Moderating A Personae Game

In a Personae game, the chorus takes the lead at the table for making sure that the game runs smoothly, that all the players act respectfully towards each other and towards the chorus, for resolving rules disputes, for setting the scene and describing what the players' characters experience through their senses. The role of the chorus is also to work with the players to negotiate for their characters' trait details. The chorus is the final arbiter of disputes—discussion of disputes is acceptable and encouraged, but once the chorus has made a decision on a matter, then further discussion or argument should take place away from the game, so as to not slow the game down or spoil the fun for everybody. The following are areas which the chorus will come across in the course of moderating a Personae game, which he should develop an opinion on and, if necessary, discuss with the group so as to come to an agreement on them through consensus.

Fiction First

This section condensed and paraphrased from, and inspired by, The Book of Hanz (found at, a product of Amazing Rando Design, developed, authored, and edited by Robert Hanz, John Adamus, and Randy Oest and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license (

“Sense within the fiction” is a term that is used frequently throughout the Personae system. Personae is intended to be complete, mature and robust, but it is unable to cover every possible edge case or specific case for every group that plays a Personae game anywhere, ever. The rules are intended to be a baseline, and may have to be clarified, supplemented or expanded on an as-needed basis. However, such clarification, supplementation or expansion should be in service to the fiction. That is a matter of gameplay philosophy, but it is the predominant philosophy of Personae. Simply because the rules allow for something to happen shouldn’t mean that it breaks the internal consistency, the “verisimilitude” of the communal narrative space shared by the players and chorus. There are lot of decisions to be made by a group in a Personae game, not only about the fiction but about how mechanical questions are addressed. It might behoove the group to come up with a “game creation” document to help keep track of decisions made by consensus.

Talk Amongst Yourselves

[Credit to Apocalypse World and many other Powered by the Apocalypse games for inspiration by way of “the conversation”. Meguey Baker, Vincent Baker.]

It is said that open and honest communication is the most important element to a successful relationship, no matter what kind of relationship that is—and that is just as much the case in a Personae game, let alone any roleplaying game environment for that matter. The flow of speaking, talking and conversing will shift throughout a session of Personae.

If the game is happening in a public environment, such as a bookstore, shopping mall, convention or a FLGS, “friendly local gaming store”, then people who aren’t a part of the group will invariably hold conversations with people at the table, with other people beside the able, etc. The players may talk about their favorite fictional media property while they’re waiting for everyone to show up to the session. They may even play a different game while they’re waiting for the session to begin. Once the session begins, however, it’s important that everyone be clear about what they’re trying to communicate, be respectful of the lines between what’s within the fiction and what’s outside it, about both player- and chorus-controlled identities, and about every player and chorus at the table. Everyone at the table should do their best to limit distractions and focus on what’s going on in the story.

The conversation at the table might shift from 1st person to 3rd person point of view: “I try to pick the lock”, “my character tries to pick the lock”, etc. There are a lot of variables when it comes to how talk, ideas, the flavor of the scene, and so forth are expressed at the table. Honest and open communication is crucial. The table should be a safe space, which is why safety tools and discussing lines in advance are important. Players and chorus should use not only each others’ pronouns, but the pronouns of both player- and chorus- controlled identities that are considered people.

This goes for how the game’s mechanics are triggered in order to facilitate play progression is concerned as well. One player may feel a challenge is being issued; another player may not feel issuing a challenge is necessary. The whole group should discuss, and the chorus should look to establish consensus as quickly and efficiently as possible to everyone’s satisfaction.

The Chorus Is A Player Too

The chorus is a facilitator, and might be more knowledgeable about how Personae works than others at the table, but that doesn’t instill the chorus with any special authority that might make the other players in a group subordinate. The chorus is a player too—they simply have an extra set of responsibilities and tools at their disposal to help express and represent the world that the players are interacting with the fiction through. The chorus isn’t a “master”, isn’t an autocrat that must be blindly obeyed simply because they’re wearing the chorus hat. That kind of mentality doesn’t belong in a Personae game.

Nothing Is Broken, Nothing Is Fixed

There are a very few things that are absolutely necessary in order to be playing a Personae game: attributes, traits, identities and challenges are very likely the “kernel” of a Personae game. That being said, chorus shouldn’t feel that this rules document is a straitjacket, but a guide. It might make sense for a player- or chorus-controlled identity to have different attributes than what is standard. It might make sense for a whole new type of trait to be introduced, and how that trait connects to an attribute.

Since anything can be an identity, it might not make sense for a very abstract identity to have the same attributes a character has. In fact, a group may decide to subdivide identities, or give them more specific descriptors such as game identities, scene identities, object identities and so on. The ultimate determination of what “the rules” are, and whether the players or chorus are “following the rules” is the players and chorus within any given group.

Extended Conflict

Challenges typically take place between two identities, one the actor and the other the reactor. There will be times, however, where a single challenge will not adequately resolve a conflict between two opposing points of view. A point in a debate is made, but it does not convince the opponent sufficiently; a sword wounds a murderer, but the murderer refuses to back down. In cases such as these, both actor and reactor should make their objectives clear to determine whether or not the conflict must be extended—whether or not multiple challenges, resolved in succession, must be initiated in order to resolve the conflict at large. The overall conflict, discussed between players or chorus, should direct the ultimate resolution, based on what's at stake and what the ultimate goals of both actor(s) and reactor(s) are. Whether or not the “meta-resolution” is achieved, for either side of the conflict, should be reassessed periodically throughout the extended conflict, until one side achieves the kinds of results they want and the losing side backs down.

