Question about set up actions

Hi all,

I’ve looked all over, but can’t seem to find a straight answer to my question, which is this:

Is a set up action a regular action roll in that it suffers consequences on a 1-5?

For some context, the group was trying to fill an objective related clock and were deliberating whether to just roll or preform a set up action beforehand. Potential consequences were understood to be ticks on another (bad) clock. One failure or partial success would probably fill the bad clock completely and thus blow their chance at the objective.

There were then some discussion on the nature of the set up action. Some felt that it’s supposed to be a regular action roll with position, effect and consequences. Others thought that having consequences tied to the set up action could too often lead to the main action being hindered or even aborted before a proper action could be taken. They therefore suggested a roll where 1-3 meant the set up failed, but the main action could still be taken with -1D or reduced effect, while a 4-6 would have +1D or increased effect.

Any insight into this would be greatly appreciated!

Is a set up action a regular action roll in that it suffers consequences on a 1-5?

The answer is absolutely YES.

The “+1 Effect to main action” is in fact just a “fictional side effect” of the setup action, rendered mechanically. Its exactly as if you performed a normal Action roll, and then the GM would judge that the result of this Action positions somebody else in a better position. Except with the setup action, it’s kinda “flashbacked”.

Thank you, that helps a lot :slight_smile:

Edit: This does however bring up the question of how to handle position and effect. Position is easier, as we’ve determined that regular consequences apply. What does effect do, though? The effect is already determined by the fact that it is a set up action.

A setup action is the same as any other action roll – you judge its position and effect based on the fictional situation. They might be different than the positioning of the roll they’re meant to set up.

If a setup roll is possible, it’s likely going to be standard effect (we’re saying the character can set up their ally by taking an action in the fiction) – but I wouldn’t say that’s absolute. Maybe it’s great effect, and there’s more gained than just altering position or effect. Or, maybe it’s limited because shifting the situation will require a great deal of teamwork or time.

Say the crew is fighting Lord Scurlock in his mansion, and the cutter wants to throw it all on the line with a desperate Skirmish action, but the GM looks at the situation and says, “I think it’d be a base of No effect… just a few factors: he’s got serious arcane protections here in his home, he’s much higher tier than you are (he has centuries of experience and his mansion is full of implements and weapons he could use against you), and he’s a vampire. Unless you find a way to equalize his advantages, you won’t be able to harm him.”

The whisper says, " I want to do a setup action to Attune to those arcane protections you mentioned, to find them and alter their purpose so they magically attack Scurlock and distract him instead of defending him."

The GM might say, “Cool! Sounds desperate/standard to me. If you succeed, the wards will shift their purpose and begin to send out shadowy tendrils to bind Surlock’s limbs. That will give the cutter some level of effect.” This choice will keep the action moving and be simplest.

Another option might be to say, “These wards are beyond the studies you’ve made. You understand the concept of them, but you’ve never seen something so devious. You can try to alter them, but it sounds like a desperate/limited roll to me.” The player has many options then. They could accept that it might take multiple rolls to achieve their help action, or they could push for effect or flash back to change the fictional position somehow.
If they do decide to take their time (rolling at limited effect), the gm might start a “Wards” clock. Maybe Scurlock acts (as a master NPC and/or from roll consequences) while the whisper is frantically attuning, and the cutter is left to resist his attacks (or protect the whisper if Scurlock notices their tampering). Maybe the crew’s hound joins the whisper in a group attune action, hoping one of them could roll a crit (which would give them increased effect).

Thanks, @Scaramouche. I’ve struggled with setting effect for set-up actions. And also issues like trading position for effect when the only outcome listed in the book is improved position or effect for a follow-on action or actions.

The second issue I have with setup actions is how to stage them compared to the first action of the score after the engagement roll. Do they have the same position as the engagement roll or are they treated separately? Or do we just start with the setup action? For instance, to start an assault score we might be busting down the doors of a gambling den and we want to set that up by throwing Molotov cocktails in through the windows. Or do we disallow setup actions for the first action of a score because it’s meant to be encapsulated in the engagement roll?

The third issue I’ve had with setup actions is flashbacks. When the scoundrels are down to their last few stress, they start getting creative with setup actions to boost their no effect and limited effects. If you do those as flashbacks when someone is near maxed out in stress, how do we handle things like pushing or resistance? There’s a real possibility any resistance traumas them out, but that’d change history. The best advice I’ve seen for that (can’t remember where—here or reddit) was to have the consequences of the flashback play out in the present where you can resist without altering history.

Thank you, Scaramouche! The set up action possibly having a different position than the other action roll was the missing part of the puzzle for me. I always assumed they’d be the same :slight_smile:

  • Setup action after an engagement roll: no use to disallow an action. If, in the fiction, the setup action would come just before the “main action”, it then becomes the first action after the engagement roll. Therefore it uses the position defined by it. If the fiction says the setup action is some time in the past (for exemple, I setup your skirmish roll by having researched Iruvian fighting styles of the Red sashes in the secret library of the Consulate), then of course the position does not depend on the engagement roll.

  • Yeah, it’s a common advice to “have the consequences of the flashback play out in the present where you can resist without altering history”. But I would say that if the scoundrels are already short of stress, it’s less likely that they can or will do flashbacks, which could cost stress.

  • For the effect of a setup action, it’s also possible to say that if the effect is judged to be Great, or the setup action ends in a Critical, then you can say that the setup action improves both Position and Effect of the main action.