Someone asked about extended actions and how they were revised. So here we are.
I actually always liked the extended action rules, but I also think that you should only use them if it’s necessary to know how long something takes or (better yet) the characters are under the gun. I like these revisions because they clean up the exceptional success rules for extended actions, which were always a little hinky.
As always, comment if you love them, email Rich if you don’t. (I’m kidding.)
Extended actions represent efforts to complete complex tasks. There’s a process, a progression, then the task is complete. These rules replace the extended action rules in the World of Darkness Rulebook.
Each roll in an extended action reflects a step in the process. Something changes. Either your character progresses or she faces a setback.
Determine the Dice Pool
As with any action, first determine the dice pool as Attribute + Skill + Equipment. Situational modifiers apply and may change from roll to roll as the story unfolds. The unmodified Attribute + Skill + Specialty (if any) determines the maximum number of dice rolls allowed before the action fails. Players may roll the number of dice in their pool up to the number of dice rolls allowed as they attempt to succeed.
Example: Sammy’s car has broken down out on a lonely road, but Sammy manages to get it to limp to a service station before it dies completely. No one is around, but the place seems to be pretty well maintained. Figuring the local mechanic is just out, Sammy waits … but no one comes. As night begins to fall, Sammy figures he’d better just fix the damn thing himself so he can stay ahead of the things chasing him.
The Storyteller sets the repair roll as Wits + Crafts. Sammy has Wits 2, Crafts 4 and a Specialty in Auto Repair, which applies. Altogether, the player has seven dice in the unmodified pool, so she can roll seven times.
Determine Target Successes and Time
Next, the Storyteller determines the required successes and the time between rolls.
Most actions require between five and twenty successes for completion. Five successes reflects a reasonable action that most competent characters can complete given the right tools and knowledge (replacing the brakes on a car, for example). Ten represents a difficult action, but one realistic for a professional in the field (writing a robust and popular academic thesis). Twenty successes represents a very difficult action that requires a strong showing even for a very skilled character (preparing a violin solo worthy of a world-class performance). With creative endeavors, players may choose their own target successes, to reflect different degrees of effort and accomplishment.
When determining the time between rolls, a Storyteller should rely on common sense and logic. Would something take weeks? Consider one roll per week. Could a person realistically accomplish the task in a day? An hour per roll makes for a solid timeframe.
Characters must be dedicated to the task during this time. Unless there’s a good reason (brain surgery, for example), characters may take breaks or handle other minor tasks in the meantime. With most tasks, it’s possible to step aside and continue progress later. Any rolls requiring a day or more assume the character sleeps normally.
Example: The Storyteller decides that each roll requires a half hour; Sammy’s player needs to accumulate seven successes. Normally this wouldn’t be a big problem given Sammy’s dice pool, but sunset is in two hours and Sammy wants to be gone by then. The player really only has four rolls.
Each successful roll adds to the running total, bringing the task closer to completion. Consider what changes, and what steps the character has made toward the accomplishment. Make each roll palpable.
Example: Sammy’s player makes the first roll and generates one success. That’s better than nothing, but it does make the player a little nervous. The Storyteller describes Sammy digging around under the hood to diagnose the problem and then turning around to the unfamiliar garage, looking for the right parts as the shadows lengthen.
When you fail a roll, the Storyteller presents a choice: either take a Condition (of her choice) or abandon the action. The player can offer up a different suggestion as to what the Condition should be or how it should affect the character (see Conditions, p. XX), but the choice after a failed roll in an extended action is always accept the Condition and continue, or refuse the Condition and lose all accumulated successes.
Example: Sammy’s player rolls again and this time fails. The Storyteller suggests that Sammy is Frustrated by this outcome. The player can either agree that Sammy is Frustrated (taking Frustrated as a Condition and working with the Storyteller to quickly determine what this Condition means in game terms), or refuse and start over. The player, wanting to get a Beat out of the Condition (see Beats, p. XX), agrees that Sammy is Frustrated and continues. The player has one success toward the required seven.
If you roll an exceptional success at any point during the process, you have three options: You can subtract the dots your character has in the relevant Skill from the total required (which might mean you accomplish the goal right then and there), you can reduce the time on each roll by one quarter, or you can apply the “exceptional success” result when your character does complete the goal (many of the “Roll Results” descriptions in various World of Darkness books describe an extra bonus for finishing an extended action with an exceptional success; this option allows the player to choose to apply it if appropriate).
Example: On the third roll, Sammy’s player rolls five successes. This is an exceptional success, so the player has three choices: She can subtract Sammy’s Crafts rating from the required total, she can reduce the time for each roll by 25%, or she can apply a special bonus to the action if she completes it in time.
The player considers her options. The time reduction isn’t really that helpful in this situation. It would reduce each roll from 30 minutes to 22.5 minutes, not really saving a great deal of time. If she chooses to reduce the total number of successes, it falls from 7 to 3 (7 – Crafts rating (4) = 3), which would mean that the work is done and Sammy can leave (as the player has accumulated six successes with the five successes from this turn). The Storyteller suggests that a bonus might be to apply the Souped Up Condition to the car, giving it a bonus on Speed that Sammy can activate when necessary. Given how the chronicle has gone so far, and that the player still has one more roll to make before the sun sets, she takes that option. Sammy still has a little more work to do (one more success).
Dramatic failures go a step further than normal failures; your character fails the action and receives a Condition. As well, the first roll on a further attempt suffers a –2 penalty.
Example: Sammy’s player has one more roll until sunset (note: the player could actually make four more rolls, for a total of seven, equal to the dice pool, but this situation has extenuating circumstances). The player rolls…and fails. Since Sammy will be stuck here past sunset no matter what the player does, she opts to have this failure count as a dramatic failure (see p. XX), gain a Beat for her trouble, and hope that the other characters arrive before whatever is chasing Sammy does. If Sammy tries to fix this car again, the player will suffer a –2 on the first roll.
So what happens if a character accumulates most of the successes required for the extended action but has to stop due to running out of time or reaching the maximum number of rolls? All of the work the character did doesn’t just vanish, after all.
That’s true, insofar as it goes. Once the character has reached the maximum allowable rolls for a given extended action, however, he has exhausted the limits of his talent in the area. He can come back to it once his dice pool changes — if the player buys up the relevant Skill or Attribute or buys a new Specialty, the character can pick up where he left off (but he only gets one more roll unless the player changes the dice pool by more than one die).
If the character had to abandon the project before the maximum number of rolls was reached, however, he can come back to it and continue making the rolls until he reaches that limit, provided that it’s the kind of project that will “keep.” A character could continue working on a novel for years, but making a soufflé is probably a one-attempt project.
If the player has accumulated less than 25% of the total required successes (round down), the successes are lost. The character just didn’t get a good enough start on the project.
If the player accumulated at least 50% of the total required successes (round down), the player can add a +2 bonus to the first roll of the extended action if the character attempts it again within the same chapter.
If the player accumulated 75% or more of the total required successes (round down), the player can add a +4 bonus to the first roll of the extended action, if the character attempts it again within the same story.
If the player rolled an exceptional success during the process and opted for the “end bonus” option, that option remains even if the character comes back to the action later.
Example: Sammy ultimately failed the action, but he did so with six out of seven successes. If he tries to fix that car again any time during this story, he’ll receive a net bonus of +2 on the first roll (+4 for the progress he made, –2 for the dramatic failure at the end). Also, if he completes it, he’ll keep the Souped Up Condition on the car. Since he only made four rolls on the initial project, he can make three more to finish this project. He only needs one more success — that should be plenty.