Before we begin the third instalment of Learn To ScreenPlay, I’d like to draw your attention towards the official Learn To ScreenPlay page of this site and bring out the Learn To ScreenPlay dancers. Ok, that last one’s still waiting on auditions (and a reality check), but the rest is totally true. If this is the first one of these posts you’ve ever seen or perhaps you may have missed one in the past, we’re collecting all these teasers to our upcoming Rehearsal Edition onto one handy, dandy place.
Now on with the show.
Not every character gets to live until the end of the story. Every tale has its share of casualties, sacrificial lambs, and nameless goons who must be defeated in some gruesome fashion for the protagonists to reach the conclusion. Or sometimes it’s a protagonist who’s gotta go to add suspense to the plot. In a game like ScreenPlay, how do you determine who concludes their journey down the rabbit hole you and your fellow Writers have created? With Stamina, of course.
It’s All About Your Stamina
Stamina is very much akin to (and yet nothing like) the standard hit points you see in many roleplaying games. Each character has a maximum number of points in the beginning that are dwindled down and refreshed as the story progresses until they either reach zero and are no longer involved in the story or the story reaches the end and everyone’s happy. (Note: This can assume the character dies, but is not always the case. How a character is removed from the story remains in control of the player who dropped them down to 0 Stamina.) Whenever someone takes damage from a conflict roll, it’s Stamina that’s depleted. Survive until the end of a scene and you can recover half of your current Stamina (yet no more than your maximum amount), keeping you ready to continue on for yet another scene and bring you one step closer to the end. Pretty standard fare, but now this is where things get interesting.
Stamina also allows your character room to cheat. Certain options are available to lead and supporting characters (but not extras; they’re not supposed to stick around long enough to make it worth the effort) wherein they can cut in line and offer a description before they are chosen, increase your conflict roll by one, smack someone back even when they’ve already provided a description and more. You can get through a scene (or an entire story) without using these cheats, but if you want to use them, it’ll cost you. For each of the cheats provided below, you must spend 1 Stamina from that character’s reserve. Cheat too often and it’ll backfire on you if they dish our major damage on an even-numbered roll… and that’s the point. It’s a tempting offer and just like any deal with the Devil, you have to be prepared to pay the price for your greed.
Shift: You can spend 1 Stamina to increase or decrease the result of a die roll (either one you rolled or one rolled against you) by 1. For example, if an opponent rolls a 6 on their conflict roll, you can spend 1 Stamina to reduce it to a 5 and at least only suffer a minor complication.
Interrupt: A character who has yet to act in the current round can spend 1 Stamina to cut in line. The player can choose whether they want to interrupt before another player is chosen or before or after a character’s description is provided.
Retaliate: Immediately following a conflict roll, regardless of its outcome, a player can spend 1 Stamina for the targeted character to make a conflict roll of their own against the same opponent.
Remove a Minor Complication: You can spend 1 Stamina to remove a minor complication with one detail instead of a full description.
And to answer the immediate question, lead characters start with a story with 15 Stamina, supporting characters start with at least 7 Stamina (if they’re designed for a Writer; Directors have flexibility to take it as high as 50 Stamina for those truly bad-ass villains), while extras never have more than 3 Stamina (and can never use the cheats mentioned above).
Taking It To Another Level
But is that as much Stamina as you’ll ever have to work with? Not by a long shot, it simply depends on how faithful you are to the development of the story, your characters, and the spirit of gameplay. It is entirely possible for characters to increase their maximum Stamina through the collection of what’s called milestones… and that’s where we introduce a cliffhanger. Next time, we’ll discuss these points and how they help keep everyone on the same page.