Rules

This game uses the core mechanics from Caper!, with some house rules which are outlined below.

CHARACTER CREATION 


Players have 21 points to divide amongst their character's:
  • four Attributes (minimum of 1 point in each, no maximum)
  • to name Traits (1 point each)
  • to purchase Tools (1 point per +1 bonus)
  • to buy Chips (1 point for 3 Chips in any color combination)


GAME MASTERS

  • In a GM-less game session, the mission's Commanding Officer acts as the Mastermind. If the CO performs a Feat Check and scores 11 or lower, the player to their right (their "Right-Hand Man") gets to narrate the scene.
  • In a GMed game session, the GM gets to narrate the scenes of Feat Checks that score 11 or lower.


UNITS OF TIME

  • Turn: An individual player's storytelling time, in which they can perform one Feat Check, play Letters from their hand, and spend Chips. Could be thought of as one scene in a movie or episode, with each action taken being a single shot. 
  • Round: Once around the table, all of the players have taken their turn; a succession of Rounds makes an act.
  • Session: A single, self-contained story, consisting of a few acts. 


PREVIOUSLY, ON red23...

At the beginning of a session, the players will craft an opening montage for the episode that is about to start. Each player gets to recount one of their character's spotlight scenes from a prior session; if they have never played in the campaign before, they will describe some sort of iconic action for their character in order to help introduce them and what their powers and abilities are to the rest of the group.

Each player will perform a Feat Check for the action they're describing in their scene, potentially earning Chips which they'll carry into the beginning of this new session. If a player is recreating an action which they literally performed in a previous session, but they don't have the right cards or they don't succeed as well (or they do even better than they did before), it is ok... as long as they get the gist of the scene they're recounting across.


INITIATIVE

  • In a GM-less game, the CO starts each round; then go clockwise around the table, so that their Right-Hand Man ends each round.
  • In a GMed game, each PC and NPC draws a card from the deck to determine their initiative order (aces high). 
    • In the event of a tie, ♠ trumps, then ♣ > > .
    • GMs may draw a single card for each group of Mooks, but each "named" character should have their own card.
    • Players who draw a Joker get to decide at the beginning of every round where they'd like to insert their character into the initiative order.
  • At the end of their current turn, players may spend a Plot Point (Blue Chip) to draw a new Initiative card.
    • If they draw a card which is lower than their current Initiative, they will be able to take another turn this round when they come up in the order.
    • If they draw a card which is higher, they will act earlier in the next round.


ASSISTING ANOTHER CHARACTER

Any player may play a card from their hand in order to assist another player who is performing a Feat or a Stunt, to aid a Letter of Introduction contact in doing their Favor, or to somehow leap to another character's defense and reduce an attacker's Success Total (see Defense, below). This supporting action requires a plausible story rationale on the part of the assisting player. 


MOOK ACTIONS

Mooks are the extras in the film; in the movie's credits they'd be listed as "Soldier #2" or "Angry Cop." (This descriptor will often provide the Mooks' Defining Trait.) 

Mooks can attack characters as groups: if they are engaged in melee, no more than five may swarm a single character; if attacking with missile weapons, powers, or other modes of attack, there is no limit to how large of a group may attack a single character. 

The Success Total for Mook actions is calculated with the following formula:

   The number of Mooks in the attacking group
+ The value of one card played from the GM's hand
+ The value of the card drawn for the Mooks' defining Trait (if applicable)

Depending on the nature of the attack, a player character may be able to defend against it and reduce the Mooks' Success a Total (see below).

This Success Total is compared to the usual chart to determine how many chips the Mooks earn.


DEFENDING AGAINST FEAT CHECKS

  • If a player or the GM describes performing a Feat against another PC or NPC (but not Mooks) which the target could feasibly resist— i.e. they can dodge out of the way of a ♣ physical attack, resist  psychic domination, ignore  taunts, etc.— the targeted character may reduce the attacker's Success Total by doing ONE of the following:
    1. Subtract the Current Rating of the most appropriate defensive Attribute from the attacker's Success Total
    2. Draw a card if they have a story-appropriate Trait, and subtract its value from the attacker's Success Total
    3. Subtract the bonus for an appropriate Tool from the attacker's Success Total
The attacker earns Chips based on this reduced Success Total. If the defender successfully reduces the total to 3 or less, they get to narrate the scene of the attack's failure.

