SUPER ACTION NOW!
A CRAZY-ASS ROLEPLAYING GAME
third draft (2/18/08)
This game, at least at this stage, is free. You may not sell this game. You may make a zillion copies of this game for any non-commercial use. You may not distribute copies of this game without including this information and the indication of authorship. You may modify or create variant versions of this game, as long as you indicate that it has been modified from its original version, you credit the author, and you provide a link to or a copy of the original game. All other rights reserved by the author.
Contact the author at marksman45 [at] gmail.com.
SUPER ACTION INTRODUCTION!
Super Action Now! is a crazy-ass roleplaying game. That’s “game” in the sense of a structured activity engaged in for diversion or amusement, “roleplaying” in the sense of the players taking on the roles of fictional characters, and “crazy-ass” in the sense of absurd, surreal, humorous, whacky, farcical, and preposterous. To say it flatly, this is a game about funny. You wanna do Loony Tunes? We gotcha right here. You wanna do a farce like Top Secret or Naked Gun? Guess what, we gotcha right here. Slapstick? Oh yeah. Screwball, madcap, and/or absurdist? You betcha.
The game is
set on and around a world called Super Action Planet!. Super Action Planet! is a world with
While you’re not forced to go to all those places, don’t get the idea that this game doesn’t have a specific setting; the setting is quite specific: Super Action Planet! It’s a setting with everything, which is completely different from a neutral setting (because I said so). Knights, gunslingers, badass biker dudes, the son of Sasquatch, car salesmen, nomadic barbarian warriors, forty-five kinds of space aliens, inter-dimensional beings, lions, tigers, and chain-smoking, gun-toting bears, oh my. It’s all there.
what, this also means that the characters can be anything you want them to be.
They don’t even have to match. In
fact, I’d go so far as to say that if the characters do match, you’re not playing it right. How do you reconcile such wildly different
people and places? You don’t. That’s not the way this game works. So what happens when you drop an Arthurian
knight in the middle of
Is it realistic? Ha ha, yeah right. This game makes no attempt toward realism whatsoever, so don’t expect mechanics for accurately modeling the functions of guns, cars, or swords. Or fire extinguishers, water pistols, chewing gum, fish, and trombones, for that matter. “Realistic” is not funny. But you know what? The game does have versatile mechanics that allow dealing with all of the things I mentioned and anything else you can come up with in a simple, easily-comprehended manner that will reward your imaginative effort and will not get in the way of the funny.
Is it heavy on planning? Not at all. In fact, it’s 100% improvisation. You can play it on half a second’s notice just as easily as on a week’s notice. It’s also 100% collaboration; all the players have equal power over the gameworld. There is no Game Master to set up hoops and tell you to jump through ‘em. Nope, you can put hoops wherever the hell you want and whenever the hell you want, light ‘em on fire, jump through ‘em while riding a dolphin, throw someone else through ‘em, and/or put ‘em around your waist and hula your heart out.
Does it go on forever? Hell no. Forever is not funny. Generally, you can play through a full scenario and come to a more-or-less logical end in a two or three hours. Then, next time you play, you can start from scratch all over again, with new characters, a new situation, and all-new funny.
Is it balanced? I’ll balance your face. If this game turns out to be fair or balanced in any way, you’re probably playing it wrong. Think about it: is “fair” funny? Of course not. Which brings me to the key ingredient in this game: competition.
The game uses competition between players, and also between player characters (optionally, although it’s harder to do without it), as an engine for creating funny situations. Now, before you go getting your shorts up your nose, bear with me a second. When I say competition, I don’t mean winning and losing; if winning or losing happens in this game, it’s for all of half a second and then everyone forgets about it. No, what I mean by competition is bringing the adversity. Think about it: is it funny when a fictional character is having a perfect day? Of course not. Something goes wrong, and it’s the character’s reactions to and interactions with that adversity that are funny. In this game, that adversity comes from the other players. Basically, you must act as if you want to drive the other players into the ground, but ultimately not care whether they’re in the ground, on the ground, or in frickin’ orbit—or whether you are in the ground, on the ground, or in frickin’ orbit. All that matters is the funny.
So, and this is important, you must be ready to BRING IT! You must be committed to ceaselessly one-upping the other players. You must be willing to hose them ruthlessly, and also willing to accept being hosed yourself. Learn to say “yes.” Or at least “yes, but…” This isn’t just a suggestion or a guideline; this a rule. Call it the BRING IT! Rule if you like.
“But, but, competition isn’t conducive to cooperative play, and not everybody wants to compete.” YOU are*. “What?” You heard me. Look, if it’s still bugging you, think about it this way: it’s not the sort of competition where you punch people in the nose and feel good about yourself for doing it. Erm, well, actually it is, but you do it while wearing huge, foam rubber gloves. And then you both laugh.
