Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Player-Player Bonds

So a lot of games establish player bonds during character creation.

"You once fought along side the person to your left."

"You have sworn to protect the person on your right."

Et cetera.  And that's a pretty cool idea.  But. . . it's possible for that sweet backstory to drop into the background.  Players and DMs might easily forget that Alice swore to protect Bob.

Hopefully, if those bonds are represented mechanically, they'll be more in the forefront of everyone's mind.  For example, if two member of your adventuring party are ex-husband and ex-wife, they might share a Vendetta, and be paying very close attention to each other's turns, because the Vendetta ability triggers whenever the other person fumbles.

big barda by Mike Hawthorne
Player-Player Bonds

1. Battle Brothers/Sisters - Years spent fighting together.
You each get +1 to hit as long as you attack the same target as your battle brother/sister simultaneously.

2. Destined Twins - You share everything.
Your HP is pooled and shared between the two of you.  Any negative physical effect that happens to one of you happens to the other, including death and or maiming.  (e.g. sympathetic limp if the other one loses a leg, nausea if the other one throws up, etc.)  This also works well for conjoined twin characters.

3. Favored Son or Daughter - You adventure alongside your offspring.
Your favored son or daughter must be lower level than you (and therefore, probably created after you).  They must also be the same race and class.  As long as you begin each session asking them "So what have we learned from all this?" they gain XP 10% faster, and whenever you assist them, you can double your bonuses you add to their attempt.

4. Friendship - Merry and Pippin.
You each get +4 to save vs fear when fighting beside each other.

5. Love - Shouldering one another's burdens.
When the object of your love would be hit in combat, you can take the blow instead.  This doubles the damage that the attack does.  Only works if you are adjacent to the target.

6. Master or Mistress - You have a servant or a slave.
Whenever you would take damage that would drop you to 0 HP or less, you can shove your servant in the way instead, as long as they are adjacent to you.  You take no damage, and your servant takes twice as much damage as you would have taken.

7. Multiple Personalities - A person of two minds.
This isn't really a player bond, it's more of a metagame mechanic.  Two players play this character, so if player A isn't there, player B plays that character.  If both players are there, treat the character as if they were 1 level higher.  If there is disagreement of what to do, flip a coin to determine who the dominant soul is.  This dominant soul cannot be challenged for 30 minutes of game time.

8. Protected - People are guarding you with their life.
If you take no damage during an entire gameplay session, everyone gets +10% xp. If you die, everyone gets half xp this session.

9. Rivalry - Striving to outdo one another.
When your rival gets a critical success, you get +4 on your next roll of the same type and crit on a 19-20, as long as it's made quickly.  You don't necessarily want them to fail, you just want to outdo them.

10. Servant or Slave - You have a master or mistress.
If your master spends their entire action giving you a command, you immediately get a free action to carry it out. (Hopefully this leads to lots of "Iago, slay this villanous goblin!"  "Yes, master!  I attack the goblin!") You must succeed on a Charisma check to disobey your master, or lie to them.  (You should also decide if you love your master or hate them.)

11. Sworn to Protect - Bound by honor.
If you are standing adjacent to the person you are sworn to protect, you can take hits for them.  Whenever they would take damage from a melee attack, you can roll an attack roll against the monster who damaged them.  If you succeed, the protected person takes no damage, and you instead take twice as much damage as they would have taken.

12. Vendetta - Filled with schadenfreude.
Whenever the target of your hate critically fumbles a roll, you get a +4 on the first roll you make next turn, and critical on a 19-20.  The other person doesn't have to be a hated enemy.  They could just be a cleric from another religion, or your ex.

How to Implement These?

I don't fuckin know.  Maybe at character creation, players who agree to a bond start with -1000xp for every bond or something.  This doesn't de-level them down to level 0, it just delays how long it takes for them to reach level 2.

These Aren't Balanced!

I know.  This was more of a brainstorming session, actually.

by Abigail Larson


  1. That's pretty cool. I've seen these sorts of arrangements in Burning Wheel games, where I guess it emerges from the need to make very cohesive parties for most campaigns. There, though, the cohesion is a sort of entrance fee.

    (Also, I suppose Inquisitor, Star Trek and The Regiment, having a military structure, put the PCs into a command structure with one another.) But I haven't seen it done like this, this is really neat.

    Here, what you've done (for many of the options, at least) is make them mechanically advantageous, so the players have an incentive to find reasons to stitch their characters into these relationships. That's great.

  2. Stop coming up with cool mechanics and good house-rule fodder! I'm trying to slim down my houserules!

  3. Very nice! Reminds me a bit of the Keys in Solar System / The Shadow of Yesterday. Keys were originally an alternative XP mechanic for D&D, so ...

  4. Try the social link mechanics for the persona series:

    Maybe every character starts with 1 bond, to even things out

    Every session, every character has the opportunity to develop his / her bond with somebody else. Doing so gives you a rank 1 "social link" with this character. When you reach social link 5, 10, whatever, set up what works best for you, you develop a bond with this character (you may get a bond with him for free). However, if you go against a character you have a bond with or betray or displeases him in some significant way, you lose your bond with him, until you can fix things up (narratively or spending your social link opportunity for the session).

    This makes that teams that work together for a long period will have multiple bonds among themselves.

    For this, you must create various other bond options or mechanics, like:

    (Whatever the name) - when the person you have a bond has taken a mental condition (sleep, charm, etc) you can use a bonus action to slap them in the face or talk him/her out of it (he can retake his will test, or straight up cancels the status if you feel like buffing this power)