Crescendo is about the smashing together of the GM’s Movements and the player’s Tenets. Movements are the big things happening in the setting, while Tenets are what the player characters are ready to throw down for. Movements and Tenets are meant to clash in Locales, interject into the narrative at (somewhat) controllable points.
The following is meant to showcase Challenge and Save Rolls. Challenge Rolls happen when a Movement and a Tenet collide in play, and Saves are when Movements or Tenets require a roll. Pretty much anything else the players get it if they can make a good enough case to the GM.
“You look a little tense!” Kyle joked.
Paul shot his GM a glare. For the past hour he had been roleplaying Kral the barbarian. Kral had sworn an oath to rescue some princess, just so that he could finally get the shiny sword the princess’s father carried. The task had seemed daunting, but fair. Until Kral realized that each of the creatures guarding the princess was as large as an oak, with sharp eyes and ears. Paul looked at the Challenge Die Kyle had for these creatures (a d20), and looked at his own dinky “standard” Agile die (d6). Paul didn’t have to be a genius to know that any attempt he made at using his Sneak skill of +3 would be almost entirely futile; the Stones metacurrency, which had let Paul turn these lopsided engagements into something a bit more fair, had been spent in a harrowing Conflict, one that Kral had barely managed to walk away from. More Stones weren’t coming until next session. Paul needed to figure out how to get by, without rolling a die.
“I want to watch these… what are they?” Maybe if Paul got Kyle talking he could figure something out.
“They’re Giant Orange-Men, until now only thought to be legend.” Kyle’s face lit up. He’d filled up half that damn notebook before he’d even gotten to the first session, and he leafed to a page in the middle of that middle of a trail of ink and squashed wood. “They once served the great king Ozal, long ago. They were bred to be his most trusted bodyguards.”
“Wait, they’re bred to be bodyguards? This is all they know?” asked Paul.
“Well, yeah, sure,” Kyle said, a bit confused.
“So they only think like a bodyguard, they’ve got nothing else going on?”
Kyle thought about it. He’d only written a few paragraphs, and that was just to get the gist down. More information didn’t really seem to be needed; he’d written what he’d written. Just let it stand. “Yeah, specifically bred from even larger creatures. Which are legendary. Of course.”
“Yeah, of course,” Paul growled. “Kral is going to back up, slowly. I want to find some predator, something big enough to kill me but that I can probably outrun.. almost.”
There was literally no reason to say no to this request. Kyle looked down at his Locale notes. “How about a fire lynx? About as big as a car, bad disposition.”
“Nothing you make has a good disposition,” Paul reminded him.
“I’m injured you think that,” Kyle complained.
“Yeah yeah yeah, we’ll do the fire lynx. I run across one and make a ton of noise, jumping up and down, yelling that he can come and eat me.”
“Twist its legs, why don’t you! Yeah, it’s coming. Time to roll a Save.”
That was what Paul had been hoping for. Saves were rolls that weren’t directly related to the Movements and Tenets of the game. In a Save both he and Kyle rolled a d20 apiece; the odds were a lot more even, even though the d20 was a swingy slimy thing. He’d opened up a Specialization of Jungle Streaking +04. Kyle told him the CBS of the Locale had a +3 bonus, so Paul knew he had an advantage, no matter how slight.
“You screw this up and the Giant Orange-Man will catch you both, one in each hand,” Kyle told Paul.
“Shut up and roll.”
“Heh, okay. 15 in total.”
“I got a 20 total,” Kyle had rolled a 16 and added the Jungle Streaking +04.
“That margin of success is going to trip off the CBS, you okay with that?” asked Kyle.
Paul thought about it a second. The Black Swan Counter (CBS) tracked when something going on in the Locale just so happened to cross paths with the situation the game was playing out. Paul had 2 Dynamis Stone left; he could try and roll a 15, which would leave him right on the precipice of having a Black Swan trigger. But rerolling a d20 and just happening to get a 15? In what world that he lived in? Besides, more distractions would be useful.
“We’ll let it stand! Black Swan away!” said Paul.
They consulted their journals. “I’ve got ‘Kral’s oath to save his mother was unfulfilled, for she fell from his grasp into the fire lynx’s jaws.'”
“Ozal’s dedication to his wife proved to be his undoing,” answered Kyle. “Hm, this is a haunted jungle. Lets have the ghost of your mother show up! That challenges you and freaks out the Giant Orange-Man and the fire lynx.”
“That just so happens to tie into one of your Movements, too, that whole nonsense about the dead tempting the living to death. Fantastic,” said Paul, amused.
“Well sure. Duh. You want to contest it?”
“Nope, but I’m not sticking around to get dragged into the river. Kral’s seen that song and dance before.”
“Oh, I don’t think you’re Willful enough for that. Could just wander off, into the jungle, confused. Lot can happen to a guy out there,” said Kyle with that damned smirk.
“I hate you.”
“I’d not be doing my job if you didn’t.”
Paul looked at Kral’s Willful stat. He’d taken some time pumping this one up; it sat at a d10. The Challenge Die, which came from the river god Kontorsius, was going to be a d20. There wasn’t a whole lot Paul could do to lower the Challenge Die; he was completely out of Fortune Stones. But maybe that rerolling Dynamis would help. Kral had Symbols +03, having been trained decently well by his village priest. The dice clinked on the wood of the table. “10! I maxed the dice out! Rolling again!” Whenever a max result was rolled you got to keep the maxed out result and roll again
“Whoa, wait, I rolled a 9. That’ll make the CBS a 4. Do you want to add more? You already got what you wanted,” cautioned Kyle.
“You mean do I want more chaos for the Giant Orange-Men to be distracted by? Oh absolutely.”
“Let’s play out the success first,” advised Kyle. “Your mother can barely be seen for the sunlight filtering through her, but there’s that sigh she used to do whenever you did something wrong. You hear it now, even though there’s two creatures screeching in fright. ‘Kral, little Kral. Come home. You shouldn’t be out here. Come back to me. I miss you.'”
“I hold aloft the Idol of Pul, the god who died and calls all to join him when it’s time. ‘You are not my mother, for she would not leave the lands below the river! Away with you!'”
“The sighing becomes a scream, but ‘mother’ has to obey the Idol of Pul,” said Kyle.
They sat a moment. Kral’s mother being dead was one of the major motivations for Kral adventuring in the first place.
“Alright, let’s move on,” Paul said. “Let’s figure out if more chaos is coming.” More clinking. “Hah! That’s 9! Total of 22.” Whenever the CBS increased the GM rolled a d20; if he rolled lower than the CBS a Black Swan occurred. The margin of success (in this case 13) was always added to the CBS; the CBS had gone from 0 to 13 in a single roll, so the chances of getting another Black Swan were good.
Kyle rolled his smoky dice. “7! That’s another Black Swan!” To the journals they went. “Kontorsius skinned the elder god Pul alive, with his own spear.”
“Kral destroyed his mother’s murderer with a sharp stone, one cut at a time,” said Paul.
“Sounds like a hunt going very right for the hunter,” said Kyle. “We’ll have a consuming rhino chasing a brontosaurus just crash through everything. The ground shakes and almost knocks everything over, including the Giant Orange-Men. Everything in the jungle dives for cover.”
“Excellent,” said Paul. “No one’s going to notice ‘little’ Kral run into the pyramid. Time to get the princess!”