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Villain Approved Actions
 

Design: Jasyn Jones
Commentary: Ks. Jim Ogle

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In Torg, Non Combat Interactions and Approved Actions are meant to make combat more colorful by encouraging actions other than attack or defense. They also balance combat-heavy characters, by increasing the penalties for choosing to lower other attributes in favor of Dexterity.

Yet, some GM’s might find that even with such Approved Actions, players may choose to dump points into Dexterity anyway. For such campaigns, this rule might offer a solution.

The Rule

 

During round play, any round in which the villains have initiative (as determined by the initiative line on the Drama Deck), they may take advantage of the Approved Action for the round, either singly or as a group. If the villain succeeds at an Approved Action against a player character, the gamemaster may take one Drama Deck card away from that character’s player, either from his hand or his card pool (gamemaster’s choice) and discard it.

If the card is drawn from the player’s card pool, the gamemaster can choose any card he wishes in the pool. If he chooses the player’s hand, he must pick blindly- he cannot look at the cards before choosing. Whichever is chosen, the card is then discarded.

Current Torg Rules

Gamemaster characters can steal cards under the current rules. This opportunity is rare, difficult, and doesn’t make much of a difference during play. These rules are meant to enhance such opportunities.

When using these rules, ignore the usual Villain Non-Combat Interaction opportunity results (which appear in the villain’s side of the initiative line, see pg. 118 of the Revised and Expanded Torg Rulebook).

Active subplots, including Connections and a played Escape card, are not in the player’s card pool and cannot be “stolen.” Glory cards can be stolen, but this is usually considered to be in poor taste, especially in Dramatic scenes (on the other hand, if the player has been warned about the perils of focusing too much on Dexterity and combat skills, and chosen to do so anyway, feel free). If the gamemaster steals the Rally card (especially out of a player’s hand), he is encouraged to laugh evilly.

Ante

When a villain steals a player’s card, the player can choose to ante up a Possibility, marking it off the character sheet sheet as if it had been spent (this expenditure cannot be canceled and a Hero or Drama cannot be substituted for the Possibility). If he does so, the card isn’t discarded, instead the gamemaster sets it aside.

On the Heros’ initiative, the player can attempt the same approved action that was used against him, against the same villain. If he can achieve a Player’s Call, the card and the Possibility are returned (and he gains the normal benefits of a Player’s Call). If not, the Possibility is lost and the card is immediately discarded.

Argument

 

A high Dexterity is useful in combat, because it allows a character to attack and defend. However, it provides no protection against Non-Combat Interaction skills (maneuver, trick, test, taunt, and intimidate). Under the current rules, however, the ill effects of such skills are short lived, and do not necessarily pose a great threat.

Gamemaster characters can steal cards under the current rules, but the opportunity to do so is rare, difficult, and doesn’t make much of an impact on the game, as it is nearly always better for them to attack, especially if they are facing a party of combat monsters.

By allowing villains to steal cards, the Non-Combat Interaction skills become far more threatening. Losing a Hero, Drama, Opponent Fails, Glory, or Rally is a significant loss, and thus this rule increases the threat level posed by such skills.

This rule also addresses another issue with the current Non-Combat Interaction skill mechanics. As currently formulated, gamemaster’s have no real incentive to trick, test, and so forth as they get nothing for it (players at least get cards). In terms of color and portraying dangerous villains, it is just as rewarding for gamemasters to describe an attack as it is for them to describe a “taunt, feint, strike!” If the gamemaster’s combat repertoire is limited to “I attack”, is it reasonable to expect players to be any different? This rule rewards gamemasters for tricking, taunting, testing, maneuvering and so forth, increasing the variety of actions taken in combat.

It also encourages player usage of the Non-Combat Interaction skills (and hence enhanced role-playing opportunities). Villains will be taking cards more often, so players will be more interested in earning cards to stay even. Earning cards requires approved actions which means many more moments such as this: “I stare him down, the light glinting of the steel of my blade.”

Villains can only take cards when they have the initiative. This means that players will have a vested interest in revenge, and a perfect opportunity for it. Players love revenge. When a villain yanks their last Drama and throws it on the discard pile, the player will be gunning for that villain, using the same Approved action on him, as he did on them (as same Approved Action is in effect on the player’s half of the round). This draws the players into the game, as revenge is a motivator, and it encourages use of the Non-Combat Interaction skills, to get back at the guy who got them.

Last of course, is the sheer value of defense. Using this rule, a player who tries to dump all his points into Dexterity and fire combat will find himself the victim of every wisecracking shocktrooper, and the fifth time he looses a key card (a Drama, Opponent Fails, Hero, or Rally) to a mook, he might rethink his choices. Sooner or later, he will learn.

Balance

 

This rule makes other attributes useful in combat, both to protect against card loss and to gain replacement cards. Focusing on one attribute will open a character up to Non-Combat Interaction attacks on other attributes, so balance is maintained.

The villains can only take cards when they have initiative. This encourages the revenge dynamic, as described above, but also adds in a bit of strategy to the use of Seize Initiative cards and effects. The players might hesitate to Sieze Initiative to a new card, in case the villains gain the initiative and take the Glory or Rally cards. Or, the players might choose to keep the current card, if the villains don’t have the initiative

In Standard scenes, the villains have initiative roughly 1/3rd of the time. In Dramatic scenes, the villains have the initiative about 2/3rds of the time. Obviously, Dramatic scenes are likely to be rife with the use of Non-Combat Interaction skills, which is how it should be.

This rule, as with most balance rules, depends on gamemasters to implement it. Villains can take cards under this rule, but only if the gamemaster bothers to give them Non-Combat Interaction skills and then use them.

If the gamemaster doesn’t avail himself of the tools available, then Dexterity, fire combat, and Damage Value will rule, because they will be the only things that will matter in combat. Combat-heavy characters are, on one level, a rational adaptation to combats in which Dexterity and Damage Value is the best and only way to win. By stressing other skills and other Attributes, the importance of physical prowess and damage is lessened, and opportunities for roleplaying are enhanced.

Updated: May 10, 2006
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