Been looking for an excuse to bookmark this thread, so here's a game more obscure than mockable by the name of The Riddle of Steel. Before anyone asks, no, this has nothing to do with Conan. For some reason, each major section within the book is referred to as a book. In spite of the fact that everything is in one binding and each "book" is less than 50 pages long (and some of them less than 20). Naturally, it has its own word for GM (Seneschal, a word that Wiktionary tells me basically means the head servant at a big castle or stately home). It also comes with my favourite ever melee combat system, damage tables to rival WFRP in brutality and a freeform magic system clearly inspired by Ars Magicka. Well, here goes.
So, might as well start at the beginning. Chapter one of this book is your standard opening chapter, with the usual "What is an RPG" and "What to expect from this RPG" blurb. Player Characters are by default more capable than the average person. Magic is dangerous and powerful, swordplay is is fast and lethal, and in general, the world is a dangerous place where the players should pick their fights carefully if they want to live. To quote the book:
Player characters are, by definition, exceptional people in a very real, very harsh world. Not one of mythical deserts and castle-laden clouds, or ores and dragons around every corner, but one of greedy men seeking power, hungry villagers after food and ransom, wandering swordsmen with an eye on conflict, death, and the Riddle, and millions of other people just trying to see tomorrow.
Strength (ST) is a measure of physical power and brawn, and has a great influence on damage dealt in combat, as well as some physical feats.
Agility (AG) is a measure of nimbleness, dexterity, speed, and hand-eye coordination. Agility is a key element in all physically active characters such as warriors, thieves, and some entertainers.
Toughness (TO) is a measure of physical grit and hardiness. A high Toughness protects characters from bodily harm.
Endurance (EN) is a measure of general "fitness," and plays a large roll in any long-term physical activity.
Health (HT) is a measure of one's immune system and healing capabilities.
Will Power (WP) is a measure of mental endurance and determination. This extremely useful virtue often means the difference in tight spots. This kind of personal determination and grit is best found in hardened soldiers and those fiercely dedicated to their causes.
Wit (Wit) is a measure of mental reflex and sharpness, best exhibited in comedians and fencers. This trait is key element for both good fighters and those that deal in the cutthroat intrigue of Weyrth's royal courts and palaces.
Mental Aptitude (MA) is a measure of how quickly one learns and how much they retain, exemplified by scholars, know-it-alls, and the finest pupils. This is not a measure of intelligence or cleverness—that's up to the player, not the character sheet! This trait has a great effect on skill advancement. This Attribute is especially important for Skill-based characters such as courtiers, thieves, and academics.
Social (Soc) is a measure of how charismatic, empathetic, and culturally adept your character is. This is a crucial ability for entertainers, courtiers, leaders, wheelers, and dealers.
Perception (Per) is a measure of alertness and awareness to one's surroundings. This attribute can warn your group of an impending ambush or a nighttime attacker, or help you find the keys to the king's secret passage... Woodsmen and rogues are often noted for their keen senses and Perception.
This attribute represents dice that may be added to any roll that supports your character in doing what he should instead of what might be more fun, more profitable, less dangerous, or just make more sense.
Any time an important event in the character's destiny comes to a head, these dice may be divvied up and added to any number rolls, refreshing eve)), round, as long as the Seneschal says so. These events should be rare, important, and short-lived (unless the event is the grand climax of the Destiny).
These dice may be added to any rolls that defend or further the character's cause, as often as the Seneschal deems it appropriate.
These dice may be used in one of two ways: (1) they may be added to any roll that significantly furthers or defends the belief faith or religion involved, or (2) they may be added to any roll that defends or protects the truly faithful (Seneschal's discretion).
These dice may be added to any of your rolls—all at once or bit by bit—during the course of a game session. When used up they're gone until next session, although generous Seneschals may allow refills during longer sessions. A point may be spent permanently to afford an instant success in any matter normally out of your hands—like a hay cart at the bottom of the castle tower you just fell out of (no matter what the TN.).
This attribute represents dice which may be added to any roll that directly affects the object of Passion, such as killing your hated enemy, rescuing your dearest love, or defending the name of your lord and king. These dice may be used as many times per game as the Seneshcal deems appropriate.
Cameron, the young Stahlnish Knight from an earlier example, loves the maiden that he's trying to rescue from the collapsing dungeon. When the Seneschal asks Cameron's player to roll a Test of Agility, Cameron requests that his Passion of3 (specified as love for his fair maiden) be added to the roll. The Seneschal grants his request, and Cameron now rolls 7 dice (his original 4 plus 3 from his Passion). He rolls against a TN of 9, as set by the Seneschal in the previous example: 4, 6, 7, 7, 9, 9, and 10 ... three successes this time!
Reflex is a combination of Agility and Wit, and determines how quickly a character may physically react to external stimulus. Average Reflex is 4.
Aim, extracted from Perception and Agility, quantify one's natural ability to hit a target over distances.
Knockdown is a measure of how solid and balanced one remains after taking a blow. Average Knockdown is 4.
Knockout is a measure of how hard it is to knock a character unconscious, based on Toughness and Will Power. Average Knockout is 6.
Move is a measure of how much distance in yards one can cover on foot in approximately 1 or 2 seconds (one combat round). Average Move is 6.
Well, I guess I might as well move onto book 2 of The Riddle of Steel; featuring priority picks, topsy-turvy skills and elves that really are Just Better.
Welcome to Book 2 of The Riddle of Steel. This book starts, once again, with some fairly competent, in setting fiction, before moving onto the actual rules section. This being the book on character creation, chapter one is about deciding on a character concept; it gives such relatively sound advice as discussing your concept with your fellow players and Seneschal, in order to help create a unified, complementary party. It then gives a list of example concepts which cover most of the bases. After this, there is a list of example philosophies by which a character might live his life, such as:
"Kill them all, let the gods sort them out."
"All for one and one for all."
"Turn the other cheek, do good unto those that harm you."
"Life is a journey. Wherever you go, there you are."
"If you don't watch your own back and look out for your own interests, who will?"
"The gods gave us strength and ability that we might serve and protect."
"Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die."
"All things are in the hands of the gods."
"All things are in my own hands."
"He that knows he knows nothing knows much."
"One should never give up until the end."
"Let no man make laws for me."
"We must build order out of chaos."
"Stand and fight."
"Run and live tomorrow."
"Honor is the gift man gives to himself."
"Rule your own destiny. Gain wisdom from failure."
"Do what you love, love what you do."
"Memories are permanent."
A Elves; Other Siehe with the Gift B Humans or Halflings with the Gift; Siehe without the Gift C Halflings without the Gift D Humans E Humans F Humans
Reflex = (AG + Wit)/2
Aim = (AG + Per)/2
Knockdown = (ST + AG)/2
Knockout = TO + (WP/2)
Move = (ST + AG + EN)/2
All right, there's just this book to go, and then it's the combat system; the real meat of this game.
Book 3, entitled Training, begins with skills. It opens up with the idea that most people tend to have a group of related skills that they've learned growing up, rather than just one or two such skills - for example, a warrior won't just know how to swing a sword, he'll know how to look after that sword, how to judge an opponent to work out if he's a threat and how to work out if someone's throwing a feint at him. These groups of related skills are called packets, and were chosen during character generation (Book 2). In a sidebox are listed fourteen such packets, with various skills which make sense to a character who might have taken said packet. Since there is some overlap, if the same skill is in both packets, one should take the better rating and improve it by one. Finally, the player is advised to choose his skill packets based on his concept - for example, a knight might have Knight and Courtier, while a bandit might have Soldier and Farmer, or Soldier and Thief.
