Campaign of the Month: January 2012
Star Trek Late Night
Courage, Drama, and Other Trekisms
COURAGE, DRAMA, AND TREKISMS
The expenditure of Courage Points provides a method of increasing Test results. A character’s Courage Points often come in handy when a Test generates a low result. The character may choose to add Courage Points before or after a roll has been made. If he chooses to add one Courage Point before the roll, he can add a Courage Die to his dice pool. The Courage Die adds directly to the highest die rolled creating the potential for spectacular results. After the roll has been made a character may add up to three Courage Points to the roll.
All characters begin each the game with three Courage Points unless they received bonus points due to species or advantages. At the end of each Act the Narrator will have the option to regenerate the character’s Courage Point pool. A character cannot gain more Courage points than his starting allotment at any time.
A character will at certain times be given the opportunity to purchase additional Courage Points. When he is given the option, he may purchase one additional Courage Point. The Narrator will decide when this is possible and should only allow the character to purchase an extra Courage Point if the character has shown extraordinary role playing, heroic sacrifice, or performed some deed that was truly incredible – like saving an entire race or thwarting a galactic civil war.
Sometimes a character needs to succeed at something, and damn the probabilities [and sometimes the consequences]. This is simulated with Courage Points. When a character uses a Courage Point, the in-game reality alters in ways to help the character – think of it as the Powers That Be lending a helping hand. This shot ricochets around a corner and cuts the hangman’s rope, the charging cultist’s robe gets tangled and he goes down in a heap, a recently slain companion is ‘not dead yet’… all those things are possible with Courage Points.
A character starts with a set number of Courage Points, determined by his species chosen at character creation. Once spent, Courage Points are gone until they regenerate or new ones are earned through deed and action. A character cannot earn more Courage Points than his maximum. Characters who perform truly heroic deeds like saving a world from destruction can earn the right to increase his Courage Point pool by spending Development Points.
SPENDING COURAGE POINTS
Players may simply tell the Narrator what they wish to spend their hard-won Courage Points on and erase them from their character sheets, which can be pretty dull. Instead, Narrators should encourage their players to describe, in detail, how their Courage Points are taking effect. Entertaining descriptions of Courage Point expenditures are not merely their own reward – they could lead to plot complications, character development, or even further Courage Point awards. If players are reluctant to do this [from shyness or lack of inspiration], the Narrator may do so for them – but can feel free to add a plot complication or an additional requirement to the expenditure.
Example: While climbing the Jeffries Tube in pursuit of a giant bug, Ratchet has failed his Climbing roll. He decides to spend 1 Courage Point on Scenery, to allow him a chance of survival. If Ratchet says ‘I grab for an open access panel as I fall past it,’ the Narrator may say that he has snagged the Panel safely. If Ratchet says nothing, and leaves it up to the Narrator to invent said access panel [or ledge, spanning arm, or other such thing], the Narrator is perfectly within his rights to ask that Ratchet make an Acrobatics roll or a Dexterity check, to permit him to grab the item… and then slam him roughly, knocking the wind out of him and stunning him for a round. If a character pays his points without describing them, he takes his chances.
The standard use of Courage Points is to add a Drama Die to the Test result. A Drama Die is a die of a different color that adds to a Skill or Attribute Test. This often results in dramatic results. Even this use can be described dramatically.
Example: Kar throws a punch at the assassin. He makes his Skill Test and sees that his total is an 8 [a pretty good roll}. He decides to add a Drama Die to his test result and spends a Courage Point. He tells the Narrator that Kar feels a surge of anger that fuels his punch. He rolls the Drama Die and gets a 4 which is then added to his Skill Test giving him a total of 12. He beats his opponent’s defense by 7 giving him a Dramatic Result. The Narrator rules that Kar broke the assassin’s jaw and knocked him unconscious. If Kar chose not to describe how the Drama Die came into existence the Narrator may have ruled that Kar needed to make a Willpower Test since his anger has gotten the best of him with possible dire results.
USING COURAGE POINTS
So what are Courage Points good for? Let us count the ways. Spent judiciously, they can snatch sweet victory from the fanged jaws of defeat… or at least take the sting out of the stomping.
Courage Points may be spent at any time, even when the character isn’t acting or doesn’t have initiative. The Narrator has veto power over the use of Courage Points. Usually, if something bad is slated to happen to a character, using Courage Points won’t help him get out of the situation.
