Monday 29 March 2021

A Heartbreaker of My Very Own: Assumptions & Foundations

 As I've alluded to here and there, I get frustrated with shoehorning the New Kingdoms into different systems. OSR-type systems are a good fit in some ways, if only because they are rather more like torsos, upon which one may graft limbs, heads and other appendages. Like some demented scientist in a dark cellar, I've been building my own abomination. My tastes run to baroque complexity and sprawl, so any resemblance between OSR stuff and the system I'm building, whilst no doubt obvious, are in some ways minimal. Anyways, if one were to assume Advanced Labyrinth Lord as an approximate starting point, the changes made look something like what follows... 

Lineages (sometimes referred to as ‘non-human races’) are limited to their unique ‘lineage class’. Some lineages have one, two or three variants reflecting diversity within the lineage. They can not select ‘standard’ or ‘core’ classes.

Classes are reorganised to fall under five generic groups: Artisans, Knaves, Priests, Scholars and Warriors. Lineage classes are also grouped in this way.

Abilities have been expanded: there are seven primary abilities (the classic 6 plus Appearance), along with eleven secondary or derived abilities (Celerity, Fellowship, Guile, Judgement, Luck, Mana, Perception, Presence, Prowess, Speed, Stamina and Willpower). The secondary abilities provide the principal determinant for the use of Skills and Tests (formerly called Saving Throws). 18 Ability Scores!?!? Yup, as noted above, I like sprawl, but this is sprawl that hopefully aids in precision...and flavour.

Skills are added to the system. These function as a complete replacement for all existing skills in Advanced Labyrinth Lord. The basic mechanism for using skills is to apply the Test Number for the appropriate derived ability, which is then modified according to the degree of competency in a particular Skill and other factors (determined by the LL). The player rolls a d20, and must equal or exceed the test number (after all modifiers are applied) in order to succeed.

Feats are minor enhancements of existing skills, spells or abilities. They generally function to increase the chance of success (by adding a bonus or mitigating a penalty).

Tests replace Saving Throws. A character must roll equal or better than the test number associated with the appropriate ability. 

Combat Maneuvers combat actions are considerably diversified: in addition to attacking, moving and casting spells there are nineteen combat maneuvers such as block, feint, knockdown and stun.

Magic is a hybrid of Vancian and Spellpoint systems. Casters memorise spells as per the traditional system, but can cast memorised spells as often as they desire, assuming they have sufficient Mana to do so. However, the more one attempts the same spell in a given day (i.e., between sleeps or meditation periods), the harder it is to cast. In addition, Mana is slow to recover. One sleep is unlikely to allow higher-level casters to regain all their Mana.

Characters are built from two sources: lineage/class and backgrounds. Backgrounds represent the character's pre-adventuring trajectory (for example: Page-Squire-Rake, or Prestidigitator-Barber-Phrenologist). They yield a number of skill points (thus increasing the degree of competency in each skill) and may grant members of certain classes or lineages minor abilities or enhancements.

Alignment remains unchanged (the Nine Alignments), but characters also select a persona and temperament (from the following list: Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, Melancholy, Vivific and Inmitic). These are drawn from the classic four humours and their elemental analogues with the addition of the Vivific humour (drawn from the Positive Energy Plane) and the Inmitic humour (from the Negative Energy Plane). Persona is the face one shows the world, whilst Temperament (often, but not always the same as the Persona) is one's 'true', unmediated self. Temperament, in combination with Alignment shows the person's 'inner structures' and world view. A not unreasonable conceit would be to envisage Alignment as a philosophical and ethical orientation towards all that is, whilst the Temperament shows how that orientation is lived and manifested. A Choleric Neutral Evil Magic-User will act in rather different ways to a Phlegmatic Neutral Evil Magic-User, learning different spells, building up a different skill profile, and so forth.

Incidentally, if this sounds a lot like WOD's Nature-Demeanour system, that's an undeniable similarity, but the notion actually comes from astrology, of all places, with the idea of a 'Triad of Personality', being constructed of Rising Sign (Persona), Moon Sign (Temperament) and Sun Sign (Alignment). I find Astrology endlessly interesting as a generative symbolic system...the sort of thing Claude Levi-Strauss would call "good to think with". I don't subscribe to it as anything other than an object of contemplation, however.

I'm sure there's more I could mention about the changes, but I'll leave it here for now, and elaborate them as I go. Next stop, Abilities in greater depth.

Wolves of War: The Ulfarga for Blood & Treasure (& RMFRP)

  Ulfarga (Lupine Beastkin) Wild-hearted but honourable wolf-like humanoids, Ulfarga represent one of the largest populations of any Beastki...