Sunday, March 18, 2012

Intrepid Score

As I was starting to write my post on the convergence between ability checks and saving throws I realized that I was referencing something that I hadn't discussed before.  That would be the Intrepid Score.  The Intrepid Score is a lot like Hero Points in that it allows our intrepid young adventurers brief periods of stardom although the exact method of doing so is a little different.  Let me first start with how the Intrepid score is determined and what it does in mechanical terms before I begin waxing on about its impact on the metagame.

Determining Your Seventh Stat
The Intrepid Score is a measure of your stalwart heroics, it is your seventh stat and is determined randomly.    Fear not though as your Intrepid Score is a resource meant to be depleted in your adventuring day and at the end of each adventure arc your score resets anew.  At the beginning of each arc of an adventure your score resets to zero, you then roll a d6 and add your level to it to determine your new Intrepid Score.
Optional:  If you find the Intrepid Score of a PC does not last as long as you like you may also have the score reset and refresh whenever they level.



Using your Intrepid Score
Think of your score as a pool of points for you to use, each time you use a point your score decreases by one.  Your intrepid score can be applied in many different ways but the most common and also the most broad application is to add extra dice to any given roll.  For each point you take out of your intrepid score you may add an extra die to any roll.  Remember that the Rule of Three still applies so you may only keep three dice regardless of how many you end up rolling.  Your level also limits the number of dice you can add, so a third level character could not deduct more than 3 points from their score for any one roll of the dice.  Using your Intrepid Score in this way puts the odds in your favor, rolling more dice means you are more likely to get a better result on the three dice you are keeping.  Be wary of using your score on frivolous things since you never know when things may take a turn for the worse and you absolutely must make a Save vs Death Ray.

<It should be noted here that I use 3d6 to replace all d20 rolls.  I actually use d6 for everything (HP, Init, Weapons, Attack, Saves etc.) so the Intrepid Score simply adds one or more six sided to any one roll.  The Rule of Three mentioned above simply states that no matter how many dice you roll for an action you may only keep three of them.  The Intrepid score was designed with this 3 die limit in mind.

It could certainly be applied to the d20 but it would be more similar to Action Points from Eberron, which is simply a flat bonus to whatever you roll, whereas in 3d6 D&D it merely gives you a better shot of being above the bell curve with no guaranteed bonus.  This means that when it comes necessary to use your Intrepid Score like in the aforementioned case of the Death Ray, the players are put in the gamblers seat and must decide how many dice they are going to allocate to this roll and whether or not they can afford to fail it.  It's a very interesting sink or swim moment.>

Specific Uses
The Intrepid Score also has a few specific uses.  These include making a called shot, acting out of turn,  attempting a gambit, and swapping memorized spells.  They are outlined below.
  • Called Shots:  To make a called shot you must use one point from your Intrepid Score in making the attack.  If it hits the attack has a chance to [Disable] whichever part of the body you are targeting.
    • Right now it is a chance to inflict but in the future it may automatically cripple with no chance to save.
  • Acting Out of Turn:  Sometimes you need to act before you turn, to catch a falling vial or to intercept a charging barbarian.  To act out of turn first check for the difference between your current initiative and the and the initiative where you would need to act.  The Intrepid Dice you roll must equal or exceed this difference.
    • For example, you are at an initiative of 2 and at an initiative of 7 a charging boar is going to skewer your liege.  The di(c)e you roll must equal or exceed 5, so it would be best to roll 2 dice (at least) which would deduct two from your score
  • Gambit:  A gambit is loosely defined as any combat maneuver that comes at great risk but promises great reward.  To initiate a gambit you must use a point from your intrepid score.  A few quick examples are provided below.
    •  Blade Grasp:  Attempting to catch a swinging blade with your palms.  Failure means you are in the direct path of a critical hit.
    • Solo Flanker:  Somersaulting over an opponent to strike their front and back.  Failure means they may leave you limbless by a river a magma rather than the expected outcome of cleaving them in twain before falling down a bottomless pit.
    • Human Pillar: Jumping inside a giant turtles maw to prevent him from closing his powerful jaw.  Failure means your puny body is now scrumptious turtle chow.
    • Sacrificial Limb:  Letting part of your body take an incoming hit so that you can immediately return the favor two fold.  Failure means you may now be an amputee and the shock prevents your reprisal.
  • Spell Swap:  Sometimes the perfect spell application may come up but you didn't memorize the right spell.  Using dice gained from your Intrepid score if the result exceeds the sum of both spell's level then you may immediately swap them out with no harm to your grey matter.

That should be a pretty good overview of the functions for the Intrepid Score.  In it's most basic form it allows the player character to have a better shot at succeeding at a pivotal moment.  It also ensures that while you may succeed some of the time, you most likely won't have enough points to survive a daredevil lifestyle.  It adds a welcome bit of randomness so that sometimes a PC will survive against all odds, and at others our fateful hero may die in a foreign land his luck leaving him.  This is crucial as many a DM know that higher level PC's can often times be invincible ubermensch from not only the items and artifacts they have acquired in their career but also from their basic statistics from leveling up (extremely high saves, hit points, etc.)  The idea for the intrepid score was actually my take on Level-less D&D which I first read and discussed on Kevin's Design Blog.   I'd like to talk a little more about level-less D&D but that is time for another day- and another post.  Instead I have one final observation and I think it's my favorite part of the Intrepid Score.

The intrepid score is determined randomly and is reset after the characters have completed some milestone in their quest or wrapped up an arc in their adventure.  It is a powerful resource that can be used to save them on many an occasion but also allows them to strike a decisive blow when the time comes.  The hidden gem here is that the random generation of the intrepid score causes the spotlight to randomly shift from PC to PC.  The player with the highest Intrepid Score has more to work with and is more likely to invest those dice where they are needed.  Certainly some player's may be selfish and hoard their points to unload at the most opportune time but it's not difficult to imagine a PC with the highest Intrepid Score taking on a Guardian style role always willing to sacrifice their points first to benefit their comrades.  This natural selection of plot emphasis is where I really hope the Intrepid Score shines.