Running The Game

Conflict

Technically, the combat system is a form of conflict resolution. However, for clarity, when these rules refer to a conflict what I mean is a non-combat conflict.

The Dangers of Action

Your character might try to do all sorts of things. You might try things like seducing a young prince, jumping across a river of lava, or opening a locked vault door. Sometimes there’s a chance your action will fail. Sometimes there’s a chance your action will cause bad things to happen. Those bad things are the dangers of your action.

When the GM thinks it’s appropriate, he should respond to your characters actions with some dangers. No individual action should have more than three dangers attached. One at a time, roll for each danger to see if it comes true or not. If there is a chance of failure, that particular danger should always be rolled last.

Note that all the dangers of an action should be laid out up-front, before the first roll is made. The player should have the opportunity to back out of an action if they decided that the dangers associated with that action are just too great to risk.

The Roll

Once you’ve determined what the dangers are, you’ll be rolling one at a time to see which dangers are avoided and which dangers hit you square in the face. For each danger the player will roll 1d12 plus the bonus from an appropriate attribute. With a little luck, which attribute is appropriate will be obvious at the time. If it’s not obvious, get creative. Make one of your attributes match up. At the same time the GM will roll 1d12 and add in the value of the NPC’s appropriate attribute. If there’s no NPC on the opposing side, assume an attribute modifier of +0. If the player’s roll is equal to or higher than the GM’s roll the danger is averted. If the GM’s roll is higher than the player’s the danger is realized.

For example:
Lisa says that her character, Rarl, is going to try to gather up the whole town and throw a party. The GM decides that there are two potential dangers here. The first danger is that she might not be able to convince everyone in the town that the night after a mass funeral is a good time for a shindig. The second danger is that the party may insult the recently dead and cause them to come haunt the town.

Lisa decides that she doesn’t want either of those dangers coming true, so we decide to roll.

For the first danger we pick out a particular NPC to represent the folks that don’t want to party. We role play it out a bit and eventually Lisa rolls Rarl’s Eloquence vs. the NPC’s Stubbornness. Lisa looses, so not everyone comes to the party. Note that the GM did not say that there was a danger that the party might not happen, just that attendance might not be one hundred percent. So the party kicks off that evening a few townsfolk short.

A bit of role playing the party later, the GM reminds Lisa of the danger of waking the dead. Even though Rarl isn’t exactly trying to keep the noise down, Lisa still rolls Rarl’s Sneakiness versus the Alertness of the dead (which the GM decides is –1). This time Lisa wins and the celebration does not rouse the spirits of the recently deceased.

Specialist Gear

Whenever you can invoke your character’s specialist gear in a danger roll, you gain a +2 bonus.

The Danger of Bodily Harm

When your character is in danger of getting hurt, say by falling off of a steep cliff face or by falling onto a pit of sharp spikes, failing to avoid the danger may result in a loss of Hit Points. A danger of this sort should always be worth 2 Hit Points. This is enough damage to have the danger be meaningful, without being so much damage as to make the danger excessive.

Note that this means that a single action might cause a player as much as 6 points of damage, which is enough to potentially kill their character. For this reason, I suggest that the GM rarely assign much bodily harm danger to a single action. It’s cool to do once in a while, but not for every action.

The Danger of Failure

I think I’ve been pretty clear that sometimes it’s just not fun for a character to be in danger of failing. But then again, sometimes it’s really important for that possibility to exist. After all, the game could start to feel a bit flat and lame if you know your character will be successful at every attempt.

When the danger of failure is one of the dangers a character is about to face, I want you to keep two things in mind. First, the danger of failure should usually be rolled last. It’s the climatic part of the action. Secondly, the other dangers should not conflict with the possibility of failure. In the previous example of Rarl’s party, it would wouldn’t make much sense for the spirits to haunt a town over a party that doesn’t happen. I mean, sure it could happen, but you’d be stretching the story a bit to make it happen. Instead of the danger of the spirits haunting the town maybe the danger would be of a spirit or two haunting Rarl. Just for her inappropriate behavior. That would make sense whether the party happened or not.

When Talents Trump Danger

Sometimes the GM might forget what cool powers your character has and might describe a danger that your character couldn’t possibly succumb to. A character with Bird Feet is in no danger of falling though a crumbling rooftop. Neither is a Water Breather ever in danger of drowning. If the GM accidentally tosses a danger at you that one of your talents trumps, just remind him of how awesome your character is, then invite him to try again.

