How would you handle a PC who wants to acquire an asset during free play?

How would you handle a PC who wants to acquire an asset during free play?

How would you handle a PC who wants to acquire an asset during free play? To clarify why I am asking, despite the fact there is a downtime action designed to do this: “By default, the game is in free play. The characters talk to each other, they go places, they do things, they make rolls as needed.” [p.8]

This is actions during downtime which includes: Character Scenes, Actions & Consequences, Gather Information.

Disallowing came to mind, but felt a bit restrictive. So I have been assuming risks of:

* you upset them; lose this opportunity until the next downtime phase – but you could spend a downtime activity to acquire as usual

* you owe them a favor which will create an entanglement if you didn’t repay them from your payoff

but I am interested in opinions about these two I chose, and other ideas..

30 thoughts on “How would you handle a PC who wants to acquire an asset during free play?”

  1. Sorry I’m confused, why wouldn’t you let the player acquire an asset during free play if it fits the story? If they are trying to game the system then that’s a separate thing and should be slapped down as being a dick move. There’s nothing to say the player couldn’t start negotiations during free play and seal the deal after the score (most likely as they are busy with the heist) during the next downtime episode. It’s really going to be down to how you want to proceed though as you know your setup and your players.

  2. How do you mean “during free play?” Are they attempting to get their hands on an item just by making rolls and such? If so, that’s fine. But if they explicitly want to use the acquire an asset activity, then just have them pay the coin and say what they did, resolve as normal. If they want to steal something, then that sounds like an opportunity for a score!

  3. If they want to acquire an asset, spend the downtime action. If they’re doing it in free play, depending on the asset, they’d have to find someone who can provide it and either convince that person to let them use it or steal it from them. At which point, it’s likely a score or it’ll end up costing coin, just like a downtime action would.

    But in general, use the downtime action. That’s what it’s there for.

  4. In that case, I wouldn’t try to develop standard responses and risks. You’re in free play, so you follow the fiction. What does the character want? Who do they know who can provide it? How will they get it from them without paying for it?

    You describe and make rolls to set those things up and follow the consequences where they lead.

    However, you should remember that in the downtime section it says that everything NOT on the downtime list falls under free play. The downtime activities themselves are limited. So if the player wants to get something outside of acquiring an asset, they’re description of their actions should be substantially different from what’s covered by acquire asset.

  5. Mark Cleveland Massengale Then you definitely want to have them play the whole thing out. Be honest about what those contacts might want in return for their help. If they promise favors, then remember to hold them to that later on when those contacts want something in return. Having to help out an old friend for no pay because they helped you in the past is a good way to call on those debts. And if they refuse, feel free to hit them with a -1 status or flip a friend to enemy over getting stiffed by them.

    So long as they don’t assume success and you are going to have them work for it, I don’t see a problem with this. It’s more work and takes more time, and remember that sometimes it is going to turn into an actual score.

  6. Here’s the thing. Downtime actions are SAFE. If they want to Acquire An Asset during downtime, they explain how, roll some dice, and see what they get.

    If they want to do it outside of downtime, then all the standard position/effect/consequence stuff applies. They’re having a meeting with one of their contacts to discuss getting their hands on something? And some of that contact’s less than friendly associates bust in for a discussion? That is totally a thing that can happen in free play. You could end up dead. That won’t happen in Downtime.

  7. I agree with Mike Pureka: “acquire an asset” is a downtime activity if you want to do it safely and taking your time: otherwise, there’s a risk.

    In the same way, you can “indulge vice” or “train” outside of downtime activities (as a form of free play), but you wouldn’t recover stress or get xp.

    Sometimes, freeplay can also influence Long Term Projects: if there’s an ongoing LTP to marry your lover and a crucial interaction (with an action roll) emerge during free play, you could also let that roll influence the progress on that clock (even reducing them on a failure).

  8. It took me some time to understand this: Acquire Asset is not “acquire a thing”. It’s “acquire a thing purely leveraging your resources in a safe manner, not overextending your means (i.e. Tier)”. If you’re doing the latter, you should use the Acquire Asset downtime mechanics. If not, action rolls it is.

  9. Mark Cleveland Massengale I at least wasn’t trying to imply anything like that, I was more telling a side-story of my own confusion about the scope of Acquire Asset (which is really quite more narrow than the name might suggest).

  10. If this is just brainstorming, then the question becomes:

    What type of consequences do you like?

