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|Wednesday, January 25th, 2012|
|BECT (Wanderlust) - Overview pt 1
Brimstone Emissaries in the City of Thorns is a game of exploration and building, of the character you will play, of the City, and of the various wonders and horrors within. The flow of the game is through questions, many which you will pose, and some arising from the setting itself. To compete for the answers of these questions you will play cards from parts of a split up Tarot deck. Meanwhile, the troubles you encounter along the way will be contributing their own cards to instinctively answer questions in their own way. Answers have a persistence, and include such things as being captured, falling in love or rage, and discovering a family secret.
Both your character and the troubles have a variety of moves linked together by arrows. By following the arrows from your last move to your next move you can describe an effective move, which alters the situation in some significant way, even if that move describes an apparent failure. While your character can try anything reasonable given the situation so you may want to describe several actions of your character before making your effective move. But bear in mind, only the moves available from your previous move will have a long term effect.
Each move will give you cards to play or change answers, adding or removing answers from the current situation. When you play cards to a question, you give each other existing side of that question a move, choosing either a trouble or character on that side, or to have a new trouble join an existing side, which gives that trouble a special move. You will choose which move each trouble makes, but the player of a character chooses their moves. In this way trouble is always reactive, either to a character's move or triggering from a setting piece.
|Monday, January 23rd, 2012|
|Brimstone Emissaries in the City of Thorns (Wanderlust)
I've decided to join with Josh Mannon's Games Galore
design a game a month shindig. For January I'm aiming to finish a simple version of my as yet incomplete Game Chef 2010 design Endless, based around a common system I've recently come to calling Wanderlust. I'll talk a bit more about Wanderlust in later posts about Brimstone Emissaries in the City of Thorns (BECT).Lying deep in the brambles of the Outerlands beyond the Worlds Proper and the Lands of the Dead, lies the ancient City of Thorns. It is a twisting, taking place, but a respite from those who wish to venture unscathed. Still, the ageless triumvirate who rule the city from deep within the Well of Majesty cannot ignore their neighbours, and so it was that emissaries from worlds above and below are called to treat.
And so, called from the comfortable fires of her homelands, the Ambassador of Hell and her retinue venture to the City. They seek peace, murder, escaped criminals, and what secrets they may find within the Spiral Library. But what will they find? And at what cost?
|Tuesday, January 4th, 2011|
|RPG Solitaire Challenge
This challenge has so many good judge's challenges that I've spent the last few days just trimming down to a few competing designs. Here are some of them in decreasing order of their likelihood of finishing the race:Inner Worlds
A game where you play through your protagonist's life and map out their mental and emotional landscape into a gazetteer. Key ideas here are:
* The structure of your protagonist's life is built from conflicts as a sort of currency. In each scene you travel through the inner world discovering new places or delving more deeply into places you've been before. At the same time you transform your stock-pile of conflicts (meaning situations where one or more people want or need something and cannot all be satisfied) perhaps resolving one, sustaining one, and introducing one. Conflicts can be internal (you want or need two things, but can only have one), personal (you and another person both want something and you cannot have both), or external (two other people both want something, and only one can get it).
* The gazetteer gives structure to the scenes, by showing what is near the inner world of our protagonist and bringing back associations and memories. The cardinal directions of inner world are selected to be key emotional or philosophical ideas which matter to the protagonist and the player, traveling along those directions reflects their presence in the scenes. The scenes and their evolving conflicts give structure to the inner world's sites and peoples, as they are drawn directly from the people and events of the scene.
Design-wise, I expect that translation effect between the world of conflicts and relationships, and the inner world exploration will produce a delayed dynamic where the system withholds the impacts of earlier decisions and ideas until you have the opportunity to reflect on it with a new light. While this isn't the only way to make a solitaire game, I suspect it is a potent technique.The Cooking Game
In this game you play as you cook a handful of dishes for a dinner. Each element of the preparation and actual cooking is either the input to an ongoing narrative or the resolution of a part of that narrative. This will be a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, except the decisions will be made by cooking outcomes: Is the "meat" done before the casserole? Are you willing to add cinnamon to your beverage? How about to your vegetables? And of course, which dish is your favorite?
