What’s Your Favorite Game Mechanic?

I have gotten a couple of interesting suggestions for things to blog about, buy they require a fair amount of research and preparation, and I’ve been distracted by my attempts to decrease my overall volume. So instead this week’s post is going to be a question. You may have noticed that I’ve kind of got a thing for game mechanics. My question for you, dear reader, is this: are there any game mechanics that you love? By that I mean, it’s the mechanic itself you love, not the benefits it gives your character. Have you ever read a rule in a game book and just said “wow, that’s a cool way of doing that”? A mechanic you want to use, not so much because it works for your character or story, but just because it’s a shiny new toy you want to play with. I have. Here’s one example.

The Hero’s Guide for the revised edition of D20 Star Wars has a suppression fire mechanic. With a multifire or autofire weapon you can, as a full round action, make an attack check on a 4 meter by 4 meter area. If the attack is successful, than as long as you maintain your suppression fire (that continues to be a full round action) you get to make ranged attacks of opportunity to anyone in that area. This mechanic gives me a nerd boner for two reasons:

  1. This system takes the concept of attacks of opportunity and flips it on it’s head in a way that totally makes sense. Normally attacks of opportunity are, by nature, melee attacks. The idea of ranged attacks of opportunity is weird, almost nonsensical, but here it works.
  2. The mechanic is a nearly perfect representation of how suppression fire works in real life! Most game mechanics have a fair amount of abstraction and need to be taken with a grain of salt (e.g. yes I survived that called shot to the head from your 50 caliber handgun because your damage roll was 2 lower than what’s needed to kill me), but this one is very true to life. If someone successfully establishes suppression fire, your character would have to be either an idiot or completely desperate to walk into the threatened area. And that’s the whole point of suppression fire, not to attack people but to keep them away.

My eyes lit up when I first read this, and as I’ve been planning the Star Wars game I’m starting real soon, I’ve been fighting the urge to give all of my npcs E-webs just so I can point out this awesome mechanic to my players, who would certainly be too distracted by their level 1 characters being pinned down and unable to accomplish anything to give a rat’s ass about it. (By the way, to any of my players reading this, suppression fire can be done with any multi- or autofire weapon, including a standard blaster pistol, so you can do this too!)

So yeah… how about you? What’s your favorite game mechanic?