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June 9th, 2011


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10:49 am - Belated mini-campaign notes
A few belated notes about a mini-campaign I played back in February. run by Mike Sullivan, playtesting his system for "path fencing". The center was an interesting dice pool combat system, that I thought I should share musings about.

In the system, you had a pool of attack dice and defense dice (all d10s) and faced a single opponent. Each round you roll randomly for who attacks, which could mean several rounds on the defensive. The winner makes an attack from your personalized table using a flexible number of dice, then uses at least one die to press to the next attack - which can be on the same or different row. After you find the successes of your attack, the opponent has to choose a number of defense dice to roll to block that attack. If the defender has dice leftover and the attacker has not spent dice to disengage, then the defender can roll to riposte and get automatic initiative with extra dice. Everyone had 12 wounds.

I thought it was an intriguing use of dice pools that definitely has potential. My character, the Brawler, was like this:

Attack pool: 12 dice, Defense pool: 6 dice, Defense target: 5+, Riposte target: 5+

First Attack Scratch
Attack: 5+
Defense mod: +1
Effect: Scratch
Press: 5, Disengage: 4
Maneuver
Attack: n/a
Defense mod: n/a
Effect: none
Press: 7, Disengage: 3
Thrust
Attack: 9+
Defense mod: +1
Effect: 1w
Press: 7, Disengage: 3
Second Attack Kick
Attack: 4+
Defense mod: 0
Effect: 1w
Press: 7, Disengage: 3
Brawling
Cut
Attack: 8+
Defense mod: 0
Effect: 2w
Press: 4, Disengage: 6
Pommel-Strike
Attack: 7+
Defense mod: -1
Effect: 1w
Press: 2, Disengage: 8
Brawling
Third Attack Back-stab
Attack: 4+
Defense mod: -1
Effect: 4w
Press: 3, Disengage: 3
Dishonorable
Slash
Attack: 6+
Defense mod: -1
Effect: 6w
Press: 3, Disengage: 5
Gut-Wound
Attack: 5+
Defense mod: 0
Effect: 6w
Press: 7, Disengage: 4
Fourth Attack Force Submission
Attack: 7+
Defense mod: +1
Effect: 1w, unconsciousness
Press: 4, Disengage: 8
Brawling
Kill
Attack: 5+
Defense mod: 0
Effect: 8w
Press: 3, Disengage: 3
Destroy
Attack: 6+
Defense mod: +1
Effect: 10w
Press: 3, Disengage: 3


For the most part, RPG dice pool systems that I've seen just used the pool to generate a curve. While there were rules for splitting the pool, they tended to not be used. For this, how you split up your attacks was key to winning. Usually you would put just one die in the first attack which was ignored, and then try for some combination of heavier attacks depending on the situation.

The mini-campaign itself was pitched as "The Winter Guard".

You are the loyal retainers of the de Winter family, late of somewhat ill repute. Your martial skills are astounding, your sword tolerably long, and your pride unparalleled, though you are poor, politically un-powerful, and rather unpopular. You will strive to develop a reputation and uphold the honor of your patron, primarily by means of stabbing people with swords.

Swashbuckling! Heavily inspired by The Three Musketeers, though perhaps just a tiny bit less cheerful than that story. Slightly fantastic world, not set in France or the real world at all, and Lady de Winter is an homage to an awesome name, not actually the character from Dumas. A somewhat complicated custom die system for swordfighting. Expect lots of duels. You are encouraged to call things "insupportable!"


The fantastic setting meant we had a fictional religious split more easily glossed over, and eased things slightly for my character as an openly female member of the guard. The players and characters for the mini-campaign were:
  • Eric as Cyrano, the Swashbuckler
  • Laura as Jean, From the Old Country.
  • Keith as Andre, the Duellist
  • Bernie as Vincent, the Generalist
  • Madeline as Guillaume, the Reactive
  • Myself as Roxanne, the Brawler

Everyone liked the mini-campaign pretty well, though we had some issues with how it ran. It was a mix of the involved fencing duels and a storyline split between establishing ourselves in the city with reputations and lovers, and rescuing Milady de Winter who was kidnapped early on. An issue we had was that the combat had to be one-on-one and took full attention, so to do multiple combat we had to have players running NPCs. If I were to try to run it, I would consider having the story use a GMless proto-system, rather than the diceless GMed system we used.

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:snej
Date:June 9th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
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Wow, that sounds really interesting and I'll have to chew over it sometime when I'm not busy at work.

I really like dice pools, and about six months ago I was also trying to figure out a new combat system using them, although not like this. Maybe someday I'll pick it up again and get it solid enough to playtest.

How heavyweight did the combat system seem? Did it get in the way of the roleplaying? My dream is of something that's detailed enough for the simulationist in me, but still quick enough not to get in the way of the story. Which may be impossible!
[User Picture]
From:whswhs
Date:June 10th, 2011 06:35 am (UTC)
(Link)
I had great fun with a six-month minicampaign set in Paris during the regency of Philippe d'Orleans, with all the characters as students of an eccentric fencing master—he was even willing to give lessons to women! Our six PCs were the son of a nobleman who had damaged his reputation; the hot-headed son of a West Indies sugar planter, sent to Paris to study law; an exiled Scots aristocrat serving in the French army after coming over with the Old Pretender; the musically gifted kept boy of a duke; an aristocratic woman running away from an arranged marriage to a duke (the same one, actually) and earning her living on the stage; and a young woman from a rural aristocratic family who was learning the sword to defend the honor of her lady.

This was a test of the GURPS Martial Arts rules for fencing, which worked quite well, giving us a number of dramatic scenes. I would use them again.

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