'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Expanse RPG. The Churn.

Kenzo: It must be nice, having everything figured out like that.
Amos: Ain’t nothing to do with me: we’re just caught in the Churn, that’s all.
Kenzo: I have no idea what you just said.
Amos: This boss I used to work for in Baltimore, he called it the Churn. When the rules of the game change.
Kenzo: What game?
Amos: The only game. Survival. When the jungle tears itself down and builds itself into something new. Guys like you and me, we end up dead. Doesn’t really mean anything. Or, if we happen to live through it, well that doesn’t mean anything either.

We got another Expanse Extra yesterday. That is a new mechanic from the RPG that isn't in the quick start. This time the Churn is detailed. This is a mechanic to simulate things going from bad to worse. It will add tension and consequence to the adventure. For me it is similar but different to the role Doom plays in Conan 2d20.

In 2d20, doom stands as a pile that gets added to when various things occur. The GM can then spend that to make bad guys more powerful, introduce more bad guys or just in general make things hard on the players. It is a mechanic designed to simulate the flow of Robert E Howard's epic tales of Conan.

The Churn, although implemented differently, is essentially a mechanic with the same goal in terms of the flow of the story. Things are going well for the players, they have this in the bag. Suddenly the rules change on them and what was easy now becomes difficult.

In it's essence "The Churn" is a running total, when characters do certain things a point is added to that total. When it reaches 10 there is a chance a Minor Stage 1 Churn event happens. If it doesn't happen, the total will increase. When it reaches 20 a Major Stage 2 Churn event may occur. If no event is triggered it continues to increase until it reaches 30, here we have a chance of an Epic Stage 3 Churn event. As you can see each time we get to 10, we check for an event, the level of event increases as the multiple of 10 increases. If you get to 10 points in stage 3, an Epic Stage 3 event occurs. No matter when the pool is triggered it resets to 0.

My first impression is that the Stage 1 events are a little weak IMHO, more choice here would be great. However since I haven't played I don't actually know how fast these things will get generated and it might happen several times in an encounter, and if that is the case it is probably fine.

Either way I am a fan of this style of mechanic. The fact that accumulating The Churn means something bad is going to happen may add enough tension all on it's own to make players a little squirrely.

Be sure to check out my other articles on the Expanse RPG!

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