Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Stunts, Boosts, and Blunders

I am the Warden!!

In the Optional System, a stunt is an attempt at completing two options simultaneously. Seems fairly simple, right? Yet no other concept in the game has undergone so many revisions and tweaks or caused so many bald spots on my precious scalp. As the game evolved into a more complex ruleset, stunts became a liability and was nearly cut from the entire process.

Many other games use a stunt mechanic, but these are your typical point distribution. Do this real good and you get a stunt point, or everyone gets to do one stunt per encounter, blah, blah, blah. Not me. I always wanted stunts to be an integral part of the game with inherent risks and wicked benefits, it just never played out quite as I hoped at the table.

Over the past couple of weeks as the latest batch of revisions make it from brain to computer, it's the stunt mechanic which has undergone the largest transformation to what I believe (AKA hope) will be the final version (or final enough that it just needs a little tweaking with difficulty dice and such).

Risk Vs. Reward
The biggest complaint during the early days of the OSRPG was the ease of stunts. No limitation meant players were trying stunts left, right, and centre as the challenge and risk to performing a stunt was ill regarded as a slightly more challenging dice roll and nothing more. When the challenge was increased or even limited, players never saw the need to try it out unless coaxed by me. In this way, stunts were the primary example of concept over application: what I had imagined as the ultimate solution did not work off the same principles as other players. I knew why I wanted stunts to work this way, but that point never came across in the stunt rules itself. They just saw it as a way to cheat.

Don't get me wrong. Stunts are very much a cheat. A legal cheat, one I strongly encourage. The problem was finding the right balance between cheating and breaking all the rules. It wasn't until rules for blunders was resolved that the answer presented itself.

Oops! Did I Do That?
Remember bonus dice? I love those little 4-sided bastards and they have come in handy for players. The concept for an exploding bonus die has wavered back and forth over the past few months until it's current inception. When your bonus dice explode, your character gains a blunder. Each blunder knocks out the use of a single stat, power, skill, or modifier applied by your character on the blundered roll. For example, if you add your Dexterity focus dice to a roll and gain a blunder, you cannot use that stat for the remainder of the fight (your character pulled a muscle in the attempt). So how does a character recover from a blunder or are you just supposed to suck it up for the rest of the fight?

Eureka! Stunts can remove a blunder by providing a boost. When you succeed on a stunt roll by combining two options together into one roll, your character gains a boost. Each boost performs one of the following benefits;

  • Your character regains 1 Health.
  • Until your Team loses the Edge, your character gains +1d20 base dice to all Body, Sense, or Mind rolls (player's choice).
  • Your character negates a single blunder of your choice.
And what if the character fails a stunt roll? They gain a blunder automatically. And there lies the power of a stunt; success leads to your character's adrenaline surging through her veins to increase her power, while failure blocks off some of your abilities until you can recover from the effort.

Increased Difficulty
A stunt roll cannot be nothing more than a regular roll with a extra Move option thrown in for good measure. The difficulty of a stunt roll has to increase, but this was not always as easy as it sounds. By how much? What if you're just trying to mix two automatic options? And how about attempting two dice options? 

This particular aspect of the stunt rules may change over time as we're yet to fully playtest it, but my own dice rolls have proven effective thus far. Simply use the chart below to increase the difficulty of a stunt roll from your ordinary dice roll.

Stunt Difficulty
Circumstance Dice
2 automatic options
1 dice + 1 automatic
2 dice

And so once again, I stare at the calendar waiting for the next playtest to begin. Constantly staring, my eyes never pried from its grid of frustration...

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