Thursday, 29 August 2013

Inspirations: the Sands of Time, part eight

Over the course of seven posts, I have discussed: general ideas and issues, possible systems, combat in the game, how to model it in tabletop, a homebrew possibility for handling the combat, dicepools and buffers, and some new options for combat.

At this point, considering this was supposed to be a quick little side-project, that is more than enough.

So here I present a tentative draft system for Time Faffers, based on previous posts plus (inevitably) stuff I thought of while writing this up. While I wasn't consciously inspired by it, I notice certain similarities to Parkour Murder Simulator. Given they're trying to solve some of the same problems, I suppose it makes sense.

Time Faffers: a Roleplaying Game of Jumping On Stuff

Doing stuff


A character's actions are limited by their Focus. PCs have three Focus per round, each represented by one die. These can be committed to Opposed or Unopposed actions. Focus or Momentum (see below) committed to an Opposed action must be declared beforehand; for Unopposed actions, further dice can be added after each roll if desired.

Opposed actions

Opposed actions are those directed against a sentient opponent, such as combat, misdirection, stealth or barter.

Each point of Focus committed to an Opposed action grants a d6 roll towards that action. Each roll is separate, and you use the highest roll. The opponent rolls any dice they have previously committed to a suitable defence, or a d3 if none.

If you exceed the target's score you inflict Effect equal to the difference in scores. If the Effect is greater than necessary to accomplish your goal, you can attempt to convert it into Momentum. If you roll equal to or less than the spare Effect on a d6, you gain one Momentum die.

Each additional roll of 6 (critical) mean you inflict a point of Effect regardless of score. Each additional roll of 1 (fumble) means you suffer a point of Effect regardless of score.

In the case of combat, Effect is Stamina damage. In non-combat situations it is more nebulous, including things such as slipping past a guard, winning concessions, social embarrassment, leaving clues while sneaking about, dropping items, or getting into a tricky situation without immediate physical harm.

Unopposed actions

Each point of Focus committed to an Unopposed action is one d6. The results are cumulative (4 + 3 = 7, and so on). An action has a fixed Difficulty which must be beaten to succeed. If you exceed the Difficulty, you convert any Focus spent into Momentum dice (or possibly the last Focus). If you fail, and do not spend more dice, the Focus is lost.

In a handful of cases, the action may have a difficulty of zero. This covers things like running to build up speed for a jump.

Cold actions

Some actions don't lend themselves to building up momentum, but demand the character's time and energy. This might include such things as heaving trapdoors open, squeezing through narrow spaces, bearing heavy burdens, picking up spilled coins or tying ropes. Such actions may have a fixed Focus cost (with no die roll or Difficulty), or may call for a die roll but not allow Momentum to be generated. In some cases, Opposed actions may be Cold.


Momentum represents physical and emotional flow, which builds during continuous action and allows you to accomplish increasingly impressive feats.

Momentum dice can be used to supplement Focus dice when taking actions, as long as the GM judges it appropriate. They can be used to initiate actions just like Focus dice, as long as the player has no remaining Focus dice.

Momentum dice are retained from round to round as long as they are not spent. Momentum spent to initiate or accomplish a task is lost, though Focus spent on the same task can be converted to Momentum dice. Momentum is usually lost when switching between types of activity, or when a character does not roll any dice during a turn.

Predicted actions

As combat and other opposed actions can occur during someone else's turn, how do you defend yourself? Well, you can commit Focus the turn before from your pool. For example, a character might commit Focus to self-defence, keeping watch, bracing for impact or resisting blandishments. Such dice apply to every such event until your next round (within the bounds of reason)

Similarly, you can Ready an action to occur in response to an event, spending Focus as normal.

