Scum and Villainy (FitD)

Yora

Legend
Scum and Villainy is a variant hack of Blades in the Dark modified for campaigns in the style of Star Wars, Firefly, and similar works of Scoundrels with a Spaceship. While the core mechanics are basically identical to Blades in the Dark, the other 30% or so of the game are completely different. And of course, with a completely different thematic context, questions about good practices and judgement calls can be really different, so I think this deserves its own thread.

As a quick introduction to anyone curious about the game without knowing it, Scum and Villainy (like other Forged in the Dark and Powered by the Apocalypse games) is a game that is not about PCs and enemies with sets of character stats interacting with each by performing various actions defined by the rules, but really more a back and forth between the GM and the players taking turns who is going to control the next paragraph of the unfolding story. The character sheets of the PCs list 12 action ratings, which work kind of like skills, but also very much not. Anything that a PC does that requires a dice roll falls under one of the 12 defined actions; whichever seems to be the closest best fit. (Fighting, moving, sneaking, piloting, convincing, commanding, hacking, repairing, studying, medicine, supernatural) The rating for each of the actions determines the number of dice that are being rolled when performing an action that falls under that category. But since only the die with the highest number is counted as the result of the roll, and all other dice are discarded, the skill rating does not affect the limits of what the PC can accomplish. Every roll still comes out as a number between 1 and 6, regardless of the action rating and all other situational modifiers to the roll. A high action rating and additional bonus dice only improve the odds to get a 6 and decrease the odds to get a 1. What this means in practice is that the action ratings don't actually reflect skill, talent, or experience, and instead determine how often the player gets the desired result when announcing character actions that fall into the 12 different categories. In Scum and Villainy (and other FitD games), all special character abilities have something to do with giving extra dice to action rolls or gaining the benefit of two actions from a single action roll, or things of that kind. They generally don't unlock the ability to do new things that previously were impossible.
Any action roll can have three possible outcomes: You perform the action as you intended, you fail to perform the action and suffer a negative consequence, or you perform the intended action but also suffer a negative consequence as an unintended side effect. Only when the highest die of all the die you rolled is a 6 do you get the intended outcome with no complications. In all other situations, there will be some kind of problem. That problem can be injury, the arrival of new enemies, setting off alarms, discovering that the McGuffin has already been taken from its box, and a number of other things that are at the discretion of the GM. In a fight, NPCs don't have stats and don't take turns. If your action is to attack a guard and the roll results in a negative consequence, that negative consequence could be getting injured by that guard's weapon or the guard calling for help. Since all 12 actions are mechanically the same and only have different ratings (number of dice) for each PC, there isn't even a distinction of "combat" and "not combat".
With few actions giving you exactly what you hoped for, this system is made for escalating chains of chaos like an Indiana Jones movie. As you keep making progress, things also keep getting more wild. There's a lot more to the game, but this is the core mechanic that makes up probably 90% of what characters do during the game.

Now, I am having a specific question that I hope people can help me with. What exactly is the Consort action intended for? It's used for talking with NPCs and having to roll the dice, but the action is neither Command nor Sway. What kind of things would that be? The book does not elaborate much on that.
Since it's a colaborative storytelling game that doesn't require adventure prep, I think one way to use Consort would be to ask someone who's willing to talk about information, and the result of the rules determines whether you get to hear good new or bad news, or good news with also some bad news.

Say you're asking an ally if he knows any secret entrances to a place you want to get in. If you roll a 6, he can tell you about an entrance that will give the you an advantage if you use it. (For example, you will roll with Controlled Position on your action to "get inside" if you use the hidden entrance instead of any of the main entrances.) If you fail on the roll, he will warn you about some security feature that the GM wouldn't have introduced if you hadn't asked that NPC.
The only other situation I can think of is to get someone to give you an invitation to some restricted event or location, but that's about it. It feels rather limited compared to the other action ratings, and a bit like they had to pick something to get the number of Resolve actions to 4.
 

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kenada

Legend
Supporter
What exactly is the Consort action intended for?
It’s like a Circles test in Torchbearer or Connect in Stars (or Worlds) Without Number. You use it to look for people.

Since it's a colaborative storytelling game that doesn't require adventure prep, I think one way to use Consort would be to ask someone who's willing to talk about information, and the result of the rules determines whether you get to hear good new or bad news, or good news with also some bad news.
Not exactly. The way it would work is the player sets the stakes: they want to find a particular piece of information. The method they decide is talking to people to find out. That’s Consort. The roll then tells you whether you found what you wanted. Note that success with complications is still success. You’ll get the information, but it may be you met the informant at a shady bar right before it’s going to be raided.
 

Yora

Legend
Consort is heading out to the Space-Pub and buying people drinks and generally being feel-good, with the goal of making friends and influencing people. This could be a card game, a bar trip, a dressage competition, whatever. Essentially it's partying with a purpose.
When you make an action roll as a player, you have to state the outcome of a successful roll.
Right? (At least I think so.)

