On Having Multiple Bodies (Including Acting In The Past)

Originally posted by Jenna Moran on Tumblr:

People are allowed to have multi-part Intentions (“I compose a note in my head as I grab some eggs, milk, and cheese from the grocery store and wait for the phone.”) So you, as someone with some sort of multi-presence, are allowed to have Intentions of the form “I have self A do X, self B do Y, self C compose a note in her head as she grabs some eggs, milk, and cheese from the grocery store and waits for the phone, self D do Z ….” In general, if you’re a hive mind or swarm self or just “I’m playing the Mongol Horde now,” you’re assumed to be doing that—when you don’t say what they’re doing, they do the same kind of reasonable, appropriate stuff that any PC does when they’re not in the scene.

This is important and necessary because having more than one body, or even more than one self, doesn’t change the basic rule: you get two actions at a time, and that’s it.

Action in the Past. As someone with multiple selves, you’re a bit more likely to say stuff like “I would totally have been fixing up the boat,” or “I always keep watch over this house.” In general, that’s fine, and the HG should let you just, y’know, say that. “Self E would have fixed up the boat.” Or whatever.

Technically, in both Nobilis and Chuubo’s, the proper procedure is to take a new action:

“I take a new action: fixing up the boat in the past, as self E.”

This usually has Obstacle 0 if you totally would’ve, Obstacle 1 if it’s pretty unlikely you’d have thought of it, and Obstacle 4-5 if everyone knows self E was unconscious in Spain. That said, that’s being ridiculously finicky anyway, and most HGs should either let you just declare the boat fixed, ask that you live with the boat not being fixed, or declare a Bleak effect that the boat is not well. It is not well at all.

Intention Level. Everyone in your swarm uses the same Intention number. It’s all one Intention!—though, note that bonuses from miracles and Tools and penalties from things like Obstacles and Cool only apply to the selves for which they are relevant.

Switching Actions (0 Will + no special circumstances). If you’ve spent 0 Will on your Intention, then it’s assumed that every time one self finishes up what it’s doing and wants to do something different, you’ll drop the whole Intention and create a new one.

That basically means: “don’t worry about it.”

Switching Actions (1 Will + no special circumstances). If you’ve spent 1+ Will on an Intention that ends in a definitive moment of success or giving up, you’re supposed to get a 1-point rebate. The theory here is that you can get that definitive moment from any self: if you’re needing to end one Intention and start another because somebody succeeded or gave up, then you’ll get the 1 Will back.

It’s assumed that selves in the background are doing the same thing discussed above: when they succeed or fail and want to do something new, they end the Intention, reclaim 1 Will, and start a new Intention, investing 1 Will—it can be invisible, and again basically means: “don’t worry about it.”

You can potentially exploit this for a tiny mechanical advantage—

You want to change Intentions, but one self is stuck spinning their wheels, and you don’t want to give up, so you cut to a different self who succeeds or gives up on something, and then you recover the 1 Will and come up with a completely different plan—

But that’s a long way to go to avoid saying uncle, and if you ever actually did do that I think it says very interesting things about your character’s psychology.

Switching Actions (2+ Will): Here’s where it gets interesting. Sometimes you’ll have an Intention that you can’t just seamlessly restart when some individual swarm-self finishes up. In that case, you have only two choices:

  • Rephrase the Intention—not the default/implicit “self A does X, self B does Y, self C composes a note …” but rather stuff like:
    • “we’re all working towards goal α” or
    • “self A does X, and everybody else goes about their life as best they can while we’re distracted” or
    • “self A does X, and everyone else is handled by my other Intention.”
  • Accept that if you’ve spent, e.g., 4 Will on “Self A saves the world, and self B does our homework,” and self B finishes the homework first, self B will remain stuck in the do homework mode until the Intention completes.

Here’s a simpler way of looking at this—the choices are identical to the above, but differently laid out. If there’s an Intention that you really need to keep going, you have to:

  • Pick an Intention that works for every swarm member, like “we work together to get this done,” or
  • Pick an Intention that’s focused on one or two swarm members you care about, and recognize that all your other selves will be a little dysfunctional or monomaniacal or something until the whole thing is done.

Reaction Shots: Taking a wound gives you a reaction shot—an action that you theoretically take in order to show you’ve been affected, like saying “oof.” In theory, that reaction shot can be a swarm Intention, something like “Self A has been shot! Self A staggers, self B does the laundry, self C staggers, self D screams, and self E summons the Hero of the Beach!”

Usually you’ll know if that’s cool or not, so I won’t try to make that call on your behalf.

Miracles and Miracle-Related Intentions. Many miraculous actions are incredibly flexible, but many are not—and it’s still one miracle per action, and up to two actions at a time, whether you’re playing “the Singular Point Mass” or “the Whole Mongol Horde.” If you’re flooding your body with wish power to make yourself stronger, then maybe that affects everybody, but if you’re creating fire out of nothingness—if the power is “create a reasonable amount of fire,” having 10,000,000 selves won’t let you create an unreasonable “10,000,000 reasonable amounts.”

Wounds. In general you shouldn’t have to adjust the wound rules at all—they already handle most of the multipresence cases. What happens if there are 10,372,846 of you, and you lose one? Normally, there are now 10,372,845 of you and the wound system is not involved at all. What if there’s 100 of you, and one gets murdered? You might take a Surface Wound. What if there’s only five of you, and one of you gets stabbed in the eye? Maybe you take a Serious Wound “Self E is half-blind” …or maybe you just roll with it.

What if there’s three of you and one gets killed? Serious or Deadly Wound, depending on how it happened. Like that!

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