Verge Reprogrammed

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This document is out-of-date, and is replaced by Verge Recharged.





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The Real Cover

Contents

This is a playtest document that captures the bare essence of the new rules for Verge, my cyberpunk role-playing game. You can print the latest version here (and it won't print the menus and other web crap, I assure you), or you can download an ugly but functional PDF (170KB, latest is Oct. 26, 2006). The PDF might not contain the latest changes here (peek at the history tab for the latest changes). Also print off the List of Awesome for reference (it's not included in the PDF).

Play Guide

Thanks for your interest in my game. Before you start reading, there are a few things you should realize about Verge.

Basics

Verge is a tabletop role-playing game that is about human identity in the face of a world that has taken away one of the very things that is most important to you. Verge is a cyberpunk game, but you should use it to play out your favorite post-cyberpunk, transhumanist, dark sci-fi, steampunk, detective film noir, and gritty cop drama games, too. It does cyberpunk well because it's built to capture that feeling in cyberpunk literature of technology and ideas changing everything too fast and about rippling consequences. The game also has an edge of risk to it, so it's good for playing those adrenalin-filled action games.

To play Verge, you need three or four friends, a big sheet of paper (easel-sized is best), pens or pencils (a different color pen for each player is great!), tokens of some kind (poker chips work great) in three different colors, and a boatload of six-sided dice (a dozen per player is best, but if you have two dozen total, you can share).

Playtest

This is a playtest document. It is not ready for publication and likely contains many things that don't work the way I'd like and thus expect the rules to change over time. Additionally, the final text will contain lots of examples and advice sections that don't appear in this, the bare-bones form of the rules.

You can print this page, which has a special "printable" stylesheet (in the monobook skin, anyway) that will remove all the unnecessary menu junk before printing it to paper). All the current rules are on this page. The PDF at the top is often a few days behind and I tend to make sweeping changes in a short amount of time.

If you do playtest, please consider filling out a Playtesters questionnaire after your game and emailing it to me (adam@legendary.org, with "Verge" in the subject) or posting the answers on this wiki somewhere. Even better, go to the Playtesting forum at The Forge and post a report of your game. Tell everyone there what you liked and didn't like and talk about the interactions between the players and the use of the rules. That's more helpful than the story about what your characters did, though a summary of that would be rockin', too.

Caveats

First, there is no character sheet. Players still have characters but they don't record all the little bits of background and stats on personal sheets. For the most part, characters aren't even defined by stats. Characters are entirely defined by their position on a diagram of the setting called the network.

Second, when you see "network" in the rules, I don't mean a computer network or the Internet or anything like that. I mean the setting diagram with its nodes and edges and all the little labels and explanations written on it.

Third, all the game mechanics are about changing the network. If you're rolling dice or spending tokens or creating setting or changing your character mechanically, you're making changes to the network. The network is recorded on a piece of paper that everyone in your play group shares. If you can find easel-sized paper, that's perfect. The network is a record of all the cool ideas of your group and how they connect together to form the setting and the situation. Characters are just "named and claimed" nodes in the network.

Play Procedure

Play proceeds through three steps, affectionately called Compile, Load, and Run. Compile is the process of gathering players, talking about the kind of game you want to play, and setting some limits. Load is the part where you create the basic skeleton of the setting as a group and start writing cool ideas for the setting. Run is the "role-playing" part of the game in which everyone starts telling stories and changing the setting through play.

Generally game play will consist of a short Compile step (5-10 minutes should do it), a slightly longer Load step (20-30 minutes), then any number of Run steps (each lasting as long as you like, but 3-4 hours is expected). Players can do the Compile and Load and a short Run in one evening, then return and play more Run steps on subsequent get-togethers.

Here's what happens in each step, in greater detail. Each section will include examples of some fictional players named Austin, Brandy, Carson, and Diamond.


Compile (Discuss)

Find 3-5 friends. Verge rocks when you have a good group of people riffing ideas off one another. You can have a good game with just two other people but it'll lack and it's really tough to have any real game interaction with just one other person. More than six people total will slow play down but there's no real limit on how many players the game will support. It's best if you really know and like these people — that is, you hang out with them outside gaming, too. You trust them and care about them. That makes for the best gaming.

Pick a game master (GM). The GM facilitates discussion, paces play, and controls (acts the role, rolls the dice, makes decisions for...) all the characters that aren't controlled by the other players. The GM gets to create a character like any other player during the Load step. During the Run step, the GM's character won't have any special power. Instead, the GM gets the power to create tension and conflicts for the other players.

Talk about the kind of game you want to play. You need to pick a genre or high level setting. It might be enough to agree on "near future cyberpunk" or "gritty 1980's vice squad," or you might prefer to nail down some more details, like "transhumanism to the Nth degree in 2800 AD when mankind has built a Dyson sphere and every person is connected to a symbiotic AI." Less is more. If you can't agree on the genre, dial it back and nail down the parts you can agree on and leave the rest for the Load step. And even if you nail down some things, you can "un-nail" them later using the network rules.

Determine the tone you want the game to have. Is it serious or funny? Scary or light? Action-packed or focused on romance or politics? Again, less is more and don't argue about it. If you can't decide, leave it for later.

Are there any themes you want to explore? Perhaps you want the game to be about something, like how technology is replacing religion, or how big corporations are necessarily corrupt, or about privacy rights in a digital age. If you don't have anything like this in mind, don't sweat it, but when a group of players all hammer on a theme, a story will really come together. If a theme surfaces naturally, great! Don't force it.

Discuss any kind of limits and special needs for the players. Many people are sensitive about role-playing certain kinds of sexuality or violence. Talk about what is too far? What lines should you never cross? When should you "draw the veil" or "fade to black" and not role-play the details? If someone doesn't like the way play is going, how should they communicate that to the other players in the least embarrassing way? Get this stuff out of the way now, before you stumble into someone's pain. Even once you've discussed all this, expect more to come up in play. How were you to know that the game would start exploring those very scary clowns?

Example

Austin just got his copy of Verge and wants to play. He calls up his friend Bea, who says she'll bring her boyfriend Carson, and he also gets his gaming buddy Diamond to join. They agree to try out Verge for one night and, if they like it, maybe play a longer set of stories. Austin is a huge old-school cyberpunk fan. Diamond likes science fiction movies like Bladerunner and The Matrix. Bea and Carson aren't big cyberpunk fans but they're willing to give it a try. They prefer fantasy games.

Since Austin has read the rules and the others haven't, he volunteers to be the GM. It's just easier that way. They meet at Carson's apartment one night, order some pizzas, and sit down to play. Austin explains the basics of the game and what it's about but doesn't get into all the details yet. Just enough for people to start talking about what kind of game they want to play.

Diamond is really into it. She wants heavy cybernetics stuff and flying cars and nanotechnology-controlled magic. The pseudo-magic stuff grabs Bea's attention and she enthusiastically contributes ideas about a future world with elves and dwarves. This makes Austin and Diamond raise their eyebrows a bit. Austin reminds everyone that they're just tossing out ideas right now and not making any decisions.

He directs the group a bit. "Can we all agree on a future world with some elements that act like magic but are technology controlled?" Everyone likes this. He explains "tone" to his friends. They all want a light-hearted game, nothing too serious, but not too whacky. No one has an idea for a theme just yet, so they skip that. When Austin asks about limits, at first people say anything is cool, but he asks them if they're sure and Carson says, "Well, it's not too serious so I don't want any rape or sexual stuff in it." Bea points out that she wouldn't care if there was sex in the game but she doesn't need it, so they agree to that. Austin reminds everyone that they should feel comfortable talking about what makes them uncomfortable or what isn't fun at any time later on, too.

Load (Setup)

In this phase, everyone in the group gets to help create the skeleton of the setting. Before you can move on to Run and actually role-play, the players must make some of the network. The network is a conceptual map of the setting's most important concepts, technology, devices, places, organizations, and people, and how all those things relate to each other. You won't make it all during the Load phase. Rather, throughout play, everyone will be adding to it.

