With The Shadow's expert help, I've created house rules for True20 that reward heroes for attempting heroic and risky deeds, and puts more power into the player's hands. Feel free to use them in your home games! I'm also interested in feedback, especially from anyone who playtests these rules.
What are the objectives?
* Provide guidelines for degrees of success/failure into True20.
* All checks have the potential for Critical Successes or Critical Failures.
* Provide useful guidelines for a Narrator to interpret the results of a Critical Success/Failure according to the level of dramatic tension.
* Eliminate haphazard references to "fails by" in the True20 rules (e.g. the Climb or Acrobatics skill), as they reward high-level characters and punish low-level characters.
* Give players significant say in all of this.
* Provide all supporting rules necessary to make this a fully integrated part of the True20 rules.
Voluntary Critical Success / Failure
Every check a hero makes has a threat range for success and failure, whether swinging a scimitar, summoning a djinn, or haggling with a merchant. Usually, a player decides when their character gets a Critical Success or Critical Failures. However, if their check falls within a threat range, they gain an automatic Critical Success / Failure. The Critical Success threat range begins at 20, and is improved by advancing levels in a Role, by taking the Improved Critical feat, or by making the dicey move extra effort. The Critical Failure threat range begins at 1 and is increased by dicey move.
Dicey Move (New Use For Extra Effort):
You push yourself to the point of foolhardiness. Increase the Critical Success threat range of your check by an amount, but also increase your Critical Failure threat range by the same amount. For example, you could increase your Critical Success range from 20 to 11-20, but your Critical Failure range would become 1-9! You may not use Conviction to re-roll a dicey move – “As you have baked your bread, so must you eat it.”
When you take a level in a Role it provides a threat range to a certain kind of check. For Adepts this is power checks, for Experts this is skill checks, and for Warriors this is attack rolls. You may gain varying threat ranges by taking multiples Roles, though this sacrifices your chance to increase your threat range in your old Role. For example, a 4th level Warrior takes a level of Expert. The Warrior already had an attack threat range of 19-20; instead of improving this to 18-20 the Warrior improves his skill threat range to 19-20 as well.
Whenever you make a check, compare your results to this table:
• Alternative Outcome:
You, the player, may narrate the outcome of your character’s action so long as what you narrate is within the bounds of possibility for the roll’s outcome and doesn’t include other benefits of critical success in the narrative. However, it cannot turn out as you initially intended, and you must present an alternative outcome.
• Critical Damage:
You inflict extra damage as normal.
• Improved Outcome:
You improve your outcome by one step (e.g. Great becomes Excellent, or Failure becomes Mediocre).
• Insurmountable Success:
If the check is normally opposed then you automatically succeed (gaining a Success, no more, no less). If your opponent also activates a critical success, then the check is resolved as normal.
• Retroactive Challenge:
Calculate the degree of success you obtained against the Difficulty. For every 5 points of success you may retroactively benefit from one challenge.
No matter what your skill level, you fail on a Critical Failure. If you would have failed anyhow, the outcome is one step worse. In way of compensation, you gain a number of benefits (1 on a Failure or Terrible outcome, 2 on an Abysmal outcome, and 3 on a Lethal outcome). Choose the benefits from this list of Critical Failures:
• Confidence despite Adversity:
You may take 10 the next time you are in a similar situation to the one you failed in, even if you normally could not. If you could normally take 10, then you may take 20.
• Learning from Your Mistakes:
Gain an insight into the current situation, learning a vulnerability of your opponent or discovering what you did wrong for example.
• Redoubled Effort:
You suffer no fatigue on an extra efforts you make next round.
• Piety in the Face of Suffering:
Regain one Conviction point.
• What Doesn’t Kill You:
If you survive the Critical Failure, you gain a +2 bonus to Toughness saves, Fortitude saves, and Constitution checks for the rest of the scene.
Dramatic tension describes the urgency and risk involved in a scene. In game terms, it provides the Narrator a way to interpret the results of a Critical Success / Failure. There are four stages of dramatic tension:
A “Set” Scene
lays the groundwork for future scenes. Little to no rolling is done at this stage, and players take 5, 10, or 20 on most checks. There are no Critical Successes or Critical Failures during a “Set” Scene. Risk is minor.
includes minor conflicts which hint at a larger conflict down the line. Critical Successes and Critical Failures (whether activated or automatic) work as normal, providing Great or Terrible outcomes as appropriate. Risk involves changing the situation.
A Turning Point
indicates a major clash that will change the course of future conflicts. A Critical Success activated by the player yields a Great outcome, while a Critical Success within the threat range yields an Excellent outcome. Likewise, a Critical Failure activated by the player yields a Terrible outcome, while a Critical Failure within the threat range yields an Abysmal outcome. Risk is deeply personal.
is the final conflict which will determine the outcome of the story. A natural 20 yields a Legendary outcome, a Critical Success within the threat range yields an Excellent outcome, and an activated Critical Success yields a Great outcome. Likewise, a natural 1 yields a Lethal outcome, a Critical Failure within the threat range yields an Abysmal outcome, and an activated Critical Failure yields a Terrible outcome. At this point the heroes are risking death (either of themself, their allies, or their cause) to shake the campaign world.
Option: Conviction for Tension
At the Narrator’s option, the heroes may be given a Conviction point each time the dramatic tension increases one stage. Thus, characters who go from a “Set” Scene to a Turning Point would gain 2 Conviction. These Conviction points can exceed the hero’s maximum Conviction allowed at their level, however once the dramatic tension drops back to a “Set” Scene the hero loses an equal number of Conviction as they had gained. This can put the character at a Conviction deficit, in which case they must pay off the negative Conviction before being able to spend Conviction again.
Critical Failures: More Enticing as the Tension Rises
As dramatic tension rises, Critical Failures have greater incentive. On a Terrible outcome you gain 1 choice from the Critical Failures, on Abysmal you get 2, and on Lethal you get 3.
Challenges & Hindrances: Modifying Your Outcome
These house rules utilize the concept of challenges
to allow players to modify their hero's outcome. By accepting a challenge, the player makes the task harder for their hero, but offers greater reward (or lesser failure). By accepting a hindrance, the player makes the task easier for their hero, but offers lesser reward (or greater failure).
A player may take the following 2 challenges:
Improved Outcome (+5 Difficulty):
If you succeed the check, your outcome is improved one step for each time you accept this challenge. This challenge may not be taken as a feat.
Playing it Safe (+2 Difficulty):
If you fail the check, your failure is lessened one step for each time you accept this challenge. You can never make it better than a Failure, however.
Likewise, a player may take the following 2 hindrances:
Reckless (-2 Difficulty):
If you fail, your outcome is worsened one step as you throw caution to the wind.
Reduced Effect (-5 Difficulty):
Whether you succeed or fail the check, reduce your outcome by one step each time you accept this hindrance. Of course, because you’re lowering your standards, you’re more likely to succeed.
More to come (and edits) soon...