Monday, 10 February 2014

Feckless Wastrels: some more mechanics

Having outlined some very rough mechanics last time, let’s take a look at some specifics.


Influences are the factors that mostly affect what you can, want to and must do. There are two internal Influences (Pride and Mood), which indicate how you feel about things, and two external ones (Fidelity and Respectability), which indicate what people think of you. As these increase or decrease, your interactions with the rest of the world change.


Pride represents a combination of self-esteem, self-image, egotism, actual pride, resolve and bloody-mindedness. Pride makes it harder to do badly at things, tolerate provocation, accept criticism and refuse flattering requests. On the other hand, it makes it easier to stick to your guns, or push beyond your normal limits rather than accept defeat. Running out of Pride leaves you humbled, broken and shameless, a prey to any familial scheme or criminal opportunity; topping-out Pride leaves you puffed-up and manipulable, easy pickings for any wily matchmaker or would-be debtor.

You gain Pride when something happens that increases your opinion of yourself. NPCs may use flattery to try and puff you up so it's hard to say no to them. Having your plans go off smoothly, getting praised or coming up with a dashed clever idea could all increase Pride. You lose Pride when things happen to decrease your opinion of yourself, such as being humiliated, having a plan go badly wrong or realising that you are a cad and bounder.


Mood represents your long-term state of mind. A high Mood makes you sunny and upbeat, inclined to face challenges, accept pleas and look kindly on endeavours. A poor Mood leaves you surly, disinclined to accede to demands or put up with inconveniences. Minor short-term fluctuations are irrelevant to your Mood.

You gain Mood when things go the way you wanted them to, or generally if something happens that should improve your mood. Sometimes this will correlate with gaining Pride; at other times your cunning scheme to evade a job in Uncle Tarquin's firm may involve being publicly disgraced. You lose Mood if things go badly for you, because a plan turns out to be flawed, a date goes badly, or something simply goes wrong.


Fidelity represents your reputation for loyalty, solidarity and sense of obligation amongst your peers. A high Fidelity means pals (and pals' pals, and their pals) know they can count on you in a crisis, which increases demands on you and the likelihood of pestering, but also lets you ask favours. A low Fidelity means fewer demands on you, but makes it harder to get help yourself. Running out of Fidelity means you are effectively a social outcast, with no pals willing to back you, leaving you miserable and alone; topping-out Fidelity leaves you a bulwark of the social whirl, but constantly assailed by demands for help, unable to indulge in your preferred lifestyle for sheer lack of time.

You gain Fidelity when you help out a pal, or when circumstances make it seem that you have. Paying back substantial loans, lending a kindly ear, or loaning someone your car could all provide Fidelity, though usually it's more critical actions like providing a last-minute act for their cabaret show or intervening on their behalf with some estranged love interest. You lose Fidelity if you let down a pal, or appear to do so. Fidelity is all about reputation and gossip.


Respectability represents what the world in general thinks of you, in terms of manners, morals, trustworthiness, steadiness of character, reliability, conformity to social mores, and all that sort of thing. A high Respectability incurs the approval of dowager aunts, Spinoza-reading fiancées, American businessmen and bank managers, but makes one's pals look askance at one. A low Respectability allows one to evade soirées, poetry readings and requests to open county fairs, but makes it difficult to get into restaurants. Running out of Respectability means you have sunk below the acceptable standards of your social circle, and are no longer tolerated; topping-out Respectability means you have (in the eyes of your aunts) finally reached an age of responsibility, or (in the eyes of your peers) become a stuffed-shirt and a bore, unworthy of acquaintance.

You gain Respectability by doing things that seem responsible, dutiful, conformist and generally staid. Giving speeches at your old school while not inebriated, discussing philosophy, politely entertaining dead bores and investing in unimaginative companies will all earn the approval of maiden aunts. You lose Respectability by causing mayhem, being arrested, wearing appalling waistcoats, being caught stealing umbrellas, throwing bread rolls during dull parts of a speech, betting on ridiculous things, and actively shirking duties. Because this is very much a matter of public record, Respectability gain or loss hinges on whether anyone else learns of your activities, and who they are.


Attributes represent the talents and abilities that Nature and Chance have seen fit to bestow upon you - or not. These faculties are often useful, but allowing them too much attention can lead to an undesirably high public regard for one's capabilities.

Intellect - a sharp mind lets you weasel out of scrapes. Intellect is used when logic, reason, problem-solving and good sense are reguired to handle a problem, which includes many social situations.

Erudition - it's amazing what morsels of education can prove useful. Erudition is used when facts and learning are in question.

Alacrity - quick reflexes can get you out of all kinds of trouble. Alacrity is used when quickness of mind or muscle are the key factor, which typically means responding rapidly to a problem.

