Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.
Prime uses metaphors from TV to help describe how a story can be built up from play.
The actors are the players who are controlling a specific lead character.
The director is the player constructing scenes and in charge of creating a consistent mood and atmosphere for the story.
A series of Prime is composed of one or more episodes.
Each episode is a chain of numerous scenes, linked by player review and discussion.
The links offer the chance for all players to offer feedback and make suggestions on what has happened and what they’d like to happen.
Each scene will be built around a central situation, a difficulty or opportunity the lead characters need or want to deal with. Once the situation is resolved, successfully or otherwise, the scene ends.
All values and magnitudes in Prime are described on the following range that lies between None and Infinite: Minimal, Low, Average, High, Extreme.
Characters in Prime are described by, in order of importance: attributes, relationships, skills, items and losses.
Lead characters will have all of these. Supporting characters will generally start with only attributes, adding other elements as they get more “screen time”.
Attributes are organised by two orthagonal groups: domains and qualities.
Domains categorise the ways a character can act: physically, mentally and emotionally.
Qualities categorise how they act within a domain: power and control.
Pain is any damage, injury or detrimental effect a character receives. Pain applies to one attribute and lowers that attribute by one level.
The duration of pain can vary. Temporary pain lasts until the next time the character rests. This is the default type of pain.
Lasting pain does not recover automatically. Its effects are only undone the next time the character increases the affected attribute as part of the normal character advancement.
Permanent pain, in addition to lowering the attribute, also limits the maximum value the attribute can take. Permanent pain cannot be healed, repaired or removed via normal means within a game, though some settings may include extraordinary and rare or expensive means of doing so.
If any attribute is reduced to None by temporary pain, the character is unconscious, exhausted or otherwise incapacitated.
If any attribute is reduced to None by lasting pain, the character is in a coma or other near-death situation. They will need quick and effective help to survive, and will need to spend a long time recuperating.
If any attribute is reduced to None by permanent pain, the character is dead.
If any attribute is None due to lasting pain or permanent pain, the player may downgrade lasting pain to permanent pain, or permanent pain to temporary pain by accepting trauma. For each level of trauma from Minimal to Extreme, one level of pain is downgraded.
All attributes start at Low.
- Menial. Raise Strength and Dexterity to Average.
- Getting-by. Raise Intelligence and Wisdom to Average.
- Comfortable. Raise Charisma and Poise to Average
- Unstable. Raise Strength and Intelligence by one level.
- Repetitive. Raise Wisdom and Poise by one level.
- Changeable. Raise Dexterity and Charisma by one level.
A loss is permanent pain. Thus the affected attribute cannot be greater than High until the loss is resolved.
- Freedom. Decrease Strength by one.
- Confidence. Decrease Dexterity by one.
- Memories. Decrease Intelligence by one.
- Home. Decrease Wisdom by one.
- Reputation. Decrease Charisma by one.
- Trust. Decrease Poise by one.
A loss is resolved when the character deals with or accepts the loss. When and how this happens is entirely dependent on the character and the type of loss, and should be mutually agreed on by the relevant lead actor and the director. The director should ensure that all characters get the opportunity to resolve their losses during play, however it should be over the longest-term, and would generally indicate that character’s story is over.
A relationship describes how the character relates to other characters, concepts or groups in the world around them.
Positive relationships to the right, negative relationships to the left. Rational relationships above, emotional relationships below.
It is generally recommended to have at least two relationships for lead characters from opposite sides of the circle.
The value of a relationship is its strength. Examples are given on the diagram, minimal strength at the centre, extreme ones at the edges, with the others falling along the continuum between.
New relationships can be gained whenever the lead actor and director agree it makes sense.
Relationships cannot be lost except without effort from the character over time.
If ever a player receives trauma they must shift a relationship to a neighbouring type for each level of trauma. The strongest relationships must be shifted first, and each relationship can only be shifted once per trauma.
Skills describe something the character has experience in doing.
Skills have an associated value describing how proficient the character is at this activity.
Lead characters should start with two skills, either both at average or one high and the other low.
