power tokens. Substituting a power token for an action or magic token is a pretty
straightforward use. Using the power tokens to improve your character is
also pretty intuitive. Where the real story power comes from is when you
use power tokens for scene influence. Judicious use of power tokens to
introduce a new scene allows you, as a player, to really drive parts of the
story you are interested in. You can highlight aspects of the story that are
interesting to you, or bring attention to areas you feel are being neglected
by the drive of the story. Introducing characters into an existing scene
serves a similar function. Dont be shy about using your power tokens in
this way. It gives you, as a player, some serious control over the overall
shape of the game. Mortal Coil is a collaborative game, and these resources
are there to give you story power as a player.

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Techniques in conflicts
The conflict system is probably the trickiest part of a game of Mortal Coil.
There are ways to make conflicts better. As a player, you can use some of
these ideas to spice up the conflicts and make sure you get what you want
out of the system.

Side Bets
A conflict begins and everyone states their goal. You and the rest of the
players begin to make bids with action tokens to reach their goal. As you
do this, you can take smaller actions that go a bit to the side of your original
goal as well. Perhaps you want to make sure that your characters son gets
out of a situation safely. Most of your effort will be devoted to making sure
that happens, but maybe youd also like to make sure your ex-boyfriend
looks bad in the process. This is a side bet: You are taking an action to pursue a minor goal in addition to the major stated goal. This is an appropriate
use of your resources and can make conflicts very interesting.
Pursuing a secondary goal on the side is fine. Just make sure you dont state
a conflict goal in order to fake the other players out. The goal you set up
at first should be your main priority. Other players can definitely call you
on it if you state a conflict goal and then pursue something else entirely,
ignoring the main goal.
The danger with side bets is they use some of your resources. You risk failing
in your main actions, but there are often several other things your character
might want out of a conflict in addition to her stated goal. Consider what
will make the conflict more dramatic and interesting for the whole group.
If a side bet fills that description, think about throwing one in.

Eckhardt is facing down the gunman and the snitch. Jason wants to keep the
gunman from harming Eckhardt; thats his primary goal. He allocates one
action to intimidate the gunman, and another to dodge behind a table to defend himself should the gunman open fire. Jason also wants to turn the snitch
against his boss, and so he lays down another action to convince the snitch to
switch sides. This last action is a side bet, unrelated to the main goal of saving
Eckhardts skin.

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Changing Passions as a Goal


When you are choosing a goal for your character, sometimes you will want
to use a conflict to force another character to change his passions. This is
actually an appropriate goal. Instead of inflicting harm if you win, you are
making a 1-point change to the passions on his sheet. You can add a new
1-point passion, or your can cause one of his other passions to rise or lower
by one point. The player of the target character decides how this affects his
other passions, which will need to be adjusted by one point if the conflict
is resolved in your favor.
This can be a really powerful tool in conflicts. Passions are an important
part of a character, and getting them to change has a lot of resonance.
Some of the best moments in my games have involved a change in passion.
Within the game fiction, you are successfully changing another characters
mind or making them feel a particular way.
As the target character, even if you lose a conflict of this sort, you are not
without recourse. You can easily manipulate your own passions during play
by using one more than once, or adding a new passion to your sheet. If
you are not satisfied with the change to your passions after a conflict, you
can generally change it back within the same session. Before you do, think
of the impact this has within the game. The characters feelings are being
manipulated.

Kat wants to put the fear of Pele into Norin. When Norin provokes a bar brawl,
Kat states her goal to add Fear: Pele is going to kill me to Norins character
sheet. Bill thinks this is an appropriate goal, and the conflict begins. Pele wins
the conflict, and Bill adds the 1-point Fear to Norins sheet.

How to Use Faculties in Conflicts


Just about every faculty can be used to both attack and defend. It may seem
that Force and Wits are attack faculties and Grace and Will are defense
faculties, but any of them can be used for either purpose. Here are some
ways to think about each faculty in turn that can help you come up with
appropriate actions in a conflict.
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Force: Its pretty easy to think of aggressive actions you can use with
Force. Hitting people, grappling them, throwing them, pushing them,
or grabbing things away are all great offensive uses of Force. For defense, consider that Force represents a characters size and physical
toughness, as well as endurance. You can use Force to just take a hit
and shake it off, or tire an enemy out.

Pluto and Jupiter are in a conflict and Bill anticipates a physical assault. He has
Jupiter use his Force to defend, allocating tokens to absorb a hit and not flinch.

Grace: Grace can be used defensively to dodge, outrun, or outmaneuver an opponent. You can also use your balance and agility to move
places another character cant follow. For offensive uses, Grace can be
a way to beat an opponent with speed or accuracy of attack, or to
move so quickly and decisively your opponent doesnt have a chance
to react. Grace can even seduce another character with your physical
movements.

Loki uses his Grace in a conflict with Pele. He knows shes a better fighter, so he
uses a Grace action to sweep her feet out from under her when she goes in for
the attack.

Will: Will has some obvious defense capabilities. Will can be used to
resist persuasion through stubbornness, or fend off mental assaults.
Will can even be used to resist physical assault just by powering
through the pain. For offensive action, Will can be used to intimidate
or dominate another character, or to simply browbeat someone into
giving up. Will sometimes powers magical effects as well.

Eckhardt doesnt have very good physical stats, so Jason decides to use his Will
to defend against the gunmans shot. Eckhardt isnt going to try to get out of the
way, but just power through the pain and damage anyway.

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Wits: Cleverness is a great offense and defense. Wits can be used defensively to outthink an opponent, to anticipate his moves and counter
them, or to turn an opponents argument against him. Using Wits as
an offence allows you to dazzle an opponent with a blizzard of words,
to devise a clever stratagem that your opponent doesnt anticipate, or
just speak so sincerely and effectively you sway someone to your cause.

Loki is a tricky opponent, and decides that he will use his Wits to his advantage
in a fight. His action is to defend himself and retreat, until his opponent is over
a puddle of spilled beer, and then make an assault, forcing Norin to slip.

Bringing a Gun to a Knife Fight


One of the best ways to win a conflict in Mortal Coil is to do the unexpected. When you state your goal, the other players are generally going to
have an idea of what your actions will be to achieve it. If you come up with
an innovative action that achieves your goal but that the other players will
not anticipate, you greatly improve your chances.
Maybe the other player thinks this is a mental contest. If you throw in a
physical action that furthers your goal, you may catch the other player off
guard with no defense. If you get an action in that has no defense, you are
likely to dominate there. The other player may have to make a desperate
reaction or burn some power tokens to compensate. This is how you win
conflicts.

The gunman has cornered Kristas character Lucy, and he is just going to try to
scare her as an attack. Knowing that the gunman has a lot of ability in this
area, Krista decides to shake things up. She adds a mental defense against the
gunmans intimidation, but also adds an attack action to kick the guy in the
nuts. The gunman had a mental defense in place, but Bill didnt anticipate the
physical assault, leaving him basically defenseless against that action.

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chapter seven Summary


Players Building Story
Every player has a responsibility to help make a game of Mortal Coil work.
Communicate what you want to the other players at the table, and listen
to what they are saying in turn.
Remember the threshold of credibility and use it when appropriate.
Dont hog the spotlight, and use your story power to help other players get
spotlight time.

Techniques in Conflicts
Make the occasional side bet in a conflict to make things interesting.
You can change a passion as a conflict goal. This is a powerful effect.
Use each faculty for both attack and defense.
To win conflicts, do the unexpected.

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Chapter Eight: The GM

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CHAPTER EIGHT

One player in Mortal Coil has a special role. This player is called the Game
Moderator, or GM. As GM, you have the responsibility to look at the big
picture while playing. Each of the other players will concentrate mostly on
their own characters, but the GM looks at the rest of the world and the
other supporting characters that will take part in the story. The GM is also
the arbitrator between the system and the players, and has a responsibility
for making things run smoothly in the game.

The gMs role


The GM has several responsibilities. The GM will bring the supporting
characters to life in the groups story. Each of the other players will portray a
single character, but the GM portrays all of the other characters that appear
in the game. These characters are called supporting characters because that
is what they are. They exist to support the overall structure of the groups
story and to help the players show things about their own characters. Like
in a literary work, it is always better to show than tell. Use the supporting
characters to draw the player characters passions in relief and let them deal
with the issues and situations that create drama and interesting interaction.
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The GM also helps the players set the scene, presents challenges to the
players, and helps them bring the passions and issues of their characters
into play in order to drive the human elements of the story forward. This
is a big responsibility, but the GM is not responsible for doing all of this
alone. The other players should help the GM by making suggestions, initiating conflicts, and making sure that the issues they want to address are
brought to the attention of the other players.
As GM, you truly are a moderator. You have the power to organize what
could be a very chaotic situation by announcing which scenes and characters are the current focuses of play, especially if it seems as if the group
is getting off track. To do this, you must listen to your players. The most
important things to these characters are their passions, which are prominently listed right on the character sheets. The passions generally indicate
where a player is interested in taking his character. Only rarely should you
try to introduce or push anything that doesnt relate in some way to at least
one of the player characters passions.

Building Story from characters


Characters are where the story is in Mortal Coil. The players have created
characters who are the protagonists in the story of the game. The scenes
and situations within the game should revolve around these characters and
their issues.
Each player character has passions. These passions relate to what the character wants. Knowing the motivations of the characters is of great value to a
GM. You can structure scenes around the passions. See how the passions of
different players interact and build scenes around that. Give players strong
choices between their passions and present situations where more than one
passion, and more than one character, is in play. These passions drive the
characters, and so your responsibility as a GM is to ensure they drive the
characters to story.
Keeping your focus on the player characters is important. The villains and
other supporting characters can add a lot to the story, but remember that
the story is not about them. The player characters are the protagonists.
If you find yourself favoring a particular supporting character, make sure
that the other players are interested enough in this character to justify the
additional involvement.
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The players have several ways of signaling what they are interested in
without talking about it outside play. These include passions, the theme
document, and also their use of power tokens. See what sort of scenes players call for with power tokens, and incorporate the characters and details
they introduce with power tokens. This is direct method for players to add
things to a scene, and when they use it, as GM you should run with it.