Nonviolent Encounters

Extended conflicts can be applied to situations where there is no fighting. A stealthy trek through a city at midnight, a lengthy debate, or a chase sequence—all of these are considered nonviolent encounters. While some groups may choose to create a system similar to a character's vitality and shock in order to handle extended nonviolent challenges, they can be resolved just as easily with a series of separate challenges, or one initial challenge followed by a series of additional challenges. Group consensus is always the best way to decide on what method of resolving nonviolent extended challenges will work best with the group.

Since anything can be an identity, it is possible for vitality and shock to be employed to help evaluate nonviolent challenges. In this case, skills that would otherwise not be expected to “inflict injury” might be used to issue challenges to identities that, when successful, inflict hits to the identity’s vitality, result in shock being incurred, and the identity being negated. The locked door identity can have a vitality and shock levels; the Pick Lock skill can be used to issue interaction challenges to the locked door identity; if the locked door identity fails to defend, it takes one or more hits to vitality, then potentially marks shock levels, then is negated.

Subject Matter Expertise: Every talent identified as an expertise represents a subject on which an identity is more familiar with than the average: an area of focus, concentration or specialization. If an identity doesn’t have a talent in an appropriate subject area, then they’re only able to answer basic or common questions about the subject. If an identity has a talent in that subject area, they’re considered an "expert" when it comes to questions about that subject. When it comes to asking questions, however, in order to determine whether an identity knows a fact about a subject, this can be handled in one of two ways.

  • Method 1, You Know It Or You Don’t: The first method is straightforward: if the identity has an expertise in the subject area, they know the fact—the answer to a question. If they don’t, then they don’t.
    • Depending on the fiction, and how the density of the subject area impacts the fiction, this method might be considered too generous by the group. In a game that is not only fiction dense but rules dense, in accordance with the play style of the group in question, a question about Hawking radiation might be considered the realm of astrophysics rather than mere science, and such a distinction might be important not only to the fiction but to the sensibilities of the group.
    • As a result, the group may decide that more talents should be invested in a narrower degree of expertise in order to satisfy the question being asked. An identity might have an expertise in science, and an additional talent invested in astrophysics for example. The expertise in science wouldn’t have the answers to a question about Hawking radiation, but the additional astrophysics talent would.
  • Method 2, Subject Area as Identity: If method #1 is unsatisfactory for a group, a subject area can be modeled as an identity, since anything in a Personae game can be an identity. It doesn’t have to have the same attributes as other identities: in fact, a “science” identity can have attributes or traits related to increasingly complex or intricate concentrations, such as astronomy, medicine, etc. How the identity is crafted should be decided upon by the group, and make sense within the fiction.

Characters will not always enter into challenges with each other. A locked door is just as much of a challenge as a big, hulking ogre with a wicked looking axe. In the case of these “static” type of obstacles that wind up occasionally in the way of a character (inanimate elements that are incapable of dependent or independent action, and impede a character's progress in some way), there is a dilemma. The system of opposed rolling is not as concerned with locks, or barred doors, or walls that have to be jumped over—it is more concerned with resolving the outcome of conflicts that involve an active investment of thought and deed from two opposing sides, not just one. A barred door might stand in the way of heroes chasing down the evil wizard, but the conflict is with the wizard, not the barred door. The thirty-foot wall might surround the tyrant's fortress, but it's the tyrant that's more of a problem for the rebels, not the wall. It is the responsibility of the game group to come to a consensus on how these types of “unopposed challenges” affect the overall direction and drive of the story, and ultimately how they are resolved.

This is where a challenge's goals play a very important role—if the group can divine, through the goals of a challenge, how such a static obstacle might have an impact on the story at large, then an appropriate challenge can be devised to incorporate any issues regarding the locked door or the thirty-foot wall. If not, then the chorus is well within rights to simply narrate the resolution of coming up against an obstacle. The dice should only be rolled when the outcome is critical to the story's development. (Such a narration, however, should still stand to enrich the overall atmosphere of the play experience. “You jump over the wall”, or “you pick the lock” shouldn’t be good enough.)

Effects such as disease and extreme temperature may also deal damage or impose adverse effects on a creature. While no one sentient being is responsible for a bolt of lightning striking a creature from the sky during a thunderstorm (regardless of what mythology might say), or excessive temperature causing an identity to collapse from heat exhaustion, they still might occur. If the group and chorus decide that these sorts of hazards have the potential for threatening the party, then the group as a whole should determine how the hazards will play out—both mechanically as well as in within the fiction. One group might decide that if the party is traveling in the midst of a heavy thunderstorm, that there's a chance someone might get struck by lightning. How the group determines such chances, and figures out if anyone does in fact get struck by lightning, is entirely up to them.

The players and chorus are welcome to address this however they see fit. Below are two recommended methods: unopposed challenges, and obstacle as identity.

