Dice in Gestalt replicate chance, not luck. "Luck" is internal, a trait, like height or weight--you carry it with you. Chance is an exterior force. You do not contain it. It contains you. As you move through life, you bring your in-born advantages and any disciplines you've learned. When you encounter a challenge, you automatically bring all of the Sum of Your Efforts to bear against the challenge. The difficulty of that challenge for you in that moment will be unknown and from your perspective, random. If a well-trained combatant is defeated by a novice, this is beginner's luck--i.e. someone trained may find a novice difficult to predict. If an experienced mountain climber finds more adversity than a novice on the same climb, it is not the expert's training randomly failing them, but the novice blindly stumbling their way to the best footholds--and possibly ruining those holds for the expert below them. In all cases, it is not the Player but the world where Chance presents itself, ruining sure things or turning a storm left instead of right. You are only partially responsible for failure, but can tip the odds toward your success through advancing in various disciplines.
As a general rule, the dice should be a last resort. Treat them like a magic wand: the more a story uses them, the less dramatic the story becomes, or in our case, the less immersive the game. Subconscious behavior not a question of chance--walking, breathing, seeing--is automatic. In addition, simple actions where success is necessary to move the story forward should be automatic.
As a Director, don't leave to chance things for which the idea of failure does not increase enjoyment of the story. If the party happens upon an obstacle that will require a difficult or extended action to surpass it, Directors should encourage Players to describe how they go about it—how careful, what tools, safety measures, etc.—until it either mitigates the danger to the level of automatic or lessens the threshold to a simpler roll. The amount of care in their description should translate 1:1 to the amount of care with which the character performs that action. Dice, then, should replace only the element of chance that is irremovable through care, training, or artistry of description. If a player exclaims their action without thought, then the character acted impulsively, but likewise if their description lacks detail or finesse, then their methodology does as well. If not in the heat of things, reminding them to go into detail or asking how careful they do it before resorting to the dice is a good idea.
As you progress a facet, the Director can decide you have amassed enough skill that lower actions become second nature. If you're a circuit-5 knife thrower, a threshold-1 action such as tossing a knife at a target five feet away during low stress is now as subconscious as breathing. If you surpass circuit-7 in a Gig, all low stress actions in it become second nature.
Due to the failure as progress mechanic, second nature actions do nothing for your progress except help you succeed. To progress, you have to take chances--either by performing actions in high stress scenarios, or by practicing things you've never tried before, especially things outside your current abilities. Because you progress by failing, you progress only with dice. You can only activate the dice if you attempt an action never before accomplished, lucidity is low, or stress is high. Common sense should tell the Director when an action is entirely chance, a little dicey, or second nature.
Often an action involves multiple facets. In this case, you would only roll the thresholds you do not exceed.
Any talent or skill-based fictional action may be performed through shadowcasting: performing a specified nonfictional performance as a stand-in for fictional action. If you and the Director know American Sign Language, you may agree that in order to perform a specific hex, rather than rolling a die, if you successfully sign the letters of that hex's name, it will be cast. If you can draw, you can offer a drawing of equivalent complexity to the act, and draw that whenever you wish to perform the fictional action. For things like mystiques, which are innate talents, they may substitute the same. If they can purse their tongues (an inherited ability), the Director can allow this to stand in for a mystique. The only rules are:
- a specific nonfictional act equals a specific fictional act and nothing else (you can't spell out "SLEEP" for a sleep hex and a dream hex, or for that matter, more than one of either),
- the complexity of both acts should be as equivalent as possible (one shouldn't have to sing an aria to fire a bow, nor burp some letters to cast a metahex that will enchant an entire town),
- that skill = skill and inborn ability = mystique, and
- the terms of the substitution are agreed upon by the Player and Director prior to use.
During high-stress (combat, performance before a crowd), a shadowcast requires a lucidity check for initiative unless other terms are agreed upon.
Performance Over Mechanics
Anywhere you can substitute nonfictional performance, description, or dialog for rolling a die, do so. If you come to a cliff face where the map says there should be a door, you should look for the hidden door not by rolling to see if they find anything, but by describing to the Director where and how you look, and if you look in the right spot or in the right manner, you should find it. If it is a riddle, solve that riddle--the only psychological threshold is the entertainment of the Director. If you have facets that arguably could help with a puzzle, using them should not solve the puzzle (unless the Director decides it's time to move on), but grant clues or reveal steps to the solution. Implied by this is Directors should not provide puzzles or riddles they cannot solve themselves.
- You decide you want to do something
- The Director decides which die will resist you, and declares those thresholds.
- You declare what facets will help you do this task and any tropes that will help, and add them together (it does not matter if your facets and the thresholds match, only that you can defend your choices if the Director asks how they will help) to find the Sum of Your Efforts.
- The threshold pool is rolled to find the overall Threshold to Success.
- If your Sum beats the Threshold, you succeed. If not, you learn.
- If both totals are equal, you bomb. If the dice are all 1s, you awestrike.
