2 - Essential Mechanics
- 2.1 - Moves in Play
- 2.2 - Fictional Gaming
- 2.3 - Rolling Dice
- 2.4 - Elements of a Protagonist
- 2.5 - Fictional Harm System
- 2.6 - Equipment & Supplies
2.1 - Moves in Play
Moves are small bits of rules that activate when a specific fiction happens. Some moves are common and always available to every Protagonist. Some moves are unique to a specific Class. All moves are always structured to have two parts: a fictional trigger and some sort of effect.
Moves work in a straightforward way: when a Protagonist is described (usually while doing something) in a way that looks like what is written in the trigger of a move, then the stuff written in the effect happens.
Example move #01
When you talk to a stranger about the ways and traditions of your people...
... they will listen captivated and (they choose one):
Express contempt, and remember how you look.
Express interest, and offer something in kind.
Express awe, and remember who you are.
Performing a move is not an entirely free choice. If you do it, you do it. There is no way to describe something that looks like a move trigger without also causing the associated move effect. By the same token, it is not possible to obtain the effect of a move without first describing something that looks like that move’s trigger. To do it, you have to do it.
But the game is not out to get you.
Once a Player realises that their description would trigger an undesired move, they can retract the description and describe something different in its place. Feel free to ask the other participants for ideas, inspiration, and suggestions.
Player - I say something to the innkeeper so that he unmistakably remembers me, like my move says.
World - Err, sure... what do you say?
Player - I don't know. Something. I have the move, can't it just work?
Word - No can do. Unless you describe something about your traditions and ways, it's not the move.
There are many kinds of moves: some require a dice roll, some require additional descriptions, some have a cost, some offer multiple choices, some have immediate effects, some have effects that can happen at a later time, etc.
But more or less all follow the basic principle that when you describe A, then B happens.
Only the Players use moves. The World uses something different, designed to help them react to the Players’ questions and actions in interesting ways. For this reason, they are called Reactions and are explained in a separate section of this book.
In the following section, I’ll showcase a few common problems and mistakes that happen when using moves, and how to best solve them. This is a useful read for both World and Players.
If you do it, you do it
Player - I tell the innkeeper that where I come from we offer free wine to the guests.
World - This triggers the Example move #01... so... as he listens to you, an expression of disgust twists his face. "Cheap ass!" he mumbles under his breath while walking away.
[Moreover, the World takes note that the innkeeper will remember the PC's face]
Player - Wait, I just wanted to state a fun fact. I don't want to activate the move!
World - No can do. If you tell him about your traditions, it is the move. Do you want to change what your PC says and does?
It is every participant’s job to keep an eye on the fiction to see if it triggers any moves. When someone thinks they have seen a move triggered, they can and should call it out.
A common error is to “call” moves before a description is offered. Usually, this happens when the World feels like there should be a dice roll, so they ignore the rules and say something like “Wayfarer, roll on Daring!” or maybe “Scoundrel, roll to Take a Risk!”. This is outright wrong.
The World can never say something like “Wayfarer, roll on Daring!” as there is no such thing in Fantasy World; either you roll because a move is triggered, or you don’t roll at all.
The World can never say something like “Scoundrel, roll to Take a Risk!” as the World has no authority to decide such a thing on their own; either a description triggers a move, or there is no move.
The correct way to call a move, by the World or by another Player, is to ask...
World - Occultist, wait, are you attempting a Sway?
World - Veteran, this sounds difficult, is it a Take a Risk?
World - Knight, are you using your Authority?
If looking at the move trigger and at the described fiction everyone quickly agrees that yes, right, obviously this is that move, then it is. Otherwise, it is not.
Only in case of widespread doubt or disagreement the World is the final arbiter, keeping in mind that it is good and healthy to review this quick judgment and look deeper into the rules after the session ends.
This helps Players to be more involved in the game even when their PC is not in the spotlight, and to more quickly learn and become aware of the rules being used. It also makes it easier for the World to correctly follow the other procedures of this game.
Player_1 - I tell the innkeeper that where I come from we offer free wine to the guests.
World - He says "Feh!" and kind of ignores you...
Player_2 - Wait, this looks like the Example move #01, doesn't it?
World - Oh, right! Let me rewind. As he listens to you an expression of disgust twists his face. "Cheap ass!" he mumbles under his breath while walking away.
[Moreover, the World takes note that the innkeeper will remember the PC's face]
A common problem arises when a Player states that their character makes a move, or only expresses a move-like intent, without actually describing their character’s actions in the fiction.
The point of this is not to force complex descriptions or thespian performances out of the Player, but rather to clarify what is happening in the fiction and (more or less) how it is happening. Such details aren't just decorative or aesthetic but are very important for the game mechanics as they inform what will happen next.
Depending on how an attack is described, the Brawl move will cause different kinds of damage, achieve different tactical goals, maybe require a different set-up move before the Brawl itself can happen, etc.
Depending on what the PC does to Look Around, the World will offer visual information, auditive details, olfactory notes, describe what was hidden behind a curtain... or not, if the action as described does not justify the disclosure of such info.
Describing how a PC tries to trick another character tells the target’s owner how to react; maybe it is the perfect thing to say and no move is triggered, the trick just works; maybe it is a stretch and the character doubts the PC, leading to one move or another; maybe it is totally unbelievable or nonsensical, so then the PC’s owner should be informed of that, allowing them to reformulate, or even invoke the One Golden Rule if needed.
Player - I do Brawl on the ork.
Player - I Look Around in this room.
Player - I try to trick that guy.
In each of these cases, the World's answer should invariably be...
World - Cool, describe how you do that.
Another problem is when a Player has their PC take actions that count as moves but doesn’t realise it, or doesn’t intend it to be a move.
Player - I casually shove the guard out of my way.
World - Cool, that looks like a Threaten move to me, yes?
Player - Wait, what?
World - The guard is blocking the door and won't budge willingly; if you are serious about shoving the guard around then you are using physical force to have him do what you want. A textbook Threaten move.
Player - Oh! No, I'm not serious, I'm just brushing him aside. It might be rude but I'm not really threatening anyone, that's not my intention anyway.
Intentions are irrelevant. If a PC does something that looks like a move trigger, then it is that move. As previously explained, instead of punishing Players for unintentional mistakes, the rules allow for a quick and painless re-do. An acceptable answer might thus be:
Player - Oh! No, if he's really blocking the door, whatever, I'll go away and look for another way in.
Occultist - I want this nobleman to help our mission, but I don't want to force his hand. I'll just make pleasant and idle conversation with him talking about the weather, the guilds, the latest fashion... and some questions about his daughter, like, "has she found a fiancee yet?"
World - Well, it looks like a Sway to me, don't you agree? You're pressuring him.
Occultist - What? How?
World - Your PC knows that his daughter has been kidnapped by unknown bandits and that he is skittish about it. By asking for help and then mentioning her, he takes it as a veiled threat. Looks like a Sway to me.
Occultist - No no no, I didn't mean to! I'm just curious about his daughter; can't I talk in a way that makes it clear I'm not blackmailing him? Maybe I'll ask how the search is going and then offer my help?
World - Ok. Then when you offer help he basically jumps on you "Yes oh mighty wizard, help me save my daughter! Bring her back alive and I'll support your mission any way I can!"
At times the same description could reasonably look like the trigger for different moves. The rule here is that a more specific move trumps a more generic one. In this regard Take a Risk could very well be the most generic move in the whole game; use it only if no other move fits the fiction as described.
Player - I casually shove the guard out of my way.
World - Cool, that looks like a Threaten move to me, yes?
Player - Wait, the guard is dangerous, can't I Take a Risk?
World - You are facing danger, true, but you are doing so by using immediate physical force to get someone to do something for you. It's the very definition of the Threaten move, so it takes precedence.
Other times peculiar circumstances might muck up things. The solution is to look closer at the fiction, considering the specific circumstances and the details that appear to be relevant. The presence of descriptive Tags (chapter 2 section 2) attached to creatures, items, locations, or the situation itself can be of further help. And of course, everyone should ask questions to clarify what is going on, and how, and why. Maybe the Player’s intention could be better served by a different clearer description, than by sticking to the current unclear one.
Veteran - I draw my sword and swing it at the dragon. It's Brawl, right?
World - Actually no. The dragon has scales like sheets of metal one centimeter thick and is as big as a three-story building. It's obvious that your sword attacks will connect with its paws and flanks to no meaningful effect; the action you described has no chance of inflicting any harm, so it can't trigger the Brawl move. Do you still want to charge head-on?
