RPG Mechanic Round-Up #3

Image result for game design

Still drawing from that idea document that I maintain, these are further game mechanic ideas that I like. Feel free to take these, use them, adapt them or hack them for your own games.

Advantage and Disadvantage with Fate Dice

As written, Fate Core allows you to use Aspects to add a +2 bonus to rolls after the fact, or to re-roll. I thought of another way to represent an advantage in a Fate roll, this time before the fact. In some of my Fate-based designs, I have a player set aside one of their four dice, and set it to a “+” or “-” ahead of time. This not only grants a bonus that is approximately equivalent to the +2 from an Aspect, it also reduces the amount of swing that is possible in the roll. With only three dice, the worst that can happen with the advantage is that three dice come up “-“, or a total of just -2. I also like how visible the bonus (or penalty) is on the table, and I think of it as similar to D&D 5th Edition’s advantage/disadvantage mechanic.

Using the Force or Magic Skill

One of the things I like about skill systems in RPGs is when you have to make a limited number of selections from a list, all of which are desirable options. (No dump stats or skills in our designs, please) One of the things I’d like to see more explicitly is treating magic, or whatever your equivalent is, as a skill, meaning that you have to commit time and practice to magic, and that time and practice does not go elsewhere. You have the super-skill, so you lack the other skills a mundane person would have.

Specifically, I have in mind Jedi in the Star Wars universe, who tend to be better than everyone at everything, and to also have magic powers. Rey is an example of this, but so is Luke, and Anakin or Obi-wan before him. They are fantastic at every action-hero thing they try, and also have the Force on top of that. I much prefer Force-users, or magic-users, as specialists who have an arcane, occult, rare specialty, and I think that games should reflect this by making the choice to have magic powers a choice with a cost.

Elvish Skills

I have an idea for a game from the point of view of elves, or of other beings who have very long lives compared to humans. In this game, there will only be three levels of skill to reflect the kind of mastery an elf might achieve (assuming D&D elvish lifespans): one year of skill, ten years of skill, and a hundred years of skill. I like there being a level of mastery that is simply unattainable for shorter-lived beings, and also reflecting the idea of some diminishing return in gaining skills. The differences in skill become very small at the highest level in any field, it seems. But I like the idea of a setting where these very long lives matter, and where the most highly skilled elves could simply clown the most highly skilled humans or others. It’s a challenge to build a game around this fundamental unbalance, but is fun to think about.

Fate Core Hack: Changeling the Lost Dream

Image result for rankin bass goblins

(Maybe call the hack Changeling the Lost Dream?) These are my notes and thoughts on a kind of complicated hack that I used to run a game session at Save Against Fear. The scenario was called The Long Night, something I’ve run before as a Changeling: the Lost scenario. It’s a scenario I like, starting off with an obvious mystery, then introducing some nightmares, and then finally a sinister goblin plot.

I developed the most recent idea for The Long Night before Changeling 20th Anniversary Edition came out (but after I backed it on Kickstarter), but historically there have always been parts of Changeling the Dreaming and Changeling the Lost that I liked, and others that I didn’t. One example: I like the way Dreaming’s Arts work better for the most part than Lost’s Contracts, but I prefer the way Lost handles kiths to the way that Dreaming does. Dreaming is way too Europe-specific for me, and the non-European kithain suffer from White Wolf’s tendency toward stereotyping (ahem Gypsies ahem). I much prefer Lost’s approach of generalizing out one step for a much more flexible system that can be used to represent fae-type creatures from any culture where they appear.

I also really like Fate Core, especially for one-shot play in a situation like a convention where everyone will want to incorporate their zany one-off ideas, and where I don’t want to spend a ton of time explaining the system. So what I did is hack together Dreaming’s Arts with Lost’s kith, using Fate Core rules.

The result was pretty awesome. My players had a great time, ending with a mighty triumph over the Goblin King that used all of their biggest abilities with flash at just the right moment. They worked together beautifully, something that Fate Core really encourages. In fact, I learned some tactics from these players, as two of them were familiar with Fate Core already, and were very adept at creating advantages and handing them off to each other for big effects. One of the players wanted me to send her my hack so that she could use it in her own game.

