q3. Taking action and resolving conflicts.
When your character tries to do something, the GM will determine if the situation is simple, complicated, or conflict. Let’s take each in turn.
In simple situations, the task is clear-cut, there are no outstanding issues interfering with the attempted action, or randomness would bog down the game. In a simple situation, the GM looks at the Master Chart (see below), and determines the Difficulty Rank of the task. Then, the GM compares that Difficulty Rank to the character’s most appropriate Quality Rank. The higher Rank of the two “wins.” If the Difficulty Rank of the task is equal to or higher than the character’s relevant Quality Rank, the task becomes a complicated situation (see below).
Examples: Jefferson wants to climb a wall using his Good [+2] Outdoorsman Quality (he successfully convinces the GM that climbing a cliff face is similar enough to climbing a wall for it to count), he’ll automatically succeed in scaling Poor 5 and Average 7 Difficulty walls.
If Kristov wanted to climb a wall, he has no applicable Quality, and so would have the default Quality Rank of Average 0. This means he can only automatically succeed in climbing Poor 5 Difficulty walls.
|level||Difficulty rank||Target Number|
|Poor||A trivial task.||5|
|Good||Complex task, requiring attention to detail.||9|
|Expert||Intricate task, difficult and requiring sharp concentration, hard for a typical untrained person (Average).||11|
|Master||Extremely difficult task, hard for most professionals in the field (Good).||13|
Dice rolls are made in complicated situations: where comparisons of Rank are inconclusive, or when randomness is desired. Complicated situations are when Quality and Difficulty Ranks are tied, or when Quality Rank is lower than Difficulty Rank. To attempt a complicated situation, the PC rolls two regular six-sided dice (2d6), and adds the Modifier for their Quality Rank. To succeed, the PC must match or roll higher than the Target Number of the task’s Difficulty Rank.
NOTE – Some failures – like attempting to walk a skinny building ledge – may carry the chance of getting hurt. For more on that topic, see below, Environmental Damage.
Examples: Jefferson is trying to climb a Good 9 Difficulty wall using his Good 5+2 = 10! He succeeds in climbing the wall.
Kristov wants to follow Jefferson up that Good 9 Difficulty wall: again, he has no applicable Quality, and so must use the default Quality Rank of Average 0. He must match or beat a 9 when rolling 2d6. He rolls exactly the same thing that Jefferson did: a 3 and a 5, and since Average Rank Qualities have no Modifier, that’s a total of 8. This is below the Target Number of the wall, so Kristov fails.
When a character’s Qualities are set against the Qualities of other characters, this isn’t just complicated, it’s a conflict situation (see below).
Conflict situations involve active resistance by another to a character’s attempts to perform a task: trying to punch a guy in the face, out-thinking a chess player, running a race, or convincing a cop that, you weren’t really speeding. Conflict situations in PDQ include more than just the immediate success or failure of an attempted action; here, conflict includes the back and forth of an active contest, out-maneuvering the competition, and wearing down an opponent’s resistance. Examples of conflict situations include combat, seduction, haggling, debating, and so forth. (Note that some groups won’t necessarily want to use the conflict situation mechanics to resolve social interactions, and will want to rely on pure roleplaying instead; this is fine – the rules structure is there if a group wishes to use it.)
In conflict situations, the characters involved compare the results of 2d6 plus Modifier rolls; the highest successful result wins. However, there are a few refinements of conflict requiring closer attention. These are Initiative, Moment of Truth, and Damage.
First, figure out who goes first – that is, who has Initiative. Most of the time, the flow of the situation will indicate who acts first, but in some cases, this order may need to be determined. Here’s how to do it:
1. If a character attacks without warning – taking the victim by surprise – the attacker automatically goes first. (At the GM’s discretion, he might even get a free turn, if the target is caught totally unawares.)
2. The character with the highest Rank in a “speed” or “reaction time” Quality relevant to the situation (Fastest Gun in the East, Jumpy, Quick Wits) goes first, followed in order by those with relevant Qualities of lower Ranks.
3. The character with the highest Rank in a Quality not relevant to the situation goes next, followed by those of lower Ranks.
Ties can be broken by either:
Stating that tied characters resolve their actions simultaneously; or
Rolling a die, with the highest number winning Initiative.
Once Initiative is determined, conflict resolution can proceed. Characters with a higher Initiative may “hold their actions” for as long as they want, but after the last character has done something, they need to take that held action or lose it. After everyone involved in the conflict situation has taken an action (or chosen not to), the characters can act again, in the same order. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Example: Jimbo and Salty Dave are sparring, getting ready for a big combat Challenge next week with the Roboto Brothers. Jimbo is using his Expert 2] Cutlass Quality. Jimbo’s Rank is higher, so he goes first.
