Saturday, May 23, 2015

Filling the Void I (starting to write the beta-set of rules for LSotN)

Well, I need to make my players happy and they started asking about advancement and skills and choices. This incidentally means the end of testing the bare-bones rules and making lists of skills and spells and shit, which also means stitching all those ideas together and making a binding beta-version of Lost Songs of the Nibelungs. I feel somewhat ready to attempt such a thing, too. So here's what's coming: a first write-up of the rules ...

Part II about the basics of combat in LSotN can be found here and Part III about Qualities and task resolution can be found here.

Character Creation

Fast and simple. Characters are Level 0 and have 6 Qualities: Muscle, Finesse, Grit, Wits, Nerve and Wyrd (Part 3 of this series will describe the qualities further, some ideas can be found here). Those are given fixed values. Players assign the values 18, 18, 16, 16, 14 and 14 to the Qualities to allow for some distinction between characters in the beginning (Qualities are shaped by what the characters experience, not by what's randomly generated in the beginning, my reasoning can be found here).

Next step is to generate Health and Endurance. This is one roll of 2d6, the low result is for Health, the high result is for Endurance (it's also the basic procedure for every new level).

The final step for character creation is rolling 3d6 for a characters bloodline. Every player rolls 3d6. The sum is a characters status in the group, with the lowest result being the highest in standing. Each rolled number represents now a facet of the society the character was born in (1 = royal bloodline; 2 = artisan bloodline; 3 = mercantile bloodline; 4 = artistic bloodline; 5 = foreign bloodline; 6 = magical/fairy bloodline).

Dominance of aspects in family trees: Doubles will mean a strong resonance of one aspect in a family tree (which will somehow translate to a bonus or better selection of skills/advantages/items). A triplet would mean a "true lineage", will always be a special case and also gets one advantage others won't have:
  • triple 1 will mean true royal blood, so that member of the group will not only have the highest status and best equipment, he'll (she'll) also be a direct descendant of a clans leader (bonus advantage: privilege).
  • triple 2 will mean a true craftsman, so maybe it's a character who knows (or has access to) some valuable technique in a craft no one else in a clan is able to reproduce. He'll definitely have good equipment, special skills and an influential family (bonus advantage: versatility).
  • triple 3 will mean a true tradesman. Those are well informed characters with access to special items and rich parents (bonus advantage: information).
  • triple 4 will mean a true artist. Here it'll have a selection of exotic skills associated with artists (acrobatics, knife throwing, see below) and entertainment (bonus advantage: showmanship).
  • triple 5 will mean a true foreigner. This is the lineage of a very different culture, maybe son of an African slave who found his freedom with the fall of Rome and settled among the people of a Germanic tribe or the daughter of an Asian traveler (bonus advantage: diversity).
  • A triple 6 will mean a true fay. This character is a direct descendant of the fay folk and basically a fay himself. Might be a dwarf or even an elf, but most likely something that at least to some extent resembles a human being and has a reason to tag along (bonus advantage: superstition).
1 die in a bloodline means 2 points to buy skills/advantages/items, two dice in a bloodline mean 5 points to buy stuff (one of them related to the dominant bloodline, so it would be an item with a trade related bloodline, etc.), three dice means 9 points (with three to be distributed among skills/items/advantages associated with the true bloodline).

Additional points are generated with family tie to other characters in a group. Every two dice that are connected this way generate one more point and now character may have more than two family connections to other members in the group (with a double meaning they are distant cousins, a triple meaning they are close cousins and a quadruple meaning they are siblings, five dice would be twins and six dice (as rare as they are) could mean identical twins, even, if players want to go that way).

First Example: Let's assume three players generate characters this way and come up with (A) 1,1,4; (B) 2,4,6 and (C) 1,5,6 for their lineage. First character has a strong noble bloodline with some artistic aspect to it (resulting in 7 points to buy beginning skills/items/advantages so far). The second character has a mix of artisan, artistic and fairy-blood in his heritage (resulting in 6 points so far) and the third character noble, foreign and fairy aspects in his lineage (also 6 points). The players are now to discuss how they are related. (A) and (B) are connected with a four, so they are distant cousins (each getting getting one additional point  to distribute). (A) and (C) are connected with three 1s, so they are cousins (each getting one more point to distribute). (B) and (C) are connected through their fairy lineage. Again distant cousins (again one more point to distribute for each). So (A) has 9 points all together to distribute, while (B) and (C) end up having  8 points each. They also all have family ties connecting them as a reason to go on adventures together and a clear hierarchy to work with (as (A) clearly has the highest status in the group, which at least is important for future social interactions, but could also inform group dynamics).

Lineage and choices

As indicated above, those are level 0 characters, so their choices in the beginning are limited by default. It also doesn't necessarily mean that characters are fixed for their future development, it just means that what the players choose now is what they are taking with them on the road to adventure. Those lists are not necessarily complete. If a player has another idea that fits, just assign costs as appropriate and go from there. Highest status in the group also indicates basic travel equipment (see below for some ideas, but the whole thing will be part of a separate post). Their choices are:

1 - The Noble Bloodline:

Warriors and leaders come from this bloodline. Skills, advantages and items should reflect this.

