posted by jadarx Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

Part One – Introduction

Houses of Blooded was written in 2008 by John Wick. Its back cover bills it as a game of tragic obsession. Players take the roles of a race of ancient nobility called the Ven.

The book opens with a dedication: “For Jared Blood, Steel and Honor”. It's pretty safe to assume this is Jared Sorensen, fellow RPG designer, as he gets a mention in the introduction chapter.

Chapter 1: How to use this Book

Houses opens with John Wick directly addressing the reader. He welcomes them and gives the basic overview of what a RPG is. This entire section is written in a conversational tone, which I don't really mind as long as it's not annoying.

Next is how Houses differs from most RPGs. The first is how it is the Anti-DnD RPG. According to Wick, DnD is about homeless, family-less vagabonds going into dungeons to kill things. It's not an inaccurate description. Houses differs by placing the characters in the roles of nobles, with lands and families and responsibilities. Taken at face value, there's nothing wrong. But after reading Wick's 'review' of people playing DnD 4e, I can't help but reading smugness into this section. Next is Time. Houses plays out over Seasons, with characters aging. The text stresses that characters won't have enough time to do everything. The third difference is how Houses does task resolution. We'll cover that when we get to that chapter, but the brief overview is that the winner of the roll gets narrative rights. Lastly, Houses is described as a Tragedy rpg. Tragedy is used in the dramatic sense, not “horrible things happen.” The only odd bit from this section is how Wick says many rpgs are fantasy, sci-fi, etc but none are tragedy. Why a sci-fi rpg could not tell tragic stories is beyond me.

Now we jump into the first Wick-ism. The next section is “This is not a Work of Fiction”. Uh huh. Wick mentions that the Ven are mentioned in several ancient texts, such as the Book of Dzyan and the Voynich Manuscripts. Quick Google searches reveal the questionability of those texts. Also, he mentions a discovery in a cave in Damascus. No source is given on that one. A few pages later, we get a bibliography of more 'articles', including Wick's prior rpg work Enemy Gods and a Miskatonic reference. For flavor, making the Ven seem real and this is based on real research doesn't bother me. But in this case, due to an upcoming section, this rubs me the wrong way.

We get a short section on how Wick was writing little games and Jared Sorenson told him to write a big game, like L5R, again. Ok... thanks for letting us know that.

He then goes into Jared's Three Questions concerning game design. They are What is my Game About?, How Does My Game Do That? And What Behaviors Does My Game Reward and Punish? It's a pretty brief look into the design process.

“The Eastwood Defense” is Wick ranting about people complaining about historical inaccuracies in rpgs. So that's why he wrote Houses based on Ven fiction. Because you can't complain about inaccuracies that the Ven themselves took. But the Ven aren't real. So this is complaining about criticisms of other rpgs in another rpg. This is why the how "this is not fiction" bit annoys me. Its presence seems to imply that the "this is true" bit exists just for this rant.

Finally, we get an overview of Ven fiction. This will get covered more in the Ven chapter. Lastly, he explains about how the Ven write, because it will come through in the “translations”.

The first chapter is 12 pages. Twelve pages for a basic overview and ramblings on things that should be on a blog about the RPG, not the RPG itself.

Ven History and You

posted by jadarx Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

Part Two: Ven History and You

So we immediately dive into the history and culture of the Ven. The Ven are a race of beings from the long past, “Before Atlantis saw its great rise and Mu was still a distant dream”. (not a work of fiction...)

The ven call their world Shanri. Ven can be translated as “us” and Shanri “the Great Enemy”. So right off the bat we are shown how the ven view the world. Us versus them.

Ven History starts with the rule of the sorcerer-kings, called the aleva danna. They are your usually power-mad sorcerer-kings, who make war on each other and make live difficult. They almost blow up the world and then destroyed themselves. The ven are one of their servitor races and begin to pick up the pieces. They form themselves into noble families and rebuild the shattered land, which is described as “a chain of archipelagoes of mutant flora and fauna.” Things are ok until one of their high kings decides he wants some of the sorcerer-kings' power. It's not clear why this is bad, but the other ven nobles overthrow him only to be cursed by the High King for 1000 generations.

After this, the Ven create a Senate, with the membership being draw from the nobility and each noble receiving a number of votes based the amount of land he or she controls.

The book then covers four major events in the last 200 years that have shaped Ven culture. I believe these events also occur in the 200 years immediately after the High King's Curse. I'm not entirely certain, as the book isn't too clear.

200 years ago – The Betrayer War – At some point,the Ven had an Emperor. Or is this the High King mentioned earlier? The High King's curse is called “The Betrayer Curse”, so it lines up with the title of this section. And since the big event that comes out of this is Sorcery is forbidden, it seems they are the same. Why Wick decided to rename the title one page later is not clear. Ven of the house of the Serpent are allowed to research sorcery, which will not come back and bite anyone later.

150 years ago – The Quiet Poison – The noble families move into conflict, trying to grab power left by the empty throne. As a result, the Senate rules that noble families can not have standing armies. Very reminiscent of Legend of the Five Rings, another Wick work, where the Great Clans can not fight each other without permission of the Emperor. Instead of having armies though, the Ven nobles have 'personal guards' and can use them for “personal protection”. Ven military conflict is just moved into the realm of small military action, poisons and assassination.

100 years ago – The Anguish – A large storm, called “The Anguish” smashes into Ven land, wrecking their stuff. A group of Ven go into a sorcerer-king ruin and only one emerges with the name of the Storm, allowing them to control it. This Ven belongs to the noble family of the Falcon and to this day the Falcon have the power to control the Storm.

50 years ago – Clandestine Blood – Seeing the Falcon, originally a weak house, have immense power due to controlling the Storm, a group of Ven Barons (lead by a Serpent, surprise!) decide to break the restriction on using sorcery. They all swear an oath to protect each other. “Kouser's Oath” quickly spreads through the courts and now many Barons use sorcery.

Today, Ven society has settled into a complicated, but peaceful state. Some Ven are whispering of another High King. Not an Emperor, because they are different because

Many Ven are exploring the deeper parts of Shanri, raiding the ruins of the sorcerer-king and fighting orks.

Up Next: The land of Shanri and only 59 pages until we can make characters.

Shanri, This land is your land, this land is my land

posted by jadarx Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

Part Three – Shanri, This land is your land, this land is my land

The Shanri of the present is a mostly wild and untamed land. The sorcerer-king's sorcery broke the land up into a series of archipelagos and populated the land with mutated creatures. The game does not provide any indepth description of the size or shape of Shanri. Falling back on 'secondary sources', Wick describes how the land is usually presented as a fantastic version of itself. Since we don't have these sources, we get no examples of this. What we do know is Shanri consists of a single large mini-continent surrounded by smaller archipelagoes. Some are close enough to be connected by bridge, but most require boats to travel by.

The large landmass is called Q'naldinir, which means either “Golden Center Under Sky” or “Hub of All Revenge”. This is were the Senate is, located in an ancient ruin of great beauty. It is most likely also the origin of the Ven nation.

Shanri is populated by many dangerous creatures. The Ven, being to full of themselves, couldn't be bothered to name them. So instead, any dangerous creature is an Ork, meaing other or outsider. My only experience with the word ork is from Warhammer 40k, so my version of Shanri is apparently populated with soccer hooligans. But in reality, orks in Shanri can be anything from humanoids to beasts to ven-eating plants. If a creature isn't dangerous, it's a ruk, which is also the word for peasant.

But that's not the only thing that goes bump in Shanri's night. The ruins and deep forests are home to spectres. Spectres are your traditional hungry ghost. Something that can't be harmed with normal weapons and that attacks your spirit rather than your body. You can only hurt a spectre with Orichalcum weapons. My hypothesis is that the spectres are the remnants of the sorcerer-kings.

Shanri's civilization is laid out pretty standard. There are villages and towns full of peasants. Travel between townships are in large caravans, because the orks are thick outside of the cities. Bandits also prey on travellers and even Ven nobles hire out pirates. Ven cities are all built in the left over ruins. The primary reason for this is the sorceror-kings built strange, non-euclidian walls that the Ven can't reproduce. You can get anything your twisted Ven heart desires in a city. Crime is low in Ven cities, either due to Ven vengances (say that 5 times fast) or because the Ven bribe the officials. I don't see how bribing officials makes crime appear low, but whatever.

The food you eat depends on your social status. If you're a peasant, you get veggies. Peasants can't hunt. They just aren't allowed and even if they could, peasants can't own weapons. Ven Nobles get to have meat and fruit. A Noble never drinks water, that's something only a peasant would drink. Instead, they satisfy their thirsts with wine and run.

Hey, what about beer. Surely the Ven like to kick back with a cold one?


A noble never drinks beer, except when there is nothing else but water and milk. And even then, sour cat piss might be a better alternative. After all, beer's pretty much the same thing.

Peasants make and drink their own beer, by the way.

The language spoken by the Ven again is decided by social status.
There's the High Tongue, which only Nobles speak. Servants are forbidden to speak it. It's full of double meanings and secret traps. Once a season, all the 'cool' Ven get together and decide to change the language and then ignore you if you don't roll your r's the right way. EACH Season. There are four seasons in a year, just like ours, meaning four chances for a clique of Ven to be a dick to you.

The Vulgar Tongue is the street language. A passionate language and one that you don't have to be in the in-crowd to use. Philistine

Lastly, there is the Old Tongue. This is the language of Sorcery. It is forbidden.

As usual, this section is filled with references to sources and experts and “I, John Wick, translated this”. Which are completely useless as none of them exist. There are small tidbits in the chapter headers or sidebars, but those work fine on their own. Constantly mentioning bit in the text itself only results in

Up Next, the Ven themselves and 50 pages to Char Gen!

Bad Touch

posted by jadarx Original SA post

Traveller posted:

jadarx, can I ask you to keep a running tally on how many times Wick says "Bad Form" during HotB? There's a chapter in the final section that makes it all worth it.

Sure. Bad Form Tally: 0

It shows up in the next section. And amusingly, it's used before it's defined. 16 pages prior

You know what, since we're talking about GM advice from the Wick, let's just hit this section now. Because it's a doozy.

Houses of the Blooded: Bad Touch

The Bad Form essay appears at the end in the player section. That's going to be very important in a little bit.

Bad Form will appear a lot in the text. For this essay, it means "Don't make me look like a jerk". For a culture that puts a lot on appearance and face, the Ven thrive on Bad Form. But we aren't Ven, so why is this important. Because this is about out of character bad form.

See, bad form is about having to correct someone. When you do that, you make them look bad. You have committed bad form. And since they have MADE you do this, they have insulted you by making you correct them. So what is OOC Bad Form
* Joking in the game
* Playing Video games during the game
* Talking about TV
* Answering your phone
* Cheating

And what happens if you commit bad form. You get punished. The Narrator will take away a style point (we'll get to this later). And this is in the Player section. The part with advice for Players. And that advice is "sit up straight or the GM will punish you." Don't make him look like a jerk, you cretins.

Oddly, there is nothing about GM bad form here.

Or you could act like adults and deal with those real game issues accordingly. But I guess we're OOC Ven too.

The Ven

posted by jadarx Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded
Chapter 3 – The Ven

I. Ven Overview

Despite being creations of sorcerer-kings, the Ven look a lot like your standard human. They have dark skin with curly hair. The literature uses individual Ven's physical characteristics as identifiers for the Ven's character. For example, paler skinned Ven are untrustworthy, while gold-eyes ones are tricksters.

A Ven's name is sacred. Names in Shanri are power. If you name something, you own it. All Ven have two names, a family name and a personal name. For Blooded Ven, the family name is associate with their House. Blooded Ven also have a third name, a secret name.

Ven do not get sick, nor do they die of old age. Instead, as Ven age, they grow taller and thinner. They start developing odd habits, like a desire for only a particular type of fruit. In the later stage, the Ven's body weakens and their desires die. Eventually, their body stops moving and excretes a thick, sticky white substance :shock:. This substance, growing like hairs all over their body, forms a cocoon. But the Ven is not dead. No, they are in Solace, q'va. Other Ven who sleep near the sleeping ven or suaven often hear them in their dreams. All Ven will sleep and some day, awaken.

Despite their enhanced physiology, Ven can still be killed. A sword to the chest or poison in the goblet will end a Ven's life, as will falling off your horse. Ven view this as a tragedy, as it robs the Ven of Solace, of Eternity and Revenge. Ven rarely commit suicide.

II. Ven Society

Ven can be divided into two rough groups. At the bottom are the peasants, the ruk. Ruk, nicely translated is People of the Earth, but given the views of the other group, a better meaning is dirt. This 'translation' will show up through most of this chapter. If you're a peasant, you are always dirt. You might be honored dirt or talented dirt, but the Blooded always see you as dirt.

Speaking of the Blooded, they are the second group of Ven. The Blooded are the Ven nobility. What makes a Ven a noble. Firstly and most importantly, their Blood. This isnt' a mundane case of 'noble blood'. No, instead the noble Ven have magic blood. There is a ritual that separates these Ven from the common dirt. Each Ven has had this ritual performed on them when they enter their House. Second, all Ven nobles control land. Control is the key word, as you don't have rights on the land just because of your title. If you can't control the land, another Ven can take it and become the true ruler and all the other Ven will recognize them instead.

Each Blooded Ven belongs to one of six Houses. There used to be ten, but the other four are shrouded in shame. The ritual that makes you a Blooded ties you to a House. You can never be Blooded to another House. The six remaining Houses are The Bear, The Elk, The Falcon, The Fox, The Serpent and The Wolf.
The Bear – From the less civilized North, Bear Blooded are considered less refined than southern Ven. They favor Strength and independence. Sometimes act crabby.
The Elk – As family of the old Emperor, they seek to redeem their name. They favor Subtly and Cunning. There a laws against how many Elk Blooded can own land and practice sorcery.
The Falcon – The Falcon originally did not own land. They wandered the land and sea. Fifty years ago, they struck and carved out lands of their own. They are the closest to the common folk and favor Courage.
The Fox – The harvesters of culture and etiquette. They set the standards for art and fashion. The Fox favor Beauty.
The Serpent – Sneaky gits. Trickers who deal with poison and sorcery. Trick people into thinking they can't swim. Scorpio... Serpents favor Wisdom.
The Wolf - The Wolf are fanatical about everything. They are fierce fights and passionate scholars. They seek the truth to use as a weapon. Wolves favor Prowess.