If the description of the Feat makes it sound like it is going to effect several characters in the attack's area of effect, each affected character gets to defend with their choice of appropriate Attribute, Trait or Tool, and collectively whittle the attacker's Success Total down even further.
  • Stunt and Favor bonus actions being performed by playing Letters of Intent and Letters of Introduction cannot have their Success Totals reduced in this manner. They represent special, unforeseen circumstances which the victim cannot defend against!
  • Similarly, if a player describes performing a Feat which another character could not actively resist (i.e. a ♣ check to reload and aim a gun, to run and dive behind some cover, or to summon a tornado with their mutant powers;  Mental check to figure out how to use the terrain to their tactical advantage, or to remember some salient bit of training under their mentor; ♥ to issue orders, shout encouragement to teammates, or to fondly remember the loved ones for whom they fight), the rival PC/NPC does not get to reduce the attacker's success total, even if the Feat earns Chips which they then immediately spend against them! (Narrating Feats and Chip spends are two different actions.)

As with everything in the 21 System, it all comes down to how the story is being told and what suspension of disbelief is required of the other players at the table to determine what actions are plausible and what mechanics come into play. And, of course, Plot Points can always be spent to blatantly Bend the Rules.

The semantics count! If you describe your Feat action as flat-out attacking someone, they'll get to defend. If, however, you describe your action as doing something in preparation for an attack, the target may not get to actively defend themselves. This mechanic is meant to simulate the common film trope of characters leaping about on-screen, aiming and reloading their weapons, and trading bon mots in the midst of the action. Even if you earn nothing but Red Chips from such a preparatory Feat— and you immediately spend them this turn to attack another character— your target won't get to defend themselves with their Attribute/Trait/Tool stats, only with whatever White Chips they may hold in their hand. 

It should also be noted that the defender being able to subtract their Attribute Rating from the attacker's Success Total also means that an individual player may never be able to successfully hit a very powerful, Omega-level character who has an Attribute rated in the double digits. All I can say is: this is where clever planning, creative framing and storytelling of one's actions, and teamwork on the part of the players come into play… just like in the movies.


Example 1

I'm playing Hulk, and I'm going to grab Loki and toss him about like a rag doll, smashing that puny god into Stark Tower's beautiful marble floors. Hulk adds his Physical Attribute + his "Hulk Smash!" Trait + his "Hulk Hands" Tool to yield a Success Total. Loki will get to defend since this is a direct attack against him, so he can subtract from Hulk's total his choice of either his current Physical Attribute rating, a card drawn for his "Asgardian Trickster Prince" Trait, or the value of his "Golden Horned Helm & Ornate Armor" Tool.


Example 2

I'm playing Storm, and she's going to summon a tornado with her mutant powers. But I don't describe using this tornado to attack anyone just yet, this is just for summoning the storm clouds and winds, coalescing nature's fury into a supercell. She can perform her Feat unimpeded, and earn Chips for the Success. She can thereafter immediately cash in any Red Chips she wishes to, describing it as unleashing this tornado against her enemies.




LETTERS OF INTENT (Stunts)


Another way to narratively frame playing a face card out of your hand— instead of going to a Letter of Introduction contact who performs a bonus action on your character's behalf as a Favor— is to use it as a Letter of Intent that represents a Stunt. A Stunt is a bonus action of that suit which the character can perform during their turn. The catch is that the stunt must be tied to either a specific Trait or a Tool your hero has.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Stunts do not use one of the character's Attribute ratings in calculating the Success Total. This means that Letters of Intent are especially useful to play after your character has taken some damage and their stats have been reduced by taking damage. Also, Stunts like Favors— can not be defended against like Feats can be... Superheroes constantly use their talents and powers in new or different ways, often just for one shot in the movie or in one panel of a comic.

