Succession by Meinberg
PostOriginal SA post Succession
being a tale yet untold of myth, might, and mystery
I recently purchased Succession after hearing it was a game with a melancholy air to it, using a storygame, rules light system. Since I'm designing a similar game, I decided that I'd give it a look. It turned out to be a little too rules light for my purposes, but I figured I could salvage the purchase by doing a F&F of it.
The first thing that becomes apparent is that the game has really bad layout. It uses a standard letter sized page, with extremely thin margins and single columns of text. This makes paragraphs stretch too long, with lines that are difficult to read easily. This problem is further compounded by the text, which is written in a way that tries to capture the tone of the world and stories to be told in it, which is not a great choice for rules text. It also doesn't help that the font is small and cramped. Fortunately, the book is only thirteen pages long, so it's easy to read it over multiple times.
That said, let's dive into the contents.
This page serves as the only concrete setting details for the game, as well as character creation. Essentially, a succession of faiths have led the world from Chaos into Light into Fire and there are new gods around these days and strange things outside of society. You start by choosing which of the faith your character follows, but can only pick the big three, which suggests something about the nature of your character's personality. Then, you choose your Quest, which is broken into two categories. In the first, whether your character seeks, follows, or obeys; in the second, whether your character aims to defend, explore, or destroy. And that's it for character creation!
This page is the core mechanics of the game. Normally, when you perform an action, you roll 2d6, then assign one of the d6s to degree of sucess and one of the d6s to the degree of Misfortune (consequence). High results mean greater success but less Misfortune, so there's choice when rolling one high and one low, whether the player wants more success or less Misfortune. If there's more than one possible Misfortune that can happen, as determined by the other players (it's a GM-less game), additional dice are rolled and each potential Misfortune has to have a die attached to it.
There are a few other potential modifiers that might into play. A character can get Blessings from their god, which are additional dice that trigger on a 1-2 and counter any one consequence, either one just rolled or an ongoing one. Helping another character adds another dice to the pool, but also adds a Misfortune that a die has to be assigned to that represents what happens to the helper. PvP is also allowed by is not explained very well.
Should one of your fellow wanderers take action against you, they may use one of your lingering Misfortunes against you as a Blessing to them, but must confront your Blessings as Misfortunes that may befall them in turn. In any event, they perform a Deed against you, and Aim and Misfortune is theirs to bear; only afterward may you perform a Deed in turn.
How exactly the results of a success or Misfortune would impact each character is far more vague than in a standard roll, where the text makes it clear that Misfortunes are decided by consensus of all of the other players.
This page describes the basic actions that your character can perform. It also introduces new character creation elements out of nowhere.
First is the list of the universal actions: take flight or cover, strike or smite, persuade or beguile, hold fast, and supplicate. The list also provides some common Misfortunes that might come with each of these actions, and the collection of actions helps to indicate the general tone of the game, where running and hiding or finding emotional steadfastness are as mechanically important as fighting. In addition, each character chooses two actions from the following list: speak wisdom, command forces, craft goods, and work wonders. This has an interesting effect of making leadership as rare and nearly as mystical as being able to work magic, which also helps to highlight the tone. It also shows the poor layout at work again, as there's no reason for this choice to be presented here rather than earlier in the more dedicated character creation section.
Sorcery and Craft
This section goes into more detail about the specialist skills, and especially working wonders. The misfortunes from working wonders take the form of Strains, which are lingering curses that can only be removed by reaching out to the character's god and asking for help, which will be offered at increasing cost based on the number of Strains removed and with consequences and costs based off of the god in question. This does make magic the most complex system and gives more narrative push to drive characters that use magic, but also makes magic feel more dangerous in a way that's interesting to play out at the table.
This is the longest section, but it also includes a section going over an example beginning to the game.
More pertinently, it describes how to make Quests for a character to face. Going around the table, the players first assign the Quest an Adversary from the following list:
Each Adversary has sub-types to choose from next, then another player chooses the Bane from another list, and the final player selects a Fate for the Adversary, this time not from a list, which represents the final outcome if the Adversary is allowed to continue unchecked. Each time that a player fails a roll or suffers a major Misfortune, the Adversary performs one of their Deeds, which pushes the narrative closer to accomplishing their Fate. If the Adversary completes five Deeds, then the Fate will definitely happen at some point. The exact consequences are left for the table to determine.
Tyrant: A single bad guy who seeks to control others Environment: Hazardous conditions that are difficult to cross Victim: A vulnerable person who is put in greater danger by the character's actions Monstrosity: Something formerly human turned into something far more dangerous Cohort: An organization that works in opposition to the character Scourge: A harmful societal condition
A simple sub-system is presented for traveling through the wilderness. Degree of success determines how long it takes to arrive at the destination and degree of Misfortune determines how much danger happens along the way. It's pretty simple and feels a little extraneous, but it does put emphasis onto travel as an element of the game, making it a valid option for a character to pursue.
This is the character advancement system. Every time a character completes a Quest, they get access to a new Revelation from a list which counts as a replenishing Blessing.
This section is essentially GM advice, but since it is a GM-less game, it's useful for all of the players. It does a good job of getting across the desired atmosphere of the game, to try to get all of the players on the same page. While it's entirely possible to ignore the advice here and go fully gonzo, following it would likely allow the group to make works with a sufficient degree of melancholy and terror. The advice here also emphasizes the human nature of the player characters, suggesting that their human foibles and weaknesses can be used to drive the narrative just as much as the strange and the awe-inspiring targets of their Quests.
The book finishes with a series of lists. First are the Adversary and Bane lists, for use in creating Quests. Then comes Lots which are random idea seeds for Creatures, Regions, Events, Locations, Persons, Groups, Artifacts, and Magics that a character might encounter. These lists serve as a quick and dirty tool to let a player bereft of ideas come up with something on the fly, as well as to help keep tone consistent. The final list is Scenes and Portents which presents 18 different occurrences that might serve as a seed for a scene when no other ideas are present.
While Succession is a bit too rules light for me, it still manages to use its minimal framing to evoke its atmosphere effectively. The mechanics turn out to be a bit more complex than originally presented, managing multiple Blessings and Misfortunes in order to make sure that the right things succeed and the worst possible consequences don't come up. While it's not breaking any particularly new ground, it's a solid entry in the storygame market with some cool lists of melancholic dark fantasy stuff that is surprisingly unskeevy.
If you're interested in checking it out for yourself, you can buy it on DTRPG for 3 bucks. The lists are particularly cool and the Adversaries could easily be reworked into fronts for a Dungeon World game.