Multiple Characters in Danger

How do you resolve the danger when more than one character is attempting the same action? There are three possible ways to roll this out. Which one you use depends on the situation.

When the characters are pooling their strengths and helping each other out, like when everyone is working together to lift something heavy, have everyone roll and only take the highest roll. When failure on the part of any one of the characters will bring the danger down on the entire group, like when everyone is trying to sneak past some guards at once, then have everyone roll and only take the lowest roll. When the danger is individual, like when everyone is in danger of falling through a crumbling rooftop, everyone rolls and only those who fail suffer the consequences.

Combat

The combat system is virtually unchanged since the last version of the game. However, I want to point out how character death has changed. Hitting zero HP can kill your character. It isn’t very likely, but it is a possibility that you need to be aware of.

Initiative

The turn order is determined with a simple 1d12 + Alertness roll. The highest rollers take the first actions. Initiative is only rolled once per combat. When there is a tie between PCs, then the players should choose who amongst them goes first. When there is a tie between PCs and NPCs, the ties should go to the PCs.

Surprise!

If, due to the circumstances in the fiction, it’s reasonable to assume that one character has surprised another, then the characters on the sneaky side gain a +5 bonus on their initiative roll.

Don’t lay it on the GM

Classically, it’s the GM’s job to keep track of who’s turn it is and who’s turn comes after who’s. However, I don’t want you to dump all that on the GM. The GM has enough to keep track of. You should keep track of which player goes before you and which player goes after you. Take it upon yourself to know when it’s your turn and to tell the next player when it’s their turn.

Actions

On your turn your character will get at least one action. Some talents will provide your character with bonus actions under certain circumstances. Some talents will provide you with additional action choices. There are five basic actions that any character can perform: Attack, Move, Push, Show Off, and Assist.

Armor & Target Number
Uber 16
Very Heavy 14
Heavy 12
Light 10
None 8

Attack

You may choose to attack anyone in the same arena as your character, or anyone in an adjacent arena if your character is wielding a ranged weapon. Roll 2d10 versus the target number corresponding to your target’s armor class. Add in any bonuses you may receive from the Arena and from any Awesome Tokens you want to spend. If you hit the target number or beat it, you do damage. Usually 1 point. If you miss, then no damage. Next turn.

Spending Awesome Tokens

Don’t spend any Awesome Tokens until after you roll the dice. Each one you spend gives you either a +2 bonus on your roll or +1 damage. Feel free to mix and match. Say you rolled a 13, but you needed a 14 to hit that Very Heavy armor class. You can spend one Awesome Token to bump your roll to 15 and then two more to do two extra points of damage.

Armor Class & Target Number

There are five possible target numbers, four of which are represented by types of armor you can wear. The fifth armor class, “Uber” is not a kind of armor to wear. It’s a place marker for when you have an armor class that’s even better than “Very Heavy”.

The Face Die

One of your two d10s should be red. That’s your face die. If your face die comes up a 10 and you’ve hit your target, you’ve hit them in the face. You deal an additional point of damage.

Rolling Extra Dice

Sometimes you’ll have the opportunity to roll more than two 10-sided dice. Like when you’re wielding a light weapon. In these cases, roll all the dice at once but only take the best two dice to add together.

Move

You may move your character into any adjacent arena as your action.

Push

Sometimes you don’t just want to move, you want to bring an enemy or two with you. Assuming that they don’t want to make this move, they each get to roll their Size against yours. If any of them roll higher than you, then you’ve failed to move at all. Therefore, it’s generally safer to try to push one enemy at a time. And generally only when they’re a little bit smaller than you.

Show Off

In order to gain a tactical advantage, your character attempts something dramatically foolish. The particular flair and drama is up to you. But be impressive. Roll 1d12 plus Daring to see just how impressive and useful your action was. Compare your roll to the Awesome Token Table and take the appropriate number of Awesome Tokens for yourself. If you roll lower than 8, you’ve opened yourself to trouble. Give a single Awesome Token to an opponent.

Assist

Mechanically, Assisting is similar to Showing Off. However, instead of doing something foolish for yourself, you’ll do something helpful to gain someone else some tokens. Roll 1d12 plus your Alertness. Compare your roll to the Awesome Token Table and give the appropriate number of Awesome Tokens to any other single player who’s character is in the same arena as yours. Don’t forget to describe how you’re helping (or trying to help) that other character.

