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The Fellowship of Five (A Playtest)

I’m not sure if this is the correct topic for this, but I figured I’d step away from the “Rules Discussion” board for a moment. As I wait to introduce VsD to my group at the end of January, I created five characters (widely diverse) and (now) have run them through a first scenario. I’m not going to use this column to tell the tales of my adventurers but to bring up interesting rulings that might be of some interest to the developers. When I get my actual gamers involved in a campaign, I’ll probably just report out of those game sessions right here, as well.

My Fellowship of Five encountered a murder of Gorcrows feasting on a plains deer. I rolled “Nature” for the Animist in my group—Partial Success—so she recognized, from a distance, the birds as Gorcrows, but one of the beasts was circling high in the sky, unnoticed by her. It called to the others, and they all rose in a flock to attack my adventurers.

This commenced four rounds of combat. In Round 1, while the characters readied their weapons and spells, the Gorcrows rose from their carrion into the sky.

Round 2: The Gorcrows fly towards the characters. Two characters Aim bows (House Rule: +10 to attack, +20 for stationary targets). The Wizard continues to prepare his spell.

Round 3: Missile weapons miss. Melee weapons miss. The Wizard has held his spell until a Gorcrow is coming in to attack him. Spells go off before melee, so... He casts Ignite, +1 Weave for a Range of 2 m. Now I have to make a Ruling. The Spell clearly states that this can be cast on a living thing, resulting in a Superficial Fire Critical for the target, but... Is this for the Spell Casting Table, or should I roll on, say, Bolts instead? I decided the spell goes off with a successful roll. It does. I roll the critical on the Gorcrow (no Save), taking 8 of its 10 HP (now Bruised) and 1 Bleed. That thing is out of the fight, for sure.

The Gorcrows (one per character, though initially I thought two per character was suitable) attack their targets, all of them but the one on the Wizard successfully strike.

Round 4: Reloading, spell preparation. The Gorcrows Move, fly up into the air out of melee range.

The burned Gorcrow is not going to attack again, will in fact Bleed out and drop from the sky at the end of the following round. At this point I figure I should roll a probability to see if the Gorcrows will try for another attack, this time probably focusing on one target (attacking from the flanks and the rear but allowing the characters to defend their comrade similarly), or simply to lurk about in the background, waiting for an opportunity to attack an isolated character or when one has its guard down (like, for example, when a character is bandaging a character’s wound—one of the Gorcrows caused 1 Bleed on a target).

Cool! Could you tell a litlle more about the characters? What Kin, Culture and Vocation are they?

Yes, that's how Ignite works, it just set something or someone on fire, no Saves. Great at parties! However, its limited range means the caster must be really close to his/her target, which is not where a wizard usually wants to be, so it's kinda risky if used as an attack.

Good call on the Gorcrows, they're cunning and mean but, in the end, they're animals so they'll flee if wounded. We're putting some bits of informations on the typical behaviour and tactics of the various creatures in the Bestiary to help the GM playing them.

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.
Quote from Topramesk on December 31, 2018, 1:02 pm

Cool! Could you tell a litlle more about the characters? What Kin, Culture and Vocation are they?

VEIGREK the VALIANT, Man, Seafaring, Warrior

SACOTH the CUNNING, Wild Man, Woad, Wizard

ROVALOS, Dusk Elf, Fey, Animist

GRISHIMBULA, *Forest Troll, Weald, Dabbler

HRUN HARDOTTIR, *Hill-folk, Hill, Rogue

These last two are sort of outside of the bounds of the QS. After generating a Troll, I realized that I would benefit from the VsD descriptive text for this Kin (I imagine VsD Trolls don’t turn to stone in the sunlight, but I give Grishimbula an Orcish penalty to actions in daylight). Making her a Dabbler is particularly daring. We’ll see how it goes.

In my setting Hill-folk are a distant relation to Halflings. They are short, sly, live in hills, capable of vanishing from sight. Often they herd reindeer. Their distinguishing feature is that they have cow-tails poking out of their breeches or from underneath their dresses. Hill-folk, of course, are the cute version of trolls from Scandinavian folklore, often called Huldre-folk, Underground People, or Hidden People.