2.2 - Fictional Gaming
What a character is allowed to do depends on what each Player and the World agree makes sense. Can the character walk? Can they run? Can they swim? Can they fly? Can they wield an axe? Can they summon ghosts? It’s not about testing their abilities. It’s about defining what Players are allowed to describe moment by moment.
At times this agreement is obvious and implicit: of course Zusanna can walk!
At times this agreement needs to be spelled out and explained: why not? It makes sense for Zusanna to walk!
At times this agreement is conflictual and in need of resolution: can Zusanna walk? Let's discuss!
In any case, the agreement can depend on a thousand little details that make more or less sense to each Player. The sum of these elements is called Fictional Positioning: the position, the circumstances, of a certain thing within the fiction we all describe to one another.
In most cases, you won’t need to worry about it. Everything will appear obvious and evident as you play. In some cases, the One Golden Rule is the most useful tool to solve doubts and conflicts. And in general, having a clear idea about who has the authority to describe a certain portion of the game narrative is always helpful; this rulebook tries to be as clear as possible about this whenever possible.
A fictional Tag is nothing more than a specific narrative detail that the game highlights. The Tag makes Players and World take notice of such detail, which in turn makes it more present and relevant in active play. Some game mechanics, like Advantage and Disadvantage (chapter 2 section 3), leverage the presence of Tags and the way in which characters interact with them. By convention, a Tag is always written in short bold and italics text in square brackets: [this is a Tag]. There is no exhaustive list of official Tags, but these rules will offer a few examples of common Tags whenever relevant.
A Tag could relate to an item (a [heavy] dress), a location (an [eerie] house), a character (an [honest] innkeeper), or anything that has a quality that needs to be highlighted. The Tag can even be the thing in itself, to communicate how the sum of its characteristics (whichever they might be) is noteworthy and game-relevant; for example: [The Sword of Omens] or maybe [Gian-Gengis, the new kid in town].
Anyone can establish a new Tag at any time if the table agrees. Just know that too many Tags only create confusion and dilute the effectiveness of this mechanic, so it’s important to only focus on defining Tags that communicate something important or exceptional or that the World and Players find particularly interesting. It’s a reminder for the table that a certain thing should be in everyone’s mind, actively touched on by the story.
For the same reason, anyone can ask that a certain Tag be removed: maybe circumstances changed and the Tag doesn’t represent the fiction anymore, or maybe Player interests changed and the Tag is not worth keeping around anymore. Think of this as decluttering, as reorganising and updating the shared notes on what people at the table should keep in their minds.
Any blade is somewhat sharp and able to cut things, thus there is no need to use the [sharp] Tag. The blade is a blade and gives you the fictional positioning necessary to do all the things that a person can expect to do with a blade. So if a blade is [sharp] it means it is extraordinarily so, enough to set it apart from other blades. By the same token, blades don't usually emanate magical light and if your blade does so it makes sense to Tag it as [radiant] or something similar.
Moves & Positioning
Moves suggest fictional positioning, but they do not grant nor enforce it. That power lies with the agreement of the table, as regulated by the general rules of the game. Here are some specific cases for which this is relevant:
- A move does a thing.
I don’t have that move.
Can I do the thing?
Probably. It depends!
A move that triggers “when you run” suggests that a PC is generally capable of running. And when they do, special effects will occur. But it appears obvious, probably by unspoken agreement, that anyone else without that move is also capable of running, even though no special effect will occur. It also appears obvious that when a PC is tied to a table they can not run, even though they have a move that triggers “when you run”. So a PC’s ability to run is less dependent on the absence or presence of a move, and much more influenced by things like their fictional circumstances, their Player’s clever ideas and descriptions, and game elements such as Blood, Kin, and Class.
Similarly, the very definition of "running" is open to the judgment of the table: is a Protagonist in a wheelchair who is frantically pushing to accelerate "running"? Probably, and so if they have the move, it will be triggered.
- A move does a SPECIAL thing.
I don’t have that move.
Can I do the thing?
Probably. It depends!
Is the Occultist the only character (PC or NPC) who can “work magic” in the entire world? Or can someone else do it even though they don’t have the Occultist’s moves? The answer is: it depends on the current fictional positioning of the character being considered at the moment. It depends on the agreements that the table silently shares and overtly discusses during active play.
- I can do a thing.
I have a move for when I do that thing in a certain way. Can I do that thing in a different way?
Probably. It depends!
The Wildcaller has moves that allow them to “call on the spirits” of nature to achieve a selection of specific feats. Can they also “call on the spirits” to do something else? To have a chat, or to receive guidance, or to ask for a favor? Probably. Being the Wildcaller and possessing moves that establish one’s ability to “call on the spirits” makes for a pretty clear fictional positioning in this regard.
Of course, general game rules still apply: if they describe something that triggers a move, it is the move, but if the description does not trigger a move, then the World describes what happens according to their own judgment.
- I can do a thing.
There are moves that add cool special effects when I do that thing. Can I get those effects even if I don’t have the appropriate moves?
In theory, yes. In practice, it’s unlikely. It depends!
As most move effects are mainly fictional, it is possible to arrange things in such a way as to have the right fictional positioning to achieve similar results without owning the proper move. It will probably require a lot of work, whose outcome depends on unreliable circumstances and is ultimately at the mercy of the World’s whim (not a move? the World decides!). But if everyone agrees that it makes sense, then it’s clever play that can happen and should even be rewarded.
That said, having the proper move makes everything easier, clearer, and more official. This grants the Player unparalleled control over what goes on in the game: if your description triggers a move, it’s the move.
There is no numerical concept of “difficulty” in this game. If a description triggers a move, it’s the move. No modifiers apply. The way to convey varying degrees of difficulty is instead to use the fiction to highlight costs, consequences, and obstacles. Look at how the following examples make life more or less difficult for the PCs.
First, let me present you with a basic situation:
World - A city guard bars your way, wielding a sword. "Stop!" he yells.
Veteran - I rush towards the poor sod and chop him to small bits. I trigger the Brawl move, right?
World - Sounds about right.
Then one possible, more difficult, alternative:
World - A city guard bars your way, wielding a spear. "Stop!" he yells, bringing the pole arm between the two of you.
Veteran - I rush towards the poor sod and chop him to small bits. I trigger the Brawl move, right?
World - Nope, you have forgotten the spear! It's long and the guard is doing his best to keep you at bay. Unless you get past the spear's reach your sword simply won't connect. What do you do about it?
Veteran - I fight my way to him, parrying and deflecting away from his spear... then he will bleed!
World - Cool, looks like you can Take a Risk to close the distance. If you succeed then it will be a Brawl.
In these examples, we see how, by simply highlighting important elements of the fiction (the spear is long) and by describing their obvious effect on the situation (the spear keeps you at a distance) the World creates real and meaningful obstacles, which in turn lead the Player to describe different things, which will then trigger different moves. This also puts the Protagonist in a position where they need to ponder solutions to problems, make hard choices, and perform set-up actions before they can do the thing they originally wanted to do.
This is the concrete effect of fictional positioning: when how you describe stuff, and what stuff you describe, is important and makes a difference.
Finally, another even more difficult example:
World - A city guard bars your way, wielding a sword. "Stop!" he yells, his metal armor clinking with his every move.
Veteran - I rush towards the poor sod and chop him to small bits. I trigger the Brawl move, right?
World - Nope, you easily manage to hit him multiple times but every attack collides with his armor producing a shower of sparks and no visible damage. And it feels like he's weirdly rooted to the ground. This is not normal! What do you do?
Veteran - Damn. Is any part of his body exposed?
World - You easily spot a small section of the helmet that shows his eyes. Do you look closer? Do you want to know more?
Veteran - Nah, I have all the info I need. I keep the guard occupied with my right-hand swordplay while reaching for my hunting knife with my left hand, and then drive it deep into his eye-holes!
World - Cool, looks like a Brawl! But it's obvious by his movements that he is aware of this weak point and is fighting to defend it, plus it's a very small target that constantly moves ... a very difficult endeavor!
If you just randomly hack at his eyes you can only hope to inflict light cuts and scratches, nothing more than a Temp nuisance.
If you want to really drive the blade deep for a Serious or maybe Deadly hit, you'll have to expose yourself to Deadly danger.
Or you could come up with some better ideas. What do you do?
Do you want to know more?
This question is not being asked randomly. It's the trigger for the Look Around move. The World is signaling and facilitating it for the Player.