Jasons character Eckhardt has a passion Duty: I will keep these people safe.
Looking at the passion, its pretty clear to Michelle that Jason is interested in
Eckhardt acting as a hero and saving people from supernatural threats. She
sets a scene out by a campground. Some local campers are being threatened by
a recently awakened vampire, and Eckhardt and Lucy arrive on the scene as a
swarm of rattlesnakes crawl into the camp.

Using the Theme Document


The theme document is also a very useful tool for you as the GM. This
document is created by both you and your players, and essentially defines
your game world. When the group built the theme document together,
they created a situation for their characters. This is what you, as the GM,
should concentrate on. Tie that situation directly into what the characters
are doing; make that situation directly relevant to them. Abstract principles
are important when they relate immediately to a decision that a character
must make.
Players can also introduce new facts into the theme document, as described
earlier. When they do so, they are communicating what they want out of
the game. If a player creates a fact about sorcerers, thats generally a pretty
good indication that the player wants to have sorcerers become part of the
game world and have some impact on the story that is being told. As a
GM, you can note what facts are added to the theme and see to it that these
facts show up in the gamein most cases, the sooner the better.

Krista sacrifices a magic token to create a new fact: Magicians can control
supernatural beings. So far, Michelle has introduced a vampire and a colossal

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snake to the game. She knows that Krista is definitely interested in seeing some
magician as the responsible party for this supernatural threat, and she adds a
magician as a supporting character to her roster.

Scene framing
Setting a scene and knowing when to end a scene are perhaps the most
important skills a GM can learn in Mortal Coil. Starting scenes and ending
scenes strongly influences the pace of play. The GM is mostly responsible
for keeping an eye on this process, but all of the players also need to take
an active role in this.
All scenes have one of two purposes. A scene can bring out one or more
conflicts, or a scene can show some key information that is relevant to the
characters and the overall story. Sometimes, it can do both. Set up the
scenes to move action forward, and push the groups collective story. Dont
focus too much on the little detailsget right to the juicy bits. If the scene
starts to drag, either move to resolution or conflict, or else end the scene
and move on to the next one.
Encourage the players to speak up if there is something they want to resolve in a scene before it is closed. Remember, the players are responsible
for moving the action forward as well.
When you are running out of ideas, talk to the players. Have them give
suggestions on a new scene. Many times, players will have something they
want to do, and getting feedback from them can help you get things moving again. Encourage a dialog with the players about scenes and character
intentions. Since Mortal Coil is a character-based story, learning what the
players are interested in next will help you keep things on track.

The scene is a bar, and Russells character, the Roman god Pluto, has just gotten
the better of his rival Jupiter in a tense conflict. Pluto and his friend have managed to get Jupiter so drunk he passes out at the back of the bar. Conflict over,
the players congratulate each other. Bill, the GM, now immediately sets a new
scene to move the action along: OK. The next day, Pluto is in his office, and the
door slams open. Stepping inside is none other than Jupiter, and he looks angry.

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Keeping Things Exciting


This advice is good, but how do you keep a scene focused and interesting?
There are some techniques that make this easier. Think about the books,
movies, or TV shows you have seen. One thing all these media have in
common is a focus on drama. You rarely see a scene that does not either
reveal something about a character or move the story forward. Scenes in
Mortal Coil serve a similar function.
One way to make a scene dramatic is to make sure it sets up a situation the
characters cannot ignore. The situation should demand to be resolved, one
way or another. As a GM, it isnt your job to have one specific resolution in
mind. Let the players make their own decisions but dont let them weasel
out of the tough choices. Some players will be happy to pursue scenes that
create conflict and trauma for their character, and setting up a scene with
inherent conflict will probably be enough for these players. Some players
may be more passive and will need some assistance in finding the drama.
When you set the scene, think about the potential conflicts the situation
and other characters in the scene represent. If the players dont look for
drama, start to escalate the tension within the scene. Pretty soon, you will
find that the supporting characters in the scene will try something that the
players are not willing to ignore.
The players already provide you with what you need to know about what
is important in your story. Passions are the key to interesting sessions. The
passion of at least one character should be intimately involved in every
scene in some way. Players choose passions for their characters, and these
are the things within the game fiction that these characters care about.
Aiming the scenes at these passions gives the game a kick because the emotions and desires of the characters will be evoked as you play the scene out.
Scenes get really interesting if more than one characters passions come
up. Situations where a single characters passions pull him two different
directions also create rich play, and scenes where the passions of more than
one character pull in different directions create great drama. Try to get
the players to choose between passionswhich one is the most important
to them?

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Eckhardt is facing down a massive rattlesnake in a warehouse. The night watchman is gripped within its coils, paralyzed by fear. Eckhardt has the passion
Duty: I have to keep these people safe and Jason begins to think about what
actions he will take to rescue the watchman. Just then, Michelle tells Krista, As
you creep along the catwalk above, you see Eckhardt confronting the snake. A
dark figure is up on the catwalk with you, seeming to control the serpent. At
that moment, he notices you and turns his attention to you. Eckhardt also has
the passion Fear: Lucy will get killed. Jason now has to decide which passion
to pursue. Follow his Duty and rescue the watchman, or follow his Fear and
try to protect Lucy.

adjudicating conflict
An essential task for the GM is helping everyone make sense of conflict.
The blind bidding system used in Mortal Coil can be confusing, and it is
not always obvious what should happen when the bids are revealed. Thats
where you come in. As the GM, one of your most important tasks is guiding the conflict toward resolving goals so that it can end and the scene
can move on. There are a few simple things to keep in mind to make the
conflicts work really well.

Setting Goals for Supporting Characters


This is where you can really put the pressure on. As mentioned in character
creation, each supporting character noted in a player characters passions
gets its own sheet. These supporting characters are perfect for you to tie
the player characters into the story. These supporting characters need to
get involved with the player characters, and then draw them into conflicts.
Villains at least should have an overall agenda that involves a character. A
player character should be a necessary component for a villain to achieve
what he ultimately wants. Dont complicate the villains, let them have one
main agenda. If you stack on too many, it will start to get hard to remember what each one wants and needs.
Within a conflict itself, supporting characters need a goal. They will be taking actions to achieve this goal just like the player characters. This will help
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you choose actions for the supporting character, and gives the supporting
character an understandable motivation. Announce the supporting characters goals to the group at the beginning of the conflict right along with the
players. This way, players will have a better chance of anticipating the supporting characters actions and attempting to either counter or assist them.
Make sure you note down these goals for your own reference, especially if
you have several supporting characters involved in the scene.
Sometimes you will have a conflict with a villain along with a group of
henchmen or other backup characters for the villain. In this situation, its
probably best for the henchmen not to have goals of their own, or have
the goal help the boss. A bunch of minor-league guys dont all need their
own goal and it can get really confusing if you have a gang of six thugs,
each trying to pursue a separate goal.

In the old gods game, Norin is the main antagonist. He hates the gods, and
thus hates the bar where they meet. Bill decides that Norins overall agenda is to
destroy the bar. He can take actions to do this physically, by having his people
undermine it, and also psychologically, by stirring conflicts between the gods and
getting them to fight.

Determining Opposing Actions


Actions in a conflict seem a bit chaotic. As GM, your job is to make sense
of all this. After actions are revealed, you need to look at each action, take
into account the players intent, and determine which actions are opposed.
This will allow the actions to be resolved.
It may not always be particularly clear which actions are opposed to
which other actions. Initially, let common sense be your guide. Players
will declare things like, My character is ducking behind the bar to avoid
gunfire. Obviously, this is a defense against any other character firing a
gun at the first character. Less obviously, it is also a defense against any
other action that requires the target to be in the open. Think about the
logical consequences of any given offensive or defensive action and match
them accordingly.
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Some actions, if successful, will mean that other actions cannot take place.
If this is the case, these actions are by necessity opposed to the actions they
block. The reason this is stated separately here is that these consequences
are not always obvious. One character is about to attack another character,
for example, and the second character has a Will action allocated to attempt to stare down the first. These may not seem opposed at first, but if
the second character is successful, the consequence of success will be that
the first character is intimidated and unable to attack. That means these
actions are opposed, and the intimidate action is the defense. Make sure
you think briefly about the consequences of success for each action on the
table and oppose them to the actions they will block.

Pele has two action allocated: to grapple Norin and get him in a headlock, and
to fend off any blows that Norin tries to throw. Norin has two actions as well: to
duck out of Peles reach, and to taunt all of the other gods about their cowardice
and get them to join in the conflict. Bill matches Peles grapple against Norins
duck, an obvious pair-up. Norins other action is aimed outside the conflict
at the other gods present, and since he is trying to get them to participate, this
will affect the ultimate outcome of the conflict. Bill allows the grapple to be
resolved first, since that has no effect on Norins second action, then opposes
Norin against the other gods.

Shaking Things Up
Sometimes players will start to get a bit complacent. Stacking all of your
tokens in a single action can sometimes be a winning strategy, but it rapidly
gets boring. Games are more fun if there isnt a surefire win condition.
One way to combat this as a GM is to be a bit tricky with your supporting
character bids in conflicts. Think about different ways that a supporting
character could reach his goal. Sometimes, you can make a physical combat move in a conflict a player considers mental. Youve got a really good
chance of having your action go up against no defense, which is very bad
for the defender and forces him to switch tokens for a loss. By the same
token, sometimes you can make mental actions in a conflict a player may
consider physical. Do the unexpected, try to keep the players on their toes.
Its always better to have an action going up against no defense. When you
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have even one token for defense you are considerably better off. Make the
players hedge their bets and avoid putting all their tokens in one basket.

Loki is confronting Jupiter, a powerful businessman, in the bar. Lokis goal in


the conflict is to pick a fight with the other god, and so he stacks all but one of
his chips in his Wits to taunt Jupiter. Bill knows that Eric likes to put all his
eggs in one basket and allocates a defense, but he also takes another action: to
convince Loki to work for him. This is an unexpected turn of events and one for
which Eric has not prepared; it has a high likelihood of success.

