Brazen

Written by Nate Saunders 1.2 (playtests)

A Powered by the Apocalypse Game, inspired by Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker

Brazen is a game of thrilling steampunk noir adventure, discovery, intrigue, creation, mechanical imagination, and scientific romance. It is a world in which humanity is on the cusp of the Age of Enlightenment, and nothing one can envision seems impossible. The will of the human spirit and strength of imagination knows no limits, and the Impossible Dream, the collective unconscious that connects and inspires every mind in the enlightened world, shows it. Through the Dream, this world’s mind-boggling adventure is possible - for if one can imagine it, why can it not also be reality?

Innovation, curiosity, and gusto are the values by which people can succeed, and the constant allure of discovery and adventure beckons to the bold. Idleness and apathy are things of the past, and everyone has their own grand vision for the future - so if you’re not for progress, you’re for revolution. But what are the prices of creating a utopia, the genius fascist flipside of the intellectual visionary, the things that fall through the cracks when reaching for the stars?

Each character has the agency to construct, protect, subvert, or destroy the status quo, in the efforts of creating a more perfect society. Sometimes, one will have to roll up one’s sleeves to take out the trash - anarchists, secret societies, cultists, sentient mechanical monstrosities, mad scientists and experiments gone horribly awry, civil corruption all the way to the top, ancient monsters from other dimensions - all dangers in the “utopian” society the party and MC will build and resolve through play.

What is Steampunk?

For some, steampunk is an easy genre to imagine, but a difficult one to fully describe, and many have conflicting ideas as to what is essential to the world. For a jumping-off point for this game, steampunk is a genre in which mechanical industry is part of popular culture, and technology is more than utilitarian, it is art - technology is used as much for fashion as it is as for useful living tools. If a machine doesn’t appear as terribly efficient as it could, yet is aesthetically pleasing to behold, and the Duchess of Sky Valeria wore it to last week’s red carpet social, it’s steampunk.

Clunky or seemingly outdated forms of machinery - large boilers with steam-driven pistons, an intricate and delicate series of gears and servos, brass plates riveted to leather flight jackets - are the norm, informed by the visual fashion of Victorian England and the American Wild West. Think fancy hats, tea cups, monocles, moustaches, pocket watches, leather vests, canes, corsets, six-shooters, long coats, and lace.

Steampunk technology is external, visual, and visceral, as inventors think about the cultural value of their creations, beyond the simply utilitarian or practical. These imaginative contraptions owe their function to the Impossible Dream, the name for the shared human unconscious intelligence that breeds and gives life to nearly any idea that one can imagine. If one believes an idea hard enough and purely enough, the collective unconscious will respond: valuable insight will appear as if from nowhere, convoluted machines will come alive, and luck may seem to be everywhere you turn.

If everyone connected to the Impossible Dream believes a certain thing is possible, then it simply is. (In the real world, fashion trends are dictated largely by what people agree is popular or not, pleasing or not, functional or not. Who is to say technology and invention can’t work the same way?) In Brazen, if everyone agrees that a steam-powered airship should fly, then it does. Scientific discovery is driven by the imagination we share. The same goes for creating the game. During the world and character creation, everyone (including the MC) should dream big, and start off by agreeing on what visions they share for the game world.

World and Character Creation

At the beginning of the first session, go around and ask each character how they see and have interacted with one facet of Brazen, from any of the suggested categories:

Landscape: Where is Brazen? What is the environment like, the climate, the weather? What is the layout, size, scope, and infrastructure of the community? How does it fit into the surrounding landscape and relate to other communities? Concentrated town, hidden enclave, intersecting city-states, sprawling empire, tall metropolis, underground, underwater, airborne, monuments, climate.

Government: Who is in charge? How do the people in charge of the community guide it? To what degree is the government responsible for the community infrastructure? What’s the scope of the military? What is the official power hierarchy? Monarchy, democracy, theocracy, anarchy, elected council, hereditary council, parliament, military rule, corporate rule.

Society: How does the community interact with itself? What customs, buildings, or inventions come as a result of that interaction? How do people relax and entertain themselves? What is popular, what is out of style? Are the people unified, or out for themselves? What do they believe in? Castes, classes, art, religion, science, fashion, cultural quirks.

Commerce: How does the community exchange goods and services, amongst themselves, the government, or other communities? To what degree is official establishment currency involved? What’s the general level of affluence within the city? Is it balanced? What are some of the most expensive imports and exports? Capitalism, communism, socialism, barter, taxes, trade, beyond currency.