Brn -5, SWI +10, For +0, Wit +0, Wis +5, Bea +0, HP 20, Max 100, MP +1, TSR +10, WSR +20, BG 4, WL 0

+20 Stealth, Spell Songs (Elven Grimoire) among available spell lists, # lvl/day may cast “Hues”—takes on background coloring and blends into the environment (+50 Stealth). Suggested Cultures: Hill, Pastoral, Woad

Gabe, this is super cool.

I must love Sacoth and Grishimbula <3

Waiting eagerly for more!

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

Character generation last night for two (of four) players. Our first “official” session will occur on January 28. My gamers last night made a Dusk Elf/Fey Wizard and a Man/Desert Rogue. We spent some time trying to find MERP analogues for the varieties of Elves in VsD, gave up (just one more feature we are interested in come the full release).

We had one question when it came to MPs, but we think we sorted it out. Spell Lores are developed “just like any Skill”, except Ranks are placed in individual Spell Lores rather than in the category as a whole. It’s also cool (but adds more crunch) that certain Spell Lores use different Stats as the bonus. The question arose when it came to bonus Ranks in Spell Lores, be they awarded through Kins or Background options. We decided that these bonus Ranks can be spent indiscriminately: in other words, there were no limitations on how many of these bonus Ranks may be placed into one single Spell Lore at first Level.

You have educated us on what an “arming sword” is.

A surprising feature of the WL system is that we found ourselves “gaming” it in the following way. Say a character has a WL of 2. Go through the Equipment Chart. Get all the WL 0 and 1 items you like, then get a single WL 2, if you like, at which point WL drops to 1. So far, my homegrown Encumbrance system seems to make sense and work out.

We tested some of the rules. I was drinking Cherry Chocolate Stout, but I think I remained fairly sensible while running the two gamers through a Natural Obstacle, a Combat Encounter, and an Ancient World Peril. I am preparing myself for how crunchy combat is going to be. I’m going to hand out dry kidney beans as markers for Bleed conditions, maybe Post-it notes for modifiers resulting from Injuries. I definitely will need 2.4 - The Tactical Round Sequence on Hand. I am interested in just how extensive your GM screen is going to be. There are A LOT of useful charts. My own four-panel GM screen already is full of the Weapon Attack Tables and Critical Strike Tables. Most of my games have been theater of the mind for a while now, but I think I’m going to pull out a combat grid and minis for this one.

A result on one of the Critical Tables appeared to us to be either an error or a mistranslation of some idiom. One strike describes a “smear on a forearm” or some other body part. Maybe it’s supposed to be “spear?” This possibility struck me just now.

 

Quote from Gabe Dybing on January 1, 2019, 7:02 pm

Character generation last night for two (of four) players. Our first “official” session will occur on January 28. My gamers last night made a Dusk Elf/Fey Wizard and a Man/Desert Rogue. We spent some time trying to find MERP analogues for the varieties of Elves in VsD, gave up (just one more feature we are interested in come the full release).

Not sure to have understood. Can you please elaborate on this?

Basically, the three type of Elves (actually four, counting the half-elves in) are modeled over the classic Tolkien elves that became a common trope of the whole fantasy genre. Star Elves = Noldor (High) Elves; Silver Elves = Sindar Elves; Dusk Elves = Teleri/Avari (Sylvan) Elves.

We had one question when it came to MPs, but we think we sorted it out. Spell Lores are developed “just like any Skill”, except Ranks are placed in individual Spell Lores rather than in the category as a whole. It’s also cool (but adds more crunch) that certain Spell Lores use different Stats as the bonus. The question arose when it came to bonus Ranks in Spell Lores, be they awarded through Kins or Background options. We decided that these bonus Ranks can be spent indiscriminately: in other words, there were no limitations on how many of these bonus Ranks may be placed into one single Spell Lore at first Level.

Yes, you did it right! There’s no limit in how many bonus ranks for Backgrounds, Kins & Cultures can be placed in a single Spell Lore.

You have educated us on what an “arming sword” is.

