Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

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Publisher of the Crimson Exodus sword & sorcery style roleplaying game, the stand alone wound encyclopedia Trauma, and the Fantasy Dice game system known for fast and simple game mechanics with lots of tactical depth.

What is more fun, and would work better for your games?

Players and GM should be able to spend triggers to take the best result (as in Crimson Exodus).
3
75%
Players and GM get a bonus die for each trigger spent.
0
No votes
Players get to take best result, but GM gets bonus dice.
0
No votes
Players get bonus dice, GM gets to take best result.
0
No votes
Best result in story focused games, bonus dice in games focused more on gritty gaming / simulation play.
0
No votes
What are triggers?
1
25%
 
Total votes : 4

Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

Postby Claus » 8:50pm on 28 Feb 12

When the rules for triggers were written it was intended that spending a trigger is a big deal, and so you would be able to ensure a good result, but not beyond what you could achieve with a lucky roll.

I have, however, heard a few times in playtesting that some people find this use of triggers a bit too powerful. Part of this is doubtlessly due to those games being one-shots and convention games where most players are quite trigger happy (couldn't resist). I also realise that uncertainty and rolling dice can be great fun, and so I am thinking of introducing an alternative "bonus dice for triggers", most likely as an option.

I'd like to hear any thoughts and opinions on the matter.
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Re: Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

Postby Kaiserjez » 8:56am on 29 Feb 12

If I spend a trigger/fate point/plot point/bennie etc I want it to actually do something! So the auto success version is the one I prefer.

There's nothing worse than spending your point, rolling the dice and realising that you still suck actually.
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Re: Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

Postby Claus » 1:21pm on 29 Feb 12

Kaiserjez wrote:If I spend a trigger/fate point/plot point/bennie etc I want it to actually do something! So the auto success version is the one I prefer.

There's nothing worse than spending your point, rolling the dice and realising that you still suck actually.


Exactly, that is why I wrote it like I did. You spend a trigger because something is really important to you, and you don't wont to risk rolling.

Another idea I'm considering is to give a bonus die for each trigger spent if the reasoning for the triggered characteristic or aspiration is tenuous or indirect, but allow taking the best result if it is highly relevant. This might encourage players to come up with good reasons for using a particular trigger.

Example: The aspiration "I will kill the tyrant King, or die trying."
- If triggered in a scene when trying to kill the tyrant King the player could take the best result.
- If triggered while fleeing the King's guards after an aborted attempt the player would get a bonus die.
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Re: Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

Postby w00hoo » 1:53pm on 29 Feb 12

I don't know the game, so this is really just extrapolated from what you've said above and because it's easier to debate something if people are talking :-)

Seeing as you refer specifically to spending a trigger that suggests that it is a limited resource thing. You also say you want the spending of that resource to be a big occasion thing. As such it should surely only be available to spend when it's truly appropriate and spending it should do something big otherwise what's the point in making a big gesture?

As with everything the value of the resource is heavily linked to the scarcity of the resource.

In Savage Worlds, Don't Rest Your Head or Cortex Bennies/Coins of Hope/Plot Points are supposed to be given out like candy and similarly spent frequently so that they are an ever flowing resource. You do interesting stuff, you get benefits, they make successfully doing interesting stuff easier but far from certain and round it goes.

In Buffy, HeroQuest or Hunter Drama Points/Hero Points/Conviction are given out occasionally, between scenarios generally, they make a big difference to what you are doing but there's a mechanical decision of 'is it worth spending this now or might I need it later in the game? With more value they start to work differently within the game, kind of the point of Buffy is to reduce the Drama Points of the characters over the duration of a season arc so that by the end of the season they are touch and go. With Hunter the Conviction fuels the cool supernatural skills but also allows the characters to be protected from the influences of the supernatural so their use needs to be carefully balanced. In fact, in play, I've just altered their use so that every character has 2 points that refresh every session to use just to get the benefits of sight and protection where the supernatural is concerned because the resource management bit didn't really work, spending a point to check the pool guy wasn't actually a vampire and finding he wasn't is all well and good, until you find you needed that point to kill the actual vampire when you did find him...

And of course there's 4th ed that mixes them all together kind of with powers that can be used at will, per encounter or per day.

