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Twists & Turns
When to use the twists and turns patch: To introduce story pivots and more unpredictability to your games. Turns mark big shifts within the current scene and twists represent big shifts in the overall story. They add spice and uncertainty to your game.
Standard Pacing: A turn happens when the dice show a double on the first two dice & an odd number on the third. The doubles number determines the type of turn.
Frantic Pacing: A turn comes up whenever you roll doubles on the first two dice.
Triples: Triples also trigger a turn under either option.
A turn is a big shift in the current scene or subplot. You may customize this list with your own ideas or use other randomizers.
1s: A sudden turn in favor of the player character(s) and/or their interests.
2s: Any useful progress or clues in the scene will be offset by obstacles or delays.
3s: Helpful non-player characters suddenly arrive.
4s: Hostile non-player characters suddenly arrive.
5s: An especially unusual item or well-hidden clue is unlocked within the scene.
6s: A sudden turn in favor of the Big Bad or other forces aligned against the main characters and their interests.
Think in the context of storytelling. Think about similar stories to the one you are telling. How would turns appear in those types of stories? Use that as your inspiration and consult the oracles if you would like further randomization.
A twist is a large change in the story or plotline, from sudden revelations to major shifts in the local balance of power. Whereas turns are typically focused on a particular scene or focused moment, twists usually have a large impact on the status quo and alter the metaphorical landscape of the setting.
When you roll a turn, add 1 to a twist counter. You can use dice or chits to keep track of the count. When the counter reaches 3, first resolve the current scene and the turn that raised it to 3. Finish out the whole scene and the impacts of the turn before turning to the twist. After the scene and turn are fully resolved, reset the count to 0 and introduce a twist. Think of it in context of the most recent scene and turn.
Alternately, you may think of the twist in context of the plot drivers in your game. Think of the Big Bads, leaders, famous figures, and other such characters. How could the twist fit in their context? How would they act in line with the twist?
Twists usually happen at the end of scenes. But they may be handled during "downtime", with a flashback, or using other story tools. Handle it as best fits the twist and your story.
This is a short example of a twist list. Feel free to replace the options or use your own randomizers and charts.
Roll two six-sided dice.
Any Doubles: What A Twist! Reveal a new Big Bad or a fresh major story complication in a typical "big twist" way. While this creates new problems, it should also introduce new resources and possibilities for the player characters.
3-4: The authorities target PCs OR a major ally betrays them.
5-6: The approach the PCs were taking turns out to be the wrong tactic or insufficient to fix the problem. However, they should be directed or receive clues to help transfer them to the new path and evolving storyline.
7: A mixed or neutral high-level NPC appears. Anything from a secret agency director to a blazing archangel. Use the main oracle and 3 questions to determine its purpose and attitude
8-9: The PC actions turn out more effective than expected or just flat out lucky, granting them major progress towards their goals. However, the gains should also introduce new problems and puzzles for the characters to solve.
10-11: Hostile authorities make peace with the PCs OR a major opposition figure turns to their side.
Much like turns, it helps to think of similar stories to one you are exploring. What are big plot twists you encounter in those stories? What are common large story beats? What often happens in the transition between acts? As always, consult the oracles if you need direction or have questions to answer.
Example Twists & Turns
Victoria the Gunslinger is trekking across the desert on her way to the next town. Her supplies are running low. She succeeds on a scouting role looking for possible springs or drinkable plants. But her player is unsure whether or not water would be findable in the parched wasteland.
She asks, "Are there any oases or edible cacti around?" She rolls 1, 1, and 5 with the drama flavor, reflecting the desperation of her situation. That's a hard "no" and high drama, indicating she searches well but finds nothing, taking her to the brink of hopelessness in a moment of horrible realization.
But she rolled doubles and an odd number, triggering a turn. She adds 1 to her twist counter, which is now at 2. Double 1s indicate a sudden turn in her favor. Just as she is about to give out hope, she comes across an unoccupied ranching outpost with a working well. There is plenty of clean water and shelter for the night.
MegaPulse, local superhero, is responding to a robbery and assault alert. Records were stolen and data destroyed at a small biotech research company. It seems suspiciously part of a string of crimes suiting the interests of a villain they recently put away.
Arriving on the scene moments after the alarm, MegaPulse starts scanning the scene. They see the victims and are looking for the assailants. They ask, "Are there visible suspects?" They roll 4, 3, 6 with the danger flavor, a firmly mixed result with high danger. There are signs of them, but they are hard to get a fix on.
This makes them think of suits their imprisoned enemy used. They ask the follow-up question, "Can I see signs of movement like my foe's cloaking tech?" They roll 6, 6, 1 with the favorability flavor, a very strong yes with a strong unfavorable result.
They also rolled a turn, which takes their twist counter to 3, also triggering a twist. The 6s result for the turn is a sudden turn in favor of the enemy.