A Tough Choice
This is also not a chance dialogue. The World presented an obstacle and the Player chose to undertake a dangerous and difficult path. This offers the opportunity for a World Reaction. In this case, it is to show an opportunity.
Describing something as “too much” is another way to crank the difficulty up while also promoting creative play. Presenting something as too distant, too big, too fast, too protected, etc. forces the Players to devise alternative solutions: a common broadsword can barely scratch the tank-like scales of a dragon, or the wall-like body of a stone golem, or an a-hole guard clad in magical armor... but are there any weak spots? Are there alternative solutions? Are there possibilities other than direct combat?
This technique is effective, but the World should not abuse it. Obstacles, especially "impossible" ones, should always be presented as practical and somehow understandable. To this end, be sure to always show signs of what's going on (the sparks) and to even explain them in plain terms (this is not normal!) if any doubt arises.
Yet another way to communicate difficulty is to toy around with the cost of things. Simply striking a target wherever costs you nothing, just make the move. But striking a target in a difficult spot or in a difficult way? It might cost time, a thing that the World will make important and interesting. It might cost danger, exposing a character to harm or undesired consequences. It might cost effort, to find other solutions, to describe things in a different way, to perform necessary set-up actions.
Just State the Obvious
At times the World might have a feeling that a situation should be more difficult, but not exactly know why. Then they look at this chapter and believe that to apply these techniques, they need to come up with something new, something extra to add to the situation to make it difficult.
This is false.
The World simply needs to describe what is already on their mind, to calmly go over what was already narrated but this time stopping to highlight the elements that they deem could ramp up the difficulty. The example of the guard with a sword/spear is emblematic of this technique. More clarity in a difficult situation is always valuable for the Players, but it also helps the World to better understand what in their mind makes them feel that the situation is difficult, which in turn helps them express the appropriate fictional positioning and World Reactions (usually Open ones, to set Players up for subsequent danger and consequences).
This game is a conversation between the Players and the World, a back and forth of actions, Reactions, questions, answers, moves, consequences. It is the World’s job to manage the flow of this within a scene, giving a fair share of the spotlight to each Player, ensuring that they all have equal opportunities to talk, participate, and shine. This means four things:
- Hold back the most exuberant Players, just a tiny bit.
- Provide space and encouragement for the less confident Players, without pushing them.
- Give due attention to important NPCs, so they don’t disappear into the background.
- Break the chain of snowballing moves.
When the situation is not particularly hectic, you can simply have a leisurely conversation. Every Player describes the actions and thoughts of their PC, the World describes what the NPCs say and do and how the environment looks and feels and behaves. Everyone keeps an eye out for moves, and play flows on from there.
Often the PCs will split, going to different locations to do different things on their own. In this case, everything works the same, but looking for moves becomes extra important. As a rule of thumb, triggering a move becomes the climax of the scene. Play it out, resolve the move, and then cut. This way the scene is functionally complete, as it produced a meaningful outcome. When later the spotlight comes back to this Protagonist, both World and Player will be free to either move the story forward with a new location/situation or to continue doing stuff in the same location, although the situation will be different because of the move results.
Triggering a move becomes the climax of the scene.
When the PCs are split, the World should avoid cutting a scene short before a move is resolved, unless the spotlight Players are rambling on and not getting to the point. Aka, not getting to a move. If the PCs are all together, this would be relaxed play but, since some Players are just watching and waiting, the World should push a little bit, gently directing the conversation towards a move, or cutting it short to be resumed later, when the spotlight returns.
Hectic & Tense Spotlight
The best way to handle the spotlight in a hectic situation (especially in the heat of combat) is to go around the table asking for everybody’s intentions, but don’t roll dice yet! Give everybody a turn to say what they’re doing, and let them change their mind if they need to; nothing happens until everyone’s had their say. Be sure to include your NPCs in the process. Paint a clear picture of what is happening.
To increase the pressure the World can declare their NPCs’ actions first. This provides the Players with useful information but also forces them into a reactive stance, which is often dangerous and challenging.
Conversely, to reduce the pressure a little, the World can ask the Players “what do you do?” first and only then describe how the NPCs react.
NPCs first = more pressure
PCs first = less pressure
Either way, this is how the World sets things up. Not by sucker-punching the Players with hidden prep work, but by offering full disclosure information about what happens around the PCs. This is important for many World Reactions, as explained in a later chapter. This approach also produces more dynamic scenes, where things happen moment by moment, the situation is bustling with activity, and the PCs face meaningful choices simply because they won’t be able to do everything at once.
Sucker-punching = bad
Making them choose = good
Once it is clear what everyone’s going to do, the participants evaluate the fiction to see which moves apply (if any) and then resolve them in the order that makes the most sense according to each move’s internal logic. Anyone can and should help with this, but it is specifically the World’s job to decide the resolution timing.
Sometimes a Protagonist’s action won’t count as a move. That’s okay. The World simply acknowledges what was described, considers how it fits with everyone else’s actions, and tells them what happens. That’s right: if a PC’s action doesn’t trigger a move, the World freely decides which effects and consequences it yields.
Sometimes a Protagonist’s action will count as more than one move. That’s okay. Have the Protagonist resolve them all, one at a time, in the order that makes more sense, and see what happens as a consequence of each. At times a move in the chain will change the situation so that the subsequent moves won’t be triggered anymore; so be it, they don’t happen and the conversation resumes.
Sometimes resolving actions and moves will change the situation enough that a character (either PC and NPC) will want to rethink their yet-unresolved declared action. That’s ok. If it makes sense in the fiction, let them revisit their intention and describe the new action.
After all, actions have been resolved the World could offer a brief recap of how the situation has changed. This might often be unnecessary, but for some groups it’s a good way to keep everyone on the same page. If the situation has been settled, move on with the game. Otherwise, a new round of action declarations will begin.
- Declare PC/NPC intentions.
- Resolve moves.
- Assess the new situation.
- Repeat from 1. or move on with free narration.
2.3 - Rolling Dice
Some moves have a straightforward effect. You do one thing, thus another thing happens. Other moves instead call for a dice roll, and that’s the only time Players ever roll dice. You always roll two six-sided dice (2d6) and add their scores together. Usually, you also add one of your Stat scores to this total. The move will look something like roll+Intense or maybe roll+Daring etc. Every possible result is then expressed following these guidelines:
- If the total score is 10 or more, that’s a major Boon
The move will tell you what happens, and usually it will be a clean success with no drawbacks, or a better version of what you can normally achieve.
- If the total score is between 7 and 9, that’s a minor Boon
The move will tell you what happens, and in most cases there will be strings attached, hard choices to make, or limited options.
- If the total score is 6 or less, that’s a Snag
The move will either tell you what happens or give the World an opportunity to perform a Reaction. Your fictional action may still succeed, or not, depending on the World’s whim, but don’t count on its consequences being what you hoped for!
World Reactions and other NPC mechanics never call for a roll. The World never rolls dice.
Protagonist Characters, and only them, have a set of four statistics (Stats) that outline a few salient elements of their persona and measure how good they are at taking advantage of them in appropriate situations.
- You do something Daring when you face risk and danger.
- You do something Intense when you show passion and resolve.
- You do something Knowing when you rely on experience and education.
- You do something Vigilant when you act with sharpness and attentiveness.
All your Stats have a numerical rating ranging from -1 to +3, but most will sit between 0 and +1. It is very important to clarify that your Stat scores are a measure of effectiveness, not an absolute descriptor. A low score in DARING, for example, does not mean that you are meek or lacking in any way - it just means that when you try to do something in DARING situations you have less certainty, less control, over the outcome.
Advantage & Disadvantage
Some game effects can make your character mark Advantage or Disadvantage. You can note this on your Protagonist’s sheet with small “plus” (+) and “minus” (-) signs. This means that on your next roll you don’t simply roll 2d6+Stat as usual. Instead:
- When you have Advantage you roll 3d6 and keep the best 2.
- When you have Disadvantage you roll 3d6 and keep the worst 2.
Dis/Advantage only lasts for one roll, after which all Dis/Advantage marks are considered spent and gone.
Addition of Dis/Adv
Dis/Advantage is a binary condition: you either have it or you don’t. If you have both Advantage and Disadvantage marks at the same time they cancel each other out on a one-to-one basis until only one, or none, remain.
A PC is targeted by different Dis/Advantage effects all at the same time.
In total these amount to three Advantages and one Disadvantage.
On their next roll, the PC will simply roll with Advantage.
