A Starter Guide to The Smik-Style Quest Mechanics (Nem’s Quest)
I had a request to borrow the mechanics of Nem & Sami’s Quests, and so this guide is designed to introduce them. Please feel free to make use of it in your own quests if interested; I only ask that you include a link to this document.
Communication between PLAYERS and CHARACTERS: The TEN
Within the quest worlds themselves are multiple realities known as ‘domains’. People have their own version of reality -- a reflection of the world as they understand it, and in this reality they are a god. This reality is called a “Domain”. The base reality in which the quest proper takes place is just known as the “Physical World” or just “reality”. This is where people are just people, as opposed to their divine status within their own domain. Most domains are just personal reflections of this physical world, and so the Physical World influences and shapes the inner domains of the people who live in it. Whenever two elements exist simultaneously across multiple Domains (including the Physical World) it is called a “Crossroads” and it allows a point in which the two Domains can influence each other.
This brings us to the TEN, which is the Crossroad between the PLAYERS and the CHARACTERS. The TEN is the Third Eye Network, and rules Probability and Potential. Like our Internet, the TEN does not directly alter the physical world, but it influences those who listen to it. Also like our Internet, the TEN has its own virtual currency called Influence (also known as Influence Points).
In the quest world of Nem and Sami, the TEN’s primary rulers are CATS, and the amount of cat worship that appears online (videos, pictures, etc) has hit a point in which it has created a CROSSROAD between the TEN and our own INTERNET. This explanation is both for laughs and taken seriously within by the inhabitants; the only key point really required is the CROSSROAD so you’re free to create your own administration for the TEN in your quests. Gods of art, pornography, advertising, creation, or squabbling could all be easily substituted.
The CHARACTERS interact with the PLAYERS via an HMES-enabled device. HMES stands for Hive Mind Emphatic System, and is essentially a set of protocols that work to translate what is happening within the quest to the players and vice versa.
CHARACTERS who have a natural THIRD EYE could also communicate with the players without the use of a device.
HOW the characters communicate with the players depends entirely on the HMES device used to enable the communication. In Nem’s Quest, her cape actually created an illusionary glowing orb which broadcasted suggestions at the speed of reading but without requiring Nem to have to look directly at it. She COULD actually look at the orb.
In Sami’s Quest the coin was more internal – it creates thoughts and images she knew were not her own, but far clearer than simple ‘voices’. It didn’t make her think she wasn’t any less crazy.
In both cases, players were identified by their ID which both Nem and Sami were able to figure out and allowed them to refer to people by name if the name was given.
Programs could be run through the HMES device.
There are a variety of ways to initialize communication between players and characters. In Nem’s case, her cape was an HMES device she activated herself. In Sami’s case, the device was activated by the Administrators – a group of cats who were primarily observing for entertainment.
In the world proper, C’thulu is known as “Lucy” and observes the surface world like one might watch one’s favourite television program, with the difference that Lucy knows it can interfere if it really wants to, but tends to stay out of it unless its favourite characters are in danger.
The easiest way to initialize communication between characters and players is the Lucy gambit; the elder god wants to protect its favourite characters but still wants to be entertained, so it has set up the players in the hopes that they can keep the characters alive without ruining any of the possible surprises the story has in store. Alternatively Cats can be used, although cats have a more economical reason: the more players attracted to the connection, the more power the cats derive from it. Cats tend to balance their assistance for both cost reasons and to ensure that the story continues to attract viewers and give them more power. Like people, the degree in which a cat’s own moral compass and interests impacts its spending depends on the individual. The cats might not strictly need the characters or players, but they might like them very much all the same and this will impact the tone of the quest.
THE MAGIC SYSTEM
Influence Points are expended when the players wish to directly influence the outcome of specific events within the quest. From the perspective of the characters, this is SPELL CASTING. From the perspective of the players however, they are using TEN Applications to run programs.
The most common type of spell manipulates probability. It is the safest kind of program to run, because its effect is extremely subtle and it is also compatible with all kinds of reality, even the Physical World. The problem with probability manipulation is that it gets expensive when consistent results are desired.
In a nutshell, each player can spend up to 5 points of Influence to increase the chance of an event happening by 25%. To avoid this mechanic being abused, it should be noted that this allows the improbable but not the impossible, and certain events could require repeated spends by influencing multiple events to occur first. A simple example: striking a more skilled opponent in a vulnerable area not only requires influencing the character’s strike to hit its mark, but also requires creating a lapse in judgement on behalf of the opponent and possibly again on the target’s muscle memory, raising the cost from 20 to 60 and the collaboration of 4 players.
