Actions, special abilities, and teamwork are the main mechanics characters use to interact with the story. Actions and special abilities tell you something about the relative strengths and weaknesses of your character. You can use teamwork to compensate for these weak spots by relying on other PCs.
There are sixteen normal actions characters use to overcome obstacles in the game. These are grouped under four different attributes.
This attribute focuses on mental tasks like quick thinking, memory, and logic:
This attribute focuses on physical prowess like strength, speed, and dexterity:
This attribute focuses on social strengths like inspiring, intimidating, and deceiving:
This attribute focuses on professional expertise like bureaucracy, medicine, and advanced technology:
Each action has a rating (from zero to 4) that tells you how many dice to roll when you perform that action. This is shown on your character sheet by the number of dots filled in next to an action. You choose which action to perform to overcome an obstacle by describing what your character does. Actions that are poorly suited to the situation may be less effective and may put the character in more danger, but they can still be attempted. Usually, when you perform an action, you’ll make an action roll to see how it turns out.
Attributes are based on the summary of your actions. Your attribute rating also ranges from zero to 4, but it is calculated by looking at the actions beneath it. Every action with at least 1 dot increases your attribute by 1. This is marked clearly on the character sheet by the column line. This means you increase your attribute rating by becoming well-rounded in its related actions.
Whenever you roll an action or attribute, your rating determines your dice pool. You will roll a number of 6-sided dice equal to your rating. For example, if I have three action dots in Brawl, when I throw a punch I would roll three 6-sided dice. If a character have a zero rating, roll two 6-sided dice and keep the lowest result.
You make an action roll when your character does something potentially dangerous or troublesome. If there’s no danger or trouble at hand, you don’t make an action roll. You might make a fortune roll or a downtime roll or the GM will simply say yes—and you accomplish your goal.
To make an action roll, we go through six steps. In play, they flow together somewhat, but let’s break each one down here for clarity.
1. Player States Their Goal
Your goal is the concrete outcome your character will achieve when they overcome the obstacle at hand. Usually the character’s goal is pretty obvious in context, but it’s the GM’s job to ask and clarify the goal when necessary.
“You’re punching him in the face, right? Okay... what do want to get out of this? Do you want to take him out, or just rough him up so he’ll do what you want?”
2. The Player Chooses the Action
The player chooses which action rating to roll, following from what their character is doing on-screen. If you want to roll your Brawl action, then get in a fight. If you want to roll your Enforce action, then order someone around. You can’t roll a given action rating unless your character is presently performing that action in the fiction.
3. Add Bonus Dice
You can normally get two bonus dice for your action roll (some special abilities might give you additional bonus dice).
For one bonus die, you can get an assist from a teammate. They take 1 stress, say how they help you, and give you +1d.
For another bonus die, you can either push yourself (take 2 stress) or you can Sell Out (you can’t get dice for both, it’s one or the other).
Fortune favors the corrupt. When your PCs leverage the advantages of oppression, they sell out their beliefs for short term benefit.
If a player compromises their values or furthers oppression in the world, they can gain +1d on any roll.
Common examples include:
Common forms of corruption include:
Any player or the GM can propose a way to sell out. The PC compromises themself regardless of the outcome of the roll. They make the choice, pay the price, and get the sell out point to trade in for a bonus die whenever they want.
Selling out is always a free choice. If you don’t like the proposed option, just reject it (or suggest how to alter it so you might consider taking it). You can always just push yourself for that bonus die instead.
If it’s ever needed, the GM has final say over which sell outs are valid.
4. Factor in Conditions
Check to see if the player has a relevant condition. Each condition is connected to a specific attribute. If you have a condition, and you are using an action under its attribute, you need to roll a condition die. You can add a different colored die to the dice pool or roll the condition second.
5. Roll the Dice and Judge the Results
The player adds any dice to their relevant action rating and rolls. If you have a condition, also roll a condition die.
The action roll does a lot of work for you. It tells you how well the character performs as well as how serious the consequences are for them. They might succeed at their action without any consequences (on a 6), or they might succeed but suffer consequences (on a 4-5), or it might just all go wrong (on a 1-3).