Mechanically, a Letter of Intent Stunt functions according to the following formula:
  • The Stunt does not use the character's Attribute rating; it has its own value based on the face card played: Jack 4, Queen 6, King 8. 
    •  face cards are wild and can be any suit the player desires; they can be used to perform a ♣, , or  Stunt with a base value of Jack 4, Queen 6, King 8.
  • Play ONE card from your hand.
  • Either draw ONE card from the deck with the linked Trait, or add the bonus for the linked Tool. (Unlike Feat Checks, you can only use a single Trait or Tool during a Stunt, not one of each.)
  • Earn Chips according to the usual Feat Check Success Chart. Like Letter of Introduction Favors, Letter of Intent Stunts have the added benefit of not being able to be defended against, so their Success Total cannot be reduced by the intended victim.

Example

I'm playing Taskmaster, and I'm using my replica Captain America shield to fight a group of AIM security guards. Even though I've already performed a ♣ Physical Feat this turn to represent shield bashing several of the mooks, I want to throw the shield— aiming it to ricochet off the walls and destroy a security keypad next to the blast door on the other side of the room— thereby sealing the door shut and trapping the guard's reinforcements on the other side. 


I play the Queen  from my hand and describe it as as a "Shield Ricochet" Stunt linked to my "Duplicate Arsenal" Tool, and I explain it is a  Mental Stunt because Taskmaster has to work out the geometry of the throw in an instant. To the Queen's value of 6, I add my Duplicate Arsenal +4 Tool bonus, and I then play the 5 ♦ from my hand. This gives me a success total of 15 (6+4+5); a Great success. I'll take the two Chips I earn for this Stunt as Reds, and spend them immediately to remove two more of the mooks from play; this pair of AIM guards were on the other side of the closing blast door, and they are now trapped.

I also have the Jack  in my hand. I'll play it this turn and say I'm doing another stunt linked to the "Duplicate Arsenal" ToolLetters are wild, so I decide to do it as a  Social stunt since I have the 6 ♥ in my hand. 6 + Jack 4 + Tool 4 = 14; another Great success, worth 2 chips. I take a blue and a white, and describe how— after destroying the keypad and sealing shut the blast doors— the shield ricochets back into Taskmaster's grasp. Sheathing the shield on his back, Taskmaster strikes that badass pose he's seen Captain America do a hundred times, and scolds the remaining AIM guards— "Boys, you're hopelessly outclassed here. This ain't even fun anymore." I cash in the blue chip in order to bring my hand back up to five cards, thereby ending my turn.


CHIPS

  • Red Chips (Offensive)

    • vs Mooks: A single Red Chip played against a Mook (an unnamed character, what would be an extra in a movie) will dispatch them.
    • vs Non-Player Characters: A single Red Chip played against a "named" character will cause one point of damage. If the dictates of the story don't make it clear what would be damaged by the attack, the victim gets to name which Attribute(s) or Tool(s) get damaged. The attacker can always spend a Blue Chip in order to "call the shot" and declare which of their victim's stat(s) they're targeting with the Red Chips they're spending. 
      • If an Attribute is reduced to 0, the character can still take turns but may no longer perform Feat Checks, Stunt actions, or call in Favors of that suit.
      • Any additional damage to an Attribute at 0 will "spill over" and reduce other Attributes of the victim's choice (or the attacker's if they "called the shot").
      • If all four Attributes are reduced to 0, the character is unconscious, dying, missing and presumed dead... whatever is narratively appropriate; they can no longer take any turns until they are healed.
      • Given the dictates of a particular story or a character's motivations, a GM may decide to have an NPC surrender or be otherwise removed from play when just one of their Attributes is reduced to 0. This is left largely to the GM's discretion of what "feels right" for the dictates of the scenario.
    • vs Player Characters: A single Red Chip played against a player character will cause one point of damage. If the dictates of the story don't make it clear what would be damaged by the attack, the victim gets to name which Attribute(s) or Tool(s) get damaged. The attacker can always spend a Blue Chip in order to "call the shot" and declare which of their victim's stat(s) they're targeting with the Red Chips they're spending.
      • If an Attribute is reduced to 0, the character can still take turns but may no longer perform Feat Checks of that suit. The player must also pick a long-term Complication for that suit (see below), which may affect their ability to play face cards of that suit as Letters in order to call in Favors, to perform Stunts, or use Hero Props.
      • If all four Attributes are reduced to 0, the character is unconscious, dying, missing and presumed dead... whatever is narratively appropriate; they can no longer take any turns until they are healed.