Example: Self-Defence

Vodor runs and scrambles over a wall, only to find herself surrounded by giant wasps and out of Focus. In the ensuing round, she can barely protect herself from the wasps, rolling 1d3 against each and taking some damage. In the next round, rather than attack, she commits two dice to defence and the third to an attempt to escape. This allows her to roll 2d6 for defence (though she won't inflict any damage unless some 1s get rolled) while she tries to get out of there.

Modes of play

In Time Faffers, there are several broad types of play that may be occurring. These include:

  • Parkour
  • Combat
  • Stealth
  • Social

While they play largely the same, Momentum cannot generally be transferred between them. For example, if you build Momentum whilst swinging and leaping your way across a ruined walkway, you cannot use that Momentum to befriend a guard at the far end.

If the GM feels it is appropriate, some or all Momentum may be burned as a one-time bonus when switching between Modes; depending on the result of the next roll, new Momentum may be generated. For example:

  • a particularly dramatic round of combat might help intimidate or impress an NPC
  • a highly successful piece of oration may distract NPCs long enough to get the drop on them
  • skilled sneaking may leave enemies vulnerable to attack, or let you take control of a social situation
  • acrobatic feats may provide a dramatic entrance, surprise monsters, or help you get into cover quickly


Combat is an Opposed action.


As well as engaging in ordinary combat, characters may perform manoeuvres to attack in various more specific ways.

Action manoeuvres

These are actions in and of themselves.

  • Vault - run up and over an object or enemy to escape or to improve your positioning.

Follow-up manoeuvres

These require an appropriate setup, typically via an Unopposed action.

  • Charge - rush in with great force after a run-up, leap or cannon.
  • Backstab - strike a vulnerable spot, typically following a sneak up, duck-and-roll, overhead flip or feint

Attack manoeuvres

These are forms of attack, performed instead of an ordinary attack.

  • Hamstring - slows some enemies down (reduce speed), by targeting vulnerable but non-lethal spots
  • Feint - doesn't inflict damage, but can expose enemies (subtract Focus) and build combat Momentum
  • Unbalance - trip, shove or smack with a shield, this doesn't inflict damage, but can hamper enemies (subtract Focus) and build combat Momentum
  • Disarm - reduces some enemies' ability to fight (reduced die size)

Enemies may be Vulnerable to specific manoeuvres, which grants the attacker a +1 bonus on die rolls - importantly, this means you cannot roll a fumble, while a roll of 5+ counts as a critical. Correct use of vulnerabilities makes combat much easier.

Enemies may also have special reactions to certain manoeuvres or actions. For example, an enemy with a spear or shield may brace against a charge, while a werewolf might snap at characters trying to vault over it.

Example: Cannoning Attack

Surrounded by shadow-beings, Lyris rushes at a wall, runs up a few steps and launches herself back towards a startled shadow with enormous force, allowing her to make a Charge attack.

Her player rolls 1d6 against a Difficulty of 3 to perform the manoeuvre, and rolls a 2. Not wanting to fumble this, they add another die and roll 6 for a total of 8. Lyris now has two Momentum dice. As it turns out, the shadow-being is vulnerable to Strong attacks, granting a +1 bonus to rolls.

The third point of Focus is committed to the attack, along with both Momentum dice, granting a roll of three d6s +1. The shadow-being rolls 1d6 to defend itself. It rolls a 3, while Lyris' player rolls a 2, a 4 and an 6, for an overall 7. Lyris inflicts four hits, obliterating the three-Stamina monster, and can roll 1d6 to convert the spare Effect into Momentum. Unfortunately, she rolls a 3. Her turn is over and she is out of Momentum.

Example: Parkour

Red Morris is out a-burgling in the slums when a rival gang spot him. The chase is on!

Morris spends one Focus to run straight at a wall and up it, allowing him to spend another grabbing the top and swinging over. Each of these actions nets him one Momentum die. Eager to get away quickly, he spends the third Focus point to leap from the wall onto a nearby rooftop, but rolls badly and needs to spend a Momentum dice to make the jump - he loses it, but converts the Focus into Momentum, leaving him with two Momentum dice and no Focus.