*If your response to this is, “Like a FOX!” then this game is made for you.
WHAT YOU NEED TO PLAY!
Aside from this document, all you need is some paper, some writing utensils, and a bunch of dice. You need D6s, D8s, D12s, and D20s, or at least one of each. But it’ll be best if you have a ton of them, because you’ll be rolling a lot of dice. I mean a lot of dice. LOADS. Sure, if you have to roll 5D20, you can roll a single D20 five times, and, due to the simplicity of the dice mechanic, it would be easy to keep track of how good the roll is, but it’ll slow things up a bit. Plus it’s just plain fun to roll two hands full of dice all at once.
A recommended but not essential accoutrement is a copious quantity of poker chips (or glass beads or whatever) in two discernible colors to keep track of the resources quickly, easily, and without excessive book-keeping (book-keeping is not funny). I also recommend keeping these in a tray in the center of the table, within reach of all players. I’ll tell you why when we get to Drive Points and ¡TILT! points.
How many players? Well, so far it’s only been tested with groups of three, but I’m confident that it will work for any amount between 2 and 5, or maybe even beyond that.
SUPER ACTION CHARACTER MODEL!
Characters are incredibly important. They are the player’s point of intersection with the game world (hereafter known as the Action); it is through the characters that the player interacts with the Action. And the Action is, of course, highly important. You can tell because I capitalized it.
The first part of the character is the Identity. This is just two sentences: “Hi, my name is [blank]” and “I am a [blank].” It’s what the character is named, and what the character IS (you want examples? Go read the intro again. I don’t wanna repeat it). The name has no impact on anything (maybe; there could conceivably be a situation where having the name, say, Earnest could create a zany mixup), but what the character IS can be very important when it comes to Endowments (see the chapter on ¡TILT!).
The Drive is whatever desire, passion, duty, fear, hunger, hope, faith, or whatever drives the character to action. It is presented in the form of a sentence, thus: “I am Driven by/to [blank].”
Every time something crops up in play that triggers a character’s Drive, the character gets Drive Points. Think of them as fuel for the character. It is by spending them that the character powers abilities and copes with inconvenience like being hit on the head with a hammer, blown up, and/or covered in superglue, etc. Basically, what hit points, magic points, ammunition, endurance, sanity, et cetera do in other RPGs, Drive Points do in Super Action Now!
There’s three general categories of Drives: short-term, long-term, and infinite. Here’s some examples:
“Hi, my name is Joe Fixit. I’m the world’s toughest handyman. I am Driven to fix Mrs. Goldberg’s toilet.”
This sort of Drive is a specific, finite goal that can be concluded in a relatively short amount of time. Drives of this sort are triggered when the goal is completed.
“Hi, my name is R-457F0. I am an android. I am Driven by my anomalous desire to be a real boy.”
This sort of Drive entails a specific, finite goal, but it’s a goal that would take a long time to attain, if it indeed ever could. Drives of this sort are triggered every time a goal is attained that advances the character along the path of reaching the big goal.
“Hi, my name is Chainsaw the Angry Bear. I’m the avenger of the American wilds. I am Driven by rage and vengeance toward poachers, litterers, and other defilers of nature.”
This sort of Drive is very broad in its application. Chainsaw’s Drive would be triggered everytime he took down a poacher, litterer, or other defiler of nature, much like a Short Term Drive—or, if said defiler was hard to get to (say, the CEO of a mega-corporation) and taking him down would be a lengthy undertaking, the Drive would be triggered every time Chainsaw accomplished something that brought him closer to his confrontation with said CEO (learning the location of his mansion, beating up the security robot guarding the mansion, blowing up the mansion with plastic explosives, etc.), much like a Long Term Drive.
Whatever sort of Drive it is, every time it is triggered the character gets Drive Points. How many is up to the group as a whole; you may wish to set an amount based on how difficult the Drive is to trigger, or based on how closely a given accomplishment is related to a given Drive, or you could roll for it.
Every time a Drive is triggered, you also have the option to change your Drive. This is especially important with Short Term Drives. You can also change a Drive at any time by sacrificing all of your Drive Points, as long as you have 5 or more.
What’s Up With Drive Points
Drive Points exist for one and only one reason: to make sure that the PCs are more than their player’s pawns, at least every once in a while. If you aren’t considering your character’s motivations when you decide what they do, your character will run out of Drive Points and break down under the slightest Inconvenience.
The Knack is a single, ridiculously specific task over which the character has utmost mastery. When using the Knack, there is exactly a 1% chance of failure (roll a d10 twice; if both come up 1, it failed).