Players in a Rut
As we mentioned above, dont let players use the same strategy over and
over. Players will often drive directly toward what their character is good
at, time after time. If they do this, you should present conflicts that can
only be won if they use nonoptimal abilities. If a player has built a scrapper,
take him to court. His fighting ability wont help much if hell just get sent
back to jail for using it. If a player has a trickster, use a strong-willed villain
to take him on with physical force. A combination of mental defense and
excellent physical attack power will keep the player on his toes.
Dont use these techniques to just punish a player, however. The goal of the
game is to be fun and interesting. Move the conflict to an area where the
character isnt the best in order to keep the game dramatic and exciting,
and to make the player think hard about how to win.

Kat almost always tries to use Force to win conflicts, since that is her characters
strongest faculty. Bill uses his supporting character, Sesmu, the owner of the
bard, to start a conflict with Pele. He is angry that she keeps smashing the place
up and he wants to ban her from the bar. Kat now has to think of what other
resources she can use in this conflict, since Force is unlikely to help. If she attacks
or threatens Sesmu with force, it just makes him more likely to throw her out.

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Using Magic Tokens


In Mortal Coil, everyone has a strong input in world-building thanks to
the magic tokens. As GM, you have a significant pool of these tokens to
build powers for your supporting characters, and to expand or limit player
character powers as well. Your input into magic is a big part of the GMs
role.
The chief use of the GMs magic tokens is to build powers for supporting
characters. You have a cast of characters built from the theme document
and the player characters passions. Many of these supporting characters
will have supernatural aptitudes. Use your tokens to define these abilities
and create interesting supernatural effects.
You can also use your tokens to adjust the powers of player characters.
Although you get to set prices for player-introduced magical facts, your
ability to limit these powers doesnt end there. You can also add caveats and
details to the supernatural aptitudes held by players. Remember, when you
use a fact to limit a supernatural aptitude, the price is an exception where
the power is actually able to work despite the limit.
If you are aggressive with your use of magic tokens, you can really mess
with the players powers. Keep in mind that the players have even more
power than you, in the end. The more you adjust their powers, the more
they will use their tokens to mess with yours. Depending on the level of
competitiveness your group is comfortable with, this adversarial approach
can be really fun. Do be careful if it seems to upset the players, and the level
of competition is something to discuss early and make sure that all of your
players are comfortable with the amount of back-and-forth that will exist
in your groups game.

Kat has created the fact that Volcano Goddesses are unaffected by heat. Later,
the dwarfs have crafted a special weapon for use against Pele in revenge for the
death of their king. Bill sacrifices a magic token to create the fact that the dwarfs
can create a magical fire that will burn even volcano goddesses. The players get
to set the price, some instance where the fact will not apply, but this fact is added
to the theme document.

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Using Power Tokens


As a GM, you also have a pool of power tokens. Your power tokens are
there to make things challenging. The GMs power tokens are mostly used
to add to actions taken by supporting characters. As GM, you already have
the ability to set scenes and introduce characters and nonmagical facts to
the world. Thats an inherent part of your role. You also dont need to spend
power tokens to improve characters. Your supporting characters are already
pretty powerful, and you can adjust their abilities if you think they would
have improved over time. The remaining use of power tokens is within the
conflict system, to replace other types of tokens there.
Often, you will find that your supporting characters are plenty powerful
and can easily stand up to the player characters. In this case, you dont need
to dip into your pool of power tokens. If your villain is being steamrolled,
however, it may be appropriate to dip into your power token pool. Use the
power tokens as a sort of pacing mechanism. If your supporting character
is a bit weak, but you want to extend the conflict, use the power tokens
to give her a bit of juice. If youve reached a final confrontation with a
big and intimidating villain, and player characters have completely owned
him, make him scary again by dropping some of your power tokens into
the conflict.

Eckhardt is confronting the main villain in his game, and in the first round
of conflict has pretty thoroughly dominated him. Michelle is not quite ready to
have the climactic villain fold, so she uses some of her power tokens to bump
up the villains defenses and increase his offense so that Eckhardt is now on the
defensive. This moves the conflict to a second round, which suits Michelles sense
of drama much better.

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chapter Eight Summary


The GMs Role
Bring supporting characters to life.
Help players set the scene.
Present challenges to the players.
Help players bring the passions and issues of their characters into play.
Build story from the player characters.

Scene Framing
Each scene should bring out one or more conflicts.
A scene can also show key information relevant to the characters or story.
Scenes should set up situations the characters cannot ignore.

Adjudicating Conflict
Set goals for supporting characters. Know their motivation.
Match actions after the reveal. This is one of the GMs most important
duties.
Try to keep things unexpected with supporting character actions. Do
things the player wont anticipate.
If players do the same thing over and over, try to break them of the habit.

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the gm
Using Magic Tokens
Give your supporting characters magical powers.
Change, limit, or modify player-introduced powers.

Using Power Tokens


Use your pool of power tokens to pace the conflicts. Add power if the
conflict is too easy.

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appendix I
The inspiration for this game came from many sources. These all have a
common theme of magic existing as a subversive and powerful force for
transformation, which is also a central theme of Mortal Coil.

Appendix I: Inspiration
Novels, Plays & Stories
The Anubis Gates, The Drawing of the Dark, On Stranger Tides,
Earthquake Weather, and Last Call by Tim Powers
Coraline, Stardust, Neverwhere, American Gods, Anansi Boys,
and the Sandman series of graphic novels by Neil Gaiman
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
The Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper
The Hellblazer graphic novels
The Dresden Files novels by Jim Butcher
His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling
The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
The Odyssey by Homer
The Metamorphoses by Ovid
Journey to the West by Cheng-En Wu
Hakkenden
Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm
Fairy Tales and Stories by Hans Christian Anderson
1001 Nights
The Tempest and A Midsummer Nights Dream
by William Shakespeare

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Inspiration
Movies & Television
The Company of Wolves
Prosperos Books
Jacobs Ladder
Spirited Away, The Cat Returns, and Princess Mononoke
Big Trouble in Little China
Jumanji and Zathura
Unbreakable
Sleepy Hollow
The X-Files
Supernatural
Pushing Daisies

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appendix II
Each of the rules in the book is accompanied by several examples, but they
are not really connected in a full conflict. To go a little further to help you
understand the conflict system, here are seven extended conflict examples.
There are a lot of different ways a conflict can fall out, and this appendix
goes through them from the simplest scenario to the most complex.

Appendix II: Example Conflicts

A Simple One-Action Conflict between Two Characters


The most basic and common sort of conflict is a quick head-to-head conflict between two characters. Michelle is the GM, and she has two players,
Jason and Krista.
Jasons character Eckhardt has had it with the corrupt mine owner, and he
gets a gun from his cars glove compartment and marches up to the mine
owners trailer. Kristas character Lucy steps in front of him.
Krista: Lucy says, Youre not going in there with that gun.
Jason: Oh, yes, I am.
Michelle: OK. This is definitely a conflict. Jason, whats your goal?
Jason: Im taking that gun with me when I go inside.
Michelle: Cool. Krista?
Krista: Hes going to give me the gun.
Michelle: All right. Thats a simple enough opposed set of goals. Allocate
your tokens, and well see whether Eckhardt gets to keep his gun.
Both Jason and Krista allocate their tokens secretly. Jason is using his Will of 4,
plus Cynic of 2, and puts all but one of his 7 action tokens in. Krista uses her
Wits of 3, plus her Bureaucrat of 2, and puts all but one of her 6 action tokens
in as well.
Michelle: Ready? OK, lets reveal. Jason, whats your action?

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Example conflicts
Jason: Eckhardt is a cynic, so hes pretty sure hes gonna need the gun. Im
using that, plus his will to get Lucy to step aside. Will 4 plus Cynic 2 plus
6 action tokens is 12.
Krista: Lucy is going to appeal to reason and try to talk Eckhardt out of
this. She has a Wits of 3, plus her Bureaucrat of 2, and I put up 5 action
tokens, too. My total is only 10.
Michelle: All right, that means Eckhardt is up by 2: a success. He gets to
keep the gun. Jason, how does this go down?
Jason: Eckhardt says, Get out of my way, Lucy. This guy has refused to
budge, and two people are dead because of it. Hes going to shut the mine
down once and for all. Eckhardt glares into Lucys eyes, his resolve is clear.
Krista: Eckhardt, youre going to get arrested brandishing that thing.
What if he has a gun, too? This can only end badly, you know that.
Jason: With a curt shake of his head, Eckhardt brushes past her. She knows
she cant change his mind.
Krista: Dammit!
Michelle: I think Lucys shaken by this. Spend an action token, Krista.

A One-Round Multiple Action Conflict between Two Characters


Now, lets get a bit more complicated. If two characters are in a conflict,
they can try more than one tactic to get what they want.
In this scene, Michelle has the mine foreman, a new minor supporting
character, confront Jasons character Eckhardt, who is trying to enter
the mine.
Michelle: A mine foreman comes out as you rush up to the mine. Hold
it right there!
Jason: This is a conflict. Im not letting him stop me.

