|Heroic Action Role-Play
The core of the Action system is about heroic action, and that is described in great detail.
Action involves a great deal of raw chance. Chance comes from rolling ordinary six-sided dice in different ways.
The standard roll is the most common way of rolling dice in Action. It generates a random result that is usually in the range from -5 to +5, with a strong concentration around zero. It will sometimes generate very high or low results.
Roll two six sided dice. The dice should be marked; one is the positive die and one is the negative die. For each die, if the result is six, roll an additional die and add that to the die that originally came up a six. You can do this again and again as long as you keep rolling sixes, making extreme results possible but unlikely.
Take the result of the positive die and subtract the result of the negative die. This is the bonus number, and is added to whatever skill or trait you were rolling for.
The total is then compared to the difficulty - often an opponent's skill. If s stunt or schtick lists several possible difficulties, such as "the opponent's Dodge or Know, the highest difficulty applies.
If the check matches the difficulty exactly, it is a marginal success - the GM can impose some minor complication but in general it is a good result. If the result is more or less than the difficulty, the difference is called the Outcome. A positive outcome is when you exceed the difficulty by a certain amount. A negative outcome is where you fail by a certain number.
Fred tries to get ahead in line and "tag" Peter as a joke. The GM judges this to be a Maneuver stunt targeting Peter's Maneuver or Dodge. Peter has a Maneuver of 10 and a Dodge of 13. The difficulty of the task is the higher number, 13.
A confident roll is used when conditions are favorable or routine; when performing an action you are very familiar with or when spending Fortune. A confident roll is almost, but not quite, guaranteed to generate a result of zero or greater.
A confident roll is the same as a standard roll, only the result is always positive; whichever die comes up with the higher result becomes the positive die. There is one exception. If you roll a boxcars on a confident roll, the dice go wild and you go back to making it as a standard roll, which can give either positive or negative results.
A closed roll is similar to a regular roll, but a result of six is not re-rolled. A closed roll thus always generates a result from -5 to +5. Closed rolls can also be confident rolls. Special Results still apply, but any re-roll after Boxcars remains a closed roll. The main use of closed rolls is for Initiative.
Sometimes dice are used to select a result from a random table with an equal chance of each result. In these cases, simply roll 1d6 normally and read it on the table. There are no confident d6 rolls, but if you spend Fortune to reroll a d6, you get to choose either result, the original one or the reroll.
There are two special results on the dice. If you roll many dice rolls for a single action, such as when resolving an area attack, you only check for snake eyes and double deuces on the first of these rolls. Boxcars can apply to all rolls.
Boxcars: If both dice come up sixes, they are both open, as described above, but in addition you up the ante on the roll. If the final result of your skill is a success, you earn some kind of windfall or your opponent suffers a Setback. But if the roll comes up as a failure, you fumble and suffer a Setback yourself. In case the result is not clear-cut, such as when you roll against a sliding difficulty with many degrees of partial success, the GM can play it either way or otherwise introduce some random event. A boxcars result also changes a Confident Roll into a Standard Roll.
Snake Eyes: If both dice come up one, any jury-rigged or less than completely mastered effects come crashing down. Using a weapon you just picked up, you run out of ammo. If you are using a power or device you haven't fully mastered, it fails in spectacular ways. If you are using your kit in ways it was not intended to be used, it breaks.
If you are somehow under friction you may suffer a Setback. Friction here is any condition that is not fully reliable. As long as you are playing it safe and only using equipment and abilities that are tried and true, there is no result. The Friction table below can be used to randomly determine if friction is applicable. Die results of 1 to 3 are reserved for Limitations, see below. Die rolls of 4 or 5 only happen under the given conditions. A die result of 6 always indicate friction, but only minor results.
|As given for each Limitation.
|Improvised gear or plans, lack of resources, and poor supply causes heavy friction.
|Major effect; an item or power is lost for the rest of the story.
|Lack of maintenance or resources cause light friction; operating without a nearby base.
|Something breaks or ceases to work until the end of the scene.
|Minor effect; an item or power ceases working for the round, or until you spend a Basic Action getting it to work.
