Tinkering all sorts of Reincorporation mechanics (Claims, Motifs, Keys, etc.) I realize I am blocked by the rule of “do not repeat yourself”. I’d call that the rule of “1-2-stop”. It’s a good rule, but so much for Reincorporation.

So, I watched some The Wire and I think I have a solution. It’s the rule of “1-2-split”. And it works like this : when you find yourself or another player repeating a Motif, congratulate them and propose a Motif that while continuing the previous one, goes in a new direction. Like : tree - tree - woodcutting. Now I know, it’s just Breaking the Routine from Improv.

But, as in all things Reincorporation, the trick is in making it a rule that you don’t just let lay in the players’ hands. And if you look at some games with clear Reincorporation mechanics, you’ll find it underused : SWM does “1-2-stop”. Keys can be repeated indefinitely if you don’t up the stakes against them (but there’s no mechanic tying back to that). Claims are living, but some will get repeated times and times again, as any other Trait or Skill. I believe Breaking the Routine is the “default”, sustainable through both short and long term play.

BTW, it can also be used in character, setting and scenario creation.


I like this approach. I see a lot of games focus on this aspect from a failure point of view: they demand or mechanize that you should not be repeating the same skill check over and over to win.

I think a simple mechanical solution is making options rely on a resource. Something like charges, mana, or exhaustion will force a character to use different options of they only get so many chances.

There is also the board game mechanic of the Rondel. It’s a circlular track with one or more game pieces used to show your position. Movement along the Rondel is limited to less than a full loop so that you are forced to choose different options. Even if a player makes an optimal path, they are still forced to vary their actions every “turn”.


Thank you !
Resources bring a complexity, with the question of production/(trade/)consumption that I don’t want right now. But they’re right there.

The Rondel is exactly it, with its “self contained” economy. I see how I could use it for Themes succession / Scene framing for instance.

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It seems like repetition is generally avoidable in traditional, task resolution rpgs, while some motif-using indie games are supporting it. Playing Annalize or Swords Without Master we never encountered the problem that reincorporation is ‘too much’, because it’s never 100% the same.

I like your proposition, I just don’t see the problem here. Could you write about how this situation actually arises in (your) games?

You’re probably right, I don’t see occasions to repeat ourselves at the table. And my hypothesis is : because we preempt this problem with a technique.

I just don’t like to have an advice section in my games. So I’m thinking of ways to make it a rule, for which the first step is to put the concept clearly.

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I love what the game The Treasure at the End of this Dungeon Is an Escape From This Dungeon and We Will Never Escape From This Dungeon does with repetition, cyclic motifs, and reincorporation.

Each room has a list of “elements.” Every time you enter a room, you circle an element and you need to engage with or identify all of the circled elements. Since you end up going back to the same type of room over and over again, it adds a really deep looping complexity to the whole thing. (E.g. in the Battle room, there might be sharp rocks. Now every battle room from here on out will also have sharp rocks as a motif).

Each character constantly dies and regenerates somehow, creating another series of repetition. For example, the Muscle has four things they can do. Each time they take damage, they cross off one of the things until there aren’t any left. Then their character dies and a new Muscle joins the party, fresh with exactly the same four abilities. This repeats infinitely.

Both of these things really emphasize the weird, kaleidoscopic nature of the whole experience and it’s quite fun.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that, instead of trying to discourage repetition, you can instead lean into it and highlight how weird and tropey it becomes. Then the players themselves might start mixing it up just to get away from the strangeness of it all.

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I came to the same conclusion chosing a Saragossa Manuscript theme with a cascade of matriochka/daughter stories mirroring each other. This way I can let repetitions thrive. And I can store in my garage the clever mechanics I found to prevent repetitions. Colour is a convenient way to round the rough angles of the mechanic.

Your example is astonishing. Thank you !

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