In this game the GM and the players tell a story, and afterwards look at the rules to see if something needs to be resolved using the game's mechanics. You don't look at the rules first, you look at the fiction first.
See those mechanics as tools in a box to use as needed. They exist to resolve situations where you don't know the direct answers to a question.
The game uses six-sided dice. You roll several at once, which we call a dice pool, and read the single highest result.
- If the highest die is a 6, it's a full success. Things go well. If you roll more than one 6, it's a critical success and you gain some additional advantage.
- If the highest die is a 4 or 5, that's a partial success. You do what you were trying to do, but there is a consequence.
- If the highest die is 1-3, it's a bad outcome. Things go poorly. You don't achieve your goal, and suffer a consequence.
If you ever need to roll but you have zero (or negative) dice, roll two dice and take the single lowest result. You can’t roll a critical when you have zero dice.
Most of the game's mechanics revolve around this basic format.
When there's a challenge that needs to be overcome, and there's a risk of failure, a player makes an action roll.
The number of dice to roll depends on the action the character is doing. The list of possible action can be found in the character creation section.
In this game, NPCs don't roll for their actions. NPCs succeed unless the players attempt to stop them, in which case the action roll does double-duty: it resolves the action of the PC as well as any NPCs that are involved. The action roll tells us the results, and the consequences of an action at the same time, encouraging players to be active participants in the story.
To make an action roll, we go through the following steps:
1. Player Sets Their Goal
First, the player states their goal, and which action they are using. Then, they gather a number of d6s equal to the chosen action's dot rating to build their dice pool.
2. GM Sets the Risk
The GM sets the risk of the action based on what has been established in the narrative.
- When the risk is low, things are under control. Even if things go wrong, there is a way out.
- When the risk is moderate, the situation is dangerous. If you fail, there will be repercussions.
- When the risk is high, the odds are against you. Attempting to go against them might backfire heavily.
By default, an action roll has a moderate risk. You wouldn’t be rolling if there was no risk involved.
3. GM Sets the Effect Rating
The GM sets the effect rating of the action.
- With a great effect, you achieve more than usual.
- With a standard effect, you achieve what we would have expected.
- With a limited effect, you achieve a partial or weak effect.
4. Player Evens the Odds
As the player, you decide if you want to even the odds by adding bonus dice to your pool.
You can normally get two bonus dice for your action roll.
For one bonus die, you can get assistance from a teammate. They consume 1 momentum, say how they help you, and give you an extra 1d6.
For another bonus die, you can either:
- Push yourself: Consume 2 momentum per push to add an extra 1d6 to your pool or get improved effect on your action.
- Add tension to the scene: Work with the GM to think of a new complication to throw at the scene to get an extra 1d6.
5. Roll the Dice
Finally, the player rolls the dice, and the group interprets the result.
- On a 66, it's a critical success. You achieve your goal with increased effect.
- On a 6, it's a full success. You achieve your goal.
- On a 4-5, it's a partial success. You achieve your goal, but there's a consequence.
- On a 1-3, it's a bad outcome. Things go badly, and there's a consequence.
If the result of the dice is higher than 3, the PC gains momentum from their action except if momentum was used for their action.
When a player makes an action roll, that roll has a chance generating momentum.
You start every session with 2, and generate more momentum when making successful action rolls.
- On a 4-5, you gain 1 momentum.
- On a 6, you gain 2 momentum.
- On a 66, you gain 3 momentum.
PCs consume their momentum to boost their actions, assist an ally or resist a consequence.
When momentum is spent for a roll, that roll cannot in turn generate momentum.
Designer Note: Momentum Dial
If you want your game to feel grimmer or bigger than life, a simple way to do this is by changing when momentum is gained and how much is gained. This is called changing the momentum dial.
Changing this dial is an easy way to change the whole vibe of a game. Since pushing yourself and making determination rolls to resist consequences rely on momentum only, the momentum dial has a big impact on the game.
If you turn up the momentum dial, PCs will be able to boost their rolls more often and will have an easier time resisting consequences. Turn it down, and PCs will instead need to rely more on their initial action dots to make their action roll. Consequences on the other end will hit way harder with a dial turned down.
