Feedback wanted: Silver Bullet Mechanic for Weird West hack


(Stefan Struck) #1

I’m thinking about including this in my weird west hack, mainly because I bought some cool bullet tokens but also to inject more unpredictability into the stories. I feel that random madness and accidental encounters added by players should be a part of my theme. I hope to boost the “weird” part and generate more cooler stories. So, here you go (WOP)

Silver Bullet (or Doom Bullet or Wild Card)
May be spent once per run. (TBD or refreshes with next level up, not sure yet)
A silver bullet is a plot twist that gives you potency in the current situation: A fateful encounter or opportunity, an act of sheer willpower or stoic endurance.
Explain how and why this is possible and connect it to a major struggle, sacrifice or hard decision on your side. Who will suffer? (TBD add more questions here)

What do you think? Do you want to play game which has such a mechanic?


(Ian Hart) #2

I like the concept, especially the narrative triggers. I feel like it might overlap too much with things you can do with stress (flashback, push for effect, and resist, in the examples you gave.) And once per score bonus stress is already a mechanic (Special Armor.)
I think you could either give it a more specific unique ability, or just reskin/rename “Special Armor” into “Silver Bullet”, with the narrative consequences as a downside, but broader ability to use it without taking Special Abilities.
Having the players have both would probably make it hard for them to have a distinct identity.


(Stefan Struck) #3

@Antifinity Thanks for the feedback, much appriciated!

I agree that there’s a big overlap with stress based mechanics. Stress is a personalized resource for every PC to be awesome/badass. I don’t think that vanilla Blades as a pure approach to how-a-thing-is-done. You already have a wide (you may say overlapping) choice how to achieve something mechanically, as you said by using flashbacks, push, resist, special armor, special abilities etc. I think this is a good thing, a very good thing to be honest. Our session are full of those different approaches which is great fun to watch and play out. I know some say that Forged in the Dark is meant to have THE ONE mechanic and nothing else to do it (zero ballast), but I don’t see Blades that way and I think that redundance is a good thing because it gives more options.

“Silver Bullet” is meant to be story turning freak accidents with it’s own price driven by players. Not using the same stress currency (and therefore useful for those desperate situations when stress is used up and you don’t want the next trauma).
I’m aiming for a “beyond control” thing less on a personal PC (or GM) level but more for the plot/story. Using potency as a benefit and not +1d/more effect/special effect.
Maybe it’s less of a PC move and more of a Player move on the meta level of the game.

Well, trying to put my thoughts in words make clear that I’m not sure if I can explain this well enough. I still hope that this gives a bit more context.


(Michael Elliott) #4

Hmm, I like where you’re going with this. I think the idea of cashing in your Silver Bullet to have a dramatic effect on the plot, and thus it should be very rare (maybe you only get 1, ever, or you are rewarded them when your character marks a trauma?)

  • This enemy has been giving us so much grief all game, I’m gonna cash in my Silver Bullet so that when he’s wounded by my gunfire he just dies
  • I’ve maxed out all my harm and stress so I can’t act without traumaing out, but it’s not the right time for my character. Instead I’m gonna cash in my Silver Bullet so I can take the heroic last shot without the risk of trauma.
  • We need this special item crafted for this job, and I don’t have any coin to spend to boost my roll, so I’ll cash in my Silver Bullet to just get it during a flashback.

Is that the kind of power you want this to have mechanically/in the narrative?

If so I think one way to illustrate the push and pull is with something like a special ability like Antifinity mentioned. That way the flavour of the cost of each Silver Bullet can depend on the type of playbook and the type of character each player inhabits and their unique effect on the story.

Maybe something like:

Strange Turns: You can spend your Silver Bullet to destroy an otherworldly beast when you would normally just wound it. When the beast is slain choose one: you take on an aspect of what you killed - the beast now lives in you - the beast’s creator knows what you’ve done

Not Time to Die: Once, ever, when you would die you may instead spend your Silver Bullet to live. When you cheat death there is an obvious mark or sign that you have done so. Tell us what this looks like.


(Stefan Struck) #5

Good questions. I really like the special moves but the aim was not to make the PCs super-mega-ultra-badasses-deluxe. Hard to explain for me but I was more aiming at freak accidents on a less personal level. You see: One’s complication is another ones opportunity.
Thanks for the input, it shows me that I had more thinking to do before I use stuff like that.


(Michael Elliott) #6

Oooh, interesting. Well, glad I could help! Let us know if you figure it out, I’m curious to see what it looks like.


(Stefan Struck) #7

I’ll try but I’m not sure if I can pull it off. Thanks for your time!


(Ezra H.) #8

I like the feel of this mechanic a lot. I’ve added similar things to other systems in the past, but I really like the way you’ve written the italicized text here. I appreciate how the players are given narrative power, but encouraged to play with the dark side of that as well as the “save our hides” element.
A couple of thoughts you can take or leave:

Perhaps this is something that exists on a crew level instead of a character level. If there’s a single silver bullet standing in the center of the table, that everyone is tempted to use but also wants to conserve, that could add some great tension/teamwork. Maybe the spent bullet can be replenished by taking an additional consequence on a test, or through something like a Devil’s Bargain. (“Yes, you can fire at the bandits. If you accept that afterwards, regardless of the results your gun is fouled and useless until cleaned, you can replenish the silver bullet.”)

A corollary to that idea: I’ve seen some poker references in your materials (which look fantastic). I know you got bullet props, which started this line of thought – but the focus on random chance in your text makes me think of cards. How about an Ace of Diamonds sitting in the center of the table? Anyone can grab it to use the ability. Maybe that uncovers the Ace of Spades that the GM can use to inflict an equal but opposite random quirk of fate later on?


