Adventure Trove: Exploits Redux
I’ve made several fundamental changes to how the game engine works, usually to streamline things. One of the features which got changed the most was Exploits. This was for multiple reasons: abolishing inherent limitations of the old subsystem, difficulty in maintaining equity for opponents, and removing randomness.
Before, you needed to roll a multiple while succeeding to invoke an exploit. If you had a higher powered exploit you needed a higher multiple to match. This had the effect of a hero only pulling out their signature moves and such once per game story in some cases, rather than sprinkled throughout play. Even when banking multiples, which is just more bookkeeping, you still didn’t have the spontaneous wow factor I was originally trying to build into the game.
There were a limited number of exploits you could have, so there were by definition a limited number of signature moves you could know. What happens when you qualify for a higher tier one and erase your 2x for a new 3x version? Did you suddenly forget how to disarm someone in the blink of an eye? This leads to focused character traits, but it doesn’t actually make sense. Bigger games (4E, cough, cough) also make use of this conceit that you’ve traded in your old move for a more powerful one, so that’s why you just don’t do it anymore. However, with old style exploits allowing a followup of all kinds, doling out small penalties or bonuses, or doing extra damage, this makes less sense.
Lastly, what kind of game master would I be if my monsters didn’t have their favorite moves listed as exploits either? It did give an idea of how the monster plays, and you could always tack on an extra unique exploit to make a leader type more dangerous or memorable. However, this was going to quickly lead to a bestiary full of monsters with Exploit A from Sub-table 6 type entries, and worse burnout for those writing the monsters.
Now exploits are a trait, just like most other useful abilities which aren’t attributes or skills. Here is the text:
Requirements: Chosen Skill 2+
The character is known for his or her expertise in one of their skills. A chosen skill is enhanced when this trait is purchased. Whenever the character uses the skill to perform a stunt, he gains an extra success after determining if his stunt succeeds or not. Characters seeking to identify the character after seeing his Exploit in action gain +1D to pierce disguises and +2D to identify him or her by reputation.
Note: You may purchases this trait more than once but you are limited to a number of exploits total equal to your highest skill rank.
Cost: Variable. Each new exploit costs 10 minus your current rank in the enhanced skill.
That’s really straightforward. An exploit gives you an extra success when you use a stunt with your chosen skill. It also makes you a little famous, as those who see you utilize your skill may recognize you. So what is a stunt then?
Stunts are over the top actions attempted when a character wants to do something outside the normal range of outcomes. This includes being able to postpone the next action phase of onlookers by using juggling in combat, knocking enemies prone by swinging into them on a rope, and so forth.
The outcome of a stunt can also be a penalty to attackers, a penalty to your target, a bonus to your allies, a bonus to yourself, or an alteration of a character’s turn order. Some maneuvers are forms of stunts as well. The Game Master decides what outcome is appropriate based on the description the hero’s player tenders.
This is a risky proposition however, as the desired outcome will not come to pass unless the hero attains enough successes on the roll. The Game Master decides if the desired outcome is minor, moderate or major and the cost of the trick in successes is subtracted from their total before determining the result. If the character has enough successes left to succeed on all accounts, then they do so and their ancillary outcome happens as well.
- It costs 1 success to do something minor such as gain or force a minor position change on a character.
- It costs 2 successes to do something moderate such as give a single character a bonus or penalty.
- It costs 4 successes to do something major, such as affecting a group of characters.
So attempting a stunt, or showing off, costs you successes! This means you might fail if you attempt a powerful or super-showy stunt. But wait, Exploits give you an extra success so you can pay all of (or part of) that cost. So that’s what they do for you now. They are tied into a larger subsystem which can be invoked at any time in which the players dare.
They don’t remove the sense of accomplishment from being skilled or lucky either. A Robin Hood-esque feat of archery is likely to be easier if you only need to get 3 extra successes, but hitting a target and getting 3 extra successes still usually requires a total of 5 or more. Characters with dice pools of less than 10 can’t boast that as a given.
Some of you may remember that most of the exploits shown were weapon style exploits. Well, now weapons have traits which sometimes give bonuses to certain types of maneuvers, which also happen to be stunts. So you’re encouraged to use certain attack types and maneuvers by the weapon you use. It’s a win-win really, as the characters are never forced to use these maneuvers but given the character trait above in a weapon skill, and the inherent bonuses some weapons have you’d be crazy not to make use of those maneuver-stunts when the time cost isn’t significant, as the cost is usually paid in full by the combination of Exploit + weapon trait.