The Riddle of Steel by hectorgrey
Book 1Original SA post
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.
Chapter two comes with the warning that this is a bucket of dice game and so several d10s should be available, as well as a d6. It also mentions that at ideally least one die should be red, and one white. I wonder why. (Well, I don't because I've run this game a few times, but you're supposed to ). This is followed by the rules for rolling dice; it's basically the same as the way oWoD works; you roll a bunch of dice, and try to get them higher than a variable target number. The more successes you get, the better. The dice explode, and you can have target numbers higher than ten. This is followed by a fictional example which isn't especially interesting to read, but nor is it particularly painful.
The way skill rolls work is explained next; skills provide the target number in a skill roll, while one of the attributes provides the number of dice. Therefore, the lower the skill, the better (with untrained being 13 and master being 3). It also mentions pool rolls, where you have a pool of dice, and choose how many out of that pool to roll. This will be important in combat. Finally, it mentions that 1d6 is rolled to determine the exact location of a hit during combat. I'll explain this when we get that far.
Chapter three, the final chapter of book one, explains the attributes, of which there are fifteen - five temporal (physical; strength, dexterity and so forth), five mental, and five spiritual. Human average is 4, and human maximum is 10. The temporal and mental attributes are as follows:
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.
Spiritual attributes are a little more complex, as these are chosen by the player during character creation. There are more than five to choose from, and some may be chosen multiple times, but the player only has five of them. They are ranked from 0 to 5 unless modified for whatever reason. They represent what is most important to the character, providing bonus dice when the GM reckons they're appropriate to the scene, and they fluctuate based on how the characters' actions affect what they most care about and based on expenditures to advance other stats.
Yep, that's right: they are used as experience points and as potential bonuses in play. Spiritual attributes are explained further in books 2 and 3, but for now, I'll just point out that they increase when you act according to them, and they decrease when you act against them. They may be spent at any time, even during combat, at which point it becomes a question of whether you need the permanent boost more than the temporary bonus. The attributes themselves are:
Conscience: The character does the right thing, even when it would be wiser not to. This is the kind of man who'd fight a dozen bandits by himself to save a damsel in distress, risking his life because it's the right thing to do.
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.
Destiny: The character has a destiny, like Arthur's destiny to become king of all Britain or MacBeth's destiny to die at the hands of a man "not of woman born". Pretty self explanatory.
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).
Drive: You have an ambition, or a cause. A goal that you'd do anything to achieve.
These dice may be added to any rolls that defend or further the character's cause, as often as the Seneschal deems it appropriate.
Faith: This is generally extremely devout belief in a god, but it may also be extremely devout atheism (think Richard Dawkins).
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).
Luck: Self explanatory. Things just tend to go right for you.
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.).
Passion: This is an extreme feeling of love, hatred or loyalty to an individual or group. Think Romeo's love for Juliet, or Edmond Dantes' hatred of the men who betrayed him, or the loyalty that Dantes' servants have for him.
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.
This is followed by another fictional example, which I'll go ahead and quote, just on the off chance that one or two of you don't quite get how this works:
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!
The final section of book one details the various derived attributes, explaining that they're generally used for combat and sorcery. They are as follows:
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.
There is also a set of derived attributes for sorcery, but they'll be explained in the sorcery section.
Well, here endeth the first book; I hope you all enjoyed it, or at least found it interesting, because book two explains character creation, going slightly more in depth into some of the things explained above.
Edit: Also, for some reason the image I linked from Image Shack isn't working. Bollocks.
Edit 2: Had I read the tech support fort in the LP section, I'd have understood why; colour me a stupid newbie. Hosting the pic elsewhere shortly...
Book 2Original SA post
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."
It goes on to suggest using proverbs or quotes from other sources if none of these fit and the player is having trouble thinking of something to use.
Chapter 2 introduces the crunch of character creation: the idea of choosing which aspect of your character is more important to you in the form of priority picks. These ought to be familiar to anyone who has played ShadowRun 3rd ed or lower. Before displaying the table, the book explains each priority in turn.
Racial priority has humans, by far the most numerous race, are at the bottom of the table and count for an F pick. Humans who have the Gift, and can therefore use magic, however, are incredibly rare and count as a B pick. Elves can all use magic, and count as A, as do any other Siehe races that can use magic. Halflings (not short people with hairy feet, but human/other hybrids) count as a C pick, or B if they can use magic. Or, in easier to read format:
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
Third is Attributes. the player may place between 27 and 47 points between his ten temporal and mental attributes. One of these must be designated the High attribute, and must be higher than any other. The minimum score at this stage is 2, while the maximum is 7. Race and Nationality may affect these later, if appropriate. This is where the derived attributes mentioned in Book 1 are worked out:
Reflex = (AG + Wit)/2
Aim = (AG + Per)/2
Knockdown = (ST + AG)/2
Knockout = TO + (WP/2)
Move = (ST + AG + EN)/2
Fourth is Skills. Each player receives two skill packets (with the exception of the F pick, which only receives one), and the priority determines the score of the skills within those packets, followed by an additional skill, language or -1 modifier (remember, lower is better) to any one skill for each point in Mental Aptitude.
Fifth are the weapon proficiencies. Anyone with the Gift takes their Vagaries (magical proficiencies) from here too. There may be anywhere between 14 with a maximum of 8 in one proficiency at A, to 0 at F, while anyone with less than an A may only put 7 into any one proficiency at most. The proficiencies are detailed in Book 3.