III. Ven Nobility

By being a Noble, you have certain rights and responsibilities. A Noble has rights to most of what their lands produce. If they want a new sword, they go to the blacksmith and get one. The noble's underlings rely on the Noble for protection, so their labor is 'gladly' exchanged for the Ven's compassion. Nobility gives you the following rights:
Exception from Taxes
A Right to carry a sword and have a coat of arms
The Right to own land and hunt on that land
The Right of Revenge
A Noble can also create titles for his underlings. That Ven creates a contract for the title, detailing how the title works and what it's responsibility is. One title might be for only a season, while another may pass down along new noble's family.

Each Noble has a title. The title may be be given from their liege lord or claimed. They are NOT inherited. For example, if you go out and claim a chunk of land from the orks. If the land is sufficiently large and you demonstrate control over it, you can claim the title of Baron. Here are the ranks of nobility.

1. Knight / Roadman (Yvil)
Knights are an odd rank, as it contradicts a lot of what we've been told about Ven nobles. Knights are responsible for protecting the land. They are the closest to the traditional fantasy adventurer. Another Noble will give out Knight titles to Ven who exhibit bravery, partially to support those Ven and probably more likely to attach those Ven to his service. Some Ven knights may be commoners. So while they have a title, they are not Blooded. Most knights do not have land or are allowed to have their own coat of arms. Those that do are on the road to becoming...
2. Baron/Baroness (r'shana)
A Baron is the lowest of the land-owning titles. Some Barons don't control the land they govern. Baron Titles tend to be only for a single generation and has to be renewed.
3. Count/Countess (rhushava)
Countesses control a county, a large parcel of land. They have proven themselves loyal and can accompany their liege lord on journeys.
4. Marquis/Marquise (fyllyn)
Marquis are special Counts. Originally, the title was given to those who guarded the outer lands. Now it is a title of distinction. Only those who are fully trusted are given this title, as the power that comes with it is great.
5. Duke/Duchess (ohlrex)
The Duchess is the top of the Ven Nobility ladder. They answer to no other Ven Their word is the Law.
6. Earl (avirex for men, avirexa for women)
The “High Dukes” or leaders of the Blooded Houses. Technically still Dukes.

Up Next: What do the Ven think of various things. Hint:

You don't get it, it's art

posted by Traveller Original SA post

jadarx posted:

I'm going to have to stop with my review of Houses of the Blooded. I don't have the time to make reasonable updates and frankly don't have the writing skills to make them interesting.

And if you don't mind, I'll pick up where you left! I could restart the Dragon Warriors review I was doing oh, around the time the last thread ended, but I think no one was reading it anyway.

But this? Oh boy. And now that we're fresh out of the Eldritch High review...

Houses Of The Blooded - Part 6

You don't get it, it's art

Sorcery is blood magic. Remember, the ven are essentially sentient spell components created by the sorcerer kings. (Aside: I really like the idea of "yeah, your entire race was created just to make this ritual work better" but the only settings I've seen that roll with it are HOTB... and Carcosa. ) The ancient and unholy art of senvu should have gone forgotten but alas.


Scholars do not agree on when the ven began using sorcery.

You know, it must be a weird world where Ven Scholar!Wick is writing from. Sorcery is "sure, they used it, no biggie" and Atlantean and Hyperborean civilizations are taken as fact. I think I'd rather read about than than the ven but it's what we have so.

The Serpents are, as we know, the most sorcerous of the Houses. They pushed to make sorcery illegal through the Senate so as to strengthen their position - after all, everyone was knee deep into sorcery by then. It's still used all over the place though, and it's still considered a crime anywhere, but because the Blooded are what Wick wanted L5R samurai to be careful not to point around their own hypocrisies, all the Houses keep a minor noble that's never used sorcery or been the target of it to level accusations when it's politically convenient.

Ven are also fond of ritual: there's a proper form to do everything, from saying goodbye to smoking a joint. You want chaos, go live with the orks, that's bad form, yadda yadda. Wick also invite us to make sense of the " sh'vla controversy" over ven weighs and measures, but he's magnanimous so he won't bore us with that shit! Ven measure things the same way humans (and that is to say, specifically Americans) do: pounds, gallons, etc. He also swears he can write an entire book on the complicated way ven had of keeping time but nah, let's use our own measures. Which is weird seeing as Seasons take a specific amount of our months to pass.

The Blooded sent their children off for education at a young age, six or seven. The kids have a ritual last supper with their parents, some last minute gifts, and they're gone by morning. Noble schools teach their students manners, etiquette, politics, self defense, and so on, and are technically independent. Not so much their faculty, however. Other ven prefer private instructors, and considering we're dealing with doomed murderous highborn manchildren here I wonder why any ven would send off their kids away unless they were trying to get them murdered.

Which, honestly, they might be.

Let's talk about capital-A Art! Ven fucking love it. It's what transforms us, strikes us with awe, it's


Try explaining the Grand Canyon with just words. “Big” isn’t big enough. “Enormous” isn’t big enough. In fact, there is no word big enough to convey the BIG of the Grand Canyon.
You just have to stand in awe.

Sure okay.

The greatest ven art is the Opera . It's "Jim Steinman meets John Woo" and where all hell breaks loose. It encompasses all other arts, and it is called "The High Alchemical Art". Ven are so particular about Opera they only recognize seven basic plots as fit for it: Wick tells us it's like how King Arthur automagically evokes images of the Knights of the Round, Guinevere, Mordred and so on. If the plot strays too far from what we know, "we feel betrayed." But the plots can be used to tell many different stories, so they're not repeating the same seven plays all the time.

They all end the same though. Tragedy and Blood. Also they all need that the hero dies or is undone, and always by their own hand. Even in in-setting fiction, PCs can't catch a break in Wickverse. The seven plots are represented by the Seven Fools, the archetypical protagonists of each:

The Actress : she (or he, the Fools can be any gender) is a ven that rises through society by means of an Art, lose sight of her beginnings by the praise of others. Usually commits suicide at the end.
The Dowager Duchess : an old ven that refuses the call of Solace. She acts like a young woman until the hard truth of the world comes around, and is ultimately robbed of Solace.
The Husband : the archetypical neglectful spouse, undone by underestimating his wife's desire for independence and happiness.
The Rake : an unmarried ven, rising in society through romantic conquests, undone by his own shallow heart.
The Swordsman : a high Prowess, high pride type, he refuses apology for any slight and answers all threats with Sword. Of course he's fucked in Wickland.
The Wife : the Wife is demanding, selfish and proud. That's how she got as high as she did, that's what will cast her down.
The Wise Man : the rarest and hardest to write for, the Wise Man isn't really described other than he's the most difficult to make compelling for a ven audience. Hint! Manchildren. The sample Wise Man is actually a common soldier that ends up in a fucked Chance The Gardener situation.

You know, I think Wick is trying to make a point on what the PC's fate will be. Maybe?

There are also two Servants, always named the same, that work as the Greek chorus of the play. The boldest writers use them to comment on the moral of the play, which is dangerous because of Reasons.

And then there's Theater , which is basically improv theater for the masses. No self-respecting noble would be caught dead at the theater, but they usually show up in hooded robes anyway, because it's a fucking riot. Theater actors are essentially extreme LARPers, and audiences can tell when they're faking it. But no one can blame an actor for what a character demands them to do, right? Love, revenge, murder...

Something something ven instruments. Meh. Ven music tends to be repetitive, and uses silence a lot as punctuation. At the time the game is set, ballads did not exist. Ven painting was akin to German Expressionism, and always focused on people. Ven did not paint still lifes. No Truth in apples, you know.

The Senate ! It's the voice of the ven - the ones that matter, the ones with land. They sit on the Senate because they fought for it, bled for it, killed for it. Senators are ranked according to, well, their noble rank, and have as many votes as land they control. The dukes lead the Senate, recognizing speakers and so forth. Once a Senator is recognized (by three others that outrank him) he gets to talk as long as he can, and must answer questions directly. Else, he is removed from the floor. There are no duels and no bloodshed on the Senate. The Senate gathers on the first new moon of each Season: emergency meetings can and have been called, but they're rare and difficult to pull off. Senators also engage in dachanau , the dance of words, which is basically one-on-one debate. They're mostly used to illustrate the finer points of complicated issues, and multiple debates can be held over a single vote. Dachanau is popular in the Senate, and has spread as a pastime to parties and taverns alike.

If the Senate needs independent eyes, they can call in vashna , Senate investigators. They dress in black and silver to signify their lack of identity and subservience to the Senate, and no ven is above their authority. Of course, that black cloak does shit when you're deep in Count Assh'le's lands and you get offered a cup of poison wine or have a chance encounter with 'orks.' The vashna are usually disgraced or indebted nobles, or those who want the power of the Senate and its vengeance. But wait! The Senate does not declare Revenge, no. Just vengeance.

Ven fashion is exaggerated and opulent. Wick plays the "it's so complex and scholars don't agree" card again then tells us to play it up however we see fit. Some details that are clear are that men wore common stuff like hats, gloves, boots and coats, and that women crossdressing was not seen in any form of positive light. And colors , colors mattered a lot.

Let's talk about the economy! No money, no coins. Ven economy is based on barter, trade and promise, and Contracts. Contracts are formal and ritual, and it all makes the economy bureaucratic as fuck. And don't you dare break one, it's against the law.

We go back to sorcery (because fuck editing, right), and specifically the two main rituals for nobility: Blood Oaths are magical agreements to ensure noble loyalty, which is kind of a big deal when everyone is a doomed murderous highborn manchild. If a noble bound by Blood Oath breaks it, the old tongue word for oathbreaker is magically tattooed on their forehead, which is kind of shitty for your social life. And then there's the Senvu Swordsman ritual that binds swordsman and sword as if they were one. It's very secret, and the senvu Swordsmen see themselves as an elite brotherhood that will murder anyone that so much hints at revealing the ritual. There are other rituals, of course, and ven are always getting themselves killed in sorcerer-king ruins and palaces looking for them.

Next: Romance and Revenge, or the 'murderous' and 'manchildren' sides of the foursome.

Just like high school. Except... no, just like it.

posted by Traveller Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

Just like high school. Except... no, just like it.

A small aside for ven hospitality. It's really important for reasons. A ven invites you into their house? They protect you from all harm. No poison, no treachery. In exchange, the guest agrees not to sneak around the house or be a douche in general. This is one of those that are taken seriously. No one said anything about being a douche to other guests though.

And now, Revenge!


Vrentae. The Hate. The Old Tongue. A red spirit possesses the Heart. Hungry. It can only dine on retribution. To satisfy the Hate, one must undertake High Revenge.

It's a big deal, because see, for ven there's no such thing as justice. Wick says it's the only time we'll see this word in the book, in fact! (He lies. It shows up about five times.) But Revenge, that's in every Opera, in the mind of every ven. They're obsessed with revenge because first, since Shanri really can't support armies or large-scale warfare and war is forbidden by law anyway, ven turned to small scale action. The smallest scale action is, of course, the ritual duel. It's all Artsy and stuff because nobles have to uphold civilization, you know. Second, there's no word for "crime" in Venspeak. There are only the Three Great Offenses, and only Blooded may commit violence (no unblooded, not for any reason, so I guess there are no legal peasant hunters or anything in the entire world). So the idea is, if a ven breaks the Law, they have committed Insult or Injury. The wronged party goes before a Jury, makes a case, and if found to have merit, then they're allowed to seek Revenge. Again, this is not about justice: this is about making the other asshole suffer as much as you did. It always ends in tears.

And now, Romance!


Vrentae. The Lust. The Old Tongue. A red spirit possesses the Heart. Hungry. It can only dine on the rage of Passion. To satisfy it, one must undertake Romance.

SPOILERS ROMANCE AND REVENGE ARE TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN WOOOOOOO. In fact, it all depends on how you pronounce the damn word - VREN-tae means Romance, vren-TAE means Revenge. Anyway, the thing about Romance is that basically, love in ven society did not exist as a concept, at all. Because this is a Wick game, all marriages were politically convenient alliances. No, no love, but there was lust because ven are horny assholes. And then someone, somewhere, came up with the idea that maybe this whole funny butterflies in the stomach business wasn't wrong. Maybe it was right, maybe it was worthy, even sacred.

Ultimately, both Romance and Revenge are obsessions (the word literally means "holding my heart"), which is why ven under them wear red. If they're wearing it for Revenge, they're marking themselves because legal Revenge means they simply cannot be bound by anything. No law, no ven. But this vrentae is ritual, of course, and must be carried out in a given period of time, or the ven's reputation will be severely harmed. Ven under Romance wear red for similar reasons: they're considered not to be thinking with a clear head so they're expected to have some more lenience from their peers. But just a bit. And neither Romance nor Revenge last forever - just enough to ruin a ven's life. Romance isn't silly, by the way! Did you know those fantasy novels you care about so much would have been called Romances in old times? Yes, even "The Professor's War of the Ring."


(Technically, he called it a “history,” but we’re willing to allow the Professor a mistake or two now and then.)

Fuck off, Wick. Fuck off.

But yeah, people would do crazy shit for Romance! More than those murderhobos and their quest for gold coins. That's boring.

Anyway, I need audience participation for the next one! I want doomed highborn manchildren concepts to run through character creation. However, I can't promise exact faithfulness to the concept because...

Next: random generation? Really?

Colonization was a pretty cool game

posted by Traveller Original SA post

In Wick's head, I'm sure that's the game he was designing. The examples of rolls are actually pretty damn swashbuckly.

Houses of the Blooded

Colonization was a pretty cool game

What passes for art in this game goes between chapters, like this. As jadarx mentioned, there's a lot of "I, John Wick, discovered this" in here. This one is fairly unsmug.

So it's on to character creation ! It's long and scary but don't worry, we have John Wick creating a character along as we read through this chapter. Said character is Blooded of the Fox Shara Yvarai, and many of the fake book quotes are from the pillow book named after her. She's also the star of the sample scenario such as it is, but fortunately she's no Kachiko. Still, Wick fawns over her a little too much for a Spring character. What's a Spring character, you ask? You'll see.