Character creation is the building of four spice mixes (meat, casserole, vegetable, and beverage). The game will adjust around a variety of options for things such as vegetarian meats, casseroles that require pre-cooking, and a variety of beverages - from tea to sekanjabin. How much this will affect the narrative I'm still undecided about.
Part of the serious design problem here is balancing the need for extremely flexibly recipes as game engines, ensuring that they tie to an underlying narrative, keeping that narrative from being superficial or becoming a cooking hazard. But all in all, it seems a fascinating possibility to produce something pretty unexpected from the play of an RPG.
At the moment the following is more of a back-up idea, in case neither of the above really works out. But it might steal my attention...Magic's End
There is a setting idea I've had stuck in my head for ten years for a game where you play and archmage doing your last piece as the age of magic has just ended for good. And now that I know Coming of Age works as a solitaire RPG and presents a much better CYOA framework than CYOA books do, I'm sorely tempted to do a variant of solitaire Coming of Age it for Magic's End - because a team of archmages never made that much sense to me.
|Tuesday, October 5th, 2010|
|Generalized Czege Principle
The Czege Principle
is helpful, but tricky - I like generalizing to "It is boring or frustrating while playing a RPG to come up with an interesting question and then to be the one to immediately answer it." That formulation helps to show some of the ways to avoid the hazard, and some of the ways that still apply even though at first glance they may seem safe. In particular, it allows it to apply more clearly to resolution in cases where adversity is unclear or even non-existent. In any case, however, you should remember, that not violating the Czege principle is no guarantee that the game will not be boring.
|Tuesday, February 10th, 2009|
Deep in the picturesque wilderness of the Western United States lies the sleepy little town of Hannah, Montana. But this small town hides a secret. If you visit, you soon realize something is amiss. Perhaps it is the ornate church in the center of town dedicated to the Valorous Saints. Perhaps it is how the population is surprisingly fit. Perhaps it's because rather than small dogs, the women of Hannah, Montana walk small cherubic beasts with wings and fat pink bodies.
The truth is, Hannah, Montana is the home of the Sanguine Order of Santus Valentinus an ancient order of Church Knights founded over 2,500 years ago. An esoteric order focusing largely on learning and study, they under go a fascinating transformation during the late Winter season. During this time members of the order travel the world, bringing love, romance, and joy to potential couples which they select through curious divination routines (such as plucking rose petals or examining cards for hidden messages). Then, as the day of their namesakes arrives, the knights slaughter the chosen couples with as much brutality and collateral damage as feasible. ( TimelineCollapse )
|Wednesday, February 4th, 2009|
|Sanguine Order of Santus Valentinus
Some years back I wrote an RPG based on a list of 17 and a half words and phrases, in about 4 hours. This RPG has been remarkably successful - Christmas Ninjas. But recently I've been asked to create another seasonal RPG, A Valentine's Day RPG for singles. Clearly the intention is to incorporate as much nonsensical mayhem as Christmas Ninjas, but in a different vein. As such, I've struck upon the idea of an order of Church Knights, dating back over 2500 years to the first Saint Valentine, using the same core mechanics (which I've vetted significantly by now) in the revised version of Christmas Ninjas.
And just like Christmas Ninjas, I've asked for a list of words and phrases. Although I believe I've now stuck with a bit more than 17 and a half. So, let's see where this goes. ( List of Words and PhrasesCollapse )
|Monday, July 28th, 2008|
|Publication Thoughts on Coming of Age
I've been thinking over some of the advice about Coming of Age that I received at Dreamation earlier this year. The main thing is that the game isn't in a terribly exciting package.
