This material explains the meanings of the different Status levels and how to go about determining the effects of attacks and other impairments.
The default level for character Status is Fine. Once a character has suffered an injury, however, the following calculation is used to determine their new Status level.
First, decide whether to use the character’s Primary Role or a Life Role to determine his Aptitude at resisting damage. Life Roles which would help a character resist damage will be relatively uncommon. A possible exception might be, say, a Professional Boxer Life Role, as professional fighters are conditioned to take a punch. A character with a Infantryman Life Role who get’s shot, however, is in another situation entirely. His military training should have helped him use cover and concealment, and might now help him treat his injury, but his body will be damaged just the same as anyone else’s would when shot.
If an injured character does not have a relevant Role for resisting the effects of injury, default to the character’s Primary with a rating of Moderately. Combine this with the most appropriate Talent (usually Tough) to calculate an Aptitude.
Your next step is to choose the possible effects of the character becoming inactive from the damage, as well as the likelihood of this happening. Remember that the three possible explanations for a character becoming inactive are that he’s unconscious, immobilized, or dead. Based on the number of Successes the attacker scored, the nature of the attack, and any other relevant factors, decide which of these possible effects will occur if the victim becomes inactive. Next, select a Chances rating to represent how likely it is that the victim will remain active, rather than suffer this worst possible outcome.
Have the victim make a Success Check, using the Aptitude and Chances you’ve just calculated. If the victim fails the roll, he becomes inactive. His condition is equal to the worst possibility you’ve chosen. Should he roll any Successes, begin reciting the Status mnemonic, “Foxes Run Between Huge Smoking Fires.” Count from one to six as you say each word; “Foxes” is one, “Run” is two, “Between” is three, etc. Stop when you count to the number of Successes the victim achieved in resisting damage. The Status which corresponds to the word reached in the mnemonic is the character’s current condition. If the character achieved six or more Successes his Status is “Fine.”
Example: In an example from the Player’s Guide, Deputy Thomas was trying to restrain a violent prisoner. Tom decides that Andrea will attack before her opponent. Her Aptitude for the baton attack is +9, and Tom rules that her Chances of hurting the prisoner are Fair, +3.
Lisa rolls a 7 for Andrea’s strike; an Aptitude of 9 minus 7 equals 2, plus 3 for Fair Chances gives a total of 5 Successes. Any check that results in zero or a positive number has 1 added to the total, so Andrea winds up with 6 Successes. Not a bad shot.
Tom calculates a damage resistance Aptitude for the prisoner. He’s Very Tough, but has no relevant skills, so he defaults to his Primary of Adult Male Human. This gives an Aptitude of +7. Andrea walloped him pretty soundly, and the description she gave of her technique (numbing a pressure point) should immobilize the prisoner. Tom rules that an inactive result means the prisoner is incapacitated, and that his Chances of avoiding immobilization are Bad, -4. He rolls a 6 for the prisoner’s damage resistance; Aptitude of 7 minus a roll of 6 equals -1, modified for Chances of -4 gives a final result of -5, or 5 Failures (failed actions do not receive the increase that successful ones do). The prisoner makes an odd gasping sound as his muscles turn to jelly. He collapses and can do nothing but curse as Deputy Thomas cooly handcuffs him.
Example: Charakodax is spying on some Giants when he accidentally triggers one of their traps. Two dozen very large boulders tumble towards him, and Tom’s Success Check to leap into the air and avoid them results in two Failures.
Lisa rules that the worst possibility of damage from the boulders is death, and that the dragon’s Chances of remaining active are Poor, -2. Charakodax has no relevant Life Role, so he uses his Primary rating of Moderate +3 and his Fairly Tough of +4 for an Aptitude of +7. Tom rolls a 2 for his Success Check; Aptitude of 7 minus roll of 2 equals +5, modified by -2 for Poor Chances equals 3 Successes. Since the result is success, the end sum is increased to 4 total Successes.
Lisa recites the Status mnemonic, counting up from one with each word. She gets through Foxes (1), Run (2), and Between (3) before reaching Huge (4). Since Tom got 4 Successes on his Check, she stops there. “Huge” represents Hurt Status, so Charakodax is now Hurt. Lisa describes the pounding the dragon suffers, and as the boulders roll on down the slope Charakodax wearily lifts himself into the air and flies back to his lair to recuperate.
You determine the rate at which Status improves. You might want to have the character make new Success Checks now and again to inject an element of randomness into his recovery. Otherwise, simply inform the player that his character’s Status has improved to a certain level after a certain amount of time. The rate at which Status improves should be based on the sturdiness of the victim and the nature of the injury, as well as any treatment the character has received. A boxer who’s just been sent to the canvas may improve from Fading to Hurt in a few moments, if he has a chance to clear his head and rest. He should be back to Fine in a week at most. A character who is Fading due to a gunshot to the chest, on the other hand, will in most cases require at least a few days in the hospital, possibly much more, before his Status improves at all.
Recovery for characters who’ve been rendered inactive is handled the same way (with the obvious exception of those who were killed!).
