Many systems have some mechanic to soften the impact of failures. Players might be able to spend some resource to buy successes, or have a limited number of points to boost succeess rolls, or have points to spend to avoid death, and so on. The number and type of these mechanics is bewildering.
Not to be outdone, Starscape has two such mechanics. Passions will be described later, for now we are looking at Luck. This is the more powerful of the two systems, but it is also the most chaotic. It’s a system that could easily be dropped into any existing game.
You have a Luck rating, which can be anything from 0 to 10, and it rises and falls during a campaign.
At the start of each Scenario draw one Wild Card for each point of Luck. At the start of each Scenario, discard your old Wild cards and draw new ones.
Your Luck score always equals the number of cards you have, and we can count the number of cards you have to find your current Luck. For simplicity, don’t bother tracking the actial number, though at the end of a session or scenario, you can count how many cards you have and that’s your Luck.
When you use cards, they are gone – there is no refresh. But you shouldn’t be afraid of using Wild Cards – you typically get 1-3 more Luck per Scenario. In fact, you should want to use them – at least some of them.
The various ways you can get luck are linked to your character history and personality. See the upcoming articles on Events and Interventions, and later on Passions and Compels.
The deck of Wild cards is modelled after a standard suit of Playing cards. There are 52 cards numbered 1-13 in 4 suits, for a total of 52 cards. There are also two special Wild cards, the Jokers. Each Suit has a benefit associated with it, and each number has its own benefit. So each card has two possible benefits, and you can pick either benefit when you play the card.
There four suits, each with their own benefit. They are described by the standard playing deck suits here.
- Clubs/Intervention: You gain an extra action, in response to an action by someone else. It’s a full action that occurs completeley outside the normal initiative sequence.
- Spades/Lucky Escape: You avoid the consequence of some action. If someone shoots you, maybe a bystander gets in the way. If you fall off castle battlements, you land in that convenient hay truck.
- Hearts/Assist: You can assassit an ally. Pick a character and either give them the benefit of a Lucky Escape or improve the actioon they were taking. This benefit is due to your assistance – describe how you help. If you weren’t present in the scene, you are now.
- Diamonds/Revelation: You can ask the GM one question about something you could have known – missed a clue, want to understand why an nPC is acting the way they are, and so on. The GM either denies the question (and lets you draw a new card to replace this one), or answers honestly.
These benefits are universally applicable. It’s hard to imagine an adventre going buy without an opportunity to use them at least once cropping up.
Each number value has its own benefit. To save space, I wont list them all here, but I’ll describe a few.
- Attachment: choose any named NPC already introduced in the scenario, and they dvelop an attachment for you. Maybe they see you as an ally, form a romantic attachment, or something similar. You can use this on opponents, and their attachment tends to be more selfish – they want something from you. But they want to keep you safe and alive, at least until they get what they want.
- Inspiration: Use this after doing well at something, and give a rousing speech to inspire your allies. They can choose to discard any cards and replace them with an equal number of draws, and draw one extra card.
- Resourceful: Use a different skill for something you’d normally do, and describe how. Rather than shooting someone, use a trick to decieve them and roll damage just as if you’d shot at them.
Remember, each card has both a number and a suit. When you play the card, choose which benefit you are using.
These are special cards. When played, you can pick any benefit from any card – they are very powerful and flexible. After playing the card, draw a new card to replace it – these are essentially free.
The Wild Card system allows players to keep their characters alive and drive the plot in directions they want. But they don’t have full control over what they can do with their luck, so they add some unpredictability to the session and can even throw the GM a curveball or two.