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A Positive Take on 2nd Edition [Reddit]

A Positive Take on 2nd Edition [Reddit]

A Positive Take on 2nd Edition (by /u/PartyMoses)

(While I know this post is REALLY long, and I know we have a bunch of other threads discussing this already, most of those are extremely critical of the new rules. I figured it was all right to bubble up a post in support of the new system. I know some folks are going to disagree with me, and I can totally see why a lot of people aren't going to like the new system.)

I played. I finally had a chance to run the QS, and not just a 1-on-1 session like in the first case, but actually play, and I get it - I'm sold (at least until I see Character Creation,) because I finally got 1st Ed out of my head long enough to feel 2nd Ed start to sing.

Let's be honest, the big names in table-top haven't really changed all that much in 15 years. Most of them (D&D, Pathfinder, WW, L5R 4th, etc) are still, state your intent, roll dice against target X, if you're above (or in some cases under) X you succed, otherwise you fail. Some systems have degrees of failure, but ultimately the GM decides the outcome. But there's a lot of, let's call them "Indie" games (...and pretty much every John Wick game I've played in the last few years,) that aren't as straightforward and are more about a play on narrative control.

My first reaction to the 2nd Ed QS was "There's a lot of Houses of the Blooded in here," and what I meant when I said that wasn't that the "themes" or "mechanics" of the game are the same (HotB is a VERY different game from 7th Sea,) what I meant was that both HotB and 2nd Ed (although John may disagree with me on this) are games centered around who has narrative control. For HotB it's about a push-pull for narrative control through the combination of a TN and wagers. For 2nd Ed, it's the GM giving choices from which the players pick and choose from to decide narrative direction.

Unfortunately this means there's some bad news for a lot of folks: You can't play 2nd Ed thinking in terms of 1st Ed, and it's going to take some time to get used to it.

1) Purge the sequence of "Intent," "Consequences," and "Opportunities" out of your head.

We're spending WAY too much time dwelling on this. These are just words used to explain things that can occur during actions, just like any other RPG: Players say "I want to do X," there is 'bad stuff' that can happen if they fail (Rocks fall, everybody dies,) and fortitous moments can occur ("Why yes, the guard happens to be an old childhood friend.") The 2nd Ed team has just given them mechanical labels that have been applied to describe the sequence. Don't say "You have 1 Opportunity," just say "You notice an envelope sitting on the desk as you race towards the door, if you spend a Raise you could probably grab it on your way there," and you don't need to start every round saying "Okay what's your Intent?" Just say "What do you want to do?" You know, exactly what you do for Player actions in 1st Ed.

2) Put Examples of Risks into Context

I've seen this one a few times: A Hero wants cross a ravine via a balance beam or fallen tree trunk. A lot of people start are asking, "How do I turn this into a risk? What sort of consequences would there be? The only problem is failure - they fall."

Okay, well whyh is it a risk? What is the context? Why did you put that ravine there? How does it support the story? If it's just an interesting part of the scenery while the group meanders towards town, it's not a risk, don't waste time rolling checks. Are they fleeing from enemies or trying to head off the villain? That's a different story.

Robert Floyde is frantically fleeing down dirt paths and trails. Heilgrund's men are hot on his heels and it's getting hard to see the deeper into the Schwartezenwalden he stumbles. He veers off the path, hoping that the Eisen superstitions about the forest will make his pursuers think twice and stops himself just in time to teeter on the edge of a ravine; he feels a rock knock free under the toe of his boot and hears it bounce and smack down to the depths of the ravine below. He squints in the darkness. He can make out - just barely - the outline of an old tree trunk stretching from one end of the ravine to the other. Floyde: I'm going to use the old tree to cross the ravine.

GM: Okay, how are you going to do it? Are you going to try to tip toe carefully across? Do you want to try to sprint across?

3) Piling on Consequences

Now with context we have A LOT of possible consquences, and one way we can resolve this is to give a bunch of possible consequences to burn up the hero's raises - wait! No. This isn't about burning raises, you should be trying to create interesting opportunities and moments that change the dynamic of the scene. Here some possible consequences:

  • The tree is rotting, there's a chance that as he's running across it his foot might get stuck and he'll take a wound on his way to getting across.
  • There's also a chance that the tree could tumble into the ravine before Floyde gets across, and if he's sprinting you can add some additional conditions to that:
    • If he leaps as the tree falls out from underneath he'll make it to the other side but he won't make it all the way, he'll slip and grab onto a root and will have to pull himself up.
    • Even if makes it and lands on the other side he'll still be prone. He'll have to spend some time getting to his feet.
    • If Floyde spends an extra raise after resolving the previous 2 he can land with such grace and style that as the guards catch up to him that it actually impresses them and gives them something to talk about for ages to come, adding to his reputation.
  • Getting across is going to make his clothes dirty and scratch him up - it'll be pretty clear to anywhere he goes that he's been through something rough and as Heilgrund's Ghosts alert the countryside that they're on the hunt for him.
  • There will be a lot of noise as he goes across and the guards will be alerted to his location.
  • As he sprints across, a tree branch might snag some of his equipment or knock something from his hand sending it hurtling to the bottom of the ravine.
  • There's something...very uncomfortable about that tree...but you can't say quite what (This is an un-revealed consequence, there's a horror from the Schwartzenwalden that has made that tree its home - if Floyde gets to the other side he'll have to face it.)

We are using consequences to determine the degree of success. Think about your player's hero and make the consequences matter to them. Will Floyde care if he gets dirty? If Floyde gets a scar, does the lady or gentleman he's trying to woo like scars? If not, that might be a consequence Floyde cares about more than losing some equipment. Or maybe Floyde prides himself on always being dashing and falling on his face has an added consequence that the guards will catch up and see him sprawled out on the dirt, hurting his reputation and pride?

