How your character interacts with the wider world is your main way of defining them to others. Relationships in Prime provide a tie-in between their imagined personality and the actual world of the game.
A relationship can be one of five types: Love, Loyalty, Compulsion, Hate/Fear, or Obsession. These types are simply category labels and cover a wide range of actual emotions. You may love your husband, like where you live, or enjoy a good steak. All of these fall under the same type – Love. Likewise Hate/Fear includes such things as disgust or dislike. As with most things in Prime, the categories are deliberately fuzzy so just pick whatever seems most appropriate.
A relationship can be with anything. A person, obviously, but also an organisation (the government, a religion, the thieves’ guild), a concept (justice, purity, selfishness), or occasionally an object of significance.
The types are arranged evenly around a circle, like so:
Thus each type is close to two others, and opposite the remaining two. Additionally, they are arranged so that more logical or externally driven relationships are at the top, and the more emotional or internally driven are at the bottom. The more positive feelings are to the right, negative to the left.
A character will have from three to five relationships. Only the most important or strongest relationships are tracked at any one time, for simplicity’s sake.
A starting character should pick three relationships. One should be positive and one negative. If possible, a relationship should also exist with at least one other player character (it can be one of the existing relationships and either positive or negative).
“Morton loves his brother (another player character), hates bullies, and is obsessed with a woman he once saw in a tavern.”
“Samuel is loyal to the king, compelled to help the thieves’ guild due to gambling debts, and fears failure.”
Additional relationships can be added by way of player and GM agreement when appropriate, up to the limit of five.
When a significant event happens to a character (completing a major character arc; near-death experience) then the most applicable relationship shifts to a related type: Love can become Loyalty or Obsession, Compulsion change to Loyalty or Hate/Fear, etc.
If nothing seems appropriate then a different relationship can come to the fore, replacing an existing one. E.g: Morton has become obsessed with discovering a way to resurrect the dead after his brother dies (Obsession replaces Love); Samuel is no longer loyal to his king after discovering the thieves’ guild is secretly run by the crown, and instead loyal to the concept of justice.
Write the name and type each relationship on a card or sticky note (along with a one or two word description of the type of complication if you want), and put it above your player board, in line with the Minimal column.
For each relationship the director and actor should consider what complications they can cause. Even positive relationships can be disadvantageous: Morton always defends his brother, even in a situation where he should keep his mouth shut (or his sword in its sheath); the king demands Samuel perform a duty that is inconvenient or even dangerous.
A relationship can be used to add an advantage to an ongoing action resolution, assuming the actor can explain why it would help. Move that relationship note one step to the right above the player board. A relationship that would be moved off the edge of the board, past Extreme, immediately becomes a new situation based on the complications thought up for it previously.
Until the situation is resolved, the relationship cannot provide any advantages. After the situation is resolved, the relationship is moved back to the Minimal column. A relationship higher than Minimal can become a situation at any time its actor chooses, and resolving that situation also resets it back to Minimal. The difficulty or severity of the situation created should vary based on the column the relationship was in, with Low being the easiest, and Extreme being the most critical or dangerous.
- Why only five relationships?
- To reduce paperwork, and keep a character focused. Too many relationships makes a character nebulous and generic.
- It reduces mechanical abuse such as having “throw-away” relationships that can be used for advantages and then ignored.
- You keep saying, “when appropriate” or, “if necessary.” How do I know when it’s appropriate?
- There’s no one answer to that question. It’s part of the skill of being a director, sorry.
- My character’s feelings don’t match any of those five.
- Use the closest one. Also, each type is named after the strongest feeling in the category. Perhaps an emotionally distant character is curious about something. That’s a mild “obsession”. Or they choose to work with another because they have mutual goals. That’s effectively loyalty. Remember, intellectual/external drives at the top, more emotional/internal drives as you move downwards. Are their goals external or internal? Logical or emotional? That gives you the position on the vertical axis. Is it positive/encouraging or negative/discouraging? Pick right or left respectively, and then use the closest type you’ve landed on.