A ‘scene’ here is defined as a short collection of related actions or events in a logical progression. Scenes in movies are divided by dissolves, wipes, or cuts; scenes in television shows are often divided by commercial breaks or shots of stock footage; scenes in theater can be separated by the opening and closing of a curtain or a change in scenery; and scenes in books are often indicated by page or chapter breaks. A punch in the middle of melee is simply an action; but scamming a way past the lobby security guards, from entry until the elevator doors close, is generally a scene.
- Bad Luck: The character may spend ONE Courage Point to add one Disaster Die to the Narrator’s dice pool. This works as Disaster under the Disaster Die rules.
- Blunder About: The character can at any time spend ONE Courage Point and declare that he is blundering about. If there is any hidden hideout, secret door, trap, hidden clue, ambush, or other some such surprise [good or bad] that the Narrator has planned or feels like springing, the character will stumble into it.
- Dramatic Entrance/Exit/Pose: ‘The door crashes open! There, heralded by a flash of lightning and a boom of thunder, cloak flapping in a gust of wind from the storm, Lady Corrino stands, her saber unsheathed. ‘You!’ she roars, pointing her blade at Flatline…’ By spending ONE Courage Point, a character may make an impressive entrance, stunning [or causing Fright Checks] any onlookers momentarily.
A Fright Check requires an opponent to make a Difficulty 5 Presence + Willpower Test or be stunned for 1 round.
- Dream Sequence: The character PERMANENTLY spends TWO Courage Points from his pool. He then chooses a point in time that occurred during the current or last game session. Everyone goes back in time to that point and time begins as if none of the events since that moment had ever happened. Everyone remembers the events as a dream sequence that may give a warning of things to come.
- Drifter: The character spends a lot of time on the road and has a tendency to just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Any time another character needs help a character can spend ONE Courage Point and show up if it is in any way plausible. Everyone present can offer an explanation for how the character happened to arrive in time; the player can choose whichever one appeals to him the most.
- Flesh Wounds: At any time [in combat or out], a character can spend ONE Courage Point to reduce the damage of an incoming attack by 2d.
- Flurry of Blows: In combat, a character may spend TWO Courage Points to gain an extra attack, but not one that he’s used already. For instance, if Griffon punched Annette Hawkwood and then spends a Courage Point, he may not punch again though he could kick her, do a leg sweep on her, tackle her, push her out a window, clock the villain with the barrel of his pistol, etc.
- Flurry of Blocks [Parries, Dodges]: In combat, a character may spend TWO Courage Points to gain an extra defense, including one he’s used already, even against the same attack. If Annette Hawkwood failed her Kung Fu block while mixing it up with Griffon, she may attempt another!
- I am the Wind: By spending ONE Courage Point, a character may move in a cinematic style to a distance of twice their normal Move. This includes, but is not limited to, swinging from chandeliers, quickly vanishing from view right from under the noses of others, running through a hail of gun fire unscathed, appearing out of the shadows behind a foes, leaping to escape an explosion, and so forth.
- I Surrender: The character may spend TWO Courage Points at any time during a fight and become captured. Once spent, the character may not take any hostile action towards his capturers or resist them in any way other than refusing to talk/give up info for the remainder of the scene. This is a great way for a character to save his ass when knocked unconscious or facing overwhelming odds. James Bond used this form of Courage Point expenditure in every movie and novel he was ever in.
- Make It Count: When it’s crunch-time, a character can buckle down and really concentrate on the task at hand. By spending ONE Courage Point, he can add a Drama Die to his Test result. If he spends more than one Courage Point he can add +1 per point he spends after the first. A maximum of three Courage Points may be spent on ant one Test.
- Props/Scenery/Extras: For those times when the right tool is not at hand, a character can find it with Props. Wish the road ahead of the getaway car was a bit more winding? Change it with Scenery. Never a cop around when one is needed? Sure there is, with Extras.
Props are objects that can be picked up, moved around, or controlled by a character – tools, small appliances, containers, and so forth. Scenery is the location and appurtenances thereof – chandeliers, rugs, furniture, quality of highway, kitchen sink. Extras are the folks wandering around – pedestrians, EMTs, wait-staff, theater ushers, etc. Note that summoning an Extra should usually take place between scenes or as a scene of its own; however, some Narrators may wish to allow Extras to walk-on in the middle of another scene.