You’re more than welcome 🙂

A surprising feature of the WL system is that we found ourselves “gaming” it in the following way. Say a character has a WL of 2. Go through the Equipment Chart. Get all the WL 0 and 1 items you like, then get a single WL 2, if you like, at which point WL drops to 1. So far, my homegrown Encumbrance system seems to make sense and work out.

Well maybe here you could have misinterpreted the rules about Wealth.

Wealth is not meant to be used during character creation. The starting WL states the character’s social standing and riches in an abstract way, it is not currency ro be spent in equipping the character. Characters start with only the items and gear provided by their Culture (an eventually Background) picks.

WL is meant to be used during game, after character creation, when character will have the chance (in fiction) to purchase items and services. Well to be true there’s nothing preventing you from using Wealth during character creation if you want, or eventually spend a first session with the characters equipping themselves for battle in the town’s emporium. This is not prohibited, but also not meant to be core.

We tested some of the rules. I was drinking Cherry Chocolate Stout, but I think I remained fairly sensible while running the two gamers through a Natural Obstacle, a Combat Encounter, and an Ancient World Peril. I am preparing myself for how crunchy combat is going to be. I’m going to hand out dry kidney beans as markers for Bleed conditions, maybe Post-it notes for modifiers resulting from Injuries. I definitely will need 2.4 - The Tactical Round Sequence on Hand. I am interested in just how extensive your GM screen is going to be. There are A LOT of useful charts. My own four-panel GM screen already is full of the Weapon Attack Tables and Critical Strike Tables. Most of my games have been theater of the mind for a while now, but I think I’m going to pull out a combat grid and minis for this one.

Yes, tokens and condition cards and a cheat sheet are a great help to the game! We use glass beads in our game: red for Bleed, yellow for Stun (this is a binary condition) and white tokens for Drive Points. That helps a lot.

You can play VsD combat either in a theater of mind or with battlemaps and minis and it will virtually work equally well with both approaches. Some of the most complicated situations may take advantage of miniatures and maps to help people around the table visualize what’s going on. I however prefer the theater of mind approach myself, because it adds to the imagination and doesn’t break the suspension of disbelief - something that happens to me anytime I look upon a plastic puppet over a paper sheet.

A result on one of the Critical Tables appeared to us to be either an error or a mistranslation of some idiom. One strike describes a “smear on a forearm” or some other body part. Maybe it’s supposed to be “spear?” This possibility struck me just now.

Than you for pointing this out! This has certainly to be a bad translation of some game jargon, or plain simply a typo. We will revise the table for the next releases.

All in all, great to read these reports! Please don’t stop writing them as they are instructive for both other players and us the authors! I pinned this topic to the section to be true it doesn’t get lost. Thank you again and game on!

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

Basically, the three type of Elves (actually four, counting the half-elves in) are modeled over the classic Tolkien elves that became a common trope of the whole fantasy genre. Star Elves = Noldor (High) Elves; Silver Elves = Sindar Elves; Dusk Elves = Teleri/Avari (Sylvan) Elves.

Thanks! I think we were overthinking it, first by getting hung up on the idea that Sindar are Dark-elves too (Dusk Elves) and then wondering why “Silver” (or even Dusk Elves, for that matter) is a proper descriptor for Sylvan Elves. We know that VsD is inspired by other sources, too, so we wondered if there might be another precedent at work.

As far as typos go, I wouldn’t worry too much about them at this point—and this product is a whole lot cleaner than many other “published” rpgs I have read. After your Kickstarter funds, though, I might volunteer myself as a proofreader (I have an advanced degree in English Language and Literature)—might! It looks like VsD is going to be a big book! 🙂

I’ll keep on with these reports! I’m pleased that they’re useful to you.