Sixth and finally are the Gifts and Flaws; at A, one is given two major gifts; at F, a major flaw and a minor flaw (D, the average, is either one minor gift and one minor flaw, or neither).
Chapter 3 is barely a paragraph long, explaining how to fill in the Combat Pool (Proficiency + Reflex)* and Missile Pool (Proficiency + Aim)*, while Chapter 4 is an example of chargen, followed by a filled in character sheet. The example is competent enough (and, in a refreshing break from CthulhuTech, has absolutely no rape), and is interspersed with tables for randomly generating height and weight should anyone wish to use them.
Here endeth the second book. Don't worry, we'll see fluff soon; should only be another... five books. The next book lists all the skills and proficiencies, as well as all the combat manoeuvres for each proficiency and all of the gifts and flaws. No, I'm not sure why none of this was in this part of the book either, but at least next time ought to be a longer and (hopefully) more interesting post.
Edit: *Just realised that I hadn't actually bothered including how these are worked out. This should help when reading the write up of Book 4.
Book 3Original SA post
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.
Core Book posted:
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
Since most of these skills are fairly self explanatory and work exactly as expected, I'll only go into detail on the ones that have uses one might not expect.
Acrobatics - Mostly as you'd expect, but if unarmoured and unencumbered one may also roll Reflex/Acrobatics to gain additional dice for a dodge - but a failed roll fouls up the dodge completely.
Acting - As you'd expect; also includes stage combat.
Animal Guise - hiding yourself from animals; disguising your scent and other such tricks. They can still find you if you move; that's covered by Sneak.
Arcane Theory - As well as the obvious, it's also used for creating new spells.
Astronomy - Reading omens in the stars, and other such stuff; up to the Seneschal if that shit actually works.
Battle - Interpreting orders from drums, trumpets or other signals, as well as situational awareness when separated from one's unit and other such things. No matter how good you are with a sword or spear, this is what keeps you alive when two armies meet.
Body Language - As you'd expect, but it can also be used after an attacker declares an attack but before he rolls, at the cost of two dice from the Combat Pool, to gain a bonus to your response to that attack equal to the number of successes (so you need two successes to break even). If you fail, you gain an additional -1 penalty, making it -3 when one takes into account the cost of doing it in the first place. If you're good at it, this can help when someone throws an attack you might have trouble dealing with, otherwise it isn't worth it.
Breaking and Entering - Nothing to do with picking locks; this is about breaking down doors, breaking windows and other such less than covert methods of gaining entry where you're not wanted.
Camouflage - Like hide in D20, this stops you being found when you're not moving.
Combat/Weapon Art - The ability to do impressive things that don't involve hitting people with a weapon. The kata of Japanese martial arts is a good example.
Dancing - As you'd expect, but it applies to a particular dance.
Etiquette - Knowing how to behave in a given environment; should be defined, as it only applies to one thing (the royal court, for example, or a Tourney).
Heraldry - Recognising a coat of arms and other such things.
Intrigue - Using gossip to gain information and plant false rumours; courtiers use it all the time, apparently.
Navigation - Finding your way around, and drawing an accurate map.
Orienteering - Similar to Navigation, but based more on landmarks and less on map-reading.
Read and Write - Literacy is considered a skill, as not many are able to read and write. Some settings may ignore this.
Ridicule - Piss someone off.
Scrounging - McGuyver.
Sincerity - Seeming to be sincere whilst talking out of one's arse. Basically Bluff in D20.
Sneaking - While Camouflage is pretty much exactly like Hide from D20, Sneaking doesn't just cover moving quietly, but moving so as not to be seen, meaning only one skill roll is needed rather than two.
Stewardship - Making money out of owned land.
Style Analysis - This is generally used to work out how good someone is at fighting, and whether or not they're holding back. You need to watch someone fight to use this.
Symbol Drawing - Drawing diagrams and other such stuff comes into this skill, as well as ritual stuff for really powerful magic.
Teamster - Driving a carriage with a team of horses, as opposed to Ride, which is one animal.
The book then says that if the skills don't cover something a character wants to do, the Seneschal should make one up that he reckons will fit.
The next section of this book covers gifts and flaws. There aren't many, but they work well enough. The gifts are all things like Accuracy, which allows you to adjust the hit location die in either direction, Allies, Ambidexterity (which doesn't cover two weapon fighting; a specific proficiency is required for that; it simply allows one to fight with either hand equally well), good lucks, reputation and luck. The Flaws are addictions, lost limbs, bad luck/reputation, ugliness, compulsive behaviour of some description, bloodlust and a really short fuse. There are a few more, but they're covered in Book 6 - Sorcery.
At long last, we come to the meat of Book 3 - the proficiency and manoeuvre list. There are several melee proficiencies, each one of which comes with a list of manoeuvres which may be used with that proficiency - for example, longsword comes with the Half Sword manoeuvre, which allows anyone with a two handed sword to grip the blade about halfway down and use it as a spear in places with less room to swing (this was a real tactic, incidentally, and one of the few that could be used with a sword against full plate with any effect - though wearing gauntlets of some description would probably be a good idea). The Proficiencies are as follows:
Sword and Shield - Exactly what it says on the tin. It assumes a one handed sword (including a hand and a half sword if used one handed) and a medium sized shield, though it may be used without a shield at no penalty; you just don't get to use the shield based manoeuvres.
Mass Weapon and Shield - As above, except with maces or axes, and it can also be used for the two handed varieties of each.
