I am the Warden!!
For the past four days, I've been mentally locked at my desk pondering all the upcoming changes to the Optional System's core mechanics, eagerly figuring out how to implement the Tracker (oh, you'll see), discussing character sheet revisions with Lady Warden, and setting aside a large chunk of today to write another revisions to Chapter 1 (again).
Then it hit me. Stunts won't work in this revised mechanic. Actually, they will, but they'll be no different than any other dice roll. All that thunder and lightning has become nothing more than a pretty screensaver. Crap.
So I turn to you, my faithful followers and casual observers, for advice and opportunity to peruse through the following random thoughts as I hope to dissect what was one of the most exciting elements to the OS (IMO) and return it to its former glory better than ever.
The Purpose of Stunts
First of all, I want to make a few conditions on stunts in the Optional System clear. No points! Not just because stunt points are all the rave in AGE and some other systems (from what I've been told), but there's already going to be enough tracking with stats and skills. When the idea for stunts first came to mind, it was a mechanic available to every character without any prerequisites (i.e. "You must roll a natural 20 on your base die to perform a stunt before the end of your Team's turn..."). A stunt was a tool to attempt two options with one roll; failing a stunt resulted in your character losing the edge and shifting it to another Team. The risk of performing a stunt was that failure resulted in your inability to act any further, as if all your energy went into the stunt and it wore your out.
These elements have to remain. Somehow.
Hits vs. Success
Rather than look at all the elements changing in the next draft, I think it's easier to simply consider the new POV for the Optional System: collecting hits. Rather than simply have everything built on a principle of succeeding on your rolls, the goal is to do so with as many hits as possible. You succeed by gaining at least 1 hit on your roll, not just by beating the opposing roll. Same effort, different viewpoint. So how do we engage stunts on a hit basis?
In no particular order, here are some ideas I'm considering.
Option 1: Critical Stunts
Performing a stunt allows a character to attempt 2 options simultaneously, one dice and one automatic. To pull it off, the character must earn at least 3 hits from the active roll or else the stunt is considered a failure. This increased difficulty translates every stunt into a critical hit and that can grant additional benefits working in combination with the stunt, thereby making it more powerful than the original concept. Additional requirements could involve rolling less than 3 hits; if you only roll 1 or 2 hits on a stunt, the dice option fails but the automatic option goes off without a hitch, while gaining no hits results in total failure.
Verdict: While the simplest idea to implement, blurring the idea between stunts and critical hits might be unnecessary. I'm basically saying that all stunts are critical hits and while that makes sense on paper, how does hitting an opponent really hard translate into a combination of moving and attacking in one option?
Option 2: Storing Hits
Throughout a fight, you make attack rolls, defense rolls, and perform general acts of ass-kicking. These hits can be stored into a stunt pool until you have accumulated 3 hits, which can then be spent to perform a stunt. If you fail a stunt, it's just like failing any other roll except your stunt hits are wasted and you must start again.
Verdict: Yeah, I know, I said no stunt points and this is pretty much the same damn thing. Totally applicable, but additional tracking is to be avoided as much as possible until further playtesting reveals just how many times erasers touch the character sheet.
Option 3: Rolling Automatics
If a stunt engages two options simultaneously - an automatic and a dice option - what if performing a stunt required you to roll what would normally be an automatic option? Working with the charge as the most basic stunt you can think of (running up to an opponent and attacking), normal conditions mean you have to spend a Move option to reach the opponent and follow it up with an Attack option. This requires you to spend one of your Team's options on the movement. Therefore, if you call for a stunt and roll for your Move option, you can instead gain a bonus option from the move and translate it into the following Attack option. If you fail your Move roll, the stunt fails and your Team loses the edge just like every other roll. If the Move roll gains at least 1 hit, you can follow it up with an attack from the bonus option.
Doing so would require a limitation on stunts to keep things from getting out of hand. Let's say each character starts with the ability to perform 1 stunt per fight; when you complete your stunt successfully, you can perform another one. Fail a stunt and you can't try any more. This allows you to attempt a stunt as your character's very first roll, if you want.
Verdict: This idea has quickly become my favourite because it's easy to implement. You simply convert the automatic option into a dice option while attempting a stunt. Win the roll and you use bonus options to follow through; fail and you lose the edge. Nice, simple, and theoretically successful.
The question is, what do you think?