While the venture phase covers most of the moment-to-moment action in the game, the town phase zooms out and slows time down to look at some of the bigger consequences in play. This chapter covers the main parts of playing the town phase.
The town phase is broken up into three stages:
Life on the edge of the Wild is dangerous. Limited resources and vulnerability to the elements makes it precarious. Magnify that mix with the overlapping, inescapable relationships of a small community and tensions often boil over.
Adjust Tension & Grudges
Your remote community might be spread across a wide geographic region, but news travels fast. And the gossips like the add their own drama as they pass it along. After a venture, the tension in your town increases based on what transpired.
The more your rebelled against the status quo, the more tension grows:
Add tension for a few more conditions:
If you tension tracker fills, the town immediately goes on lockdown. For the remainder of the town phase, the PCs suffer two penalties: each PC only gets 1 free downtime action, and any time a PC wants to use a favor they must pay 1 extra favor.
A venture may cause new grudges with Contacts. Add a grudge to a Contact if any of these occurred:
Adjust Conformity & Faction Goals
The group should adjust their conformity tracker based on their actions since the last town phase.
First review the triggers for increasing conformity. If anyone in the team did it once, they should fill in 1 conformity box; if it happened multiple times or by multiple PCs, they should fill in 2 conformity boxes. Each time a box is filled, the GM advances a faction goal by one segment. The GM should narrate the changes based on this faction progress as a brief montage, describing what the faction achieved and highlighting one immediate change in town.
If the tracker crosses a threshold two significant changes occur. The team picks a new conformity power. The represents a special effect the team can invoke once per session. The list of conformity powers can be found in the appendix. Additionally, a faction the GM chooses immediately completes its current goal clock. The GM should describe the completion of the goal and two ways the town’s situation changes as a result.
Once the team crosses a threshold, they can never lower their conformity below it. This is part of why you always calculate conformity first.
Second, review the group’s triggers for increasing resistance. If they did it once, they should clear 1 conformity box; if they did it multiple times, they should clear 2 conformity boxes. But remember: no resistance will bring the group back below a threshold once it has been crossed.
Messy relationships lead to messy situations. The team will have to deal with entanglements caused by the tension in town and their own past lives. The GM will generate an entanglement based on the PCs’ defiance clocks and tension tracker.
Look at every PC’s defiance clock. The highest defiance rating forms the dice pool.
Example explanation: a PC’s defiance rating is set calculated by how many full segments of the defiance clock are filled.
In the first example, the PC’s defiance is 1, because one full segment has been filled. In the second example, the PC’s defiance is 0, because no segments have been completely filled. The third and fourth PC both have a defiance rating of 3, because three segments have been filled completely. You can see that the fourth PC has experienced more total complications from their flaws, but a half-segment doesn’t count for a defiance rating.
For this team, the highest defiance rating they have is three, so they will use a dice pool of three 6-sided dice.
Find the column on the entanglements list that matches the town’s tension level. Roll your defiance dice pool and use the result to see what type of entanglement manifests.Entanglements focus primarily on the town’s Contacts and factions. Once the group knows their entanglement, any PC can volunteer to be the focus character. The rest of the group can help them resolve the situation, but the focus character will answer the questions related to the entanglement.
As the game continues, players can use the same Contacts in their answers to complicate the relationship. They can also change the relationship by changing their answers, or adding new answers to layer on previous ones. In the PCs’ town all relationships are a bit blurry, and the truth is always shifting.
Bad Reputation: This Contact fired you from a job you really needed. How do you react when they approach? They suspect someone of undermining an important deal. Find the culprit or lose a downtime action hiding from them.
Dark Side: You change your personality around people from this faction. How do you act differently when they are nearby? Convince them you don’t suspect their secret, or take a Condition escaping their paranoia.
Double Dealing: Someone in this faction knows the secret you hide from everyone else. What made you trust them with it? They betray you to an unfriendly faction. Escape or take 2 conditions.
