In FUBAR, one of the problems I've constantly faced is the way the traits kick in only once the basic challenge has been resolved. It feels like two separate challenges associated with each task, one to determine if you succeed (and whether you have to give up anything in the process), followed by a second challenge to determine how well you've succeeded (or how much you've had to give up in the attempt).
(Note: If anything in this post isn't making sense, head over to RPGNow and download a copy of the FUBAR Director's Cut, it's free).
It's a bit distracting, and detracts from the otherwise freewheeling nature and open-ended nature of proceedings. I've played with a few ways to modify it, and sometimes dropped it completely in favour of simply following the story.
Since this mutant animal game is going to essentially be "Powered by FUBAR", it's an opportunity to revisit the system. I'm not sure I'm completely ready to go forward with the grammatical version of the rules, reducing every mechanism to nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. But I would like to clean up this back end of the challenge system.
So I'm thinking of introducing the "Strange Die" (to go with the game's working title of "Other Strangeness"). It's plucked from one of the key concepts in the Confrontation miniatures game that I enjoy so much... The "Strange Die" is simply the rolling of two dice, and using the lower value of the two. If a double is rolled, then something strange occurs.
The basic concept is to deliberately split the action into two parts rather than having it in a quasi-split situation.
If you want to simply determine if something will happen, use the regular rolling of three (or more) dice, then allocate them between the categories of success, sacrifice and story. If there might be a more dramatic success or sacrifice, that's where the "Strange Die" comes in.
In regular FUBAR, the protagonists have a range of skills associated with their core traits (their occupation, their cultural background, their specific edge, etc.), they may apply up to two skills as long as these skills come from separate traits. This is something else that I've had people confused with.
The new version of the game engine will streamline and that in one way, while allowing for development in another way. Regardless of where skills are derived from, they will be allocated to a single skill pool. A character may only gain one bonus die from that pool; if a character could have acquired the skill twice (from different sources, they may instead pick up an advanced skill (advanced versions of the skill do not provide extra dice, instead they provide an automatic "5-6/positive result" once per scene). A character may gain a bonus die from a piece of equipment or special power that is useful to the task at hand (and may have spent money on an advanced piece of equipment that likewise provides an automatic "positive result"). If a character doesn't have a relevant skill or piece of equipment, they may sacrifice one of their traits for an extra die.
Characters will never be permitted more than two automatic "positive results", otherwise there's just no risk and you might as well not be rolling dice anyway.
Once the basic roll has determined success and sacrifice, each of these categories is handled by a trait modified "Strange Die". Positive traits may be used to increase a strange die resolving the success, or may be used to reduce the strange die resolving a sacrifice. Negative traits work in the opposite manner. If a character has a trait that might justifiably be used to improve a success and reduce a sacrifice, they must decide which of the options they want to spend it on.
All traits used to modify the strange die are exhausted after their use unless the strange die rolls doubles (in which case they remain useful). Traits will be changing their durationality under this new system because that's something else that we've had trouble with in various incarnations of the FUBAR engine.
At this stage, it all makes sense in my head. I've seen the basic system play out on the table and I know it basically works, but I'm not sure if I'm explaining it as well as I could. That's where extra thought needs to be meditated upon.
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