Want to spice up your game a bit? Tired of players just shooting someone or hitting an opponent without any description? Bored? Try adding Stunts to your game and see what happens...
Over the past year I've been playing a new game called Exalted published by White Wolf. I had never played a White Wolf game before, and the premise of Exalted was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, I found the game world too rigid and the cinematic portion of the game too far out there for me to enjoy. But there is one thing that I took from the game and have incorporated into my other games. The concept of Stunting.
Stunting adds flavor and spice to a game
Stunting an action grants the player a bonus to rolls that would normally give them a penalty. In order to stunt an action, the player must describe the action in colorful detail, using the environment and anything else that could effect the roll. Stunting is more than a called shot and much more than "I hit him". Stunting adds flavor and spice to a game, but unchecked it can bog a game down. So make sure that the Stunt is described in short sentences and doesn't slow the pace of the game down.
There are three different levels of stunting. Each level grants an additional die (or +1) to the roll being attempted.
Example: All three examples are of a PC archer shooting a bowman that is aiming an arrow at another party member.
1. When the archer draws back his bow, I shoot him in the armpit, where the armor is very thin, punching through to his heart. This is a 1d stunt.
2. I shoot the archer's bowstring. This is a 2d stunt because it's cool and takes the weapon out of play.
The archer is sitting on a horse, right? I shoot the horse in the butt, causing it to rear. The archer will either fall off or drop his bow...
3. I shoot the archer at the base of the thumb of the hand holding the bow shaft, severing it and causing the shaft to slam back into the archer's face. That is a 3d stunt.
A good rule of thumb is that a 1d stunt is cool. A 2d stunt uses the environment or is really cool. And a 3d stunt is stunningly cool and causes the game to pause for a moment while everyone digests the sheer coolness of the move involved.
When I first started playing Exalted, stunting during combat came very easy and naturally to me. I am a combat oriented player after all. However, a player can stunt almost ANY action. I have stunted conversations, my dress, a kiss, research, breaking and entering, pick pocketing, haggling, and much more. ANY roll can be stunted, although perception/alertness rolls are a bit difficult.
I usually play or run GURPS or Shadowrun. In both systems calling a shot to the armpit, bowstring, or thumb would give serious penalties which causes most players to try for an easier shot. Realistic? Yes. But not as fun.
Stunting rewards players immediately
Stunting rewards players immediately (as opposed to waiting for experience points at the end of a session or adventure) for being descriptive and for coming up with cool ideas. As a player it motivates you to come up with cool things to do or say. As a GM, it makes the game MUCH more interesting to run.
After introducing Stunts, very few players will insist on simply hitting an opponent. And once they realize that they can get bonuses even outside of combat, they'll start stunting everything. And that will ramp up the amount of detail and fast paced description in your game, making it even more fun than it already is.
So give Stunting a try and see what it does to your game. What's the worst that can happen ;-)