Blood of the World Table Top development.
I posted on ecosophia that I have been running a table top game with friends inspired by JMG's 'Blood of the Earth' post. This Wednesday I will be running session three, and have already found a handful of issues in need of redesign, not to mention that it could use at least a few extra pages of explanation for folks who aren't familiar with the game play assumptions of PbtA styled RPGs. So it is, I am here posting the complete draft that I am running campaign 1 based on. I'll post right quick about a couple of changes I am already pretty sure will be needed for draft two. Also I need to come up with a few pages of extra content for how to GM the game, especially how threats and NPCs are to work.
I would like advise about what aspects of playing an RPG need be made explicit in a game text. Keep in mind that I am aiming to make the setting, and even many of the mechanics intentionally vague and evocative, so that each time the game is plays it is in an origional setting, defined not by general rules and principles, but by particular images and examples of what might be in the world, inviting players to sit down together, roll the dice and connect the dots. My goal is to develop a draft a group of people could use to come up with a fun experience together, which spins a pulpy adventure story of people doing daring, dangerous, and bold things to make the best of the circumstances of living in the context of a crumbling society supported by superhuman powers bled from the living world. I am going to further make a goal to fit all the essential aspects of the game into a 12 page document; though X number of extra pages of pulpy imagery, character ideas, story ancedotes, and so on would be cool, but the final essence ought fit in not more than 12 pages; this rought draft is only 5 pages, which allows room for a couple pages of character sheet (two sided) that detail character creation and has prompts for core rules; a couple pages to detail the principles the GM should mind in making the world feel alive and threats convincing but balanced; another page or so to provoke ideas for the game setting and how to handle the economics of a failing world.
Blood of the World
Welcome to a world dominated by a vast, decayed empire sustained by otherworldly powers controlled by abusing the Blood of the World; ruled by a decadent aristocracy holding court in soaring towers; backing the aristocracy is a caste of corrupt sorcerers whose incantations, carried over the realm by the power of the Blood, keep the masses disorganized, deluded, and passive; but once proud provinces of the Empire are ravaged by vengeful spirits, droughts, storms, and other disasters caused by the abuse of the Blood, while ancient prophesies warn of much worse to come.
Meanwhile, far from the centers of power, the members of a scattered fellowship struggle to find and learn the forgotten lore of an earlier time, which might just hold the secret of survival…
A viscous red liquid, with a metallic shine in direct light, The Blood is drawn from the World where archaic lay lines cross by means of a secretive alchemy. It acts like a solvent, allowing that material plane to intermingle more thoroughly with the subtle Etheric, Astral, and Abstract planes.
Certain classes of spirits find it irresistible, and greatly empowering, and will do great services to gain access to it. It allows, among other things, for spiritual effects to reach much more deeply into the material plane than would otherwise be possible. It seems to be very slightly addictive and intoxicating to humans as well who consume it as a conduit to the spirits the call upon; though perhaps only the power it contains is the addiction.
Once a common substance, whose trade formed the back bone of the Greal Empire, it has become more scarce in recent years, to the great distress of its users, human and spirit alike. Conflict for access to it has rended many a long standing alliance, and spirits longing for its taste have revenged themselves upon the World.
By its use a Novice might realize a spell or summon a spirit in a moment, when a Master would need an hour of ceremony to achieve as much. More directly can a spell be directed into material expression than the subtleties of the Old Ways. But, as its use has decreased, opening a vile now is apt to attract the attention of spirits who have been monstrously transformed by its use. Is the power worth the hazard?
Trade of the Blood, and political power generally is brokered in the Greal Empire. Once it’s will was law in every city ever mapped, but today its provinces of control are small and few, but still ludicrously wealthy. In the hinterlands beyond lawlessness, or at best crude law is the norm, and excepting those serving Greal interests, mistrust of the empire is the norm, though what must be done for Blood still needs doing.