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Since it only fails 1% of the time, won’t people try to use it as much as possible?” You betcha. That’s exactly the point—see, it’s so specific that in order to actually get any use out of it, the player’s gonna have to do some serious creative thinking and manipulation of the Action.
“I have a knack for making sourdough biscuits from scratch.”
“I have a knack for juggling three chainsaws.”
“I have a knack for driving taxis through crowded streets at high speed.”
“I have a knack for avoiding physical labor.”
The Shortcoming is the evil opposite of the Knack: it’s something that the character will only succeed at 1% of the time. However, it doesn’t have to be specific; it can be as broad as you want it to be. “Why would I make it something broad? Wouldn’t that cause problems for my character?” You betcha. And I’ll also betcha that said problems will be funny.
“My shortcoming is operating technology.”
“My shortcoming is understanding foreign accents.”
“My shortcoming is keeping my temper in check.”
Traits are just what they sound like: various properties that describe the character. The Traits are the character’s primary source of effectiveness—that is, Traits decide more than anything else how often a character succeeds in doing things.
There are five general Traits that all characters have: Brawn, Brains, Finesse, Personality, and Talent. These are the “raw” Traits. Within each of these general areas, characters can also have more specific Traits. For instance, a character could have a “Good at arm wrestling” Trait under Brawn, or a “Quantum physics” Trait under Brains. All Traits have a magnitude ranked from 1 to 5 that represents how prevalent the Trait is; this is how many dice they get to roll when using that Trait. They also have a die size that depends on how specific the Trait is. The five base Traits are all D6s; any Traits more specific than them have larger dice, either D8s, D12s, or D20s. The more specific, the bigger the die size that should be used. In other words, there’s a trade-off between effectiveness and applicability. For no good reason other than to keep you on your toes.
No matter what the task at hand, there will always be at least 1 Trait that applies to it, due to the way the raw Traits are structured. Brawn covers everything requiring strength, endurance, vitality, and physical conditioning. Brains covers intelligence, acuity, knowledge, caginess, and perception. Finesse covers dexterity, speed, agility, grace, balance, and accuracy. Personality covers charm, moxie, influence, rhetoric, quirks, and emotions. Talent covers artistry, luck, and magic.
While I’m at it, the distinction between a Trait and a skill should be made: Traits can include skills, but only insofar as the dice value indicates the character’s ability to solve problems through the skill in question. Which is to say, it’s not necessarily how good you are at operating a stapler, but how well you are able to solve problems and win conflicts by using a stapler. See what I mean? No? Darnit, okay, look at it this way: let’s say you’ve got the Trait “I’m the fastest stapler in the West” at 2d20, and some other guy has “I staple really fast” at 5d20. Is he faster at stapling than you? NO; you’re still the fastest stapler in the West. That other guy is simply better able to solve problems by utilizing his fast-stapling skills.
Powers are special abilities such as superhero powers, magic spells, cool martial arts moves, and such. Like Traits, they have effectiveness ranging from 1d6 to 5d20, but they also have a Drive Cost between 1 and 10, depending on their level of power and versatility. That is, the higher the effectiveness, the higher the cost should be; the lower the versatility, the lower the cost should be.
Swag is the general term for items, equipment, cash, and other material resources. See the chapter about Swag for more about this.
Inconvenience is a general term for negative effects inflicted on the character. Injury, pain, shame, mutation, being covered in sticky brown goo, even death: all of these things would classify as Inconvenience. Inconvenience can prevent certain activities, including the application of some Traits or Powers, any time the Inconvenience would reasonably be, erm, inconvenient. But it can be temporarily Ignored (for the duration of your action) for 1 Drive Point for every 5 points of Inconvenience. It is the responsibility of opponent players’ to point out when a character’s Inconvenience applies—watch ‘em like a hawk, and remember to BRING IT!
For more about Inconvenience, check out the chapter about the Action.
Player characters may each have a single GOTCHA! This is a secret factor that might be unknowingly activated by other players to their detriment and the first character’s advantage. GOTCHA!s are the only aspect of a character that may be kept secret from other players (all else must be revealed and available for perusal during play), until it has been activated, at which point it becomes public for the rest of the game. It’s best to write this on a separate sheet of paper from the rest of your character’s stuff.
If you activate your GOTCHA!, you have to say “GOTCHA!” when you do it, and reveal its effect to everyone. If you didn’t say “GOTCHA!” then it doesn’t count, and you’ve gone and revealed it to everyone for nothing.
Should your game extend over more than one session, you may make a new GOTCHA! at the beginning of the next session.
“GOTCHA! If I get wet, I grow gills and develop superhuman strength (5d20) until I am dry again!”
“GOTCHA! I am impervious to bullets and reflect them at my aggressors!”