Greatsword/Longsword - This covers the use of a two handed sword, or a hand and a half sword used in both hands. These weapons tend to have better reach, being between usually 4 and 5 and a half feet long, more cutting power and a wider variety of manoeuvres.
Cut and Thrust - This covers the use of light single handed blades, such as sabres and the light blades which the Rapier later evolved from. A Buckler shield or a light weapon such as a dagger may be held in the off hand for defence or an additional means of attack.
Rapier - Like Cut and Thrust, except without the cut. Rapiers have longer reach than the shorter blades used for Cut and Thrust, but while they can defend well enough against thrusting attacks, they're not much good against cuts from heavier blades, so the weapon was often accompanied by a dagger in the off hand or a buckler, similar to Cut and Thrust.
Case of Rapiers - As above, except with a rapier in each hand.
Doppelhander - This covers the use of a really, really big sword; of the 6-8 feet long variety. They have a very long reach, but are quickly rendered useless if someone manages to get up close.
Pole-axe - This is a four feet long axe with a fairly small head, which was used with a fair bit of success against armoured foes. It must be used with both hands, so no shields.
Pole-arms - Spears, pikes, halberds and even staves are included here.
Dagger - Knife fighting. The short range can be a disadvantage, but once you get up close, the enemy will have a very hard time avoiding your attacks.
Pugilism - Beating people up the old fashioned way.
Wrestling - Grappling. You can grapple with most of the other proficiencies in one form or another, but this proficiency is better at it and comes with some special rules.
Lances - Riding people down on horseback; what's not to love?
After this list, the missile weapon proficiencies are laid out. Since their use is pretty much identical for all (at least rules wise), there's not much information in this book. Following that, there's the Manoeuvres. Bash, cut and thrust are the three basic types of attack which most weapons can do at least one of, while Parry and Block are defences for weapons and shields respectively. Some of the more interesting ones include:
Beat - At the start of a fight, you can hit an enemy's weapon to one side, preventing it from being used to defend against your follow-up attack. It also gives any other defence used a -2 penalty for every success this attack got.
Evasive Attack - You attack while at the same time making yourself harder to hit. You may spend additional dice on the attack to give the opponent a penalty to hit equal to the number of dice spent, though you gain a penalty to hit for every two dice spent.
Feint - Declare your attack, then once the defence is declared, declare the feint. You change where you're attacking, and may add more dice to the attack by adding to the activation cost.
Grapple - This allows you to throw or pin your opponent; the special rules under Wrestling are needed if the fight goes to the ground. When used defensively, it can be used to trap and potentially break the limb holding the weapon.
Counter - You defend the attack, and gain a number of bonus dice to your next attack equal to your opponent's successes.
Expulsion - You parry a thrust, then the opponent takes a penalty equal to your successes to defend against your next attack if it's a thrust.
Most of these have activation costs; basically reducing the available combat pool by the requisite number of dice.
The final part of Book 3 involves character advancement once the game has started. It begins by saying exactly what should increase or decrease the score of a Spiritual Attribute, which amounts to "If you act in a way that further's the attribute, gain a point, if you act contrary to the attribute, lose a point". It also gives rules for changing Spiritual Attributes if such a thing should come up. Luck is the odd one out: it can increase or decrease for one of three reasons: highest roll of the session, the worst overall luck with the dice during the session and impressing the other players with a really good plan or making them laugh out loud (but not because of the plan ).
Next, it explains that not only can Spiritual Attributes be used for bonus dice, they can also be spent in a similar way to character points in GURPS. They may be spent at any time during the session - even multiple times during a combat, allowing stats to increase during a particularly important fight (funnily enough, that gives an excuse for a character to be getting his ass kicked at the start but eventually overpower his attacker). Every point of a Spiritual Attribute that gets spent also adds a point of Insight. Insight carries over between a player's characters during a given campaign, and allows for higher priority picks than are otherwise possible, allowing for a replacement character to begin on a reasonable par with established characters.
After this, the costs are laid out for improving attributes and proficiencies, gaining gifts and removing flaws, and improving one's magical ability. Skills, for whatever reason, are not increased via this method; they're increased through use under pressure. Every time you successfully use a skill under pressure, you add a check to the skill. Once you have three checks, you roll Mental Aptitude with a Target Number of 15-the skill. A success allows you to improve the skill by one, erasing the checks. On a failure, you erase two checks and on a fumble you erase all three, but don't improve the skill either way. This makes good skills harder to improve than poor ones, but I'm not sure it's really the best way to handle skill increases, given how everything else is advanced. Personally, I reckon the Spiritual Attributes should have been used for that too, and enough people thought the same that the Companion rulebook contains rules for doing just that. This book, however, contains no such thing.
And here endeth Book 3. Next up is Book 4: The Codex of Battle, wherein the reason I like the combat system in this game so much is made clear. I actually like this system a lot; I just wish the skill system wasn't quite so unusual.
Book 4Original SA post
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.
Following this, it starts talking about how time is measured in combat. It's measured in rounds, which are then divided into two exchanges of about a second each. Simple enough, right? At the beginning of a fight, the combatants declare whether they're starting in an aggressive (+2 bonus to attack and -2 penalty to defend), defensive (the opposite) or neutral stance. Then, you determine who strikes first. This isn't rolled, as in most games; each combatant decides whether
they want to attempt to strike first, or let their opponent strike first, by displaying either a red or white die, respectively (remember when I mentioned die colours back in Book 1? That's where they're used). Both parties show their dice at the same time, so neither one knows whether to expect an attack. If either party doesn't immediately show his die, he is considered to have hesitated, and is surprised. The fight begins at the preferred reach for the longer weapon, and the person with the shorter weapon takes a penalty to attack until he successfully hits his opponent, at which point the person with the longer weapon takes the same penalty, but both to attack and parrying, until he then hits with his own weapon.