The works of the Greal Empire in it’s prime are thick on the landscape, though often their magics have become feral and dangerous, if it remains at all. Few dare get close enough to find out, and fewer still don’t have their opinions. Only in Edremfuch, Rembayya, and Oberberonya do the towers of sorcerers still stand in full glory for the Empire. Beyond their reach cities are fewer and villages more sparse then the ruins of what was.
Most of the world is populated by humans, but there are other beings of sentience. Half-elves, sired by spiritual being seem human at first, but carry magic in their being. Dwarves, heirs to the products of magical experimentation meant to create superior workers still have uncanny skill in some areas. Beyond the humanoids many animals posses a surprizing degree of consciousness and even language. Spirits, and monsters.
THE FORCE IN THE BLOOD IS THE TEARS OF THE DEAD
WHAT DO THE DEAD KNOW, TO BRING THEM TEARS
AND WHY SHOULD IT ABSOLVE A MORTAL’S FEARS
THE PROUD WILL EAT MUD WHEN THE WORLD’S BEEN BLED
Rolling the dice: when you attempt something risky, sum 2d6 and add one of your attribute scores, based on the action you’re taking.
7or less is a miss; things don’t go well and the risk turns out badly.
8-10 is a partial success; you do it, but with cost, compromise, retribution, harm, etc.
11-12 is a full success; you do it without complications.
13 or more is a critical success; you do it perfectly to some extra benefit or advantage.
These are your attributes.
STRENGTH is allows feats of strength or greater amounts of damage with a physical attacked.
CONSTITUTION measures your health and resiliency to disease and injury.
DEXTERITY is used for doing most skilled physical actions, including fighting.
INTELLIGENCE used for all manner of perception and knowledge.
WILL is used to empower or resist magical effects, and to act freely of unwelcome influence.
CHARISMA measures how others are apt to perceive you, and what they are likely to do for you
• Roll hit dice equal to your CON+STR to determine your hit points.
• Whenever you have a rest you can re-roll your HP. If you rest in a comfortable and safe place you can automatically set your lowest dice to a 6. Sometimes the new hit points are lower, maybe you were hurt worse than it had seemed.
• If your hit points are reduced to zero you are unconscious. If they are brought below zero roll CONd6 and add the roll to your hit points, if they are still negative you are dead, otherwise if you hit points are positive you can still act, but you are badly wounded, detail with the GM.
• Unarmed fighting does 1d6 damage+STR.
• Attacking generally uses DEX, like most actions requiring balanced skillful movement.
• When many enemies damage a single one, the highest of their damages is rolled as many times as there are attackers. Keep the highest value.
When you interact with another character, in conversation for example, roll INT, on a success you get 3 of the following questions you can ask the DM, on a partial you get 1.
Are they telling the truth? What are they really feeling?
What do they intend to do? What do they wish of me?
How can I get them to ______? Of what are they oblivious?
Reading a scene works similar
Where is the path I seek? What is useful or valuable to me here?
What is the biggest threat to me? What should I be on the lookout for?
Who’s in control here? Why is this here?
What happened here recently? What here is not as it seems?
Most magic requires summoning a spirit to perform supernatural effects. A spirit has a name, an appearance, and two domains of power (secrets, flame, shadow, stone, love, lightning, bears, grief, etc.). To summon a spirit you know, requires 1 hour of uninterrupted ritual.
Commanding a spirit to perform a magical effect that falls beyond its domains or inclinations requires special bindings. If such techniques are used it’s a good idea to give specific commands; spirits and demons can be capricious and cruel.
Magical attacks do WIL+INTd6 damage or WIL+CHAd6 damage, or WIL+INT+CHAd6 if they are especially suited to the situation (using fire against a frost wraith, for example).
Most magical effects, except some natural magic, require an hour or more of concentrated effort, from when your intention is set. Some magic effects can be held to trigger at a later point. By imbibing a vile of World’s Blood the time required all transpires in the astral plane in such a way as to seem nearly instant on the material.
When you make a gesture to charm or manipulate someone roll CHA. With a success they are inclined to trust or sympathize with you, and will go along with you unless they are willing to escalate the situation. With a partial success they can choose to ask you for evidence, compramise, time, or assurances; but if you can provide those they are left in the same situation.