Law: What is the level of crime in Brazen? Why? How does the establishment enforce its rules on the community? What are the consequences? How is crime viewed by the community? How is law enforcement viewed by the community? Is the establishment corrupt? Is the revolution unjust? Unusual laws, taboos, enforcement, incarceration, judgement, corruption, oppression, revolution.

Remember that the world creation is, for the most part, a conversation. Everyone can contribute and suggest ideas for any particular facet, but what’s most important is that everyone participates. It’s not only to determine the shape of the world, but the kind of game that everyone wants to play. It’s probably best not to create a gritty, oppressive, martial law dictatorship unless everyone’s on board to overthrow it. Or just be gritty, oppressive yes-men.

MC Agenda

        Paint the world to feel unique and lived-in.

        Fill the characters’ lives with wonder, mystery, and adventure.

        Play to explore what’s possible.

MC Principles

Layer culture, dreams, fashion, and technology.

Address yourself to the characters, not the players.

Make your move, but misdirect.

Let the characters dictate their destiny, but place obstacles.

Make everyone human, with superhuman ambitions.

Every bright light casts a dark shadow. No shadow is completely black.

Make the characters the heroes of their own stories.

Ask questions and build on the answers.

Respond with danger and intermittent rewards.

Be a fan of the players’ characters.

Think offscreen too.

Sometimes, disclaim decision-making.

MC Moves

Separate them.

Capture someone.

Put someone in a spot.

Trade harm for harm (as established).

Announce off-screen or future badness.

Make them choose sides.

Inflict harm (as established).

Challenge their values, methods, or fashion choices.

Make them use their Influence.

Activate their stuff’s downside.

Offer a swashbuckling opportunity, with or without a cost.

Tell them the possible consequences and ask.

Turn their move back on them.

Make a threat move (from one of your fronts).

After every move: “What do you do?”

Conversation and the Narrative

In many role-playing games, the sequence of actions by the players is often dictated by some sort of initiative stat or clockwise order. In Brazen, folks are slightly more polite and civilized, so the sequence of player actions is simply determined through normal conversation. Consider a casual conversation with a group of friends. One person will say something, another will respond, a third may briefly interrupt, a fourth may stay silent until they have just the right thing to add. Occasionally someone may talk over someone else, or try and argue with a point that was just made, but there is an ebb and flow to the conversation, with everyone allowing everyone else a chance to speak. When playing Brazen, keep this concept in mind - to do it, do it - there’s no need to wait for initiative or turn order, other than being polite to your friends. It’s the MC’s job to moderate the conversation and make sure everyone is being heard.

When a character wishes to act, they simply must tell the MC what they want to do, how they want to do it, and then roll for any relevant moves that are triggered by their actions. If another character has something to say about it, they simply do the same - pipe up to the table and inform everyone of their actions (unless it’s a secret action, in which case note-passing to the MC and pulling them aside for secret meetings is perfectly acceptable), and roll for any triggered moves. This may result in player action resolving simultaneously, one after another, or in opposition to each other. There’s no hard and fast rule to what happens in what order - the logic of the narrative dictates the rules, and it’s up to the MC to decide what makes the most sense.

When playing, remember that the narrative should activate the mechanics, and not the other way around. When Annabelle approaches her government contact and tries to ply him for confidential information with a flirty smile and tight corset, she activates the Entice, Negotiate or Convince move, and the MC will ask her to roll+Charm. If she approaches the same contact and uses her high political status to intimidate the contact into coughing up government secrets, the MC should ask the player to roll+Vigor for the Assert Your Authority move. Annabelle’s player however, should not rol dice, or announce that they’d like to “Entice, Negotiate, or Convince”, before Annabelle the character has performed her enticing or intimidating actions and has triggered the real-life dice roll with the narrative.

 

Main Stats

Characters define their abilities through 5 stats: Poise, Charm, Vigor, Logic, and Dream. When you roll+Stat, roll two 6-sided dice (2d6) and add the value of the appropriate stat to the result (Cecilia’s Poise=1, so she rolls 2d6 and adds 1 to the result when asked to roll+Poise). A hit is considered any roll result 7 or above, and has some degree of success as the outcome. A 10 or higher result (10+) is a success. A hit or 7-9 result is a partial success (or partial failure, depending on your perspective). A 6 or less is a miss, a failure, and the MC is free to make as hard a move as she pleases.

Poise is how a character reacts to outside stimuli, and reflects their ability to stay focused, calm, composed, and competent in the face of distraction or danger (flaws: clueless, nervous, frumpy).

Charm is how a character affects other characters, and reflects their ability to interact favorably, make a good impression, win friends or influence people (flaws: repellant, boring, homely).

Vigor is a character’s strength (mental and physical), their vitality, their joie de vivre. Vigorous characters are gung-ho and straightforward, mobile and loud (flaws: feeble, fragile, impotent).