That's because one Adv. and one Disadv. cancel each other out, leaving two leftover Advantage effects.
(3 - 1 = 2)
Two or more Adv. are the same as just one, as they simply mean that YES, the PC has Advantage.
When the time comes, the PC will roll 3d6 and keep the best two.
After the roll is done, all Dis/Adv. effects cease to persist and reset to zero.
Special rules and effects can describe a Dis/Advantage as applying to a specific move or circumstance. In this case, the Dis/Advantage will not be applied to just any roll, but only on the next roll that fits the specified criteria.
The Look Around move gives you Advantage on the next roll that leverages the answers the move has generated. A roll triggered by an action that doesn't leverage such answers will not benefit from, nor consume, the Advantage.
The move Arcana Unearthed gives you ongoing Disadvantage but only on rolls to cast spells when missing your spell record. Any other roll will be unaffected.
Special rules and effects can describe a Dis/Advantage as applying to more than one roll. By the same token, a Dis/Advantage could be described as ongoing; this means that it applies to all rolls, or all rolls of a specific move/circumstance until some stop-condition is met.
The Tactician move gives you Advantage on the next two rolls made leveraging the answers it generated.
Doppelgänger's Dance gives you Disadvantage on all rolls as long as you suppress your Tell.
Sources of Dis/Advantage
Dis/Advantage is not something that can happen on a whim because a situation looks dis/advantageous to someone. Instead, it can only come from the following sources:
- A move grants Dis/Advantage.
- A World Reaction inflicts Disadvantage.
- A Protagonist acts in a way that either leverages (advantage) or defies (disadvantage) a Tag.
- A Protagonist spends 2 XPs to gain 1 Advantage.
In this regard Dis/Advantage is to be first and foremost intended as a purely abstract mechanic that more or less summarizes a galaxy of small fictional details that, as a total, put a character in a harder/easier position. There is no need to exactly “justify” what a certain Dis/Advantage looks like in the fiction.
If you roll 7-9 on a Take a Risk move and elect to suffer Disadvantage, that’s it. Don’t bend over backward to make the fiction represent this little bit of mechanics.
There is no direct connection.
And the same is true the other way around: if a situation looks dire, difficult, and problematic it is NOT a valid cause to apply a Disadvantage effect. Such fiction could inspire the World to use a Reaction that applies a Disadvantage, but only if the World is allowed to perform a Reaction to begin with.
NPC and Dis/Advantage
Non-Protagonist Characters have no Stats and never roll dice, so how does it work when an effect gives them Dis/Advantage?
Fictional positioning... once more, with feeling.
During play, the World will constantly be required to make judgment calls about "what happens" in the game when Protagonists are not making moves. On all these occasions the World can look at the presence of Dis/Advantage as a clear guideline.
An NPC with Advantage will simply succeed at what they were attempting to do. An NPC with Disadvantage will simply fail. Likewise, an NPC with Advantage will feel emboldened into action, while one with Disadvantage may opt to bide their time. NPCs affected by Dis/Advantage are also an easy bargaining chip to fuel some World Reactions: your henchman is struggling, will you drop what you're doing to help them? Your henchman is doing fine, will you seize this opportunity to act? etc.
It's a powerful and effective way to cut through the noise of a thousand small decisions that would otherwise tire the World. This will become clearer in The World chapter, as it is dedicated to explaining how to play the role of World, offering many other tools to support and help them before, during, and after active play.
2.4 - Elements of a Protagonist
It is not yet time to think about the specifics of the Protagonist Characters you will be going to play, but since I'll be mentioning a few technical terms in the following text, it is important for you to have at least a vague idea of what I'm talking about.
Protagonists are people.
They are capable of doing most anything that a normal person could do. Talk, fight, move around, perceive, know stuff, socialise, learn, sing, dance, paint, etc. They might not be masters at everything, but they can usually make do. Additionally, each PC embodies an iconic fantasy adventurer archetype, granting them access to special traits and abilities. This iconic role is what the game calls a Class.
In Fantasy World each Class is unique.
Surely the world is full of adventurers, magicians, and soldiers, but in the course of this story, only one Protagonist will embody the archetypal traits of the iconic Troubadour. Thus no two Players can pick the same Class when the time comes to do so. Here is a quick overview of the 10 available Classes:
- Captain - A capable leader at the head of a resourceful crew, facing dangers and voyages together as one.
- Knight - A bastion of virtue, bestowing guidance, judgment and retribution upon an imperfect world.
- Maker - A creative mind who thinks outside of the box, taking on the world armed with curiosity, knowledge, and technology.
- Occultist - A practitioner of arcane arts, keeper of forgotten knowledge, and wielder of sorcerous powers.
- Priest - A worker of miracles, wielding the power of religious faith and fervor.
- Scoundrel - A criminal by trade and an adventurer by vocation: resourceful, connected, dangerous.
- Troubadour - A wAnderer and a wOnderer, shaping the world with their art and wiles.
- Veteran - A battle-seasoned fighter, bearing the wisdom earned in the face of Death and adversity.
- Wayfarer - A true explorer, using their expertise of plant and beast to journey through wilderness and cities alike.
- Wildcaller - A child of the land, linked inextricably to its elements and spirits.
Harm and Healing
When characters, be they PCs or NPCs, get physically hurt they suffer concrete in-fiction consequences represented by lists of effects organized into three categories: Temp, Serious or Deadly. Harm is always descriptive, meaning that you look at the fiction and that tells you which harm effect to mark on the character sheet. If the appropriate effect is already marked, then the harm worsens. This can lead to suffering Deadly harm right from the get-go, or bit by bit, as small ailments pile up.
Protagonist Characters, being protagonists, get a few precious Hardiness Points (HPs) to save their necks on dire occasions. These are hard to come by though (see Long Rest move) so spend them with caution!
Temp harm is situational and goes away when you get back on your feet or have a good rest. But Serious and Deadly injuries are always difficult to recover from, requiring time, effort, and resources. More detailed rules for both harm and healing are explained in the Fictional Harm System section of these rules (chapter 2 section 5).
Protagonists are not meant to be played forever.
Protagonists are not meant to start the game as fully fleshed and monolithic, with no drive for change.
Protagonists are not meant to grow only in the sense of gaining access to increasing power.
Fantasy World Protagonists will instead live through an emergent story arch, giving their Players a chance to get to know them, to see them change, and to find a satisfying end to their adventurous journeys. In this perspective, Protagonist growth is simply a way to gauge how far the character has come in their own personal storyline from the moment that active play started. To represent this, there are two ways in which your PC can grow:
In the short term your PC earns 1 Expedience Point (XP) every time a move roll scores a Snag (1-6) or when a move effect explicitly says so.
A maximum of 10 XPs can be stored at any time, with excess points being lost.
XPs can be spent in a variety of helpful ways:
- 1 XP during the Long Rest move to perform additional Utility actions.
- 2 XP before a roll to mark Advantage; do this multiple times to offset multiple Disadvantages.
- 5 XP during the End of Session move to mark 1 Growth.
In the long term your PC accumulates Growth marks.
During the End of Session move you check if you got any marks and, at the end of it, you can spend 5 Growth marks to select 1 Growth Option from those available on your Class Playbook.
You are allowed to acquire only one Growth Option per session.
Growth marks can come from any of three sources: your Issue, your Doubt, and your Expedience. Keep an eye on them during active play! But do not stress over them, as Growth always happens as part of the End of Session move, where a brief checklist will help you review the game session that just ended, looking for Growth markers.
When your Protagonist accrues 5 Growth marks, you get to select 1 of the available options present in their Class Playbook. These are standard for all Protagonists.
- Up to 3 times: increase a Stat by +1, to a max total rating of +3.
- Up to 3 times: select a Growth move from your Class list.
- Up to 2 times: select a Growth move from your own or a different Class list.
- Up to 2 times: increase your current and max HPs by +1.
These amount to a total of 10 Growth options. But after the fifth option has been selected, a new set of options is added to the basic one. These are still Growth options, but for clarity I call them Closure options:
- Change the World
One feature of the setting has changed as a consequence of the Fellowship’s in/direct actions and you get to tell the World about it! This could be anything, from the life of a single person to the fate of a nation, to a shift in the very fabric of reality. Your story is not over yet.
- Seize Your Destiny
Your PC becomes a powerful and influential NPC. You get to briefly narrate what this means and how it happens. In any case, they are still in play and the World can make use of them just like any other NPC, but they need your explicit consent if they want to substantially change or harm them.
