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Author Topic: [The Window] Sizzle  (Read 1909 times)

Posts: 7

« on: August 12, 2006, 01:56:16 AM »


When I first read The Window I instantly became excited at the very liberating form of role playing it was proposing.  I soon however got bogged down with the typical ‘second generation’ format of rolling dice that The Window itself abhors; in combat this meant repeatedly rolling per single action to hit, rolling to defend, and rolling for health, for example. Despite the three precepts and the promise of a new way to role play it was apparent that there was very little difference to the ‘traditional’ style of gaming. This is no fault of the authors, as I personally did not know any different myself and was perhaps more entrenched in this style than I knew.

Things are different today, many years later. I have since played numerous Role Playing Games and have greatly enjoyed playing games as diverse as the ‘traditional’ Dungeons and Dragons, the ground breaking Heroquest, and James V. West’s quintessentially ‘third generation’ RPG, The Pool. There have been a plethora of Role Playing Games released in the last decade that push the envelope, and it is with this perspective that I look back and wonder what it is that The Window still has to offer.

Here is a simple variation to The Window that I think stretches the system to its untapped potential and really highlights the strength of the three precepts. It’s nothing groundbreaking, and it’s not the ‘one true way’ to play The Window. It is simply one take on it, and I hope you have fun with it.

The first step we will take to bring The Window up to speed is to allow our characters to go beyond Traits and Skills. Sure, Traits and Skills make up a personality, but they don’t tell us what’s really important to our character. What’s really important to our character might be a relationship, a burning desire or hatred, or even a magical possession. In this respect the Storyteller could give important story items like ‘Mafia Don Joe Trimboli’s Ancestral Silver Revolver’ a D6 or D4 and have the character in possession of this gun use its roll, instead of the characters skill, in combat.

The next step is to ditch the idea of rounds. The importance of this will become more apparent in the next section on Sizzle. Forego breaking down contests into single action rounds for a broader picture. Narrate whole parts of scenes (segments) and ask for rolls based on these. You should not be rolling attacks vs. defense, nor asking for any health rolls. This effectively gets rid of the weapon versus amour versus health death spiral crap. Whenever you beat your opponent you bump down his Sizzle. A characters Sizzle represents how important they are to the story, how likeable they are. Whenever you roll a 1, there is a margin of 7 or more in rolls, or you bump your characters Sizzle off the ladder, you force your opponent to make a “Sizzle Check.” A failed Sizzle Check means your character is stabbed to death, driven out of town or one of any other fancy endings that characters have in TV series.

What is it that makes us like a character so much? Think of horror movies. We know that in the group of teenagers, quivering in fear and trying to survive, the bully is going to be eaten first, then the coward, then the annoying ‘know-it-all’ and so on and so on until the last person standing is the humble hero, the one we all liked, who acted coolly and courageously. It’s this person that will defeat the evil nemesis in the end. Or think of a TV series (which are a lot like RPG’s); the cool characters, the interesting ones, stay in the spotlight episode after episode, the others who aren’t so intriguing come and go, and are either killed off or surreptitiously disappear with some very dubious reasoning from the screenwriters.

All characters have Sizzle Dice; this is a measure of how much sizzle your character has. At character creation each character’s Sizzle Dice begin at d8. As with The Window a roll of 6 or under is a success; your character lives for another scene. A roll of 7 or higher and it’s curtain time.

Your Sizzle Dice will go up and down for the duration of a game according to your characters behavior. If you’re playing a good guy then act as a good guy does in fiction, endear us to your character by being heroic, courageous (but not reckless), smart, friendly, helpful, dangerous, cool, etc. Every time you do so the Storyteller will bump your Sizzle Dice up a notch or so, thus making you harder to kill. On the other hand what makes us give a so called hero the thumbs down? Cowardice, unchivalrous behavior, weakness, etc. Every time you act in such a manner your Sizzle Dice will drop. The Storyteller may rise or drop your Sizzle Dice as many rungs on the ladder as she chooses according to the situation. Bad guys also have Sizzle; some Villains are just too cool to have killed off in a few scenes. What gives a Villain Sizzle? Cool devices, dastardly schemes, the obligatory diabolical trap, and generally evil behavior. You may also play a neutral character but these fence sitters are usually the ones to go first – you will have to pull out every stop to make us like, or at least be intrigued, by your ‘double agent’.

The Storyteller is really playing the role of an audience. The Storyteller must ask herself; is this character interesting? Is that realistic or interesting behavior? Was that characters action totally cool? Is the character moving the story along? In this way a characters role in a story is not reliant on how tough they are but rather how important they are to the story. Most RPG’s (even The Window) measure a characters value by their strength, power, health, or hit points, whereas in fictional stories this is never the case; a great giant is brought down by a boy with a sling shot, numerous orcs are bowled over by a mere hobbit on his way to rescue his master, and someone like Pedro wins the election. That’s because these characters have something their enemies don’t have, and that’s Sizzle!

•   All characters begin with Sizzle at D8
•   Sizzle may go up and down at the Storytellers discretion based on the cool or uncool behavior of your character
•   Contests are rolled with traits, skills, relationships, items, fears, loves, hates and any other thing that is important to your character, and usually for broader segments or scenes rather than individual rounds
•   Whenever your opponent rolls a 1, you are beaten with a margin of 7 or more, or your Sizzle is bumped off the ladder (below a D30) in a contest, you must make a Sizzle Roll
•   If you fail the Sizzle Roll (roll 7 or higher) your character must exit the game in any appropriate way (by gruesome death or a never-ending holiday for example). If your Sizzle Roll is a success (6 or lower) your character stays in the picture



Posts: 802

« Reply #1 on: August 12, 2006, 04:44:55 AM »


That sounds very interesting, Yaksha.  But let me ask, are there any questions or concerns you have about your idea?  Is there anything you're stuck on and want feedback?




Posts: 7

« Reply #2 on: August 12, 2006, 12:44:41 PM »

Not really. One thing thats niggling me a little is the fact that often protagonists take a good thrashing (which endears us to them more) before bouncing back to victory, but I don't know how to do this mechanically. Ah well it's not such a biggy. Also just the terminology could be made a bit more interesting - even changing 'sizzle' to something better. That post was a first draft stream of consciousness, so it could definetely be worded more lucidly.

I'm really asking those who have played The Window to discuss their experiences; don't you think it a little odd that a characters duration in a story should be measuered by their Health? Sure I can understand in a gamist RPG that's the idea: max out your hit points to stay alive but in The Window? Going by the system it seems to me too good an opportunity to be waisted on such a dull idea.

I haven't playtested it yet, I'm going to try it out soon.

Thanks for the feedback.

Posts: 7

« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2006, 05:38:31 PM »

Actually, to change the Sizzle rules, I’d say forget about bumps up and down and simply have the Storyteller assign a dice at the end of each session for the next session based on the actors/characters performance or ‘sizzle’. This means for the duration of the next session your character could be invincible or very vunerable.

This is lot more appropriate to the sim realism (and the precept of 'acting realistically' ) of The Window I think.

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