After reiterating previous instructions as to skill tests (roll an appropriate attribute with a target number equal to the skill) and advice on using language and lore skills (these should be defined by the player when they're bought, and should make sense given the character's concept), we're given a full list of skills and what they're used for.
Acrobatics Dancing Acting Diplomacy Ancient Languages Disguise Animal Guise Etiquette Animal Handling, Herding Farming Arcane Theory First Aid Artillery Folk Lore Astronomy Gambling Battle Games Boating Heraldry Body Language Herbalist Breaking and Entering Hunting or Trapping Camouflage Intimidate Climbing Intrigue Combat/Weapon Art Juggling Craft/Trade Law <Next page> Leadership Secret Languages Lock Picking Sincerity Meditation Singing Musical Instrument Sneak Navigation Stewardship Orate Strategy Orienteering Streetwise Panhandling Style Analysis Persuasion Surgery Pickpocket Survival Read & Write Swimming Research Symbol Drawing Ridicule Tactics Riding Teamster Ritual Magic Theology Sailing Tracking Scrounging Traps
OK. Everything up until this point was mere preparation for this section. How rolling works, how Derived and Spiritual Attributes work, the various proficiencies and manoeuvres; they were all leading up to this point: the first (and probably only) melee combat system recognised by
The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts
, of which the designer of this game is a member, for its realism. Interested yet?
So, it's time for Book 4: The Codex of Battle. This right here is by far my favourite part of this game. The rules assume either a one on one or multiple opponents on one fight which, like most other aspects of this system, can take a while to get used to, but please believe me when I say that combat runs far quicker than you'd expect just from reading the rules. Following the in-universe fiction that opens this part of the rulebook, we have a small introduction that I'm simply going to quote directly, since this explains the reasoning behind this combat system far better than I ever could:
Combat in The Riddle of Steel is unlike any combat system you've ever seen. There are no hit-points, no initiative rolls, and as little abstract thought as possible. Instead this system is based on years of hands-on martial research and training. Though still a game, it is closer to representing real fighting than any RPG combat system ever written. A few words of advice are then in order:
(a) never get hit...ever! You probably won't recover.
(b) Use your head. Here, as in the real world, fights are won very much through strategy, not just high "stats" or big swords.
(c) Even the smallest weapon is deadly. Would you want to get stuck with a knife? Neither would your character.
(d) Teamwork, teamwork, TEAMWORK!!!... need we say more?
(e) There's a fine line between brave and stupid. Don't be stupid.
(f) Have a back-up plan, or a good idea of what your next character should be like. It's up to you.
To illustrate, picture three new characters walking along the road. They hear some noise up ahead and see five burly troll-like guys (some folks call them gols... read about them in Book Seven). Should our three heroes charge them head on? Not in The Riddle of Steel! Five on three is bad odds (just think back to wrestling your friends as a kid). So instead our Heroes hide in the bushes and concoct a plan (heaven forbid! A plan!). They decide to rush out of the bushes as these trolls pass, striking three of them down before they even know what hit them. That puts the odds at three on two in their favor... much better! Remember that it only takes one hit to ruin your character's day...forever.
Geralt, a well-practiced (but poor and unarmored) bladeslinger and swordsman, is dueling at swords with Felix, a lightly armored knight. Geralt has a ST of 5, TO of 4, and his Combat Pool is 15; Felix has a ST of 6, TO of 5, and a Combat Pool of 12.
Felix, having initiative from a successful parry, strikes at the midsection from his own right-hand side with 7 dice (an ambitious attack). Geralt, wisely knowing how important it is that he not get hit, assigns 9 dice to his defense—a parry from below. Both combatants throw their allocated dice: Felix, the attacker, gets 4 successes; Geralt rolls 5 successes and parries the blow. Because of his successful defense Geralt now has initiative, and thus opts to attack the midsection from his own left (notice the fluid motion from parry to attack—this is intentional!), spending his remaining 6 dice.
Felix realizes his mistake, and throws the last 5 of his dice in for a parry from the side. Geralt scores 5 successes and Felix scores only one, leaving Geralt with a Margin of 4 (this looks really bad for old Felix). Geralt's weapon has a Damage Rating of ST +1, so the sub-total (or Wound Rating) is 10. Rolling location on a d6, Geralt scores a direct hit to the neck—Felix is unarmored there! Felix then subtracts only his TO (5) from the subtotal... 10 — 5 = 5. A level 5 wound anywhere is nasty and usually fatal—in the neck it kills instantly (decapitation does that...).
Lira, a Dardanian freedom fighter (MP 12, Wit 6), has come to Otamarluk to assassinate the Sultan. Taking a perch on a rooftop across from the palace entrance (about 25 yards away), she prepares her short bow and sticks three arrows into the earthen roof.
Some time later the Sultan himself exits the palace surrounded by guards. Lira immediately grabs an arrow and knocks it (2 rounds). Feeling that she has enough time she takes careful aim at the Sultan's chest, waiting 2 more rounds for her MP to fill to 12 (at 6 dice per round).
She removes 2 dice from her MP (because the Sul'taan is walking, an example of "constant" movement) and uses the rest (10 dice) for her shot. Her ATN is 6 for the bow, plus 2 for the range (25 yards), for a final ATN of 8. She throws her dice: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 7, 8, 8, 8... three successes. Her damage level is 8 (5 for the bow, plus 3 for her successes), the poor unarmored Sultan's TO is 5, leaving him a level 3 wound in the torso as the arrow strikes him. Rolling a d6 on the Chest Puncture Damage Chart (in the Appendix) she gets a 2 — just below the ribs — which reads: BL: 10, Shock: 8, Pain: 10-WP, "Belly wound— internal bleeding is going to be a problem."
The Sultan reels back, spouting blood everywhere. Lira wants to see him dead, though, and reaches for another arrow. This time she's in a hurry as palace guards scatter to protect their liege. She opts to attempt reducing the preparation time by one second, and rolls Reflex/TN 8 (her reflex is 6, and she manages a lucky 3 successes). Reaching for the arrow sticking from the rooftop takes no time, and her haste has reduced knocking time from 2 rounds to 1. After a total prep time of only one round her pool begins refreshing. She holds her aim for one round (giving her 6 dice) and releases the second arrow at the bleeding Sultan's belly.
2 of her 6 dice are removed because of her hasty preparation, but none for movement (the Sul'taan isn't walking at present... he's just lying there). Lira's player rolls the remaining 4 dice (vs. TN 8): 4, 4, 6, 7... miss! Lira must now choose between firing that third arrow, or making her escape before the palace guards catch up to her.
Our hero Geralt has been called out on a duel by Felix' brother, Stefan. Geralt has a ST of 5, a TO of 4, a Reflex of 6, and his Combat Pool is 15. He is carrying a longsword and wearing no armor. Stefan has a ST of 5, a TO of 5, a Reflex of 4, and his Combat Pool is 13. He is wearing a full suit of chainmail, a pot-helmet, and carrying a heater shield; this reduces his CP to 9. They are fighting on foot.
Seneschal (controlling Stefan): Stefan salutes you and inches forward in a neutral stance.
Geralt: I set up in a defensive stance. This guy looks dangerous—and he's got a shield. I hate shields.
Seneschal: Declare attack or defense.
Both parties grab a red die and a white die and throw one simultaneously. Both throw white dice.
Seneschal: The two of you circle for a moment, sizing up your respective opponents. Throw again.
Both parties again grab a red die and a white die and throw one simultaneously. Both again throw white dice. After circling for a moment they both throw again and again.
Seneschal: Stefan, tired of circling, begins to taunt you, insulting your family and your skill.
Geralt: I'll return the favor. I say, "It's your brother whose head this inbred, unskilled blade-slinger tore from its shoulders. Perhaps you would like to join him in hell!"
