Background: Stipend

I’ve always felt it strange that Dragon Blooded use the traditional Resources background, so I created this to take its place among Dynasts.

Dragon Blooded characters have access to the background Stipend. This background is representative of the increased resources available to a Dragon Blooded member of the Scarlet Dynasty or one of Lookshy’s Gens. It provides an effective Resources rating, as described below, but is replenished on a monthly basis; as such a character with a single dot of Stipend could make a Resources 3 purchase, which would reduce their effective Resources to 2, until their next stipend arrives, generally at the start of the next month. This is rated as follows:

x – Your character receives no stipend from his House or Gens; why is this? Have you offended an elder of your family, or disgraced yourself in some manner? Or perhaps you are an outcaste without powerful family.

o – Your family gives you the smallest stipend possible, the bare minimum for a Dynast to survive. This gives you an effective Resources of 3.

oo – Your family considers your a worthy member of its House, but you are yet to do anything of particular moment. You receive a decent stipend, giving your an effective Resources of 4.

ooo – Your family is proud to count you among its ranks, and has increased your stipend respectively. You likely have a reputation, either for some valued craft, or an important deed. Your effective Resources is 5.

oooo – You are an important and powerful member of your House. Likely the head of a minor household or an important member of one of the greater. Consider what worth you bring to your family for them to have elevated you to such a position. Who covets your place, and what do you owe other family members? Regardless, your wealth is almost beyond avarice, granting you an effective Resources of 5, but also allowing you to make a number of Resources 5 purchases a month equal to your permanent Essence rating or Breeding, whichever is higher, as the greatest wealth is afforded to the most powerful of Exalts.

ooooo – You are likely the head of a great household within a dynastic House, likely one of the contenders for leadership of the House, if such a calling interests you. You cannot maintain this level of stipend without having some calling of great importance to your House, and constantly being at the beck and call of conniving and whining relatives. Nevertheless, this level of importance comes with almost unlimited access to the House’s coffers, granting your effective Resources 5, but also allowing you to make a number of Resources 5 purchases equal to your Breeding + permanent Essence rating.

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General Exalted House Rules

The general rules I use for my Exalted games, in a quest to fix all the little problems I tend to find in the system whenever I play or run it.

The following also includes the 2.5 Errata changes, as adapted for use in my games

Character Creation

  • Players may raise any of their character’s abilities to five without spending bonus points.
  • Players receive four dots of specialities to distribute amongst their abilities.
  • All characters receive an additional 3 background points.
  • Virtues may be purchased for 1 bonus point each, with Virtues no longer adding to Willpower.
  • Willpower may be purchased for 1 point per dot.
  • Characters may start with Willpower + Compassion Intimacies without spending bonus points.
  • When selecting Charms, players may start with any charms they meet the prerequisites for; they are not required to select a certain amount of caste/favoured charms.
  • All characters gain an additional -4 Health Level per dot of permanent Essence they possess.
  • Charms for all Exalts now cost 4 bonus points, or 3 if they’re from a Caste/Aspect/Favoured ability.
  • Raising Essence at character creation now costs 7 bonus points regardless of Exalt type.
  • All characters receive 18 bonus points at character creation.

Charms, Spells and Martial Arts at Character Creation

  • Dragon Blooded count their default charm purchases as “terrestrial” purchases, and as such they may buy their own charms, Terrestrial Circle Sorcery and Terrestrial Martial Arts on a 1 for 1 basis. If they wish to buy Celestial Martial Arts at character creation, usually by being an Immaculate Monk, they must either buy these at a rate of 2 charms per 3 charm slots used, or pay an additional bonus point per charm they wish to learn. All typical requirements to purchase Celestial Martial Arts still apply.
  • Solar, Abyssal, Infernal, Sidereal and Lunar Exalted count their default charm purchases as “celestial” purchases, meaning they buy their own charms, and Celestial Martial Arts on a 1 for 1 basis, as well as any Celestial Circle Sorcery. If they purchase Terrestrial Martial Arts or Terrestrial Circle Sorcery at character creation, they either learn 3 such charms/spells per 2 slots used, or regain a bonus point for each one bought.