It's important not to go too far here, though it's really tempting to detail your world to the last security guard. Don't! During the Load phase, write down the most important concepts that shape your setting without getting into nitty-gritty details. Perhaps your Loaded network will have a corporation or two, some cool technology idea, maybe a few idealogical concepts, and the characters, and some connections between them all. That's it. The rules here will provide a formal series of steps to build a network that will guarantee your best chances at a fantastic game.

Paper, Pens, Tokens, Dice

If you have easel-sized paper, place a sheet in the center of the table where everyone can reach it. If large paper is not available to you, tape together four or six or nine regular sheets of blank paper (put the tape on the back so you don't see it).

Give each player a pen or sharpie in a different color so you can tell who wrote what. If you don't have lots of colors, regular pens or pencils will do (but you'll have to initial everything you write down, which is a pain in the ass). Write a quick "key" in one corner of the paper: have everyone write his or her name neatly in their color of choice.

Put three bowls out on the table. Fill one bowl with tokens (poker chips, glass beads, coins, whatever works) of one color or kind, and fill the other bowls with tokens of two other colors or kinds. Designate the first as story tokens, the second as development tokens, and the third as boost tokens (their use is explained later).

Put another bowl on the table and fill it with 6-sided dice. It's good to have 10-12 dice per player.

"Dollar" stores often sell cheap poker chips for... a buck. You can purchase attractive 6-siders in "bricks" of 27 12mm dice for about $7.00 online and in fine hobby stores. I've seen bricks of 100 plain white, pipped 6-siders on eBay for $8.

The Network

The Load step builds a network on a big piece of paper (or several sheets of paper taped together). This section defines nodes, edges, and other parts of the network.

The network is defined as a bunch of nouns (nodes) interconnected by verbs (edges). Nodes are people, places, things, and ideas that exist in the fictional world. Each node is recorded on the network as a word or short phrase that identifies it. Edges are verbs that connection between those elements. Each is recorded on the network by drawing an arrow from one node to another and writing on it a word or short phrase that describes the nature of the relationship from one of the nodes to the other (in the direction of the arrow). For example, a node "Knight Carson, hacker extraordinaire" might be connected to "Megasoft data centers" with the edge "hacked" with the arrow pointing from Carson to Megasoft.

Nodes

Nodes are the main components of the setting. As the network develops, you will start to get a picture of the world you are going to play in. It might have cyborgs, or artificial intelligence, or mind-raping viruses. Buddhism and Christianity could both be major components of the game world. The players can add concepts and ideas like "Hatred" to the map but they should also add specifically named people and organizations, too: "Megasoft," "The Demons, a street gang," "Knight Carson, hacker extraordinaire," "120 Park Street, NYC." The nodes should be evocative and sometimes mysterious. You don't have to know exactly how it's going to be used in play.

You can't add a node that's already on there in any similar form. It's bad cricket to add "Cyborgs" when "Cyborgs???" is already on the network. Also, you aren't fooling anyone by adding "Humanlike Robots" when "Cyborgs???" is already there.

Nodes are nouns. They can be qualified by adjectives and adjective phrases.

Example Nodes:

people 
William Michael All (Megasoft VP Finance), Knight Carson (hacker extraordinaire), T55 the AI
organizations 
Megasoft, FBI, U.S. Government, Meridian Police Department, The Nanite Freemasons
places 
Meridian City, 1400 Elm Street, Cyberspace, Low Orbit Station, Washington DC, Bill's house
ideologies 
Christianity, Ludology, Hatred of Technology, Democracy, Privacy, Torture
technologies 
Brainframe, Nanite Construction, Holographic Reality, Mind Control Lasers
things 
Kunda 4500 Motorcycle, GZK v19 Advanced Processor Cyberdeck, Loaded Dice, Mobile Phone
qualities 
Huge Biceps, Winning Smile, Impeccable Taste, Wit, Photographic Memory, Ugliness

Avoid building a relationship into a single node. For example, don't write "Bob, wife of Janet." Instead, create a "Bob" node and a "Janet" node and connect them with an edge like "is married to."

Edges

Edges connect the nodes together and the network starts to tell a story. Many of the edge relationships should create tension and conflict. Sure, you can connect "The Demons, a street gang" to "Megasoft" with a boring edges like "hates". You'll have more fun with an edge like "employs" and explain that Megasoft hired the gang for their tv commercials or something equally whacky.

The arrow you draw for an edge is just a semantic device to help people understand which way the relationship points. For example, if "Knight Carson" is connected to "Aliana Light" via a "loves" relationship, the arrow points out who loves whom. The direction of the arrow has no power in game terms. It's always more interesting when relationships are one-sided rather than two-sided. For example, if Knight and Aliana both love each other, that's less interesting than if Knight loves Aliana and she doesn't care about him (or hates him!). It's better to create a one-sided relationship and let other players develop the reverse relationship (or you can do it later). Even if Knight and Aliana love each other, it's better to create two separate edges that can be separately manipulated.

Edges are verbs or verb phrases (usually stative verbs or occasionally dative verbs in the present tense). They represent the current state of the relationship between two nouns. Avoid the future tense and future perfect (e.g., "will kill", "will have killed") unless you're trying to create some kind of strange prophecy; the node will be difficult to use. Use care with the past tenses including the perfect and past perfect tenses (e.g. "loved," "has loved," "had loved") because they represent facts that are not theoretically changeable. Edges using stative verbs make for a much more interesting game, because they represent the state of things that can be changed in the world. You can change the fact that Aliana loves Knight, but you cannot change the fact that Bob married Janet.

Ratification and Power

Ratification is the game process by which people let you know what they think is cool and not cool. When you ratify something, you put a ! after it and that tells everyone you think it's cool. When you strike something, you put an X after it and that tells everyone you think it sucks.

Ratification produces player investment in the fiction. That's crazy moon language that means, simply: The more people ratify stuff, the more they'll invest in what everyone is doing. Investment means people care about it and that makes everything more fun. Often, a single X after a node that has no other !'s on it will cause other players to shy away from that questionable node for the rest of the game unless they think you're dead wrong about its awesomeness.

Whenever a node or edge has three X's, it is eliminated. They can come from one player, two, or three, but three strikes means it's out. An eliminated node or edge isn't in the game. It can't be further ratified and it can't even receive more strikes. It isn't in the fiction; it isn't in the game. If you eliminate a node, all its edges are eliminated, too. If you eliminate an edge, do not automatically eliminate the nodes it connects. Put a big X through the eliminated node and edges and leave them on the network so that everyone remembers that it was eliminated in form and concept. That is, you can't add a node or edge that is too much like any eliminated ones.

The power of a particular node or edge is the number of !'s it has minus the number of X's it has. So "Cyborgs" has power 0, "Cyborgs!" has power 1, "Cyborgs!X" has power 0, "Cyborgs!!!!X!" has power 4, and "Cyborgs!XX" has power -1 and will be eliminated if it doesn't receive at least one more ! before Load ends. "Cyborgs!XX!!!X" is eliminated because it received three X's, regardless of the number of !'s it got.

Power, then, represents the collective feeling around the table about how cool something is. If a node or edge has a high power, then lots of players think it's cool. If a node or edge has a low power, then lots of player think it sucks. Players will gravitate towards high-power nodes during play and avoid the low-power ones. Thus your game will tend to focus on the things everyone likes.

If a node or edge has more X's than !'s at the end of the Load step, it is eliminated as above.

Power is used during play to get dice for characters to do stuff and to get dice for character opposition. Players use the power of edges between their characters and other things to get dice on their side. The opposition gets dice based on the power of the relevant element at stake. More on this later, but I promise you it's very, very cool.

Characters

Each player needs a character. Remember, "named and claimed." That is, a character is yours only if he's named (not generic) and is claimed (has a circle around him and your initials by it).

