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Rules & Rolling

Why are the rules important? Well, most of us have played Cops & Robbers, Cowboys & Indians, or any number of similar games of make-believe when we were younger. Inevitably it became a shouting match of 'who shot who and who was wearing indestructible armor'. The rules are there to prevent just that though they are more than just that. In part they help to make the game fun and fair for everyone by adding an element of chance. They also serve as a method to determine what your character might or might not be able to accomplish despite your own personal abilities or limitations.
Rolling the Dice
Most of the Rules are based around rolling a number of Dice and the Major and Minor Aspects of the Characters involved in the situation. Let's start with the Dice first. In all cases you will be using the standard six-sided dice you might find in any number of board games. You only need one but if you can you should have a good handful since it will make rolling that much easier. Now let's move on to the types of rolls you might be making...
General Roll
The Dealer will often ask a Player to make this kind of roll to determine if their Character can succeed or fail at a particular task. This could be anything where it is the Character alone who determines if they succeed or fail: Painting a picture, hitting a target, or mending a fence. To make the roll the Player rolls a number of dice equal to the Major Aspect the Skill is based in, keeping the amount of dice equal to the Skill, and then adding them up and giving the result. The Player determines which dice to keep - sometimes you might just want to pull a punch.

For Example: You need to stop a bucking horse. You have a Major Physical Aspect of 9 and a Horsemanship Skill of 5. Rolling 9 dice you get 6, 6, 4, 5, 2, 1, 3, 4, and 4. Keeping the best 5 dice you have 6, 6, 5, 4, and 4 for a result of 25.

In some situations, particularly if a Character has a particular Trait, they might have to re-roll a number of dice before the final result is known. In all instances where a Character must re-roll some dice they re-roll all dice that must be re-rolled because of a 'Negative' at once, then all dice that can be re-rolled because of a 'Positive' at once. Then they determine which dice to keep, add any modifiers, and announce the total.

For Example: As part of an attempt to distract the pretty secretary so that your partner can sneak into the Big Boss' office the Dealer declares that your Trait 'Unlucky at Love' takes effect and you need to re-roll three dice. However, you also have the Trait 'White Hat' and are well known as a good guy so you get to re-roll 3 dice for that. Being a good girl herself, despite her boss's misdeeds, the Dealer also allows you to use this Trait. You rolled 8 dice: 6, 6, 5, 3, 3, 2, 2 and 2. First you re-roll the top 3 dice for 'Unlucky at Love' - 6, 6 and 5 - and get 2, 3, and 6. Then you re-roll the three lowest dice - all 2's - and get 1, 5, and 6. Not that great, but it could be worse.
Opposed Roll
These rolls are generally used to decide the outcome when two or more Characters are facing off. It could be a hand of poker, a singing contest, or to see who has the best preserves at the County Fair. Sometimes these are single rolls but often they are part of a larger event such as a bar brawl. Either way they work the same way: Both Players, or the Player and the Dealer, make general rolls and compare results with the higher result winning. The Skills used are not always the same and it's not always a Skill versus a Skill but the process is always the same.
Scaling
In either type of Roll the concept of Scaling is important. In a General Roll you might only need to get a 6 for an 'Easy' task but you might have rolled a 25. Once you give the Dealer the result they will say what the target number was and you can then figure out the Scaling. For every 6 over, or under, the target the scale of success or failure is increased by one level. In a General Roll this can make your efforts a spectacular success or in an Opposed Roll it can help you overcome an opponent far quicker.

For Example: You want to hit your 'buddy' in the face for flirting with your girl. You have a Major Physical Aspect of 7 and a Brawling Skill of 4. Rolling 7 dice you get 6, 4, 5, 2, 1, 3, 4, and 4. Keeping the best 4 dice you have 6, 5, 4, and 4 for a result of 19. Your 'buddy', who's more than a little drunk, does the same thing with his Major Physical Aspect of 5 and Brawling Skill of 3 and gets a 13. Not only does your punch connect but since you beat his roll by 6 you drop his Physical Resilience by an extra point.
Target Numbers

Easy: 6
Moderate: 9
Average: 12
Difficult: 15
Hard: 18
Impossible: 21

Vehicles & Mounts
A Character that is mounted or riding on a vehicle uses that vehicles Major Aspects when performing any action directly involving that vehicle or mount. This adjusts for the limitations of the vehicle or mount. If the vehicle or mount has fewer Points in a Major Aspect than the Character has in their Skill then the Character can only roll a number of dice equal to the Major Aspect keeping all of them. Some vehicles and mounts have their own Skills; If both the mount and Character have the same Skill use the higher of the two.
Initiative
Initiative determines who acts when in a given situation involving multiple Characters. This is determined by rolling two Minor Aspects chosen by the Dealer and totaling them up. For example in a gunfight it might be Reason and Dexterity while in a poker game it might be Reason and Charisma. The highest roll acts first with equal rolls acting at the same time. Once the Character has taken their action they then reduce their total by 6 and the new highest Initiative goes. Once everyone has reached 0 everyone re-rolls and the cycle repeats until the Encounter is over.