Remember the Combat Pool calculated in Book 2? This is the number of dice you have at your disposal for both attack and defence during the whole round. You needn't use all of them, and holding a few back is occasionally a good tactic if you want to surprise an opponent. Each attacker, in order from lowest to highest Reflex, declares how many dice they're going to use in their attack, where the attack is aimed and which manoeuvres they'll use. Then, each defender declares how man dice they're using for their defence. Some manoeuvres cost additional dice to activate (for example, to roll one die for a Counter will cost three dice from the pool). If both sides reveal a red die (and thus both are trying to attack first), this gets rather messy: since they're both attacking, neither may attempt to defend. Both sides roll Reflex with a target number equal to that of their attack, and whoever gets more successes hits first. On a tie, whoever has the higher reflex goes first, and if it's still a tie, both hits happen at the same time.
The player going second may attempt to buy the initiative at this point (or at any point where both characters are attacking at the same time; even if this is through choice when he would otherwise be defending), though the process is a little unintuitive; spending a number of dice from his Combat Pool equal to his opponent's Perception, he then rolls Willpower with a TN of his opponent's Reflex, while his opponent rolls Wits with a TN of the buyer's Reflex. The new roll follows the same rule as the above roll as to who goes first. It was explained in The Flower of Battle, a later supplement, that this was supposed to represent the fact that it takes cast iron balls to try to hit someone while they're already trying to hit you.
This is followed by the rules for surprise. The person who is surprised rolls Reflex against a target number based on the reason for the surprise, with 5 for deliberately leaving oneself open, 7 for a cheap shot, or having hesitated as above, 10 for if you're not expecting any kind of attack and 13 for being completely blindsided. A failed roll means that you may not take any actions until the second round, while a successful roll means that you may at least defend yourself, or try to buy initiative as above. Also, there are rules for navigating difficult terrain or using the terrain to your advantage (such as manoeuvring yourself to only face one attacker when outnumbered). This is rolled from the Combat Pool, and any number of dice may be used. No more than three attackers may engage one person at once.
At this point, the players roll. If the attacker scores more successes than the defender, he hits and remains the attacker. If the defender scores more successes than the attacker, he avoids being hit and becomes the attacker. On a tie, the defender avoids being hit, but doesn't become the attacker. If the attacker fumbles, he loses dice from his Combat Pool equal to the defender's successes. Either way, the stance chosen at the start of the fight no longer applies after this point. After this, the damage is worked out. The damage is that of the weapon, added to the Strength of the attacker and his margin of success. The defender's Toughness and armour are then subtracted from this, to provide a number from 0 to 5 (if it's higher than 5 or lower than 0, it counts as one of those two). This is the wound level, where 0 is a scratch, 1 hurts but isn't too bad, 2 is worse and 5 generally means death or a lost limb. Then, on the table for the area hit, you roll a d6 to determine exactly where was hit to find out exactly what happened. This will give you three values: Shock, Pain and Bloodloss.
Shock is immediately removed from any die pools (including the Combat Pool, and one very popular house rule is to remove it from any attack the person who just got hit might be in the middle of first, if both sides are attacking, so as to potentially ruin the other guy's attack). If the Combat Pool is reduced to 0 by the shock, the person who got hit rolls Knock Down against a target number equal to double the attacker's margin of success, and any additional shock carries over to the next round. Pain is a constant penalty to one's die pools that is implemented at the start of a round, if it is higher than the current Shock. Bloodloss is a little different; at the end of each round, anyone with any bloodloss rolls their Endurance with a target number equal to the bloodloss. On a failure, their Health is decreased by 1. Once Health reaches 1, all physical attributes and die pools are halved, and once it reaches 0, the character is dead. Pain and Bloodloss are cumulative if from separate places; otherwise simply use the worst wound in that area. For shock, one either uses the shock from the wound just inflicted or the shock from the highest wound in an area, whichever is higher (so punching someone's arm if they already have a deep cut there will inflict the shock from the original cut to the arm rather than that of a punch).
After that, if either player has dice in their Combat Pool they wish to spend, the second exchange occurs as detailed above using the remaining dice in the Combat Pools of both combatants. After the second exchange, any Bloodloss is rolled for and the next round starts, with the attacker and defender determined by whether the last attack was successful or not. The Combat Pools refill (subtracting Pain or leftover Shock, whichever is worse), and the fight continues until one of the combatants may no longer fight or until there's a break in the combat, be it from a Full Evade, which involves moving far enough back to not be hit, or because someone split them up.
Optionally, fatigue may be a factor in combat, decreasing the Combat Pool by 1 for every few rounds, based on a character's Endurance and how much armour they're wearing/how fat they are. Fatigue may be reduced through rest, and is discussed more fully in Book 5.
There is also an example in the book regarding combat, which should make the above a little easier to understand if my writing doesn't do it justice:
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...).
