Shadow Vale: Alternate Rules

Posted: 2022-07-05
Word Count: 1553
Tags: rpg

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:

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.

Skills

This section replaces the original Cepheus Atom inspired Skills section.

Careers

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.

Special Skills

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:

At character creation, the player may choose three(?) Special Skills at Rank 2, or at “Expert” level if Knowledge Skills.

Experience

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:

Combat

Combat Skills

If using the Skills rules above, instead of a Fighting skill use the sum of the following:

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.

Zones

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.

Ranged Combat

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

Injury

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:

Roll Condition
3-8 Incapacitated
9-12 Unconscious
13-20 Dying
21+ Dead

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
Mortal 1 minute3
Animal 1D minutes
Monster 1D hours
The Folk 1D days4
Infernal never unless reduced to dust
Paragon never

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.

Healing

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.

Type Healing Rate
Mortal +1 HEALTH per 1D weeks
Animal +1 HEALTH per 1D days
Monster +1 HEALTH per day
Folk see above
Infernal +1 HEALTH per minute
Paragon special

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.

The Opposition

Hopefully the changes above fix some of the “special rules” around Mortals and Paragons.

Other suggestions in the prior article will be quietly dropped if they make the rules more complicated rather than less.


  1. 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. ↩︎

  2. 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). ↩︎

  3. Mortals require more advanced medical knowledge to stabilize, so a standard PC’s Healing Check will be at -2 or more. ↩︎

  4. Assuming other characters take precautions against scavengers and other sources of further damage. ↩︎