Skirmishes (Chapter 7)
Testing interrupts roleplaying. It should therefore be resorted to infrequently, only to resolve important conflicts. Occasional, isolated checks are not so onerous; they do not require contemplation of rounds or the Initiative system. Skirmishes, on the other hand, are extensive scenes where characters act in opposition to one another. They usually require a number of tests performed in sequence. Skirmishes can be anything from a back-and-forth exchange of scathing insults to a full-blown magical duel with wands.
Skirmishes, particularly combat scenes, require game play to slow down to a series of rounds where players dictate their characters’ actions in small steps. A round is about six seconds long. Ten rounds roughly equates to a minute of game time. In any given round, each participant in the Skirmish gets to have a turn to perform one substantial action and perhaps say (roleplay) a sentence or two.
The Storyguide will determine when a Skirmish has ended and normal roleplay resumes.
A Skirmish begins with an initiating action; one character starts a ruckus, compelling multiple characters to react to it and to one another. For example, a fight involving multiple combatants breaks out after one student sucker punches another. If two people attempt to initiate a skirmish at roughly the same time, the Storyguide will determine whose action is the initiating action based on which is more dramatic and better serves the story.
After the initiating action, each participant makes a roll and adds his or her Finesse Attribute from the category that corresponds to the initiating action. For example, a stinging insult is a Social attack, so the Skirmish participants roll Humor for Initiative even if they intend to react with fists or wands. If the initiating action is a surprising or unanticipated action, the Storyguide may call the Initiative roll a Stress Roll for any number of participants, though usually not for the initiating character.
The roll results dictate the order in which the characters will act in each round, from highest to lowest. Since there is no difficulty number for Initiative, rolling Doubles has no effect. Characters who tie on Initiative must roll off to determine who goes before the other. The character that initiated the Skirmish rolls too, but he or she does not get an action in the first round.
Each participant in a Skirmish performs only one action on his or her turn. One turn’s action is a single, substantial, voluntary act that usually requires a roll and frequently requires an opposed roll. Casting one spell usually takes one turn’s action in a Skirmish. A character may take a few steps and speak a few words (not a Social attack) in addition to a normal action. When all participants have acted, a new round starts and the characters again act in the same Initiative order.
A character that has yet to act in a round can choose to dodge or otherwise try to avoid an incoming attack. This converts an opponent’s roll into a Defensive Roll and it uses up the character’s turn for that round. (See the Difficulty Numbers section in the previous chapter for more details.) This is an exception to the normal Initiative pattern. It does not change the character’s Initiative position for future rounds.
Instead of acting when her turn comes up, a participant can choose to delay to a later point in the round (or even an earlier point in the following round). During anyone else’s turn thereafter, the delaying character can choose to take her turn immediately following. She re-enters the Initiative order at that point, staying at that Initiative point for the remainder of the Skirmish or until she delays again. This allows characters to wait and see what is going on before choosing how to act.
Delaying characters cannot interrupt other actors, except to convert someone’s Opposed Roll into a Defensive Roll. Normally, a character that has yet to act in a round can choose to dodge or otherwise avoid an attack targeting herself, even if not delaying. Only a delaying character can user her action to intervene on someone else’s behalf, effectively dodging for that character. The Storyguide will determine which Attribute raises the attacker’s difficulty, and may provide limitations on the number of actors that can add this defensive advantage to a single recipient.
QUIDDITCH (Optional Rules)
Quidditch may or may not be a large component of your story. For a game that does not dwell upon such details, the Storyguide should narrate the challenges and struggles that take place during quidditch, perhaps throwing in a test or two to determine how well the participating character(s) do at critical moments. This may be the best approach if only one player participates in, or is interested in, quidditch—too much emphasis on one player isn’t good for the story.
The following rules are an optional skirmish system, provided for Storyguides who wish to involve more uncertainty in a quidditch game’s outcome. With this system, quidditch games are played in turns but the order of action within the turn is irrelevant. Each turn is broken down into two phases, scoring and blocking. A third phase, played at select intervals, governs the chasing of the snitch.
Scoring: In the scoring phase, the three chasers on each team roll Strength against a target difficulty set by the Toughness of the other side’s keeper plus that keeper’s Dexterity. (This is a Defended Roll.) Keep track of the amount by which any successful roll exceeded the difficulty.
Blocking: In the blocking phase, the two beaters on each team can attempt to interfere with the opposing chasers by attacking with bludgers. The beaters each choose a target chaser; both can target the same chaser if they wish. A beater’s attack rolls Strength against a target difficulty set by the Toughness of the other side’s keeper. Success costs the chaser one Health point from impact. If the beater’s attack roll succeeded by more than the chaser’s scoring attack roll, the goal was also blocked.
Note that a beater can attack a chaser that would not otherwise have succeeded in scoring, but this will probably draw a penalty shot (a separate chaser attack roll that cannot be interfered with by beaters). Though it’s not very helpful, a beater can also choose to attack the keeper. This is also worth a penalty shot unless the quaffle is in the scoring zone. Of course Madam Hooch only calls penalty shots when she isn’t distracted from seeing the foul.
At the end of the blocking phase, each unblocked goal is worth ten points for the scoring chaser’s team.
Chasing the Snitch: During this phase, the seekers can try to catch the golden snitch. This phase occurs at the end of the tenth turn, and at the end of every fifth turn thereafter. Both seekers roll Dexterity. The difficulty for this task is the other seeker’s result, plus ten. That is, if one seeker’s roll exceeds the other seeker’s roll by ten or more points, that seeker catches the snitch, scoring 150 points and ending the game.
Instead of trying to catch the snitch during this phase, a seeker may instead choose to interfere with the other’s attempt. This tactic is usually employed when a seeker’s team is behind by at least 150 points. When interfering, the seeker doubles his roll bonus from Dexterity, but will not catch the snitch on that attempt, regardless of the result. This makes it more difficult for the opposing seeker to exceed the interfering seeker’s roll by ten or more points.
The game ends when the golden snitch is caught. The winner is the higher-scoring team. House points are awarded to the winning team; the amount is the difference between the two teams’ scores for the match. This gain is attributed to all of the team’s players for purposes of affecting Popularity.