In an earlier article I talked about stealing mechanics from published games, and recently I put that into practice. Yet the final result was a bit unsatisfying:
I intended to borrow the Career mechanic from Barbarians of Lemuria and Everywhen, but it didn’t mix with the Cepheus Atom approach to skills.
Having different systems for ranged and melee attacks is likely to cause some consternation.
While I had intended to make Magic as simple as possible, I’m afraid the result is a little hand-wavey. A long time ago I tried to run a campaign with an incomplete and badly explained magic system, and it didn’t go well.
Most importantly, elements of the setting itself meant to avoid rules complications themselves seem a little complicated.
PCs and their kin only need food to heal, but players may be confused about bringing along rations vs. carrying bottles of healing elixir vs. hunting for food.
My suggestions for “simplifying” animals, monsters, and minor NPCs means that some NPCs roll dice, and others don’t.
Mortals and Paragons require special rules for combat, even though in the final concept they won’t feature prominently. Thus instead of stealing Cepheus’s weapon and armor tables I cobbled together a hybrid of Everywhen, GURPS, and other half-remembered systems. Originally I’d planned to have players start in the Supernal Realm and visit Mortal Worlds more often, but that seemed (respectively) too stifling and too complicated.
So I’m going to substitute some rules I’ve been mulling for a while, originally for the “Elf Game” and “Paranormality projects I dropped a while ago.
This section replaces the original Cepheus Atom inspired Skills section.
Careers define a character’s core abilities and competencies. Each Career is ranked from 0 to 5. “0” indicates a basic working knowledge but no special talents, while “4” indicates superlative talent.
The player may select up to four Careers at character creation, and distribute five points among all Careers with none higher than 4. The game will (eventually) provide a list of canonical Careers, mostly denoting professions, but the GM may allow the player to make up their own.
In addition to Careers, players may fine-tune their character concept with Special Skills.
Special Skills denote proficiency in a broad but well-defined range of tasks. The game will eventually provide a canonical list. Each Special Skill falls into one of the following categories:
- Basic skills cover tasks any able-bodied1 person can do. They’re ranked from “1” to “9”, with anything above a “5” denoting exceptional skill. If not listed, assume a rank of “0”.
- Advanced skills cover tasks that require special training. They’re ranked from “0” to “9”, with “5” again denoting extraordinary ability. If not listed, the character suffers a penalty to tasks covered by the skill, assuming they can perform them at all.
- Knowledge skills cover memorized facts and patterns of problem solving. Rather than a numerical rank, Knowledge skills have three levels: “Apprentice”, “Expert”, and “Master”. Without at least an Apprentice level, the character has no information or experience of the subject.
At character creation, the player may choose three(?) Special Skills at Rank 2, or at “Expert” level if Knowledge Skills.
Instead of the previous Experience rules, these rules require a somewhat more complicated system.
Each Adventure nets 5-20 Experience Points (XP). They may be spent as follows:
- Increasing HEALTH costs 3 XP per +1 HEALTH.
- Increasing NUMEN costs 4 x the new value.
- Gaining a new Advanced Special Skill at Rank 0 costs 3 XP.
- Gaining a new Knowledge Special Skill at Apprentice Rank costs 1 XP.
- Raising a Career Rank costs 4 x the new Rank.
- Raising a Basic or Advanced Special Skill Rank costs 1 x the new Rank.
- Raising a Knowledge Skill from Apprentice to Expert costs 2 XP.
- Raising a Knowledge Skill from Expert to Master costs 3 XP.
If using the Skills rules above, instead of a Fighting skill use the sum of the following:
- An appropriate Career, like “Warrior” or “Gladiator”
- A Special Skill for the type of weapon, like “Sword” or “Axe”.
Likewise, instead of a single Sensing skill for ranged combat, use an appropriate career like “Warrior” or “Archer” and the Special Skill for the weapon type.
At the beginning of combat, the GM presents a battle map divided into “zones”. All characters in the same zone are at “close” range and may use melee weapons against each other. Attacking characters in other zones requires a ranged weapon. (Exception: at the GM’s discretion a pole weapon may reach into an adjacent zone.) Each zone between the attacker and target imposes a cumulative penalty.
