Leveragin’ the Black – Making the Distinction

As mentioned last time, Distinctions in Serenity Plus are largely based on the structure found within Smallville, but with a number of tweaks, making them almost like feat trees, for those familiar with D&D and D20.  We’ll undoubtedly want some new and shiny Distinctions especially written up for our Serenity Plus game, but with such a large source of potential options already presented in the Smallville books, it makes sense (for a fan-made hack at least) to translate as much as possible.  With that aim, here are some guidelines on how to make amendments to the Smallville example Distinctions, along with a few brand new ones designed for gaming in the ‘Verse.

New Distinctions

Complicated Past
You have one of those histories that, when asked about, tends to prompt the response “It’s a long story” along with a strong implication that people should avoid pursuing that line of enquiry…

  • Earn a Plot Point whenever your past causes you problems.
  • When you Spend Plot Points for Assets related to your past they start rated at d8.
  • Create a d10 Complication to Reroll all dice not showing Complications in a roll relating to your past.

Browncoat
You were involved in the Unification War on the side of the Independence–the side that lost.  Maybe you still wear the “uniform” that marks out your allegiance clearly, or perhaps your Browncoat is only a frame of mind, but you still harbour strong feelings on the War and a resentment for the Alliance.

  • Earn a Plot Point when you Choose to start or cause problems relating to the War.
  • When you Spend Plot Points for Assets relating to the War they start rated at a d8.
  • Spend a Plot Point to Increase your Stress die in a conflict against Alliance or someone aligned with their views.

Converting Smallville Distinctions

Due to changes we’re making to the Smallville rules, a number of the Distinction Triggers won’t work as written; altering them to a “feat tree” format is just the start of translating them to Serenity Plus.  Here’s a set of guidelines on making adjustments to Smallville’s list of example Distinctions.

  • Decrease and Increase Stress pools: as we shall see, we are making some adjustments to Stress such that they won’t always be defined in the five types as used by Smallville, so the situations in which these can apply are a little more loosely defined.  For example, Agile could be changed to “Decrease your opponents Stress die in a situation where you can dodge or parry the blow” while Athletic could update to “Increase your Stress die when you can bring strength or force to bear on the situation”.  And yes, that’s “Stress die” rather than Stress pool, for reasons we’ll look at in an upcoming post.
  • One other option in cases where a Decrease Trigger represents fortitude of some kind, such as with Willful: rather than have a Decrease of the Stress die, you may instead Raise your Stress capacity on a certain theme.  In the case of Willful: Raise you Stress capacity when someone attempts to undermine or frighten you.  Again, we’ll look at these more when we discuss Stress.
  • Add dice to Trouble: we won’t have a Trouble pool, but will instead be going with Leverage’s Complications.  As such, any time that a Trigger has an Add instruction, it instead allows the GM to Create a Complication with an equivalent die rating.
  • Gain a Relationship or Extra, or Reveal for a d8 Useful Detail: for any of these, they Create Assets at a d8 rating along the same lines or in the same situations as the original Trigger.  For example, Connected‘s highest Trigger becomes “Spend a Plot Point to Create a d8 Asset for a location you wouldn’t normally have access to.”
  • Reroll: a lot of these can work as they are, but the examples where they specify the name of the distinction being used in a roll, such as the first Trigger for Athletic, will need modifying to focus on the style or type of the situation, rather than the Distinction (“when doing something athletic” in this example) as there will not be a die for the Distinction itself.

And that should handle converting the majority of Smallville’s Distinctions, as the Spend, Earn, Choose, Give, and Reveal Triggers should pretty much work as is, although we may need to get sign-off from our GM on permitting some of the Reveal options.

Up Next

This rounds off our look at the new attributes on our (at this point, theoretical) Serenity Plus character sheet.  Up next: Experience and spending it to improve our characters.

About Craig Payne

Despite being born tone deaf in one ear, Craig has risen above his disadvantage to achieve the lofty position of spending most of his free time mucking around on the Internet, tinkering with RPG rules, and failing on at least seven occasions to finish writing a novel.