(Joel Short) #9

I think this being at a crew level might work - kind of like Scum and Villainy’s Gambits. Maybe like Gambits you refresh it when you get a specific roll result? For gambits it’s a 6 or crit on a Risky action - maybe this could be refreshed by a 6 on a Desperate action, or by Harm?


#10

I like the use of a playing card. I’ve been thinking about a similar “bullet time” mechanic as a replacement for Devil’s Bargain as well.


#11

A literal Plot Point? :wink:

I like the suggestion above with using aces, but Silver Bullet is a good name. :thinking:

I don’t really want to suggest something that creates more paperwork, but paying with an additional Entanglement could be a thing. A crew resource that leads to a crew cost.

Paying immediately with a trauma would be easier, no paperwork, and would ensure its rarely used…maybe too rarely.

Or just having one bullet that only refreshes when they gain or lose a hold?


(Joel Short) #12

Actually, how about fictionalising the mechanic:

So your PCs have this special ability, similar to Pushing themselves. They can use it once per run to give them an edge in a situation. Where does that ability, fictionally, come from? This is a weird west hack; is there some ancient demon or spirit granting this ability? What happens as your PCs rely more and more heavily on it? Is there some kind of looming doom you could make a clock for that using these silver bullets accelerates?

Those are both similar to Devil’s Bargains and Heat, but depending on how you’re using Heat, this might work.


(Stefan Struck) #13

Sorry for the late response, I had a week of offline time (strange thing nowadays…)

@Scaramouche @StoryWonker @ebrunsell @Tubal @Sohkrates @Antifinity Thanks for the great feedback! Made me think again and made some points more clear for me.

It’s more clear now, that this mechanic should be on the group/crew level.
Reason 1: Feed the crews XP trigger. Especially the inner conflict may benefit here inciting in-character and ooc discussions. I like the idea of temptation stirred, a great theme for the hack anyway. Which pcs will use it, to what end, and will it help the posse/crew or is this more pesonal?
Reason 2: Keeping it more rare. Having multiple PCs able to trigger (pun idented) this per session feels too often to keep it interesting.

About overlapping with push/resist/stress-based mechanics:
Well, it overlapse a bit but not to muchfrom my pov. It grants potency which is a great way to ground it into fiction and It don’t gives extra effect, die, resistance per se but is more helpful in this “no effect” situations against overwhelming obstacles. My group of players is really great to use potency to feed the story and the world at the same time, so I hope to add that into other groups, too, hoping that not too many munchkins will exploid that.

Downside of using it/Frequence of useage:
I love Blades because everything is possible … but you have to pay the price. This is something I want to preserve here, too. You already saw what I did with the questions the player has to anwer to use it, but I think I will pick up the Ace of Diamonds/Ace of Spades idea: Every time a player used the mechanic the Ace is turned around (or the bullet is given to the GM, turing the Silver Bullet into a Doom Buleet) and now the GM is given narrativ control about such a freak/weird/unlikely consequence 'til the end of the run/score. (S)he don’t have to use it but it makes for a great Damocles sword from now on.
Hopefully this will add to that great final action roll I often see at the end of a run/score (my group tend to … put it all on one card), you know, those rolls pushed to deperate/great effect to settle it once and for all? “Awesome group actions everybody! You do it, … but there’s a consequence. You remember this ace of spades you put into my hand? Well, you won’t believe what’s happening…”

I think I will go with the “will refresh during downtime at no cost” option. This way it keeps down the paperwork and it will not be used too often.
And it will be an optional rule, so the group can decided if they want to use it or not. I think the mechanic will have an impact on the tone of the game which is great but may not be ok with every group so I want to leave the decision there.

Thanks again everybody! Your feedback is much appreciated :smile:


(Michael Elliott) #14

Awesome. Glad we were able to clarify your thoughts.


#15

Silver bullet, when used turns into a Can of Worms until the end of the following downtime phase? :stuck_out_tongue:
Open it to worsen the effect of any roll the GM wants (I’d use it on Entanglements probably…)


(Stefan Struck) #16

End of downtime sounds right to me. Entanglement-turbo is cool, too :slight_smile:


#17

Ok. So I have a question / prompt that is somewhat similar. I have been playing around with a card mechanic for quite a while, but not sure how best to use it. (Either a variation of heat or a mini-game for hacking).

At the start, we have a set probability for good or bad outcome. Let’s say 50%. Draw a black card and it is a good outcome, draw a red card and it is a bad outcome. The deck can then be modified to change these odds. For example, bad info gathering roles removes black cards from the deck while good roles removes red cards.

During the game, players draw a card if they want a bonus. If black, they get it. If red, something bad happens.

The tension comes in that the probability is dynamic depending on how many times it is used and what has been drawn previously.

Any thoughts on where this style of mechanic might fit?


(Stefan Struck) #18

@ebrunsell Sounds like something where balance is an important factor.
I’m thinking about another hack right now and maybe this (a bit modifiied) mechanic is useful there. In this hack, you have Special Abilities with different flavors:
a) In the Box/under control (–> do a thing the 1000th time as it is supposed) vs.
b) Out of the Box/wild & suprising (–> out of the box thinking).
Not sure yet, how this will work so I’m afraid I don’t have an example yet.

Now, while you play you narrate actions in the box/out of the box. You start with one black and one red card (equal odds) and depending on yout actions you add “in the box” cards or “out of the box” cards. Maybe not all actions will add cards but only meaningfull ones or just from devils bargains, from complications etc.
Now, if you use a Special Abilitiy you may ask for a bonus: A card from the pile is drawn and you get
a) a in the box bonus for your in the box move or
b) a out of box complication for your in the box move or
c) vice versa for out of the box usage of the special ability.

Sounds a bit complicated in my ears, dont know yet if this unpredictable element is more fun or annoyance.