Just like mundane gear, cybernetics can either be handled as background flavor or treated as a perk, depending on how much impact you want it to have within the game. An individual with extensive cybernetic augmentation may also wish to take a suitable quirk, to represent the physical and psychological drawbacks of their various implants.
Fear & Insanity
A frequent staple of horror stories, fear should be treated the same way as other challenges: crafty characters should roll 3d6, while other characters roll 2d6, and individuals without prior experience or exposure to the particular source of fear (as indicated by their concept and perks) reduce the number of dice they roll by one. Failure on a fear challenge results in the loss of one resolve token—if the character loses all resolve, they generally flee the scene, or receive an appropriate form of mental disorder.
If gameplay involves dungeon crawls or lots of monster-bashing, you might wish to assign your NPCs traits and ranks.
Foes can have one or more traits: Agile, brawny and crafty increase the difficulty of challenges against them that use those traits; clumsy, weak or stupid reduce the difficulty. Shooting an “agile and weak” goblin is difficulty 6, for example, while hitting them in melee is difficulty 4.
PCs start at rank 1, increasing their rank every 4th advance (i.e., at 4, 8, 12, 16 and 20), to a maximum of rank 6. NPCs also have a rank, chosen by the GM.
When facing someone of higher rank, increase your challenge difficulties by 1 (even if this takes them above 6). Against a foe of lower rank, reduce them by 1. For opponents ###ranks higher or lower, use the “Power Levels” genre rule.
As a quick rule of thumb, most monsters require a number of effort tokens equal to their rank to defeat. A “boss” monster should require double that number, and may also be one rank higher than his or her lesser kin—these fearsome foes can represent major antagonists, or the “Big Bad” at the end of an adventure, and the GM should use them sparingly.
The GM must also make common sense judgment calls. A non-magical arrow is unlikely to cause any damage to an iron golem, no matter how skilled the archer, whereas a flaming torch would probably destroy an animated scarecrow in one hit. Equally, the types of attack a foe can make depends on their gear and implied capabilities—a goblin armed with a club can only make melee attacks, but if they have a spear they can choose to throw it, and of course, goblin shamans can make mental attacks using their magic.
Bear: Rank 2. Brawny.
Dragon: Rank 5. Brawny and crafty.
Goblin: Rank 1. Agile and weak.
Golem: Rank 3. Brawny and stupid.
Kobold: Rank 1. Stupid and weak.
Lich: Rank 4. Crafty.
Mummy: Rank 3. Clumsy.
Ogre: Rank 2. Brawny and stupid.
Orc: Rank 1. Stupid.
Skeleton: Rank 1. Stupid.
Troll: Rank 2. Brawny and stupid.
Vampire: Rank 3. Agile.
Wolf: Rank 1.
Wraith: Rank 2.
Yeti: Rank 2. Brawny.
Zombie: Rank 1. Clumsy and stupid.
Magic & Psionics
Many fantasy, horror, and even science fiction settings describe characters with supernatural powers such as telekinesis, alchemy, psionics, etc. These arcane gifts can be easily represented as perks.
A character with such a perk can do anything a trained person in the setting could achieve with appropriate tools, as long as it thematically fits their type of magic. Spending karma allows the mage to perform even greater feats of magic, overcoming any challenge a professional could manage with specialized gear.
Always think of magic in terms of the result. It doesn’t matter if the psionicist disintegrates the door, or just causes the lock to spring open—if the goal is to get through the door, they’ve succeeded.
But don’t forget, magic is primarily a narrative tool, and it doesn’t change the mechanics. If the GM calls for an agile challenge to open a lock, the mage must still resolve it as an agile challenge, even if they use magic to bypass the door.
If a magic perk is overly broad in scope, the GM should ask the player to choose a limitation. Here are some examples:
Destructive: Your spells cause lots of environmental and collateral damage.
Draining: Your spells drain you, and may involve blood sacrifices. You spend resolve instead of karma for magic.
Focus: You require a focus to channel your spells, such as a wand, staff, or holy symbol. If lost or broken, the focus item requires several days to replace.
Personal: Your magic works on your own body and possessions, but can’t be used directly on others.
Ritualistic: Your strongest spells take time to cast. You can’t spend any karma unless you’ve a few minutes to prepare.
Source: Your magic requires a nearby source of suitable energy or matter, you cannot conjure things from thin air.
Unsubtle: You need to make gestures and incantations to cast spells, making it obvious when you’re using magic.
In some settings, spellcasters learn fixed lists of predefined spells. You can easily simulate this in Tricube Tales, by adding some further requirements to those who have taken an arcane perk.
Mages can choose three spells during character creation; these determine how and when they can use their magic.
Each spell needs to have a name and a limitation—e.g., “fiery bolt (destructive),” “lightning shield (personal),” “illusionary disguise (ritualistic),” etc.
You can create more potent spells by giving them additional limitations. This narrows their scope, and the GM should be more flexible when interpreting their effect. Perhaps your “invisibility sphere” is ritualistic and requires a focus, but can be used to conceal the entire party.
New spells are learned during play, at the GM’s discretion—perhaps a wizard can learn from scrolls or spellbooks, or maybe the GM awards sorcerers a new spell each time they gain an advance.
Mounts & Minions
Armored knights frequently ride their loyal steeds into battle, while fearsome necromancers raise undead minions to serve them in combat. These helpers can generally be abstracted away much like gear—either handle them as background flavor, describing their actions as part of your challenge rolls, or treat them as a perk if you would like them to provide a mechanical benefit.
Fantasy settings frequently include non-human races, such as elves and dwarves, just as science fiction settings often have alien species. Even many horror settings include supernatural creatures, such as vampires and werewolves.
