The Old Theater, Part 4 (Plus Removal Challenges)

So if you’ve been following the last few posts, you know that our unnamed narrator is about ready to flick on a flashlight and try to save Tea. Because I believe in game fiction being reflective of stuff you can actually do in the game, I want to use this as a protracted example of how Removal Challenges work.

A Removal Challenge is a Challenge in which the character(s) stand a chance of being taken out play entirely, which normally means combat or other lethal situations. While characters do have some ways to skew the odds in their favor, they always have some chance of being removed from play.

When the GM states that a Removal Challenge has begun, all involved players state what action their characters are going to be taking. Consider whether a given action falls under cursing the darkness or lighting a candle. If the action lights a candle, and the character survives, the player can fill in a section of Wick. If the character fails, other characters can initiate a Memory conversation to generate Memory points, which can lead to them being able to make the essential choice. If the character takes an action that curses the darkness and stays in play, the GM loses three Between Points. If the character does so and leaves play, the GM gains three Between Points. The player can prevent this game by making the essential choice and cursing the darkness.

After the players have decided upon their characters’ actions, Suit Assignment begins. The GM deals himself 5 cards (and can expend a black Joker to deal five more, or spend Between points to draw one/point). The players (collectively) and the GM then choose four cards, one for each suit, and place them face down on the suit assignment sheet. When all cards have been chosen, flip the cards over. The high card of a given suit “wins” that suit. The player(s) choose their cards from their Banks and their Active Cards. If a player uses an Active Card, he immediately flips the next card in the Attribute.

Once Suit Assignment is completed, you proceed to Condition Assignment. The party that played the highest card in Suit Assignment moves that card to the Condition Assignment sheet, under the condition he wishes to set for that suit. The party that played the second-highest card then does the same thing, and so on (it is possible for one side to set all four conditions to his liking). The four possible Conditions are: Succeed/Stay, Succeed/Leave, Fail/Stay, Fail/Leave. This are discussed below, under Resolution.

After the conditions are set, the Challenge moves to the Resolution stage. The GM composes the Resolution Deck, starting with four of the aces from the Players’ Decks (for Challenges involved 1-3 players) or all eight of the aces (for 4 or more players). Each player involved in the Challenge then contributes two cards from his Bank or Active Cards, not including the ones used for Suit Assignment. If a player plays an Active Card, he can play the next card in the Attribute, if any.

The player(s) can spend Memory points to remove cards while the GM can spend Between points to add cards (the GM adds cards from the Players’ Deck discards, meaning that the GM can almost always choose the suits he wants to add). Once all expenditures are complete, the GM shuffles the cards. Each player involved then draws one card. If a player has a Scope relevant to the situation, he may draw another card (one per Scope) and choose the result he wants. If multiple players are involved with the Challenge, draw in the order that makes sense in the context of the scene (consider who would be affected first, or whether one players’ actions would affect another’s outcome).

If multiple players are involved, they can trade result cards (say, if one player is more comfortable with losing his character than the other). The players need to have this make some sense within the context of the story — how did one character “save” the other?

At this point, the party that played the high card of the suit that was chosen gets to narrate what happens to the character, but the outcome assigned to that suit must be respected. That is, if the player drew “Fail/Leave” but played the high card in the suit, he gets to say what happens to his character, but his character still fails at what he was attempting and leaves play.

The four results are:

The character achieved what he was trying to accomplish and stays in play.
Succeed/Leave: The character achieved what he was trying to accomplish but leaves play.
Fail/Stay: The character did not accomplish his goal, but stays in play.
Fail/Leave: The character did not accomplish his goal, and leaves play.

So, with all of this in mind, let’s get back to the theater. The situation here is obvious – our narrator (his name is Mike, by the way) is trying to prevent Them from killing Tea. In game terms, let’s assume that both Tea and Mike are PCs. Mike’s player has not made his essential choice yet, but Tea’s has – she cursed the darkness, and thus she can’t fight against Them anymore. The best she can do is hide and or dodge. As such, her action is going to be to try and remain calm, look harmless, and not get killed. Mike decides that he grabs a flashlight off the floor and shines it at Them, to drive Them off (this action clearly falls under lighting a candle).

The GM informs the players that this is a Removal Challenge. He deals himself five cards, chooses four (one of each suit), and sets them face down on the Suit Assignment mat. The two players look at their Active Cards and the cards in their Banks, and choose one card from each suit (collectively, not apiece). When the cards are flipped over, they look like this:

Players: KC 9D 8H KS
GM: 10C AD 7H KS

The players win on clubs and hearts, while the GM wins on diamonds. They’ve tied on spades, but since that’s the only suit they’re tied on, it doesn’t matter for Suit Assignment – that suit will just get assigned to the one remaining category. The Condition Assignment mat, then looks like this:


The GM has the high card, here (the ace of diamonds). He chooses to place this card on fail/leave. The players have control of the next two suits, and they choose succeed/stay for clubs and succeed/leave for hearts. That leaves fail/stay for spades. The players make this decision based on what cards they have remaining in their Banks and Active Cards.

The GM gathers the four aces, one of each suit, and the players each contribute two cards. Mike’s player adds in two clubs, while Tea’s player (who is out of clubs) adds in a heart and a spade. The GM can spend Between Points to add cards, and the players can spend them to remove cards, but let’s assume that neither side has points to spare. So, the Resolution Deck includes: AH, AD, AS, AC, 3C, 4C, 6H, JS. The GM shuffles, and each player draws a card.

What happens to Mike and Tea, of course, depend on what cards their players draw. What combination would you most like to see? I’ll write up fiction for a few of them, of course, but if you have opinions, let’s hear them.


6 responses to “The Old Theater, Part 4 (Plus Removal Challenges)

  1. Pingback: Removal Challenges, Part 2 – Also Character Sheets! | curse the darkness

  2. Pingback: Actual Play from Con on the Cob! | curse the darkness

  3. Pingback: You should play curse the darkness! Right now! | curse the darkness

  4. Pingback: Actual Play: The Severed Bridge (part 2) | curse the darkness

  5. Pingback: Actual Play: The Severed Bridge (Conclusion) | curse the darkness

  6. Pingback: Actual Play from MarCon: The Elder’s Secret | curse the darkness

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