Awesome Token Table
Roll Tokens
16 or higher 5
14 or 15 4
12 or 13 3
10 or 11 2
8 or 9 1

Damage

When your character is reduced to zero hit points, they’re out of the combat. They may not necessarily be unconscious, but they can’t add anything to winning the combat either. There are no negative hit points in this game. Zero is as low as you go.

Mercy

You’ve fought the high priest and all his goons and you’ve won. But now you’re not sure if you really want to kill him. If only he would promise to be good, you’d really much rather just send him on his way.

At the end of any combat scene where the adventurers stand victorious, the players may elect to let their enemies live. If you like, you can make the lives of your enemies dependant on a single promise or action. Demand that they let their prisoners go. Ask them to swear an oath to your gods. Anything that can be done here and now, in this scene, is probably acceptable. However, just because you’ve got them at knife-point doesn’t mean that they have to give in to your demands. That’s up to the GM. Of course, if they refuse your demands you’re still free to finish them off.

Mooks

Not all NPCs are created equal. Some are just nameless goons that are thrown into combat to fall on the pointy end of your sword. We will call these faceless masses mooks, and we’ll use a couple special rules for them.

  • A Mook always has crappy weapons. They have no favored arenas and no special effects.
  • A Mook only gets 1d10 to attack. Unless they’re attacking as a group. In that case, roll a number of d10s equal to the number of Mooks in the attack, adding together the best two.
  • Mooks never have face dice.
  • Mooks only have 1 hit point each. When you do more than 1 damage to a single mook, you kill a number of mooks equal to the damage dealt. Assuming there are that many mooks in the arena.

Arenas

An arena is a place where you fight. Different arenas have different advantages for different weapons. An arena might be a road, a field, a busy city marketplace, or a deep watery cave. Over the course of a combat we’ll probably see several different arenas come into play. You might have your character run from the middle of the city marketplace to the top of a nearby building to get a better shot with her bow. Your target might then take refuge inside a nearby shop, forcing you to move into the attic of that shop to get your shot. We might define each of those places (the marketplace, the top of the building, inside the shop, and in the attic of the shop) as completely different arenas, each with different attributes and each with different connections to other arenas.

Arena Types

There are five different categories for arenas: Hazardous, Tight, Open, Dense, and Neutral. Most arenas give a bonus to hit to a different weapon category. This bonus generally reflects the idea that the particular weapon type has an advantage in this terrain. When you’ve got the right kind of weapon and you’re in the right kind of arena, gain a +2 bonus to hit.

Hazardous

A hazardous arena is one where your footing is bad or one where visibility is low. The
crumbling rooftop of a tall building or a closed chamber devoid of light are hazardous
arenas. Hazardous arenas give their bonus to reach weapons.

Open

There’s nothing to block your view or your shot in an open terrain. A field or a long road can be open arenas. Open arenas give their bonus to ranged weapons. Note that you only get the arena bonus when your target is in the open terrain.

Tight

A tight arena is one with very little room to move. A small bedroom, a narrow hallway, or a low-ceilinged attic may be tight arenas. Tight arenas give their bonus to light weapons.

Dense

A dense arena is one where bits of the scenery regularly get in the way of swinging a weapon. A wooded path or the middle of a crowded shop may qualify as a dense arena.  Dense arenas give their bonus to heavy and very heavy weapons.

Neutral

When you just cannot imagine what kind of arena it might be, or when it seems like the area might be several different kinds of arenas all at once, call it neutral. No one gets a bonus in neutral arenas.

Connections

A nearby or adjacent arena is an arena that’s connected to yours. Makes sense, right? Well, there’s different kinds of potential connections

Regular

A regular connection is the default connection. You can make ranged attacks and move through them, in either direction.

One-Way

A one-way connection represents your ability to only attack and move from Arena A to Arena B, and not from B to A. This might come up when you encounter a particularly slope, a trap door that only opens one way, or maybe a heavy wind that keeps you from moving in the other direction.

Move Only or Ranged Only

There are some connections where you can either move through them or you can shoot through them, but not both. Arrow slits are an example of being able to shoot but not move.

Barriers

Sometimes a connection might have some kind of barrier that has to be overcome in order to open it up. Like a locked door or something. The GM may require a successful attribute check to get through the barrier. Or something like that.

Healing

The number one way your character is going to loose hit points is through combat. But dangerous actions can hurt them too. When your character heals they regain all of their HP all at once. How they heal and if they heal is determined by how many HP they have remaining.

