Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
Panacheby Bruce Heard
At last! Tentative rules for "Panache" -- a system designed for swashbucklers and other fighters with a flair! Ted Stark aka. "Meneldir" designed the system which I am providing here for your perusal. Please let us know what you think! Thanks!
Special Ability: Panache
Cost: 2 Non-Weapon Proficiency Slots for Swashbucklers; 3 for everyone else.
Effects: Even though characters must expend non-weapon proficiency slots to learn panache, it is NOT a non-weapon proficiency. Instead, it a special ability native to the Savage Coast that characters can learn how to control.
Simply put, the panache special ability allows characters to take advantage of the flamboyant, swashbuckling, adventuresome nature of the Savage Coast and mold situations to their advantage. Characters with panache can do what, at first, seems to be impossible_and accomplish these acts with style.
Rules: When a character learns panache, he gains the ability to accumulate Panache Points (PPs). Panache Points are an accumulation of heroic energy gathered by flamboyant individuals and expended, almost unconsciously, on their behalf. A character can accumulate a number of PPs equal to his current level plus his Charisma reaction modifier. So, a 1st level character with an 18 Charisma can accumulate up to 1 (his level) + 7 (his reaction modifier) = 8 PPs. A 5th level character with a 3 Charisma, however, can only accumulate 5 + (-5) = 0 PPs. It is important to look good and act flamboyantly_merely being competent doesn't help.
Of course, obtaining the panache special ability doesn't give characters PPs automatically. PCs and NPCs alike must accumulate them by performing heroic, often dangerous, actions in a flamboyant, stylish manner. A panache-using character does not approach a problem by thinking _how can I accomplish this task?_ but, rather, _how can I do this and come out looking great?_
For example, two characters are standing on a balcony, looking at a bar fight below. They see, standing in the doorway, Pirate Pete, Scourge of the Savage Coast. Pete is about to break the first rule of tavern brawling_he's pulled out his wheellocks and is about to fire into the crowd. The characters must do something to prevent this (they have people who owe them money in the crowd).
The first character, Miguel de Rocha, is a fighter who does not use panache. Drawing his weapon, he runs down into the crowd, forcing people aside with his great strength and using his dexterity to side step battles. Because of his natural abilities (and good die rolls), he should be able to cross the room in one round.
The second character, however, Melisande Sharp, is a swashbuckler, and she has learned panache. She could draw her rapier and follower her large partner through the crowd, arriving in front of Pirate Pete at the same time_but that would be dull. Instead, she chooses to grab the rope to the nearby chandelier, cut it with her dagger, and use the force of the descending weight (not to mention her tumbling proficiency) to swing over the bar fight and right at Pirate Pete. When she gets there, instead of kicking him or drawing her sword, she kisses him full on his lips, stunning the scoundrel and allowing Miguel (who catches up breathlessly) a good chance to disarm the man.
When Melisande Sharp does this, the DM is encouraged to reward her inventiveness and devil-may-care attitude with a Panache Point or two (1-3 is the standard award for a flamboyant act in the middle of an adventure). The DM may choose, instead, to make a note of the accomplishment and award Melisande a bulk award at the end of the adventure. However the DM does it, Melisande should gain some PPs for her exciting display.
And that's how characters get PPs_by performing flamboyant and exciting actions.
PPs can later be spent to increase the chances a panache-user has of accomplishing some task, or even to anything can be improved by panache. In addition, the character can spend a number of PPs equal to his level on any one action. So, a fifth level character could spend 5 PPs to improve his chances on any single action by +5 (or +25%).
There is another way to spend PPs, however, though this is a subjective expenditure, and the effects are usually left up to the DM. A character can spend a bulk amount of PPs to accomplish a task (usually one for which there are no or little rules for in the game) and the DM determines whether or not the character is successful, possibly asking for ancillary attribute or non-weapon proficiency checks at the same time. The character might spend 1, 5, or 10 PP, hoping to accomplish a particular action_and the DM determines whether he succeeds or fails.
In order to rate these types of actions, the DM can use the following examples:
Cost Result 1 PP A normal task automatically (a non-weapon proficiency check; impress a potential employer) 5 PP A challenging task automatically, or with a few skill rolls (diving from the crow's nest of a ship into the water safely; making a hostile enemy retreat) 10 PP A seemingly impossible task with a skill check (diving from a castle tower into a moat; taking over the leader-ship of a band of hostile mercenaries)
While this chart is only a series of benchmarks, it should give DMs something to work with.
Note: If a character spends one or more PPs to accomplish a particular action, that character receives no PPs as an award for a flamboyant action. The rationale is simple: If the character spends PPs to do something, he is actually taking less of a risk, and so cannot accumulate Panache Points for the action. This does not affect awards given out for accomplishing adventure goals, however_since they are awarded based on a whole adventure's worth of actions, not one single action.
Nothing Comes For Free
Characters cannot simply spend Panache Points to get the above effects. PPs are not just a game mechanic the characters can use to cheat or avoid die rolls_no, they have to complement the roleplaying and imagery for these things. Whenever a character spends even one PP, the player must describe, in detail, how his character is using panache to accomplish his action, or the action automatically fails.