Unopposed Challenges: Sometimes in the course of a story, characters may encounter situations in which they would like to commit to actions, but where there are not any obvious characters to issue a challenge to. These are referred to as Unopposed challenges. In general, unless it is import to the scene, these challenges should be passed or failed by the chorus, based on the specific situation, e.g. if the chorus feels that is in the purview of the character as designed and developed throughout the most recent sessions, without the need for rolling dice. From time to time, though, these challenges will be important to a scene. If rolling is required, then the following steps should be taken:

  • Assess the Situation: Decide if the action is appropriate to the character and the scene, and determine the necessary skill or attribute that will be used in the challenge.

  • Assess the Difficulty: Determine how hard it will be to accomplish the task and assign it a difficulty based on the list below, increasing or decreasing the difficulty based on the character in question's capability and concept.

    • Easy: 0 (ex., kicking in a door)

    • Simple: +1 (ex., jumping out of a 1st-floor window)

    • Normal +2 (ex., tracking muddy footprints)

    • Challenging +3 (ex., jumping out of a 2nd floor window)

    • Difficult +5 (ex., picking an average lock)

    • Very Difficult +7 (ex., disabling an average trap)

    • Extremely Difficult +9 (ex., tracking a target in unfamiliar terrain)

    • Nearly Impossible +10 or more (ex. solving a complicated puzzle, lock, or trap)

  • Roll the challenge: the chorus rolls a number of dice equal to one less than the skill being rolled by the character (to a minimum of one die), adding the modifier from step 2 to the highest die result. The player must then meet or exceed that target.

Ex. A foppish noble wishes to jump from a 2nd story window without hurting himself. He is an athletic character with experience in city-style terrain, there are no obstacles in his path, and he has a skill appropriate to the task with a rating of three dice. As such, in this case the chorus determines that this would be a normal challenge for Dunmore and rolls 2 dice, the result of which are 3 and 7. Having achieved a highest result of 9 (7 plus the normal difficulty of 2), and advising Dunmore that this challenge will be based off of his Prowess (owing to the fact that his special acrobatic training is what is being challenged), Dunmore then attempts the challenge. Dunmore rolls three dice, resulting in 1, 5, and 6, and adds 3 for his Prowess, achieving a total 9. The chorus and Dunmore's player tie on the highest die rolled, and as a result compare their second-highest die roll results. Dunmore has an 8; the chorus has a 5. The noble succeeds the unopposed challenge.

Obstacle as Identity: This method is the most open-ended, albeit the most abstract. Since anything can be an identity in Personae, a chorus can introduce a locked door, for example, as an identity with any attributes and traits it wishes, as long as it has at least a vitality trait and shock levels.

This gives player-controlled identities objects to issue challenges to, so that they can be negated (rendered inoperative). This opens up the possibility of nonviolent encounters affecting vitality and shock—the vitality of a locked door might be the quality of the lock, and the burglar might inflict hits against the door’s vitality representative of bypassing its security measures. Sense within the fiction will be the primary driver of how to make the game mechanics align with the environment being simulated by identities in this case.

Violent Encounters

As has been mentioned above, the Personae system thrives on the belief that the rules only need to be as intricate and detailed as you need or want them to be. This especially applies to combat—conflict that involves violence, whether it be physical, mental or social, as it makes sense within the fiction. The challenge can be applied to a wide variety of situations, both combat and non-combat related. There's nothing saying that war, for example, can be a backdrop for storytelling—it has been done before—but the focus should be on using the mechanics to provide a common unit of exchange both players and chorus are happy with when it comes to resolving conflict, and doesn’t have to be not on the blow-by-blow detail of thousands of soldiers killing each other (and more importantly, resolving the entire exchange with hours upon hours of dice-rolling).

Combat is one possible example of an extended challenge, but not a special or separate one. Once swords, knives, guns, bows or spells have been brought to bear, then the identities involved have escalated the conflict to the point where they're no longer interested in resolving it with words or nonviolent actions, but instead with weapons or the supernatural. Combat is typically an extended challenge, leading to one or more of the identities involved in the conflict either backing down from violence, or “fighting to the death”. However, not all combat involves simply battering down an opponent until unconsciousness or death; spreading disease, for example, and taking control of an opponent's mind, fall into the realm of combat as well.

The Action Order, and Actions: Combat is chaotic, and even veteran warriors often cannot get an advantageous position in a flailing mess of swinging weapons , a hail of bullets, or the eyebrow-singing heat of fireballs. It is necessary, however, to establish an order to which, in combat, each identity who is involved will act. How the action order is determined should be decided upon by the group. This could be as simple as going in an order based on where everyone is physically sitting at the table, allowing players to invest in an Initiative skill for their characters, or having each player choose one of their character's skills that they will be using on their turn.

Regardless of the method used to set down the order of who acts when, the identity who performs the action that escalates to a nonviolent encounter, or from a nonviolent to a violent encounter, always acts first: issuing a challenge to an opponent is the trigger that escalates the scene. The challenge that was issued is then resolved, and each identity in the encounter acts, in order, thereafter. Once all identities involved in the encounter are finished acting, then the order starts again at the top—each iteration of the order is called a round. On each actor's turn, the actor can (1) move and (2) take an action. Issuing a challenge typically takes an action, unless powers or enhancements say otherwise. Movement is dependent on the consensus that the group has come to regarding space and time (see below); an identity can always use an action to move a second time, if they so desire.

