Agon KS Preview Feedback

Cross-posting from the Kickstarter post where I’ve also posted my questions, here are answers by Sean Nittner (@Sean) :

Hi Fnorder,

Divine Favor - Yes, it is attached to each god and yes, you get two extra for your Honored god (so you could get up to 4 favor with a single god if you want).

The leader makes the call of what action to take whenever the band is uncertain or in disagreement. If any hero does not like the leaders call, they can spend a bond to take over as leader for that moment. Note that based on the leaders approach the Strife Player may judge that a contest falls in one domain or another.

One the contest is determined (we will win the favor of Queen Naia, we will wrestle Orta into the river, etc) the Strife Player will announce the domain and ask which heroes will compete. At this point in the conflict the hero only elect to join the contest, support another, or abstain. However, if a hero knows they want to use another domain outside the contest (i.e. they want to impress queen Naia with a feet of strength or trick Orta instead of wrestling him) they can mark pathos to bring another Domain into the contest.

Wrath is determined (usually) when the heroes depart an island. If the heroes have appeased a god (gaining favor with them) that god’s anger may subside (reducing wrath) however that isn’t a guarantee. Gods are fickle and may hold onto grudges. If a hero really wants to make amends they should see to ameliorate the god on the islands (perhaps making a contest sacred by doing it in the god’s honor, acting in the god’s idiom, or otherwise supplicating their vicious whims).

So, we removed Leadership when playing 2 hero players, instead calling it a Partnership, and we’ve added a rule for 2 hero players:

Cooperation
When two hero players enter a contest, they may decide to cooperate. The cooperating heroes setup their individual dice pool as normal, but they each only contribute their highest single die result. Add the two results together for their total.

(For Divine Favor, only one d4 can be added. If both players use Divine Favor, the higher is used).

Cooperating heroes don’t earn Glory for winning.

Whether they win or lose, the each of the cooperating heroes gains a Bond with the other, and they each gain 1 Glory.

Note: This method increases the odds of success. It’s meant to give the 2 hero players more choices in how they approach the island as a team. They can use cooperation to overcome really tricky obstacles, but then they don’t earn as much glory. They can also use cooperation to build up their bonds in the middle of the island, which is helpful because they tend to start with less bonds as a resource than a larger group normally has.

I need to test this more. I also plan to test it as an optional approach in larger games for exactly two players to do this. It might end up being a bit cutthroat to use it, though, so it’s tough to predict whether it will be fun.

The Players’ Kit has the following entry on page 4:

OATHS
Once per island, each hero may swear an Oath. Name an outcome you will achieve and bet Glory on it (5-20). If you complete your Oath on the island, you win the Glory you bet—otherwise, you lose it.

This, however, is nowhere to be found in the rulebook, and only mentions of “oaths” conflate them with Bonds. Were Oaths removed from the game, or it the Kit corect?

Oaths were removed.

Thanks for the questions and feedback, everyone. It’s very helpful!

We finally had our first session! Wow, the pace of the game and mechanics allow for some real indulgence in epic descriptions, and going from lowest to highest result really underlines the one-upmanship of heroes, especially when they all prevail and each Hero Player has to come up with a consecutively better description. It kept us all at a high-energy level for the whole game and everybody enjoyed it very much.

One minor hurdle we’ve noticed was that players were trying very much to justify their decisions while gathering the dice (explaining Favours and Pathos use) which led to them having not much more left in terms of new ideas and interpretations after the dice were cast - especially in Trials which were focused on arguments and oratory.

We’ve discussed this after the session, and I’ve reaffirmed them about the competency of whether Eponyms and Favours apply lying solely in their discretion (it was a GREAT idea to get that out there, in writing and precise, thank you!) so we think it was mainly caused by the players still being new to the rules and looking for Strife’s affirmation if they CAN use a die or not. I’m sure the next game will be more “oracular”, with players gathering dice and looking for explanations in their description after the roll.

As for the session itself, it went mostly as suggested by the book, so I’ll focus on what stood out.

During Hero creation one player chose to have Dionysus, the god of wine, as their Honoured God. We chose Generosity as the new god’s strength, further defined as Fellowship, Bountifulness and Spontaneity. We noted that having a cheat sheet with the full strength description of each god would help us deciding when Favours are applicable (we’re all proficient, but non-native English speakers).