If the player rolled a condition die, layer its result on top of the main roll:
For all condition die results, the player proposes the negative or positive condition effects, but the GM has the final say on what fits in the fiction.
When you narrate action after the roll, the GM and player collaborate together to say what happens on-screen following one key rule: for every action, there is an equal reaction. Success and consequences should all parallel the action the character took. If the character took a bold, risky action, the consequences should be equally dramatic. If the character strategized and planned to keep a low profile, the consequences should still have weight, but match the subtle, tense tone of their approach. See the Outcomes chapter for more information about dealing with roll results.
6. Respond to Outcomes
The PCs are the protagonists of the story, and the players co-create the story with the GM. This means players have the ability to tweak a roll result before you determine the final narrative outcome. You do this through two methods: make a resistance roll or overcome limits.
When you make a resistance roll, you mitigate the impact of consequences. Players propose how a character tries to minimize the fallout of a complication and how that would decrease its severity. Determine the most appropriate attribute based on the fiction and roll a number of 6-sided dice equal to that attribute. Resisting costs you 6 stress minus the highest roll.
When you overcome limits, you turn a failure into a success. Mechanically, it is as if you rolled a 6: you succeed without any consequences. To overcome your limits, mark the condition associated with the attribute of the roll you made. You can only mark a condition in each attribute once before you need to recover. Describe how you persist despite apparent failure, and how that results in your current condition.
Choosing to overcome limits allows players to succeed on the rolls they care most about. However, the condition will persist until they are able to recover from it, and that condition may complicate future rolls using the same attribute.
The PCs will face a range of challenges. Some obstacles will be straightforward: pickpocket the warehouse key without the guard noticing; climb over a barricade; rewire the security cameras. These are simple obstacles that can be overcome with a single roll.
Other obstacles may be more complex: invent a new medicine; track a mutant across the country through a blizzard; neutralize a highly skilled soldier; rewire an AI with a unique personality. These obstacles are tracked with a progress clock.
A progress clock is a circle with a number of segments equal to the obstacle’s complexity. When you get a full success on a roll (6), you fill in two segments; on a costly success (4/5) fill in 1 segment. Once the PCs fill up all the segments, they have overcome the obstacle. In other words, the number of segments represent how many sucessful actions will be needed to overcome it.
A 4-segment clock is a complex task, a 6-segment clock is an intricate task, and an 8-segment clock is a daunting task.
When you create a clock, make it about the obstacle, not the method. The clocks for an infiltration should be “Interior Patrols,” not “Sneak Past the Guards.” The patrols are the obstacle—the PCs can attempt to overcome it in a variety of ways.
Complex enemy threats can be broken into several “layers,” each with its own progress clock. For example, the Nutricorp Research Lab might have a “Perimeter Security” clock, an “Interior Guards” clock, and a “Lab Security” clock. The team would have to make their way through all three layers to reach the company’s most dangerous experimental tech.
Remember that a clock tracks progress. It reflects the fictional situation, so the group can gauge how they’re doing. A clock is like a speedometer in a car. It shows the speed of the vehicle—it doesn’t determine the speed.
Every character has access to special abilities. Mechanically, you use them similar to actions, but they allow you to break the normal rules or take control over the fiction. Each archetype has three core powers. For example, the Tech Jockey can use the powers of an Engineer, Synthetic Speaker, and Traveler. These core powers act like new actions, all grouped under your Soul attribute.
When you want to use a special ability, you roll the power like an action: your dice pool is based on the number of dots in that power; the results of the ability follow the same outcome breakdown (1-3: fail with consequences; 4/ 5: succeed with consequences; 6: succeed); and you can roll to resist consequences. Like any other attribute, your soul attribute is based on the number of actions (i.e. powers) you have at least 1 dot in.
Special abilities differ from normal action rolls in three primary ways.
First, you cannot overcome limits when making a power roll. You can resist consequences to mitigate bad fallout, but you cannot turn a roll into a success. You can remember this by looking at the playbook: there is no condition marker on the special ability page.
