Game Design: Gimmicks, Props and Vehicles
So by now we’ve covered how characters are able to function. I feel as if I need to address the atmospheric window dressing in most games. What do you do when someone with martial training picks up a sword from an opponent after escaping from prison? Well, the sword is useful to as great a degree as the character’s own weapon. If he is a swordsman, it is obviously just as useful as his own blade! That makes sense. The swordsman has a Factor with Props as a drawback, so he can use it just fine with another version of his chosen prop.
Now, what do you do when a character without an appropriate factor picks up a sword, or a gun? He or she can still use it to bolster his or her attempts at Attack or Aim maneuvers. Normally these maneuvers have a Strength of 0. Using a prop often gives you a higher Strength, depending on what it is. So while you need a rock, or some other object to make an Aim action, if you pick up a handgun it will be more useful to you. Thus the gun has a Strength rating. The same is true of donning a riot vest or a chain shirt. You were without Resistance and now you have some in the form of worn armor.
This is all very free-form. Props have ratings, which substitute for, rather than boost other such ratings. So it does you no good to don chain mail if you have a Physical Resistance of 2. Your own skin is more resistant to damage than the armor is. At most it’s signature clothing for you. Likewise, if you pick up a bazooka with a 4 Rating, it does more damage than your Strength 2 Emphasis. However, a prop is called a prop for a reason. It can easily break, be taken away from you, or lost somewhere. They also follow common sense, so you won’t get to use the bazooka more than once unless you have reloads, and why would the Game Master leave a loaded bazooka and reloads lying around an action scene?
Characters never pay for Props. They never pay for single use or incidental vehicles either. Vehicles are like props, but instead of having single Ratings they possess Damage and Armor ratings, and their own pool of Health called Structure. Excellent vehicles may have their own pools of Resources which you can spend if your action involves manipulating the vehicle rather than acting on your own. All of these bonuses have costs if the vehicle is more permanent than a prop. If the vehicle has a mind of its own or enough personality to deserve it, it might be considered a character in its own right, but the costs discussed above are purely about moving props that characters have written down on their sheet for continual use.
The last bit in usefulness is the gimmick. Some characters can do things outside of task resolution that are wondrous. You never stop to think about how useful a skateboard or bicycle is until you are faced with a long trek on foot. Likewise, having access to a teleporter or time machine is extremely useful. These things are considered gimmicks, and are paid for based entirely on how useful they are. A sanctuary with familial wards so strong they prevent even demons from entering is a very useful thing. Is it on par with a device that can transport you across the galaxy instantly? Only your GM can decide. However, you can’t use either of them in combat or to solve problems. If you could, you need to create a factor or emphasis for this part of their capabilities.