One of the central themes of Heretic Operative is that your choices have consequences. This is reflected most clearly in our Magic system, where the ever-present Corruption can turn even the most well-intentioned spellcaster down a dark and dangerous path.
Casting spells always generates Corruption. As Corruption grows, the caster’s attunement to Magic grows – encouraging more powerful magic and even more Corruption. If you aren’t careful, this process can feed on itself and rapidly get out of control. Mechanically, stronger levels of Corruption improve your Arcane skill, which is used for researching spells, passing magical challenges in Adventures, and makes some kinds of spells even stronger. So higher Corruption might seem like an advantage! But eventually it gets too high, and the Operative will have to struggle each turn to retain their sanity. Fail, and the Operative becomes a twisted version of themselves who will actively oppose you in combat.
To offset Corruption, each Operative has a certain amount of Tranquility. Each turn, their Corruption goes down by that amount. Powerful mages have a strong baseline of Tranquility to work from, so they can cast strong spells, and quickly let their Corruption subside to a manageable level. But it is always tempting to win one more combat or summon one more magical item, pushing that threshold of Corruption upwards. Higher levels of Corruption reduce Tranquility, and if it becomes negative you automatically gain Corruption each turn – once the spiral starts it can be difficult to stop.
Managing Corruption and Tranquility isn’t just a question of controlling spells. Resisting Corruption is closely linked to a character’s mental and emotional state, so undergoing trauma or making self-centered decisions in Adventures can also directly alter these stats for the worse. The flip side is true as well, acting in a virtuous manner or resisting temptation can help build your mental defenses to better resist Corruption.
There are many pressures in Heretic Operative to act quickly – Cultists spreading their nefarious influence, imminent disasters, and monsters roaming the land. Balancing your need to address these pressures quickly with managing your long-term Corruption & Tranquility can require skill and finesse.
Next time on the mechanics blog we will delve into Skill Challenges!