Seneschal: Your insult seems to be really working him up. He changes to an aggressive stance and increases the ferocity of his insults. Throw initiative.
Again, both throw white dice.
Geralt: He wants me to attack first, but this just might work. I say, "Your brother never even put up a fight. I felt bad after I killed him—it was like slaying a handmaiden!"
Seneschal: It looks like that did it. Throw initiative.
This time Stefan throws a red die — he was taunted into it — while Geralt stays white (so as to benefit the most from his stance).
Seneschal: He comes in quickly, cutting sideways at your head, from his right. He's spending 5 dice on that attack.
Geralt: It's about time! I'm going to duck and weave so that I can strike him from the side, and get past that darn shield! I'm spending 9 dice.
They both roll. Stefan rolls 1, 2, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9... even with the aggressive stance bonus of +2 dice that's only two successes against his weapon's ATN of 6
Geralt rolls 2, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 9, 9, 0... three successes with the defensive stance bonus (+2 dice), beating Stefan by 1! 1t's plenty, and Stefan's sword goes whizzing harmlessly by — opening a big hole for Geralt to strike through.
Seneschal: You've evaded his blow and may attack. He loses 3 CP because of the Duck and Weave.
Geralt: Excellent! It was close, but it worked. I'm spending my remaining six dice trying to hit his left side.
Seneschal: He's going to try and evade (partially), spending his last 4 dice.
Again, they roll. Geralt, the attacker, rolls 4, 5, 5, 7, 8, 0... five successes at his weapon's ATN of 5 (it's a very nice sword). Stefan rolls 1, 7, 8, 0... three success at his DTN of 7 (due to partial evasion). That gives Geralt a margin of 2, plus his sword's damage rating of 8 (ST +3, a greatsword), for a subtotal of 10. He then rolls 1d6, getting a 3; according to the cutting damage tables (see Appendix) that's a blow to Stefan's upper abdomen, just below the ribs. Stefan subtracts his own toughness and armor rating (his chainmail covers that area), total 8, to finally receive a level two wound (10 — 8 = 2). That wound (again, see Appendix) reads: "Deep laceration, bleeding, and some torn muscle. BL 5, Shock 3, Pain 6 -WP" Next exchange Stefan will have only 6 dice to work with, and only 7 dice every exchange thereafter.
Seneschal: You duck under his sword and land a solid blow to his side - were it not for his armor you would have killed him. Nonetheless your blow leaves him reeling somewhat, and you may attack again, though he is able to spin himself around for defense somewhat. We're beginning round two; pools refresh.
Geralt: Let's do that. I'll swing up from below for 10 dice. I'm gonna gut this puppy.
Seneschal: He's going to attempt to block, using his shield, with 4 dice.
Geralt rolls 1, 1, 1, 2, 3, 4, 4, 7, 7, and 7... (bad luck!) only three successes against an ATN of 5. Stefan rolls 2, 3, 7, 9... two successes against a difficulty of 5 (shield's DTN). Geralt hits with a margin of one, plus weapon damage gives a subtotal of 9. Rolling location (see Appendix), Geralt's blow lands on Stefan's inner thigh. Stefan's armor and TO bring that down to zero (0), giving Stefan a level 0 wound to deal with - just a scratch.
Seneschal: You land a hit on the inside of his leg, but it fails to break Stefan's chainmail armor. You still have initiative, and may attack.
Geralt: You know it! I'm spending those last five dice to hit him in that same side again.
Seneschal: He's blocking with two (that's all he's got).
Geralt rolls 1, 2, 2, 4, 8... one success (ATN 5). Stefan rolls land 9... two successes! He manages to block Geralt's attack (TN 7). Thus ends round two. As round three begins, the Seneschal rolls blood loss (TN 2) for Stefan. He rolls 2 successes, and Stefan is fine for now. The Seneschal also applies pain modifiers to Stefan's CP leaving him with 7 dice.
Seneschal: This is round three; pools refresh. Stefan now has initiative and attacks your side from his right. He's spending five dice.
Geralt: No problem. I'll parry sideways with 8 dice.
Stefan rolls 4, 5, 7, 7, 9... three successes (weapon ATN 6). Geralt parries, rolling 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 9, 0, 0... four successes (weapon DTN 6).
Seneschal: You just barely manage to knock his sword to the side, and may now attack.
Geralt: Time to finish this guy. Seven dice for an upwards attack from my left.
Seneschal: He's going to try a block again, for two dice.
Geralt rolls 2, 2, 3, 7, 7, 7, 8, 8... five successes. Stefan rolls 1 and 9... only one success. Geralt margin is 4, and rolling a d6 Geralt gets a 5-the blow lands on the face! Geralt's blow does 12, minus Stefan's TO (5), but no armor. That's a level five wound! The damage table reads: "Death. Destruction of cerebellum. Really messy." And that ends the fight.
Seneschal: Blood spatters all over you as your opponent drops like a bag of sand. Now his retainers start advancing on you...
Geralt: Okay, time to get out of here...
And that's how combat works. Lots of freedom, but it was really that first hit that won the fight.
OK, this post is going to be fairly short, since this section of the rulebook is mostly just about travel, encumbrance and how badly you break yourself if you fall. This is a pretty boring section that I read once and promptly ignored (with a couple of exceptions) when actually running the game.
Book 5 begins with rules for how far one may travel in a given day. The Move attribute governs how fast a person may travel, while Endurance determines how long they can keep it up. When jogging, a player must roll Endurance every five minutes; while sprinting, every minute. Chases are simply a question of Move, Endurance and the sheer stones to just keep going while your body is begging you to stop. Finally, there is a table that shows how far one may travel in a day, assuming ten hours of travelling (including breaks and meals and such).
Next, we have encumbrance. Encumbrance is determined abstractly, by comparing what a character is carrying with one of five images, with each level of encumbrance adding penalties to movement speed and the Combat Pool. Being overweight has an effect on this as well. The third section is lifting and carrying. There is a table that shows the target numbers for a Strength check to lift an object based on weight. The target number goes up by 1 for every 25lbs of weight, starting at 50. One success allows you to lift something off of the ground; three allow you to lift to your chest and four allow you to lift over your head. If your Strength is equal to the target number, you may automatically assume three successes; if it is one higher, you may assume four successes, or if it is one lower, you may lift it just off of the ground.
Next we have jumping and falling. Jumping works exactly like lifting; there is a table showing the target numbers for a given height or distance, and if the character has sufficient strength, he may automatically make the jump. Falling causes a number of wounds based on the distance fallen, and the locations are rolled randomly. Every time the same location is rolled, the severity of the wound increases. The following example is taken pretty much verbatim:
Example: Vhord is knocked from his horse during a battle. He falls 6' (sitting height on a Stahlnish Charger) onto the hard ground. Consulting Table 5.6, we see that that's 3 points of damage. Vhord's player rolls 3 times (once for each point of damage) on Table 5.7 to see where Vhord is wounded. He rolls 3, 4, and 7. He takes a level two bludgeoning wound to his upper leg and a level one wound to his head. Now he has to get up...
Well, as I’ve bugger all else to do tonight, I might as well get what promises to be a pretty big post out of the way now. I’ve got the Zulf’s Theme going in the background, The PDF in a second window and I’m ready to rock.
Jesus wept, where to begin? Well, I guess I might as well start the way I did for the Combat chapter; with a few words from the author.
In The Riddle of Steel, magic is unshackled. Sorcerers wield incredible power, and have the unmistakable ability to disrupt the balance of anything and everything. These are no mere mages, nor practitioners of "hedge magic" and simple incantations. These are the Gifted men and women that wield the power of the Fey. Such individuals are rare, secretive, patient and dangerous.