General supplies, eg. money, ammunition, etc. aren’t tracked as individual items, but in a general value called resources, which indicates the general state of your provisions or financial reserves. Unless the lead characters are separated, there would generally be only one resources value for all of the characters combined.
An item is an important and unique piece of equipment or physical object belonging to a character.
Items have a durability value, which tracks how fragile or not the item is. Events and actions may affect this value. If a durability value ever reaches None the item is destroyed or useless.
Items which help perform actions or tasks are called tools.
Tools also have a familiarity value, which describes how well the character can use it.
Lead characters generally start with two items, one of which can be a tool with a familiarity of average.
A situation can be either a problem the lead characters need to avoid or solve, or an opportunity they must try and seize. The ratio of problem to opportunity should always favour problems, but how strongly depends on the tone of the adventure.
Information regarding a situation falls into three categories:
Necessary, discoverable, optional
The actors must be given necessary information as soon as it is available. The existence of the situation, and clear directions towards discoverable information are neccessary information. What exactly the situation is, and what they need to do to resolve it are not necessary information. Necessary information should not be missable, skipable or otherwise avoidable.
Discoverable information is needed by the lead characters to resolve the situation, but requires effort on their part to obtain. Gaining the information can be one or more situations in itself. Not all the discoverable information should be required, but partial discovery should make resolving the original situation more difficult.
Optional information is background or narrative details that flesh out the story, or give a different perspective on events, but will not materially affect their chances of success when resolving the situation. Optional information could however include knowledge that might change the lead characters approach, or even what type of resolution, to the situation is acceptable. The lead characters should be able to miss or skip both optional information and the knowledge such information existed.
The director should always err on the side of more information. If information could be either necessary or discoverable, make it necessary (and likewise for discoverable/optional). Information can and should be more available when it makes sense, but it should never be less available than given above.
Every situation should have a proximity value describing how soon and/or close it is. The current value should be discoverable information. Once the proximity progresses beyond extreme the situation resolves. If it was a problem it can no longer be solved and the consequences occur. If it was an opportunity, the opportunity is lost and the benefits can no longer be obtained.
The director should keep track of a number of different situations at any one time, across different scales and difficulties. Ideally there should be slightly more situations progressing than the lead characters can deal with, to ensure there is always something more to do.
A situation includes one or more minor or major effects. These effects ensure the question raised by the situation is relevant to the characters.
Do not directly affect the lead characters, but may make other situations easier or harder.
What they can do
Problems add a negative relationship (usally a compulsion or obesession) to one or more lead characters.
Opportunities remove a negative relationship from one or more lead characters.
What they are doing
Problems either: add another problem situation, remove an opportunity situation, or increase the difficulty of an existing situation.
Opportunities either: remove a problem situation, add an opportunity situation, or decrease the difficulty of an existing situation.
These directly affect one or more lead characters or the things that are important to them.
What the character is
Problems reduce a character or characters’ attributes.
Opportunites increase a character or characters’ attributes.
What the character has
Problems take or damage a character or characters’ items.
Opportunites return, repair or give new items to a character or characters.
What the character cares about
Problems threaten or hurt the subject of a positive relationship.
Opportunites protect or heal the subject of a positive relationship.
A scene should introduce and explain a situation. The situation should be presented with the minimum of introduction necessary for the actors to understand, and starting in media res is encouraged where possible. The scene ends once the situation is resolved or ended. Any repurcussions from the resolution are a new situation in a new scene. There is no minimum or maximum time a scene can last.
As an exception, actors can request a recovery scene. There is no situation to deal with in a recovery scene. They are purely for character development and removing any temporary negative effects affecting the characters.
Each scene should generally follow from the previous one, though “jump cuts” to a completely different time or place make sense from time to time, or if requested by the actors.
The director always starts narration in a new scene. They should describe all essential information, such as location and important characters present, and the events which describe the situation. The director should continue narrating the situation as it evolves until a lead character acts. The actor for that character should narrate what they do, and then the director resumes narration as the world and characters in it respond. The narration duties should pass back and forth between the actors and director as the various characters act until the situation is resolved.
After every scene the proximity of an existing situation should increase. Which situation the director advances should be appropriate to the amount of time that would have elapsed in the previous scene plus any jump cuts.
