I have a suggestion regarding dramatic sequences. I want to send it to John, but I wanted to see if others had similar concerns first.
My specific concerns with dramatic sequences are:
1) Costing an extra raise for approach change
2) Length of sequence.
Bottom line, my suggestions are:
1) In dramatic sequences, the improvising rule doesn’t trigger unless the hero changes his/her approach to a skill with either no rank, or that is 2 or more ranks lower than the skill used in the original approach. Also, the first time a hero switches approaches and uses a skill that is 2 or more ranks higher than the original skill, they can take action without spending a raise.
2) In a dramatic sequence, players never have to spend raises to overcome obstacles. They are assumed to overcome the obstacles unless they choose otherwise (“I fail”). Heroes only spend raises to negate consequences or take advantage of opportunities. For instance, in the “Out of Raises” example where the hero tries to sneak out, the GM never charges the hero a raise for sneaking out. The hero succeeds at that. However, the GM can present consequences and/or opportunities associated with the task. For instance, the GM could say, “As you sneak out, one of the guards comes around a corner abruptly. Your only hiding spot is outside a nearby window. You have to throw yourself out of the window and hang onto the ledge in order to avoid being spotting. In your haste, a bit of your signature red sash catches on the window. Spend a raise to notice the evidence, and remove it. If you are out of raises, that bit of evidence will be left behind…and most likely found.” Alternatively, the GM could say, “As you are sneaking out, you hear low voices down a corridor. You can’t hear what they are saying, but you hear the unmistakable nasal whine of the Count’s plotting mistress. Spend a raise if you want to find a good hiding spot where you can get close enough to eavesdrop on the conversation.” Or, better yet, the GM can present both, and force the player to choose. Regardless, in this incarnation of the rules, the PCs can keep overcoming obstacles in a dramatic sequence even after they are out of raises. However, they will be less able to negate the consequences of their actions, or take advantage of opportunities that arise.
Discussion of my concerns:
1) I have no issue with charging an extra raise for an approach change during an action sequence because action sequences are supposed to be fast-paced and pressured. It would be hard to change directions under that situation. Moreover, action sequences will often have multiple rounds, creating a clear moment in the fiction where the hero can change approaches without penalty (and with the Flair rule is rewarded for this). Dramatic sequences are another example. Take Alice in the dramatic sequence example. After talking her way into the party and make buddies with some young nobles, she has the fun idea to seduce a noble in order to get information. However, she decides against this because it will cost her extra raises. Wow, stifle creativity much? Furthermore, this makes no sense to me from a fictional standpoint. Just because she Convinced her way into party, why is it suddenly harder to Tempt this particular fellow? It also seems to fly in the face of the Flair mechanic, which wants to reward players for being creative and varied in how they tackle obstacles.
Don’t get me wrong. I see the design issue here. How do we smoothly resolve a chunk of fiction without requiring half a dozen rolls, especially when the resolution mechanic is not meant to determine success or failure in an absolute sense? Having Alice roll separately for each obstacle she faced would place undue burden on the GM. After all, the resolution mechanic is not a simple roll X + Y vs. target number(s) = this outcome(s). No, the GM needs to determine opportunities and consequences, and then the hero spends raises to deal with those. And then, these all need to be adjudicated. This would bog down the scene with no discernible benefit. So, rolling a simple risk for each obstacle seems like a non-starter. At the same time, there needs to be a mechanism to prevent players from just rolling their best approach at the beginning of the dramatic sequence and then spending raises tackle problems however they want. Still, seems like you risk stifling creativity too much with this approach (e.g. Alice forgoing her idea to Tempt the young noble). See my suggestion above.
2) Since the length of a dramatic sequence is not spelled out at the outset, the players don’t know what obstacles they face. This creates information an asymmetry -the GM knows how many "raise-worthy" things are in the next sequence but the heroes don't- that is not found elsewhere in the rules. So, if a hero has 3 raises, how is he/she supposed to decide whether to spend those raises early on, or hold onto them? Since, there is no set time at which one dramatic sequence ends, and another one begins, the hero has no idea when he/she will be getting a chance to “refresh” raises. It seems even tougher as a GM. As a GM, I would want to have a lot of flexibility in these sequences. If the heroes do something interesting, I would want to come back at them with more interesting stuff. Maybe they take things in a direction I hadn’t anticipated, and get themselves into all kinds of trouble (but not enough to warrant a switch to an action sequence). The example in the book paints a pretty picture because the amount of raises is just about right to neatly wrap up the scene. But, what happens when it doesn’t? More importantly, what happens when its not even close? Should I just let the players fail several obstacles? Or, should I switch to a new dramatic sequence? The former decision seems like a fun killer. The latter seems like it defeats the whole purpose of the rules. The other way to handle this would be for the GM to be very rigid with prep work. The GM knows that the ball is out there, and that any hero that tries to gain access will face 3 obstacles, and that's that. If the hero rolls 1 or 2 raises, too bad. Again, this seems awkward in the context of the rest of the game system, which seems to be focused on the players choosing what costs they are willing to accept (or opportunities they will forgo) in order achieve their goals…not creating an arbitrary point in time after which they automatically fail everything. Moreover, it would seem to stifle the GM's ability to improv the scene's flow.