Each sorcerer learns and uses magic differently. Magic is a precious gift so rarely bestowed that only one in a many tens of thousands may wield it. For those Gifted few, only a handful of books on magic are available in the entire world, treasured and guarded in secret places by those who wish the knowledge kept secret. Most sorcerers must, therefore, be responsible for their own advancement and development.
Magic in The Riddle of Steel is both dangerous and powerful. In contrast to what many players are accustomed to, magic in this game can prove dangerous to a reckless user. Wasteful and thoughtless use of magic will inevitably cost the character his youth. Every spell cast has the potential to age the character, as well as to knock the sorcerer unconscious from the strain. Sorcerers must temper their actions with wisdom, patience and cunning in order to retain their vitality and often their lives. The payoff is unparalleled, however, for there are no "weak" sorcerers. Undoubtedly, all this is terrifying—or should be... really.
Ghandul has written a spell (after making an Arcane Theoryand Read &Write Skill Test). He decides to name the spell "FOLD."
He must have MOVEMENT master rank (3) in order to transmit his molecules instantly. The volume level is 2 (his weight), and the target value is zero (as the spell effects only the caster). The range of the MOVEMENT component is 0, but the range of the VISION vagary is 3. SCULPTING 3 is needed to prevent damage to him during transport, disintegrating him before travel, and reintegrating him afterward. Ghandul also incorporated VISION into the spell so that he could go anywhere his friends needed him. Master level is needed for a clairvoyant scan of the target area.
All this totals up to a spell with a TN of 8
+0 for Target — Animal (but in this case it's the caster)
+3 for Range — Linked to target.
+2 for Volume — 10 liters 77 kilos (his weight)
+0 for Duration
+3 for Level [the Vagary of MOVEMENT]
[+0 each for the Vagaries of VISION and SCULPTING because this is a Formalized Spell of Three]
TOTAL CTN of spell = 8 (A hard spell!)
AGING = 8 months maximum
KNOCKOUT = 5 + months aged, if any
Formalized Spell of Three
CTN = 8 (casting time: 60 seconds)
T) 3 R) 0 V) 2 D) 0 L) 3
Vagary(s): Movement 3 Sculpting 3 Vision 3
Effect(s): Speed 3, Composition 3, Clairvoyance 3
The sorcerer disintegrates his molecules and transports them to a preordained destination at the speed of light, reassembling them upon arrival.
Ghandul's available Sorcery Pool dice for this spell are 17 (SP 13 + ART 4).
2. Ghandul Uses his New Spell
One day he needs to get into an enemy castle nine counties away immediately or his friend will be beheaded at the hands of a mad king. He decides that the risk is sufficient to use this newly written spell.
To cast the spell, Ghandul splits his whole Sorcery Pool except for one die (so that he can use a Refresh Spell if things get ugly once he arrives at the mad king's castle). He decides to use both Gestures and Dialogue to lower the CTN by 2. After successfully rolling an Attribute Test of Form (5)/TN 8 (the spell's CTN) for both Gestures and Dialogue, Ghandul focuses his energy, takes one minute (60 seconds) to cast the spell, and rolls his dice. He devotes 7 SP dice towards casting the spell and 9 dice towards resisting aging. Fortune grants him 5 successes in casting and 6 in resisting aging. He ages 2 months but still casts the spell. He rolls Knockout/TN 7 (5 + the 2 months he aged) successfully, and remains conscious. He's now aged 2 months (and will likely need a shave and a haircut), but is going to surprise the hell out of that evil king when he shows up.
3. Ghandul Casts that Same Spell in a Hurry
Same spell, another situation. Ghandul does not have time to waste. The ceiling of a cavern is collapsing around him. As he needs to get out quick he's going to cast FOLD as a series of Spells of One. Ghandul's Spell Pool for this spell is 13, his unmodified SP
FOLD (Vision Component)
Spell of One
CTN = 7 (casting time: 7 seconds)
T) 3 R) 3 V) 0 D) 0 L) 3 (-2 for Formalization)
Vagary(s): Vision 3
Effect(s): Clairvoyance 3
The sorcerer's inner sight is instantly guided to the person or place that is sought.
FOLD (Sculpture Component)
Spell of One
CTN = 3 (casting time: 3 seconds)
T) 0 R) 0 V) 2 D) 0 L) 3 (-2 for Formalization)
Vagary(s): Sculpting 3
Effect(s): Composition 3
The sorcerer disintegrates his molecules for a second, after which they reintegrate
FOLD (Movement Component)
Spell of One
CTN = 4 (casting time: 4 seconds)
T) 0 R) 3 V) 0 D) 0 L) 3 (-2 for Formalization)
Vagary(s): Movement 3
Effect(s): Speed 3
The sorcerer transports his molecules to a preordained destination at the speed of light.
In order to pull this oft; he will have to cast all three parts of the spell separately. Each part of the spell must be Held while the next is cast. It's going to be tricky to say the least. Beginning with the Vision portion of the spell, Ghandul splits his Spell Pool evenly, saving one die.
He flares up his energy, casts the spell, and rolls his dice. The first spell is the hardest, CTN of 7, so he devotes seven to cast and five to aging: generating 2 casting and 3 aging successes (he ages 4 months). He rolls his Knockout vs. A TN of9, and passes. Ghandul is maintaining the spell with 5 of his cast dice (CTN 7 - # of casting successes), so though his pool is 1 right now, it can only refresh up to 8. Next Ghandul uses MANA III (TN of 1, he's Formalized it). He gets 3 x Draw (4) dice-12 total—but as he's maintaining a spell with 5 SP dice, he only refreshes to a maximum of 8 SR.
He then casts the second part of the spell. The Sculpture portion has a TN of 3, so he allots 3 SP to cast and three to resist aging, with 2 casting and 3 aging successes the result (he doesn't age on this one!). He must devote 1 die to maintaining the spell (holding it for later), after which he refreshes his Spell pool again. This time he uses MANA II, as he won't need more than 8 dice (TN 0), and it goes off without a hitch. He now has a 7 die maximum in his Spell Pool (13 — 5 to maintain the first spell, —1 to maintain the second = 7).
Again he splits his dice with one to spare. Using 3 dice to cast the Movement portion (CTN 4) and 3 to resist aging he rolls 2 successes for the spell and 3 against aging. He ages another month! He luckily passes his Overdraw Knockout Roll once again.
With the final component prepared he releases his maintained hold on the previous two spells and whoosh! Ghandul's body is immersed with energy, and time seems to stop. The pain he feel as his molecules are shredded asunder is exceeded only by the nausea caused by flying through space. White light blinds his mind for a split second, followed shortly by the buzzing feeling of reintegration. Gravity once more pulls him toward the earth as his senses return to their normal state.
In total he has aged 4 months from the first spell, 1 month from the third, and 5 months from using refresh spells, or 10 months in all. When he re-appears outside of the cave he'll have long hair and a wicked looking beard. On the other hand, it only took him 16 seconds to do what would have taken 60 if cast as a Spell of Three.
Look at those sorcery rules ... they seem pretty dangerous for traditional fantasy role-playing. If you allow a sorcerer character in your game, then blood, death, destruction, storm, and much more seem very likely to follow. The player has the ability to change so much, so fast - he can blow the head off of your favorite villain, he can bring a hurricane into the sky, he can stand your pre-planned scenario on its head. It seems like a Seneschal's nightmare. Or turn the issue around - the player might be a bit reluctant too, once he finds out that any spell, successful or not, might drain the character's very life away. Does sorcery seem like a bad idea?
Here's a character to consider: Von Salm, a Stahlnish sorcerer. That might seem odd, since his culture rejects the possibility of such things ... except that it's easier to hide your sorcery when people are blind to it.