Unfortunately, I only wrote up the rules I needed for the scenario. But I think that in principle someone could easily read through what I’ve done and do the work themselves to fill it out for their own game.

The Hack


For each pre-generated character, I added three Aspects: each character’s high concept, which was basically their kith and seeming; their trouble aspect, which was some way that their kith and seeming could cause trouble for them in everyday life; and an aspect drawn from their Durance and how they survived as a roleplaying hint and also a statement of what they are good at. I then left the last two slots blank and encouraged the players to fill in aspects however they would like.

Custom Skill List

This list is similar to the one that I use for my weekly Fate Core Vampire game. Basically, I reorganize the Fate Core skills as they appear in the core book and the SRD, and replace some of them with White-Wolf names (Charisma, Manipulation). I also add Streetwise and Survival, since in my view those are significant aspects of White Wolf games – Streetwise in particular.

Athletics, Charisma (replaces Rapport), Contacts, Drive, Expression (partially replaces Craft), Fight, Investigate, Kenning (replaces Empathy), Knowledge (academics, science, medicine), Lore (enigmas, supernaturals), Manipulate (replaces Provoke and Deceive), Physique, Resources, Shoot, Stealth, Streetwise, Tech (partially replaces Craft), Will

Kith and Seeming Stunts

For each character, I came up with one Stunt for their Kith and one for their Seeming, adapted from Changeling the Lost. Not all of these will adhere strictly to Stunt rules as written, but they’re in the right range I think.

Darkling – Ephemeral: Any Darkling can spend one Fate point to add +2 to a Stealth roll to move in darkness.

Mirrorskin – The Mercurial Visage: A Mirrorskin can alter her features at will to help her mimic another person, granting a +2 to Manipulation rolls made to do so.

Elemental – The Stuff of the World: Elementals can spend a Fate point once per session to clear all physical stress boxes.

Airtouched – Velocity of the Zephyr: An Airtouched gains a +2 to any Athletics roll related solely to movement speed. 

Fairest – Fairest of Them All: Any Fairest can spend a Fate point to add +2 to a Charisma roll where she can use her appearance to best effect.

Muse – The Tyranny of Ideas: A Muse can spend a Fate point to boost another character’s roll if she has a moment to inspire them.

Ogre – Brute Force: An Ogre can spend a Fate point to add +2 to a Fight roll or a Physique roll related directly to brute strength.

Stonebones – Obdurate Skin: A Stonebones Ogre can spend a Fate point to give herself an armor rating of 2 for a scene.

Wizened – Nimble: A Wizened can spend a Fate point to add +2 to Athletics for a roll relating to nimbleness, including dodging in coming attacks.

Chirurgeon – Analeptic Charm: The Chirurgeon gains +2 to any Knowledge roll used to treat an injury.

Arts as Extras

As I did with my Fate Core hack of Vampire the Masquerade, for this Changeling hack I reduced each Art from five levels to only three, and made each level of the Art cost 2 refresh. Rather than tie them to Skills, I simply give a character skill in each Art as she buys it up, so that at level 1 she has a +1, at level 2 she has a +3, and at level 3 she has a +5. For Arts that have a target or minimum roll, I simply used +0 for level 1, +2 for level 2, and +4 for level 3. This means that most of the time, Arts rolls will be successful, but there is still a risk, while masters of an Art will almost always succeed on activating the 1st level (unless something is tagged against them, really). Another option would be to tie each Art to a Skill (I thought there would be too much overlap here though) and keep the basic target numbers for each level.

Remember, for each of these, I only wrote out the levels that characters in my convention game would have, so this is far from complete. Also, as I said, I’m using Changeling the Lost kiths but Changeling the Dreaming Arts.

For Unleashing, which is new to the 20th Anniversary rules, I decided that the effects would be up to the GM, but that an Unleashing would add one particular Aspect to the scene, which the character could tag once for free.