Alchemical Exalted

  • If an Alchemical Exalted starts with the Perfected Lotus Matrix or Man-Machine Weaving Engine charms, he may exchange charm slots on a one-for-one basis with martial arts charms or machine weaving protocols. He still retains the charms that would normally go into these slots, but has no slots to put them into, unless he spends bonus points to obtain additional slots.

Dragon Blooded

  • Dragon Blooded characters receive 18 background points (this includes the 3 additional points from above).
  • Dragon Blooded characters start with 14 charms.
  • Dragon Blooded now use the following formula to generate their essence pools; Personal (Essence x2 + Willpower), Peripheral (Essence x4 + Willpower x2 + Sum of all Virtues)

Lunar Exalted

  • Lunar exalted get 9/7/5 points to divide between their attributes at character creation.
  • Lunar Exalted start with 12 charms/knacks, with a minimum of 4 charms and 4 knacks.

Traits

Dragon Blooded

  • Dragon Blooded characters have access to the background Stipend.

Charms

  • Solar, Lunar, Abyssal, Sidereal Exalted and Dragonblooded no longer need to purchase excellencies. They automatically receive all excellencies for which they meet the prerequisites.
  • Infernal Exalted do not receive excellencies in the same way due to the unique nature of such charms. Infernal Exalted receive all excellencies for which they meet the prerequisites for both their Caste and Favoured Yozi. If they want to purchase the excellencies of other Yozis, then they are required to purchase the First Excellency in the normal manner (Ie. A number of times equal to their essence). This then unlocks all the other excellencies of that Yozi for free, although they must continue to purchase further upgrades of the First Excellency as per the original charm progression.Ie. Dagruda, the Slayer Caste Infernal Exalted who favours Cecylene, has Essence 2 at character creation. He automatically receives First and Second Malfeas and Cecylene Excellencies for free at character creation and need never pay extra XP to purchase them again if he increases his essence. As play progresses, Dagruda expands his potential, wanting to learn some Adorjan charms. Needing to buy at least the First Adorjan Excellency, he needs to purchase this charm a number of times equal to his Essence, so has to purchase it twice. This purchase then unlocks the rest of Adorjan’s excellencies, and so he automatically also learns the Second Adorjan Excellency too. When Dagruda raises his Essence to 3, he will automatically learn, at no experience cost, Malfeas, Cecylene and Adorjan Mythos Exultant and Invincibility Technique. However, he will be required to purchase the First Adorjan Excellency again as a training effect, as per the normal rules for Infernal Excellencies.
  • Alchemical Exalted are regarded as always having the charms First, Second and Third (Attribute) Augmentations for every attribute. This requires no charm slots or installation costs. They also receive (Essence) Augmentation-only slots for each favoured attribute, and one Augmentation-only slot for every other attribute. Augmentation-only slots can only be used for augmentation charms and require no installation costs.

Experience

  • The experience cost of increasing Essence is (7 x current rating) for all characters, regardless of type.
  • The experience cost for purchasing charms is as follows:
  • Terrestrial Charms and spells are 8xp each, or 6xp for Aspect/Favoured charms. This includes Terrestrial Martial Arts.
  • Alchemical charms are 9xp each, or 7xp for a Caste/Favoured charm. This includes Man-Machine Weaving protocols.
  • Celestial Charms and spells are 10xp each, or 8xp for Caste/Favoured charms. This includes Celestial Martial Arts.
  • God-Machine Weaving protocols are 11xp each, or 9xp if Caste/Favoured.
  • Solar Sorcery and Sidereal Martial Arts Charms are 12xp each, or 10xp for a Caste/Favoured charm.
  • The Terrestrial/Celestial/Solar Circle Sorcery charms purchased to enable a character to cast spells of the relevant level are regarded as a charm of the respective tier.

Scion: Fixed

I’ve played Scion a couple of times over the last few years, and, while the concept is one that I love and always makes me want to play it at the mention of its name, the actual execution of the game leaves something to be desired. When we first discovered Scion: Hero amongst the shelves of our local gaming store, we were pretty excited. From Exalted and World of Darkness we were pretty well associated with the Storyteller system White Wolf so loves to use in its games, and the idea of playing what seemed like a modern-day more streamlined and easier to understand version of Exalted seemed pretty exciting. However, in the first session our ship rapidly ran aground, when we ran across a number of problems.