- Enter the Legend
Your PC becomes a mysterious and legendary NPC. You get to briefly narrate what this means and how it happens. In any case, they are no longer in play and the World is forbidden from using them as NPCs or from substantially changing the narrative around their legend unless they have your explicit consent.
- Pass On The Torch
Your PC exits the stage in a relatively quiet way, becoming an NPC. But someone new steps forward as their heir! Create a fresh new Protagonist with one Growth option already marked to represent the teachings/inheritance left them by your old PC. Like in Seize Your Destiny you get to describe how this happens, and your old character is in play as an NPC for the World to use, but they need your consent to change or harm them substantially.
All these options allow you to give a meaningful and possibly epic culmination to your Protagonist’s story by granting you a lot of narrative power. Don’t be afraid of it! Stick to the One Golden Rule, rely on your fellow Players for guidance and advice, and all will be fine.
Notice that your PC’s adventure might spontaneously end before their 5th Growth. They could die, conclude a satisfying story arc, or choose to follow their heart/destiny away from the Fellowship. This can happen, and it is fine. The rules simply nudge your attention toward the possibility of a Closure after the 5th Growth and only really force your hand upon reaching the 12th Growth, when every available Growth option has been used up.
2.5 - Fictional Harm System
The term harm stands for all sorts of physical damage, hurt, and injury that can befall a character, whether they are a Player’s PC or a World’s NPC. Harm can come in three levels of increasing gravity: Temp, Serious and Deadly.
- Temp harm means pain, superficial damage, or circumstantial hindrance.
- Serious harm means broken bones or deep wounds.
- Deadly harm means damage so critical or extensive that it will kill you, sooner or later.
All harm effects are purely fictional. They force characters to face obstacles, limitations, and problems. This leads to the activation of moves, bringing forth consequences, costs, and hard choices. As already explained, fictional positioning is the real engine of the game, the root of the activation and operation of all other mechanics.
In this sense, it is important to note that damage is both descriptive and prescriptive in nature. Let me explain what this means:
If a character is described as suffering wounds or damage or conditions that look like one particular level of harm, then mechanically it is harm of that level. The fiction, the description, becomes a mechanical game effect.
World - You fall from a first story window, landing hard on your ass. It's Temp harm!
World - You fall from a second story window, and something in you goes CRACK. It's Serious harm!
World - You fall from a third story window, and you go SQUISH. It's Deadly harm!
If a game mechanic causes harm of a certain level then the fiction must represent it through a suitable description.
World - So you punch a guard in the face... it's Temp harm... their nose starts bleeding copiously.
Veteran - Wait, as a result of my Brawl move I get to pick one option, and I choose to inflict Terrible harm. [see section on harm Modifiers]
World - Right, so this becomes Serious harm. Then their nose bleeds AND they break a couple of teeth. The guard looks at you with a mix of stupor and rage yelling "You baFtard! You ruined my beauFiful Fmile!!!"
Each level of harm is represented in practice by a list of specific effects. The level alone is meaningless, as it is just a way to easily organize information. The list of effects is what really matters.
Temp harm means pain, flesh wounds, or circumstantial hindrance:
☐ You look and feel like a mess: bloody, bruised, and torn up.
☐ You lose hold of something important you were carrying or wearing.
☐ You lose footing or end up in a problematic position.
☐ You are held by something that clutches/tangles/impedes you.
☐ You are out cold, unconscious or powerless until the World says otherwise.
Serious harm means broken bones or deep wounds:
☐ An open and vicious gash that, after healing, will leave a permanent scar (make a Tag of this).
☐ You are actively impeded by pain and injury in doing anything requiring effort or strain.
☐ You broke or mangled one or more of your limbs, which are now inoperable.
☐ One of your eyes or ears is ruined, forever hampering your senses (make a Tag of this).
Deadly harm means critical or extensive damage:
☐ Your condition is bad and will develop complications; you will die within a few days.
☐ Your condition deteriorates rapidly; you will die within a few hours.
☐ Your heart stops beating; you are dead or will die in a matter of seconds.
From Level to Effect
Temp >>> Serious >>> Deadly
Saying that a character suffers Temp, Serious or Deadly harm is an indication of the overall level of harm that they suffer. But then each level actually translates into one or more specific effects that need to be tracked on the character's sheet:
- Temp harm inflicts a total of 1 effect: one Temp effect.
- Serious harm inflicts a total of 2 effects: one Temp and one Serious effect.
- Deadly harm inflicts a total of 3 effects: one Temp and one Serious and one Deadly effect.
How to mark harm Effects
There is an empty box assigned to each harm effect.
When an effect is suffered, the corresponding box must be marked.
You can only mark a harm effect if it is both unmarked AND fictionally appropriate. What does this mean?
It means that you must always mark effects following the Temp >>> Serious >>> Deadly order. This is very important because of how the mechanics work when you can't mark an effect (explained soon).
By default, harm effects are not marked. During the game, they get marked when you suffer harm. You can eventually un-mark them by "healing" individual effects as explained in the Health & Healing section.
It's usually obvious if a given effect is fitting to the circumstances being described. When in doubt, the Players can add a few details to the description to make one effect fit better. Adding more details is not the same as retconning what was already described, which is not possible in this case.
If the fiction does not fit the selected effect, then that effect can't be marked and a different or worse one must be chosen. In case of disagreement, the One Golden Rule is the go-to solution.
The "victim" chooses the specific effects.
Often a given description could reasonably fit different harm effects. Who decides which ones to mark? The victim. It is always the owner of the character suffering harm who chooses which harm effects to mark. This means that the Players decide for their own Protagonist character, and the World decides for all the Non-Protagonist characters.
World - The ogre swings his heavy mace at you with a vertical motion, from up to down, hitting you with bone-crushing power. It's Serious harm!
Veteran - I try to parry with my shield. And I guess that... [going through the Temp list] ...the blow literally crushes me to the ground, putting me in a problematic position with my ass on the floor and... [going through the Serious list] ...my shield arm is broken. Ouch!
How the World estimated that the harm in this example was Serious will be explained in the harm Adjudication section.
It is not the World's place to describe how your PC comically falls on their ass.
Usually the events and descriptions leading up to the suffering of harm are enough to clarify the situation. What is going on? And how? And why? We described it already, so just name and mark the appropriate harm effects and let's move on.
But when this is not the case, when a few additional details are required to clear the situation, then it is the Player’s job to describe how the effects happen. Obviously, they can rely on others, asking for help or inspiration when describing harm feels difficult or unsavory. And about that: how graphic and detailed the violence is depends on the sensitivity of the table. The One Golden Rule helps with this too, so use it.
Veteran - So I punch the guard and she punches me back. It's Temp, right? Then I mark the held effect.
World - Err, sorry but how does this fit? How is a straight punch going to "hold" you?
Veteran - Maybe during our exchange we end up brawling on the ground, and she is on top of me, holding me down while punching? [the Player adds details to make the effect fit in the fiction]
World - Yeah, why not, that makes sense.
World - That's not what my NPC goes for. She is expertly boxing, and right now she delivered a clean punch.
Describing Other People's Stuff
In this example, the Player's additional details involve describing how another character behaves.
The owner of that character has the authority to accept or reject such a description.
Granting more or less leeway in these matters is one way...
For Players to one-up each other into cool descriptions.
For the World to manipulate the overall difficulty level of the game.
What if you can't mark an effect?
What happens when a character suffers a certain level of harm but none of the associated effects are available to be marked? This could happen because the fitting effects are already marked, but also because the fiction somehow doesn’t seem to fit any of them.
In these cases, a different effect from a worse level must be marked.
This can cascade. So a Temp effect that is not possible to mark will become Serious; but then, if it is also not possible to mark it as a Serious effect, it becomes Deadly.
A Player can always voluntarily elect to mark a worse effect, provided the new effect is both unmarked and fitting. This comes in handy when a milder effect would be, for situational reasons, less desirable than a harsher but more manageable one.
A Protagonist is crawling on the floor in order to sneak past a nearby soldier post. Unfortunately, a guardian falcon sees them and attacks, landing a swooping claw slash from above, hit-and-run style. All things considered, this should inflict just Temp harm. But...
Because of previous misadventures the PC already looks messy.
At the moment they are not holding anything of importance that could be dropped or lost.
Being already prone and crawling the PC can't really lose footing.
The falcon attack is a hit-and-go, nothing that could hold the PC.
A falcon gashing your back is surely painful, but maybe not enough to make you lose consciousness.