“GOTCHA! My blood is corrosive (2d12)!”
“GOTCHA! My Amulet of Undying brings me back from the dead, even stronger than before (Drive Points +20)!”
Most non-player characters only have Traits; they don’t get Drives, GOTCHA!s, or Powers. However, there may be occasions when you want an NPC to be important (such as a villainous mastermind or somesuch). In such a case, it might be a good idea to give them Drives and Powers.
Monsters are NPCs too, by the way. In fact, inanimate objects are NPCs if they are Endowed or Twisted (see the ¡TILT! chapter) to have interests against a character.
SUPER ACTION erm, ACTION!
Action is the plane of in-game world events, where all character activities take place.
Time in the Action is divided into Scenes, and further into Turns. A new Scene starts every time there is a break in temporal continuity (time lapse), or every time the gameplay cuts from one location to another. A Turn is the time in which a single player narrates the actions of a single character under their control (either their own PC or an NPC that is not in conflict with their own PC). The Turn ends after any dice come into play and their impact is resolved, or the player declares that they end their turn. Then the next player (in a clockwise rotation) takes their Turn. The character’s activities are considered to have “happened” in terms of the Rule of Inviolable History (see below) once the next player begins their Turn, so while it’s still your Turn you have time to say, “Oh, no, wait, I don’t want to do that, I want to do this instead,” and other players have time to use the CHANGE! power (see the ¡TILT! chapter).
player characters are in different locations, like, say, Ted’s PC Emperor
Marcus Jimbo III is in Rome while Miranda’s PC Terry Tarantula has been exiled
to the moon, you don’t switch from Rome to the Moon when it’s Miranda’s turn;
Miranda simply uses her Turn to control an NPC in Rome. Once the
How do you decide when to cut from one player’s scene to the next? Well, first off, don’t be a jackass about it. If one scene has resolved, go ahead and start the scene involving the other player’s character. If everyone’s in different places, then just have the scenes progress in turn around the table.
I suppose that it’s feasible that you could run two different scenes simultaneously in this game, but it’d be pretty difficult, far moreso than in other games; scenes in this game tend to involve a lot of different, weird, crazy things to keep track of.
How do you decide a scene is resolved? Think of resolution in plot terms, as in Exposition (see Scene Framing below) – Conflict – Escalation – Climax – Resolution. Such-and-such crisis is averted, or so-and-so opponent is defeated, or such-and-such valuable important item has been successfully acquired, or whatever climax is over, and its after-effects have been described. Basically, if nothing interesting is happening, the scene is resolved.
Oh, and another thing about taking turns: uh, look, you’re gonna lose track of whose turn it is. It just happens when you’re laughing your collective heads off. But don’t worry about it; that’s how you’ll know that you’re playing the game right.
Before a new Scene begins, there is at least one round of Scene Framing. This is the process by which the players determine where the Scene takes place, what’s going on there, what characters are involved, and what objects are in the immediate vicinity. This is how it works: one at a time, in turn, the players suggest a fact, event, character, object, or qualification (never negation or contradiction) of a previous suggestion to be incorporated into the Scene. These suggestions need not be “plausible”—remember, everything you can think of is there on Super Action Planet! and in as close proximity as you want it to be. After each player has made a suggestion, they decide (by vote, if necessary) whether to do another round of suggestions. If not, then the suggestions become set-in-stone for the purposes of the Rule of Inviolable History (see below) and the Scene begins.
Scene Framing can go on for as long as you like, but don’t draw it out too much; this is Super Action NOW!, not Super Action Thirty Minutes from Now! Just flesh it out enough to know what’s going on and jump in.
An optional rule, good for keeping the craziness up: Scene Suggestions from a Hat! Prior to play (or, hell, during play would work too) have the players write down possible Scene Framing suggestions and put them into a hat. Grab people who aren’t involved in the game and make them do it too. Then, during Scene Framing, give the option of coming up with a suggestion yourself or pulling one out of the hat, or give the hat its own turn during the Scene Framing process, drawing a suggestion from it after all players have made their own suggestions.
Note that it’s a good idea to give Traits complete with dice values to things that you come up with during Scene Framing (or on Scene Suggestions from a Hat) to keep things moving during the scenes themselves.
Too Many Cooks?
Does having every player contribute a scene element at a time in turn tend to create a “too many cooks” effect? You betcha, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for.
THE RULE OF INVIOLABLE HISTORY!
Everything that happens stays happened. Established facts stay established. You can’t negate anything that’s already there. It’s there, and now you have to deal with it. You can respond to it in any manner of your choosing, but you can’t rewrite history. Get over it.
(Okay, there is one tiny li’l exception to this rule. You’ll find it in the ¡TILT! chapter.)