Following here is a list of the house rules and modifications to the Scion system that I’ve found helpful when running the game, and hopefully solve some of the problems I’ve run across.

Character Creation
The first problem we ran across when playing Scion cropped up during character creation; namely that your character’s ratings in your magical attributes/powers is limited to (permanent Legend rating -1), meaning that when you build a character with 0xp, the maximum ratings they can possess in their supernatural stats is a massive 1. While I know some people will like the feel of only being sort ofsupernatural, for me it runs against the grain of what Scion is about. You’re young godlings; even at a low level it should feel epic, and I think having 1 dot being the max level of power just doesn’t provide that feeling. As such, when I’ve run games, I’ve done so with the following rule in place:

All Scions are created with a starting Legend score of 3 as standard. This is to represent at least a little time and experience with their powers and abilities, and results in a character who has enough experience to be assigned missions from gods and expect to complete them. If Storytellers want a lower powered game, where players have only just come into their powers and have had little chance to use them, then a Legend score of 2 could be allowed, but at default it starts at 3.

Epic Attributes
The second issue we experienced is the simple scale of the Epic Attributes. Obviously, the bonuses they offer start small, but because they’re on an exponential curve, they rapidly offer massive bonuses, which can mean even a small difference in the number of dots of epic attributes can result in massive differences in effectiveness, even to the point, at high levels, where there is little to no point rolling due to the difference in automatic successes. This problem also rolls over and has an effect on damage and soak, which I talk about below, but for the moment, I’ll just concern myself with the Epic Attribute system itself.

Epic Attributes do not add automatic successes; instead they add dice to the roll.

After all, everyone loves hefting huge handfulls of dice, and while, at high levels, it might be a truly ridiculous amount of dice, it at least keeps the power balance competitive. Invest in dice rollers people!

Damage and Soak
Okay, so because of the above issues with Epic Attributes, Scion’s damage system has evolved as a sort of broken version of Exalted’s system. More specifically, because characters with Epic Strength are not applying bonus damage dice but instead are applying automatic damage successes, it completely knackers the classic Exalted soak system, as traditionally soak is removed from damage dice pools before they are rolled, most often down to a minumum number of damage dice. If this was done in Scion, it’d be of no use, since Epic Strength would be added on post-soak doing a truly ridiculous amount of damage.

And so, in Scion, soak works differently as well; it’s applied after damage is rolled, which makes sense, since otherwise Epic Strength would remain unsoaked and pulversize everyone. But now we have a different problem; because the soak of most enemies needs to be of the level that it can effectively soak the damage of a character of a similar level with a decent level of Epic Strength, it means that soak values have shot through the roof compared to classic Exalted soak values, as damage has now done the same. The problem with this? Well, let’s say you’re a character without Epic Strength, and rather than 20 damage successes on a standard attack, you can expect maybe 5, 10 on a good day; the enemy with a soak of 15 is pretty much invulnerable to you now. Scion doesn’t have much of a developed combat system (when compared to Exalted’s host of charms), and so there are no options for working around this. You basically just can’t hurt the guy unless you’re real lucky, wheras Mr Epic Strength over there is doing damage every turn.

My solution to this is as follows (bearing in mind the above rule; Epic Attributes now add dice, not auto-successes):

Soak is applied to an attacker’s damage pool before it is rolled, reducing the number of dice in the pool on a one-for-one basis equal to the number of points of Soak a target has. This is limited to a minimum of 1 damage die, and cannot be reduced below this number.

Weapon Speed
Another issue that raised its head is that, using the Relic rules, it’s quite easy to create a weapon which has a speed of 1 or 2, which means that, in a game where most actions are speed 5-6, you’re taking an action around 3 times as often as everyone else. While this certainly sounds cool, especially as part of an occasional use power or boon, as an effect that is always active whenever you use the weapon, it gets a little ridiculous. As such, I always go with the following rule:

The speed value of an attack cannot be reduced below 3, regardless of source.