Advantages
- Fighting with sword and shield (2 points, the advantage includes using lesser weaponry)
- Using heavy armor (2 points, the advantage includes using lesser armor)
- Using a bow (1 point)
- Reading, writing and speaking Latin (1 point)
- The art of rhetoric (1 point)
- Classic education (1 point)

Items
- Sword, Shield, Spear and dagger (2 points)
- A set of heavy armor (2 points)
- A horse (2 points)
- A Falcon (2 points)
- A bow (1 point)

Skills
- Intimidation (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Riding (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Hunting (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Politics (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Charm (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Falconry (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)

2 - The Artisan Bloodline:

Craftsmen of a tribe. Skills, advantages and items should reflect this.

Advantages
- Fighting with sword and shield (3 points, the advantage includes using lesser weaponry)
- Using medium armor (2 points, the advantage includes using lesser armor)
- Using a bow (1 point)
- Reading, writing and speaking Latin (2 points)
- Basic knowledge of a craft (2 points, choose one craft like forging, mining, carpentry, masonry, etc.)
- Reading, writing and speaking Latin (2 points)
- Classic education (2 points)

Items
- Sword, Shield, Spear and dagger (3 points)
- A set of medium armor (2 points)
- A horse (3 points)
- A dog (2 points)
- A bow (1 point)
- Basic set of general tools (2 points)
- Basic set of specific tools (1 point, the advantage "basic knowledge of a craft" is supplementary for this)

Skills
- Basic craftsmanship (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Specific craft (each point spend buys plus 2 on the skill, the advantage "basic knowledge of a craft" is supplementary for this)
- Riding (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Foraging (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Basic healing (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Cooking (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)

3 - The Mercantile Bloodline

The merchant bloodline, well connected and easy access to items. Skills, advantages and items should reflect this.

Advantages
- Fighting with dagger, spear or staff  (1 point each)
- Using light armor (1 point)
- Using a bow (1 point)
- Using a shield (1 point)
- Reading, writing and speaking Latin (1 point)
- The art of rhetoric (1 point)
- Classic education (1 point)
- Connections (2 points)

Items
- Spear, staff or dagger (1 point each)
- A set of light armor (1 point)
- A horse (1 points)
- A bow (1 point)

Skills
- Negotiation  (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Appraising (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Riding (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Charm (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Animal handling (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)

4 - The Artistic Bloodline

Travelling folks and artists. Skills, advantages and items should reflect this.

Advantages
- Fighting with dagger or staff  (1 point each)
- Using light armor (1 point)
- Using a bow or throwing a dagger (1 point each)
- Reading, writing and speaking Latin (2 points)

Items
- Staff or dagger (1 point each)
- A set of light armor (1 point)
- A horse (3 points)
- A bow (1 point)
- A dog (2 points)
- A music instrument (1 point)
- Basic set of general tools (3 points)

Skills
- Negotiation  (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Appraising (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Riding (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Charm (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Stealth (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Foraging (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Hunting (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Entertaining (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Animal handling (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Basic healing (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Cooking (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)

5 - The Exotic Bloodline

This bloodline connects a character to a foreign land like China or Africa. Skills, advantages and items should reflect this. In this case it means that while characters might have a similar skill set, advantage or item as other characters, but choosing it from this category will mean that they have different methods to achieve results and items look different. Customize according to culture used.

Advantages
- Fighting with sword and shield (3 points, the advantage includes using lesser weaponry)
- Using medium armor (2 points, the advantage includes using lesser armor)
- Using a bow (1 point)
- Reading, writing and speaking a foreign language (1 point)
- Using exotic combat styles and weaponry (2 points and includes, but is not limited to, martial arts)

Items
- Sword, Shield, Spear, dagger or exotic weaponry (1 point each)
- A set of medium armor (2 points)
- A horse (3 points)
- A dog or trained exotic animal (3 points)
- A bow (1 point)
- Cultural heritage (1 point, includes items important to act out cultural customs) 

Skills
- Riding (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Charm (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Stealth (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Foraging (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Hunting (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Animal handling (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Basic healing (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Cooking (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Cultural knowledge (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)

6 - The Fairy Bloodline

Those will blood ties to the realm of magic. Skills, advantages and items should reflect this.

Advantages
- Fighting with dagger or staff  (1 point each)
- Using light armor (1 point)
- Using a bow or throwing a dagger (1 point each)
- Fairy heritage (magical abilities like seeing in the dark or precognition, scaled by power for 1 to 3 points per ability and usually have a tell, like if a character is able to see in the dark, his eyes could reflect the light like those of a cat, stuff like that)
- Calling fairy creatures for help (2 points, they come and help, but always for a price)

Items
- Dagger or staff (1 point each)
- A set of light armor (2 points)
- A fairy servant (3 points)
- A bow (1 point)

Skills
- Charm (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Stealth (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Foraging (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Hunting (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Animal handling (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Basic healing (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Cooking (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)
- Fairy knowledge (each point spend buys plus 1 on the skill)

The points a player gets from a bloodline can only be spent for buying stuff from that bloodline. As soon as this is done, the clan a group comes from and names for the characters need to be chosen and the characters are ready for their first adventure!

