Motivation and Bonds


I believe this started as a Goblin Punch post that then influenced Rise Up, Comus’ Bond system in his soon to be released His Majesty the Worm game; to which I am now filing the serial numbers off of and remixing a bit. Has he spoken about it before? I don’t recall. 

The original intent was to use this system in a Firefly themed game, but we can all see I ain’t getting around to it anytime soon. It would’ve probably have been most of Some Weird Sin rewritten in the voice I used for that one dragon post. 

Bonds and Motivation

No man is an island. Except for, of course, Island Pete. Though he’s technically an AI operating a colossal party barge out in international waters. The idea is sound, however. Everyone is connected to someone, whether we like it or not. We’re social creatures and tend to form bonds with others. In our grim, dark time, struggles these bonds are what tend to spur us on; to motivate us. To that end, and to squeeze more role playing out of the players, a few changes are getting made to the Conviction system. 

These may make Stable play cumbersome. I have no solution for that at the moment. 


Let’s start here. What was called “Conviction” is now “Motivation.” Honestly, the name is more inline with the intent of the subsystem. “Why did you become a mercenary?” “What are you willing to risk your life for?” - Your motivation. 

Now, Conviction had a pool of points connected to it, that filled by one every time you put yourself in trouble for following your Conviction. Points could then be spent to add a bonus to a dice roll based on circumstances. (Also, in reviewing the system for fixing, I’ve realized the bonuses are going the wrong way. In a Roll Under system, the +4/+8 should be -4/-8.)

The points are remaining, but the pool is getting a little bigger. Each Bond (explained below) has a condition associated with it and, when the condition is met, that Bond is considered Filled and remains so until used. 

Filled Bonds can be used a number of ways:

  • Provide a -2 bonus on d20 rolls unrelated to your Motivation

  • Provide a -4 bonus on d20 rolls related to your Motivation

  • Modifying a roll made in combat by the Bond’s Target, up or down, by 2. Both characters must be present (and alive) in the combat. 

  • Remove a point of Lethal Damage from yourself. Must be accompanied by a motivational affirmation. 

I seem to have just talked myself into modifying the Assists system as well. No one made it to level 5 anyway. 

The values in the bonuses are lower, but you get them more quickly and they stack. You can spend as many as you wish in a round, even on other people’s turns, but the -2/-4 must be declared before the roll is made. 


A bound is made between two players, one for each pair of players. Each Bond has a condition associated with it that must be met in order for the Bond to be considered Filled. I’ve provided examples of the bonds, but they’re mostly Neuromancer related as I’ve just read the news about the TV show and it is freshest on my mind. Don’t you worry, I’ll probably have opinions on that as more news comes out. 


Other crew members that you’re professional and amicable with. This is the default bond. 

Example: Case and the Finn

Filled When: You make an ally laugh in and out of character. 


They may be part of the crew, but there’s no love to be lost between the two of you. This is not an excuse for being an ass to the other player, mind you. 

Example: Molly and Riviera

Filled When: You witness your antagonist fail a check. 

Best Friend

Maybe you’ve been best friends since childhood. Or maybe you met at a some weird guy’s basement to play roleplaying games. Either way, best friends tend to know each other better than themselves, and totally don’t get mad when the other steals content from their soon to be released game.   

Examples: John Anderson and Tina Bonemeal; Case and Molly

Filled When: You share a secret with your best friend


Someone on the crew needs a little extra protecting, and the Bodyguard sees that this happens. 

Examples: Turner and Angie Mitchell; Molly and Kumiko

Filled When: 

  • Bodyguard fills when their Ward survives a lethal encounter (combat) without taking damage. 

  • Ward fills when they get into lethal danger

Business Partners

The bloody gears of capitalism keep on grinding and, even though it’s enslaving and killing you, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a little something for yourself. 

Examples: Cowboy and Roon

Filled When: Business partners fill their bonds when a significant capital venture pays out 


Codependent characters tend to rely on the support of each other, both emotional and physical, to shake off the crushing loneliness and isolation of modern society. 

Examples: Sarah and Daud

Filled When: Codependent characters fill their bond when they seek out emotional support and validation from the target of the bond. 

Drug Dealer/User

The Dealer is a man with love grass in his hand. The User, uh…uses. Uses drugs. 

Examples: Zone and Case

Filled When: 

  • Dealer fills when they sell drugs to a User

  • User fills when they buy the drugs from their Dealer


Turning players into the hired help. This is what it sounds like: One player is the employer, the other is the employee. 

Examples: Molly and Armitage; Wage and the Joeboys

Filled When: 

  • Employer fills when they pay their employee an agreed upon payment or other reimbursement. 

  • Employee fills when they perform a significant task to the benefit of their employer over themself (a Job). 


Despite the cold harshness of the world, you two have found each other. If both players are okay with it (seriously, don’t get weird) a Lovers bound 

Examples: Bobby and Angie Mitchell 

Filled When: This bound is filled when you do something romantic for the other in character - be it tagging an overpass with their name or making them an 8-bit chiptune mix tape. 


The mentor is someone with a wealth of knowledge to provide (or at least fake it). Their protege is someone they’ve taken under their training and guidance. Think jedi master and padawan.

Examples: Case and Dixie Flatline

Filled When: 

  • Mentors fill this Bond when Protege follows your advice

  • Proteges fill this bond when you ask the Mentor for advice and it is given. 

Ride or Die

This isn’t the first crew the two of you have been part of, and you’ve seen each other through thick and thin. With unquestionable certainty, you know they have your back. 

Examples: Hiro Protagonist and Y.T.

Filled When: You assist your partner in making a check. 


A friendly competition never hurt no one. “Friendly” being the keyword. 

Examples: Molly and the Yakuza assassin (it’s not a perfect fit) 

Filled When: You see your Rival succeed in making a check. 


1 comment:

  1. I can't swear to it, because Arnold's stuff is DEEP in my brain, but I think I had the Bonds system keyed up before Arnold's post - and then I rekajiggered it because I liked the idea of some of his.