Logic is a character’s ability to reason and work out solutions to problems, both abstract and mechanical. Methodical, clever, educated, and objective. (flaws: scattered, daft, dense).

Dream is a character’s capacity for out-of-the-box thinking, imagination, instinct, inspiring themselves and others, and ability to connect to the collective unconscious that influences us all. (flaws: banal, pedestrian, traumatized).

Each stat can have a Flaw applied to it, either through moves, during the narrative, or at the MC’s discretion. Each flaw results in a -1 to that stat, as long as the flaw applies. Flaws are both proscriptive and descriptive, and can be removed the same way they were given: by a move or through the narrative, and can range from temporary to permanent, depending on the circumstances. Take a few moments to compose yourself after being roughed up by Beatrice’s mechani-thugs, and you can unmark the frumpy flaw. However, getting rid of the fragile flaw after just getting sewn up by the local surgeon might take some more time and healing.

Basic Moves

By default, every character has access to all of the basic moves. On a miss, the MC has an opportunity to make as hard a move as he chooses, following the logic of the narrative.

When you Perform Under Pressure to keep your concentration or composure, roll+Poise. On a 10+, you do it. On a 7–9, you flinch, hesitate, or slip up; the MC can offer you a worse outcome, a hard bargain, or an ugly choice.

When you Assert Your Authority with an implied or explicit threat, roll+Vigor. Applicable Influence may affect the roll, if the MC chooses. On a 10+, they are in awe have to choose: acquiesce and do what you want, or endure the consequences of defying you. On a 7–9, choose 1 action they perform before running off or fighting back:

-obey the command, but poorly and with a nasty grudge

-give you something they think you want

-back off calmly, hands where you can see

-tell you something you want to know (or you want to hear)

When you Smack Some Sense into someone with physical violence, exchange blows and roll+Vigor. On a 10+, do your harm as established and choose 3. On a 7–9, do your harm and choose 2, but you leave yourself open to retaliation:

-you protect yourself from loss of Spirit

-you inflict terrible harm upon your target(s)

-your enemy is stunned and awed by your force and skill

-you end up where you want, ready for whatever comes next

-you seize what you want from the enemy or environment

When you Entice, Negotiate, or Convince, tell them what you want, a good reason they should accept, and roll+Charm (the value of a “good reason” is relative to the character, and up to the MC). Applicable Influence may affect the roll, if the MC chooses. On a 10+, your reasoning is good enough for them, and they do their best to accommodate your desires. On a 7–9, they present a counter-offer or their suspicions before accepting - if you can meet them halfway, they’ll cooperate.

When you Examine a Scene, take a moment to closely observe and roll+Logic. On a hit, you can ask the MC questions. Whenever you act on one of the MC’s answers, take +1Forward. On a 10+, ask 3. On a 7–9, ask 1:

-where’s my best escape route / way in / way past?

-what danger is here or was recently here?

-what should I be on the lookout for?

-who’s in charge here?

-why is this place important?

When you Judge a Person over the course of a conversation or interaction, roll+Logic. On a 10+, hold 3. On a 7–9, hold 1. While you’re interacting with them, spend your hold the learn the answer to the questions, 1 for 1:

-are you telling the truth?

-what are you really feeling?

-what do you intend to do?

-what do you wish I’d do?

-how could I get you to _____?

When you Submit to the Impossible Dream for inspiration, roll+Dream. On a hit, you submit to the collective unconscious, gaining insight or inspiration on the current situation. In turn, the Dream may demand inspiration from you. On a 10+, your answer to the Dream’s inquiry will manifest in the world in some way, shape, or form. On a 7-9, the insight you receive is muted, short-lived, or partial at best. On a miss, you’re lost in reverie. Random thoughts and questions assault your mind, revealing your innermost fears, and you’re vulnerable to getting lost in the collective unconscious.

Advanced Moves - After five Advancements, you may choose to advance some of the basic moves. On a 12+ roll for an advanced move, fill your resilience (instead of simply marking it), as well as an additional effect depending on the move.

Perform Under Pressure: you attain a moment of superhuman grace and clarity

Assert Your Authority: your target surrenders to your command, with no chance of refusal

Smack Some Sense: you apply a flaw of your choice to the enemy, and one move option applies double the effect

Entice, Negotiate, or Convince: you gain an ally, confidante, partner, informant, lover, or friend.

