Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tasks: Hits and Flops

Welcome to the end of 2009! Hope everyone's looking forward to 2010. I'm pretty jazzed about it, because I'm going to put out at least two games next year. I let myself down in 2009 by not making meaningful progress on Twists of Fate, and I don't plan to repeat that in the new year. 2010 will see the release of Leftovers and... something else -- if not Twists of Fate, then one of the other projects I've been working on, like the S.O.S. (Sorta Old-School) RPG. That one's been going on behind the scenes for months now. However, I'm really digging this other game I'm doing for Simian Circle's d10 contest, so maybe that will take precedence. I dunno. S.O.S. is about three-quarters done, barring playtesting, so it's hard to say. I also have a few board and card games in development, which is a little surprising in light of the fact that I hardly ever play board or card games. The point is, stuff is happening, and that's cool.

In the meantime, let's crack on with Leftovers.

Struggle against opposition is a commonplace occurrence in the life of a survivor, but there are plenty of times when nothing’s actively working against you. We’re talking about things like climbing a wall, jumping over a gap in the floor, searching a ruined garage for a functioning car battery, fashioning a spear out of a crowbar and a broomstick, and so on. These are called tasks (as opposed to conflicts, which involve two or more active participants in opposition to one another).

Tasks come in various categories of difficulty:
  • Trivial: Don’t even bother rolling for something this simple. Examples: Jumping a few feet, changing a tire, reviving someone who’s been knocked out, knowing where Cleveland is (or was).
  • Tricky: Most people can do this. Examples: Jumping down 10 feet without hurting yourself, changing a car’s oil, bandaging a wound, finding north.
  • Challenging: This may require some training or talent. Examples: Jumping from rooftop to rooftop over a narrow alley, replacing a muffler, performing CPR, interpreting a topographical map. 
  • Demanding: Those without training probably won’t know where to begin. Examples: Jumping a 15-foot chasm, rebuilding an engine, setting a broken bone, navigating by the stars. 
  • Severe: Only experts or trained professionals can pull this off with any reliability. Examples: Jumping a 20-foot chasm, building an engine from parts of several different engines, performing surgery, navigating by the stars on a cloudy night. 
  • Extreme: Even the best of the best will break a sweat. Examples: Parkour-ing your way up a five-story building, turning a junkyard full of scrap into a viable armored car, transplanting a limb or internal organ, navigating blind.

The difficulty of a given task is measured by its Target, which is the minimum number that must be rolled for the task to succeed.

Hits and Flops
Sometimes, it’s not enough to know whether you succeeded or failed – you want to know how well you succeeded or how disastrously you failed. For that, we have Hits and Flops.

First, success. Take half the task’s Target, rounded down, and divide the amount by which you made the roll (that is, your margin of success) by that number. That’s how many Hits you’ve scored. (Drop any remainders.) The more Hits, the better you’ve done. For every Hit, the GM should have something extra-good happen, like one step forward on the next relevant Trait roll. But it can be something a lot fuzzier too, if it fits the situation.

For example:
Jim rolls a whopping 26 on his Friendly roll to find an arms dealer in the Trench. The difficulty was Challenging (Target 13), so his margin of success is 13; divided by 6, that’s 2 Hits. The GM decides that not only does he find a survivor who knows Armando the Snake, the guy is also Armando’s brother, Rodolfo the Snake – and he likes Jim so much he’ll introduce them right away!

And failure. If your roll isn’t at least half the Target, rounded down, you’ve Flopped. Something awful has happened – or is going to happen. Two steps back on the next relevant Trait roll is an easy way to handle it, or it could be less well-defined complication.

For example:
While scrounging for food, Ben Flops his Resourceful roll. As a result, he finds several unlabeled aluminum cans, stacked together, out in the open. What’s in them? Are they safe to eat, or is this some sort of trap set by cannibal Grafters?

Hits can also be used to determine how quickly a character accomplishes a task. Something complicated like building a watchtower might be a Challenging task requiring 4 Hits to complete. The better the rolls, the faster those Hits will accumulate.

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