1.3 Key Concepts, Glossary, and Rules Summary

The Social Contract

The social contract between all players establishes the meta-game rules; where it will be run, who the Facilitator is, what story will be told (setting, genre, etc), what game system will be used (this one, of course), what roles each player will have, how long the session will be for (typically around four hours), where the game will be held, who will bring what to the table.

Part of the social contract is for players to engage in acceptable behaviour for social interaction, including politeness and consideration. The Facilitator must ensure that all players have the opportunity to explore the role of their character and, as equitably as possible, allow them the opportunity to describe their character's activities. Whilst "out of game" banter is generally unavoidable (for example, ordering food), it is strongly recommended that each player stays "in character" as much as possible during the session, including the Facilitator's non-player characters.

This does not necessarily apply however for characters within the game, who may well be engaged in an antagonistic conflict with other characters, including player-characters. As part of the roleplay players should not allow personal favouritism from outside the game slip into their in-character behaviour. Likewise, behaviour between characters should not lead to out-of-game conflicts.

The Shared Imaginary Space

The shared imaginary space is the "place", the imagined reality, where the story is elaborated as improvised radio theatre. For Mimesis, the shared imaginary space is usually based on historical reality, but from the view of an anthropological magical realism. That is, whilst the setting of a scenario may be highly accurate in its representation of reality, it will also include a narrative reality of the fantastic beliefs and legends of that time and place. As part of the sociological concept of the disenchantment of the world, magical creatures and powers will be less powerful over time.

Players and Characters

Roleplaying games make a strong distinction between players, the real people who participate in the game, and the fictional characters of the story. There is one player that acts as the Facilitator (Fac). The Facilitator sets a scenario, introduces plot devices, informs the players of what their characters can perceive, and describes the actions of non-player characters (NPCs). The other participants in the game (typically four to six) engage the role of a nominated player characters (PCs).

Narrative Points and Character Points

Mimesis uses both "Narrative Points" and "Character Points". Narrative Points are the currency and reward to the player for good roleplaying and enjoyable participation in the game. They are may be used as a narrative device to change the plot of the story or to the simulation of the game. Character Points represents how powerful the character is. Both are objectives for players. To have more Character Points is to have a character who is more powerful in a simulation sense; to have more Narrative Points is to indicate a player who has more control over the plot.

For a normal setting, start with 100 Character Points and 5 Narrative Points. Character points are used to design characters in a point-buy method. Narrative points indicate a number of plot devices, random benefits, etc that can be introduced into the story per game session by the player. A summary of point use is provided in this section; for greater detail see character generation on how to "spend" character points and resolving actions for use of narrative points.

A character will gain 1 character point per 200 hours of successful training and between 0 and 5 Narrative Points per game session. Narrative points must be spent in the session after they are acquired. The Facilitator may assign Narrative Points to NPCs who are significant to plot development, however this should be rare - it is ultimately the PCs story that is being told here.

Abilities and Disabilities

Characters are generated with characteristics called Abilities. A positive Ability costs Character Points, whereas a Disabilities (a "negative ability") have a negative Character Point value. Abilities include Attributes, Traits, Talents, Skills and Knowledges, with "higher" levels representing a broader and more comprehensive ability and with "lower" levels representing depth and specificity. For example, a high Intelligence (an Attribute) may allow a character to figure out the general intent, but Know (Japanese language) will give precise information.

An Attribute represents a characteristic that is relatively fixed by adulthood. This includes Strength, Agility, Dexterity, Perception, Intelligence and Spirit; attributes are nouns. Abilities start at a value of 10, and cost +/- 10 character points per point in the Attribute. A Trait is an adjective modifications or specialisation of an Attribute. Examples include, Blind (affects Perception), Healthy (affects Strength) Lame (affects Agility), Known (affects Spirit). Traits have a default value of 0, and cost +/- 8 characters points per point of modification of the Attribute.

Talents, Skills and Knowledges are all verbs. A Talent is an ability heavily influenced by Attribute scores. Talents have a default from an Attribute of -2 with an additional cost of 6 character points per level. Examples include Lift, Run, Scan, Reason, etc. A Skill is equally influenced by natural ability and learning. Skills have a default from an Attribute of -4 and cost 4 character points per level. Examples include Fight, Shoot, Pilot, etc. A Knowledge is an ability that is largely the result of learning. Knowledges have a default rating from an Attribute of -8 and cost 2 or 1 character points per level, depending on specific the Knowledge is. Examples include places, people, and times. Knowledges are proper nouns of the verb "Know".

Reading Dice, Dice Abbreviations and No Dice?

The Mimesis Role Playing system uses the following dice: any two-sided generator (e.g., a six-sided value where "odds" equals one, and "evens" equals two), four-sided dice (generating numbers from 1 to 4), standard six-sided dice, eight-sided dice, ten-sided dice, and twenty-side dice. A standard abbreviation for dice notation is the quantity followed by the die used. Thus 3d6 means the sum of three six-sided die rolls. Percentile die rolls, consisting of rolling two ten-sided dice (one for the "tens", one for the "ones" and 00 representing 100) is expressed as d100.

If the specialist percentile dice are not available a simple alternative is to use standard playing cards as random number generators. Take out a set of cards from Ace (representing 1) to Six for d6 and Ace to Ten for d10 and so forth. Dice are however recommended to represent the divination tradition of "rolling the bones" as well as providing visceral enjoyment.

Task and Conflict Resolution

The Facilitator contributes to the narration of conflict in the story by setting tasks for the characters to resolve. As the active abilities (i.e., Ability verbs) Talents, Skills, and Knowledges are represented by an abstract value. For example, a character may have the ability Know (Japanese language). But the game system is not going to include exactly grammatical structures and words the character knows. Instead it will represent the value Know (Japanese language) as (for example) 3 + 1d8; this represents a default Attribute value of 3, plus 4 levels of Knowledge, which is quite modest for a knowledge.

In addition tasks almost always include negative dice rolls. These dice rolls represent the degree of randomness that would be too complex to incorporate into the game rules. A tightly controlled environment with low stress on the character may result in a random modifier of only 1d2. A stress situation (an examination with time conditions) may increase the degree of randomness to 1d6, a physical conflict to 1d8, and such a conflict in a dark, wet environment could be 1d8. Stress tests tend to be both positive and negative; environmental modifiers tend to be negative, skills and technologies tend to be positive.

Thus when carrying out a task, a character rolls their positive values and subtracts their circumstance penalties. Continuing the example, a Japanese exam for the same character would be 3 + 1d8 - 1d6. These results represent not only the character's chance to succeed, but also the degree of success when compared against a static target number (for inanimate opposition), or a variable target number based on a contested roll (against other characters). An easy task would have a target number of 5, an average task of 10, a difficult task of 15, and an extreme task of 20. The limits of most human abilities would be around 25, although technologies can amplify these results.

Plot Devices and Narration

At any stage during task resolution a player may invoke a plot device die by spending a Narrative Point, including after a plot device die has already been invoked. This provides a d20 modifier which can be added or subtracted to any character's resolution score. However, after any success or failure the character carrying out the task to should describe the events that led to the die result. This is required after a Narrative Point has been used in task resolution.

Players are also encouraged to add plot as story detail is exposed. This player authorship is meant to supplement that provided by the Facilitator. The player may elaborate on a setting or situation as much as they like until another player, or the Facilitator, indicates opposition to a particular development. At this case the player may force the change by expending a Narrative Point.