3) Stretch Out the Intents

Personally, I think piling and piling up Consequences is a bit to heavy handed. After all, you can't always come up with enough consequences for Player's to burn away. Rather, I like making actions take longer.

Most intents I've seen suggested are all encompassing "I want to convince these guys to join me in the fight." - okay...but does that make sense? As the GM you're the final arbiter as to whether or not an intent is reasonable. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Dial back intents and make them incremental:

Floyde: I want to get across to the other side as quickly as possible.

GM: Okay, but the tree is really irregular and rotting, even at your fastest pace you can really only move 1/4 of the way across per round - and not with much guarantee of saftey at that; it'll take you 4 Rounds to get there.

4) Make Sure to add Time Constraints

The Windows of Opportunity are really important and useful, USE THEM. 2nd Ed is about choices, so it forces the Players to start making choices.

Floyde: Fine, I'm going to go across anyway.

GM: Great, roll Finesse+Athletics....(states consequences)...also, just a warning, Heilgrund's men found your trail, you can hear them stumbling through the brush; you have 2 Rounds and 3 Raises before they reach you.

5) Raises are pretty predictable, which means it's easy for GM's to gauge difficulty.

One of the big complaints I've seen is that most of the time players will get Raises equal to 1/2 the number of dice rolled. This is a GOOD thing. If you know your player's stats it gives you a better idea of just how many consequences or opportunities to throw at your players to keep things interesting and challenging while keeping the narrative flow. While there's a chance the dice could flub, since failure is not necessity, even if they do flub there's no "The TN is 15...oh you got a 10...uhh....this happens instead!" Also, the mental math is easier: 6 Dice, most likely 2-4 Raises.

6) Whoever Spends the Most on Intent Wins

GM: Heilgrund's men have caught up to you. You glance over your shoulder and see them and their dogs, their lanterns illuminating their faces in the darkness. You glance down now...even with the lantern's glow all you see is inky blackness down into the ravine. They seem to be dicussing something among themselves for a moment and several of the men line up against the tree and start pushing against it, trying to shove it over the edge and into the ravine with you on it. What do you want to do?"

Floyde: I give it everything to keep going. Is there any way I can get there in in 1 Round instead of 2?

GM: I'll let you spend ALL of your raises in the next round to get across, and you can't ignore any of the consequences. Let's go ahead and roll, and then I'll let you decide what you want to do.

Floyde and the GM roll dice.

Floyde: I got 5 Raises. What happens if I don't spend them all to get across?

GM: Well Heilgrund's men got 3 Raises, so if you spend any fewer than 4, their intent is higher than your desier to get across - the tree will plummet into the ravine, and you with it. If you spend 4 you can save one Raise to negate a Consequence, but Heilgrund's men are just going to try heaving again in the next Round, but how about this: if you spend your 4 Raises and take all the consequences, I'll let you get across and buy the two dice to your remaining Raise for 2 HP. Your choice.

Floyde: Done

I can see why people might be put off by the new system. I also don't think the QS does a great job of conveying a lot of this, and I've only come to it through my own thinking, fiddling, and playing (it helps that I've played some games that are even more rule-loose than this,) and listening to the various podcasts the team has been releasing that really gives insight into what they're trying to accomplish (John's most recent one with Talking Table Top was a big help for me.)

Personally, I like it. I don't care much for lots of crunchy bits. I'm still exhausted from the Skill List and Swordsman School bloat from 1st Ed (IMO Swordsman's Guild was a horrid book, and the only good thing that came from it was that Eisen finally had a fencing style, which it should have had with Eisen instead of getting two command schools.)

submitted by /u/kckrupp

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Jordi Estefa's picture

The only problem that I see is that the GM anounces what the consequences are. It feels to me that it slows down the game.
Would it be possible to announce the consequences one by one? Instead of knowing everything from the start. (is it that how is it meant to be?)

GM: The tree is roling... Do you spend a raise to avoid 1 damage? (probably better narrated when playing)
PC: Yes/No.
GM: Ok. Also, the tree can tumble into the ravine... Do you spend a raise reaching the other side?
PC: Yes/No.

KC Krupp's picture

Personally, my answer is yes, but if I'm going to start including consequences post-roll or on the fly they'd have to be reasonable. You might want to give the player a heads up how many consequences they'll be facing, even if you don't give them exactly what they are consequence up front.

In my example from the OP, I've broken Floyde's progress into 4 Rounds (Scaling back his intent.) I probably wouldn't use the same consequences for each Round, or I would tack on consequences, for example, for his first Round I might give him just the consequence of snagging his equipments, for his second Round I would pull over the first consequence AND add on another consequence or two - narratively I wouldn't repeat the consequences each time, just let him know the same consequences still apply. This would also make his actions feel more and more risky the further he progresses down the path, thereby increasing the tension of the scene.

Another thing that was brought up in the comments of the Reddit post is that when you add multiple parties with competing risks, the system gets much better to work. If we assume Floyde is going to get 4-6 Raises for each round crossing the tree, as long as he's acting in isolation, you have to pile on consequenes to increase the tensions, but as soon as you have other parties with intents that compete with his as seen in the Round with Heilgrund's men, you only need 1 or 2 consequences or maybe you don't need any consequences because you have the other party's competing intent to balance that out.

In other words, the point of the system isn't to have a hero or heros running around in a vaccum, it's intended to have them constantly operating at odds with the motivations and actions of others (NPCs) that they run into.

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