Tune it and test this until it feels right for your game. One thing to keep in consideration is that by default momentum is gained for participating in the game. We do this to make the players more interested in taking risks. Your game should try to do the same to keep that "Charge" feeling.
Boosting Action Rolls
If you want, you can add bonus dice to your action roll by using one of the following methods.
When you push yourself, you consume 2 momentum per push to gain one of the following bonuses.
- Add an extra 1d6 to your dice pool.
- Increase the effect of your roll.
- Take action even if you were taken out.
When you add tension to an action roll, you can ask the GM "What would adding tension look like here?". The GM then offers a consequence, like ticking segments on a danger clock, inflicting stress on your character, or adding more drama to the narrative.
If you accept the consequence, add an extra 1d6 to your current dice pool.
There could be scenarios where adding tension isn't an option. In that case, the GM can simply communicate that to the player so that they look into other ways to even the odds.
The PCs can help one another in different ways to assure that the teams overcome the different challenges that are facing them.
When you assist a PC, you consume 1 momentum, to give an extra 1d6 to their roll. When doing this, you also expose yourself to possible danger.
When you protect a PC, you step in to confront a consequence they would otherwise face. Describe how you intervene, and suffer the consequence for them.
You can make a determination roll to try to reduce or cancel the consequence.
When you perform a setup action, you make an action roll to have an indirect effect on an obstacle. If your action has its intended result, any member of the team who follows through on your maneuver either gets an improved effect or a reduced risk for their roll.
You choose the benefit, based on the nature of your setup action.
If you make an action roll and you get a partial success (4-5) or a bad outcome (1-3), you suffer a consequence.
The GM chooses one of the following:
- Reduced Effect: reduce the effect of the action by one level.
- Complication: tick segments matching the per consequence rating on a new or existing danger clock.
- Escalated Risk: increase the risk of future related action rolls by one level.
- Lost Opportunity : what you tried didn't work, you need to use another action.
- Worse Condition: take stress matching the consequence rating.
The consequence rating is determined by looking at the risk for the roll.
- A low risk has a consequence rating of 1.
- A moderate risk has a consequence rating of 2.
- A high risk has a consequence rating of 3.
If a character suffers a consequence that you, as a player, don't like, you can try to resist it.
To do so, call for a determination roll, and this will tell us how well your character you resists the consequence.
Build a pool of d6s by adding 1d6 for each charge of momentum you are willing to consume for the roll.
Once you've decided how many charges you want to consume, roll and interpret the results:
- On a 1-3, the consequence still happens.
- On a 4-5, the consequence is reduced.
- On a 6, the consequence is avoided.
- On a 66, the consequence is avoided, and the risk of your next roll is lowered.
Designer Note: Hacking Determination Rolls
Determination rolls act as a mechanism for the players to resist and say "no, I don't think so" when something bad happens to their character.
There are two important things you should look at if you want to hack this mechanic. First, how does one resist a consequence. Second, what should be the cost of trying to resist a consequence.
By default, you try to resist by spending momentum to build a determination pool in the hope of reducing or even canceling an incoming consequence. In this case, the cost is paid in momentum since you won't be able to spend more later to push yourself or assist an ally.
Perhaps that for your game, characters resist consequences by making a roll based on certain stats - allowing players to choose if they want to sacrifice momentum for a better roll. Another option might be for the PCs to sacrifice certain assets, previously defined as details, to outright cancel a consequence.
The thing to keep in mind is that this mechanic should encourage players to truly take the time to consider if what they are sacrificing is worth the shot.
Clocks are circles divided in either 4, 6 or 8 segments used to track a task's progress or escalating danger in a scene. They can also be used on a PC's character sheet to track the long term projects that they are working on or the complications that follows them in their adventure.
Generally, the more complex the problem, the more segments the clock has.
When a PC succeeds an action roll, you can use a progress clock and:
- Tick 1 segment for an action with a limited effect.
- Tick 2 segments for an action with a standard effect.
- Tick 3 segments for an action with a great effect.
When a PC gets a consequence from an action roll, you can use danger clock and:
- Tick 3 segments when the risk of the action is high.
- Tick 2 segments when the risk of the action is moderate.
- Tick 1 segment when the risk of the action is low.