So let's use our two character sample concepts as we go through this. R'shana Al'gri (Al) and D'io Bu'land'o (Dio) will be our merry companions through this post. As hinted earlier, there's an element of randomness in chargen, and it's the background phase. See, Wick thinks we can't pick our family, so we might as well roll for it, and he gives us a number of tables to roll on. We get three pips to modify our rolls up and down, but that's it. Now, we can just pick our options if the GM agrees; Wick says he's just a control freak. Hey, words from the man himself.

First, we roll for the Houses our mother and father belonged to. This matters because the House our character will be part of is going to be one of these two. For Al, I rolled Falcon and Serpent; and for Dio, I got Serpent and (using up all the pips) Wolf. Then we roll to see which parent was yvestra (dominant) and which was ytola (submissive). See, instead of the man always wearing the pants in the house, ven marriages arrange for one partner to rule the roost - and thus be exposed to greater social risk - and the other to stay quiet and have no authority - but no responsibility, either. It's all in the contract. Let's say Dio's dad and Al's mom were the dominant partners. Finally, we pick a House: both our characters take after their parents, being Serpent and Wolf respectively. The Wolf idea of "being a tool or a weapon" suits an asshole like Dio.

Then, we roll up our siblings: first our personal birth order, then the number of surviving siblings. Dio was born sixth but he's the only survivor (I wonder why ), and Al was born second but he's also the lone surviving child. Had they had living siblings, we would roll for their genders as well.

Our names! Names have meaning, and that thing matters in this game. A name is composed of the family name (we get that from our house), the secret name (the one mothers whisper to ven children at birth, it's sekrit) and the public name (your real, regular name). So Al is Al, and Dio is Dio. Then we decide on our age: our characters can be Spring (10-19 years old) Summer (20-49) Autumn (50-79) or Winter (80-100). And Shara is Spring, and Wick is a little too appreciative of her. We'll say our guys are both in the Summer of their days and leave it at that, holy shit.

We also roll for marriage. This one is optional, because hey, we do get a bit of a say in whether we get hitched or not. Most likely, our characters are married and have kids.


While such trivial matters would not matter if you were a wandering mercenary, looting and pillaging your way through the countryside, without care or ethics or morals, but you’re a noble now, and your priorities have to change. Besides, there are mechanical advantages to having a spouse and child.


Anyway, I used the charts: both of our characters are married with a single kid.

As starter characters, our characters are Barons, the lowest land-owning noble rank, but we still get to roll for our parents' rank. Remember, ven don't really do the inheriting thing. As it turns out, Dio's parents were just Barons, while Al's folks were Marquises.

Now on to actual stats! Like in Blood & Honor, our characters are defined by Virtues . There are six Virtues, conveniently mapping to the six Houses in the corebook:

We get one Virtue at 4, two at 3, two at 2, and one as our weakness. Our weakness gets nothing. 0. We add one more point to the Virtue our house represents, but nothing if it happens to also be our weakness.

Now here is the thing: your weakness is not something you're mediocre at. It's not something you're bad at. It's something you're absolute shit at. Right from the start, all characters have a glaring weak point to stab at. Just how Wick likes it.

So for Dio, I decide to go with a Str 2, Cun 3, Cou 3, Bea 2, Wis 0, Pro 4+1 spread. Yes, I know, he should have Beauty at 9 or something, but I work with what I have. Al, in a stereotypical nerd way, gets Str 0, Cun 3, Cou 2, Bea 2, Wis 4+1, Pro 3.

Next, we go to Phases. We take the age we got for our characters, then look up which Phase they're in. The older they are, the more Aspects and Contacts they get, but also the more Solace Aspects (age-related infirmities) they get as well. Aspects are, as we know, words or phrases that describe our character. We'll go into deeper detail with them later, but I'm sure most of you are already familiar with FATE already. Contacts are the connections the ven made through their life. Each Phase, you pick one of the other player characters as a contact. There are a number of advantages from having contacts, but they'll come up when we talk about the domain management rules. As Summer characters, Dio and Al get four Aspects and two Contacts each. Let's say their contacts are each other and Shara, because nothing wrong ever came of trusting Wick characters. As for aspects, I go over the sample list and give Dio Treacherous (of course), Ikhalu's Kiss (good at stabbing people in the face with knives ), Swordsman and Thief; Al gets Academy Educated, Meticulous, Strange Intuition, and Warlock ( ).

Our characters also have Devotions to the Suaven. Some of the ven that go into Solace are essentially worshipped the way saints are in our world. There are Suaven for everything, except for "winning rolls" because that's totally a thing a Bad Form player would ask for. We get three points to divide between Suaven devotions, with a maximum of three per Suaven. Nothing says you have to worship a Suaven of your house either. I say that scheming asshole Dio puts all his faith in Tyane Bran, Suaven of Intrigue, while Al worships both Bran and Ashalim Avendi, Suaven of the Road - handy for a warlock explorer.

The other major half of chargen is Domain . Our dudes are just Barons, but they're still land-owning nobles, and they have a whole Province to begin with. Each province is divided in ten Regions. Of them, two are already claimed: the character's Castle and one Village. We get five points to buy regions with, or improve a region up to Rank 3. Yes, this does mean parts of the province will be unknown: they're still lesser nobles after all. Protip: you need Food at first, just like in Sid Meier's Colonization.

The regions may be:

You can buy more than one type of region if you want. We also get five points to spend on Vassals , ven under our command that help us run our Domain. Not full NPCs, though, not yet. They need at least one Food per Year to stay on our side, and they can be bribed or turned by our enemies unless we spend more. But that comes later. For now, we can buy or improve:

We get three Style Points to begin with, but we're not told what they do just yet. Only that we can accumulate a maximum of five from session to session. Finally, we get five Bonus Points to buy up more Aspects, Contacts, old Artifacts, Suaven Relics, sorcerous Rituals, and buy/improve Regions or Vassals. We'll buy up a new aspect or two, some extra regions, improve staff a bit... Rounding up, our character sheets look like this:

D'io Bu'land'o, Blooded of the Wolf, Baron of Zwarudo
Strength 2 Cunning 3 Courage 3 Beauty 2 Wisdom 0 Prowess 5
Tyane Bran 3
Ikhalu's Kiss
WRYYYYY (of course!)
Castle Dio (Rank 1)
Diosville (Rank 1)
Dio's Farm (Rank 1)
Dio's Forest (Rank 1)
Dio's Plains (Rank 1)
Dio's Shore (Rank 1)
Dio's Swamp (Rank 1)
Dio's House Staff (Rank 1)
Dio's Herald (Rank 2)
Dio's Personal Guard (Rank 1)
Dio's Spy Network (Rank 1)
Dio's Valet (Rank 1)
Dio's Spouse (Rank 1)
R'shana Al'gri, Baron of Salamanca
Shara Yvarai, Baroness of Q'nn
Blood Sword (Rank 3!)
Kind of an egocentric jerk, isn't he?

R'shana Al'gri, Blooded of the Serpent, Baron of Salamanca
Strength 0 Cunning 3 Courage 2 Beauty 2 Wisdom 5 Prowess 3
Tyane Bran 2
Ashalim Avendi 1
Academy Educated
Strange Intuition
Salamanca Castle (Rank 1)
Danvers (Village, Rank 1)
Sleepy Hollow Farm (Rank 1)
Mirkwood (Rank 1)
Tomb of Spooky (Ruins, Rank 1)
Tomb of Real Spooky (Ruins, Rank 2)
Southern Plains (Rank 1)
Dagobah (Swamp, Rank 2)
Ashla Saberin, Court Scholar (Rank 2)
Salamanca Guard (Personal Guard, Rank 1)
Salamanca Irregulars (Roadmen, Rank 1)
Mirkwood Ghosts (Spy Network, Rank 1)
Lyra (Spouse, Rank 1)
D'io Bu'land'o, Baron of Zwarudo
Shara Yvarai, Baroness of Q'nn
The Eye
The Circle
Fun fact: these two might as well be dead. Guess who is the most fucked?

Next: wait, run Aspects by me again?

Risky Business

posted by Traveller Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

Risky business


Now, in most roleplaying games , this section is called something like "game system" or "mechanics" or "task resolution." Sounds about as sexy as repairing your dishwasher.
This chapter is different. This isn’t about your character taking an action. It’s about your character taking risks.

I will not be kinkshamed by you, Mr. Wick.

Anyway, actual mechanics! Like in other Wickgames, the basic roll is a risk. Roll a number of dice, and if you get 10 or more bam, you get privilege. This has nothing to do with the actual success or failure of the action you're attempting, mind you. If you make your roll, then you get to describe what happens. If you fail it, the GM gets to do so. But where do you get those dice anyway?

Let's talk about Style . Remember those points we got at chargen? Style is flamboyance and panache. You get those by acting ven: dramatic, tragic, lovestruck, hotblooded, etc. You don't get it by reading other game books, answering your cell phone, arguing about rules with the GM, or getting off of Mr Wick's wild ride in general. Anyway, they're used for a lot of things, most of which have to do with aspects. As mentioned in chargen, you can only bank a maximum of five Style on your own, but fancy gear (a good hat, good boots, a nice sword) lets you bank more. Like 7th Sea NPCs, you can be measured on how floppy your hat is and how ruffled your collar is.

To make an actual roll, you first declare your intention. For instance, let's say Dio's intention is "I want to kick this puppy." This is what you get if you succeed.

Then you gather dice for your pool. These come from:

If the roll succeeds we get our intention, but that's it. Dio kicks the puppy. To get extra effects out of our risk, we make wagers . Like in L5R, we can penalize our own rolls by setting dice aside. Say Dio gets ten dice to kick the puppy: that's overkill for the TN of 10, so he can just set, say, five dice aside and trust he'll get a 10 with his remaining five. Wagers can be used to take narrative control of the scene and add elements. So if Dio makes his roll with five wagers, he could say "I kick the puppy: it lands on a brazier, and its coat catches on fire, and it runs away yelping through the dance hall, and it sets the dresses of several dancers on fire, and finally dies right on top of an expensive carpet." His intention, plus five extra details from his wagers. Wagers cannot contradict previously established elements of the scene or do something that would require a risk to happen.

If another character opposes the risk, it becomes contested . The resolution is mostly the same: characters announce their intentions, then go through each step of gathering dice in turn (A declares or not their name, B does the same, A asserts a virtue, B does so, etc.) until they both run out of dice sources. Wagers are made in secret, then shown, and then the dice are rolled. The player that rolls higher is the winner, as long as they get over 10; the loser gets only half of their wagers rounding up, or none if they don't even make 10. If they both fail to roll 10, the GM takes over. The winner decides who spends their wagers first, then they do so until they run out of wagers. Ties are solved either by the largest pool, or by the GM asking how much Style the involved ven are willing to give up to win. All rolls that involve 2 or more characters are contested, even if they're trying to help each other.

So let's say Al doesn't want Dio to kick the puppy. They make their declarations and gather their dice. Dio again rolls five dice and wages another five, while Al wages four out of his seven dice, rolling three. They both make their rolls, but Dio rolls higher, and decides to go first.

Fucking Dio, seriously.

So far, so good? Great, because now things go to shit.

You can lie on your rolls. Those bits about gathering dice, declaring name, and all that shit? Lie as much as you want, as long as your lie is not greater than the dice you can actually roll. If you don't want to reveal your name could be used for asshole shit? Say it's no good. You can roll less Virtue dice than you actually have. You can say you have no appropriate Aspects. And you can lie about the result of your roll as long as your lie is not greater than your actual roll.

You can lie on your rolls. You can LIE ON YOUR ROLLS.

Why would you do this?


Think about it.

No, Wick, seriously. Why the fuck would you do this.


Lots of different reasons… but I’ll let you find those out on your own.

Character creation is supposed to be done all together, remember? You can't make Contacts if you don't have fellow PCs next to you. The character sheet is not two-sided like in Paranoia. How the fuck would you lie to another PC about your rolls? And for that matter, how would you ever know the GM lied to you---

Oh. Oooooh .

We get a list of "skills" that are essentially common tasks and the dice we could get for them. A "decipher" roll could involve Cunning or Wisdom, or an Aspect related to secret tongues, that sort of thing. This is actually useful to get how the system works.

As long as people are not literally lying on their fucking rolls, that is.

Next: no, seriously, the fuck is wrong with Aspects. And Virtues, for that matter.

Compel Aspect: :words:

posted by Traveller Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

Compel Aspect:

The following chapters deal again with Virtues and Aspects. Broadly, they repeat and expand on what we've seen of them so far, and they're another chance for Wick to get on his soapbox and preach. Still, they clarify some things, so you might as well read them if you've not set your copy of HotB on fire yet.

Virtues! Mostly, this chapter is about how to use them in game, and when they're good for risk calling. Strength is for all physical risks, as well as unarmed fighting. Strength lets you do things like leaping across rooftops, grabbing wind vanes, swinging down into balconies and rolling through glass doors. You know, swashbuckly, stylish things! Cunning lets you put together facts, think on your feet, spot the important details. You roll Cunning when trying to find clues - but, since this is all about cooperative storytelling, what Cunning lets you do is actually make up the clues yourself.


Now, when I say “find clues,” I truly and honestly mean “find clues.” Because right now, I hear a bunch of players saying, “But won’t that mess up the Narrator’s plot?” See, look how you’re being responsible! That’s so cute. And we Narrators really do appreciate it. But don’t worry about the Narrator’s plot. Honestly. I’ve got him covered in the Narrator Chapter.


Courage is used to, well, be courageous. Want to do something dangerous? Roll Courage. (What is this, Rock of Tahamaat?) Most Courage rolls are simple risks, and you have to spend a Style point if you fail it and still want to go through with the action. If you make wagers, though, you can turn them into Style at a rate of 2 wagers per Style (if it's a non-dice action) or extra dice for the next roll (if it's a risk.)


Courage is often overlooked by the players. “Ah, my character is as brave as I want him to be.”
Not so here.

Also, orks have something called Terror.


