One of my friends is starting a game of Phase Abandon, and in the course of setting it up he sent me a couple of questions. This is a good thing honestly. I have not thought about the internal workings of Phase for a while. It was written quite some time ago, and we haven't played it for a while. The end result is writing this was a very good exercise for me, and hopefully helpful for him.
One of the players has a skill called "Gains from ones losses", He wants to write it as if when someone critical fails a roll, he can then roll that skill to regain 2 lost skill points for each success. If he critical fails then he losses two skill points for each critical failure of his choosing, I feel like the skill should have a very defined restriction since it seems to be a very powerful tool. There is the equilibrium aspect to, he could take as much damage as he gains back. I'm not sure what to think about that.
First off I'm going to say the skill is fine by the wording of the rules but here are some thing s to think about.
Some questions for the group to ask when looking at this skill.
- In the story what is "gains from One's losses" As in how does he gain .. If a character is 20 miles from his character and rolls a pile of crit fails can he gain from that, how?
- Is it combat specific?
- Specific only to Combat while he's with another player's character?
- So how does he get dice back by virtue of another character getting stabbed in the face?
The game being a narrative game is not in anyway balanced against number fuckery. It is a problem that is tricky to overcome, because some times people just don't even know they are committing Dice fuckery.
Players are apt to think "Soooo I can just write my own slf heal? Or an Area of effect attack cause what-evers?"
They start to salivate and write awesome Kewl-Powerz when all they needed was a s skill called "First Aide" (On success heals skill damage = success, Hels Heart damage = to 6's on fail heals nothing, on critical fail can not retry on this target's current wounds.)
Our famous example is this skill:
Cannon in my chest:
I fire a huge cannon built into my chest!
For each success, some one dies, for each 6 rolled a world of my choosing dies.
For each critical failure rolled I take 1 point of heart Damage, and someone else dies.
That skill is not in any way against the rules.
BUt not against the rules.
In other words there is no point in taking pride in breaking or exploiting the system because there never have been any breaks written into the game to prevent it. It's like saying "look I ate the cookie! HA! I got over on you!" when the cookie jar is open on the counter.
Yeah .. Have a cookie.. we can all have cookies.
The only thing holding player back from what I consider "Dice fuckery" is the social contract between players to buy into a narrative game in which the players characters and s skills fit into the the setting.
The group can make it work:
My advice would be to have a conversation with that player asking how he envisions that skill working in a story.. Is it a psy power? some anime reference that the person loves, whatever.
Find out the motive behind the skill then put it to the group. If everyone thinks it's ok then work with it.
Let it go on a trial basis see if it's game breaking. If I remember correctly one of Jay characters had "backstabbing" and we went through a few variations of it before it felt right. You're all players in this game trying to make a cool world with cool stories. It's not a competition, so if a skill is a bit wonky but everyone agrees that it's OK. It becomes OK.
Also remind the player that if he rolls 5 ones in combat he could take 10 Heart damage which will put him out of the fight (No one dies in phase unless they want to so....) instantly.
Which might not be the best for the group.
A question that's been bugging me about mechanics: Are challenge scenes combat oriented? I know there are skills that can take points of a goals or deal damage but can all skills be used in a challenge scene?
Any scene can be a challenge scene. More to the point A challenge can be anything the group agrees is a challenge.
Any skill can be used in a challenge scene because any skill can take challenge off of a scenes total challenge rating.
Challenge scenes are set up by each player putting in chips then rolling a number of D6's Equal to the chips. Highest roller controls the opening of the challenge scene. The total challenge is determined the total of all the players rolls.
With That in mind the opening bidding process is not just about "control" of the challenge scene. It is also about how much weight each player wants that scene to have in the game.
A scene could come up that the table thinks should be a challenge but one of the players is not that interested in. They could concede the bid, by bidding nothing.
That will A. mean they aren't getting control at the start of the challenge scene, and B. the total challenge in the scene will be lower. Both of which can be acceptable results.
For example Rik is bartering with a Blacksmith. This could be a skill roll, and probably should be.
If the group determines that this should be a challenge scene that's also acceptable.
However the challenge should not be very high unless the group thinks that this interaction with the blacksmith is pivotal or that it might tip the fortunes of the party in some way.
If a challenge rating of 10 or less is rolled for the challenge scene, then Rik's player could roll well and clear it in one or two rounds of talking. It's not combat, but it may push the group towards completing their goals in some small way.
Another good example which is more in line with your questions:
Muhadin my Phase character had the skills "Feats of strength" And "Brawling"
Feats of strength was not a combat skill in it's self, but if I rolled well it could take points of of a scenes challenge. I would use feats of strength all the time to throw things (aka people) around, rather than using brawling. In-fact in a climatic fight against Muhadin's brother his brawling was reduced to one die. By the end of the fight I was relying almost exclusively on his raw strength. As a narrative that's awesome... Ended up tossing the guy around until he surrendered.
Hope these have been interesting and helpful.
It's a flexible and fun game but it admittedly has it's flaws, and comes at some things differently than other RPGs.
Questions from any one who downloads the game are more than welcome.