Certain Limitations use the friction mechanic, they occur randomly on a snakeyes result. Each such limitation should be assigned a number from 1 to 3; if the Friction Check shows the chosen number, the limitation triggers. Having more than three snakeye limitations is not recommended nor covered by the rules. As Limitations in Action often have interesting results that players enjoy, you may forego the Friction Check in such instances, merely picking a result appropriate to the situation.
The Action system uses an initiative system of shots to determine the order of action.
At the beginning of a round, make a Closed Reflexes roll for each named creature creature. This becomes their first shot. Groups of unnamed creatures do not roll; their initiative is always equal to their Reflexes. Each character has a shot counter, and the GM counts down shots on this shot counter, beginning at the highest first shot rolled. As each character's shot comes up, she gets to take an action, which reduces her shot counter. As the countdown progresses, she will get to act again, until out of shots for the round. Then initiative is re-rolled and the shot count starts over. For dramatic reasons, villains act before heroes on each shot.
Basic Actions take three shots. This means that characters normally act every third shot, acting again and again in the same order until the round is over. However, there are many exceptions, and characters can lose shots for a variety of reasons.
You can perform 3-shot actions even on shot 1 and 2 of a round, even tough spending three shots would take you below zero shots. This has no effect on next turns initiative and effectively gives you a few free shots.
After rolling and paying for Stances, a creature always has at least 1 shot on their shot counter; the shot counter never starts at zero except with Surprise.
In some scenes, particularly social scenes, you may not want to use the full intricacy of the initiative system. Then you can use a simple round-robin system, where each player is allowed one action each round. Characters act in order from highest to lowest Reflexes. When all characters have acted, a new round begins. Any number of trigger actions can be performed, but a character that takes any Trigger Actions before acting in a round loses his action for the round. This is to make up for the lack of extra shots a character with high Reflexes would normally have.
If Limit Breaks or attacks targeting Dodge are involved, its better to use the regular initiative system.
There are a number of different types of actions that come into play. Most of these are a part of the various Schticks characters can learn, but some are available to everyone.
This is the basic three-shot action described above. When your shot count comes up you take the action, determine the result, and reduce your shot counter by three. Most actions are basic actions. When you take a basic action, you also get to move a distance equal to your Move, either before or after acting.
This is a special type of trigger action. Whenever you knock an opponent out, you can take a finishing action at no shot cost. Almost all finishing actions are Schticks. You can also use a finisher on a willing or helpless target that you did not just defeat, in which case it is a Limit Break.
Finishers used to be a subtype of Trigger Actions and many still have "Trigger Action (Finisher)" in their description - this is an editorial leftover and will be corrected over time.
Characters in Action can focus, which means that they have built up their concentration, willpower, chi, and/or magic to a peak, enabling Limit Break, stunts even more stupendous than what is normally possible. To do so, you must first focus using an action that is a focus. You are focused until you use a Limit Break or something happens to break your focus. Methods are common focus actions.
Focusing normally does not cost any shots, but in some cases focusing can be a Basic Action, some other kind of action, or have special rules. When focus has a condition that has to be fulfilled, you check for that condition when your turn ends; when you have performed a Basic Action and any Trigger Action (Combo) actions triggered by that.
You can only be focus once in any given round. If you are focused and use your focus, you cannot focus again until the following round begins.
A limit break is something really out of the of the ordinary. In an action movie or game, it would have its own small cut scene. You must be focused to use a limit break; see the Focus action for details. A Limit Break costs all your remaining shots for the round.
Outside of action scenes a Limit Break is strenuous and taxes your Endurance, you cannot go on making Limit Breaks all day. Each Limit Break takes 5 minutes to an hour to perform outside of an action scene, depending on plot needs. If you end an action scene focused, but out of shots, the GM will usually let you perform one Limit Break after the action has ended if it makes sense in the story.
