Numbers define a lot in roleplaying games. They give you a foundation for determining success and failure. They give you quantities to manipulate. They give you a feeling for how you should play your character. If I have 17 strength, but only 2 intelligence, then I probably won’t be doing a lot of puzzle solving. I might do a lot of smashing things though…
In SteamCharged, the numbers that define your character are called attributes. The attributes are designed to encourage certain kinds of actions. Sure, there are attributes for running, jumping, and hitting things, but there are also attributes for inventing machines, manipulating markets, guiding governments, and making speeches.
When you want to take an action in SteamCharged, the narrator will ask you for an attribute check. You will then roll a six-sider and add the number that represents the appropriate attribute. There are 12 different attributes that describe your character, 6 active attributes used to take actions in the world, and 6 passive attributes used to react to actions taken against you. The active attributes, or just actives in our terminology, are Brawn, Reputation, Jive, Capital, Genius, and Coordination. The passive attributes, or passives, are Moxie, Composure, Authority, Cunning, Perception, and Adrenaline.
Brawn is your physical strength. Moxie is your determination. Reputation is how well you are known. Composure is your emotional control. Jive is your ability to talk. Authority is your power to enforce obedience. Capital is your wealth. Cunning is your ability to think on your feet. Genius is the depth of your intellect. Perception is how well you use your senses. Coordination is how you move your body. Adrenaline is how fast you can move at a moments notice.
When an action is taken against you, you have to react, and you do that with your passives. Notice the arrows on the image above that point from the actives to the passives? That is because each passive is the sum of the adjacent actives. You never “put points” into a passive, you just have it.
To react, you choose one of your passives that is adjacent to the active that is being effected. For example, if someone is attacking your Brawn, you may react with your Adrenaline or Moxie. Roll a six-sidder and add it to that passive attribute score. If you beat their attack, you either evade it (using your adrenaline) or shrug it off (using your Moxie). If the assailant beat your reaction, then you will have to resist.
When somebody tries to confuse you, you’ll naturally attempt to resist with your own profound Genius. If somebody attempts to poison you, you’re going to resist using your great Brawn. Your resists are equal to the active attribute being affected multiplied by your grit multiplier. So as your grit decreases, so does your ability to resist effects like confusion and poison. Every time you resist something, your grit multiplier decreases by 1. Your grit multiplier cannot be reduced below 0. Before you do that though, check to see if you get some stress.
If their action exceeds your resist, then you take stress to that attribute and make a surrender roll. Roll a six-sider and subtract 1 for each stress that you have. As long as you roll greater than a 0, you stay in the action. On anything less, you are taken out of the action in some way appropriate to the scene and the method of the action being taken against you.
When you have stress on a particular active attribute, you no longer get the bonus that that attribute provides to actions and reactions. You can only take 1 stress per active attribute, and any additional actions that exceed your resist will just make you make another surrender roll.
In SteamCharged, you can be forced into a situation where you have to be creative. If you thought that you were going to get through this encounter by simply punching people in the face, think again. That nasty looking thug over there can handle himself pretty well, as it turns out, and he just broke your arm when you tried to attack him. Oops. Now fighting with your Brawn is just not possible. Maybe you can bribe him, out-think him, or convince him that all of this was just a misunderstanding.
Flexibility is key. You have to be able to change up your tactics as the situation dictates. Or you could just save up enough intensity that your wounds don’t matter. But that is for next time...