Legendary Saga

This is a basic set of rules for Legendary Saga. My goal here is to keep it as lean and simple as possible and to make it as easy to pick up as I can. For that reason I’ve left out a lot of the “welcome to roleplaying” elements that feature in most books. I assume that if you’re here, you probably know terms like “GM” and “d10”. If not, my apologies; let me know and I’ll always be willing to add a little section for people who might be new to this kind of stuff.

Some people might not like the idea of a game where all but the most important actions are decided narratively by the players, but I feel that it works as long as the players are behind it as well. As always with roleplaying, it’s not about winning, it’s about telling your character’s story, and so people should feel safe that players are going to try and resolve the narrative in a way that is interesting for the characters involved. However, it does still retain the random element, and important events that have story consequences are still resolved with a dice roll.

This game owes a lot to a number of other games which either inspired me to make this by being great but needing a simpler system, or by having awesome ideas I’ve cannibalised for this. Big ups to Exalted, Prime Time Adventures and Lady Blackbird, amongst many others.

———–

  1. Glossary
  2. Characters
  3. Narrative Time
  4. Action Rolls
  5. Health and Soul
  6. Dramatic Points
  7. Progression

———–

1. Glossary

  • Action Roll – A roll made when a player wishes their character to take some significant action. Not necessary for every act, only those of plot importance. This dice pool is built by tagging Elements.
  • Drama Point – Granted to a player by either the GM or a fellow player when he does something awesome or describes something impressively.
  • Element – A word or short phrase describing a facet or aspect of a character, which, if tagged in the character’s description of his action, can grant a die to the action pool.
  • Flaw – An element of a character that deducts dice from related action rolls, but grants Protagonist Points in return.
  • Experience Point – An indicator of a character’s progression. 5 points will grant the purchase of a new Element.
  • Health Point – Representative of the wellbeing of a character’s body. Can be spent to enhance a roll.
  • Protagonist Point – Representative of a character’s plot importance and power. Can be spent to enhance a roll.
  • Soul Point – Representative of the wellbeing of a character’s mind. Can be spent to enhance a roll.

2. Characters

A Legendary Saga character is essentially a list of descriptive elements that come together under different headings to describe the character’s abilities and personality. These elements can then be tagged when a character is doing something to provide dice for his action pool, so the more a particular action connects with the character’s description, the better chance they have at succeeding at that action. Generally, characters start with a number of elements under different headings, and, as the game progresses, may develop more elements as their character progresses. Elements are generally one word to a short sentence, describing a certain aspect of the character, generally something he is good at or that exemplifies his personality.

For instance, a character who is good with a sword might have “Greatest Swordsman in the Kingdom” as an aspect, which he could tag any time he got involved in an action roll involving swordplay. The same character may also have “Can never back down from a duel”, and so if he was in a duel with swords, he could tag both, or if it involved guns or anything else, he would only be able to tag the second element. As stated below, each element tagged adds a die to your action pool.

As standard, characters divide their elements up under the following categories: Talents, Attachments and Supernatural. They receive 20 Talent elements, 10 Attatchments and 10 Supernatural elements. This is obviously just a standard value; for higher flying games more can be allowed, or the ratios moved aroun (for example, in games with no supernatural elements).

Talents are innate characteristics of the character, related to his physical or mental capabilities or learned skills and abilities. Essentially, talents should be elements of a character that do not depend on anything but the character’s body, mind and wits to be put into play. Good examples of elements that could be described as talents are Incredible Shot, Strong as an Ox, Winning Smile, Keen Eyesight, Master Investigator.

Attachments are external to the character, and represent either his belongings, connections to others or just status in the world. These should generally be descriptive of things the character has access to, either in broad or specific terms, or how other people see him. This is also the best area for describing things the character cares about and is attached to in the world. Good examples of elements that could be described as attachments are Billionaire, Head of the Secret Lodge, The Holy Sword Veritas, 9 Terrible Oni Servants, Space Battleship Orion, The Zion Company, The People of Orai Village.