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Michelle: OK. Whats your goal in the conflict? The mine foreman wants
you to turn around and go back down to the office.
Jason: Im getting into that mine, and I dont have much time. I dont
want him to delay me.
Michelle: Sounds good. These are opposed goals, only one of you can
win. Lets allocate.
Michelle and Jason allocate secretly. Michelle decides the foreman is going to get
rough with this strange character. She allocates 4 action tokens for the foreman
to grab Eckhardt and give him the bums rush, using Force 3 and his aptitude
Redneck 2. Michelle figures Eckhardt might try to fight back, so she puts two
action tokens in Grace 2 to dodge, again using Redneck 2.
Jason knows the foreman probably has the edge in a physical confrontation, so
he decides to mix it up a bit. He doesnt want the foreman to get his hands on
Eckhardt, so he allocates 3 tokens to defense, with Grace 2 and Government
Agent 2. He then allocates another 3 to Will 4 and Government Agent 2, to
show the foreman his gun and intimidate him into letting Eckhardt pass.
Michelle: Ready?
Jason: Ready. Lets reveal.
Michelle: The foreman is going to grab ahold of you, and give you the
bums rush out of here. I dont think you heard me, buddy. This mine is
off-limits! Thats the Force action. The Grace action is to defend against
you fighting back.
Jason: Good thing Im not fighting back, then. My Grace action here is to
resist any physical assault, and the Will action is to show the guy my gun
and get him to back down.
Michelle: Nice! I didnt see that coming. Lets resolve. Your Grace is
definitely opposing the foremans Force. Ive got a total of 9: 4 action tokens plus Force 3 plus Redneck 2. I figure as a redneck, he knows how to
throw down.
Jason: All right, thats fair. Im using my Grace to resist, and I figure Ive
gotten in a few scraps as an agent. So, my total to resist is 7: 3 action
tokens, plus Grace 2 and Government Agent 2.
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Michelle: Ooh, he beats you by 2. Heres what happens: the foreman


rushes up to, saying, This mine is off-limits, buddy! and he grabs hold of
your jacket, shoving you back down the hill. Youre light on your feet, and
youve been in some scraps before, so you resist, but hes got a good grip
and is hustling you along.
Jason: Crap. Now the other action. Hes got no defense against Will. After
he grabs me, I pull out my gun. Im not aiming it him, Im just showing
him I have it. Im more than you can handle, friend. Just step back, and
we dont have a problem. Ive got 10 in that action: 3 action tokens, plus
Will 4 and Government Agent 2. Im using the gun, too, so that gives me
a +2, right?
Michelle: In this case its a +1. A guns purpose is to shoot people, and
here youre just using it to intimidate. Guns can certainly be used for that
purpose, though, so you do get a bonus. Youre total is 10. Hes resisting
with Will only, and hes just got a 2. You beat him by 8 points, thats a
spectacular success. As soon as the gun comes out, he lets go of your jacket
and puts his hands in the air, stepping back and shaking his head. I dont
want any trouble, man. Take it easy.
Jason: Good. I sprint for the mine entrance.

A One-Round Multiple Action Conflict between Three Characters


Where One Is Helping
Sometimes in a one-on-one conflict, a third character gets involved but
doesnt have a goal. Instead, the character is helping one side or the other.
In this scene, Michelles supporting character, Sal, a weaselly informer, is
trying to seize a letter from Jasons character Eckhardt. Kristas character
Lucy will try to help Eckhardt.
Michelle: Sal says, Give me the letter and Ill see to it that Mr. Wallace
gets it.
Jason: I think Id rather give it to him in person.
Michelle: Sal sidles a bit closer than youd like. Its probably better if I
take care of it.
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Jason: Uncool. Im going to put the letter back in my jacket pocket.


Michelle: Im going to call this a conflict. Sal is lunging forward, trying
to grab the letter. His goal is to run off with the letter.
Jason: Fine. I want to keep the letter, and get Sal to tell me who hes
working for.
Michelle: Nice. Lets allocate.
Krista: Hang on. Im right there. Im not going to let Sal get away with
grabbing the letter and running.
Michelle: OK. Do you have a goal?
Krista: No. I just want to help Eckhardt.
Michelle: Great. Everybody allocate.
Jason decides hes going to get physical, too. He allocates two action tokens in
Force and Government Agent to grab hold of Sal, two in Grace and Government
Agent to dodge Sals blows, and two in Will and Government Agent to intimidate Sal into giving up his employer. Government Agent is doing serious
duty here.
Krista decides to load all of her action tokens, a total of six, in Grace, to trip
Sal when he goes for Jason, helping Jasons defense. She doesnt really have an
aptitude that applies.
Michelle allocates two of Sals action tokens in Force and Dirty Fighter to grab
the envelope, and three tokens in Grace and Coward for Sal to run away.
Michelle: Everybody ready? Lets reveal. Sal is going to use his Force
action here to shove into Eckhardt and grab that envelope away from him.
The Grace is to beat feet after.
Krista: Im using Grace here to trip Sal and make it easier for Eckhardt to
defend himself against the grab.
Jason: Im using Grace to avoid that grab, Force to seize Sal, and Will to
intimidate him into giving up his boss.

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Michelle: Cool. Lets start with Lucy, since shes helping and the outcome
of her action will affect your totals, Jason.
Krista: I didnt really have an aptitude that applied, so Im just using
Grace. I put six action tokens in it, though, so that plus Grace 3 equals 9.
Michelle: Youre trying to stop him from grabbing, and since you arent
using an aptitude at all, he definitely gets the +2 bonus for having a more
applicable aptitude. His Force is only 2, and his Dirty Fighter is also 2, and
he had two action tokens in there for a total of 6, plus 2 due to his aptitude
being more appropriate, thats 8. Even with the disadvantage of having no
aptitude you get a success. Eckhardt gets a +2 against Sals grab action.
Krista: Good.
Michelle: OK, Eckhardt. Lets resolve the grab. Sal had a total of 6
against you.
Jason: Eckhardts Grace is 2 and Government Agent is 2 and I put in two
action tokens. Thats 8, with Kristas +2.
Michelle: You beat him by 2, a complete success. Sal sidled forward and
lunged at you, reaching for the envelope. You jerk your hand away, just
as Lucy sticks her foot out to trip him, and he stumbles and misses the
envelope. Seeing where this is going, he turns to flee. This is where we
resolve your grab and his running action.
Jason: My Force is 1, and Government Agent again at 2, plus two action
tokens. Thats 5 for the grab.
Michelle: Sals Grace is 3, and his Coward aptitude is 1, and he put 3
tokens in to run for it. His total is also 7. Hes going to get away.
Jason: Do I still get my Will action?
Michelle: Yep, this is all happening simultaneously. Eckhardt tries to
grab his jacket by the collar, but Sal ducks under the grab and is at the door.
Jason: I put my cop face on and shout, Sal! Who sent you, Sal! If I dont
find out, Im coming for you! My Will is 4, and Government Agent is 2,
along with two more action tokens is a total of 8.

145

Michelle: Yeah, and Sals got no defense against that. He shrieks as he


runs, and squeals, You gotta believe me, Eckhardt, I dont want any trouble
with you! It was Jakkot. Hes the one who wants the letter! Of course, he
doesnt stop, and he belts off, straight to Jakkot no doubt.

A One-Round Multiple Action Conflict between Three Characters


Up to now, all of the conflicts weve been looking at have been between two
characters. Sometimes, more characters get involved, and that definitely
makes things a bit more complicated. Heres a one-round conflict between
three characters, all with goals of their own.
This time, Bill is the GM, with Eric, Russell, Michael and Kat as players in
a different game. There are three characters involved in this conflict: Kats
character Pele, Erics character Loki, and the supporting character Norin
portrayed by Bill. Loki is attempting to hit on Pele when Norin inserts
himself into the situation.
Eric: Loki walks up to the bar and seats himself by Pele.
Kat: Pele barely glances up. Shes sulking and nursing a beer.
Eric: Loki casually begins to converse with Pele. Once hes got her attention, hes going to pour on the charm. Hes really hitting on her.
Kat: Loki? Oh, please. Peles not interested.
Bill: That sounds like a conflict. I must inform you both, Norin is in the
back of the bar with a few of his dwarf thugs, and when he sees something
going on hes definitely going to butt in.
Eric: Yeah, its a conflict. Im confident Lokis charms will win the day.
Kat: I dont know. Norins sure to throw some complications in the works.
Bill: All right, whats everyones goal?
Eric: Pele is definitely leaving with me tonight. It may not mean anything,
but its happening.

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Kat: Norins getting involved? I dont particularly care about Lokis flirting.
Peles going to try to use Lokis attraction to her advantage, and get a favor
out of him to go after Norin.
Bill: Cool. And Norins goal is to get Loki to humiliate Pele.
Eric allocates Wits and Trickster God plus two action tokens for charming jokes
directed at Pele, and Will and Stubborn Cuss plus six action tokens to resist the
influences of both his opponents.
Kat decides to use her Will plus Ruthless Brawler plus two action tokens to
intimidate Loki into joining her against Norin. For defense, she uses her Wits
plus Barfly plus five action tokens to use her drunken obtuseness to deflect any
remarks or verbal attacks.
Bill has Norin use Wits plus Slick Salesman and three action tokens to schmooze
Loki into turning on Pele, and he will use Will plus Mean Little Cuss and four
more action tokens to deflect any incoming attacks with sheer rudeness.
Bill: Are we all ready?
Kat: Yep.
Eric: Ready.
Bill: OK, lets reveal. Norin is a slick salesman, so hes going to turn his
used-car charm on Loki and sell him on joining forces against Pele. This
other action is his resistance, hes just going to use his ill temper to rebuff
any social attacks.
Eric: Lokis turning on the charm with his Wits action here, hes going to
clown a bit and ingratiate himself with Pele. The Will is to resist both Pele
and Norin.
Kat: Pele is using her Will here to browbeat Loki into going after Norin.
The Wits is to rebuff Lokis flirting with general drunken cluelessness, Ill
leave it up to you to decide if its real or feigned.
Bill: Sounds good. Loki, your defensive action is going against both Pele
and Norin, and your flirting action is going up against Peles defense. Lets
resolve the other twos attempts to sway you first.