Combined with the oracle roll, this is interpreted as the suspects not only using the cloaking technology, but an upgraded version of it. The original foe's suits were designed to counter MegaPulse's hypersenses, but these even hide movement across grass or snow and close other loopholes. MegaPulse is pinned down under fire while unable to get a clear fix on the fugitives.
They roll two dice for the twist, rolling 3 and 2 for 5. That indicates bad tactics or a wrong approach, but evidence or leads to move forward. The bad guys make their escape, but MegaPulse did intensive enough scanning to build a better strategy and knows to look for purchases and thefts of certain rare materials used in the cloaking technology.
Sherilee, priest of the Lamb Goddess, is travelling with Bobididdliboetwins, legendary "acquisition specialist". They arrive to a small nameless township reputed to be tainted with undead and aura of evil.
Upon arrival they ask, "Are the townsfolk friendly or not?" Due to the reputed nature of the place, they choose the weirdness flavor over sympathy and roll 3, 3, 5. The people are unnervingly lukewarm, neither friendly nor hostile, neither withdrawn nor attentive. Something seems deeply off about them and even the angles of the town itself.
They also roll a turn, adding their first stone to the twist counter. A roll of 3s indicates that helpful NPCs suddenly arrive. Following the oracle roll and setting, the player of "Sheri" and "Bob" decides that three people in fine suits arrive to give them a tour and direct them to the inn. As the walk begins, it is obvious that they are barely human (if human at all) but earnestly helpful.
When to use the mission clock: When you have time or action critical sequences in your stories. This patch is intended to provide options for handling that kind of pressure & constraint. The mission clock zooms in on time pressures and focuses on the mission goal.
The mission clock times are metaphorical.
The clock starts at "Noon", representing the easiest point, and "Midnight", representing the end or failure of the mission, time having run out.
Noon: Starting point, full of bright possibility
1 o'clock: Time is running, but still plentiful
2 o'clock: Still comfortably moving along
3 o'clock: Time is starting to go by faster
4 o'clock: Things are starting to take a while
5 o'clock: Time starts feeling pressured
6 o'clock: The halfway point, you better move
7 o'clock: Midnight starts coming into sight
8 o'clock: The day flew by, but a few hours left
9 o'clock: Time is going too fast, running out
10 o'clock: No room for error, panic sets in
11 o'clock: There is almost no time left
Midnight: Out of time, mission failed
Turning the Clock
The mission clock moves forward and back based on the wins and losses of the characters. When things go wrong, they can spiral down. When they go right, they can hold off the clock.
For the mission clock, the count is affected by full sequences of action. Do not count by each small action and individual roll. Focus on whole fights, complete efforts, and so on.
If you use a game with more granular or zoomed in action, base it on the result of an entire round or exchange's worth of actions. You may even wish to count by complete sub-quest or full scene.
If you use the rarer game with very broad resolution, break down missions into subsections or otherwise zoom in the action slightly to represent the segmented time of the clock.
The most important thing is that an effort feels complete or the segment feels like a full sequence of action. Go with your intuition and play experience for the best fit. There is no objectively correct measure.
You may also adjust the zoom to fit your preferred pacing. If you prefer a frantic, high tension experience, zoom to more granular action for the clock changes. If you want a more of a quest scale, take it out to whole missions and extended efforts.
+2: Major or important sequences failing, extraordinary new complications or obstacles, and exceptional failures
+1: Ties, partial successes, wins at a cost, and barely winning (exactly just passing) successes
0: Simple and complete wins and successes
-1: Extraordinarily high-risk wins, exceptional successes, completion of epic tasks
Mission stress represent the effects of the rising pressure and dwindling options. Add +1 mission stress at 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock, and 9 o'clock. Stress makes a lot of actions more difficult, but can also grant bonuses accelerating you toward the climax.
Your game may use target numbers, level of risks, outcome ranks, or another mechanism. What are minor, low-level penalties in your RPG are the minor penalties for mission stress.
1 Mission Stress: You are starting to feel the pressure. Take minor penalties when you need to concentrate and on high difficulty tasks.
2 Mission Stress: Half of your time is gone! The stress ramps up. Take moderate penalties when concentration is needed, minor penalties on most other efforts. But gain minor bonuses when directly trying to reach or confront your mission's climax, focusing under pressure.
3 Mission Stress: Midnight is fast approaching! It is all too much as you race against time. Take major penalties when trying to concentrate and moderate penalties on most actions. But also gain moderate bonuses when trying to reach or facing the climax of your quest, focused to obsession.
Midnight is when the clock expires. Your mission fails and you pay the price. Consider the consequences, both directly for the protagonists and for the world around them.
You may instead introduce complications and costs creating a revised mission with more difficulty and risk. The kidnapped prince is moved to a more secure location and their page is killed, for example.
Follow-up quests should start the clock at 2 o'clock, rather than Noon. Any further "second chances" should add another two hours to the starting time.