Physique - it's all very well to disdain muscles, until you're trying to lift an unconscious pig into a van before the police get back. Physique is used when your physical fitness is important.

Wealth - a silver key opens every door, as the Welsh have it, but there's always someone wanting a handout. Wealth represents ready cash, credit and ability to put things on the tab, rather than your fundamental worldly wealth.

Influences and Attributes can both vary over time. The chief difference is that an Influence is largely neutral and mostly determines the type of problems you'll face and your ability to overcome it, whereas Attributes are largely accumulative and it's rare, though possible, for a high Attribute to be detrimental. Moreover, Attributes will always eventually return to their base level, while Influences do not.


Traits are the personal quirks that separate one wastrel from another. Where one is stingy, another is lavish; one taciturn, the other loquacious; one pugnacious, another mild-mannered; one inclined to quote classical poetry, another intimately familiar with the pulp detective genre. Traits provide extra dice to a pool when they can be invoked, and are defined by the players. They should either be neutral or offer both advantages and disadvantages.


Inclinations are the things that give your life that extra kick, whether that's short-term excitement or long-term interest. The opportunity to indulge an Inclination makes it more tempting to follow a course of action, but Inclinations serve mostly to help define your character and guide their actions. Inclinations might include Carousing, Gambling (in the strict sense), Betting (in a broad sense), Flirting, Newts, Brawling, Cars, Theatricals, Pranks or Matchmaking.

A wildly hypothetical example

At a soirée, Alfie Ffrench-Whisker has been forcibly introduced to Horatia Overley, a Roman-nosed girl of brilliant mind and serious inclinations. She attempts to engage him in a discussion of German philosophy. Unable to escape, Alfie rolls Erudition, invoking his Inarticulate trait to discard a die, and manages to fail (none of his Influences seem relevant). Horatia is disappointed in him and turns her gimlet gaze elsewhere, though this may not be the end of their acquaintance. Relieved by this, Alfie's Mood improves.

Later, Alfie manages to sneak upstairs and rifle through Lucinda Winthrop's room for the love letter mistakenly left there by his pal Max Beauchamp. To his dismay, footsteps approach! He rolls Alacrity with a reroll from Pride (the thought of being caught here is unbearable), succeeds, and manages to nip into the wardrobe just before Lucinda arrives. A good thing, too, since it is not the dainty Lucinda, but her burly and green-eyed suitor Oscar who arrives, to leave a bouquet of flowers on her pillow. Alfie's Mood is not lowered by this unwanted complication, since he escapes without harm or discovery. When he returns with the letter, his Fidelity is increased, as Max will certainly assure the other fellows at the club of what a stout fellow he is – and this will likely increase his Mood too.

A few days later, Alfie is staying at Cheslington House to attend the races. His uncle Gerald, a kindly and large-minded chap, has been forbidden any rich foods by his wife as part of an unwelcome diet, and the servants are under strict orders. Alfie's heart is touched, and he determines to sneak a basket of goodies from the kitchen into Gerald's study. In the darkness and the clutter, he must roll Intellect to safely navigate through the hazards to the right room without attracting attention. Unfortunately, Alfie rolls very poorly and fails spectacularly, tripping over a table full of horrid porcelain dogs. The resulting crash brings everyone to their doors. Alfie's apparent greed is treated with dreadful politeness by his hostess, and the damage icily waved away along with his fumbled explanations (Intellect, with one die lost for Inarticulate). Unfortunately, the lovely Olivia Reynsham spots the bottle of port in his basket; since Alfie is under the guise of a teetotaller as part of an elaborate scheme, her opinion of him plummets like a stone, and she says as much. Alfie's Mood is badly damaged by the disaster, his Respectability by this rather shameful behaviour, and his Pride by the double humiliation. He's also likely to face additional difficulty in dealing with Olivia in future, though Gerald will appreciate his efforts.

Returning to the club in London for a much-needed break, Alfie is accosted by Biffo Twaddleham. Biffo has a complicated problem, and wants Alfie to intervene on his behalf with the fearsome Sir Peaksby Taddleham, who holds his inheritance in trust, so that he can buy an onion soup bar and marry the chorus-girl of his dreams. The exhausted Alfie isn’t keen, so he rolls Intellect to try and weasel out of it, wanting a success. His high Fidelity (from helping Max) forces him to reroll a success as it’s hard to let down a pal. His low Mood also comes into play – after discussion, the group decide that his irritation lets him push the boundaries of politeness and reroll a failure. He’s Inarticulate but this is probably not relevant here. Alfie succeeds, damaging his Fidelity but potentially increasing his Pride.

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