So, to finish the ramble, it kind of depends how important you expect triggers to be in the game and how often they will get used. Your initial description seemed to say very and rarely while your Kings guard example seemed to suggest variable and regularly. Hope that made some sense... :-)
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Re: Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

Postby Claus » 6:51pm on 01 Mar 12

Maybe you don't know the game, but you have a great understanding of the subject. :D

In short each player has a number of triggers. Typically 3/6/9 for gritty/action/cinematic games - although this is reduced slightly for wealthy characters (being poor and desperate is a great motivator, fat and rich not so much). The GM starts with one trigger for each player. When a player spends a trigger the GM gets it, and when the GM spends a trigger one of the players get it. Thus triggers are traded forth and back - preferably by using beads or tokens.

Unless spending triggers to survive a wound, the use of triggers must be roleplayed and justified with colourful use of one of the character's characteristics (typically two) or aspirations (all have three - grand/immediate/counter). The GM uses triggers to make important NPCs more challenging, to trigger the darker side of PC's characteristics/aspirations or simply to reward players who bring the fun and roleplay their character's characteristics and aspirations.

There are a few extras, but in essence that is how triggers work.

I find your post very insightful, and a great overview of what other systems do. I like how triggers work in Fantasy Dice (and so Crimson Exodus), but it does require the GM to manage the trigger flow according to how he wants the players to use them. The GM can control how reluctant players are to use their triggers, by controlling the rate he returns them (and how nice/nasty he is when using them).

It might be that all I need is a bit more advise for GMs on how to manage triggers. To create a Buffy like effect the GM should bleed the characters and only rarely return triggers until the end of the episode/chapter/adventure/campaign when they encounter the big bad and the GM makes them hurt by using all those hoarded triggers. One problem with this that I can see is that triggers can be used immediately after being traded and so you can get into a rapid-fire scene where triggers are flung forth and back. This could be fun in some circumstances, but one way around this is to have a temporary pool for spent triggers and then only award them to the players/GM at the start of the next session/chapter/adventure.

In a game like “Hunter the Conviction” (I'm not familiar with this one) the GM should make sure he keeps a steady flow of triggers back to the players.

It might be that 3/6/9 triggers are a bit too many – especially as most games will default at 6. I think perhaps 2/4/6 are better numbers, letting the GM control the flow without being overwhelmed by a mountain of trigger tokens looming menacingly over the players.
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Re: Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

Postby w00hoo » 12:43am on 02 Mar 12

It feels like the instancy of the rotation could definitely be an issue if the triggers are quite powerful. Agreed they need to be brought in by relevent action, but players soon get adept at bringing in stuff to trigger really handy resources. Given the way they're flowing I'd be looking to give them a few lower level effects rather than anything massive, or to allow them to be stacked like Plot Points in Cortex. Another option, thinking about your kings guard example would be that the more obscure the use of the trigger the greater the cost. 'My goal is to kill the usurper' so to activate a trigger to help me do that costs 1 but to escape the kings guards isn't so heavily linked so costs 2 or 3.

If you want to go for the scarcity idea then rather than hoarding them (although that would work, as the climatic scene comes closer it gets harder and harder. The storm hits with the bad guys all powered up with triggers, but when they get spend the players now have the resources to rally and win the day) might it be possible that they have a limited use? For instance, everyones triggers start as red beads. When they are used they go in to the opponents pool as orange beads, orange becomes green, green disappears. Every trigger has the same value and it's weighted so the side with more triggers gets more to use as each happens three times, but they can't rotate around forever. Not sold on the idea as it adds a bigger 'thing' overhead to play the game but it might be an interesting way to go...
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"I think on this one rare occasion the majority of the fault for the confusion probably lies with me." - Omnifray.
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Re: Triggers - tell me what works best for your game.

Postby Claus » 6:07pm on 04 Mar 12

w00hoo wrote:the more obscure the use of the trigger the greater the cost


This I like, and is what I'll be running with for now. I like to keep it simply, so if the character has no trigger that might apply to the situation, or justification for triggering an aspiration or characteristic is poor, the cost will be double.

I've also spelled out how the GM can use the flow of triggers to determine how precious they become, and how to use this for different styles of play. So at one extreme, for a game of daring heroism and incredible feats the GM should be quick to return spent triggers, and potentially reset everyone's pool at the start of every session to encourage the players to use their triggers. At the other extreme the GM can make the triggers a finite resource, with spent triggers permanently discarded. Most games will be somewhere inbetween, with a steady exchange of trigger tokens between the players and GM as bargaining chips to control outcomes.

Triggers can be spent to take the best result of an unscaled roll to ensure success, but if a player fails a roll he can also use triggers to recover by rolling an additional die to try and get a better result.
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