Making Action rolls during Vice/Stress Relief roleplay?

Apologies if this is covered somewhere else. I did a quick search and didn’t find anything.

TLDR: Player RPs his Stress Relief and gains as much stress as he sheds in the process.

I’m thinking that we probably took the RP too far during Vice/Stress relief in downtime. I led my players to RP their Vices, which, in our excitement, led to action rolls which, in our excitement, led to taking more stress (in one case) than the player earned back in his Vice roll. He took it in stride, but on the way home I’m realized I probably shouldn’t have let the RP for a Vice roll go that far. But I’m not sure how to handle something like that in the future.

The long story is that my player, McCoy, is a sort of mad scientist with no qualms about abducting a vagrant off the street and experimenting on them. “Mad Science” experimentation is his Vice. So he decided to do exactly that. It didn’t go well and he ended up getting knocked down and his kit bag was stolen. He spent two stress in the process.

Anyway, another player was nearby and snagged the vagrant (she rolled better) and carried them both back to the lab. She’s a helper. Her vice is helping people, so we called doing that favor for McCoy her Stress Relief and she recovered some stress. McCoy got to do his experiment for his Stress Relief, but he only rolled a 2 and ended up back where he started, stress-wise.

My players are really into RP, so if I say “OK - you experimented for a day in your lab, roll a dice,” they’d say it was too mechanical. This was fun, but a tad disappointing for McCoy. How might I have handled it differently, besides just giving him his vagrant?

(BTW, They haven’t told me what they plan to do with the body, yet. I might have to have him acquire a fridge… )

What sort of experimentation is this character doing to indulge their vice? If it’s something they can use for purposes other than stress relief, then I’d say they’re effectively getting two downtime actions for the price of one: Relieve Stress and Long Term Project.

Maybe that’s something you’re willing to allow, but if so, then I’d say the risk of taking on more stress is a fair trade for the free downtime action.

If you don’t want to mess with the balance set by the book, I’d suggest talking to the player about modifying their Vice so that it’s more like “Attending scientific exhibitions.” That would allow them some scope for role-playing the action, but the most they’d come away with is an idea for potential projects, which is something they could get from freeplay anyway, rather than the sort of experimental results they’d get from working on a Long Term Project.

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You make some good points. We didn’t think it through that much. This was only our 4th session with S&V. We didn’t talk about actually accomplishing any results – I think we were both just starting to see him as a Dr. Frankenstein-type – so it was more about the imagery and “research”.

But you’re idea is a good one. His vice activity should be low risk physically (for him, anyway) in the lab experimenting on alien mice, or at scientific exhibitions and the like. Anything like a cadaver (once he’s done with the current one…) would carry risk and needs to be treated as an LTP or even an Acquire Asset activity. Overindulging would mean he’s locked in his lab, or hold up somewhere dealing with his mad ideas. It’s true that he will eventually want to have created some diabolical result.

Just writing this out has clarified it a bit for me. Thanks!

Come to think of it, a science symposium would be a great setting for trouble of some kind…! HA!

I think it’s totally fine (and encouraged!) to have an exciting, high-risk vice. In the core rules, one of the example vices is getting knocked out in a boxing ring (stupor)!

I would suggest that the Indulge Vice roll should cover the whole scene, in a montaged way, and indulging vice would almost never call for action rolls (for the reasons you cite).

In your example above, I think it’s fine and cool for a player to choose Mad Science experimentation. And it’s fine and cool to RP that out. BUT, instead of making an action rolls during the RP, you could call for the Indulge Vice roll and use the results of that to determine the fictional outcomes for the whole scene.

So you RP up to the point that he’s about to try abducting a new victim. He makes the Indulge Vice roll. A good result indicates everything goes exactly as planned and he feels totally reinvigorated. A poor result might indicate something as you described - maybe the victim wakes up and escapes midway through the process. Either way, no action rolls or resistance rolls are required, and things can only go as poorly as “you don’t relieve as much stress as you needed to”.

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This is a great approach! Treat the Indulge Vice roll as also a kind of fortune roll against the fiction of his RP right at the crucial moment…
I like that.
Thanks!

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We use all of the downtime activities in that way, ie they are fortune rolls with specific and controlled outcomes. It avoids doubling up on adding stress or harm. I don’t know if that’s how it was intended but in our games that has really allowed rp to stay the focus but the mechanical momentum to keep flowing.

Acquire Asset
Long-Term Project
Recover
Reduce Heat
Train
Indulge Vice

we consider all fortune rolls, the success or failure of the roll dictates the actual benefit (great stress relief or almost none etc) and we use it to inform the fiction. Including bumping the result up with coin etc. Using rep to get you another opportunity to do one of the actions or paying for the service or buying supplies or support to enhance the result.

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Blades and S&V are designed to have muddy relationships between “phases,” slipping back and forth between them as you follow the story. I think there have been good points made already (you don’t want someone to have to make an action roll every time they go to relieve stress), but having a mushy edge between freeplay and downtime sometimes can be really rewarding.

A high point in a Blades campaign my group just finished up came when the whisper went to indulge his vice by visiting the cult he was bound to (obligation vice – they were paying for his occult studies at the university).

We’d established that he really didn’t think much of the cult, and that he resented his obligations to them. I decided to mesh an entanglement result into this scene, and when he showed up for a ritual, it turned out that the cult had kidnapped one of the crew’s favorite contacts and intended to sacrifice them in the dark rite.

The whisper decided he’d had enough, challenged the cult leader’s authority, killed him (saying that this satisfied the need for a sacrifice), and convinced the other cultists that he had a divine mandate to lead the cult into a new era.

All this took multiple action rolls (so desperate!), and incurred new stress. When it was over, we discussed the scene (Was it freeplay? Was it downtime? Was it a mini score?) and decided it was a nebulous mix of freeplay and downtime – and still counted as indulging his vice.

This sort of thing shouldn’t happen all the time, but I think it’s important to leave yourself the option to mix those phases. Making fun fiction is the point of the game, after all, and the fraught relationships the characters have with the projects and people they care about (which are mechanically largely wrapped up in downtime) can be important drivers of that fiction.

There are plenty of ways to pay for extra downtime actions (rep and coin in Blades), so a bad roll to recover stress isn’t the end of the world. If you want to encourage more role playing and risk taking, you can always throw a little more coin into the game to give the pcs a bit more breathing room for that sort of thing.

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I love it.
That is a really great way to think about it.
Thanks for this story!

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