Attacks with Ranged Weapons use an Opposed Skill Check of Career and Special Skill vs. the defender’s Combat Skill with the parrying weapon (or Shield skill if using a shield).
Using a Shield still grants a +2 or +3 bonus to the defender, as in the original rules.
Unlike melee combat, in which each combatant makes only one roll against all attackers and the combatant’s intended target, each defender must make a different defense roll against each attacker. If the defender comes under fire from multiple archers, this could bog down combat.
For this reason, the GM may regard Ranged Combat between attackers and targets in the same zone as Close Combat
When a character loses more than 1/3 of their HEALTH in a single attack, the character suffers an Injury. Each Injury imposes a Disadvantage to all physical Skill Checks.
When a PC’s HEALTH goes to 0 or less, they suffer an Injury and gain a Condition. Roll 3D, add the amount by which HEALTH has gone negative, and roll on the following table:
When an Otherworld NPC’s HEALTH goes to exactly 0, it becomes Unconscious. If reduced below 0, it’s Dying. If it takes twice as much cumulative damage as its starting HEALTH, it’s instantly Dead. (Exception: Infernals and Paragons have special rules.)
An Incapacitated character is still aware, and can speak and move a bit, but any action involving a Skill Check will fail. If the character’s HEALTH is raised above 0 the character regains consciousness and may perceive and act normally.
An Unconscious character can take no actions, and is unaware of their surroundings. The GM may ask the player to step out of the room.
A Dying character is not only Unconscious but hovering on the brink of death. A successful Healing Check2 will stabilize the character and restore them to 0 HEALTH and an Unconscious state. Otherwise, they will proceed to Dead based on the following table:
|Type||Time to Death|
|The Folk||1D days4|
|Infernal||never unless reduced to dust|
If the character is a PC or of The Folk, a dose of Elixir has the same effect as a Healing Check.
A Dead character is irrevocably gone, barring necromancy or mad science that is out of scope of these rules.
If a PC or another of the Folk has HEALTH remaining, they can consume a unit of Food (which is cheap but bulky) and recover one point of HEALTH in an hour. By drinking a vial of Elixir (which is compact but expensive) and recover ½D+1 of HEALTH over as many hours.
If a character at 0 HEALTH is Unconscious for 1D hours, the character regains consciousness but is Incapacitated.
If a character has 0 HEALTH (or less), they will heal normally according to their species.
|Mortal||+1 HEALTH per 1D weeks|
|Animal||+1 HEALTH per 1D days|
|Monster||+1 HEALTH per day|
|Infernal||+1 HEALTH per minute|
An Infernal will recover within minutes unless reduced to dust. Mechanically, the GM must record how far negative its HEALTH goes, including damage done after its “death”. When its HEALTH returns to 0, it is Incapacitated but .
A Paragon’s HEALTH never goes below 0, no matter how much damage it takes. After a day (or more) of sleep, the Paragon will always revive. Certain artifacts can delay a Paragon’s revival, but the hottest fires cannot burn them, and even dismemberment with Skymetal is only temporary.
Hopefully the changes above fix some of the “special rules” around Mortals and Paragons.
Mortals simply lack HEALTH, i.e. resistance to physical trauma.
Mortal weapons and armor, likewise, are simply weaker and/or lack an extra die of damage/protection.
Paragons, by contrast, have HEALTH but only take damage from Skymetal or Darkmetal. (Much like Superman only takes damage from Kryptonite.)
Other suggestions in the prior article will be quietly dropped if they make the rules more complicated rather than less.
Not to be ablist, but games generally assume characters can work all their limbs and use all their senses. These incomplete rules don’t cover characters who are blind, paraplegic, etc. ↩︎
Based on a Career as a Healer and/or a First Aid Basic Special Skill. Each character may only try a Healing Check once per patient per incident (e.g. combat). ↩︎
Mortals require more advanced medical knowledge to stabilize, so a standard PC’s Healing Check will be at -2 or more. ↩︎
Assuming other characters take precautions against scavengers and other sources of further damage. ↩︎