147

Eric: Sounds good. My Will is only a 2, but I am a Stubborn Cuss, and


thats 3. I put in six tokens on this, I really dont want to be jerked around
here. My total for defense is 11.
Bill: Heres what Norins gotWits of 5, and Slick Salesman of 4, plus
the three action tokens. Thats 12. Thats a success. Looks like hes got you
beat. Kat?
Kat: Ive got a Will of 5, and Im using my reputation as a Ruthless Brawler
to add to my intimidation, thats a 4. I put two action tokens in there, so
the total is 11. Thats a tie with Eric.
Bill: Partial success for both. So, Norin will sway you, and Pele will partially scare you. How about your action against Pele?
Eric: My Will is 5, and I am really good Trickster God, thats also 5. I put
two tokens in there for a total of 12.
Kat: My Wits are only 2, and Im using Barfly, also at 2. I put in five
tokens, so my total is 9.
Bill: Ooh, so thats a success for Loki. Heres how I see it going down. Pele
is going to intimidate Loki, but hes so stubborn he views it as a challenge
despite some lingering misgivings about having his arms broken. Norin
convinces Loki to humiliate Pele, which Loki will somehow manage to pull
of even while convincing her to leave with him.
Eric: I know how thats going to happen, and I predict an arm-breaking
or two in my future.
Bill: Cool. Lets play it out.
Eric: All right. So, Loki turns to Pele at the bar and starts with the jokes.
Hes pouring on the charm, trying his best to dazzle her. A lot of the jokes
will be at my own expense, that ought to create a bit of sympathy.
Kat: Pele starts to laugh despite herself. Shes warming up to him, certainly.
Bill: Heres how I see Norin coming in. Hes been watching the two of you
as you continue to flirt for the last hour or so, and when Loki steps to the
mens room he follows him in. Hell turn to you and say, Youre making
some good progress in there, buddy, and flash a greasy grin.
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Eric: Yeah, I think so. Ill smile, more to myself than anything.
Bill: Listen, pal, I can make it worth your while if you do me a little
favor. Ive got a little something, a nice Rheingold ring, see. Pele has been
seriously pissing me off. You make her look bad, and the rings yours.
Eric: Rheingold, huh? Thats pretty nice. He thinks about it, a bit too
long for Norins liking.
Bill: Lemme sweeten the deal, he says. You can commission my boys
for any one item. If you provide the materials, well provide the labor. Peles
just gotta pay, right?
Eric: Youve got a deal. Then I go back out to Pele and try to convince
her to head back to her place.
Kat: OK, Pele saw Norin go in there and shes suspicious. When Loki
comes back out, she seems less receptive to his jokes. Shes gonna let him
take her hand, and then put the squeeze on him. She hisses in his ear,
Norins a little bastard, and I saw he followed you into the can. Youre
gonna help me see that he gets his, right?
Eric: Lokis grinning through teeth gritted in pain, and hell answer,
Yeah, baby, just like you say. Hes trying to cover as she lets go, but the
relief is clear on his face. Hes starting to have some doubts about his deal
with Norin.
Bill: So you and Pele end up leaving together.
Eric: Yep, and some nasty rumors are going to start up tomorrow, definitely started by Loki.
Kat: Man, are you in trouble. Peles going to come looking for you the
next night.

149

A Multiple Round Conflict between Two Characters


(with Desperate Reaction)
Now we get down to it: the hardest part of the conflict system. What happens when neither character has achieved his goal when all the actions are
worked out? Thats when you have multiple action rounds.
Also, in a previous conflict, Jasons character devastated the mine foreman
because he hadnt anticipated Jasons tactic. The mine foreman gave up and
stepped back, because Michelle didnt think continuing the conflict was
worth it. However, if something like this happens, there is another option
to get out of terrible loss, and that is desperate reaction. This conflict also
includes a desperate reaction.
In this scene, Kristas character Lucy is ambushed by the dangerous gunman, and she has to defend herself.
Michelle: As you round the corner, you see the cold-eyed gunman thats
been dogging you and Eckhardt this whole time. His pistol is out and
already aimed at you. Youre clearly in a spot of trouble.
Lucy: OK. My goal is the get the gunman out of the picture, once and
for all.
Michelle: Great. The gunmans goal is to put you in a shallow grave.
Lucy: High stakes. All right, lets go.
Krista knows that the gunman is quite good at what he does, and if she doesnt
do something pretty drastic Lucy is going to get plugged. She contemplates how
to succeed in this situation, and decides on two actions: First, she will use her
Grace and Government Agent to dodge through a nearby doorway, and second
she wants to use her Wits and Government Agent again to get the drop on the
gunman when he follows her through. She allocates one token to the dodge, and
four in the ambush.
Michelle is pretty confident she can get Lucy with a gunshot using Grace and
Gunman, and she also takes an action with Will and Cold-Eyed Killer, to
defend against any sweet words Lucy may try to use to convince him to let her
go. Michelle assigns three action tokens to each.
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Michelle: Ready?
Krista: Yes. I have two actions. For the first, Im going to dodge back
through the door to avoid being shot. The second action is to ambush the
gunman when he tries to follow me through.
Michelle: OK, I have a Will action here for defense against persuasion,
so thats no good against your attack. My other action is to shoot, and
that is definitely directly compared to your dodge action. Lets resolve the
shot first.
Krista: OK. My dodge is using Grace, thats 3, and Government Agent
for 2. I assume training for agents includes situations like this. I also have
one token allocated here, for a total of 6.
Michelle: The gunman has a Grace of 2 and Gunman of 4, plus three
action tokens. Thats a 9, beating you by 3. Youre going to take a serious
wound from that.
Krista: Thats OK, actually. Ill take the hit to get the drop on him. My
other action is my Wits, thats 3, plus Government Agent again, thats 2,
and 4 action tokens. Thats 9.
Michelle: What exactly are you doing as he come through the door?
Krista: Im tripping him and then knocking him on the head with my
pistol butt.
Michelle: Since he had no defense against this, he gets only passive defense. Thats just one of his faculties. Sounds like he can use his toughness
to resist, thats Force. Thats 4. Youve got him beat by 5, so if you want you
can kill or maim him.
Krista: I just want to knock him out.
Michelle: Im not so happy with how this turned out. Im going to do a
desperate reaction so you dont get such a devastating win.
Krista: Damn. It was such a good plan. At least now I wont get shot.
Michelle: He needs to commit two tokens to the defensive action in
order to add in the Gunman aptitude. Ive got one in reserve, so I have
151

to use that one, and since I dont have another held back, I can pull one
out of his other action. That puts his defense at 10: Force 4 plus Gunman
4 plus the 2 action tokens. Your ambush wont work. However, he only
beats you by one in the shooting action, so you only suffer a light wound.
Of course, now neither of you has achieved your goal, so well move on to
another round.
Krista: Not so fast. Im going to sacrifice two power tokens for my ambush action. That puts me up at 11, beating him by one. Not the total
success I was hoping for, but now I can wound him at least.
Michelle: True. And, because of his desperate reaction, hes all in. That
will make him spend two action tokens this round. You have to spend one
because of your light injury.
Krista: And now Ive got a bit of an edge.
Michelle: Yep. We do need another round, still. Although you are both
wounded, neither of you has achieved your goal.
Krista moves an action token into the spent column. She now has five total
tokens, and she decides to go all-in in an effort to end the conflict. She takes one
action to stick her gun in the gunmans back to try to force him to surrender to
her. Shes using her Will for this, plus her Government Agent. She also decides
to use her Wits and Investigator to fast talk the gunman into revealing who
his boss is. She puts two action tokens in the Wits action, and three in the Will
action. Shes not sure the intimidate will be enough, so she decides to call on one
of her passions as well. She puts a passion token on the stack, invoking her Fear
2: Eckhardt will think Im not up to the task.
Michelle knows the gunman wants to end this conflict quick. Its turned out
much harder than he expected, and hes down to an action pool of five now, too.
She writes another Grace plus Gunman action to shoot Lucy, and assigns two
action tokens to that. For defense, she is using Force plus Cold-Eyed Killer to
resist physical harm. She puts two action tokens in that, too.
Michelle: Ready to reveal?
Krista: Ready. My first action is to stick my gun in his back and growl,
Put down your weapon and surrender. The second is to try to trick him
into revealing his boss.
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Michelle: Nice side bet. OK, again, hes got no defense for your second
action. His defense was Force for resisting physical attacks and youve got
all social stuff going on. His first action is to wheel and pump you full of
lead, though. I think that matches up to your demand for surrender. He
cant shoot you if hes intimidated into giving up.
Krista: Excellent. Thats how I was hoping it would turn out.
Michelle: Lets resolve the opposed action first. Youve got a passion
token there?
Krista: Yeah, my fear of Eckhardts disapproval. Ive got to prove I can
handle this. Thats worth 2, plus my Will of 2, and my Government Agent
2. Ive also got 3 action tokens in here, for a total of 9.
Michelle: OK, the gunman is again using Grace, thats 2, plus Gunman,
thats 4, and hes got two action tokens in here, that comes to 8. Youve
got him beat, with a regular success. Ill say he drops his gun and raises his
arms.
Krista: Yes! As I check him for additional weapons, I casually say, I bet
you thought this would be easier, right? Hes gonna be angry at you. Thats
for my second action to get him to slip something. Investigator 3 plus Wits
3 plus 2 action tokens, thats 8.
Michelle: Thats another passive defense for him. I made some bad bets
this conflict. His Wits is only 1, so you beat him by 7. Hes gonna sing like
a bird, and wont even realize hes doing it. You can trick him into thinking
you know everything already.

