Saturday, January 3, 2015

More on Lost Songs of the Nibelungs: Terminology and Core Systems

After giving first impressions of the concept I'm aiming at with Lost Songs of the Nibelungs (LSotN), it's now time to give a more detailed description of the system I have in mind and fix some terms for future reference.

Playing a bit with the visuals and the sub-title.
Nothing fixed yet ... (I used scribus and inkscape here)
Core Qualities, Traits, Skills and Edges

First of, there will be no set of classes in LSotN. A player will be able to build his own individual combination of traits associated with the classic class system presented in D&D (like casting spells or back-stabbing, etc.) by deciding with every new level which Quality (D&D terminology: Ability Score) adds to the Core.

In selecting a quality as core, a number of traits become available a player can choose from. So if a player wants his character to be able to cast spells, he needs to choose the quality with those traits and invest points into it (new level = number of points available to invest in traits).

With every new level a character additionally gets 1 core point to add to his qualities. A quality may not be chosen more than 5 times and for humans one quality needs always be leading as Primary Core Quality with at least 1 core point more than the others (playable fairy creatures like dwarves and elves won't be restricted like that, but maybe by level).

Core Points also act as a quality's bonus. So how high a bonus is does not depend on how high a quality is, but on the number of times it is selected.

The reasoning behind this is that all qualities are considered as pools, in a way, and will be subject to change quite often during a game (my examples in the first post had been the quality for Constitution, which will function as a buffer for  the hit points and Wyrd as a pool of points to influence a characters fate, all other qualities will have similar mechanics associated with them).

This way there's no need for a player to correct a bonus every time his character looses points in a quality and gets a fixed bonus instead. Another merit might be that a player is free to choose even lower qualities as core (it's still 3d6 in a row on this one, so there will be low qualities ...).

From: The Nibelungs Part 1 (the movie by Fritz Lang) [source]

Characters start with level 0 and get their first Core Point and trait with achieving their first level (level 0 will be an orientation for players which way their character could go).

Here is a definite list of the qualities LSotN will use:
MUSCLE (former Strength) - Pool for a character's Exertion of Force
WITS (former Intelligence) - Pool for a character's Sanity and Magic
NERVE (former Wisdom) - Pool for a character's Serenity (Encounters)
FINESSE (former Dexterity) - Pool of a character's Quickness (Initiative and Saves)
GRIT (former Constitution) - A character's hp-buffer and Endurance
WYRD (former Charisma) - Pool of a character's Fate
Basically qualities will have (1) a value, (2) an active and (3) a passive function:
  • (1) A character's current value in a quality is the value function and used for all kinds of quality-checks (as would have been an ability score).
  • (2) The active function means that a player can spend quality-points to achieve certain goals (Wyrd to avoid deadly damage; Grit to gain a bonus for checks; Muscle to use a character's strength beyond his capabilities; etc.).
  • (3) The passive function, finally, is the vulnerability of qualities to certain forms of attack (Nerve might be provoked, a character's sanity might be challenged through his Wits, etc.) and will indicate when a damage to a quality will leave a mark (getting enough damage to affect a character's Grit will leave scars, even if all damage is healed, etc.).

Healing rates for qualities will depend on how the loss occurred (using Grit actively to gain success in a quality-check would deplete Endurance, but heal much faster than the sum of all the character's efforts (the passive function) would, etc.). Might depend on magical healing or level or time, stuff like that. If a quality is primary core quality, the core-value is adding to the healing-rate.

Hagen from the movie The Nibelungs by Fritz Lang

Kriemhild and Hagen (also from the movie by Fritz Lang)

While traits will take care of all those class benefits known from D&D, a character will also have a selection of specific skills to choose from and get an edge in (an "edge" is the bonus a character gets on a quality-checks when the skill applies). A point spend on a skill is a plus 1 on a quality-check using this skill (stacks with core-value of the quality).

A character gets 1d6 skill points to distribute at character creation and the added core-values of Wits and Finesse every level from there on. Depending on the development a player chooses for his character that may end up being not that much, but there will be an option to spend a trait points of other qualities on skills.

I guess that's enough to stomach for now ...

So much for the core system of Lost Songs of the Nibelungs. Everything else builds on the ideas outlined above. Other facets that need to be addressed in future posts will be (in no particular order):
  • the character creation (with random family trees and clan history)
  • detailed description of the qualities and the traits
  • careers for heroes (become a king, a general or the puppet-master ... ehrm ... adviser behind a throne - it all begins here)
  • magic (about spells, rituals and pools of Mana), combat (in several posts)
  • the fine art of courtly love (a character will get a quality-boost if he maintains a courtly affair with a maid - which will basically means investing xp and gold ...)
  • all the stuff a DM might need to referee this game
  • Monsters, too (with a format I can agree on, maybe something with territory and threat-levels).

Asked my players if they were up for some play-testing and I was talked into making this possible until Easter 2015. I aim to do just that and produce a playable beta-version of LSotN until then ... 

Siegfried travels through a forest (also from the Fritz Lang movie)


  1. This whole concept is pure awesome!

    I'd not known about the FL movies--they're a perfect source of inspiration.

    1. Thanks! I have yet to see the whole thing (it's five hours), but it's very well worth your time. And it's in the public domain, too. Don't know if a version with English subs exists online somewhere, but it's a treat either way.