The Drama Deck

Roger Bell_West

1 The Player Side

Players use what is normally the grey facing, in any case the one that doesn’t have “S:” and “D:” lines on it.
When a new PC enters play, deal four cards to that player.
Out of combat time, cards may be played from the hand, but no additional cards are drawn. Cards may be traded between players’ hands, but the number of cards must be equal on each side.
In combat time, each round that a PC takes an action which has the potential to help move the scene onwards (whether or not successful), the player may transfer a card from hand to pool (face up). Card abilities may only be played from pool, not from hand, and cards may only be traded between pools (again, with the same number of cards transferred from each side). Any or all cards may be played, but all cards played in a single round must be declared at the same time.
Once per Act in combat a player may declare a Critical Moment, play as many cards as he wishes from hand to pool, and use all of them to affect a single character that round.
At the end of a Scene, all cards in pool (except Subplots) are returned to the hand. If there are more than four cards in hand, discard down to four; or if there are four exactly, you may discard one. Then draw up to make four.

1.1 Immediate Effects

These take effect immediately when played (which need not be on that player’s action).
Action gives +3 to all actions taken by the character this round.
Adrenalin/Willpower/Presence give a +3 to the character’s next physical, intellectual or interpersonal roll.
Coup de Grace adds 50% to an effect total (typically damage).
Drama is spent as an extra Possibility; if held at the end of an adventure, is worth three Possibilities.
Escape must be the first card played into the pool when the encounter begins, though it needn’t be activated immediately; if it is, it allows the whole PC group to avoid the encounter.
Glory may be played when a character has achieved a critical success in something plot-relevant. All characters get three bonus Possibilities at the end of the adventure. This also helps PCs spread tales of their heroic deeds.
Haste gives the character one additional action immediately, and can be played during someone else’s action.
Hero is spent as an extra Possibility.
Idea lets the player ask the GM for inspiration.
Leadership lets the player put one or two cards from his hand or pool into another player’s hand or pool, then refill his hand to four cards. An explanation is required.
Master Plan lets the player take the top discarded card into his hand.
Monologue stops the action while the character makes a dramatic speech; nobody else may act during the round.
Opponent Fails causes one successful action against the PC to fail.
Second Chance lets the character take two rerolls for one failed action (in the manner of Luck).
Seize Initiative lets the players retain the current card on top of the action stack for an extra round, or flip another card immediately.
Supporter lets a character assist another in some way, giving the latter a +3.
Rally lets all PCs refill their hands to four cards.

1.2 Deferred Effects

These have two orange bars rather than an orange bar at one end and a grey at the other. They do not necessarily take effect instantly.
Alertness gives an automatic success next time there is something to be found.
Connection lets a PC know people in the area who might offer him help.

1.3 Subplot Cards

These have two orange bars rather than an orange bar at one end and a grey at the other.
Subplot cards stay in your pool (face up) for the remainder of the adventure. At the end of each act, a subplot that has come into play gives you an extra Possibility.
Campaign makes an existing Subplot permanent (which will typically decrease the character’s point value).
Martyr allows a victorious result in the face of disaster at the cost of that PC’s life.
Mistaken Identity is much like Mistaken Identity in GURPS: it lets the character be misidentified by NPCs as someone they know.
Nemesis is a high-powered Enemy.
Personal Stake is a personal reason for involvement in the major plot.
Romance is a romantic involvement (which may be one-sided) between the PC and an NPC; if made permanent it might be an Ally or a Dependent (or both).
Suspicion causes the character to be suspected by NPCs, and possibly PCs; if made permanent it is probably a negative Reputation.
True Identity signifies that the character is really someone who matters to some NPCs, but nobody knows it yet.

2 The GM Side

Each round in combat, the GM will turn over a card onto the Action Stack, which uses the orange facing of the card. The flavour text in bold print has no game effect.
The S: or D: line (for a Standard or a Dramatic scene) indicates who is acting first (Heroes or Villains), and whether any special effect takes effect on either side. (If a Villain entry indicates an approved action rather than an effect, a successful use of that action by the villains also allows the GM to remove one card from the pool of the target character.)
The Act: line on the Action Stack lists approved actions. If a PC succeeds in an approved action, the player draws a card from drama deck to hand, and may then move one card from hand to pool as normal.
The orange block in the centre of the card is used for Dramatic Skill Resolution.
Note that an offensive or defensive posture (such as All-Out Attack or All-Out Defence) is in effect from the moment it is entered until that character acts again, which may encompass zero, one, two, or more actions by the other side.

