School Colors Out Of Space: Action

Rolling The Dice

Like other RPGs, SCOOS uses dice to add the random element that makes players feel like the GM doesn't have complete control of their characters' fate. SCOOS uses two six-sided dice, of different colors. Designate one die as positive and the other as negative, before the roll, then roll both dice and subtract the negative one from the positive one. This generates a number between 5 (6-1) and -5 (1-6). If all you need is a qualitative judgement, then read positive numbers as "yay!" and negative numbers as "suck!".

For extra excitement, your GM might use the optional rule that if you roll boxcars (double sixes), you roll again and double the result. If you roll boxcars twice (a 1 in 1296 chance) roll again and triple the result. If you roll boxcars three times in a row, prepare to be accused of using loaded dice.

If you don't like your roll, you can, if you can explain how good luck or any magical Knack you might have would help, reduce your Mojo by 1 and roll again. The second roll replaces the first, even if it's worse, unless you spend a second point of Mojo to switch back to the first roll. You never get more than two rolls to choose between unless the GM is feeling very generous indeed.

Doing Things

There are three sorts of actions you can attempt in SCOOS: trivial, impossible, and interesting. Because of the wildly varying capabilities of SCOOS characters, which category any given action falls into is something the GM will have to decide, but normally it should be fairly obvious. The examples assume normal human capabilities, for simplicity.

If you attempt a trivial action, you just succeed, and play continues. This includes things like walking across a room, reading a street sign, or getting a glass of water from a fridge, under normal circumstances. If there is some complication, like the floor of the room being mined, the street sign being written in Akkadian, or the fridge being home to several highly evolved species of fungus who are warring over the mayo, the action might instead be interesting.

If you attempt an impossible action, you just fail, and play continues. The GM and other players staring disapprovingly at you is optional, depending on whether or not you should have known that you couldn't do that. Impossible actions are a much more poorly defined category than trivial actions: for a normal human, flying into the air is impossible, but for a byakhee with the Travel By Air power, it's trivial, and for a human with a jetpack it's interesting.

If you attempt an interesting action, there some chance that you will fail and some chance that you will succeed: that's what makes it interesting. Which of these possibilities comes to pass is decided by the dice.

Any interesting action is based off one of your seven Abilities. That value is then modified by any bonus or penalty that applies to that particular action; Knacks are the most common example of this sort of modifier. The final value is called, imaginatively, your action value.

Any interesting action also has a difficulty associated with it. If you're trying to do something to a person, the difficulty will probably be one of their Abilities, possibly plus a Knack or other modifier. If you're only opposed by the inanimate world, the GM will make up an appropriate number.

Once the action value and difficulty are clear in your and the GM's minds, respectively, roll the dice and add the roll to your action value. If the result is equal to or greater than the difficulty, you succeed. If not, you fail. The amount by which the result exceeds the difficulty is called the outcome, and the larger it is, the better. Sometimes the outcome is used directly as a number, other times it's only qualitative.

Which Ability is used depends on the nature of the action, but should be fairly obvious. Appeal is used to get people to like you or be attracted to you. Competence is common sense, and other forms of applied intellect, like remembering street directions; it is also the ability to use technology. Fighting covers not only combat but any athletic feat, like running or lifting heavy weights. Erudition is used for any feat of pure intellect, especially learning or remembering things but also abstract reasoning like chess or math. Mojo is magical power, which is not the same as magical skill. Sanity correlates with self-control and resistance to emotion. Standing is used to get favors from the powers above you, like the loan of your dad's car.

Neither Appeal nor Standing are commonly used to resist actions, and Erudition rarely is, but the others all serve pretty much as you'd think. If none of the others seem to apply, Competence is probably the relevant Ability.

Time

Time in SCOOS is fairly flexible. If clock time matters, and you're doing something with a well-defined real-world duration, it takes that long. Usually one or the other of these will not be true: the important question is typically not how many and seconds it takes to perform the ritual to close the Gate, but whether you can do it before third period starts. In these cases, timing is whatever seems reasonable, dramatic, or both.

The unit of time used most often in the rules is the scene, which lasts from one scene change to the next. If you don't know what constitutes a scene change, you should see more movies.