Examine a Scene: you may ask all available questions, and get +1Ongoing using the scene in moves

Judge a Person: you may ask any 3 questions, and get +1Ongoing with this person this scene

Submit to the Impossible Dream: you take inspiration from or plant inspiration into a specific consciousness, or else connect to an enlightened one

Peripheral Moves

When you protect someone or something from harm, either stand steady in defiant defence and roll+Vigor, or keep moving to draw the danger with you and roll+Poise. On a hit, apply the appropriate effect according to the stat used, and choose 1 result from the appropriate stat choices. On a 10+, you also negate half the attack’s effect or damage.

Vigor: You redirect the enemy attack to yourself

-Negate half the attack’s effect or damage

-Get +1Forward against the attacker

-Get -2 on the next “Endure a Blow” roll

Poise: You focus the enemy attention on yourself

-Negate half the attack’s effect or damage

-Open up the attacker to an ally, giving that ally +1 forward against the attacker

-Inflict minor harm on the attacker

When you endure a blow, roll+Spirit lost. On a miss, the MC can choose something from the 7–9 list below. If she does though, it only increases your resolve, and you regain 1 Spirit or 1 Moxie (your choice).

On a 7–9, the MC can choose 1. Or, you may lose 1 additional Spirit or 1-Moxie to snap to your senses and negate the chosen effect instead:

-You lose your footing or position.

-You lose your grip on whatever you’re holding.

-You are stunned or confused, unable to tell for sure what just happened.

-You miss your mark or noticing something important.

-You’re a bloody, bruised, or sweaty mess.

On a 10-12, the MC can choose 1, which you can negate by losing an additional 2-Spirit or 2-Moxie:

-You’re out of action: unconscious, trapped, incoherent or panicked.

-It’s worse than it seemed. Mark a flaw.

-Something is broken: your resolve, your bones, or your equipment.

-Choose 2 from the 7–9 list above.

On a 13+, it’s light out, bucko. Only Deus ex Machina can save you now.

Once per session, when you go amongst those of your ideology preaching revolution, roll+Moxie. On a 10+, your message spreads with those who share your beliefs, hold 2. On a 7-9, hold 1. You may spend your hold 1-for-1 to reroll one move roll while among members of your Ideology. On a miss, your message is warped and twisted, and only feeds the opposition.

Secondary Stats

Moxie

Each character can accrue points of Moxie, depending on moves, their Profession, and certain items. When you receive Moxie from an item (+xMoxie), your current Moxie increases by that amount, and that Moxie is available for you to spend, once per session, as long as the item is in your possession. At any time, you may empty all three points of your Resilience to gain 1-Moxie.

Spending a Moxie represents the character doing something swashbuckling, debonair, awe-inspiring or amazing - swinging down on the chandelier rope and dropping the lights on the guards, performing silent gymnastics across rooftops at night, intimidating the pub’s bodyguard to let you through with nothing but a cold stare, or just being really damn booksmart. Something highly impressive, above and beyond a normal action. When you spend a Moxie, make sure to describe how it’s being applied.

You may spend Moxie at any time, 1-for-1 to:

Add or subtract 3 to a roll, yours or someone else’s present in the scene

        Do +3harm with an attack

Ignore up to 3-harm when suffering harm (plot armor)

Each profession also has a unique Moxie Special, through which they can spend Moxie for certain effects. By default, a character’s natural Moxie (Moxie obtained or provided strictly through the narrative, not Moxie provided by possessions) does not carry over between play sessions, and between sessions resets to 0.

At the beginning of each session, or during long stretches of in-game downtime, describe how you steel yourself for what’s to come and roll. If you do it…

...by facing yourself in the mirror or some other form of self-reflection, roll+Poise.

...by nostalgically reliving past social conquests, roll+Charm.

...by invigorating your muscles or spirit with exercise, roll+Vigor.

...by carefully plotting out a path to success, roll+Logic.

...by limbering your imagination through natural or artificial means, roll+Dream.

On a hit, gain 1-Moxie and mark Resilience. On a 10+, you’re completely invigorated, and gain an additional 1-Moxie. On a miss, you lose your adventuring spirit, empty your Resilience to no benefit, and you’re stuck in a tricky bind relating to your method.

Trust

Each character usually begins the first play session familiar with each other, although they don’t necessarily have to be friends. You share a certain amount of Trust with some or all of the other player characters. These expressions of Trust are expressed on your sheet with a short sentence that describes how or why you trust them: “Barnabus earned his trust with me through honesty,” “Xavier won my loyalty with blood,” “I owe Francisco my life,” or “My dreams are in sync with those of Illandra.” Trust can be one-sided; it doesn’t need to be reciprocated between characters, although it often can.