CLASH OF INTERESTS AND RESOLUTION THEREOF!
During your Turn, if you narrate your character doing something (or, more accurately, intending to something; nothing has technically happened yet until your Turn is over) that would clash with the interests of another character (player character or NPC—and remember, inanimate objects can be NPCs too), one of the other players may call for Resolution to see which character gets its way (remember, you’ve gotta BRING IT!).
Resolution works like this:
So what’s a Successful Roll? Easy. Any die that comes up 5 or higher is a Successful Roll. On a D6, the odds of this are about 33%. On a D20, it’s 80%.
Stating your goal is very important, especially in combat situations (are you trying to kill your opponent? Just maim them? Intimidate them with a show of arms? Or what?), because it helps to determine the manner of Inconvenience inflicted.
There’s one situation in which it doesn’t work like above, and that’s when one of the two characters uses their Knack. Either the Knack worked, or, on that 1% chance, it didn’t; the other guy doesn’t get a say in it.
Remember that rolling dice ends your Turn.
Wait a Minute!
“Won’t people just try to ping as many Traits as possible every time?” Probably. But it works.
Okay, sometimes you end up tying in resolution. There’s three ways to handle this:
Two or more characters can cooperate toward the same goal. In such cases, their successes are pooled against opposing rolls.
TOTAL FAILURE: WHEN DICE ATTACK!
“I didn’t get any Successful Rolls. What happens now?” Ack! Total Failure! You get hosed! Whatever you were trying to do will go horribly wrong. You drop your sword on your foot, or you fall down the stairs, or your laser rifle blows up. You get the picture. The player who is next in rotation decides what exactly happens to your character, unless you are currently allied with that player, in which case it goes to the next, and so on.
If any Inconvenience is to be inflicted by this, determine its amount by rolling 5D20 and counting successes.
Oh yeah, and you remember the failed Knack roll? Roll d10 twice, if both are 1 then it failed? Yeah, guess what: that’s Total Failure, biotch. And any failed Shortcoming roll? Yep. That’s Total Failure too.
Here’s a tip, by the way: the more dice you roll, the lower the probability of Total Failure. Plus, the more Successful Rolls you’re likely to get. So pile on the dice! Think creatively and figure out a method to attain your goal that involves as many Traits, Powers, and/or Swag as possible.
WHAT TO DO IF NO ONE CALLS FOR RESOLUTION!
You accomplish your goal with no problem. But, if you need to inflict Inconvenience, name what Traits, Powers, etc. you are using and roll dice to see the magnitude of the Inconvenience, counting Successful Rolls as normal. Remember, bringing the dice out ends your Turn.
The nature Inconvenience inflicted is indicated by the goal AND the method for accomplishing it. But there’s a lot of leeway and room for imagination here. For instance, faced with a fire demon, you might choose to use a water pistol to accomplish the goal of dousing its flames. Yeah, yeah, I hear you whinin’: “But a water pistol isn’t enough to douse a fire demon!” Listen, if the dice say it was enough, then it was enough. End of story, get over it.
Inconvenience is a flat, blunt effect, not a gradient. Take the example of the doused demon, for instance. Let’s say the difference in Resolution was 4, in favor of the douser. Now, this doesn’t mean that 4 flames have been doused, or that 4 points worth of flame have been doused (whatever the hell that means); it means the demon’s DOUSED, period, until it can do something to remove the 4 points. Thus, the magnitude of Inconvenience doesn’t really tell you how bad it is, but rather how hard it is to get rid of.
If Inconvenience was inflicted via a Knack or Total Failure, roll 5d20 and count successes for it (do not apply any resistance!).
Inconvenience is stackable. Meaning that if someone gets hit with the same Inconvenience twice, the magnitude is cumulative.
Inconvenience can be removed by taking actions (by which I mean “using Traits, Powers, Swag, the Knack, and/or GOTCHA! of the character or an allied character, and/or utilizing features of the surroundings”) appropriate to the removal of the Inconvenience in question. So, for instance, if you’re injured, apply some manner of first aid Trait, or medicinal Swag, or something; roll its dice, and subtract the total successful rolls from the Inconvenience. If you’re covered in brown sticky goo, take a shower and roll its dice (which you’ll probably have to Endow), subtract the total from the Inconvenience.
And, no, you can’t have negative Inconvenience. That doesn’t even make sense.
If you want your character to kill another character, just say so (be sure to indicate your method of doing it; some characters may only be killable in certain ways, like vampires or something). Either the victim resists, in which case it goes to Resolution, or you kill ‘em without a problem. If it goes to Resolution and you win, then you inflict, say, Inconvenience: Mortal Wound equal to the difference of the success dice, which must be Ignored by the victim every round or healed somehow, or it becomes Inconvenience: Death of the same magnitude. Yes, you can Ignore any mortal wound; it doesn’t matter if you’re tripping over your own entrails, drained entirely of blood, and missing your head, as long as you’ve got enough Drive to Ignore the total magnitude of the mortal wound. And, also, eww.