Objects, location alterations, or people that would definitely be in a location [a wrench in a body shop, a hay bales in a barn, or a barkeep in a Western saloon] can be ‘revealed’ by the character spending ONE Courage Point.
Things, place changes, or individuals that could be in an area [car keys to the car in the body shop, a block-and-tackle setup in the barn, or a piano player in the saloon] should cost TWO Courage Points.
Objects that probably wouldn’t but still might in theory be in the area [a monster truck in the body shop, a hidden root cellar in the barn, or a Texas Ranger in the saloon] costs THREE Courage Points.
Outrageously out-of-place stuff [a jet-fighter in the body shop, a dinosaur mural painted inside the barn or an astronaut in the saloon] just can’t be there, no matter how many Courage Points are spent.
- Scene Blocking: For TWO Courage Points, a character may manipulate the position of one character within a scene. ‘As the door opens, the guard catches you in front of the file cabinet with the beam of his flashlight.’ ‘I call Scene Blocking – when the guard opens the door, I’m actually beside the file cabinet, partially hidden by its shadow.’
- Second Wind: The character can awaken from being knocked out with the expenditure of ONE Courage Point. In addition he heals all Stun damage.
- Slow Motion Sequence: The film starts to slow down and time seems to stand still as the character moves with blinding speed! For EVERY TWO Courage Points used, the character gains an additional action. Not just useful in combat, either – handy for athletic competitions, last minute grabs for allies falling to their doom, or escaping from pursuit.
- Take That! The character doesn’t just have leverage; leverage is his homeboy. A character may double the Knockback of a strike in combat for EVERY ONE Courage Point spent; useful for ‘accidentally’ knocking pesky mad scientists into the calderas of active volcanoes. If the attack does not normally cause Knockback the character can do one meter of Knockback per point he hits by.
- Trip Him Up: When a character notices his opponent is wearing a cape, robe, or moving through treacherous terrain, the character may spend ONE Courage Point to trip him up. Once spent the opponent will get tangled up and trip. He will lose one action as he tries to regain his feet. He must make a Difficulty 5 Coordination + Dexterity Test or fall on his face.
AWARDING COURAGE POINTS
Once Courage Points are spent, they are gone for good. To get more, a character has to work for them. They can be obtained in a number of ways – some are easy, others depend mainly on the course of the campaign, and others are just handed out in the Narrator’s infinite wisdom.
- Quotable Quotes: A good game is as much about dialog and characterization as it is about villain stomping. Coming up with cool, witty lines is not easy. Players who put in the effort to come up with a funny and memorable line should be awarded a Courage Point, once per game session. Both the Narrator and other players have to agree that the line is worthy of the reward.
- Traits: Many traits award Courage Points for specific Activities. This is the most common way for a character to earn Courage Points
- Change of Act: Any time the Narrator declares a new Act, characters should ask for Courage Point regeneration. The Narrator will examine their past actions and award any number of Courage points he desires up to a character’s max.
Disaster Points are Courage Points for villains, bad luck for characters, and the whimsical nature of fate all rolled into one. The Narrator begins each game with three Disaster points per player character. He regenerates five Disaster Points at the end of each act.
SPENDING DISASTER POINTS
The Narrator may spend Disaster Points at any time during the game, even when it is not his action. A Disaster Point may be used in the same manner as a Courage Point or in any of the following interesting ways.
- Disaster: For EVERY ONE Disaster Point the Narrator may add one Disaster Die to a character’s dice pool, up to a maximum of two. If a Disaster Die comes up ‘Blank’ the character suffers some kind of mishap, even if his Skill Test was successful. If two ‘Blanks’ come up, the character suffers a major disaster.
Example: The Narrator adds two Disaster Dice to Flatline’s dice pool when he is shooting his SMG at a crazed Klingon. Flatline’s Test Result is a 9, scoring multiple hits on the Klingon but he also rolled 2 blanks. The Narrator rules that the bullets striking the Klingon blow through and hit the warp core controls, sending the ship into an imminent melt down.
- Fool Death: The narrator may spend THREE Disaster Points to have his major villain escape certain death. The villain may even be dead at the character’s feet but will somehow survive.
Example: Dr. Vilmar is gunned down by an angry Tu’sutok and then beheaded by the deranged Vulcan. The Narrator spends three Disaster Points, and when the body is examined it turns out not to be Dr. Vilmar but is instead his assistant Clyde using a holo-projector in order to disguise himself as the feared doctor.