Supernatural elements are not always applicable depending on the game being played. They are capabilities of a character that mark him out as something other than normal. These do not have to be overtly supernatural, depending on the playstyle, but without any supernatural elements, it is assumed characters are limited by the capabilites of natural humans. It is important to note that any powers or capabilities not defined by a character’s supernatural elements are not assumed to be possible. A GM may allow some cool improvisation on the fly, but if you don’t note down that your character can hurl lightning bolts, don’t expect to be able to do so. Good examples of supernatural elements are Master of Storms, Fly Like an Bird, Mountain-Tossing Strength, Laser Eyes, Master Sorcerer, Demon Summoner, Hypnosis.

Each character also has flaws. There is no minimum or maximum number of flaws allowed for a character, but they essentially work as anti-elements; every time a description or action would tag one of a character’s flaws, he deducts one die from his action pool for each flaw tagged. However, for every die lost, the character regains a Protagonist Point, even if this would take him beyond the normal limit of 10.

Lastly, every character has 3 other stats Health, Soul and Protagonist Points (PP). Each of these is rated 0-10, and starts at 10 at the beginning of each story arc (not session). As described below, Health and Soul are measurements of a character’s wellbeing physically and mentally, and can be lost as a consequence of failing an important roll, or spent as a resources to bolster your success. The complete loss of one of these stats can result in your character being rendered immobile and helpless and is the only real state in which a character can be killed. Protagonist Points, on the other hand, are representative of the character’s story importance and his drive to succeed against the odds, and are a resource that can be spent more freely to bolster dice rolls, with no real consequences for running dry beyond not having any more to spend!

3. Narrative Time

The largest unit of gametime is generally a story arc, the equivilent of a single film, series or book. It links many individual stories into an overarching plot, and may consist of any number of sessions. A session is a single evening or day of play, and is divded into scenes, the same way as a film or tv show might be. Essentially each scene should be the resolution of some point of story, although it doesn’t have to be a part of the story central to the plot. As long as either the game or the character’s own personal story is being furthered in some way, it can serve as the basis for a scene. Generally, the GM will set out the scenes that will be played, but it is also a good idea for, at least once a session, the GM to ask the players if there are any scenes that they feel need resolving, in order to ensure everyone’s character gets equal screen time.

Often a single scene may only involve a single action roll, or perhaps none at all if it focused heavily on the roleplay and interaction between characters, but there is no limit to the number of action rolls that can be made, if the context of the scene keeps changing, or if new elements are being introduced or even if players are at crossed purposes. All these can incur further action rolls to resolve the scene.

4. Action Rolls

In any scene where a player wishes to achieve an outcome he must describe what action his character is going to take, and by doing so he can “tag” elements of his character. The GM is the final word on which elements a player can tag; as a rule, unless a player has evoked that element of his character in his description, then it cannot be tagged. Action rolls are only required for important story altering actions, such as the outcome of a battle, the end result of an epic seduction attempt, a mighty leap across an impossible distance, etc… Most actions a character takes should simply be dealt with narratively, even ones his character stands a chance of failing. If it is irrelevant whether he wins a bar brawl or loses, then it should be up to the player to narrate how this happens in a way that he feels most suiting to his character. Only actions with important consequences really require action rolls.

Each tagged element grants a d10 that can be added to the player’s action pool, and a d10 result of a 7 or more is a success. A 10 counts as two successes. This pool does not denote a single action, instead it represents his actions over the entire scene, although, if circumstances change, a further roll may be required (if an on foot chase suddenly becomes a car pursuit for instance). Furthemore, at any time a character can spend a Protagonist Point to add a d10 to his pool. There is no limit on the number they can spend on a single roll. In addition, a character may burn a point of health or willpower on a roll, indicating singular personal effort, in order to add a single automatic success to the results of his pool.

The number of successes required to complete a task is set by the GM. In a static situation where the players are only opposed by the environment, it is common to simply set a difficulty number the players must overcome (generally from 1 – 5, depending on difficulty), which is the number of successes players must gain on their dice roll. On the other hand, if the players are opposed by an enemy of importance, it may be that the Storyteller will create an opposing pool for that enemy in the same way that the player’s pools are created, and they must overcome the number of successes the enemy achieves in order to reach their goal.