Downward Spiral: You know this Contact is a bad influence on you. How do they lead you astray and why are you so attached to them? Hide them from an angry faction, or spend 2 favors smoothing the situation over.
Drastic Measures: Someone in this faction asked you to lie for them. What part of the lie have you never forgiven them for? Help them frame a rival faction or lose a town improvement. If you have no improvements, max out grudges with the faction.
Inescapable: Someone in this faction notices something about you that no one else does. What is it? Complete a venture for this faction or betray them to another faction and mark 2 conformity.
Local Feud: This Contact always takes the side opposite of you. What was the one time you agreed on something? They blame you for a recent misfortune. Prove your innocence or lose a bond with your best Contact.
Local Hospitality. You’re watching your back around this faction’s leadership. How does your distrust come out? They have targeted a friendly Contact. Take 2 grudges with the faction or 3 with the Contact.
Meddle: A Contact wants you to conform to “proper behavior.” What do they want to change, and how do you defy them? Turn their attention elsewhere, or mark a grudge with them.
Nostalgia: You see a Contact with an item that reminds you of an activity you used to do with your family. What was the activity, and why is it no longer possible? You must get the item for yourself or take 2 stress.
Our Town: This Contact makes you feel invisible. What is the one thing you wished they noticed? Help them find the faction spreading nasty rumors about them or lose a bond with any Contact.
Ripples: This Contact saw you at your lowest point. What has turned around since then? Help them hide a secret of their own, or increase the town’s tension by 2.
Strings Attached: Others are jealous of your relationship with this Contact. What don’t they know? Help them get the best of a rival, or take 1d6 stress from upsetting them.
Warning Shot: Someone in this faction believes tomorrow will be different even though it never is for them. What inspires their hope? A faction makes an example of them. Get revenge on the other faction, or no one can use favors or Contact rolls until next Town phase.
What’s the Buzz: This Contact always tells you what you want to hear. What are they protecting you from? Another Contact is asking questions about your relationship. Give them better gossip or spend a favor to distract them.
Worst Conclusion: You used to be close to someone in this faction. What was the first sign you were growing apart? They have made you the town’s scapegoat. Fight off the crowd or mark a Sacrifice.
Now that your town has survived the growing tension and related entanglements, it’s time to work on building up the community to improve the town.
The PCs gain two rewards for finishing a venture.
First, mark a new bond with the Contact you helped.
Second, the group gains favors based on the scale of their venture. The bigger the task, the more favors it generates:
During this part of the stage the group gets 2 free building actions. You can spend a favor to get a third action. You use these building actions to either discover a Contact trait, or form a coalition between Contacts.
Earlier in a campaign, the group may not have enough Contact bonds to find this stage useful. It can always be skipped until it becomes relevant.
Discover a Contact Trait
You can make a contact roll to discover a new Contact trait. Like any contact roll, on a 1-3 you fail and lose a bond; on a 4-5 you succeed but lose a bond; on a 6 you succeed and keep your bonds; on a crit you succeed and gain a new bond.
If you succeed, the GM will tell you about a new Contact trait. If this is the second trait you learned, the team immediately gains access to the Contact’s special ability.
See the Contacts chapter for more information about using traits and contact rolls.
Form a Coalition
If the group wants to work on gaining a new town improvement—and its related special abilities—they need the help of a town coalition.
Any contact with 3 bonds or a cohort can join a coalition. For each person who joins the coalition, add one 6-sided die to your dice pool, for a maximum of 4 dice.
Once you know who is participating, describe how the group works on the town improvement and make your coalition roll.
1-3: division. You make no progress and lose 1 bond with each involved Contact.
4 or 5: costly success. Mark up to 2 segments on the progress clock, but lose a bond for each segment marked.
6: united effort. Mark 2 segments on the progress clock. Crit: mark 3 segments.
When you fill the progress clock on a town improvement, you immediately gain the related benefit. It represents a permanent change to the town.
If you earn the final kinship improvement, your town becomes a faction. When that happens, your town can set a goal like any other faction. Once a goal is set, the group has the option of using coalition rolls to make progress towards the goal. They are treated like any other coalition roll, and each roll takes up 1 building action.
