I’m a fan of Dan Bayn’s Wushu rpg. As I’ve written before, it’s a criminally underrated game, and neglected way too often. One of the reasons might be that it’s demanding. Wushu actively engages you, it forces you to come up with tons of descriptions — if you don’t, your character is not very good at what they’re doing.
Wushu is special. It uses the so-called Principle of Narrative Truth:
Within the imagined world of your shared narrative, everything the players describe happens exactly how they describe it, when they describe it. This is called “the Principle of Narrative Truth” and it’s the nitrous that makes Wushu fast and furious. Actions should always be phrased in the present tense: “I kick him,” “I fly over that,” “They crash through the wall like wrecking balls.” No need to wait for the dice to tell you what happens.
So, Wushu is really special.
But what happens when we transplant the Principle of Narrative Truth (PoNT) into traditional roleplaying games? Would it work? Let’s give it a try.
I’m taking Into the Odd as example. You could also take any other old school or OSR game.
Your character attacks as usual. They do damage as usual. But instead of describing what your character attempts to do, you tell what happens. You can keep doing that, as long as their hit points (or, in the case of ItO, STR) allow, or as long as they are not KO’ed. You are NOT ALLOWED to narrate the defeat of an enemy as long as he still has hit points (in other words: as long as he isn’t considered KO/dead mechanically). When you defeat an opponent mechanically, you are allowed to narrate his “coup de grace”: Will you kill him? Or spare his life? What happens exactly?
Adam (3 hp, STR 10) is sporting a huge serrated machete (d8). Bert (3 hp, STR 10) is fighting with a knife (d6).
Adam: I see Bert and start running. After a few steps, I leap, swinging my machete like crazy, and hit him right in the face with it. (Rolls 1 for damage. Bert now has 2 hp)
Bert: Aaaaah! You see blood spraying from my nose as I’m stumbling back. That chair behind me, it trips my leg and now I’m lying on the floor. (Rolls 3. Adam now has 0 hp and STR 10. Bert still gets to roll damage because damage in this rules variant is not mirroring the narrated actions. It’s a pacing mechanism. Note that Bert is narrating himself getting pummeled; this is possible without any repercussions because fictional positioning does not have any impact on his rolls.)
Adam: I land straight on his chest, with both knees! He cries out in pain. I grab his collar with my left and start pounding his face with the hilt of my machete. One! Two! Three! (Rolls 4 for damage, taking Bert down to 0 hp and STR 8. Bert makes a successful STR save and can keep going.)
Bert: I claw at Adam’s face, but he simply blocks my strikes. With a triumphant grin, my blood on his face, he’s bringing down the machete like a hammer, with both hands. (Rolls 2, bringing Adam’s STR down to 8. Adam rolls his save — and blows it. Now, Bert gets the Coup de Grace — the narration of his opponent’s defeat. Which, in this case, is really interesting, because it’s a real surprise)
Bert: Slow motion! As the blade almost touches my bruised and battered face, I turn my head sideways! The blade hits the ground, and then we get a close-up up of Adam’s face. “…”, he whispers, with the strangest smile. He coughs. Then, stillness. You see my knife buried in his back.