As the Voidheart Symphony kickstarter ticks along, I’ll be writing in-depth analyses of each of the character options you have available to you. First up, the Authority!
Building a better kingdom.
The Authority knows that they’re not just up against individual bad apples – they’re fighting a pervasive system of oppression and control. That’s more than one person can fight, so they’ll need a movement. And if there’s a movement, someone needs to build it, guide it, lead it. Only temporarily, of course.
The Authority’s strengths are leadership, control, and insight into other’s actions. Their weakness is that their abilities largely benefit their allies instead of themselves – isolate them from their followers and supporters, and their ability to resist the castle drops dramatically.
Inspirations: Morpheus in The Matrix, King Mob in The Invisibles, Makoto in Persona 5.
The Authority and the Crew
Like every playbook, the Authority has three options for their crew covenant, all focusing on the question: what does the crew mean to them?
If you pick The Emperor, you’re in some way a formal leader of the group. Indeed, at least one of the other rebels works for you in some way!1 The Emperor gives you plentiful tools to help the others, so long as they accept your authority. When they spend time with you, you can offer them the support of your organisation to aid their projects, giving you some measure of control over their project’s outcome. In the city, you can keep the castle’s influence at bay, so long as you are willing to reject all the ways society has defined you. And in the castle, you can give up an opportunity to hurt a foe in order to blunt their claws and control their actions.
Pick the Emperor if: you want to guide the other rebel’s actions and be an insightful leader.
If you pick Justice, the group is instead your tool to redress great injustices and bring the powerful to account. Even before your story started, you had helped at least one other rebel escape an injustice – or bring vengeance to one who had wounded them. As a part of the crew, you give the others insight into the pulse of the city. When they spend time with you, they can look through cases or meet those experiencing injustice, and learn more about the actions of their opponents. In the city, you can appeal to the better nature of those sworn to protect society – forming an empathetic connection to them instead of relying on your status. Finally, in the castle, you can pull your group together in a collective effort, using an adversary’s crimes to spur your fellows into action.
Pick Justice if: you want a set of tools to help you uncover injustice, and set the world to rights.
Finally, if you pick the Hierophant, your authority is spiritual, philosophical, academic. You provide advice and support to the others, and when they hang out with you and ask for your advice they’ll find it extremely helpful if followed. As a Heirophant, you’re a member of a prestigious group – maybe a think tank, an order of clergy, an artist collective. When you use this group to open doors in the city, it helps you overcome slander against your reputation, though failure here can harm the group. And in the castle? You’re far better able to understand the metaphysics of that place and to understand what the artefacts there mean to the Vassal, and you gain insight into the castle’s layout every time you use your will to reshape it.
Pick the Heirophant if: you want to be respected and respectable, acting in an advisory role.
Moves and Powers
Once you defeat your first Vassal, and seize their power for your own, you’ll have moves to pick from. This is another chance for you to define what kind of authority you’ll be. Will you concentrate on augmenting your ally’s actions by knocking the foes off-balance with First in the Fray and making effective plans with Tactical Genius? Will you instead exert control over your opponents, guiding their actions and laying traps with And Next You’ll Say…? If you do so, remember to make your predicted action something that’ll benefit you in some way so that their choice is lose/lose for them and win/win for you. Or, will you be a generalist and grab Inspiring Healer, passively benefiting your allies whatever you succeed at whatever else you were doing?
And as you gather shrouds and raise your Shadow, what will you then become? Your Shadow look will help you define what the ideal of authority looks like to you – a divine intercessor? A cosmic scholar? A being of elegance and beauty with mirrored eyes and haute couture? Feel free to define and redefine your image of authority, as your shadow waxes and wanes.
And then there’s Shadow moves. The Authority who leads from the front will get plentiful use from War Cry to stay in the fight, and the Authority who enjoys commanding the battle can use Just You and Me to trap the opponent and Heroic Intervention to disrupt their ability to hurt the other rebels. Finally, Voice of Command lets you flip the castle’s minions to serve you instead – fighting alongside you, helping you offscreen, or acting as sacrificial armour. You may note you can only use this ability once per delve, but it says nothing about the minion stopping serving you if they happen to survive. Whether they fade away with their Vassal’s defeat, or linger as your own minion from that point on, I leave as a matter for you and your Architect!
The Mundane World
Finally, there’s who you are in the mundane world. Across your options for your role and your contacts, there’s a tension – you are certainly in control of something, but you’re very likely not in definite control of it. You may have rivals trying to undermine your authority, greater powers offering you training or power so long as you serve them, students and apprentices seeking to learn from you.
And as for your particulars – are you scrappy and overworked? Pristine and authoritative? Ruthless and waving your authority round like a badge? What challenges will you face as an authority marginalised because of their gender, sexuality, race, religion? Or, alternatively, what challenges will you face as an authority trying to push against society’s orthodoxy when you’re precisely the kind of person it supports?
As you play, try to work out what it is that you’re building. Is it a movement? A school of philosophy? A corporation? An organisation? How will you feel the call of the Void, as more and more people owe you their fealty? How will you nurture the World, if doing so means accepting that your authority is specific and limited and you need to learn from others?
So, that’s the Authority – the different directions you can take the playbook, and the questions it’ll ask you as you play. Remember that you can check out the Kickstarter here, and download the newest release of Voidheart Symphony from my itch.io page.
Tune in next time, when we’ll be looking at the chaos to the Authority’s order: The Heretic!
1: It’s important to note that the questions you ask the others when picking your crew covenant can be answered by more than one rebel!