In combat or other instances of fast-moving excitement, time is measured in rounds, which are long enough for everyone to do approximately one interesting thing (keeping in mind that most people will be doing things at the same time): from a couple of seconds to a quarter-minute or so. If the exact number of seconds matters, and you're really sure you're not being too nit-picky, call it 5.

For reference, under Earth's gravity, 5 seconds is enough to fall 125 meters.

Distance & Speed

Speed in SCOOS falls into about five categories:

For the first four, you should already have a good idea of how fast they are and how long it will take to get places; for space travel, just wing it. In a race, someone of a higher speed category will always beat someone of a lower speed category; within a speed category, make a roll on some appropriate Ability plus Knack.

Combat

Once in a great while, you might find some threat to three-dimensional existence so loathsome and unamenable to reason that moral suasion fails completely, and you are forced to the regrettable course of opening up a can of whup-ass. Although we don't expect this to happen often, it's good to have rules for every eventuality.

To beat up on somebody, you roll your Fighting plus any Knack you have for beating people up plus any modifier the GM hands you, against your opponent's Fighting plus any Knack she has in not being beaten up plus any modifier yadda yadda. If you succeed, add your damage bonus to the result and subtract their Fighting plus their resistance bonus. If there's anything left over, their Fighting goes down by that much.

Throwing things and using Zap powers work pretty much the same way, except that it'll be more common for the GM to assign penalties for attacking things too far away or behind cover or whatever. As a rule of thumb, you can attack across a classroom at no penalty, across the school auditorium at -2, across the football field at -4, and across the entire campus at -6. The GM might rule that some attacks just don't reach that for, however.

Sometimes, you'll want to spare your knuckles and use a chair or a sword or your big brother to whap people. In general, using an improvised, small, or goofy weapon (like a chair or your big brother) adds +1 to your damage bonus, and a real serious weapon (like a quarterstaff) adds +2. The higher your base Fighting, the less a weapon will add: if you are already a Master of Squid Style Kung Fu, a vase of flowers isn't going to help much.

Because it wouldn't be funny for people to get killed, combat with potentially lethal weapons like swords and guns works differently. When attempting to shoot or stab someone, calculate the amount of Fighting they'd lose as above, but compare that amount to the target's current Sanity: if it's equal or more, they lose 1 Sanity and break and flee in terror (or cower beneath a desk, or whatever), possibly with their clothes and personal belongings trashed. If you don't overcome their Sanity, you still get a (cumulative) +1 bonus to your next attempt, which goes away if they do anything effective against you. That is, if you shoot at someone but don't put them to flight and they then clock you one, they aren't going to be as scared as if you had a gun *and* were invulnerable.

Inanimate sources of potentially lethal injury, like normal combat, result in Fighting loss and cartoonish special effects (think Wile E Coyote).

If you're a monster, being incapacitated by abuse from human technology (machine guns, freight trains, salad shooters), costs you 1 Sanity, or 1 more than it would otherwise. If you're human, you already lose Sanity for being exposed to magic, so having it zorch you isn't any more mind-breaking, just more painful.

Damage to property is at the GM's discretion. As a rule of thumb, Fighting + damage bonus of 3 is about equivalent to a normal person kicking something, 4 is hitting something with a club, 5 is hitting it with an axe, 6 is chopping it up with a chainsaw.

Other Ways To Lose Fighting

Other things besides getting your butt kicked might cause you to lose Fighting, like getting sick, being dragged behind a pickup for ten miles, or having to eat cafeteria food. Exactly how much you Fighting you lose for any of these is up to the GM, or perhaps to a vote of your fellow players if that's funnier.

Your resistance bonus will probably help against loss of Fighting from physical abuse, but not from things like poison. Again, it's up to the GM.

Regaining Fighting

Fighting comes back between scenes. If your Fighting was reduced, but not to 1 or less, it all comes back for the next scene, unless there was some condition that the GM thinks negates that. For example, driving from Arkham to Innsmouth is a scene change (unless there's a chase going on), but if it's in your grandpa's 1943 pickup truck with the original shocks, that's not really going to help your bruises.

If your Fighting was reduced to 0 or 1, you get half of it back for the next scene, unless you stopped by the hospital or used a healing spell to trade Sanity for Fighting, in which case you'll probably get it all back, or there was some unpleasantry in which case you'll probably only gain back a point. After spending a scene or two in cast/bandages/rejuvenation ichor, you'll be fine.

