- The Setting
- Basic Combat
- Advantages and Disadvantages
- Combat Order
- Example Combat: Step by Step
- The Setting
- Making a Character
Throughout the known and civilised world there is a good general understanding of both metallurgy and mechanisms. While there is no electricity or black powder, through magic, alchemy or metallurgy advanced metallic compounds with great strength or flexibility can be fairly easily produced.
Anyone can learn to do magic but it's a complex, difficult and sometimes dangerous skill to learn. Most people don't have the opportunity or the drive to learn, and those who only dabble can rarely achieve useful effects. On top of that it's also physically and mentally taxing and doing something via magic is often as tiring as it would be to do it manually, although it might well be faster and eliminate the need for specialist tools. Despite all this, those who do take the time to master one of more magic skills can do incredible things. Magic can change, shape and animate but it cannot create something from nothing.
Alchemy is commonplace and more accepted as part of daily life than magic. Things like light and heat can be easily and consistently produced for relatively low cost and it also has recreational use in the form of a range of substances that evoke moods. Basic alchemical processes are shared freely between those with training, but there is a lot of secrecy and mistrust around more complex formulas as they have great value. There are also known alchemical treatments which affect the growth and development of a person which have led to the effective creation of new races.
Faith plays a strong part in many people's lives and it's widely understood that the souls of faithful join with their deity when they die. Some few individuals are gifted abilities by a deity to act as champions and exemplars. These gifted individuals do not necessarily hold positions of high authority within a hierarchy, but are more often preachers and missionaries using both words and actions to spread the faith. Most individuals hold to a single faith but may pray to or call on other deities dependent on the situation.
Interaction between players and the world is done through declaration and checks. declaration is a simple matter of saying what you want to happen. In some cases, it'll just happen, for example if you want to open or shut an unlocked door. For actions that aren't a guaranteed success, you may have to make one or more checks to succeed.
All checks are made by rolling three six sided dice, adding a relevant skill if you have one and then adding to or subtracting from the result based on circumstance (see advantages and disadvantages below). Some checks have a fixed difficulty and have a target score (TS) that must be equaled or beaten to succeed. Other checks are opposed checks where you have to beat a check made by someone else. For opposed checks the attacker or instigator wins draws.
Target Score Examples:
|Difficulty||Success chance||Example Tasks|
|A character with no aptitude or prior training will succeed at this task four times out of five, a character with some aptitude or skill (checking at +3) will almost never fail.||For example: jumping onto a table, getting a camp fire going if you've got flint and steel, breaking a window with a brick without hurting yourself, tracking someone across wet mud, activating a device, staunch a wound to stop someone bleeding.|
|A character with no aptitude has about an even chance of success. A character with some training (+3) succeeds three quarters of the time.||For example: Identify an uncommon plant, identify a common illness, jump across a 2m gap, craft a good quality item, kick down a normal door, craft a simple glamour with light magic, use a magic skill to disadvantage an enemy, mix a basic alchemical substance in a lab from a formula, persuade a merchant to cut you a better deal.|
|A character with no aptitude is far more likely to fail than succeed (91%), and even a character with some training has only an even chance to succeed. (40% at +3, 50% at +4) An artisan / veteran (checking at +6) completes tasks of this difficulty about three quarters of the time.||For example: Break down a sturdy door, identify a rare plant or disease, land a fall of 3m without hurting yourself, mix a complex alchemical substance in a lab from a formula, stabilise a life threatening wound, persuade a royal guard you need to be let into the palace without an appointment.|
|A novice has almost no chance of completing a task of this nature. An artisan / veteran Only succeeds four times out of 10 (checking at +6).||For example: Work out that someone was killed by a rare and specific poison or disease, mix a potion that turns you invisible or forces you to speak the truth, enchant an item with a permanent effect, scry on someone across any distance, pick an unpickable lock, kick down a re-enforced door.|
For example, if Ikar wants to use his Fire magic skill to start a campfire, which is a trivial task, he needs to make a fire check using 3d6 + his fire skill and get at least 9. If he does so, he successfully starts a fire.
If he wants to hit someone with his war axe, he needs to make an attack check using his two handed skill. His target would then make a defence check with any skill they have that they can use to defend themselves, such as the shield skill. If his attack check equals or beats his opponents defence check he hits them and they take a wound.
