Sunday, 16 January 2011

A Band of Joyous Heroes

It's been a while since I posted anything about A Band of Joyous Heroes, the set of tabletop adventure rules I've been working on. I have been puttering away on the rules, pretty slowly really - and with long gaps of inaction. This is not because I have lost interest or anything like that; it is because I have been focusing on the stuff in the book that comes before the rules.

I want the background material to prepare the player for Tékumel and for playing a Tsolyáni character. I don't want there to be characters named "Bob" or Ono-Mato-Pe'a or any of the other silly names players come up with for their characters in D&D games. Not that this is a role-playing game - it's not really. It's a "Tabletop Adventure Game". That's what I call it - a wargame (a "skirmish" game, if you like) played out with figures on a tabletop. Two Hour Wargames used to call their games "RPG-Lite", but now I see they are referring to them as "Immersion Games". That is, games that allow you to "be" the character. If the game is about WW2 squad level combat the rules allow you to be the squad leader without the "200-foot General" syndrome - and hopefully without the mini-maxing rules-lawyers that spoil so many games for others! Rattrap Production's series of Pulp, Weird World War 2, Retro-Sci/Fi and Swashbuckling games are a similar thing. They are wargames played out on the table.

When I say that they are wargames, I am referring to the fighting and the use of figures. Most of these games emphasize "characters" over "units". That is, the players normally take on the role of the heroes and either the referee or another player runs the villain and his goons.

That is what A Band of Joyous Heroes is intended to be. By default the players will be Tsolyáni and human, but allowances are made for foreigners and non-humans. There is nothing to stop one transplanting the game to some other part of Tékumel but I am having enough trouble doing the background for Tsolyánu as it is - I can't do the same for everywhere else as well. At least, not right away.

So what is the problem? Well for one I don't simply want to re-hash the same old history that is described in every other Tékumel publication. For another, I want the background part of the book to prepare the players to play Tsolyáni and I want them to only know what a Tsolyáni would reasonably know.

I want them to see things from a Tsolyáni point-of-view. And I don't want to do it with pages of text descriptions. I want illustrations - lots of them! I want an illustration on every page, and where there isn't I want two on the next page! :-)

Let's face it, the cultures on Tékumel take a bit of getting used to. What I am trying to produce is something similar to those many books out there from the "Eyewitness" series , or "Everyday Life in ... insert culture here" - and so on. You know the ones I mean. They are often considered children's books I think, but who cares.

Anyway, that is where I am at. Work is progressing slowly on both the background and the main rules. I am hopeful that even those who are sick to death of "another set of damn rules" for Tékumel will still find the background part attractive - maybe even useful.

Enough rambling! I had intended to just post a combat example from the rules, but I seem to have got off on a tangent a bit. Count yourself lucky we're not in conversation - I am assured it's much worse! ;-)

So here it is, my combat example - fresh from the pages of BOJH:

Example – Two Warriors (Rep 4), clad in medium armor and armed with sword and medium shield, attack Kómek (Rep 5) who is in heavy armor and armed with a two-hand sword.

• Kómek will roll 5d6 for his Rep, and 1d6 for the reach advantage, for a total of 6d6.
• Both Warriors roll 4d6 for their Rep, plus 1d6 for each friend attacking the same enemy, for a total of 5d6 each.
• All the dice are rolled, keeping each warriors dice carefully separated.
• Kómek scores 5 successes.
• Warrior A scores 3 successes and will continue to melee. Warrior B scores 2 successes and will continue as well.
• All the failures are discarded and all combatants re-roll their remaining dice for a second round of melee.
• Kómek scores 2 successes.
• Warrior A scores 2 successes and will continue to melee.
• Warrior B scores zero successes. As Kómek has scored 2+ successes against Warrior B, he gets an Obviously Dead result.
• However, as Warrior B is armored and has a shield, the Protection Table must be consulted. Kómek has a two-handed weapon with an Impact value of 4. Warrior B has medium armor but the shield provides a column shift to the right, giving the same protection as heavy armor. This gives a one die saving roll against injury. Warrior B rolls a ‘2’ which is a success and reduces the wound from Obviously Dead to Out of the Fight.
• Though not slain, Warrior B still goes down.
• Warrior A must still take a Man Down test. If he passes, the melee will continue with both combatants rerolling their remaining dice.
• Kómek scores 1 success.
• Warrior A scores zero successes. Kómek has scored 1 success against Warrior A, so he is Out of the Fight, but for his armor.
• Warrior A is also armored and has a shield, so the Protection Table must be consulted again. Kómek has a two-handed weapon with an Impact value of 4. Again this yields a one die saving roll against injury. Warrior A rolls a ‘5’ which is a failure so his protection availed him not.
• Had the roll been successful, his protection would have reduced the result from Out of the Fight to Evenly Matched.
• In that instance, Warrior A would still be subject to the combat effect: knocked down, having being struck a solid blow from a two-handed sword.

The rules are based upon the free "CR3-Swordplay" rules available from the 2HW site. I did have to make a few changes as the original rules don't allow for three levels of armour (L, M & H) that have been standard pretty much since the days of Empire of the Petal Throne, if I am not mistaken. So I added a little table to account for the armour, but as you can see armour - unless it is steel or magical - still won't offer much hope if you roll badly. I also added the "combat effects" such as knocked down. Maybe I'll describe them in another post.

What is also missing from the above example is Star Power, which is basically a way of getting a second chance. It is only available to certain characters - the player characters primarily, but occasionally the NPCs. Kómek in the above example would have Star Power dice which he would roll if he suffered an OD (Obviously Dead) result. These would give him a pretty good chance of avoiding that fate - at least early on in the adventure. They can become depleted though and by the end of a hard-fighting game even the heroes are living on the knifes-edge like the lowly NPCs. They have other advantages over NPCs, of course, but I won't go into those here.

One thing you may notice is that there are no "hit points". Characters are either OK, OOF (Out of the Fight) or OD - Obviously Dead. Basically the assumption is that if someone sticks a sword in your gut and doesn't kill you, you are still somewhat discomfited - hence the OOF result. This takes into account shock, pain, etc.

After the encounter there is a check to see whether you can come back to the fight. That is, it really wasn't so bad after all - the wound was bloody and hurt like hell but with some bandages and maybe some magical healing you are ready to carry on. Or, on a bad roll, maybe not so much...

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