Downtime fulfills two purposes in the game:
First, it’s a break for the players. During the action of ventures and the discord stage, the PCs are frequently under threat, charging from obstacle to obstacle in a high-energy sequence. Downtime gives them a reprieve so they can catch their breath and relax a bit—focus on lower-energy, quieter elements of the game, as well as explore personal aspects of their characters.
Second, the shift into a new phase of the game signals a shift in which mechanics are needed. There are special rules that are only used during the downtime phase, so they’re kept “out of the way” during the other parts of play. When we shift into downtime, we take out a different toolbox and resolve downtime on its own terms, then shift back into the more action-focused phases of the game afterwards.
During a downtime phase, each PC has time for two downtime activities. Players can cash in a favor to gain an extra downtime activity.
Once the players have unlocked certain advancements, they gain access to additional downtime activities:
Players may choose the same activity more than once, except “Odd Jobs.” You can only attempt actions that you’re in a position to accomplish. If an activity is contingent on another action, resolve that action first.
Ease Tension or Shift Blame
Both of these actions focus on reducing tension in town.
The PC spends time making people in the community feel safer or more welcome. Describe how you try to improve the mood and make an action roll. 1-3: clear none; 4-5: clear 1; 6: clear 2; crit: clear 4.
The PC spends time shifting the town’s sense of hostility onto a faction. Clear 2 tension but mark a grudge with the targeted faction.
When you work on a long-term project (either a brand new one, or an already existing one), describe what your character does to advance the project clock, and roll one of your actions. Mark segments on the clock according to your result: 1-3: one segment, 4-5: two segments, 6: three segments, crit: five segments.
A long-term project can cover a wide variety of activities, like doing research into some stolen design plans, investigating a mystery, changing your character’s rebellion, and so on.
Based on the goal of the project, the GM will tell you the clock(s) to create and suggest a method by which you might make progress.
Odd Jobs (once per downtime)
Spend time helping a Contact to build up some goodwill in the community.
Tell the GM which Contact you approach, and the GM will tell you a mundane task they need completed. Describe how you approach the task and make an action roll: 1-3: gain 0-1 favors and take an equal amount of stress; 4-5: gain 0-2 favors and take an equal amount of stress; 6: gain 2 favors; crit: gain 3 favors.
When you pursue your rebellion, you clear some stress from your character’s stress track. Say how your character furthers their rebellion, including the current faction or NPC they target. This pursuit takes time, so it can only be done when the team has downtime. Alternately, you may choose to release your character to be “consumed by their rebellion” during a game session, allowing them to pursue it off-camera while you play a different PC.
You roll to find out how much stress relief your character receives. A rebellion roll is like a resistance roll in reverse—rather than gaining stress levels, you clear stress levels. The effectiveness of your pursuit depends upon your character’s worst attribute rating. It’s their weakest quality (Cortex, Meatbox, Ego, or Mastery) that is most overwhelmed by the need to rebel.
Make an attribute roll using your character’s lowest attribute rating (if there’s a tie, that’s fine—simply use that rating). Clear stress equal to the highest die result.
If your rebellion roll clears more stress levels than you had marked, you become consumed. The passions that drive a character’s rebellion are not a controlled or moderate. It’s a risk—and one that can drive your character to act against their own best interests.
When you are consumed, you make a bad call because of your rebellion. To bring the effect of this bad decision into the game, select a consumed consequence from the list:
You reach out to your community to regain your sense of balance. Build a dice pool based on the number of favors you spend (from zero to 4) and roll. Look at the highest result.
1-3: discontent. You find stress or obligation rather than relief. Add another condition.
4 or 5: respite. You get a break. Clear 1 condition.
6: renewal. You feel re-centered. Clear all of your conditions. Two or more 6’s: it’s a critical success. Also roll to reduce stress.
This action will clear all tension from the tracker.
Describe how the town turns on the Contact that you choose. The town views them negatively and they lose something important to them, but they remain a part of the town.