Using the same skill multiple times in a round (like attacking then defending with the same weapon) reduces the dice you can roll each time by one, to a minimum of one dice. This penalty resets at the beginning of your turn.
In combat, players act in turns. You can take two actions on your turn, unless it’s the very beginning of combat and you’re going first, in which case you can only take one. You can use an action to:
- Move up to 10m. You can make some of a move before and some of a move after another action if you’re taking two actions this turn. You can’t move through an area that’s got an enemy in it and you have to finish a move in an empty space.
- Use an offensive skill to attack an opponent
- Use a skill to distract or disadvantage one or more opponents
- Use, consume, apply or activate an item
- Prepare yourself to take an action, giving you a +1 bonus if it’s the next action you take.
You can also do some things when it’s not your turn, such as use a defensive or weapon skill to defend yourself against an attack. You can also do things like talking on your turn without using an action to do them.
You can use a skill as many times as you have opportunity to in a round, but each time you use a skill after the first you roll one less dice (to a minimum of 1). This resets at the beginning of your turn. For example, if Ikar makes two attacks with his war axe, he uses 3d6 for the first two handed skill check and 2d6 for the second. If he is then attacked he can try and defend using his two handed skill but he can only use 1d6, or he can use a different skill that he’s not used yet at 3d6. When it’s his turn again his skills reset and he can start making checks with three dice again.
To attack someone you make an opposed check using an offensive skill you have against a defensive skill your target has. If you are successful you inflict a wound on your opponent. If you succeed by more than the lethality value of your weapon you inflict a serious wound. Most one handed weapons have a lethality of 6, and most two handed weapons have a lethality of 3.
For failed melee attacks, there is a chance that you will be counter attacked. In addition to having a lethality value, weapons have a speed value which represents how easy they are to counter attack with. If you fail your attack check by the the speed of your opponent’s weapon or more you take a wound. If you are unlucky enough to fail your attack by (lethality + speed) of your opponent's weapon you take a serious wound. Most one handed weapons have a speed of 3 and most two handed weapons have a speed of 6. Note that you can only be counter attacked if your opponent used a weapon skill for their opposed check.
If you successfully attack someone who is unable to defend themselves you may choose to deal a serious wound.
Each time you are attacked you can use an appropriate skill to defend yourself. You need to score more than your attacker to prevent the attack. What is appropriate will be dependant on the situation you are in and the nature of the attack. In general attacks against you will be melee or ranged. Melee combat skills are appropriate to defend against melee attacks but not ranged attacks. Nimbleness, Shields and the magic skills Arcane Sight and Self can be used against both melee and ranged attacks. The magic skills Air Weaving and Distance Twisting can be used against ranged attacks. In certain situations it may be appropriate to use other skills to defend, for example you might be able to use Stealth to defend against ranged attacks in a poorly lit area with a lot of cover, or Earth Shaping while fighting in a narrow subterranean corridor.
If you are defending against a melee attack with a melee combat skill and you beat the attacker’s check by at least the speed value of your weapon you inflict a wound on them. If you beat them by at least the combine value if the speed and lethality of your weapon you inflict a serious wound on them.
Regardless of how you are defending yourself there is still a minimum threshold that an attack needs to reach to hit you, this is your character’s minimum defence, which for an unarmoured, uninjured character is 9. If you score less than your minimum defence when defending with any skill, replace your check result with your minimum defence. Your minimum defence can be increased by putting on armour and drops as you take wounds.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Checks can be influenced by factors beyond the skills and abilities of those involved. In game these factors are represented by advantages and disadvantages. Each advantage any character has grants a +1 bonus on checks, and each disadvantage confers a -1 penalty. They are often situational and it's up to the GM to decide what constitutes an advantage / disadvantage if there's any uncertainty.
Advantages and disadvantages are applied to the player whose turn it is / the attacking or initiating player. So if you're attacking someone from a high ground position and they they’re stuck in place you get +2 to your attack check. If they try and attack you back on their turn, they get -2 to their check. Not all advantages and disadvantages are symmetric, for example if you're trying to make a ranged attack against someone who is in cover, you suffer a -1 penalty on your attack but they won’t have an advantage shooting back at you.
