Beta Playtest Rules, version 0.3; latest rules here.
Created by Dagda. Credit goes to Steve Darlington for the original There Is No Spoon rules, and to the residents of 4chan's /tg/ board for the original game concept; thanks are particularly due to Henrich Keselman for all his feedback and suggestions.
What is this game?
Trigger Discipline is a roleplaying game where the players take the roles of characters in a TV show- specifically, a show occupying the "Mecha" subgenre of Japanese Anime. Meanwhile, the gamemaster takes on the role of that show's director and has control over everything that happens in the show-except for the player's characters, who seem to have developed wills of their own. While they can come into conflict regarding the show's tone and plot, the player characters and the director have the same overarching goal: To keep the show on air for a full 26 episodes, from premiere to finale.
[Sidebar: In-Show vs. In-Game
Trigger Discipline's narrative setup involves an in-game "fourth wall" separating events that are "in-show" (alien invasions, player character's love interest being kidnapped) from those that are "out-of-show" (writers go on strike, player character's voice actor is sick). The director exists out-of-show, while the player characters are in-show but have a sort of subconscious awareness of what's going on out-of-show; this means they can talk to the director between scenes, without showing any in-show awareness of these conversations.]
The director decides how long each episode of the game lasts; as a general guideline, each episode should have an underlying short-term goal for the players that advances the plot and involves 3-6 challenges. A challenge is any sequence involving multiple dramatic actions and a chance of faliure. Overcoming a challenge requires a certain number of successes, usually at least 1 per player, with exact number being up to the director. During a challenge, play is divided up into rounds; each round characters declare what they are going to try to do, then simultaneously roll one or more dice and see how many successes they earn.
[Sidebar: Episodes as Levels]
The episode number in Trigger Discipline plays a role similar to a character's "level" in other rpgs; it determines the maximum limit on a character's abilities as well as when the game escalates to a higher die category. While players will normally complete multiple episodes in the space of a single session, a GM who wants to run a more long-term campaign could expand the scope of an episode or simply treat it as a "level up" gained after every tenth challenge the players overcome.]
ROLLING THE DICE
The Core Mechanic
When trying to earn successes, a character normally rolls three dice; one for the character's GAR score, one for their Mecha score (if they're currently piloting a giant mech), and one for one of the character's Discipline scores (the player declares which one before making the roll). If a die result is equal to or less than the corresponding score, the character has succeeded (more or less) and can narrate how their character accomplishes some task which helps to overcome the challenge (The director is free to veto the details of the description that aren't feasible). The exact nature of the outcome depends on which die rolls were successful. Going from the lowest possible degree of success to the highest:
No successful die rolls: You have failed; the attempt probably either went wrong somehow or was prevented by people working against you. In combat, this can be dangerous.
Discipline die success: You have succeeded in a way that involves the chosen discipline.
Mecha die success: You have succeeded in a way that involves the fact that you're piloting a giant mech- this usually hinges on the quality of the machine and your abilities as a pilot.
GAR die success: GAR is a piece of internet slang meaning "manly badass". It refers to strength, especially the strength of virtues such as honor, courage and willpower; qualities which can be found in any character, be they male, female, robot or genderless alien. A GAR success means you have succeeded in a way that involves you being awesome.
GAR die success plus a Discipline or Mecha die success: In addition to the above, you have rolled a double success and succeeded in an impressive and definitive manner rather than just accomplishing the bare minimum of what you were trying to do. Double successes count as two successes instead of just one.
GAR die success plus a Discipline die success and a Mecha die success: You have rolled an incredible triple success, pulling off a jaw-dropping manuever that establishes you as a complete and utter badass. Not only does this count as three successes, but it also causes your character's Fanbase score to increase by one.
[Sidebar: Replacing the Mecha Die
Trigger Discipline can easily be used to run a game that doesn't involve giant robots, so long as there's no problem with an emphasis on stylish action and badass stunts. However, the Mecha die is a potential hangup. GMs should replace it with some other genre-appropriate die, corresponding to some key, prominent element of the action that all main characters possess- usually a special power of some sort. Possibilities include be Martial Arts, Mad Science, Power Level/Ki or Magic; failing that, a more generic virtue like Determination or Cunning might do.]
