House Rule: Major Flashbacks

Continuing my posts of House Rules from the Flying Ship-campaign: Voyage of The Sky Eagle. Last it was minor flashbacks, and now it is the major ones.

Major Flashbacks or Flashback-kickers

These flashbacks are limited in number. Their effects are more powerful and they reveal important stories about the character. There is a slight element of planning the flashback-kickers, and when they are used, they are always played out as a scene.

Each character have 3 major flashbacks and gain an additional at each level.

For each major flashback the player adds a brief sentence describing the flashback in it’s most general terms, e.g.

  • When my eunuk wizard gained his freedom by betraying his old master
  • When Hattian rebels burned down my parents estate for releasing their Hinterland slaves after a lifetime of loyal service (The Hattians are bigots, it is as simple as that)
  • When I stepped into the generals office to receive my promotion and I discovered that my rival was also present
  • When the Glantrian wizards discovered I was a heretic [divine spellcaster] and I had to flee or be burned at the stake.
  • When I awoke in the boudoir after the decadent party with the colonels daughter and she was madly in love with me
  • When I stepped up and saved the peace negotiations between my dwarven family and the elven embassy from turning into a declaration of war

These are all major moments in the characters’ lives. We learn something important about them, even though we may not know it until we play the scene. Often the flashback is played in the middle of combat or in a skill challenge because the player needs to manipulate the outcome. In indie-terminology they look somewhat like player-created kickers, but with the differences that they don’t open the game but lies in wait for the right moment.

Playing the flashback

Playing a flashback is playing a scene directed by the player. The player sets the scene, asks the other players to portray various NPCs and then the scene is played out. There are no dice rolls in the scene. As the GM my presence in these scenes are minimal. I usually only supplies a few details about the setting and helps with coming up with ideas as how to play the scene.

The Reward

  • The reward for playing the scene some of the following:
  • The effects of a plot point (described here)
  • An automatic attack roll
  • Changing a fatal result into successful result (used when one character was jumping from the air ship on to goblin balloonship. Originally he failed and would have fallen to the ground hundreds and hundreds of meters down. The player spend his flashback and after the scene, he managed to land safely on the balloon ship).
  • Regain a spend Daily Power
  • Acquire a magic item (This was added a bit later in the campaign. It occurred to us, that regular source of magic items were not in play due to the campaign-structure and we needed some other way for the characters to gain magic items. The player uses a major flashback and afterwards gains a magic item, that is suitable for his level.

Only a few of these have been used so far. As with the minor flashbacks we’re having quite fun with this rule. It allows us to develop the backstory of the characters as we play, but more importantly each character’s story becomes shared knowledge. It is no longer words on a page, the GM might have read. Instead we play it out. This does means that the scene can never be 100% as planned, no play ever is, but the player has enough control with the scene to get a very close version.


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