A Multiple Round Conflict between Three Characters


Sometimes a multi-round conflict can involve more than one character.
Heres an example of a slightly more complicated multiple round conflict.
In this scene, Jasons character Eckhardt and Kristas character Lucy confront the frontier-era vampire they have been stalking. They are in an
abandoned mine. Michelle is the GM for this group.
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Michelle: You come to the end of the tunnel. Standing in the shadows
you see a dusty figure in a long coat and cowboy hat. Around his feet
writhe about 30 rattlesnakes.
Jason: Oh, crap. Weve got to get this guy fast, before he can use those
rattlesnakes on us.
Krista: Yeah, lets get him.
Michelle: All right, his goal is to feed on both of you.
Krista: My goal is to destroy the vampire.
Jason: Me too.
Michelle: OK, lets allocate actions.
Jason decides to try to take care of the snakes, and possibly give the investigators
a weapon against the vampire. He is going to throw down some kerosene and set
it alight between the snakes and Eckhardt and Lucy. For this, hes using Grace
and Supernatural Investigator, and three action tokens. For his second action,
hes going to shout some advice to Lucy to help with her action. Hes using Wits
and Mentor, along with three more action tokens.
Krista wants to take the vampire down, so shes going to tackle him and try to
stake his heart. This will use Force and Government Agent, plus four action
tokens. She also wants to avoid getting hurt, so she is going to dodge any snakes
or vampire bites with Grace plus Government Agent. She commits only one
action token to this.
Michelle knows they are going to be aggressive. She has the vampire control
the snakes and get them to attack the two investigators. This will use Will plus
Vampire, and she puts four action tokens behind it. The vampire will also try
to hold the investigators off with his gun until the snakes take care of them. Hes
using Grace plus Pistolero for that, along with two action tokens.
Michelle: Everyone ready?
Krista: Lets go.
Michelle: The vampire has got a Will action to control the snakes, and
this Grace is to move out of the way and cover you with his gun.
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Jason: Im helping Lucy with this Wits action, and the Grace is to knock
over one of the kerosene containers and set it alight. Im sacrificing a power
token to say that there are some old kerosene containers down here, left
over from when the miners used kerosene to light their lamps.
Michelle: Sounds fair.
Krista: Im using Force to leap at the vampire and tackle him, so I can
stake him. Im using Grace to avoid damage.
Michelle: Jason, the kerosene is your defense. Both of your defensive actions will go against the vampires rattlesnake attack. The vampires defense
goes against your attack, Krista, and since Jasons trying to help you, well
resolve his action first.
Jason: Im using Wits 4 plus Mentor 2, and Ive got 3 action tokens here.
Thats 9. Whats that up against?
Michelle: The vampire didnt defend against you shouting plans, so just
passive Wits. Thats 3, so you beat him by 6. Lucy gets a +2.
Jason: I shout at Lucy, Knock him into the fire! Then I set the kerosene
off before the snakes can reach us.
Michelle: Lets resolve the fire vs. snakes next. Hes got Will 4 plus
Vampire 4, along with 4 action tokens. Thats 12 on the attacking snakes.
Jason: I had Grace 2, Supernatural Investigator 4, and 3 action tokens.
Thats 9. He beat me by 3.
Michelle: You grab the kerosene and pour it on the floor, then drop your
lighter on it. It goes up with a whoosh, but by the time you got it down,
the snakes had already surrounded you and Lucy. One strikes your leg, you
will take a serious wound from that. Krista, what was your defense?
Krista: I had Grace 3 plus Government Agent 2 and just one action token. Thats 6.
Michelle: Oh my. He beats you by six, thats serious. You are going to be
bitten multiple times. Im gonna rule you maimed.

155

Krista: That means I permanently lose a point from one of my


faculties, right?
Michelle: Yep.
Krista: Lets see if I can do anything to him. My tackle is Force 2,
Government Agent 2, and 4 action tokens. Thats 8, plus 2 from Eckhardts
help. 10.
Michelle: His defense is Grace 3, Pistolero 4, and 2 action tokens. Thats
9. You beat him by 1.
Krista: Im going to take the hit, and I want to bump up what I do to
him. Im spending two power tokens to beat him by 3 and do a serious
injury. I leap at him and knock him in the fire, at least partially.
Michelle: OK, you do. Which faculty are you reducing?
Krista: Grace. Its now a 2.
Michelle: Well, everyone has been harmed, fairly seriously. The vampire
is on fire, Eckhardt is beating off snakes, and Lucy is wrestling with the
vampire next to the blazing kerosene. Still, no one has achieved their goal.
We go another round.
Jason: We need to work together to take this guy down.
Krista: Wed better both try to hurt him.
Michelle: OK, everyone allocate actions.
Jason decides to use his Wits for quick thinking along with Supernatural
Investigator and pour some more kerosene directly on the vampire. He puts four
action tokens behind that, and adds his passion Fear 2: Lucy will get killed.
Hes down two tokens from his pool, so hes only got one left. He decides to go
all in and use that one for defense, Grace and Government Agent to dodge
any attack.
Krista is also looking to deal out some serious damage. Wits is her highest score
now, so she uses that plus Government Agent to trick the vampire into rolling
into the fire as they grapple. She puts four action tokens behind that. She also

156

wants to defend herself, and will use Grace plus Government Agent to avoid a
physical attack. She puts one action token there.
Michelle knows that the pair of them can probably overpower the vampire, so
she decides to lay out some serious hurt. She goes with Grace and Pistolero to
have the vampire shoot Lucy, and puts four action tokens there. She also uses
Will and Vampire to resist the damage, with one action token, making the
vampire all-in since he is down two tokens.
Michelle: Ready?
Jason: Lets do it.
Michelle: OK, the vampire is trying to plug Lucy. Thats the Grace action. Hes using his Will to power through the pain for defense.
Krista: Lucy is grappling with the vampire, and is going to trick him into
thinking hes got the upper hand, then roll him into the fire. Thats Wits.
Shes using Grace here to avoid the gunshot.
Jason: Eckhardt is thinking quickly, thats Wits, and pouring more kerosene directly on the vampire. Hes using Grace to defend, but it looks like
he doesnt need it.
Michelle: Yeah, the vampire is no longer controlling the snakes, so they
are trying to flee the fire. Looks like the vampires attack goes against Lucys
defense, and both of your attacks go against the vampires defense. Simple!
Lets resolve the vampires assault first. Hes got Grace 3 and Pistolero 4 plus
4 action tokens. Thats 11.
Krista: Dang. Ive got Grace 2 plus Government Agent 2 and one action
token. Thats only 5.
Michelle: Well, he is trying to kill you. Hes got you beat by 6,
thats enough.
Krista: We arent planning on having another session, so Im cool with it.
This is a nice way to go out.
Jason: Oh, man. This is going to mess Eckhardt up. Hes using his passion
Fear of Lucy getting killed.

157

Krista: Aww.
Michelle: Lets resolve Eckhardt, then. The vampires defense is Will 4
plus Vampire 4 plus one token, thats 9.
Jason: Hes tough. Ive got Wits 4, Supernatural Investigator 4, and 4
action tokens. My passion is rank 2, so thats 14.
Michelle: That beats him by 5, thats enough for the kill. Krista, you still
want to resolve?
Krista: Yeah, I want to see if I was able to do anything to him before I
got plugged. I had Wits 4, plus Government Agent 2, and 4 action tokens.
Thats 10.
Michelle: Against his 9, so you do succeed, but its just a light wound.
Lucy is rolling around with the vampire, and she manages to roll him into
the fire but it just singes him through his coat. He pulls out his Peacemaker
and shoves up against Lucys chest. Eckhardt, seeing that, desperately hurls
kerosene down on the vampire. He bursts into flame, but a shot rings out
at the same time and Lucy falls back limp.
Jason: No! I drag her out of the fire and put it out.
Michelle: The vampire continues to incinerate, shrieking and writhing
behind you. Its too late. Lucy is dead.

A Huge Complicated Multiple Round Free-for-All between Six Characters


All right, now lets stick this all in a blender and hit frapp. This is a
multi-round conflict involving six different characters, all with their own
goals in the conflict. This is by far the most difficult type of conflict to run
in Mortal Coil, but it will probably happen at some point.
In this scene, Norins gang and Pele and her fellow gods have a final showdown. All four players are involved: Kat with Pele, Eric with Loki, Russell
with Pluto, and Michael with Sedna. Bill is portraying Norin and his
gang of dwarfs. Bill has decided that the gang will be treated like a single
character.
Bill: Norin stands by the door, his arms crossed, and does he look pissed.
158

Kat: Thats it. Im taking him down.


Bill: As you approach, from the shadows, under the tables, and through
the door, a huge stream of dwarfs appears, all standing behind Norin and
muttering threateningly. Norin shrieks, Ive had it with all of you! Take
em down, boys. And well do for this crappy bar, too. Looks like you all
have to defend yourselves. Norins goal is to destroy the bar, and his boys
goal is to back Norin up.
Kat: Im gonna kill Norin.
Russell: Im going to make sure Pele doesnt kill Norin.
Michael: Im defending the bar. I want to throw all these dwarfs out of it.
Eric: Im not keen on the bar getting destroyed. Ill be helping Sedna
throw the dwarfs out.
Bill: Sounds good. Lets allocate a first round of actions. Everyone can
treat Norins gang of dwarfs like a single character.
Kat thinks a quick direct assault is the best strategy. She knows Pluto is working
against her, but also decides to rely on Michael and Eric to keep the other dwarfs
off her back. She allocates five action tokens to Force and Ruthless Brawler to
leap on Norin, and three tokens to Will and Ruthless Brawler to shrug off any
blows that land on her.
Russell knows that Pele is a really tough fighter, so he decides to do something
besides physical conflict to help Norin. He is going to use his God of the
Underworld to summon up spirits of the dead to block Pele from reaching
Norin. He uses his Will along with six action tokens for this. Hes not so worried about attack, but he does allocate one action token in Grace to avoid any
physical harm.
Michael doesnt really care about the Pele/Norin conflict, he just wants to stop
the dwarfs from wrecking the bar. He decides to take a barstool and start laying
into them, he uses Force and Truck Driver for that. For defense, he plans to
power through and uses Will and Truck Driver again. He puts four action
tokens in the first action and three in the second.
Eric decides to use his Wits and Trickster God to neutralize the gang of dwarfs.
His action is to trick them into thinking hes on their side, and then lead them
159

out the back door and lock them out. He thinks he might get hit, so he uses
Grace and Barroom Brawler to avoid that. He allocates one token to defense,
and six more to the trick.
Bill has to try to anticipate and defend against actions from all four players, so
hes got his work cut out for him. For Norin, he plans on using Wits plus Leader
to direct his dwarfs to the areas of the bar most vulnerable to attack. He plans
to collapse the whole place this way. To defend himself, he is going to use Will
plus Mean Little Cuss to block physical attacks. He allocates three tokens to the
attack on the bar, and four to defending himself.
For the dwarfs, Bill decides they will defend themselves as well, using Will plus
Tough Guys and two action tokens. They will also try to help Norin tear down
the bar, using Craftsman and Force. He puts four action tokens toward this.
Bill: Are we all ready?
All: Ready.
Bill: OK, lets reveal. Lets go over all the actions, Ive got a lot to
coordinate here. Ill start with Kat.
Kat: My Force action here is to leap on Norin, and Im using Will to resist
damage.
Russell: Im next, I guess. This Will action token is to summon up spirits
of the dead to block Pele. Ive got Grace in case Im attacked.
Michael: Im just laying into the dwarfs here with Force. Im using Will
to shrug off their blows.
Eric: Im taking another route. Im using Wits to trick the dwarfs into
leaving the bar by the back door, and then Ill lock them out. Grace is in
case someone attacks me.
Bill: Interesting. This is Norin, here. Hes using Wits to direct his dwarfs
in bar destruction. Hes also using Will for defense. The dwarfs, here, are
using Will for physical defense, and Force to destroy the bar. Since the
dwarfs arent directly attacking any person, I dont have to worry about any
of your defenses. Lets match some actions though.