At this point Morris has the choice of ending his turn and retaining the Momentum as security for next turn, or pushing on with Momentum alone. Without Focus to produce Momentum, he won't be able to build up to more challenging feats.

However, a few of the gang are still hot on his heels, so he decides to run for the girder that leads to the next building. It's a tricky balancing act, and though he makes it across, he's lost the momentum built up earlier on, and will start cold next turn.


Enemies typically have between one and three Stamina, which determines how many hits they can take. Mortal enemies die or are disabled when they take enough hits, while supernatural ones are usually helpless and need a coup de grace to destroy them. A coup de grace is a Cold action costing one Focus (or Momentum). However, after a short time helpless, supernatural enemies may become active again with a single point of Stamina. Some monsters may guard their fallen against coups de grace.

Player characters typically have ten Stamina. They can regain Stamina during a rest, or when refreshed by certain resources, such as sacred springs.

Non-combat injuries

Some activities, such as leaping chasms and rushing through sawblade traps, are inherently dangerous. If the Unopposed checks for such actions are failed even once any additional dice are committed, Stamina is lost. Typically a fall costs one Stamina per ten feet, while traps inflict between 1d3 and 2d6 damage. In some cases, a secondary action from the PC or a nearby ally may mitigate or avoid the damage; for example, a PC can attempt to grap a falling ally and haul them back to the ledge.


I don't think my ideas here have changed since part four.

PCs possess certain artefacts (or innate powers) that absorb mystical energies. When discharged, the energies allow them to rewind time slightly, in order to change their future.

Use of time-faffing is divided into Minor charges and Major charges. Five Minor charges equal a Major charge. An artefact can hold one Major charge.

A Minor charge represents a second or two of rewinding, and can be used in two ways.

Firstly, they can retry a failed action with the knowledge of that failure. This allows the user to reroll a single die for their own actions with a +1 bonus. As they do not know what will happen if they act differently, there is still a chance of failure.

Alternatively, they can modify a single die roll (other than their own) directly affecting them, setting it either to maximum or minimum. This represents reacting to events they foresee, since the events will happen exactly as they did last time.

Note that players may wait until fallout from a roll has been calculated (for example, damage taken from a trap or inflicted by their attacks) before deciding to use a charge.

A Major charge allows a much more extensive rewinding of time, which generally covers a minute or less. Simply, the use of a major charge allows a substantial revision of what has occurred, negotiated between player and GM. The party may have taken a different fork in the passageway, anticipated the ambush, or rushed over to rescue an ally rather than engaging an enemy. Return to the point where the change occurred, and proceed from there, making a reasonable guess at what would have changed mechanically.

Using a charge does not require Focus, and any number of charges can be used in a round. Players may reroll the same die repeatedly if they wish.

Artefacts typically recharge by absorbing energy from supernatural monsters, or from mortals affected by magic, when making a coup de grace. A single enemy typically provides a Minor charge.


Assuming that anyone wants to customise their characters mechanically, this could be done by allowing them to select a small number of strengths and weaknesses relating to actions. These would increase or decrease the die size respectively when using related actions.

Options might include Climb, Jump, Sneak, and whatever else seems appropriate. And of course, they can pick outfits, weapons and all that sort of thing.

Well, I think that's something approaching a workable system? But I'm sure I've left something out, or some egregious nonsense left over between revisions... do let me know.

One thing I am still turning over is whether to keep the current assumed round structure (one at a time), or split the turn into several rounds, with each character doing one thing at a time. The latter would actually help keep combat simple, because rather than having attack and defence separately, there'd just be a single combat to which both characters can commit dice. In that model, you'd typically each spend one Focus at a time, but could potentially spend two or three on a single action and then sit out the other rounds.

I'm also aware that enemies and abilities are massively underspecified, and the manoeuvres need some work. Exactly what work is another question.

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