  • Simple turns

    • Move

    • Action

      • 1 action → 1 challenge
      • Action can always be used to move
  • Compound turns

    • Move + action + one or more additional actions
      • x # Of Actions → X # Of Challenges
    • Combination of follow-up and subsequent challenges

“What can you do with more actions?” Having more actions makes you more effective at accomplishing your goals, more versatile—better able to respond to shifting circumstances. Having more actions lets you affect more than one opponent, affect the same opponent multiple times, "hand out" more benefits to allies, better control the encounter space, better react to/adjust to changes to the encounter space. "How do you get more actions?" Enhancements and Powers.

Follow-Up Challenges
  • Rely on momentum, success stacked on success—follow-up is only possible if identity succeeds initial challenge issued
  • Require less overall effort on the part of the character—should be afforded by Es or powers first before additional actions
  • Issued only, by default, to the same opponent or affect the same target
  • Follow-up challenge must use the same skill as the initial challenge issued
  • Is in essence a duplicate of the initial challenge without an additional action being required
  • Use the next-highest die result, and the next
    • depending on how many dice are available
    • how many follow-ups are afforded by the terms of enhancements or powers
Subsequent Challenges
  • More taxing, require more wherewithal and coordination of effort
  • Es and powers should afford follow-up challenges first before subsequent challenges, and upgrade to allow each action/subsequent challenge to involve a different skill if desired
  • Can be issued either to the same opponent or different opponents, affect the same target or different/multiple targets
  • Could possibly involve a different skill used to issue challenges for each action
  • Requires additional actions beyond the first
  • One additional action per subsequent challenge

OPTION: PARTIAL SUCCESS THROUGH FOLLOW-UP CHALLENGES. Follow-up challenges offer the opportunity for partial success, or success with cost, to be introduced and explored by the group. Much like criticals below, the framework for partial success would have to be established by the group. By default the system only acknowledges binary success or failure, but subsequent challenges opens the possibility to allow the second-highest, third-highest and lower die roll results to provide context to the success or failure of a challenge, such as allowing for success with strings attached. Conversely, if two or more die roll results from an actor issuing a challenge defeat the reactor on multiple dice, the opportunity for a superior success achievement can be explored as well. This can be paired with or used in lieu of criticals.

Physical Combat: Physical combat involves attacking unarmed, such as with appendages organically or artificially connected to your person (fists, feet, forearms, etc.), with hand-to-hand weapons (swords, shock batons, etc.), or with ranged weapons (bow & arrow, rifle, etc.). When an identity issues a challenge to another identity that involves attacking in this fashion, then the challenge is known as an attack challenge. The actor is known as the attacker, and the reactor is known as the defender. The attacker rolls a skill that involves either unarmed combat or some sort of weapon, and the defender rolls some sort of defense (either to dodge or block the attack). If the attacker is successful in issuing an attack challenge to an opponent, then the attacker either inflicts a hit (see “Vitality and Shock”), imposes shock, imposes some sort of special condition, or both.

  • Weapons:

    • Hand-to-hand weapons by default fall into one of three categories:

      • small (held in one hand, such as a dagger or knife),

      • one-handed (rapiers, battle-axes and longswords) and

      • two-handed (two-handed weapons, such as polearms, claymores or great axes).

  • Ranged weapons by default are also:

    • small (hand crossbows, holdout pistols),

    • one-hand (light crossbows, blaster pistols), or

    • two-hand (heavy crossbows, longbows, machine guns).

  • Weapons by default fall into groups, such as

    • blades, axes, or bludgeons,

    • projectile, energy

    • laser, maser, plasma

      • Unarmed attacks are always considered small bludgeon weapons
      • All weapons inflict at least one hit, unless otherwise specified by powers or enhancements
      • CNG is typically added to ranged attacks made in an attack challenge, and STA is added to all unarmed or hand-to-hand attacks.
      • Circumstances can change the attribute that is added, and identities can take powers or enhancements that can permanently set the attribute that is added

Power Combat: Power challenges can be issued or answered in either nonviolent or violent encounters. In a combat scenario where powers are being used—namely, when an identity is bringing a power to bear against another identity intended to inflict a hit and impose shock—the process is similar to physical combat.

When an identity wants to deliver a harmful power upon an opponent, the actor, or attacker, rolls an appropriate supernatural skill to initiate a power. When the defender, also known as the resistor, rolls to resist the power's effects, the resistor also rolls the Steel skill, but rather than adding Cunning or Stature, the resistor’s POW must be added to the resistor's roll (this represents the resistor exerting force of will to neutralize the effect of the power) unless specified by powers or enhancements. If the attacker wins the power challenge, then the resistor suffers the effect of the power, or takes damage, according to the power's description.

If the caster's power inflicts a hit on the resistor (such as from a blast of fire, or a bolt of magical energy), then the process is identical to physical combat. It is important to note, however, that by default the resistor's POW is still added to the Steel roll; the resistor cannot dodge or block such a supernatural attack unless the resistor has a power or enhancement that says otherwise (allowing the resistor to add CNG or STA instead of POW, for example).

Vitality and Shock: Identities typically enter a violent encounter at full vitality, with no hits sustained (no marks against vitality). Once combat begins, however, this will most certainly change.