The only option left is to be put in a problematic position, as the falcon attack might in and of itself alert the soldiers or force the PC to make a sudden noise or movement, to the same effect.
But the Player really wants to successfully sneak past the soldiers, so they choose to upgrade this one effect from Temp to Serious, ending up describing how the falcon's claws inflict an open and vicious gash on the Protagonist's back that will later on result in a long-lasting scar.
The ONE question
All things considered, is this harm Temp, Serious or outright Deadly?
Harm is relative. There is no one list that can universally establish that a sword always inflicts X amount of harm. Instead, harm depends on the fiction and its circumstances. This means that a multitude of factors could be important:
- Size, weight, shape, and quality of the attack weapon.
- Style, speed and skill of the attack action.
- How vital and vulnerable is the area being targeted.
- All of the above considerations are also valid for armor and defence.
- Then any number of environmental circumstances could be relevant (visibility, wind, etc).
Painstakingly crunching all these details into numbers to then work them into calculations is... not the way to go.
Instead, Fantasy World relies on the World and Players to simply glance at the fiction as a whole, from a bird’s eye perspective, and then make a broad eyeball judgment to answer a single question:
All things considered, is this harm Temp, Serious or outright Deadly?
Most of the time this judgment call takes only a moment as the answer is obvious, but in case of doubt, looking at the Tags relevant to the situation can be of help, then reviewing the harm level descriptions and the lists of effects helps too. In the rare cases when there is no clear and unanimous evaluation, the World acts as the final arbiter and tiebreaker.
A drunk man lazily swinging a fork in your PCs general direction is a pretty tame threat. If he were to hit them, the harm would probably be just Temp, if any at all. A skilled assassin driving that same fork in your PC's eyeball would easily be Serious or Deadly harm.
A punch from a human can be a Temp affair. A punch from a gorilla is surely a more Serious thing. A punch from a giant is Deadly as it will simply make your PC go "squish".
A sting from a wasp might not inflict any harm, but ending up in the middle of a swarm of angry wasps could initially be Temp and then degenerate to Serious or even escalate to Deadly depending on the circumstances.
Most of the time the game will mention harm “as established”. Harm as established is the harm that would be inflicted depending on what the fiction looks like: if it looks like Serious harm, then it is Serious harm. Then some moves and game mechanics refer to Terrible or Little harm.
Terrible means one level above as established: for example if it looks like Serious harm, then it becomes Deadly harm.
No harm >>> Temp >>> Serious >>> Deadly
Little means one level below as established: so if it looks like Serious harm, then it becomes Temp.
Deadly >>> Serious >>> Temp >>> No harm
An important thing to notice is that Temp is not the least harm possible. No harm is the least harm possible, and there are plenty of situations when an attack would simply not be able to inflict any harm at all.
A human knight swinging a broadsword at an unarmored peasant might cause Deadly harm.
The same attack against a trained and equipped opponent might result in Serious harm.
The same attack against a tree-man made of solid wood-flesh might cause Temp harm at best.
A stone golem will suffer No harm at all, as the sword would barely scratch its rocky skin no matter how much strength the knight can put into the swing.
By the same token, a single source of harm could easily affect more than one target, and then cause different levels of harm to each.
A rock falling on a group of characters will inflict harm to all of them. But then each character might suffer different levels of harm depending on how directly the rock falls on them, on their (un)timely Reactions, on their personal armor, etc.
Hardiness Points (HP) represent a character’s proclivity to survive either through skill, expertise, resilience, or sheer luck. They can be spent when harm is suffered before any effect is selected, to lower the overall harm level on a one-to-one basis.
Spend 1HP to reduce harm by one level: Deadly >>> Serious >>> Temp >>> No harm
A Protagonist is badly wounded and should face Deadly harm.
By spending one HP they can turn it into Serious harm.
By spending a second HP they can reduce the harm to just Temp level.
A third HP will allow them to avoid any harm whatsoever.
Only PCs have Hardiness. NPC can never be protected in this way.
The maximum amount of HPs a Protagonist can have is equal to 1 plus any additional points bought through specific Growth options:
1 + Growths
When harm is reduced by HPs, the Player is required to describe how this looks in the fiction. Was the PC parrying and dodging? Was the PC carrying a small book just where the arrow hit them? Was the PC’s determination stronger than the pain?
Feel free to represent your HP expenditure however you like. Hardiness is “dramatic protection” granted to the Protagonists of an adventurous story, so don’t overthink it, but don't ignore it either.
Spent HPs can only be regained by using the Long Rest move. By devoting time and resources to regaining your oomph and chutzpah, you will be able to restore 1 HP.
Health & Healing
In Fantasy World healing is possible, but never easy or instantaneous. Harm left unattended can and will worsen whenever the circumstances guide the World towards using their Reactions to Inflict Harm. To prevent this, Protagonists and NPCs need to invest actions, effort, time, and resources to recuperate lost health and mend wounds. Instantaneous and effortless healing is, by design, impossible. This deliberate choice is meant to foster and support the tone, mood, and core themes of the Dramatic Fantasy genre and should not be tampered with. Wondrous and miraculous remedies might exist in your fantastical stories, offering salvation from most grievous ailments and even certain death, but they should never be commonplace, trivial, or readily available.
Temp harm is meant to be circumstantial and transient, and it very rarely gets worse over time.
Describing simple actions can easily fix the fictional effect of Temp harm. If you have fallen, stand up. If you look like a mess, clean yourself up. These actions are usually trivial but could become difficult or even dangerous to perform depending on the situation.
On the other hand, the mark noted on the Class Playbook when a Temp effect is first suffered will stay there until the end of the tense/dangerous situation that generated it. This means that the use of violence can easily build up to serious consequences!
Serban, a mercenary having a drink in a tavern, gets forcefully shoved backward. Given the circumstances, his Player opts to describe how Serban loses his footing. Fictionally Serban falls down on his ass, while mechanically the Player marks the eponymous Temp effect.
A few moments later, Serban gets back up on his feet. Assuming there are no obstacles or dangers standing in the way of this action, it is sufficient for the Player to describe Serban as he does so.
The scuffle in the tavern continues and someone performs a sweeping kick against Serban. The obvious option would be to see Serban landing on his ass on the floor a second time, but the loses his footing Temp effect is already marked, so his Player is forced to choose: either mark a different Temp effect that fits the fiction or mark a Serious effect that also fits the fiction.
Serban is holding a dagger in his right hand, so his Player could opt for the lose hold of something effect. If this were the case, they could describe it in many ways because the fiction so far only suggests that Serban might lose footing, but does not really show it, while mechanically the thing that has to happen is the loss of the dagger:
Serban might almost fall but ultimately keep his balance, albeit at the price of losing the dagger.
Serban might fall down but immediately bounce back up with an agile tumble, unfortunately losing hold of the dagger in the process.
Serban might fall down and in doing so, lose grip of his dagger, or be disarmed while on the ground. Sometimes the fiction just makes more sense in a certain way, or the Player is unable or unwilling to imagine an alternative situation. That's fine too.
Serious harm is long-lasting and can degenerate badly.
Its healing requires dedicated medical attention in the form of time, effort, skill, and supplies. These are all represented in-game as Healing Units. Each HU you receive is applied to one specific harm effect and it takes 3 HU to heal (unmark) one Serious effect.
Deadly harm is, in a way, less permanent and easier to heal than Serious harm. It only takes 1 HU to heal one Deadly effect.
This is because they represent how (un)stable the PC’s health is.
Broken bones and deep cuts are represented by Serious harm effects. What Deadly harm does is add on top of that the notion that "you are going to die" ... now, soon, or in a while. Obviously, this kind of harm deteriorates very fast, and the World is encouraged to use their Reactions to keep pressure on wounded characters.
Healing Units & Time
Healing Units can only be obtained through the Long Rest move. Quick emergency treatment can inform the World and the Reactions they will perform by changing the fictional positioning of the wounded character, but true healing can only happen when spending extended time and resources, which is what triggers a Long Rest in the first place.
In the case of prolonged downtime (a few days, a week, a month, etc) the World arbitrarily awards HUs depending on the characters’ behavior and conditions. Were they resting? Were they properly fed and treated? Was magical healing involved?
Harm & Groups
Whenever possible, the World should handle numerous NPCs as groups rather than as individuals, especially during hectic scenes where the Protagonists are directly acting against such groups.
Groups are defined by fictional Tags highlighting their strengths and weaknesses: weapons, armor, training, morale, discipline, health, etc.
Most importantly, groups come in three different sizes:
- Up to 10-20 people are a Small group.