NPCs have different rules for focus and limit breaks; it does not cost them all their remaining shorts to do. This is for dramatic reasons; NPCs do their limit breaks early, gaining an early advantage; players do them late, recovering at the brink of disaster.
A Limit Break is otherwise similar to a Basic Action.
A trigger action is done in response to another action. Each trigger action has a specific trigger event; when this occurs, you perform the trigger action immediately and before the thing that triggered it happens. You then reduce your shot counter by one. One action can only trigger one reaction. In play this means you can only do one trigger action of each type in each situation. A trigger action cannot be the trigger for another trigger action unless it specifically says it can; this means that trigger actions have a slight edge, and that you usually cannot defend against or counterattack against them.
Unless the schtick description specifically includes movement, you cannot move as a part of a trigger action, and this applies even if the result of the trigger action is something that would normally be a Basic Action. But when using Combos that go along with Basic Action, the movement Included in the Basic Action can be used at any part of the action, before or after the combo triggers.
There are several types of trigger actions, classifications to help identify what the trigger action does.
Trigger Action (Combo) These trigger on something you do, and modify basic action you are doing. An example is a power with a trigger like "When you hit an opponent" or "When you cause damage to an opponent". These trigger on the result of your actions; for example on a hit or a miss. They often modify the action you just did, but sometimes give new actions or other options instead.
Trigger Action (Defense) Often referred to as active defenses, these are triggered when you or another is attacked, before dice are rolled, and generally improve your defense. Defense actions normally last for the current shot; the effect disappears on the next shot. Several defenses can be active at once, but bonuses do not stack; only the highest bonus to each attribute counts.
Trigger Action (Result) Some trigger actions key of a result, such as damage or a successful stunt. This often increases the effect of the triggering action. This is a rare type of trigger action that is yet to achieve its final form.
A stance is done before the round starts and sometimes even before rolling for initiative. It is used to adopt a certain pose and stance, and affects your actions until the end of the scene. Many stances are enablers for trigger actions or otherwise improve your other actions.
Each stance you adopt costs you one shot from your first shot. If you wish to adopt a stance during a round, the cost is still one shot, but you can only do so when it is your turn. Stances last until the end of the scene, or until you turn them off. Even if you had the stance running before the action began, you still have to pay the shot cost in the first round - in this case the shot cost represents the distraction you suffer from maintaining the stance. Out of action scenes, you can run any number of stances with no cost, but this can prove a major distraction if an action scene suddenly begins.
Some stances are typed, such as (Damage Boost). You can only benefit from one stance of each type at the same time.
Some schticks are special and do not conform to any of the standard types of actions. Some are each explained in the power. Some are simply given as a longer period of time, such as a day, week, or month.
Not an action per see, but an effect that is constantly active and inherent to the creature, power, or equipment. Described here because it appears in the place where the type of action would be specified in a schtick description. In general, you must use an inherent quality once you get it.
There are certain actions that everyone can perform, and which do not require any schticks.
Athletes undergo mental training to achieve top results when it really matters. Any hero can achieve this kind of concentration.
Make a Basic Action. You gain an Advantage that must be spent immediately on this action. Out of combat, this must be a specific, quick action - you cannot use this to get a bonus on a task taking more than a minute to complete.
Trigger Action (Defense)
When you are being attacked, you can defend. This adds +3 to one particular skill used as the difficulty of someone else's task. The most typical defense is Active Dodge, but almost all skills can be used as a defense at some point. In a situation where shots are not counted, defending means you are not fully participating - you play defensive rather than engaging in the situation - which means you can't initiate actions or make stunts of your own.
Trigger Action (Combo)
You aid a friend in performing an action. You must be in a position where this makes sense, adjacent to the creature you are assisting or to the target of the action. Assist triggers after the action you are assisting, which means you know the result of the action you would assist before you decide to actually use Assist. Make a Confident Roll of the skill you are assisting, the difficulty is your friend's skill rating. If you succeed, your friend gets a +1 modifier to his roll. Several assistants can help the same action, to a maximum bonus of +3. When assisting someone of the same or lower skill, you can forgo the die roll for speed of play. Assist is a variant of Advantage and can stack with other bonuses.
