Monday, January 7, 2013

A Distant Inheritance 4

4: More Examples, Traits and Talents

Much of the last post was an extended example of a big mass combat, which I realized is odd since the game will likely only have one of those at the very end. So how about some smaller examples?

Bilbo (Burglary 4d) tries to sneak up on a trio of trolls at night. Sneaking up on someone in moderate darkness is TN 5. There are three trolls, so the difficulty goes up by 5 to 10. Bilbo rolls a 16 and easily sneaks up on the Trolls.

In an effort to prove himself to the Dwarves he tries to pick one of the troll’s pockets. The GM rules that since he’s already close to them and he’s focusing on just one troll the difficulty modifier for having three opponents goes away, but trying to sneak real close to someone is another +5 difficulty, so it stays at 10. Bilbo’s player is comfortable with this and rolls. The dice come out 11, which _should_ be a success, but the troll had secret magic in his pouch that let it talk, so the TN was actually 15 due to the +5 from a magical artifact. The pouch sounds an alarm and Bilbo is spotted.

Bilbo tries to escape from the trolls, but having been spotted it’s his Atheltics or Warcraft to dodge them. Neither of them are very good (2d), and the trolls have a combat TN of 10 normally, 15 for there being three of them. Bilbo rolls a 4 and is snatched and popped in a sack.

Thorin, wondering what is taking their burglar so long, sends his company to search a couple at a time. This is an error since the company’s team bonus can’t logically apply to sneaking (having more people trying to sneak doesn’t really help sneak…) and all of them are snatched and popped in sacks until Thorin has to go himself. Since the company members are all NPCs the GM can just do this – note: do not send an NPC to do a PC’s job!

Thorin’s made of sterner stuff than his men and knows something is up. The perception check to avoid an ambush would normally be a 10, but the GM rules that advance warning from the company’s capture drops it to a 5, and Thorin easily sees the attack coming. He rolls a 14 with his warcraft, letting him win the first exchange. He leaps clear of the troll’s attack, snatches a brand from the fire and whacks the troll in the face with it, giving him a temporary advantage.

If it were a one on one fight Thorin would be in pretty good shape here – his difficulty for the next round would be a 5, so he can probably capitalize on the temporary advantage – but the other two trolls enter the fight and the difficulty goes up by 5. Thorin rolls a 9 and things go south rapidly. At the start of the next round and Thorin has lost the temporary advantage and gained a temporary disadvantage. Thorin’s difficulty goes to a 10 base +5 for 3 foes, +5 for the temporary advantage = 20. He just can’t win this round, and a roll 8 means he fails by 12. Thorin’s player sees the writing on the wall and accepts being popped in a sack, knowing Gandalf is still free.

Make sense?

Back to Traits and Talents, I need to further define the Traits, give some sample talents and set the “what is a Target Number 5” models

Athletics: what shape is the character in, how long can she run, how much can she lift and so on? The obvious talents are
* Climb: TN 5 is a 150 degree incline with handholds
* Run:  a combination of speed and duration. TN 5 is running a mile (so a marathon is TN 20)
* Sprint: running for speed, failure means you move at the base of 3 MPH. TN 5 is 9 MPH, TN 10 is 27 MPH (nothing past that – no running at 81 MPH!). Each roll past the first is +5 difficulty and rolls are set at GM discretion.
* Lift: 50 lbs is TN 5. Distributing it evenly across your body gives -5 TN, and if that’s a TN 0 no need to roll. Each roll past the first is +5 difficulty and rolls are set at GM discretion.
* Endurance: Endurance in terms of long distance travel has a lot to do with the Hobbit. Going one week of travel with limited rations is TN 5 (which means six months hard travel with limited rations is TN 20)

Burglary: how well does the character sneak, filch things and otherwise be sneaky?
* NOT Sneaking: This is the 90% for the Trait, and therefore isn’t acceptable as a talent. Sneaking around or in the general proximity of someone with some cover/shadow is TN5 Increases for brightness, suspicion by the target or the target having shaper than human senses.
* Slip Away: the ability to leave a scene without being noticed – from social crowd scenes to the chaotic moments at the start of an ambush. TN is 5 for a social setting of 9 or more people, increases with fewer people, non-social, guards who are ready for your tricks. Decreases with more people, poor light/cover.
* Escape: slip bonds, wriggle out of grips and fit through small spaces. TN is 5 for tied ropes. Increases
* Pickpocketing: this actually covers anything where you’re being sneaky _right next to someone_ from picking their pocket to slipping sleeping draught into their drink to backstabbing (if that is successful you can use your burglary instead of warcraft for one attack, but it’s very gauche). TN is 5 for something that isn’t dangerous or obtrusive (filching something light that is sticking out of their pocket), with increases for damage to target, target suspicion, intrusiveness (i.e. fully inside pocket) etc.
* Lockpicking: TN 5 for a very simple loop lock, increase for lock complexity till you end up with 30 for dwarvish or elvish magical calendar based locks.