This is followed by the section on ranged combat. The Missile Pool takes longer to refresh than the Combat Pool and is used differently. First, the weapon takes time to prepare (in the case of a bow, this means drawing an arrow and knocking that arrow, while a thrown knife simply needs to be drawn from its sheath). The given example is that an arrow takes two rounds to draw from the quiver (or no rounds to simply pull up from the ground, if stuck into the ground to speed things up) and two rounds to knock and draw, though this may be reduced by a round in exchange for two dice from the Missile Pool and a successful Reflex test. Once a ranged weapon is ready, the Missile Pool begins to refresh at a rate equal to Wits every round and any spent dice are then deducted. Moving targets also cost dice to hit; constant movement costs two dice, while erratic movement costs three.
Once again, there is an example:
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.
Next, defence is discussed; in terms of defending against attacks and armour. Parrying and Blocking work as detailed above, though of the two only blocking with a shield may be used to defend against ranged attacks, so long as you're aware of the attack. Dodging (also known as Evasion) has three types; Full, Partial and Duck and Weave. A Full Evade is leaping backwards out of the way of the blow; this only has a TN of 4, and counts as a break in the combat (allowing stances to be retaken and requiring initiative to be decided again. A Partial Evade is moving out of the way while remaining in range to attack; at the cost of two dice from the Combat Pool, or if the attacker fails the attack entirely, the defender may take the Initiative and become the attacker for the next exchange. This type of dodge has a TN of 7. A Duck and Weave places the defender in the perfect place to attack, meaning that he automatically becomes the attacker, as with a parry or block, the attacker loses dice from his pool equal to the defender's successes, and the new attacker either closes the gap or creates a gap to attack from his preferred reach. This type of dodge has a TN of 9. These dodges can also be used to defend against ranged attacks. A fumbled dodge adds two to the wound level, as the defender moves into the attack. Armour simply reduces the wound level of a hit to a place that's protected by it, but the heavier the armour is, the more it reduces your Combat Pool. Shields also count as armour, but only on the side that they're placed.
After a short paragraph on cover and a slightly longer one on movement during combat (both of which are fairly self explanatory), there's a short section on mounted combat. A mounted combatant receives a height bonus of two dice to his combat pool, can charge for an additional bonus, reduces the armour penalty to Combat Pool by one die and ignores the penalty from leg armour and rolls a Riding test for any terrain rolls he may need to make instead of takind dice from his Combat Pool. On the other hand, he may not dodge, except for a Duck and Weave, if the mount is wounded, he must roll Riding or fall from his mount, only one handed weapons, spears or lances may be used from horseback (though a shield in the other hand is fine), and ranged attacks are penalised.
The Book ends with a final combat example:
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.
Here endeth the fourth book. This part of the rulebook is somewhat longer than the earlier parts, and goes into far more detail than I did on various things. I don't necessarily agree with the layout; it seems to me that surely the different types of dodge ought to be described either along with the manoeuvres, but the system itself works and is far less time consuming than it might seem on paper. While it doesn't make any suggestions in the book for party combat, they way I tend to run it is to run a couple of rounds focusing on one set of combatants, then a couple of rounds with the next and so on, timing it so that I can move around the table and any ranged characters can actually do something every time I get to them (i.e. about four rounds per melee character; maybe five if they spend time aiming). But yeah, this is a particularly brutal system, and armour is a necessity for anyone who plans on getting into fights.
OK, anyway, next up is Book 5, which will likely be a far shorter post as it's one of the shortest parts of the rulebook. It covers such things as falling damage, fatigue, encumbrance, travel times, healing and ageing. Hope you enjoyed; I'll update again soon-ish.
Book 5Original SA post
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...
So yeah, falling can hurt. Falls from high places are survivable with luck, but if you fall a hundred feet, you're going to be rolling ten wounds for a soft surface or fifty for a hard one. In the latter case, you're probably dead. Damage from things like fire or electricity work the same way, unless of course said damage comes from an aimed attack.
Fatigue soon follows - in the rules, not just from reading - as well as rules for rest. A half hour spent resting reduces fatigue from most sources by one, though fatigue gained through lack of sleep requires a full night's sleep to get rid of.
This is followed by the section on healing; the first part of this book that I've actually found at all useful. The first aid skill is used to stem bleeding; blood loss is reduced by 3 for every success on the roll. A failed roll increases blood loss by one, and a fumbled roll doubles blood loss. Health points lost through blood loss are regained at a rate of one per day, and the other attribute points recover to their original values once Health is above 1. Each week, the patient rolls Health against a target number equal to the Pain of each wound (where Pain isn't modified by Will Power). Each success reduces the pain by 1. Medical care can provide bonuses, while strenuous activity can potentially open up a wound.
The final part of this book is a small section on Ageing and Sickness. The Fey (elves and the like) do not normally age. When a character reaches the age of forty, he starts rolling Health against a target number based on his age to avoid losing attribute points. Five successes are required to lose no points, while on a failure, five are lost. On a fumble, ten are lost. For each point lost, a d10 is rolled to select which attribute loses a point. If the same attribute is rolled multiple times, they stack. Once an attribute hits 0, the character dies. Some races that have longer lifespans gain bonus dice, but begin aging at the same time and at the same rate as humans. Sickness and disease are treated the same as ageing, but once a character has rolled five total successes against attribute loss, he recovers, though regaining the lost attribute points will require spiritual attributes to be spent. This is, for reasons that I'll go into later, the second part of this book that I found useful.
So, here endeth the fifth book. Sorry it took me so long to cover it; there's little of any real interest here, but some of it is required reading for the next book: Magic. Tune in next time for a look at one of the most OP magic systems ever conceived.
Book 6Original SA post
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.
