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Tox RPG: How Flaws and Side-effects Improve Your Story and Your Game

There are shining, flawless heroes, who show only strength and never weakness. Tox RPG isn’t about them. Perfect heroes get boring really quickly. Instead, Tox picks up on common thread that runs through mythology, horror, fantasy, and sci-fi: heroes with great powers also need great weaknesses. Complex heroes with both powers and flaws make for better stories (and better games)!

Below, I outline some ways below that having characters with flaws and side-effects can improve your storytelling and game play. If you want an RPG that has a built-in system of side-effects to help you take advantage of flawed or complex characters, order your copy of Tox RPG from our Kickstarter page! You can also visit our Kickstarter to download the demo rules and try it yourself

The Story-Telling Benefits of Weaknesses

Having a hero with a weakness is a huge boost to building suspense, creating satisfying character development, and creating a plot that build naturally.

  • Weaknesses generate suspense. The success of the hero is less certain because we can see how they might fail. We worry about them. We root for them when they are clearly the underdog.  Perfect heroes don’t invite worry or build suspense. It’s also harder to make them a genuine underdog in a conflict.
  • Weaknesses allow for character development. Watching a character you care about overcome a weakness or a personal obstacle is a hugely satisfying experience. We rejoice for our fictional friend. We feel inspired that we can do the same with our own weaknesses. With a perfect hero, however, we miss out on this emotional investment.
  • Weaknesses help weave a coherent plot. New obstacles and challenge arise naturally as consequences of the characters’ personality and choices. For perfect heroes, life is a string of villains and other external obstacles that pop into their life. After a few of these purely external enemies or challenges, the plot starts to look a lot more like a series of rolls on a random monster table than a story.

The Game-Playing Benefits of Weaknesses

Not only do weaknesses make a good story, they make for better game play. Characters’ weaknesses create strategic choices, encourage collaboration, and keep the game’s focus on player characters.

  • Weaknesses increase the risk involved in certain decisions in the game. The risk invites players to weight their choices more thoughtfully.
  • Weaknesses encourage players to rely on each other. Characters not only have to add unique skills to the party, they also have to be ready to cover for each other when facing the side effects of their powers.
  • Weaknesses keep the spotlight on the players’ characters. When characters battle with enemies, the enemies tend to steal the players’ focus. When characters battle their inner demons, the focus of the game is 100% on the player’s characters.

In Tox, GMs and Players Design Side Effects Together

Tox RPG bakes these story-telling and game-playing benefits into the system by having characters design a unique side-effect for their characters powers. Tox allows you to design your own powers, called gifts. It gives you the same freedom to customize your side effects, called tox. With custom side-effects, you can make sure that your character’s challenges make sense for them and the story. Here’s how you customize your side effects:

  • Players choose the game rules for their side-effect. Does it give them penalties on skill rolls or damage? Change the way they role play their character? Introduce a new plot obstacle?
  • Players also add an open ended theme to their tox. The theme describes how and when tox effects happen in the story.
  • Throughout the game, a character’s tox level rises when they use their powers. Tox level measures the risk and potential size of the side effect.
  • Whenever a player has a tox level above 0, the game master can trade in the player’s tox levels to create a tox effect. The more tox levels traded in, the nastier the tox effect!

How Tox Effects Improve Your Story and Your Game

Tox characters are complex individuals that set you up for an exciting story. Because characters are created with a unique weakness that reflects their struggles, Tox characters have all the story advantages of suspense and potential for character development. The tox stats designed at character creation also provide the game master with side-effects that will enrich the plot with character-based obstacles and twists.

Tox effects also increase players’ participation and involvement in creating the story. Because players design their characters’ own weaknesses, players are more invested in the challenges and obstacles they face in the story.  Players also choose when to use gifts that leave a character vulnerable to side-effects, so they also have an impact on the pacing of obstacles.

Lastly, the tox system helps GM set the right balance and pacing for both the story and the game.  Game masters have control over when to trade a character’s tox levels for a side-effect and how to interpret characters’ Tox theme. This control lets them introduce side-effects when they fit best in the story and the game. Is the story slowing down? Add a tox effect to pick up the pace or raise the stakes. Is one player spamming powers or dominating the game? Trigger a tox effect and encourage the players to rely on each other.

 

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