This is a discussion of the reasoning behind Organic Nobilis, my attempt to remove all "per session" and "per story" mechanics from the game.
"Story" is a frustratingly arbitrary method to reward players. And "session" can be equally frustrating, especially if playing online, where 4 "sessions" in chat can equal one tabletop session, or the idea of a "session" is demolished by asynchronous play like play-by-post or play-by-email.
So I started working on a more organic and unified way to reward players (and handle all other session/story mechanisms). The results are here, but you can see the reasoning behind the choices below:
We assume the average story length is 3 sessions. Thus, at the end of each story, a Familia is going to have 3 dynasty points, one MP refresh per Familia member, and either 1 XP per Familia member /OR/ one chancel point per Familia. The system thus scales things to the size of the Familia.
Given X as the size of the Familia. We assume Y is the expected number of XP awarded in a session. With 3 sessions per story, we have 3 x Y points to spend.
Dynasty points are simple, and should be the basis for all this. Assume X is the cost of a DP, and with 1 "point" per player is spent each session, we get 3 dynasty points in an average Nobilis session. Everything else will follow from that. If we assume one MP refresh plus one CP per story, that should cost roughly 3 * (Y-1) total, rounded up. So if Y is 10, for instance, this should cost around 25 points. A refresh should probably be a little cheaper than a CP, since it's expected to happen every "story" while a CP might be replaced by a Chancel point from time to time.
Chancel points are a sticky problem. In the current system, they effectively cost as many character points as there are members in the Familia. Which means they should cost ZX (or the cost of a character point times the number of members in the Familia). Since a Dynasty Point costs X points, the most elegant solution is the following:
So what is a good source for points? We could establish a list of criteria for rewards, but that feels as arbitrary as the "story" mechanic we're trying to replace. Luckily, there seems to already be an underused game mechanic that has numbers - Bonds. And by rewarding XP through Bonds, we encourage their use in the story. This has the added benefit of rewarding during play, rather than after it.
We don't want people hammering on the same Bond over and over again, so let's allow them to be used only once without a refresh of some kind. So we have a potential maximum of 20 XP per story without refreshing. A Dynasty Point is worth 1XP, and a story is about 3 sessions, so we have 3 XP per story dedicated to Dynasty Points, leaving us with 17. Let's say half of that is an MP refresh, and half of that is a Character Point, with the Character Point being slightly more rare. So a CP is worth 10, and an MP refresh is worth 5 (leaving 2 points of wiggle room).
That seems a bit limiting, so let's add refreshing to the picture. I propose making refreshing Bonds cost a Dynasty Point - this way, even a player without any XP can still use a resource to get out of it. If we have one refresh each story, we actually have 20-3-F. But people are probably going to refresh more than once - let's assume twice a "story" - so we have 40-3-2F.
Given a Familia size of 5 (a reasonable upper limit in most games), then we will see 27 points available for an MP refresh and a Character Point. Now we can raise the prices - let's make a CP 15 and an MP refresh 10 - that reduces the disparity between them, which I like. Now a refresh + character point costs 25 (still leaving 2 points of wiggle room). That's less than the expected maximum, but in a good way. I approve.
It's a gut thing, but I'm going to set the cost of a Chancel Point at 10 Dynasty Points (rather than 15). Partly this is because I expect Dynasty Points to be collected a little slower now that players have to actively expend resources to get them instead of just getting them automatically for showing up. Partly it's because Dynasty Points now have one more purpose - refreshing Bonds. And partly it's because I want to see Chancel Points used more often. This is still going to be a slower growth than allowing a Chancel Point every time one raises Realm, of course.
Most Imperator properties don't rely on sessions or stories. In fact, Imperators only have one property that does this, and Chancels have very few. In the original system, a Harvest allows the addition of 2 extra Dynasty Points per session, as long as the Harvest is performed (or 4 for a Great Harvest). Conversely, a Failing Imperator loses Dynasty Points each session (though this can be offset by the 1 Dynasty Point earned each session).
Now that Dynasty Points aren't earned per session, this doesn't work so well. We could just say "Spend F and get 1+2/4 points (so 3 or 5)" but that just feels ugly and inelegant, and Nobilis cries out for elegance. So... let's tie it to the actual act of the Harvest, and give a discount for performing the Harvest. Instead of F, you can spend 1 for 1 if you've just Harvested in a scene.
Of course, we could make the Great Harvest linearly better (when you Harvest, you can spend 1 for 2!). But that also feels inelegant. So we allow the Harvest to work just like the regular Harvest. So where comes the extra benefit? I decided to tie it to Character Points - every CP a noble gains will also give one more Dynasty point, suggesting the potency of the Harvest reaps rewards even when it's not actively sought in a scene.
Now for the flip side: Failing Imperators. They lose 2 Dynasty Points every session in the old system, or roughly 6 every "story" (assuming a story length of 3 sessions). I decided to tie this to refreshes - each refresh gives a loss of one Dynasty Point. Thus the loss is now "X" every "story," which in most games is less than 6. So, I decide that players also cannot purchase Dynasty Points for a Failing Imperator (but can still get them through Nettling and, if they buy the property, Harvesting).
Implications here that aren't in the basic game: Imperators with Harvests can put more into their Chancels than those without. Conversely, Failing Imperators will have Chancels that mature more slowly. Also, characters with Failing Imperators advance more slowly, while those with Harvests can build themselves up quicker. I'm okay with both these implications, but they should definitely be considered.
Like Imperators, Chancels have exactly one property from the rules that are connected to "story" or "session" type mechanics. That is the "Mana Mine." This is actually a horrible knot to untangle, because all the rewards and penalties are Familia-based rather than individual-based as the Imperator qualities were.
Let's look at the "easier" part first: Weak Chancel (-1 Chancel Point) and Dying Chancel (-2 Chancel Points). Each require Miracle Points to be spent (across the whole Familia) per session. Roughly speaking, Weak Chancel is the equivalent of requiring the group, as a whole, to spend 6 MP a "story". Dying Chancel is the equivalent of spending 15 MP a "story". Assuming an average Familia size of 3 and equal distribution of the cost, a Weak Chancel under the old system would take 2 MP from each member per story. A Dying Chancel would take 5. These could be from any MP pool.
Check out my ManaReservoir twist. Now we have a central, single target for the Miracle Points, a middleman of sorts. This is much easier to handle.
Given the Rite of Replenishment, a player would need to spend something like 3 MP to add one MP to the Reservoir. So on average, a loss of 6 MP (per story) under the old system would be a loss of 2 MP (per story) from the Reservoir under the new system. And a loss of 15 MP (per story) is now a loss of 5 from the Reservoir.
Then there's Mana Mine (1-5 Chancel Points), which gives 1-5 MP a "story" total, to the group, somewhat as a free-for-all. With the ManaReservoir rules, we have a source for harvesting; so all this needs to do is put more points into the Reservoir. While it would be nice to let it scale, this is much easier to handle if it doesn't. Since we're assuming a standard Familia size of 3, then one MP per refresh would be equivalent to a 3-point Mana Mine. Let's fix the cost at that point; if it scales poorly for differing Familia sizes, I don't really mind too much. And I will name it Strong Chancel.