Just enough points for a dagger and some fighting skills ...
Apparently a Germanic warrioress from the tv show Spartacus [source]
Second Example: Character (A) from the first example above has 9 points to spend, 5 points for his noble heritage and 3 for his artistic heritage. From the noble bloodline he chooses the advantage "Fighting with sword and shield", the items "Sword, Shield, Spear and dagger" and the skill "Intimidation" (for 1 point). From the artistic bloodline he chooses the advantage "Using light armor", as item "A set of light armor" and the skill "Entertaining" (for 1 point), because he has a funny bone.

Third Example: Character (B) has 8 points to spend, 2 for the artisan bloodline and 3 for his artistic and fairy bloodlines each. He learns to use the bow and owns one, two (from the artisan bloodline), takes the use of light armor, owns one and learns hunting (artistic bloodline) and he chooses to have a fairy servant (from the fairy bloodline).

Fourth Example: Character (C) has 8 points to spend, 3 for his noble bloodline, 2 for his exotic bloodline and 3 for his fairy bloodline. He takes "Reading, writing and speaking Latin" (1 point), "The art of rhetoric" (1 point) and a "Classic education" (1 point) from his noble background, "Charm" and "Stealth" (for 1 point each) from his exotic bloodline and he learned to use a dagger, owns one and has the light magical ability to know what a person is feeling when he is talking to them (for 1 point, because of this the character's eye color changes every day). His ancestors were African slaves under the Roman Empire, freed after the fall.

So with just two rolls of the dice and a few decisions we got a singing warrior of noble heritage, a hunter with a pixie friend and a charming and sneaky scholar with an unusually dark complexion and a strange dagger as heirloom.

Status and Basic Equipment

A few words on this. The family of the character with the highest status is privileged to give a troop of adventurers their basic starting equipment. This is just an outline so far, but it should work as guidelines what is possible.

3 would be the highest possible status and a group will be very well equipped with expensive and richly ornamented travel garments, horses, some gold (3d6 x 10 gold pieces), tents, food for a week, basic camping equipment and they will be able to use the families name to get shelter and food from clansmen (all benefits from the bonus advantage "privilege" mentioned above).

Everything below that will have some of those benefits to some degree, so if the highest status is connected to a merchant family, they might have more gold and all the equipment and they might have some connections to other merchant families for lodging. If the highest status is connected to traveling folks, they might have less gold and just solid travelling equipment, but should be welcome among other artists and entertainment is always welcome in taverns and with nobles. So each individual group will have individual means to get from a to b and get a roof over their head for the night or some food for empty bellies.

Appropriate equipment by A. McBride,
 featured in the Germanic Warrior (p. 35)
Lost Songs isn't as much about material oriented resource management, but about how characters are formed by the adventures they experience. But I will have to address this at some point in detail, this just isn't the post I'm doing it in.

So much for character creation

This concludes part 1. The second part will address combat and skill checks, the third part will be about Qualities and task resolution with an updated character sheet. I hope to get this done the next two days. Level advancement and character progression will take more time, but I hope I will get it done until end of next week. Which means there might be a playable beta-version of the game some time next month, for those of you interested ...

After that I aim to tackle DM procedures for Lost Songs, like the random generation of a clans land for instance.

Feedback about my very special snowflake here will be very welcome, of course.


4 comments:

  1. Very interesting, but I imagine rolling a triple will be pretty rare (1 in 36, right?). Are you happy with having 36 or so PCs rolled before a true bloodline is encountered? Even in a deadly campaign that is a lot of PCs.

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    1. Thanks! It is rare, but I think it should be. Chief of a clan can only have so many sons and daughters and encountering an adventuring true fairy (like a dwarf or an elf) should be very rare, too.

      In our group (8 players) we have a pretty good mix, on the other hand. There is a true artist, a high born (double six and a two) and two players with a strong fairy heritage (double sixes both). The doubles are pretty strong, so even without the "true" bloodlines the noble warrioress with some artisans in the family feels very much like a high born and the double sixes both chose to have magical advantages, so they carry the weird ...

      But when all is said and done it isn't even that important, since they all are level zero. The interesting part comes when they gain levels ... And being a level 10 hero should always trump being the king's son (sure doesn't hurt to be the king's son, though).

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  2. This is increasingly awesome the more you work at it! Its a very cool example of setting informing rules...

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Fredrik! It's actually a point I haven't seen made in the recent discussions about rules or setting. Not only should they compliment each other, but a setting really helps focusing and informing a set of rules. Which I believe to be a good thing. It avoids a lot of bloat that tends to come with rules aiming to be able to do everything.

      And it's great to get feedback from you guys like that. I'm having lots of fun putting this together, but getting told that it actually might have merit adds a lot to my motivation to push this further.

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