Some common sense needs to be applied when calculating advantages and disadvantages, sometimes a single factor may be worth more than a single plus or minus one, for example someone who’s stuck up to their ankles in wet mud is definitely at a disadvantage, but the same person stuck up to their thighs is almost certainly at -2 to melee checks. If everyone is in the same situation though, no one has an advantage.
Example Advantages: You have the high ground, you and your allies outnumber nearby opponents, you have the perfect tool for the job, your target is unaware of you.
Example Disadvantages: You are using a non melee skill while next to an enemy armed with a melee weapon, you are surrounded by enemies, you can't move freely (ensnared, shifting ground, balancing), you're demoralised, you have limited vision, you are making a ranged attack against a target where you don't have a clear shot.
Wearing armour is an excellent way to minimise the chances of getting hit in combat. Wearing armour increases your minimum defence but applies a penalty to skill checks such as nimbleness, pick pocket, stealth and magic as well as to the speed of your weapon. The penalty may also apply to other skill checks depending on the situation.
There are many different kinds of armour, but they fall into four general categories:
|Light||Minimum defence increased by 2||Checks and speed penalised by 1|
|Medium||Minimum defence increased by 4||Checks and speed penalised by 2|
|Heavy||Minimum defence increased by 6||Checks and speed penalised by 3|
The number of wounds you've taken represents general battle wear on your character, they're not life threatening by themselves but as your character gets more wounded tasks become more difficult. All check results are reduced by the number of wounds your character has taken, so a character who's been hit twice has suffered two wounds and takes a -2 penalty on all checks. Each wound also lowers a character's minimum defence by 1.
A serious wound represents a solid hit on your character. Add one to your wounds count as normal for taking a hit, then roll on the table below and record where you've been hit.
|Score||Location||Serious Wound||Crippling Wound|
|1||Left Leg||Your left leg has taken a serious hit and isn't working properly. Your movement speed is halved and you suffer a -2 penalty on all movement related checks.||You lose the use of the leg, the -2 penalty and half movement become permanent.|
|2||Right Leg||Your right leg has taken a serious hit and isn't working properly. Your movement speed is halved and you suffer a -2 penalty on all movement related checks.||You lose the use of the leg, the -2 penalty and half movement become permanent.|
|3||Torso||You hurt, everything is more difficult and you have to be more careful with everything you do. You suffer an additional -1 penalty to all checks involving physical activity.||You start bleeding out, if you don't receive a successful heal check within a few minutes (TS 12+current wounds) you die.|
|4||Left Arm||Your left arm has taken a serious hit and is pretty much useless. Whatever you were using in that arm you drop unless it was strapped on. You also suffer a -2 penalty to anything that would require the use of both arms (climbing, using a 2h weapon).||You lose the use of the arm. The -2 penalty to actions needing both arms becomes permanent.|
|5||Right Arm||Your right arm has taken a serious hit and is pretty much useless. Whatever you were using in that arm you drop unless it was strapped on. You also suffer a -2 penalty to anything that would require the use of both arms (climbing, using a 2h weapon).||You lose the use of the arm. The -2 penalty to actions needing both arms becomes permanent.|
|6||Head||You've taken a serious blow to the head, you can't think as clearly or react as fast as usual. You suffer a further -1 penalty to all checks.||You die. Sorry.|
Player characters and serious wounds
It’s up to you how your character behaves when they’ve taken one or more serious wounds. After you’ve taken a serious wound you can choose to become incapacitated or to fight on. An incapacitated character can only take a single action each turn, moves at half speed and any wound they would take is a serious wound, so drawing undue attention to yourself while in this state is not advisable. If you would take a second serious wound to a location you’ve already taken a serious wound to, you suffer a crippling wound in that location instead.
Non-heroic characters and wounds
Non-heroic characters automatically become incapacitated when they take a serious wound or when they pass a certain number of wounds. Generally speaking, non combatants will become incapacitated after taking any kind of hit, militia, non-veteran guards, bouncers and similar can take 2-4 wounds before becoming incapacitated.
Characters recover wounds naturally over time, usually at the rate of one per day, however at your GM’s discretion some wounds may heal faster than others, for example if you’ve had a punch up with a local thug and taken a wound it may well have healed up in a couple of hours, but if you’ve taken a wound from being hit by a mace it’s likely to take a good night’s sleep to recover.
