Hello fellow dice god worshipers! It's that time again. That time where TLP5 showers you with questionable wisdom which may end up causing more harm than good. Today's lovely post is something different than my usual fare. Today I bring you not questionable wisdom but a new mechanic which you can implement into your game. Without further ado let's dive on in.
The Stunt System
Oooh, sounds cool, but what is it? The Stunt system is designed to allow players in more restrictive systems to do crazy and imaginative things that normally wouldn't fly in the RAW (rules as written) but still is really cool. This is the type of stuff that movies require CG, wires, and an entire special effects department to do. "Sounds good so far, but how do I implement this?" A fair question, let's get down to the nuts and bolts.
At its essence, the Stunt system is designed to be as free form as possible, while still allowing imaginative role play and smooth flow, and still reward thinking outside the box. Yes it's easy for you to say "my cardboard cutout moves past the other cardboard cutouts and shoots each one once before ending behind them". But wouldn't it be awesome to say something like "I dash to the side, running up and along the wall, using my multi-shot feat to shoot an arrow at each of the orcs before coming to rest safely with a small tumble along the wall behind them" and not only get to do it, but be REWARDED for thinking it up? The beginning, end, and the stuff that happens in between are the same for either, but the cinematics, the feel, the larger than life "this is what being a badass is like" sense that happens in the second is what this system aims to instill with every use of the system.
What you need:
A willingness to try new things
An up to date core rule book for your system
How it works:
The players get 1/2 their ECL(equivalent character level. This only matters if someone has a level adjustment somewhere)rounded up in Stunts every day, which they can use at any time that the DM deems would be appropriate. The player in question must then describe something that they want to do, giving enough description (at a minimum) such that everyone can clearly visualize what is happening. After it is described, the DM decides if it is worth of a Stunt use. If it is deemed so, then the DM allocates appropriate bonuses as they see fit.
What qualifies as a Stunt:
Let's be honest here, that question can only be truly answered by the DM. I have awarded bonuses for anything from fancy descriptions of how the cleric was glowing with the light of his deity as he dusted a bunch of undead with his turn attempt to things as cinematic and visually appealing as running up a wall, springing off it, and tackling a person to the ground. A good rule of thumb is that anything that gives a good visual or dramatic feel to the action should be allowed. For the visual side, anything that would require CG, special effects, and green screens for is a pretty safe bet. The dramatic ones should be more carefully handled. If you can imagine dramatic tension being added to the air with the use of this stunt, then it's probably a winner. But like with all rules, Rule 0 applies. If you as the DM feel that the player using the Stunt should be rewarded for his/her description, the by all means do so. One more comment in this section. Keep in mind that the Stunt is not an entire action move script. It is at most a single scene. Don't let the stunts be too long or too short. Remember, you (the DM) have the ultimate say in whether or not a description is suitably cinematic enough to be a Stunt. If the Stunt description falls short of expectations, don't hesitate to let the player redescribe it.
A word (or several) of caution:
Not everything that players try to use a stunt for will be Stunt-worthy (so to speak). And people won't always calmly accept your ruling. Be gracious, offer chances to re-describe the action(s) if you think that a Stunt *could* be used in that situation. But in the end, the power is in your hands/claws/tentacles etc. Only you (the DM) can tell what fits the bill in *your* setting.
Took me long enough to get here didn't it? So you want rule on how to assign bonuses? Sorry, no such thing. This is by it's nature a flowing a free form system. Something that was worth +3 yesterday might be worth +5 today (thought I strongly encourage all DMs to not reward copied or reused stunts. Just like an audience, you should want things fresh and new). here is a VERY general guideline for assigning numbers (note that all examples will be for DnD, but this system can be used with other systems, your numbers will change though):
Barely anything interesting, cool, or dramatic happened: Why are you allowing this to be awarded bonuses anyway? Regardless this should get a minimum reward, +1 or +2 at most.
Something interesting,cool, or dramatic happened: +3 to +5, with the higher end being for things that fall just short of the next category.
Amazing things happening here: This is where camera phones would be pulled out and videos put on youtube. +6 to +8 range. Beware of coolness overload from the next category.
Holy cow did that really just happen?: Break out the champaign and flute glasses boys, because we just hit paydirt. This is approaching dangerously close to 6 digit special effects budget levels of action and heartstring-tugging levels of drama and suspense. +9 to +11. Note that the truly exceptional cases go into the next category.
Stunned Silence: Whatever was just said was so cool that the entire table is left silent by it's mere passing. this is where you start breaking out the 'teens for bonuses.
Disclaimer and Warning:
This is basically Rule of Cool incarnate, so if that's not what you are going for, then don't use this. Additionally, this requires cooperation on BOTH ends. The DM can wave as many bonuses in front of the players as he/she wants, but in the end, it is up to the players to use it. At the same time, the players can come up with as many stunts as they want, but unless the DM is willing to try to work with them, then they are just wasting their breath and time.