Rules for "I try HARDER!"

New idea, a slight twist on "spend to push" mechanics I've seen elsewhere:

Pools & Stats:

You have a pool of Energy points you can spend. This starts every day at 10, unless you are injured or poorly rested or other specific conditions.

Your Will stat is your current total of Energy points, divided by 3, rounded down. If you have the Strong-Willed trait, add 1.

Gain +1 Energy from [yet to be defined, but includes certain types of successful Action].

Lose -1 Energy from [yet to be defined, but includes certain types of failed Action].

Note: If you have the Prove Them Wrong move, you can roll that to turn a public failure from -1 Energy to +1 Energy.

Action Rolls:

If you attempt an action without attempting to Apply Will to it, then roll Skill vs Difficulty to see if you succeed or fail. You are not over-extending yourself, and the range of outcomes is fairly predictable. The GM should not embellish much beyond "it works"/"it doesn't".

If you attempt to Apply Will to an action, make two simultaneous rolls: an Apply Will roll and a Stressed Action roll. Resolve the Apply Will roll, then resolve the Stressed Action roll.

To Apply Will, roll 2d6+Will.
- On a 12+, add 2 to your Stressed Action roll, on top of any Energy spent.
- On a 10-11, add 1 to your Stressed Action roll, on top of any Energy spent.
- On a 7-9, you may spend Energy points to add to your Stressed Action roll at a rate of 1:1.
- On a 6-, you spend Energy but don't successfully apply it to your Stressed Action. Subtract Energy equal to your margin of failure (below 7).

A Stressed Action adds modifiers from a 7+ on an Apply Will roll, and then rolls on an Apocalypse World-reminiscent 3-part outcome spread: 10+ = yes, and; 7-9 = yes, but; 6- = no, and.

The concepts:

If you're not pushing yourself, then less is at stake. It's easier to push your efforts when you're physically, mentally and emotionally energized. Pushing yourself expends resources, though the thrill of success can gain some back. Not every attempt to push yourself actually contributes; it depends in part on whether you are already exhausted or energized. Even failed attempts to push yourself cost resources.

Alternate ideas:

Replaced the Strong-Willed trait with an actual Will stat, which is modified by current Energy but not reducible to it.

When you Apply Will, spend Energy first, then roll to see how much of that Energy gets applied to your Stressed Action.

The Energy you can spend on an Action might be capped by your base Will or current Will.

Thoughts welcome, as well as accounts of your own favorite "try harder" mechanics.

Comments

  • What type of gameplay are you trying to encourage? The minimal narration of outcomes on ordinary rolls would encourage me to Apply Will on almost every roll; rolling without Applying Will would become the exception, especially since I have a lot of Will to spend and it can refresh during play.

    The downside of that is that almost every action becomes more complicated, as I'm making two rolls for each action I attempt, plus the outcomes of the Stressed Action roll are more complex than the "it works"/"it doesn't" of the ordinary roll.

    How do the difficulty numbers of an ordinary roll compare to the AW scale on a Stressed roll? If ordinary target numbers scale to the difficulty of the task but the Stressed Action roll is a constant, then past a certain point, it's always to my advantage to make the Stressed roll, as that's simply more likely to succeed.
  • edited November 2015
    My intent was to encourage both narrative awareness of character effort level and strategic rationing of such efforts. So, fairly similar gameplay to spending Fate points in Burning Wheel or FATE, but with a different fictional spin and player experience.

    My expectation is that most important actions would Apply Will, but that the distinction would force players to consider what's really important, and do some quick resolutions for actions that aren't. (Another alternative for "not that important" resolution would be coin flips or GM fiat or something.)

    If a refreshable pool of 10 is too big to make those considerations serious, then I should shrink it. Kinda depends on pace of play; I was imagining this mechanic as implying fairly "zoomed in" play, e.g. covering pressure situations where the characters are attempting multiple significant actions in a few hours' or few minutes' time.

    My hope was that the more complicated version of resolution would be fun & interesting. If it isn't, then I have failed.