In many cases, the race can simply be part of the archetype—for example, an agile elven ranger, or a brawny dwarven soldier, or a crafty gnome illusionist.
Another option is to handle the race as a perk (perhaps an elf can spend one karma to see in pitch darkness or recall ancient elven battle techniques), or even a quirk (maybe the half-orc is treated as an outsider, and has little understanding of human etiquette or culture).
If the GM wants character races to be a more influential part of the game, treat them as a separate option chosen during character creation. In this case, the race can be handled (from a game mechanics perspective) as both a perk and a quirk, depending on the needs of the story.
In a fantasy world, a demigod can easily overpower a normal human. Similarly, a vampire or werewolf in a horror setting would outmatch a mere mortal, a mech pilot would completely outgun regular infantry, and a cosmic superhero could obliterate a street-level superhero.
In most cases, these scenarios can be handled using relative interpretations of success and failure, assigning afflictions appropriate to the character and story. An invulnerable alien superhero might not be harmed by bullets, but ricochets could still kill the innocent bystanders he’d sworn to protect, resulting in a loss of resolve. Running out of resolve would still lead to defeat—perhaps he receives a “humiliation” or “despair” affliction, as the gangsters escape from the shootout, leaving the poor superhero to deal with the angry press and a pile of corpses.
In other cases, a foe might simply be no threat at all. In this case, there is no need to roll, just narrate the outcome.
Sieges & Battles
Sometimes, combat takes place between armies rather than individuals, each side maintaining its own pool of tokens. The PC commander uses crafty challenges to control their forces and eliminate all of the opposing side’s tokens, with the GM assigning a difficulty to attack or defend based on the relative power and tactical advantages of the two armies.
Individual PCs can make a difference in such conflicts, but the risks are great. These heroes can eliminate tokens from the opposing army, but if they fail their defensive challenge rolls, they lose their own resolve tokens.
This approach can also be used for other scenarios, such as a legal battle between two businesses, turf wars between gangs or guilds, cyber warfare between nation states or high-tech organizations, etc.
As always, individuals can contribute their efforts, but the risks will be high.
One quick and easy solution for creating superheroes is to base their concept on their mundane persona and handle their superpowers as perks. Thus you might have an agile journalist with his “spider powers” perk, or some crafty filthy-rich inventor with an “iron power suit” perk. As always, the GM should give narrowly defined perks more impact than broadly defined ones. Overly broad superpowers can also be given limitations in the same way as magic (see “Magic & Psionics”).
If you’ve decided to base your game on a particular movie or book, you can keep things simple by allowing players to base their concept, perk and quirk on a specific superhero. If the player wants to attempt something the superhero can do in the film or comics, then it would fall within the scope of their archetype, and could be further enhanced as a perk. If the character in the film or comics has any notable flaws or foibles, then those can also be used as a quirk.
As with magic, if a superpower is overly broad in scope, then it should be given a limitation. Here are some examples:
Devices: Your abilities are granted by special gadgets or equipment, which can be temporarily disabled or lost.
Grounded: Most superheroes possess some form of airborne locomotion, such as flight, web-slinging, ice slides, super-leaping, etc. But you are limited to using mundane means of travel.
Intimidating: Your abilities manifest in a way that can invoke feelings of fear and dread, terrifying the innocent.
Negation: You can’t use your powers while exposed to a specific substance.
Non-Offensive: Your powers can’t be used to attack someone directly.
Suit-Up: You must change your form or appearance to utilize your powers.
Unreliable: You lack full control over your powers. Whenever you attempt to spend karma on this perk, the GM may introduce a complication instead.
When someone is defeated, they gain an affliction. Should a PC be defeated by a supernatural creature’s infectious bite or claws, the GM can assign an appropriate affliction, such as “lycanthropy,” “zombie virus,” “vampirism,” etc.
Unlike quirks, which are activated by the player, the GM can decide when and how afflictions are used during play. A newly infected werewolf has no control over their transformation or the carnage they cause—but they could later convert their affliction into a quirk, as they learn to control their condition.
Likewise, afflictions give no benefits, but a player can later take supernatural perks such as “preternatural strength” or “rending claws.” If the PC takes a broad perk encompassing a range of abilities, they should also pick a limitation (much like Magic Limitations)—for example, a “werewolf gifts” perk might only apply if the character first shapeshifts into their wolfman form.
If an affliction isn’t permanent, the GM might offer a story-based way to remove it—perhaps slaying the vampire who bit them reverses their condition, or there’s a cure for the zombie virus. Permanent afflictions can also be removed, but this costs permanent karma.
More drastic solutions might also be permitted, such as converting a “zombie virus” affliction into an “amputated leg” quirk (at the usual cost of an advance).
Some conditions offer no benefits at all. While many novels and TV shows depict supernatural creatures as sapient beings, others portray them as mindless beasts driven by rage, instinct, and hunger.
Such infections may take the form of a slow decline—victims of a zombie bite might survive hours or even days before they eventually succumb. The GM could even use future afflictions to represent a character’s gradual transformation.
Whether you’re a pirate captain, a tank driver, a starship commander, a ghostly biker, or a mech pilot, all vehicles can be handled in a similar way.
The easiest approach is to treat them like mundane gear, or as perks if they’re particularly powerful. But if the vehicles are a major part of the setting, they can instead be built like characters.
Vehicles as Characters
Major vehicles start with a concept (but not a trait), a perk and a quirk. They do not have any karma, but they begin with three resolve tokens, and can advance at the GM’s discretion.
The driver (or pilot) makes challenge rolls using their own trait, but they can utilize their vehicle’s concept, perks, and quirks as if they were their own.
Use the “Power Levels” genre rule for combat between vehicles of significantly different strength—such as a starfighter against a dreadnought.