Second, you can only use an ability if you have enough dots in that power. Each ability has a number next to it; this number tells you how many dots you need before you can use it.
If you look at a playbook, you will see the core ability is unlocked with 1 power dot as marked by: . The abilities listed beneath it all require more power dots before you can use them as marked by: 2—, 3—, and 4—. You will notice that the special abilities all follow a similar theme, but become more powerful or flexible as you go down the list. This means that putting multiple dots into the same power has two benefits: you have better control over your powers (increasing the dice pool used for rolls), and you increase the ways you can use your power (through new abilities).
Finally, consequences with special abilities work slightly differently. Every archetype is powerful, but also comes with its own flaws. At the top of the special ability sheet you should see a list of five unique flaws and a space to write your own. Each time you unlock a new core power (i.e. fill in the first power dot), pick a new flaw. When your ability leads to consequences, you can describe how your flaw creates a complication and mark a segment in your defiance clock.
As a player, you can also choose to let the GM decide the consequences like a normal action roll. These consequences will not advance your defiance clock, and you give up narrative authority to the GM.
Your powers mark you as different, and in the world of Ruralpunk different means dangerous. Each soul attracts a different type of negative attention when they step outside the status quo. Cyber souls draw the hungry attention of the Wild; Wild souls draw the suspicion and hatred of the Metropolis; and rebelling mortals are seen as traitors by the Locals.
Each town phase, you’ll determine the consequences of your defiance level through relationship entanglements.
So why let your flaws complicate the situation?
First, the defiance clock also acts as an XP tracker for your soul attribute. When you fill it, you can pick a soul advancement. These allow you to add new dots in powers, access powers from other archetypes, and earn new crafting skills. See the Advancement chapter for more information.
Second, when your flaw complicates a situation the PC narrates the consequences. These consequences still follow the fundamental rule (all actions have an equal reaction), but it gives you narrative authority.
When you mark a defiance clock, fill it in clockwise, marking the inner layer, then the outer layer, before moving onto the next segment.
Special abilities are written in the same style as actions: these are things you can do. The power roll plays out similar to an action roll with only small changes:
Let’s walk through a power roll to see the similarities and differences in play.
1. Choose Your Special Ability
You choose the special ability you want to use first. Since your special abilities disrupt the narrative, the rest of the roll flow from here.
Joye’s team is looking for a missing delivery driver. She just found his truck, abandoned and melted by extreme fire. She decides she wants to use her special ability Echo. This is a level-3 Synthetic Speaker ability: “Anyone who uses, builds, or modifies a machine leaves an Echo of their personality behind. You can speak to this ghost-like version of the person.”
2. State Your Goal
Many special abilities are open ended. They either allow you to ask different questions or have a broad description that can be used in multiple ways. State what you want your ability to achieve.
Joye wants to speak the the Echo of the delivery driver. Assuming this is his vehicle, he should have left a ghostly imprint behind from driving it.
3. Add Bonus Dice
With special abilities there are only two ways to gain bonus dice.
You can spend 2 stress to push yourself and gain +1d
A teammate with the same soul type as you can assist. They spend 1 stress to give you +1d.
You cannot sell out to gain bonus dice with special abilities.
Joye’s teammate Clyde is a cyborg. Since he is also a cyber soul, he can assist her with her special ability. He says he helps bend the truck closer to its original form, so the machine’s essence may be more intact. He marks 1 stress and Joye gains an extra die.
4. Roll Dice and Judge Results
Roll a dice pool based on the power you use. Remember, each special ability is listed under a core power. The number of dots in that power equals the number of 6-sided dice you roll.
1-3: a bad outcome. Your power spirals out of control. You don’t achieve your goal and you suffer complications, too.
4 or 5: a mixed success. You do what you wanted, but success comes with fallout from your flaws or triggering a new complication
6: a full success. Your power does exactly what you wanted. Two or more 6’s: it’s a critical success and you gain some additional advantage.
