Thursday, July 21, 2011

[oWoD] Translating old manuscript, example of how I deal with extended actions

Extended actions are those where you need certain number of cumulative successes to finish your task. Usually long term tasks like repairing a machine with several different parts in process or translating a manuscript where are several different sections. That manuscript translation is an example I am going to use here.

Core System For Extended Actions

I have to say that I've played Vampire: the Masquerade (most used oWoD system for me) so many years that I am not any more sure what is a house rule and what is written in the book. oWoD has evolved to this point how I play it now and I rarely have to check rulebook nowadays. So, I might give this core system for oWoD extended actions as it is presented officially, or there might be some house rules also. I am not sure anymore.

When Storyteller gives player character an extended action, Storyteller should determine these steps:

  • What attributes and skills is dicepool
  • What is the difficulty
  • How many successes is needed to accomplish the task
  • How much time one roll takes
Player can roll as many times as he has time to spend in his extended task or he fails miserably to negative overall successes.

Successes And Advancing

Every time player rolls his dice pool, it takes the amount of time Storyteller has ruled it to take. In that time player gets as many successes to his overall task accomplishment as he had successes in that roll. These successes are cumulative.

Example 1. Rolling successes.
Character is trying to translate manuscript. Storyteller tells, that it uses Intelligence and Occult for dicepool. Difficulty number is 7 and one roll takes 2 hours to accomplish. Storyteller might or might not tell the final successes needed, but in this example Storyteller has told that translating the manuscript needs total of 10 successes.
Player rolls his dicepool and gets 3 successes. In 2 hours he has advanced roughly 1/3 of translating the manuscript and can continue the work.

When player character gains all needed total successes, he is done with the task.


Time how much one roll takes time in game world is essential. It determines, how much player character can do it in a row. For a vampire night might turn to morning before she can continue or there might be a deadline in which time period it must be ready. But in some situations studying and translating the manuscript there might be infinite time available if player does it for his character's own purposes. Still, there might be other activities what can delay the work.

Failing A Roll

When player fails his roll not gaining a single success he hasn't advanced a bit in his extended task.

Example 2. Failing.
Character has already translated 3 successes worth of the manuscript during the first 2 hours and continue his work. Player rolls dice, but doesn't get a single success. His character spends next 2 hours, but cannot advance in his translation at all.

Even though character fails advancing in his task, if there is time to continue it right after or even later some other day, he can do so without a penalty. It only means that during that last 2 hours he didn't advance in what he did. Maybe there was a hard part, his mind wasn't completely set in a task or what ever. He spent that 2 hours trying, but without advancing.


When there are no single successes and result 1's, character botches (basic rules). That means, that during that period of continuing the work something went wrong, and player character looses as many successes that far as there are 1's. But you should also include this in roleplaying. Some possibilities in manuscript translation why character's work had a step back.

Example 3. Botching.
Character has already gained 6 successes of needed 10 and he continues his work. This time his highest number is 6 what is not a success and also he got three 1's. He botched and decreases 3 from his overall successes this far. Storyteller tells, why player character's work had a drawback. He spilled coffee on his work and must do that part again.

There are several possibilities to explain botching and the drawback it caused. Here are few to give some inspiration for botching translating manuscript:

  • Spilled coffee on work
  • Forgot to save and computer crashed
  • Fire alarm set off (in this Storyteller can roleplay this, or just tell how fire alarm set off and now player character is standing outside of the building with his notes he had time to gather some of them missing, or took his laptop in a haste and forgot to save)
Also you might not want to set drawback to successes but instead rule that something came in the way that disturbed character's work so much he cannot continue it for some time. Urgent things to take care of, office he is working in fire, hostage situation or something...

Or if character gained enough 1's for really bad botch (at least 5) then combine the two. He lost the work and also is disturbed so much cannot continue for a while.

When It Just Doesn't Work?

You might also rule, that when successes are in negative (botches after botches) the current work cannot be continued at all. It is up to you, should it be -1 to successes or even -5 when character must basically start all over again after he has for example advanced in skill dot or even gained new knowledge or new resources to continue.
It doesn't mean that character cannot ever again do it. It just means with those skills he has now or with currently available resources it is not possible. So character must re-invent the study with new resources.

It could simply be buying and installing a better software for a computer, getting a book or two around the topic of the manuscript, learning more with experience (points), talking with more experienced person to gain new ideas or even a small side quest.

If your adventures main plot is to translate that manuscript to be used it would be really inconvenient if it just was not possible. Work your way around so character can do it. It might take extra trouble, investments to better equipment or even a side quest to continue that.

Don't let dice to ruin your game, let them be your guide what possibly can happen and how.

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