The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 8

The Twist: “Buying” Success

Riffing on the previous concept is a twist that complements the idea of MoS from the opposite direction:  If I fail the roll, or if I succeeded but want extra MoS, I can “buy” extra dice to succeed (or succeed better) at cost.

While this doesn’t preclude the recommendation of using a “fail-forward” concept in scenario design, there are still times where I might want my character to succeed in this moment, right now.  And so I have a choice… let things continue as I rolled them, or am I willing to put my character into some narrative (backed by mechanics) peril in order to get the win?

If I choose the latter, <devilish voice>excellent</devil>.  Much like the ladder of options for MoS, each extra die bought in this manner raises the magnitude of the potential trouble.  The number of dice to be bought doesn’t need to be stated up front, allowing them to be bought one at a time, rolling and adding to my total and gradually raising the stakes until either my character succeeds or I reach my limit of peril.

Note that the narrative/perilous cost of the extra dice is paid whether they lead to success or not!

Buying Success:  The Setback Ladder.  Flipping the idea of the Success Ladder around, each die spent here has increasing narrative impact:

Dice Purchased Narrative Penalty
1 Mild
2 Moderate
3 Painful
4 Severe
5 Brutal
6 Debilitating

Buying Success:  Traits, Aspects, and Tags.  If the game is using the idea of Traits/Aspects, then purchasing extra dice comes at the cost of new, mostly negative, Traits/Aspects.  This can be placed on the character, the scene, or the overall environment (such as “Alerted Guards”) as appropriate, with a duration based on the number of extra dice purchased:

Dice Purchased Duration
1 Fleeting
(Next/Few Actions)
2-3 Transitory
(Remainder of Scene)
4-5 Sticky
(Lasts until Handled or Overcome)
6+ Enduring
(Lasts until the next Adventure, or is very difficult to Overcome)

In addition to extra duration for higher levels of dice being purchased, the GM can also opt to increase the severity of the Traits/Aspects or instead assign multiple Traits/Aspects.  All of which provide additional options for exciting play and excellent story-crafting potential.

Buying Success:  Temptation Bargains.  To add even more interesting choices to a game, once a player has gathered their pool but before they roll for the test, the GM can offer a ‘discounted’ level of bane to allow the player to add additional dice to their modified pool.  In other words, rather than performing the test as normal and, if the test is failed, buying additional dice one at a time, before the roll the GM can instead offer, “If you take a Transitory Bane, you may add 3 extra dice to your pool right now.”  Temptation…  the stuff that heroic stories are made from.

It also works to let the players themselves suggest such bargains.  While the GM has to formalize and accept the idea, letting the players get themselves into trouble is another great gameplay and storytelling boon.

Buying Success:  Collective MoS Pool.  If using a Collective MoS Pool as presented above, rather than buying dice from the GM with a bane attached, a player can instead (or in combination) pull and roll dice from the collective pool.

Alternately, to make it more restrictive and to inject more interesting choices to the game (and to preserve some fun opportunities from failure), a player could be restricted to only pulling from the collective pool before they make their roll, adding the die to their dice pool and then making the test.

Margin of Failure.  So, the players didn’t take the bait… er, the option of purchasing more dice, and the task is failed.  How badly did it fail?  What narrative outcome should be crafted?  While in certain situations it may not matter (if you are aiming for something and miss, you just miss) where the margin does matter, here is a guideline:

Total Rolled Narrative Outcome
13-14 Near Miss
10-12 Solid Miss
5-9 Severe Miss
1-4 Disastrous Miss

The “Extra Die” Beauty: Creating a Margin of Success
| Index |
Creating the Base Pool →

2 thoughts on “The Aurora RPG Engine – Part 8

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