Part IV: Mechanical Guidance
Mike Says: ChallengesPart V: Just In Time
Switch #1: Rolling When You Want To
Mike Says: Switch #1
Example: Requesting Challenges
Mike Says: Dice Thresholds
Mike Says: Difficulty Ratings
Example: Rolling Dice
Using FragmentsPart VI: Many Travels
Example: Using Fragments
Example: Sudden Discovery
Switch #2: Just In The Knick of Time
Mike Says: Switch #2
Switch #3: Weekly Special
Using Fragments Revisited
The first Challenge of the game is in progress. You know that you
have to beat the Difficulty Rating of 10, and you've rolled the
dice. But they only came up 5. That's five points to go
before success and you really want to succeed. What you need is a
solid Fragment Total to put you over that edge.
Fragments represent statistically what a character owns, knows, desires, connects with, possesses natural ability for, or any other quality about a character that you can think of. A Fragment Total then is the numerical representation of all the applicable Fragments you have for one specific Challenge. In the above example you would need five Fragment levels in order to make your 10. After rolling the dice consult your character sheet, choosing any and all Fragments that you feel would affect the current situation. Fragments can be purchased at multiple levels and so you should always use the highest value associated with a Fragment. Sometimes you may have Fragments that hinders you. As painful as it sounds, you need to include those negative numbers in your total as well. If questions arise as to the appropriateness of a Fragment in certain situations, ask the GM. She may even allow you to add in Fragments that you would have at first overlooked.
Great. You know what a Fragment generally is and how to use one, but what are Fragments specifically and how do you get them in the first place?
Buying Fragments requires Character Points. You may purchase any Fragment at the uniform cost of twice the value of the desired level. For example, if you are purchasing an Adversary at level two, the cost in Character Points equals four. Fragments are not set in value, but instead aid you in proportion to the number of points you are willing to invest in them, up to a maximum level of two to five depending on the individual Fragment. Of course you can always increase the value of an existing Fragment at a later time. Remember, when using a Fragment you add the level of the Fragment to your running total and not the purchase price.
In truth, the purchase of a Fragment represents a discovery of ability. You aren't "leveling up" your character. You aren't subjecting him to time spent in training. You are instead, revealing qualities about the character that have yet to surface in play. Perhaps a new Fragment is actually a new skill for the character, but not always--not even most of the time. Fragments can be qualities that the character has always possessed, but never showed in-game. Most of the time new Fragments are just as much a discovery for you as they are for the characters in-game. In other words, you never know what your character can accomplish until he tries. If you ask a writer about a story he's working on he'll oftentimes tell you that he didn't come up with major character traits until halfway through the writing process. This is the sort of development that PERSONA hopes to model and encourage.
Now let's talk a bit about timing. Deciding when to purchase a Fragment and write it down on your character sheet can drastically alter the way your character develops and the way others see your character develop.
SWITCH #2: JUST IN THE KNICK OF TIME
SWITCHED ON (DEFAULT)
After making a roll, and only after making a roll, you may purchase any Fragment applicable to the Challenge at hand. Most of the time you will purchase Fragments that will in some way allow you to overcome the Challenge, but keep in mind that some Fragments will hinder you. If you want to fail and you rolled entirely too well, it's often possible to purchase enough negative Fragments to get you your desired outcome.
Purchasing Fragments in conjunction with dice rolls allows others a chance to see your character develop at the very moment it happens--and in a game related context. As a side effect, those same players should also become more interested in every conflict taking place, as opposed to just the ones involving their own characters.
You can purchase Fragments whenever you like. This means that you can buy them in-game, out-of-game, before or after the dice hit the table, whenever you like. The idea is to let you decide what your character is good at as a continuous process.
Switching #2 "off" works wonders as far as immersion goes. You'll see players looking surprised, sitting in silence, and adding to their characters. No one has to wait for the dice in order to record an important discovery. On the other hand, players are free to internalize major roleplaying moments without anyone else having a clue.
Fragments are not generic. Instead, when purchasing a Fragment, give it a name. Don't even bother with the category. Just record the name that you have come up with. You may have a sheet full of Talent Fragments, but a casual observer would never know. He would only see a list of what could be called talents scribbled down. For example, when purchasing a Talent Fragment you may choose to call it "Devious Mathematics." Now you don't have just a Talent, but a natural disposition towards devious mathematics, and you may have other natural dispositions in other areas of ability. The same rule applies to all Fragments. A Fragment's name conveys meaning beyond mechanics, much in the same way that naming a character can help to establish in-game color and mood. Creativity and specificity will help you and the other players to create individuals beyond the numbers. Boring names often result in stagnant play. This, of course, is to be avoided.
Although Fragments generally cost two Character Points for every one level, there are exceptions to the rule.
Three Fragments, when chosen, net you additional Character Points instead of draining them. Not all Fragments are advantageous. The Ignorance, Fear, and Handicap Fragments pay you a number of Character Points equal to the level your character possesses. In addition, the Talent and Item Fragments will award you extra Character Points at their lowest levels.