  • White Chips (Defensive)

    • Cashing in a single White Chip will deflect a Red Chip being played against you, will heal a point of Attribute damage, or repair a point to a damaged Tool.

  • Blue Chips (Plot Points)

    • Plot Points function as per the normal rules (Caper! pg. 25).
    • Heroic Surge: spend 1 Blue Chip and provide a story rationale in order to add an additional Trait or Tool to either a Feat action, a Stunt, or to a defense against a Feat attack.
    • Teamwork: spend 1 Blue Chip and provide a story rationale in order to give another player some of your Chips. Example: Colossus throws Wolverine in a "fastball special"— he makes a Physical Feat check to throw Wolverine, and then spends a Blue for teamwork and gives Logan the Red Chips earned so that he can cash them in during his turn when he hits the target. 
    • Fresh Start: Draw a new Initiative card. This may only be done at the end of your current turn. If you draw a card which is lower than your current Initiative, you will be able to act again this round when you come up in the turn order. If you draw a higher card, you will get to act that much sooner in the next round's turn order. 
    • Refresh: Players (including COs) may only spend a Plot Point to refresh their hand back to five cards at the end of their turn. GMs automatically refresh their hand to five cards after each NPC's and group of Mooks' turn. Be sure to shuffle all of that turn's discards back into the deck before drawing new cards!
  • Players may only spend Red Chips during their turn.
  • Players may spend Whites to defend themselves whenever Red Chips are being played against them; they may only spend Whites to heal or repair prior damage on their turn. 
  • Most uses of Blue Chips only happen during the player's turn, except for Heroic Surge, which can be performed during a defensive action. 
  • The only trading of Chips between players allowed during the game is through the spending of Plot Points to perform Teamwork (see above).


GM NARRATIVE CONTROL

If a player scores a Success Total of 12 or higher but the GM wishes to narrate the result, the GM may retain narrative control by awarding the successful player a Plot Point. This Blue Chip is in addition to the two or more Chips they earned for their successful action. 

This is useful in situations like: the GM wants to give specific clues to a character for their investigation check, if the GM has certain plot points they want to introduce into narrative, etc.


COMPLICATIONS

If a player character is reduced to 0 in one of their Attributes, they can no longer use that suit for Feat Checks. In addition, the player will need to pick one of the following long-term Complications for that suit:
  • Disgrace: Oh, the ignominy! Word of your defeat gets out, your friends abandon you, and you'll have difficulty calling in Favors. You will no longer be able to play Letters of Introduction of that suit.
  • Weakness: Whatever it was that took you down, it sure was your kryptonite! You can no longer play face cards of that suit as Letter of Intent Stunts.
  • Debt: You are deemed no longer worthy of wielding such power! You can no longer play aces of that suit as Letters of Credit Hero Props.
Even if you or another character spend White Chips to restore the Attribute above zero, the Complications of that suit will remain. The only way to remove a Complication is through role playing and by spending the Attribute's permanent rating in XP (to remove a Disgrace Complication from a ♣ Physical Attribute with a permanent rating of 5 costs 5 XP).

The fourth Complication listed on the character sheet Nemesis functions differently from the others. When you opt to check off the lowest valued Nemesis instead of a Complication in the damaged suit, the GM gets to add that many points to their Budget for creating adversaries and challenges; your failure has given the enemy time to marshal their forces and prepare their defenses. 

Nemesis Complications may only be removed by spending that amount of XP. For each session they remain in effect, the GM can add that many points to their budget at the beginning of the game. The amounts are cumulative (so if a character has both the 5 and 10 amounts checked off, the GM adds 15 points to their Budget, and it'll cost the player 15 XP to remove them both).