Putting a bunch of setting sheets with the main rules and saying "Play it!" certainly appeals. On the other hand, without an overarching theme or connection between the settings it's difficult to really push the game towards something which I can easily market. So I've been thinking of alternatives:pMagic Academy
- combine the Coming of Age rules and Magic setting sheets with my old design a magic club / magic school process (which was always the most fun part about playing Magic Academy). Maybe this could be combined with Squires of Sword and Sorcery and Space Police Academy, dealing with the entire school-based sub-genre of coming of age stories. Darker Journeys
- take some of the more mature themes from the setting sheets. Includes Heroes of the Revolution, Family Matters (crime drama), and The Next Day (post disaster/apocalypse). Really look into character death and maybe even include the reverse rules for Last Hurray.Rites of Passage
- this focuses on real cultures and situations, and will probably require doing some more research. Survival stories and spiritual journeys both belong here, as well as some options for more structured play and rules to encourage stronger cooperation between players.
I think these three book ideas would neatly cover much of the ground I want to expose within Coming of Age. But I've less idea on how to approach publishing them. Perhaps one at a time, or maybe all together.
|Thursday, July 17th, 2008|
|Making a Mystery
I've been asked recently to build on the mystery creation mechanics I suggested on Story Games a some months ago. They rose from the mission creation mechanics in Drift, but turned a few corners along the way. Unfortunately, what I posted at Story Games didn't work when I tried it.
But this modified mechanic seems to. ( Mystery Creation MechanicCollapse )
|Monday, January 21st, 2008|
|Coming of Age: Continuity
At the center of roleplaying a character is the idea that the world of the character will retain a certain consistency, that events will flow from one moment or description to the next. Coming of Age relies on this continuity to help bring the characters and hence you the players together. Because the antagonists are shared among you, how you describe the changes in those antagonists and in the wider world of the game directly affects what your fellow players can do.
While often taken for granted, continuity isn't automatic. Most of the time, each of you will respond to each others ideas and incorporate them into your actions and description. But sometimes a player will forget some detail important to you, like the fact that the demon knight has entered the castle already. If that happens, tell him. Politely remind him of the fact, and if it changes what he was planning to do, try to give an alternate suggestion. Be open to clarification by others, they might have different ideas of what had happened. Most importantly, work together to resolve the gap.
It may seem odd, but one of the keys to keeping the continuity working in Coming of Age is to not plan too far ahead. You already know where your character is headed, because of her titles and her opposition, the purpose of the game is to discover how she gets there. The dice, and more importantly your fellow players will surprise you. And that's what you should look forward to as part of playing Coming of Age.
|Wednesday, November 28th, 2007|
|Whispers of Heaven's Fall - Beginnings
I've just started pulling together ideas for a the friendship RPG design contest at knife fight. My present idea is martial artists in a world which is in the process of an ontological apocalypse, splintering into multiple worlds.
The design is based on three requests:
1) flexible / discovered characters within the rules and expressions of the system (examples here were Dogs in the Vineyards, My Life With Master, and something called Drifter's Escape)
2) emergent effectiveness from system complexity (examples here were D&D, Exalted, and Weapons of the Gods)
3) kung fu
Working from the last towards the first, I decided to borrow from some kung fu ideas and build the game based on state changes. Characters have a stance, which indicates their present physical and emotional state. They also have a path, which indicates their role within the world. In default, each path links the stances in one or more fixed cycles, indicating the predictable patterns of that path.
The next two states are global, shared by all characters, and the world around them. The first is the kingdom, which starts having only one state, and slowly splinters, creating alternate realities, where characters can discover they are very different people. The second of these is the horoscope, which does not directly affect the characters outside of a conflict. During a conflict however, resolution happens by progressing the horoscope, and hence advancing some of the events which lead to the splintering and destruction of the world.
I might be replacing the horoscope with a card draw of some sort, but as of now there is no randomness in the system. Another outcome of conflicts is to grant characters points which can be used to draw new links on their characters.
Beyond the default links, these represent secret arts, whether martial or philosophical. Player characters start with several of these arts already, enabling them to break from a single path and become heroes. There is one over-arching limitation to these arts - they may not cross each other. And since there are 6 stances and 6 paths, this limit will be reached fairly easily.
