Human Nature: This is it

2 March, 2012

Probable Cause is playtest ripe, at least by me, since not all procedures have been written yet. The biggest hurdle so far has been Human Nature, which looks like this in the current draft.

Probable Cause: Good cop, bad cop

Human nature is a central ability in Probable Cause. It defines who your character is and where she is heading. Your player character is a police officer, but how does she go about doing her job? To what lengths does she go? Will she break the law to uphold the law? And how does she cope with the job?

If Human Nature falls to 0 means the character has reached the end of the line. Her interest and energy in protecting and serving is crumbling, and her energy to do so has gone, she is burnt out, done, finished.

If Human Nature goes all the way up to 7 it means the character has gone too far. She is corrupt, has been corrupted and is a bad cop indeed, effectively the character has become a criminal herself, she has become what she set out to combat in the first place. The path to becoming corrupted is easy and alluring, it’s part of a character’s nature. The game system will make stuff easier to accomplish if the character is doing “bad” things, but Human Nature still advances automatically like any other skill or ability, by using it and both succeeding and failing (see Advancing skills and abilities). So Human Nature is a backup system for the character to face difficult circumstances.

You may use Human Nature instead of skills you don’t have to overcome obstacles. If what the character is doing falls under certain actions, see below, there is no penalty for doing this. If what the character does falls outside these actions and the attempt is unsuccessful, then Human Nature is strained, ie. lowered by the margin of failure.

Acting within Human Nature

Flashing your badge
Acting violently

Should you try to use Human Nature instead of a skill to do something that falls outside these four broad actions, Human Nature gets momentarily reduced by the margin of failure if you fail to overcome the obstacle  Example: If you need four successes to overcome an obstacle, but only get two successes when using your Human Nature, it gets momentarily reduced by two.

Examples of acting within Human Nature

Flashing your badge: using the fact that you are a officer of the law to gain entry without probable cause, services or information. “It’s OK, love, I’m a cop. Could I have a look in your files for a minute?” Eddie Murphy does it convincingly in the bar scene in 48 Hours – an he’s not even a cop.

Acting violently: inflicting pain on someone to get your way, or extract information from a witness or suspect. This may be only be by threatening with violence and pain. Pointing a gun at someone, loaded or not, is acting with violence, so is torture. “Tell me where the stash is, scumbag, or I’ll break your finger!”

Pilfering: taking or borrowing stuff that isn’t yours, from things with little value to the very opposite. “I’m only borrowing the surveillance van over the weekend – no one will need it anyway, no one will notice.”

Convincing: Forcing your opinion on someone, perhaps even against their will. This may be through simply lying: “Look, mate, your partner already gave me your name. Do you want to take the blame alone? Tell me you were there also, or you get the whole blame.” Or by telling the truth, of course.

It’s not easy getting Human Nature back once it’s been momentarily reduced, unless you wait until the final Wrap-up session of your game. All player characters still in the game get back to their full Human Nature when you reach the Wrap-up session.
If you want your player character to restore a point of Human Nature at any other point in the game, you will have to spend a check in the Players’ turn and set up a scene that describes how your character gets some of her humanity back. No rolls are needed, a nice colour scene is all you need.

Adding Human Nature to a roll

By spending a point of Destiny you may add Human Nature to a skill roll and perhaps be able to do extraordinary stuff. You have to decide to do that before the roll.
If the roll is successful and the action is within Human Nature (Flashing your badge, acting violently, pilfering, convincing), then it’s not momentarily reduced.
If the roll is successful but the action is outside Human Nature, it is taxed by 1.
If the roll fails, no matter if it’s within Human Nature, it is momentarily reduced by the margin of failure.


  1. You are of course aware of the danger of having Nature correspond to actions that are attractive in the game? Keep an eye on it during playtest and let us know how it works. I still really want to play this.

  2. Cheers! I’m aware of it, but not convinced it’s a danger per se. Remember all the players’ decisions via their player characters locks into the game’s fiction. That’s why I used a picture from Rampart – the cop Dave beats the shit out of a guy who happens to drive into his patrol car. Dave is “acting violently”, nearly kills the guy, and this is the kick-off to the film’s main story.
    Actions have consequences, even if they may seem attractive or easy. And why is it attractive to beat someone because you can fx?

  3. Yea, the first three is not a problem, I get that violence or cheating is not “attractive” actions. But convincing with truth is.

  4. Sure – but there are many ways to convince. Using rhetoric, stats, myths, lies, whatever.

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