Yep, killin’ characters is that easy. Which also means it’s not that big of a deal. But it might have unforeseen consequences, so you probably don’t want to try it unless you mean it.
DEATH IS NOT THE END!
A dead character is still there in the game. If it’s a player character, it might use Drive to Ignore the death (just like any other Inconvenience), in which case its consciousness is present in the gameworld; throw an Endowment or two with some ¡TILT! and you’ve got a poltergeist, or maybe a full-blown revenant. Or, if not enough Drive is available or the player wants to conserve it, a Twist might be applied with ¡TILT! to the same effect. Or, the player could use the combined forces of ¡TILT! and NPCs (if your character has been killed, you still get a Turn, during which, as normal, you can control NPCs not in conflict with your own character—which, being dead, is probably not in conflict with anything) to have their own character resurrected, by somehow Removing the Inconvenience of death.
In order to prevent dull, boring, repetitive tactics, Traits become Fatigued when used, which means that each time you use it, its value drops by one. If it gets to zero, or even before that if you choose, you can replenish it by spending a point of Drive. Also, all such fatigue is replenished when the next scene starts.
Oh, okay, quit whining, I’ll throw you a bone: the five raw Traits can never fall below 1.
Each individual Power can be used only once per Scene, period. Trust me, it’s for the best. As cool as martial arts expert Wu Super Jet’s Shining Dragon Punch might be the first time, it’s just boring if he uses it like fifty times in a row.
SUPER ACTION ¡TILT!
This is my favorite part. ¡TILT! is a player resource (as distinguished from a character resource) that grants all manner of bitchin’ powers over the game world. You use it to literally tilt the game in your favor. Basically, it provides you with the nifty tricks afforded only to GMs in most games. Clever, strategic application of ¡TILT! can far outweigh the mere power of characters.
You can use ¡TILT! powers during anybody’s Turn, not just your own.
Any time your contributions to the Action prompt another player to laugh or grin like an idiot, you get a point of ¡TILT! If like five people laugh or whatever, you don’t get 5 points, you still get one. However, if anyone laughs so hard that they fall out of their chair, you get 10 points instead. For each person that falls out of their chair. Unless you pushed them out, in which case you lose 10 points, jackass. But, anyway, the big deal is, you want to narrate well and throw in funny in-character quips, because that’s how you’ll earn your points to give you maximal power over the Action. Note that “your contributions to the Action” include your ¡TILT! effects. Basically, if you’re being funny, you get power over stuff; if you’re not being funny, you run out of points and don’t get power over stuff.
It’s your own responsibility to pay attention and claim your ¡TILT! when it’s due.
And here’s the stuff you do with it:
Re-roll any particular dice (pick ‘n choose ‘em, all for 1 point total). Or force someone else to re-roll any particular dice. (“Oh, you like those successes, do you? Re-roll ‘em!”). Yeah, it’s evil, but they’ll get you back.
Endowment is adding a reasonable fact to any pre-established feature of the gameworld. This fact can be a qualifier (“The fridge is broken”), an object (“There’s a gallon of milk in the fridge”), an interest or desire (“The fridge hates you”), an NPC (“There’s a guy getting food out of the fridge”) or a Power or Trait (“The fridge has a ‘Really Heavy’ Trait for 5d8”). Note that you can assign a dice value to any Endowment as part of the same Endowment (“The fridge is broken for 3D12”).
Note that Endowments are a natural part of Scene Framing, except they’re free then.
If somebody makes a Scene Framing suggestion you don’t like, or narrates a character on their turn to do something you don’t like, just say spend 1 ¡TILT! and say “CHANGE!” and the player has to change their suggestion or narration to something else (and by “something else” I do not mean “the same thing, only worded differently.” Jackass). If you don’t like what they replaced it with, guess what, you can say “CHANGE!” again for free. However, after this, the other player can get as crazy as they want to with their narration, even stating things that would ordinarily require Endowments or Twists for free. An example:
Rachel: “I start crying to try to gain his sympathy! My ‘Crying’ Trait is 4D12!”
Rachel: “I get really mad and try to intimidate him with my fury! My ‘Fury! Arrrrrgh!’ Trait is 3D8!”
Rachel: “I throw 5D20 turtles at him!”
The idea of Change is only partially to throw a monkey-wrench in the other guy’s plans; it’s mostly to keep the funny up. The other guy wasn’t funny? Change ‘em!
