The Secret Fire

Fragment 1 The Secret Fire

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Welcome to the home of The Secret Fire (TSF) adventure game, released at GenCon 2011, and winner of the 2012 Innovative Game Design Award (I-CON 31).

Forged over the course of decades, The Secret Fire, which emphasizes roleplaying and exploration, is a game of creativity, flexibility, and limitless imagination, in which three-dimensional characters set out on daring quests into the dark and dangerous unknown where death lurks around every corner….

To play, you’ll need a few friends, a print or PDF version of the TSF rulebook, some oddly shaped dice (known as Platonic solids to the uninitated), paper, pencils, perhaps some miniature figurines to represent the characters and monsters (if your group is so inclined), and, most importantly, your imagination.

Prepare to enter a world of adventure….

What Makes The Secret Fire Different?

1. ENERGY POINTS. Exploration, battle, spellcasting, social interaction, and other elements of the game can be enhanced/accomplished by spending Energy Points, a pool of physical, mental, and emotional energy possessed by each Protagonist Character (PC). Each day, a PC starts at maximum EP. Energy Points can be used in any way allowed by the MC (a.k.a., Master Creator, The Secret Fire’s name for the Game Master, Referee, Judge, Storyteller, Administrator, Game Control, or what-have-you) to accomplish Special Effects. Examples include: pinning an opponent, moving overland at double-speed, knocking-out a combatant, re-casting a previously cast prayer, swapping out a spell for one of equal or lower level, inflicting extra damage, and so on. The only caveat is that the player must explain how his or her PC is accomplishing this effect in a realistic way given the current the milieu overall and the situation in particular. To earn additional or regain spent Energy Points, players must roleplay their characters, which leads to point 2.

2. ROLEPLAYING MECHANICS. Players can gain (or regain) Energy Points by roleplaying their characters in any of the following ways:

Traits: All Protagonist Characters (PCs) in The Secret Fire possess a Good, a Neutral, and an Evil Trait, one of which dominates depending on the PC’s Morality (which can shift along the Morality spectrum during game-play). Players gain Energy Points by roleplaying their characters, whether choosing to follow or go against their Morality (and its associated trait, for example a Good character following his “self-sacrificing” Good Trait, or by instead acting out his “greedy” Evil Trait). Stability — Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic — represents how often a PC chooses his dominant Morality Trait over the others.

Descriptors: Each Ability score comes with an associated Descriptor. For example, Strength ranges from Feeble to Mighty, while Intellect ranges from Moronic to Brilliant. These Descriptors can also be used to gain Energy Points. A Reckless or Foolhardy PC might charge into battle at an inopportune time or pull a lever before the party has decided whether it seems like a good idea or not. Just an attempt at roleplaying either a Trait or a Descriptor earns the PC Energy Points — they don’t have to succeed at the action.

Creativity: MCs may award PCs with Energy Points for particularly inventive choices, tactics, strategies, successes, or even colossal failures that further the fun of the adventure.

(The supplement Fragment I: The Way of Tree, Shadow & Flame, provides methods for generating additional character elements to roleplay, including Background, Goals, and Relationships.)

3. THE CHARACTER WHEEL & THE ELDER GODS. At the center of the Character Folio lies the Character Wheel, also known as the Mosaic of the Elder Gods. The Elder Gods or Eternal Powers are five primordial “forces” representing both positive and negative aspects of their areas of power: Death, Life, The Void (sometimes called The Outer Dark), The Elements, and The Great Unknown. As PCs engage in various experiences out in the dark and dangerous world, the shapes that make up the Character Wheel become filled in with different colors. The MC and other players can simply glance at another PC’s Character Wheel to get a sense of that PC’s life up to this point, just like you can sense a vibe about someone with just a glance. The Ranks PCs gain in the various Elder Gods come into play in an endless variety of ways. The most common is a Resistance roll against an Effect (poison, sleep gas, spells, talismans, and so on). For example, when hit by a death ray from a wand (in this case, The Wand of Great Necromancy created and enchanted by the infamous wizard Tambor the Black during the 6th Age; see below “All Talismans Are Unique”), the targeted Protagonist Character must make a Spirit roll versus Death or die on the spot. The player rolls the die on the Character Wheel; if it lands on a red shape (red = the Elder God of Death), his Ranks in Death are added to his die roll to avoid the effect, which, in this case, is actual death.

4. STAMINA & WOUND LEVELS. The Secret Fire uses a combination of Stamina (or “hits”) and Wound Levels. At each of the five levels — Grazed, Hurt, Wounded, Messed Up, Death’s Door — a PC suffers some effect, either positive, negative, or both. For example, at the Hurt Wound Level a PC gains a +1 to hit to represent the rush of adrenaline that courses through her body when she suffers a significant injury; when a PC falls to Death’s Door, she scores  a critical success on a natural 15-20 (rather than a just a natural 20) and a critical failure on a 1–5 (rather than a natural 1).

5. EVERYTHING STACKS! No looking up, figuring out, arguing over, or deducing how different effects combine. The answer is simple: everything stacks.

6. NARRATIVE VS. NUMERICAL STYLE. Players use words that represent numerical values to make the game more immersive. All players at the table understand what these phrases/words mean and are encouraged to embellish and create entirely new ways of expressing them along with the MC. For example, a player roleplaying his PC with an Intellect of 3 (the lowest score) might say that “he’s been called moronic,” while one with an Intellect of 18 (the highest natural score) might say that she was “brilliant”; but neither simply announces the values of the Ability score.

7. NON-BALANCE/SANDBOX. This is a game of exploration fraught with grave danger. The world exists despite the PCs: on a particular expedition, a party may encounter obstacles it can overcome within seconds or impossible obstacles that will instantly destroy every member of the group. PCs should attempt to assess which is which and then choose a strategy that best suits the situation at hand: battle, parley, hiding, or outright flight from the field (or the dungeon, whichever the case may be).

8. ALL TALISMANS ARE UNIQUE. Everyone talisman is a unique, complete with specific adornments, qualities, name, and history, in addition to any (relatively simple) magical abilities. Tables help MCs develop and design these items, and pre-generated items can be selected and used immediately.

9. MONTAGE SYSTEM. The Secret Fire’s Montage System allows the MC and players to move through long periods of inconsequential game-world time quickly but with interesting and randomized results.