  • All identities have a four-tiered shock track that can be reached in the course of sustaining hits: shock 1, 2, 3 and 4.

  • When an identity succeeds either an attack or power challenge that inflicts one or more hits, the opponent marks vitality one or more times. The attacker inflicts a hit, the defender sustains a hit; marking a hit, sustaining a hit, taking a hit are interchangeable terms.

  • When an opponent has sustained a number of hits equal to their vitality [1 + STA], plus any bonuses from powers, enhancements, or circumstances, the opponent reaches, or is in, shock 1.

  • Additional hits sustained beyond shock 1 result in the opponent reaching shock 2, 3 and 4, in that order.

  • By default, it takes only one successive hit beyond shock 1 to reach the next, more precarious status.

  • Each status imposes a penalty, in the form of one or more dice, on all challenges until the end of a violent encounter. This penalty is not cumulative, but powers or enhancements could be acquired that cause an opponent who has reached a particular status to suffer a more severe penalty. The penalty persists with the identity until the identity recovers from the associated status:

    • shock 1: roll one(1) less die

    • shock 2: roll two(2) less dice

    • shock 3: roll three(3) less dice

    • shock 4: roll four(4) less dice

  • No number of hits sustained from a successful attack or power challenge can immediately “roll over” from one status to the next. When an identity reaches shock 1, only a separate attack that follows can inflict one or more hits that result in the identity reaching shock 2, 3 or 4. For example, an opponent can sustain 3 hits before incurring shock 1. Your successful attack or power challenge against the opponent inflicts 4 hits. The 4th hit does not result in the opponent reaching both shock 1 and 2; only hits inflicted by successful attack or power challenges that follow the first mean the opponent reaches shock 2, then 3, then 4.

  • When an opponent reaches shock 4, they are rendered inoperative. Powers or enhancements can cause an opponent to be rendered inoperative without reaching shock 4. Conversely, powers or enhancements could allow an opponent to reach shock 4 and not be rendered inoperative.

  • When an opponent reaches shock 4 and is rendered inoperative, it is close to being negated. If no significant measures are taken—whether mundane or supernatural—to stabilize the opponent before the end of a violent encounter, then the opponent is negated.

  • Stabilizing an inoperative identity can be performed by any other identity without any special skill, enhancement or power, but doing so does require an action to declare. No rolling of dice is necessary. If the opponent is a player-controlled identity, then the details of the negated identity must be established within the fiction, such as the death of a character.

  • Hits are marked as they are sustained unless a power or enhancement dictates otherwise. The penalties associated with shock are enacted immediately as combat takes place. Powers or enhancements could be utilized to delay shock, or the penalties from shock, until the end of the round, after more than one round has passed, or even until the end of the violent encounter they were sustained in.

Naming shock levels: While it’s not necessary, a group may wish to do this, especially if they intend to have multiple shock tracks for different types of shock. Physical shock might have status levels such as Injured, Wounded, Incapacitated and Dying, for example. If it makes sense within the fiction and the group finds it rewarding, go for it!

Different Shock tracks: A group may decide it’s important to have separate physical and mental shock tracks, or even physical, mental and social. The physical shock track may only have bearing within violent encounters, whereas mental and social only have bearing within nonviolent encounters. All of these possibilities are valid.

Shock Outside of Violent Encounters: Since anything can be an identity, identities might have vitality and shock tracks that are relevant in nonviolent encounters (again the locked door identity is referred to as in “Obstacles” above). Since the default shock track has no explicit connective tissue to the fiction, it has the flexibility to satisfy a variety of different narrative needs.

Recovery: Shock can be abated, either over time with rest, or with powers that allow one identity to heal another (or an identity to heal itself) through either mundane or supernatural means. Identities may have enhancements that allow for more rapid recovery.

  • Recovery is a special type of challenge that can only be attempted once per scene in addition to all other actions or events that have taken place in the scene.
  • An identity can attempt a recovery challenge during a violent encounter only if the identity hasn't reached beyond shock 1; otherwise, the recovery challenge can only be attempted after a violent encounter has ended.
    • An identity who has sustained shock rolls one die and adds their STA to the highest die rolled,
    • The chorus rolls one die and adds the total number of hits the identity sustained;
    • if the identity succeeds this challenge, then depending on the shock the identity has reached, some or all of the shock the identity has sustained is removed.
  • Provided an identity has not reached shock 1, all hits are removed (unmarked, erased) immediately at the end of a violent encounter. If an identity has reached shock 1, it may immediately attempt recovery at the end of the violent encounter during which it became Injured. If the Injured identity succeeds the recovery challenge, then half of their hits (rounded down) are removed. The other half are removed at the end of the following scene.
  • If an identity has reached shock 2, it can attempt to recover just as if it had reached shock 1, but only at the end of the scene following the violent encounter during which it reached shock 2. An identity at shock 2 can act normally in the following scene. The chorus rolls two dice, as opposed to one, to oppose an identity's recovery attempt at shock 2. If the identity at shock 2 succeeds the recovery challenge, then the hit causing the identity to reach shock 2 is removed, and the identity’s shock abates to status 1. The identity can attempt recovery from shock 1 at the end of the following scene.
  • If an identity has reached shock 3, then the only thing the identity can do in the following scene is attempt recovery—it is rendered inoperative, effectively removed from the following scene. The chorus rolls three dice, as opposed to one, to oppose an identity's recovery attempt at shock 3. If the identity succeeds, then they return to the scene and are no longer inoperative, and may act normally in the following scene with the following caveat: if they act within another violent encounter before a nonviolent encounter has been completed, they will immediately be rendered inoperative at the end of the first round in which they act. The identity can attempt recovery from shock 3 at the end of the following scene, then status 2 in the scene following that, and so on.
  • If an identity has reached shock 4, and has been stabilized, then the only thing the identity can do in the following scene is attempt recovery—it is rendered inoperative, effectively removed from the following scene. The chorus rolls four dice, as opposed to one, to oppose an identity's recovery attempt from shock 4. If the identity succeeds, then they return to the scene and are no longer inoperative, but remains unable to act normally. The identity can attempt recovery from shock 4 at the end of the following scene, then status 3 in the scene following that, and so on.