    Good point on my lack of clarity re: target numbers! My intent was that Difficulty would apply equally to Stressed and unstressed Action rolls. So I guess that means base Difficulty is 7, and any margin above that is applied as a penalty to a Stressed roll (so Diff. 9 = roll Stressed Action at -2).
  • Another RPG that used an Energy Pool, though more as the central element of play, was the Marvel Universe RPG (the 2003 edition, not Heroic Roleplaying, which is more recent). It's one of my favorites of all time because of the rhythm of each character being slightly different depending on what their Energy Pool was, how they chose to spend/save it and how they refreshed it.
  • edited November 2015
    I like the Blades in the Dark mechanics:
    1. Push harder by taking additional stress
    2. 'Push harder' by taking a Devil's Bargain (can be anything annoying/threatining for the PC)
    3. Someone else helps, takes stress, improves potential outcome scale

    I also like Worlds in Peril (AW engine) mechanics for burning bonds: You improve your dice result by reducing the relationship you have with a character.
  • From my current Mage-like AW hack:

    When you push reality to behave the way you want it to, tell the MC what you want to be true and roll+cold. On a 12+, all 3. On a 10+, choose 2. On a 7-9, choose 1:
    • there aren't unintended consequences
    • things work exactly like you wanted
    • you don't take Px (paradox)
  • edited December 2015
    More thoughts:

    When we care at all, why don't we always try as hard as we can?
    - task seems like that's not necessary
    - momentary situation discourages it (exhausted, irritated, lethargic, injured)
    - don't care quite enough to deal with the below
    - max effort expends more energy than otherwise
    - task might turn out to be impossible and a waste of effort
    - max physical effort risks pulled muscles/ligaments/tendons
    - max mental effort risks time, confusion, frustration, feelings of inadequacy

    So, possible downsides:
    - less energy to spend on other things
    - physical injury if physical task
    - mental hit that leaves you in a bad mood or other temporarily suboptimal state
    - mental hit that could shake confidence or downgrade your assessment of your abilities going forward, discourage you from max effort in future, or make it more difficult to effectively apply max effort in future

    Succeeding at a great effort, on the other hand, might give related upsides:
    - more energy to spend on other things
    - good mood or other temporarily optimal state
    - mental boost that could upgrade confidence and assessment of own abilities, encourage and aid you in future applications of max effort

    Accordingly, possible factors to measure:
    - flow of info (can we determine whether the task is easy or impossible or in between without max effort, or do we need to apply max effort in ignorance?)
    - current state (enthused/despondent, prime/sore, etc.)
    - energy reserves
    - physical resilience (flexibility, healing rate, experience with max effort tasks)
    - mental resilience (ability to shrug off failure, remain calm through frustration, etc.)
    - prior experience with max effort -- recent/ever, success/failure, boosted/drained, grew/scarred

    So, penalties to any stage of intent/initiation/execution/effect:
    ignorant, discommoded, spent, physically weak, mentally weak, bad max effort history

    And, similarly, bonuses:
    informed, comfortable, fresh, physically resilient, mentally resilient, good max effort history
  • edited July 2016
    Random thought inspired by recent discussions here:
    Rally

    When you're losing and attempt to turn the tables, roll +Will
    And then the roll navigates an outcome list with stuff like Paul's nine sacrifices from Burned at the Stake or Anon's Event outcomes or my Asset replacements or something.

    Honestly, not as exciting to me as some of the thoughts above, but I wanted to add it to the pile.
  • edited July 2016
    As noted in other threads recently, I'm not too sold on the "spend points to add to your roll vs a number" mechanic because.
    I've been pretty satisfied with 5e's insp though. It's given us the "ok, this roll I care extra about" with a minimum of rules. Players don't even say anything at this point, just toss in their tokens and grab an extra die.

  • I've been pretty satisfied with 5e's insp though. It's given us the "ok, this roll I care extra about" with a minimum of rules. Players don't even say anything at this point, just toss in their tokens and grab an extra die.
    I think the issue with this kind of thing is that it's very clear a *player action*, as opposed to something the character does. (And if the players don't even say anything, that drives this point even further home!)

  • It's "I try harder!"
  • That's fair! I might be pushing my own priorities unfairly into this thread. (And I secretly feel justified in doing so, since it was a conversation between David and I that led to this thread - but that's not necessarily fair. Carry on!)
  • edited July 2016
    This is super topical for me, my current project has a mechanic where you can add to rolls from a pool of points. I want to make it very tempting and I am considering allowing players to add as many points as they want after they have already rolled.

    *edit:
    I should note that everyone has the same number of points in their pool, and there's no way to get a larger pool. And if you run out your unconscious.

    The only downside is that you get tired and your character flaws start kicking in. Role play you flaws and you get points back "the character scratched an itch." Every character has a section on the sheet where their flaws are chosen and during character creation I tease out what the choice really means to the player and their character.

    I like the idea in theory but have yet to see it playtested at length in any of my sessions. One friend brought up an important point that "If a player feels like they will be punished if they use it, they aren't likely to use it." So it has to feel like its a reward not a punishment.
  • Until you answer why a player would try harder, the mechanics don't matter.

