Cinemechanix: Trademarks

Category: Cussin' In Tongues
Created on Friday, 07 September 2018 Written by Steve

Last time, I talked about the the problems with the way the d20 for Character Concept was looking broken to me in playtesting, and how I fixed that. But the fix got rid of the d20 entirely, which I didn’t like. So I added a new trait called Trademarks (and renamed the old Trademarks to Edges). The new Trademark fits a lot better with how most people use the word when talking about fictional characters. It’s kind of a schtick or gimmick, and does have some things in common with Gimmicks in the QAGS sense. Tony Stark’s trademark is “Scientific Genius,” Buffy’s is “Vampire Slayer,” and Zorro is a “Swashbuckler.” 

Most Trademarks aren’t really about the character’s training or knowledge. They’re more about methods and style and are frequently based on the character’s natural talents and strong suits. Trademarks are typically broader than Edges/The Artist Previously Known As Trademarks/ Skills, but there is a point where they’re too broad. “Smart”, for example, is too broad. The character needs to be smart in a more specific way: Book Smart, Resourceful, Quick-Thinking, or whatever. 

I’m still kind of working out exactly how to best describe Trademarks. Of the ones I’ve come up with so far, it seems like as a general rule the more clearly applicable the Trademark is to a certain thing the less wiggle room there is for applying it to situations outside of its niche. “Combat Reflexes” lets you roll a d20 for all combat rolls, but only for combat rolls. Something like “Swashbuckler” only lets you roll for certain types of combat rolls (specifically, combat rolls when you’re showing off), but would also let you roll a d20 in any situation when you’re showing off your physical abilities: swinging dramatically across the courtyard on a curtain, juggling geese, or owning your opponent in a dance-off, for instance. I especially like the idea of Trademarks that could potentially be used in different kinds of scenes. A good example is “[Blank] Slayer.” If you’re a Werewolf Slayer, you get to roll a d20 for knowledge rolls about werewolves, investigation rolls involving werewolf activity, and combat rolls against werewolves. 

In a departure from the way we usually do things here at Hex (or a throwback to Spooky and M-Force, if you prefer) I think the best way to describe Trademarks is by providing a fairly comprehensive list of them, complete with descriptions, in the rulebook. The core rulebook would have Trademarks that can work in almost any game and books for specific settings would include at least a few “new” Trademarks for that setting: Magical Aptitude (though hopefully with a better name that fits the setting) for a fantasy game, The Force Is Strong In This One for Star Wars, [Blank] Slayer for M-Force, etc. There would still be room for players to create their own Trademarks, but I want to make sure to include all the most common possibilities. 

I’ve written up quite a few sample Trademarks, which I’ll include here so you have a better idea of the kinds of things I’m talking about. A few of them break the normal rules slightly or add Special Effects in addition to the d20, but they tend to be tied to things that don’t generally require die rolls so I think that’s acceptable. 

[Blank] Hunter/Slayer 

The character is an expert at stalking and/or fighting a particular kind of creature and rolls a d20 on rolls associated with that kind of creature.

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • Attack and Defense rolls against creatures of the chosen type
  • Detecting the presence of or tracking down the chosen creature
  • Interaction rolls with the chosen creature 
  • Knowledge rolls about the creature 

Common [Blank]s: Alien, Big Game, Bigfoot, Demon, Dinosaur, Dragon, Ghost, Giant, Kaiju, Nazi, Orc, Robot, Vampire, Werewolf, Zombie  

A Very Particular Set of Skills 

Instead of using a d20 on all rolls that play to a particular strength or natural talent, characters with A Very Particular Set of Skills roll a d20 for a number of specific skills equal to their Hero Factor. These skills should be thematically connected in some way. Below are some sample themes with a list of possible skills. 

