Sunday, December 9, 2012

Initiative! Stunts

So when I first started talking about this new system I'm tinkering with, I mentioned that each character was defined by five Traits: Deadly, Compelling, Quick, Cool and Aware. Of course you characters can get more specific than that. The primary way you define your character is through Stunts.


A Stunt is like a shtick, or a signature move, or a strength, or anything that gives a bit of colour to HOW your character manifests one of the basic Traits. Is he Deadly because he has Fists of Iron? Is she Cool because she's Single-Minded? Stunts are descriptive notes that you use to improve your character's chances at success -- or even to ensure success when you really need it.

Each Stunt is attached to a Trait. So you have Deadly Stunts, or Aware Stunts, or whatever. When you make a Trait roll, you get to apply one Stunt for that Trait to the roll, so it's good to have Stunts spread across your Traits.

(actually, Stunts are just one category of things you can apply to Trait rolls, but we'll get to that later)

Each Stunt also has a Rank. See, Stunts and Traits are both Qualities -- and Qualities are the building blocks of the Initiative! system. Quality Ranks range from the bottom of Fail to the top of Mythic. Each Rank has a corresponding Modifier and a Target number. When you make a Trait roll, you add the Modifier for the Trait's Rank. If you have a relevant Stunt, you can add its Modifier, too.

Making Stunts

Remember, I want this game to be simple. So there can't be long lists of Stunts to choose from. Instead, you can make up your own Stunts -- a Stunt can be anything you want it to be. The basic guideline, though, is that your Stunts can't just mean MORE of the Trait they apply to. That is, you can't have a Deadly Stunt called "Super Deadly". Stunts describe HOW your character operates in a Deadly fashion.

The rule of thumb is that a good Stunt must have obvious conditions under which it would NOT be useful. If you can't easily come up with a situation in which you're using Deadly but would not be able to use the Stunt, it's probably a bad Stunt.

Playing Stunts

Now I also want this game to be freewheeling. So there's an Action Point mechanic, like in many games. What these points allow you to do is apply more than one Stunt to a given roll. The second Stunt can be from any Trait, although you'll be required to explain its usage here.

The big deal with these Action Points is that you can use them AFTER the roll is made. So if you fail by only a small amount, you can spend an Action Point and draw in another Stunt to ensure that you succeed. So you're having to do some fancy narrating at the table, but you know you're doing it for a win.

I've used this type of mechanic for years with DINO-PIRATES OF NINJA ISLAND, and am convinced that a post-roll opportunity is a great way to encourage in-play creativity.

So there you have it! Stunts, part of the core of the Initiative! system -- more details coming soon.