Powers, skills or enhancements can be chosen by identities that involve aiding another identity in the recovery process. This can range from being able to assist in the recovery challenge, as one might assist in any other type of challenge, to replacing the identity's recovery roll with a skill roll, or some other type of effect that gets agreed upon between the character providing assistance and the chorus. Supernatural means of healing might also abate an identity's shock, remove sustained hits, or some combination of both.

Regarding the raising of the dead: The group must come to a consensus as to whether or not powers or enhancements can be created that allow characters to raise, resurrect, reincarnate, or in any other way revive identities, either player- or chorus-controlled, that are living beings after they have died. The genre of the game being played, as well as the setting the game is taking place in, could have an impact on this decision—whatever makes sense within the fiction.

Defense: Survival is an instinct all creatures are born with. Therefore, when the threat of harm is imminent, an identity who is subject to potential harm seeks to either avoid harm outright, or intercept the incoming harm with something that will deflect the harm away from the identity. The basic instinct is to avoid first above everything else.

All identities freely unlock six skills, three of which are reactive—expressing basic defense. These three skills—Counter, Steel, and Defend—represent the instinctual reflex to avoid attacks.

  • CMP is added to a defender's Counter skill for answering interaction challenges
  • STA is added to a defender's Defend skill for answering attack challenges
  • POW is added to a defender's Steel skill for answering power challenges

Passive vs. Active Defense: When Defend is used to answer attack challenges, Steel is used to answer power challenges, and Counter is used to answer interaction challenges, these are known as passive defenses, where the defender performs no special action when answering such challenges.

  • An identity who has practiced how to defend with a weapon or a shield, however, or has a special power that can be used to resist a harmful power, can use a non-defense skill to avoid an attack, power or interaction challenge—this is known as active defense. Active defenses require that the defender

    • is aware of an incoming attack, and
    • has declared that an action will be used to anticipate an attack that will be parried, blocked, or resisted in a special way, unless the defender has a power or enhancement that allows for parrying or blocking a strike reflexively, requiring no action to be declared to anticipate an incoming attack.
  • The defender uses a weapon, shield, or power-related skill to avoid actively; while the defender can use a weapon skill to parry, without having to have a separate parry skill for the same weapon, or a power skill to use a special power to resist, a separate skill must be taken to block with a shield.

  • When it comes to parrying with weapons, the “like against like” rule is in effect by default: light weapons can only parry attacks made with light weapons, and heavy weapons can only parry attacks made with heavy weapons.

  • Shields, on the other hand, can block weapons of any category equal to or less than the category of the weapon; heavy shields can block heavy or light weapons, but light shields can only block light weapons. The only exception to either of these situations would be an identity who has powers or enhancements that supersede this rule.

  • Armor: Whether it be thick padding, a kevlar vest, or a full set of power armor, armor is another means by which an identity protects itself from injury, worn by anyone who wants an extra layer of protection between themselves and an incoming attack

    • Armor functions no differently from any other piece of gear. Someone can wear an average, "off the rack" suit of armor, but in order to truly benefit from its ability to reduce the impact of an opponent's attack, the wearer must take one or more powers or enhancements that are provided by the above-average armor
    • It is up to player-chorus consensus to decide on the exact mechanical benefit from armor:
      • for example, one possible benefit that above-average armor might provide is to allow the wearer to ignore the results of dice that the attacker has rolled in an attack challenge (this would take place after any rerolls have been resolved)


Throughout play, players will earn development points, which they can use either to increase the attributes of or acquire new traits for the identities they control. These development points gained through advancement reward the players for expressing their characters' concepts in a meaningful way, accomplishing goals that are either personal or group-oriented, and for the overall progression of a good collaborative story at the end of a session.

Baseline method of earning development points: Keep a tally of the results of challenges you issue, both successes and failures. When you have accumulated a combination of both successful and failed challenges equal to your potential threshold, earn a development point

Ex. Potential is 3, potential threshold is 5, tally 2 successful & 3 failed challenges issued, or 3 successful and 2 failed challenges issued

One (1) development point is earned automatically every time a chorus-controlled identity, typically opponents of player-controlled identities, is negated. Development points may also be earned when the group decides it’s relevant, such as when they succeed challenges. The chorus may award development points as well. Group consensus should drive the specific details for how development points are earned.