I’m not going to tell you how Terror works because the Narrator will show you that soon enough.

Beauty is used to create stuff. Moving, heartrending, passionate stuff, the details of which are still a while away. It's also used for Contract writing (contested Beauty risk) and for debate (contested Beauty risk, people who agree with the winner gain Style, people who agree with the loser lose Style). Wick tells us Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, but in the hands of the Fox; if Serpent are Soshi, the Fox are Bayushi, I think.

Speaking of Serpent, Wisdom is knowledge. Cunning is Sherlock Holmes examining the guy that walked into the room; Wisdom is Sherlock Holmes knowing that an object is not in the room. Wisdom risks are also used to define the world of Shanri. You can make up an ork out of whole cloth with a good roll and some wagers. You can also add details to other characters: they can spend a Style to veto it, but if they accept it they get one Style. Don't try to drain them of Style this way, that's Bad Form. Prowess is all about martial matters, but in general it's about determining advantage. If Cunning tells you the guy in front of you is lying and hiding a knife, Prowess lets you know he's a capable fighter and that it's better for you to get between him and the door. Prowess risks can also be used to give Aspects to a scene - in particular, Aspects that works as martial advantages.


The Aspects chapter opens with a long tirade about how Wick found out about Fate, and how he thought Aspects were the shit, but---


My experience with player-vs.-player roleplaying games—and I’ve played in a lot of them—made me realize that Aspects were too open-ended for that kind of environment. In a PvP game, every player is looking for any advantage, looking to exploit any weakness.And, frankly, players can get damn emotional, exploiting every loophole, interpreting vague or unclear rules to far extremes to protect their own characters and crush those they didn’t like. This is PvP after all, and there’s a reason board games don’t have Aspects, but clear and concise rule sets that can’t be “interpreted.”

So why allowing lying in the rolls? In a bit. Anyway, Wick limits Aspects to deal with one single thing to stop these damnable PvP players. But you can play them up as broad as they were meant to be, honest! Wick isn't going to stop you! There's a lot of blah blah on the invoke/tag/compel mechanics and how they work with Style. Some things stand out, though, most importantly that you can't tag or compel an Aspect that you don't know about. You have to see the Aspect invoked/tagged/compelled first, then get on a contested Cunning risk with the target (if the target wins, they gain Style: secrets are cool.) So not playing to your full strength all the time makes sense: you can imagine a situation where Dio is dueling some two-bit Blooded that can barely hold on to his sword. Dio could easily trounce him with his Prowess and Swordsman Aspect, but there might be someone else in the audience that Dio wants to shank later. So Dio could not use his Aspect and thus not allow the other guy to spot a weakness in his fighting style (the Swordsman tag), or allow him to see it while keeping his Prowess in check.

See, that's actually cool. What's not cool is straight up lying on your rolls, and it's telling that in Blood and Honor there's no mention of it.

It's also worth mentioning that tagging only works when there's dice rolls involved, and that you can't compel an Aspect when rolling risks - compelling is strictly for narrative advantage, not mechanical. Incidentally, you can resist a compel, it costs you two Style to do so. Other than that, it's repeating things already mentioned about using Style to invoke/tag/compel, Free Aspects, and Solace Aspects (which are never secret, everyone can see you getting old.) And this gem:


Perceptive readers will notice that denying the compel actually costs you three Style: the two Points you give up to deny the compel and the point you would have gotten if you accepted it.
Perfect, flawless Mary Sue characters don’t belong in this game.

Wick is perfectly right, of course. This is not Legend of the Five Rings.

Then there's some talk about specific Aspects and what makes a good or bad Aspect. You can already suss out how to build a proper Aspect from what we've seen so far, but there are a couple of sample Aspects that are essentially hotb.txt:


Tag: You just aren’t very clever are you? Can be tagged whenever someone is trying to outsmart you.
Compel: Used when another character wants you to act like a clod.

Dolt is a special kind of Aspect I reserve for players who just don’t get the hint. When putting Bad Form on their heads doesn’t make the point. When they’ve gone far enough that I have to act like a jerk to correct them.
Here it is. Dolt.
And yes, I’ve used it. Don’t think I haven't.

GMs can just slap Dolt on anyone if they feel they're acting in Bad Form.


This is an Aspect just begging to be messed with. Good form on the player who chose it. They’ve given others the opportunity to take advantage of a serious gap in
character integrity. No advantage at all.

Good Form is giving more and more weaknesses to your character.

I'm being evil here though, these are the worst. The rest of the sample Aspects are legit for a game of doomed highborn manchildren (i.e., they won't fuck you over nearly as much as these two.) There are also Aspects related to the Houses, which can be houseruled so that everyone gets the appropriate Aspect of their House from the start, or even make them Free Aspects. The Wolf Aspect is interesting as it straight up breaks the so far standard form: it only gives you two dice for the invoke, but it has no tag whatsoever because Wolves don't allow themselves weaknesses. At the end of the chapter there's even a number of "character class" Aspects that Wick includes in case you wanted to see something more familiar, because we're all brain-damaged D&D goons. It's where the Swordsman aspect can be found, btw. Two things of note: Swordsman has as compel a "code of honor" that makes you protect others, which is terribly inappropriate for Dio and kind of weird to have for doomed highborn manchildren; and one of the class aspects, Talashan , is only described as "Speaker to the Soil" and related to the unblooded, and Wick can say no more about it. No invoke/tag/compel for it.

You can also add Aspects to scenes with two Style points and an appropriate action (like setting a room on fire, then declaring the room is On Fire), and the first one to tag it can do so without using a Style. Or you can add Aspects to other people: specifically, by Insulting them. This is essentially the Ven Dozens: contested Beauty risk where people use wagers to ice burn the other guy. Once someone runs out of wagers or has had enough, they declare "Enough!" and the dice are rolled. The loser gets an appropriate Insult Aspect with a rank equal to the winner's wagers, that can be tagged by others if appropriate to gain bonus dice equivalent to its rank. It's also easier to Insult someone if you're of higher noble rank than them. Dolt is an Insult! The burns fade away, however, and the Insult loses one rank per Season until it's gone.

Next: swimming Foxes, and Dio stabs someone in the face.


posted by Traveller Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded


The next chapter is about Poison. jadarx said the Poison chapter in the Wick of the Scorpion was a teaser of this and well, it was.

Wick says one of the most common forms of murder in ven opera and books is poison, so there's the temptation to make the system very complex... only not, because when you get poisoned you die. No one makes "saving throws" against arsenic, cyanide, mercury, spider venom, etc. (Disclaimer: I've been bitten by these beauties twice and well, I'm still kicking. And I'm not nearly as tough as a doomed murderous highborn manchild!) But maybe we want rules that are more than just "poison fuckin' kills you."


Okay, so you’re not that ruthless. You’re not that cruel.
(Why are you playing this game?)
Here’s Poison for Wimps. Enjoy.

There are five poisons ven know and trust. These are murderin' poisons, no pussyfooting around. Making a poison takes a Season Action and one Poison resource, and ready poison lasts until the end of the Year. Ven are tough enough that they can take small doses of one of the Big Five to make themselves immune to it: this takes one Season Action and a ven can be immune up to three of the Big Five. If you're poisoned and immune to that particular poison? You're fine! If not? You're fuckin' dead! Interestingly enough, ven can't just wait and drop poison in a cup for someone else to drink. That takes patience, and patience isn't a Virtue. You can justify using Beauty (sweet talk the target into drinking the poison), Strength (throw it into their eyes, this totally works you guys), Prowess (poisoned weapon), maybe even Courage... but the old Scorpion trick of carrying poison in a hidden ring compartment just plain doesn't work. If nothing else, this puts HOTB a bit above Wick of the Scorpion, as you will have to make at least one roll to poison someone. Of course, we're talking about one-shot kills here, so...

The five main poisons are:

There are also lesser poisons , that actually don't fuckin' kill you. They grant a Poisoned Aspect to the target, which can be tagged or compelled as the target feels like utter shit. Most importantly, while the Big Five are highly illegal by Law, using lesser poison is just clever. The Aspect lasts until the end of the day, or until the end of the scene if the target uses a Style.

Narcotics! Ven love their drugs. Brewing drugs takes a Season Action, some resources and a Wisdom risk, with the resulting narcotic having a Potency of 1 + wagers. Potency has a maximum of the Wisdom of the maker, which means that Dio can't roll a joint to save his life, while Al could turn into Walter White given the opportunity. Apothecaries can also make narcotics. Ingesting a drug grants the user an Aspect with invoke, tag and compel. The invoke gives a variable number of bonus dice, and the tag gets a number of dice equivalent to the narcotic's Potency. Ven can also get addicted: roll the drug's affected Virtue against its Potency, and if the drug wins the ven is Addicted (Aspect with a rank equivalent to the drug's Potency) and the tag/compel apply to the ven even if they're not under the drug. Like Insults, Addiction disappears at the rate of one rank per Season, you just have to go cold turkey.

Some drugs here!

The odd thing here is that only the latter two have a Virtue listed for the Addiction roll. The other two mention nothing of Virtues. How do they even?

And now, finally, Revenge! Time to stab people in the face. But first, a look at ven Law, because Revenge is so ritual and stuff. Some history! Ven law is based around seven Laws left behind by Jonan Drax, one of the first ven that dug out the rest of his kind from the ruins after the sorcerer-kings were gone. Drax and his followers were essentially ven paladins, and they built the beginnings of ven society. But ven are hypocrites and they claim to follow them all while ignoring Drax's code all the time! Wick, well...

No. I'm not going to comment on anything from this page, and I'll let the man speak for himself.


Before we go any further, we should probably talk a little bit about this. Anyone remotely familiar with ven culture how they flagrantly ignored their own Laws. And while this may sound hypocritical to a modern audience, I assure you, it isn’t such a foreign idea.

For example, let’s talk about our own traffic Laws.

You never break the speed limit, do you?

You never make improper turns.

You always make a full and complete stop in an empty intersection.

Don’t you?

Ten thousand years from now, some archaeologist will look back at 21st Century America and take a look at those Laws. Then, he’ll make an assumption. Everyone followed them. Nobody ever broke the Laws regulating the speed at which we drive on freeways, side streets and highways. And those who did were viewed as criminals. Like thieves. And, because he’s an expert, everyone will believe him.

Of course, we know better.

Another example. Lying.

Lying is always wrong.

I have never told a lie. Not once.

And if I did, it was for the right reasons.

And if it was for the wrong reasons, it really didn’t hurt anybody, did it?

No, I’ve never ever told a lie. Not once.

Americans make a big deal about the virtue of honesty. We say we want honest politicians. We say we want honest police. We say we only deal with those who never lie.

Yeah. Right.

Lying isn’t a crime, but it is a major cultural value. Honesty. Unfortunately, 90% of the population are, at the very least, occasionally dishonest.

And the other ten percent? They’re lying about it.

Marriage is an important pillar of our culture. A sacred institution.

And sixty percent of marriages in America fail.

We hate murder and drug use and crime. Despise it. And organized crime is the worst. Degenerate scum who take advantage of our loose and liberal Laws. And The Sopranos is one of the most watched shows on TV and The Godfather is one of the “greatest movies ever made.

And don’t get me started on “gangsta rap.”

We have plenty of our own double standards. Plenty. Once you acknowledge that, “ven hypocrisy” is a lot easier to understand.

CTRL-C, CTRL-V. (okay, I edited some line jumps.)

Anyway, let's talk about the Laws.

Wick tells us he can see all the oversights and mistakes the ven make, but he's not going to correct any one of them! He will be true to the ven. Also something about American immigration law.

There's also supposed to be an eight Law, but records are spotty regarding it. It might have something to do with hospitality, or not! Anyway, when matters of Insult or Injury take place between the Blooded, a Jury is called. The Jury is of at least three nobles, and at least one of them must not belong to an unaffiliated House. They hear the matter and if they determine the case has no standing, they dismiss it. If the case has legs, it proceeds. The Jury's decision is final and it's a very bad idea to go against it, as you're Insulting the authority the Senate has vested on the Jury, and by extension you're insulting every Senator in the Senate. Both parties have to be present before the Jury, so they're usually called right after the Insult or Injury took place, and in fact ven parties preselect a Jury because they know any gathering of ven will require one before the night is over.

A Jury can recognize three offenses. Insult, Injury, and True Pain. The first one can be settled by the offending party surrendering something minor to the offended. This is usually a certain amount of resources like food, stone or iron. The other two require payment in Blood. The ven guided themselves using a manual, The Swordsman , that established proper ways of redressing offenses and seeking revenge through dueling. According to this manual, Insults can also be grounds for a duel (huh? but you just said... nevermind), which is why nobles prefer to couch their sick burns using innuendo so that they don't become Insults. Then there's Injury, a crime that results in a physical, spiritual or financial scar. The wording is ambiguous, so many nobles use this as a claim for Revenge. And then there is True Pain, for offenses that cannot be undone. The whole thing is pretty ritualized, involving a lot of Jury deliberation, signing and countersigning of letters, seconds setting up the duel, selection of weapons and so on. Duels can be to the touch (first hit wins), to Blood (first to bleed loses), to Injury (like to Blood, but a party that bleeds has a chance to apologize - if they don't, the duel continues until one duelist cannot continue) and to the Death (which is not as common as you may think because if things have gotten this far, then High Revenge is really the only solution) Once the duel is over, the issue is settled, no matter the outcome.

High Revenge is serious business. Wick found only two instances of it in the four volumes of Shara's history, and you can't just go around declaring it for every little slight. It involves writing a letter in the offended party's own blood, to be sent to their liege, then a formal declaration before the Senate. The Senate makes a Jury, then decides if the High Revenge is valid. If it is, they decide how long it lasts (one month, one year, one lifetime...), then both parties have to spill Blood on the document to make it sorcerously binding (sorcery is explicitly allowed by law in this case) and then they're given one week to prepare. When under High Revenge, parties have to wear red colors, and they're bound under no law and no ven until it's over with the death of one of them. Literally no law at all, they can use the Big Five poisons or sorcery or whatever to get their pound of flesh. The only things they can't use is their Swords, or their personal guard. It's just them and their Hate. Also, if a third party ends up in the way of the Revenge, they lose all legal protections and can be killed on sight. Once the Revenge is over, by one of the parties dying or by time, the issue is also over for good.