For example, Melisande Sharp is in trouble again. Pirate Pete's men have grabbed Miguel from behind and the Scourge of the Savage Coast isn't amused by Melisande's little trick. He throws her to the ground and draws his cutlass, preparing to carve her into bait for the fishes.
Melisande's player states she'll use five PPs to decrease her AC from 8 to 3. The DM asks for a description of her action_the player can't just mark five PPs off Melisande's sheet and leave it at that.
The player describes Melisande's action: _Melisande reaches around on the ground and finds a metal tankard, apparently cast off in the fighting. She swings the heavy cup around, blocking Pirate Pete's fatal blow. When Pete retreats in surprise, Melisande drains the dregs of the wine and throws the mug in his face, flipping onto her feet and saying, 'Now, let's dance!'_
Since this is a colorful description sure to impress _the natives,_ the DM allows the PP expenditure. Note: If Pirate Pete rolls well enough to hit AC 3, Melisande will get hit despite her panache_she can't change the outcome of an action; she states her intent.
Out of Panache Points
If a character runs out of PPs, or has none because he has just started down the round of derring-do, he can accumulate Negative Panache Points (NPPs). For every NPP a character takes, he gets one Panache Point he can use immediately or later on. The maximum number of NPPs a character can have is limited to ten.
Negative Panache Points tie into the _trouble magnet_ aspect of the swashbuckler lifestyle. NPPs can be used by the DM, at almost any time, to make the character's life more difficult.
The DM can, during an adventure, tell a character who has accumulated Negative Panache Points to mark one off_and then the DM gives the player the bad news. When an NPP is discarded, something bad happens. There are two ways the DM can _use_ a character's NPPs.
The easiest way is to cancel out any successful action performed by the character, immediately after it is performed. One NPP erased cancels one successful action. Period. The character can try to perform the action again, if the circumstance allows, but that prior success is negated.
The DM, however, is constrained by the panache rules as well_he must describe, in detail, how the action was negated.
For example, when Melisande Sharp spent her 5 PPs to improve her armor class, she had to _buy_ two PPs with two NPPs_so, now, she has two Negative Panache Points the DM can use at any time to make her life more difficult.
Currently, Melisande is dodging Pirate Pete's blows. She grabs up a chair and swings it at him, catching him right over the head and doing him maximum damage. The DM notices that this would knock Pete unconscious and end the fight_so he tells Melisande to mark off an NPP right away, and he describes how the action failed.
_As you raise the chair over your head, you notice the fear in Pirate Pete's eyes. Desperately, he raises his arms to protect his head, but too late_you bring the surprisingly light chair down on his skull.
_Or you think you do. When you look at your hands, you notice you are holding two broken chair-legs. Next time, you'd better look more closely at the weapon you grab for. Meanwhile, Pete growls and hefts his cutlass again. This fight is far from over!_
There is one exception to this cancellation of successful actions: If a character spends a Panache Point to succeed at an action (or to improve his chances)_even if he spends just one_the DM cannot use an NPP to cancel that success.
The other way a DM can mess with a character's life using NPPs is a little more subtle_and a little more interesting. The DM can have a character erase one NPP and introduce a _story twist_; an event or situation that makes the situation more complicated for the character.
For example, Melisande and Pirate Pete are still sparring in the bar as Miguel holds Pete's men at bay. But Melisande still has one NPP left_the DM asks her to mark it off now.
_You breathe a sigh of relief as you see the city watch burst into the tavern. Everyone looks at the uniformed men and women_some with fear, a few with anger. Everyone pauses in their battle. Pirate Pete lowers his cutlass.
_'You!' the leader of the watch yells at Pete, 'Drop your sword!' You smile. Pete is the only armed person in the bar. Surely, the watch will haul him off.
_But, as the leader approaches Pete, you see the pirate dig into his pocket and come out with a gem the size of your eye. Without hesitating, he flips it to the watch commander. 'Now, I'm sure you fine officers can tell who the real culprits are, can't you?' Both Pirate Pete and the watch captain turn to face you._
A swashbuckler can buy the panache ability for two non-weapon proficiency slots; a non-swashbuckler spends three.
A character can gain, through heroic action and exciting roleplaying, Panache Points (PPs), up to his level of ability, plus his Reaction Adjustment.
Characters can spend PPs to enhance flamboyant actions. Generally, the character gets a +1 per PP spent, as long as the action is exciting and flamboyant.
Characters can keep spending PPs on actions, even when they are out of points. For every PP they spend when they have no points, they accumulate one Negative Panache Point (NPPs).
The DM can use one of the character's NPPs at any time to _foil_ any action performed by the PC (except ones already enhanced by the expenditure of PPs).
Characters cannot spend PPs to get rid of NPPs.
Characters gain PPs by acting in a flamboyant, exciting manner and roleplaying well. PCs can gain 1-3 PPs per flamboyant action, as long as the action is interesting, original, and they did not spend PPs to accomplish it.
Characters can be awarded PPs at the end of an adventure for good roleplaying, success, or flamboyant failure.