Zandra is using her Expert 4] Biker Dude Quality (he’s used to intimidating people into doing what he wants them to).
Zandra and Jefferson are both at Expert Rank, and thus tied. The GM decides that Initiative between them will be determined with a die roll. Zandra rolls a 3 and Jefferson rolls a 4. Jefferson has Initiative.
MOMENT OF TRUTH
The character whose turn it is will be called the attacker; the character who is the target of the attacker’s action is called the defender. The attacker explains what his attempted action is, and the defender explains how he’d try to counter that action. Then, the attacker rolls 2d6 for his relevant Quality and adds the appropriate Modifier for Quality Rank. The defender does the same. The character with the higher total wins.
If the attacker is successful, damage (see below) is applied to the defender; if the attacker fails, no damage is done. A tie is just that – nobody wins, nobody loses. . . but they both muss each other up a little.
Example: As the Turn starts, Jimbo is the attacker and Salty Dave is the defender. Jimbo is going to grapple the Pirate using his Expert 2] Cutlass and Average 0 Pirate Qualities. Jimbo rolls 2d6+4+0 for a result of 10, Salty Dave rolls 2d6+2+0 for a result of 8. Thus, Jimbo does damage to Salty Dave this turn – see below – and has grabbed the scurvy dog. (If Salty Dave had been a better Pirate, this would give a different result: if he were a Good 4] Pirate, Jimbo’s attack would fail and he’d take no damage.)
On his action, Salty Dave wants to escape from Jimbo’s monkey-hug. He gets a result of 11, while the Monkey gets a result of 6. Salty Dave does a lot of damage to Jimbo in getting free.
Damage (be it physical, mental, emotional, or social) is the loss of capability. As a character takes damage, he is less likely to be able to perform at peak efficiency. This is shown by a temporary Downshift applied to the character’s listed Qualities called either a Failure Rank or a Damage Rank, depending upon the nature of the conflict.
In mental, social, and some physical conflicts, loss of capability is usually temporary, and is represented by Failure Ranks. Examples include a chess match, witty repartee, or running a race.
In many physical conflicts (and even some physical complicated situations), loss of capability is more enduring, and is represented by Damage Ranks. Examples here include combat, running through fire, or falling off of a wall.
Dishing It Out
In a successful attack, the difference between the attacking and defending rolls determines how many Failure or Damage Ranks are done to the defender. If the attacker has any Upshifts or Downshifts on their successful attack, that shift will carry through to damage resolution.
If the roll results are tied, both characters take a single Downshift.
NOTE – Qualities Upshifted above Master Rank provide an additional Rank of Damage to be applied.
Example: Following on the first example under Moment of Truth, on Jimbo’s action, the difference between his roll and Salty Dave’s was 2, so he does 2 Damage Ranks to the Pirate.
On Salty Dave’s action, he did a whopping 5 Damage Ranks to Jimbo.
Environmental damage – like that taken from falling, jumping through a fire, drowning, or other complicated situations – works by comparing the Target Number of the task against the total of the character’s failed roll. The difference between roll and Target Number is the Damage Ranks taken.
Example: Say that in the example above from Complicated Situations, where Kristov wants to follow Jefferson up a Good 9 Difficulty wall, our rockstar is instead trying to follow the biker down the wall. As he has no applicable Quality, he must use the default Rank of Average 0, and match or beat a 9 when rolling 2d6. He rolls a 3 and a 5, for a total of 8. This is below the Target Number of the wall, so Kristov fails, falls, and takes 1 Damage Rank from the sudden stop.
Taking It On the Chin
Firstly, if – in the GM’s opinion – a character has relevant Qualities of Good [+2] Rank or better that could feasibly allow him to ignore or resist damage in the situation (like Armor-Plating, Iron Will, True Love, or Impeccable Pedigree), the character can not only add it to his reaction rolls (to dodge, parry, block, evade, etc.), but he can choose to sacrifice a Rank of this protection in order to ignore Failure or Damage Ranks.
In each Scene (not per turn or reaction; see boxed text, Time in Conflict), a character can choose to Downshift the Quality; by doing so, the character can ignore all Failure or Damage Ranks from one action. The player chooses if and when to use these freebies. That means that if somebody is trying to pry a donation out of a PC who has Expert [+4] Rank Iron Will, the PC can in theory ignore 2 turns of Failure Ranks over the course of the conflict by reducing his Iron Will once for each attack against him that is successful. However, once a Quality reaches Average 0 Rank (through Downshifting to ignore or resist or from taking Failure or Damage Ranks), it can no longer be used in this fashion.