When you wish to Help or Interfere with another character’s move roll, look at their Trust with you. If they do not trust you, either on your sheet or theirs, you cannot help or interfere with their roll. You simply have nothing to take of advantage of in that relationship, although you can still use moves to interact with the scene or other characters present. Players may also solicit help (or interference) from other characters retroactively after their move roll (but before hearing the story result), by asking a character they Trust for aid.

If they do trust you, describe how you wish to help or interfere with their roll right now. If it is possible for your character to do so, and the MC agrees, you do it, and they get +2 or -2 on their roll now, your choice. Whatever actions you take to help or interfere may require a move roll or two of your own, at the discretion of the MC. For each additional expression of Trust you have with that character beyond the first, you get +1 to those rolls to help or interfere.

At the end of every session, choose a character who backed you up or helped you achieve a goal. If there’s more than one, choose one at your whim. Add one expression of Trust with that character on your sheet, describing how or why you now Trust them (or Trust them more), and mark Enlightenment. Or, if you believe you have been betrayed or an expression of Trust no longer applies, erase it from your sheet, and mark Resilience.

Whenever you change Ideologies, you lose one expression of Trust with everyone you know from the ideology you left behind.

Influence

Each character can gain and lose Influence in the world, in the form of wealth, connections, fame, authority, favors owed, unique knowledge, or some other asset. Influence can be general, or a character can have it with a specific individual or group. The higher the Influence, the more the character is able to reach out into the world and affect it.

Influence can be gained and spent in the fiction, both prescriptively and descriptively: most characters roll a number of dice for their starting Influence at creation, and simply have that much Influence - it’s up to the player exactly what form that Influence takes in the world. However, if the character develops strong trade relations between his airship manufacturing corporation and the Floating Indigo Islands in the Cumulonimbus Territories to the south, the MC may decide to award them more Influence in that part of the world, or non-specific Influence for becoming a renowned trade negotiator.

Ideology

Each character chooses and follows a pair of ideologies: pro-establishment or anti-establishment, and honorable or dishonorable. At the end of each session, if you have acted in accordance with one of your Ideologies, mark Enlightenment. If you acted in accordance with both your Ideologies, mark Enlightenment twice.

At the beginning of each session, a player may choose to change one of their ideologies. That player marks their new ideology on their sheet, and loses one expression of Trust with each other character from their old Ideology. The player may discuss with the MC any possible new opportunities with the new one.

Pro-establishment: The news of your deeds spreads throughout the community. To uphold the establishment, amongst other things (MC discretion), you can:

        Uphold the letter of the law over the spirit

        Bring someone to the establishment’s justice

        Aid or empower someone in charge

        Refuse power or riches in service of the establishment

        Convince someone to change their ideology to the majority

Anti-establishment: The rumors of your actions spread throughout the underground. To subvert the establishment, amongst other things, you can:

        Reveal corruption or hypocrisy in the establishment

        Break a law to benefit another

        Inspire another to seize their freedom or rights

        Cause or endure chaos in the name of change

        Destroy a symbol of the establishment

Honorable: To display your honor, amongst other things, you can:

        Return something valuable to its rightful owner

        Ignore danger to aid another

Fulfill a promise

Give an opponent +1Forward or an equivalent advantage

Offer an opponent an opportunity to surrender

Dishonorable: To display your dishonor, amongst other things, you can:

        Take advantage of someone’s trust

        Put an innocent in harm’s way

        Spread a dangerous lie

        Attack or betray someone unexpectedly

        Press the attack when the opponent has already withdrawn or surrendered

If a character performs a definitive action that goes against his Ideology, he cannot mark experience for previously or later following that chosen Ideology, for the rest of the session. If you betray your morals, even for a moment, you reap no benefit.

Spiritgauge.jpg

Each character has 6 points of Spirit, representing their mental and physical health. Every time a character takes 1 harm or loses 1 Spirit, they mark out a segment on their Spirit Gauge. Once a character is Done For and loses any more Spirit, they are Dead, as in really, truly dead.

From completely unharmed to dead, a character’s Spirit can deteriorate to “Winded”, “Scathed”, “Thrashed”, “Wounded”, “Maimed”, “Done For”, and the unspoken beyond, “Dead”. A loss of 1-Spirit represents only minor harm - a punch to the gut, a negligible flesh wound, a strained muscle, or a few hours of exertion without rest. A loss of 2-3 Spirit represents actual injuries - a gunshot wound, a mental break, broken bones, a prolonged beating, etc. A loss of 4 Spirit or more is serious business, think falling several stories, losing a limb, severe arterial blood loss, or getting hit by a truck.

