Game Design: Guts and Reversal
I’ve mentioned Guts before, but now it’s time to get a bit deeper. Guts represents the character’s pool of inner power. I’m not talking about supernatural ability, I’m talking about determination. By now you already know that Guts can be bid on top of any Action or Reaction in order for the character to succeed. Guts can also be used to soak damage on a one-to-one basis. Lastly, some powers will be constructed that require Guts to use at all. This is about cost savings more than genre appropriateness, but the option is there.
If a player constructs a factor emphasis with the Tiring modifier, they lower the cost significantly, but they have to spend Guts just to use the emphasis. Likewise, they could do the same with an entire Factor. Cost wise, it would cancel out giving a factor infinite charges, so there is some benefit as Guts is relatively cheap. The only real drawback here is that Guts doesn’t naturally regenerate during a game session.
You start with a certain pool, you can’t go above that pool except with Immediate Guts, an in game play reward which must be used, you got it, nearly immediately. So even with the use of powers that restore Guts, you can’t have more than your normal amount hang around from round to round or scene to scene. There are no provisions for characters regenerating Guts from sleeping overnight, etc. It isn’t Health or a Resource, it’s Sheer Willpower in a game mechanic.
So what about the power of rage or redemption to fuel characters in the genres that the Cinematic Fighting System seeks to emulate? That is where Reversal comes in. Reversal is another figured characteristic, but this one represents how large your special gauge, a fighting game term, is when it fills up and becomes usable. Whenever your character is dealt a serious blow, that gives them a setback point. More specifically, you gain 1 Setback point per attack which causes you to lose Health or Spirit. The Game Master can hand out Setback points whenever she wishes to, so you may also get them for clever investigations, soaking a lot of damage with Guts, etc.
Once you hit 5 Setback points you clear the slate and gain a number of Guts points or Recharges as your Reversal score. This can even be a mixture of the two. So when you’ve been beaten down enough, you either get an influx of Guts, or you recharge some spent abilities and use them to good effect.