0 HP Remaining

Your character is on the verge of death. Roll 1d12. If you get a 1, 2, or 3, then your character will need a healer to survive. Without that healer, the character will die soon. If you get a healer roll 1d12 again. On a 1, 2, or 3, that healer is unable to do anything for you. This is the end of your character’s story. Take a minute or two to talk about their last few minutes. Or their last few days. After all, your character might not die on the battlefield. They might die slowly, of infection, over the next couple of weeks. That’s up to you.

Assuming you roll a 4 or higher on either of those rolls, your character will survive. Regain your HP when you have a scene where your character gets an extended rest and someone takes care of their wounds for them.

1 or 2 HP Remaining

Your character is bloodied but they’ll survive. Regain your HP when you have a scene where your character gets a few days rest and someone takes care of their wounds for them.

3 or more HP Remaining

You can’t really call this a beating. More like a strenuous workout. You don’t need to be healed as much as you just need some relaxation. Regain your HP when you have a scene where your character has a good meal, a good drink, or a good conversation.

Adventure Construction

Adventures will be episodic. You can construct an adventure that builds on the events of a previous one, but these rules support creating stand-alone adventures. Each adventure contains three very important things: Monsters, Treasures, and NPCs.

Treasures

Every adventure will have at least one treasure worth stealing. Many adventures will have two or three of them. Treasures are never casual in their value. The smallest of treasures is valuable enough to feed a small village for a year.

The Real Value of a Treasure

Whenever you include a treasure, the players need to know what value it has to the characters around it. Is it an important idol for the local god? Is it a treasured heirloom? Good things or bad things (or both) will happen to people if the adventurers walk off with the treasure.

Useful Treasure

No treasure is ever useful for adventuring. They’re just XP waiting to happen. A treasure might be a big golden idol, but it’s never a big golden idol that gives the adventurer +2 to hit.

The XP Value of Treasures

Taking and keeping a treasure to the end of an adventure is worth an amount of experience points based on how famous the treasure is. An unnamed and unknown treasure is worth less than a famous treasure once owned by a famous person. You can find further details in the chapter on experience points and advancement.

Monsters

Monsters are creatures that do terrible things with terrible consequences. A dragon isn’t necessarily a monster. A dragon that steals the village livestock is a monster, because it’s messing with the livelihood of the villagers. Each adventure has at least one monster.

Monster Statistics

Monsters are here to be killed. So you’ll probably want to know exactly how tough they are and what they can do in combat. I’m not sure about how to properly balance the monsters against the PCs yet. But I think it may have to do with the ratio of players to powers. That is, the more players you have, the more powers you’ll want your monsters to have.

Hit Points

Monsters always have 10 hit points, no matter how big or small.

Weapon

Choose a single weapon type for the monster. Light, Ranged, Reach, Heavy or Very Heavy.

Armor

The base armor class of a monster is Light.

Powers

Each monster has at least one power. Most have more than one. Each power can only be taken once, unless it’s description says otherwise.

Attributes

Monsters usually have attributes that add up to about +10 or +15. A monster never has any individual attributes that are over +10 and usually only has one or two attributes that are over +5.

Monster Powers

Throw

Monster chooses a single target and makes an opposed Size roll. If the monster wins the PC is moved into an adjacent arena. This action is a free action when it follows a successful Attack action.

Siren

Monster makes an Eloquence roll against all targets in adjacent arenas. Targets may resist with Stubborn rolls. Everyone failing their roll must move into the same arena as the monster.

Entangle

Monster makes the terrain in it’s arena grab hold of the PCs. PCs attempting to Move or Push out of the arena after being entangled must roll Size vs. 7 or loose their action.

Bloodlust

Every time monster injures a PC, the monster gains a single Awesome Token.

Frenzied

Every time monster is injured, the monster gains two Awesome Tokens.

Many Headed

Monster may attack once per turn as a free action. This power may be taken more than once.

Impressive Weaponry

Monster’s weapons are crazy-big or otherwise impressive. Monster does 1 additional point of damage in every attack. This power may be taken more than once.

Blast

Every foe in the arena is subject to the monster’s attack. Compare the monster’s attack roll against every PC’s armor class. Divide the damage amongst every PC that had a low enough AC.

Minions

Monster may redirect any successful attack against it at an NPC or Mook in it’s same arena.

Heave

If the monster’s weapon is a ranged weapon, it may attack a target up to 2 arenas away. If the monster’s weapon is not a ranged weapon, it may attack a target in an adjacent arena.

Fast

Monster may move once per turn as a free action.