Claiming a character gets you ownership over the will of that character, but not his circumstances. All kinds of nasty things can happen to a character during play. Other players might connect undesirable edges to that character. The character can be pressured and crushed. Claim on a character only gets you the sole right to make decisions about how that character reacts to his circumstances. Other players have opportunities to create those circumstances, and some of these might feel like things traditionally considered "character authoring." Deal with it. Embrace it. It'll be fun.

The essence of a character is the claimed node and all the edges that connect to it. These edges represent the character's relationships and influence over the world. If you claim "Knight Carson, hacker extraordinaire" you'll want edges to nodes like "Megasoft" ("hacked them"), "Knight's modified Darkforce DF5750 cyberdeck" ("owns it"), and "Cyberspace" ("knows its secrets"). Hopefully, those edges will have lots of exclamation points after them and thus, a high power. The higher the power, the stronger the influence the character has over the node on the other side of that edge. For example, if a character Knight has an edge "knows its secrets!!!" to a node "Cyberspace" then that's a power 3 relationship, which represents a fair amount of influence over Cyberspace.

Load Procedure

The next sections describe the phases of the Load step. Complete each phase and the steps within it in the order listed. Read them all to all the players first, though, so they can plan what they want to do. It's best to take a holistic approach to network creation. You want to end up with a fantastic setting and set of characters that you all want to see in action. Everyone should realize that they're working towards writing a Loss for their character to kick them into action.

While there's a definite "brainstorming" flavor to Load, it doesn't inherit the typical "there is no bad suggestion" philosophy common to brainstorming. There are bad ideas, at least as far as you're concerned, and you should use your strikes to let people know when something doesn't seem fun to you. Keep a finger on the pulse of the monster you're creating. If it starts to mutate in a way that will make play not fun for you, speak up!

If you're ever short on ideas, refer to the List of Awesome.

At the end of Load, you should all agree that the setting rocks, that the characters kick ass, and you should all be excited to see what happens next. If you don't feel that way, consider scrapping what you did and making a new network. It's best to have a strong foundation for your play and not start out all wobbly. Load doesn't take that long so it should be pretty easy to make something better. If you start over, talk about the things that made you want to start over so you don't repeat them. Then grab a new sheet of paper and reload!

So here are the phases of Load step.

Phase 1: Ideas

In this phase, you establish some of the ideas and themes of the setting.

Starting with the GM and going clockwise around the table, each player writes a node that represents an ideology, technology, theme, or idea. Explain to the other players what you mean and why you think it's cool. It doesn't matter where on the network you write this. Don't connect any of these with edges (lines). These are some of the big ideas that you might explore in the game.

Example

Austin is the GM, so he starts. He takes his red pen and writes "Body Modification" on the big sheet of paper he put on the table. He explains that this includes mundane tattoos and piercings, as well as weird cybernetic limb and organ replacements and enhancements.

Bea sits to Austin's left, so she goes next. She takes her blue pen and writes "Magic" on the paper. There's some discussion among the group that it isn't real magic. Bea just says, "We'll see!"

Carson is next. He takes his green pen and writes "Nanotechnology" on the paper. He just wants to fill in the stuff that the group agreed on earlier.

Diamond is last. She takes her black pen and writes "Zombies" on the sheet. This draws some confused looks from everyone else. "It doesn't have to mean literal zombies, but it means at least people who aren't in control of their brains for some reason, walking around. Maybe forced labor, or maybe they're charmed by the nanomagic stuff." Everyone likes that.

Phase 2: Organizations

In this phase, you establish the large organizational structures of the setting.

In the same order as before, each player does four things: write an organization node, connect it to another node, and ratify or strike two things.

Write a node that represents an organization or corporation or group. This should be a very specific name, like "Megasoft" or "CIA" or "Rioting Mobs with Torches."

Draw an edge (line) from that new node to any other node and write a short verb or verb phrase under it to describe the relationship. Edges are described in more detail later.

Pick any node or edge on the network that you did not create and ratify it or strike it. Ratify things you think are cool by adding an exclamation point after it (so a "Megasoft" node becomes "Megasoft!" and a "hates!" edge becomes "hates!!"). Strike things you think are bogus or boring by adding an X after it (so a "Megasoft!" node becomes "Megasoft!X" and a "chases" edge becomes "chasesX").

Pick any other node or edge that you did not create and ratify or strike it, too, as above.

Example

Austin wants to make sure there is a big organization to drive some of these stories. He tries to think of antagonists. He writes "The Church of the Pure Soul" and explains that they are like a traditional church but they hate magical enhancements. He draws an arrow from the Church to Magic and labels it, "hates". He adds a ! after Nanotech and another ! after Zombies.

Bea develops her magical theme. She writes "Sorcerer's Guild" and draws an arrow from it to Magic. She labels the arrow "uses". She puts a ! after the Church and another after Nanotech.

Carson invents "The Witch Hunters," a group of religious folks who track down Sorcerers and Zombies and kill them. He connects The Witch Hunters to Sorcerer's Guild with an arrow labeled "hunts". He adds a ! to the Church and another ! to Sorcerer's Guild; after all, the Hunters aren't as cool if they don't have a strong enemy.

Diamond goes traditional and writes the name of a made-up corporation, "Little Things, Corp." and connects them to Nanotech. She writes "manufactures" on the line. She feels bad that Body Modification is getting ignored but mentions that it isn't really fitting into the world the group is creating. She drops her !'s on Nanotech and Magic.

At this point, the network contains eight nodes with the following powers (Body Modification, Church of the Pure Soul!!, Little Things Corp, Magic!, Nanotech!!!, Sorcerer's Guild!, Witch Hunters, and Zombies!).

Phase 3: People

In this phase, you create some of the movers and shakers of the setting. One of them might become your character eventually.

In the same order as before, each player does four things: write a person node, connect it to another node, and ratify or strike two things.

Write a node that represents a specific, named, intelligent being. Usually this is a person but in a cyberpunk or science fiction setting, it could be a robot or android, an artificial intelligence (AI), or even an alien. If you get too weird, your fellow players will probably just strike you out of existence, so talk over what you're doing and try to get buy-in before you write. In the end, though, what you write is your call.

Draw an edge (line) from that new node to any other node and write a short verb or verb phrase under it to describe the relationship.

Pick any node or edge on the network that you did not create and ratify it or strike it.

Pick any other node or edge that you did not create and ratify or strike it, too, as above.


Example

Austin is again thinking of villains. He writes down "Zander Little" on the sheet, with an arrow to Little Things Corp. He labels the arrow "runs" and explains that Zander is the President and Founder of the company. He tosses his !'s on Little Things Corp and Witch Hunters.

Bea creates the person that she wants to play, a street wizard named Merlina. She writes "Merlina" and connects it with an arrow labeled "masters" to the Magic node. She puts another ! after Nanotech. She also casts the first strike. She writes an X after Body Modification. "No one is using it anyway," she says.

Carson is imagining the head of the Church as this awful televangelist guy. He writes down "Reverend Smiley Haggler" and connects it to the Church of the Pure Soul node with an arrow labeled "heads". He puts a ! after the Church node and another ! after the hates edge between the Church and Magic. That's the first ratifying mark for an edge.

Diamond surveys the network and decides to create a witch hunter named Scar McGee. She draws an arrow from Scar to the Witch Hunters and writes "joined." Austin interrupts and explains that edges should be things that can change during the game and that maybe "belongs to" would be better. She fixes the node. She adds her ! to Body Modification to cancel out the X because she thought it was cool and, in fact, didn't choose her character's name by accident. She also ratifies the Reverend, because she thinks that character is really cool and has a funny name.

Phase 4: Characters

In this phase, you choose a character to play.

In the same order as before, each player does three things: choose or create a character, and ratify or strike two things.

You may choose any unclaimed character on the network as your own. Just circle it and write your initials under it. Regardless of who originally created the character, it is now controlled by you for all purposes of the rules. The GM does not claim a character; he'll just create another character (see below).

If you don't want to play any of the unclaimed characters on the network, write a new character node and connect it to another node with an edge (and label the edge appropriately). Circle it and write your initials under it.