Who'd possibly let such a character loose in a traditional fantasy game? Von Salm is a Master of Movement, Summoning, and Conquer. He can reverse a sword in an opponent's hand and drive it through his body. He tell just about anyone to jump off a cliff, and they'd do it. Given time, he can conjure up a pterodactyl and ride it against his enemies.
Sorcery in The Riddle of Steel was not written with any sort of "game purpose" in mind. It's not an alternative way to "advance" on an equal par with "fighters." It's not a justification of any sort of technology or culture in the setting. It's not a disguised excuse to bring personal artillery into
combat. Instead, sorcery is designed as another, very dramatic means of getting Spiritual Attributes into play. Sorcerers are men and women working within the realm of these attributes. They will be casting magic for passionate reasons, and thus will have five to seven more dice available, for those purposes, than is immediately obvious from just looking at sorcery pools.
Just as fighting physically carries its risk of being maimed by one's opponent, spell-casting carries its risk of draining your life. Both of these things put life and limb at risk. Both of them are the only means, in a harsh and low-tech setting, of expressing one's wishes and values in a situation of crises. Both ask the question: "What is worth the harm that I can bring to others, and the risk I incur for myself?"
Von Salm's Spiritual Attributes
Drive 1 - to bring peace to his home province
Passion 0 - hatred for the traditional feudal lord of his home province
Passion 3 - love for his son
Faith 2 - Xanar is real, and his call is now - especially in Stahl
We're talking about a guy who is willing to stand against the official decrees of his culture in order to preserve his faith. Stahl is a warlike place, with lordlings riding against one another all the time, and he wants peace. He knows why he wants it, too - because he loves his son, and even though sorcery may damn his soul according to his own faith, he's willing, if his son can know a future that's better than the present.
Look especially at the attributes' potential, regardless of their current values. His hatred slumbers, but it can fan into flame, as might his Drive, which is currently just being born.
One must ask, of a particular character, why is he or she a sorcerer at all? These men and women have devoted years of study to a secret and fearful profession that involves tapping strange forces that can literally kill them if used incorrectly. Why? What it is about magic that draws them? To what end? Just as a non-sorcerer player-character in this game must be more than merely a guy who can kill, let's assume that there's more to a sorcerer player-character than the ability to destroy a tower wall or take over someone's mind. He can do these things ... but for this particular character, at this particular time, the real question is why?
How are his Spiritual Attributes actually lined up? That will be what he's up to. And it isn't going to be the same-old fantasy-game thing, either. How many sorcerers have a Passion for Serving Military Big Wigs? How many of them have a Destiny to be a Court Monkey Boy? I suggest not many, if any at all. Real sorcerers will have other goals, plans, Drives, and Destinies, much more personal ones. That's where their magic is going to go, and that's how they'll get tons of extra dice for their rolls - including age resisting rolls.
Much, much better: now it's not a question of "what Von Salm can do," in terms of disrupting preplanned scenarios. The question is not the spell he casts, but what he casts it about. Is it about some footpad who comes at him with a knife? Is it about some yotz insulting him in a bar? Is it about a stranger who offers him a job?
No. When Von Salm casts a spell, I can tell you that it will be about the fate of his home province. It will be about peasants persecuted for their faith. It will be about his son's education. It will be about that Drive and that Hatred flaring into higher values. It will be personal.
A sorcerer, by definition, is someone with an agenda. This is another point where story kicks in, both for the player of that character, for the other players in the game, and for the Seneschal. How might that agenda be brought into full fruition? Alternately, how may it be negotiated, altered into new paths, or scattered?
Therefore, sorcery is about drama - passions in action, promises kept and betrayed, and all the ties of family, friendship, loyalty, and ideals. It brings these things into play with all the chilling, dark power one can imagine, with no immediate restrictions beyond its price. Sure, it's unbalanced - so is the human heart. Sure, it's dangerous - so is the human mind. Sure, it could well be the death of the one who uses it – so might a sword.
To sum it all up: sorcery is steel too. The Riddle resides there as well.
OK, I’ve been putting this one off for far too long; mostly because I have no idea of how to make this particular post interesting; I’ve yet to actually use any of the material here, so I’ve forgotten about most of it. Still; I’d best get on with it, or else this Lets Read will never be finished...
Welcome to the seventh book of The Riddle of Steel – The World of Weyrth. This book begins as all the others do; a couple of pieces of fiction set within the official setting. This is followed by an overview of the world itself. Weyrth is very similar to Earth in many respects; it’s about the same size, has a similar range of environments and has only one day less in the year. Weyrth has six moons, each a different size and colour, making the night sky beautiful to behold when all the moons are full. Ancient texts speak of there being three suns traversing the heavens, but only one of them exists today.
The main continent is generally referred to as Weyrth, as most of the world believes that the world ends at its borders. Some explorers claim to have seen other lands, but even those who believe them don’t expect to ever see them. The continent is divided into three subcontinents – Mainlund in the West, Tegaarn in the East and Maraiah in the South. Mainlund is essentially Not-Europe, and is mostly ruled by the old Xanarium Empire. Tegaarn, the largest of the three, begins roughly at the equator and stretches up towards the frozen seas to the north. It is essentially Not-Asia. Maraiah, the smallest, has deserts, jungles, mountain ranges and more, and is essentially Not-Africa.
It is at this point that the book explains that everything in this book is optional; all of the setting information can be freely ignored, as can any rules which crop up in this part of the book. It does suggest trying out the setting “as is” at least once, however, and suggests that instead of the standard globe-trotting, epic campaigns often used in other settings, the campaigns used in this book should be on a smaller scale. It also points out that, as far as most people are concerned, elves and magic are simple superstition. After that, it says, go nuts.
The third chapter of this book describes the nations of Weyrth. At the end of each nation’s description, there is a collection of nationality modifiers for the temporal and mental attributes of characters from those lands. The nations, in alphabetical order, are as follows:
Angharad and Picti
Angharad and Picti lie in the enchanted forests towards the west of the Irontooth Mountains. This is basically Not-Ireland. Their warriors prefer two handed weapons and javelins, and don’t wear much armour (leather is most common). The druidic faith is quite common around these parts, and their legal system is determined by whoever happens to be king of the twenty square mile patch of land you happen to be standing in. Celts and Picts tend to be short and feisty, removing a d6 from their height, adding 1 to their agility, wits and social attributes while removing 1 from their strength and Toughness.
Ahr is a southern nation that lies on the coast of the Vast Sea. It has a rigid caste system, with a ruling caste, a soldier caste, a merchant caste, and finally the slaves. Each caste has four individual subcastes. There are no police as such; assassins may legally be hired to deal with anyone a person feels has wronged them, and anyone of a higher caste may summarily execute anyone of lower caste for whatever reason. Ahr is hated by the remainder of the world, and anyone from there will be considered to be a spy. The bonuses people from this nation receive depend on caste, but they all receive a -1 penalty to health.
Cyrinthmeir is one of the largest of nations in Weyrth, from the Mediterranean south to the cold north. The major religion in this part of the world is the Imperial “Three Gods Become One” (Not-Christianity). While not a part of the Xanar Empire, they consider them to be allies. Their military is mostly based around light cavalry, with spears and longswords the preferred personal weapon of most soldiers. The legal system is based on the feudal system old. They are trusting but tough (-1 Perception; +1 Toughness), fairly well educated (freemen get Read/Write for free) and are good with languages (they get a free language based on whereabouts they’re from within the nation.
Dardanet is a very mountainous region divided by religion. Westerners follow the Three Gods faith, while Easterners follow the Seven Vows of the Prophet (Not-Islam), and there are many superstitions that they all agree on. Characters from here receive +1 to Willpower, because they’re stubborn, -1 to Mental Aptitude because they’re superstitious, +1 endurance because of the mountainous terrain and a free language.