For example, they could lose their job, be barred from community events, spend time in jail, lose their home, etc.
Clear all tension from the tracker. Fill the targeted Contact’s grudge tracker. The PC who took this action must mark a Sacrifice and develop a new belief based on this event.
Scapegoating cannot include murder, sexual assault, or harm to children.
Advanced Downtime Actions
Once you earn the advancement, you can take these additional downtime actions. (Note: Network and several of the special professions are not included in this playtest).
Acquire an Asset
Gain temporary use of an asset. “Temporary use” constitutes one significant period of usage that makes sense for the asset—typically the duration of one episode. This grants your character access to services, items, people, and locations beyond their usual means. You can think of these assets as one-time uses of something that might otherwise be a long-term project.
This action is especially useful for groups who like to collect unique gear or loot; you can acquire it once, see how well it works in play, then develop a long term project to make it more permanent. For example, if a PC wants to get access to a true serum poison, they could use the acquire an asset action and get a dose for the next venture. If they decide they want to have regular access to this poison, it might become a long-term project to establish a consistent supply.
To acquire an asset, you need to use a Contact. Make a contact roll like normal with the dice pool based on your bonds with them.
If you acquire the same asset again, you get +1d for your contact roll.
These are unique skills or opportunities that allow you to customize gameplay.
Inventor (crafting skill)
You can create new technology.
To design a new invention, you need to analyze the problem and possible solutions as a long term project. The GM and the player will answer a series of questions to determine the function of the invention and what will be needed to create it.
To design a new invention, answer:
Once you have learned a new design, you gain the downtime action crafting. When you use crafting, you can roll the appropriate action to make items from your design; if you equal or exceed the difficulty threshold set by the GM, you successfully make an item.
Critter Tamer (unique item)
The player gains a mutated animal as a pet. The mutants are warped by the Wild Strain. They may look normal but have supernatural powers: a horse that can turn into mist; an eagle that can cast speak; a blood-sucking sloth that can teleport, etc.
When a player uses this action for the first time, they create a wild critter with the following steps:
1. Choose a species. Every wild critter comes from a normal animal. Choose the base species for the animal (e.g. tiger, dog, ferret, seal, crow).
2. Choose a starting power. This is the first sign of the creature’s mutant status. There are some examples below, but don’t feel limited to them. The creature can have any mutant power that makes sense within the world. As always, the GM has final editorial authority on whether or not a power makes sense for your group’s world.
3. Choose a flaw. Every wild critter has a flaw in its personality: aggressive, unpredictable, shy, stubborn, lazy, destructive, hyper, skittish, loud, overly-friendly, or possessive.
Raising Wild Critters: Future downtime actions can be used training and bonding with your pet. Describe how you bond or train the animal and make an action roll. 1-3: one segment, 4-5: two segments, 6: three segments, crit: five segments.
When you complete a 6-segment training clock, choose a new power. When you complete a 6-segment bonding project clock, choose a new trait for your pet.
When your pet engages in an action that aligns with a trait, it can push itself. Positive traits cannot directly contradict your pet’s flaw.
Positive traits: adventurous, playful, friendly, intelligent, athletic, hunter instincts, independent, loyal, tenacious, protective, or steady.
Mutanicals (crafting skill)
You can collect plants mutated by the Wild Strain and use them to create unique substances with supernatural effects. You must design a prescription before you can craft it.
To design a new prescription, answer the following questions. It takes an 8-segment progress clock to finish designing the prescription.
Possible drawbacks include: unreliable, rare, conspicuous, dangerous to touch, single use, or highly illegal.
Each time you work on the prescription’s design, describe how you make progress and roll the appropriate action to fill in segments: 1-3: one segment, 4-5: two segments, 6: three segments, crit: five segments.
Once you have designed a prescription, you gain the crafting downtime activity. You can use the appropriate action to make doses of the substance; the default amount is 2 doses per crafting action. If you equal or exceed the difficulty threshold set by the GM, you successfully make an item.