The flagpole is a game-wide mechanism for story-scope conflicts and attempts to influence IC events, i.e., a way to express things that are beyond the scope of a scene. The flagpole is used to represent the use of resources at a level that impacts Amber itself, Golden Circle shadows, the noble Houses of Amber, and other things of similar scale. Players can post tokens to the flagpole, representing their efforts of this sort.
Because the flagpole is intended as a mechanism to help drive overall game-wide story and interaction, all information on the flagpole is public OOC. However, many things posted on the flagpole are not necessarily broadly known IC.
See +help Flags for information on how to use the flagpole.
Broad-scope actions taken in support or opposition or complication of a flag are represented by tokens attached to the flagpole. In most cases, these tokens represent a scene. They are also opportunities for further play. While they are the result of a scene, they might not be the finished result of a story arc. A token is OOCly available information; it can be acted upon OOC by people wanting to find out more, but IC knowledge should not be assumed.
So if a token says that all the customer's in Bloody Bill's were poisoned recently, then there should have been a scene in which that happened, or in which it was definitely going to happen. Gossip and OOC advertising should be used to tell someone of a potential scene.
After the poisoning of Bloody Bill's, PCs may wish to investigate further, and putting a token up onto the flagpole is an OOC invitation to ask questions of the person running the plot or plotlet. Can the PCs find out what happened? Can they turn the poisoning to someone else's advantage? Can they make a power play to take advantage of the vacuum? These are all equally valid scenes, and can be tokened up after play.
The exception to this rule is turning a +gossip into a token, where players have already had their chance to take a crack at it in the +gossip system. Color tokens can either follow this rule or ignore it, as the result is purely color. For this reason, +gossip cannot be cashed out while it is active. PCs always have a chance to interact with gossip.
If you want to influence something at story scope, you can write and attach a token to the flagpole.
Types of Flagpole Tokens
Four types of tokens can be attached to the flagpole:
- Effort tokens. They are created with +token/effort and represent your personal effort.
- Powered story tokens. They are created with +token/power and one or more gifts, at least one of which must have the story-token powerbit.
- Resource tokens. They are created with +token/resource and represent a prop's assets.
- Gossip tokens. They are created by cashing out gossip, and represent influence over NPCs.
The following should be kept in mind when writing a token for attachment:
- Like all tokens, this token is subject to negotiation, consent, etc.
- The token should always be related to one or more scenes you have played, unless the action described in the token would be uninteresting as a scene and not directly opposed.
You don't have to be the author of a token that you attach. If you are not the author, though, you'll need to first write an amendment to the token (via +token/amend) to indicate how your character is ICly using this token. Attaching a token indicates IC responsibility. Thus, for instance, if someone else has given you a resource token representing an army, your amendment would likely explain what you're using that army to do. (It likely represents one or more scenes of your own.)
Tips for Flagpole Token Creation
- Action is everything. It's nice that the rabble is riled up and hates Flora, but what are they doing about it? If you have spent time building up a big juicy gossip token that represents the mob's opinion, don't just post the token as-is. Amend it to note what the mob is doing as a result, preferably as the result of actually playing out a scene. Opinions, by themselves, don't actually move the needle; actions cause things to happen. Please note, however, that if this a gossip token, the action must be directly related; in particular, the gossip needed to have been actionable, and very clearly and obviously related, such that any player who wanted to stop whatever action results should have logically known that it was going to happen based on the gossip. (For instance, if you're building a gossip token that is anti-Flora, it should be absolutely clear that this is becoming an attack on Flora, and that Flora can do something to counter the mob during the gossip stage; the form of the attack should also be clear in the gossip.)
- If the token is a current effort, not something generated from scenes already played, use open language in the present tense, such as "Several bands of men have sneaked into Arden and are waylaying travellers and supply carts. This is disrupting trade.'" This establishes that it is a current event which may also be the result of past scenes already played) The person who posted the token is considered the contact for any plot. The token should include the effect the brigands are having (disruption of trade) unless it is a colour token. The effort expended in setting this up and any success to date is reflected in the focus (or resources or gifts) spent. Likewise, any scene that supports or counteracts this effort can result in a new token from another player, with focus (or resources or gifts) invested in that.
- If the token is the result of one or more scenes, including a link to a log is encouraged, but not required. It has the benefits of spreading the story to a wider audience, as well as proof that you’ve really been doing something (because it’s not unheard of that some may believe you’re just making it up to leverage your points). There are perfectly valid reasons to not link a log in…doing so may reveal a plot point that would better be served not revealing even OOCly until later, or perhaps someone in the log does not wish it to be posted. But if there are no such reasons, please consider linking one in.