If you have an applicable skill, you cannot miss. A roll of 6 or less counts as a partial success, all be it with a bigger complication than a 7-9 result.
The basic skills could be things like athletics, awareness, deception, decipher, healing, leadership, lore, stealth, and survival, or anything the GM approves.
Whenever you fail a roll, or get to rewrite a bond mark an experience box. Any time it would be appropriate in fiction you may spend 5 experience to mark an advancement.
[_] [_] [_] [_] +1 to any attribute (Max=3)
[_] [_] [_] you get a new special ability
[_] [_] you get a new skill
Create your character at the table, with other players, bounce ideas off one another for backstory, motives, and connections. Remember you are a fellowship looking for the secrets of, at very least, surviving the disasters fated to befall the Empire and the World it so tenuously rules.
Attributes: roll 2d6 for each, in order, of Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. On a 2-6 the value is 1, on a 7-9, the value is 2. on a 10 or 11, the value is 3. on a 12, the value is 4.
Choose one skill. Specific things that you have trained to the point you cannot fail at.
Brawler: +4 damage on melee attacks.
Weapon Mastery: Choose a kind of weapon and an attribute. When fighting with said weapon you can always use that attribute in the rolls.
Berserker: You can unleash a frenzied fury that gives you +4 armor; but you risk losing control of yourself on failed rolls during the trance.
Slippery: Whenever you're aware and free of restraints you get +2 armor.
Alchemist: You can prepare mysterious potions. Start with two known formulae.
Bard: You may give +1 or -1 to one roll of any who saw your last performance
Elven Realm: You have natural power over one (ice, a forest, shadows at dusk, etc), and can attempt to command it.
Eerie Charm: When someone sees you, tell the GM say how he/she feels.
Giant: You're bigger than normal people (how much is up to your GM). When you roll for HP, add 10.
Trollnose: Your nose is so sharp you can attempt to smell feelings and thoughts.
Sneaker: You can slip bindings, pick pockets, and conceal things on your person.
Trickster: You can retroactively claim you've done things offscreen -like setting a trap or stealing a thing-. It must make sense, and you must still roll to see how well you did it
Acrobat: You can attempt impossible jumping and balance feats.
True namer: You can attempt to bargain with animals, trees and things.
Dwarven heratage: You can spend time to craft uncanny things, if you have the tools.
Professor: Choose two narrow fields of study (trolls, poisons, crime history, ancient gods, noble birthlines). When investigating or manipulating things related to them you always achieve something useful.
Hunch: State what you'd like to know and choose anybody to ask or anything to examine. Once a day, it will give you just the clue you were looking for even on a miss.
Hypnotism: By using a focus you can attempt to mesmerize people to make them search for lost memories or give them subtle orders.
Soothsayer: You can use divination to ask any question about the future, present or past.
Summoner: You can conjure spirits to act in your behalf. You start with two known spirits. Spirits have their own personality and agenda, and dealing with one is always dangerous.
Shapeshift: You can assume an animal form. You gain all the natural abilities of this shape, but when transformed you risk acting by pure instinct or letting yourself into the beast. You can learn other forms through the game.
Banisher: Focusing your will through a pure iron awl you can drive spirits away.
Herminutic Binding: If you can draw or summon a spirit into a hermetic circle of your construction you can command it.
Endurance: You can always roll to resist poisons or illnesses, and whenever you rest it always counts as comfortable rest to you, no matter the harsh conditions.
Sharpshooter: +4 damage on ranged attacks.
Hunter: When you are seeking quarry, you cannot be ambushed by it.
Animal companion: You can speak and understand each other in your own way, it is loyal and effective.
All characters start with (d6xd6xd6) silvercoins:
Weapons (5s - 60s): Weapons do STRd6 damage + a bonus which is added when the weapon is used in a situation that plays to its virtues; a dagger in a confined space, a spear to keep an enemy at bay, a hunter’s bow from ambush, a dueling sword in single combat, etc.
Light armor (5s): +1 armor
Heavy Armor (10s): +2 armor
Full armor (40s): +4 armor, hinders movement.
