[Skulduggery] Alternative Refresh

I have been thinking about alternatives to taglines for Refreshment. I love the tone and tenor that taglines might inspire, but I'm looking for a replacement that will make Skulduggery easier to run on the fly. Here is the solution I plan to try. It is an idea inspired by 'Fan Mail' from the game Primetime Adventures.

Refresh. Rather than taglines, characters have ‘Refresh Points’. Refresh Points are obtained from other players during play. The process revolves around an economy of Applause Points that are earned by one player and then awarded to a different player. The receiving player converts the Applause Points to Refresh Points.

Applause Points are collected when a player chooses to stand pat on a Dismal Failure (roll=1) in a challenge or conflict. These Applause Points can then be awarded to another player during play for creative bits of dialogue, inspired narration, or other somesuch. At that point, the receiving player records the [Applause] points received as Refresh Points.

Each Refresh Point can be used to refill a character’s ability pool to its starting value or add +3 to a pool that is already at, near, or exceeds its starting value.

In play, I think this system will support the same thing taglines encourage: clever, in-genre dialogue. In the games I've played, some of the best one-liners were not taglines and certainly deserved 'game-mechanical' recognition. Furthermore, applause reinforces actions and narration--not just dialogue. I imagine that each gaming group will develop its own unwritten standards for 'applause' and reciprocity. This also eliminates the need to develop taglines ahead of play, allowing the game to be played as a pick-up game (using random character creation I also have drafted!). And it creates a nice tension for players between accepting a negative result for their own character, versus gaining a group resource.


  • This reminds of the winning condition for Baron Munchausen - that is, tokens are a way of rewarding another player, not the one who received them.

    I like taglines, but I'd be interested to see how this works out in actual play. It could even work in conjunction with taglines.
  • One factor to look out for: the broader your criteria for creative rewards, the more likely you are to reinforce the group's unspoken power hierarchy, whatever that might be:

  • Noted! A simpler system would be to award a refresh point anytime a player stands fast on a dismal failure. I do like the 'fan mail' approach, whereby 'applause' is turned into refreshes. There are elements of 'applause' that could backfire--players don't get applauded for things they think deserve it; some players get lots of applause while others get little; and this could be due to shy players, poor spotlight management, or elements of power dynamics. I think those dynamics would exist regardless of game or system, and to a large extent require group self awareness and self policing. The benefits of an applause/refresh system is to allow greater ease for pick up games while preserving the element of reinforcing the genre or language style for the setting. I'll update this post once I have some data from actual play. I'll keep my eyes open for the power and spotlight issues mentioned at Robin's blog.
  • There may be some kind of Anglo-Canadian / US division here: in my limited experience, games with a fan mail like element don't function amongst Brits as well as they do amongst Americans. I would like to read how this goes, though.
  • I've been thinking of the same problem. Taglines are funny, but require good prep, and they can be a bit limiting.

    My idea is that there be rewards for players who deliberately take actions which might fail because of 'Resistances'. A player who, for example, who is trying to sneak past a conversation unnoticed and overhears a factual error, and has a Nitpicking pool of 1, who says voluntarily "I think I might have to correct that" and rolls to see if he stops to correct the error, might earn a refresh.

    This could be abused, so I would limit it to voluntary rolls, and to characters with a pool of 1 in that Resistance, or players who roll a dismal failure (whether it is rerolled or not). The GM could always refuse a refresh if he thought that the consequences of the risk taken were too trivial.

    An extra thing I am considering adding to the system is this: I would rename the Resistances 'Temptations' (as they are at one point in the rules' text), and add some 'Resistances' which are different things. Whereas a Temptation would tempt a character into an action against his interests, a Resistance would prevent him from doing something to his advantage.

    Here are my current ideas for possible 'Resistances':

    The character wants to run across to the deck of the ship, dodging musket fire, to the safety of his fellow shipmates. If he stays where he is, the enemy will surely get him. Will he be brave enough? If he fails the Check, he does nothing.

    The character sees that the President has got a suspicious stain on his trousers, and is just about to go in front of the television cameras at the live press conference. Will she be bold enough to dash out into the glare of the lights to avert the disaster? If she fails the contest, she does nothing but cringe and hope.

    The character has to hide in the skin of a dead ox, which is crawling with maggots, or be seen by the patrol...

    The character is in position to blackmail the NPC into doing exactly what he wants, but the potential blackmail victim raises big innocent tear-filled eyes and pleads for mercy and understanding...

    Lawful Abiding
    The character has dented the parked car of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. He could just walk away, but perhaps he should leave a note, but if he leaves a note then they'll find out that he was not in his office, and his plan will start to unravel... In this context, a failure would force an action, so it is a bit like a Temptation. Often this Resistance would stop someone from doing the wrong thing in the first place.

    The character has always believed that people should be punished severely for the crime of fadging. A fadger has been caught, but clearly the best thing to do for the current plan to succeed would be to be lenient, but the character is very set in his ways. A failed roll means that he cannot break the habit of a lifetime.

    Putting a benefit to volunteering for Checks against Resistances and Temptations takes a bit of pressure off the GM, who otherwise is the sole person responsible for keeping track of whether these should come into play.
Sign In or Register to comment.