Each step from one state to another causes an effect (seduction, best someone in combat, meditate, and so on). The default links are pre-defined, but while suggested secret arts exist, the specific effect can be crafted by the player. In a bout, any player may cause an effect by stepping across a single link. Multiple effects which conflict with each other can lead to a conflict. Entering a conflict leads to gaining points (as yet unnamed) for new arts. Conflicts may require advancing the horoscope to resolve.
|Monday, October 29th, 2007|
|Coming of Age additions
After playtesting and some careful thought, I've decided that two changes are needed in the Coming of Age playtest document. First, the pacing rules should not affect the short term dynamics of antagonists, only the longer term dynamics of opposition dice. Second, character versus character actions should be able to provide a benefit to the antagonist character. As such, I've decided to allow a victorious initiator to add a step to one of their antagonist's opposition dice. Literally they are teaching her or him a lesson.( Specific ChangesCollapse )
|Saturday, September 29th, 2007|
|Dragon's Gate - Wyverns
Dragon-kin are draconic beings that sentients can relate to, while dragonettes are much like beasts. Wyverns are another scale entirely. A wyvern is a draconic being on the scale of natural (hurricane, earthquake, or meteor strike) or unnatural (plague of undead, wave of madness, cloud of bliss) catastrophe. Wyverns are not so much hostile as forces of pure magic, and their motives are at best enigmatic. But wyvers, unlike the true dragons can be influenced and even destroyed by characters such as PCs.
A wyvern is a form of magic, much like a dragon-kin, although it has effectively unlimited potency. A wyvern also has a potency, between 1 and 10. The DC to affect a wyvern is 50 + 25 * its magnitude
. Thus even the weakest wyvern requires a legendary action to affect. On the other hand, wyverns do not make saves, so meeting this DC is enough. The most powerful wyverns require a DC 300, impossible without careful preparation and planning (using the aiding rules).
Wyverns do not generally wait passively to be defeated or controlled. Instead they affect things in three different ways, using their innate magic to produce various effects. The scope of these effects is settlement for magnitude 1-3, countryside for 4-6, and local area for 7+. When the wyvern is simply present it produces magical effects of a level 10 + 5 * magnitude
. When the wyvern is focusing on a specific place or situation within its scope, that raises to 20 + 10 * magnitude
. And when provoked it can strike with a pinpoint focus against a person or object at an effect of 30 + 15 * magnitude
Remember, wyverns rarely take notice of lesser beings. Only a failed roll which could have beaten it's affect DC will be sure to draw its attention, and even then for only a short while. This does not mean that wyverns won't have other, strange purposes and motivations. Wyverns are intended to be powerful challenges requiring preparation and cooperation, as well as atmospheric effects demonstrating some of the most exotic beings PCs will likely encounter in the world of Dragon's Gate.
|Friday, September 28th, 2007|
|Dragon's Gate - Revised Aiding Rules
Originally aiding was an action you could take in combat to give a character a +2 bonus on all actions of a specific type for a round. We decided, given the scaling, that this was insufficient. The first change was to make aiding give a +5. That seemed to work well, but opened up some other problems, not the least of which was the question of aiding outside of combat. To answer those questions I've worked out the following:
Aiding is any action (i.e. skill use) that is meant to assist a character on another action (you may assist yourself). The relationship of the assist to the bonus must be explained, and may use any skill that logically could affect the final action. Aiding adds a +5 assist bonus, which stacks with other assist bonuses, if the aiding character beats a DC equal to the current bonus on that action, including assist bonuses, but not bonuses from magic skills. If the skill being assisted is a magic skill, then a point of potency must be expended in the aiding action, even if the aiding skill is not a magic skill.
(Of special note, in combat the assist bonuses now apply to one action, not for the rest of the round. This was needed to streamline the mechanic for out of combat use.)
