Fifth Season Preview: Game Play
Game play in the Fifth Season RPG proceeds on two distinct scales. The story of the comm unfolds in seasons, each of which is a “turn” of part of the year, and features an event, a check of the comm’s prosperity, and an opportunity for the comm to work together on an activity to achieve a particular goal. Within the unfolding of the seasons are stories focusing on the individual characters from the comm. These adventures are often tied to the events of the season, but not necessarily, and the encounters the characters have during them may have impact on the comm as a whole. In some cases an adventure is meant to address a misfortune suffered by the comm during a seasonal event, and may be able to mitigate that misfortune or eliminate it altogether.
Comm Turns: Seasons
A comm “turn” is a “season.” Ordinarily there are four seasons in a year. During each season, the GM rolls for a seasonal event, the comm makes a prosperity test, and can initiate a comm activity.
Seasonal events represent the random fortunes of a comm surviving in the Stillness. They are not the only things to happen in the entire season, just particularly noteworthy events. The Game Master rolls on the Seasonal Events Table to determine what the key event will be for that season and integrates the event into the narrative of the campaign as desired.
Many seasonal events are misfortunes that can befall a comm. These are similar to hazards encountered by characters but on a comm-wide scale. Misfortunes can weaken a comm, reducing its Stability and, if severe enough, even bring about the comm’s eventual dissolution. Also like hazards, many misfortunes can be mitigated or avoided altogether. This usually involves a test using one of the comm’s traits, although in some cases the Game Moderator may substitute an adventure for the test if characters intervene in the event.
The tests and outcomes for seasonal events assume the comm is bringing what resources it can to bear, but that the player’s characters are not doing anything in particular apart from assisting like any other members of the comm. However, in some cases, the GM may wish to set up an adventure either based on the season’s event, or in place of it. In these cases, the player characters are said to be intervening in the seasonal event, and their intervention may affect its outcome. Essentially, the adventure takes the place of the usual test or tests involving the event and the characters’ actions decide its outcome.
Once the event of the season is determined, the comm’s prosperity is tested. This is a measure of the comm’s overall success and survivability. Failure means the comm suffers misfortune and loses Stability. If the test succeeds, the comm continues to do well, at least meeting its essential needs, perhaps even succeeding well enough to apply an advancement to the comm’s Cache score.
Each season, a comm can also initiate an activity, similar to a character’s action, such as Conflict with another comm or group, Growth to build up the comm, Improvement of one of the comm’s traits, Innovation to add a new focus to a trait, Preparation to add a bonus to the comm’s next prosperity test, or Recovery to restore lost Stability to the comm.
Comms can take on certain conditions to deal with a loss of Stability, like characters do to mitigate damage. The comm then needs to recover from the condition using the recovery activity. Conditions are not as necessary for comms to avoid Stability loss, as they tend to be more resilient than individual characters.
The Fifth Season
“Everything changes in a Fifth Season” according to stonelore, and that is true of Seasonal play and events as well. The Game Moderator ultimately decides when a Fifth Season occurs in the context of the game, although there is a guideline for a Fifth Season to begin as a Seasonal Event. During a Fifth Season, the difficulty of a comm’s tests increase, seasonal events differ, and the comm relies upon its Cache for prosperity tests rather than its other traits, and Cache slowly diminishes over the course of the Season. A Fifth Season makes it more difficult for a comm to survive, and to recover from its misfortunes. A comm with a strong Cache score can last through a Fifth Season … if it is not too long.