A countdown takes place when there is an unknown time limit before something occurs. It is used in the following situations:
- Death. An unconscious character uses the countdown mechanic as he slips towards death.
- Illness. Disease and illness use the countdown mechanic as symptoms worsen.
- Drowning or suffocation. Characters who cannot breath (underwater, or some other reason) use the countdown mechanic to determine when they lose consciousness.
- Starship explosions. In N.E.W., badly damaged starships use a countdown pool to determine when they explode; hopefully the heroes can escape the ship before it does!
- Other ticking clocks.There are many other situations where a ticking clock is relevant. Occasions where you need a tense situation as a character tries to do something before something else happens are ideal for it. Can a climber scale a crumbling cliff before it collapses? Can a thief pick a lock before the magical alarms go off? Can a Smallfolk burglar recover the magic goblet and escape the dragon's lair before it wakes up?
The countdown is started by forming a dice pool. Different situations will determine the size of that dice pool – a dying character uses one equal in size to his ENDURANCE dice pool, for example, while cliffs or magical alarms will have their dice pool size set by the GM. The larger the dice pool, the longer you – probably! - have.
Each turn, the dice pool is rolled. Usually it's rolled by the player in question – she rolls her own death dice, or her own drowning dice.
Any dice which comes up with a six is removed from the dice pool, and play continues.
Eventually the last dice will be removed from the dice pool. It is then that the character dies, the trap explodes, or the soldier looks in the crate.