Okay, I’ve thought through all the bits and bobs about Encounters that bug me and I’ve got some ideas. Specifically, the main issues I want to address are the lack of tension, lack of choices, and over-mechanization of the process.
And here we go.
My goal here is to hew as close as possible to the RAW and bring in every tool at the game’s disposal to squeeze some life out of what is, IMO, a lifeless, tension-free, decision-free mechanical exercise.
I’ll make notes as I go indicating where I’m veering off RAW, by how much, and why.
- Opening Insight roll to generate bonus dice: remains unchanged. (RAW)
- Set the Encounter intent: it needs to be explicit and it needs to be a call to a single action (semi RAW). If the NPCs have their own goals, state them here as well (to help figure out future compromise; NOT RAW).
- Introduction Rolls: TN varies by the NPC’s customs and traditions (RAW)
a. May make a Lore test to determine which skill will have the lowest TN (RAW)
b. Ask the company how they’ll be introducing themselves, then GM declares TN (RAW)
c. Establish clear consequences for failing the Introduction (typically but not always means the encounter can’t take place).
d. Notes and limitations of each Introduction option:
- Awe: made by a single hero, and only that hero will be making Interaction rolls. Usually but not always a sign that the NPC’s Tolerance is Valor based (semi RAW). Usually but not always the required Introduction when the Encounter starts unfriendly. No other Introductions can be made (semi RAW).
- Courtesy: made by any hero who wants to participate. Usually but not always a sign that the NPC’s Tolerance is Wisdom based (semi RAW). Usually but not always the required introduction when the Encounter starts friendly. Any hero who wants to participate must roll.
- Riddle: made by a single hero, and only that hero will be making Interaction rolls. Failure doesn’t end the Encounter but counts as the first failure against Tolerance (not RAW, but based on a reasonable interpretation of the text). No other Introductions can be made (semi RAW).
- Establish Tolerance: remains unchanged and depends on who is talking (take all participating heroes into consideration). HOWEVER, some clarifications.
a. Tolerance is set in secret and is cued to the players through roleplay (RAW)
b. Breaking Tolerance (i.e. failures = Tolerance) almost never carries with it an inconsequential outcome, but at the very least means the entire Encounter ends in failure (NOT RAW). Let It Ride is in effect, though, and the same request cannot be made should the Encounter end in failure.
c. I’m tying Tolerance failure outcomes to the Shadow level where the Encounter takes place (NOT RAW), with the Free Lands being the least consequential and the Dark Lands being the most. Rough ideas:
- Free Lands: polite close to conversations, barring specifically offensive failures within the Encounter itself. TN16 for future Introductions.
- Border Lands: shunning, further Encounters in the area more difficult (TN18 for future Introduction rolls)
- Wild Lands: immediate expulsion, TN 20 Introduction rolls in the future (assuming someone’s Trait can create an opportunity at all).
- Shadow Lands: threats of violence unless the heroes leave immediately, future Encounters outright impossible at this level and higher
- Dark Lands: immediate and unreasonable escalation to extreme violence
- Interaction rolls
- Every roll must have an associated intent and failure consequences. If you don’t have an intent in mind, you can’t make the roll. No rolling just to generate Encounter successes! (RAW) Keep the Encounter’s overall goal in mind when setting intents, and don’t set one where failure makes the Encounter impossible.
- GM decides if the roll is passively or actively opposed by an NPC. (Semi RAW)
- Passively opposed = roll against a TN. Determine the difficulty as normal (TN 14 by default, as low as 10 or as high as 20 based on how much is being asked, set by the GM) (RAW)
- Actively opposed, ie the NPC wants something related to the task/encounter as well = Opposed Action! (semi RAW). Set the TN as above, active character rolls. On a fail, challenging character automatically succeeds. On a success, challenging character rolls against same TN. Break ties in the usual way: number of 6es, then the Feat die. If the active character (PC) doesn’t win, this is also a failure and is counted against Tolerance (semi RAW).
- Let it Ride (Repeating an Action, p148) is in effect as always! Pay attention! (RAW). However, the GM may decide a task (passive or active) requires a Prolonged Action (semi RAW in the case of an opposed roll). If a task takes 3 rolls, reduce TN by 1; 4 or 5 rolls, reduce TN by 2; 6+ rolls, reduce TN by 3. Count additional successes on any given roll toward the total # of rolls required to be made. Good way to reduce the TN of an excessively difficult ask. # of required rolls = # of earned successes for determining the outcome (NOT RAW).
- Intent determines the required skill, set by the GM. Start with intent, move on to task (RAW). See the typical list: insight, inspire, persuade, riddle, song.
- Encounter outcome: Assuming Tolerance has not been met (NOT RAW), add up total successes. Compare per the existing table: 1 success = compromise (semi RAW), 2-4 = Success, 5-6 = Great Success (intent and a bonus), 7+ Extraordinary success (intent, bonus, and a complication due to overshooting – semi RAW).
* * * * *
The overall theme of all this is to slow the process down and make the individual rolls matter more. I think, for me, the big problem is that it’s sort of implied that the rolls don’t matter, that they’re just color as you grind toward the final # of successes you’re trying to earn.
The other deal is that I skipped a couple important things about Encounters, specifically the fact that Tolerance is a secret number. That’s a big deal. Pushing your luck really needs to be at the center of the system
Okay, TOR heads, tell me where I’m tripping over myself or how I could make it better. Again, my goal here is to stay as close to RAW as possible! (Which is why I didn’t go with Tolerance = the total # of rolls you get to make, which I think is elegant but is way off RAW).