- Up to 30-40 people are a Medium group.
- Up to 50 people and beyond are a Large group.
These numbers are just broad guidelines to help the World eyeball the size of a group. Three bandits could be enough to count as a Small group. Seventy soldiers might be handled as a single Large group or as a couple of Medium ones, or even as a bunch of Small ones. The point is: don’t get hung up on exact numbers and instead use Tags and gut feeling to guide the use of group size.
Group Harm Effects
Harm levels and effects for groups are more abstract than the ones for Individuals. This makes it a bit more difficult to gauge them. The trick is to imagine how the actions of the acting PC would apply to a single exemplar member of the group, then let the rules about group size (explained in the next section) modify this base value.
Depending on the fictional circumstances (and relevant Tags) a group will inflict and suffer harm following a procedure very similar to that of individual characters, only with a different list of harm effects.
Temp harm to a group causes:
☐ Champions to come forth and spur their comrades
☐ Combatants to close ranks and regroup
☐ An opening to be revealed
☐ Many injuries, some serious
☐ A loss in the will to keep on fighting
Serious harm to a group causes:
☐ A dramatic shift in the tide of battle
☐ An "eye of the storm" moment of clarity and pause
☐ Widespread injuries, many serious, severe fatalities
☐ A forced retreat or a radical change of strategy
Deadly harm to a group causes:
☐ Leaders to abandon their comrades; the group might rout if pressured the right way
☐ A general break in morale; the group routs in a volatile and dangerous way
☐ A crushing defeat; the group routs in a passive and spiritless way
When a group acts against another group of the same size, normal rules apply.
When a group is one size smaller than the other, it acts with ongoing Disadvantage and inflicts Little harm.
When a group is one size bigger than the other, it acts with ongoing Advantage and causes Terrible harm.
Both conditions apply simultaneously.
When a group is two or more sizes smaller than another, it has no chance of success or survival in a direct confrontation. There are simply too many opponents to be faced openly. Only the use of some clever plan, special tool, or favorable circumstances to level the playing field or to avoid a direct clash can offer any hope of success.
Likewise, when a group is two or more sizes bigger than another, any direct and open confrontation leads to a trivially easy success. The opposition is powerless to resist your overwhelming numbers.
The general group hierarchy is:
Individuals < Small group < Medium group < Large group
NO size difference
Normal rules apply.
ONE size difference
The smaller acts with ongoing Disadvantage and inflicts Little harm.
The bigger acts with ongoing Advantage and inflicts Terrible harm.
MORE size difference
Direct confrontation results in certain doom for the smaller.
Protagonists & Size
In terms of group size, the Protagonists are always treated as individuals.
A big Fellowship of five or six Protagonists will not count as a Small group.
A band of five NPCs allied with five PCs does not count as a total of 10 characters for matters of group size. Either the World judges the five NPCs as being enough to form a Small group, or they are not a group and count as individuals.
Instead, Protagonists who are leading a group or acting in concert with it will count as using that group as a tool or weapon. When this happens, individual PC actions are performed at the group’s size.
When the PC’s group suffers group harm then the PC suffers a comparable level of individual harm too.
The opposite is not true: if the PC suffers individual harm, this does not necessarily cause harm to the rest of their group.
If the group is harmed, the Individual is harmed too.
If the Individual is harmed, the group may or may not be harmed.
Examples of Group / Individual interactions
Veteran - How many wolves are attacking me?
World - A few... a bunch... enough to be a Small group.
Veteran - Wielding a torch in my left hand and a sword in my right hand I charge the beasts, hacking and slashing like there is no tomorrow!
World - You would normally inflict Severe harm to a lone wolf, but because of the pack's size this turns into Temp. On the other hand, a single wolf would only cause you Temp harm, but there are so many that it turns into Serious. Also, you will roll with ongoing Disadvantage. Are you sure you want to fight them head-on, in the open?
Veteran - Bring them on! This is a Brawl move, right? So I roll+DARING with Disadvantage... and I score a 9, so we exchange harm but I get to pick one option... and I choose to impress, dismay or frighten them.
World - Good. So you suffer Serious harm caused by a multitude of claw and fang attacks, while they suffer just Temp harm... but are also very impressed. You go first, what does your harm look like?
Veteran - Serious harm means first one Temp effect, then one Serious effect, right? So... at the end of a fast and furious bout of fighting, I am all torn up and covered in blood [Temp]. And also a long gash [Serious] runs vertically from my left temple to the end of my chin, bleeding and burning. And I growl at them as if I, too, were a feral animal, brandishing flame and steel in my hands.
World - Awesome! The wolves move uncomfortably in front of you as if to keep a safe distance. Some have bloody cuts from your sword. Some are still smoking from where your torch burned them...
The World thinks to itself: since the Veteran has impressed and dismayed them I would say that as damage I can mark the a loss in the will to keep on fighting group Temp effect.
...proving to be harder prey than they were expecting, so after a moment of growling back at you, they cautiously move back and then scuttle away.
Scoundrel - Me and mine are going to teach you a good lesson, Dufresne!
World - Bollocks! My gang will rip you all a new one! Come and get me if you have the guts!
Scoundrel - Chaaaaaarge!
World - So... you just attack them?
Scoundrel - Me and mine are gonna teach them a lesson with our sticks and stones, and a few choice words too.
World - Ok. Your people are a Small group of nasty street brawlers. Dufresne gang is larger, a good Medium group I would say. But they were here to relax and drink, so they lack proper weapons and armor, while your people came looking for trouble and were prepared for it. What do you do as the brawl breaks out?
Scoundrel - I search for Dufresne. I want to beat him personally.
World - Navigating through the fight is not the safest of things. Unless you do something to avoid being grabbed and beaten, you will suffer harm.
Scoundrel - I'm quick and agile, I jump on a table, I scuttle behind a chair, I grab a hanging chandelier and swing from it until I reach that ruffian.
World - How DARING! Looks like a perfect way to Take a Risk. If it was just you trying to zig-zag through their ranks it would be an impossible task, one vs a Medium group. But thanks to the support of your people it is simply a matter of Small vs Medium; you can act but at ongoing Disadvantage.
Scoundrel - Right. And my final score is... 5. Damn! What happens?
World - You do your best and manage to get very close to Dufresne, but the scene has turned into a big free-for-all brawl and suddenly a big guy appears beside you, unexpectedly landing a sound wallop with his big bare hands. One on one it would be Temp harm, but Small on Medium it becomes Serious. How does it look?
Scoundrel - It's chaos. The hit is not that bad, but it makes me lose my footing [Temp]. I fall on the floor and get trampled by a few combatants, which hurts like hell [Serious] when I hear some ribs crack.
World - As we described both groups ducking it out with each other, it makes sense to me that while you try your thing, they also exchange some harm. All modifiers considered, your people suffer Serious harm too... they look a lot less bold than they were at the beginning [Temp]. And there is this brief moment within the general chaos [Serious] when even from your prone position you notice many of them looking in your direction for guidance and support. On the other hand, Dufresne is basically at arm's reach. What do you do?
Scoundrel - I see how my people are not faring well, so for their sake I signal the retreat. "Till next time, Dufresne!!!"
How to World #1
At the end of this example the Scoundrel performs a move that results in a Snag.
This leaves the success or failure of the attempted action in the World's hands, plus they have a Reaction to perform.
Since the Scoundrel's description looked cool, and a confrontation with Dufresne would be interesting, the World granted them success: the Scoundrel reached their target. But then the World used the Inflict harm Reaction, a bit because it was an easy choice given the circumstances, and a bit to make the Scoundrel feel less invincible. They were looking for a big fight? Well the big fight found them, and is kicking back!
This is a good decision for many reasons.
For the game, success and forward action are almost always more interesting than failure and stasis. Now that the Scoundrel is close to their target, what will they do?
Act against the guy that is beating them down, risking losing Dufresne again?
Act against Dufresne, risking ignoring an immediate threat?
Retreat to avoid further harm to themselves and their allies?
Also, suffering harm can be harsh on the Players' morale, so by granting success the World is softening the blow and working towards establishing the experience as tough but fair.
And finally, granting success helps the World in avoiding common procedural mistakes, when describing failure in addition to the effects of a Reaction ends up inadvertently doling out multiple Reactions, which is not allowed.
World - You reach the cave entrance, but the bandits are hot on your heels. What do you do?
Veteran - Can we make our stand here? Just mow them down until there are none left?
World - There are too many of them, a Medium group, maybe 30 bandits up in arms against the three of you.