Using this model, characters are usually limited to three "second chances", the last chance starting at 6 o'clock. If characters are limited to two regrouped attempts, the first new attempt should start at 3 o'clock and the second at 6 o'clock. If they are limited to only one additional chance, start at 3 or 6 o'clock, depending on pressure level desired.
The ability to accept partial consequences and try again with an advanced clock depends on there being reasonable escalations possible. If there is no way to impose a partial cost, higher stakes, and/or greater difficulty, the full consequences of mission failure come to pass. There is nowhere else to go.
The main exception is if a great personal sacrifice or extreme cost may be able to buy a delay. In that instance, instead wind back the clock up to six hours to reflect the time bought.
Temptation is how strongly you feel the call of Corruption and the lure of its promises. It is insidious and manipulative.
Temptation goes from 1-10. At 10, it resets to 1 and 1 Corruption is gained. For a shorter game or playthrough, the rollover cap may be reduced to 5 or 7. If you reduce the cap, the temptation effects trigger at 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
Temptation is a lesser rating and reflects the give and take of corrupting events and positive influences.
+1 to 7: Loved one or close connection is injured, killed, lured into evil, or damned.
+1 to 7: A deal made with a demon, ghost, murderer or other wicked or corrupting entity.
+1 to 5: Serious failure on a case or mission.
+1 to 3: Allowing innocents to be harmed or injured.
+3 to 5: Allowing innocents to be taken, damned, or killed.
+1 to 3: Using the benefits of corruptions (if any).
+1 to 7: Uncovering forbidden knowledge, dark magic, or tempting uses for corrupt methods and works.
-1 to 5: Saving an innocent from evil forces and the corrupted.
-1 to 5: Banishing demons, dark spirits, and other such entities.
-1 to 3: Exiling or eliminating corrupt leaders and spies.
-1 to 2: Supporting other soldiers in the war against evil.
-1 to 5: Discovering major and use information related to anti-corruption and good forces and methods.
-2 to 3: A significant religious experience or extensive counseling.
-1 to 2: Substantial time invested into community uplift.
-1 to 3: Major time assisting the marginalized and underprivileged.
-1 to 7: Rare artifacts and blessings may reduce Temptation (1 to 7 removed); the even rarer might reduce Corruption (1 to 3 erased).
At 1+: Feel a constant urge to use shortcuts and your access to corruption and corrupt agents, but especially whenever very convenient or significantly labor saving.
At 3+: Trigger Corruption checks when callousness would make things notably more convenient or save substantial time.
At 5+: Corruption checks when options that would add Temptation provide a major advantage or could eliminate major obstacles.
At 6+: Corruption checks whenever you have an opportunity to act cruelly or inflict damage upon those who wronged you or your clients.
At 7+: Trigger Corruption checks whenever cruelty, callousness, or appealing to the power of evil would resolve current problems.
Corruption is a more permanent form of spiritual warping. You hear the twisted song of evil and it twisted part of your soul. Characters may usually start with Corruption 0, but concepts in which the player characters have been touched by spiritual darkness, vile deeds, demonic temptations, or the like may start play at Corruption 1 to represent those initial steps on the unholy path.
0: Unblemished. Wickedness has not yet taken hold of a part of you.
1: Stumble. Your soul begins to bend. You are drawn to use the corrupt and advantages of evil. Sometimes you must remind yourself of your own morality.
2: Callousness. Your soul begins to shrivel. You are starting to have a hard time with empathy and sympathy. You do not care about stealing.
3: Growing Cruelty. A hollowness begins to grow within your spirit. Sometimes you are mean for no reason. You go too far roughing up suspects. You do not care about minor casual cruelty.
4: Warped. You even start looking less human, almost uncanny valley. Your sense of self is fading away. Your morality becomes twisted. You no longer care about torture, murder, and other extreme sins.
5: Inhuman. Almost all of your humanity and soul are gone. You barely bring yourself to care at all about your (paying) clients, those you find useful, and perhaps a rare few you owe. Unmoved by most any horror.
6+: Beyond Saving. You are retired from active play. The character has become an irredeemable servant of evil. They are beyond saving. They literally have no soul left, only a shadowy echo of what once was.
For characters with Corruption 1+: Whenever you are presented with a clear opportunity to behave without compassion or take advantage of evil's power, roll a special oracle using three six-sided dice.
A positive result is rolling over the Damnation level.
A mixed result is rolling equal to the Damnation level.
A negative result is rolling below the Damnation level.
The first die is Resistance. How well you resist the impulse overall.
The second die is Reaction. On a negative result, the urges twist you up and have a direct impact on your current behavior. On a positive result, you brush it off easily and the emotions fade fast.
The third die is Resolve. On a positive result, gain +1 on all dice on all rolls for the rest of the scene or the next scene. On a negative result, you are badly shaken, take -1 instead and lose a round of effort. On a mixed result, you are briefly shocked, lose the next round or pause for a few minutes.