Stunts of the 13th Age

Written by Covok.

Stunts of the 13th Age

 

What are stunts?

Stunts are when a players describes an action in greater detail than “I hit it with my sword” or “I roll my background in sailor of the sea to use this boat.” They provide a mechanical reward for the player’s creativity and support more cinematic and exciting play in your games.

 

They come in three levels.

 

A level 1 stunt is the lowest level and easiest to obtain. It’s basically normal roleplay. For example, having a conversation with an NPC, as long as that conversation would include a check, instead of just saying “I roll my background in city guard to convince this city guard to assist me” would be a level 1 stunt. In combat, a player saying “Luke pulls his blade back and strikes with a mighty swing at the dragon’s head” instead of “I use a basic melee attack against the dragon” when going to attack a dragon would also be a level 1 stunt.

 

A level 2 stunt is the middle level and harder to obtain than leve l. To obtain a level 2 stunt, one must incorporate elements from the environment or elements of the ongoing drama of the current scene into their description. An example of the later would be “Marisa sees that the Duke is busy in a heated argument with Luke and decides now is her chance to quickly and quietly take that key from the Duke’s backpocket.” In combat, a player may get a level 2 stunt by describing their attack as “Devin sings his furious song of battle with such force that the rocks of the nearby walls loosen and fall on the hapless guards” rather than just saying “I use soundburst on 1d4 enemies.”

 

A level 3 stunt is the highest level and the hardest to obtain. Unlike the other two levels, they should only be given out rarely. If given out too freely, they lose their charm and affect. Unlike level 1 and level 2 stunts, there isn’t a concrete way of describing what description triggers a level 3 stunt. Level 3 stunts are those awesome moments when your players come up with the best, most creative solution to a problem. When their plan of action just fits together perfectly with everything else and is just so “cool” that you can’t help, but say its a level 3 stunt. Those moments that make you and everyone else at the table go “wow.”  

 

GMs are reminded to consider the “in-fiction” affects for the stunt. Being sure to include them will increase the impact of the stunt as well as lead to fun benefits and consequences. Perhaps knocking down that wall blocked reinforcements from arriving or helped them arrived quicker. Whicher makes more “story sense.” That said, stunts are meant to be a boon, not a detriment, so a successful stunt should help the players. A failed stunt, on the other hand, should do the opposite. There is, after all, no fun in success if failure did not carry a price.

 

Won’t my players just keep spamming stunts?

Yes and that’s the beauty of it. Since you incentivize them to be descriptive and cinematic, they will be descriptive and cinematic whenever they can. That said, you shouldn’t let a person get a level 1 stunt by saying “Luke pulls his blade back and strikes with a mighty swing at the dragon’s head” over and over again every round. That defeats the purpose of the stunt system.

 

This is why stunts cannot be repeated in a single session. If you want to be a bit more loose with that rule and change it to a single battle or encounter/scene, that should not affect balance. But the same stunts should not be repeated round after round just for the rewards. That’s no fun.

 

The point of stunts, after all, is to encourage your players to be creative. Repetition is the antithesis of creativity.

 

This is also why GMs are allowed to veto any stunt for being too repetitive.

 

What should I do if my players include things in their stunt that aren’t in the scene?

It depends. If it makes sense to be there, then let them add the item to the scene. Doing so allows the players to feel more involved with the storytelling of the game as well as allow to spice things up. Being too quick to say “no” on this matter may dishearten players.

 

That said, if the item doesn’t belong --like a fire extinguisher in a medieval setting -- or would “unbalance” a scene --like a ballista --, a GM may wish to veto that part of the stunt.

 

GMs are encouraged to consider the in-fiction side of things when judging on this matter.

 

What rewards do stunts give?

It depends on the level.

 

First, the term “stunt threshold” must be explained. A stunt threshold is a floor to the values that can result in a check. In clearer terms, a player continues to reroll a check until they roll a result above the threshold.

 

An optional rule has been included for edges cases where a player continues to roll below their threshold: if a player rolls at or below a threshold more than 4 times in a row, they are assumed to have rolled a value equal to 1 + the threshold for the purposes of the check.

 

A stunt threshold of 3 would allow a player to reroll any results that is 3 or below until they roll above a 3.

 

A level 1 stunt gives the player a stunt threshold of 2 for the appropriate check.