During a challenge, a player character will often be actively working against the efforts of an enemy npc (or even another player character); in some cases defeating the enemy may itself be the challenge. When two characters are fighting or otherwise working against one another, successful die results cancel each other out and the victor is the one whose remaining outcome is a higher degree of success (so a Discipline success is trumped by a Mecha success is trumped by a GAR success). If both sides score no successes then the round is considered a stalemate, with both sides proving evenly matched.
When a character gets the maximum possible result on at least two dice in a single roll, they have rolled a detriment. A detriment means some sort of complication has occurred within the scope of the challenge, the exact nature of which is up to the GM- a new hazard could be introduced, one of the player's abilities might fail, the challenge might gain a time limit, and so on. It's important to note that detriments are meant to alter the scenario in unexpected ways, rather than just to punish players an arbitrary penalty. Detriments do not cancel out successes; a player character who simultaneously rolls a detriment and a success accomplish a task in a way that inadvertently creates another problem.
There are four steps to take when creating a character in Trigger Discipline:
Select an Archetype and Role.
GAR, Mecha, Plot Armor and Fanbase all start at rank 1.
Characters begin with no Fanbase points, no GAR Charge points and 7 Experience Points that must be spent before the show begins. They can purchase an extra rank in their mecha and/or plot armor scores at the cost of two points each; the remainder is used to purchase rank 1 disciplines at the cost of 1 point each.
[Sidebar: Scores vs. Ability
Like most roleplaying games, Trigger Discipline's statistics correspond to particular aspects of a character. However, there is one key difference that must be kept in mind: A character's numerical scores are not necessarily a reflection of the character's personal abilities or level of skill. Instead, they simply reflect the odds that a character will succeed, in a way that involves that aspect of the character. This is particularly notable when selecting disciplines.]
[Sidebar: Scores vs. Ranks
Players can improve most (but not all) of their character's statistics by spending experience points to purchase ranks in that statistic; by default, a character's score is equal to the number of ranks they possess. Certain factors can alter a character's score without increasing the number of ranks they have; this means that they only affect the odds of rolling a success with that score, not the cost of purchasing additional ranks and so on.]
All dice being rolled during an episode of drigger discipline will be the same category, but what category that is depends on how far the series has advanced. During the premiere episode,
Characters build up their GAR Charge over the course of play, up to a maximum number of points equal to their current GAR score. A player can spend one or more of these points before rolling the dice for an action; each point spent this way lets them make an extra roll with the die type of their choice. Multiple die successes of the same type do not stack, but a player can use them
Archetype and Role
The statistics that set characters apart from one another are their disciplines, defining character traits that play a role in their success. Like other statistics in Trigger Discipline, discipline scores do not reflect a character's level of ability, simply the odds that they will succeed. A character can select disciplines based off their equipment, skills, special powers/techniques, flaws, or any other aspect of the character.
—- Completed updated section ends here —-
Rules of Play
During each episode, player characters will be faced with various Challenges they must overcome. Overcoming a challenge requires a certain number of successes, usually at least 1 per player, with exact number being up to the Director. In some cases players will be actively working against opponents.
Your GAR (internet slang for "manly badass", can apply to either gender) score represents how awesome your character is. Use it to succeed through sheer badassery.
Your Mecha score represents how awesome your giant robot is. Use it to succeed because your experimental molecular-blade power scythe can cut through your enemy's diterium plating like tissue paper.
Your various Discipline scores represent things your character can do better than the people around him or her. Possible discipline include Sniping, Intuition, Menacing Stare and Tea Preparation. Use your discipline of choice to succeed through personal skill- your kung-fu is superior.