Pick any node or edge on the network that you did not create and ratify it or strike it. You can't ratify or strike your own character.

Pick any other node or edge that you did not create and ratify or strike it, too, as above. You can't ratify or strike your own character.

Example

Since he's the GM, Austin goes first, but he doesn't get to choose a character. He has to create one. He writes down "Brain-Eater" and explains that it's a zombie that wanders around and feeding off the brainwaves of people, eventually killing them. He writes "creates" under an arrow pointing from Brain-Eater to Zombies. He ratifies two nodes, Little Things Corp and Witch Hunters.

Bea goes next. She knows she wants to play Merlina so she circles it and puts a "B" under it to claim it. She also ratifies Brain-Eater and the "creates" arrow leading to Zombies.

Carson circles Reverend Smiley Haggler and puts his name under it. He ratifies Church of the Pure Soul and the "hates" link going from it to Magic.

Diamond circles Scar McGee and initials it. She ratifies Body Modification and Magic.

At this point, there are 13 nodes on the network and 9 edges. All the players except Austin (the GM) have chosen characters.

Phase 5: Most Important Thing

In this phase and the next, you make sure your character cares about something (and, thus, that you care about something). You must invent something that your character really cares about and justify why your character cares. If your heart isn't in it as a player -- if this part doesn't really get you excited -- then it isn't suitable. Pick something else. This step will determine how your character starts the game in large part. This is the thing that will drive your character's story forward.

The GM does this with any character that isn't claimed by a player.

In the same order as before, each player does four things: create the most important thing and connect it, and ratify or strike two things.

Choose an existing node or create a new node that represents the thing you care about most (your "most important thing"). It can be a person, a thing, an idea, a state of mind, anything. Connect it to your character with an edge and write a verb that describes your relationship with your most important thing. Add !!!! (four ratification points) to that edge. Also add the designator "#1" to that edge so you remember it's your most important thing.

Pick any node or edge on the network that you did not create and ratify it or strike it. You can't ratify or strike your own character.

Then pick any other node or edge that you did not create and ratify or strike it, too, as above. You can't ratify or strike your own character.

Example

Austin sees two unclaimed characters on the network: Brain-Eater and Zander. He picks Zander and decides that the most important thing to him is how he looks in the press. He writes down "Good Reputation" as a node. Austin draws an arrow from Zander to Good Reputation and writes "protects!!!!" on it, with four ratification points after it just like that. He also ratifies Little Things Corp and Zombies.

Bea says that the thing most important to Merlina is "Control." She writes that near the Merlina node and connects them with an arrow from Merlina, and labels it "needs!!!!" She also ratifies Witch Hunters and its "hunts" edge.

Carson says that the most important thing to the Reverend is his followers. He writes "The Flock" and connects it with an arrow pointing from Flock to the Reverend and labels the edge "worships!!!!" He also ratifies Church of the Pure Soul and Merlina's Control need. "I think it's cool that you created this really vulnerable, neurotic wizard type."

Diamond is stuck but the others have ideas. Bea suggests, "You could make her need to cut herself." Everyone ewws at that and say that it isn't really the right feel for a light, humorous game anyway. "How about a love interest?" asks Austin. Diamond isn't interested in that really. Carson says, "Maybe a relative?" Diamond likes that and writes "Scar's daughter Molly" and draws an arrow from Scar to Molly and labels it "loves!!!!" She also ratifies Sorcerer's Guild and Body Modification.

Phase 6: Second Most Important Thing

This is essentially a repeat of the last phase. In the same order as before, each player does four things: create the second most important thing and connect it, and ratify or strike two things.

Pick any node or edge on the network that you did not create and ratify it or strike it. You can't ratify or strike your own character.

Choose an existing node or create a new node that represents the thing you care about second-most (your "second most important thing"). Connect it to your character with an edge and write a verb that describes your relationship with your second most important thing. Add !! (two ratification points) to that edge. Add the designator "#2" to the edge, too, so that you remember this is your character's 2nd most important thing.

Pick any node or edge on the network that you did not create and ratify it or strike it. You can't ratify or strike your own character.

Then pick any other node or edge that you did not create and ratify or strike it, too, as above. You can't ratify or strike your own character.

Austin gives Zander a second most important thing, his "NS9000 Racer," a flying sports car. He says that Zander "drives!!" the Racer. Bea jokes that Zander is compensating for something and that now they know the real reason the company's name is Little Things. Austin smirks and ratifies two nodes: Molly and Flock.

Brandy explains that Merlina has a black cat that is all nanomodified. Its name is "Cat-5." Only Diamond gets the joke and she doesn't give Brandy the satisfaction of a laugh. Brandy connects Merlina to Cat-5 with an edge labeled "adores!!"

Carson adds a "loves!!" arrow pointing from the Reverend to a new node, "Money." He ratifies the Church (which by this time has six !'s after it) and its "hates" edge.

Diamond decides that her tattoos ought to be important to her character. She writes "Tattoos" and draws an arrow from Scar to it and labels the line "designs!!"

Phase 7: Cash Out

In this final phase, you get tokens for all the cool stuff you created.

Each player gains 1 token for each point of power among all the nodes and edges that he created. Look around the network at all the things (nodes and edges) you personally wrote down on the network. For each ! after those nodes, gain a story token. For each X after those nodes, lose a story token.

Some nodes and edges may have more X's than !'s. If this is the case, remove the node or edge from the game as described at the beginning of this section. If a node or edge has three X's, it is removed from the game, as well. The creator of the node or edge still gains story tokens for the !'s and loses story tokens for the X's.

For example, if you created Megasoft and it is written as "Megasoft!!!X!" then it's worth 3 story tokens. If you created an edge that is written as "loathes!!!XX" then you gain 1 story token. If you created a node named Knight Carson!!XXX then you lose 1 story token and the node is removed from the game. If you created a node named Knight Carson!!!!!XXX then you gain 2 story tokens but the node is removed from the game.

Your total story tokens cannot total less than 0. If the stuff you created has more X's after them than !'s (net), then you start with 0 story tokens.

Summary

The Load step will create as many as 6 nodes per player and 7 edges per player. Further, there will be a total of 10 !'s and X's combined per player. If you have four players and a GM, expect around 20-25 nodes, 28 edges, and 40 little !'s and X's (mostly !'s). Most of these nodes will tend to cluster around characters and that will help you manage the complexity of this crazy thing.

When it's all done, test it. Look at the network you've built and the characters you have created. Is this thing exciting? Do you already have ideas for what you want your character to do? If not, you need to tweak some things. Discuss, as a group, what should be fixed. Maybe you need to start over.

Do you understand everyone's drives and motivations? Do you understand what is most important to the characters? Do you understand what all the nodes and edges represent? If not, ask for clarification.

Matters of Efficiency and Neatness

It doesn't matter where you write things, though putting things together may help suggest relationships among them. It doesn't matter which way you orient your writing — write upside down and sideways and so on. When you ratify or question, do put the punctuation all together at the end of the word. Even if "Megasoft" is upside-down relative to all the other nodes on the network, add the "!!!X!!" after the "t", and oriented the same way as the rest of the word.

Don't write too large. Write in a reasonably small hand but make sure it's readable to everyone without major squinting or needing binoculars!

Lines (edges) can cross each other. Lines can circle around half or more of the network. Lines can go off the outside side of the paper and "wrap" to the other side of the paper, as long as it's clear where the line goes. Do whatever makes the network the most readable and usable.

One trick to keeping a neat and orderly network is to write all nodes around the outside of the paper and use straight lines to connect edges. This produces a network that looks like funky string art with many criss-crossing lines but it's usually pretty clear where everything goes. This loses a bit of the organic feel of the network though; there's a lot to be said for seeing a spaghetti-like mix of curvy edges all over the diagram. The spaghetti-like network is the author's strong recommendation!

Whenever you can't think of something to write, take a look at the list of Awesome ideas. (And please add to the list!)

