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[BSU] "Blowing Stuff Up" - Basic Draft

Started by SuperSooga, October 23, 2007, 08:06:38 AM

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This system is something I knocked up quickly with the aim of it being a fun game that I could play with friends that aren't gamers but (like me) love the occasional dumb action film. The first of my two primary aims were to keep things very simple, relying upon the Director to interpret the mechanics into an exciting story and involving as little number-crunching as possible, instead using descriptive terms and mechanics like matching sets of dice and rerolling rather than having a target number and modifiers. The second aim was simple, fun. I wanted this to be a game where the players are all smiling and I feel the main action mechanic goes a good way towards this. So far in playtesting it's become apparent that rolling the dice is like a game in itself, which is definitely what I was after.

The main part I'm not happy with is the Karma mechanic. I'm fine with how taking damage works but I'm not set on how Karma points are removed just yet. Any suggestions on that specific part would be very helpful.

So here it is, in all its tiny glory. Blowing Stuff Up.

BSU System - Blowing Stuff Up

In BSU you are Steven Seagal, Jean Claude Van Damme, Arnold Swarzeneggar or Kurt Russel. You get into car chases, plunge down elevator shafts, shoot armies of henchmen from a chopper and get chased down corridors by explosions. You're saving your son from his captors, killing the terrorist that's planning to blow up the airport or hiding from the secret government agency that betrayed you, their most deadly operative.


Firstly every character must have a name. You may also cast an actor in the role.

Role: This is the character's purpose in the story and the most basic way of describing them. Everyone gets a role and it may be used exactly like a Cliche. Examples could include "LAPD Chief", "Stunt Driver" or "Insane Professor".

Stars: Stars are a measure of the importance of that character and are noted next to their Role. Everyone starts with no stars and gains them, to a maximum of four, in the following ways.

One Star: Having a name - If we hear the character's name then this person is raised to one star.

Two Stars: Personal detail - If the hero or villain finds out personal information about a character they are raised to two stars. These are typically supporting characters such as sidekicks, love interests or mini-bosses.

Three Stars: The Hero/Villain - Three star characters are the heroes or main villains. This is as high as a character may reach during their first movie.

Four Stars: I'll Be Back - A character may only have four stars if they have survived a whole movie or season and are returning for the sequel.

Cliches: Cliches are what make the character. They are short phrases that describe who the character is and how they act. A number of temporary Cliches may be added to the character throughout a movie. Each Star grants the character a Cliche. Examples could include "You're a Loose Cannon!", "Scientific Mastermind" or "Don't make me angry...".

Tools: Whenever a character attempts an action he must have a suitable tool for the job, if one is needed. For example, to attempt to kill another character a tool will generally be required in the form of a gun or other weapon. A tool may have its own cliches that may be drawn upon when it is used.

Karma: Sometimes it seems like fate is smiling upon the starring characters. Whenever a character avoids a situation that would normally kill him he recieves a Karma point. When a character's Karma points equals his number of stars (to a minimum of one Karma point) fate finally catches up with him and he is killed off.
The only way to remove Karma points is to allow character weaknesses. Whenever one of the character's Cliche is used against him he may remove a Karma point. For instance, a hero might use the "Chain Smoker" Cliche to allow the Director to reroll a die when the character is attempting to outrun a pursuer.


At the start of any Action the Director rolls a pool of three Drama Dice (DD). Each character involved then rolls two Personal Dice (PD). The aim of each character is to get matching sets or two or more dice, drawing from both their own Personal Dice and the Drama Dice. Two matching dice are called a double, three are called Trips, four are Quads and five a Full Set. No matching dice at all result in a failure.

Something Bad - The character fails to achieve their target and in addition something bad happens.

Double: Near Success - The character just misses out on succeeding but nothing bad happens this time.

Trips: Success - The character has achieved what they wanted to do.

Quads: Success with Bonus - The character completes the task with ease and achieves some sort of bonus.

Full Set: Something Awesome - The character succeeds in the best way possible, exceeding even what he set out to achieve.

After the dice are rolled they may be modified in three ways:

- If the character has a Cliche that would help in the task he may reroll any of his PDs or a number of DDs up to his number of Stars.
- Alternatively, if the character has any stars he may use a Cliche to raise or lower the value of a single Drama Die by one.
- If a character has any Cliches that would hinder the situation they may be forced to reroll any of their PDs.