The player announces what their character is attempting to do, then rolls up to three ten-sided dice- one for each of the three ability types that applies in this situation. A die result that's equal to or less than the associated score is a success- you pull off whatever you were trying to attempt, more or less. The player describes how the scene plays out to the rest of the group. If you get a GAR success and a Discipline or Mecha success, that's a double success- a resounding triumph that deserves a round of applause. If you're lucky enough to get a triple success, then your character did something downright amazing and is an unquestionable badass. Your first triple success during an episode nets you a +1 increase to your Fanbase rating. Double and triple successes also count as two and three successes respectively in situations where a total of more than one success is necessary for victory.
Dan announces his character is going to try and force open a heavy hangar door, using his Screaming Loudly discipline. His GAR, Mecha and Screaming Loudly scores are 3, 5 and 6; he rolls a 3, 10 and 5 respectively. (If possible, it's best to use differently-colored dice so as to easily tell which one corresponds to which score) Dan has scored a GAR success and a Discipline success, which qualifies as a Double Success. His player narrates how the mecha's arms strain against the huge slab of metal for several moments before his character, ignoring the warning signs flashing on the cockpit display, gives a massive roar and rips the door right off its hinges before casually tossing it aside.
When a character is facing an actual opponent, one success may not be enough. When two sides are working against one another, both roll their dice and compare results until one side or the other is defeated. A GAR success trumps a Mecha success trumps a Discipline success; successes of the same type cancel each other out, which can mean that a lower-ranking success serves as a tiebreaker or lead to a stalemate where neither character gains any edge over the other.
Marshall's character and a random mook face off in their mechs. The mook, as one of a host of supporting characters that ambushed the party, lacks any sort of GAR score and thus is left with only his Mecha score of 1 (it's a cheap model) and a Thuggery discipline score of 4. Marshall's scores are all much better; but thanks to the luck of the dice, he only scores a GAR success while his enemy rolls well enough to get both a Mecha success and a Discipline success. While the thug fought well and his mecha did its job, that's just no substitute for raw MANLINESS: Marshal narrates how his character is unable to land a hit before the enemy's machine slams him against a wall, at which point he simply smashes his opponent's cockpit in with a headbutt.
If one side succeeds with all three dice and the other manages a discipline success, then the first one has only scored a double success and not a triple because the two discipline successes negated one another. And if a character is forced to face a giant mech on foot and can't think of how any of his disciplines could be applied to the situation, he can still use a GAR die- though the player had better to be ready to explain just how his character is beating up the enemy through raw badassery.
For contests (usually some sort of battle) with more than two participants, the Director can often divvy them up into 1v1 duels each turn. Alternately (particularly when the contest is one individual against multiple opponents), each participant can roll their dice and match their results against any or all of their opponents, with events playing out so that each of these matchup's results take place.
Beyond their GAR, Mecha and various Discipline scores, each character has several other aspects: Their current Plot Armor and GAR Charge, their Fanbase rating, and their chosen Archetype and Role.
A character's maximum GAR Charge is equal to their current GAR score. Characters with 0 points of GAR charge and earn them over the course of play, usually by coming up with interesting ways to behave in accordance with their archetype. Before making a die roll, a character can spend a point of GAR charge to roll an additional time for one of the scores they're using, using the best die result and ignoring the others. A player can spend some or all of their GAR charge in one go, gaining multiple die rolls for one or more scores- a player might spend three points on his GAR die in a effort to ensure that he gets a GAR success, or assign one of those points to each of his three scores in hopes of getting a double or triple success.
Plot Armor is what protects a character from death and debilitating injury, similar the role played by hit points in other games; a failed roll with potential life-and-death stakes will usually result in the loss of a point of plot armor rather than any dire consequences (though there's nothing to say that the intervening deus ex machina can't throw the character out of the frying pan and into the fire). In combat, the winner of the opposed check scores one "hit" on the enemy with each success. When a character has run out of plot armor, the next hit renders them unable to use their Discipline die- the physical or mental trauma is simply to great. If they occupy a functioning giant robot, the next hit disables it and thus renders them unable to use their Mecha die; otherwise, they lose their ability use their GAR dice and are thus completely helpess (likely falling unconscious, if the director so decrees). The next hit leaves the character's fate entirely up to the circumstances and the whims of the Director. Characters who have a chance to rest and recuperate can regain some or all of their plot armor, and with an in-game chance to heal can recover the use of their various abilities.
