Thursday, October 27, 2016

Qualities and the Grizzled Gamer

While I lay here with Mystery Illness...

I've been thinking about Qualities lately, Advantages, and Maneuvers. It seems to me—and I hope I'm not repeating myself too often here—that the whole business of putting Qualities on things can just be a framework for interpreting what our group always did, back in the early days of Champions.

Again, if you're comfortable with the "I create the Choked and Can't Recover Quality with a Prowess maneuver and immediately pass the extra Activation to my teammate," then don't bother to read this. You don't need it. But among my group of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, we had trouble figuring out how to frame it in terms of things we know.

So I figured that I'd present a situation or two, how we would have handled it in the olden days, and how it might be handled in ICONS.

Situation: You want to create a patch of ice that's slippery, so the villain skids allong the floor and falls down.

Olden Days: Fine, you do that (the hex is DCV 3, remember). The villain will have to make a DEX roll to stay upright, modified by--how much Ice Blast do you have? 8d6? Sure, -5." (For stuff like that, I used to use -1 per 10 active points. House rule, I think, but few game systems that I used really handled that nicely until Champions got into the territory where it was so fiddly that I didn't want to touch it.)

ICONS: You have an Advantage? No? Okay, use a Maneuver to lay down a patch of ice. It's fine motor control to make it Treacherously Slippery, so make a Coordination roll against, oh, this isn't hard, 2 plus...I rolled a 3. Five, then. You have Coordination 3 and rolled a 5, so you have 8, so it's immediately activated. Sure, I'll call it Trouble that delays them for a page.

Essentially the same physical action (somebody rolls against Dex or Coordination), different explanation.

Situation: The jury-rigged electrical panel throws off a spark that sets the area ablaze.

Olden Days: Well, you just made the roll to re-wire that electrical panel to feed all the electricity to the Chronosyntastic Infundibulator, so I'm going to say that a spark leaps free from your jury-rigged wiring and sets the cheap indoor-outdoor carpet on fire. You try to put it out with your foot while aiming the Infundibulator, but you have to stand essentially still.

ICONS: You're out of Determination? A maneuver might..oh. Right. Your Intellect sucks. How about tactics? I'll give you the rewiring if you accept some Trouble. Fine. One more thing to deal with...a spark leaps off the rewiring job and sets the cheap carpet on fire.

So the big difference here is that in the old way, I just imposed the fire as a fun consequence (for some value of "fun"...I know there are nights when the players just joke about making their "Catch Villains" roll). Here it's actually a trade, where I suggest it, and the player gets to choose whether they want the advantage, want to roll the maneuver, or just want to take a different route.

Situation: You want to impress everyone in the room and get all the normals out.

Olden Days: Okay, you make a Presence Attack. Oooh. Sorry, man. The normals pause for a phase. Oh, Storm King, you're going to try, too? (or) Good roll on the Presence Attack, and the normals walk out in an orderly fashion.

ICONS: Impressing people is Willpower. You want to impose a Quality on them so they leave...call it Orderly Dismissal. We'll do will versus Will as a maneuver. You have a 5, they have a 3, but I rolled a 5 for them, so versus 8. You have to have a Moderate success for the Quality to be Activated, unless— Oh. A 3 is just a Marginal success. The Quality is there, but it isn't Activated. Oh, Storm King, you're doing to spend a Determination point and Activate it. Well, you're next, so you bark, "Now, people!" and they start filing out.

Yes, using the whole Qualities/Advantages thing means claiming a little extra number fiddling, but the end result is pretty much the same. The difference is that if the original player's attempt is Marginal, then some later player can spend a DP and activate this new Quality on the same page. We used to use cumulative Presence attacks in the same way.

Just looking at it now, it seems to me that in the old way, we accepted the rolls and made the narrative conform to the rolls without hiding anything ("His presence attack sucked, so we had to fight with the waitstaff in the kitchen") or consequences were imposed by the GM. In the ICONS way, there's more of an effort to create narrative as it's going on, and to barter about consequences.

Doesn't mean I'm any better at it. Old habits are, you know, old.