Alloy: Task Resolution part 1
Today I elaborate upon the basics of task resolution. Firstly, there is always a concern for narrative or discrete time. The base unit of narrative time is the scene. A scene can represent hundreds of hours or only a few minutes, but the ebb and flow of time is not very important. In these situations, characters undertake actions when they desire to perform them. Those actions take a reasonable amount of time to perform, and any responses to those actions by other characters in the scene occur. When there are no more actions which seem pertinent to the situation, the scene ends and a new one begins
Multiple scenes are broken up into sessions and scenarios, if based on play time, or acts and scenarios if based on story divisions. Very few game rules refer to either of these categories of narrative time, so whatever your group is more comfortable in using is what gets used. Discrete time is measured during intense situations such as combat, in phases. There are 10 phases in a round, and a round lasts about half a minute. This isn’t rigidly enforced, either, but the general idea is such that every 30 seconds significant amounts of activity can occur in a fight. Now, round is more of a shorthand way of referring to 10 phases. Action does not stop between rounds.
Alloy uses what is normally described as a clock-based initiative scheme. The way this works is that every character is dropped onto the clock (i.e. has their first action on a specific phase). As they initiate and complete actions, the action costs of these actions add to their current action phase, to determine their next action phase. Because this is not computerized, characters cannot interrupt individual actions, however when actions are strung together into a combo, interruptions can occur. An example of such would be climbing over a wall, drawing a ranged weapon, and firing it before running to cover. Each of those actions forms the basis for one long action sequence, and normally in a movie or book it would be uninterrupted. However, if someone were lying in wait at the base of the wall, they might get to act before the character can fire, which would interrupt the last two parts of the combined action. This gets more intricate when you add in actions which can affect other character’s next action phase, but the basic idea is easy enough to track and the standard times definitions actions take keeps everything moving quickly for the heroes as well as the Game Master.
As we’ve already covered the basic mechanics of forming a dice pool, and rolling it versus a TN, looking for a specific goal number to count successes, I will just give the shorthand formula here to refresh memories.
Attribute + Skill Dice (if any) + Bonuses – Penalties = Dice Pool. Skill rank determines the goal, and the TN is how many successful dice you need to obtain out of the rolled pool of six-sided dice to pass the test.
Die Pool Quality
If you succeed at a task based on the number of successes rolled and you rolled one or more 6s, then you get a single bonus success. This signifies your exceptional luck. If you rolled too few successes and one or more of your dice came up a 1, then you critically fail. Something bad or crippling happens to your character, or the situation becomes that much more desperate.
The Game Master can also interpret one or more 6s on a failure to mean it is a marginal failure, one that has less consequences than normal. Lastly, the Game Master may also interpret a roll with an equal or greater number of 1s to successes which still succeeds as a marginal success. The quality of your die roll is almost as important as the number of successes thrown.
Example, Larissa has a dice pool of 6 and a goal of 4 for Stealth checks. If she generates a roll with 3, 3, 6, 3, 4, 6 this is a total of 3 successes. If she had instead rolled 1, 1, 6, 1, 4, 5 that would still be a total of 3 successes, but with three 1s in the pool, this indicates that something is off with her performance. Perhaps she hides perfectly well, but leaves obvious evidence of her passing?
Example, Theoren is camped out in the woods and must use his pool of 4 for Survival in order to survive the week of his stakeout. The woods is a simple Difficulty of TN 1 for survival. His roll of 3, 4, 5, 1 results in 1 successes. If he were in the arctic, where he would need 3 successes, the fact that he rolled a 1 would indicate that something horrible occurs. Likewise, if he had needed 2 successes to survive in the mountains and he rolled 3, 3, 6, 2, it would be a failure, but he might find enough edible roots to eat. It would not be as filling, and he might be somewhat fatigued due to his situation, but he would not have failed as completely as his successes alone indicate.
Beyond this basic form of task resolution there is the opposed test where characters roll versus each other to achieve the most successes (defender wins ties), the sustained test (used to determine timelines for extended actions), and there are rules for working together. Of all of these, only one variant is going to be fully described here. The Hard Opposed Test is where you seek more successes than an opponent, but you also have a minimum threshold to meet in order to succeed.
This mechanic is used for a number of things, most notably for certain combat maneuvers, and when a channeler performs a rite on an unwilling target. For example, the Trip maneuver is TN 2. A character attempting to trip another must best the target’s defense pool result, but must have a minimum of 2 successes or they fail utterly.
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 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 3 successes to do something major, such as affecting a group of characters.