A character's Fanbase rating does not directly affect gameplay and cannot increased by spending experience points; in fact, the only way a character's fanbase score normally changes is the +1 increase that can be earned once per episode with your first triple success. However, the character's fanbase scores are used to determine the show's Popularity rating, which in turn determines the show's budget; see the "Fame and Fortune" section for more details.
Choosing a character's archetype and role is the first step when creating a character- a player is free to decide which options to take based off their existing character concept or just select from the available choices at random and come up with a character concept using that as a starting point. Your archetype is your main method of building up GAR charge; once per scene, the Director can award the player a point of GAR charge for performing their archetype's designated activity in an interesting or amusing fashion.
To build up their GAR charge, the ___ character must manage to ___ in a cool fashion:
1: Arrogant- Assert their superiority over others.
2: Brainy- Technobabble.
3: Coldblooded- Unnerve (Frighten, impress, etc.) others with their emotionless nature.
4: Hotblooded- Clash with an authority figure.
5: Idealistic- Stand by their principles.
6: Laidback- Distinguishes themself from others due to his laconic nature.
6: Psycho- Unnerve others with their psychotic nature.
7: Withdrawn- Refrain from speaking or other forms of socialization.
8: Uncertain- Engage in an introspective inner monologue.
9: Scheming- Engage in an inner monologue regarding their personal machinations.
A character's role improves their odds of succeeding with a certain type of action by providing a bonus point of GAR charge once per scene. This point is tracked separately from the character's total GAR charge and is lost at the end of the scene if the player does not use it.
The ___ recieves a free point of GAR Charge every scene, that must be spent on ___.
1: Dutiful soldier- Anything fulfilling the orders/directions that he's received.
2: Mentor- Any roll being made by a teammate that falls under one of the Mentor's disciplines.
3: Mercenary- Anything being done on his own, without any help
4: Renegade- Anything being done in defiance of authority.
5: Rookie- Any roll where his discipline score is lower than a discipline score possessed by someone who's giving the rookie advice.
6: Specialist- One single discipline, chosen at character creation.
7: Trusted friend- Anything being done for the sake of someone else on the team.
8: Veteran- Any roll where his discipline score is higher than any possessed by his teammates (Not counting disciplines that are less relevant than his own).
Games of Trigger Discipline are divided up into episodes of the television show the player characters star in- before the players create their characters, the director tells them the name of the show and gives them a rundown of the setting and premise. Each episode includes at least five "scenes"- dramatic moments involving a Contest ("Defeat these enemies in a fistfight/mech battle/beach volleyball match") or Challenge ("Inspire the troops to fight harder," "Figure out how to deal with the enemy's cloaking device before he kills you," "Make conversation with the Princess without causing offense"). An extended sequence might feature a series of dramatic moments and thus count as multiple "scenes" from a rule perspective. As a general rule, each player character should be involved in a Contest or Challenge during each scene, which may entail cutting back and forth between separate sequences involving different groups of players.
In a Contest, the players work to overcome enemies who roll dice of their own (or perhaps fight one another). Most enemies will have little or no GAR score and can be dispatched with a single success, though there will be times when the players encounter a non-player main character with all the same abilities they do- Plot Armor, GAR Charge and even an archetype and role (The Director may simply say that an antagonist is "Villainous", meaning that they build up their GAR Charge by acting in a villainous fashion and receive a free point of GAR Charge each scene to spend on appropriately villainous deeds). During each round of a contest, the participants may choose to "Face Off", pausing to taunt each other or otherwise match wills. If so, they can each use their archetype to gain a point of GAR Charge, ignoring the normal 1-point limit on how much charge they can accumulate during a single scene (but not the limit on the total number of points they can have at a time).