If you’re looking to create a very heroic world, one where the major characters are unlikely to die, the following optional rule may prove helpful.
A special Talent can be created which reflects how likely it is that a character will get through the game unharmed. You might label the Talent “Important” or “Survivable”; it’s basically a rating of the amount of script immunity the character possesses. There are two basic approaches to using the ability. The first is to rate all characters before play begins, based on their role in the game. Depending on their importance and the tone you’re trying to achieve, PC’s might have ratings of Very or Extremely, as would major NPC villains. Henchmen and the PC’s friends and family might run about Moderately, while the faceless “extras” might go as low as Not at All.
The second approach is to decide each time you calculate Aptitude vs. damage how important the character is to the story. Thus, a goon who’s delaying the hero from pursuing the head bad guy might start a fight with a rating of Fairly, which would then steadily drop to Not Very or Not at All. Conversely, an innocent bystander who becomes an ally and friend of the hero might see his Important increase over time.
To use the Important Talent, calculate Aptitude for resisting damage using the appropriate Talent, usually Tough, and Important. If it benefits the victim, you might use Important and any relevant Life Role, instead. Assign Chances as you normally would, taking into account the character’s Primary Role. Determine Status in the usual way.
Alternatively, if you’re using the optional Talent Lucky you can substitute the character’s Lucky rating in place of Important or Survivable.
Keep in mind that this technique has a very different flavor than normal Status determination. It lends itself to over the top, larger than life games, but is worse than useless if your goal is realism. You should definitely experiment with the results a bit before using it in play. Also, if you use it you’ll have to decide whether or not to tell your players what ratings they have. Mature roleplayers will continue to run their characters in the spirit of the setting; others, though, might simply see a high Importance rating and take advantage of it at every opportunity. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether they can be trusted with knowledge of their own invulnerability.
This section contains optional rules and techniques.
Many roleplaying games make use of such concepts as fumbles, critical successes and failures, and open-ended rolls. The general idea behind them is that at times characters can get very lucky and perform far beyond their normal capabilities. They can also occasionally drop the ball in a major way, failing at what would normally be simple tasks. In Mnemonic these occurrences are called Flukes, and can be handled with the following optional rules.
When using the One Dice or One Card method to determine random numbers, roll again on any result of either 1 or 12. Should the second result be the same as the first, roll yet again; otherwise calculate success normally. Keep track of how many times, up to three, you roll the same number in a row.
If you rolled the same number two times, you have either an Automatic Success (you rolled a pair of 1's) or Automatic Failure (you rolled a pair of 12's). This means that, as long as there is any reasonable chance that the character could have either succeeded or failed, she automatically does so. Thus, an automatic success won’t let a normal person bench press a building, but it will allow her to fix any reparable vehicle. If the task being attempted has a range of success (a bullet that hit someone might either graze or kill them) then the action attains a solid, but not flashy, result.
If you managed to roll the same number three times in a row, the character has attained either a Spectacular Success (rolled three 1's) or a Spectacular Failure (rolled three 12's). Spectacular Successes mean that the best reasonably possible outcome occurs. This is the realm of having your parachute fail to open, landing in a haystack, and walking away. Spectacular Failures, on the other hand, are nasty, as they represent the worst possible result coming to pass. You don’t drop your weapon, it shatters. You don’t crash your computer, you melt it. Such events can often lead to injury, but probably shouldn’t lead to death (at least not directly, unless the Success Check was a life or death situation in the first place).
Note that this rule can also be used with the other techniques for determining random numbers. With the Three Dice or Three Card methods, simply apply the rule whenever you get two or three of either 1's or 12's. It would take time, but the same thing could probably be done with the verbal methods as well.
Though Mnemonic is already a very rules-light game, it can go a step further. For those who want their roleplaying systems very flexible and un-encumbering, the following method is provided:
Rather than (or in addition to) creating characters in the normal method, simply discuss the character with it’s player. At length. Develop as much of a mutual understanding of the character’s abilities as possible.
When you’re ready to play, don’t use any character sheets. For the first couple of sessions, take a moment whenever an Aptitude calculation is necessary to come up with your own assessment, then check it against the player’s judgement. Make sure you and the player have a similar view of the character.
Assign Aptitudes on a case by case basis. Don’t worry about what rating the character would have in the most appropriate Talent or Life Role; instead, consider how much ability and life experience the character has at the specific task he’s attempting. In a sense you’re rating the character on an extremely precise Talent and Role for each action he takes.
The great danger of this method is inconsistency. It’s going to be difficult for both players and refs to keep ratings the same from one session to the next, but over time it should be possible. It may prove helpful to go ahead and make traditional character sheets with a wide range of Talents and Roles, just until you get familiar with the character.
The main benefit of this technique is that you can be very specific about the character’s Talents and skills without having to resort to a hugely complicated character sheet. You can distinguish between whether a character is good at firing a particular model of firearm, or whether he’s good at resisting one strain of the flu and not another. Also, it makes it even easier to play the game on the move, as no character records or memorization are needed.