By Brian Slaby
Dicey Stunts is an expansion of the “Dicey Moves” section of the 13th Age core rule book, which allows for any character to exercise their narrative creativity during combat — much like a Rogue with the Swashbuckle talent. (If they succeed at an appropriate skill check, of course!)
Talents such as Swashbuckle, Vance’s Polysyllabic Verbalizations, and Terrain Stunt have gotten a lot of praise from fans of 13th Age. These open-ended, player-driven abilities reflect the spirit of this system very well, just like Backgrounds, Icon Relationships, and the One Unique Thing.
The Dicey Stunts rule provides guidance for all players to use improvisational “stunts” — not just those who picked certain talents. It also gives players of the simpler classes (barbarian, paladin, and ranger) an opportunity to spice up combat and play more tactically.
HOW DICEY STUNTS WORK
A Stunt is whatever the player would like to achieve. The options below should cover a wide variety of possibilities, with the mechanics reflecting the intent of the action. The intended effect can be described in whatever narrative way that the player sees fit.
Stunts are usually a quick action skill check, but some of the more impressive effects require a standard action.
Risks are consequences chosen by the GM. If the skill check for the Stunt fails, then the Risk is triggered.
Any quick action Stunt can be used as a standard action to avoid a Risk.
The skill check DC is usually based on the standard difficulty for the environment. If the action directly opposes an opponent, use their PD or MD instead. For simplicity, targeting PD or MD is equivalent to a Normal difficulty. If the action would normally be a Hard difficulty, add 5 to PD/MD.
Combat Maneuver (quick action): Make a skill check (usually Str or Dex) against your opponent’s PD (usually).
Trip - The target is Prone. They can stand up as part of their move action, but must succeed at a Normal Save to reach their intended destination (Hard or Easy Saves can be used for relatively further or closer destinations).
Bull Rush - The target is pushed back a few feet, popping them free of any engagements except the bull rusher (and potentially pushing them into new engagements). If pushing the target into dangerous terrain (fire, off of a cliff, etc.) then you must hit PD+5 (equivalent to a Hard DC). If the target is Large or Huge, add an additional +5 to the DC (so it’s Very Hard to push a larger creature into dangerous terrain).
Grapple - The target takes a -2 penalty to disengage checks (you must have at least one hand free to initiate a Grapple).
Gain the Advantage (quick action): Make a skill check against the target’s MD or PD, or use the Normal DC for the environment. Choose 1 of the following effects (or similar), which lasts until the end of your next turn:
- The target is Vulnerable
- You or 1 ally gains a +2 bonus to attack rolls against the target
- You or 1 ally gains a bonus to damage against the target equal to your level.
Players that really like to gamble may want a stronger effect. Feel free to give it to them, but with a Hard DC (or add +5 to PD/MD). Instead, they may choose from these effects:
- The target is Dazed
- The target is Hampered
- Choose one of the Normal DC effects, and make it Save Ends.
Examples: Taunting the opponent, throwing sand in his eyes, feinting, using footwork to improve your relative positioning, etc. This is very much a catch-all category.
Attack the Masses (standard action): First, make a skill check (Hard DC) with an ability appropriate to the action you’re describing. If successful, you can make a basic attack against 1d3 nearby enemies in a group (whether it’s a melee or ranged attack depends on how you describe the action).
Examples: Sweep attack, cutting/shooting the rope of a chandelier so it falls on your enemies, throwing a table at your enemies, etc.
Increase Momentum (standard action): Describe how you’re increasing the momentum of the battle and then roll a skill check with an appropriate ability (Normal DC). Immediately raise the escalation die by 1 on a success. This is limited to 1 attempt per battle.
Counter-attack: One enemy (usually the target, but a ranged enemy works well too) makes an immediate basic attack against the gambling character. If it makes more sense that the action would endanger an ally, then an ally can suffer the counter-attack (this will usually only happen if the character that took the gamble is in a fairly safe position).
Vulnerable: The character is Vulnerable (Hard Save Ends).
Backfired: Something went wrong, and now the character is either Dazed or Stuck (Save Ends).
Lost Momentum: Decrease the escalation die by 1. This should usually be a pretty dramatic event, so you shouldn’t overuse it (in other words, don’t do it more than once per battle, but see Increase Momentum).
A previous version of this system was originally posted to my blog under the name The Mazarbul Gamble. Much credit goes to quinn on the Thought Crime blog for his Gamble! stunt system, which provided the basic framework for failed skill checks triggering a Risk. This idea is so important in keeping players from “spamming” stunts and bogging down combat, while still being forgiving enough that cool stunts are a viable option for anyone.