EARNING XP IN A GM'ED SESSION

Before the session begins, each player should secretly write down one of the three colors of chips they'll wish to claim a share of at the end of the session as XP. The act of cashing in chips of the three different colors during the game roughly scan to the character's role in the story:
  1. Red- Striker: you are going on the offensive and looking to bring down your foes.  
  2. White- Leader: you are focused on defending and healing yourself & your allies. 
  3. Blue- Controller: you alter the story's human & physical terrain by playing Plot Points to call shots, create props & set pieces, retcon parts of the story, etc.
Players will want to earn and spend at least a majority of their chips in their chosen color during the session, thereby guiding the story in certain directions and earning more XP for their character at the end. This mechanic attempts to hew to the four-color comic tropes of "with great power comes great responsibility" and "you reap what you sow." It will hopefully add an interesting wrinkle to the roleplaying and the storytelling, and will narratively reinforce the chip-cashing that mechanically drives both.

All of the Chips cashed in by the PCs (but not the NPCs) during the session get collected in a box. This represents the "boffo box" of the movie they're describing during the session... so the more exciting things the characters do during the session, the more their movie will earn. Chips left in a PC's hand at the end of the session are not worth any XP, so use 'em or lose 'em!

At the end of the session, evenly divide each color of chips in the box office between the players who chose those colors; any remainders are awarded by the GM to the player(s) who gave the coolest descriptions for their Feats and Letters, who had the best ideas, the best role playing, etc.

For every chip a player receives from their take of the box office, their character earns 1 XP. All players will earn at least a minimum of 1 XP each session.


A LESS MONTY HAUL/ MORE EQUITABLE OPTION

Evenly divide the box office takes and the award remainders as above. The player who receives the most chips earns 10 XP for the session. The player with the fewest chips earns 5 XP. Players with box office takes between these two extremes will earn between 6-9 XP based on the relative amount of chips they have. 



SPENDING XP

  • Increase an Attribute: costs as many XP as the new rating (to go from a ♣ Physical 4 to 5 costs 5 XP).
  • Name a new Trait: costs 5 XP.
  • Purchase or Upgrade Tools: costs as many XP as the new bonus (a Tool +1 costs 1 XP; to increase a Tool +1 to +2 costs 2 XP).
  • Purchase Chips: 3 Chips of any color an be bought during a game session for 1 XP.
  • Remove a Complication (see above): Attribute or Nemesis Rating in XP.
  • Purchase an Omega-level Success Tier (see below): 50 XP

OMEGA-LEVEL SUCCESSES

Characters who have stats rated in the double digits are said to possess Omega-levels of power. Armed with these Attributes and Tools alone, such characters are often able to achieve "Astounding" Successes no matter what cards they have in their hands or what the luck of the draw is for a Trait.

However, with the proper training and motivation, such characters are capable of even greater things... of achieving Successes beyond the ken of "average" heroes!

By spending 50 XP, a player can add a new "Epic" tier to their Success Chart, allowing them to earn 10 Chips on Successes 31+. (They now earn 5 Chips on Successes 21-30.)

Further 50 XP expenditures can unlock even higher tiers of success, as per the chart below. Each tier must be purchased in succession.
 

 TOTAL GAME EFFECTCUMULATIVE
XP COST
 101+ Cosmic. Player describes the result and earns 1 Chip per point of Success. 250
 76-100 Mythic. Player describes the result and earns 75 Chips in any color combination. 200
 51-75 Fabled. Player describes the result and earns 50 Chips in any color combination. 150
 41-50 Legendary. Player describes the result and earns 25 Chips in any color combination. 100
 31-40 Epic. Player describes the result and earns 10 Chips in any color combination. 50



Q SCORE


In the media & public relation fields, the Q Score is the recognized industry standard for measuring the public appeal of a celebrity, television show or film. The higher the Q Score, the more highly regarded that brand is.

In game terms, the character's Q is the sum of:
  • their Attribute Ratings
  • the number of Traits they possess
  • the values of their Tools
  • each additional Omega-level Success Tier adds 50 points
Therefore, a starting character has a Q of 21.

The Q Score is a metric by which the GM can quantify the hero's power and fame, and to determine the caliber of challenges the character will face during their adventures. As the hero’s fame grows and their power increases, their brand profile will become more and more valuable— and each sessions' scenarios and adversaries will become more dangerous in scale and more epic in scope!

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John O'Brien,
Aug 1, 2014, 7:37 AM
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