When a clock is filled, a narrative element in the story is now resolved. Either the PCs got closer to their goal, or danger has come to fruition and makes the situation more complicated.
Health and Condition
When a PC gets hurt as a result of a consequence, they take stress. Each stress ticks a segment on the PC's stress clock ⨁.
As the stress clock gets filled, you also need to update the PC's condition by writing a small descriptive text below the clock. The character's condition imposes narrative restrictions as to what the character can or cannot do.
When the 4 segments of the stress clock are filled, the PC is taken out for the scene, and their stress clock is cleared. Because they were taken out, the next scenes should handle how the character's recovery is going to happen in the fiction.
Designer Note: Hacking Health
Health in Charge is an expendable resource. It has a clock that gets ticked when you get stressed, and it is linked to a detail that the new condition of the PC as the clock is filled.
If you want, you can have other types of expandable resources. Things like reputation, money, or even corruption can be represented using a similar mechanism.
When designing new clock-based mechanics, think about how PCs fill them, what happens when a clock is filled and how they can be cleared.
For example, you could make it so that a clock only gets filled by certain actions or only when the PCs are at a certain location.
Once filled, perhaps the clock changes the character. Granting them a temporary or even permanent bonus. Or perhaps it changes them negatively and impacts their life for the rest of the campaign.
This mechanism adds new types of pacing mechanism that are very useful to reinforce the different aspects and themes of your games.
When a PC takes stress, their condition worsen. Though, as time passes, they will get better, and their condition will improve.
The only way to recover from stress is in-fiction. You can either rest, lay low or seek medical attention. When doing so, the GM will look at the fiction and tell you how much stress (1-4) you clear on your stress clock.
As your character gets better, you also need to update your condition to represent your character's current state.
As the story progresses over time, so do the player characters.
At the end of every session, players can update their character's details to represent how they've grown over the course of the session.
When a big event is concluded in the story, the GM can decide to award the group a milestone. Players invest those milestones in their respective talent tree to make their characters stronger and more versatile.
A talent either gives a new action dot to invest in a character's actions, or a new situational talent which gives a temporary boost to their character in specific circumstances.
When a player gets a situational talent, they need to decide on a specific situation that activates the talent. The player chooses what they think works best for their character and note their decisions by filling in the blanks on their character sheet. For inspiration look at what has already been established in the world, and pick something that makes your character shine.
Designer Note: Hacking Progression
The longer it takes for a milestone to happen, the longer it will take for characters to become stronger.
This is important to keep in mind depending on what kind of progression curve you want to have.
Do you want to have a short campaign where characters will grow stronger pretty quickly, or are you looking for a year-spanning one where the characters will mostly evolve by changing their character details and where milestones will be more scarce?
You could go as low as giving the player character only 2-3 Talents during an entire campaign, or reward them more often.
There isn't a right or wrong answer here. It depends 100% on what kind of game you want to have.
The fortune roll is a tool that the GM can use to disclaim decision making in a situation the PCs aren’t directly involved in. It can also be used by the players when no other roll applies to the situation at hand. The result of the roll helps guide the outcome as to where the story goes next, but doesn't feature momentum nor consequences.
To make a fortune roll, build a dice pool by using a specific action or by adding 1d6 per likeliness level of a thing happening. Roll, and interpret the results.
- On a 66, it’s a critical success. There are great results, and something exceptional happens.
- On a 6, it’s a full success. There are great results.
- On a 4-5, it’s a partial success. There are mixed results.
- On a 1-3, it’s a bad outcome. There are bad results.
Players can call for a flashback scene if they want to declare that their character tried to prepare for a certain situation even though it hasn't been discussed at the table yet. That being said, a flashback scene isn’t like time travel and can't undo what was already established in the narrative.
When a player calls for a flashback, the GM looks at the fiction and sets a cost in momentum (from 0 to 2) that the player needs to pay before moving forward.
Afterwards, the player narrates a short scene of what their character attempted to accomplish in the flashback. Depending on the narrative and the character's actions, the GM decides between one of the following:
- No roll is required, the character's actions have a direct impact on the narrative.
- An action roll is required to determine if the character's actions in the flashback were successful or not.
- A fortune roll is required, as the success of the character's actions in the flashback were more a matter of luck than talent.