To assist, you should generally be physically capable of the action you're supporting (in the right spot, not prevented from acting), but need not have any relevant schtick or equipment. The GM has the final say on whether assist action is relevant to a certain task, and how many helpers can assist.
In some situations it makes sense to assist using another skill than the one you are supporting. Suppose a friend is using Create to fix a radio tower, it might be possible to use Maneuver to assist by climbing to where help is needed. The GM decides when this is feasible.
For an unnamed character, it is a Basic Action to assist, and it must be done before the action to be assisted. Unnamed characters often work in groups of 4, one acting and the other three assisting. No Assist rolls are required as long as all the unnamed characters have the same skill. This allows the group a single action with a +3 bonus. If the mook actually taking the action is stopped, such as with Carnival of Carnage, the entire action fails.
Make an attack with no special modifiers or rules.
You perform two Basic Actions in quick succession. If you are allowed to move as a part of both these Basic Actions you can also move before, between, or after acting - but only once. If one of your actions is a Full Move, this allows you to move even with actions that normally do not allow movements, such as Seven Sword Strike.
You interact with the environment in some manner, opening a door, manipulating controls, throwing a lever, picking something up off the floor. This takes a separate basic action, but if the environment interaction can be described as part of a Stunt, you can combine the two actions into one. Examples are closing a door in the face of opponents (using Maneuver to make them to lose shots), picking up the fallen enemy flag (using Impress to make them lose morale), kicking a dagger lying on the floor to make a thrown weapon attack, and so on. Sometimes, Environment Interactions can be attacks, like rolling a boulder down on enemies below you, using the normal attack rules. More often, an Environment Interaction sets up a later attack.
Use a power or stunt you can normally use and which is either a Basic Action or a Limit break. If this action fails, there is no effect, and the target suffers no additional effect from the Finisher. If this action succeeds, it effectively has infinite outcome; it scores an automatic Setback or otherwise works as well as it reasonably can. If the action you choose to do is a Limit Break, roll for it normally. If it is a Basic Action, the task is Routine and the roll is Confident.
Move as an action, doing nothing else. This adds to the normal movement allowed with a Basic Action, as a result you move twice your Move. If you do this when you are not allowed to move with a Basic Action, such as when using a Static piece of gear, you can still make a normal move this way, but you do not get any other action. Combined with Free Running, you make a Maneuver check to see if you can move your normal or double Move.
Trigger Action or Limit Break
When you see someone else use a skill, you can make an opposed roll of that skill against them. If you succeed, you know how skilled they are and get to know 3 skill schticks they know relating to the skill they used. If you fail, you still know the result of your own roll and this gives you some information about how skilled they are. You can use this skill on someone even when they are not using a skill, but in this case it is a Limit Break.
Make a Interaction Stunt with no special modifiers, targeting another creature.
Trigger Action (Combo)
If your last action was a failure, you can push your luck to try and succeed anyway. Re-roll the failed check. If you succeed, it counts as if your first roll was a success. If you fail you suffer a Setback in addition to any result of the failure.
You set your target up for someone else to use a finisher on. One other person designated by you that is in position can immediately use a finisher on that target as a Trigger Action.
When a named opponent is defeated by you - either at zero hits or suffers another result that makes them unable to continue acting in this scene, you can focus. Also, when you inflict a Setback or Damage Setback on a named opponent, you can focus.
Not an Action
Certain things that could reasonably be expected to be actions are not in Action. These are free, cost nothing, and can be performed at any time.
- Draw/Reload Weapon - Just drawing or reloading is trite and not worthy of Action, but making a montage of it can be dramatic. There are a few exceptional such as cannon, muzzle-loaders and crossbows that always take time to reload.