In fact, there were times when players have described the use of their Favours as more in line with a god’s traditional domain (Poseidon being ruler of the sea came up a couple of times) which lead to the question whether the strengths should be considered in Favours but the full godly domain (including divine intervention) when using the more potent and rare Bond with the divine. We agreed to keep to that divide, but only as a temporary ruling to be discussed later.

We played Kryos island, mostly as-written. To my surprise the handout for the island mentions rolling vs The People of Kryos to calm them down, but no stats were given there nor in the book - I improvised a 2D6 Resolve & Spirit. Also all handouts mentioned Prove Your Greatness as a possible Trial, but we’ve ignored it for now, since the pirate/harpy situation demanded quick decisions and added pressure of time to the mix.

At one point one of the Hero Players lead the people of Kryos in fending off the harpies (the rest chased after the Pirate Queen) and as a Scion of Athena wondered about using Favor with Ares in the Trial, but decided against it as they saw Ares as more slaughter-happy and Athena as being the patron of just wars - i took that as a golden opportunity to propose to them an invocation of Athena which would anger Ares (costing the Favour with the war god) but adding the Bond with Athena as an additional reward, as per p. 69 of the book. The player was enthusiastic about it and even more so that we decided to describe the use of the Bond for the Trial as divine intervention of the goddess.

The chase after Thesekyra failed despite the player’s best efforts. The opponent’s goal was to slip away and hide in a secure place, making he Pillar potentially lost to the Heroes for the adventure. I’ve quoted the part of the book stating, that goals shouldn’t be repeatedly contested for unless the situation changes significantly, and we all agreed that finding the Pirate Queen is now impossible.

However, something being impossible shouldn’t always stop heroes, so I also invoked p. 75 and told them that if they spend Fate, they can reach beyond their normal capabilities to try and find the escaped pirates, and one mystic ritual later they did! I’m unsure if I should’ve offered that, but it was well-received, especially since with Advancements taken I’ve also collaborated with players to describe how they are closer to their doom (vaguely, they still have a lot of Fate, but the Scion of the Nile Delta saw the god Sobek hungry for his soul in the mists of magic, while the mighty warrior contemplated how strategy beats might and feared about never being a warrior strong enough to best truly clever foes) with the action they have taken and improvement they chose.

We wondered whether after all Advancements are taken no other advancement is possible, which might occur in a long campaign.

Ultimately, the players decided that neither Harpies nor Pirates are the actual source of Strife on the island of Kryos, but the divide between the extremes of radical Ionestes and godless Meletia. We agreed that it would make more sense therefore to conduct Battle against the couple who, though enemies, were the linchpins of the people’s problems.

The Battle was Engaged in by distracting the opponents with a Dionysian, celebratory feast, carrying the pillar back to the Harpies, and unlocking the Harpy-children captured inside by a jealous Hera. Then the threat came from the island’s leaders accusing the Heroes of godlessness (Mythic Arts & Oration attack) and their sailors of being invaders (the ship was on the line) while the Clash came in the form of a counter-arguments.

We made a mistake, and solved both Clash and Defends as a single challenge. As I read it now, we should have had two (Clash and Defend), not one or three (Clash and both Defends). Not a big deal, since the Clash didn’t work out.

As a result the enemies were in charge of the Finale - we agreed that they’ll set the situation as such, that player’s won’t be able to chase both of them away, one at most. This was described as plotting and scheming in the next couple of days following the feast (Crafts & Reason), with publicity stunts winning the day and forcing Ionestes into exile.

I had to improvise the stats of a joint Meletia & Ionestes front, hence I can’t wait for the guidelines of creating our own islands, I’m sure that would be a great help.

Likewise, some guidelines about how to judge the appeasement and Wrath of gods would be helpful, since I have a feeling we marked too many stars (four total, in different constellations) for one island. This is partially the result of the leader of the team being given absolute authority over interpretation of the divine omens at the start of the adventure, which we took to mean something similar as players being always in the right regarding Dogs in the Vineyard theology. We liked that element a lot and the leader had the final say on how the gods looked upon them (they decided Hera and Zeus were both furious at the theft of the Pillar and so through their anger they ended their feud and made up, like the players hoped the island would. The only one unhappy was Hermes and he’s Wrathful towards the Heroes).

We will make Agon our pick-up game for when we don’t have our group in full presence for other games, due to the elastic nature of who the Strife player is. This is why we chose to do the whole Exodus & Voyage, except for Leadership, since we don’t know who’ll be present next session and who’ll be Strife.