Serious wounds require basic treatment using the heal skill (TS 9) within an hour of receiving them to stop them becoming crippling wounds. Crippling wounds require treatment within a day (TS 15) or they become mortal wounds, resulting in death. To remove the penalty for a serious wound, a TS 12+wounds heal check is required after which it begins healing and the penalty disappears after a week (this duration can be tuned depending on how brutal a campaign you want). Crippling wounds cannot be healed by mortal means.
Combat begins with whichever group starts the combat getting a single action. After that, each group of participants acts, in an order of their choosing. Within the group's actions the order isn't fixed and can be changed turn by turn to take account of wounded party members or to gang up on an opponent effectively. If the players are unable to agree a combat order, either get new players or use awareness checks to determine order.
From a player perspective combat could look like: We start the fight and get a single action each (in any order the players are happy with), enemy gets a full turn, we get a full turn (probably in the same order as before but could change if needed), enemy gets a full turn etc.
Why the player choice?
The fact that successive checks with the same skill happen on less dice means that combat order can be fairly important. This gives players the opportunity to try and play tactically into opponents, be it by using ranged attacks to soften up a target or by making sure an opponent can't defend with three dice against a two handed weapon to bring a swift end to a combat. Additionally, having everyone in a group act together means it is much easier to keep track of who's used which skill and means that everyone in a group resets to 3d6 for checks at about the same time.
Example Combat: Step by Step
Jenna (Heavy armour, longsword, steel shield, main hand +3, shield +3) and Ikar (No armour, large war axe, two handed +2, fire +4, distance +3) are set upon by four bandits (various weapons, light armour, main hand +1, ranged +1) while breaking camp in the morning.
As it becomes clear to the bandits that Jenna and Ikar aren't going to just hand over their valuables, they move in to attack. Ikar has had the forsight to move a few steps behind Janna, so three of them use their utility actions to move in and then their attack actions to attack her while one nocks an arrow and fires it at Ikar.
The bandit with a bow makes an attack check against Ikar using his ranged skill (+1). He rolls 3d6 +1 and gets 12. Before he knows what the attacker has scored, Ikar must choose how to defend himself. He uses distance magic to try and teleport the arrow off course, rolling 3d6 +3. The bandit scores 12 but Ikar gets a total of 15, so the arrow misses him.
Jenna already has her sword and shield out as she was expecting trouble. When the first bandit attacks her he has the advantage as she's outnumbered so he rolls 3d6 and adds 2 (scoring a total of 10). Jenna decides to defend with her sword. She's not used it yet this turn so she makes a main hand check on 3d6 and adds 3, scoring a total of 15 which is not only enough to stop the attack but also to counter attack (as she beat his score by more than 3), inflicting a wound on the bandit, who will now suffer a -1 penalty on all his checks.
The second bandit also attacks (3d6+2 as Jenna's still outnumbered scoring 14) and this time Jenna uses her shield to defend (3d6 + 3 scoring 16). She deflects the attack but nothing more happens.
The third bandit attacks (again, rolling 3d6+2 and this time scoring 16). Janna has already used both her main hand and shield skills to defend so whichever she uses she can only roll 2d6. She decides to use her sword and makes a main hand check (2d6+3) and gets 9. Fortunately she's wearing heavy armour so she has a minimum defence of 15 which replaces her score. She still takes a wound but if she hadn't been in armour she'd have taken a serious wound as well.
It's now Jenna's turn and all of her skills reset to checking on 3d6. She uses her attack action to strike at the bandit who wounded her. Because she's outnumbered she is disadvantaged and takes a -1 penalty on the check. She suffers another -1 penalty because of the wound she's taken so she rols 3d6 and adds 1. The bandit tries to defend using his main hand skill but because he attacked he can only use 2d6. Jenna gets 17 and the bandit gets 9 which is replaced by his minimum defence of 11 because of his light armour. Jenna has still beaten him by 6 or more points so she inflicts a serious wound. She rolls 1d6 and gets a 6, meaning she's hit him in the head. Not being especially hardy, this is enough to drop the bandit.