So, magic is incredibly powerful, but guess what: use too much of it and you get the fun of rapid aging – as detailed in the last book. So, to the rules. You know how there are five derived attributes that every character has? Magic users have five more specifically devoted to the use of magic. They are:
Kaa: This is the total of Toughness, Health and Will Power divided by two. This is the amount of raw power a sorcerer has at his disposal.
Form: The average of Wits and Perception. This is how naturally talented at casting the sorcerer is.
Art: The average of Mental Aptitude and Endurance. This is how good the sorcerer is at withstanding the negative effects of magic.
Discipline: The average of Will Power and Endurance. This is how cautious and detailed a sorcerer is when using ritual magic.
Draw: The average of Strength and Will Power. This represents how quickly a sorcerer can refill his power reserves.
The sorcerer has a Sorcery Pool, which is the total of Kaa and Form. So long as he has at least one die in his Sorcery Pool, a sorcerer receives bonus dice equal to his Art for Spells of Three and Spells of Many, while Spells of Many also receive bonus dice equal to Discipline. The Sorcery Pool refreshes one die every hour by default, but more dice may be refreshed through the use of certain spells.
A sorcerer’s magical knowledge is measured in the form of Vagaries. There are three types of vagary – Temporal, Mental and Spiritual – and three vagaries in each type. This is referred to as the Rule of Three. The nine vagaries are purchased in character creation out of the same pool of points as weapon proficiencies. A vagary has one of three values: Novice (1 point), Apprentice (2 points) or Master (3 points), which determine just how much a sorcerer can do with that vagary. The vagaries are:
Sculpture: Manipulation of already existing matter. At Novice, this may only affect simple, inanimate objects , while any created objects may only be simple geometric shapes, or mimic something he is currently viewing. At Apprentice, this may affect more complex matter, such as plant life. Complex polygons may be created at this level, and only a good description is required if mimicking another object. At Master, animal life may be affected, and shapes may include the complex structures required to make a living body function, or anything else from his imagination. Disintegration is also possible at this level.
Movement: Exactly what it says on the tin. A Novice may move something up to twenty miles power hour, with reasonable acceleration, provide an inanimate object the ability to shamble around slowly, or allow it the ability to change direction in one dimension. An Apprentice may move something up to a hundred miles power hour, with very fast acceleration, give an inanimate object the ability to move with as much grace as the average human or allow it to change direction freely in all three directions. A Master may move something up to the speed of light, or force it to stop moving entirely with instant acceleration or deceleration. He may also give an inanimate object the ability to move with the grace of a predatory cat, and the ability to instantly change direction.
Growth: Changing the size of a target. A Novice may double or half a target’s size, age the target a month, or cause the target to divide into two duplicates. An Apprentice may multiply or divide the size of a target by ten, age the target a year or divide groups of cells. A Master may multiply or divide the size of a target by a hundred, age the target a decade or divide groups of molecules.
Glamour: Creating illusions. A Novice may create a shadowy or vague illusion, with no physical form or manipulability. An Apprentice may create a solid and recognisable but still obvious illusions (think along the lines of current CGI in movies), but it makes little sound and has no thermal or tactile sensations. It may be moved, if interacted with. A Master may create a perfect illusion, completely indistinguishable from the real thing.
Conquer: Mind control. A Novice may implant a small thought or image into a person’s mind, persuade them to do something relatively simple and completely safe and that they might reasonably do anyway, or remove a recent event from a person’s memory (no less recent than one day). An Apprentice may give a memory or an emotion to a target, force them to act in a given way, though they are still aware of this and may not appreciate having their free will stripped in this way, or remove all of a target’s memories associated with a specific person, place or event (Think Donna Noble). A Master may implant a spirit or demon, or even a dormant spell, into a person’s mind, take complete control over a person in such a way that they remember nothing of what happened, or wipe every memory from a person’s mind, leaving them as an infant.
Vision: Remote viewing. A Novice may view one day into the future or past, see events a mile away with up to ten times magnification or scan the surface thoughts of a target. An Apprentice may see events from up to a year ago, or that may happen up to a year in the future, he may view events up to a hundred miles away with up to a hundred times magnification or sense the needs and desires of a target. A Master may view anything that has happened or may happen during his lifetime, view any event anywhere in the world so long as it is linked to him in some way, and dive into the memories of a target.
Summoning: The manipulation of spirits, demons and pure magic. A Novice may summon a minor spirit, though he must perform some service to said spirit in payment, he may summon a lesser Demon, which costs eight Spiritual Attribute points, or he may sustain a Novice level spell. An Apprentice may summon a normal spirit in exchange for extended service, or demon, in exchange for sixteen Spiritual Attribute points, or sustain an Apprentice level spell. A Master may summon a greater spirit in exchange for an epic quest or a greater demon in exchange for twenty four Spiritual Attribute points, or may sustain a Master level spell.
Banishment: Getting rid of spirits, demons and magic. It does the exact opposite of Summoning, with the same restrictions (but no cost in Spiritual Attribute points or service).
Imprisonment: Trapping spirits, demons and magical forces on the physical plane. This has the same restrictions as Summoning, though it may be made permanent.
Following the explanations of the different vagaries, the book talks about the limits of magic: it manipulates but essentially still obeys natural laws; fire cannot be created without fuel, people may not be made younger (though they may be made to look it), and magic cannot give life; neither to inanimate objects, nor the dead.
