Friday, April 1, 2016

Disadvantage: Trickster

It's just a prank, bro.
Trickster is a weird disadvantage I think. It takes a little bit of a good relationship between GM and player and a very big willingness to role play. Let's take a look at this disadvantage, and in a meta-sense, how it plays out.


Trickster is written as a self control disadvantage. This means that the point cost is determined by a selected self control roll. It can be found on p.159 of Basic Set - Characters and it is a pretty big disadvantage, numerical wise (At the default.)
Trickster should be rolled for daily, and a failed roll initiates an uncontrollable desire to pull some form of caper against a dangerous foe. This becomes progressively more difficult as it is resisted, resetting when the valve is released.
Because it is a self control roll, it can be customized a bit with the rules for self-control rolls at the start of p.121. That is, it's cost can be played with to make it slightly more or less disabling with a commensurate discount or increase in cost in turn.
An affliction based on Trickster doesn't make too much sense because it has a bit of a slow boil. Theoretically, if it were to be done, it would probably need a nearly permanent, either the pseudo permanent, or cosmic permanent variations. This being said, there are probably not a lot of beings that would use it anyway... except for silly beings maybe dedicated to a form of pure chaos and rejection of predictability. More likely though, a disadvantage like a compulsion or obsession would work better for forcing someone into a personality changing geass. 


I don't even have this.
I got the rule from the
Fourth Edition Festival issue
of Pyramid.
This disadvantage probably falls into a category of those that gives a GM a fixed plot hook. Trickster is a tool that can help a GM to get a plot going, or a plot twist to force the players to go off of (anyone's) rails.
A popular rule, The Ham Clause, from Action 1, allows players to invoke self control disadvantages manually at certain points of play, similar to an aspect in a more meta RPG, forcing characters to act with a handicap for a situation or two. This doesn't seem to play well with Trickster which plays on a slower scale. A similar concept might be to allow a player to plan out some japes ahead of time, and if it seems fairly challenging for the level of the disadvantage chosen, maybe this can excuse them from random rolls for days equal to the self control number. For example, if a player has the default Self Control roll of 12 on Trickster, and initiates a plan to embarrass a haughty public official in a very Rube Goldberg-esque Xanatos Gambit, then they might be excused from needing to roll for self control for 12 days.

Suggestions For Use

After thinking this out, here are a few guidelines that I think might work well when considering using Trickster.
  • As A Player
    • Am I willing to make a character who plays fast and loose with expectations?
    • Am I ok with surrendering agency to the GM if I can't come up with any plots on my own?
    • Does my character have a really good motivation for wanting to play tricks on dangerous targets?
      • Do I hate the rich or privileged (You might have Jealousy as well or instead then?)
      • Do I need to get rich quick (You might have Kleptomania as well or instead then?)
      • Do I have a death wish (You might have Berserk or Impulsiveness as well or instead then?)
  • As a GM
    • Am I ok with a player that might derail a plot heavy game?
    • Will it be challenging to balance the spotlight if a player's latest shenanigans make her the main character for the umpteenth time?
    • If other players are caught up in the mess, will I be ready, for better or for worse, to dish out the appropriate consequences, whether successful or failed?
None of these questions are out and out negative, and they are all very subjective because of different kinds of fun. Some players for example hate being told what to do ever, while others like "discovering" their character as they play. Some GMs like random wrenches complicated a well-oiled machine of a plan, while others have a very narrative bent and would like to see a story through. The big keys that determine if Trickster will be a fun disadvantage are, it looks to me, the group's opinion on agency and initiative.
If Trickster is allowed in a campaign, it might be a self-imposed disadvantage, in the same way a Code of Honor might be. So maybe a power source run on chaos and chicanery might require Trickster as a prerequisite disadvantage.
For a different bent on a joker character that is more annoying than fate-tempting, an Odious Personal Habit (Telling Bad Jokes) or (Playing Pranks) (probably -5 or -10 respectively) might fit better.

Other Thoughts and Conclusion

I don't usually expound on disadvantages like this, but Trickster is one I have struggled to make fun in the past, so I wanted to throw a net out there for advice. It also felt appropriate for April Fool's day. I think one of the problems I had was that I didn't read the disadvantage mechanics carefully enough the first time. Looking at them now, it definitely works itself out, it seems, but I need to play with it.
I have been involved with characters with a low initiative playstyle before (I want the GM to tell us what we want to do) and a high initiative playstyle (I will make my own fun whenever I am bored.) and this disadvantage really feels like it works best with the high initiative party at first, but it can be made to work with players that aren't self starters either. If worse comes to worse, I guess you can make a player buy it off if they aren't really being a trickster.

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