Unleashing Autumn causes rot, decay, and ruin. The problem is one of scale. Collateral effects can harm anything or anyone nearby, and well as anything or anyone connected through sympathetic magic. You choose which person, place or thing you want to bring to ruin initially, and it spreads from there. Aspect: Ruin and Decay.

  1. +0 Autumn Eyes: enables you to recognize weaknesses and stress points in people and objects.
  2. +2 The Poisoned Apple: the changeling can reify her negative emotions into poison and infuse food or drink with it. Anyone who ingests the food or drink is struck by an attack – mental if Chimerical and physical if Wyrd.
  3. +4 Shivers: gives the changeling the power to haunt a person, place or object. Precise effects are up to the GM, but often involve a new permanent Aspect.


Unleashing Chicanery imposes delusions, but the scope of those delusions often extends far beyond the original intent. You choose whom you want to delude, and another player (or the GM) determines the delusion. Or the delusion can be an Aspect defined by the GM. 

  1. +0 Trick of the Light: the changeling uses this cantrip to become temporarily invisible. She is invisible to other changelings and supernatural creatures unless she makes the effect Wyrd, in which case she is invisible to everyone.
  2. +2 Dream Logic: success puts a victim into a suggestible state for a single scene. They will view your requests and suggestions in the best possible light, and only try to resist if told to do something that is clearly dangerous.
  3. +4 Lost in the Mists: this cantrip imposes a lasting delusion in the target. This cannot be a complicated delusion – something that can be explained in a brief sentence.


Unleashing Chronos is more dangerous even than unleashing most other Arts. Those affected can become unstuck in time, and the resulting weirdness can be more than the Mists can cover. You choose whom or what you want to speed up, slow down, or stop in time. Aspect: Unstuck in Time.

  1. +0 Backward Glance: enables the changeling to look into the past of a particular place. First, determine how far back you are attempting to look. If your roll doesn’t enable a look that far, it automatically fails. +1 One scene, +2 Up to a day, +3 Up to a week, +4 up to a month, +5 a year and a day.
  2. +2 Set in Stone:  through this cantrip, a changeling can remove the target from the normal flow of time. Not frozen in motion, but no longer aging. It is also possible to prevent wounds from healing over time, interfere with chemical reactions, and so on. +2 One day, +3 One week, +4 One month, +5 One year, +6 One decade.
  3. +4 Time Dilation: enables the changeling to move the target forward in time with all of the attendant aging and decay: +4 one year, +5 one decade, +6 one century.


Unleashing Contract might draw the oathbound to you, or even help you seek someone out who would be the right one to undertake a quest. It might also escalate a rivalry to a deadly oath of revenge. The cost is that you often find more than you bargained for. Aspect: Bound by Words.

  1. +0 Done Deal: the changeling can solemnize a formal contract, and the Dreaming will enforce it. The strength of this enforcement is based on your roll and subject to the GM.
  2. +2 Casual Contract: this cantrip can enforce a classic fae trick, turning a casual agreement into a binding contract.
  3. +4 Sanctified Words: this cantrip grants an ongoing boon as part of a contract. As long as it is upheld, the boon (often an Aspect) continues.

Dragon’s Ire

Unleashing Dragon’s Ire inspires greatness in battle, and also escalates the violence involved. Often, a scene will simply receive the Aspect: Dragon’s Ire, useful for violence and violent compels.

  1. +0 Burning Thews: grants a +2 to Physique where strength is concerned and +1 to melee damage for a scene. To use in front of mundanes, must be made Wyrd.  
  2. +2 Dragonscales: grants armor 2 against physical stress for a scene, in addition to the +2 to Physique and +1 melee damage.
  3. +4 Tripping the Ire: in addition to previous levels, the changeling receives a +2 to her Fight skill for the scene. So, +2 to Physique for strength, +1 to melee damage, 2 armor and +2 to Fight skill.