    Avoiding death? In which situations would a player not try as hard as possible? For fun? My personal favorite, but then why wouldn't a player always try harder? Limiting choices is about the only value neutral approach I can think of, but which choices and how?
  • edited July 2016
    Anon, see plenty of whys above, some mechanics-dependent. "Because I have limited energy to spend and can't spend it equally on everything, so I choose to Try Harder at this and not that," for example. This prioritization can occur on whatever grounds the player wishes within the overall game premise -- tactics, values, whim, etc.
  • It's actually an interesting question.

    * Do we want to simulate "trying harder" to make the player prioritize some actions over others?

    * Do we want to simulate "trying harder" to create dramatic moments where a hero surpasses their normal limits?

    * Do we want to simulate "trying harder" to create a sense of connection between the player and the character (this is what it "feels like" to try harder in real life, and I want to feel that when in my character's head)?

    * Do we want to simulate "trying harder" to represent escalating, raising the stakes, in order to heighten narrative tension?

    * * Do we want to simulate "trying harder" to represent escalating, raising the stakes, in order to give players another way to overcome obstacles, presenting different game options?

    (Any others I missed?)
  • edited July 2016
    Maybe this goes into one of those, but for me one reason towers above all else:
    To give the player some semblance of agency over the dice rolls.
  • Yes, that's also important! It overlaps with some of my categories, but is an important distinction nevertheless.

    The one reason I hesitate is that it could have nothing to do with "trying harder" (diegetically). Maybe you, the player, can spend a bunch of points to help your character succeed, but we narrate it as straight-up dumb luck, instead, for example.
  • edited July 2016
    All cool options. This is still the one I find most compelling, though:
    My intent was to encourage both narrative awareness of character effort level and strategic rationing of such efforts. So, fairly similar gameplay to spending Fate points in Burning Wheel or FATE, but with a different fictional spin and player experience.
    The second bold bit is the gameplay fun, and the first bold bit is necessary for me to enjoy it as roleplay/experience/simulation/"character tries harder", rather than just gameplay.

    The narrative awareness of character effort is really what compels me to bother, though. There are plenty of other options for resource-rationing gameplay. To me, that's secondary. Having some meaningful fictional sense of a character's impressive feats of effort, or revealing choices of effort, is the coolest part (but then I also want the mechanics to support that, or at least not invalidate it). I also think it's fun to leave effort somewhat unreliable. Like, all sorts of things can prevent us from putting forth our theoretical best effort at a given moment. Real life is an interest combo of poor efforts and half-efforts and full efforts and amazing efforts, and some stories have captured that, and I'd like to capture that in story gaming / roleplaying.

    The mechanics in the OP are an attempt to get there like this:
    If you're not pushing yourself, then less is at stake.
    It's easier to push your efforts when you're physically, mentally and emotionally energized.
    Pushing yourself expends resources, though the thrill of success can gain some back.
    Not every attempt to push yourself actually contributes; it depends in part on whether you are already exhausted or energized.
    Even failed attempts to push yourself cost resources.
    But there are other ways to get at that angle, and other angles too.
  • Random note: "I really care about this!" can be an impediment when performing trained muscle-memory tasks.
  • Good post, Dave.

    Here's a random thought:

    What if we simplify this?

    How about:

    It only makes sense to Push Yourself if you want to exceed your usual limitations. (No point doing it on a "regular" roll.)

    Then attack a mechanic to make it somewhat "interesting".

    For example, if your game is based on a typical "roll to see how well you do something", you change out the dice being rolled so that you have an effective boost to your skill level, but greater risk of failure.

    Example: You're playing D&D. When you Push Yourself, you roll as usual, but you DOUBLE your Bonus (whatever you're adding to your d20 roll). However, any roll under 14 (natural, before the bonus) is an automatic failure.

    (Not the best mechanic - shouldn't have chosen d20 as an example! - but it hopefully gets the idea across.)

    Alternately, you have much lower chances of failure, but the failure becomes much more dramatic.

    So, you get a bonus to your roll, but the stakes of failure escalate dramatically.

    ---

    It also occurs to me that sometimes "trying harder" is about trying to create an unusually impressive result in something you can normally do. ("I've got to outdo my personal best, here!")

    The mechanic in the OP would be good for that.

    At other times, though, it's all about just squeaking by the hair of your teeth, but at something you couldn't normally do. Here, you'd want an increased chance of a *borderline* or partial success, but reduced odds of a *full* success.

    Thinking off the top of my head, if this was AW, you could double all the numbers. (Fail on 13 or less, partial success on 14-19, full success on 20-24.) Then you roll normally, but you add 7 to your roll.

    (Again, crappy example, sorry.)
  • I've always liked Burning Wheel's approach to trying harder: there's a list of ways you can get bonus dice from your fictional positioning. FoRKing related skills, help from your friends, working patiently and carefully, using an aspect of the situation to your advantage, succeeding on earlier linked tests.

