So, I’ve read the dev blog about extended tasks and now finally understand that “extended task” is STA’s wording for “make a problem be an NPC one can fight with wits instead of weapons”, which is nothing less than a great concept, by the way.
But still the question remains: Where’s the Drama? If I understand extended tasks as something akin to combat, the task being the enemy and problem-solving skills the weapons: Where’s the danger?
In combat, opponents react and their reaction create drama and/or is dangerous to the PCs. They shoot back, threaten or negotiate – basically: they fight back, one way or another.
What do extended tasks do other than stay mysterious if players can’t roll high enough? Yes, of course, I can combine extended tasks with timed and/or gated challenges, but I miss the drama and/or danger original to extended tasks. Clearly, I miss something.
Can you help me see it?
I think you are going about this the wrong way. You should not ask where the drama is in an Extended Task (ET), because drama causes an ET. If there is no inherit drama or danger, then an ET is just a waste of everyone’s time.
For combat it is easy to see because the drama and danger is clear. But if there aren’t any heavily armed Klingons around, it makes no sense for players to take separate turns.
The same goes for an ET. If you just want to clear up some rubble, no ET needed. But if you are attacked by Borg, then suddenly you have drama and danger and now an ET makes sense.
Or think of disarming a bomb. There, the drama is the time after which it goes off.
So in essence an ET arises from an inherit drama, not the other way around. Just like combat.
Shran has pretty much covered it there, but the setting in which you place the task is the source of the drama, as with any task.
You could use piloting the ship as an example. Simply flying in a straight line has no drama/risk of failure, so it just happens. You take the helm moments before a collision with an asteroid, then suddenly you have a risk of failure, so it becomes a task.
Extended tasks do exactly what they say on the tin- they extend the tasks in some way that makes them more than a series of gated tasks.
Continuing the example, having to pilot through an asteroid field might be a series of gated tasks if it is a simple duck and weave, however if you throw in an additional objective - find an efficient route out of the field - you can move into an extended task. You have the simple pass and fail of dodging the asteroids, but also a need to work on progressing through a larger objective.
Where extended tasks really shine are when other things are happening around them. That could be combat, or another high priority task. Maybe you’re ducking and weaving through asteroids as your doctor performs surgery on your injured captain, relying on you to keep the ship steady as you make an escape. It could also be a time factor - you need to escape this asteroid field before a spacial rift seals itself, trapping you in null space forever.
If you want real drama, you could stress the hell out of your helmsman - They need to navigate an asteroid field, keeping ahead of perusing ships, while also holding the ship steady enough for the doctor to complete surgery on the captain. But if they’re too conservative, the spacial rift they are trying to reach will close, trapping the crew here forever… actually sounds like a bit too much drama for me, but certainly adds some stakes!
Huh. Well. Duh.
Thanks @Shran and @mattcapiche for the solid explanation and the vivid examples.
Now, I have to write some plot for my helmsmen…
One of things the designer pointed out early on is that an ET should always have a time limit.
It might be a fixed limit (such as defusing a bomb before it goes off) or a shifting one (trying to fix the ship’s engines before it’s destroyed in battle), but without the limit, there’s no need to rush and no need to bother with the ET.
The ET always takes place over a series of periods (each roll taking a specific period of time), and so the player agency comes in their strategy: they have the option of rushing a roll or taking more time with it. Similarly, complications and other setbacks can delay or extend a roll.
Obviously the time limit needs to be achievable, but ideally it should be easy to miss it without putting in a lot of effort!
I one of the great things would be while slyly looking into a group or organization, sometime they look back. Or unknown to you another group takes notice of you an uses your group as pawns in their schemes. Or they set you up against the original group calling you out to them and the tables turn starting a war between yiu and them while the 3rd unknown group sits back and watches you take each other out. Will anyone notice, will they follow the clues in time to the reall enemy.