Between scenes all players can discuss the game, story and scenes that have and will occur. Constructive feedback can be given about what players would like to see more or less of.
During a scene, when not resolving an action, players should generally stay in-character. This means communicating as if they were the character they are playing. However it does not mean talking only as if they were in the scene right then and there. They can describe events as if reporting them at a different time, summarising events rather than explaining every detail of what happened. Players are free to communicate and discuss what they should do even if their characters would not be in a position to do so currently in the scene, as long as they remain in-character, only discussing topics and subjects their characters would.
An actor may interrupt any other player’s narration with an action that their character wishes to do.
A character‘s actions pass through a series of stages: proposal, initiation, execution and result.
During proposal, the character is deciding or considering their action. Players can discuss the pro-and-cons of approaches and actions, in-character, regardless of characters’ actual locations or situations.
The actor may withdraw the proposed action at any point. If they do, the original narrator continues narrating the scene from where they stopped.
If they continue, then the actor must decide on three things: goal, approach and stake.
The goal is what the character wants to achieve with this action. The difficulty of the action will be affected by how generally the goal is expressed, with very open-ended being easiest, and the most specific being the hardest.
The approach is how the character tries to achieve this goal:
- Force – A direct, straight line approach. If the action is directed at a target, the action will inflict pain on the target. The action may also create a new problem situation with one minor effect.
- Finesse – A careful or circuitous approach. This action will always have one additional disadvantage added to it.
- Hold – Wait-and-see or defensive. When you take this action, reshuffle your discarded action cards back into your draw pile.
Finally, the stake is what is at risk when taking this action. It can be either time, attribute or tool. If none of these make sense to be at risk, then the action is automatically considered a smooth success.
The director may choose to add one or two advantages or disadvantages at this point, depending on how difficult they feel the goal will be to achieve for the character, taking into account how open-ended the description of the goal was.
If the actor decides to continue, the character is now initiating the action, and they can no longer choose to not perform it.
The actor then draws and plays cards for each advantage and disadvantage applicable to this action from:
- Relationships – The strongest relationship that would help, encourage or motivate the character to perform this action adds an advantage. The target value is the relationship‘s strength.
- Attributes – The two most applicable attributes for this action both add an advantage. Usually these are the two attributes for the relevant domain. The target value is the value of the attribute.
- Tool – If the character has a tool that would assist in performing the action, they may add one advantage. The target value is the familiarity with the tool.
- Skill – If the character has a skill that would assist in performing the action, they may add one advantage. The target value is the value of the skill.
- Situation – Generic advantages and disadvantages included due to the difficulty of the action being performed or environmental effects that hinder or enhance the action. The target value is always average.
Each card is played face-up on the box for the relevant target value, in the appropriate row (advantage or disadvantage).
Discard all cards with a value higher than the box they are on.
For each disdvantage remaining, discard it and the current lowest value card in the advantage row, if there is one.
The action is now considered executed.
If there are two or more cards remaining, the action is a smooth success.
If there are no cards remaining, the action is a rough failure.
If there is one card remaining, the actor may choose either a rough success or a smooth failure as the action‘s result.
Successes mean the goal was achieved.
Failures mean it wasn’t in any way. Even if the goal was expressed very specifically, the general case is also failed.
If the result is a success, and a disadvantage was added from a relationship, reduce the strength of that relationship by one.
Smooth results have no negative additional consequences.
Rough results affect the stake. If time was the stake, the director increases one situation‘s proximity. If an attribute was the stake, one of the two attributes that provided an advantage receives temporary pain. If a tool was the stake, the tool that provided an advantage loses one durability.
If the result was a smooth failure, the actor may choose one:
- Increase one of the used attributes by one.
- Increase the value of the skill used, if any, by one.
- Add a new skill, with a value of minimal, that would have helped with this action.
- Increase the familiarity of the tool used, if any, by one.
Now the result of the action is established, the actor should narrate in-character what their character does (or attempts to do) and how any effects come to pass, such as the loss of the stake or pain inflicted on the target of a forceful action.
This narration may be interrupted in turn by any other character with their own action. That new action may affect or even stop the action just resolved.