    That’s a terrible question though, because it makes no sense, so let’s blow it up a bit. Are you okay with consequences that don’t seem directly tied to the action? As mentioned in my previous post, one of the consequences of hanging out with your criminal buddies is that you could be there when their criminal not-really-so-buddies come calling. Or when the bluecoats break down the door. Are you okay with consequences that don’t stem directly from the act of “Asking your friend for a favor?”

  11. Mark Cleveland Massengale

    Since you solicited “other ideas”:

    Make a clock. The PC risks consequences on action rolls (probably several) to fill up the clock. Puts the ball in the PCs court about HOW to “hustle their contacts for favors, like acquire asset…”

  12. If it was me, I wouldn’t allow an Aquire Asset freeplay action. The rules are pretty clear that freeplay and downtime intertwine, and that anything NOT on the downtime list is a freeplay action. It also states that downtime activities are time consuming actions, which is why fictionally you need to spend coin or rep to get more than two (spend coin to last another week before you need another heist or whatever; spend Rep to get other people to do things for you while you do other things), and why when you go to war you only get 1 (restricted movement).

    I also think several people have this odd notion that downtime is “safe”. Downtime is in no way safe at all. If the fiction demands an action roll then you do it. This means if you have to pass through the territory of the gang your at war with to get to your vice, you need to roll a prowl for it. If you need to aquire an asset, but the fiction dictates that bluecoats storm the place whilst your there, then that happens and you need to roll to get out of it without handcuffs on.

    Downtime is fictionally still Freeplay, you just pay in DTAs because its time consuming tasks. When you indulge your vice, that’s not a one-time stop at the bar; that’s a weeks worth of going to the bar and drinking your woes away. When you acquire an asset, that’s a week or two of you haggling, finding sellers, and securing a purchase. When you heal yourself, you don’t just magically lose your wound in 2 minutes as you visit your Physiker friend; that’s a week or two of him mending your broken bones. The same is true of all DTAs they are massively time consuming.

    Now if they want to acquire an asset and didn’t have the coin/rep to buy a DTA then they’re stuck because your answer should be “your character doesn’t have enough time, resources, or man-power to do that at the moment”.

  13. Antimatter

    “I also think several people have this odd notion that downtime is “safe”.”

    It’s not odd at all when downtime is described as a being a break for the players.

    pg. 145 “Downtime gives them a reprieve so they can catch their breath and relax a bit—focus on lower-energy, quieter elements of the game, as well as explore personal aspects of their characters.”

    It’s GMs prerogative to take their foot off the gas a little during downtime, if they want. If they want to zoom in on the downtime activities and leave action rolls out of it, that’s their choice.

  14. Antimatter I have to contest your assertion that downtime actions are not safe. Downtime actions, by the rules, are 100% safe (Minus overindulging in your vice, I suppose.). If you are making an Acquire an Asset roll, and gather up four dice, and roll four 1’s, the ONLY thing that happens to you is that your asset isn’t very good. The GM is literally breaking the rules if they impose other consequences as a result of that roll.

    You could, if you wanted to, impose requirements to make other action rolls as part of “setup” for downtime actions, but honestly, this feels unfair and not in the spirit of the rules for me. Sure, if someone wants to try to abuse downtime in some way by doing something dumb, it might be a fair response, but the vast majority of the time, downtime actions are SAFE. That is why they are limited. If it’s going to turn into a bunch of dangerous action rolls, the question arises “Why the Fluff am I using one of my precious downtime actions on this nonsense?”

  15. Yeah it seems like the Downtime Action is the risk-free way of acquiring an asset. Honestly, for something more risky, I would probably use a clock or make it require a score.

  16. Mike Pureka Omari Brooks I wasn’t insinuating that a poor downtime action roll can cause consequences. The roll itself is entirely safe. However, the fiction surrounding it may not be.

    For example, lets say we have a crewmember who’s vice is drinking at the local bar. Normally, he’d go to the local bar and roll his vice roll no issues. But lets say the fiction demands that the gang his crew are at war with are all over the streets looking for them; well then I’d expect an action roll to get by them to actually make it to the bar to conduct his vice.

    As another example, if you try to acquire an asset, but the person you want the thing from hates your guts, the GM might say you need to make a roll or two to get him to want to sell to you before you can roll to acquire an asset. Again, this is a fictional circumstance which called for a roll.

    Also, I am in no way bending or breaking the rules. Please refer to page 153 in regards to downtime actions: “You can only attempt actions that you’re in a position to accomplish. If an activity is contingent on another action, resolve that action first.”