Run (Play)

In the Run step, you'll take the characters and the bare-bones setting you recorded on the network and tell stories with them. The characters will be the stars of this story but there's no guarantee of a happy ending.

The game master will present a situation that affects one or more characters and all the players get to react (even if their characters aren't in the scene). In general, the game flows freely until something important happens. Then tokens and dice get involved and that important thing is resolves, then the game goes back to free-flowing interaction between the players.

This section first describes all the tools you'll need to play, then it describes how to start the game, with what is affectionately called First Notice of Loss, which is a first scene for each character that establishes how they lose something important to them. Then they spend the rest of the game trying to get it back.

Tokens

There are three types of tokens used in Verge: story tokens, development tokens, and boost tokens. When not in a player's control, tokens generally sit in "the bank," a number of bowls in the middle of the table. During the game, spent tokens go back into the bank. Earned tokens come out of the bank.

Each player starts with the story tokens they earned in the Load step, but no boost or development tokens. Players should stack their own tokens in front of them so everyone can count them if they want.

Role-Playing

Play focuses on role-playing fictional events that impact the world via the network. Don't forget the role-playing part. With all these rules about the network and nodes and edges, it might be easy to forget that you're here to tell stories. Every scene will lead up to some dice rolling and a potential change to the network, but the role-playing is important.

If you want to "act" out what your character says and use his voice and mannerisms, that's fine. If you don't, that's fine, too. Role-playing is about making choices and seeing what happens. The funny voices are just extra fun sometimes.

Role-play will be framed, or focused, the way a director uses a camera. That is, imagine that there are an infinite number of movie sets for you to use to make an exciting movie. The GM (with player input) will choose where each scene takes place, describe the set to the players, list the characters present at the scene, and describe the situation the characters find themselves in. The GM is encouraged to drop characters into the middle of the action (the way a director "cuts" to the action) and skip a lot of the boring stuff leading up to the guts of the scene.

The Camera

Furthermore, the framing of play will use a technique involving a fictional video camera. The GM will describe the fictional world as seen through a closed-circuit television camera (cctv). This "camera" techique gets your thoughts off the abstract network diagram on the paper and narrows your focus to a specific place in the game world. The GM might say something like, "The camera pans right. Knight Carson and Karami are meeting in a mostly empty parking garage. She's holding a bag, presumably full of money. He's got a disc in his left hand." Then any other player can narrate additional details about what the camera sees but the entire view has to be something that could reasonably be seen in a couple seconds. It's as close to a still frame as video gets. For purposes of play, the camera does not have sound. Do not continue to describe what the people do! That's for role-playing. This is just framing and once you get the situation framed, everyone involved in the scene can start role-playing their characters.

If someone wants to jump into a scene after it's started, they can interrupt with the GM's permission and add to the scene via the camera. For example, "As Knight and Karami bicker about the price, an ominous black sedan crawls up the ramp of the garage towards them." The narrating player might be getting his character involved here, or he might not. It could be a character on the network that the GM owns. It could be a dramatic red herring, with no one important in the sedan.

Changing the Network

At any time during the game, any player has the power to change the network in one of the following ways:

Create. Spend 1 story token to add a node and connect it to the network. Write the name of a person or group of people, place, thing, or idea on the network page. Connect it to another node with a new edge and label that edge. Explain what you're doing so everyone at the table knows what you mean.

The create action is used to bring new elements into the setting after you've described them during role-playing. To create something new, you must have focused the camera on it and described it.

Connect. Spend 1 story token to add an edge between two existing nodes. Draw an arrow from one node to another and write a short phrase describing the nature (and direction) of the relationship between those two things. Explain it so everyone at the table knows what you mean.

The connect action pulls the story together. The more things are connected, the crazier and more exciting the game will be. Connect existing nodes after you've role-played or narrated what the connection means. This is a rule, not play advice.

Strike. Spend 1 story token to strike a node or element that you think is dubious. This does not correspond to the role-played events in the fiction but, rather, what you do not like about the node or element as a player. Add an X after the description of the node or edge. Tell everyone why you think it sucks. For example, if you think "Cyborgs!" is silly, turn it into "Cyborgs!X" The standard rules for striking something out of the game still apply (three strikes and it's out; if its power is less than 0, it's out). You cannot strike a "named and claimed" character node because it'd drive someone out of the game; if you want someone out of the game, have an adult conversation about it.

Strengthen. Spend 1 story token to strengthen (ratify) a node or edge someone else created; spend 1 development token + 1 story token to ratify a node or edge you created. This must correspond to an event within the game's fiction. Add an exclamation point after the description of the node or edge. You can't strengthen a node or edge that has been weakened (you must repair it first).

The strengthen action is your shield, your knowledge, your electronic repair skill, and so on. It is the tool with which you make your connections and skills more useful. Want to improve your ability to find stuff in cyberspace? Ratify the edge between your character and the cyberspace node. Want to protect yourself against an attack? Raise the potential power of the "security system!!!" node you already have as a trait by two !'s (at a cost of 2 story tokens and 2 development tokens).

Weaken. Spend 1 development token to weaken a node or element. This must correspond to an event within the game's fiction. Add a question mark (?) after the description of the node or edge. Explain how the node or edge is getting weaker. For example, if your character is shooting William All in the stomach, turn "William M. All!!!" into "William M. All!!!??" and pay two development tokens. It's fine to weaken something that is already well-weakened (creating, for example, "Cyborgs!!????????" with effective power -6); you can reduce an element's effective power to less than 0 by weakening it. This does not remove it from the game.

The weaken action is your gun, your hacker skill, your strength, your negative ad campaign, and so on. It is the tool with which you can take down corporations, eliminate enemies, and crush data networks. Want to embarrass Megasoft? Weaken its node. Want to crush Megasoft? Question its node down to power 0 or lower.

Repair. Spend 1 development token to repair a node or edge that has been weakened. This must correspond to an event within the game's fiction. Erase or cross out one question mark (?). Repairing an element never increases its power so much as it removes reductions to its power. So if a node's unweakened power is 5 (e.g., "Cyborgs!!!!!") then no amount of repairing it will make its power greater than 5. Repairing only removes question marks.

The repair action is your healing skill, your med kit, your code debugging, your long apology to your mom. It is the tool that you use to repair the damage that you and others cause in your life. Want to make your sister Aliana forgive you? Repair the weakened "adores!!!????" edge pointing from her to your character by erasing those four question marks. Did you get shot and now you're in the hospital to heal up? Repair your character's node.

Multiple Actions

You can perform any number of actions at a time, one after another. For example, spend 5 tokens to create "Mandy Math, cyber bounty hunter"(node) "is hunting"(edge) "Win Carson"(node) and to connect Win to an existing "Knight Carson" node with "is sibling of"(edge) and also ratify someone else's "Megasoft Corp!X!" node. Note that you must have consent to record them all, though.

Consent

You must announce each thing you want to change before you draw it on the network so that other players have a chance to object. Give everyone an overview of what you want to accomplish as a whole. For example, "I'm meeting my friend Bob here, so I want to add him as a power-1 node with a 'trusts' edge from him to me, and he's the inventor of holographic reality, so I want to connect him to that existing idea node with a new 'invented' edge. Oh, I'll bump 'invented' up four bangs, too." If there are any objections, mentally note where they are so you can pause at the right place and not record anything contested.

Pay for each action as you take it. Avoid paying a pile of tokens for numerous changes all at once.

Adam: "Okay, here's Bob." [Scribbles 'Bob' on the paper and pays 1 story token.] "I'll ratify him." [Pays 1 story token and 1 development token to ratify his own node, then makes the node 'Bob!'.] "All right, now he's an expert in holographic reality, too..." [Pays 1 story token. Draws a line from Bob to Holographic Reality and writes 'invented' on it.] "Power 4..." [He pays 4 story tokens and 4 development tokens and adds !!!! on the end of 'invented'.] "Okay, now for the 'trusts' edge between Bob and Knight. Matt, you had an objection, right?"
Matt: "Yeah. My character is going to get to Bob so he doesn't trust Knight."
Adam: "Conflict." [Adam reaches for the dice. He also pays the 2 story tokens and 1 development token necessary to create the 'trusts!' node, but he doesn't write it yet -- not until he wins the conflict.]
Matt: [He reaches for his dice.]