Your Spirit can generally replenish itself slowly over time as your body naturally heals, depending on your circumstance and injuries. For instance, some brief fisticuffs may cause your character to become Winded, but after an hour’s or so rest, the MC may decide you’ve pulled yourself together and restore your Spirit to full. If your character lost that fight and became Scathed or Thrashed, it might take a full day or two before the bruises and cuts fade, and you’re back to your normal self. However, any wounds or trauma that put a character at Wounded or worse will continue to worsen, unless stabilized by someone with the medical know-how. If a loss of Spirit would put a character at Maimed or Done For, they may instead choose to stop the loss (or remain) at Wounded, stabilized, and have the MC give them a permanent flaw.

By default, the Endure a Blow peripheral move is in play. The MC might decide to forego it, case by case. This move is unusual in that a hit is bad for the player and a miss is good:

When you Endure a Blow, roll+Spirit lost (i.e. Barnabus is electrocuted by a volt grenade and loses 2 Spirit, so he rolls 2d6+2).

On a miss either you fully endure the blow, or the MC can choose something from the 7–9 list below. If she does though, it only increases your resolve, and you regain 1 Spirit or 1 Moxie (your choice).

On a 7–9, the MC can choose 1. Or, you may lose 1 additional Spirit or 1-Moxie to snap to your senses and negate the chosen effect instead:

-You lose your footing or position.

-You lose your grip on whatever you’re holding.

-You are stunned or confused, unable to tell for sure what just happened.

-You miss your mark or noticing something important.

-You’re a bloody, bruised, or sweaty mess.

On a 10-12, the MC can choose 1, which you can negate by losing an additional 2-Spirit or 2-Moxie:

-You’re out of action: unconscious, trapped, incoherent or panicked.

-It’s worse than it seemed. Mark a flaw.

-Something is broken: your resolve, your bones, and/or your equipment.

-Choose 2 from the 7–9 list above.

On a 13+, it’s light out, bucko. Only Deus ex Machina can save you now.

When your character is Done For, you fall unconscious or are barely able to hold on, collapsing where you stand. You automatically search the Impossible Dream for inspiration as if you rolled a 10+, and may roll+Moxie. On a hit, you may spend a Moxie to grit your teeth, regain 1 Spirit and stabilize to Maimed. On a 10+, you are able to weakly defend yourself where you stand, or crawl out of danger, but little more. On a 7-9, you’re awake but trapped, pinned down, incapacitated, or delirious. On a miss, you lose any remaining Moxie and are fading away, fast.

Enlightenment, Resilience, and Advancement

There are 8 hex boxes that represent your Resilience (bottom 3 boxes) and your Enlightenment (top 5 boxes). Collectively, they track your Advancement.

When you roll a 6- on a move, mark Enlightenment. You learn from your failures.

When you roll a 12+ on a move, mark Resilience. You’re inspired by your successes.

When you have all three boxes of your Resilience marked, you may erase all three at any time to immediately either heal 1 Spirit or gain 1 Moxie. You may still empty your Resilience while there are Enlightenment marks in the top 5 boxes.

When all 8 of the Resilience and Enlightenment Boxes are filled, erase the top group of 5 Enlightenment, keeping your Resilience, and mark an Advancement. You only empty your Resilience Pool by trading it in for Spirit or Moxie, or when a move tell you to do so - you do not lose it by Advancing. Neither Enlightenment nor Resilience are lost between sessions, but again, you need all 8 to be full before Advancing.

Moves, Expanded

MC Agenda

Paint the world to feel unique and lived-in. Take a little time to think of details specific to the world you and the players have created. Throw in descriptions of imagined, even irrational fashion, music, art, building designs, personalities, textures, and smells to draw the players in, in accordance to (and sometimes bending) the established rules. You are describing an alternate universe in which the characters already live - make it feel real. Just remember, as you say it, it becomes so. Don’t worry so much about finding the absolute most perfect description for the moment, but do take a moment or two to consider a good one. You can justify later the true impact and any narrative repercussions your in-the-moment decision may imply.

Fill the characters’ lives with wonder, mystery, and adventure. In addition to describing colorful but mundane details, a goal of every session should be to make the characters lives stories worth telling, full of fantastic and thrilling events. Every adventure has twists, turns, clues, red herrings, surprises, villains, heroes, bystanders in distress, and more. If a character sniffs around the factory foreman’s office after-hours looking for evidence of a secret society, maybe they should find it...even if you didn’t plan it.

Play to explore what’s possible. It’s perfectly good to have an idea of where the narrative should and could go, but everyone came to the table to play a collaborative game, including the MC. Don’t sweat it if the players don’t seem immediately interested in a juicy story beginning you’ve imagined, and instead examine the characters and see what they are interested in. As you’re already filling the world with wonder and mystery, it shouldn’t be hard to spark everyone’s curiosity and imagination when coming to an unforeseen point in the narrative, be it from a move roll or character decision. Take suggestions and direction from the players every now and then, just as the players must respond to the whims of the MC. End every session with a few questions about a new idea that came up and try to figure out the answer. Surprise yourself!