When you decide to do something, the Director sets the threshold (amount of dice rolled) for a particular action by deciding which dice will resist your efforts. The dice are not the climb, but the mountain: massive, complex, and full of chaotic circumstance. Where no obstacles to a goal exists for you, no roll is required. If the sum of your efforts (the total of your helpful facet circuits and trope bonuses) beats the threshold pool, you succeed. If threshold exceeds your facets, you miss.
If, for example, you are an urwoman attempting to bargain with an urman from their area, your shared scene offers no resistance, so the Social Die (D8) is left aside. However, if you are trying to engage an Aurean male in conversation, whether or not he even hears you depends on beating the scene roll, and you will still have to be charming on top of that. If you decide to flirt, the subjectivity of your looks also comes into play, if you are not objectively beautiful (circuit-6).
If the sum of the threshold pool equals the sum of a player's declared circuits, they bomb. The player fails in a spectacular and sometimes hilarious fashion. Intensity is dictated by the context of the action and the discretion of the Director. If it was a particularly dangerous stunt, this may result in grievous harm. If it was a simple task, it's perhaps been failed to the degree that a reattempt is impossible.
If these extremes are included in your possibilities, please have alternative, if more arduous or time-consuming, paths laid out for the players. If they must get through the door, make the lock easy or automatic or unlocked. If it's just bonus loot or a shortcut, then bombing so as to break the lock to the room and cut it off as a possibility is a more reasonable, if inconvenient possibility.
When rolling three or more dice, the D10, or the awe die, is added to the threshold pool. The action has become complex enough that its success or miss dramatizes in both your eyes and the eyes of any witnesses, including the gods. Observers rarely help performance. Resistance rolling all 1s with the awe die in play creates an awestrike--the Player accomplishes the feat so spectacularly and with such flair that any NPCs are awestruck, and come away with higher opinions of you. Your friends, however, are only impressed with the body of the Character. They'll never be impressed by you.
Any awestrike adds a circuit to a passive facet (a stat Players cannot alter themselves but accrues through gameplay), called Awe.
Any automatic actions, including actions you have automated through circuit progress, may be done in tandem with more challenging actions, and succeed if the resisted action succeeds.
To do more than one resisted action in a single turn, the additional actions must each utilize separate facets. If you are performing a physical feat that requires your stock, you cannot attempt something that also requires grace, because it is also physical. Lucidity cannot help in any regular action if one is performing gnosis, and only one hex can be worked per player per turn. The workaround of this is, if you transform a muscle memory into a gig, then it frees up your remaining muscle memories to be added to your sum, enabling you to split your efforts. This lowers your sum for each action considerably and can cause failure in all attempts. If an action is too complex to be accomplished with the facets remaining then that second action is impossible. It is therefore best to pair a complex action with a supporting automatic action, such as working a hex but monitoring your periphery.
Some gigs, like Choromancy, develop as circuits of two or more different gigs. If you develop two gigs to the level where choromancy unlocks in both, one may perform multiple choromantic actions in a single turn, only challenged by the single Training Die. We call this facet intersection.
Some actions require multiple turns to accomplish, and thus take multiple successes. Climbing a steep wall or walking a blindingly lit corridor, for instance, may take either great care or the dice going easy on your for several turns.
A metahex, for instance, is a latticework of smaller hexes, themselves subtle blends of elementals, humours, cryptics, or arcana. Depending on the level of the practitioner, some of these hexes can be automatic successes, and some may take up an entire turn. Botching would mean having to start over from scratch. As attacks, metahexes are cumbersome weaponry usually only woven mid-fight during in massive battles where the witch or witches is shielded for multiple rounds. Otherwise, they are more commonly and better deployed as solutions to impossible puzzles, locks on vault doors, or pre-cast and held in a Vessel for timed deployment. Hypersigils and pre-made metahexes can be purchased or traded for and can be very useful--but the contents of third party hexcraft can never be guaranteed.
Players should reserve other extended actions like scaling a sheer surface for less intense periods of play.
All rolled actions in The Realm are resisted, however, some actions are two characters opposing one another. When your actions oppose another's, both you and your opponent roll. Threshold is decided by the roll of your opponent, thus the Player with the highest total wins.
Awestrikes on resisted actions are rare, as even a weak Character can diminish the Player's attempts. In an Extended Resisted Action, several successes are needed to win. Threshold is set by the opposing Character's Lucidity Circuit and the number of successes is added up from each turn until one of the Players' Lucidity has been depleted.
Teamwork is encouraged, and during an Extended Action, two or more Players may combine their facets, at the Director's discretion. Teamwork helps in physical feats but typically hinders social interaction, except in specific cases. Also, if two Characters have both achieved similar levels in a gig, they can, depending on the action, combine circuits to speed along a process like a metahex.
