A Flourish is the system whereby players can attempt something extraordinary.
A flourish is based on the player--rather than the character--'s ability, specifically their storytelling-prowess. In order to execute a flourish, the player must attempt to describe, in detail, the exact actions of their character. Depending on the level of detail, the WorldShaper then assigns a Flourish Level to the description, and the player gains a number of d20's to roll in the check they are about to attempt.
The WorldShaper assigns a flourish level 0-4, 0 being essentially a completely failure. In extreme cases, the WorldShaper can also declare that the character has failed whatever check they were attempting automatically(without rolling). In the following examples, a character is going to attempt to steel an apple from a vendor on the street. The use of " " in this section denotes the player describing what his character is doing.
- Level 0: "I walk by and grab the apple of his cart while he's not looking."
- Level 1: "I walk by, watching the shopkeeper's gaze, and make sure he's looking away from me while I take the apple."
- Level 2: "I walk by, watching the shopkeeper's gaze, and make sure he's distracted with another customer while my hand lashes out, grabs the apple, and tucks it quickly inside my long, puffy sleeve."
- Level 3: "I wave to the shopkeeper as I approach, making sure I have his attention and then direct it excitedly to some commotion behind him, brazenly snatching the apple while his back is turned and sneaking a quick bite out of it before hiding it up my sleeve. I interlace my fingers behind my head, absently quipping about the weather and giving him a hearty airwell as I continue along my path."
- Level 4: "I approach the shopkeeper, immediately engaging him in conversation. I pick up several apples, asking him questions about their quality, type, etc, all while excidedly making eye-contact and putting on a friendly air. I start to expertly juggle the apples, first one, then, two, then three, grabbing various pieces of fruit off of his cart and returning others. While mis-directing the shopkeeper, I drop one apple down my sleeve. When onlookers are entranced by my show, I start tossing pieces of fruit to them, while they clap and accept the free snack. As the enraged shopkeeper attempts to reclaim his wares, I saunter casually away, all the while having escaped detection."
Much like the WorldShaper can declare failure on a poorly-executed flourish, the WorldShaper can also declare success, based souly on the strength of the description. The above example has the player executing a MPNP Deception-check, in the event of a Level 4 Flourish, the WorldShaper could simply declare the character succeeded in stealing the apple without the need to roll any dice.
This same rule applies in combat: a player attempting an instant-kill move can, at the WorldShaper's discretion, succeed merely by describing the attack in graphic-enough detail(meaning the WorldShaper can declare that the target of the attack is killed without the need to roll damage)
Combat Vs. Role Play
The main function of the Flourish is to take the place of any number of non-combat related stats and roles. In other words, why waste valuable time and energy building stats for a system that lets you bluff the guards when we could just flourish and get on our way. Of course, you may notice you can still flourish in combat.
Note that all rules apply strictly to end results. Anything done for the sake of looking cool, and which has no other effect beyond looking cool, is strictly allowed.
There are few rules to flourish in combat, but basically they center around proficiencies. A warrior cannot, no matter how hard he flourishes, jump in the air and throw two fireballs. Its a simple matter of capability: if he has no magic, he cannot do anything magical. He can do anything a highly skilled, non-magic-using mortal could do, but no magic.
The same goes for types of magic. Players are free to invent new spells on the fly using the flourish system, but anything being done with magic has to fall into a magical proficiency. Note that the rule does not specify "existing" if you can't find a place to put it, make up your own. But here's the catch: much like a warrior can't throw fireballs, an Exo-Mage can't turn a baguette into a bouquet. Mages can't flourish in magical proficiencies they do not possess.
Depending on the situation, the WorldShaper can still decide to make you roll some dice in an RP situation. There's really not a concrete set of rules here, its more or less
If a player attempts a flourish and does very poorly at it, the game master is encouraged to punish them for it. The severity being proportional to the failure. In the above example, a good response in the event of a level 0 flourish might be:
"The shopkeeper catches hold of your arm and jerks you backwards with such force that it sprains your wrist, screaming 'Stop, thief!' in the process. Guards appear as if out of nowhere, and, sensing that you are about to resist arrest(or perhaps merely being slightly racist because of your stupid hairstyle) pull out their clubs and immediadely start beating you senseless, while the shopkeeper kicks you and calls you names. Roll 1d6 for the number of guards and 1D20 for the severity of the beating, take 1d4 damage per severity level for each guard + the shopkeeper."
A flourish may also fail due to an error in the mechanics. For example, a character sporting a jug of alcohol in one hand and a torch in the other, leaps down into a darkened chamber an attempts to breath fire to light up the darkness. However, the player has forgotten that his character's drink of choice is actually beer, and therefore not flammable in any way. Now, as covered under fantastical elements below, that flourish CAN succeed if the WorldShaper deems it worthy. It can also fail as spectacularly as such a move likely would in reality.
The more spectacular the attempt, the more stupendous the failure. In our botched fire-breathing example, the character would instead blow the torch outand spit beer all over the(now enraged) denizens of whatever dark pit he has just fallen into, all of whom can already see in the dark. The WorldShaper might also add that as a result, the character accidentally sucked some fluid down his windpipe and is chocking, thus leaving him incapacitated for a single round. The list goes on.
An effect-kill is when a player uses something in the environment, in conjunction with a highly-successful flourish, tokill an enemy. An example would be shoving the badguy into a pool of molten lava. In the case of an effect-kill, the WorldShaper can simply declare the mob dead without rolling for damage.
Channel is a system related to flourish that allows players to make up spells for their character literally on the fly. Pretty much just describe how you are casting the spell and what you want it to do. Much like the flourish system, the WorldShaper is then responsible for deciding how much MP it costs you and what the ultimate effect is.
Basic Guidelines for Channel
You probably want the player to succeed on at least a level 3 flourish. Whatever they describe cannot be too outlandish, although as established by the Course Books the capabilities of magic are really pretty much endless. Based on the spell being cast, you(the WorldShaper) can decide what proficiency they need to use. Although, if they are managing at least a level 3, it probably doesn't matter too much at that point.
This is a fantasy game and there is no rule against using a flourish that involves fantastical or downright ludicrous elements. Its all based on the description. As an example, we have a character dual-wielding with a longsword in one hand and a knife in the other.
The character swings first with the sword, intentionally coming up short on the target, but swinging the blade so fast and so hard that it slices through the very atoms of the air and creates a thunderslap as well as a small vacuum. The character then brings his knife around, reverse hand, and braces it against his chest. The force of the vacuum sucks his target towards him and impales it on the knife. Extra points of the player also gives the move a cool name and has the character announce it at full-volume.
Now, as with the above example of the beer flamethrower we can point out that this move is impossible. But so is magic, and we've got an entire chapter on spellcasting. This all comes down to the discretion of the WorldShaper, the situation, the general metagame, and whatever other factors you want to consider. The entire point of the flourish system is to do cool stuff and to be entertaining.