For example, if a character has an attack bonus of +13, not counting a +6 ferocity bonus, then if a character wishes aid the eventual attack they must beat a 13 DC to add +5, if another assist is attempted, that will be versus a 18 DC, and then a 23 DC and so on. The aiding characters need not use a combat skill, they could, for example, use Wit, Distract, or even a minor magical effect from a magic skill like Deceive (which would cost no potency). After being aided three times the total bonus on the attack would be a +34 (28 + 6 from Ferocity).
Remember aiding must always have a reason to make a substantial effect on the final action. Thus additional attempts to aid must have a reasonable effect in addition to the previous attempts. This is especially important outside of combat. Also, it is entirely viable to aid an an attempt to aid. Indeed, an entire session could be constructed around a single vital action in this way (such as convincing the king or cracking a code).
Also, aiding largely replaces a direct attempt at an action. Hence, aiding with Distract wouldn't prevent people from noticing you or aiding with a magic skill wouldn't enable you to convert potency to a magical effect. While there is some effect, it is in influencing the situation to enhance the outcome of the final action.
|Friday, August 31st, 2007|
|Dragon's Gate Additions - Dragons and Their Kin
The Dragon's Gate setting is founded on seven dragons, called the Great Dragons. These are Ourboros, Demiurge, Ialdaboth, Fafnir, Leviathan, Quetzalcoatl, and Lucifer. On average these beings are significantly bigger than Earth, despite being inhabited much like planets. For example, Ourboros has a circumference roughly the same as Jupiter's Red Spot. Each dragon's very blood and essence is one of the seven building block elements of existence.
On the scale beneath them are the Lesser Dragons, planetoids and moons of the Great Dragons. There are dozens, perhaps even hundreds of these. These are mystically distinct from their primaries, although tainted by proximity and the strange radiations that permeate the space of Dragon's Gate.
Beneath the Lesser Dragons are the Wyverns, the asteroids and comets, as well as symbiotic or parasitic beings dwelling on the Dragons. The wyverns are on the edge of being comprehensible to the peoples inhabiting the Dragons. Still, the relationship is more one of natural disasters and cosmic encounters. Often an earthquake or a meteor strike will be due to the movements of a wyvern. They space born ones seem to travel between the Dragons, for reasons scholars can only speculate.
The next tiers down are the Dragonkin and Dragonettes, the distinction between these types is always somewhat hazy. Loosely speaking, a Dragonkin is a draconic being which acknowledges the humans and other such beings and are at least as capable or aware. Here are where mythic dragons of Earth legend would be placed, as well as stranger beings.
If the draconic being is no more than any other animal it is considered a dragonette. There are many forms of dragonettes, from graceful flocking dragonettes living on the savannas of Demiurge's wings to the crawling draconic forms found beneath a rotted stump. Indeed, dragonettes are so plentiful that they occupy many of the wild niches taken by insects and other animals. In any given environment only a handful of the creatures will be of an identifiable Earth-like creature.
Because of this hierarchy of draconic beings, it is really only important to describe Wyverns Dragonkin, and Dragonettes. In particular, the only playable option of these three are the Dragonkin.
Like all things draconic, dragonkin are not merely imbued with magical potency, they are entirely composed of it. And like the others their potency is a unique aspect, tinged by that of the Dragons. So the first step in making a dragonkin is to choose what their magical nature is. Part of this is reflected in their appearance and personality.
As part of this step, choose seven skills (as though you are gaining a level). You may choose from the Instinct skill group and any magical skill groups, but you may not choose an entire skill group. These define the matters in which your magical aspect is most applicable. These are also locked skills you must select for each level gained.
Dragonkin gain magical potency equal to their base save plus their highest ability, plus twice their level. This is their own unique form of potency, and has associations worked out at character creation between the player and the GM (use the Great Dragons as examples). Dragonkin do not gain a Talent. Once per level, a dragonkin may take the following feat:Freedom
- You have learned greater flexibility.Prerequisite
: Must have one or more locked skills selections.Effect
: Unlock one of your skill selections. This may be chosen freely for this level, and all subsequent levels. It may also be joined with three other (non-locked) skill selections to select a skill group.Special
: You may select this feat up to once per level. This is a general feat, and so provides no save bonus.