Ehld is another druidic nation, with its glades and valleys. Hunting for sport is looked down upon, as animals are believed to be willingly giving themselves as food and clothing, but ought to be thanked for this; not wasted for sport. During times of war, every healthy man between 16 and 27 is marshalled into the army, known as the shield, and they are all trained from birth in the use of the axe and the bow. Professional soldiers are also trained in the use of the longsword and shield, but these are banned during times of peace. Justice is delivered by the druids; murderers are often fed alive to animals, thieves and other felons are made to mine, what with this being a dangerous but important task, and stoning by the wronged party is a fairly common punishment. Imprisonment, on the other hand, is not. Characters coming from here get an additional two points to put into their spiritual attributes upon creation, but receive 20% less starting wealth.
Fahal is a mountainous land in the southern subcontinent, named after the god they worship. They have no cities, no organised religion and very little grassland; the area is mostly covered in granite and slate from the local volcanoes. The Fahalanim see everything as a matter of black and white; either a person is good or bad; can be trusted or not. They prefer that a man believe in a false god than no god at all, but discussing religion can be a bad idea – if they tell someone about their religion, and they don’t believe, they consider the person to be calling them a liar. This doesn’t always result in a fight, but it does result in bad feelings. They don’t use money at all; all wealth is in the form of goods. Characters from this land get +1 to toughness and willpower, -1 to social and mental aptitude and +3 to their starting faith. For these characters, faith may rise as high as 7, though if it ever dips below 2, this ability is lost. Because Fahalan wealth is all in the form of goods, any starting wealth not spent is lost.
Farrenshire is essentially Not-England; it is to the south of Angharad, and while the official faith is that of the Three Gods, many follow the old druidic faiths. Farrenmen receive a +1 to social, a -1 to will power and an additional 25% to their starting wealth, as Farrenshire is a particularly wealthy place to live. Everyone receives free skills in Etiquette and Heraldry, and any knight will have met the king.
Fauth is paradise, near enough. It was founded by a wizard, who brought civilisation to the brown skinned heathens, as the book describes them. This nation is run by trade cartels, theft is the gravest of all crimes, crimes are judged by the employer of the accused. The penalty for theft is blinding for the first offence, castration for the second and death for the third, as such a person is considered worthless anyway; the penalty for murder, on the other hand, is a hundred times his yearly wage, to be paid to the cartel the victim belonged to. Characters from this land receive a bonus to mental aptitude, but a penalty to strength. They also receive a free skill point in any language they speak.
Gelure is a mountainous place which shares both a border and a coastline with Xanar; the heart of the Empire. Pity then, that Gelure is one of the Empire’s most hated enemies. Uglub claims to be the Dark Betrayer reborn. Unlike most other nations, magic users aren’t persecuted; they are in fact nurtured and given instruction in how to use their arts. In terms of religion, well, the man in charge claims to be the devil incarnate. Magic users from here gain an additional three proficiency points, while military characters get one proficiency point and improve one of their starting skill packets by 1. Also, starting wealth is improved by 10%.
Helena is essentially Not-Greece. People from here get an additional skill and a +1 bonus to social.
Imjia is under constant martial law, is constantly plagued by famine and disease, and is a pretty ugly looking place to boot. There is a literal gateway to hell here. Characters from here get +2 to Endurance, but -2 to Health. All members of the military are castrated.
Ixliaph is a very mountainous place, filled with religious zealots. The religion is Esauln, and not following it is treason. Art is treason, education is treason and having fun is treason. Only priests may carry weapons, and only priests may uphold the law. Characters from here get +1 to toughness and endurance, but -1 social and mental aptitude. They also get a free goat.
This is basically Not-Mongolia, and is home to the Not-Golden Horde. Any religion may be practiced by anyone, and each tribe enforces its own laws among its own members. Characters from here get +1 to toughness and endurance, -1 to strength, are -1d6 shorter than most and are experts on horseback.
Numeria is a desert in the style of Not-Ancient Egypt. Characters receive -1 to will power, but +1 to perception.
Odeon is an icy wasteland filled with barbarians. Weapons are made of stone or bone, teeth are used for money. Male characters receive a +1 bonus to strength, while females receive +1 to both strength and toughness. They both receive -2 to mental aptitude.
Otarmaluk is a Not-Arabian nation, waging war on the infidels who refuse to follow the Seven Vows. The place is ruled by the Sultan and the clerics, and there is much wealth – though most never get to see it. Characters who aren’t nobles only receive a third of the usual starting wealth, while those who are gain double the starting wealth. They also gain +1 to social and wits, but -1 to will power.
Ouestenreich ranges from hills in the south to mountains in the north, and while the nation is officially atheist, there is an incredible mix of religious beliefs. Characters from here receive a couple of free skills to do with speaking the neighbouring languages, forestry and folklore.
Not-Russia, essentially. The king is elected by the nobility, and then reigns until his death. The nobility have many rights and privileges, but the common folk tend to live as slaves to their noble masters. Characters from here gain +1 to either willpower or toughness, but -1 to health due to the harsh conditions. They gain two free languages and High Freemen are considered to be members of the nobility. Peasants receive only half of the usual starting wealth.
A desert and jungle region filled with various semi-nomadic tribes. A tribe is led by the father of the best hunter. If the chieftain’s son is taken ill, or injured, the father of the next best hunter takes over. Characters from here gain a +1 bonus to perception, but a -1 penalty to mental aptitude. Hunting and Herbalism are free skills.
Vikings, fuck yeah! Characters from here gain a +1 bonus to strength and endurance, a -1 penalty to mental aptitude and social, the bad reputation flaw (due to the number of Not-Viking raids), an extra proficiency point and free sailing skills. They can also, with some effort, understand Stahlnish, and the Stahlnish can, with equal effort, understand them.
Seat of the Xanarian Empire
Not-Rome. Imagine if the Roman Empire hadn’t collapsed until the 12th century. Xanarians receive the read/write skill for free, four free courtier skills, and preferential treatment in places where the Empire is still respected.
Not-Germany. Atheism is the official belief, but many still worship the Three Gods, while those in the north follow the Savaxen traditions. Characters from here get a +1 bonus to toughness and a -1 penalty to social. They also get a bonus proficiency point, most have a trained shire horse and all are allowed to carry weapons.
Forests and jungles are order of the day here; impressive looking cities and temples are carved out from existing mountainsides, and the people live under a caste system. Pestilence is a big problem; as is piracy; they don’t have much of a navy, and their army isn’t particularly good. Good manners are very common here. Characters from here gain a +2 to Social, but a -2 to health due to all the diseases floating around.
This nation used to be a part of the Empire, and has the Imperial Road running through it towards the Seat of the Xanarian Empire. This is a huge place, hence why it was lost as the Empire gradually began to lose its power, and is divided into eight segments, each corresponding to one of the eight compass points. The high lords have standing armies garrisoned here, which is useful when one considers how often they get attacked by the nations who don’t follow Not-Christianity. The society is mostly Feudal, except that serfs are considered free men and may come and go as they please (so long as they’ve fulfilled any contracts to their lord). They may also choose to join the army or the clergy at any time, should their position be bad enough that they really can’t stand to remain in the service of a given lord any longer. Characters from here receive +1 perception, but -1 toughness due to their predominantly urban lifestyle, and receive the Read/Write skill for free.
Not-Japan. A historically accurate Not-Japan, to be more precise; society is strictly caste based, nudity and sexuality aren’t taboo (though one doesn’t tend to do the latter in public). If you’ve read Shogun, then you’ve got a good idea what I’m talking about. Characters from here get +2 to social because of how incredibly well mannered they are (and indeed have to be in order to avoid summary execution), but have a penalty of -1 to strength due to their smaller stature.