Secondly, any character that has a Weakness related to the type of conflict (for example, Glass Jaw in a combat, Math is Hard! in an arithmetic test, or Can’t Say No to a Pretty Face in a seduction attempt), will have to take two extra Damage Ranks the first time – and only the first time – they get tagged in a relevant situation. (That’s why it’s a Weakness; if they have an off-setting Strength that allows them to ignore or resist as above, they can use that to ameliorate the badness.)
NOTE – Qualities reduced to Poor [-2] Rank during a conflict situation by Failure or Damage Ranks are not Weaknesses; Weaknesses are character flaws decided upon at character generation. There’s a difference between a Weakness of Poor [-2] Athlete (the character’s never been that into sports) versus someone in a race who’s Good [+2] Athlete has been temporarily reduced to Poor [-2] Rank by accumulating Failure Ranks (he’s out of breath and feeling the burn).
Lastly, if a defender is caught totally and utterly by surprise by an attacker – to the extent of getting a free turn (see Initiative) – or makes not the slightest effort to defend himself, that could add an additional Rank to what he Takes On the Chin.
On the positive side, the player of the defending PC decides where to apply the Damage Ranks (see the textbox, The Key to Understanding Conflict Abstraction). They may only be applied to those Qualities listed on the character’s sheet (that is, not any one of the character’s infinite number of “default” Average Qualities). When any one of a character’s Qualities drops below Poor Rank, the character is out of the Scene – that could mean they’ve totally flubbed their seduction attempt, been knocked unconscious (or killed) in combat, or run out of test-taking time and must put down their #2 pencil. The GM describes how and why the PC is out of the Scene, and lets the player know if/when they can return (see below, Recovering from Damage).
Out for Blood?
For physical conflicts, the default assumption in PDQ is that characters can only be killed once they are unconscious or otherwise helpless. This requires no roll, check, or action, simply a statement on the attacker’s next turn that the he wishes to kill the victim. (GMs should feel free to change this rule if they desire. Perhaps characters pick whether they are doing “bruising” damage or “killing” damage at the beginning of a conflict situation.)
Recovering from Damage
Once a Scene ends, the injured character will begin to recover lost Ranks. How many he gets back depends upon whether he was in momentary danger or is still in continuing danger.
Momentary Danger. If nothing else is going on, and the character is otherwise safe, relaxed, and lacking any time constraints. Examples of momentary danger include playing Go Fish with a six year old, a car chase (though some Environmental Damage could happen. . .), or a seduction attempt. At the end of the Scene, all Failure or Damage Ranks are removed, restoring Qualities to their appropriate levels.
Continuing Danger. Danger is continuing if the overarching situation that the conflict happened in is risky, stressful, or under deadline. An example of continuing danger would be playing poker in a seedy dive bar with three Mafiosi. Characters will recover 1d6 lost Ranks of Quality at the end of the conflict Scene. The player selects which Qualities’ Ranks are restored. However, the character will not recover any more Ranks until the GM tells them to roll again (or they spend Soul Points to heal; see below).
NOTE – A Strength like “Quick Healer” should allow the character to gain back the standard 1d6 roll, plus their Modifier. A Weakness like “Slow Healer” would mean that the character rolls 1d6-2 (the Modifier for Poor), with a minimum of zero Ranks regained.
TIME IN CONFLICT
The terms used in PDQ for identifying the passage of time:
Scenes are the entire conflict; starting with determining Initiative and ending with someone winning, losing, surrendering, or leaving the situation.
Each character takes a turn or action: that’s when they make their move, say their piece, throw a punch, etc. (If Turn is capitalized, it generally means the set of all character’s next actions and reactions.)
Other characters react during a character’s turn – saying something back or performing a defense, usually – but their reactions can only be in response to the actions of the character whose turn it currently is. They cannot initiate actions until their turn.
RANGE IN CONFLICT
In general, GMs can be really flexible with distance in a PDQ game. Ranges are either Near (can punch it), Middling (can run up and punch it), Far (can throw or shoot at it), or Too Far (out of range). If one really wants to connect numbers to this, Near would be any distance up to a yard, Middling would be between 1 and 3 yards, Far would be between 3 and 60 yards, and Too Far is anything over 60 yards.
MOVEMENT IN CONFLICT
While PDQ tends to leave movement rates for characters abstract and up to the discretion of the GM (like by requiring a character to make a roll using a speed or movement Quality vs. a reasonable Difficulty Rank), some folks like a concrete movement rate. So here it is: characters have a movement rate equal to 2 yards plus twice the sum of all involved Qualities per turn. Half of this (i.e., the sum of their Qualities being used) is taken on their action of their Turn, and the other half is taken during their reactions. This means that a Good 4] Hover-Jets and Good 4+2); they can move up to 5 yards on their action and 5 yards on their reactions.