MC Principles

Layer culture, dreams, fashion, and technology. The world of Brazen is one where logic isn’t necessarily what dictates the rules, with form and function merely as guidelines. Impossible contraptions don’t have to make full sense if they look amazing, while a simple tan overcoat that works perfectly but looks boring is a faux pas at best. Don’t hesitate to indulge yourself and fellow players with a rich description to help paint the environment or an action!

Address yourself to the characters, not the players. Encourage the players to make decisions based on what their character would do, not what they as a player would do. Do your best to keep them within the narrative mindset - stay in character, even as the MC. You don’t have to do funny voices if you don’t want to, but if you want to, go right ahead! Everyone is playing to help tell a collective story, and it often helps to stay excited and engaged with the fiction, if only to keep things moving. As the bow of the pirate ship crashes into the stony bluffs, ask the player, “What does Captain Persephone do?” instead of, “Mark, what does Persephone do?”

Make your move, but misdirect. When using the MC moves, there’s no need to announce which move you’re making, or even that you’re making a move at all. Unless you’re making a hard move, the characters see the ripples of the MC’s effects on the world, and can only get to the source with some investigation.

Let the characters dictate their destiny, but place obstacles. Make things interesting. How badly does the character really want to achieve their dreams? What are they willing to endure?

Make everyone human, with superhuman ambitions. Everyone has their own story in Brazen, not just the player characters. People have their own feelings about the establishment, their own hopes and failures, their own journeys to change. It’s good to have a list of lofty goals and secret shames handy for when deciding the motivations of non-player characters.

Every bright light casts a dark shadow. No shadow is completely black. The most honorable and altruistic by-the-book do-gooder can still have a comparable villain or dark secret in his past. Just as the most heinous, soulless, and evil mad scientist may have a sympathetic origin story or broken hope for redemption. When anything is possible, change is a constant in Brazen, and seemingly irredeemable situations can be solved in the right circumstances.

Make the players’ characters the heroes of their own stories. Try to imagine the world through the character’s eyes, in pursuit of greatness. Be a fan of the players’ characters, secretly hoping they succeed. While it’s a good idea to have fully-realized MC characters and scenarios ready for the players to interact with, remember that the story in Brazen is mostly about the player characters doing amazingly interesting things, however they define it.

Ask questions and build on the answers. If a player mentions an interesting detail about their character, ask a follow-up question. Who gave you that engraved pocket watch? What memory does your favorite color remind you of? Did you forgive the man that gave you that scar? The answers will often be good fuel for the narrative, as you can later add in a detail the player mentioned to draw them in, keeping the fiction elegant.

Respond with danger and intermittent rewards. You win some, you lose some. As the MC, it’s within your power (and responsibility) to keep things interesting, shaping the world of Brazen as a playground full of swashbuckling potential for the players. Sometimes, kicking down the door will surprise the Cuckoo Clock Bandits with their pants down, red-handed. Other times, kicking down the door will awaken the powerful White-Steam Battle-O-Ton, gears wound tight to attack anyone who enters. Taking a moment to see where everyone’s Spirit is at before a potential deadly challenge isn’t a bad idea either.

Change is a constant. Everyone is vulnerable. While the player characters are fairly resilient, most “normal” characters in Brazen have no special abilities to keep them safe. Fights have collateral damage, threats have consequences, people lose limbs. Occasionally, player characters cannot beat the odds, and perish. The world can be a dangerous place, and when it feels right, the MC should show the players evidence of that danger with whatever and whomever is handy. A damaged (or dead!) character is only an opportunity for a new story.

Think offscreen too. Just because characters aren’t in the spotlight doesn’t mean they aren’t plotting something. Keep in mind how the world outside of the main characters is affected (or unaffected) by their actions. As usual, ask questions and build on the answers. What are the long-term consequences? What is the Big Bad Boss plotting while the heroes are chasing clues? Having some dramatic cause-and-effect will help make the Brazen world seem more tangible.

