Monday, 2 September 2013

Inspirations: the Sands of Time, part nine

So I spent quite a while last time trying to hammer the ideas I'd had into something functional, and I think it probably is a workable system. But I'm pretty sure there's something slicker out there, and I'd like to give it another go.


Play proceeds around the table in a round, during which each player takes a turn.

Doing stuff

You have three Focus per round, each represented by a d6. Each point of Focus committed to an action allows you to roll one of your Focus dice towards that action. Each die is a separate roll.

Any Focus unused at the end of the round is lost.

Unopposed actions

Unopposed actions are those dependent on your skill, not directed against a sentient opponent. To succeed, you must equal or beat a Difficulty number ranging from 1-6. Actions with Difficulty 1 require effort or time but do not present a challenge to player characters; no die roll is required, and thus no Momentum is generated.

Sample Difficulties:

  • Run to cover ground quickly; Leap onto a table or low wall; Pull yourself onto a ledge or branch; Climb a rope: Diff 1
  • With a short run-up, run a short distance up a wall to reach a ledge; Leap up to a high branch or ledge; Avoid chatting guards on a dark windy night; Walk along a broad beam: Diff 2
  • Run along the side of a wall to the next balcony; Standing-leap a ten-foot gap; Detect approaching guards; Time a run past a scything pendulum; Cannon off a wall; Swing on a chandelier; Avoid a falling tree: Diff 3
  • Reduce damage when falling from a roof; Leap between buildings; Vault over a person; Swing from one tree to another; Run along a narrow beam; Avoid losing balance when injured; Spot a dart trap: Diff 4
  • Sneak up behind an attentive guard; Get a good deal in a market; Ricochet between nearby walls to get up or down; Push over a heavy statue; Break down a door: Diff 5
  • Jump a distance into a small gap; Sneak right past a guard; Pickpocket light items; : Diff 6

Broadly speaking, doing anything either faster or more quietly will increase the Difficulty.

Opposed actions

Opposed actions are directed against a sentient opponent. Each participant rolls whatever dice they allocate, and uses their highest die roll. The winner inflicts Effect equal to the difference in scores. A draw means no Effect is generated.

If the winner is acting purely defensively, they do not inflict Effect.

Characters may hold Focus in reserve to use later in the round if attacked with an Opposed action. Similarly, a character who has not yet acted can commit Focus when engaged with an Opposed action.

Where no Focus has been committed, assign a score of 1.

Modifiers may apply to the die roll, due to special abilities, equipment or circumstaces.


Momentum represents physical and emotional flow, which builds during continuous action and allows you to accomplish increasingly impressive feats. Only player characters and a few NPCs can build Momentum.

Whenever a Focus roll succeeds, the highest die roll can immediately be converted into Momentum, replacing whatever Momentum the character currently has. Note that this is the original unmodified roll.

Momentum can be used to supplement Focus dice when taking actions, as long as the GM judges it appropriate. Any amount from the Momentum pool can be added to a die roll, and the rest retained. Momentum is added once the result of the roll is known.

Momentum is retained from round to round as long as it is not spent. Momentum is usually lost when switching between types of activity, or when a character does not roll any dice during a turn.

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, Momentum may grant 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

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 do not allow Momentum to be generated. In some cases, Opposed actions may be Cold.


Combat is one kind of Opposed action. Effect manifests as hits, which detract from the target's Stamina (see below).

Advantageous circumstances, such as outnumbering an enemy or height, can grant a +1 bonus (including where no Focus has been committed). Disadvantageous circumstaces, such as unstable footing, smoke or darkness, impose a -1 penalty unless the creature is exempt.


As well as engaging in ordinary combat, characters may perform special manoeuvres in the build-up to an attack. Correct use of vulnerabilities makes combat much easier. Non-player characters typically know few or no manoeuvres. Some examples are given below.

Enemies may be Vulnerable to specific versions of manoeuvres, which grants the attacker a +2 bonus on die rolls to perform them. Conversely, some enemies are resistant or immune to particular manoeuvres. Enemies may also have special reactions to certain manoeuvres or actions. For example, an enemy with a shield may brace against a charge, while a werewolf might snap at characters trying to vault over it.

Positioning manoeuvres

These allow a character to catch an opponent off-guard or from a weak angle. Opposed examples include rolling under an attacker's guard, dodging a charge at the last moment to catch someone off-balance, or sneaking up behind an enemy. Using a wall-jump or leaving from a plinth to somersault overhead is Unopposed, but leap-frogging an opponent is Opposed. Unopposed options might include shoving over furniture before an attack, a lengthy charge, or cannoning off a wall to hurl yourself forcefully at an enemy.

A successful use of Positioning manoeuvres allows a character to add Momentum built up from another Mode to their attack roll. Positioning manoeuvres can also allow a character to escape from tight spots. Where appropriate, a Positioning manoeuvre can produce Advantageous circumstances as well as allowing the use of Momentum.

Failure at a Positioning manoeuvre usually means the attempt is simply unsuccessful and no benefit is gained. In a few cases, there may be additional costs. For example, failure to dodge the charge means the opponent gains an advantage in the ensuing fight. Some enemies may have special reactions to particular kinds of failure: the aforementioned werewolf might inflict an automatic hit if you fail to vault over it.

Melée manoeuvres

These involve attacks that aim to gain advantage rather than kill. All such actions are Opposed.

Melée manoeuvres may include feints, trips, shoving with shields, throwing sand in someone's eyes, feigning weakness or striking at non-lethal but painful spots. A successful Melée manoeuvre saps a point of Focus from the target. If they have no remaining Focus this round, they lose a point next turn instead.

Failure at a Melée manoeuvre usually means the attempt is simply unsuccessful and no benefit is gained. In a few cases, there may be additional costs; some enemies can benefit from your failure.


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 usually become helpless and can be destroyed with a coup de grace. 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.

A coup de grace is a Cold action costing one Focus (or Momentum). However,

Player characters typically have ten Stamina. They can regain Stamina during a rest, or when refreshed by certain resources, such as sacred springs. A PC reduced to zero Stamina is unconscious.

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 grant a +1 bonus or -1 penalty when using related actions. Options might include Climb, Jump, Sneak, Flatter, Trip, Feint and whatever else seems appropriate. And of course, they can pick outfits, weapons and all that sort of thing.

So... better? Worse? Equally uninteresting?

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