 

A level 2 stunt gives the player a stunt threshold of 4 for the appropriate check. If the stunt is an attack, a player cannot deal less than half the total damage possible they can deal with the attack. If they roll less than half the total possible damage, they deal half total possible damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A level 3 stunt gives the player a stunt threshold of 4 for the appropriate check. In addition, a player rolls 2d20 for the check and takes the higher result. If the check would already use 2d20 such as a Barbarian using Rage, the stunt gives a player +3 bonus to the check instead. If the stunt is an attack, a player deals full damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A player can never stunt a save.

 

Doesn’t this system make critical failures impossible?

Not necessarily. Since stunts are meant to be a boon, I didn’t want to make it possible to critically fail them by default. After all, one of the incentives of the first system was the ability to avoid critically failing. That said, some GMs may not like that and would prefer if their players could still critically fail on the stunt and still wish to use the first system. For those GMs, I have prepared this rule.

 

If a player manages to roll below the stunt threshold 3 times in a row, they critically fail the stunt.

 

GMs can increase or decrease this number as they see fit to increase and decrease the chance of a critical failure. That said, I highly suggest not decreasing it below 2 times in a row as that would make the first stunt system pointless below level 3.

 

When using this system for critical failures, one should disregard the “4 failures rule” for stunt thresholds.

 

I don’t think that will actually incentive my players to be creative. I mean rerolls on low rolls doesn’t scream“incentive” in my book.

It’s true that the benefit of being able to “coast” low rolls won’t incentive everyone. The system was chosen because the math of the game is rather “tight” and adding in modifiers that are too large could disrupt it. That said, it is true that it, for some player, it will fail in its mission of incentivizing people who may not see the benefit of stunting. As such, another, alternative system has been prepared.

 

A level 1 stunt gives a player a +1 bonus to the appropriate check.  

 

A level 2 stunt gives a player a +3 bonus to the appropriate check. If the stunt is an attack, a player cannot deal less than half the total damage possible they can deal with the attack. If they roll less than half the total possible damage of the attack, they deal half total possible damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A level 3 stunt gives a player +3 bonus to the appropriate check. In addition, the player rolls 2d20 for the check and takes the higher value. If the check would already use 2d20 such as a Barbarian using Rage, the stunt gives a player an additional +1 bonus for a total of +4.  If the stunt is an attack, a player deals full damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A player can never stunt a save.

 

I don’t want to give consistent bonuses to my players and rerolling low rolls just isn’t much of a reward to me. Got anything else?

Instead of using the prior two systems, one can instead take advantage of probability curves to reward stunts. Every time a character stunts, they will receive an stunt die for the roll: a dice rolled in addition to 1d20 to resolve the check. A player adds the result of the stunt die to their roll to resolve the check. The total of your stunt die and 1d20 cannot exceed 20. Any total over 20 is treated as a 20.

 

A level 1 stunt gives a stunt die of 1d4.

 

A level 2 stunt gives a stunt die of 2d6. If the stunt is an attack, a player cannot deal less than half the total damage possible they can deal with the attack. If they roll less than half the total possible damage of the attack, they deal half total possible damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A level 3 stunt gives a stunt die of 3d8. If the stunt is an attack, a player deals full damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A player can never stunt a save.

 

I’m liking the dice idea, but I think maybe we could get away with more of an action point system?

Action points have been an often used way of allowing for stunts in d20 games since Eberron introduced the concept. Action points are traditionally used to add 1d6 to your roll. For this system, Stunt points can be redeemed in two ways. Either spend them to add 1d6 to your roll before you roll or spend one to reroll a failed check. The reroll is made with a +2 modifier. If a player uses the stunt point to add 1d6 to their check, any result over 20 is treated as a 20. No player can have more than 5 stunt points in a session. Stunt points reset at the end of the session.

 

A level 1 stunt rewards a player 1 stunt point. This stunt point must be immediately spent.

 

A level 2 stunt rewards a player 3 stunt points. A player keeps 2 stunt points and gives one to one ally.  If the stunt is an attack, a player cannot deal less than half the total damage possible they can deal with the attack. If they roll less than half the total possible damage of the attack, they deal half total possible damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A level 3 stunt rewards a player 4 stunt points. A player keeps 3 stunt points and gives one to one ally. If the stunt is an attack, a player deals full damage to the target(s) of the attack.

 

A player can never stunt a save.

 

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