Any of these processes may be declared by a player, or the Director, at any time, with the character that is currently losing having priority. If the losing character wishes to make no more actions the winning character may still use any cliches he wishes to increase his level of success. These processes may be repeated for any number of Cliches as long as they are relevant to the current action and the character is acting accordingly. For example, the "Cowardly Rat" Cliche could be used to help avoid gunfire as long as he is diving for cover or fleeing the scene. The Director may apply Cliches to the environment or task to benefit or hinder the characters, such as an "Icy Road" in the case of a car chase.

After all rolls are made the character with the greatest success compares their result against the chart above. The individual values of the matching dice are used to break ties. For example, a pair of fives beats a pair of fours. In the case of matching sets both characters succeed in their goals, if this is possible, or else there is no change in the situation.
Note that the Director will typically describe the scene as Cliches are taking effect, with each change representing a shift in the action.

Ongoing Action

For actions that are all part of the same ongoing scene, such as a fist-fight or car chase, the Drama Dice are carried across with the addition of another dice for each new action, up to a maximum of 5. Personal Dice are rerolled for all parties. Other than this the action is considered a brand new action.

Action Examples

Car Chase: This is simulated as a combat between the two vehicles, which carry their own Cliches to be used alongside those of the drivers and the environments the chase passes through.
Running Away: This will usually be from a runaway truck, wave of water or firey explosion. The narrower the success, the narrower the escape.
Falling off a Roof: Here the hero must hope for a pile of cardboard boxes to succesfully break his fall.
Shoot Out: The Hero and Villain take shots at eachother while they dive from cover to cover.
Montage: Sometimes a character will want to do a number of smaller tasks without going into them in too much detail. This could include gathering fortifying a building in preparation for attack or searching the city for a contact. These actions are best grouped together as a montage, where the player or director is encouraged to provide a few small highlights before determining if the overall task is completed or not.

Getting Hurt

When a character would be hurt by an action that character makes an action roll to resist the damage, rolling as many dice and he has stars. Any matching dice will result in the character suffering no serious harm, otherwise he will be hurt and recieve a Karma point. Depending on the nature of the attack this may result in the Director applying a temporary Cliche to the character such as "Poisoned" or "Bloodied" or even taking him temporarily out of action.
This roll may be affected by Cliches as with any other action, with the dice being treated as Personal Dice.

Explosions and other Set Pieces

The slow-motion kill or huge explosion are eagerly awaited by the film's audience and are represented by the Drama Dice. If the DDs contain Trips or higher the succesful character can make use of a dramatic effect. This could be an exploding tanker, set-piece kill using that moose head mounted on the wall or any other appropriate use of a prop.

Example Cast

Die Hard (1988)

Bruce Willis as "John McLane"
Role: Hero Cop***
Cliches: American Cowboy, Estranged Wife, Catchphrase
Tools: Pistol, Fists.

Alan Rickman as "Hans Gruber"
Role: Terrorist Leader***
Cliches: Lies and Deceit, Look out for Number One, Expositious Speech
Tools: Pistol, Explosives.

Alexander Godunov as "Karl"
Role: Lead Henchman**
Cliches: It's Pesonal, Right-Hand Man
Tools: Pistol

Terrorist #4
Role: Terrorist Henchman
Tools: AK-47 (Spray Bullets)


Using this system of 5 dice, with pairs trips, etc. You could almost apply an effect like a game of Yahtzee where the dice effectively work like poker hands, having full houses count for special effects, as well as straights (eg 1,2,3,4,5 or 2,3,4,5,6).

But generally, it's a nice general set-up and I wouldn't change much.

I can see your point about the karma possibly needing a bit more attention. I haven't got any suggestions at the moment. Unless it were expanded out to a mutli session game (sequels, trilogies, etc.) with a basic experience system incorporated into the karma system.

A.K.A. Michael Wenman
Vulpinoid Studios The Eighth Sea now available for as a pdf for $1.


Thanks for the feedback, V.

This game pretty much wears its influences on its sleeve. The mechanic is effectively a combination of Yhatzee and Texas Hold'em and the way characters are handled was very much inspired by Spirit of the Century, which I wanted to strip right down to basics.

I considered having outcomes for straights, full house etc. but eventually decided against it. If you have straights and matching sets both in there the chance of success becomes very high. While this is good for one on one combats and such, where you want someone to succeed, it makes solo efforts a little bit too easy for my liking. I also like the sheer simplicity of "more matching dice = good".

As far as sequels go I think the difference between the end of a gaming session and end of a movie should be prety clear but as things stand there are no specific rules for this. The only real reference in there is to Four Star characters, who are returing main heroes or villains. To be honest I'm not sure this extra level of Stars is necessary or suitable and am considering removing it, having 3 Stars be the absolute maximum. From playtesting three feels like a nice level of survivability and it fits with the Drama Dice beginning as a pool of three too.