  • Beach Bum: Area Knowledge, Bartending, Boating, Clam Digging, Fishing, Guitar, Maritime Lore, Parasailing, Pearl Diving, Sailing, SCUBA Diving, Snorkeling, Surfing, Swimming, Volleyball, Water Rescue, Water Skiing  
  • Bounty Hunter: Breaking & Entering, Bullshit Detector, Interrogation, Investigation, Perception, Running, Stealth, Surveillance, Tracking, Unarmed Combat, Weapon*
  • Cat Burglar:  Acrobatics, Breaking & Entering, Climbing, Countersurveillance, Electronics, Parkour, Perception, Safecracking, Security Systems, Sleight of Hand, Stealth
  • Extreme Athlete: Base Jumping, BMX, Climbing, Extreme Ironing, Flamedancing, Hang Gliding, Jumping, Motocross, Paragliding, Parkour, Roller Derby, Rollerblading, Running,  Skateboarding, Skydiving, Snowboarding, Surfing, Swimming, Wakeboarding, White Water Rafting, Windsuit, Windsurfing, Zorbing
  • Government Agent: Breaking & Entering, Computers, Criminology, Forensics, Firearms, Hostage Negotiation, Interrogation, Investigation, Law, Perception, Read People, Stealth, Surveillance, Unarmed Combat
  • Getaway Driver: Area Knowledge, Evade Pursuit, Find A Shortcut, Grand Theft Auto, Mechanic, Smuggling, Stealth Driving, Stunt Driving, Traffic Whisperer, Vehicular Assault  
  • Grifter: Acting, Disguise, Fast Talking, Forgery, Read People, Research, Perception, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, Social Engineering   
  • Hacker: Computer Programming, Cracking, Crash the System, Data Collection, Dumpster Diving, Electronics, Jailbreaking, Phishing, Remote Control, Research, Social Engineering  
  • Hero Cop: Area Knowledge, Breaking & Entering, Bullshit Detector, Firearms, Interrogation, Intimidation, Investigation, Running, Stakeout, Streetwise, Stunt Driving, Unarmed Combat 
  • Navy SEAL: Boating, Climbing, Combat Diving, Demolitions, First Aid, Knife Fighting, Firearms, Naval History, Orienteering, Perception, Running, Skydiving, Swimming, Tactics, Unarmed Combat, Wilderness Survival 
  • Ninja: Acrobatics, Blowgun, Climbing, Create A Distraction, Disguise, Jumping, Katana, Knife, Kusarigama, Martial Arts, Parkour, Poisons, Sleight of Hand, Staff, Stealth, Throwing Star  
  • Outdoorsman: Animal Handling, Astronomy, ATV Riding, Bird Watching, Boating, Camping, Climbing, Cooking, Fishing, Foraging, Horseback Riding, Hunting, Orienteering, Paintball, Nature Lore, Wilderness Survival, Swimming, Tracking, Trapping  

Air of Authority 

The character seems like somebody important, even if he’s not. As a result, people have a tendency to do what he asks and follow his instructions. 

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • Convincing a gatekeeper to give you access to a location despite lack of credentials
  • Getting special treatment by insisting that a person of your status deserves better
  • Commanding minions to do your bidding through sheer force of perceived importance 
  • Calming down or firing up a crowd by playing the role of the adult in the room

Brainiac (Book Smarts)

The character is extremely intelligent, well-educated, and good at solving complex problems. He gets to roll a d20 for all knowledge rolls and for any roll that involves solving a problem using reason and logic.  

Sample Trademark Rolls: 

  • All knowledge rolls
  • Conducting academic research or lab work
  • Deciphering a coded message  

Bruiser

You are mighty. Maybe it’s because you’re a hulking brute, maybe you’re just really wiry. Whatever the case, you are very strong and kind of menacing. Roll a d20 whenever you do something that requires brute strength. 

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • Attack rolls that involve bashing, crushing, punching, or throwing heavy things 
  • Breaking things
  • Picking up heavy things

Combat Reflexes

You were born to fight. Roll a d20 for all attack and defense rolls. 

Dramatic Flair

You’re a born performer. Roll a d20 on any roll that involves performing, acting, or making a scene. 