160

Bill: Russell, your action will block Pele, so thats first. Its going up
against her attack action. If you arent blocked, Kat, your attack will match
to Norins defense. Michael, your attack goes against the dwarf s defense.
Eric, Im actually treating your action as a counter to Norins directions.
The dwarfs can be considered to be helping Norin, so if they can succeed,
he gets a +2 on bar destruction. Lets start with Russell and Kat.
Russell: Well, Ive got a Will of 5, God of the Underworld at 5, and 6
action tokens here. Thats 16. Im spending a magic token to activate God
of the Underworld, and we already established I can summon spirits of
the dead earlier, so long as I am not under the open sky. The bar definitely
counts.
Kat: Im using Force 5, Ruthless Brawler 4, and 5 action tokens on this
one. I think Ruthless Brawler is more specific to this situation than God of
the Underworld, though.
Bill: I agree. Thats +2 for you.
Kat: With the +2, my total is 16.
Bill: Tied! Well, that means you both get a partial success. Im going to say
that means that Pluto cant quite stop you, but the spirits rising up get in
your way in hinder your attack. You still get to make one, though. Norin
just gets a +2 on his defense.
Kat: Sounds fair.
Russell: Sorry, Norin.
Bill: Lets get this smackdown out of the way next. Your Ruthless Brawler
aptitude is more specific than Mean Little Cuss, which is what Norins using to defend, so well keep your total at 16. His Will is 4, Mean Little Cuss
is 3, and he put 4 tokens in there. He also gets that +2 from Plutos help.
That 13. You beat him by 3, a bad result for him. Thats a serious wound.
Kat: Yes!
Bill: Not so fast. This is the final encounter of the night, so I dont think
its over that quickly. Ive got some power tokens left here. Im going to
drop 4 on Norin. That puts him up at 17, so he can avoid your blow.
161

Kat: Oh, Ill get him next round.


Bill: Yeah, he wont be able to avoid you forever. OK, now for the other
dwarfs! Eric, your trickery is directly opposing Norins leadership. If you
win in this contest, I dont think they will even get to the part where they
start tearing down the bar. Lets resolve that.
Eric: Cool. Im using Wits, a 5, plus Trickster God, also 5, and I threw in
6 tokens. Thats 16.
Bill: Damn. Norins got a Wits of 5, Leader at 4, and hes using 3 tokens.
Thats just 12. You get a complete success. Sorry, Michael, your attacks are
basically moot.
Eric: He can still crack some heads as Im leading them out, right?
Bill: Sure. Well resolve that in a sec. The dwarfs action was support for
Norin, so they wont get that action.
Michael: I had Force of 4, plus Truck Driver 4, and 4 action tokens.
Thats 12.
Bill: The dwarfs had a defense of Will, 4, plus Tough Guys, 4, and 2
tokens. They are at 10. Youll get a few on the way out, and then Lokis trick
takes care of the rest. That will leave Norin all alone for the next action.
Eric: Cool. As Norin starts to give the dwarfs directions, I pretend Im on
his side. Ill shout, Cmon! I know where the main supports are! Follow
me! and rush to the back door. As they crowd out the door, Ill slam and
lock it behind them.
Michael: A couple take their picks to the bar as they go, and I smash
them down with a barstool.
Bill: Meanwhile, Pele claws her way through the dead spirits toward
Norin. His eyes grow wide with fear as she approaches far more rapidly
than hes comfortable with, and he gets distracted from Lokis trickery.
She grabs his shirt, and seems about to pound him into the ground like a
railroad spike when he stumbles over a fallen chair as he backpedals. His
shirt rips and falls to the ground. Peles fist pounds into the fallen chair, and
it shatters into splinters, and her fist continues, driving a good four inches
through the wooden floor. Next round!
162

Michael and Eric both decide to sit out the rest of the fight. They both already
got what they wanted.
Russell knows Norin is doomed without his help, so he decides to get Norin out
of here entirely. Hes going to create a new power for the God of the Underworld
to open a crack in the earth and swallow Norin up. He uses his Will plus God
of the Underworld for this, and drops a full seven action tokens in this.
Kat wants to finish Norin. She uses Ruthless Brawler for both actions, and uses
Will for defense and Force to attack. She goes all-in, allocating six to the attack
and two for defense.
Norins dwarf gang is out of the picture, so Bill doesnt make any actions for
them. Norin knows hes in serious trouble, so he goes all-in as well. Hes using
Mean Little Cuss for combat, and hell attack by biting her knee, using Force,
and hell use Will to defend. He puts four tokens in each action.
Bill: Are we ready?
Kat: Yep. Im all-in, using Force to cream this guy, and Will to defend
against attacks.
Michael: Im not taking any actions this round. I got what I wanted.
Eric: Me, too.
Russell: Im creating a new fact. Gods of the Underworld can open cracks
in the earth and swallow people up. Im going to swallow up Norin, so Pele
cant kill him. Thats my only action.
Bill: Cool. The price on this ability is that you dont know where the
person comes back out, nor can you control it.
Russell: Sounds fair.
Bill: OK, last is Norin. Hes going on the offensive, and hes going all-in
too. Hes using Force to bite Pele, and Will to defend. I think Russells action needs to be resolved first, though. If hes successful, Norins out of the
conflict and Pele cant reach him. I think this is going up against Peles hit.
If you can beat that, you get the earth to swallow Norin before her blow
lands. Otherwise, it will happen after.

163

Kat: Pele has a Force of 5, Ruthless Brawler at 4, and 6 tokens. Thats 15.
Russell: Im using Will, 5, plus God of the Underworld, 5, and 7 action
tokens. Thats 16.
Bill: You beat her by 1. Thats barely a success, but its still a success. Pele
draws back her fist for another massive blow, while Norin snarls and leaps
at her. As she swings down, a fissure opens in the earth and Norin gets
drops in, looking very surprised. The crack snaps shut again, just as Peles
massive blow slams into the ground. The whole building shakes.
Kat: Pele stands up, her fist glowing red and and smoking like its on fire.
She turns toward Pluto, rage written all over her face. She starts toward
him, lifting her fist against him this time.
Russell: Uh-oh. Pluto backs up, raising his arms to calm her. Hang on
a minute, Pele.
Bill: That sounds like a new conflict.

164

165

appendix III
Here are all of the characters used in the examples above with all of their
faculties, aptitudes, and passions defined. Some of the supporting characters arent fully fleshed out, because their passions never came up in play
and were thus never defined.
Eckhardt: Jasons character.
Force: 1
Grace: 2

Supernatural Investigator: 4

Appendix III: Sample CharactersGovernment Agent: 2

Will: 4

Mentor: 2

Wits: 4

Cynic: 2

Duty: I have to keep people safe. 1


Fear: Lucy will get killed. 2

Action Pool: 7

Hate: Those damn bureaucrats. - 2

Passion Pool: 3

Lucy: Kristas character.


Force: 2

Government Agent: 2

Grace: 3

Investigator: 3

Will: 2

Bureaucrat: 2

Wits: 3
Fear: Eckhardt will think Im not up
to the task. 2
Action Pool: 6

Duty: Were the only thing between


citizens and the dark. 3

Passion Pool: 2

Vampire: One of Michelles supporting characters.


Force: 3

Vampire: 4

Grace: 3

Pistolero: 4

Will: 4

Horseman: 2

Wits: 3

Action Pool: 7

166

Sample characters
Gunman: Another one of Michelles supporting characters.
Force: 4

Gunman: 4

Grace: 2

Cold-Eyed Killer: 4

Will: 2

Unspecified Aptitude: 1

Wits: 1
Hate: Cops. 2

Action Pool: 7

Pele: Kats character.


Force: 5

Volcano Goddess: 5

Grace: 3

Barfly: 2

Will: 5

Ruthless Brawler: 4

Wits: 2

Dancer: 4

Love: Im secretly crushing on Pluto. 2


Love: I like to lose control. 1

Action Pool: 8

Hate: Norin aways ruins everything. - 2 Passion Pool: 3

Loki: Erics character.


Force: 4

Trickster God: 5

Grace: 4

Stubborn Cuss: 3

Will: 2

Shape Shifter: 3

Wits: 5

Fool: 3

Love: I cant help making trouble. 3

Barroom Brawler: 1

Fear: Im not the best trickster. 1

Action Pool: 8

Hate: Norin is a worthless jerk. - 1

Passion Pool: 3

167

Pluto: Russells character.


Force: 2

Scam Artist: 5

Grace: 3

God of the Underworld: 5

Will: 5

Bookie: 3

Wits: 5

Lover: 2

Love: I still love Proserpine. 3

Action Pool: 8

Hate: My brother for his success. 2

Passion Pool: 2

Sedna: Michaels character.


Force: 4

Truck Driver: 4

Grace: 3

Sea Goddess: 5

Will: 5

Cruel-Hearted Bitch: 4

Wits: 3

Mother: 2

Hate: I feel like I want to kill liars. 2


Duty: This bar needs to always be here. 2 Action Pool: 8
Love: All of my children. - 1

Passion Pool: 3

Norin: Bills supporting character.