The alternative to Blood is wearing the black , which marks the ven as shamed and as an outcast to society. No nobles speak to someone wearing the black, and the Senate takes over their lands. Wearing the black means the ven owns nothing. Maybe they can find someone to mooch off from, or someone that can take care of their lands. Remember the whole deal with owning stuff? Yeah.

Okay, actual rules now. Duels (or any kind of one-on-one combat, really) are fought in a series of beats, with one side being the aggressor and another the defender until momentum changes. First, each side declares their intention, then gather dice (a surprised opponent does not declare intention or gather dice), then they decide their Strike Bid to go first. They set aside a number of dice in secret and reveal them at the same time: the character with the most dice decides to go first or second. Ties go to the highest Prowess or whoever spends the most Style. Then the winner of the Bid declares an intention (I want to stab your wrist, I want to cut your thumb, etc.) and the other character responds in kind (I parry your useless attack, I bend sideways and leave you open for counterattack.) Wagers are made with the remaining dice, and then it's rolling time. A successful attack deals a Rank 1 Injury, with wagers adding to its rank. Injuries 1-2 are just a flesh wound and heal one rank per day. Injuries 3-4 are crippling wounds and heal one rank per Season. Injury 5 is a mortal wound and drops the ven on the spot. They can only take actions (not risks) by spending Style and they're helpless for the rest of the adventure, and anyone can attack the ven and spend a Style to kill them. Injuries can be tagged to gain bonus dice equivalent to their rank, and you can spend 5 Style to turn them into a Scar (permanent Aspect), but you never lose dice to roll because of Injuries you have. Vassals, if they're involved, can take an Injury up to their own Rank before going down.

Then, Advanced Maneuvers come into play. Everyone knows how to Injure, and they can learn to Defend as well, but skilled duelists can learn fancier tricks. They cost at least 2 wagers to execute, they have ranks of effectiveness, and you must have a teacher and spend Season Actions to learn them. Note that we still don't know how Season Actions work, and that you need to learn how to Defend in game because you can't buy maneuvers at chargen.

There are also Grappling Maneuvers that use Strength instead of Prowess, something something make your own D&D grappling joke.

And then there's Mass Murder , which is all orky and not ven-like and stuff. Because violence is an Art, a bunch of guys killing each other is not. These rules are used for fights with three or more characters involved. First, everyone picks a side (you can pick "Me" as a side), then everyone chooses a leader for the side. Dice are gathered, but only the leader adds name, Prowess, Aspects, etc. dice. Other ven give the leader just one die. Vassal bands like personal guards add one die per rank. The leaders make their wagers, then roll. The winner selects a ven on their side, spends a wager, and gives a Rank 5 Injury to anyone involved in the fight, even someone on their own side. Each ven can only be sent to attack once per beat. If you end up on a leader's sights, you may Dodge or Parry, but not just Defend. The attacking ven can spend two Style to counter your Dodge or Parry with an applicable Maneuver if they have it. Once a beat is over, a side may choose to surrender, otherwise the battle continues. Ven knocked out by Rank 5 Injuries no longer contribute dice: they are at death's door and any leader can spend a wager to murder them. Loyal Vassals can take hits for you or for their vassal leaders, though, and Vassal Bands lose one rank per Rank 5 Injury they take. Once they're down to zero, they're out of action. Wick tells us the point of this system is to make these scenes lethal, dirty, chaotic, fast, and to discourage them.

There's also some stuff about secret armies that we'll get a better look at when it's the Seasons chapter, fluff about how guards fight using a spear and shield style that is disgusting for proper-minded ven to watch but is actually pretty effective in groups, and how ven love to turn people they forced to wear black into their personal guards because there is no way this could go wrong what the shit is wrong with you, seriously. Also, if somehow Ikhalu, patron saint of Revenge, gives you his blessing, then not even the Earls are going to get between you and your revenge. How does that happen? Don't ask me.

Whew, that was a doozy. Sorry for the length of the post. I also skipped some stuff here and there and skimmed through the chapter because Wick's writing style is repetitive as fuck, and I'm afraid I couldn't work a Dio example fight. But before I finish, let me mention that only Swords count as weapons because ven are swordophilic and if you don't have a Sword but you opponent does, you have the "Tool" aspect they can tag for two bonus dice in a fight. This only counts in hand to hand fighting, not if some guy is peppering you with arrows from afar.

Also, this, from two different sidebars:


Why is the system so lethal?
Because the literature is lethal and the point of this game is to emulate ven literature.
Look, if you want to adopt a hit point system where your character can take a knife in the eye, an arrow in the groin, lose an arm, burn a leg to a cinder but can still swing a Sword without any penalty, there are plenty of other roleplaying games that let you do that.
This isn’t one of them.


How many Injuries can I have before I drop?
You can have as many Injuries as you want. Really. The ven are tough. They’re robust. They can take it. Your character can have three 1 Injuries, five 2 Injuries, one 3 Injury, four 4 Injuries… so long as he doesn’t have a single 5 Injury, he can keep going.
I designed the system this way to reflect the way ven heroes and heroines act in the operas and pillow books of the time. They seem to acquire all kinds of Injuries—appearing as walking, bleeding wounds—until that one hit comes along that throws them to the ground.


Next: my first, my last, my everything~

In case I’m being too subtle, let me be perfectly clear about one thing. The only way to maintain a Romance at its potential is with sex.

posted by Traveller Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

In case I’m being too subtle, let me be perfectly clear about one thing. The only way to maintain a Romance at its potential is with sex.

This is the Romance chapter. Still your hearts, we're in for a ride. The chapter opens with this quote from one of Wick's doomed highborn manchildren:


Other people’s wives are like other people’s children. Fun to play with, fun hold, fun to tickle and fun to tease. But as soon as they start crying, you can hand them back.

Romance! It's dangerous, it's obsessive, it uses the same word the ven use for revenge, yadda yadda. It's asking for trouble, ven go head over heels for their lovers and act all stupid and shit. So why is Romance a capital letter Thing? About three hundred years ago, two nobles, Avreda and Ylvayne, fell for each other at first sight. Avreda was a composer, Ylvayne an older lady married to a guy going into Solace. Avreda composed his first great Opera the winter they met, dedicated to his "Winter Rose", and it was patently obvious the two were up to shenanigans. Eventually she was brought to court under charges of adultery, and she admitted her love for the composer, but refused to admit the consummation of the affair. The court ruled that adultery was a crime, but ~*love*~ was not. This new idea of ~*love*~ took off among the ven like corgi pictures on the internet, with a metric ton of pillow books and operas dedicated to poor ladies trapped in loveless marriages until the dashing Lover comes to rescue them. But no sex! That was illegal.

Ten years later, Avreda composed a sequel where the totally fictitious lovers from the first Opera reunited and consummated the affair. Everyone was clutching their pearls again and Avreda was brought to the court this time, as the husband put him down for a charge of True Pain. Avreda declared that he was guilty, yes - guilty of subverting marriage, encouraging love, and being in love with Ylvayne, but alas they had never gone through and he would forever regret it. The court ruled in favor of the husband and Avreda was "publicly whipped, castrated, and then hung by the neck until he was dead. His body was then burned until nothing remained." His lover poisoned herself soon after. And since everything was so tragic and stuff, Romance became part of ven culture.


In the beginning, these affairs were completely chaste—a kiss was a daring gift, and if discovered, could lead to banishment, or even death. Then, as the concept of courtly Romance became more popular, the lady’s rewards became more… rewarding.

So now there are, no shit, Courts of Love that gather to debate the nature of love. They're pretty grognardy about it too, with constants debates on the proper procedure, where the man goes too far, etc. The discussions are purely theoretical, of course, everyone is talking about fictional lords and ladies that are most certainly not inspired by real life shenanigans. Of course, the courts also love trying to figure out who the actual lovers are in the fictional tales. Most courts are women-only, but some include male members. The greatest of them was created fifty years ago by one Shoshana Yvarai, and lovers from all over Shanri want to go there and share their tales. Romance is now a very ritualized thing like everything else in ven culture, with the lovers setting harder and harder tasks for each other to prove their worth.

So, actual Romance rules ! Yes, there are rules for this thing. Traditionally it's the man's role to initiate Romance and the woman determines how far it can go (same-gender sex happens, but it's just for fun; no same-gender Romance and certainly nothing like gay marriage for ven), but the Game has escalated since then. Only one Romance can be held at the time. First, the Romance begins with The First Game , the initial flirtation. This is a test to see whether the ven involved are skilled enough to play the game. The initiator rolls a Beauty risk with wagers, if it succeeds the invitation is on. The potential partner then makes a Beauty risk of their own, with as many wagers as the first player made. They can also make more wagers in order to increase the Romance's Potential. This goes back and forth as they make further and further insinuations until one fails: their heart failed them and they missed a beat, fumbled their response, or some other unfortunate circumstance. The winner is the Prey , having won the right to be pursued; and the loser is the Predator , forced to prove their worth by keeping up with the Prey. The Prey's wagers plus half the Predator's wagers make up the Romance's Potential, the number of Seasons it can last. The Romance has a rank as well, equal to half its Potential, rounded up.

Wick can't help but be an asshole even to his fake scholar colleagues.

The Romance is an Aspect. Its invoke gives bonus dice to a task set by the other lover; if the task cannot be accomplished, the Romance loses one rank. Its tag lets others take advantage of the lovers' feelings for each other, and its compel forces the lover to protect the Romance (not the other lover, mind you) It's also a Free Aspect. Lovers can also take the Lover's Leap for each other: if they're both in a scene and one is about to take an Injury, the lover jumps and takes the hit in full. Nothing stands in the way of a Leap.

The tasks the Prey sets for the Predator start off simple and become progressively harder. Of course, a Prey can start off asking for the impossible (and showing they either trust their lover's skill a whole lot or not at all), or asking for trivial stuff (because they have little regard for their lover's skill, or because they're testing them before setting a real task for them, etc.) Connotations! Successfully completing a task means the Prey must award alta , the rewards of the ~*game of love*~ to the Predator, and the roles switch. Alta starts off small, like small gifts or kisses in the hand, and it progresses in boldness and lewdness as the Romance goes on.

But Romances can't last forever. The Romance grows up in rank each Season after it begins until it hits its Potential, then it loses one rank per Season until it's down to zero. If no alta is granted by either lover in one Season, it loses two ranks as well. Romances can end earlier as well. The two honorable ways out are to accomplish a task and not ask for alta, or not assigning a task. Or it can end poorly: you can refuse to grant alta, thus giving your former lover the Vazhna Aspect. Vazhna are "savage lovers" that are pissed off at the very idea of love, and it can be tagged by opponents in matters of Romance or compelled to make the vazhna act cruel and heartless to lovers and Romance. The Courts of Love can also force the Aspect on a lover that ended an affair in a public, awful way.

When an affair ends the lover that was cut off gets the Heartbreak Aspect. Its invoke gives the heartbroken ven its rank in bonus dice to harm the one that hurt them, its tag lets opponents turn their anger against them, and its compel is, well, you know Wick's fascination for scorned, vengeful Dragon Ladies? That's about it. Heartbreak also has a rank (half the original Romance's Potential), which goes away at a rate of one per Season. Heartbroken ven can also start new Romances, but their rank cannot be higher than the Heartbreak's rank.

Those ven that play closer to the fire can turn their Romance into a Liaison . This can be done as soon as the Romance hits its Potential. When the ven involved cross the line, the Liaison's rank no longer goes down in rank with each Season, as long as the Liaison is "maintained." Being discovered at this point means breaking out the Revenge rules. The chapter ends with that lovely bit at the very beginning of this post.

I need a shower. Fun bits before I go: new Romances usually give more dice than old ones, so players will want to dump lovers all the time; and having Romances with your wife/husband is almost on the level of munchkining as far as Wick is concerned. Okay, it can happen, but it must be ~*special*~ and the exception to the rule. Romance in marriages is alien to the Wick.

Next: Dio kicks the Puppy Factory. Al throws a kegger.

Break out the party hats

posted by Traveller Original SA post

The problem is that HOTB is not an adversarial LARP game where you can take people in private to shank them in the face, it's a tabletop game of quote-unquote cooperative storytelling with everyone's character sheets in the clear. Except, again, for the GM's NPCs.

Have a :wick: before we go on.

Houses of the Blooded

Break out the party hats

The following chapter is the Seasons chapter, the longest crunch section in the book.


Unlike other games — where the characters are perpetually stuck at the vague age of “about 25,” never growing older, the passage of time never ravaging their youth — in Houses of the Blooded, days, months, and years click by.

Sure whatever. The ven measure time just as we do, with four seasons per year. I guess Wick doesn't need to write those volumes on ven timekeeping after all! The ven year begins in Spring rather than Winter. One season lasts around 90 days. For each Season, characters can get involved in up to three Stories (adventures). More than that and the Narrator may judge they can't spend time handling other important stuff. Each Season also has a modifier of its own: Spring adds +1 to any Romance that begins in the season, or +1 to the potential of any Art created during it; Summer lets one region per Province make an additional Resource; Autumn gives all PC nobles one extra action; and Winter makes all regions roll one extra Trouble die because Winter sucks.

Let's talk about Regions ! They're the building block of the Provinces ven own. Ten Regions to one Province. Regions are an abstract, unspecified amount of land.


(I like abstract. Gives players room to be creative with their stuff. If you want to be more precise, there are a ton of other games with similar systems that deal with specifics. Use those.)

You copied the same line and pasted it in Blood and Honor, jerk. Bad form! Regions can be civilized (there are roads, tax collectors, some population and a measure of protection) or wild (still ork-held); they have a type and rank, as we saw during chargen; and they're rated by Loyalty and Security. As a Baron/Baroness, starting characters have one Province mostly under their command, and to rise in noble rank they need more Provinces. Three Provinces for a Count, nine for a Marquis, eighteen for a Duke! You also need nobles of lesser to help you rule your lands, and apparently Barons need three Knights to rule their barony? Could've mentioned that in chargen, Mr. Wick. Could've also mentioned chargen characters start with one Resource from each Region they begin with.

