July 9, 2011

Vivid System: Called Shots & Crits

I’ve been reading up on various posts regarding called shots, which got me thinking about how I handle them with Vivid. 

One of my major beefs with traditional called-shot mechanics is that they impose a penalty on the player; it’s as much as having the DM say, “I don’t want your creativity ruining my game!” 

Me, I like it when my players come up with effective, creative tactics in combat – it tells me they’re interested, they’re engaged, their blood is up and they want to win.  On the other hand, I also wouldn’t want a dragon or a giant to fold immediately – it makes what should’ve been an epic encounter anticlimactic.

So how are called shots resolved in Vivid?  I found inspiration in Keith Baker’s post here.  Thanks to insights from this post, I’ve gotten together my principles for called shots:

Imprimis, combat in Vivid is considered as exactly that – a violent, chaotic physical interaction.  Things will often happen not exactly as you intended them to.  Combat is a fluid dance, not a metronomic I-hit-you-then-you-hit-me rhythm.

Second, player input is welcomed and should contribute to the game, without breaking the game. 

Thus, telling me what you want to hit incurs neither penalties nor bonuses for you.  You want to strike at the villain’s head? Go for it! But because combat is interactive, Mr. Godless Badguy will of course be defending his head.

Telling me how you achieve your goal, however, in interesting and reasonable terms, will grant you a bonus die or two. 

Bonus dice are the Vivid reward for player creativity.  “I’ll use my superior height and strength to batter down his defenses until I can land a solid cut on his noggin!” Good!  “I’ll use my superior speed and cunning to fake him out and make him think I’m attacking low, then suddenly attack high!”  Yeah! I’ll give you a bonus die for these things, which don’t guarantee your success but do make it more likely.

And what of the hit location?  If you get a Crit, you achieved exactly what you wanted; a normal Victory only means you injured or threatened your opponent enough to gain a Victory Point. 

Crits in Vivid result in more Victory Points.  As Crits are scored when you gain a Victory with a roll of multiple sixes, the Victory Points earned with a Crit is equal to the number of sixes rolled.  So if you won a Victory with a roll of 5, 6, 6, 3, 6, you get 3 Victory Points.  Note that rolling more dice not only increases your chance of Victory, it also increases your chances to Crit.

If you got enough Victory Points to finish off your opponent, then I can narrate the result of your attack as a hit to heart, head, jugular, etc. etc.  Not enough Victory Points?  Then your attack did not achieve that deadly result, though it’s still significant.

Alternatively, a Crit can be used to gain one Victory Point and reduce an opponent’s Threat by 1 die.  The effect of this scales with the opponent – shoot a bandit chieftain in the eye and his 3-die Threat drops to 2 dice; shoot a dragon in the eye and its 7-die Threat only drops to 6 dice.

I have to say I love how a die pool mechanic is making it easier to build things like this into the Vivid system.

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