As long as you have the tokens to pay the cost and no one at the table objects, you can modify the network in any way you want. If anyone objects, however, you can either negotiate or roll the dice. Often it'll be the GM saying, "Hey, before you do that, let's roll dice. I don't think it's that easy." Then she'll describe some complications that get in your way and you'll roll dice or pay extra tokens according to some rules described later. When in doubt, say "Conflict" to signal to the other players that you want to prevent the action from taking place.

If you object because you think something is bogus, don't bother settling it with dice. Pay the story tokens to strike it out of the game (it only takes 3 and they can come from any number of players). As a rule, no one may object to the strike action and strike actions are resolved immediately, and never with dice.

If you object because you think something in the fiction should or can interfere, then settle the conflict with dice. The person who is trying to change the network must win the dice roll to record his network change. If he loses the dice roll, the change doesn't happen. He spends the tokens either way.

When you object and roll dice, you don't have to use your own character to interfere. You can use any node you created as the antagonist. Furthermore, you can pay tokens on the spot to create new antagonists, but these follow the same rules about objection and striking. Also see the notes on Recursion, later.

Overrides

Sometimes you can just pay extra story tokens to override the objection.

Essentially, there are two kinds of changes. The first kind represents development of the setting from the point of view of the player. These things are not conflicts in fiction. Battle these out with overrides and tokens. The second kind is a change from the point of view of the character -- conflicts between agents in the fiction. Battle these out with the conflict resolution system and dice.

This section describes how to handle overrides. Conflict resolution rules are explained in another section.

You can override only if there is no conflict in the fiction. For example, if you're creating a new node to fill in backstory, this isn't fictional conflict; if the change represents something your character is doing, it's a potential conflict, so you can't override.

In addition, the stuff you want to change determines if an override is possible.

  • If you are creating and connecting a new node, you can pay a number of extra story tokens equal to the power of the node you're connecting.
  • If you are connecting two existing nodes and you control neither of them, you can pay the power of each one.
  • If you are connecting two existing nodes and you control one of them, you can pay the power of the other one.
  • If you are connecting two existing nodes and you have the consent of the controller of one of them, you can pay the power of the other one.
  • If you are connecting two existing nodes and you control them both, no one can object.
  • If you are strengthening, weakening, or repairing a node or edge and you control it, no one can object.
  • If you are strengthening, weakening, or repairing a node or edge and you do not control it, you can pay its power.

You control a node or edge if any of these is true:

  • It is your character node (claimed by you).
  • It is an edge connected to your character node, or it is a node connected to your character by one edge.
  • You are the GM and it is not one of the above.
  • The player who does control it grants you control. Control granted in this way is always revocable.
  • Otherwise, you created it.

When you pay the override cost to force a change, pay the cost to the player who controls the nodes and edges in question. If two players are involved (as when you connect two nodes you don't control), pay the appropriate cost to each player according to the powers of the nodes they control. Yes, this encourages players to object to things and throw conflict at you all the time so they can earn tokens when you pay the override cost. Or you can let the dice decide.

You can use any kind of token to pay these costs. You'll probably want to use the more common story tokens first, then pay with the development tokens and boost tokens when you run out of story tokens.

Anyone can raise the cost of an override by throwing paying tokens to the bank. For every two tokens someone pays, the override cost goes up by one token. Again, any kind of token can be used to raise the cost and pay the cost. If I pay 4 development tokens to raise the override cost for you by 2, you can pay 2 story tokens or 1 story token + 1 boost or whatever.

Procedure

This section explains the procedure for changing the network outside the override procedure (that is, when the conflicts about what changes and how are between elements of the fiction, not between the players-as-authors).

Typical Procedure

This is the formal procedure for the typical case of changing something on the network when no one objects.

  1. Role-play. Someone (often the GM) frames a scene with the camera. Players get involved. At some point, you want to realize (make real by putting it on the network) the stuff that's happening in the scene.
  2. Declare your intent. You: "I want to create a new Sarasvati node and connect it to the Gil Bates!! node as he 'loves' her. One story token."
  3. One action at a time, walk through the changes you want to make.
    1. You: "Okay, here's Sarasvati. She's a crazy girl who is stalking Gil Bates."
      1. See if anyone objects. In the typical case, no one does.
      2. Pay the token cost for the action. You: *clink*
    2. You: "Okay, and she seduces him."
      1. That's a conflict between stuff in the fiction. See if anyone objects. Let's say no one does.
      2. Record the change on the network. That's a 'create' action so you write the Sarasvati node and connect it to Gil Bates!! with a 'loves' edge pointing from him to her.
Override Procedure

This is the formal procedure for changing the network when someone objects and you want to pay the override cost to make the change anyway.

  1. Declare your intent. You: "I want to create a new Sarasvati node and connect it to the Gil Bates!! node as she 'loves' him. One story token. It's backstory, not a conflict in the game, agreed?"
  2. Pay the token cost for the action. You: *clink!*
  3. See if anyone objects. In this case, the player who controls the Gil Bates node objects. Him: "I object. Gil Bates is totally unloveable. I don't see how that can happen."
  4. Pay the override cost as listed in the Consent section above. The tokens go to the bank. You: "Overridden. I'll pay the 2 story tokens for your Gil Bates node." *clink, clink!*
  5. See if anyone wants to complicate it, by raising the cost with their own story tokens. If so, they pays the tokens to the bank. One other player: "I'll pay 6 to raise the cost 3 more tokens." *clink, clink! clink, clink! clink, clink!* Other Players: "Me too! 2 more!" *clink, clink! clink, clink!*
  6. Every time someone complicates it and adds to the cost, they have to describe some complication in the fiction.
  7. Either give up on your network change here, or grab the dice, or match the raise with your own story tokens. You: "Grumble. Here's 5 tokens..." *clink, clink, clink, clink, clink!*
  8. Every time you pay the cost of a complication, you have to explain how you solve the complications they introduced.
  9. Go back and forth till no one wants to raise any more.
  10. Assuming you paid the costs, record the change on the network.
Conflict Procedure

This is the formal procedure for changing the network when the conflict is between stuff in the fiction and the GM or one of the other players thinks whatever is happening isn't a sure thing. If no one objects, though, you can just make it happen, like you do with backstory (pay the cost and make the change).

In this case, however, someone thinks that the outcome is uncertain and you must trust to the dice to see what will happen.

  1. Declare your intent. You: "A totally hot girl, Sarvasvati, is going to seduce Gil Bates! I want to create a new Sarasvati node and connect it to the Gil Bates!! node as he 'loves' her. One story token."
  2. Pay the token cost for the action. You: *clink*
  3. See if anyone objects. In this case, the player who controls the Gil Bates node objects. Him: "I object. Gil Bates is totally too self-controlled. I don't see how that can happen."
  4. Declare a conflict. You: "Conflict."
  5. Use the Signal and Noise dice system to determine who wins the conflict.
  6. Assuming you win the conflict, record the change on the network. If you lose, you don't get to make the change.
  7. The loser gets insurance tokens. The GM gets interest tokens.
Recursion: Conflicts within Conflicts?

When you're in the middle of a conflict and the dice are out, it's tempting to spent story tokens to change the network to give yourself a tactical advantage. This is okay! However, you do not have the option of declaring a second conflict until your current conflict is resolved. That is, you can't have conflicts within conflicts.

Recursion is very cool, but it would just get confusing, so you can't do it. You do, however, have the option to pay overrides to force changes in the middle of conflicts. That is, you can change things from the player point-of-view, but you can't change things from the character point-of-view. Try to resolve the backstory conflicts (with overrides and tokens) as quickly as possible so you can get back to the real story -- the fictional conflict, fought with dice.

