Refining the Stopwatch and More

Space samurai.

Grab your stopwatches!

Here’s where we started:

  • The closest to 10″ flat without going under wins the duel.
  • If one combatant is under 10″ while the other is over, the latter wins the duel.
  • If both combatants are under 10″ then whoever is lower wins the duel.

It’s a game about player skill. Some misunderstood this or voiced concerns or complaints. I provided an apology (in the classical sense) here.

Then we talked about turning the stopwatch into a d10, more or less, for the purposes of what have been traditionally termed “ability checks” or “skill checks.” The non-combat-y resolution stuff.

That received a bit more criticism from people who were initially interested in the project, so I’ve re-evaluated this.

Then we talked about doing duels with NPCs. Setting a “difficult boundary” for players to aim at. “This combatant is unskilled, so get between a 10″ and a 15″ and you win.” This was much better received.

That same post also outlined how to set stakes with NPCs. The consequences for a fight are only as dangerous as you allow them to be.

Because one focus of the game, as you may recall, is the duels between players.

Look your friend in the eye.

And pull the trigger.


After some talks with trusted buds, I’ve refined the original mechanic (change bolded).

  • The closest to 10″ flat without going under wins the duel.
  • If one combatant is under 10″ while the other is over, the latter wins the duel.
  • If both combatants are under 10″ then whoever is closer to 10″ flat wins the duel.

To just say “whoever is closer” means you would have to do some math, (Is 9.43″ or 10.56″ closer to 10.00″?) hence, whoever is over 10″ wins the duel.

Reducing the amount of math means knowing the results sooner, which increases the dopamine rush when you realize you just won or lost. Psychology, folks. Ever wonder why seeing that 20 on a die feels so good? You immediately KNOW that you succeeded.

Being over 10″ wins more often because the game rewards patience more than speed (contrary to many misreads of this mechanic).

More refining

“Taking a risk” is now the same is dueling an NPC.


When a player declares an action that is risky or uncertain, the GM declares the difficulty number, using the following as a guide:

  • Pretty easy = 13
  • Not that easy = 11
  • Fairly tough = 10.5
  • Challenging = 10.3
  • Virtually impossible = 10.1

Then the GM hands them a watch. No speaking or making noise. Without looking at the display, the player starts and stops the watch when they choose. If the time reads between ten seconds flat (00’10.00”) and the difficulty number (in seconds), the player character succeeds. If not, the player character fails. Whatever the outcome, the GM immediately describes the impact.

Now the procedure for fighting NPCs and tackling tasks are virtually the same. But before being given a watch in a fight with NPCs, add this before “Then the GM hands them a watch”:

The player says the following aloud and fills in the details:

  • “If I win, I will _____ my enemies.”
    • Humiliate
    • Restrain
    • Capture
    • Incapacitate
    • Kill

The GM says:

  • “If you lose, your enemies will do that to you.”

Of course, still keeping this mind:

If the player character is at an advantage, such as from use of a proper item or a good position or approach, the GM may grant the following:

  • Increased effect: If they win, they receive an additional benefit.
  • Decreased danger: If they lose, it’s not as bad as it could have been.
  • Instant success: The character wins without stopping the watch.

If the player character is at a disadvantage, such as from the use of an improper item or a poor position or approach, the GM may grant the following:

  • Decreased effect: If they win, it’s not everything they hoped.
  • Increased danger: If they lose, it’s worse than they feared.
  • Instant failure: The character loses without stopping the watch.

One rule that’s still up in the air: “If another character helps in a meaningful way, reduce the difficulty number by one step.”

One more design thing that blends mechanics and fiction…

When two or more characters wish to play a game of chance involving a gun, also known as Russian Roulette, the GM starts a watch and hides its display. When one player calls “stop,” the GM stops the watch and notes the last digit. That number is the Death Number. The first player must guess two different numbers from 0 to 9. If either is the Death Number, their character dies and the game of chance is over. If not, the next character guesses a number that has not yet been called. If they guess the Death Number, they die. Characters continue making single guesses until someone dies.

Moving on

Free Kriegsspiel maxim #1: play worlds, not rules.


Let’s get some flavor here. Here are some notes:

  • Swords are as good as guns.
Yes, yes, yes.
  • Ship battles are duels.
Woooooo boy!
  • Humans of all kinds. Anyone can come from anywhere.
  • Space feudalism
  • Casino company that runs a section of the galaxy

Here’s what the back of the book would read:

Where one hit means death

And the winner takes it all

Can you look your opponent in the eye

And count to ten?

____________ is a role-playing game 

about violence and precision.

Test your skills with an innovative dueling system

set in a galaxy of cowboys, samurai, and spaceships.

Film influences include: Cowboy Bebop, Firefly, Bladerunner

Game influences include: The Mountain Witch, Dread

Happy 200th post! 🙂

See you, dear reader.

One thought on “Refining the Stopwatch and More

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