What would be the successful outcome of buying people drinks and feeling good?
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
When you make an action roll as a player, you have to state the outcome of a successful roll.
Right? (At least I think so.)

What would be the successful outcome of buying people drinks and feeling good?
The rules say use Consort “to gain access to resources, information, people, or places.” - youre creating contacts for future profit

Sway is seduction, manipulation, deception, bluffing, persuasion etc
 


hawkeyefan

Legend
When you make an action roll as a player, you have to state the outcome of a successful roll.
Right? (At least I think so.)

When you’re going to make an action roll, you should be saying what your goal is for the action.

Command is to intimidate or otherwise coerce people through threats, whether direct or implied.

Sway is when you’re trying to convince someone of your point, to win them over with your argument.

Consort is generally carousing and chatting with people in a friendly way in an attempt to ingratiate yourself to them or to get information from them.

What would be the successful outcome of buying people drinks and feeling good?

People tend to loosen up when they’ve had a drink or four and some time to get to know someone and enjoy their company.
 

MarkB

Legend
Note that the result of a failed Consort check don't have to be reality-altering like the adding extra security example. My go-to for a mixed result would be that the information costs you something - money or a favour. For a failed result, you've managed to annoy your contact and your standing with them and/or their faction has worsened.
 

Yora

Legend
What are opinions on when to have players make an action roll, or instead simply telling them they do what they said they want to do?

Say a PC goes to see an ally for information and sees the store getting raided by police, and decides to quickly leave to avoid getting seen by the cops. You could ask for a Skulk roll to leave unseen, and a 4/5 result could mean someone reports seeing a person immediately leaving the scene when seeing the police. But should you?
The task is trivially easy and in any other game I wouldn't ask for a roll. But SaV isn't a task resolution game, but a narrative game. I think you absolutely could ask for a roll every time a player announces an action and the game should still work.

Consort would be another good example. Most of the time when a PC asks an nonhostile NPC about something and the answer has no cost for the NPC, you can just give the player the answer. But calling for an action roll can introduce new complications, increase chaos, and give the players something to react to. Which does have its advantages, but I think when you do nonstop action or at least tension all the time, that would quickly become too much.

As GM, I can always apply my own judgement feeling the room. If I think the story is a bit slow and dragging right now, asking for a few action rolls even if they are in Controlled Position with Greater Effect could dial up the excitement, while at other times when I think slowing things down a bit would be good, I would give answers without any rolls. But that would create a situation in which things become arbitrary, with exactly the same kindnof action sometimes requiring a roll and sometimes not, dependent only on my mood as the GM.
My style as a D&D GM goes for maximum consistency to minimize the influence of my personal preferences, to give players greater agency over their choices and actions. But PtbA games specifically state that the GM should not be a disinterested party, but "be a fan of the players".

What are youtpr thoughts on this issue?
 

kenada

Legend
Supporter
What are opinions on when to have players make an action roll, or instead simply telling them they do what they said they want to do?

Say a PC goes to see an ally for information and sees the store getting raided by police, and decides to quickly leave to avoid getting seen by the cops. You could ask for a Skulk roll to leave unseen, and a 4/5 result could mean someone reports seeing a person immediately leaving the scene when seeing the police. But should you?
The task is trivially easy and in any other game I wouldn't ask for a roll. But SaV isn't a task resolution game, but a narrative game. I think you absolutely could ask for a roll every time a player announces an action and the game should still work.

Consort would be another good example. Most of the time when a PC asks an nonhostile NPC about something and the answer has no cost for the NPC, you can just give the player the answer. But calling for an action roll can introduce new complications, increase chaos, and give the players something to react to. Which does have its advantages, but I think when you do nonstop action or at least tension all the time, that would quickly become too much.

As GM, I can always apply my own judgement feeling the room. If I think the story is a bit slow and dragging right now, asking for a few action rolls even if they are in Controlled Position with Greater Effect could dial up the excitement, while at other times when I think slowing things down a bit would be good, I would give answers without any rolls. But that would create a situation in which things become arbitrary, with exactly the same kindnof action sometimes requiring a roll and sometimes not, dependent only on my mood as the GM.
My style as a D&D GM goes for maximum consistency to minimize the influence of my personal preferences, to give players greater agency over their choices and actions. But PtbA games specifically state that the GM should not be a disinterested party, but "be a fan of the players".

What are youtpr thoughts on this issue?
What are the stakes? If there are stakes, then roll. When I’m not sure, I ask the players. Otherwise, cut to the action (per the GM’s best practices in Scum and Villainy).