Change does not apply to ¡TILT! powers. You can only use Change twice in a row.
Introduce any single fact into the situation (as long as it doesn’t break the Rule of Inviolable History). “Twist! There’s an alligator in the corner, you just didn’t notice it before.” “Twist! I find a chainsaw under the bed.” “Twist! A piano is about to fall on Greg. Yup.” (Greg: “What?”)
Here’s the crucial distinction between a Twist and an Endowment: Endowments are basically reasonable extensions on something, whereas Twists need no justification at all. So, putting a gallon of milk in a fridge, which is a perfectly reasonable place to find a gallon of milk, is an Endowment; putting a rabid squirrel in the fridge would have to be a Twist. For another example, giving an amulet to Thyraxis the Sorceror is an Endowment, while giving it to Greg from Accounting is a Twist. Also, Twists can include actions, as in stuff that happens right now.
Like Endowments, you can include dice values in your Twist.
LET’S TWIST AGAIN (LIKE WE DID LAST SUMMER)!
You can Twist someone else’s Twist, just so you know.
Greg: “Twist! I have a hand grenade in my briefcase!”
Ted: “Twist! It blows up!”
OPTIONAL: TWIST FROM A HAT!
Remember those Scene Suggestions in a Hat? Spend a meagre 1 ¡TILT! and draw one from the hat, then apply it however you want. (Yes, you spend before you get to see what it actually is, jackass).
Change any single successful die to a failure, or vice-versa. But you can’t Fudge your way out of Total Failure, or Fudge someone else into it.
Override the results of a resolution with whatever you want them to be, unless Total Failure was involved. Also, you can’t use Fiat to override someone else’s Fiat.
THE SUPER DOUBLE EVIL ERASER OF DOOM!
Erase any single established feature of the game world, forever. This is the only exception to the Rule of Inviolable History.
SUPER ACTION SWAG!
Swag is just the general term for items, equipment, and valuables.
If it does something, then you should assign properties to it (during Scene Framing, or character generation, or as an Endowment). Indicate these with a qualitative description of what the property is and a quantitative description of how well it works, in terms of dice (from 1d6 to 5d20, like everything else). When using the item in Resolution and such, add those dice to your effectiveness. If an item is fatiguing to use or requires ammunition or magical power to operate or whatever, give it a Drive Cost too. If someone declares an item that you think should have a Drive Cost and they don’t give it one, guess what? You’ve got a pile of ¡TILT! chips, buddy.
Chainsaw! Saws stuff 5d20. Drive Cost 3 because it’s got one of those pain-in-the-ass pull-starters.
Breastplate! Protects my torso from damage 3d12.
Peppermints! Make my breath smell fresh 2d6.
Vexingly strong peppermints! Make my breath smell fresh 3d12. Drive Cost 1 ‘cause they kinda burn a little.
Talisman of the Burn! Burns things by channeling some kinda magical power from my astral body or something 3d8. Drive Cost 2.
SWAG AND INCONVENIENCE!
Swag can acquire Inconvenience. This can be because someone damaged it deliberately, or due to Abusing the Equipment. Abusing the Equipment is when you use equipment to accomplish something that it’s not really designed to do but could feasibly still be used for (like hitting someone with a guitar). You can pick whatever dice between 1d6 and 5d20 you want for this purpose (requires no Endowment), but the catch is the successes from those dice are also how much Inconvenience the Swag acquires.
FROM SWAG TO NPC!
If Swag is Endowed with interests, desires, sentience, whatever, it becomes an NPC. Just so you know.
SUPER ACTION SETUP!
First step to setting up your session of SUPER ACTION NOW! is for everyone to create a character. It’s a good idea to do this as a group, so you can get familiar with all the characters and bounce ideas off each other. Every time I’ve played the game, we did all of this immediately prior to play.
First off, decide what exactly you are. This is the only formal source of restriction on character creation. You can give your character anything you want, as long as it’s appropriate to what they’re supposed to be. Of course, if the other players don’t like some aspect of your character, it’s probably best to go ahead and change it; don’t be a jackass.
Next, decide what your Knack and your Shortcoming are. Give yourself some cool Powers. Give yourself some Swag, complete with properties.
Now give yourself some Traits. Remember that the raw Traits are common between all characters and cannot be lower than 1 in each category, and that no Trait’s magnitude can go higher than 5. Remember that specific Traits can have a higher magnitude than their parent raw Traits.
Come up with a nice ‘n nasty GOTCHA! You want something that’ll really make people’s jaws drop, something they wouldn’t see coming, but also something that’s likely to be triggered. It’s a tight rope to walk, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Now, write all this stuff down on a piece of paper, leaving room for Inconvenience and future Endowments. Write the GOTCHA! on a different piece of paper, and be careful to keep it out of sight.