Seasons go by in order, with four Phases per Season:

The Resources are:

So what can we build? Holdings! That's a Season Action to begin building, and two Seasons to complete. And you need to spend another Season Action to continue building during the second Season, so 2 actions total. A region can only have one Holding building at a time and can support one Holding per rank, and you can only use one action for building. So if you're building two things at a time, you have to choose what progresses that Season.

You can also conquer a Region owned by the enemy. First, you have to spy on them: your Spy Network can look at as many Regions as ranks it has. That tells you the Region's rank, improvements and the presence or absence of enemy vassals. You still have to burn an action to do this even if you find out about the region through a story. The following season, you spend an action to send your Personal Guard in. The region's Loyalty goes down a number of ranks equivalent to the Guard's rank. The region is useless when occupied, and once it hits zero it's yours with a new Loyalty equivalent to the Guard's rank. Of course the enemy can send in their own Guard to kick out yours: rank vs rank rolls, the winner stays, the loser leaves with one Rank less. You can only send one Personal Guard at any single region, but Secret Armies can do everything Guard can and they don't count as Guard for this.

You can Create Art as a Season Action. First, gather one Resource appropriate to the Art (Food counts for banquets, and Wick chides us for thinking otherwise as the dumb McDonalds-eating Americans we are), with Luxury substituting if you can't come up with anything. Then, a Beauty risk, with wagers. You fail the risk, the muse has failed you. You make it, you make a Rank 1 Art. Any wagers go into the Art's Potential, which means we can spend one action per season to improve the Art's Rank up to its Potential. So if Dio makes a 2-wager Risk to build a sculpture of The World, he can spend the next two Seasons perfecting the statue until it's a Rank 3 Art. This also requires one extra Resource per Season. Finally, you can show off the Art at any social event, but you want to do it at a Party. When you show off the Art, you get Style equivalent to its rank + the Party's rank. You can bank Style on it too, up to its rank. The artist can give it a positive Aspect: any ven that looks upon the Art and spends one Style can acquire the Aspect, which has a rank equivalent to the Art's rank. This aspect has only an invoke that gives dice relevant to what the Art is meant to inspire: let's say The World is meant to inspire Ambition, then any ven inspired by it can roll 3 extra dice for risks involving climbing in station. The Aspect loses one rank per Season, and you can't be inspired by the same Art twice. Finally, the artist gets the Art's rank in bonus dice for any risk involving their fame or reputation. As before, one die is gone per Season. You can't upgrade Art, that's "Lucasism."

Opera is a special Art, requiring both a Luxury and another Resource. It must be based on one or more of the Seven Fools we saw earlier, and ven watching the Opera can spend a Style to get a Free Aspect related to the Fool(s) in the Opera. Theater plays are... uh. No rules for them at all!

You can also explore the archipelagos of Shanri in order to expand your Domain. This requires that your starting Province be explored in full. Spend a season action to go down to one of your wild regions with a band of guards: this lets you determine what the wild region actually is. The exploring and developing of the region only finishes during the Harvest phase, though. Once your first ten regions are civilized, you can go outside! You can explore additional regions the same way, but they only count as a Province when you have another ten, with at least one of them a Castle. Building a Castle is done the same way as exploring a region, but it costs three Lumber and three Stone on top of the action. You can also explore forgotten sorcerer-king Ruins... but that comes later. PCs have to do their exploring themselves.

You can make new Contacts . Just pick any ven you know (vassals don't count) and spend an action. You get one free action in a Contact's domain, you can spend a Style for two bonus dice to protect a Contact, and you can spend Style to refresh their Aspects.

Personal training! You can use an action to learn an Advanced Maneuver for dueling (rather, the instructor spends an Action on you), or to add an Aspect to your Sheet. Unless Wisdom is your weakness! Remember the limits on Aspects at chargen? Dio is boned in this regard. You can also train your Vassals to upgrade their rank, spending as many actions as the vassal's new rank to do so. But you can only use one vassal training action per Season.

You can quell Trouble in a region. Just spend an action and all the Trouble there is gone.

You can develop a Region , which repeats the exploring regions rules for extra confusion. You can also increase a region's Rank in one per Season. Urban regions have special rules! Building a Village costs an additional 1 Lumber and 1 Stone, and improving its rank costs more Lumber and Stone. The Village cannot produce anything if it's being improved. If you improve a Village region up to 3 and spend three Lumber, three Stone and three Luxury, it becomes a City at Rank 4. There's a mention of a Town region in the Holdings list but it doesn't show here or anywhere else. Villages and Cities have Craftsmen that turn your Resources into stylish Goods. The Craftsman has a rank equal to the Village, and can make up to their Rank in Goods, so a Village 3 Craftsman can make three Rank 1 hats, one rank 1 hat and one rank 2 cloak, etc. Only one Craftsman per Village, but a City can have up to four of them - one rank 4, one rank 3, one rank 2, one rank 1. The exact Resource that is turned into Goods depends on the nature of the object being built. Guidelines? Industry for clothes, Metals for weapons, you figure it out.

You can research Sorcery rituals, with one action and one Herbs.

You can transport Resources from a Province to another Province or to another Domain. It costs one action to do so, and as a free action you can transfer one Resource or Goods to a Contact.

You can hire a Vassal . They start service at rank 1, and you can improve them in turn. They need at least one Food per Year as payment, and they can be paid more in other Resources to keep them from getting bribed. Vassals also get fancy titles if you want - ven like pleasant sounding stuff. Master of Flowers instead of Master Poisoner, etc.


(I’m personally fond of “High Lord Protector” myself.)

Cromwellian jerk! Anyway, there are regular Vassals, Vassal Bands (groups of men, ten per rank) and Master Vassals (actual NPCs). As a rule, Vassal Bands cannot be Assassinated and Master Vassals cannot be Bribed. Vassals have one Aspect per rank as well because we're not doing enough bookkeeping. Most Vassals get one Season Action per rank relevant to their role. You can even name other PCs as Vassals, but if they have prerequisites you must fulfill them all the same (so, Rank 3 Personal Guard before Al can name Dio his Swordsman).

Loyalty! It's how much your people care about you. The more Loyalty, the better. Your Domain (Province/individual Regions) has a starting Loyalty of 1. You can increase Loyalty by giving Luxuries (Spices or Wine) to either a single region, raising its Loyalty in three, or to an entire Province, raising it in one. If any region hits 5+ Loyalty, they produce one extra Resource that doesn't need to be the one they're already tasked to produce. If at least half the regions in one Province have 5+ Loyalty, the Province's Security increases in 1. If a region hits 10+ Loyalty, it produces two extra Resources, and if at least half the regions in one Province have 10+ Loyalty its Security increases in 2. Vassals also have a Loyalty score (but not NPC Vassals), which is equivalent to their Rank and can increase by gifting them Luxuries.

Espionage! You need at least a Spy Network to get up on shinobi shenanigans. An espionage action has a rank, equivalent to the rank of the Spy Network + the Cunning of any PC or NPC helping the spies. To spy on an enemy Province, the action must defeat the Security of the target Province, which is equivalent to the Spy Network present there (or zero if there's no Spy Network opposing espionage.) Spy Networks can also use an action to add their rank to a Province's Security.

Spies can:

And at the end of the Year, characters Age . Roll 1d6 at the end of the Year. These are your Age Points. Once you get 60 of them, you progress to the next Phase of your life. When you do, erase all Age points. As mentioned during the Blood and Honor review, this may mean ending up with some highly wonky ages for your characters (codgers over 200 years old, or 69-year old Spring children) If you hit 60 Age Points at the Winter of your life, you enter Solace. There are also pregnancy rules because who doesn't love making random rolls when two ven bump uglies but the most side of this is that ven pregnancies last one Season and children mature at double the age of human children, so an eight-year old ven sprout is basically 16 years old. Maybe it's the literature cheating to get more characters on stage sooner, or maybe the sorcerer-kings wanted their servitors to grow up that fast. A 16 years old ven becomes a Rank 1 Child Vassal, equivalent to a Spouse. They can train just like other Vassals and eventually become NPCs. If you move to another Phase at the end of the year, you can change around your name, gain new Aspects, a new contact, or turn the contact into a Friend. A Friend gets three bonus dice to put you or your relationship into danger, but you and your friend get to keep all wagers in a contested roll (remember, even helping each other is a contested roll in HOTB)

All your Provinces lose 1d3 Loyalty at the end of the Year, and all unused Resources not moved into storage spoil. Winter is also when you throw Parties !


Every Season, ven throw parties. They throw small, private parties and huge raucous, indulgent bashes. Food, drink, sex, dancing, flirting, singing, sex, hunting, duels, bloodshed, sex, revenge.

A Party's size is capped by your Staff's rank. You need Rank 3 Staff and a Seneschal to throw a Rank 4 Party. Which means Al can't actually throw a party at all, because somehow he has a Castle but no Staff to man it! You need a banquet to feed your guests. 1 Food, 1 Wine and 1 Spice gets you a rank 1 banquet, which can feed your guests for one night. Bigger banquets (and thus, longer parties) require more food, booze and spices. Guests must bring gifts for the party host exactly equivalent to the Party's Rank, and parties are usually announced a year in advance so that people have time to procure suitable gifts. In parties, you can trade resources freely with other guests (up to the Party's rank) and Romances that start during a party add the Party's rank to its potential. Except that the sample given adds the Party's rank directly to the Romance's rank, so you may end up with a Romance bigger than its potential? There are also special Events you can hold, but never more than one per Party night.

But no Theater plays! I hope I got things mostly right. The rules here seem to be kludged together from different drafts, and edition didn't catch all of the revisions made to them. And at any rate, they seem overkill detail for a game where you're one roll from death at any time.

Next: the Tomb of Spooky. Also,

At least Elric could handle himself in a mass brawl

posted by Traveller Original SA post

MalcolmSheppard posted:

Well no, not necessarily. The book explicitly discusses playing in "Diplomacy mode" where the game is VampLARPlike PVP. It's a useless rule for NPCs since it can be replaced with "make extra shit up to make the antagonist more challenging." But yeah, this seems to be a wacky design goal given the cooperative play language elsewhere, and not so much guidance along the lines of "use this for PVP play." The "you'll figure it out" bit is kind of irritating here, because if you don't play MET you probably have no idea what the hell this is for, and if you do play it, and know the section of Laws of the Night where they describe exactly the same rule and why you might use it, it's not an emergent discovery at all--it's kind of a "big ups to my LARPers!" in-joke thing.

Blood and Honor also has a "we'll be utter dicks to each other, we won't be crybabies when we lose, etc." Cutthroat Mode, but that game still doesn't have the lying rule. Even Wick figured out it was not a good idea, shoutout to MET rules or not.


Houses of the Blooded

At least Elric could handle himself in a mass brawl

The Sorcery chapter! Yadda yadda, highly illegal, ven are still butt deep into magicks, the Serpent pushed to make it illegal to make themselves stronger, you know this already. Sorcery works with Rituals . To make one work, you just need knowledge of the ritual, sacred herbs and enough blood. In game terms, you take one Injury and spend 1 Herbs to use a ritual. To learn one, you spend one season action and 1 Herbs.

The popular senvu Swordsman ritual that binds sword and user as one? Nowhere in sight.

Anyway, Artifacts! The doodads the sorcerer-kings left, they're powerful! And nasty! So nasty that most of them are traps. These are not your dad's magic items. This isn't Jack Vance or Harry Potter. These are Artifacts of doom! No, seriously, in literature carrying an Artifact is sign of certain doom. I hope you see where I'm going with this.

First, you must raid sorcerer-king Ruins . Like the Tomb of Spooky that is conveniently in Al's Domain. Part of these rules is actually in the Seasons chapter but I chose to bring them up here, since Ruins matter more for magic purposes. Ven may explore a Ruin once per season with an action, giving it one rank per expedition. When it hits Rank 3, it's empty of any possible goodies and it can be replaced by a normal region, or it can be turned into a Puzzle House : essentially, a Ruin turned to ven habitation. They can hold any size of Party, even Rank 5 Parties (!) but they're difficult to navigate. Ven that enter a Puzzle House roll their Wisdom against the House's 6 dice. The ven uses their wagers to find their way around the House, while it uses its wagers to force the ven to get lost. While exploring a Ruin, the ven grab whatever looks shiny and/or powerful to bring back home. Most will be rubbish, but every now and then they find something good . Each Season, the Ruin produces Artifact Points equivalent to its rank. Going with a ven party into an adventure to explore a Ruin (dungeon crawl, woo!) doubles the Artifact Points. Players divvy up the points as they deem fit.

While exploring the Ruin, spend a Style to "find" an object. Then, you can research it. Wisdom risk with wagers, with success indicating the Artifact has a Potential of 1 + wagers made. Then you may spend Artifact Points to give Values (special powers) to the Artifact, up to its potential. This is a one-time offer: once you've spent Artifact Points, the Artifact is set for good. So let's say Al raids the Tomb of Spooky-- nah, the Tomb of REAL Spooky, a Rank 2 Ruin. Because he's not an idiot, he sends in a bunch of disposable peasants first. Cunning! Al finds himself a weirdly shaped wand and brings it back home. Because he went in alone, he gets 2 Artifact Points as loot. He rolls a Wisdom risk and the GM decides to let him use one of his nerd Aspects for three bonus dice. He makes his roll with 4 wagers, so the wand has 5 Potential. Alas, he only has two points to spend. Looking over the Value list, he decides the wand is a Key to further sorcerer-king secrets, and it is a Leech, allowing him to steal Style from other ven. Cool!

Except that it's not cool, because Al is now Doomed. If a ven owns an Artifact, the GM can at any time after they make a roll declare DOOM! by pointing and screaming at the player. The roll is considered to be 9, no matter what they rolled. Just short of the TN of 10. The Doom may only be invoked once per Phase, but still: the GM can, whenever they feel like it, declare the character to be fucked beyond help. And Blood Swords count as Artifacts. Hell, let's see what Wick has to say about it!


