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In Moot Member Blogs [SBRD] Drama Points and Related Rules Entry Tools Rate This Entry
  #12 New July 30th, 2013 02:19 AM
[SBRD] Drama Points and Related Rules

Notes, House Rules, and GM Interpretations related to Drama Points

First, here are some examples of what I see as the purpose of Drama Points, particularly in a Light Cinematic game such as we have chosen for this campaign:
It is common in many kinds of adventure fiction (books, movies, comics) for the heroes to be placed in a dire situation, and by ingeniously distracting the villain or having some trick pre-planned or taking advantage of some fortuitous event, suddenly turn the tables. Unfortunately, in a realistic game, such an attempt would often end with the heroes being shot full of holes and dying without finishing the adventure. Now, that may still be the final result, but the function of a Drama Point used by a player at such a critical juncture is to tell the GM, "This action is really important to me, please slant probabilities a bit to at least give me a fighting chance here."

Another example is when the whole success of the scene or episode hinges on a million-to-one chance taken by the heroes at a crucial moment; if it fails, the episode (and possibly the whole adventure) is a failure, and everything from that point forward is anticlimax. It is important that the use of a Drama Point in such a situation not guarantee success, or else the heroes are robbed of their achievement and the victory is hollow and boring, but expenditure of a Drama Point can boost chances of success, or give the players some insight that may help their PC heroes succeed, or at least allow a "second chance" or some alternate form of victory to be offered if the main attempt fails.

One more example that is often seen in fiction is when one of the heroes, apparently seriously injured or even dead, is later determined to have "only a flesh wound" or be found dangling from a vine over the edge of the cliff, or be thought dead by the villains so that he is left behind to recover and come back to fight another day. Expenditure of a Drama Point in these situations will not bring the dead or injured or lost character back in time to participate in the current battle, but will allow him to be found after the fight either barely alive, or less injured than was thought. It might also allow a character to be "left for dead" by the villains, rather than finished off with a slit throat, bullet in the brain, or other sensible coup de grace.
So, the purpose of Drama Points is to allow such dramatic occurrences from common fictional references to also be possible in our roleplaying games, in this case, Traveller. Now let's talk about the game mechanics of using Drama Points in a Traveller game; although it may seem somewhat negative, I will start by discussing some previous attempts at this rule that did not work out so well, and then we'll get to suggested rules that I hope may work better.
One previous rule that we tried was that expenditure of a Drama Point gave an automatic critical success on whatever was being attempted. That was obviously way overpowered, as would be attested to by the young adult White Dragon who had his head blown off by a critical-max-damage Scorching Ray (would be, that is, if he had survived).

Another problem can be having too many Drama Points available. If they are easy to accumulate, then it is cheap to spend them on the "only a flesh wound" result for free healing after every fight, or to boost the chances of success at any mildly important task. Drama Points are supposed to help make the story more dramatic, not boring and pointless.
To try to avoid some of the problems seen with these uses of Drama Points, I propose the following rules:

1. Drama Point Awards and Accumulation. Each PC starts with one Drama Point. One additional Drama Point will be awarded to each PC at the conclusion of each specific "episode" of an adventure. Additional individual Drama Points may be awarded by the GM (or by acclamation of the other players!) for exceptional roleplaying. No more than two Drama Points may be accumulated by any PC; any additional Drama Points awarded are lost (this limit may later be increased to three, depending on how usage seems to be working out in the campaign).

2. GM Assistance on a Dramatic Attempt. One Drama Point may be expended by a player before taking an action to specify that "this action is really important to me" and to receive a bonus, a lucky break, a hint, or some other form of assistance as the GM deems appropriate to the story at that point.
Example: Sarge and his buddies Joe and Fred are being held at gunpoint by Thug-1. Sarge and friends are armed, but their weapons are in their holsters. Sarge wants to try something to get a chance to draw his weapon and fight back, so Sarge's player tells the GM that he wants to expend a Drama Point on this. A flat bonus to any roll doesn't seem appropriate, so the GM tells the player that Sarge has noticed that Thug-1 seems a bit stupid, and also that Sarge sees that Thug-1's bootlace is untied. Sarge's follow-up on these bits of information may give him the distraction he needs to draw his weapon.

Example: Same situation as above, except that there are two Thugs w weapons drawn. Sarge's player expends a Drama Point for some GM assistance, and the GM responds that Thug-1 is stepping forward to take Sarge's weapon, and that he foolishly moves so as to block Thug-2's line of sight, and then Thug-1 is distracted and looks away for a moment. That ought to give Sarge a chance to either lunge at Thug-1 or draw his own weapon.

Example: Bob is locked up in a jail cell and is at a loss to figure any way out. Bob's teammates don't even know he is in jail, much less where. Bob's player chooses to expend a Drama Point to ask for some kind of lucky break. The GM responds that Bob has noticed that when Jailer-1 brings food, he always brings it into the cell, sets down the tray, and then turns away to check the bedding etc for any signs that Bob is working on escape. Bob can now take this into account with an attempt to overpower Jailer-1 the next time he brings food.

Example: Linda has one chance to disable the villain's diabolical machine with a perfectly-aimed pistol shot. Linda's player expends a Drama Point, and the GM rules that her nerves of steel and grim determination to succeed give her a +2 bonus to make the shot. Even if she fails, she may be given some kind of second chance if possible.
3. Re-Roll Failed Result. One Drama Point may be expended by a player after taking an action, asking for a re-roll of the dice to attempt a better result. The better of the two rolls is then used as the result; you cannot make your PC's situation worse by trying this.