Some Skills and Traits can be used or do modify Initiative or are used in place of a standard Initiative Roll. For example the Fast Draw Skill could be used in a stand-up gunfight to determine who draws faster. A Character with that Skill would first roll it and use that result in place of an appropriate Minor Aspect chosen by the Dealer then it would be combined with the second Minor Aspect roll.
If a Character uses a Skill to modify their Initiative that usage only applies to the first Initiative Roll of an encounter. After that they would use the same combination of Minor Aspects as the other Characters. Traits, on the other hand, modify every Initiative Roll no matter when it occurs.

Skills that can be used as part of an Initiative Roll are noted as such in their description. Not all Skills so noted are appropriate for this purpose however. A 'Tactics' roll might only be appropriate when the Characters have had a reasonable amount of time to communicate their plan or have trained together long enough to have pre-made plans for a number of situations. Whether or not a given Skill is appropriate in a given situation is ultimately up to the Dealer. Some Skills note that they can be used to modify a group's Initiative Roll. In this case the character with the Skill would roll it and everyone that the Character can effectively communicate with would be given the same bonus to their roll.

In general all Skills that can modify Initiative work the same way. Skills that only modify one Character's Initiative Roll are substituted for one of the Minor Aspects chose by the Dealer and rolled as a General Check before being added to the results of the other Minor Aspect roll. Skills that can be used to add to the Initiative of a group must always be used as part of an Opposed Check. If the Skill being used to oppose is a Skill that adds a group bonus then the higher roll adds the bonus to the group's separate initiative rolls. If the opposed Skill does not add a group bonus then it simply disrupts the group Skill use and Initiative is rolled normally. Also note that Group and Personal Initiative bonuses stack.

For Example: A character wants to use Camouflage to ambush a group of bandits riding along a trail. After arranging their trap the Dealer would have the Character roll Camouflage opposed by the bandit's Perception. If the bandits fail to detect the ambush the ambushers would recieve the difference between the highest perception check and the Camouflage check as an initative bonus. Characters could then use their own Skills that modify initiative as part of their roll.

Developer Notes: Why does Initiative work this way? Part of it is to encourage the Players to think about what they are doing rather than rushing in guns blazing. This doesn't mean Dealers should constantly ambush the Players or send them up against elite military units versed in small unit tactics. Sometimes it is easier and far more dramatic for the Players to rush in guns blazing after all.
Alternate Initiative
Because Sunset is a Western Role-Playing Game there is an alternative way to determine Initiative that is more appropriate for the Setting. All of the Characters should draw a number of cards from a well-shuffled deck of common playing cards equal to the two Minor Aspects given by the Dealer. Initiative proceeds from Kings to 2's with Aces being a 'wild' card that can be used whenever a Character wants. If two Characters have the same card then the Character with the higher suit goes first.

Spades - Hearts - Clubs - Diamonds

If a Character Actively Defends they discard their highest card. Since Aces act as a 'wild' card a Character can discard an Ace instead. Once all Characters are out of cards everyone re-draws and repeats the process until the Dealer declares combat has ended.
Alternate Initiative Two
For faster Initiative without the math Characters can just use the totals of the two Minor Aspects as their Initiative with the Dealer counting down from the highest starting Initiative. Players can use counters of some kind to keep track of how many actions they have left.
Encounters
Sometimes combat is not the clash of arms but a battle of wits over a dinner table. Either way the same system can be used to determine the outcome of both.

There are two important aspects to the way an Encounter is managed: Initiative and the Major Aspect it is based around. Initiative is covered elsewhere but it is important for the Dealer to first decide which Major Aspect is most appropriate for the situation. This might be Intellectual for a game of chess, Physical for a duel, or Emotional for a verbal sparring match over dinner. Once the Dealer decides this at least one of the Minor Aspects of that Major Aspect should be used to determine Initiative - but not always.

