Hellboy: The Roleplaying Game – How Doom Works!
6th Aug 2020
The agents of the B.P.R.D. are no strangers to flashes of Ingenuity, good fortune or brilliance, just as they are old friends with the sense of impending doom that follows their work across the globe. To represent this, Hellboy: The RPG uses the Doom and Ingenuity system to give players and GMs a mechanical framework that allows certain dice rolls to become a narrative opportunity beyond simple success or failure.
Any time a player character makes an ability check, attack roll, saving throw, or has an outcome decided by the roll of a d20, the player also rolls a single d10. The die result for the d10 only counts if a 10 or a 1 is rolled; results of 2 through 9 are ignored. On a 10, the PC has generated a single point of Ingenuity. On a 1, the PC has instead generated a point of Doom. This allows characters to succeed with their d20 test, but potentially have a complication, or fail but gain an insight or opportunity that allows them to later rebound from that failure as they begin to hone in on the truth and everything in between.
If an ability or effect references increasing the step of Doom or Ingenuity generation, the range of generation is increased by the stated number. If Doom is increased by one step, for example, then it would be generated on a roll of a 1 or 2 on the additional d10. Similarly, if Ingenuity is increased by one additional step, then a roll of a 9 or 10 will generate the point. Increases from multiple sources will stack.
Additionally, certain actions or discoveries as part of a case may generate additional Doom or Ingenuity. These are detailed in the Case File text.
HOW DOOM WORKS!
Whenever possible, Doom should be resolved immediately, but keep in mind that it should fit the narrative that led to the check. This may take the form of fumbling the result or gaining a disadvantage on a subsequent roll if the d20 roll was a failure overall, or succeeding at a cost if it was a success. An enemy might slip by the group’s defences and end up better placed to spring an attack, or an agent might hit with a shot but also jam their weapon. In combat, Doom may manifest by the PC accidentally overreaching and temporarily lowering their Armour Class by 1 or 2, or the agents might misread a room as not derelict but ominous, discounting it as a site to rest with take time.
Doom can be tracked as a pool rather than used immediately, particularly if there is no suitable option for the use of Doom as part of a roll, or if the use of Doom will arbitrarily slow the game down, rather than provide an interesting twist to the narrative.
The GM can hold an amount of Doom equal to the number of agents plus 1. If the GM has more points of Doom than this number, the excess can be spent towards the Grand Conspiracy Sheet or discarded.
FAILING WITH DOOM
If an ability check, attack roll, or saving throw has failed and the d10 roll generates Doom, the result is a fumble. This should be problematic, but not debilitating. A magazine spilling bullets out, requiring a bonus action to gather them back up is a problem. A sidearm misfiring and exploding is debilitating.
Doom in this instance should provide a challenge that requires a small amount of effort to overcome without rendering the PC ineffective. Outside of combat, a future ability check associated with the failed roll might be harder, such as an increased difficulty or disadvantage, or the GM may require a different test to avoid a follow-up incident resulting from the original failed roll. This should be used for story propulsion and enabling creativity on the player’s side rather than as a tool to punish bad dice rolls.
SUCCEEDING WITH DOOM
If a d20 ability check, attack roll, or saving throw has succeeded and the d10 roll generates Doom, the players have succeeded at a cost, such as overlooking something or allowing something to slip by them. For example, they score a hit on an enemy but leave themselves vulnerable to a counterattack and lower their AC against that opponent by 1 or 2 for a round. Alternatively, a character spots an enemy before being noticed themselves but also believes that the creature will only attack if provoked, causing them to carelessly continue into the creature’s path.
As a general rule, whether it’s a sidearm becoming jammed or the researcher becoming compelled to break cover and charge into combat at the sight of an undead student, a fumble should be specific to that character or those near them. Doom should never require more than a bonus action to fix mechanically and should always serve to drive the narrative.
ADVANCING THE GRAND CONSPIRACY
The GM can use Doom towards Case File-specific uses. These additional effects are tied to the case being investigating. If a situation causes Doom to be generated, it can be spent towards one of these uses. Acting as progressive levels, each Doom spend is a one-time effect. The Grand Conspiracy is a great way to add more narrative to your Case Files and you can tweak their effects, depending upon the group.
COMMON ACTIONS THAT GENERATE DOOM
Just like the board game, in which you’re up against the Impending Doom track, in the RPG the world is constantly edging closer to chaos. As a result, certain actions outside of rolling for a test will also generate Doom for the GM to use in their nefarious schemes.
When the agents spend 10 or more minutes beyond any time required to search an area, perhaps to find something that might have been missed initially, they generate a number of points of Doom equal to the total number of agents involved in the search. At the end of the search, the GM can opt to allow another search attempt with advantage or allow the PCs to find what they missed simply through the act of being thorough.
Spending time recovering from a particularly problematic encounter can be a huge help to the agents. But, there is no rest for the wicked. A number of points of Doom is generated equal to the number of PCs, as creatures continue to work towards completing their diabolical plot!