Education: how much has the character studied, what does she know of the world and its people?
* Pathfinding: this is general knowledge of the safest/best paths to take and how to get there. TN is 5 for settled areas, up to 25 for navigating from a random spot out of the goblin caves back door.
* History: TN is 5 for important if minor events of the last decade. Increases for how long ago it was (30, 90 or 270 years…), obscurity (or fame) and location.
* Runes: This is the ability to read and decipher written language. Reading the common tongue is TN 5, increases for complexity, age of the document and if the language is magical.
* Locational Lore: You can pick a particular place and know a lot about its paths, history, runes, etc. The Talent works on anything to do with that place but offers no advantage elsewhere.
* Lore: This only comes from an inheritance, and is the general use of magic. The specifics of each Lore are detailed in the inheritance.

Lineage: what is the character’s heritage and how can she draw on that when talking to others?
* Language: speaking the common tongue is no issue, but speaking other races languages is TN 5 to TN 15 depending on how hard it is (add +5 if it is an animal race like birds or wolves). You can eliminate the need for a roll if you take that language as a specific talent. Gandalf has a Languages talent and can speak many languages; Bard has ‘Birds’ and can therefore talk to birds with no roll).
* Command: This lets you lead people into, and hopefully out of danger. TN 5 is leading forces naturally aligned with you into mild danger. Increases for greater threat and more dissension in the ranks.
* Courage: this lets you resist fear. TN 5 for mild sources of fright, increases for size of the threat (major threat is +5, catastrophic is +10) and magical nature of the threat (so Smaug is TN 20)
* Govern: the ability to debate, to bring people around to your point of view, to synthesize the needs of the group and weigh it against your resources. TN 5 for getting up to 30 people normally aligned with you to agree your plan to deal with common issues(and for your plan to be a good one!) Increases for more people, more complications and more division.
* Bloodline: you might be descended from an exceptional family (though not necessarily royalty) and can call on that for Lineage rolls three times per session. The best example of this is Bilbo’s Tookish nature making him more ready and able to adventure.

Perception:  how keen are the character’s senses, and how much does she trust them?
* Sense: pick a particular sense, and uses of that sense are at a bonus. The TN of any sense check is going to be GM determined based on relative difficulty.
* Cavesight: dwarves, for example, are really skilled with all awareness in caves – they can work from echoes, see with minimal light, taste what the wind is telling them –and so gain a bonus to all Perception rolls when in caves. This is an example of a good racial sense.
* Intuition: This is your general ability to sense danger or when people are lying to you.
* Tracking: your skill at following people in the wild. TN 5 is tracking 1 horse and rider over soft wet ground within a day. Increase the TN for dryer conditions, harder ground, and being a man rather than a horse, time since passage and trying to avoid detection. Decrease the TN with increases in people.

Warcraft: how well does the character fight, with any weapons? Pretty much all of these have TNs based on the combat ability of the opponents.
* Archery:  TN is also based on distance, with 10 yards or less as no modifier.
* Armored combat: this has been discussed above.
* Mounted combat: as with armored combat, unless you have this talent being on a horse hinders you as much as it helps you.
* Heavy weapons: again, these things (halberds, two handed swords, huge axes) are as much hindrance as help unless you have this talent and add another die
* Two weapon pairings: You can take a specific pairing of weapons/tools (axe and hammer, spear and shield) knowing that you’ll need both of those on hand and both hands free to get the extra die. Note that this world doesn’t have light weapon fencing (so no epee and dagger) just as a matter of style
* NOT ‘swordplay’: you can’t take ‘basic melee’ or ‘sword play’ to get an extra die, since those sorts of things are what the Trait is used for 90% of the time; getting an extra die for that is just cheap.

This should give you a better idea of the types of Talents, but this is by no means an exhaustive list – in fact we’re going to see a lot of ‘new’ specific talents tied up in the Inheritances next post, such as magic –  but those are talents you can only use if you have the Inheritance to keep them from being cheapened by over-use.

Again, another important point is that Talents are flags for the GM. If you pick a Talent for your character you’re asking the GM to introduce at least one instance in the campaign (if not more) that the talent will be useful and provide a good spotlight moment for your PC. 


  1. Nitpick: Climbing a 150 degree incline is TN5? Straight vertical is 90 degrees. I suspect you mean a 30 degree incline.

    1. Actually I meant a 75 degree incline. But its good to know someone is reading!