Spend a Point to Be Awesome

on-targetThere is a lot of merit in the very simple mechanic of “Spend a point to do something awesomely” but it raises a very interesting question of what “awesomely” means. The least interesting answer is greater efficacy – a bonus. Unfortunately, it is also the most common answer because things are measured by numerical values in most systems.

Another definition is one of spotlight and style. In terms of story “awesomely” also means “dramatically appropriately”. In the right situation, it is a tool to let a player declare that this skill *matters* in this context.

When talking about simple tiered systems, I admit a temptation to boil a system down to no skill, skill, skill awesomely, then make skilling awesomely a function of spending currency. Weirdly, this is probably what it would take to make me like gumshoe style ablative skills – guarantee that my having the skill will be respected, but allow me to spend to make it remarkable.


When I started writing this, that didn’t appeal to me much – I like general point pools more than specific ones, but as I think about it, that could totally work in actual play, especially if one of the upshots of awesomeness is that you can get in on something you maybe normally wouldn’t be able to.

Of course, the trick is then to avoid bidding wars. That is THE WORST part of systems like this. Hmm. Ok, next challenge.

5 thoughts on “Spend a Point to Be Awesome

  1. Doug Palmer

    At least with Gumshoe, you shouldn’t have to worry about a bidding war because the investigative skill means you simply know the answer to certain questions. Spend a point or maybe 2 lets you get a deeper layer. However, the system cautions against requiring spends to move the plot forward.

    For General Abilities, spending points could lead to a bidding war where the player and the director/monster/npc are going head to head. But each side makes a secret spend, someone rolls the d6 and then the spend is revealed. So it’s not escalating more then trying to guess how much to spend without overspending.

    1. Rob Donoghue Post author

      Yeah, that contrast between its use for investigation skills (which I love) and general skills (which I don’t find much fun in) has me constantly noodling.

  2. David B

    Hi Rob, I don’t quite get what you’re saying here. “Spend a point to be awesome” sounds kind of boring when you put it like that, but then you seem to go on to say that maybe it’s actually really fun if it’s specific enough, but you’re not really sure.

    At first I thought you were comparing to a game where being awesome mostly comes from something random, like a natural 20 in D&D, or the stunt die in Dragon Age. You never really know when you’re going to be awesome until you totally are and it amazes you as much as everyone else. Spending a point to be awesome, on the other hand, puts you in control of that, to some degree. Does being in control make being awesome feel less… awesome?

  3. Ryan H

    I’ve only recently started grokking FATE, so could I ask you to clarify how this all relates to FATE’s methods for getting “awesome”? Pay a Fate point, and get yourself a nice +2 slice of more-awesome – no matter the task, right? – or perhaps use a stunt to really look awesome. FATE, as I understand it, says that paying to be awesome should work well whether you’re creating an advantage in an investigation or slashing at a troll, and this bonus isn’t tied to the underlying skill score. Should we take the comments above to be a reflective critique of that, or am I perhaps missing the force of your thoughts here? Thanks.


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