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What to Hack

You've read the rules and best practices, and your first thought is:

This is great! Now, how can I hack this ?

Great!

Charge comes with a default set of rules, but most of them can be altered to help you make each game your own.

This chapter provides some guidelines about what is hackable by design. It also provides some ideas on how to design new mechanics around what is already in place to keep the "Charge feeling".

Hacking Character Details

The character's details section is possibly the easiest section to change since it doesn't impact the mechanic, or the balance of the game.

By default, a character is defined by short descriptors called details.

They have a concept to explain who they are, an appearance to know what they look like, and ties to link them to the world.

Changing the Details

To make your own details, think of what is important in your setting.

If your setting heavily focuses on which god the PCs worship, than add a God detail. If characters have a specific role in the group, add a detail for this as well.

While those descriptors aren't really used by the game mechanics, they are still relevant in highlighting what is important in your game.

Hacking the Actions

Another great way of to adapting Charge is by changing the standard 12 actions.

Changing the Words

Words are important. When carefully chosen, they help convey a meaning.

Charge comes with a default set of generic actions. Because they are generic, they might not necessarily fit with the setting you've chosen.

If some of those words feel off, rename them.

Replace Tinker by Craft or Hack. Or replace Sway by Negotiate or Argue.

Even a small change in wording can affect the underlying tone of what the action does.

Use this to evoke a genre, and highlight the risky actions that the PCs will be doing.

Changing the Number of Actions

If you feel like 12 actions to memorize is too much, you can reduce the list to 9 or even 6 actions.

Reducing the number of actions also means that each action will cover more use. Take that into consideration when choosing your action words.

Also think about the maximum action rating (default is 4) and the number of action dots (default is 7) each character gets at the beginning of a game.

Hacking Momentum

Momentum is pretty much hackable by default because of the existence of the momentum dial.

When you start a new campaign, check if the default momentum dial feels good for you and your group.

Do you have a feeling that PCs gain momentum too often ? Or do you think that when it is gained, the amount gained should be more generous ? There is no golden hammer here, every story is different.

To make your own momentum dial, simply look at when momentum is generated. Then look at how much momentum is gained when it's generated.

Tweak those two variables until things feel right.

Hacking Talents

Talents exists to make character progression interesting. The talent tree makes character a bit stronger, but mostly it makes them more versatile.

Changing the Tree

A way you can hack talent is by changing the content of the talent tree. By default, a talent either gives you a new action dot, or a situational bonus.

You could change the content of that tree to make certain types of talent more common than others. You could also create brand new types of talent that would make players more invested in your game.

Changing When Talent Dots are Gained

Talent dots are usually gained after narrative milestones. Depending on the genre, you could alter this and make talent dots gained in different scenarios.

A player could gain a talent dot when they fail a desperate roll, or when they finish a project clock on their character sheet.

Talents are a great player incentive, so hacking this is an easy way to reinforce behaviors you want your players to do.

Changing the Cost of Activating a Talent

You can also change the cost of using a talent. By default, talents are free to invoke, but it doesn't have to be.

An easy cost to set for activating a talent would be using momentum.

If you set a cost of 1 momentum, talents could be seen as a way to get bonuses at a cheaper cost than pushing oneself.

If you set a cost of 2 momentum for a talent, then consider giving a bigger bonus than what a a usual push would give.

Just remember to keep things fair!

Hacking Conditions

A PC's condition acts as a combat pacing mechanism, but also as a way to represent the character's current health condition.

Changing The Stress Clock

If characters in your world are supposed to be weaker to tougher, change the number of segments in the stress clock.

This is an easy change that has a big impact on in-game challenges.

Be warned that having bigger stress clocks can make conflicts drag for longer. This can either be a good, or bad thing, depending on what you're going for.

Changing Recovery

Another important detail about condition is that they are supposed to recover after a time.

By default, a stress clocks recovers one segment per session, if the fiction allows it.

You could offer other opportunities to PCs to get better. Perhaps by going to see a doctor, or by interacting with the "medic" of the group.

Doing this will affect what the PCs do immediately after big battles, because they usually don't like staying "hurt" for a long time.

Luck Based Recovery

Be wary of making recovery based on luck.

If you use action or fortune rolls to recover, a couple of bad rolls in a row can make for quite a couple of uninteresting session for a player.

That's something that we usually want to try to avoid.

Introducing Penalties

Apart from narrative limitations, conditions don't inflict penalties on characters. This is by design.

In Charge, we prefer to encourage good behaviors than to give punishment for simply having played the game. The game is about rewarding interactions, and pacing failures.

That doesn't mean that we want to discourage you from doing something different in your game.

We mostly want to highlight why Charge is the way it is so that you take it into consideration when designing new modifications to the rules.

Introducing Deterioration

For some types of games, you might also want to consider if conditions can get worse if the PCs ignore them.

Things like poison or untreated wounds can make a character's life harder over time.

For this, you could think of ways of making stress clocks "auto-advance" based on certain triggers. Figure out what those triggers are and how many segments are ticked when they happen.

You should also think of opportunities for players to take care of those deteriorations so that they stop being inflicted upon their characters.

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