Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Daredevils Detailed Action Time and Action Options Cube

Jerry Stratton, May 26, 2021

I’m prepping a game that I’ll hopefully run at the North Texas RPG Con this year. I didn’t realize I’d be running it until after the deadline for putting a game in the online system, so if you want to play it, show up at 9:00 in the morning on Thursday at the main check-in area. It’ll be the standard 4-hour slot for that time, so you won’t miss any of the 1 o’clock games.

The Montique Fantom uses Kolchak: The Night Stalker guest stars (as well as Carl himself), is set in 1976 Chicago, and uses the Daredevils rules. I’ve been thinking about running a game with this premise for several months now. The reason I didn’t have it ready in time to submit is that I had no idea what system to use. I considered both DC Heroes, AD&D, and my own Gods & Monsters, but none of them seemed a good fit.

Then, while wandering the net looking for something else, I ran across a mention of Daredevils and discovered that FGU was still selling copies of the boxed set. I looked for some info about it, and found Action and Adventure in the Two-Fisted Thirties. It sounded a lot like what I wanted for my Kolchak game, so I ordered a copy.

I was right, though I’ll talk more about that later.

One of the many interesting things about Daredevils is the “Detailed Action Time”. Detailed Action Time is…

…used for situations where the specific actions of the characters and the time it takes them to resolve such actions are followed in close detail. The most common use of this scale is for combat.

One turn in this scale is called a Detailed Turn and lasts approximately 6 seconds. The turn is broken down into four Phases: Declaration Phase, two Action Phases, and Bookkeeping Phase.

On the Declaration phase, each character decides which Option will be chosen for the rest of the Detailed Turn. Players indicate the Option chosen by writing it down or placing a six-sided die with the number of the Option on the top face. The choice of Option is concealed from the other players until all have chosen for their characters. No characters may act on this Phase.

On an Action phase each player may select one of the Actions allowed by the Option for his character. All Actions are considered simultaneous. The Gamemaster must adjudicate the results of conflicting Actions by separate characters. To lessen confusion, the Gamemaster may wish to have the character’s Actions resolved in order of highest Deftness.

The Bookkeeping Phase is used by the Gamemaster to resolve the actions on inanimate objects and determine the results of continuous processes. Players and Gamemaster alike use this Phase to update any statistics on their characters that have altered as a result of something which occurred during the Action Phases. No characters may act on this Phase.

There are several interestingly different things in here. That “the most common use of this scale is for combat” implies that it’s meant to be more abstract than that, and handle other complex, fast-moving situations as well.

Very interesting to me is that “All Actions are considered simultaneous.” Part of the reason this is especially interesting is that nowhere else do the rules define what simultaneous means. The obvious meaning is that they all happen at the same time, just like the no-initiative system I designed for Gods & Monsters. A character that gets disabled during an Action phase will still get to take their action, even if whatever disabled them happened to be resolved beforehand.

The note that Actions might be resolved in the order of highest Deftness is both presented as optional, and only “to lessen confusion”. There’s no explanation of why you would use Deftness rather than, say, Wit or the even more obvious Speed.

Other than the obvious dictionary meaning of “simultaneous”, however, there’s no direct support for my interpretation. Under the “Shoot” Action, there is the note that “An Engaged character must make a Deftness Critical Saving Throw to get the shot off.” The term “Engaged” is defined: it simply means someone’s fighting them in hand-to-hand combat. Other Actions involving firing weapons or operating machinery have similar notes. There is nothing about a disabled or dead character having to make such a saving throw.

Was this because it was obvious that a disabled character doesn’t get to act, or because it was obvious what “simultaneous” means? I’m going with the latter, just because I prefer the fog of war.1

A second really interesting part of that description is somewhat related to there being no real sense of an initiative order. Players reveal their choice of Option only after every player has made their choice secretly. Options in this game are somewhat general ideas of what the character is going to do, such as move, fight, look around, or drive. As sort-of noted, there are six of them; each Option allows only a semi-specific list of more detailed Actions. The Gamemaster can add Actions according to their style of gaming, but “Each should be assigned to an Option.”

No.OptionActions
1MovementFull Move, Jump, Alter Position, Disengage.
2Observe/CommandSpeak, Observe, Search, Ready Weapon, Defend, Alter Position, Hip Fire.
3Engage in CombatStrike, Defend, Ready Weapon, Disengage, Throw, Hip Fire, Alter Position, Short Move.
4Fire WeaponShoot, Ready Weapon, Adopt Stance, Alter Position, Short Move.
5Perform FunctionShort Move, Alter Position, Throw, Work at Task, Short Function, Hip Fire.
6Operate VehicleThrow, Short Function, Hip Fire, Defend, Speak, Observe, Strike, Drive.