Unleashing Legerdemain causes a torrent of telekinetic activity, much of which is not under the changeling’s direct control. Aspect: Telekinetic Activity

  1. +0 Ensnare: entangles the target in whatever is nearby and makes sense – literal vines, cables, even shag carpet. To escape, the target must make a Physique roll to escape the obstacle.
  2. +2 Mooch: this cantrip enables a changeling to steal a small object, replacing it with a short-lived simulation. Chimerical by default.
  3. +4 Gimmix: the changeling can either hurl a large object, like a washing machine, across the zone, or have longer-term and more precise control over a smaller object. A hurled object deals a base of 4 physical stress.


Unleashing Metamorphoses results in changes to shapes and size to living things all around the changeling. Aspect: Shifting Size and Shape.

  1. +0 Sparrows and Nightingales: enables the changeling to make changes in her or another’s appearance, ranging from things like hair color to apparent kith or ethnicity. The changes last for at last a scene, and up to a year and a day.
  2. +2 Worms and Giants: enables the target to grow or shrink in size. +2 half size or one and a half times larger; +3 one quarter normal size or twice normal size; +4 one eighth or three times; +5 one sixteenth or four times. This size change only lasts for a scene at most, and precise effects are up to the GM to adjudicate on the fly.
  3. +4 Chimeric Exultation: you transform the target into a creature of legend. Specifics have to be determined by the GM, but gryphons can fly and dragons can breathe fire and manticores can sting and so on. Lasts for one scene.


Unleashing Primal causes an elemental storm with unpredictable effects. Usually one or two new environmental aspects. Aspect: Unpredictable Elemental Storm.

  1. +0 Willow Whisper: cantrip enables the changeling to speak with any object or animal, as long as they speak in a whisper. One question per degree of success, and the target’s knowledge is of course limited to what it might plausible know if it was aware.
  2. +2 Eldritch Prime: the changeling is able to summon one element, like fire or water, into a scene directly. Often this will take the place of an Aspect or obstacle.
  3. +4 Dance of the Five Kings: the changeling can manipulate any element that is present in the scene, for the duration of the scene. Usually must be made Wyrd. This element can be used to create obstacles, deal damage, and add Aspects to different zones.


Unleashing Soothsay tends to reveal truths you’d rather remain hidden. Aspect example: Ugly Truth Revealed.

  1. +0 Omen: for each degree of success, the changeling can ask one question about the target of the cantrip. The answers come wrapped in imagery and symbolism, of course.
  2. +2 Seer’s Wisp: the changeling summons a chimerical wisp that leads her to whomever or whatever she names. The wisp often takes an interesting path, and can be a challenge to follow.
  3. +4 Tattletale: enables the changeling to scry distant places, seeing and hearing what is going on there chimerically and unobtrusively.


To unleash Sovereign is to call upon the authority of the Dreaming to strengthen your own. Such power cannot help but foster resentment in those it is used against, of course. Aspect example: Imposing Authority.

  1. +0 Protocol: this cantrip enables a changeling to enforce Fae etiquette for a scene. Everyon in the zone where the proceedings are taking place are bound by Fae etiquette, even if they are not fully aware of it. (Assume some version of feudal rules with Fae quirks) To break protocol requires a Will roll to overcome an obstacle.
  2. +2 Dictum: the changeling gives a single command that must be obeyed. Anything that would shock the conscience or threaten direct harm allows a Will roll to resist by overcoming the obstacle. Dictum can only be used on the same target once a season without spending a Fate point.
  3. +4 Geas: the geas must be physically possible, and it must not require self-harm or harm to loved ones. Otherwise, any task can be laid upon the target with the full weight of the Dreaming enforcing it. The changeling spends 1, 2 or 3 Fate points, or reduces her Refresh permanently by one.
    • 1 Fate point: a simple geas with a minor curse – do not speak until sundown or you will reveal your secrets.
    • 2 Fate points: retrieve the Goblin Goblet or all food and drink will taste fetid for a year and a day
    • 3 Fate points: leave your home and never return, or each step you take will feel like walking on iron knives
    • Permanent Refresh reduced by 1: never speak to your true love again, or you will be the instrument of his death


Unleashing Spring results in riotous growth in all nearby plants. Aspect: Riotous Growth.