Illusion and Glamours
Illusions are another extremely common kind of spell or program as they interfere with the way the brain processes its environment as opposed to altering the physical world itself. There are two main parts to the illusion – detail and sustainability. Detail is how much work was put into making the illusion complete. Typically illusions do some basic work and then allow the brain to fill in the rest, but the more knowledgeable the subject is what the illusion is depicting, the more likely the subject is to either break the illusion or even use the loophole to hack the illusion (if they are capable). The reason why most illusions tend to use a lot of gaps is because of diminishing returns; it’s just not worth the effort. Programs require Influence Points to sustain them. I’ve not set in stone the cost, but a good rule of thumb is 1 point per hour. It is entirely possible to set up an illusion to last as long as the target wishes to believe in it, but this only works on mortals (due to how their own energy sources work; it’s a complicated document). Alternatively, the illusion can also tap into the domain resources of the caster – this requires the caster’s presence to support the illusion and opens up the caster to a security breech because it allows the caster’s domain to be visible.
Hacking is about exploiting gaps in the code of spells and programs. The reason for most spells/programs to have gaps in them in the first place is because it takes a lot of time and effort to create secure code, and due to the fact that hackers are rather uncommon, most magic-using creatures tend to get lazy. Any spell, any program, or any magical entity like a golem can be hacked if one has access to the TEN and the knowledge of how to do it.
Probability altering magic exists for a very brief moment and is generally considered unhackable due to the extremely narrow window of opportunity; it’s easier to just re-alter probability after the fact. However, most other kinds of programs tend to rely on either the target or the caster to fill in the gaps in the code, based on their own understanding of the world – essentially using the person’s domain. It’s also why magic isn’t always reliable, because the gaps are prone to causing the code to break or be altered based on whose domain the gaps rely on. A cynical person who perhaps has a gap that assumes everyone operates selfishly might have a program be broken after it comes in contact with someone who is selfless or who believes the best in people. Other programs might operate on an incorrect assumption on how the physical world operates, which are broken when coming in contact with someone who knows better. Hackers KNOW about these gaps, and can use them to manipulate how the program works through creativity. Hackers can fill in the gaps with their own code, causing programs to break, change ownership, or otherwise be manipulated. Hackers can ALSO take advantage of knowing of someone else’s domain. The domain of mortals are concealed by their physical shells, but magical creatures like faeries who lack a constant physical shell must manually hide the existence of their domain, for once a hacker knows where the entrances are (the CROSSROADS) they can work to break into them. Invading someone’s Domain is a complex, separate document on its own but the short of it is that if you attract the attention of the domain’s gods they can banish you. The short of it is mortals can’t die in another domain unless they’ve been there for a long time – they just get kicked out into the relative physical location and can’t enter again.
Physical Manipulation Spells
Physical manipulation spells are beyond the scope of this document as they involve resolving conflicting Domain rules at points of Crossroads. The short version – it’s really risky, and really expensive, and nobody does it unless they absolutely have to. Altering probability has a lot of options, it’s relatively cheap, and it’s super-safe.
DDOS attacks are a form of hacking attack by overloading the TEN with garbage. These attacks have no impact on the character, but they can block out the player’s ability to gain any information about the environment surrounding the character. These attacks can also be used to effectively disable any programs/spells that have to ‘listen’ to the environment for certain variables.
Curses are effectively viruses. They target people by specific variables – shared experiences or memories (conscious or no), certain personality traits, guilt, pain and so forth. The shared experiences effectively allow the virus to find the victim’s domain much the same way players connect to characters. There Curses can deploy multiple kinds of payloads and almost always include a type of Trojan that lays dormant until required. Curses can tap into their victim’s own domain and energy resources to torment them, typically with illusions and the victim tends to keep these illusions going through their own guilt. Curse is not intelligent but can use their victim’s own intellect against them; thus even sociopaths who might not register guilt can find themselves tormented by Curse. Curse is able to spread to anyone the victim knows via physical proximity (and sometimes through dreams), but often is not able to act on the innocent – instead using the innocent as carriers until it can find a more appropriate target. Curse will always attempt to destroy any viable targets, but in general the innocent used as carriers tend to be immune or not viable. Curse also has a limited lifespan; saying in a non-viable domain too long will cause it to mutate and be broken down and absorbed by the Domain itself. How quickly this occurs depends on the domain’s god.