Small Shield (7s): +2 armor
Large Shield (12s): +5 armor (very unwieldy)
Blood of the World (5s+): A vile of World’s Blood, each time you buy some the GM will roll 2d6 the price has risen by the difference between the dice.
Traveling Gear (1s each): Week of rations - Coil of Rope - Tobacco Pipe - Waterskin - Whiskey Bottle - Bandages - Tinderbox - Chalk – Tent - French Deck - 6 arrows/ammo rounds - Winter Cloak - Torch
Tools (3s each): Shovel/Hatchet - Fishing rod - Quill & Ink - hammer & pliers - Grappling hook - Weighted net – Garden hoe – large candle – Pick axe
Odd thingummies (10s each): - Flute - A book on a random subject – lantern - A flask of poison - A vial of acid - Fire Oil – Mirror – Elegant garb -
Some beasts: Hunting dog (10s, 10hp, d6 bite; keen scent) - Domestic Goat (8s, 10HP, d6 kick, distrustful) - Mule (14s. 10 hp, d6 kick, stubborn) - Horse (30s, 10hp, d6 kick, fast) - Raven (10s, 2HP, beak 1 damage, clever) - Hawk (20s, 5HP, d6 claws)
Transport and propierties: Rowboat (20s) - Wagon (40s) - Coach (100s) - Fishing Boat (200s) - Small house (400s) - Small Inn (2000s)
Taverns: 1s to sleep and eat, another silver might afford ample drink, or other refreshments and recreations.
A week of hard labor: 2d6s
GMing the game.
When a player roles a partial success on a roll, they do what they sought to do, but you get to make a soft move against the players which best follows from the fiction.
-Counter their action with another – the enemy attacks them simultaneously, a socialite throws a fit when they try to confront her.
-Delay their next action – they are stunned from a sharp blow to the head, they have to gather the coins that have fallen to the ground.
-Distract them – they don’t immediately notice the tripwire up ahead, a dancer draws their attention away from an assassin.
-Disturb their sensibilities – reveal the horror or insanity of the world around them, expose them to terrible truths.
-Escalate the situation – a fire spreads to a neighboring building, a crowd starts to run in panic.
-Exaggerate what they experience – make things seem more terrible than they are or, conversely, safer.
-Impair their thoughts or actions – give them a general -1 penalty for a short time, knock away a useful tool or weapon.
-Impede their movements or progress – block their escape route, trip them with vines or loose stones.
-Impose a compromise on their success – they can only succeed IF they allow something else to happen, too.
-Provoke them into action – taunt them into attacking, introduce some danger and ask “What do you do?”
When a player fails a roll, you get to make a hard move, remember you are not playing against your players, but trying to give them the most interesting challenges, it should follow from the fiction.
-Capture them – kidnap them, drop them in a pit, have a giant grab one of them.
-Conceal something important – they find nothing in the room...because it was hidden!
-Control their actions, directly or indirectly – an ally is mistaken for an enemy, they are blackmailed into inaction.
-Corrupt their minds or bodies – a cursed amulet makes them dream of horrible things, feral magics deform their body.
-Defame their actions or intent – they are mistaken for thugs, their words are misconstrued by the court magistrate.
-Inflict harm or effects – they are attacked, a spell makes them vomit uncontrollably.
-Destroy something important to them – a sword is broken in the middle of a fight, a loved one is murdered during the night.
-Overwhelm them with great force, while leaving an opportunity – a strike hits them for great damage but leaves the attacker vulnerable, a mob rushes at them but makes it easier to slip away in the fray.
-Prevent them from doing something – a spell keeps a door locked and sturdy, an orc destroys the bridge they want to cross.
-Reinforce the enemy – the enemy goblins are joined by orc raiders, a Sigmarite is infused with godly power.
-Separate the characters – a cave-in splits them into two smaller groups, constables put them into different rooms for questioning.
-Surprise them and force them to react – a volley of arrows is fired from afar, a mirror disgorges shadow beasts when they aren’t looking.