Finally, give yourself a name.
What’s missing? The Drive! Wait a sec on that; you want to set it based on the scenario!
Decide how many Drive Points and ¡TILT! everyone starts with (lately I’ve been using 20 each). Also, you need to decide how many Drive Points are awarded when the Drive is triggered. 10 sounds good, or maybe rolling D20. Or having the choice between them.
The next step is to decide how the characters are related to each other, or how they will become related to each other. Decide if you’re on teams. Players should decide on some manner of adversarial relationship between their characters. It’s probably going to be more interesting if the characters have grudges, gripes, and/or grievances against each other, even if they’re on teams. It’s also fun to set opposing characters up with mutually exclusive goals, but with some more mutually exclusive than others, prompting all manner of easy alliances.
But it’s not necessary to have these differences be overt and huge; they don’t have to be arch nemeses, bent on destroying each other—at least to start with. They can be, for instance, room mates. There’s all kinds of tensions and mutually exclusive goals going on with people sharing an apartment, castle, spaceship, or combination thereof. Let it start small, then go big, Bigger, BIGGEREST until it gets completely crazy-ass.
It might also be a good idea to decide on some sort of condition that, when met, tells you that the scenario is over. Some people are gifted at Finding the Ending for a scenario naturally, without planning beforehand, but others benefit from set endings.
You can set up some kind of Grand Goal that all the characters are striving for. Or you can decide on some sort of crisis that puts all the characters in danger so that they have to undercut, sabotage, backstab, and sacrifice each other to survive. The key word is adversity—that is, BRING IT! Even if the characters already hate each other’s guts, you need to put pressure on that to get some really good competition going. Pressure is good.
If you like, you can introduce the adversity later during Scene Framing, and play a few scenes before that to set the stage and get everyone into character. Or you can start with a small, mundane adversity, complicated by all the characters, and let it grow from there. Here’s an example I thought of in like 30 seconds:
Say, PC Greg from Accounting (“I’m a cog in the corporate machine, driven by mounting angst resulting from the horror of a meaningless existence”) got up in the morning to have a bowl of cereal, but, gasp, there’s no milk left! So he must set out for the supermarket. After an arduous traffic jam caused by PC Bolo the Minotaur (“I’m a freak of nature, driven by my need to fit in with modern society”), who is too small for his compact car and finds it difficult to steer with hooves for hands, Greg finally makes it to the supermarket. Who should he meet there but PC Polly Ammonia (“I’m a punk rocker, driven by vague, unarticulated pissed-offness”), who borrowed his Ramones CD and still hasn’t given it back? While Greg looks for an opening to ask about the CD, enter PC Nort Val-Gluberon (“I’m a stranded alien from a galaxy far far away, driven by my homesickness”), a space alien who has just crashed his shuttle craft into the dairy section – completely annihilating all the milk!
Let’s take a look at everything that’s already established:
See how easy it is? I wasn’t even trying. Given a number of players and five minutes, you can come up with something easily better.
Another thing that you want to consider when you’re setting up the adversity: how are the characters’ Drives involved? It’s a good idea to decide your Drive based on what the scenario actually IS, otherwise you end up with Drives that don’t do anything for you (I learned this the hard way).
SOME SCENARIO SUGGESTIONS!
FINALLY, A BIT OF ADVICE!
Don’t be a jackass.
Seriously, any game can be ruined by a poor sport, and Super Action Now! is no exception. In fact, most of its rules rely on you being a good sport. So don’t be that guy who ruins the fun for everyone. It may be helpful to, before doing something, ask yourself, "Am I being a jackass?" I think you'll know the answer.
Don't be a jackass, even if you're not having fun. If you’re personally not having fun, just say so. Communication is key to all aspects of role-play. Call a time-out and discuss what the problem is; don’t take it out on everyone else.
AND THAT’S IT!
That’s all there is to it. Now go play it! And tell me how it went! My email is on the first page, and I also post at the Forge (http://www.indie-rpgs.com) so it would be way cool for you to post a play account on the Playtesting forum there. Also, if you need rules clarifications, ask away!
Caveat: if, having read this document, you are not at all interested by the prospect of playing this game, odds are I don’t care about what you have to say about it. And I also fear for your soul. I also don’t want to hear that such-and-such rule “might be confusing” or somesuch; if you’re personally confused by a rule, let me know and I’ll explain it and consider re-phrasing it in the text, but don’t try to tell me that someone somewhere sometime might be confused or whatever. Every word of this text is based on what was fun when actually playing the game. And, for the record, playing it has been fun every damn time.
So, yeah, that’s it. You can stop reading now. Seriously.