Ideas for Expansion Rules for Dramatic Tasks

This is an idea that I had while working on my latest session notes for my Deadlands Noir game here, and is in part based on the some of the ideas that came up in the new 7th Sea Second Edition rules. I don’t know why exactly the two ideas came together now, maybe it is because I just finished the Pirate Nations book, that I will be reading Nations of Theah Vol. 1 soon, or even that I have been reading some things on Rob Donoghue’s blog about the Risk mechanic. As it stands there is a lot of philosophical ideas in the new 7th Sea Second edition (and other games) that I use about not rolling dice unless failure would add to the overall story.

In 7th Sea the Risk mechanic is how you determine the outcome of a dramatic scene. In a nutshell, you roll your dice pool and make successes. You then spend those successes to accomplish things, buy off damage or bad things, or even acquire certain advantages. So as a quick example, a dramatic scene might be you are on the top floor of a burning tower. You are told that to get out it will cost you one success, you will take thee points of damage from the fire and parts of the ceiling falling down, and that there is a note that is going to catch fire that has some extra information on it that will be useful to resolving the larger story. You then spend the success on the roll to buy or buy off those items1.

When I ran my dramatic tasks, in the last session I had two going at the same time as well as the combat that was also going on. This worked out to needing ten successes in five rounds to accomplish both (the reward for one of the task was to give them extra time on the other if they needed it. After doing this in play, I realized that 7th Sea‘s Risks were just unstructured Dramatic Tasks. This lead me to the idea of incorporating other things to spend those raises and successes on.

In 7th Sea they have the concept of Opportunities which are things that are not directly related to the task at hand, but could give the characters an advantage later on. An example might be some notes on an enemy’s weakness when you are trying to defuse a bomb or maybe they find some kind of clue as to who built the trap that they are trying to escape. The two important parts of these Opportunities are that one there should be a real potential cost for taking this, a real reward especially if taking advantage of the Opportunity causes you to fail the Dramatic Task, and also they should have a point in time when they are no longer available.

An example of this would be some like the following:

You come to tied up in a home office of the mafia goon that they are investigating, and the room is on fire. So the dramatic task is that they have 5 rounds to escape their bonds and get out of the house or start taking fire damage and potentially get burned up with the house. The opportunity is that if they spend a raise before the third round, they can search the desk and grab the papers in it which will provide some clues as to what the mafia goon is up to and help further their investigation. Otherwise the desk catches fire and that evidence burns up2.

Another idea that the 7th Sea uses is the concept of Consequences. These are things that might go wrong or make the tasks as a whole more difficult and those limiting options on how to deal with the situation. Again these would be best used as things that happen after a time period. So in returning to the previous example, we could add the following:

If the party does not escape the room by the third round, they can no longer use the door to get out because the ceiling collapsed blocking it, but now must climb out the window.

So the completed example would be something like this:

You come to tied up in a home office of the mafia goon that they are investigating, and the room is on fire. So the dramatic task is that they have 5 rounds to escape their bonds and get out of the house or start taking fire damage and potentially get burned up with the house. The opportunity is that if they spend a raise before the third round, they can search the desk and grab the papers in it which will provide some clues as to what the mafia goon is up to and help further their investigation. Otherwise the desk catches fire and that evidence burns up. In addition, if you do not escape your bonds and exit the room by the third round, you can no longer use the door and stairs, but must climb down the side of the house to escape the fire, potentially taking falling damage if they fail climbing tests.

Anyway this is just some quick thoughts on the subject that came to me while writing up my last session and I thought I would share them here and maybe others will find something useful in them for their own games.


  1. It is slightly more complicated than this with the number of successes you get on the dice roll determining who goes when, you can also buy off other people damage with your success if you do really well. Also you can say that something happens when everyone hits some number of success. For example if you haven’t left the room before everyone is down to three successes, the ceiling collapses blocking the door. 
  2. If you do something like this, make sure that if they don’t take this opportunity, you don’t dead-end the investigation. This should purely be bonus clues that might allow them to if interpreted correctly allow them to cut out some leads allowing them to complete the investigation faster. 
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Author: Hours without Sleep

I am a professional software tester, who has an interest in programming, computers, role-playing games, history, and reading in general. This is my third attempt at keeping a blog, and I am going to try putting all of my thoughts in one place, and see how it goes.

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