Internal Fire

When the monster spends Awesome Tokens, it gains +3 to hit or +2 damage.

Natural Weapons

Monster gains an additional d10 on it’s attack rolls.

Flight

Monster can fly.

Vicious

Monster may follow a successful attack action with a Show Off action.

Thick Skin

Monster has +1 Armor Class.

Hard to See

Monster has +1 Armor Class.

Secondary Weapon

The monster has two weapon types instead of one.

Mist Summoner

Monster may summon a thick cloud of mist, obscuring vision and making it’s current arena into a Hazardous arena.

NPCs

Every adventure should have at least a handful of people to interact with. NPCs don’t have to be just humans, or even relegated to the PC races of human, bear, snake, and fox. NPCs can be any fantasy race, even so-called monstrous ones. What separates monsters from NPCs in this game is more than skin deep.

Statistics

If you get into a combat or a conflict with an NPC, you’ll want to know how tough they are. Most NPCs rarely have better than 3 points total in their Attributes, and almost never have better than a +2 modifier in any single attributes. NPCs never have any powers or talents. At least nothing useful.

Relationships

Every NPC should be related to either a monster or a treasure or both. Maybe the monster is messing with their life. Or maybe they’re responsible for setting the monster free. Maybe the treasure used to belong to them. Or maybe they’re in the process of trying to hunt down the treasure for themselves.

With a little luck, by means of relating everyone to the monsters and to the treasures, we’ll find that all the NPCs are also related to each other. Either directly or indirectly.

Game Mastering

This system hasn’t had a great deal of playtesting yet, so I’m still a little up in the air about the best way to game master it. I know at least one GM has had success using a mostly improv style of running. However, since he used techniques and resources from outside this document, I’m not inclined to reproduce that information here. Instead, I’ll try to document how I intend to run the thing the next time I get the chance.

Bangs

In addition to sketching out a monster, treasure, and NPCs, I’ll jot down some bangs. Some little events that will prod the players into immediate action. The type of events where inaction on the part of the players is going to have an effect on the situation.

Chapter Structure

I’m going to try using a 3-Chapter structure. In the first chapter I’ll include lots of exposition. By the end of the first chapter I want the players to at least think they know everything that’s going on. In the second chapter I’ll escalate. I’ll take the situation I introduced in chapter one and change it. Some of the information presented in the first chapter may be contradicted in the second chapter. In the third chapter I expect the players to be off after the monster and/or the treasures. I don’t expect many bangs here, but there may be more exposition. The final bits of information should come to light.

I know that may not be very illuminating or instructive, but I think it’s the best material I can provide you before I get to playtest again.

XP and Advancement

As your character kills monsters, defeats characters and acquires treasure, he or she becomes more rich and famous. And that’s the goal. To become rich and famous. We keep track of your characters wealth and fame through the single currency of experience points. Or XP for short.

Gaining XP

There are several different ways to earn experience points for your character.

Kill a monster

The XP value of a monster is the sum of it’s attribute points plus five for every power it has. Everyone involved in a fight where a monster was killed gains the full XP value of the monster. There is no XP splitting in this game.

Defeat an NPC

If you defeat an NPC in combat, whether you show mercy or not, you gain 5 XP. Defeating Mooks in combat is worth 1 XP per mook. Like monster XP, everyone involved in the fight gains the XP. Don’t split anything.

Fight without Armor

If you’ve got the oomph to go through an entire fight without wearing any armor of any kind, that’s worth a +5 XP bonus.

First one down

If you are the first PC to hit 0 HP in a combat, that’s worth +5 XP bonus. This time it’s about your character learning from their mistakes. Or, at least, getting famous for those mistakes.

Killing blow

If your character makes the attack that drops the monster (and only a monster), you gain a +5 XP bonus.

Acquiring Treasure

There are three levels to the value of a treasure. A treasure is either unknown, famous, or legendary. It’s worth 10 XP, 20XP, or 50XP, respectively. This XP value is assigned to every member of the party who survived the adventure. No splitting. Note that you only get this XP if you take the treasure with you at the end of the adventure. If you lose it or give it away you get no XP for it.

Advancement

The more XP you get, the cooler your character gets. When you reach a new level you get to take on a new talent and add one point to one attribute. You may raise attributes over +5 in this way.

Advancement Table
XP Level
0 1
100 2
200 3
500 4
800 5
1000 Retirement

Retirement?

Yup. Eventually your character will be so rich and famous that it’s time to go home. That’s the end of their story. Time to start a new character.