A skillful Narrator will wait for the right time to hit you with your DOOM! He’ll cultivate a villain for months. Picking away at your ambitions, your desires. He’ll screw with you and screw with you and screw with you until you can’t take it anymore and then you’ll challenge him to a duel. With your cool Blood Sword. Because you’ll want every advantage you can get. And then, you’ll know why having a slew of Artifact is a bad idea.

I'll give it 4 of 5, Alex.

And that is why Dio Brando is fucked. Not because he's a gigantic bastard, not because he's stepping on someone else's toes, but because he got a piece of gear that the fluff says every single duelist worth a damn in Shanri owns. Because he tried to measure up to the game's power level, the GM is specifically encouraged to fuck him over. By the way, it's the GM that calls for DOOM. Not the players. Of course they would not be able to call Doom on the NPC duelists with their Blood Swords. That would be bad form.

Here's the Values list. I don't feel like writing more for tonight.

Next: Populous?

Special Spooky Saint Soliloquy

posted by Traveller Original SA post

Houses of the Blooded

Special Spooky Saint Soliloquy

So, Suaven! As we know, when ven start going into Solace they emanate a white substance called altrua . Eventually, the ven is entirely wrapped up in altrua, sleeping and dreaming. These ven are known as Suaven. The ven revere their Suaven as saints and ancestor spirits. They pray to them at shrines, collect artifacts (but not Artifacts ) from their lives, and maintain their bodies. The altrua shroud protects the Suaven, but they're not invulnerable. In fact, they're highly susceptible to fire, and many Suaven have been lost like this. Not all Suaven are held to the same regard: some are only cared for by their immediate family, while others have temples in every city and are revered by everyone. It's not rare for ven to find a special relationship with a Suaven not of their own House. Many ven join mystery cults devoted to the Suaven, with priests, temples, ceremonies and rituals revealed only to the most faithful. Then there's the fashuva , the fell Suaven, the ones so terrible Wick can't bear to talk of them anymore!

Ven pray, but they do it...


With Style.
On bended knee. Tears streaming down their cheeks. Or a haughty pride flashing in their eyes. A wicked grin. A knife. Pain. A scream. Blood, Blood, Blood.
Nobody does humility like the ven.

That's... uh, I don't think that's humility, Mr. Wick. Anyway, rules-wise every character has a Devotion rating for the Suaven they worship. Each Suaven has Blessings to give to the faithful, but the ven must prove themselves by joining the mystery cults and not just being conveniently faithful when the need comes. A character can only start with a Devotion of 3 for any particular Suaven, the maximum Devotion for a single Suaven is 5, and no character can have more than five ranks of Devotion total between the Suaven they worship. Wick says the Suaven should be the only element of Shanri out of the player's hands, and as such Suaven cannot be defined or modified by risk wagers or Style points.

The ranks of Devotion are:

Gaining Devotion for a Suaven requires a Season Action. Going from zero Devotion to Devotion 1 is, uh... it doesn't say! From Devotion 1 to 2, it requires sacrificing one resource. Roll a die: odds you get nothing, evens the Suaven finds the sacrifice pleasing and your Devotion rises. Additional sacrifices give you extra dice for this rolls, and if even one rolls evens the Suaven is pleased. Luxuries provide two dice. Devotion 2 to 3 works the same, but you must sacrifice at least two Resources. Devotion 3 to 4 requires sacrificing at least three Resources, as well as going into an adventure given by the Suaven's devoted, like building a Shrine for the Suaven, writing an Opera about it, or some other act of faith. Gettting to Devotion 5 is essentially GM fiat, but at the very least it requires an adventure. But don't you just get one Devotion point for every Temple you build? Hmm.

The Greater Suaven are those available at chargen. One for every House.

Ashalim Avendi , Blooded of the Falcon. Master of the Road, Falcon's Friend, the Beggar Brigand. Avendi appears most often as a blind beggar that teaches miserly ven not to mock the unfortunate. In life, he was one of the first roadmen, and once he was made Baron he married a Blooded of the Serpent lady. The marriage was arranged for by her father - a Duke of ill, sorcerous repute - to clear his name using the young hero's reputation. Eventually, Avendi put an arrow through the sorcerer Duke's heart, and declared himself Grand Duke of the Falcon with his lands. As the Suaven of the Road, he now rests in the Western Reaches, his Shrine guarded by roadmen along with his bow. It's said that no ven can string it. Avendi blesses only those who realize fortunes are easily lost and assist those who have lost their luck. Holy shit, he's a non-dick ven! His devotees literally help old ladies cross the street! And he made it to saint!

Falvren Dyr , Blooded of the Wolf. Swordsman, Old One-Eye, The Crimson Cloak. Dyr is the Suaven of , appearing as a large man with flowing red hair, with armor, blade and shield, and a body seemingly made of scars. Dyr despises those who petition him with prayer, and his followers embrace a life of self-reliance. He never assists those who ask for it, only protecting those who show courage and prowess in battle. A Suaven that doesn't like being relied on, worshiped by those who don't like relying on others. "Prayers" to Dyr sound more like curses or boasts than anything.

Manna Renay , Blooded of the Bear. Holy Mother, Protector, the Green Lady. She personifies Hospitality, and as such there are temples dedicated to her in every city. The Bears recognize her as their first great matriarch, and the House's entire structure is based on her own family. Her famous book, House and Home, sets proper methods for cooking, cleaning, and the rules of hospitality. Her blessings are for those who respect the concepts of manners and hospitality. Architects and stoneworkers also call upon her wisdom. Children are most often witnesses to her interventions as she looks out for them, especially orphans.

Talten Steele , Blooded of the Elk. The Iron Heart, Winter's Promise, The Ruthless. He was the first ven to fly the banner of the Elk in the Senate. He was imposing physically and mentally, a Duke at the age of nineteen and Archduke by the age of twenty five. But then he lost his heart to a woman, who slowly destroyed everything he had built until she had her Revenge, with Steele falling to his knees and begging her not to leave. He recovered, mind you, and then executed the mother of all Revenges. His blessings are based around his life, bending the wills of others to accomplish his goals. A ven's ven. Maybe we should've made Dio worship this guy.

Talia Yvarai , Blooded of the Fox. The Celestial Muse, Sacred Harlot, Keeper of Roses. She has exotic temples and her cult only admits priestesses, skilled in all the arts, love included. All artists revere Talia as the muse of muses. In return for their Devotion, followers of Talia learn secret arts no other school or academy knows, including ~*magic kisses*~. Seriously.

Tyane Bran , Blooded of the Serpent. Keeper of Secrets, The Blind One, Whisperer. Also called The Patient One, or The Indefatigable. In his tales, even the smallest of actions have monumental significance. He only acts when it's most appropriate and most effective. His devotees follow his example, acting only when necessary, and despising the "corrupt world of temptation." True devotees become ascetics, casting away everything that distracts from pure thought, reason and truth. His blessings come as bursts of enlightenment or insight.

Blessings! There are nine Blessings per House. Each of the Greater Suaven grants five of them, the others are so that the GM and players can make up Suaven of their own. Characters pick up to their Devotion rank in Blessings from the Suaven to use, but as an optional rule it's the Suaven who decides which Blessing they will provide when the ven calls upon them. All Blessings require at least one Style to use, and they may only be used once per Story. Blessings with lasting durations last until dawn of the next day by default.







You can also become a Suaven! If you actually manage to survive all the way to Solace, you become a Suaven. You must choose your portfolio, then you start as a Rank 1 Suaven, and get to pick one Blessing from your House to deliver unto your faithful. You get more Blessings as you grow in rank. The Suaven are ranked as:

And then there's the forbidden fell ones we will certainly never talk about, no sir.

PC Suaven start at Rank 1, Family. To become a Lesser Suaven, they must have Shrines built to their memory by five different nobles in five different Domains. When five Shrines to your memory have been built in ten different Domains, you become a Minor Suaven. You become a Greater Suaven once you have one Temple to your memory built in ten different Domains. Temples require ten Shrines in a Domain to be built (aha! But this wasn't on the Seasons chapter. ) Finally, to become a Grand Suaven you require... one Temple to your memory built in ten different Domains. Editing!

You get Suaven Points to execute your Blessings. Shrines give you one Suaven Point per season, Temples give you five. Each Blessing you bestow on your faithful costs you one Suaven Point. Finally, you may turn your Wrath on those who offend you for three Suaven Points. The unworthy get an Aspect relevant to your portfolio (like, if you're the Suaven of boogie, they get an Aspect that makes them suck at boogie) with a tag that grants bonus dice equal to half your Suaven rank rounded up, and an appropriate compel. Your Wrath lasts one season or until you feel the ven has made amends.

I don't know what to make of these rules, really. They certainly bring the PC's power level up (and some Blessings are almost game-breaking, I'd say - The Heart's Riddle Revealed, holy shit ) and it's nice to see that not all ven are doomed highborn manchildren, but still they feel kind of... off? Like some Blessings are almost straight up Sorcery. And seriously, how the fuck does dual wielding require literal divine favor? And I'm really not sure where you would get to use the PCs as Suaven rules, though an interesting campaign would be the PCs trying to get their family Suaven to rise on the pantheon by hook or by crook.

An extra fortified dose of to make up for this post.

Next: This chapter is for you, the player.

I need to spend Style to do what?

posted by Traveller Original SA post

I dig you idea for The Nanny! Training minispies all over the cosmos. And your point about the two faces of John Wick is incredibly spot on, as I will comment on later. But first!

Houses Of The Blooded

I need to spend Style to do what?

The next chapter is for the Players . This contains Wick's advice on how to play HOTB and get the most out of the system. But it's also about troubleshooting and keeping the game together! In his experience, 90% of the problems players have are because the group is not communicating effectively. So far, so good.

Most RPGs, he says, are designed "with cheaters, wankers and munchkins in mind." But not HOTB! Wick trusts the players. In fact, he trusts them so much he's given them all sorts of storytelling power in the game. It's not just the GM's role to make sure everyone's having fun: it's everyone's role. But if you're going to ruin everyone else's fun, go find yourself another game. That's good! Then he goes into a tangent about Diplomacy, and how he loves Diplomacy, but that game is capital-C Cursed because you must do everything to win and as such he doesn't play it with friends. Games like Vampire, L5R and HOTB also have this Curse. So be warned! You may not be comfortable with that, or have the Courage to play!

Gamers are obsessed with details. But that's okay, wagers make the details! So Wick doesn't feel bad about leaving holes in ven Law to exploit because...


See, I don’t believe “good game design” is about fixing holes.

So if the Law is vague or ven economy just plain doesn't work, that's okay! It's not like our culture has clean cut answers. Also something something never watch Rome with historical reenactors. But yes, Wick has made stuff up about the ven , but you won't know the difference anyway unless you're a ven scholar. The point is, there is no ven canon, and as such you should feel perfectly comfortable with adding details to the setting. Is it a small yes/no thing? Spend a Style, decide. But don't make rolls for everything to bank wagers into Style, that's bad form. Also, you can Spend style to correct errors of yours that your ven character would never commit. "Of course I meant..." Also:


The ven are portrayed as brilliant, scheming masterminds. Of course, not all of us fit that bill.
(Not all of you.)

To simulate the games of 11-dimensional chess ven play, there is The Kibitzing Rule . When you're in a sticky situation, other players can give you suggestions about how to proceed. They just have to spend Style to do it. Also, you should be used to the idea that, since everyone has a measure of narrative control, then other people's ideas about your character can be equally as valid as yours. But it's a good idea to get together and talk with the group about how comfortable you feel about other people messing with your PC like that. Still, give it a shot!

Wick also struggled because it seems that in every game he runs he has a moment where some twist he makes makes everyone stand and clap and call to give him Void Points/Drama Dice/whatever. Only, well, those are pretty damn useless for a GM. So Wick had to come up with a mechanic that encouraged players to reward the GM. Wick does not want you to forget about his PCs. He wants you to hate some so bad you will do whatever it takes to kill them. Or protect them. He works hard to make his NPCs as real (or even more!) than the PCs. As such, NPCs can also receive Style points from the players, and they can use them the same way PCs do. The Narrator chapter has more rules on this but the point is, players can give Style if they like NPCs or feel the GM is doing a great job.

Then he talks about friendly and cutthroat games. I brought this up during the Blood and Honor already so, in short: Friendly games are those where everything is over board, no secret notes. Players set betrayals for each other and willingly walk into them because hey, we're all friends here and we like grand tragic drama. Cutthroat games, on the other hand, are, well, cutthroat. Everyone's out to win and to drive everyone else into the ground. But Wick actually doesn't like to play like that! He cares too much about his characters to do so. If you play Cutthroat, then you should have as much attachment to your character as your average roguelike guy. There's some "min-max" advice for Cutthroat games: get vassals, specialize, get married, build-expand-build-expand, and have an escape plan. This all comes from the famous ven book on politics, philosophy and strategy, Lies Lessons. Surely you've read about it?

The following advice is for non-cutthroat games. Make sure your character's hooks are for everyone to see. Your rich internal narrative does nothing for the game if others can't interact with it. So write no more than one page of background, and leave yourself open to build your character through play. Don't play the game "safe", ven are ~*tragic*~ and have weaknesses and your character is not going to die well. Don't make Mary Sues! No one likes them! Ever! Insert Wick's Vietnam con flashbacks here. No secret notes and no secret meetings: everyone is a grown up here. Share your plots: you've got a hated uncle? I have a favorite uncle, maybe they're the same guy! Use wagers and style points to trigger other character's plots. Someone's interrogating a character's shy, easily frightened maid and used a Blessing or something to force them to tell the truth? Bam, spend Style and make the maid change demeanor and answer she's a House assassin spying on her lady. As long as your wagers are leaving openings for others to work with and moving the plot forward, you're Doin' Fine. Spend style for flashbacks or whatever else is cool, just have fun! And don't make John Wick look like a jerk. That's Bad Form.

There's some advice on playing the game troupe-style, like Ars Magica: everyone makes ven nobles, then everyone makes vassals for those nobles. Every season, they play one ven and their servants. There's some stuff on how some ven scholar defined ven literature as either dramatic, operatic or epic, but it's not too interesting. What is interesting is The Dragon : for ven, dragons are not firebreathing beasts, but those moments in time where everything seems to stop. When characters and players stand with jaw open. Pay a Style, declare you've "seen the dragon" and change an Aspect to reflect the moment. Moments are shit like seeing your best friend cut down by arrows, seeing your lover leave on the deck of the ship, that sort of thing.