Signal and Noise (Conflicts)

Signal and Noise is the name of the dice mechanic, which is just a small part of the conflict resolution system. It's called "Signal and Noise" because it involves rolling pools (handfuls) of 6-sided dice and separating them into two piles: one where all the dice match a certain target number and the other where the dice do not match. The matching dice are the signal and the non-matching dice are the noise.

While the rules will explain the dice system in detail in a moment, here's how it works in a nutshell. You figure out how many dice you get — let's say it's 10 — and you roll them and sort them: 1334555566. You find the result that comes up most often. Since 5 came up most often in our example, you might choose that as your signal and separate those from the rest. You have two separate piles of dice: your signal is 5555 and your noise is 133466. Later on you might get a chance to reroll your noise and put any new 5's into your signal pile. The more dice in your signal, the better you're doing. The other player or GM will have her own dice, too, and whoever has the highest signal wins the conflict.

Here's the system in a little more detail. These rules apply to every player who has a character involved in a scene (including the GM):

  1. The player who called for the conflict is the spotlight player (even if it was the GM).
  2. State the goal of the conflict clearly. That is, everyone is on the same page about what it means for any player to win or lose the dice roll. GM: "If I win, I get to add four question marks to your character's Hyperintelligence trait!"
  3. Figure out how many dice you get.
  4. Roll those dice.
    1. Pick one face value as your signal -- usually the one that occurs the most often (if you roll 122256, you would probably pick the 2's as your signal). The rest are the noise.
    2. Compare dice totals. The signal with the most dice in it is currently winning.
    3. Narrate what you're doing according to the dice in order of descending face value of your signal (6 goes first, 5 goes second, ... 1 goes last). You can narrate anything that doesn't contradict the network, the dice, or what a player has narrated previously. Your narration must include explanations for any nodes or edges you used for dice.
    4. The spotlight player decides whether to continue or stop. If he stops, go to the last step.
  5. If he continues, all players have the opportunity to get more dice and burn an edge to reroll their noise, in order of signal value (highest to lowest):
    1. You don't have to reroll or get more dice.
    2. If you want to get more dice, pick an edge connected to your character and question it (add a ? to it). Narrate what you're doing and how your character is "burning" that relationship or connection. Find the power of the node to which that edge connects your character. Pick up that many new dice and roll them. Take the dice that match your signal and move them to your signal pile. The ones that don't match are still noise.
    3. If you want to reroll, pay a story token and reroll all the dice in your noise. Take the dice that match your signal and move them to your signal pile. The ones that don't match are still noise.
    4. You can do only one of those things during your turn.
    5. Compare your new signal result to everyone else's. The signal with the most dice in it is currently winning.
    6. Narrate according to the dice, in order of descending face value, as above. You can narrate anything that doesn't contradict the network, the dice, or what a player has narrated previously.
    7. The spotlight player decides whether to continue or stop. If he stops, go to the last step.
    8. If he continues, go back to the beginning of this step.
  6. Once the spotlight player decides to stop, conclude the scene:
    1. Make changes to the network diagram according to the stated goals of the winner.
    2. Move all spent tokens to the bank.
    3. Narrate conclusions in order of descending signal, as above.
    4. Gain development tokens (the rules for this come later).
    5. Gain story tokens through "insurance" (the rules for this come later).
Dice Pools for Players

If you're a player, the starting dice pool for any scene depends on the power of your character node, the power of the edges between you and the target, and the distance between your character and the target.

Take your character's power and add the power of each edge between you and the target. If there's more than one path, choose which way to go. Each step you take needs to make sense according to how you already role-played your character. Explain how you use each edge and node to accomplish your goal.

Now subtract 1 for each edge and node in the path, including your target but not including your character. After a while, it gets too expensive to add nodes, so don't think you can take a long, circuitous path to your target to rack up dice.

Roll that many dice in your initial dice pool.

Dice Pools for the GM

If you're the GM, you'll often be "defending" some node or edge that isn't a person or other sentient being. You can choose any node that makes sense to serve as the "defender." If a player is having his character try to break into a secure building, you might choose the "Alarm System" node to defend the building, or create a "Security Guards" node and use that as your agent.

Rerolls

You can reroll your noise by spending a story token. Just pick up your noise dice, reroll them, and move any dice that match the value of your signal into your signal pile. The ones that don't match are still noise.

Burning (Getting More Dice)

You can buy more dice by burning an edge. You have to pick an edge connected to your character. You burn the edge by adding a ? to it, thus reducing its power by 1. You cannot burn an edge whose effective, net power is 0. So if you have an edge "loves!!!???" then its power is already 0 and you cannot use it to get more dice.

When you burn an edge, you get to pick up a number of new dice and roll them, then add the dice that match the value of your signal to your signal pile. The rest go into your noise pile. The number of dice is equal to the power of the node connected to the edge that you burned.

For example, if your character has a "loves!!!??" edge that connects to "Marietta!!?!!!" (power 4) you can burn the edge to gain 4 dice. The edge becomes "loves!!!???" (net 0 power, and thus not burnable anymore). The Marietta!!!! node does not change.

It's Over When It's Over

The spotlight player decides if the scene will go another dice round once everyone has had a chance to get more dice and burn edges for rerolls and actually reroll and so on. The spotlight player can't deny someone those things if he's already done any of them; that is, if the spotlight player gets to go, so does everyone else.

This puts a lot of control in that player's hands. If he's losing, he can decide to go another dice round. It will cost him in story tokens or burned edges.

However, a player can drop out of a conflict at any time. He simply states that he gives up and he loses the conflict.

Insurance

Winning by a lot doesn't gain you anything. However, the losers get paid in story tokens. This is called insurance. If you did not win a conflict, take from the bank a number of tokens equal to your insurance.

Calculate the insurance as the number of dice in the winner's signal minus the number of dice in your signal. For example, if you and another player roll dice and the other player's signal has 4 dice (winning), and the GM's signal has 2 dice, and your signal has only 1 die, the GM's insurance is 2 (4 minus 2) and your insurance is 3 (4 minus 1). You earn 3 story tokens.

If you drop out of a conflict before it's over, you earn no insurance.

Development

At the end of every conflict, trade dice with the other side. Both sides roll their dice and choose a signal. Whoever has the highest signal earns a development token for each point of difference.

For example, by the end of the conflict, you had rolled 10 dice total (signal and noise). Your opponent had rolled 15 dice total. You trade dice. You roll the 15 dice and she rolls the 10 dice. You get 4 dice in your signal and she gets 2. You earn 4-2 = 2 development tokens.

Development tokens are used to ratify nodes and edges you created. Because they're the only way that you can increase those things, development tokens are hard to earn. Obviously, the riskier your conflicts are, the better chance you'll have to earn development tokens.

Earning Tokens

There are three types of tokens. Story tokens are used to change the network and override another player's veto over changing his or her stuff. Development tokens are used to ratify things you created. Boost tokens are special rewards for doing cool things and a boost token can be used as either a story token or a development token (your choice).

Each player and the GM start out the game with a number of story tokens equal to the power of all the nodes and edges that they created in the Load step. During the Run phase, there are a few different ways to earn more tokens.

First, you earn a story token any time someone ratifies one of the nodes or edges you created. It behooves you to make up stuff that other people think is cool and will want to be powerful. You don't lose tokens when your stuff is questioned, thankfully.

Second, there's insurance, as described in the Insurance section, above. You earn story tokens when you lose a conflict. If you are low on story tokens and need them for an upcoming challenge, get into a scene that you know you'll lose. Expect the GM to try to think of ways to make it painful for you, though. (How?)

Third, there's development, as described in the Development section, above. You can earn development tokens when you take on risky conflicts. The more dice your opponent uses against you, the more likely you'll earn development tokens.