So, now onto the spells and how they work. If anyone here has played Mage or Ars Magicka, then you already get the general gist; the vagaries tell you what you may do, so you decide what you want to do, a target number is assigned and dice are rolled. There are three types of spell: Spells of One, which use only one vagary, Spells of Three, which use up to three vagaries, and Spells of Many, which use more than three vagaries. Spells of Many require rituals to cast; they take hours to cast, but have the least risk associated with them. Spells of Three tend to take minutes to cast and are riskier than ritual spells, making them useful for utility spells – particularly since the bonus dice from Art means that no dice from the Sorcery Pool need be used. Spells of One take seconds to cast, but are the riskiest of all spells. They’re good for emergencies, but shouldn’t be used too often. Since there are no bonus dice, all dice come from the Sorcery Pool, which may result in the Sorcerer no longer being able to use any magic for a whole hour.
The book then moves on to how the target number of a spell is determined. It is based on the highest effect from the vagaries (1, 2 or 3), the number of vagaries involved, the range to the target, the type of target, the duration of the spell and the size of the target. Chanting, symbols and other such stuff may be used to reduce the target number, and in the case of Spells of One and Three, so may formalising the spell (committing it to paper for later, repeated use). The target number determines the time a spell takes to cast, as well as the number of months the sorcerer may age as a result of casting the spell.
After that, information on formalising the spells, as well as how to determine damage from spells. Formalising a spell takes weeks of research, which must all be then documented into a spell book. This requires an extended Form/Arcane Theory test, requiring successes equal to the target number of the spell, followed by a Perception/Read and Write check to write it all down. As for damage; the target number (before being reduced for formalisation) is used as the damage rating, before being added to the margin of success and having toughness and armour, where appropriate, subtracted.
It’s at this point that the book moves onto the mechanics of actually casting your spells. You set aside two lots of dice from your Sorcery Pool; one lot to cast the spell, and the other to resist the aging effect. It’s generally a good idea to add more dice to the latter than the former, because all those months of aging can start adding up. Also, magical aging affects the Fey, who otherwise don’t age at all. Once the dice have been assigned, the dice for the spell are rolled first, followed by dice for resisting ageing; both of which are rolled against the spells target number. Each success on the ageing roll reduces the number of months by one. If the Sorcerer ages at all, he must then roll Knockout with a target number equal to 5 plus the number of months aged. Failure causes unconsciousness, though the spell still goes off.
The book then moves onto how one might defend against magical attack; mostly by dodging any visible effects in the same way one would dodge a blade or a ranged attack if aware of the attack. Some attacks may call on a roll from the target to resist the effect, and a character capable of using magic may use Art to resist the attack.
After this, we come to refreshing the Sorcery Pool. Normally, the Pool will only refresh one point per hour, or two points if meditating. It can be made to refresh faster with one of three Spells of One; Mana 1, Mana 2 and Mana 3. Mana 1 has a target number of 1, automatically ages the caster one month in addition to any ageing from casting the spell, and refreshes a number of dice into the Sorcery Pool equal to the caster’s Draw. Mana 2 doubles this, and Mana 3 trebles it.
This is followed by spell duration. A spell may be Instantaneous, Maintained, Constant or Dormant. Instantaneous is fairly self explanatory, Maintained requires that a number of dice from the Sorcery Pool be kept to one side to keep the spell going, Constant has a fixed duration as defined when the spell is cast, and Dormant is casting a spell to be used later.
The next part of the book refers to role playing as a magic using character. It is quite a long section that begins by describing how such characters are affected by their own power, even before they actually start using it. Human magic users must take one of two Flaws which are introduced in this chapter; they are either dependent on gestures or on words to cast their spells, as their magic is imperfect compared to that of the Fey, though this dependency may be bought off later. After this, several new gifts and flaws are introduced that only a magic user may take.
As we approach the end of the book, we are given advice on how to use magic in combat. Against a melee fighter, it is not recommended – if you’re casting a spell, you’re not dodging or parrying blows. Against a fellow mage, combat is all about time. The combatants need to balance a need for a powerful spell with the need to hit their opponent before they get their own spells off. I have no idea how well this runs in practice, but it looks like it takes a fair bit of book keeping in order to keep track of how many seconds a spell takes to cast – and so whose spell goes off first. The concept of inverting a spell is also introduced here. Inverting is basically countering a spell by casting the exact same, but in reverse. There is only one thing remaining before the list of example spells; a rather large example:
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.
There are a lot of example spells following this part of the book, but I will only be looking at two of them: Lightning of the Soul, and Spite. These are referred to as Spells of None, as they don’t use any of the vagaries. Lightning of the Soul releases all of the sorcerer’s magical energy in one massive burst of electricity, automatically ageing the caster by two months and causing a level 2 + successes electrical wound (for which we use the generic damage table, rather than one of the ones used for melee weapons. The second, Spite, is essentially what happens when a sorcerer knows full well that he’s done for and will probably die soon anyway. He focuses all of his power inward, causing a massive explosion that kills him and will probably kill anyone too close to him when he does it. Of course, it takes four seconds and he can’t do it if you cut his head off midway through...
Finally, another word from the authors that I’m going to quote verbatim (the TL;DR version is “Yes, magic is incredibly over powered; that’s the way we like it”)
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.
Well shit. That was a long ass post. Here endeth the sixth book. Next up - we get some actual fucking setting information. About fucking time. Now, however, it's about time I got some kip. Night all.
Book 7Original SA post
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:
Core rules posted:
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.