To finish this chapter: John Wick trusts you. No, seriously, he does. Do you want to have a friendly game with him?

Next: Being John Wick.

The end run, and some thoughts

posted by Traveller Original SA post

Houses Of The Blooded

The end run, and some thoughts

The final part of this book is the Narrator chapter, about as long as the crunch-heavy Seasons section. Wick opens by warning players to stay away:


And trust me, learning how a trick works is a lot less sexy than watching the trick as a sucker sitting in the audience.

The GM's job is to make players believe that the ven existed, so he (the Narrator is always a he in this book) is kind of a magician. The ven actually had a name for this, altrua, pathos. Which, for some reason, is the same name as that ectoplasm-like substance that cocoons Suaven. Coincidence? Oblique reference? Lack of an editor? You be the judge! So yeah, don't read this chapter if you're a player, but read it if you're the GM. It has all sorts of tricks, including one for that one player that will read through this section anyway.

First Wick opens with some basic advice, basic in the sense that you could apply it to any game. The "Big Secret" is that players will make up the plot if you let them, and part of the design of HOTB was precisely to let them do that. So pay attention to the group, ask them what you think is going on, and so on. Communication! Let the players use Wisdom risks and define Shanri: this is why the game has no map of it. Even though gamers love maps. He also plugs his original Play Dirty column from SJG's Pyramid magazine.


Play Dirty was, all at once, one of the most popular and least popular columns in the mag. People hated it and loved it. I figured that meant I was doing my job.

He insists on the idea of letting the players run the game for you, and shows off his Three True Things technique: Wick tells the player three true things about an NPC/location/whatever, then lets the player fill up the details so that Wick can run along with it. He knows the concept of blurring the line between Player and Narrator is alien to most gamers, but nuke it all the same! And remember that now you have to adapt and not be stiff with the plot. He talks about mood and atmosphere, which should be old hat to anyone familiar with the original L5R corebook: show, don't tell, use props, move around, act out the actions of NPCs, and so on.

Then he talks about the one time players completely blindsided him. The players were at the capital between Senate sessions when one "remembers" that there are catacombs under the Temple of Talia and wants to check them out. Wick is nice and lets the player have a Wisdom risk. He does it, comes up with a few details, and before Wick can react the party is armed, bearing torches and kicking down a secret entrance. So Wick does what everyone does, panics, and goes into the bathroom to figure out what to do.


The blowhard who wanted to come down here was the Serpent. He wanted to find lost scrolls, rituals, knowledge. He used that damn charisma of his to convince the other players this was a great idea. Okay. This is his fault. I’ll punish him. But I’ll also give him what he wants.

So what does he do? Obviously he turns into The Wick and springs the Tomb of Horrors on the players, right? Or he has Serpent ninjas waiting to kill the entire party, or Shara Yvarai shows up at the end and cuts off all their pinkies, right? Well, actually, he doesn't. He considers the character's strengths and weaknesses and sets up encounters that engage them all. The comedy relief guy with the Courage weakness ends up with a literal silver eye as he's split from the party while fleeing the catacomb orks. The two characters with an one-sided love between them end up with a chance to save each other from harm. The two fighty guys get a puzzle fight holding off orks at a bridge LOTR-style while some of their fellows try to pepper them with arrows. The Serpent spots an ork executing a blood ritual (!). Everyone has fun, not bad for a five minute bathroom break.

Wick then talks about Style. He brings up 7th Sea Drama Dice and, yes, in his games he gave them out like candy, a dozen or so per session. Style should also be given out like candy, at least ten points per session if not more. Let the players talk, let them make up the world, let them get themselves into trouble. Give them Style!


This game was designed with the noble class in mind. Playing a kind of character you really can’t play in that other fantasy roleplaying game that shall remain nameless but who’s initials are “D” and “D.”

I don't know what Wick's beef with Drakar och Demoner is but anyway, he mentions some suggestions if you want to play a non-noble HOTB game. The Midnight Game is essentially Rosencrantz and Guildensten Are Dead: The RPG, with players taking on the role of their own maids and valets. It's meant as a fun distraction between noble ssessions, with the maids and valets getting into all sorts of backstage shenanigans. If players are particularly good, let them elevate their vassals to NPC status. And then there's the Roadman game, which is all about playing kickass ven knights, solving troubles and stabbing orks. A variant of this is the Ytavia game: ytavia are "the lady's roadmen", and this type of game is all about being the guardian of your lord's wife and all the ~*drama*~ that comes with it. There is some advice on what to do with the Style given to players to NPCs they like/hate/like to hate, which was already covered in the Players chapter.

And then there is the sample adventure, Roses & Thorns. The signature character of the game, Shara Yvarai, is the centerpiece of the action. But don't worry: again, she's no Kachiko coming here to steal away the spotlight and get away with it willy nilly. This is the adventure Wick uses for demoing HOTB at conventions. Anyway, Shara is basically a hothead Fox, beautiful and deadly with a sword, but a little too ready to hurt people and lacking the Wisdom to fully realize the consequences of her actions. The PC's Count/Countess wants her to sign a Contract of servitude, and they get the mission to go to one of Shara's parties at her puzzle house to convince her. The thing is, other than Shara's sheet, descriptions of the other NPCs they may find, a very rough story outline and the Puzzle House's stats, that's the entire adventure. The real trick is that all players, before starting, roll a Wisdom risk. Then, they use their wagers to define the circumstances of the story about to play out. Wick says that he's ended up with wildly different scenarios out of this: one group decided that their Countess was blind and that Shara was the one to blind her, so they couldn't decide on whether they should win her favor or kill her in revenge. Another group defined their Countess as a sorceress of terrible reputation that wanted Shara under her yoke or dead. And yet another group had their Count in a very complicated family tree involving Shara and the PCs, and he was in love with the young baroness and wanted to marry her. On one hand, this is seriously fucking cool: the same basic idea, very different outcomes, and the players are invested from the get go. But tying it to the risk mechanic means that one player will inevitably get to define more of the adventure than the others, and woe betide anyone with Wisdom as a weakness (Wick suggests giving those players a free wager if he's feeling merciful, but mercy is for the weak )

So on to the various doomed highborn manchildren at this party! There is Shara , of course, armed with a new sword at her hip, very bold and flirts with everyone, but she's really careful about it. Her main goal at the party is making Contacts so that she can protect her father's lands. The appearance of Valin Burghe disturbs her. Also.


Her dress is … well, it’s amazing the damn thing stays on.

The others:

Some suggestions for plots during the party: a tulpa of one of the ven (pick someone the PCs are fond of) is found dead in the halls. The Ikhalu cult is at the party to murder someone. A group of Serpents took Shara's invitation, but they're here with the goal of taking over the house. There's a spectre roaming the house's halls. Shara holds a Hunt as an excuse to clear orks from her Forest. Wick's idea is that players will build up most of the plot for you, so no need to determine why the tulpa was there, or who the Ikhalu cult want murdered ahead of time. Then there's some assorted adventure ideas, which are pretty stealable for other games, I figure. Except for the one where the female lover of some guy the PC is about to duel begs the PC to throw the duel, and she'll humiliate herself and do anything at all to make up for it. Goddammit, Wick.

Orks! Remember, all monsters in Shanri are orks. First, the Terror rules. All orks cause Terror, it depends on how mind-shattering they can be. An average ork is Terror 3-5. When ven find an ork, they roll their Courage + bonuses against the ork's Terror. It works like regular Courage risks, beat it or pay Style to act against the ork. It's sort of supernatural, so you can have an undead squirrel with Terror 6 if you want (Corpse ritual!). Orks also have ranks for their rolls, so a rank 3 Ork rolls three dice for roll when doing orky things. Orks have Traits , which are free Aspects that distinguish them from each other. Some of these aspects are Weapon aspects, giving them extra attacks for Weapon trait they have. How are the Traits balanced, you ask?


A Note on “Game Balance”
Game balance rests on the Narrator and the players using good judgment and common sense. Throwing seventeen Terror 10 orks against three ven with no Prowess or Strength is not only stupid, but irresponsible. Giving orks some kind of arbitrary value—oh, something like a “danger rating” or “challenge threshold” is just silly. An ork is as deadly as the game master makes him. If the ork is stupid, the ven have an advantage. If the ork is smart, the ven have a disadvantage.
Wait a second. Smart orks?


And now, Fashuva ! Wick has (gasp!) lied to the players, but we GMs know better. These are the forbidden Suaven! Their blessings are not balanced! Beware!

Ikhalu is the Suaven of Revenge. He was one of two brothers that sought to lead the first free ven. They chose his brother, and he warred against the ven before being cast out along with his followers. Worshipping Ikhalu is forbidden by Law on pain of death and there are no loopholes to get around it, but at the same time the Senate recognizes that if Ikhalu has blessed a Revenge then truly nothing may stand in that ven's path. Ikhalu's cult is secret, but still exists, and its main goal is to "steal the sorcery" from other ven's Blood to raise the Lord of Murder from Solace. Every cultists owns a ritual dagger to do this. Ikhalu has a number of blessings as the cultist grows in Devotion, 1 to 5:

Jaymen Steele was the Mad Emperor. In canon, his body was burned in an Elk forge and his ashes scattered... but what if his body was smuggled out by faithful followers? What if he survived all the way to Solace? A guy as ambitious and Cunning as him should've had an escape plan after all. He gives standard Elk blessings, but his first Blessing is always Ambition : for every rank in Devotion you gain one bonus die to use in any risk you want during the game session, as long as that risk directly leads to expanding your own personal power. He never gave away anything for free, and so calling on Ambition means he will demand something in return. The betrayal of a friend, the surrender of a Region to an enemy, etc. If you don't comply, you lose two ranks of Devotion, and if it ever drops below zero you can never worship Jaymen Steele again.

Shub-Niggurath Mahl is the Mother of All Monsters. She snatches up homeless children in nights without moon and turns them into orks and spectres. Mahl cultists do capture wayward children and force them into hideous rituals involving "mother's milk", a combination of blood and breast milk . Cultists can summon orks with as many Traits as Devotion they have. They can summon a number of orks per day equal to their Devotion, spending one Style for each ork.

Afhil (or Ahvril, the game can't seem to make up its mind), the Grinning Man, is the lord of pain and torture. Its cultists ritually scar and torture themselves, and others too, for pain is the path to strength. Its cultists seem completely impervious to most injuries and it can strike down enemies of its followers with wracking pains, but there are not rules for that. The blessings that do have rules:

Spectres! Not specters. Spectres. They can be ghosts, echoes of the sorcerer kings, intangible orks, or Shanri's own will. This is what ven scholarship has taught us: Wick likes the latter option the best, but roll with whatever you like as long as spectres are spooky. All spectres are intangible, and they can possess a ven (with their explicit permission). This makes the ven look freaky as fuck and gives them ten dice for all rolls, and any Injuries heal one rank per beat. The only way a spectre will leave a ven's body is by killing the body, but this does not get rid of the spectre. Orichalcum items seem to repel a spectre, sending it packing. Maybe orichalcum weapons can harm it, but Wick disagrees. If you do agree, though, the spectre rolls ten dice and you have to deal a Rank 10 Injury to bust the fucker.

Then Wick goes into his Play Dirty screed, which I already wrote about during Blood and Honor. Search for the bit with CRITICAL WICK in it. It's basically repeating most of what he's already said (make the players spend Style, get them in trouble, let them get themselves into trouble, let them come up with characters and plots, etc.). Wick closes with a paragraph asking you to change things as you seem fit. No game can be made fun for everyone, and that's alright.

So, here it is, the end of Houses of the Blooded. And like during the Blood and Honor review, I ask: is it a bad game? I have to say that it is less mechanically sound than B&H, because of the increased complexity mixed with the book's seriously shoddy editing. But... well.

I actually started feeling somewhat uncomfortable doing this writeup because, as I detailed each chapter, I started feeling like I was peering into John Wick's own head. The world of the ven is a world deliberately built to support and encourage all the elements Wick finds cool about gaming, the drama and tension and the fucking up and growing hard in a world of shit, stuff that's been all over his work from his L5R and 7th Sea days, but I dare to say that no game he's ever worked on is as Wick as this. Yes, I think Wick does see the world in a ven-like way (see that bit on "ven hypocrisy"), that he does have this dog-eat-dog cynical world perspective in real life. But at the same time, that bit with the dungeon crawl shows that, while The Wick is definitely in charge of the writing in HOTB, when he's running most of the time he's John, the game designer buddy that is kind of intense and challenging but honestly wants you to have fun in his games. Under that light, Wick's players are not just slavering masochist sycophants, even though that line where he says Jess Heinig praised his games as "John Wick's Social Meat Grinder" made me wonder...

At the end of the day I think that Doomed Murderous Highborn Manchildren can potentially be a fun game, if cleaned up - hey, look at all the L5R PbP games right in this forum for starters. But, again, the Wickness conspires to make the game nigh-unreadable. It doesn't have the mechanical solidity to be the Fantasy Diplomacy RPG Wick would like it to be. The ven are, honestly, horrible fucking people, and the conceit that they're these non-human people with non-human reactions and, furthermore, that the game emulates fictional literature about this fictional civilization becomes this grating weight as you read through HOTB, this shitty feeling that John Wick was all "I'LL SHOW THEM" after hearing one too many criticisms about samurai or swashbucklers or whatever simply not working like he wrote about in previous games.

I left a fair few things to the side, like that ~*delightful*~ bit in the Mass Murder rules where he claims feudal Japanese discarded technological advancements in warfare for being vulgar and unsubtle. Or all the roses you could give another ven and their meaning. Or how there are absolutely no record of ven wearing armor at all, except that one of their saint patrons is always depicted wearing a shiny set of it. Or... you get the idea. This is John Wick: The RPG. And as such, it's 5 out of 5.

In conclusion:


An aphorism I learned while writing Legend of the Five Rings: “Japanese fix the problem; Americans fix the blame.”