|Thursday, August 30th, 2007|
|Dragon's Gate Additions
- You can alter the material and spiritual forms of the world around you.Prerequisite
: Assembled Heritage or 5 ranks of ResearchEffect
: Gain a new save starting at Constitution plus base save. This save is a base amount of Fafnir power and can be used in place of a Fortitude save to avoid physical transformations. You also gain a new skill area with three skills:
- Metamorphose (Wis - Magic) - convert potency to a transformation of a being (who may be yourself). You must defeat their Constitution + 10 or their Fortitude DC (or Alchemy DC) if they are unwilling, and any remaining potency may be converted to a single Instinct skill weakness (see Chosen), alternatively you may provide an Instinct Skill (other than Mindspeak or Mindtouch) at a bonus of +5 per potency spent. Providing an Instinct skill does not stack with that skill if already possessed, and the bonus lasts for one day. This effect may be resisted by a Will save versus five times the potency spent, reduced by half after one day elapses. Failing this Will save leaves the transformed trapped until a use of this power successfully exceeds their Fortitude DC to turn them back to their original form.
- Enrich (Con - Magic) - Convert potency to a transformation of associated material forces or substances to a spiritual one. You may enrich up to twice the potency you expended.
- Degenerate (Con - Magic) - Convert potency to a transformation of associated spiritual forces or substances to a material one. You may degenerate up to twice the potency you expended.
|Friday, July 27th, 2007|
|Star Wars Homeworld Project
I've been discussing with Gàbor how to use Homeworld Project
(pdf) to run Star Wars. Admittedly, one of my thought experiment examples of the game is based on the movies (the original trilogy), so I figure that shouldn't be too difficult. After some thought, it seems the only real change is to re-define the modes (basically the species of Homeworld Project) to become factions within the world of Star Wars. Each mode has a verb - indicating the types of things they excel at, I'm keeping the same idea for the Star Wars version, so here are my first attempt at the factions:Fringer
- On the edge of galactic society, fringer are largely trying to get by. Their verb is Frolic
- Traders, merchants, and manipulators, value and worth is always important to them. Their verb is Build
- The scum of the galaxy, smugglers, thieves, and troublemakers. Their verb is Master
- The political faction struggling for order and safety, best described by the Empire. Their verb is Preserve
- The political faction struggling for freedom and openness, best described by the Republics. Their verb is Believe
- Lost worlders, people who have no ties to the greater galactic world, with they stay neutral or take a side? Their verb is Seek
- Remnants of lost civilizations and past glories, they are all that remain of their hopes. Their verb is Survive
(There may be better verbs, but I chose to use the same seven as the modes originally used. They seem to present a good mix of options. Perhaps that will change later...)
As an aside, while there are many aliens in the Star Wars universe their alien-ness is generally an important part of them (they tend to be representative of their species). So, aliens could be of any of the factions, but they should have a grain which is their species, and likely a reflection of that species as well.
All together that ought to be enough to build a solid Star Wars epic - and after all, doesn't it make sense to play Star Wars in a system where the Millennium Falcon is a character in its own right?
|Friday, July 13th, 2007|
|Alternative d20 Craft
Each rank of the craft
skill gives the character some number of "patterns", lets say 3. Each time a a crafter constructs something with that craft, she may use a pattern to design the specifics - materials, quality level, size, as well as the item itself. If a pattern is totally new (sharing neither material or item type with a previous pattern) it costs 2.
Crafting without a pattern uses the standard (slow) crafting rules. Crafting with a pattern doubles the "money" generated by a successful craft roll, while giving the default even on a failed roll. A crafter can devote more pattern slots to increase success modifier by one, up to a x5.
A warning, this may make it cost effective to craft rather than adventure for money, at least if the DM lets the demand keep pace with your supply. The nice thing here is that the crafters will specialize. DMs can even make some patterns "trade secrets" making them valuable treasure as well.
|Thursday, June 21st, 2007|
|Thoughts on the Big Score
I've likely mentioned this idea before, a d20-based game for heist and big con genre stories, heavily inspired by the Ocean's 11 movies. I've recently put together a few more ideas, based on things I could do to the d20 system that would be deeply innovative, and possibly quite useful for this design.