    If your character tries hard, you, as the player, try hard to position your character to take advantage of all those possible bonus dice.

    Et viola.
  • Dogs in the Vineyard has its bidding and escalation mechanic which is effectively nothing but a Try Harder mechanic.

    The Pool has its d6 pool where spending dice increases the chances of both success and losing them, which is also nothing but a Try Harder mechanic.

    Call of Cthulhu 7th has its push mechanic where a failed check can be rerolled by taking greater risk.

    Warhammer Fantasy 3rd has its conservative and reckless dice which control the level of risk and reward.

    Conan Adventures has its d20 pool where trying harder is simply a matter of adding another die and giving the GM a Doom point.

    What I've found is that people are more likely to 'try harder' when it comes to protecting the things they already have (For example, making sure your axe doesn't get stuck in a goblin's skull than splitting it) and adjusting an established result rather than a potential one.
    My intent was to encourage both narrative awareness of character effort level and strategic rationing of such efforts.
    I can dig it.
    "Because I have limited energy to spend and can't spend it equally on everything, so I choose to Try Harder at this and not that," for example.
    But don't all RPGs already do this, especially the ones which use points to power abilities?
    Random note: "I really care about this!" can be an impediment when performing trained muscle-memory tasks.
    That's why I like traits (like Curious and Cautions) where more =/= better. I'm somewhat infatuated with mechanics which separate Force and Control (where any Force you cannot Control will lead to side effects), but haven't been happy with anything I've seen yet.


  • The Pool has its d6 pool where spending dice increases the chances of both success and losing them, which is also nothing but a Try Harder mechanic.
    I was thinking about this, too. It has an interesting balance of risk/reward. When you care about something, you're incentivized to throw in as many dice as possible; when you don't really care, you should probably not bother risking any. But, when you really do care about something, you'll almost certainly succeed!

  • Also, Cthulhu Dark can be really easily modded to use an Effort die (with built-in limiter, e.g. the risk of burn out or something).
  • There's a lot I want to say on this topic, but for this post I'll just stick to analyzing a specific mechanic from D&D 5e, which allows a Barbarian character to "try harder" under a specific circumstance:
    Reckless Attack
    Starting at 2nd level, you can throw aside all concern for defense to attack with fierce desperation. When you make your first attack on your turn, you can decide to attack recklessly. Doing so gives you advantage on melee weapon attack rolls using Strength during this turn, but attack rolls against you have advantage until your next turn.
    You could justify this in-fiction by saying that only a barbarian would have the mindset that allows them to override their immediate self-preservation instincts. That's actually pretty plausible from a "realistic" perspective – in my experience, it takes a lot of willpower to throw yourself into a physically dangerous situation. But:

    1. You could also justify nearly any character doing this, given the right circumstances.
    2. I think the existence of this mechanic has more to do with D&D's "present the player with a fixed menu of options" design style than it has to do with fiction- or simulation-related concerns.
    3. The way this mechanic usually plays out in practice is pretty funny. Unless a player is strictly role-playing, they'll carefully consider whether or not they want to attack recklessly. See the dissonance?

    Additionally, just about every class in 5e (even the Fighter) has some way of expending a resource for temporary gain, but these mechanics are overwhelmingly restricted to combat. There's no "reckless negotiation" mechanic.

  • 3. The way this mechanic usually plays out in practice is pretty funny. Unless a player is strictly role-playing, they'll carefully consider whether or not they want to attack recklessly. See the dissonance?

    Additionally, just about every class in 5e (even the Fighter) has some way of expending a resource for temporary gain, but these mechanics are overwhelmingly restricted to combat. There's no "reckless negotiation" mechanic.
    Good stuff!

  • Additionally, just about every class in 5e (even the Fighter) has some way of expending a resource for temporary gain, but these mechanics are overwhelmingly restricted to combat. There's no "reckless negotiation" mechanic.
    One example I saw, don't know if it was made up or happened, had one PC play into a flaw to flub a negotiation, earning insp, and giving the insp to the bard, who used it to handle the negotiation with advantage.
    [In my game we don't roll for negotiations though]
  • (Why wouldn't he get Disadvantage for negotiating with someone his friend has just pissed off? :P But, yes, I suppose Inspiration can be used to do some weird things...)
  • Why wouldn't he get Disadvantage for negotiating with someone his friend has just pissed off?
    Because they pretended to not know each other, or it's a bad cop / good cop thing, or he deprecated his friends statements.
    Or maybe you're right and it can't be done. But then they could use the insp in some other negotiation further down the line.
Sign In or Register to comment.