2.1 Effects

Flurry gives each character on the affected side an extra action (all characters act normally in decreasing order of Basic Speed, then all act normally again).
Inspiration removes stun effects, restores any lost FP, restores HP to half their normal maximum if they’re lower than that, for all characters on that side.
Up gives a free Possibility-equivalent to each character on that side; it must be spent this round, and cannot be countered by Possibility expenditure.
Break causes any villains who have taken HP damage to attempt to flee or concede if they do no harm to the heroes by the end of this round.
Confused players may not activate cards from their pools this round.
Fatigued causes each character on the affected side to lose 2 FP.
Setback may trigger a planned event (allies waver, opposition is reinforced, equipment fails, environment causes problems); otherwise; the affected side may take no actions that would harm their opponents this round.
Stymied cancels the next Possibility spend by each character.

2.2 Approved Actions

Attack is any form of attack that has the potential to damage the target. Any hit that gets as far as a damage roll is a success, even if no damage is done.
Defend is an All-Out Defence.
Trick requires a clever idea from the player and is generally resolved as a Quick Contest of IQ (or an appropriate skill such as Fast Talk or Sleight of Hand) vs IQ. This is a Willpower roll for card purposes.
Test (of wills) is an action in itself: it is resolved as a Quick Contest of Will vs Will. This is a Willpower roll for card purposes.
Taunt is resolved as a Quick Contest of an influence skill (usually one of Fast-Talk, Intimidation, Savoir-Faire, Sex Appeal, or Streetwise) vs Will. This is a Presence roll for card purposes.
Intimidate can be an action in itself or a consequence of some other event (such as a showy move in combat); it is resolved as a Quick Contest of Intimidation, perhaps with situational bonuses, against the target’s Will. This is a Presence roll for card purposes.
Maneuver is an attempt to exhaust the enemy, and is resolved as a Quick Contest between DX-based skills of some sort. This is an Adrenalin roll for card purposes.
A successful Trick, Test, Taunt, Intimidate or Maneuver causes the target to suffer effects based on the margin of success.
Margin Intimidate/Test Taunt/Trick Maneuver
0-4 Stymied Stymied Fatigued
5-9 Unskilled Unskilled Stymied
10-14 Setback Setback Unskilled
15 Break Up/Setback Setback/Fatigued
16+ Player’s Call Player’s Call Player’s Call
Fatigued causes the character to lose 2 FP.
Stymied causes the character to lose the effect of the next Possibility or bonus card that applies to him, but if no such effect applies before the end of his next action the penalty has no effect.
Unskilled causes the character to lose all skill bonuses on his next action; he must roll at default.
Setback causes life to become harder for the character; for example, he loses his next action. (See above under Effects.)
Break causes the character to flee from or concede the conflict if he is unable to harm his opponent with his next action.
Up gives the character who performed the Taunt/Trick a Possibility-equivalent to be spent this round.
Player’s Call allows the character who performed the action to specify any reasonable result.

2.3 Dramatic Skill Resolution

This is used for an extended task that is of dramatic importance: for example, disarming a bomb. It is broken down into four steps (labelled A to D); each uses the same skill and often the same difficulty modifier. There will also be a time limit in rounds.
Each step may only be attempted when it is listed on the orange Skill bar of the card, and they must be completed in order. Multiple steps may be attempted at once if they all appear at once: -2 for each step beyond the first, applied to each roll.
Special cases on the Skill bar still require a roll, against the difficulty modifier that would have applied anyway, but if that roll is failed something bad happens:
Possible Setback causes the character to lose one completed step.
Complication causes difficulty modifiers to become one point worse for the remainder of the task.
Critical Problem is a major setback: the player must describe how a different skill can be used to complete the task and continue with it thereafter, or start again from the beginning.
If and only if neither the desired step nor a special case appears, skill use becomes an extra approved action: the player may make a skill roll against the difficulty modifier that would have applied anyway to draw a card to his hand (and may then play one to his pool).
If the timer expires without the task being completed, the player may make a last-ditch effort: a single roll against the hardest remaining modifier, plus the multi-step modifier for all remaining steps, plus an extra -4.