  1. +0 Awaken: precise effects are up to the GM, but could include causing a plant to bloom, starting a stalled car, or even awakening someone from a coma. Can also be used, if made Wyrd, to clear either mental or physical stress.
  2. +2 Well of Life: the target is imbued with healing energy. Anyone who touches it is able to clear their stress or a minor consequence.
  3. +4 Renewal: the target is returned to life, or wholeness if an object, until the following sunrise.


Unleashing summer unleashes not only heat but also strength and desire. Aspect example: It’s Getting Hot.

  1. +0 Flicker-Flies: chimerical wisps of light congregate around the target, providing chimerical light equivalent to a torch for the scene. Those nearby also feel subtle stirrings of an emotion of the changeling’s choice.
  2. +2 Aphrodisia: this cantrip targets a living thing or an object, making it desirable to everyone nearby who has a +2 or lower Will. The effect lasts for one scene. Those affected will find the target of the cantrip desirable and fascinating, and there is always a chance that fights might break out…
  3. +4 The Beltane Blade: ignites the ambient Banality in a person or object into red-gold flames. If successful, the cantrip deals 4 physical stress and if the target was not already enchanted, the cantrip enchants them as well, making them vulnerable to chimerical effects and weapons.


Unleashing Wayfare causes everyone affected to move, travel, and even teleport unpredictably. They often end up where their fate directs, for good or ill. Aspect example: Unpredictable Travel.

  1. +0 Hopscotch: enables the changeling to make one enormous leap, or to cause an object to leap into the air. She can attempt to force another creature into the air, but that creature resists with Will. +1 a story up, or about 10 feet. +2 two stories. +3 five storeys. +4 up to 10 storeys. +5 as far as the eye can see.
  2. +2 Quicksilver: doubles one’s movement speed, enabling them to traverse two zones and still have time to act. In addition, the target can take one additional action (and more, if the cantrip succeeds with style).
  3. +4 Flicker Flash: enables the changeling, or the target of the cantrip, to teleport. It must be to a place that the changeling knows, or she must have something in her possession from that place. Failure can mean that she teleports, but to someplace she did not intend.


Unleashing Winter spreads cold, lethargy, and fear to freeze the heart. Aspect: Fearsome Cold.

  1. +0 Hardened Heart: the cold of winter grips the target’s heart, providing an armor rating of 2 against mental stress, but also makes the character appear cold and unfeeling. They may have difficulty making Charisma and Contacts rolls as a result, at the GM’s discretion.
  2. +2 Terror of the Long Night: this cantrip inflicts deep, primordial fear on the target which lasts for a scene. It initially counts as an attack inflicting mental stress which can be resisted with a Will roll. After this, even if the defense is successful, the target must make a Will roll to overcome an obstacle in order to act for the scene. This roll requires a round of mental effort, after which they can act freely.
  3. +4 Stasis: you freeze a person, animal or object in time. As long as it is not touched or moved it will remain in stasis, at minimum, until the next sunrise – or longer: +5 a week, +6 a month, etc.

An Idea That I Dropped

I thought about adding a third stress track, representing the effect of Banality, but decided to just have Banality be a source for physical and mental stress for Changelings, maybe as the result of failing an Art roll, or a way to take stress in order to barely succeed. It could still be thematically present, demanding Will rolls in order to avoid stress from Banality when opening a bank account or something.

There It Is (For Now)

Obviously, there is a ton of work still to be done with this hack, but here is what I have now. It’s a big head-start if you are interested in hacking Changeling for your own Fate Core game. As always, feel free to comment below with your own ideas.

My Brave Sparrow


Back in October, we visited my aunt and uncle in Maine. This would be the second time that my daughter, now five years old, would visit them – out on the Maine coast at Tenant’s Harbor. The last time we were there, a couple of years ago, one of the places we visited was Marshall Point. It is ridiculously beautiful, as much of the Maine coast is, featuring plenty of ocean spray and stones and a lighthouse, as well as a museum that has never been open when we were there.

