The Art of Doing It Cool

Here is a simple rule, that I am using in two of my campaigns: “Make it even cooler”.

Here’s the basics:

  • When a player is about to roll a d20-roll (attack roll, saving throw, skill check and the like), the player can choose another player to describe the scene even grander.
  • After the scene has been described, the player gains a bonus to his die roll. In D&D 3,5 we add +1d4 and in 4th ed. we add +1.

Here are two examples from a recent session with my The Night’s Dark Terror-group (yes, we’re playing that scenario. It is quite fun).

Example:

The Warlock with a Star Pact is about to whisper dread words in her opponents ears. The player chooses another player to describe the scene. The other player now describes how the warlock stretches her hand to the sky and even though it is broad daylight a star is visible and as the Warlock stretches her hand, it becomes shadowy and suddenly it reaches the star, grabs it and channel the dark secrets from the heavens through the warlock towards her opponents.

Example:

The rogue needs to stop an opponent with her throwing dagger. The player chooses another player to describe the scene. The other player describes how the rogue and the enchanted dagger becomes one, the dagger is perfectly balanced in the rogues hand, and for moment the rogue is perfectly still, then with a fluid moment her whole body moves, and faster than most can see, the dagger leaves her hand flying straight at it’s target.

After these descriptions, we add the modifier and have the player roll her dice.

The rule works and it works very well. It is also employed in my D&D Wizard campaign, where it has become a very important rule in combat, and it creates some of the most dramatic sorcery duels, I have ever experienced in roleplaying, as the spells becomes truly vivid and dramatic in their depictions.

Example:

It is midwinter and the wizard is guarding an open grave, when the Headless Horseman appears, and they begin duelling. The wizard has a feat allowing him to wield a Bastard Sword and he is armed with an ancient Flaming Bastard Sword related to his people in a distant past (he is a Flaem, a descendant of The Followers of Fire whose battle with the Followers of Air destroyed the homeworld of both followings). The player decides to blast the undead horror with a Scorching Ray and appoints one of the other players to describe the scene. The other player describes how the blade bursts into flame and how the wizard strikes the blade deep into the snowcovered ground, and from there tendrils of living flame erupts enveloping the enemy.

After this the player rolls the dice.

Next round the player uses another Scorching Ray-spell and he chooses a different player to the describe the effects. From the erupting flames to lines of explosive flames runs along the ground until they catch the opponent and envelop him in pure elemental fire.

And after this description the attack rolls are made for the rays.

In both descriptions we don’t care much about the official description of the spell in the rulebooks. The new description does not change the spell, nor does it guarantee success, thus when one of the above mentioned attack rolls failed, it meant, that I as the DM could describe how the enemy shook off the flames completely ignoring them – this too was cool and the enemy became even more frightening. I simply add my description to the players’ description, thus we keep adding the results of our actions to each other’s description.

The rule has several purposes

  • It adds flavor to the die rolls
  • It adds some ones else’s perspective to your character
  • It activates a player, whose turn it isn’t
  • It opens up new descriptions to old maneuvers, e.g. you may have described your warrior’s sword blow for the umpteenth time, but the player to your left haven’t done so
  • It inspires
  • The price for the bonus is, that you will have to allow somebody else to describe your character. For a moment you loose control.

Variants

It does not necessarily have to even cooler or more awesome, it can also be grimmer, darker, more heroic, or more passionate.

Easy to adapt

The rule can easily be adapted to your campaign and playing-style as well as to other systems. In Warhammer RPG the bonus would be +5% to the attack roll or perhaps +1 damage, and something like it could be done to GURPS, Mouse Guard or Storyteller.

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About Morten Greis

Historiker, etnolog, brygger, fægter, rollespiller, science fiction entusiast History and Ethnology, brewer and fencer, roleplayer and science fiction enthusiast View all posts by Morten Greis

4 responses to “The Art of Doing It Cool

  • seaofstarsrpg

    Very clever and very intriguing. May have to try this out next time we play (and get into combat).

  • Morten Greis

    Thanks. Good luck with the rule. It works really great in my two campaigns both in and out of combat, as it is also used for skill checks.

  • Runeslinger

    I like this quite a bit. I often do an informal session after a game where I try to get the players to discuss what they think character x would do in situation y, and also encourage them to talk about cool things that they remember the others’ characters doing over the course of the campaign, but I think your proposal is a much better way of going about it.

    Thanks for the post~

    • Morten Greis

      Thanks, you’re welcome.

      It works wonder for us since it adds the cool moments to the instant it takes place. It also enriches the general descriptions of what is happening, and I’ve noticed that it help the characters grow, especially when you have one of your fellow players describe how your character is cool.

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