The player invests development points into the character on a one-for-one basis: every point spent to increase an attribute increases that attribute's value by one, or every point spent to acquire a new trait results in the character acquiring one trait. The only restriction to this process involves the character's order of importance for attributes: the rules set into effect at Character Creation for how attribute priorities impact starting point allocation apply to advancement as well (second-priority attributes can't be greater than first-priorities, third-priorities can't be greater than second-priorities, and the hindrance can't be greater than the third-priority).

If you choose to acquire a new trait for your character, one point invested will allow you to

  • unlock a new skill
  • acquire a new enhancement, or upgrade an existing one
  • acquire a new power, or upgrade an existing one
  • acquire a new talent
  • Increase vitality by one, allowing them to sustain one more hit in a violent encounter before suffering shock


Rather than acquire new traits, a character can upgrade a trait instead. Rather than acquire a new power, for example, the player can increase the potency or utility of one of their character's existing powers. Upgrading traits, rather than acquiring a new trait that performs a similar effect, not only cuts down on a player's bookkeeping and helps to speed up play, it helps to better focus the character rather than have the character spread thin. (Of course, there's always those characters who enjoy being a jack-of-all-trades type, so the system is capable of catering to either end of the spectrum when it comes to acquiring new traits. Always remember to stay true to your character's overall theme or concept when considering advancement).

Enhancements as Superior: If you wish to define one of your enhancements as superior, it’s treated as if it were double the cost—two enhancements instead of one—when you first take it. It still requires one development point for every time you wish to upgrade the enhancement, unless player-chorus consensus dictates otherwise.

Enhancements as Exceptional: If you wish to define one of your enhancements as exceptional, you must also at the same time define it as superior—effectively worth three creation or development points depending on when its purchased.

Framework Of Advancement

Players should work with the chorus in building into a power or enhancement an advancement framework, or at the very least envision what such a framework might look like even if it’s not specified as a whole from the outset. Rather than making a newly-acquired power or enhancement excessively powerful, there should be room for the power or enhancement to be upgraded with additional development points gained through advancement.

Powers: When powers are first acquired, they should only affect one opponent, or if they are powers that inflict injury, should only inflict one hit. Upgrades can increase the number of targets a power affects, or increase the number of hits inflicted by the power. Additionally, when a power is first acquired, it should have either an Instant or Maintain duration, then can be upgraded later to Independent or Special duration.

Ex. advancement progression with a power: inflict one(1) with a successful power challenge → inflict two(2) hits

enhancements: When enhancements are acquired, they should only provide a benefit of one (+1 to a skill roll, one additional die, reroll one die, force a reroll of one die). If the benefit is a reroll, then initially, the second result should be taken, and the highest die roll result cannot be affected. Upgrades can increase the benefit provided by one (+2, two additional dice), or in the case of a reroll, allow the better result to be taken, or allow the highest die roll result to be affected.

Ex. advancement progression with a skill: Reroll (3rd die, 2nd result) → reroll (3rd die, better result) → +1 to die roll result

Talents: Expertise talents could be upgraded to allow for more than one use per session, to provide more than one bonus die when a skill is rolled, or increase the character's resource cap by more than one.

Space And Time

While the world (or universe, or multiverse) within the fiction may have very specific rules for the passage of time (which are very similar to the passage of time outside the fiction), not every moment of time outside the fiction translates to a moment within the fiction. Long sea voyages may be hand-waved: “it's three weeks later, and you arrive in port”, for example. Such concessions are often made for the sake of efficiency—not everyone wants to roleplay out every single day on such a voyage, unless it has some direct impact on the progression of the story. Just as such concessions are made for the long-term passage of time, they should also be made for smaller-scale time increments as well.

In the Personae system, mechanically speaking, time is specified in three different ways: days, scenes, and sessions.


A day is a period of time that may or may not map directly to the fiction. Regardless of the particular way in which a day passes, a day acts not only just as a way to record the passage of time in the fiction, but acts as another unit of time "currency" the same way a scene does. The descriptive text of powers or enhancements can refer to the day as a limiting factor, such as "once per day".


A scene is a fraction of time that takes place during a game session, an organizational unit typically defined by time within the fiction (days, hours, etc.) and location. Just like a novel is divided into chapters, or a play into acts and scenes, a typical session in an ongoing storyline should consist of several scenes. A scene can last any amount of time, which should not be predetermined (not all scenes will last for one hour, or thirty minutes, or any other specific amount of time). The content of a scene can vary from scene to scene—sometimes it's just receiving information from a venerable sage, but can also involve a thrilling swordfight or a chase.

While the former type of scene is common and sometimes very necessary, the best scenes:

  • involve some sort of conflict, and
  • drive the conflict of the overall story towards one or more climactic moments.

The exact details of a scene should be agreed upon by the group, but be balanced at the same time: allow roleplay to dictate what happens in a scene, not something pre-determined or pre-written, don't cut the players short in what they want to accomplish in a scene, but at the same time don't let a scene languish—periodically ask the players what they are trying to accomplish, and what their overall objective is when beginning a scene. Most of this will happen organically as time goes on, but it's good practice to be mindful of these things as gameplay takes place.