Very similar to the already mentioned Not-Ancient Egypt in many respects, aside from a few differences in mythology. Characters from here receive +1 to endurance and perception, but -2 to will power. They must also worship one of the Not-Ancient Egyptian gods.
Not-China. Struggling between a religion similar to the old Celestial Bureaucracy myths and the advent of Not-Buddhism, the ruling classes are trying to come to terms with the idea that all should be treated ethically when traditionally the rulers were considered to be the children of the gods. Peasants are forbidden weaponry, and as such have created many forms of unarmed martial arts over the centuries. Characters from here gain +1 to mental aptitude and agility due to state education and fitness programs, but -1 to strength and toughness due to their small stature.
Yone is an isolated place, run as a feudal monarchy. It is known mostly for its art and literature, though when forced into battle, its soldiers are almost fearless. Education is incredibly widespread, and the laws are reasonably fair. Characters from here receive +1 to will power, but -1 to social due to the society’s focus on being self-sufficient, and receive a free craft skill.
Not-Cossacks. They ride into battle on horseback, wielding sabres and spears, and when they’re not fighting, they’re getting drunk. Most of them tend to wear long moustaches, but have their heads shaved aside from a top knot. Characters from here get +2 to Luck and may increase Luck as high as 7 (though may never reduce it below 2), and receive a very good riding skill for free. They have no social classes, but the priority chosen during character creation still determines their starting wealth.
Barbarian wasteland. Characters from here receive a +1 to strength, toughness and endurance, but a -1 to health and social and a -2 to mental aptitude. They also receive Survival as a free skill.
Anyway, after the nations are described (all of them in far more detail than I could be arsed with), the book moves on to describe religion within Weyrth. It begins with a few rules on religion that I’ll simply quote here, before moving onto describing the dominant religions on the continent:
There are a few "rules" governing the use of religions and gods in The Riddle of Steel
• Gods do not grant "spells" and there are no fantasy-style "clerics." Miracles, the fruit of great need and greater faith, however, are rumored to occur from time to time.
• There is no "official" true religion of Weyrth...at least none that the players should be aware of. Each character believes his or her own chosen path to be the "true" one. It is up to the Seneschal and the flavour of his campaign as to which—if any— of the following mythoi is the "one true church."
• This is still just a game. Though many of the religions presented here and in the dossier of lands borrow from real-world faiths, no preference is taken on the part of the authors or anyone else. Any similarities to real-world faiths, real or imagined, are either completely coincidental or used to add a dash of realism, not as a representation of any real persons beliefs or ideals. If at any time any of players are uncomfortable with the religious content of the game the Seneschal is obligated to accommodate that player (see Book Eight: The Seneschal for more).
• These religions are meant to provoke thought, action, and emotion in the characters and their players. Use them as such! Faith has always been the number-one motivational factor for the propagation of good and evil since time began.
1. The Age of the New Moon (myth to approx. 250 WEYR)
• Xanar Shard-finder subdues the world and names it Weyrth.
• 1 WEYR. The Great Battle between Xanar and the Dark Betrayer ends in the shattering of the west and the Sea of Fallen Gods. A new moon rises in the sky as a gift from the Gods in remembrance of Xanar and the Great Battle.
• 3 WEYR. Xanarium is founded in honor of the fallen hero, and his brethren take the Seat, now called the Seat of the Empire.
2. The Age of the Third Moon (approx. 250 to 550 WEYR)
• c. 250 WEYR. Another moon rises, totaling three. It is taken as an omen of prosperity by the fledgling Empire.
• Early growth of Xanarium over land. Xanarian rulers unite the local tribes and peoples, forming the first unified nation since the Great Battle.
• The number and quality of ships sailing the new Sea of Fallen Gods and along Xanarium's western coast expand, leading to increasing political, military, and economic power.
3. The Age of the Fourth Moon (550 to 773 WEYR)
• c. 550 WEYR. Rise of the Fourth Moon. Increasing tides destroy many shoreline villages and ruin crops, hurting the young Empire financially. Faster expansion becomes paramount to survival for the Empire. These same increasing tides seem to come with the rise of each new moon in the sky.
• Major Sea victories lead to the conquest of Helena (565 wEYR), Dardanet (583 W EYR), Fauth (601 WEYR), and Yone (608 WEYR).
• 610 WEYR. The capital of Xanarium officially titled "The Seat of the Xanarian Empire." Military strength grows through tribute from conquered lands.
• Missions and war bring the Imperial Church to the "heathen" conquered nations. It takes some hold in Helena and Dardanet, but fails to gain a significant following further south.
• 658 WEYR. Witchcraft of any form is outlawed and considered punishable by death, even in those lands where the Church isn't generally accepted by the populace. Priests and missionaries spend as much time rooting out "evil" as teaching the Word of Xanar and the Three-Gods-Become-One.
• 692 WEY R. Increased economic and military power makes a large overland expedition to the north possible. Entire legions of Imperial soldiers march side-by-side with missionaries of the Three to subdue the northern barbarians and show them the true way of the Gods.
• 739 WEYR. Northern campaigning brings all the lands south of the Irontooth Mountains under Imperial Rule. The Stahlnish and the Celts of Angharad continue to provide a serious obstacle to Imperial advancement. The discovery of improved metalworking techniques among the northerners leads to the more frequent use of steel and metal armors.
4. The Age of the Fifth Moon (773 to 1200 WEYR)
• 773 WEYR. The rise of the Fifth Moon brings the dawn of new strategies for Imperial conquest. Political alliances are created where military might fails with Stahl. Though military victories with Stahl are fleeting, missionaries find significantly more success. The Church is officially established as the State Religion of Stahl and the entire north. Unlike the south, the Church is accepted with much popularity throughout all of the Empire's northern territories. Within 15 years Stahl becomes a vassal-state to the Empire due to religious involvement, not military power.
• approx. 900 WEYR. Over one hundred years of intense missionary work bring the Word of Xanar and the Three as far as Zhibara and Krym-Khanan. It is accepted with some warmth in Zhibara and Zaporozhya, fully embraced in Sarmatov and the Rzeczpospolita, and utterly, bloodily rejected in Krym-khanan and the rest of the east. Severe wars break out on all borders as the Imperial Church clashes with the Faith of the Seven Vows of the Prophet.
• 957 WEYR. Imperial involvement in wars against the followers of the Prophet, along with religious ties, lead to direct alliances between the Empire and Sarmatov and other eastern nations.
• 1000 to approx. 1200 WEYR. The one thousand-year anniversary of the Great Battle inspires a number of "Holy Crusades." Entire armies of crusaders are formed to retake the Shard from the Followers of the Prophet in Hakh'mah and to wage war upon heathens everywhere. Other smaller groups band together to hunt down the last of the Nine, those sorcerers that served the Dark Betrayer at the time of the Great Battle. More crusades follow with limited degrees of success. The Shard is never recovered, though many claim to have slain some of the Nine. Increased travel and international trade lead to better technology on all fronts—better armors, weapons, foodstuffs, etc.
5. The Age of the Sixth Moon (1200 WEYR to present)
• 1200 WEYR. The Sixth Moon rises, leading to record flooding on the shores as tides increase. The Church claims it to be punishment for the failed crusades and calls for more.
• 1200 to 1275 WEYR . Expensive wars and losses taken in flooding lead to increased levies and taxes. Much of these funds are squandered or embezzled by Imperial politicians. Corruption grows within the senate and the Empire as a whole. Civil wars erupt both at home and abroad as overtaxed commoners seek to replace rotten lords and state officials.
