Friday, June 4, 2010

The Stranger, the Twins and the Scales

A little something more for the Bones Blog Carnival - A peek at an old project of mine that I'm re-examining.

The Stranger is a lone figure on an empty plain. His strength, motivation and importance come from within, but his weakness come in his lack of ties to those around him. The Stranger is never a welcome figure.

The Mystery is a question to be answered, usually one of great importance. It may be a secret to be revealed, a crime to be solved or something lost to be found. Whatever form it takes, there is a great unknown that must become known to allow further progress.

The Menace is a threat to all – it has no allies or enemies; it is simply a danger that cannot be allowed to go unchecked. It may be malicious to all, such as a killer or mad beast. It may be vastly indifferent like a storm or natural disaster. Whatever its form, it is unquestionably a threat which demands response, and the only responses that are really viable are to face it, flee it or succumb to it.

A cocked stranger combines the worst elements of both facings. The Menace may have some Mystery about it which needs to solved to be able to deal with it, or the Mystery may contain some Menace that prevents it from being solved or which will be released if the Mystery is not solved.

The twins are two figures, opposite one another. Who they are is far less important than how they relate to each other. They are defined by this relationship. When the twins appear, the relationship will be pushed to the forefront, to be strengthened or shattered.

The lovers may actually be lovers, but they may just as easily be family members, partners or friends. Whatever the relationship, acknowledged or not, it defines both of them in ways they may not admit. If one is pricked, the other will be sure to bleed. This is strength and weakness – the partner is a source of strength, but also of vulnerability.

Hatred ties one man to another as easily as love. The Duelists are in direct opposition to one another. They may compete over prizes and things, but those are just distractions – the goal is to overcome the other person. While this facing covers physical confrontations, it is equally apt for contests of words, or even long-standing rivalries, as between an investigator and his quarry.

The Twins usually assume a degree of equity, but the mismatched twins discard that in one of two ways – there may be a mismatch of sentiment, or a mismatch of means. Regard the cocked hexbone carefully – if the figures are on opposite sides of the color line, there is a mismatch in sentiment – one may view the other as a friend or rival, but the other does not share that view. They may be in opposition in their viewpoints (one loving, one hating) but more often, it merely means the sentiment is strongly held by only one.
If the figures are on the same side of the color line, and it is only the background that crosses it, the mismatch is in means. One party is more capable than the other in this arena of conflict, and this issue will be deeply lopsided if it comes to the forefront. This may mean a wife who dominates her husband or perhaps the relationship of the hunter to the prey.

The Scales are identical to the Twins, except that a third figure has been placed between them. This third figure serves as the crux of matters – the fulcrum point of the scale. Where the twins relationship is with each other, the Scales are defined by their relationship to the crux. The crux itself is usually torn between these forces, though whether she is the subject or object of the choice it creates depends upon the facing.

The crux is desired by both of the figures at the poles, and they will contest each other to gain it. This has some apparent similarities with the Duelists, but the conflict is entirely about the crux, not about each other,. Still, they may not value the crux itself so much as they value winning it. This does not always work out well for the crux, since the scales represent rival suitors as easily as they do two huntsmen after the same quarry.

Power shifts into the hands of the crux now, who faces a choice between the two polar figures. Each may make his case, offer bribes or sweet promises, but the decision is ultimately in the hands of the crux. Again, it is not always good to be the crux – the choices may not be desirable, but there is always a choice.

When the scales are cocked, the outcome seems certain. The conflict is nearly won, the choice seems obvious and if matters are left as they are, things will play out predictably. The figure on the losing end may still have some chance to turn things around, but the odds aren’t good.


  1. Dammit, Rob, if I understand what's happening here, it's fucking brilliant. (If I don't, then you may have just inspired something that I don't have time to implement.)

  2. There's a draft of the original pdf here but I don't wave it around much because it is hugely in need of a rewrite, but yes, the basic idea is to roll a few d6's to generate relationship maps (basically using the configurations of the dots as the model for each facing). The one thing I don't mention here is that you roll on a two-color surface (like a checkerboard) to determine inward, outward or askew.

  3. If you're using standard 5/8" dice on a 2" square board and count anything touching or crossing a side as "askew", the odds of not getting an askew result is about 42%, split evenly between "Inward" and "Outward". If you allow a 1/8" margin (i.e. the die is allowed to cross at most 1/8" into neighbouring squares), then you get a 72% chance of something other than askew. That gives you odds of 36% inside, 36% outside, and 28% askew. Not quite as evenly distributed as you might like, but the 1/8" margin is a considerable fudge factor, as you're unlikely to be carefully measuring things to get precise results. (3/32" gives 66%, but good luck eyeballing that.)

    All this assumes that tosses are one-at-a-time or otherwise independent. If they're likely to be bumping into each other, the above will act as a rough guideline only.

  4. A less math-centric post, I really like the ideas in this post. It's the kind of thing that can be easily automated by a program, but gains so much more from being done by hand, and the cards give it a Tarot feel.

  5. @mds That is actually one of the big things that needs revision. I didn't have the math, but my gut was suggesting that there's be too many askew results. Odds are good the final version will have one page as a printable rolling surface that uses bigger solid sections. That said, I wonder if it might be a good stopgap on a chessboard to say askew happens when two corners of the die are in a different color than the others (with roller discretion if you happen to get a perfect 45 degree angle on the dividing line).

  6. @mds that said, Math is awesome! Thank you.

  7. Assuming I did my math correctly, requiring at least two corners be in separate squares from the others gives about 41.5% inside, 41.5% outside and 17% askew. This is with no margins. Margins would just decrease the askew percentage even more.

    Unlike the previous case, where the die landing with sides parallel to the squares had the minimum probability of being askew, when you require two corners to be outside of the square, you get a 45 degree rotated die being askew only when it's sitting in the corner with the corners in different squares.

    (P(sitting right on the edge at exactly 45 degrees) = 0, but then again, P(angle is exactly 45 degrees) = 0 too.)

    Formula available upon request, but it involves a bunch of trig functions and integrals. I've been using Maple to actually evaluate it.

  8. @mds I am 100% willing to trust your numbers. And ~40/40/20 is a pretty good ratio, to my mind - I like askew to be a little rare.

    Thanks again!

  9. It turns out you shouldn't trust me, since I made a bunch of mistakes. This time I actually spent the time to write everything down, draw diagrams, got someone else to check my numbers, etc., so I'm much more confident. You can see the results with explanation and calculators at

    The biggest difference is that the probability of getting an askew result is higher than predicted earlier.

  10. I also think this is brilliant. I love games that use familiar things in a different way. This is a great way to build a relationship map.I'll be following the development. Please keep up posted. Thanks for sharing.


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