Intensities and Cardplay
Almost every ability score, super power, and anything else that can be used to represent people, places, or things in the environment are quantified by intensities. An intensity is a gauge of prowess in something or another, and can range from one to thirty. Each intensity falls into three distinct classes of power: human, super human, and abstract.
Previously, the human class was described in detail for each ability score, but the other two were more generalized. This is because, while it's relatively easy for players to gauge what a human is capable of, the super human is much harder to assess - as is the category of power beyond even that. The idea is to give one approximate estimates as to where a specific ability score or super power may lie, for conceptual purposes.
Additionally, ability score intensities are further expanded upon with ability codes. The idea behind ability codes is that they help to describe just how well a character can put that ability score to use, and detail how many skills they wield that rely upon it to function. Ability codes can be X (no skills), D (one skill), C (two skills), B (three skills), A (four skills), or A+ (five or more skills).
Finally, on top of the thirty standard intensities, ability scores and powers can sometimes be reduced to zero in effectiveness. This is most often due to the influence of a hindrance or some external manipulation of one's power. A character can still make an attempt to succeed despite their adversity with an intensity of zero, though doing so is nonetheless much, much more difficult than usual.
The Fate Deck
When adventuring with the System 13 rules, your fate is literally in the cards. Unlike most role playing games, System 13 uses a special deck of cards to resolve actions instead of dice, which is known as the fate deck. Each card in the fate deck is chock full of information, all of which assists players in the resolution of actions - whether they're the heroes of the game or its Narrator.
To start with, all fate deck cards have a suit, as is defined by the color of their border. A green border indicates the card has a Strength suit, a red border assigns the card an Agility suit, a blue border attributes an Intellect suit to the card, and cards with a purple border are allocated a Willpower suit. Finally, those dangerous cards with a black border are of the ruin suit, which does not correspond to an ability score.
Moving inward, each card in the fate deck will have a value printed on it, ranging from one to nine (ten for cards with a ruin suit). A polarity is also assigned to this numerical value, being either positive (plus), neutral (dot), or negative (minus). Both of these traits aid players in the resolution of actions, either when utilizing the raw numerical sum provided or when determining a situation's aura.
Finally, the rest of a fate deck's card is filled with information that a Narrator can optionally make use of in a pinch, should he or she need to change the flow of an adventure. Such information includes both an event and a calling, which Narrators may invoke to create random plot twists. And, of course, the rest of the card features art indicative of a character representing that card's suit - great for surprise guest stars!
Over the course of a game, there will be many instances when a character attempts a relatively easy task, one which does not involve the interference of others. During such occasions, nothing special need happen; a player declares what they wish to do, and they do it. However, when opposed by others, or while attempting something more trying, a player must engage in card play to resolve his or her action.
At its simplest, resolving an action involves playing a card, and adding its numerical value to the action ability indicated by the Narrator. An action ability is either of the four primary ability scores, or the intensity of the power, that is being tested by this action. If the resultant sum, the action score, is equal to or greater than the difficulty the Narrator has in mind for that action, it succeeds!
But how does the Narrator determine the difficulty of an action? In the course of regular play, Narrators can declare a task's difficulty based on how hard it should be for a normal human to accomplish it. Starting at automatic, which adds nothing, each successive increase in the difficulty of an action adds four to the resulting action score a player requires to achieve success, until reaching forty at a difficulty of impossible.
Furthermore, when an action is opposed, the Narrator will not only add the direct intensity opposing the player to the difficulty, but will draw a card and add its value as well. While the former is pretty straight-forward (say, when pitting the strength of two characters against one another), the Narrator card adds a layer of uncertainty to the proceedings, a level of variability that serves to keep everyone on their toes.
The Ruin Pile
As a game session progresses, numerous cards will be played to ensure everyone's characters succeed in their actions - or give their best effort, at the very least. These cards are all collected in a discard pile so that, when the deck is expended, they can all be shuffled in order to be used again. All save for cards with a ruin suit, that is. These are thrown in a separate pile for the Narrator, known as the ruin pile.
Armed with the rune pile, a Narrator has the ability to menace players with, well, ruin. He or she may play ruin cards from the ruin pile to add their numerical value to the difficulty of any action a player attempts, whether it is opposed or not - or even if it's seemingly inconsequential. In short, the Narrator can make life as tough for the other players as he or she sees fit - but must do so before they attempt card play.
The application of cards with a ruin suit to an action can be completely arbitrary, or according to some grand design of the Narrator's, intended to produce a specific atmosphere. While this can be a further impediment to a heroic career, the idea behind the ruin pile is to detail the danger of villainy - and just why a hero must stand up and oppose it in the first place.
This is why, when villainy is afoot, the Narrator must ensure that he or she ends a session with no cards in the ruin pile. In other words, they are required to inflict ruin upon the players as they receive it, or shortly thereafter. Whether it is spaced out over a game or dumped all at the end, the Narrator will be free of cards with a ruin suit by the time a game session is over.
Trump and Edge
It may seem that, particularly when attempting opposed actions, the resultant difficulty is insurmountable. However, players have a number of tricks up their sleeve that can readily level the playing field. The first, and possibly most important of these, is trump. When attempting an action, players who use a card with a suit matching that of the action ability of the task at hand have the option to invoke trump.
When this is done, the player may immediately draw a card off the top of the fate deck, and add it to their action score. If this new card's suit also matches the action ability, the player may draw yet another card, adding even more to their action score. The process of trumping continues until the player pulls forth a card from the fate deck whose suit does not match the action ability being tested.
On top of this, players may invoke their Edge for additional help. While they can only play one card at a time from their hand under all other circumstances, Edge allows players to exceed this amount - if the value of the additional card (or cards) is equal to or less than their Edge score. Thus, a character with an Edge of two can also play any card with a value of one or two to improve their action score, if desired.
This has the benefit of rapidly ridding players of cards with a less desirable value (and thus, an inability to soak up large amounts of damage), all while increasing their odds of success in a given endeavor. And if the suit of the last Edge card they play matches the action ability of the task at hand, players can still invoke trump on top of their Edge!
Finally, an important variation on intensities is the strength of a given material. Rated as material strength, or MS, this is a special intensity that indicates just how hard a given substance is. MS is mostly used when a person or weapon attempts to break (or break through) an object, like a street, wall, or vault. The table provided here describes a basic gamut of relative strength for common - and uncommon - materials.
The thickness of a mass or object also plays a part in determining its material strength. If an item is less than 2 inches thick, the MS of this item is the listed value -1. If the item is between 2 inches and one foot thick, it is of standard MS If the item is between 1 and 2 feet thick, its MS is the listed value +1. Finally, if an object is 2 feet thick or more, its MS is the listed value +2.
|0||Flesh, paper, leaves|
|1-2||Glass, balsa wood, cloth, soft rubber, polystyrene|
|3-4||Gold, ice, particle board, leather, hard rubber, asphalt|
|5-6||Lead, bone, silver, nylon, ABS plastic, lignum vitae|
|7-8||Bronze, uranium, Kevlar ™, rock, machinery|
|9-10||Iron, concrete, Spectra ™ fiber, granite|
|11-12||Steel, diamond reinforced concrete, carbon composites|
|13-14||Advanced steel alloys, rugged nanomaterials, plast-steels|
|15-16||Titanium-Nickel and/or super-heavy alloys|
A two foot thick cube of granite, for example, would have an effective material strength of 12, while an inch thick coating of asphalt would only be of material strength 3.