A long time ago, (too many decades!), I ran a scifi game and my favourite part was an interpretation of HERO System’s enemy and personality mechanics. Characters could have a drawback based on a roll – like an enemy might turn up on 11- on 3d6. Every character had one or more of these drawbacks and I was very strict about trolling them for every adventure. So the players might be working towards their adventure goal, and suddenly their enemies would appear to complicate things.
This was incredibly chaotic and unpredictable. Even as GM I had no idea what would happen each session. I loved it. The Events and Interventions system described here was inspired by that.
What are Events?
Lots of GMs ask players to describe their character backstory, but then only incorporate it some of the time, and only bits that appeal to the GM. So, for a lot of players, writing the backstory is a bit of a crapshoot – will it be relevant? Does it even matter?
The Starscape and Legends Never Die systems both have very similar character design systems, and during character design you generate a kind of Lifepath – a history of things they have done. Their Events.
Events are both backstory and play events. Let’s say Magnus has 4 terms, Cyborg, Scavenger, Investigator, and Physician. That tells us the kind of things a character was doing in their life. For each term, you roll again for events. While an Investigator, they may have been working as a journalist who uncovered and exposed a conspiracy. In this way we create a character history.
Each term has one or more Events and each Event has a short description which players can expand on to make it fit their character better. Or they can just accept it as written and it’s like the kind of background you get for characters in TV shows – it matters when it matters, and is kind of vague up until then.
Testing For An Intervention
And then each Scenario, the GM must roll a die (a d6) for each character and if it matches a term, the GM must incorporate one of the events of that term in the scenario.
So, let’s say the GM rolls a d6 and gets a 5 for Magnus. That is above their number of Terms, so no Intervention happens. In the next Scenario, the GM rolls a 3, that matches Magnus 3rd term, Investigator, so the GM looks at the events for that term. They find that conspiracy and decide that the conspirators want revenge and will be involved in this scenario.
The Rewards of Intervention
Both games have a system for player benefits, Glory and Luck respectively. Whenever an intervention happens, all players get a bonus reward of Glory or Luck (since it’ll affect everyone), which you can then use as allowed by the system. You might spend it for improved success, avoid death, create a fortunate coincidence, and so on.
Interventions usually make an adventure more tricky, adding complications and danger. But players can spend the points gained to warp events to either compensate or create new events of their own.
When To Use an Intervention
The GM can introduce the intervening faction at any time. But players can also invoke the Intervention (if there is one) for a special complication.
Let’s say they are negotiating with an enemy and the negotiations aren’t going well and they face capture. The players invoke their Intervention, which means right at that moment a third party is involved. The GM checks if the invoking player has an intervention and if it has been used yet, then introduces it if they can.
This third party is never well-disposed to the players, but the confusion their arrival creates might give them cover to escape the current predicament. And remember, players recieve a reward when the Intervention is invoked which might be just what they need.
So, Interventions require the GM to be open to improvisation, but both games give then GM tools to help with this.
Events help fill out a character’s backstory with zero effort, but are not just things on the character sheet to be forgotten. They help spotlight a PC’s history and become relevant in play, and make adventures more chaotic and unpredictable – for both player and GM.
They are also great for creating recurring characters. Each character has a limited number of events, so the same events might repeatedly spawn interventions.
The goal is that these will make a game more fun, and most importantly, less predictable for the GM!