5. Respond to Outcomes
If your roll leads to complications, you can choose to use a flaw. Flaws are the downsides to your archetype, listed on your special abilities page. Pick one of your checked flaws. Tell the GM how your flaw complicates the situation. While the PC has primary narrative control, the GM insures the proposed complication fits with the narrative situation. If it doesn’t, the PC and GM should collaborate to modify the complication so it works in the story.
If you don’t want to use a flaw, you can turn over the consequence to the GM. They will describe a consequence unrelated to your flaws, like any other action roll. You might turn over a consequence to the GM if you can’t think of an interesting twist based on your flaws, or if you want to avoid increasing your defiance clock.
If you decide to turn over the consequence, you can choose to resist the consequence the GM names. Like any resistance roll, use the related attribute (in this case, your Soul attribute) to determine your dice pool and see how much stress it costs you. If you use a flaw to complicate your result, it can’t be resisted.
Joye’s Echo special ability is under the Synthetic Speaker power. She has three dots in that power. That means she would roll three 6-sided dice. Since Clyde assisted her, she adds another die, rolling 4 total dice.
She gets a 2, 2, 4, and 5. That’s a mixed success.
Joye’s player looks at her listed flaws. She has checked off “I depend on my gear” and “I put the machine first.” She decides the second one fits best. She says, “The Echo of the delivery driver appears, but I can barely focus on it while the injured vehicle whines in pain. I’ll need to repair some of the damage before I can leave it behind.”
Now the special ability plays out. If the player caused a consequence, they should benefit from their special ability before they need to address it.
Joye will need to repair the blasted truck, but first she wants to speak with the delivery driver’s Echo. The GM describes him: “He is leaning against the truck bed in denim pants and a bulky sweater, rubbing his hands. Suddenly, he straightens. He smiles, ‘About time. I was starting to think you weren’t coming.’
“The image flickers, then restarts. He is leaning against the truck—you see the same action play out over and over.”
Joye decides to circle around and watch the loop from multiple angles. When she stands next to him, the GM tells her, “You catch a glimpse of someone in his side mirror as they approach. Their image is blurry, but it looks like they’re wearing a military uniform with a red braid on the shoulder.”
“So it’s one of the Red Ropes?” Joye asks.
“The driver looks at you and nods. ‘They said they needed help with a special delivery.’” the GM says.
When Joye can’t pick out any more clues from the Echo, she turns her focus to the truck. Now she needs to help the poor machine recover from its injuries.
When the team of PCs works together, the characters have access to three special teamwork maneuvers. The three maneuvers are:
When you assist another player who’s rolling, describe what your character does to help. Take 1 stress and give them +1d to their roll. You will also suffer any consequences that occur because of the roll. Only one character may assist a given roll.
A character may assist a group action, but only if they aren’t taking part in it directly. You decide which character in the group action gets the bonus die.
You can only assist another player with a special ability roll if you are the same soul type as them.
Lead a Group
When you lead a group, you coordinate multiple members of the team to tackle a problem together. Describe how your character leads the team in a coordinated effort. Do you bark orders, give subtle hand signals, or provide charismatic inspiration?
Each PC who’s involved makes an action roll (using the same action) and the team counts the single best result as the overall effort for everyone who rolled. However, the character leading the group action takes 1 stress for each PC that rolled 1-3 as their best result.
This is how you do the “we all run away” scene. Everyone who wants to run rolls their Maneuver action, and the best result counts for the whole team. The leader suffers stress for everyone who does poorly. It’s tough covering for the stragglers.
The group action result covers everyone who rolled. If you don’t roll, your character doesn’t get the effects of the action.
Your character doesn’t have to be especially skilled at the action at hand in order to lead a group action. This maneuver is about leadership, not necessarily about ability.
You step in to face the consequence that one of your teammates would otherwise face. You suffer it instead of them. You may roll to resist or overcome limits as normal. Describe how you intervene.
This is how you do the “I’ll dive in front of the bullet” You cover for a teammate, suffering any consequences that still linger after you’ve rolled to resist. It hurts, cost stress, and may leave you in a bad spot. But hey, you’re a hero.
Do We Have to Use Teamwork?
Teamwork maneuvers are options, not requirements. Each character can still perform solo actions as normal during a venture.