Troping

WHAT IS THIS?
This is a plug-in for creating more genre in a game, built around a player resource.  Almost every game setting has some kind of loose genre: Fantasy, Noir, Anime, whatever. However, unless the system is custom-built to reinforce that genre, it’s very possible for that genre to fade out during play. In addition, sometimes you want to alter the genre of a game a bit, to make it a bit more campy, a bit more noir, a bit more… Whatever. Digging into the rules and making big changes isn’t always the best route; sometimes just altering the “top stuff” is good enough.

GENRE BY TROPE
Genres, sub-genres, and the like, are messy things. In general, the easiest way to build such tones is to concentrate on the tropes - the smaller, individualized things that “happen all the time” in the genre; ‘Cops chase Robbers’ is a trope, and so is ‘The Hero gets the Girl’. By creating a list of tropes specific to the style of the game, you can build an individual style for that game.

STRUCTURING A PLAYER TROPE
In order to use this plug-in, you’ll need to make a list of tropes for your game. A good trope for use in a roleplaying game, under these rules, obeys two big rules. The first rule is that it must be something that you want players to do that creates the feeling of the genre. The second rule is that it should be something that, if done often, won’t drive the group to distraction. So, make up a list of everything you want players doing that’s “in-genre”, from ‘falling for the dangerous dames’ to ‘delivering pithy puns and comments before attacking’. Cut all the ones that would annoy if overdone, or make them specific enough to circumstances that they can’t be as severely overdone - “starting a fight with a pithy comment” can only be used once per fight, for example. Then, give each one a catchy title or phrase players can state when calling for it, as well as a quick explanation of what it is, and maybe a few examples from genre fiction.

THE NON-PLAYER TROPES
Not every good trope is meant for player action, or covered under these rules. If your game emulates video game RPGs, it’s a trope to include a Fire Dungeon and an Ice Dungeon, but those aren’t things players manage. Making a list of these to have on-hand is helpful; even if they aren’t part of these rules, they’re fun to have at hand.

HOW MANY TROPES?
A ‘healthy’ starting list of tropes is about ten. Leave extra room on the page where you note them; you’ll likely want to add more as you realize them in play. Once you get to about twenty, you’ll want to hold about there; retiring and replacing tropes is good, but going past twenty means that players won’t always recall them at will.

TROPE POINTS
At the beginning of each session, each player gains five trope points, and a player can’t ever hold more than seven trope points. Trope points are gained and spent in the following ways. It is highly recommended to use tokens to represent these points, with a ‘common pool’ (a big pile or bowl) in the center of the table; the idea of the common pool is included in the ideas below.
  • Awarding: If any player, without prompting through a bounty, and while playing their regular character, causes one of the listed tropes to appear in play in an entertaining way, any other person at the table may award them a trope point from the common pool.
  • Boosting: At any time, a player may spend a trope point (returning it to the common pool) to gain a one-point bonus on a single roll, trial, or challenge (this rule may need to be adapted according to your rules). If success on that roll, trial, or challenge would help cause a trope to occur, this is a two-point bonus (or whatever applies) instead.
  • Bounties: If it possible for a trope to occur in a scene, anyone at the table may offer a one-token “bounty” from their own points (the GM offers from the common pool) to others, to play out that trope. Anyone this is offered to must either accept the bounty, or spend a point of their own to cancel this offer (both the spent point and the offered bounty are returned to the common pool). If the bounty is cancelled, a new bounty cannot be offered to that player in that scene.
  • Detailing: Any player may spend a point to add a detail to the scene which grants them a slight advantage (not greater than a one-point bonus for specific tasks, as a wide guideline), so long as that addition doesn’t contradict established facts. The GM may veto such details, and return the point to the player, if it is necessary.
  • Casting: A player may spend a trope point to take on the role of a minor character in a scene (again, GM veto applies) that their main character isn’t in.  Additionally, anyone can give a trope point of theirs (the GM takes from the common pool) to a player whose main character isn’t in a scene, ‘casting’ them as a bit part for the scene. If a given player takes on a specific bit part repeatedly by either of these means, the group may choose to waive the point cost in future for them to do so (though, sometimes, keeping the ’bribery’ active may actually be preferable).

MESSING ABOUT WITH TROPE POINTS
Trope points are very much a “meta-resource”; they are about players, rather than characters, and cover a specific range of options. Your group may want to make them less “meta”, or alter the options. Depending on the game, there may even be some existing resource you’ll want to fuse them with.