The unifying feature of version 1.3 is the progress system. Progress can be used to turn anything into a conflict, whether you’re fighting skeletons, decoding enemy transmissions, or weakening an aggressive black hole.
Here’s the progress copy, for your reading pleasure:
Every extended conflict has an outcome, a goal pursued by each opponent. If it is destroying a squad of robots, picking a lock, or usurping a king, progress is what measures the path from start to finish.
Each side of a conflict gets a progress pool, and contests that contribute to a side’s goal add progress points to that pool. If you are in combat, your progress pool is usually your enemy’s physical damage pool. If you’re on an interstellar council, the GM might give you a debate pool to fill. Maximum, or max, progress is the capacity of the pool, or the total progress points needed to reach the goal.
Earning progress points requires successful contests. Progress contests come in two varieties: attacks and defenses. An attack is an attempt to earn progress, and a defense is an attempt to prevent an attack. If skills apply, the skill needed depends on the conflict. For example, a shootout would use fight (missile) for attacks, and defend (parry) for defenses. An aircraft dogfight would use profession (pilot), knowledge (scholarship), and deceive for attacks, and profession (pilot), knowledge (scholarship), and detect for defenses.
When you earn progress points with a successful contest, you’ll get to roll a progress die that reflects your ability to make progress. In combat, your progress die is your weapon or spell’s damage die. When picking a lock, your progress die can depend on your skill points or quality of lockpicks. When arguing with the president of Botswana, your progress die can increase with the size of your military, for example. In general, progress dice should start at d6.
To prevent progress, many opponents will have some sort of protection. Protection has a corresponding die like progress, which applies regardless of defense actions, and the result of the protection roll is subtracted from each corresponding progress roll. Protection cannot completely eliminate progress; only successful defenses eliminate progress. If progress minus protection ever equals zero or less, the result is instead one.
For example, Mercury is battling Poseidon in a test of wills on Mount Olympus. Each takes turns making juvenile insults, because that’s how gods fight, and the outcome of the insults isn’t very clear. So the GM asks Mercury to make a persuade contest against Poseidon. Mercury rolls persuade, adding his metaphysical bonus and persuade points to d20, for 87 total. Poseidon defends with defend (willpower), since his persuade skill isn’t very high. Poseidon gets 76. Mercury already rolled progress to save time, and got 18. Poseidon takes half for metaphysical protection, getting 10, so he adds the difference of 8 to his MP damage pool. If Poseidon had a defense contest of 88 or more, Mercury would not make progress. Whoever reaches max MP damage first will lose the test of wills. The GM will likely decide that the MP damage isn’t permanent since it’s just an argument.