Losing And Regaining Sanity

You can lose Sanity from any psychologically or psychically stressful event, such as being put in immediate peril of life or limb, handed an unexpectedly failing grade on a test, sent to the principle's office, visited by the Outer Houseguests (to whom time is meaningless), or dropped naked into the wrong locker room.

Most traumas only cause a point of Sanity loss; particularly severe ones might cause two. Only the most utterly horrifying events should make characters lose more Sanity than that in a single scream -- once or twice an adventure should be plenty.

Prolonged exposure to horrors of the other realm (monster stuff for humans, human stuff for monsters) will eventually result in acclimation, negating Sanity loss for short exposures, but excessive or egregious incidents will still reduce Sanity. In particular, using magic will always reduce a human's Sanity, and using technology will always reduce a monster's Sanity.

Anyone with 3 or more points of Competence in the opposite realm should be considered to already be acclimated to most things, and even without that, monster characters should be considered acclimated to right-angled architecture and human characters to the existance of monsters. Unless it would be funnier otherwise, of course.

When your Sanity reaches 0, you're catatonic, gibberingly useless, or otherwise incapacitated. At Sanity 2, you're slightly impaired in some fashion (phobic, slightly delusional, slightly obsessive, or just plain neurotic), and at Sanity 1, you're significantly impaired (strongly phobic, completely deluded or obsessed). If your maximum Sanity is 2 or 1, you'll be this way all the time, and should decide on the nature of your mental abnormality ahead of time.

Sanity returns between scenes: when the scene changes, each person below her maximum Sanity regains up to half as much as she had at the end of the last scene (that is, she each multiplies her Sanity by 1.5, rounding up), subject of course to her maximum. Someone who is reduced to 0 Sanity will start the next scene with 1 Sanity. If a cause of Sanity loss is present during the scene change, characters may regain less or no Sanity at the GM's option.

There are some other ways to gain Sanity if you really need it in a hurry:

Casting Spells

It's usually easy to cast a spell; it's just that the consequences are so often unpleasant.

The action value for casting a spell is whichever Ability your magic is based on, plus whatever Knack you got the spell from. For sorcerers, the Ability is usually Erudition, but might be Competence; for psychics and shamans it's usually Mojo; for monsters it might be either Competence or Mojo, unless the Knack is Worship <whatever> in which case it's Standing.

The base difficulty for most spells is 0, although this might increase if you're using substandard materials or otherwise cutting corners. The exception is spells affecting someone who doesn't want to be affected, in which case the difficulty is the target's Mojo.

Casting a spell is assumed to involve a lot of chanting, and some amount of gesturing, dancing, or flailing around, and occupy a few minutes (long enough for anyone nearby who objects to do something about it). Some spells also require certain locations, objects, or persons; these will be mentioned in the spell description.

Provided all the conditions are met, you aren't clocked before the spell completes, and the roll succeeds, the spell does whatever the description says it does. You lose the amount of Mojo specified in the spell description, and if you are human, the amount of Sanity specified as well. Human onlookers will usually lose Sanity as well; consult the spell description for details. Monsters do not lose Sanity for casting or witnessing spells.

If the spell's effect depends on your Mojo, use either your maximum Mojo or your current Mojo plus the Knack you used to cast the spell, whichever is less.

Losing And Regaining Mojo

There are two main ways to use up Mojo: casting spells, and making rerolls. It is also possible for some magical malady such as a curse or the backlash from really screwing up a spell to reduce your Mojo, but that usually affects your maximum rating rather than just your current rating.

Mojo returns at the same rate as Sanity: at each scene change, multiply current Mojo by 1.5 and round up. There aren't many conditions that will affect Mojo replenishment; if one comes up, the GM will hose you appropriately.

Losing and Regaining Standing

As you might expect, acting against the wishes of the higher power reduces your Standing. A Standing of 2 impairs your life slightly (extra chores, babysitting younger siblings), 1 significantly impairs you (no car privileges, no allowance), and 0 incapacitates you (grounded!). Sadly, good deeds almost always go unrewarded; only the fading of memories of your misdeeds will increase your Standing.


This file was last modified at 1635 on 22Jun99 by trip@idiom.com.