Because of this, the Declaration phase doesn’t lock characters in to a specific action, just a sense of what they want to do. And they have two actions to work with it. After each Declaration, they have two Actions before changing their Declaration.

I always try to imagine how the actual game will run when I’m prepping for a con game (or any game, for that matter) and foresaw trouble with players unfamiliar with the game having to make these choices. I also foresaw trouble reading the tops of dice at the far end of a long gaming table.

Obviously, a prop was needed (PDF File, 41.3 KB). It was simple enough to create a cube template and add the numbers and the options to each face for printing on cardstock. Because I’m moderately OCD, this is sort of a real die: opposing numbers add up to 7 as they’re supposed to, and the orientation of each face matches one of my better Gamescience dice.

You can put the cube together by cutting along the solid lines and folding along the dotted lines. There are seven tabs for gluing it together.

July 7, 2021: Automated Scribus Daredevils NPC character sheets
Scribus Daredevils character sheet

Scribus is great for creating RPG character sheets.

In part 1, the Daredevils NPC generator, I showed how to create simple character data in a form that makes it useful for a simple character sheet. It’s nice, however, to provide players a nice cardstock pregen with a familiar layout. I deliberately made that simple character sheet output from the daredevils script provide the data in a form that makes it easy to import into other software.

I chose to import it into Scribus, an open-source desktop publishing application that creates great PDF files and can be automated using the Python programming language. Scribus runs on macOS, Linux, and Windows.

Scribus has a Script menu; you can choose to “Execute” any Python script on your computer. I keep mine in ~/bin/Scribus, which is to say, in a folder called Scribus in a folder called bin in my macOS user account. You can put them anywhere. An obvious location would a Scribus folder in your Documents folder.

For the Kolchak game, I used a script I called daredevils.py to import the character sheets into Scribus, creating a new layer for each character. The bulk of the work is done in a class called Sheet. Here’s the start of that class:

[toggle code]

  • class Sheet:
    • def __init__(self, characterName):
      • self.skillsRect = self.getRect('skills')
      • self.backgroundItems = []
      • self.quotes = []
      • self.characterName = characterName
      • self.openSection('aspects')
      • # create the layer for this character sheet
      • scribus.gotoPage(1)
      • if characterName in scribus.getLayers():
        • scribus.setActiveLayer(characterName)
      • else:
        • scribus.createLayer(characterName)
      • self.createBox('Character', characterName)
June 16, 2021: Daredevils NPC generator
Daredevils cover

I ran a fun game of Daredevils at North Texas at the beginning of the month. I set it in 1976 in the Kolchak: The Night Stalker television series universe. I can’t take credit for how great the game was—it was the great characterization by the players of their Kolchak television series characters that made it a high point of the con for me.

But the preparation of those characters was all on me, and I pregenerated a lot of characters for them to choose from. The pregens were various sources Kolchak had used over the series. Everyone from Lila Morton (the bereaved widow from Chopper) to Charles Rolling Thunder (the aged shaman from Bad Medicine), as well as each of Carl’s colleagues at Independent News Service.

This meant a lot of character sheets and it also meant adjusting skills a lot as I attempted to make each character unique and useful to the adventure. I continued adjusting each character as I slowly went through viewing the season again—rewatching Kolchak is never a chore—and added not just stats but quotes and background.

Doing all this rewriting by hand is a recipe for disaster. So I wrote a script (Zip file, 16.8 KB) to:

  • calculate each character’s calculated stats;
  • handle old age for the older characters;
  • verify each character’s attribute and development totals;
  • keep the format of the character sheets standard.

By using a script to calculate the calculated statistics, I ensure that no character has a mistake.1 And when I wanted to add a new calculated stat, I just had to add it to the script and re-run the script on the characters to give everyone that new calculation.

In a game like Daredevils, that’s useful, because while the rulebook lists a few official calculated statistics in the character creation section, there are also unofficial calculations scattered throughout the book. These are calculations that are technically not character stats but for all practical purposes are character stats. It’s nice to give them to the players to see.

When I decided to add the Healing Rate calculation—not technically a stat—I added its calculation to the script, and it added that line to all of the character files.

When I decided to add the optional “Luck” rule, I added Luck to the script, and it added Luck to all of the character files.

  1. A third interpretation is that the note about the bookkeeping phase means that both Action phases occur at the same time, so that even if someone is disabled on the first Action, they still get to act on the second Action. However, I’m pretty sure that the reference to updating statistics refers specifically to statistics that require calculations. Like other FGU games of the era—such as Villains and Vigilantes—there are several.

  1. <- Watches in 5e