Posted by : David Guyll August 08, 2014
First things first, you can get the most current version of the rules by clicking here.
I should note that I had not planned on anyone seeing this yet, and Melissa and I are in the process of packing for our big move, so there are some mistakes and spots that I have not finished writing/editing (especially since we did the whole Climax Pool change a week or two ago).
Next up, some terminology:
- A scene is a block of gameplay in which a main character is in the spotlight. The events rolled on the Action/Plot tables primarily occur to them. So, if you rolled a Monster Attack, then they are the ones that get targeted. If you roll Body Found, then they are the ones that find the body.
- An act is a complete rotation of scenes. Once every main character has had a scene, you wrap up the act.
The Old MethodIt used to be that at the end of an act you'd make a climax roll, which was 2d6 + the number of completed acts + the number of information and object rolls. If you got a 13 or higher, the game then shifted to the Showdown, where the monster tried to complete whatever it is that it is trying to do. It is here that the players have a chance to fight it, fend it off, flee from it, etc.
So if you completed an act you'd roll 2d6 + 1, if you completed two acts, you'd roll 2d6 + 2, and if you completed three acts and rolled information you'd roll 2d6 + 4.
The downside was that regardless of the number of players, it was possible for the game to only last one act (you have a 1 in 36 chance of rolling double 6's). Regular commentator Kinak proposed a change that operated more inline with the rest of the rules of the game, where you roll d6's for start checks, with each 5-6 being treated as a success. This is what brought us to...
The Current MethodThe climax roll was scrapped in favor of a Climax Pool, which starts with 0 dice. As you go through scenes it can be increased by certain results on the Plot/Action tables (currently Omen, Information, or Object). In addition once the act wraps you add 1d6 for each surviving main character. Once you have your Climax Pool all tallied up, you roll all the dice and mark each success (ie, a dice that comes up 5 or 6). Once you roll 13 successes the game transitions to the Showdown/End Phase.
This has the added benefit of preventing the game from lasting just one act, while reducing the number of acts required as you add in more players: 2 players takes about 4-5 acts (more likely to take 5), 3 players takes 3-4 acts (more likely to take 4), and 4 players takes 3-4 acts (very likely to take 3). This works out since the number of scenes to an act increases with each player.
Another upside is tension. The players have no idea how many successes you've rolled, and in some cases might not even be aware that you've rolled an Omen (and conversely, if they find something might not be aware if it was due to an Information/Object roll). In a two or three player game they can assume they're safe for the first few acts, but after that it's anyone's guess.
The only downside mentioned could be the number of dice. The Climax Pool never diminishes or resets, so eventually you can be rolling 18+ dice. Personally I have no problem with this, but then I've played games like Shadowrun, WEG Star Wars, Dragonball Z, Warhammer/Warhammer 40,000, and various games by White Wolf (including Exalted).
DAVID'S NOTE: Something I considered would be to make it so that each actor has their own dice pool that they roll at the conclusion of a scene. It could scale up by 1 each time, or increase if you fail but really want something.
Maybe each player has a pool of dice that they can give the Director to auto-pass something? This would make the game end faster, and there isn't really a penalty or drawback for doing this, so I'm not entirely sold on it: I would prefer that it does something detrimental down the road.
Maybe with each additional act and/or retry the monster grows in strength? This could mean bonus damage (temporary or static), the ability to impose a complication, or even just gaining more hit points. I guess in that case you would have the Director remove a die from the pool.
Another idea was to scale the number of successes to better control the duration of the game. We went with 13 for obvious reasons, but I could see a "short film" duration having it be set to 9, 7, 5, etc. Maybe even a series of shorts (like Trick 'r Treat), where each set of 3 or 6 shifts the game to another perspective.
Suggested ChangeThe game starts with a pool of dice, say 10. After each scene, the player whose scene it was rolls all the dice in the pool. Successes are set aside, and the remaining dice are passed to the next player to roll at the conclusion of their scene. This continues until the last die is successfully rolled; this hearkens the climax. The monster, when he comes out to play, will target this player first.
This method brings the players into the action. Having them roll would make them feel the impending doom of the climax, especially when it comes down to the last few dice and everyone is hoping they have dice to pass on. This method also avoids the need to have an ever-increasing number of dice; the pool has a set limit. For this method, I would suggest a success being a 6. The odds mean a longer game than if it were a 5+.
DAVID'S NOTE: My personal opinion is that I would not feel any tension with this method, because I--along with everyone else--can clearly see the clock ticking down. I know that with ten dice there is basically no way for me to be the one triggering the climax. In fact, with even three dice I know I am very unlikely to trigger it.
Even if I do, as long as I have 2-3 points in my main stats for blocking/dodging, why would I worry? The average damage output is 3.5, and with 2-3 points I am probably going to reduce it by at least 1, so really I would only be worried if most of my stats had already been reduced to 0-1 before I rolled the die.
Another issue is that if I can see the clock ticking down, as it gets lower I would probably start gathering everyone in one spot with weapons and such for a final confrontation. The only other option is to feign surprise and try to deliberately role-play my ignorance that a monster is about to attack.