What I remember most from that first visit two years ago is that for two hours, my daughter just ran around squealing with delight. It was clearly her favorite place on Earth. Something about the sea, and cold wind, just sets her off.

I was glad to see that, on our next visit two years later, her joy remained. But the last couple of years have had some hard bits for us as a family, and five is a long way from three. At first, she was really hesitant. She wanted to hold hands on the stony trails down to the water. It took some convincing to get her to walk with me out to the lighthouse itself. She had just learned how to identify poison ivy from our traipsing out behind our house, and there was a lot there to avoid, which made her nervous. It was wonderful, but I definitely had to lead the way.

While we were on that trip, I had printed out some interesting indie games to read through while on vacation. One of those games was Brave Sparrow, a fascinating little game by Avery Alder of Buried Without Ceremony. It is designed as an alternate reality experience. In brief, you are a sparrow, but you have forgotten who you are and how to fly. So you have to find your wings again. You gather feathers, and then you go and seek out numinous experiences in beautiful places, and see whether you can re-attach your feathers in order to fly again.

Specifically, one goes on missions. To count as a mission, you must take a risk, and act with courage in a place of beauty.

This game was on my mind on our second trip to Marhsall Point. I was proud of my daughter, because I know that it took a lot of courage to follow me around in a place she probably only barely remembered. And I’m learning that kids go through ups and downs with everything, including fearfulness.

Our second visit was entirely different. Her adventure meter had apparently refilled, and the tide had gone out. Not only were we clambering over sea-wet stones, but we were naming and claiming them: Baby Snail Island; S Island (featuring a stone that once had a compass etched into it, but only the S for South remained). She chose her own path, and took risks, and led the way. She was agile, and confidently chose the best way from rock to rock, navigating obstacles and stopping when she was stuck.

She acted with courage, again, in a place of beauty. My heart was filled, and so was hers, I think. She even inspired her grandma to clamber around on the stones with us.

I’m not sure what to write, here, but I’d made a note to write something, so here it is three months later.

I remember thinking, this is about the best thing I can ever do as a dad. Be with her while she acts with courage in a place of beauty.

My brave sparrow.


Clockwork: Dominion Is Out!

clockwork dominion cover

The year is 1999, or maybe 2000, and I’m having a series of conversations with my friend Zeke about this game he’s designing called Spiral. It includes a card-based mechanic, and some lore that I don’t remember apart from the snakes with robot arms. I only dimly remember the conversation, and I’m surprised Zeke remembers it at all.

Fast-forward 13 or 14 years, and science-fiction Spiral has become Victorian-Steampunk Clockwork, and the card mechanic Zeke was developing is all grown up. He asked me to help out with the RPG project, and my official title eventually became ‘Editor.’ Clockwork became Clockwork: Dominion. We had a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Many hundreds of hours (or more) of editing, and thousands of hours of writing, design and testing for my friends Zeke and Than later, and our new TRPG Clockwork: Dominion is available for purchase.

The game itself is excellent. The art is excellent. Zeke did a great job with the layout and book design. I have yet to hold a physical copy in my hands, but it probably won’t be long. I went into this project not even a fan of Steampunk and Victorian stories and games, but I’m proud to have helped to make it a game I would recommend to anyone, period. You can pick up Quick Start rules for free to get a feel for things, but for the whole experience you really need to core rulebook and the custom deck of cards. Honestly, I’m not even aware of a close second in terms of Steampunk TRPGs.

clockwork dominion quick start rules

I’m really proud of this game, of the whole project, of all the work that went into it over at Reliquary Game Studios (by which I mean, on Google Docs). I wish I could be at GenCon this year because Clockwork will have booth space and books to sell (and sign) and all of our game sessions have long since sold out. It’s going to be awesome, and been awesome, and I expect, will continue to be awesome, as more than just the core rules are coming.

Anyway, check out this game. You’ll be happy you did.