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • Creating a distraction or making an entrance
  • Convincingly playing a role 
  • Winning over an audience 

Hardboiled

The world is a cesspool, and you’ve seen the worst of it. Some would say it’s made you cynical, but you say it’s made you realistic. Roll a d20 whenever your cynicism and street smarts give you an edge. 

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • Perception rolls to sense potential danger
  • Dealing with the seedier side of humanity
  • Trying to determine if someone is lying or has an ulterior motive

Home Turf

You’re extremely familiar with the area in which you normally operate. When you take this Trademark, you should define your home turf. It’s usually a single city, but can range from a larger region (West Texas) to a single neighborhood (Harlem). You get to roll a d20 for any roll that involves knowledge of or connection to your Home Turf. 

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • General knowledge rolls about the area (history, current events, people, etc.)
  • Interaction rolls with the locals 
  • Rolls to find resources or information within your Home Turf
  • Knowing the lay of the land (for example, rolling to find a shortcut) 

Keen Detective Mind

You’re extremely good at solving puzzles, making intuitive leaps, and noticing details others might miss. Roll a d20 whenever your sleuthing instincts come into play.

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • Perception rolls to find potential clues or notice minor but important details 
  • Trying to determine if someone is lying or acting strangely
  • Making connections between seemingly unrelated pieces of information, especially those that could indicate motive, means, or opportunity

Lucky

You were born lucky. In addition to rolling a d20 for all Luck Rolls (See Chapter XX), you get a Lucky Break whenever you roll a 12 on a d12 or a 20 on a d20 (regardless of what you roll on your other dice). 

Mechanically Inclined 

You understand how mechanical devices work and are good with tools. Roll a d20 on any roll that involves mechanical aptitude. 

Sample Trademark Rolls:

  • Replacing a water pump on your car
  • Picking a mechanical lock
  • Disarming a trap that’s triggered through mechanical means 

 

That’s as far as I’ve gotten with the full descriptions, but I did write some very brief rules for the rest of my current list when I put together the character creation reference sheets for my convention games this year. Here those are: 

  • Natural Linguist: Roll a d20 on all language-related rolls. You fluently speak a number of languages equal to your Hero Factor. 
  • Nimble: Roll a d20 for any roll involving balance, agility, or coordination. 
  • No Guts No Glory: Roll a d20 for any roll involving a dangerous stunt or high risk attack. 
  • Quick: Roll a d20 for all rolls involving reflexes or speed; You can take 2 actions per round as long as they are both physical actions (movement, attacks, etc.)
  • Savoir Faire: Roll a d20 on all social interaction rolls. 
  • Scientific Genius: Roll a d20 for all science rolls. 
  • Sneaky: Roll a d20 on all rolls involving stealth, subterfuge, or deception. 
  • Swashbuckler: Roll a d20 for any roll involving displays of physical prowess, including attack rolls where you spend Effect for dramatic effect. 
  • Superior Firepower: Roll a d20 on all rolls involving guns or military-grade hardware. 
  • Survivor: Roll a d20 when rolling to resist the effects of exhaustion, exposure, disease, poison, torture, and other hostile stimuli.
  • Tactician: Roll a d20 on any roll where you intend to spend Effect to create an advantage or put toward a Goal. If the roll succeeds, you must spend at least one point of Effect toward the Goal or creating the advantage. 
  • Tech Savvy: Roll a d20 for any roll involving computers or electronics. 
  • World Traveller: Roll a d20 on any roll involving travel or foreign locations and people. 

A few of those (like Swashbuckler and Tactician) make references to ideas that are kind of introduced in the most recent playtest draft but still need a lot of work. Don’t worry if they make no sense because it’s very likely the details will be changing. 

The collapsing of Character Concept and the introduction of Trademarks are the two biggest changes to how characters are defined in the as-yet-unwritten newest draft of the game, but there are some other changes, which I’ll talk about next week. 

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Cinemechanix: Trademarks.
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