In a Challenge, the Director secretly decides upon a certain number of successes necessary to achieve an overarching goal, usually between 5 and 10 for a challenge involving three players. He can also increase the difficulty by having the players face a penalty if they roll a certain number of failures (rolls with no successes at all) or are unable to complete the challenge in a certain number of rounds.
Fame and Fortune
All player characters start with a Fanbase rating of 1; the maximum rating you can attain during an episode is equal to one more that the highest Fanbase rating among the group when the episode began. Each episode The show's Popularity is equal to the sum of these scores divided by the number of player characters (i.e. the average Fanbase score), rounding down. The show begins with 7 points of Budget for the first episode and receives an additional number of points for each one after that equal to the show's popularity plus 4. As they begin each scene, the players and director must decide together how many points of budget they wish to spend on the animation; doing so determines the exact conditions in which a character can earn an increase to their fanbase score.
-By default, a scene costs 1 point of budget, and a character earns a +1 increase to their fanbase with each triple success.
-If 2 budget points are spent on a scene, the characters also earn a +1 fanbase increase with just a double success.
-If 3 budget points are spent on a scene, the characters earn a +2 fanbase increase with a triple success, and this bonus can increase the character's fanbase rating to 1 more than the normal limit for the episode
-A scene can also use QUALITY animation, which costs nothing but also gives the character no chance of attaining a fanbase increase; additionally, a character who gets no successes on a roll where his GAR die comes up as a 10 actually loses a point of fanbase because he looks so stupid.
Characters receive 10 experience points to spend prior to the show's television premiere, and another 10 at the conclusion of each episode
GAR begins at rank 1 and costs 5 points for each additional rank, up to a maximum of the next episode's number (meaning that it cannot be increased until after the first episode).
Maximum Plot Armor begins at rank 2 and costs 4 points for each additional rank, up to a maximum of two plus half the next episode's number (meaning that it cannot be increased until after the first episode).
Mecha begins at rank 1 and costs 3 points for each additional rank, up to a maximum of the next episode's number plus one. With GM approval, a player may give his mech a distinct capability that most or all other other mechs in the setting do not have (such as flight or an advanced A.I.) in exchange for his effective Mecha score being 1 or more points lower than the number of ranks the character has.
Disciplines begin at rank 0 and cost 1 point for each additional rank, up to a maximum of the next episode's number plus three. The GM may require that a player count their effective score as being lower than the number of ranks if the discipline in question can be applied broadly enough.
Audrey wants to take a certain style of melee combat (swordfighting), which in and of itself is fine. If she wants to be able to use the discipline equally well whether in or out of the mech, that will be a -1 penalty. If she wants to be skilled in the use of all forms of melee weaponry, improvised or not, that will be a -2 penalty. If she wants both, the penalties will stack.
Additional Rules of Play
-Whenever a player character does something that makes everyone at the table go "Wow", the Director can grant them some sort of bonus- one or more points of GAR charge, a fanbase increase, or even letting them automatically resolve the scene without needing to make any additional rolls.
-If the director feels a player character is using a discipline in the exact same way more than once in a scene, their effective score with that discipline is reduced by one until the end of the scene.
-If the director feels that the circumstances give someone an advantage (the enemy is unprepared, or fighting in unfamiliar territory, or has the low ground), he can grant them one or more extra Discipline rolls on all relevant checks as though they were spending points of GAR Charge.
What's yet to come. . .
This version of Trigger Discipline focuses on nailing down the core gameplay, while leaving the overall structure of the game up to the Director; at this point the rules are probably best suited for stories lasting from one to three sessions. The plan is to come up with a workable set of background rules with which to run a game where the end goal is to stay on air for a full TV season (26 episodes). Many of these rules will apply to both player and game master in some fashion. Experience points will tie into the character's fanbase score, and the cost of ranks will increase as they go higher. And of course, there's the Chance Deck. . .
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