The major faiths of Weyrth are: Three Gods become One, which is essentially Not-Christianity, with a man named Xanar as its version of Christ, and was adopted by the empire as its official faith; Thayrism, which a polar opposite faith to the above and preaches that Xanar is in fact a betrayer who brought the old gods low out of greed; and The Seven Vows of the Prophet, which is essentially Not-Islam, with an un-named man taking the place of Mohammed. It also mentioned Riddle Seeking, but this isn’t so much a religion as people seeking the meaning of life.
After religion, we have the various non-human races. We begin with the Siehe, or fairies. There are three main types of fairy, of which there are several subtype. First, we have the Seelie; the benevolent type of fairy that, while mischievous, doesn’t mean any harm. One example of this type of fairy is the rock dwarf; essentially your standard fantasy type of dwarf, who receives the “little” flaw, +2 to either strength or toughness and -1 to social.
Then, we have the Unseelie; the goblins and other things that go bump in the night, which are genuinely nasty because they find it incredibly funny. They receive 2 points in the Glamour vagary, +2 to wits, -1 to will power, Ridicule as a free skill with a good rating and the “bad tempered” flaw.
The third group are the Fey. The Fey are basically fantasy elves; immortal, short of foul play, accident or over-use of magic, and incredibly sad when they recall the many things they have lost over their long, long lives. There are so few elves left now that most don’t even believe they even exist, as most pregnancies now result in miscarriage. They receive +1 to agility, wits and perception, but -2 to mental aptitude, as well as the sneak skill at a good level, two points in the glamour vagary and three fewer starting spiritual attribute points.
Halflings, incidentally, do not refer to short people with hairy feet, but instead people who are half human, half Siehe, and they have different starting attributes based on the type of Siehe that conceived them.
Next, we have trollspawn, who are essentially the orcs and trolls of the game, followed by a quick paragraph saying that the world may have many other monsters not detailed in this book; most of which have probably not left any living witnesses.
After the non-human descriptions, we have a history of Weyrth, which I’ll just quote verbatim here because I can’t be arsed paraphrasing it:
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.
Once this is out of the way, the book finishes with lists of equipment and how much it all costs, as well as the basic currency and how much it would be worth in modern coin. A quarter bit is the lowest denomination, and would be worth about a dollar. A copper coin is worth four quarters, or approximately four dollars. A silver coin is worth twelve coppers, or approximately $50, and a gold crown is worth twenty silver, or approximately $1000.
Here endeth the seventh book. That was the first post I couldn’t finish in one sitting. Fortunately, the remainder of the posts will be considerably smaller and therefore easier to type up. I hope you found at least some of that interesting; it bored the shit out of me, and is my main reason for agreeing with Jake Norwood; he really doesn’t do world creation very well.
Book 8 + AppendicesOriginal SA post
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.
Book 8, the Seneschal, begins with the above, followed by the usual “If you don’t plan to run the game, you shouldn’t be reading this bit” bollocks. It then begins with a list of the GM’s duties; such things as bringing everything you’ll need, knowing how the game works and teaching it to newer players, writing adventures and running them and so forth. We all know the drill. Next, there’s a list of what you’ll need: the book, and any supplement book you may wish to use; plenty of d10s; people to play with; character sheets; pencils for writing on said character sheets and a sense of humour.
Next, it talks about learning and teaching the game to the newer players, finding somewhere to run the game and generally making sure that the sessions are fun. It provides the same fairly basic yet sound advice that can be found in 90% of GM chapters in RPG rulebooks. I could comment on it all, but quite frankly you could read the “What the GM does” bit of the D&D Rules Compendium or the Mongoose Runequest 2 core rules and get precisely the same shit, almost word for word.
The next part of the book is actually worth commenting on: an FAQ basically there to explain why the game works the way it works (though for some reason, they didn’t bother to explain the wonky skills):
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.
Following this FAQ, there’s a list of sample NPCs, from bandits to innkeepers and everyone in between. Following these, we have a list of basic adventure seeds, before ending the book with “Always remember the golden rule of role playing: the GM is always right!”
Now for the Appendices. They begin with optional locational modifiers to hit and to defend, before moving onto the damage tables. On some of the pages, there are little pieces of advice for the players, such as “Hitting an opponent is easy; not getting hit is hard – put more dice into defence than offence and know when to run” and “Whenever you fight someone you’ve never fought before, be careful; hold a few dice back to avoid showing your full strength, and gradually probe his defence to make sure he isn’t doing the same”. It also comes with recommended reading, such as Le Morte d’Arthur and a couple of books about sword fighting. It also puts a couple of pages of glossary in between the tables, where there’s not enough room left for another table, but too much room to simply move onto the next page. After the damage tables, we have weapon stats, including natural weapons (punching, kicking, bites and claws where applicable), and finally a few more words from the author. I won’t quote the whole thing, because this bit’s an image instead of being text that I can simply copy/paste, but I’ll quote the anecdote he tells of the last time he played D&D.
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.
He goes on to talk about his time as a member of ARMA, and how designing The Riddle of Steel came out of his desire for an RPG where fighting was dangerous and fun again. After this, we get an index, a character sheet, and so the book is done.
So there you go: The Riddle of Steel in a nutshell. Combat so awesome that you’ll want to do it time and again, but so lethal that players will go out of their way to avoid it; magic that’s gamebreakingly powerful but that will eventually kill the character using it and the wonkiest skill system I’ve ever encountered. I hope you enjoyed it; thank you and good night.