Posted by : David Guyll August 08, 2014

I'm still waiting on the artist to finish up a sample piece before we start the Kickstarter; it's going to be the main image, so I want something neat for everyone to look at. In the meantime we've been...debating whether or not to change how the Climax Pool is treated, so getting as many perspectives, opinions, and suggestions would be very helpful.

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:

  • 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 Method
It 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 Method
The 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 Change
The 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.

{ 5 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Hi again! Lots of good ideas here.

    I like rolling per scene (rather than per act)... mostly because I'd forget the act transitions constantly. That said, David's probably right about having players roll killing the tension.

    So you could do one roll a scene, modified based on whatever happened in that scene. It'd keep the number of dice small and let you do pretty incremental changes to the outcome. It would also let you know how much you need to step up the tension in the next scene.

    So Omen can mean, "get an advantage, but if you take it and fail a roll, the Director rolls a bunch more dice towards the Climax this scene." Whereas Object might give you the chance at an advantage if you succeed at an appropriate check. I dunno, just spitballing there, but I think rolling per scene makes it easy to respond to player actions more granularly.

    If you wanted to go really crazy, you could even tie that roll to what sort of scene you have next. So if you got a bunch of successes on the climax roll, the next scene has more weight to it somehow.

    Cheers!
    Kinak

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    Replies
    1. @Kinak: Would you have the Director roll after each scene?

      What about having it so that, when the Director calls for checks and you fail, it adds a temporary die to the Climax Pool? So, it ends up being a temporary boost to how much dice get rolled.

      Also, something I thought about Information and Object was instead of having it be a guarantee, then you have to roll to acquire either, and they give you some kind of advantage later. Whether or not you get it the Climax Pool builds.

      We were considering having Extras always offer either complications or assets (depending on whether they are good or bad), and having one of the options be Betrayal, which has the Extra end up working against you.

      Thanks for the feedback, Kinak! You do a good job of making me think about this stuff.

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    2. > Would you have the Director roll after each scene?

      I would indeed. It seems easier to keep track of and more responsive.

      You'd obviously need a much smaller pile of dice if that were the case. Permanently adding dice would be pretty major if you're rolling them each time. It might be better to just add for that scene, but possibly add larger numbers.

      > What about having it so that, when the Director calls for checks and you fail, it adds a temporary die to the Climax Pool? So, it ends up being a temporary boost to how much dice get rolled.

      I guess it depends on the roll. If there's a specific roll required to pass/fail the scene, that makes a lot of sense. But I'm not sure about having it be on every roll. You'd want solid guidelines for when to roll if that was the case.

      My instinct says that the bonuses should be based on a "calm before the storm" principle. So the less happened in the scene, the more dice you should be rolling.

      If you take the successes as feedback into the next scene, that would naturally give you the ebb and flow of tension like you'd see in horror movies.

      > Also, something I thought about Information and Object was instead of having it be a guarantee, then you have to roll to acquire either, and they give you some kind of advantage later. Whether or not you get it the Climax Pool builds.

      Sounds good to me. The more you can hook the player's actions in the scenes to their success (or failure) in the climax, the better.

      > We were considering having Extras always offer either complications or assets (depending on whether they are good or bad), and having one of the options be Betrayal, which has the Extra end up working against you.

      A betrayal option in the table could be good. Every zombie movie has the one idiot.

      It might be worth thinking about how the system handles set-ups without extras. If it actually requires extras, which it might, I'd mention that so people don't accidentally design a movie that won't work in the rules.

      > Thanks for the feedback, Kinak! You do a good job of making me think about this stuff.

      You're welcome! Glad to help :)

      Cheers!
      Kinak

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    3. @Kinak: IDEA

      On an Action result of Nothing, the next Action roll gets a +2, while a result of Presence gets a +1. I think this would help enforce pacing, where nothing might happen for a bit before BAM: someone get's attacked and/or killed.

      Another idea I had was that, when you roll a check in a scene, each failure is added to your Climax Pool, but just for that scene. This way if you do bad it can snowball. Or, it could be flipped: successes are added to your Climax Pool.

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    4. I think pushing bonuses forward onto the action roll makes a lot of sense. I was faintly considering something like "The amount of climax successes you got last scene is the minimum action roll."

      For the rolls, I'd consider adding a die for that roll if you had a chance to effect the climax. So an advantage you could carry forward or injuring the monster somehow. Succeed or fail, you get an extra die.

      Raw successes and failures would mean you'd need some extremely clear guidelines on when to roll, because roll-happy directors would end up with climaxes way sooner.

      Cheers!
      Kinak

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