Again - we loved the game very much. It’s approachable, the mechanics greatly support the theme and the mix of competitiveness and cooperation is a rare and perfect balance for an RPG.

Kudos!

Wow, thanks for a great write up, Krzysztof!

Sounds like you handled the game very well. Your interpretations are correct, including the number of stars and Wrath marked.

This is great feedback – very helpful as I work on the final text.

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Hi.

I’m just about to play my first game of Agon, and I have a few questions / comments. Well, perhaps more than a few…

  1. The Player Kit (v12g) talking about Sacrifice says: “The most glorious hero leads the sacrifices to the gods, to seek guidance and favor in their next trials. Each hero rolls in a Contest of that god’s favored Domain.” However, pg. 41 of the Preview says: “To resolve the sacrifice, each hero rolls in a contest of Resolve & Spirit”. Which is correct?

  2. The Player Kit talks about Call to Action, but that is called Speak your name in the Preview.

  3. In a Leadership challenge, is Glory earned? I suppose so, but it’s not explicitly said (while the description of Sacrifice states clearly that Glory is earned).

  4. Can a hero have more than two Divine Favors with the same god (or four, in the case of their Honored God)?

  5. Once all advancement boxes are filled, no more advancement is possible?

  6. Seems clear that, in a single contest, a hero cannot use more than one Divine Favor, nor mark Pathos to add more than one additional Domain. Bonds, on the other hand, can be used for several purposes (adding another hero’s name, defending etc.). Can the hero use more than one bond (from several heroes, or a hero and a god, etc.) to add more than one additional Name die to the dice pool?

  7. In a Threat, heroes choosing to Defend do not need to announce beforehand which disaster they are trying to prevent, do they? Just that they defend.

  8. In pg. 29, first paragraph: “Each hero [that] suffers earns 1 Glory.”, a word seems missing.

  9. Legendary Virtues would benefit of a bit more description, particularly Grace and Passion.

Hi Juanma,

Thanks for catching those things. They are mostly cases where the player kit needs to be updates.

  1. Resolve and Spirit is the domain.
  2. We’ll clean up the wording there.
  3. Yes, glory is always earned in contests.
  4. 2 per god (or 4 with your honored god is the cap) but you can still earn bonds with them, gain advantage dice, etc.
  5. Correct, though in the version we’re releasing later today, we’ve added a few more advancements (there aren’t enough to choose from in the preview version).
  6. Yes, you can call on multiple bonds.
  7. We’re going to clarify that in the text. Usually yes, but on some islands the threats are in different domains and the heroes will have to choose.
  8. Good catch.
  9. Thanks you, I’ll take another look at that section.

Ooooh, exciting! :smiley: And here I was, thinking I’d go to bead early this once…

Hi. A few followup questions.

  1. When marking progress, if the Strife player cannot fill a star because the constellation is already filled, the heroes still earn 1 Divine Favor. Does that progress count toward Boons, or not? I’d assume it doesn’t, because the rule (pg. 42) says “for every three stars marked” (emphasis added).

  2. Regarding progress (stars) or Wrath, pg. 42 says to take into account any additional gods that “were invoked or included in the situation of the island”. Does that mean gods included in the situation through the use of Divine Favor, and/or Bonds? Or it is talking about other ways to include them?

  3. The drawing of the Battle sheet in pg. 35 has two small squares, above and below Threat. They are not in the Battle sheet in pg. 6 of the Player Kit.

  4. Ok, this is a silly question but… the circle in the character sheet is just space to draw your hero, isn’t it? (Don’t laugh, I’ve been puzzling for a while which mechanical effect in the rules was I missing that required that circle… :rofl:)

Something that puzzles me a bit.

The episodic nature of the game is a good match for groups with varying numbers of players (meaning, not everyone is always available to play).

However, it is weird to select the leader of the next adventure at the end of the current one, because there’s no guarantee that the hero (or rather, the hero’s player) will be present at that time. Of course it is always possible to choose another leader, but it seems like a bit of a hack that breaks immersion. As it also does, a bit, to do two leadership tests in the first session of a campaign (one at the beginning and another one at the end).

It would make more sense IMHO to do the Leadership contest at the beginning of a session; in fact, even without the “missing leader” issue, it seems to me much more natural to encounter some problem or do some playful challenge at the beginning, select a leader and then have them continue their role for the rest of the session. It’s a bit anticlimactic to be chosen the new leader and then go home :wink:

As you’re experienced game designers, and most certainly I am not, I’m quite sure I’m missing something. Could you please elaborate a bit why you decided to put the leader selection at the end of the session?