Fourth, you can earn boost tokens, or boosts. A boost is a token earned by doing cool things in the game. This is essentially the "fan mail" mechanic from Prime Time Adventures. Whenever someone does something cool, take one of the boost tokens out of the bank and hand it to them. Whenever a player spends a boost, they have to give that token to the GM, who keeps it in his pile. When the GM spends a boost, it goes back to the bank as usual. There is a limited number of boosts. Count out 1 per player (including the GM) and put those in the bank, and put the other tokens of that color away. If you have 5 players and a GM, there should be 6 boosts total on the table (in the bank, in front of players or the GM, whatever). Basically, when a player spends a boost, it helps him then but helps the GM later. When the GM spends a boost, it makes a boost available to the players to reward each other. A player can award a boost to the GM if he likes. The GM can award boosts, too. A boost can be played in place of a development token or story token.

Fifth, you can earn bribes. A bribe is just a boost token used to convince someone to do something cool. At any time, you can take a boost token out of the bank and put it on a node or edge with a condition related to that node or edge. When a player other than you satisfies that condition, they get the bribe token. Each player may have one bribe active at any time. If there are no boost tokens in the bank, you cannot place a bribe.

Last, the GM earns story tokens every time a player enters a conflict. Regardless of who asks for the dice roll, the moment a conflict starts, whenever a player's character enters the conflict, the GM earns a number of tokens equal to the power of that character. So if Adam is playing "Knight Carson!!?!!" (power 3) and Belinda is playing "Aliana Light!!!!" and Belinda starts a conflict and Adam has Knight get involved, too, the GM earns 7 story tokens right then.

Controlling Interest

(This stuff is fuzzy right now. Ignore it for now.)

Each node and edge has a power rating, but it also has a control rating. Under each node and edge is the initials of the person who wrote it down. That person can spend tokens during the Run phase to buy "stock" in that node. Just add a ! to the initials under the edge or node. If your initials aren't there, add them with the exclamation point.

The total number of !s must never exceed the total power of the node or edge. For example, a node "Megasoft!!!" can have a total of 3 exclamation points after initials under it. So Megasoft might be followed by AD! and LC!!. If Megasoft's power goes down during play, the winner of the conflict can choose who must lose a point of controlling interest.

You control a node or edge if you have more points of controlling interest than anyone else. Think of them as votes. Whoever has the most votes on something controls it. Control buys you the right to say if someone's use of it in narration makes sense or not.

You also have to control a node to use it to get more dice if it's not adjacent to your character. If the player who does control the node lets you, it's fine to use. If not, you may not use it.

First Notice of Lost

In the insurance industry, when you lose something or get in an accident, you have to report it. The insurance company takes what is called "first notice of loss," meaning an authoritative record of what was lost, how it happened, who the involved parties are, and so on. In Verge, first notice of loss (FNOL) is the name of the first scene for your character. In this scene, you will lose one of the two things that are most important to you. You will spend the rest of the game trying to get it back.

One at a time, in whatever order the game master prefers, each player will take their character through a FNOL scene. The scene is like any other in the game except for one thing. The outcome is fixed: you have to lose. Even if the dice are in your favor, you will lose anyway. When the GM says so, he gets as many free "virtual" dice as he needs to get just one more "success" than you have in your Signal, and thus you lose by 1. Collect your insurance and prepare for revenge.

Use the FNOL scene to establish a kicker for your character. A kicker is a prod to action. How will you react when someone or something takes away one of the most important things in your life? What will you do to get it back (if anything)? The idea is that, even if you don't try to get it back, not doing so makes a powerful statement about the kind of person you are.

When it's your turn for a FNOL scene, you need to establish the basics of your loss. What did you lose? How did you lose it? Who is responsible? The player makes up some of that and the GM makes up the rest.

What was lost?

Pick one of the two things you created as your character's most important things. You're going to lose that. Tell the game master what you are choosing.

Note that you created a most important thing and a second most important thing. You can pick either one. If you choose to lose your most important thing, then the base assumption is that you'd sacrifice almost anything (perhaps even your second most important thing) to get it back. If you choose to lose your second most important thing, then the base assumption is that you'd sacrifice almost anything to get it back, but probably not your most important thing. Whichever you choose, the GM gets to use the other one against you to test these base assumptions. If your most important thing is your daughter and your second most important thing is your marriage, and strange thugs kidnap your daughter, the GM gets to throw your marriage in your face and attack it and offer you painful compromises. Will you let your marriage blow up so you can get your daughter back? If the two things are reversed in importance to you, the story will be a little different. The GM can make you struggle to keep your marriage together as it starts to break down because your daughter was kidnapped. Maybe the spouse blames you. Can you see how this works?

This is solely the player's decision.

How did you lose it? Who is the "cause"?

This is where the game master gets to be creative. You can suggest ideas but the GM gets to decide how you lose your important thing and how to twist the other one against you.

The GM should come up with a scenario using the stuff on the network. Got an enemy? The GM can use that against you. Maybe the enemy is the "cause" of your loss. "Cause" is in scare quotes because the ultimate person to blame should not be clear. Leave that up to the player to decide through play. Perhaps, in the end, it will turn out that the character made some mistake that set everything in motion and ultimate blame rests on them. Maybe it's really the fault of another character. Or maybe it's just the evil, changing cyberpunk world that did it. Figuring that part out is the fun of playing so don't decide yet.

Role-play the set-up

The game master should use the cctv technique to frame a scene (or more, if you want) that leads to the loss. Then role-play! Use the scene to establish how things were when they were good. Maybe life wasn't perfect and there were already some problems brewing, but the most important things were there, ya know? If you can, foreshadow the doom about to fall on the character, then drop the bomb.

If the loss is something that the character can fight (like having one's daughter kidnapped out of one's arms), play out a conflict with dice and tokens with your character as the main character in the scene. If not, play a bit character who might be involved and fight back for you. For example, your daughter might be kidnapped at a park where she is with your spouse. You can play the spouse and their struggle to keep the daughter.

Make it happen on the network

The GM gets 12 free story tokens that they must spend immediately on stuff to make the FNOL happen. Add some nodes and edges to fill in the parts that help the story make sense. For example, you might create the evil Megasoft VP who gives the order and the Evil Thugs who kidnap her and the Park where it happened. Create stuff for color but, most importantly, to connect the story.

The usual rules apply to spending these tokens. The GM has to use them all. Any of these 12 tokens that remain at the end of the scene go back to the bank.

Conflict!

No matter how well the player rolls, he can't win the FNOL scene. As explained above, for just this scene, the GM gets to cheat. In this conflict, the GM gets to decide when to stop (consider the GM the "spotlight player" here) and when they stop, they win by 1 no matter what the dice say. The player earns 1 insurance and the GM earns story tokens equal to the difference between the number of player's noise dice and the GM's noise dice.

Follow-up Scenes

Imagine the follow-up scene, the one that comes right after both of those scenarios. Hopefully they're exciting and compelling! Don't play that next scene until after everyone has had their first notice of loss scene. The GM needs to aggressively cut (like a film director) before the scene moves on. Once the character has lost what is dear to them, stop and go on to the next player.

Once every player has had a chance at a FNOL scene, start playing using the normal rules.

The game master should put the pressure on the players and give them hard, painful decisions to show what their characters are made of. Threaten them. Threaten the things they care about. Dangle the thing they lost in front of them. Make it hard to get back.

As a player, don't be too eager to win! If you manage to win in the first scene, then what? Pace yourself, enjoy the agony of loss, and steep yourself in struggle. The point of the game is to show who you are through trials in difficult situations. What are you willing to sacrifice to get back the thing you love the most? Does the process of getting it back change you, or was that core being always there?

When you do finally succeed, there should be some obvious loose ends. Good players and game masters are always creating loose ends! Unlike writers, who need to tie up their loose ends for a satisfying story, role-players need to create more and more of them so that their story never ends. If you want a story with a short, neat ending, go ahead and close it up without more loose ends, but if you want episodic play, let the threads of your story fray and split so you have more stuff to chase down later.

You always have the option to designate something new as lost, play a first notice of loss scene right there, and start chasing that goal.

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