Force: 4

Leader: 4

Grace: 2

Craftsman: 4

Will: 4

Mean Little Cuss: 3

Wits: 5

Slick Salesman: 4

Hate: Those hoity-toity gods. 3

Action Pool: 8

Duty: Ive got to help my own people. 2 Passion Pool: 2


Norins Boys: A gang of supporting characters.
Force: 4

Tough Guys: 4

Grace: 4

Craftsman: 4

Will: 4

Grouch: 2

Wits: 3

Action Pool: 7

168

Index
Terms in this index are listed both conceptually and alphabetically to maximize its usefulness to the reader. If you are looking for a specific term, it
will be listed alphabetically. Eliminate or reverse adjectives, verbs, and
adverbs from terminology when searching. For instance, to find Basic
Actions, you will look under Actions, Basic. For Choosing Actions,
you will look under, Actions, Choosing.

INDEX

If you are unsure of the terminology youre looking for, check under
these major conceptual headings: Abilities, Actions, Aptitudes, Character
Building, Conflict, Facts, Faculties, Goals, GM, Harm, Items, Passions,
Story Building, or Tokens. The concepts for Magic and Power are bound
up with the use of Tokens, and so are covered mostly in the Tokens
category.
Abilities, Starting 30-33
Definition 30-31
Levels 31

and Supernatural Aptitudes see APTITUDES, SUPERNATURAL
see also ITEMS, SUPERNATURAL
Actions 67-78

Basic 67
Definition 67
Defensive 67, 71
Desperate Reactions 87

Choosing 68

and Facts see FACTS, and ACTIONS
Failure 85-86
see also, HARM

GM and see MATCHING IN CONFLICT

and Goals see GOALS
Helping 74

and Item Effects 84
Offensive 67, 71
Opposed 76, 78, 85, 98, 131-132
Outside of Conflict 77, 97
Actions Outside of Conflict Difficulty Table 77

and Passions 77

Pool see TOKENS, ACTION, POOL

169


Matching in Conflict 75-77, 98, 136
see also ACTIONS, OPPOSED

Multiple Opponents 67, 71

Number of actions in conflict 69

Reallocating see DESPERATE REACTIONS

Resolving 85-86, 131-132
See also ACTIONS, MATCHING IN CONFLICT
See also ACTIONS, OPPOSED

Reveal 74-75

Success 67, 85-86

Tokens see TOKENS
Ageless 31, 43
Ancient 31, 43
Aptitudes 33-38

Bonuses 35, 76, 78

Changing 105, 110
Defined 33-34, 35-36
Levels 35
Limits 34, 36, 44

Number of uses 69

Points,
Maximum 105
Starting 31, 34, 36, 43, 44

Specific vs. General 35, 76, 78

Starting Aptitudes 31, 36, 43

Supernatural 37, 52-53
Bonuses 35, 55, 59, 76, 78, 84, 98-99

with Aptitudes 35, 76, 78

with Facts,
Magical 55, 59
Character Building 21, 25, 41-45

Player Characters,
Aptitudes 33-38
Concept 25
Faculties 32-33
Passions 26-30, 115
Pools 38-40
Starting Abilities 30-32

Supporting characters 41-42
and Actions see GOALS
and Action pool 41
and Faculties 42

170

and Passions 41-42, 45, 130


and Power 135
Villains 21, 23
Conflict,

Actions in 67-78, 97
see also ACTIONS

Aptitudes in 35-36, 69, 75-76, 85, 98

Bonuses 55, 59, 76, 84, 98-99
Definition 62
Ending 65
Faculties in 75, 98, 119-121

GMs role 11, 130-132, 136
See also ACTIONS, MATCHING IN CONFLICT

Goals in 63-66, 68, 97, 118, 121
Independent 64, 97
Opposed 64, 97
In multisided conflict 66
Role in ending conflict 65, 97
Side Bets (Secondary Goals) 118
Helping in 74, 98

Passions in 78-84, 99

Penalties 55, 59

Reveal see ACTIONS, REVEAL

Rounds,
Ending 65, 97
Number of Actions 65, 69, 98
Timing 67, 97

and Rule Effects (for Magical Facts) 54

and Supporting Characters see GOALS

Techniques in 118-121
Desperate Reactions 87, 100
Duty 27, 43
Facts 51, 53-55, 59, 106-107, 116-117

and Actions 55, 59

as a Bonus 55, 59

Creating 116-117

Changing 117

as Conflict Triggers 54, 59

Magical 51, 59
Price 53, 59
Rules 54-55, 59
see also TOKENS, MAGICAL

171


Non-Magical 106-107, 122, 135
See also TOKENS, POWER

and Passions 55

as a Penalty 55, 59

and Supernatural Aptitudes 37

and Theme Document 51, 59, 127
Faculties 32-33, 44

and Actions see ACTIONS, BASIC

and Action tokens 62, 69, 98
see also TOKENS, ACTION

Changing 105, 110

and Conflict see CONFLICT, FACULTIES IN
Defined 32, 44
Levels 33
Limits 32, 44

Points,
Maximum 34, 44, 105, 110
Starting 31-33, 43

and Supporting Characters 42

Types 32, 44
Failure 85-86, 100

see also ACTIONS

see also HARM, EFFECTS DESCRIPTIONS
Fatigue 93, 101

All In 93, 101
Fear 27, 43
Force 32, 44, 120
Goals,
Defined 63, 97

Actions, relationship with 63, 68, 97

and Actions of Supporting Characters 130-131, 136

in Conflict see CONFLICT, GOALS IN

Independent 64-65, 97
Opposed 64-65, 97

Setting Goals 63
GM 7, 11

and Actions 69, 71, 75-77, 85, 98

and Aptitudes 36

and Conflict see CONFLICT

and Facts,
Magical 51, 134, 137
Price 53

172


and Goals 63, 130-131, 136
Harm 89, 96

Passions, using 80, 126-127, 129, 136

Scene Setting see SCENES

and Starting Abilities 30

Story Building see STORY BUILDING

Supporting Characters see CHARACTER BUILDING

Threshold of Credibility 8

Tokens see TOKENS
Grace 32, 44, 120
Harm 89-94, 101

Changing a Character 105, 110
Effects Descriptions 90-93, 101
Hate 27-28, 43
High Magic,

Multi-session game 19, 23, 58-59

Single session game 18, 23, 58-59
Items,
Effects 84-85, 99

New 107

Non-Magical 84

Supernatural 56, 59
Love 28, 43
Low Magic,

Multi-session game 19, 23, 58-59

Single session game 18, 23, 58-59
Magic,

Pool see TOKENS, MAGIC, POOL

Tokens see TOKENS, MAGIC
Magic Level 18-19, 23, 40, 44
Moderate Level,

Multi-session game 19, 23, 58-59

Single session game 18, 23, 58-59
Novice 31, 43
Passions 26-30, 43, 78-84, 99, 115

and Actions see ACTIONS, OUTSIDE OF CONFLICT AND PASSIONS

Calling on 78-80, 99

Changing 81-83, 99, 119
As a goal 119, 122
Through conflict 82-83, 99

Character 28-29, 42-43, 42, 115, 122

and Conflict see CONFLICT, PASSIONS IN

173


Conflicting 116
Definition 26-28, 43

and Facts 55

GM and see GM
Levels 28-29, 43

Points 31, 43
Maximum 81, 83

Starting 28-29, 31, 43

Pool see TOKENS, PASSION, POOL

Recovering see TOKENS, PASSION, RECOVERING

Starting 28-29, 42-43

and Story Building see STORY BUILDING, AND PASSIONS

Types 27-28, 43
Penalties 55, 59
Pools,

Action 38, 44

Magic 40, 44

Passion 38, 44

Power 39, 44
Power,

Points 31, 43

Pool see TOKENS, POWER, POOL

Tokens see TOKENS, POWER
Reveal 74-75, 98
Scenes,

Characters, bringing them into 107, 111

GM 128-129, 136

Setting a (Players) 108, 111
Setting (of the game) 15-16, 22

see also THEME DOCUMENT
Side Bets 118, 122
Situation 19-21, 23
Story Building,

GMs Role 7, 126-130, 136

Magic Level 18-19, 40
For multi-session games 19
For single-session games 18

and Passions 116, 126-127, 129

Players 113-115

Theme Document 13-23

Threshold of Credibility 8-9, 11

and Tokens 113-114

174


Tone 14, 22

Scenes 108, 111

Setting 15-16, 22

Situation 19-21, 23
Success 67, 85-86, 100
Supernatural, The 16-18, 22
Supporting Characters 41-42, 45
Theme Document 13-23
Definition 13, 22

and Facts 127
Threshold of Credibility 8-9, 11
Tokens 9-11

Action,
Desperate Reactions 87
Extra (extra effort) 71-73
Pool 38, 44
Use (Committing/Spending/Sacrificing) 10-11, 68-71, 74-75, 77, 97-98
All In 93, 101
Reallocating see DESPERATE REACTIONS
Recovering spent 95-96, 101

Committing 10-11
Definition 9

Passion,
Pool 38, 44
Recovering spent 83, 99
Use (Committing/Sacrificing/Spending) 10-11, 75, 78-81, 99

Power,
Awards/Earning (Players) 109, 111
GMs 39, 45, 108, 111, 135, 137
Pool 39, 44
Players Starting Pool 31, 39, 43
Session Pool 109, 111
Using (Committing/Sacrificing/Spending) 10-11, 103-108, 110-111,

117, 135, 137

Price see TOKENS, MAGIC, PRICE

Magic 10, 18-19, 23, 47-50, 59, 134, 137
Defined 47
Earning (Players) 58-59, 106, 109, 111
GMs 18-19, 23, 40, 45, 51, 58-59, 106, 111, 135, 137
Pool 40, 44
Price 53-54, 59
Defining Abilities, Attributes, & Facts 37, 116-117, 134, 137

175

Recovering spent 57, 59


Rule effects 54-55, 59
Use (Committing/Sacrificing/Spending) 10-11, 47-50, 59, 116-117,

134, 137
see also FACTS, MAGICAL
see also APTITUDES, SUPERNATURAL

Sacrificing 10-11

Spending 10-11
Tone 14, 22
Veteran 31, 43
Villains 21, 23
Will 32, 44, 120
Wits 32, 44, 121

176