Thanks.

We played our first game of Agon, and we had a blast. The heroes visited the island of Nimos and had a lot of fun avoiding the cultists and killing the big serpent.

We had a few more doubts:

  1. Harm, as defined in pg. 29, includes not only suffering, but having to spend Divine Favor or Pathos to enter a contest. Is that correct? If so, can you use a Bond so another hero can protect you against that spending?

  2. Do stars carry from one session to the next in order to earn boons? I mean, if the Strife Player marked four stars in one session, and two in the next, did the heroes earn a boon in the second session, because the total is six, or didn’t they because in that session only two stars were marked?

  3. This one caused quite confusion. In contests where the players can choose the Domain they roll, as in the Engagement phase of a Battle, do they all roll against the same target? If so, how should the Strife Player roll that difficulty? Let’s imagine three heroes are engaging to battle the Serpent of Nimos, and they use B&V, C&R and R&S. The Serpent has 2D8, 1D8, 1D8, respectively. What do the Strife player add to the pool? (Ab)using the rule of multiple adversaries, I’d say the Strife Player adds 4D8, but then adds only the highest rolling die to the Strife level. Is that correct?

  4. A similar problem happens with Threats. If two heros are fighting different threats, with different domains, do they roll separate contests, or it is the target difficulty unified and the threats resolved as a single contest?

Thanks for your patience :wink:

Hi Juanma,

Thanks for following up. I think most of your answers are in the text though. Here’s my thoughts:

  1. You’ve read it correctly.
  2. Any way the god was invokes that is meaningful to the group. Sometimes using divine favor is just getting aid from your god. Other times a hero might declare “This temple is sacred to Athena, I call on her favor to help me protect it” and depending on how that went they might appease or anger Athena by the action. That is intended for the strive player and the heroes to discuss.
  3. The two squares in the player kit are at the bottom of the Defend section and the top of the Clash section. We had to move them in closer on page 6 because the image was cropped.
  4. Draw your hero, their shield, their insignia, their home, their eidolon, their weapon… anything that inspires you.

Some more answers:

  1. Yep, you’ve got that correct.
  2. Yep, when you hit every 3rd star (3,6,9,12, etc) you get a boon. It doesn’t matter if they were gained in one island/session or across multiple.
  3. The Strife player also determines what domain they want to use (before the heroes even). So if the serpent is trying to distract them with it’s scintillating scales, it might use Craft & Reason. If it’s trying to intimidate them Resolve & Spirit. If it’s trying to catch them it’s coiled body, Blood & Valor. They heroes may respond in kind or engage in another way (thus picking their domains as well).
  4. Hmm, this one is actually a case we didn’t work through. I’m going to talk about it with John and we’ll include something about this in the next draft.

The system is pretty flexible. You can see that usually the leader is determined during the voyage phase but for the first session (and especially at con games) it’s determined before they arrive at the island.

You can play with the parts of it as needed. Agon is pretty robust and intended to be easily hackable. The phases of play in their order for a reason, but you’re invited to tinker. We’re all hackers here.

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Thanks a lot, Sean. Most doubts are now resolved.

The only thing I still don’t fully understand is question 7. Are you saying that the Engagement is rolled as a single contest, and everybody (heroes and Strife player) do all choose their own Domain? (I think so, but just to be clear.)

As for hacking the rules: yeah, I did that, and in our game, Leadership is now rolled at the beginning. But I find curious that, in this short thread, two people now (Krzysztof and me) have chosen to play Leadership at the beginning, and both for the same reason: “we don’t know who’ll be present next session and who’ll be Strife”.

Thanks again for a wonderful RPG.

  1. Yep. Everyone (strife player included) choose the domain they are going to roll for engagement. It’s different than other contests in this way. The intent is that at the start of the battle, folks might approach it from all different angles, by the finale though, there is one domain (determined by the winner of the clash) that ends it!

Ok, got it. Thanks!

Thanks so much for all the great questions. This kind of thing is very helpful for us.

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Me:

A similar problem happens with Threats . If two heros are fighting different threats, with different domains, do they roll separate contests, or it is the target difficulty unified and the threats resolved as a single contest?

Sean:

Hmm, this one is actually a case we didn’t work through. I’m going to talk about it with John and we’ll include something about this in the next draft.

I’m going to play Agon again next Saturday. Did you and John decide anything about this issue?

TIA,
Juanma