It's now Ikar's turn and with the odds now looking a bit fairer he decides to get involved, using fire magic to throw flames from the breakfast campfire at the bandit with the bow. Ikar makes a fire check (3d6+4) and the bandit makes a nimbleness check to try and avoid it (3d6+0 as he has no points in the skill) Ikar gets 19 and the bandit gets 12, taking a serious wound. Ikar rolls for location and gets 4 which is the bandit's right arm, he drops his bow and falls to the floor. Ikar then uses an action to move up next to Jenna, while drawing his war axe.
About 200 years ago, the civilised areas of the known world were at the height of a magical and technological revolution, referred to by scholars as the Age of Advancement. The church of Cereth who stands for advancement and progress held sway in Jali and new applications for magics, new types of alchemy and new metals and devices were being found and devised at an astonishing rate. Sharing of knowledge for the betterment of all and investigation and experimentation were the orders of the day.
To that end, a grand project was unveiled to make passing information and people between the great cities of the day as easy as walking down the street. Distance twisting magic had long been used by a select few to create brief links between doorways but this ambitious project was to create an array of permanent Horizon Arches. Each arch would be big enough to take four men abreast and would provide permanent and easy to use links between the capitals of each involved country, hugely improving trade and communication.
The Age of Advancement came to an abrupt end the day the Horizon Arches were linked. Huge crowds had gathered to see these marvels, merchants and kings, the rich and the powerful, all keen to witness the culmination of many years of hard work and investment, all of them snatched away in an instant when each of the Arches exploded. Society was essentially decapitated that day and while scholars mark that day as the start of the Age of Caution, the next 20 years were a time of terrible instability. The rulership of every advanced society of the known world was gone, thousands more were injured, whole sections of some cities were brought down. Panic, blame and anarchy were the order of the day.
Records from that time are incomplete and often conflicting but common themes emerge throughout. The Arches were a magical project and had brought untold devastation to millions, people lashed out at those they perceived to be responsible. The practice of magic fell out of favour in many areas for several generations and encouraged secrecy and caution in those who didn't give it up completely. Much research information from that time has been lost or destroyed and even now researching new applications for magic has fallen by the wayside in favour of alchemical and metallurgical research which are considered to be safer.
In Jali, the city of the gods, Cereth fell out of favour and the High Priest of Intan, the Preserver ascended to the role of Arch High Priest. The practice of magic was banned in the city for a century and it was decreed that all new alchemical discoveries must be brought before the newly created Order of Limitation to be recorded and have their uses and application approved.
In Morn, an enterprising and powerful moneylender began providing financial assistance to those nobles who had survived the disaster while they squabbled for the crown. In the end he effectively owned the entire kingdom, a debt he called in when a victor finally emerged. The nobility of Morn now have to buy their titles from the crown estate, but trades done in Morngate or Mornhold are not subject to tax, making the country a thriving hub of commerce.
The Unity of Harmony, a social commune started as an experiment by a wealthy noble to see if through alchemy and magic a new and better kind of society could be forged, one not limited by the trappings of finance, retreated from the world. They closing off their settlements to visitors and traders alike, doing their best to be forgotten by the world. Occasionally their members can be found out in the world making trade or gathering news.
The Dominion of Zun arose from several of the smaller kingdoms of the southern Empire, with the church of Zun stepping in to provide "stability and support" for those who converted and tense borders with ongoing conflict ranging from small scuffles to outright wars for their neighbouring kingdoms.
Making a Character
Each character has a heritage, a background, skills and edges.
While the majority of people in the world are normal humans, exposure to raw magics and alchemical meddling has created several distinct subraces over the past few hundred years. Your character can choose one of the following heritages. While there are people in the world who have multiple heritages, player characters are restricted to one for balance reasons. The alchemical races are genetically dominant and exclusive, a child who has one parent from an alchemical heritage and one human parent will be of the alchemical heritage, and two differing alchemical heritages cannot procreate with each other.
|Human||The baseline against which everyone else is measured, humans have no specific predispositions or defining racial traits.