Another thing to keep in mind is that players shouldn’t be spending a lot of time doing research and planning. That’s what flashbacks are for. If they need information on a mission, they’ll hit a point where it becomes necessary, then they can flash back to how they used Consort to get it. If it turns out they don’t, then that’s great. They didn’t waste session time and possibly resources pursuing something that wouldn’t help them on their mission.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
Consort could be a lot of things. You might consort to try and get an introduction for example, probably to someone who wouldn't see you otherwise. You might consort to try and learn details of security or delivery arrangements. You might consort to try and find an asset or informer to run. You might consort to make friends and thus make a subsequent action easier (like now the guard knows you, or whatever). You might use consort to run specific kinds of surveillance too.

For example, when James Bond goes to play Baccarat he's probably making a Consort roll, as with any of the numerous examples in fiction and film where someone arranges to get invited to a party to get closer to a target or gather info.
 

MarkB

Legend
What are opinions on when to have players make an action roll, or instead simply telling them they do what they said they want to do?

Say a PC goes to see an ally for information and sees the store getting raided by police, and decides to quickly leave to avoid getting seen by the cops. You could ask for a Skulk roll to leave unseen, and a 4/5 result could mean someone reports seeing a person immediately leaving the scene when seeing the police. But should you?
The task is trivially easy and in any other game I wouldn't ask for a roll. But SaV isn't a task resolution game, but a narrative game. I think you absolutely could ask for a roll every time a player announces an action and the game should still work.

Consort would be another good example. Most of the time when a PC asks an nonhostile NPC about something and the answer has no cost for the NPC, you can just give the player the answer. But calling for an action roll can introduce new complications, increase chaos, and give the players something to react to. Which does have its advantages, but I think when you do nonstop action or at least tension all the time, that would quickly become too much.

As GM, I can always apply my own judgement feeling the room. If I think the story is a bit slow and dragging right now, asking for a few action rolls even if they are in Controlled Position with Greater Effect could dial up the excitement, while at other times when I think slowing things down a bit would be good, I would give answers without any rolls. But that would create a situation in which things become arbitrary, with exactly the same kindnof action sometimes requiring a roll and sometimes not, dependent only on my mood as the GM.
My style as a D&D GM goes for maximum consistency to minimize the influence of my personal preferences, to give players greater agency over their choices and actions. But PtbA games specifically state that the GM should not be a disinterested party, but "be a fan of the players".

What are youtpr thoughts on this issue?
Aside from @kenada s good advice on flashbacks vs pre-planning, how has the adventure got to the stage where things are so chilled-out in character?

The chilled-out asking around, consorting and the like is what the downtime phase is for. If we're into the action of a job, we should be dropping into it at the point where things get interesting.

If you've reached a point in the job where it stops being interesting to the point where anything the players want to do is defaulting to easier than Controlled / Greater Effect, just skip/speed through it to the next interesting bit. If you don't anticipate it getting interesting, call the job a success and skip to downtime.

And yes, your role is to be a fan of the players, but that's not the same as being a fan of the characters. For both you and the players, the goal should be to make the characters' lives as interesting as possible.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
What are opinions on when to have players make an action roll, or instead simply telling them they do what they said they want to do?

When something interesting or meaningful may happen on a failure. So, when something is at stake.

For general info gathering or knowledge type rolls, you can likely just use a fortune roll. On a 1-3 they get basic knowledge/info. On a 4-5 they get a little more. On a 6 they get some really esoteric details.

Action rolls should be used for situations where something is at stake, as @kenada mentioned.
 


Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Now, I am having a specific question that I hope people can help me with. What exactly is the Consort action intended for?

I played S&V last weekend, and it was explained to me that it is basically a matter of who the target is:
Sway is what you use to convince people you don't know to do or believe something.
Command is what you use on people within a power structure.
Consort is what you use to convince someone you know, but who might not to want to take a risk you want them to take, or the like.
 


Ovinomancer

No flips for you!
I approach it from "what are you doing?"

Convincing some one? Sway.
Ordering someone? Command
Leaning on personal favors? Consort.

So, if I try and convince the copper to let me go using a bribe and swift talk, it's Sway. If I do it with threats, Command. If I reminisce about growing up together, Consort.
 


kenada

Legend
Supporter
Does BitD/FitD/S&V use "if you do it, you do it" as a basic principle?
It does not. The way it describes action rolls is more “say yes or roll the dice”.

You make an action roll when your character does something potentially dangerous or troublesome. The possible results of the action roll depend on your character’s position. There are three positions: controlled, risky, and desperate. If you’re in a controlled position, the possible consequences are less serious. If you’re in a desperate position, the consequences can be severe. If you’re somewhere in between, it’s risky—usually considered the “default” position for most actions.​
If there’s no danger or trouble at hand, you don’t make an action roll. You might make a fortune roll or a downtime roll or the GM will simply say yes—and you accomplish your goal.​
 

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