- Stand up from Prone, fall down etc. Stunts that cause you to rip or fall cost you shots directly; there is no separate action to stand up. If you happen to be lying down for some reason, there is no special cost to rise. This allows you to describe your characters posture more freely. Falling prone to dodge bullets or get a better angle for a shot is a style issue in Action.
- Converse - combat quips and tactical tips are free, as long as it isn't an interaction stunt and doesn't take too long real-time, slowing down the game.
Sometimes, a scene begins with one side unaware of the other. In such a case, there is a separate surprise round. Those who have the drop on the opposition have 3 shots to sped in this round; the surprised side has no shots at all.
Modifiers to Rolls
Actions in Action are modified by circumstance. This is where player skill and ingenuity comes in; it is the player's job to describe their stunts so that they make dramatic sense and the GMs job to create situations that challenge the players and prompts them to come up with creative and heroic scenes.
- Drama Modifier Does the stunt make sense from a dramatic perspective? Is this something that you'd like to see in an action movie? Did it make the other players at the table go wow? If it is, even if it is obviously very hard, it should not be penalized and might even get a bonus. Describe your action with all the flair you can muster. Just running up to someone and throw a punch is boring - saying you weave trough the storm bullets, roll along the ground, backflip to a standing position and headbutt your opponent to the solar plexus is much fancier. In game terms, this is the same action, and there is most certainly no extra cost for the elaborate description - possibly a bonus instead if the GM is impressed.
- Setting Modifier: The setting should not generally change the odds. In action, it is no harder to disarm a bomb hanging by your feet fifty floors up than it is to do so in a lab. Of course, distractions such as helicopters firing rockets at you are more common in the open air than in a lab, but the situation itself doesn't give any modifiers. The GM might let creatures familiar with the setting be Confident on rolls involving the environment, such as ninjas balancing on the rickety bridges of their home village.
- Tool Modifier: Characters are normally assumed to have the right tool for the job - but using stunts to find or improvise a replacement tool on the spot is just as useful. The GM should be liberal when players use dropped weapons, improvised lockpicks, or use gear for stunts it'd really be inadequate for. Only in cases where the GM has made a plot device of taking away the heroes' gear and made it an adventure to regain it should lack of tools have real impact.
- Schtick Modifier: Sometimes a power or schtick modifies a skill value, generally in a limited duration or application. Such modifiers never stack. If several powers or schtick would modify the same value (skill, damage, attribute, etc), only the best applies. However, there are some special cases.
- Damage increasing stances: These add a new type of damage to an attack, and do stack with the basic damage modifier of the weapon. An example is Fire Touch. Such powers generally have "touch" as a part of the name.
- Resistance powers: Resistance is when you add an additional attribute to your soak value against certain powers. This stacks with the normal soak attribute. An example is Resist Fire. Such powers generally have "resist" as a part of their name.
Action modifiers come in different types, classified to make them easier to use.
One of the most common modifiers in Action comes from stunts to gain Advantage. Stunt Modifiers represent temporary advantages or partial successes. Such stunts create a "pool" of Advantage, that can be used to make later actions more successful. These Advantages are temporary and can only be used once, then they are gone. On the plus side, they stack with each other and with everything else.
A character can gain a bonus or suffer an penalty to certain actions, usually related to one or more skills. For example, a hero that has had his fingers broken suffers a penalty to Shoot - at least until the action really starts. Some action penalties applies to all skills, such as being blind. An action penalty only affects the character's actions, not to skills used as defense values. GMs should constantly hand out one-time Action Modifiers to specific actions. Other action modifiers might be longer-lasting, even Curses.
Impairments are more serious than action modifiers, and applies to all uses of skills, including skills used as defense values. This is very severe indeed and should be used with care; an impaired hero is effectively reduced in statue. Longer-lasting impairments are often Curses and should only be used as plot elements.