Sometimes, disclaim decision-making. It can be difficult to create an entire responsive adventure setting, rich with characters, plot, set dressing, and intrigue, so it’s natural to hesitate when deciding on an appropriate reaction. It can help keep the game moving, not to mention fresh for the MC, to occasionally shirk that responsibility and dump it on the players, the characters, or fate. Giving narrative agency to the players can help you flesh out non-player characters in a pinch (“You walk into the library and are startled to see the librarian is a dead ringer for your estranged father...what did he look like again?”), provide intrigue during a lull (“In the silence, you realize that something about the lavish dining room is off, alerting one of your senses...what do you feel if you close your eyes?”), or help establish the rules of the world (“What was the previous air-vessel speed record, and how did you break it?”). Letting the characters decide, either the players’ or the MC’s, is simply a matter of following their motivation. Often, people aren’t very complicated, and are motivated either by their hopes or fears - if you have a decent idea of what these are to a character, you should be able to guess how they’d react in a given situation. Finally, leaving things to fate can be equally freeing, flipping a coin or rolling a few dice for a piece of life’s randomness.

MC Moves

Separate them.

Capture someone.

Put someone in a spot.

Trade harm for harm (as established).

Announce off-screen or future badness.

Make them choose sides.

Inflict harm (as established).

Challenge their values, methods, or fashion choices.

Make them use their Influence.

Activate their stuff’s downside.

Offer an opportunity, with or without a cost.

Tell them the possible consequences and ask.

Turn their move back on them.

Make a threat move (from one of your fronts).

After every move: “What do you do?”

Once per session, when you go amongst those of your ideology preaching revolution, roll+Moxie. On a 10+, your message spreads with those who share your beliefs, hold 2. On a 7-9, hold 1. You may spend your hold 1-for-1 to reroll one move roll while among members of your Ideology, and must use the new result. On a miss, your message is warped and twisted, and only feeds the opposition.

Spreading the seeds of revolution can be anything from a character quirk to a full story theme. An individual character may find it necessary to wage a one-man war against the establishment, or the party as a whole may seek to take the system down. Whatever the status quo is, someone somewhere wants to change it, and the hold gained from this move represents the support, either explicit or unspoken, the character has with those of their beliefs.

Professions

The Clockworker, master tinkerer, constructor of and friend to mechanical trinkets.

The Dandy, socialite queen bee with a clique and sharp tongue.

The Pugilist, fists of fury but a sucker for spectacle.

The Rocketeer, dashing hero with an experimental device.

The Automaton, mechanical being seeking sentience, or not.

The Ogre, you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

The Alchemist, pretty sure that potion he just gave you was a healing one. Pretty sure.

The Professor, using academic wit to fuel heart-pumping adventure.

The Duelist, master of sword or pistol in single combat.

The Corsair, commander of stolen vessel and crew of the skies.
The Engineer, mechanic and logician making sure the trains run on time.

The Idol, glamorous celebrity and host to a throng of loyal fans.

Weapons and Tags

Shock implies stun and AP (electricity).

Force implies loud and/or stun (knockdown).

Heat implies AP and reload (overheat).

Messy implies loud (victim).

AP (armor piercing) ignores armor.

Weapon ranges are intimate (close enough to whisper), hand (close enough to lunge and punch), close (close enough to be heard clearly without shouting), and far (shouting distance and farther).

Hidden implies obscured from sight and brief inspection, and in some cases, displaying dishonor.

Infinite does not actually mean “infinite”, but rather the character is never found without some type of that item stashed in some secret pocket.

Area can hit multiple enemies or allies, depending on a perform under pressure roll.

Quick implies a +1 when wielding the weapon, when speed matters.

S-harm implies non-lethal (no loss of Spirit) stun.

S-armor implies protection against stun, and/or stunning the attacker when hit within hand range.

prism pistol, 3-harm close heat

prism rifle, 3-harm far heat

volt pistol, 2-harm close shock

brass knuckles, 2-harm hand hidden force

cane sword, 2-harm hand hidden

umbrella blade, 2-harm hand quick

sleeve pistol, 2-harm hand/close reload loud hidden

hidden knives, 2-harm hidden infinite

bowie knife, 2-harm hand throw

blunderbuss, 3-harm close force reload

cane rifle, 2-harm close reload hidden

stun sword, 2-harm hand shock

volt grenade, 2-harm area shock

revolver, 2-harm close reload force

thompson rifle, 3-harm close area reload

dynamite, 4-harm area loud

volt glove, 2-harm intimate hidden shock

pneumatic fist, 3-harm hand force

van der graaf belt, s-armor

saber, 3-harm hand messy

rapier, 2-harm hand quick

zapthrower, 3-harm area hand reload shock

monkey wrench, 2-harm hand force

hunting rifle, 3-harm far reload loud

railhammer, 3-harm hand force

blackjack, 1-harm hand force knockout

shoe-blade, 2-harm foot hidden

sniper rifle, 4-harm far loud

hand cannon, 3-harm close messy reload

dual pistols, 3-harm area close quick reload

throwing knives, 2-harm hand/close