Saving & Vouching
If you are in a bind on a rolled action, a player for whom that action would be automatic can jump in and add their circuit to your efforts, provided they are not engaged in an action with that facet themselves, saving you from failure. On occasions where a character's scene is to their detriment, a character that would not need to roll scene may vouch for the other Character, automatically succeeding at an intervention and ending the interaction without incident. In combat this is a save; in social scenarios involving scene or caste difficulties, this is called vouching.
Bleedthrough & Crucible
Crucible is what happens when Lucidity is depleted or fully tapped during stressful scenarios, culminating in a Bleedthrough: the D20 is now rolled to check that your Shadow does not regain control of your character body. In a crucible, any roll under your lucidity circuit maintains; over and the Character takes control for a turn. Botching means you are banished to the Dreamscape until the other squad members can retrieve you. In instance of Shadow Dominance, the Player is now instructed to do traditional roleplaying of the Character, their memories, and their phantasm alignment. In order to undo Bleedthrough, lucidity must be restored either through healing hexes or if a bomb, by retrieving the player from the Dreamscape.
Learning & Progress
A facet's circuits remain static until progressed through learning. Success is its own reward; failure is how we learn and grow. Failed rolls during high-stress progress circuits directly, and Honing during low stress awards progress rolls. Failures will therefore breed success, while both decrease in frequency as you grow. When honing, you are using the same mechanism with lower stakes and low stress. By attempting feats in low stress situations, you are risking low stakes failures that award you progress rolls.
Players with a progress roll do so on die associated with the facet they wish to progress. For instance, if progressing a feature, roll a D6. If you roll under your current circuit, increase by 1. If you roll over, increase by 2. If you roll your circuit, increase by 3. Progress rolls do not need to be spent when they are acquired.
Directors call for progress rolls during natural breaks in the narrative.
Stock is a physical feature representing strength, stamina, and endurance, but also represents how much physical trauma you can endure before losing Coherence. As your stock circuits deplete due to injurious harm, you lose physical strength to be utilized in other actions until you are healed. Stock is replenished through healing hexes, time, sleep, and honing, unless the wound is mortal.
The mental and existential well-being of characters in The Realm is measured in Lucidity, arguably the most important facet of your character. Where stock measures your strength and your body's physical damage, because you are in a fictional body, your unconscious will is a major component of maintaining your coherence in The Realm.
Lucidity is tapped to aid complex actions, artistic endeavors, and to cast hexes--i.e., temporarily drained for a turn to the extent that one wishes a hex to be potent--and can be depleted from injurious or psychological harm endured, or by the overexertion of gnostic abilities.
By default, any elemental or simple gnostic action requires the tap of its circuit in Lucidity, and does that number in damage or lasts for that amount of turns, depending on whether it is a defensive or transformative hex, respectively. To work a simple hex, your total Lucidity minus the cost (your remainder) should beat the Lucidity Threshold (D20) roll.
Complex, higher-circuit hexes are nearly impossible to successfully cast at a moment's notice, and therefore should be mapped, built, charged, and possibly scheduled, during downtime. In non-combat, low tension moments, most of one's Lucidity may be tapped for a turn without risk of Bleedthrough. Then, a metahex may be cast with one successful Lucidity tap like any elemental hex.
If one bombs a gnostic feat, then the Lucidity Die becomes the Feedback Die. If the Feedback is over the Player's total Lucidity, the amount over their remainder comes back upon them. Yet another reason not to perform violent or malicious gnosis. A healing hex is at worst frustrating when failed. If you failed a fire hex on a log for a campfire, feedback may light a piece of your clothing but not your person. If you intended to burn a person, it will burn you instead, for the amount it has gone over your remaining Circuit.
With prepared hexes, Feedback can be avoided by working psychic shielding for the caster into the fabric of the hex. This is usually accomplished with charged sigilla or other cryptics applied to the vessel and sometimes tattooed on the witch and charged before the actual hex.
Continuity is the third and final manner of handling physical or mental trauma: semi-permanent to permanent consequences to your character's body or ability to concentrate during trained or lucid actions. To avoid losing circuits in either stock or lucidity, damage can be soaked by continuity--the loss of a limb or an eye, or a psychological defense, or the addition of physical ticks or mental compulsions similar to those found in blights. A continuity compulsion is a sort of glitch installed by trauma, and can range from a minor behavioral quirk such as biting nails all the way to full flashbacks, where you repeat the affecting trauma in the Dreamscape and your body reacts to it rather than your present circumstances.
Physical injuries or psychological traumas like prolonged blight, catastrophic loss, or psychological gnostic attacks, damage your coherence in The Realm. When a Player incurs damage to the exact or greater amount of their total stock or lucidity and cannot take a continuity hit, they die. This is not death the way we know it--if the character dies during runtime, the player awakens somewhere else within the architecture of The Realm, in the body of a different character. Depending on the Narrative Threshold, they will then either
- awaken with all their memories intact;
- awaken with no memory of their encounters since leaving Earth, only this time, they are alone;
- awaken having only their Character's memories,
- awaken with no memories at all. If the mind dies, roleplay as the Character you were inhabiting, your true personality stuck in the Dreamscape.