Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Witless Minion (Part Two)

Continuing from the last post (Witless Minion Part One)-- essentially the game I came up with for the 24-RPG Contest at RPG Geek. Gene's given me some good suggestions and some ideas for other campaign frames. When this is all said and done I'll probably do a really solid revision on this.

When a player attempts to do perform an action, the GM decides how to resolve it. Generally actions have two components: what the player wants to have happen and how they're making that occur.

Automatic: If the action is trivial, easy and uncontested, or generally doesn't create a dramatic opportunity, the GM should allow the action to happen without any roll or argument. So if the character's decide to drive down the street to the 7-11, then there's no need for a check. If the consequences for failure aren't dramatic-- i.e. would we spend any time on it in a movie or a comic book panel, then the GM should let those things happen. Actual rolled checks should be for cool, interesting and important things-- three factors which sometimes overlap but not always in play.

Tested: If an action is directly contested, difficult, has some dramatic stakes to it or takes place under pressure, then the GM can call for a test. Combat's where most rolling will happen since most actions like attacks and defenses are contested.

Action Tests:
For any action, the GM declares the relevant characteristic the player will use. This is the base number of d10s the player will roll.
Physique: Relates to strength, endurance, stamina and health.
Agility: Deals with anything about coordination, speed, and dexterity.
Combat: Used for attacks, shooting, parries, spotting things in the heat of battle, and the like.
Social: Covers any kind of social interaction of awareness.
Willpower: Handles questions of remaining cool, resisting fear, withstanding torture, handling pain.
Smarts: Applies to any test of intelligence, wisdom or technical expertise.

The player can then ask to apply any abilities they have to the action. Players can gain up to an additional three dice to their pool based on their abilities. Only one ability may be applied to any attempt.

* Broad Abilities like Hand to Hand, Athletics, Strong, Driving, Charming and so on can grant +1 die.

* Standard Abilities like Pistols, Wrestling, Drive Car, Lift Heavy Things, Electronic Surveillance, and so on can grant +2 dice.

* Narrow Abilities like Shooting from a Moving Vehicle, Conversing with Redheads, Bellycrawling, Tournament Arm Wrestling, and so on can grant +3 dice. In addition, GMs may-- at their discretion-- allow an additional effect for having such a skill or allow it to offset any penalties for a difficult environment or situation.

The GM is final judge of whether a particular ability is related to the action. If the GM feel the player is reaching with their use of the ability they should say no or have the ability give one die less bonus.

If an action isn't contested and the player has a number of abilities related to the action, the GM should feel free to allow the player an automatic success. This should especially be true if the player takes the time to describe their action: reward that effort.

Roll the dice and count each result of 7 or better as a success. Each 10 rolled counts as 2 successes. If the player rolls no successes and they rolled a 1 on at least one die, then there's a fumble-- a really bad result the GM should feel free to adjudicate.

Measuring Success
The actual difficulty of the task at hand depends on if the action contested or uncontested. For uncontested actions, the GM sets the number of successes necessary. The more difficult, complex or involved, the more successes necessary.

Extended Actions
Witless Minion uses a dramatic time scale, essentially outside of combat, each action takes as long as it needs to. However, in some cases, like long term projects the GM may ask that the player accumulate a number of success over several rolls (perhaps using different abilities) or take several players make rolls. If there's a time pressure, the GM may require X successes within Y rolls.

In combat, actions become a little more crunchy, but remain abstract. For involved actions, the GM may require rolls over several turns towards a cumulative goal. Any turn or action takes a few seconds, but the GM's the final arbiter of this. Consider that even in combat, time is still a dramatic factor. Actions which in real life would much longer always manage to get done within the span of a scene in comics, TV shows and movies.

Winning and Difficulties
If two (or more) characters are competing, then the results of the rolls are compared. The character with the higher number of successes wins. If the GM requires a tiebreaker, the character using the narrower abilities trumps a character using a broader one.

Where there's no active opponent, the GM assigns a static difficulty to the task. For example: picking a lock, climbing a mountain, editing video footage, building a house and so on.

For any basic task, the player needs just one success. Things like climbing a fence with wire at the top might be a basic task. Climbing a fence while avoiding security cameras might be a two. Climbing an electrified fence while avoiding security cameras could be a three. A task requiring five successes might be incredibly difficult, and more than that might be legendary.

Rule of Rolling
It is worth restating that the GM should only make the players roll if it matters, is interesting or dramatic.

If a character fails a check, then generally they've exhausted their skill and talents in the attempt. They may not try again. They may not try again unless they can apply a different ability to the attempt. This represents having to find another approach to the problem. Depending on the situation, the GM may allow other players to spend actions assisting an therefore providing another means of attempting the action.

In time dependent or extended action situations the GM may opt to handle this differently. In these cases failure represents the action taking longer. Players may continue to test, but each try uses up more time. For example, someone trying to break the security on a door while pursuit draws closer. Failure represents them fumbling around trying to get the right combination in the system.

Environmental Factors/Distractions
If the character is performing an action in a difficult setting: on a rocking ship, in a room filled with smoke, in sub-zero temperatures, then the GM may raise the number required for success up to 8+ or in horribly dire situations, 9+. Players who possess a number of abilities related to an action may ask to apply those to offset this penalty. The GM should allow this, especially if a player has bought deeply in a particular area.

Can I Do This?
Witless Minion assumes that characters can roll for most standard actions: characters have a good basic knowledge of the world. If an action covers a technical or specialized area of knowledge, the GM may require the player to have a related ability to even make an attempt. In these cases, broad abilities may not help. For example, characters can be assumed to know how to use a computer, but not to be able to hack a program or run a trace program.

If a character lacks a relevant ability, the GM may allow them to roll a reduced number of dice in a fit of dumb luck. They bash on the keyboard blindly and something happens. Alternately, a player may spend a drama point to suddenly explain how they actually have an ability relevant to the situation. If the player spins a good or funny enough story, the GM should allow it-- such a skill must be narrow and specific to the need at hand. The player writes the new ability on their sheet and must spend their next experience to pay for the ability (or if they have experience on hand, they may spend it immediately along with the drama point).

Teamwork can be handled in a couple of ways. If the action is an extended one, then the GM may allow each player to roll to add towards a target number of successes. For example, the group has to search through a warehouse of boxes in order to find a lost artifact. Each player rolls and when the groups total reaches the target, the thing has been found. The number of tries needed determines how long the process takes.

For a more discrete action, like lifting a heavy metal door or making a room look presentable, the primary character rolls and each helping character simply adds a bonus die to the attempt, up to +3. If the project is technical, then helping characters must have some relevant ability. Alternately, the GM may allow helping characters to offset penalties for environmental factors. They may even reduce the number needed for success instead of giving extra dice. For each two players devoted to doing this, the number needed for success is reduced by 1, up to a maximum of 5+ for success.

One of the first things I'll have to do in any revision is take a long look at the numbers and probabilities there. I've got a couple of different mechanics operating and the question is whether those are necessary.