Yep, I admit the names can be a little misguiding, but we wanted to avoid the Elven Kins to simoply be called "High", "Grey" and "Sylvan", because it's dull.
Anyway about the rationale:

  • Star Elves are because the ancestors of these guys were the first people to be created when the World was still not lit by the Sun and Moon and only the White Stars gleamed in the sky.
  • Silver Elves are because they are fair and noble but not as noble as the Star Elves. Thus, if the Star Elves are the finest of metals - say Gold - the Silver are, well, Silver.
  • Dusk Elves are not equivalent of "Dark" elves, but instead those that elsewhere are called "Sylvan" or "Lesser". They are the equivalent of Tolkien's Avar/Teler elves: those of the elven Kin who never saw the Lights of the Gods and instead remained on the Eastern Shores, hidden in the shadow of their forest homes - thus living in a sort of perpetual dusk.
For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

Something I remembered as I work on my campaign today:

The Cultures Skill. It’s telling that in another area of the QS this Skill is referred to as Languages. It’s also telling that, in describing the Skill, the QS refers to the Skill as being tied to a particular culture (I’m paraphrasing from memory here, so this might not be precise language).

Based on these clues, I wonder if your full rules set contains what I’m actually doing in my campaign: Culture Skills are developed independently, much like Spell Lores. Each Rank placed in a specific Culture provides 1 Rank of proficiency in that Culture’s language. Each Rank, of course, also provides the usual bonus on a Skill Roll in an attempt to remember a certain piece of information about that Culture. A character is fully proficient in a language at 5 Ranks but can continue to develop one’s understanding of the Culture with additional Ranks.

Kin in my campaign begin play with reasonable linguistic and cultural understandings of their own background and can choose (with GM oversight) to develop understandings of specific alien Cultures with their Cultural and Vocational Skill Ranks.

Hey Gabe.

Quote from Gabe Dybing on January 2, 2019, 5:30 pm

Something I remembered as I work on my campaign today:

The Cultures Skill. It’s telling that in another area of the QS this Skill is referred to as Languages. It’s also telling that, in describing the Skill, the QS refers to the Skill as being tied to a particular culture (I’m paraphrasing from memory here, so this might not be precise language).

Well this is a part of the rules that really needs some more polishing.
Languages is a leftover of a previous version of the rules, we then changed it to Cultures meaning a broader skill that encompasses the Language(s) and Culture(s) of your Kin.

Based on these clues, I wonder if your full rules set contains what I’m actually doing in my campaign: Culture Skills are developed independently, much like Spell Lores. Each Rank placed in a specific Culture provides 1 Rank of proficiency in that Culture’s language. Each Rank, of course, also provides the usual bonus on a Skill Roll in an attempt to remember a certain piece of information about that Culture. A character is fully proficient in a language at 5 Ranks but can continue to develop one’s understanding of the Culture with additional Ranks.

Not exactly, our idea is a little different here.
We didn't want to overburden the game with too many granular Language skills like in the *master games. At the same time we wanted the Language skill to have some relevance, due it's one of the topics of the reference works of fiction - people traveling to distant places, meeting different people speaking different languages, or either discovering secret of the ancient past hidden by cryptic writings and prophecies.
But, characters in the reference fiction often are seen speaking, or at least understanding, languages from far distant lands; or even sometimes speak with sentient animals, plants and so on.
So we opted for a single broad skill encompassing you understanding of different languages and idioms and the customs and traditions of the various Peoples of your Kin. With some sort of penalties, you could use you Cultures skill to merge and get in touch with people from different Kins.

Kin in my campaign begin play with reasonable linguistic and cultural understandings of their own background and can choose (with GM oversight) to develop understandings of specific alien Cultures with their Cultural and Vocational Skill Ranks.

The scope of the skill isn't actually set in stone, it varies from character to character judging by their Kin, Culture, Social Standing and Background.
An Elven Sage may well be skilled without penalty in the Cultures of both Elves and High Men, while a Dwarf Adventurer from a secluded underground enclave is proficient with their Culture and maybe that of their ancestral enemies, the Orcs, and a little of the Culture o Men, with which thier people trades goods.
Furthermore, the scope of the skill will change during play, as soon as characters travel to distant places, meet different people and merge with their cultures. At that point, as it's been estabilished by fiction, the Cultures skill should be used to span different cases.
So to summarise: the breadth of the Cultures skill is estabilished by fiction facts; the expertise in the skill by its Ranks and total bonus.

Keep however in mind tha the skill and related mechanics are still under heavy revision, starting from the name itself that may generate ambiguity with the Culture option from Character Creation (albeit this is wanted by design).

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!