Four Fragments may not be purchased at all. The GM retains control over the Wound, Death, Emotion, and Cool Fragments. They are to be awarded free of charge during the course of play.
No matter the number of character points you spend, skills and allies can never entirely guard your character from injury and death. When the GM believes that your character has taken one step closer to death, she may assign you a Wound fragment. When the Wound Fragment or the Death Fragment is likely to affect your character, you should know about it. Be sure to communicate with the GM, more so than usual, when such an occasion arises. As with the other two GM-awarded Fragments, Emotion and Cool, you sometimes have little control over when and where they will appear, but that does not mean that suggestions are unwelcome. Remind your GM of applicable Fragments and bonuses. Help her out. She forgets sometimes.
Finally, two Fragments cost less then two points per level.
SWITCH #3: WEEKLY SPECIAL
SWITCHED ON (DEFAULT)
Before every session, the GM and players should discuss what Fragments they want to emphasize. Each player individually settles on one Fragment that will cost half as much as any other (one point per level instead of two). The GM then chooses the second, globally discounted Fragment. The globally discounted Fragment may or may not match your own choice. Choices should reflect the direction that each player plans to take their character. Discounts only last for the length of the current session and you may not choose the same discount for two consecutive sessions. The GM however, may discount the same Fragment as many times in a row as she wishes.
As a result of the discounts, everyone will tend to purchase the two cheaper Fragments more frequently and therefore the effects of those Fragments will tend to surface more frequently in-game.
As when Switch #3 is "on," there are two Fragments that cost one point per level instead of two. However, the choice is left to the GM and not the players. Before each session the GM announces the two discounted Fragments. Players may make suggestions, but the GM makes the final decision.
We present this option so that the GM can establish an ongoing emphasis for campaigns. For example, if a GM wanted to theme a campaign around a person's relationship to himself and to his friends, the GM may choose to discount the Persona and Comrade Fragments. The GM may choose to change those discounts from session to session, but may also pick the same two Fragments for the length of the entire campaign.
USING FRAGMENTS REVISITED
Let's take a quick look back at using Fragments and specifically, at the way in which Fragments apply to certain situations. Under normal circumstances you add only the base level of an applicable Fragment to your total, but in certain situations a Fragment may seem unusually apt. Sometimes, for example, the manifestation of a Fear just seems like it should pack a bigger punch. Hence, each Fragment can be modified.
Contained in each detailed Fragment description (located at the end of this book), there exists a set of Modifiers . These numbers are specific examples to a general rule in PERSONA. If you believe that a certain Fragment is particularly suited for the situation at hand, or alternatively if you find (or more likely your GM finds) that possession of a Fragment hinders your potential to succeed, then the GM should instruct you to modify your Fragment level. Fragments are modified by multipliers. For well deserved Fragments use a positive multiplier, usually ranged from (x2) to (x4), if the situation is the one true purpose for the Fragment to exist. If a Fragment impedes a character, apply a negative multiplier from (-x2) to (-x4), if your character has violated the intrinsic meaning of the Fragment.
While losing nine points from your Fragment Total may seem significant, just as adding nine points to your total may seem like quite a boon, modified Fragment levels are quickly overshadowed when characters have large quantities of Fragments. Although a modified Fragment may have a higher numerical value than any other Fragment in use, in the majority of situations a modified Fragment still only remains one piece of a larger picture. If a character overcomes a Challenge, it's not because he has the Great Axe of Lanuay in his possession; not even if he's using the axe for the one true purpose it was forged for. He overcomes the challenge because he has the Great Axe of Lanuay, he has a natural aptitude towards battle tactics, he studied five years under a master axmen, he is fighting on sacred homeland, and because he's attempting to defeat the man who killed his true love. To some people, bonuses awarded through Modifiers may seem pointless in the long run because they don't really give you that much of a mechanical advantage. However, try not to think of Modifiers as overpowering influences. Instead, think of Modifiers as roleplaying cues.
When a Modifier comes into play, amp up the effects of the modified Fragment. Continuing the above example, even if you know that your character defeats his lover's murderer because of a culmination of training, emotional states, and raw ability, the Great Axe of Lanuay should have a significant presence "onscreen." The axe is what receives a Modifier and therefore the axe should receive the most attention when determining how the Challenge is overcome. Everything else should be described in terms of the axe. Sure he's fighting on sacred homeland, but the land is channeling its power through the Great Axe, lending a blinding green glow to the blade. In other words, use Modifiers as a cue to really play up the modified Fragment.
Notice that listed with most Fragments is a (x1), and sometimes a (-x1) Modifier. The associated descriptions describe the Fragment's basic purpose. It is meant as a guideline, to aid both you and your GM when deciding if a Fragment applies to the current Challenge. The (x1) Modifier is not a bonus of any sort.
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