Previously I walked through how the character conversion worked, this time I’m going to look at Stress/Complications and how I used Madness to get the “feel” of Wonderland.
First thing that we need to establish: Characters in this hack of Wonderland No More are not natives of Wonderland. In the novels, when Alice arrives in Wonderland, whether it's a dream or she physically enters the world, her physical appearance does not change. She is still the same girl. This is not the case with this hack. When a character enters Wonderland, again whether it is physically or in a dream, they are not the same person. They become an amalgamation of their real selves and their Wonderland counterparts. This is an important difference, especially when we get into Madness later on.
When I originally ran this game it was going to be a one shot, so I put a different spin on how the players got to Wonderland. I set it up that each player was in fact playing themselves at a convention of some sort, on their way to an Alice in Wonderland related panel. As they entered the room they were transported into Wonderland against their will. They were also simultaneously transformed into their Wonderland counterparts. They retained who they were at their core, but their Wonderland personalities eventually overcame their own real personalities. Once we decided to play again, instead of changing the premise of the story, I continued the idea of their unwilling transportation to Wonderland. Basically they have a connection now and Wonderland can draw them back as needed. Now the idea of the player characters being two people, a “real” person and a Wonderland person, is from the original setting guide. But for purposes that will soon be discussed, I have taken that concept a little further. Suffice it to say, the two characters in one concept will have a significant role in this hack.
Stress is pretty much limited to the physical stress track that is used in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game. Characters in Wonderland don’t “die,” they wake up/are returned to the “real” world. They basically get stressed out and the next thing they know they are back in their bedrooms, or wherever. Complications are an option instead of stress and should be used as often as the story supports it. If a character does something that results in a complication rather than stress because a complication better supports the story, then do that. The only real difference regarding stress and complications is that when a player rolls an opportunity, it is not resolved by any complication or stress other than madness.
Madness is the single most important change to get the "feel" of Wonderland. As mentioned before, each player is essentially playing two characters, themselves and their Wonderland character. As is stated in the novels, everyone in Wonderland is mad, however, the “real” character is not, at least not in comparison to the Wonderland characters. As stated earlier the player is playing an amalgamation of themselves and their Wonderland counterparts. Whenever the Wonderland character does something there is a risk of the “real” part of the character being affected. This is represented in the game as madness, which is a trait that the Wonderland character gains once they roll an opportunity. I know it's odd to give the character a trait on an opportunity instead of a complication, but bare with me. It starts with a d12 that the player adds to their own dice pool and can use in any way they see fit; either towards the total or for an effect die. The next time the player rolls an opportunity the madness die gets stepped back to a d10 and so on. The purpose behind this is that the Wonderland character benefits from a little madness, but the “real” character is troubled by it. As the madness grows the benefit decreases as the “real” character grows more and more troubled, until finally there is a breaking point. Once the madness die is at d4, the next opportunity causes a bout of madness and the player loses control of their character for one round and the GM takes over. Once the bout of madness is over the player regains control of their character, the madness track is reset, but the character takes a madness wound so that the next opportunity they roll will start at d10 instead of d12 and continue to decrease with each subsequent wound. In the event that a character maxes out their madness track with wounds, they “wake up” or whatever and upon their next excursion they will have recovered their wounds. This would basically mean they worked out their troubling dreams and are on the mend.
It is important that the madness dice not be just any dice, there needs to be a set of dice that are set aside specifically for madness. This is because the madness die is also used to trigger a surreal event. In the Savage Worlds setting guide for Wonderland No More, surreal events are triggered by rolling on random encounters. Not so in the hack. When a player adds the madness die to their dice pool and rolls an opportunity with it, that opportunity does not affect the madness die, but instead triggers a surreal event. This is the second change to attempt to get the “feel” of Wonderland.
Finally, I just want to mention how dice are used. Rolling the dice is pretty straight forward, roll your dice pool, set aside opportunities, add two together for the total, and use any die left over as an effect die (for stress/complications/assets). Plot points can be spent to add more dice to both the total and how many effect die are used. As a reaction you would follow the same steps, but no effect die is kept unless you win the test and spend a plot point.
So with these changes established we got together and continued the story from where we left off with the new rules and I think it worked. Everyone seemed to take to the rules quite well and they all seemed to have a good time. Our Wonderland game is more of a filler than our regular game, so we don’t play it all that much. It’ll be awhile before I can really see if it works, but all-in-all I liked it. Now that the Cortex+ Hackers Guide preview is out, I will probably polish some of the rules and maybe eventually put it all together on paper, but for now I am calling this done. It was a fun experience and I have learned a lot, which is the real point any way right? Please leave some feedback, I would very much like to hear your thoughts on this.