  17. Antimatter A GM might want to zoom out a bit during downtime. Fictionally a scoundrel could figure out how to move about the city without drawing consequences over the course of a few days/weeks.

    The GM can narrate the dangerous conditions during Downtime without calling for action rolls. In that way the PC isn’t accumulating new consequences before and after they are using downtime actions to “clear” previous consequences…

    Edit: Just for clarification I’m just presenting options btw

  18. I agree with Omari Brooks – yes, you can only attempt things you’re in a position to accomplish, but the point is that time necessarily becomes a lot more vague during downtime. In the example of “The person you want to acquire it from hates your guts” you have a ton of time to find someone who doesn’t. I think that’s exactly the kind of thing I would see as “dirty pool” if I were on the player side of the table. “What do you mean, Fat Louis has the ONLY electroplastic detonator in all of Duskwall?” Sure, the PC might not KNOW anyone else with an electroplastic detonator, but that’s the point of Acquire Asset. It folds in all the sourcing and greasing of palms and talking to acquaintances of acquaintances. if there’s a singular item that can only be gotten from one specific location, that’s a score, not a downtime action. But if it’s something that you should be able to roll acquire asset for in the first place, you shouldn’t be telling them that the only place they can get it is someone who hates them and requiring an action roll.

    In my opinion, the “If an activity is contingent on another action, resolve that action first.” clause is there for things like Long Term Projects, where you might, say, not be able to study an artifact without first securing a way to get a look at it. It’s a much more specific granularity.

  19. Yea, so your opinions are all quite helpful. In-game, I was a bit put off by the idea at first.. I guess I was right to feel that. It’s… a bit like cheating. But then I realized.. since DTAs are assumed to take care of the risks of making it happen, but not the results, the only difference should be how do you do that? with actions rolls as needed, and risks as appropriate. Free play, in other words. Unless things get illegal (then it’s a score).

  20. Here’s how I thought about it:

    * Talking a close friend or favorite contact into extending a favor doesn’t sound like a score to me. I guess that could be a Social plan, but a couple action rolls and softer risks seems to cover what is actually happening better.

    * For the ones that were just friends, not close – or contacts, but not favorite – what is that? Free play also I thought. Bigger risks.

    * For the ones that didn’t like them, score.

    Exception: For anything illegal, we have the score. “Criminal operations” being mentioned repeatedly for scores implies they should be illegal, and the other things really aren’t – and that is why we skip the otherwise demanded use of the heat and entanglements mechanics for these interactions.

    I later realized that deals for favors involving transfer of actual coin are kind of illegal by nature though. Who thinks that should warrant a score on its own? I might rule that way in the future..

  21. Mark Cleveland Massengale You can run lots of social scores if you want, but my general suggestion is that unless your group WANTS the game to be all about talking and conning, you probably shouldn’t.

    Most people probably sign up for this game thinking “We are gonna be awesome thieves/assassins/smugglers and do cool thief/assassin/smuggling stuff!” and I suspect that they are probably thinking a little more “Ocean’s 11” and a little less “The Godfather.”

  22. Mike Pureka Right.. though it comes up. I am thinking the usual downtime activity rules should apply for such deals when that works. Like.. when you ask a friend to help out with Acquire Asset, that’s a favor. Might be an action roll if they’ve been asked too often, but otherwise we just +1d and move on to rolling the DTA.

    When it comes to asking for bigger favors (actual +coin), they need to go on a score. Probably a social one that will be quiet, but a score nonetheless, requiring the social connection as usual.

  23. Mark Cleveland Massengale Right; Though I’d tend to say that if you’ve “asked too often” there’s still no action roll, just your friend is gonna ask for something back immediately. 😉

  24. Mike Pureka I’m only taking this from my own experience of GMing 3 of my own Blades games, and from watching John GM his own Rollplay Blades group.

    If we take John’s Rollplay Blades group as an example. They went to war with the Dockers, and had to sneak past them everytime they wanted to do downtime. They rolled Prowl to sneak by unseen, and each fail or partial success began to fill a clock of “they find your hidden lair”

  25. Antimatter

    That’s a great example. There are several mechanical tools in the game that can be used to tackle situations from different angles.

    A GM could just as easily decide that the Dockers in that situation, will use Faction Downtime (pg. 158) to advance a “Find hidden lair” project clock with a fortune roll. And since there is no requirement to keep these clocks hidden from the players; when they see it, they can choose if and when to oppose progress being made.

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