We’ve all seen it in movies. The bomb’s about to go off, and the hero has to cut all the right wires in the correct order to stop its countdown. A ritual has to be performed just so to vanquish some hideous monstrosity from the world. Sometimes a single action is just not enough. In Delve, these are activities.
Not just a subsystem for the sake of particular types of multi-action endeavors (such as skill challenges in 4e or occult rituals in Pathfinder), activities are a framework use to create complex tasks where more than one action is needed to generate an effect. They work no matter if it’s one character or many characters contributing toward the generation of an effect.
Activities can be physical challenges or mental pursuits. Consider riddles. Many GMs like riddles. Many players aren’t very good at them. Even those with some talent for them can find themselves stumped. To bridge the gap between player befuddlement and the fact that they’re playing a highly educated apprentice of the Ebon Tower, you could create a quick activity that play’s like this: It’s a Knowledge resolution against target 13. With each success, you give the player a hint. A crit gives the correct answer as does two successes. A fumble yields a false answer as does three failures. Of course, to heighten tensions, you make these resolutions in secret. Or, to put it in a block form:
The riddle is a variation on a simple classic, morphed a bit to reflect the history of the Gray Coast. Knowledgeable or clever players will likely figure out the answer without hints. In those cases, the activity is successful. I mean, it’s a riddle; the activity exists to give hints to those who need it, not take the place of normal riddle resolution!
Activities also serve as a framework for interacting with complicated bits of terrain. Let’s say the characters at the gates of some fortified village when they catch sight of evil invaders charging up the road, murder and pillage of the innocent inhabitants on their minds. Before the characters can attempt to protect the settlement and repel the threat, they’ll have to bar the gate.
Of course, you don’t always need the rigor of such a block. Imagine a dungeon door—one where the characters have discovered the key to on a ring held by some vile cultist—shutting and locking the door is an activity of two actions. The first is to shut the door; the second is to lock it. It’s fairly easily done as long as the right character has the key and in hand.
Activities have a number of pivot points. Does a character have the right talents or attributes? Do the actions need to be continuous or can they be split up? Does one creature have to take all the actions that lead to an activities effect, or can it be accomplished with help? Do they require resolution rolls or not?
While both of the example activities are rather simple, it’s easy to see how this system is both utile and expansive. An entire adventure can hinge on opening a magical portal by way of setting a demigod’s massive orrery into proper alignment on some far-off plane of existence, or activities can be designed to steer a massive galleon through the hazardous shoals of some turbulent, alien sea.
More often than not, though, activities in Delve take the form of spells. Let’s take a look at those next time.