Pathfinder: New Spellcasting Feats

I’ve always thought that Augment Summoning was lonely, and I wanted to see other Feats linked to Spell focus in the other arcane schools.  So here we go – this is a rough sketch, feel free to take and adapt for yourselves:

Augment Dispel
Prerequisite: Spell focus (abjuration)
When making a d20 roll related to dispelling a magical effect, the caster can take 20.

Augment Scrying
Prerequisite: Spell focus (divination)
The duration of all divination spells is extended to concentration +2 rounds where that duration exceeds the listed duration.  For example, scrying lasts for 1 minute/level or concentration +2 rounds, whichever is longer.

Augment Charm
Prerequisite: Spell focus (enchantment)
Charm spells cast by a person with this Feat are more powerful than normal.  Opposed Charisma checks are not required except for the most extreme commands, and the subject of the charm spell will undertake dangerous actions which fall short of suicide.  Lastly, when the charm spell ends, the victim will not have a clear memory of having been magically coerced unless she succeeds at a will save at the spell’s normal DC.

Augment Elementalism
Prerequisite: Spell focus (evocation)
Then caster chooses an element in which she specializes.  When she casts evocation spells with this element, the deals +1 damage per damage die rolled.  For example, a fire-specialized elementalist would deal 5d6+5 damage at 9th level when casting fireball.

Augment Figment
Prerequisite: Spell focus (illusion)
Illusionists who take this feat are able to create more persistent figments using spells like Silent Image or Major Image.  These illusions persist even after the caster ceases concentrating on them.  As long as a figment persists, however, the caster loses that spell slot until she dispels the illusion or it is dispelled with a successful will roll due to disbelief.

Augment Undead
Prerequisite: Spell focus (necromancy)
All undead created by a necromancer with this feat are affected as if they are on desecrated ground, including +1 to attack and damage rolls as well as saving throws.  These undead also receive +1 hit point per HD.

Augment Augmentation
Prerequisite: Spell focus (transmutation)
When the transmuter casts a spell which augments the ability of it’s target, this bonus is raised by +2.  So, for example, Fox’s Cunning increases Intelligence by +6.

GURPS Midnight: Running A Big Fight in GURPS (Aftermath)

Image from Heroes of Battle, WotC

The Post-mortem

This is the follow-up to my post about setting up for a big tactical battle using modified GURPS rules…

In short, the player-characters kicked ass during the mass tactical combat.  They seemed to have fun and to be engaged in placing their various troops, which is cool because I know two of them aren’t usually all that engaged in tactical combats.  They got a kick out of really giving the Orcs a beating.  When the Orcs realized things were going bad, one of the PCs nailed a roll to taunt them into fully attacking, and they were basically pinned down, surrounded, and then rushed by angry villagers who cut them to pieces.

The battle was still significant.  One PC took a javelin in the chest and went down in one hit, as did one of the named NPCs who had been with the PCs since the first session – she almost didn’t recover, in fact.

One of the things I really like about GURPS is that having a javelin thrown at you is like “Oh shit!  A javelin!  I might die!”  Instead of D&D, where you might think “Oh, a javelin, 1d6 plus strength modifier damage.  I can eat ten of these, easy.”

Anyway, overall, it was a complete success.  As always, in high-lethality tactical combat, planning is everything.

It was also pretty efficient.  A full-scale tactical fight, with combat modifiers for footing and cover and everything, was resolved in under 2 hours, with over 100 combatants and 11 different unit types.  That’s quicker than a D&D 4th edition fight can be with a tenth that many participants.

I give the whole experience a B+.  Everyone was engaged, everyone had a thing to do, and the fight was quick and big and bloody.  Good times.

GURPS Midnight: Running A Big Fight in GURPS (Prep)

In my periodic GURPS Midnight game, we are coming to the end of the introductory sessions I’ve planned to help the players get used to the new system, tweak their characters, and so on.

