Leveragin’ the Black – Gettin’ Things Rollin’

We’ve now got our characters for our Serenity Plus game, with their Stylin‘s, their Refinements, their Values, and the rest of the attributes rounding out their sheets.  But how to approach the actual game play itself?  How does the GM run a game in the ‘Verse?  And have I yet come up with a clever and thematic replacement term for “games master”?  These answers coming up after the jump…

(Spoiler: The answer to that last question is “no”.)

Let The Die Be Cast

I’m sure we all know the drill: at some point, the characters are going to attempt to do something challenging, interesting, or violent.  If we’re lucky, it may even be all three!  At such times, the player picks up their dice and rolls to see how well they do.

When making a roll in a Test or a Contest, choose the most appropriate of your Stylin’s and take a die for your rating in that category, plus the dice for any Refinements that fall under that Stylin’ that befit the task at hand.  Then, if the desired action befits any of your Values (or opposes them, if you wish to Challenge the Value), you may select one Value die to add to those being rolled.  Rolling a Value die is not a requirement and you may forego doing so, and indeed may have to if no Value suits the situation, or if you have limited options after your opposition Appeals to one of your Values.

In addition to the Stylin’, Refinement(s), and Value dice, you may take up dice for any and all applicable Aspects, Resources, and any Assets that may apply.  Having thus constructed your pool of dice, roll them and then add the two highest values together for your result.  Any dice showing 1s never count towards the total, even if they are the highest value showing. Instead, they may be activated by the GM to provide Complications.

For the GMs part, the situation or opposition should have a number of attributes relating to the factors that oppose the players (or may even be created with the same statistics as a character for particularly important characters) and they will take up these dice and roll.  Again, adding the highest two values together for the response.


When things escalate beyond a simple Test that can be resolved via a single “roll-off”, the situation becomes a Contest, such as in a fight, a race, or an argument.  In such cases, each side of the Contest attempts to get a higher result from their roll than that achieved by their opposition in their last roll.  Just as is recommended in Smallville (page 53), each side should “telegraph” their intentions as they narrate their action in the Contest, and a series of dice rolls ends when either the opposition Gives In (and gives the other side what they telegraphed as being their goal) or fails to beat the last result.

In the case of a failure to beat the last rolled result, the “losing” side does not have to yield ground on what their opposition was seeking to achieve, but as a result of standing their ground they will take Stress from the failed roll.  The amount of Stress inflicted is based on an idea from Rob Donoghue’s excellent blog series, and also looks to have been picked up for Dragon Brigade to gauge from the fun Opening Salvo quickstart MWP has made available.

After a failure to improve upon your opponent’s result, check the next highest value unused in their die pool (usually the third highest, unless they’ve bought extra dice with Plot Points).  The size of this die is inflicted on your character as Stress as chosen by your opponent, although it should fit the nature of the scene and Contest; no giving someone internal injuries just by shouting at them.  In the case that there is no “next highest” after accounting for all the dice in the last result (and remember that 1s don’t count for this purpose), the Stress die defaults to a d4.

We will look further at Stress and Stress Tracks, including the options of Plot Stress, in an upcoming post.

Spottin’, Thinkin’, and Knowin’ Stuff

Some readers may have noted at this point there is no real attribute to model a characters awareness or alertness, or what may frequently in other systems be a perception skill (or a number of related skills, such as Spot, Search, and Listen in the case of 3.5 D&D).  In Serenity Plus, the default for these to fall under (and the same applies for knowledge type tests) is the Finaglin’ Stylin’.  Exceptions to this rule come into play if the character has a particular Refinement that is appropriate to the situation at hand.

If a character has a relevant Refinement for an awareness or knowledge test, the dice they roll should be that Refinement and the appropriate Stylin’.  For example, going from our Serenity crew write-ups, in the case that Mal or Zoe is recalling information relating to the War of Independence or for perceiving an ambush before it is sprung, rather than roll Finaglin’ they instead roll their War Veteran and Fightin’ dice.  Likewise, if we were checking for whether Kaylee spots “something ailin’ Serenity”, the dice would be Fixin’ and Mechanic, or Fixin’ and Doctor for Simon to identify a disease from symptoms through application of his medical training.

Extraordinary Successes

Both Leverage and Smallville have rules for Extraordinary Successes, which is defined as beating your opponent’s value by five or more.  In a Test, this is when your total exceeds the target rolled by the GM by five or more; in a Contest, this is when your opposition fails to beat the target you have set by five or more.

When you achieve an Extraordinary Success, you can choose one of the following benefits in addition to your success in the Test/Contest: –

  • Step up the size of the Stress die by one for one recipient of Stress.
  • Promote one Asset created for the duration of the scene into one that will persist for the remainder of the session.
  • Step up the die size of one Asset that was used in the roll, to a maximum of d12.
  • Remove one d6 Complication that was included in the roll against you.
  • Step down the die size of one d8 or greater Complication that was rolled against you.
  • Step down the die size of one of your Stress dice that your opposition rolled against you.

For the GM, the options if one of their NPCs achieves an Extraordinary Success is to step up the Stress die, or to step up the die size of one Complication that was included in the roll.

Up Next

We’ll talk about Plot Points and revisit our rules for teaming up.  Also, feel free to have your say on what you would like to see for my next project in the poll.

About craggle

Despite being born tone deaf in one ear, Craig has risen above his disadvantage to achieve the lofty position of spending most of his free time mucking around on the Internet, tinkering with RPG rules, and failing on at least seven occasions to finish writing a novel.
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