Once the Dealer establishes the Major Aspect to be used the Players should then check their Character Sheet to determine what their Character's current total is in that Major Aspect and note it. This is the Character's Resilience, which is the limiting factor to decide when a Character has been defeated in some manner and can no longer participate in the Encounter. This doesn't always mean they are dead: In a fist fight they could be knocked out, in an attempt to woo they could have been charmed, or they could just be done arguing for the night.

The amount of time occupied by a single action is up to the Dealer though they should make it reasonably known so the Players can give more reasonable actions based on the time allowed. In a gunfight each Character might only have five seconds per action while in a argument each side might take five seconds or five minutes to make their next point. The amount of time each action takes does not need to be static for a particular encounter either.

For Example: The Players are riding a stagecoach through a canyon when it is ambushed. Instead of fighting out each separate encounter the Dealer decides to treat the four NPCs as forty and use each character's action as an 'event in passing' as the stagecoach thunders through. On their action the players and the NPCs might exchange shots, kick a bandit off his horse, or take the reins to ensure the coach doesn't crash. Each of these possible actions might take only a second, such as shooting a bandit in passing, or might take minutes, such as kicking a bandit off the coach.
Encounter Actions
Characters can take the following actions during their Initiative turn. This list is by no means inclusive but is there to rather suggest possible actions as well as give the Dealer some ideas on how to treat the new actions the Players will come up with.
Using A Skill
Frequently during an Encounter the Dealer might call upon a Character to make a Skill Roll in order to accomplish something. One of the most common Skill Rolls made during an Encounter is a Perception Roll so we'll use that as our first example.

For Example: During the course of a card game in a dark room one of the players suddenly pitches forward. The Dealer would have all the Characters at the table make a Perception Roll to begin figuring out what happened to the dead player. Based on how well they roll compared to the Dealer's declared target they might learn more or less information from a quick look than the player next to them.

In the given example the Characters are simply rolling against a pre-determined target number. Dealers can also call for an opposed roll. Again, Perception is used for the example.

For Example: One of the players suddenly remembers a shadowy figure passing behind the dead player earlier in the game and pausing for some reason. Was it simply a waiter giving him a drink or a mysterious assassin - perhaps even one of the other players at the table? The Dealer may have, at the time of the attack, secretly rolled for the attacker to disguise their face by carefully staying in the shadows. This now becomes an Opposed Roll with the assassin's roll being the player's current target number to remember who it was.

Not all Skill Rolls can reasonably happen in a single Initiative Turn however. The Dealer can also establish a number of successful rolls that the Character must have in order to use the Skill successfully. This is an instance where the Scaling Success concept comes into play.

For Example: Three bank robbers burst into a bank and proceed to hold the place up. However, the Players are right outside and a gunfight ensues as the bank robbers attempt to hold them off long enough to get the safe open and make good their escape. The Dealer determines that the safe cracker will need four Hard successes over any number of turns to open the safe. On his first turn the safe cracker just makes the Hard target. On his next turn he not only makes the Hard target but also makes a Very Hard target. Now the safe cracker only needs one more success due to succeeding and making an additional Scaling Success. However, during his next attempt the safe cracker is distracted and has to join in the gun fight; still one more attempt to go. During his next attempt he succeeds again, opens the safe, and begins to gather up the cash.

If, in the previous example, the safe cracker had failed one of his Skill Rolls by more than the Scaling Number the results would have been opposite of a Scaling Success. He might have set back his attempt to open the safe by one or more successes thus allowing the Players enough time to force their way inside and capture the robbers. Whether or not a failure results in this kind of setback is up to the Dealer.

Sometimes it might also take multiple Characters working on a single task to accomplish it in a reasonable amount of time. If, during the previous example, there had been another safe cracker there they could have contributed to opening the safe during their Initiative turn by attempting the same Skill Roll. This would have then had exactly the same results for success and failure as the first safe cracker's rolls.
Attacking
Attacking another Character starts with the attacking Character rolling a General Roll and then the defending Player deciding if they want to actively or passively defend themselves.
Defending
Passively defending is easy: Take the Character's Minor Aspect or Skill that is most appropriate and multiply it by 3. That is the target for the attacking Character to hit. Once the Character has decided to passively defend they have to live with it or perhaps die with it. If they decide to actively defend they can instead roll their own General Roll turning the roll into an Opposed Roll. However if a Character actively defends they also reduce their current Initiative by 6 but this allows them to take a defensive action. For example in a gunfight they could hunker down behind a boulder, thus making their General Roll result their new passive defense until they actively defend again.

