Monday, December 21, 2009

Target Numbers and the Single Slayer

This past weekend's Slaying Solomon premier was snowed out in the storm of the century (I can say that because 1996 was so last century). Still, I have been thinking more about using Risus as a tool to help run Buffy: The Vampire Slayer RPG. Specifically, I have thinking about magic.

Now, Buffy actually comes with a really simple magic system. In a nutshell, magic spells are rated on a scale of 1-6+. There are a few handy charts that translate what types of effects are appropriate for a given power level. The Magic Box supplement expands these tables and there are a small handful of modifiers based on tweaking out the spell definition.

I haven't found too much need to simplify that.

However, there have been times when the flow of the game is such that I don't want to break stride to consult the Buffy tables to define a new spell. In some cases, I can wing it by comparing the new spell to an old standard (we make heavy use of a Power Level 3 seeker spell). In other cases, I use Risus.

The Risus Companion describes a pretty nifty magic system in the section called "Target Numbers and the Single Showoff". This system is so simple and elegant that I borrowed it wholesale for Silverlode and Dragonspire. The gist is that the difficulty of casting a spell is tied to the dramatic impact of the spell and how generous it is to other players (easy) and how much it steals their limelight (hard). I use this system so much that I've internalized the chart and can mentally translate the Target Numbers to other systems. In the case of BtVS:RPG, I translate them as follows:

Simple (TN5)
Power Level 1: Any effect up to and including that which helps the party achieve something as a whole, or that acts as a tool to facilitate another activity.
Ordinary (TN10)
Power Level 2: A standard effect that is meant to overcome a single obstacle that faces the character, or handle the character's share of an obstacle that faces the party.
Complex (TN15)
Power Level 3: The effect would hog the scene a bit.
Difficult (TN20)
Power Level 4: The effect would entirely upstage the other players, turning the other characters into bystanders for the rest of the scene and then some.
Dangerous (TN25)
Power Level 5: The effect would shortcut (or instantly rewrite) the whole scenario.
Impossible (TN30)
Power Level 6: The effect would utterly wreck the campaign world or campaign plot line.

I should add that it is easier for a Buffy character to succeed at a Power Level 5 or Power Level 6 spell than it is for a Risus character to succeed at a Dangerous or Impossible spell. Therefore, I'd almost certainly adjust the Power Level upwards, make spell component prohibitive, and introduce severe consequences for failure. 

Finally, I should say that I do like the Buffy system when I actually have the small amount of extra time needed to define spell effects. I would love to go the other way and use the Buffy system in certain Risus games. That will have to be another post for another day.

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Created: 2 December 2005 / Last modified: 6 January 2010
Risus: The Anything RPG ©1993-2010 by S. John Ross.
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