The basic gist is that leveling becomes something that happens all the time, as in during the course of the con / heist you will go from 1st up to the some specified top level. Indeed during the game the players are competing to get to that top level first, even if they are teammates. This means gaining levels needs to be easy - which means cutting out most of the d20 complexity of classes - saves, hit points, and the like.
Instead I'm merging most of that with skills - making the ranks of skills ablative. If you are scene, you take "damage" to your Stealth. If you are injured you take damage to your combat. If you run out of ranks the damage hits your ability score, and may drop you out of that arena.
I'm planning to keep feats, but make them very different. The basic idea is feats are one time nifty things you can do to reinvent the present facts about the heist. They're limited by your ability scores, so some characters will be able to use You Just Didn't See Me, while others can access I Know a Guy. This allows you to change a fact into a different one, aiding in re-envisioning the facts into a new truth. That will be one of the keys to gaining levels, which then translates to being the one on top, who decides what actually happened in the con / heist.
Mostly I'm intrigued by the possibilities of using leveling as an active mechanic, as part of the action. I envision this as a revelation of competency, after all getting to the top meant you were the most competent con artist / thief, so it turned out everyone else was playing your game all along.
|Friday, March 16th, 2007|
|Homeworld Project - GM Advice
At first glance, being the GM in Homeworld Project seems difficult. Unlike many RPGs, you have specific restrictions on what you can do, namely the reflections. You can't just bring in a situation or a problem that doesn't link to them in some way. But in practice that restriction is more of a benefit. If a player asks for a reflection, then that is a clear sign that at least that player wants to see more about that reflection.
As the GM, it is your role to help provide that. If you want to see something in particular, suggest that to the players as they select reflections. If no one bites, then more than likely that idea won't work for this group as is. And there is always the chance of opening a new reflection from a player's free mark.
Instead, you should focus on the tools you have at hand. There are three ways to use reflections. First you can dedicate layers to introduce manifests. Do this to start with, but not to excess. You want to keep room for expending layers as well. Also, remember you don't need to manifest a handful of thugs individually, they can just be one manifest.
The second use is to expend those layers. That gives you some flexibility, but you usually have less available than all of the players, so expend your layers were it counts. Either to place a particularly interesting consequence or to add some marks.
The last, and most easily forgotten, use is to raise or lower the reflections. You can do this as easily as the players, and it can be an important way to introduce conflict. If a player is trying to grow a reflection, make sure you reduce it somewhat occasionally, to keep things interesting. Likewise a reflection won't simply go quietly as a player attempts to reduce it to oblivion.
But remember, making things challenging should help make things fun. Remember, the players are taking on the role of the heroes. It's not a question of whether they will win. What is important is what happens along the way. This is Space Opera after all.
Beyond providing a challenge, you have two other duties. The first is to keep an eye on pacing. This generally a matter of making sure that players aren't uncertain about what to do next. If they are, then manifest something and make things interesting. Look at the reflections you haven't used as much recently.
The other duty is related to pacing. Its to make sure that players get a fair access to bouts. As GM you shouldn't be getting into bouts with yourself, just decide those outcomes. That means each bout that happens will have at least one player in it. You should make sure that a few players aren't taking most of those bouts, at least not without other players have the option for bouts of their own.
Most of the time this shouldn't be difficult. But sometimes player will be competing to take the free marks from Turning Points or otherwise two players both want the next bout. If this becomes a problem, you can resolve it in a few ways. One way is to go around the table, giving each player the chance to start a bout. Another is to break ties with the lowest die showing. But the best way to resolve it is to talk to the players about it before feelings are hurt.
In many ways, you are not the only one who has these duties. Players can and often should participate in making things challenging, well paced, and fair. Encouraging that behavior will make things easier and more rewarding. After each person has a responsibility to help make the game fun for everyone else.