Humans start play with 1 extra edge and 3 extra skill points. They may also select an additional background.
|Seeker||Alchemically bred to act as spies and infiltrators at the height of development that led to the shattering, seekers are small and lithe, four or five feet tall and about three quarters the weight of a similarly sized human. While they view themselves as seekers, gatherers or liberators the rest of the world often refers to them by less flattering names such as child-men or skulkers. Seekers have excellent control over their own bodies, able to soften bones and alter their skin pigmentation.|
Seekers start play with 1 point in the self skill, and get a +3 bonus to hide checks.
|Brute||Alchemically bred to act as front line troops, brutes are big and tough, standing six to seven feet tall. They are valued for their size, strength and hardiness and often unfairly and without justification viewed as being less intelligent than average.|
Brutes ignore the first wound inflicted on them each combat and get a +1 bonus on checks involving melee weapons or shields.
|Guardian||Alchemically bred to act as bodyguards and high end guards, guardians share the range of normal human body types, although they tend to be fitter and healthier. Guardians are valued for their quick reaction times and loyalty.|
Guardians get a +2 bonus on awareness checks, can take an extra action (either attack or utility) in the first round of combat and may make defence checks using weapon skills for allies who are adjacent to them.
|Chosen||Alchemically bred for perfection, chosen are created through a series of expensive alchemical treatments starting at birth and lasting throughout childhood which corrects physical defects and sharpens mental skills. |
Chosen get a +1 bonus to all mundane skills and are immune to all disease, poison and ingested alchemical effects (including drugs and alcohol).
|Infused||Natural mages, infused are easily identified by their glowing eyes but otherwise look like normal humans. |
Infused start play with the Arcane Talent edge and get a +1 bonus to all arcane skill checks.
A background represents your characters upbringing and prior experience through edges, skill points and passive benefits. Humans can have two backgrounds and all other heritages get one. When mixing heritages it's up to you how you reconcile any differences between them.
|Noble||A child of a noble house, your character has had a wealth of education. Your character gains the Lore edge twice and starts play with a high quality weapon (or equivalent). A noble upbringing will have an effect on predispositions towards you.|
|Scholar||You have made an extensive study of a range of subjects. You get the benefit of the Lore edge for pretty much any topic as well as the Scholar edge twice.|
|Artisan||You have the Artisan and Master Craftsman edges, as well as access to tools and equipment required for your profession, either through ownership of a property or portable equipment. You also start with an additional 100pr.|
|Merchant||You are an experienced trader, you get 1 point in Persuade and 1 point in Awareness as well as an additional 200pr. Additionally you can always haggle for a discount of some kind when making a significant purchase.|
|Preacher||An advocate for a deity, although not necessarily a Gifted one, you start play with Lore (Religion), 2 points in Persuasion, access to resources and support from local churches of your faith.|
|Gifted Faithful||An exemplar of your deity, you get the Divine Gift edge, any other Divine edge and Lore (Religion). You can also expect basic support from churches of your faith, although they are more likely to turn to you for help.|
|Harmony of Unity||The Harmony of Unity is a community that believes in better living through use of magic and technology. The community is mainly self sufficient and doesn't use money internally. You get the Arcane Talent edge, 1 point in the Plants skill and 1 point in the Animal affinity skill.|
|Lowborn City Dweller||You grew up in a rough area. You get 2 points in the Brawling skill, 1 point in the Awareness skill and the Streetwise edge. You also have contacts who have easy access to the criminal underworld.|
|Veteran||You’ve been a guard, a soldier or a mercenary in the past. You get 1 point in two weapon or shield skills of your choice.|
|Alchemist||You’re a trained and approved alchemist. You get the Alchemist edge, a basic alchemy kit and 1 point in each alchemy skill.|
|Tinkerer||You like messing with devices. You get 2 points in Tinkering, 1 point in Ranged and start play with an assortment of devices.|
|Canyon Walker||You grew up in a tribe from Vivan a harsh, mountainous region where air magic is taught to many. You get the Arcane Talent edge, 2 points in the Air Weaving skill and the Windwalker edge.|
Characters start with 7 experience points in addition to the benefits from heritage and backgrounds. Each point of experience will buy one rank in a skill or an edge. You can't spend more than two points in any skill when creating a character and can never have spent more than a total of six points in any skill. Spend experience on skills and edges, pick a name and buy some equipment (normal starting money is 300pr) and you're done*.
*Almost done. If you've bought any Alchemy skills, you'll need to learn some recipes. For each point you have in Alchemy(Adhesion), Alchemy(Augmentation) and Alchemy(Reaction) you can start play with two recipes that skill can make that have a TS to make of 15 or less. Once you've picked recipes, for each experience point you've spend in an alchemy skill, you can have 2 alchemical substances you can make with that skill.