Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sin and Sin Points draft

Here are my first unrefined thoughts, morning shower inspired, on how to use some mechanics to get into the Western medieval mindset.

Sin Points - These work just like Hit Points.  You have a bunch of them.  When you sin you lose d6 of them, unless it is a minor sin (-1 point) or a giant-sized one (2d6).  When your character dies, their soul goes to heaven (no SP damage), hell (0 SP) or purgatory (anything in between). 

Only PCs in Purgatory are subject to Raise Dead type effects.  PCs in Heaven may occasionally help out their living pals through some miraculous intervention rule and PCs in Hell may mess with them at the DMs discretion.  Those in Purgatory might haunt the party from time to time, especially if PCs don't give them a proper burial and insure their estate is disposed of properly.  Perhaps a PC can be moved from purgatory to heaven if the surviving party members build churches and establish monasteries in the deceased's name.

How does SP damage heal?  Does it come back like HP if one says ones prayers?  Maybe communion is worth 1d6, confession and penance 2d6, absolution restores all SP?
Sinning isn't just the DM yelling 'gotcha!' at bad behavior and docking SPs.  PCs can opt to sin to score more XP.  Maybe 100xp times level once per session for a Deadly Sin.  At chargen each PC rolls a d8 to determine their key sin:

1) Lust
2) Gluttony
3) Greed
4) Sloth
5) Wrath
6) Envy
7) Pride
8) Roll again twice, rerolling further rolls of 8, but both sins at half XP value.

In order to earn the XP bonus the sin committed must cause actual havoc in play.  For example, a Slothful PC could doze off on guard duty, allowing the wandering monster to attack the party's camp by surprise.

No XP may be earned in this way by folks who are already hellbound (0SP).

Whaddya think?


  1. Seems like too much DM fiat when it comes to judging morality. Unless you go totally gonzo with the concept, but then it loses that "western medieval mindset." Personally, I'm not a fan of DM as morality judge or God.

  2. I think it is a good idea if both players and DM agree that it is 'that kind of game'. It would need to be a bit more defined re SP values to be implementable, I think.

    But I think it could also be the basis for a cute rpg in and of itself. Use a sin as one 'attribute'- i.e. Wrath could affect combat and damage, while Lust affects social rolls. Characters would have to balance their actions in the mortal world with their ramifications in the next.

    Hmmm, might start chipping away at this myself...

  3. Anonymous9:47 AM

    Ah, reducing morality and the afterlife to a simple equation that can manipulated by cash and popularity.

    ...Should work well to get that real-world religion feel. ;)

  4. Wow this makes my bad American Catholic head spin. Definitely, definitely have a distinction between venial and mortal sins in damage and terms of their penance.

    If you are going this route, one thing also to consider adding in is the Saints, a neat way to add a range of strange, quasi-panthenon to the campaign ala Darklands. You could give special powers to venerate each of them (special mass, quest, donations to specific church, etc). Each could play a part in absolving certain kinds of sins as penance (like in real life).

    And best of all some dude on Dragonsfoot has done some work putting a long list together already:

  5. I think that it's a pretty cool concept. One of my first games used the God concept pretty well.

  6. Anonymous12:20 PM

    I think this is a very good way to handle what could otherwise be a monster. As much as I love Bruce Galloway's Fantasy Wargaming, the reality is it is WAY too much bookkeeping to do the "piety points" thing.

    Depending on how adversarial the players are going to be, you could delegate sin point tracking to the cleric player(s).

    Otherwise you could just have a menu of sins (cribbing from the FW sin classes) to identify the venial and mortal sins.

    My Telengard game is using a Catholic-style Norse church, so I'm a little tempted to steal this idea, or something like it, but I think the players should never know exactly how many sin points they have, until they hit zero or maximum and have visions of hell fire or annoying halos appear.

  7. I am thinking practically here--
    when a PC dies, they player playing that character is going to probably roll up a new one soon.

    I feel like since:

    1-the main effect of sin points is to determine what the dead PC can do,

    2-the player deciding to sin or not sin is someone who will have a new PC right after the final sin point judgment is made, and...

    3-the choice to sin or not should be a calculation that is interesting in its consequences for this player

    There should be effects that specifically tie sin points to things the player's gonna wanna do when they have their new PC.

    Like in your scheme as it stands, most of my players would be shooting for purgatory so they could be resurrected.

    What if the behavior of the first PC have some very distinct mechanical advantages and disadvantages for the new PC? I think you had a similar idea for your Oriental Adventures campaign once...

