Refs Start Here

Posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at 10:39

Okay, either you’ve been nominated or you’ve got some experience of running a roleplaying game and you’ve come here to find out how to Referee a game of T13. You are about to learn the secret ways of the T13 game and they are deep secrets indeed.

Running the game

The Ref is there to adjudicate the game and make sure everyone is having fun. Your job is not to try to kill characters, or to allow them to rule a universe, but to be the Omniverse around them, you have to react to their actions and you have to act to make them react. Most of the time you do this by using the normal player rules, you can create characters with their own motivations and play them just like any other character, but occasionally you need to do other things, like setting the difficulty of a task or running hundreds of characters simultaneously, and those things you can’t do like a player.

Campaigns, Episodes and Scenes

T13 is not like traditional role-playing where one person maps out a huge world or dungeon and the other players explore the map. You can play this sort of “Dungeon Crawl” with the system, but it is not as satisfying as having a deep, involved plot that ties the adventures or sessions together. Now, of course, most games do accept the concept of a back-story or plot that ties together the set pieces of the game, but nothing quite like the way its done in T13.

Plot Dæmons

In T13 the Plot is considered to be like a character, it has its own goals and handicaps, its own systems and rules. We refer to these plots as Plot Dæmons, as they are (within the mythology of T13) Increated beings with the ability to manipulate reality around them. You can read about building Plot Dæmons on this page.

World Building

The Referee has the job of creating the world and setting that the game takes place in. Anything is possible so you might want to take a look at my posts on the art of world-building.

Setting the Scene

When your players enter a scene, walk into a room or drop through a trapdoor, it’s your job to describe the contents of the room, what they can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. Remember though that human beings don’t really just have five senses, you are also responsible for those additional senses, such as balance, motion, temperature, hunger- really the list goes on…
You are not responsible for telling a player how to respond emotionally or what action they should make in response to this description though. You can remind them of Handicaps and demand Psychology Tests to control Emotional Effects a Scene may have. If you have given a location a “Scary” skill or a “Beautiful” Talent then it would be appropriate to demand a Psychology Test or take a Emotionally induced Wound.

You can write these descriptive details about a location down, but it is often easier as a Ref to think of a real location you know well, and modify it to fit the needs of the story. Large public buildings make excellent “Dungeons” with a little imagination and a few Trap based obstacles.

NPCs, Extras and Monsters

The Omniverse is full of people and any of them that aren’t being played by the players are going to be played by the Ref.
If the players go into a shop, you’re going to have to play the shopkeeper, his surly friend from the next door video store and the other people in the shop.
A busy Referee doesn’t have time to detail every single character the PCs might bump into while wandering around town to this end we supply the Ref with a number of options in the NPCs page.

Setting Difficulties

Part of the Ref’s job is setting the difficulty of tasks. There are a couple of ways of doing this.

Sway Difficulties

Sometimes the easiest way to set a difficulty is to look up on the Sway table how much Sway the action should cost. This gives you a standard difficulty. Item Creation also has some rules that you can find on the Descendants page. Refs can also increase or decrease these difficulties as they like, for the particular task being attempted. But you’ve got some base scores to work from.

Passive Difficulties

Sometimes you want to use one Annex against another. You can as a Ref just take an average, rather than rolling, and even extend that average to Proficiency dice. So when trying to affect an NPC rather than the NPC having to roll, or draw cards even, the Ref can just make the player roll against an average for a Facet, Annex or a collection of Annexes and Descendants. So the difficulty to injure someone through their armour might be: 10 (average 3d6 Prof) + 4 (Rook Boon Reduced) + 5 (1d10 armour), that sets the difficulty to 19.

Ordeal difficulties

Ordeals are narrative devices and you can control how deadly, difficult and how long they will go on. Make sure you are comfortable with the Ordeal rules (maybe run a training session between two of the PCs as a learning exercise [and it makes a fine part of any Frame Dæmon].
Rather than specify hard and fast rules that would restrict your choices, I will instead offer you some suggestions:

  • Calculate a standard difficulty in Sway and then reduce (or double reduce), this gives a number of Stages.
  • Calculate a standard difficulty from Sway and then accumulate this many Pips during the Ordeal.
  • If it’s not important just say it takes 1 Stage, if its really important then work out what each possible stage might be. So if building a sword you might make it have Stages for
    1. building the forge and preparing the ore,
    2. pumping the bellows,
    3. casting the metal,
    4. beating and folding,
    5. quenching,
    6. heating,
    7. beating and folding,
    8. quenching,
    9. assembling the sword,
    10. and finally sharpening.

    Setting each one to a limit of four Phases per Stage in a Medium Stakes Ordeal.