Jade Killer has been captured by the To Lung society, who wishes to teach him Confucian values and potentially recruit him. To achieve this, they use a dread martial arts technique to impose a 5-point impairment and then releases the hero into one of their model villages. The hero must now contend with situations that would normally be beneath his notice, escape, and seek help against his condition.
Action and Style
Action is a dramatic game. Characters are assumed to act out their actions with flair and drama. This applies to stunts, schticks, and powers. Each character has a style how they do things. One character might strike poses, another constantly totes and polishes his gear, another talks constantly and drops quips and puns, another is quiet and mysterious. All characters are somewhat odd and exceptional and consciously have to work at looking ordinary, especially at higher power levels.
Characters in Action act out even simple actions in dramatic ways. Exactly how they do this varies by character, origin, tradition, and style, but they all need to be free to act to make heroic stunts. This means they need freedom of movement, freedom to talk, and a reasonable amount of space to make their actions. The GM is free to impose penalties in these situation, generally -2. Naturally, in some cases this does not make sense, a character stuck in a ventilation duct can't do flips but can still hack into a security system with no penalty. Details of being restrained can be found in the Restraint method.
A character that is Sneaking can do stunts that affect only himself without attracting attention, but actions affecting others, even allies, draw attention. Remaining quiet when doing stunts affecting yourself does not give penalties.
Outside of detailed time, a team of heroes often attempt to tackle a task together, more skilled characters making up for the lesser skills of others. Typical tasks for this involve physical tasks like Sneaking or Climbing.
In this case, each player makes a roll, and all characters suffer a penalty on this roll equal to the number of participating characters. So, if 4 characters are scaling a cliff-face together, have each of them make a Maneuver check at a -4 penalty. Use the highest result for the entire group. When narrating such an event, characters with good rolls take the lead and characters with particularly low rolls might be narrated as having to be saved by their friends. In any subsequent scene, feel free to place characters with good check results in more advantageous positions. But the success of the group as a whole depends on the highest roll only. The exception is if any character rolled Boxcars and fumbled- such a character really is in trouble.
Time in Action
Action doesn't bother overmuch with time constraints. Time is measured in rounds and scenes, not minutes and hours. The length of a round varies depending on the type of action depicted, from the split section action of a gunfight or chase where each round is about 6 second and each shot is maybe half a second, to the leisurely pace of state dinners and steamboat chases where each round can be an hour.
The duration of effects in Action is often "until the end of the scene". This is not strictly defined. Any consecutive sequence of rounds is definitely the same scene, and a series of short action sequences together can still be a single scene. A scene is generally between 5 and 15 minutes of time, but can be up to a day. Sometimes, the GM can be more liberal with certain powers who are fundamental for the action; heroes protected by fire resistance while exploring a volcano should not have the duration run out just because the scene ended unless there is a dramatic reason to do so.
In most cases, when the players stop to do out-of combat limit breaks or to recover lost Hits, there is a change of scene. The same is true when there is a change of scenery and staging.
A session refers to a single continuous bout of gaming in the real world. It is generally one evening's worth. In the plot, a session is generally equivalent to a single episode in a TV series. After a session, player characters recover all lost Hits and Fortune points. Damage Setback effects may carry over fom session to session. Certain effects last for the duration of a session, or be restricted to one use per session.
A story is one continuous plot with little time for the heroes to recover and restock. Most stories can be played out in a single session, but some episodes are longer and more demanding. This is similar to a multi-episode ("to be continued") in a TV series. A movie would generally play out as a story of six to ten sessions. A few powers recharge based on stories rather than episodes, particularly Items.
An interconnected series of stories with a continuous setting and cast of characters. This is related to the real-world situation of your group of players, a season is a year, semester, summer camp, or other period when a game can be held repeatedly with the same group of players. Sometimes, seasons have an over-reaching plot, sometimes they don't. A season often gives enough experience points to advance their maximum skill value.
A campaign is one or more seasons that have some connection, with most of the main characters continuing from one season to the next. There might be some continuity of plot too, but that is not required.