For Example: Taking the above example a Character could decide to make a run for it by ducking and weaving through some trees to both increase the distance between himself and his attacker and giving himself some cover in the process. If the Character could put enough cover between themselves and an attacker they could make it impossible to be attacked unless the attacker moved in response.

Sometimes a Character might end up attacking a target who is completely unaware of it and thus cannot be said to be even passively defending themselves. In this case the target has a Passive Defense that is equal to the most appropriate Minor Aspect or Skill. This does not always have to be used in a combat situation and can be a good way to resolve certain specific situations.

For Example: One of the Players is sneaking through a building that is being patrolled by a guard. So far they have successfully avoided them but finally they are trapped in a room and the guard is just about to open the door. In that moment they decide they are going to use a chair and try to knock the guard out as quietly as possible. The guard is still blissfully unaware of the Player and isn't making any kind of move to defend themselves. Thus when that chair comes crashing down the guard's Passive Defense is equal to their Minor Aspect: Dexterity since that's just a good indication of how fast they are moving when they go looking for that delicious sandwich at their desk.

This is going to make it far more realistic for a Character to be able to completely disable another Character in a single action and should thus be used carefully. If there is a pair of guards and a single Player only the first would go down so easily: Initiative should then be rolled and an Encounter progress normally. As mentioned as well this does not need to be used in a combat situation. It could just as easily apply to someone suddenly verbally attacked during an argument.
Success
If the Attack Roll is greater than the target's Passive Defense or their Active Defense Roll the attacker has successfully hit. A successful attack reduces the target's Resilience by 1 automatically with each additional Scaling Success reducing it by a further 1.
Failure
In most cases a failed attack is simply that - a failure. Initiative moves to the next Character and the defender breathes a sigh of relief. However, even in the case of a failed attack, the Dealer may wish to describe the results of the Character's actions. This can be used for a variety of purposes: It can indicate how difficult an opponent is, how incompetent the attacker is, or be used to emphasis the importance or dramatic consequences of a situation. Again this is where the Scaling concept can be useful: If an verbal assault just missed it's mark then the victim could look slightly shaken while something completely off-base could be laughed off.

Developer Notes In nearly all cases an unsuccessful attack or action should never restore Resilience to the target of the attack. While there are several Traits that have this advantage, doing so on a regular basis would mean that a group of Players would have very little chance to overcome an opponent who has vastly more Points than they do individually.
Range
If the encounter is simple the Dealer may just describe the area and how far apart the various Characters are. Characters can be either in melee (arms reach) of an opponent, short, medium, long, extreme, or bombardment range of another character. The Dealer might also describe the scenario in terms of range. In general a Character can change the range between them and another character by one for each action taken - IE short to medium, bombardment to extreme, etc - unless deemed unreasonable by the Dealer. This movement is important because of the Range limitations on weapons. A Character wishing to make best use of a weapon needs to be within the listed range to not suffer penalties to their attack roll.

Range Melee Short Medium Long Extreme Bombardment
Melee 0 -6 -12 -18 -24 -30
Short -6 0 -6 -12 -18 -24
Medium -12 -6 0 -6 -12 -18
Long -18 -12 -6 0 -6 -12
Extreme -24 -18 -12 -6 0 -6
Bombardment -30 -24 -18 -12 -6 0

Weapons have specific ranges they are bested used in. If a weapon is used outside of it's listed ranges there is a penalty of -6 to the attacker's roll for every range difference. The ranges are Melee, Short, Medium, Long, Extreme, and Bombardment. For example a cannon would have a range of Long, Extreme, and Bombardment. Using it against an opponent in melee would incur a penalty of -18 on the attacker.
Reloading
To reload a weapon a Character would declare that they are reloading as their action as well as what weapon and make a General Roll (Easy) with the associated Skill with every Scaling Success allowing them to load an additional round up to the weapon's maximum capacity. Weapons with multiple crews either consume a single action from each crew member or take multiple actions for a single character. With more modern weapons - such as a magazine-fed rifle - a Character doesn't need to make a roll but instead simply states that they are reloading. The only case in which they might need to roll is when circumstances make it more difficult than routine.
Moving
In general a character can both move and shoot in the same action with no penalty. They can also run and change up to two range's in one action. If they are trained in the use of a particular weapon they can also stand still and take careful aim to give them +6 to their Attack Roll. If they move and shoot all penalties and bonuses are per the initial range, not the new range.

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