A session of the game can last anywhere from two hours or more, but generally encompasses all of the scenes that take place in the course of one "real-world" meeting of the game group. Traits may refer to game sessions in the explanations of their benefits to a character.


An encounter is a scene that involves conflict. Goals frame the rising action of an encounter. Nonviolent Encounters: Encounters typically start with words, and are referred to as nonviolent encounters because in a nonviolent encounter, there is a chance that the encounter will not come to weapon blows or offensive powers. Violent Encounters: Violent encounters ensue when words begin to fail, and identities begin staking their lives by bringing harm upon others to accomplish their desires.

Time And Encounters

The best stories involve a tightly-structured plot, and the best plots emerge from the strongest conflicts. Without conflict, there is no plot, and without plot there is no story (at least, not one worth engaging in). It's very easy to have characters walk around the world, carrying on conversations with people they meet, and in general doing nothing in particular. It's when ideas and practices begin to clash against each other: the best form of government, belief in the gods or the supernatural, secrets about the history of the world that conflict arises, and that conflict—and its resolution—drives the best stories.


When a scene becomes an encounter, the scene is said to have escalated. The order of escalation is as follows: scene → nonviolent encounter → violent encounter


As discussed above, a violent encounter is resolved as an extended challenge, where all identities involved in the challenge are put into an order of action by rolling to determine the action order. The violent encounter could be resolved in as little as two or three rounds, or as many as ten or twelve rounds. The resolution of the conflict should be kept in mind by both players and chorus as the violent encounter unfolds, and the chorus should periodically ask if the goals of the player-controlled characters have been achieved. (This might occasionally involve discussing “out-of-character”, "out-of-game", or “player” knowledge, rather than “in-character" or "in-game" knowledge, but in cases where the death of characters isn't the immediate goal, this should be made plain by all parties involved.)

Encounter Time Vs “Game” Time

The amount of "game" time (the way time is tracked within the fiction) that passes in the resolution of an encounter should be a consensus of both the players and the chorus, especially in the case a violent encounter. Rounds in a violent encounter are little more than a way to make sure that everyone gets a turn in combat, and that such turns aren't all taken at the same time; they are at best only an abstract way to determine the passage of time. If one game group wants to say that one round equals ten seconds, that's fine; it doesn't mean that every game group has to do this as well. In fact, if a group wants to determine the passage of “game” time after a violent encounter is resolved (“this combat took about twenty minutes”, for example), that's okay too.

Distance And Location

The impact of space and its dimensions increases as you progress from scene, to nonviolent encounter to violent encounter. The distance covered by an arrow in flight, the range of a lightning bolt conjured by a mage, or how long it takes for the scout to scurry stealthily back to the allied camp become increasingly more important as conflict intensifies.

While it's a point that has been amply expressed across the body of these rules, it applies here as well: just as time is a matter that should be agreed upon by the game group, so should space be one as well. If one group prefers a closely-structured, tactical framework for determining distance and location (such as a large-scale grid and miniatures), then they are welcome to implement such things in their game. For groups that prefer to focus on the narrative resolution of a violent encounter, and aren't so worried about the particulars of distance and location, then the group can use relative terms such as “close”, “near”, “far” and “out of range”. The system provides an abstract way to resolve conflict in both nonviolent and violent encounters, and it's at the game group's discretion to define or not define these things to their desired level of distinction.

Supporting Characters

All the characters that the main characters encounter throughout the course of a story, whose actions are controlled by the chorus, are referred to as supporting characters (non-player characters, or NPCs, in traditional role-playing game parlance). Most supporting characters will only require stats if they will have an impact on the progression of the story, interacting with the main characters in such a way that establishes, escalates, and resolves conflict.


Main characters will often have sidekicks, cohorts, familiars, and loyal followers. Companions are a special type of player-controlled identity (see below). The maximum number of companions a character is able to have should be decided upon by group-chorus consensus.

Companion Prerequisites: In order to have a companion, a character must:

  1. Have a minimum potential of 3 (sum of attributes no less than thirty), and
  2. Acquire an enhancement that represents the companion aligning their desires with that of the character.

So long as the main character achieves a potential of 3 upon taking a companion enhancement (going from an attribute sum of twenty-nine(29) to that of a thirty(30)), it is sufficient to satisfy the first requirement.

Companion Development: A companion character goes through creation the same way that the main characters do. However, all companion characters:

  1. have a starting potential of 1, going through creation with ten creation points, and
  2. begin play as minion allies (see below).

You must spend your own development points to increase the attributes of your companion characters. You may upgrade the companion enhancement in order to increase the companion from a minion, to a minor, to a major ally, in that order, each requiring their own development point expenditure.


Allies are supporting characters that aid main characters in the pursuit of their goals, controlled by the chorus unless they are companions.


Adversaries are chorus-controlled identities that have goals of their own, oftentimes running in opposition to the main characters' goals. Whether the supporting character is an ally or an adversary, each follows a three-level progression of overall "toughness", relative to the main characters:

  • minion allies/adversaries only have two shock levels,
  • minor allies/adversaries have four shock levels, but the first hit they sustain results in shock 1 immediately, and
  • major allies/adversaries have all four shock levels, and sustain hits the same way that player-controlled characters do. It should be decided by group-chorus consensus as to whether or not adversary characters are able to earn criticals.
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