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I'm trying to get a handle on how Features are meant to be used in Shock: Social Science Fiction, and particularly the significance of choosing a new Feature after failing in Conflict.

On the one hand, they seem to serve a similar function to Edges in Primetime Adventures: they represent what makes you unique; they let you use your unique characteristics to do better in conflict. But PTA has clear significance for the details of the Edges - they determine when you can use them, and when you can't. In Shock, all your Features are always in play, however irrelevant.

Similarly, there's also a resemblance to Shock's Minutia; Features are like Minutia about the character. But while Minutia about Shocks and Issues and other setting elements change the setting the game's played in, Features are just kinda character notes, chosen by the player for his own character. In the system book, he gives the examples "I want to know love" and "I love"; which I don't see as adding much to the game. The new Feature seems serve, at best, as a recap of a scene we've already played.

In summary, I'm having trouble seeing what difference the choice of a Feature can make - particularly those added through the games due to conflict failure. Does it matter at all? Or am I missing a way to make the Features significant, meaningful, and/or having a larger effect on the game?

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A clarification question: have you had this problem during play or just on reading? –  SevenSidedDie Jul 25 '11 at 20:35
    
On reading, in preparation for running the game. –  Standback Jul 25 '11 at 21:12
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1 Answer

up vote 1 down vote accepted

There are two functions of Features, one mechanical and one narrative.

The mechanical function is that you roll a number of dice in a conflict equal to your Protagonist's number of Features.

The narrative function is as, or more, important. Features tell everyone at the table what your Protagonist is about. Your Protag's Antagonist player will use these to figure out meaningful opposition to your story goal. If your Protag's features are all about love and seeking acceptance, it would be an odd to make their story all about, say, gambling debts or shaking off the unwanted attention of an overbearing parent.

In that light, adding a Feature as a consequence of a conflict is your chance to tell the rest of the table, "Here, this is how my Protag has gotten more complicated/hurt/conflicted/damaged/energised. Please prod this sore spot! I want to see what the consequences will be." in technical terms, Features are flags.

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