Finally, in most situations the failure of the roll means nothing more than that; the players characters do not achieve their goals and must go about it some other route or try again later. However, in difficult or dangerous situations the characters may incur some negative consequences as a result of their failure. As such, on these dangerous rolls, a failure may incur the loss of a health point (if it is a physically dangerous situation), or a soul point (if it a social or mental contest). Generally the loss of only 1 point is required, but if the situation is especially dangerous, they may lose as many points as the difference between their roll and the difficulty of the task.

5. Health and Soul

As well as being currency to boost the effectiveness of a roll, loss of all of a character’s health or soul points renders him incapacitated. The character cannot act beyond either laying in convalescence (health points), or sitting essentially comatose (soul points). This is generally the only state in which a character may actually be killed, after he has sacrificed every shred of his body or soul to a cause. A character may recover a lost health, willpower or protagonist point at the start of each scene; not one of each, just a single point.

6. Dramatic Points

Each time a player does something awesome enough to impress the other players or the GM he is rewarded with a dramatic point, which can be converted directly into a dice for his current pool, or to regenerate a lost point of Willpower or Health, or a Protagonist Point. This cannot increase these pools beyond their limit of 10. The Storyteller can hand out an unlimited amount of these points each scene, but players can only hand out a number equal to the players at the table. If a player wishes, he may ask for a short scene in which he either does some deep roleplaying for his character, or indeed with another character at the table, either as a flashback or simply as the game progresses in order to earn Dramatic Points. These scenes can be almost anything imaginable, but should only be a way to reward excellent roleplaying, not for simply refreshing empty pools. If a player squanders his scene without really working on his character or their relationships, they should leave empty handed.

7. Progression

Every session, a player is rewarded with a single experience point for having attended the session and interacted with the other players; five experience points purchase a new element for the character. This should generally represent some advancement or progression shown by the character during the game, and does not have to be spent straight away, but instead can be saved for when a player has had time to roleplay some advancement he would like his character to benefit from.

Players also gain a single experience point the first time they are awarded a Drama Point per session per person at the table. So, if there are 3 players plus the GM at the table, a single player can earn a maximum of 3 bonus experience this way; 1 for the first time each fellow player gives him a drama point and 1 for the first time the GM gives him one.

World Building: The Creeping Doom

I’ve recently started thinking about building a world for a potential D&D game. In considering the other day, I was trying to think of some kind of conflict that hasn’t already, to my knowledge, been played out in a game or setting, and then I hit upon the idea that anti-magic has good potential for a danger, especially in such a high-magic world as most D&D settings.

The world, which for the moment I’m calling “The Creeping Doom” is a high magic world, where people are used to living their lives surrounded by magic items, used to having mighty wizards perform great and terrible works and are comfortable in expecting that if they suffer any undue hazards divine magic can whip them back to life and full health at a reasonable outlay. I figured that in this kind of setting the most palpable force that could really be a threat to people isn’t a villainous sorcerer or necromancer king or anything like that, but is in fact something that diametrically opposes the magic that so influences the setting.

The idea is that, perhaps from the bowels of the earth or from some particular region, a growing area of anti magic has begun to expand. Called by some the True Death, this isn’t a force of necromantic magic sapping the life from the world, it’s the real cessation of magical influence. As such, it would be opposed by all factions in the world, both mighty elven druid kings and terrible undead liches. I want the Creeping Doom to be something already established in the setting; not some new force, but something people have been aware of for many years, centuries perhaps, but that has had some kind of resurgence in recent years. I like the idea of a world where magic pervades almost every part of civilisation, but can only really exist inside cities and towns, walled and warded against the ever growing True Death. Obviously, the idea that magical wards can repel and antimagical field is a little off, so perhaps some kind of physical barriers are called for. I’ll have to consider that aspect further.

The world would obviously also have its own politics that exist aside from this antimagic field, and have to deal with each other as well as try and halt the encroachment of this effect. I quite like the idea of there being at least one nation ruled by a probably Lawful Evil necromancer king, just because I quite like the juxtaposition that’s created when you have a life sapping antimagic field that is probably feared by the undead more than most. After all, most of them are magically animated; it’s quite likely they would suffer more than anyone else from the effects of the True Death.

At the moment this is all just kind of off the top of my head. I’ll think about it more over the next few weeks and keep posting up more stuff and crystallising it into a more usable setting as we go.