Writing about my past tendencies to slaughter the occasional character back in the day and thinking about my desire to take OtherSpace truly back to basics got me wondering: maybe we should just abandon the premise of a stats/skills system. Eliminate dice. No rolls. Just see where the narrative rolls and let the players and referees manage the outcomes, even if they sometimes lead to character deaths.
If it seems reasonable for a character to try something, regardless of whether they have X level of Y skill on their sheet, let them go for it and consider whether it makes sense the way they present the narrative. If it makes sense and helps the story flow, it works. If it doesn’t seem plausible (or if the story might benefit from extra tension by throwing in a complication), the referee can decide it doesn’t work – or it works, but with unintended consequences.
Consider “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” as an example. From a narrative standpoint, Indiana Jones cleverly switches a bag of carefully measured sand for the idol on the altar in the Peruvian temple. So, he succeeds in grabbing the idol. The unintended consequence, of course, is that he misjudged the sand just enough that it triggers the trap that starts the big stone ball rolling.
We did this sort of thing a lot in the early days of OtherSpace, before we introduced a skill system and taskrolls. It does come with the potential for unintended behind-the-scenes consequences, such as rages against the ref. But it certainly would streamline the process of running a scene – especially those roll-intensive combat activities that we now seem to avoid like the plague because they can take hours to run.