- When deciding how much Focus a token is worth, please look at the situation. Remember that RL examples may not apply here. (For instance: Gerard spreads the rumour that Queen Moire has a secret agenda to relocate all Minosans to Kitezh and take over Minos, and posts this as a 9 point token in opposition to Kitezh and Rebma trade relations, as the Kitezh don’t want all those Minosans around. If he wants to justify having such a huge effect, he will also have to make sure there are results from that rumour.
- Explain things. Don’t be cryptic, or oblique, or overly terse and expect everyone to understand. Your token should be an invitation to further play if people are interested; give them the chance to be interested by being clear.
- Attitude is everything. Remember that this is not PvP (Player vs Player), but character vs character. Players need to negotiate in good faith with an eye for the story and enhancing play for themselves or others, not to Win The MUSH.
We strongly discourage alt interaction on the flagpole. That means if that one of your characters is supporting some particular side of an issue, none of your other characters should be. There are various ways to get around this, some of them more or less cheesy than others. We'll say "the staff discourages this in all ways in which multiple alts contribute Focus towards the same side on the flagpole", and leave it at that. Use your judgment, be a good sport, and be aware that the automated scoring mechanisms will detect and deal with alt interaction accordingly.
The flagpole is more like a giant whiteboard for noting things of story-scope significance, more than a specific mechanical resolution mechanism.
When a token is posted on the flagpole, it's considered used — in general, a token that you post to the flagpole shouldn't later be used in some other way. The posting of a token on the flagpole generally announces that something is relevant to play, though, and so its scene effects may show up, and it may also result in some kind of mechanical outcome later.
For instance, if you post an army token to the flagpole, this is generally a way of publicly making it clear that you have this resource available and you expect it to make a story difference in some way. It's likely to be accompanied by one or more scenes in which you actually use that army to do something. If you are fighting some kind of IC conflict involving armies, staff or propco arbitration may also require posting relevant tokens to the flagpole, and there might be scoring mechanisms involved that use them.
Most posts of tokens to the flagpole indicate the magnitude of strength with which something is being done, giving some indication of overall effort. In general, flagpole tokens are as effective as the reactions that they garner. Staff or propco arbitration may lend additional significance and scoring mechanisms in some cases, though, such as in the case of major efforts undertaken at the scope of major props.
As a brief guideline as to the magnitude of flagpole tokens, here is a quick guide to the "scores" of tokens, from least effective to most effective:
- Personal effort token
- Level 1 resource token; 3-Focus gift token; 3-Focus shadowfinding token; 3-Focus gossip token
- 6-Focus gift token (non-shadowfinding)
- Level 2 resource token; 6-Focus gossip token
- 6-Focus shadowfinding token
- 9-Focus gossip token
- Level 3 resource token
- 12-Focus gossip token
- Level 4 resource token
- 24-Focus gossip token
- Level 5 resource token
Re-Use of Flagpoled Tokens
When a token is placed on the flagpole, the Focus in it is not expended, which means that the token is still theoretically available for other uses, like +token/battle and +token/risk, if it's detached from the flagpole.
In theory, the common use of this would be for players to flagpole the introduction of conflicting forces and troop movements, preparatory to any actual clash. In this scenario, assuming that this flagpole-posting has not led to anything consequential, the tokens can be detached and used in a scene-level story-scope conflict resolution. In general, if this is allowed, the forces should be directly related to the conflict, and it should be mutual to both sides.
However, sometimes flagpole tokens represent something consequential — especially if the posting of flagpole tokens has clearly decided some kind of IC issue or conflict. In this case, such tokens should be considered expended. As a broad guideline, a token is intended to be used in a single story-significant way (except for gift tokens that explicitly specify otherwise, like those who state the token lasts for a story arc). Consequently, if using a previously-flagpoled token for battle would make it significant a second time, its use should not be allowed.
A player who wants to use a previously-flagpoled token needs his opponent to agree that this use is legitimate. As a general guideline, tokens that have not been recently posted to the flagpole should probably not be considered legitimate for scene-level story-scope conflict resolution. (Definitions of "recent" will vary per conflict, but is probably one month, or at most three months.) Similarly, any tokens that have been +declared in a scene and then posted to the flagpole should probably be considered expended — they've had their scene-level significant already.
Example: The Montevalnan city-states of Fortuna and Serminia have had simmering tensions. To represent increased tensions, both propcos post tokens to the flagpole representing armies that they've raised and fortifications being built around their cities. If Fortuna then invades Serminia, it would be complete legitimate for both parties to use those flagpoled tokens. However, if Fortuna has already been using these flagpoled tokens to implicitly try to intimidate other Montevalnan city-states, like Paloma, it could be argued that Fortuna has already gotten story significance out of some or all of these tokens. It could be further argued that Fortuna and Serminia's tokens are already implicitly positioned for conflict for each other, and that is their story significance, denying their use for any other conflict.