Note: This article is essentially some design notes about my table-top RPG system, Moment of Truth. Revision 1.3, which has not yet been playtested, is available for download at angryfolk.com/publishing/rev1-3, if you’d like to take a look.
I’ve changed the name of Drama Tension Conflict to Moment of Truth. The original name came up quite literally as a brainstorming exercise and was nothing more than a working title.
The Moment of Truth mechanic has become more central to the game in Revision 1.3, so it makes sense that this central mechanic might as well lend its name to the game.
I’m taking Revision 1.3 with me to Gateway 2013 in the hopes that I get a chance to run a game or two.
Moments of Truth
The biggest change to the game is that the Moment of Truth mechanic has been more clearly defined and the way they are awarded is more mechanical and less arbitrary. You can also now have more than one of them.
One of the most common notes from the playtest feedback (and my own experiences) was that the Moment of Truth mechanic was for the most part completely untouched by most players. This was most likely due to the vague nature of the mechanic, specifically in how they are earned.
With the latest revision of my game, I have refined how Moments of Truth, which used to be simply player fiat. In the new revision, a player has the opportunity to earn a Moment of Truth whenever the GM asks the player to make a dice roll.
When the GM asks you to make a dice roll, you can do one of two things to earn a Moment of Truth. You can:
- Take a failure. You simply narrate that you’ve failed at whatever roll the GM required.
- Raise the stakes. You announced that you’re raising the stakes. This means that you will make your roll, but any failure you get requires a roll on the now included critical failure table, which has some very vaguely phrased consequences to failure.
Which ever option you choose, you earn a Moment of Truth that you can use later.
Firstly, you must justify the use of a Moment of Truth. This is done with your character’s Strengths and Weaknesses. There are statements about your character that describe who you are and how you see the world. Moments of Truth have three uses. One is strictly mechanical and two are narrative. You can:
- Receive a mechanical bonus (ie, extra dice in your dice pool).
- Add a detail to the current scene.
- Make a connection or relationship between two elements of a scene.
Putting them Together and Changing Game Play
You might notice that the uses of Moments of Truth can be rather powerful. A character being held up in a general store might narrate that his best friend the sheriff walks. Perhaps an unarmed character now finds a loaded shotgun hanging over the mantle.
This narrative power is why characters do not start the game with any Moments of Truth.
The power of Moments of Truth is intentional. And there are two reasons behind it.
Firstly, the Moments mechanic is a tool to help players and GMs tell the sort of literary stories where the protagonists are met with failure after failure, getting beat down and outsmarted at every turn, yet in the end, either through their own ingenuity, luck or inner strength, they come out on top.
Secondly, the Moments mechanic seeks to prevent the GM from calling for superfluous dice rolls. We’ve all seen it, and we’ve all done it. Some GMs (maybe us) constantly call for dice rolls that are unimportant or inconsequential.
Calling for rolls by the players when failure is unimportant might leave the GM facing a party that is fully loaded with Moments of Truth, so challenging that party is practically impossible.
So what’s this GM to do?
Easy. Don’t make the players roll so much. If a roll is insignificant, don’t make the player roll it. If failure of a roll has no consequences, skip it an narrate success instead.
As I playtest this latest revision of the rules, I may find that there are some unintended consequences of this system.