Last session the PCs ended up rounding up a peasant resistance south of Baden’s Bluff, with the able-bodied people of three villages fortifying and preparing to fight against a group of a couple dozen Orcs and some Goblin slavers.  The PCs came up with a plan, and this session, we find out how the plan works.

First I’ll talk about what is involved, the situation, and then I’ll go through how I represented it using GURPS.  Lastly, I’ll post a report on how the game works out.

The setup

Here’s what the prepped table looks like:

On the far side of the table, where I’ll be sitting, are the Orcs.  I’m using colored cubes that I found at a craft store to represent the units, as well as the D&D minis that I have that fit.  The red cubes are extra Orcs.
On the near side are the five PCs looking lonely and heroic facing the Orcs – I set it up that way just to set the scene.  The PCs are the heavy-hitters in this fight – the peasants they’re leading aren’t soldiers, they’re villagers the PCs have convinced to join them.
The colored cubes at the near side of the table are for the PCs to place – those are their “troops”.  They’re stacked in descending order of ‘power’ where this fight is concerned.
Blue cubes are the toughest villagers: the smith and his two burly sons, two people who have hatchets, and two people who have bows.  Remember, all weapons are illegal, on pain of death, in the Midnight setting.
Orange cubes are the rest of the villagers who have spears – the village they are defending, Dorn Hill, is a village that happened to have a comparatively large amount of contraband weapons.
Green cubes are the villagers who have slings – not a lot of damage, but they have the advantage of being able to hit the Orcs without being hit themselves.

Purple cubes are the villagers who have large knives and are willing to fight with them (given that most families have a knife between them, even though they’re technically illegal, because it’s a ubiquitous tool)

Yellow cubes are the villagers who are willing to fight, but don’t have anything more dangerous than farm tools – grain flails, wooden pitchforks and quarterstaves.

The system hack

I’d like every villager death to be dramatic, and every Orc injury to be hard-won, so I want to treat each interaction with it’s own die-roll, possibly hand-waiving if things begin to drag.  But I want every death to hurt.  This battle may very well not go in the PCs’ favor, and the characters have never led troops before.

For the purposes of simplifying the battle, I am assuming everyone is using an All-Out Attack maneuver, as per the GURPS rules – the weaker ones, using knives and farm tools, taking a +2 to damage, and the others taking the +4 to attack rolls.  This lets me ignore defenses – it’s hard to parry with a knife or a hammer anyway.

I’m assuming the Orcs are really excited at the chance for a real, pitched battle where mostly their job is terrorizing unarmed villagers.

I also simplified damage: each hit from an Orc will take out the villager they hit.  Villagers don’t have more armor than layering the clothing they have, and the Orcs are wielding military weaponry with deadly skill.  Each hit from a villager wounds the Orc in question, and a second hit will take that Orc out.  Taken out means downed, unable to move well, and possibly going into shock, not dead unless the person is left without help.

On the fly, I’ll try to take penalties and bonuses into account – mostly penalties for things like slingers on rooftops (bad footing -2) or Orcs and villagers trying to fight across the debris barriers the villagers put up to block the road at two points.

I am also taking morale into account.  I need to double check the GURPS morale rules, if I can find them, but I’m assuming the Orcs will make a morale check after losing 20% of their force and the villagers will have to after losing 10% of their force – they’re not used to seeing their friends and family die around them.

Morale will be a collective Will roll and a Leadership roll from the leader of each force (an Orc veteran on one side and a PC on the other side).  If both succeed, they force is fine.  If only one succeeds, the force is stalled.  If both fail, the force withdraws.  A second failure means they panic and break.

The PC plan and the wild-card

One of the PCs is a spellcaster, using a lot of Mind Control magic.  The PCs’ plan hinges on him using a Panic spell to make groups of the Orcs run away, making them unable to defend themselves and letting villagers injure them as they flee.  He probably won’t have the energy to do this more than a couple times.  At the very least, it allows the PCs to use his magic-induced panic as cover.

It remains to be seen whether the PCs will set things up to be really able to take advantage of this tactic.


We’ll see how things work out – I’ll be trying this during our game tomorrow.