  8. The idea is wonderful, but Zak is onto something. What kind of behaviour will it promote?

  9. I love the concept! I'm not sure I'd want to have to keep track of sin points but, in principle, this is a really cool idea. I like Zak's idea of karma affecting what sorts of advantages or disadvantages the player's next character will have.

  10. Anonymous3:56 PM

    Not keen personally. IMO the best way of getting people into the medieval mindset would be to RP it in game. Your character pootles about medieval England dropping pennies in the bowls of mendiacnt friars, puts aside silver for a chantry chapel, buys lovely gold crucifix for his local chapel, then when it comes to getting aid from the clergy (and your local bishop is going to be a big cheese) then they will cooperate.

    Spit on the floor during mass, blaspheme and do naughty things with nuns, they ain't going to like you so much.

    If they carry on like your typical D&D party they will be excommunicate within a fortnight and run out of town wherever they go. Give them fair warning, drop and NPC chaplain into the party who can tut and roll his eyes when they are pushing it, but 'keep it real' and don't rely on game mechanics.

  11. I used a similar system to determine the fate of a follower's soul for my Faiths of the City State: Forn Sidthr book, which presents a "D&D-ized" Norse-ish faith...


    Faiths of the City State: Forn Sidthr

  12. Anonymous8:15 PM

    I think Zak is right that you need this to have some additional effect, either on the next character as he suggests or on the current character as it does in FW. Perhaps you don't get the full benefit of a priest's blessing/touching relics/etc. unless you sin points are over half. Or saving throws could be at a penalty or bonus for low/high sin points. At zero or fewer sin points the devil is actively seeking to grab your soul and drag you to hell, or at least get you to sign a contract. At maximum sin points demons and undead are unable to touch you. That sort of thing.

  13. This reads a little like Sanity from CoC, and as such, it shouldn't imply too much book-keeping. But there should be some other effect from this as well.

    How about this taking the place of alignment? And how about this also giving bonuses/penalties on 'saves' vs celestial and infernal effects?

    I think implementing this would, and should, change the game drastically. In effect, you are taking the matters of fate into the game, and making it into a measurable quantity.

    How do you intend to set the starting value? Dice? Dependent on a stat? Or a fixed value? All options will add moral flavour, I think.

  14. Looks interesting. At least if, as others have said, the players are informed and on board from the start.

    I just recently watched a documentary about medieval Scotland, and there were nobles that were really into churchbuilding and stuff like that, to make up for the fact that they were hacking and murdering to make their kingdoms. It could be cool to have a game where the players would want to build churches to save their immortal souls.

    Zak also brings up a good point. So, lets say a character gets 1 reroll, per session, for every predecessor (in a row) that has ended up in heaven. That might, potentially, end up in a lot of rerolls, but you'd really have to work to keep your sin-record clean.

    On the flip-side, if a player has two characters in a row that end up in hell, the GM gets a reroll he can use against that player's characters, until a player's character ends up in (purgatory or heaven? how hard should it be?) This does allow the player to play a backstabbing, thieving bastard, but if he does so twice in a row bad things start to happen.

    This model might work extra well, if new characters have a tendency to (or always do) come from the same family as the old character. Gives a good reason for the heavenly previous characters to watch over the new character, and hell-bound characters to reflect badly on the new character.

  15. This is a really fun idea. Have you considered operating in reverse? So as PCs sin, the weight on their consciences is represented by an ever-mounting total of points. If they receive absolution, the slate is wiped clean and they are down to zero. It seems more intuitive - if someone said, "My PC has zero sin points" I'd assume that meant they have zero sin on them. On the other hand, it's appealing to have them work the same way as HP -- so maybe rename them "grace points" which can be lost through wickedness?

    I like the idea that as sins stack up they affect the character's earthly life -- whether that's social (your neighbors shun or embrace you), political (the archbishop will or won't cooperate with you), or divine (as sins stack up, the PC is more likely to run afoul of bad situations due to divine displeasure.)

    This may be way too complicated, but maybe after a certain point the PC has so much sin on his conscience that he can no longer track how many sin points he has -- he's become incapable of moral distinction.

    I agree that absolution should wipe away all sin, but absolution is necessary before you can take communion, so that would remove the SP benefit of the Eucharist. However, since PCs taking communion are ingesting food which imbues them with divine grace, maybe it has another benefit -- like a Bless effect.

    I love the idea of introducing saints into the mix to help with certain sins.

    To avoid headaches over what is and is not sin, it might be helpful to tell the players what the Church has declared okay in this setting. For example, murdering people to gain money and power is pretty much universally recognized as evil, but that's a normal day in the life of an adventurer. So maybe the Church has granted a license to kill and plunder if you're doing it to monsters, who are soulless minions of Satan and an abomination before God.