4. "But I have it right here in my pocket!" One Drama Point may be expended by a player to say that his PC remembered to bring some item or piece of equipment that was actually forgotten, or have an extra magazine of ammo, or something else along those lines. It is up to the GM to decide whether such a usage is reasonable under the circumstances. If the GM denies the request, the Drama Point is not expended.

5. "Only a Flesh Wound" or "Left for Dead". One Drama Point may be expended by a player after being killed or severely wounded or otherwise put out of action to invoke the "only a flesh wound" or "left for dead" options. The PC is still out of action for the duration of the current combat or situation, but may be discovered afterward to actually be alive or less severely injured, and if there are enemies around who could easily kill the helpless PC, he will instead either be taken prisoner or be left behind rather than finished off. For purposes of this paragraph only, the necessary Drama Point may be expended by another player if the player of the PC needing help is out of Drama Points. (Note that the player of the dead/injured/lost PC need not accept such help; if a PC has died bravely and the player prefers to roll a new character, that is his/her choice.)

6. In case it is not already obvious: Drama Points are only for usage by players. PCs are not aware of Drama Points any more than they are aware of skill points or die rolls. This is not OOTS.

I realize that the use of Drama Points is unfamiliar or controversial for some. However, I think it is important for the Light Cinematic level of realism that we agreed on for this campaign. If you have suggestions or questions, please comment below. I would like to get this worked out to something that is satisfactory to most of us in this campaign, before we get started. I will make the final rules decision as GM, but I would like to accommodate the viewpoints of everyone in this campaign as much as possible, so please, let's talk about it!

[Additional rules on this subject will be added here.]

Go to [SBRD] Reavers' Deep - Table of Contents
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RSS Feed 9 Responses to "[SBRD] Drama Points and Related Rules"
#9 July 31st, 2013 10:21 PM
SpaceBadger Says:
Yep. And as we all know, "There's a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive." Except that with "only a flesh wound" they are more on the alive side than dead side. Mostly alive, slightly dead?
#8 July 31st, 2013 09:30 PM
Fritz_Brown Says:
"5. "Only a Flesh Wound" or "Left for Dead"" - So, the PC would be only mostly dead?
#7 July 31st, 2013 01:42 PM
SpaceBadger Says:
That's fine, Sam. I have been thinking about Scott's idea of the GM rolling everything. It certainly would speed up play, and could enhance roleplaying if the players don't have to worry about "roll-playing". Yet I also know that for some old-school players, rolling their own dice is part of the game. I think I will make it optional. I will put the details in another blog post, but the basic idea will be that if a player takes an action and doesn't send me die rolls to go with it, I will roll the dice myself.
#6 July 31st, 2013 01:09 PM
samuelvss Says:
I would prefer for you to use Drama Points, Fudge Points, or FUBAR Points, at your sole discretion to make things go the way you think they could/should/would, but just don't ask or tell me about it. The game mechanics I deal with when I'm a GM; I don't want to look behind the curtain. If I must, I must: I'll deal. My druthers are that I never hear about it.
#5 July 31st, 2013 02:08 AM
SpaceBadger Says:
Sam, I'm trying to digest your comment, as to which idea you hate. It appears that you actually like Sabredog's idea of keeping numbers out of it and having the GM roll everything? But you hate the Drama Points, is that right? I can easily accommodate that outlook; if you (or anyone else) state an action and don't give me dice roll(s) to go with it, then I will roll it myself. You will have Drama Points available to you, but will not be required to use them. That work for you?
#4 July 30th, 2013 11:31 PM
samuelvss Says:
Hate the idea. For me, I don't want to know the mechanics of the fate that rules my player's universe. I don't want numbers, or points, or any of it. I mean I know it's all there, just like my character's answering nature's call from time to time, but quantifying it makes it all too clinical. I am happy to have the GM roll, and never tell me a number. Tell me what happened. That said, I know I am likely a deviant in this regard, and will do whatever the GM says to do!
#3 July 30th, 2013 02:45 PM
SpaceBadger Says:
OK, this is getting off the topic of Drama Points, but I have been thinking about Sabredog's suggestion of me as GM making all die rolls. On the pro side, this would really smooth out game flow as y'all would only need to tell me what you want your character to do, and I'd make any rolls I thought necessary, and give back results. That could possibly enhance roleplaying as y'all just say what you're doing and get results back, not worrying about numbers involved. On the con side, this could reduce players' feeling of connectedness and responsibility for actions - yeah, rolling dice, it doesn't really matter who rolls them, but we are gamers w many superstitious traditions. Also, it would require me to exercise iron will as GM to never fudge any rolls in favor of players (I would never fudge against the players anyway; I'm an old softie on that). So... I dunno, what do y'all think?
#2 July 30th, 2013 01:37 PM
SpaceBadger Says:
No, I'mnot planning on making all the die rolls, unless you guys insist - I suppose it would improve flow - but what I had in mind was that whenever you say that your character is attempting some action, give me a 2d6 roll to go with it; if in combat or something similarly complex, give me three 2d6 rolls, in case there is more going on than you know about.
#1 July 30th, 2013 11:50 AM
sabredog Says:
I seem to recall that you will be making the dice rolls? Or do I have that wrong? The drama points thing seems fine for online games like this when more detailed and interaction, including bluebooking, is pretty limited if not unrealistic. I wouldnt use them in face to face play but I like the concept for pbp.

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