Let’s start by taking a look at an Encounter:
*Shipwreck (2 turns per round)*
Destroy: 4 (Banish, purify, or destroy Shipwreck)
Redirect: 8 (Lure Shipwreck elsewhere)
Outlast: 6 (Survive until dawn or escape)
Shipwreck manifests as a blue-black cloud like ink swirling through water. Buried in the absolute darkness of its body is something solid that can be felt or struck, but never seen. Every so often something deep inside its formless body flashes with a warm orange light.
Fog (2) – The Horror expands, spreading its inky cloud out around itself. No one can use Sensitivity rolls to see their surroundings.
Slam (3) – The Horror creeps close to a party member, slamming its solid core into them for 2 damage and knocking them over, preventing Daring rolls for the next turn.
Siren Song (2) – The Horror flashes that peculiar orange light from inside the cloud. Everyone who can see the light gains 2 Scatter.
Breaking Wave (1) – The Horror manifests something solid within its form and rushes over a person, knocking them over and preventing Daring rolls for the next turn.
Splinter (3) – The Horror crashes into a target, slamming the wreckage at its core into them for 3 damage.
Players may enter into Encounters when they find a monster, or when there is a natural disaster, or when they need to do a high-stakes negotiation with a powerful entity.
When the Encounter starts, every player makes a roll to build the Advantage Pool. The Advantage Pool is an abstract way of describing the things that give the players the upper hand in combat. In the base game, they roll Adaptability/Tactics, but in your game that roll might be different. They count the total number of successes everyone got into one pool.
Once the pool is formed, it’s time to start.
Instead of having an initiative order like many games of this type, there are two phases: The Player Turn and the GM Turn. The first thing that happens after the first Advantage Pool is formed is the Player Turn.
The players can each take one action during the Player Turn, one at a time, in any order they like.
When they are in an Encounter, there are essentially two things a player can choose to do. They can choose to Advance a Goal, or they can choose to Contribute to the Pool.
Contribute to the Pool
When they Contribute to the Pool, they are taking tactical actions that will give the team an advantage. This can be literally anything the player can think of that might give the party an edge. They might climb a nearby structure to get a better view, or they might cast a magical barrier to protect the party. They might try to talk the opponent down, or summon a helpful spirit.
If they contribute using a skill roll, they add their total successes to the party’s Advantage Pool. If they contribute using a spell, they add the total Magic cost of the spell to the Advantage Pool.
Advance a Goal
When players Advance a Goal, they are taking a step toward ending the Encounter. In the base game, there are three different ways of doing this:
*Destroy. To defeat the Encounter through brute force.*
*Redirect. To convince the Encounter to take a different course.*
*Outlast. To survive the Encounter and escape alive.*
As you can see in the example above, each of these will have a different difficulty and definition. An Encounter with a wild animal may be easy to Redirect if the party wants to frighten it away, but difficult to Outlast if it decides to pursue them. An Encounter with a forest fire may be difficult to Destroy if the players try to put it out by themselves, but easier to Outlast if the players can only get to safety.
The difficulty of each Goal is the number of successes needed to advance it once. In the example above, it takes 4 Successes to advance Destroy once.
Players don’t need to roll all these successes at once. They can take successes from the Advantage Pool too. They can also advance Goals by casting spells – in the base game, spending 1 Magic is equivalent to 1 success.
Once a Goal has been advanced five times, then the Encounter ends. The players have successfully Destroyed, Redirected, or Outlasted the danger.
Once every player has taken an action, then it’s time for the GM to take their turn.
Every Encounter has a set number of turns per round. Pay attention to this number – as a rule, the more actions an Encounter gets per round, the more difficult it is. If the Encounter has the same number of actions as the party, it will be very challenging.
The GM chooses actions from the Encounter’s list. Every action has a cost next to it – if the players pay this many successes from the Advantage Pool, they defend against the attack and nothing happens.
For every action the Encounter tries to take, the party has an opportunity to spend successes to defend. If there aren’t enough successes in the pool to defend, or if the party decides not to defend, then the action happens and the party faces the consequences. They might take damage, or lose the ability to use a certain type of roll for a round. There might even be story consequences, like an attack against other nearby people or a fire spreading.
Once the GM has taken enough actions, it’s time to go back to the players.
We’ve already talked about Lesson, the important theme that the player chooses for their character’s special arc.
Advancement in Harmony Drive is meant to resemble an RPG or a TV series, in that every character gets their own side story in the spotlight. Lesson is a part of that.
When a GM is ready to start telling a long-term story in Harmony Drive, first they choose a player to get the spotlight for a couple sessions. Then, they use that character’s Lesson as a guideline for these couple sessions. Once this arc is over, two things happen.
- The character in the spotlight gets to increase two of their Facets by 1 each.
- Every character in the story gets to take an additional Skill.
- Every character in the story gets a chance to change their Lesson or Key.
Then, the GM moves to tell a story about the next character, repeating this process until everyone in the party has had a chance to enjoy the spotlight and learn their Lesson. Once everyone has had their own arc, then the GM tells a finale arc to tie everything together, which ends the Season.
Once the Season ends, every character gets to choose a new ability from their class list. They can choose any ability from their current Season or lower. Consider “Season” this game’s equivalent of “Level”.
Then, if everyone wants to continue telling stories with the same characters, everyone chooses a new Lesson and the process starts all over again.
To Do – Challenges
What kinds of encounters will be in your game?
Will you use Destroy, Redirect, Outlast, or something else?
How will characters advance in your game?
If you’re not using spotlight arcs, do you have a way to make sure the characters share the spotlight?