• 1302 WEYR. Stahl openly rebels, declaring independence from the Empire. When the Imperial Church attempts to increase its grip on Stahl in response, Stahlnish lords unanimously oust the Church, declaring atheism as the state religion. Commoners continue their support and faith in the Church, despite the drastic religious retaliation of their leaders.
• 1317 to 1338 WEYR. Tired of troublemaking crusaders and constant war, both Dardanet and Helena align with ancient enemies in Otamarluk to drive the Empire out. This leads to more civil war, particularly in Dardanet, and trading one lord for another. Within 20 years Helena re-aligns with the Empire, but Dardanet remains in a state of civil war and neverending conflict with Otamarluk.
• 1340 to 1400 WEY R. Following the lead of Stahl, Helena, and Dardanet, the rest of the Empire's vassals cease paying tribute. The break is peaceful in most of the north, as ties to the Church are not left behind. Matters in the south are generally more violent, and the weakened Empire flees its southern territories in great haste. By 1400 WEYR the Empire is once again reduced to Xanarium alone and a few islands spread across the Sea of Fallen Gods. In response the Church declares its supremacy above all matters of the world, centering all real Imperial power in religion, not lands or military.
• 1467 WEYR. (This is the recommended year to begin play.) The king of Gelure—a mysterious man with black skin and white hair—declares himself emperor and opens a violent campaign in conquest of his neighbors. By the end of the year he has all but taken Farrenshire and Ouestenreich, and has begun to work on Cyrinthmeiran borders. That same year a counter-crusade is declared by the Sul'taan of Otamarluk, calling all that follow the Seven Vows of the Prophet to destroy the infidels of the west.
And here we are at last; the final entry. Book 8 is essentially a guide to GMing this game, while the appendices contain weapon lists and the wound tables, which is why I didn’t think it was worth putting them into separate posts. I’ll provide a link to some utilities, including a copy of the appendices, on the publisher’s website (since it’s on their website, I highly doubt they’ll mind people taking a look). So, with that in mind, let’s get to it.
Book 8 and the Appendices
Seneschal (sen'e shal)- n. steward, major-domo or bailiff who represents his Lord in the feudal courts and in the management of his estates.
1. Why do we need so many dice?
Most games limit rolls over 10 dice. It just so happens that we really like rolling big handfuls of dice. We think it’s more fun than just rolling one or two. Plus, it keeps the die-making industry in business.
2. Why aren't there any character classes?
Do you fit into any one "person class?" Freedom to design the kind of character you want is one of the things that we felt was most important in The Riddle of Steel.
3. Why are skills selected in "packets?"
First, it saves a lot of time by choosing two packets instead of 30 skills. Secondly, no one is a walking "combat machine" or anything like it. Skill packets assure that your character has a number of skills that a player might not have selected but which are very useful. After character creation packets are no longer an issue, and all Skills are learned individually.
4. Why is combat set up like it is?
Okay, so no one ever asks this, but we wanted to explain anyway. The Riddle of Steel's combat system is one-of-a-kind in the world of RPGs. Instead of winning by brute force or superior stats, the key to survival and victory are tactics, teamwork and strategy. This is intentional. This system is based on years of research and application of western European martial art forms (incidentally many schools and organizations that teach western martial arts— particularly from the late medieval and early renaissance—abound.
Our website contains links to many of them). Every maneuver and concept in this combat system is based on real technique. We're not recommending that you use this book as a martial arts manual—it isn't one—but this is as close as you'll ever get to recreating real fighting on the tabletop. There's so much more that we wanted to include here, but the sheer volume of it forced us to write The Flower of Battle: Advanced Combat for The Riddle of Steel
We highly recommend running players that are new to the game through several mock combats before play begins. This will give them time to develop their own strategies and styles, as well as familiarize them with the lethality and brutality of reality-based combat. We found that the combat system alone could occupy our time for hours on end, filled with merry duels. One last particularly important note about combat is how you run it. The "take turns going around the table in order of initiative" thing doesn't work very well in The Riddle of Steel. Instead run several rounds or even a whole bout with each character involved in the combat. When you reach the end of the bout or a good stopping point, go on to the next PC and run a few rounds with him. That'll keep everyone happier.
5. The maneuvers are cool and all, but I don't want to use them.
Then don't. We like them, as they add a lot of realism and flavor to combat, but if you like "hit and miss" combats, go ahead. The combat rules are set up so that you can use the mechanics you like, and leave the rest behind. Never let the rules bog you down.
6. There are a lot of combat tables. Isn't that time-consuming?
Yes, there are a lot of combat tables—damage tables in particular. The good news is that you shouldn't need to use them more than once or twice per bout—they are pretty lethal, and getting wounded (hopefully) is a rare event.
7. Why is your character progression system so weird?
We're actually pretty fond of it. The point is to motivate players to run their characters according to realistic motivations. It might be hard for old-school gamers to accustom themselves to at first, but soon you'll find them getting more involved in their characters' lives, goals, and personalities than in any game you've ever played. Just remember as Seneschal to provide them with the right kind of adventures for their characters' focuses. If no one gets many points during the first few games, don't sweat it—this is new for them, too. If continues with no one gaining any points during play, try loosening your requirements for gaining Spiritual Attribute points or for changing their focuses.
8. Why is Sorcery so powerful?
We strongly reject the classic RPG tradition of "balanced" play. Sorcery is a scary, mysterious, and deathly powerful thing. Is it ever any other way in books or in the movies? No. In the legends and fairy tales? NO! Why should things change for the game? What makes sorcery wonderful if it isn't rare, dangerous, and full of awe? Sorcerers—the Gifted and the Fey—are uncommon things. No magic retailers, no wizards' guild, no fireballs. Warriors and other mortals have good reason to fear Sorcerers. Make sure that they keep that sense of fear. Some Seneschals have shared concerns that their sorcerer characters have gotten out of hand... that they're too powerful. That doesn't need to happen. Remember who's the boss! You are! Keep a close eye on any magic wielding PCs, and know when to knock them down.
9.What's up with all the philosophical mumbojumbo?
This game is about more than fighting or sorcery (though it does have a great combat system and really cool magic rules). As each character seeks the answers to their own riddles, players and Seneschals can explore deeper questions and investigate their own feelings on a number of issues. Use the game as a moral sounding board and watch as your stories take on more meaning than the last adventure you ran in a fantasy RPG... it'll end up feeling more like a good book.
10. I'm not comfortable with all of this talk of religion and moral issues. What can I do?
Don't go anywhere you're not ready to go. Have fun with the system and change the parts that don't work for you. Always remember that it's just a game.
11. I don't like Weyrth. Can I use the game on my own world?
Go ahead. Feel free to change Weyrth around, add continents, blow up cities, or re-draw and re-name everything. It's your game now. You paid for it. If you have another game world you like-one from another game or one that you created yourself-take any elements from this book you like; they're yours to play with. Do you prefer science fiction to fantasy? Change a few things around and do "Weyrth 2025" or some such thing. Lastly, don't be afraid to let us know if there's something you really want to see. We just might write a supplement for it.
I recall a session many years ago where I was playing a fighter. Our party had gotten into a fairly dramatic battle on the edge of a mountainous cliff. We had been hacking away at critters of some sort for quite a while when I got bored, and asked the GM how high we were.
“About a hundred feet to the chasm floor,” he said, trying to scare me.
I did some quick math and realised that I could take the fall head first and still only lose about 30-40 hit points (playing the average; bad, I know). I had 60-something, so I leapt. After hitting the bottom and ending up only 34 hit points less, I run off. Orcs up above shot at me a few times, but even with seven arrows in my body I managed to run away.
And so my disbelief was complete. I couldn’t happily play this game anymore. It wasn’t intense anymore. It had become a cartoon, or a video game.