Thursday, October 18, 2012

Die Hard 0e (or: Exhausted Characters and Skills)

I know, second post in October, something is wrong with me... Anyway, now more about Endurance.

Something about skills doesn't bode well!

I like the basic ideas of skills (here is my take on it) in a game. After all they give some depth to the world and the characters therein. BUT, and this is a known problem, they tend to either bloat the game or they produce unrealistic/unsatisfying results after the roll, basicly because one roll not only encapsulates complex processes but could also end them abrupt.

Wait! There is an easy fix for that!

True enough, handled with care skills might just work fine. Mostly, if you think about it, it's about the subtleties. You don't succed in your climb check? You just don't fall of the cliff, but you get a save to catch yourself midways and a little damage. Stuff like that, you make it part of the tension you try to establish in the game. And then you have stuff like automatic successes, alternating difficulty settings and nice houserules like the one Zak S. introduced in January.

So what's wrong with that?

Well, even if a failed skill check allows another skill check (or a partly success or whatever rule you apply), it basicly means the character should have succeeded in the first place. Plus: after the roll it's not the players decision what happens next, but the DMs. I think, the longer a player is able to influence what is happening to his character, the better. Especially with skills that a character is more likely to succeed if he is inclined to do so. This is where Endurance comes in handy.

Give the players the decision if they fail or not...

So this is how we do it: Using a skill costs one point Endurance (it being one point, it won't be regenerated before a full rest restores all Endurance). Whenever a players fails in a skill check (other than with a critical failure, that is), he is allowed to use Endurance to achieve  a success. If this puts his endurance to a negative, he gets to save with the negative value as a penalty and the RESULT is where the DM reacts (this gives me another idea*).
In a team effort he looses one point less Endurance per player involved (but at least one point). And again, 10 minutes after the skill challenge, all but one point Endurance are back (if a player used his option to fatigue himself, he effectively lost two points: one for the skill challenge and one to use Endurance to succeed). Should work with simple attribute checks and definitely works with the 3rd edition skill system.

But how to use this in The Game?

Endurance works for the body AND the mind. So even a research check (something that should bring a result other than "Sorry, you find nothing..." anyhow) might be exhausting for a character, because he pushes himself to get results. So after all this works with nearly any skill check a game could come up with. It goes without saying, that it also takes longer to get an result, if you exhaust yourself. And still, failure is an option, if a character is pushed into negative Endurance, but then, as stated above, exist enough rules to handle a situation like this.
Furthermore, if the players wind down after a fight/skill check, this is easy for a DM to keep track of and another easy tool for flavour texts. It's also an active and easy to handle ressource for the players and the benefits outweigh the detriments (would it be the other way around, they would rest even more than they already do...), while the disadvantages not only still have an impact on the game, but also give it a more gritty feel.

*Addendum: Desperate Blow - Use 1d10 Endurance as a to hit with your next attack

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