Occultist - I have ways to empower my magic so that it affects a Small group. What if I fireball them?
World - Small vs Medium works, but at a reduced effect. You can do that, but your companions are still powerless against such numbers: your scorching attack might create an opportunity for action, but if you then stay and face them you would all be overwhelmed. A direct and open confrontation of three vs thirty is just not sustainable. Do you still want to face them this way?
Wayfarer- What about the cave? If we retreat into it the cramped space should force them to fight in smaller groups, taking away the advantage of their numbers.
World - Great idea! From what you can see of the entrance, there would still be enough space for a Small group to enter and fight you, but the rest would be forced to stay out. It's still a bad situation, but it offers you a fighting chance.
How to World #2
The World is being honest, laying down the facts and the options as they see them. Nothing is certain but knowing the rules, this is probably how things would go down.
This is not meant to dissuade the Players from following the wrong course of action.
Maybe the fireball can be more effective than expected. Maybe the Players are more interested in seeing this desperate last stand happen than in their characters' survival.
Be honest and open, but don't push. As the World, things are fine for you however they might go down.
2.6 - Equipment & Supplies
Fantasy World does not put a lot of emphasis on the concept of equipment unless it is somehow meaningful and iconic within the adventurous story you are experiencing. But for those times when "stuff" is interesting and important, there are a few rules and mechanics to help you handle it in a fun and fruitful way.
Important equipment such as weapons, armor and other items do not have numerical ratings attached to them. Describing them within the fiction is all that it takes to make them work with the Fantasy World rules and systems. But sometimes you might yearn for some extra details about the features and properties of a certain item: for this purpose, the game uses fictional Tags.
Attaching an endless list of Tags to an item is not a good way to use this tool. Instead, Tags are meant as highlights of particular interest and significance to the Players:
- They could highlight something obvious that Players feel the need to keep in sight, lest they forget about it.
- A sword obviously works best at a range that is not too close and not too far away, but writing down something like sword [close] rather than knife [hand] or halberd [reach] helps in knowing what’s what.
- They could highlight what is different about an otherwise common item.
- A sword is a sword, but a [fast] sword is faster than just a sword with no Tags, and will play differently than a [heavy] sword or a [sharp] sword.
- They could highlight what is special about an otherwise common item.
- A sword is a sword, but a [flaming] sword does something no ordinary sword can.
A sword is a sword, but a sword [close][reach] can somehow extend in ways that are not common. Can it turn into a segmented whip? Can it shoot energy? Can it lengthen and contract at will?
- A sword is a sword, but a [flaming] sword does something no ordinary sword can.
As previously explained in the Fictional Gaming section, anyone at any time can ask for a new Tag to be put in place, or for an obsolete one to be removed. It’s just a matter of tidying up what is already part of the fiction so that it becomes easier to toy around with it.
Some Tags have an obvious meaning:
[loud] - it produces a lot of noise. [silent] - it produces little noise. [fast] - it is quite fast to use. [slow] - it is quite slow to use. [sharp] - it is quite good for cutting. [blunt] - it is quite good for bashing. [heavy] - it is quite heavy. [light] - it is quite light. [poisoned] - it is coated in poison.
Other Tags represent a mix of attributes, to highlight an overall final effect:
[messy] - it makes a gory mess. [forceful]- it applies a lot of force to the target, possibly blowing them away. [reload]- it needs time and effort to be reloaded after every use.
Other Tags represent special features that are less obviously tangible:
[ectoplasmic] - it can hurt ghosts and spirits. [of gloom] - it devours joy and hope. [beautiful] - it really is a strikingly beautiful item.
Other Tags express technical details such as effective range:
[hand] - target is within arm’s reach
[close] - target is just beyond Hand range
[reach] - target is just beyond Close range
[near] - target is anywhere beyond Reach range and within shouting distance
[far] - target is anywhere beyond Near range within sight
Hand >> Close >> Reach >> Near >> Far
These measurements are intentionally vague and approximate, referring more to the physical description of the acting character than to specific distances.
The first three (Hand, Close, and Reach) are pretty much the same thing in that they describe an area of a few meters around the acting character. Anyone could move from one to the other with a few steps or a dash. But in tense moments (like combat) even small differences can be significant. These Tags exist to take advantage of them if your group needs or cares to use them. Another way to summarize all three would be the "Here" range.
The last two (Near and Far) represent much larger, but equally vague, distances. How far does shouting reach? How far can one see? If environmental elements change the character's ability to shout or see, does that affect range too? These and other questions can only be answered as you play, depending on the specific fictional situation.
Most of the time you won't need any of these Tags. When everyone at the table is familiar with the items described and knows what to expect, you are already good to go. But if the need ever arises, then the Tags system is there for you. Just define the Tags you need on the spot, ask if everyone is ok with that, and move on.
Player - My sword is finely crafted, so in a duel shouldn't it be better than the hunk of metal my opponent brandishes?
World - Maybe. What makes it suited for dueling?
Player - It's light, fast, agile!
World - Cool, why don't you surmise it all as a [dueling] Tag and write it down so we can remember it? But you said it right... your opponent's sword is a brutish hunk of metal, so I'll Tag it as [heavy] so everyone knows that.
Player - Ohhh then I better not try and parry it with my delicate weapon!
Some example items and their possible Tags:
War Hammer [close][slow][heavy][forceful]
Plate Armor [cumbersome][heavy][loud]
Spell Book [ornate][heavy][cursed]
Supplies are a meter that represents relatively small and common and cheap items such as food, medicaments, arcane ingredients, ammunition, small utility tools, torches, etc. You don't track the quantity of each of these things. Instead, they are all assumed to be available to you, all being part of each PC's level of Supplies. Players individually track their PC's level of Supplies by increasing them...
from Run Out --> to Few --> to Enough --> to Plenty
or by decreasing them...
from Plenty --> to Enough --> to Few --> to Run Out
For this reason Supplies are functionally infinite and weightless until they Run Out, at which point you have no more Supplies and you need to somehow restock them before they can be used/spent again.
Describing the use of your Supplies does not consume them. If you light a torch you don't need to decrease your Supplies level. By the same token, the World is not allowed to arbitrarily reduce or increase your Supplies level.
This works in the other direction too. The purchase of common goods and amenities is uninteresting so, as long as you have some level of Supplies, you are assumed to have more or less effortless access to all the small common things you might need. Likewise, the purchase of similar items happens thanks to the money and goods your Supplies level implies you have. Yes, Supplies are themselves a fictional Tag with some extra rules sprinkled on top.
The only way to affect the actual level of Supplies is through the effect of moves and Reactions.
In this frame, the acquisition of something particularly expensive or unusual might warrant a Reaction. In these cases the World should always be forthcoming and honest about it: “this will cost one whole level of Supplies, do you still want to buy it?”
If interesting equipment is handled individually and with Tags, and uninteresting bundles of items are abstracted into Supplies, it is also possible to join the two mechanics to achieve special effects. Thus, a few very special consumable items might be handled as unique equipment, with Tags to describe them, but also with their own specific amounts tracked as if they were a separate kind of Supplies.
Poison Arrows [venom]: Enough
Smoke Bombs [loud][blind]: Plenty
Soul Gems [metaphysical]: Few
Reducing the level of Supplies to represent the cost of expensive or unusual items is easy and fast, but not always interesting. It's ok when the World really only wants to erode the Protagonists’ resources. It's ok when no one really wants to bother with the details of a certain transaction. But in most other cases it could be better to present a cost expressed in “fictional things” to be acquired through active play and adventuring.
"Bring me a letter of credit from the burgomaster!"
"It'll cost you the jade monkey idol!"
"You'll owe me a favour..."
Weight, Encumbrance & Rising Tension
World Reactions such as Highlight a downside or Put them at a Disadvantage can be used to work classic obstacles into the game relative to weight and encumbrance, without the need for fastidious bookkeeping.
In that sense, the very level of Supplies can be leveraged as a relevant Tag descriptor to affect fictional positioning. A Protagonist carrying Plenty of stuff might not be able to squeeze through a narrow passage, find it difficult to swim, look like a prime target for looters, or look like a baggy traveler rather than like an elegant noble.
The Take away their stuff Reaction can be used to enforce the passage of time through the usage of consumable resources, the depletion of ammunition, etc. Have the PCs been burning torches? Eating and drinking? Shooting arrows? These things don’t instantly reduce the level of Supplies, but their usage over time offers the World the perfect fictional positioning to enact Reactions that, at the right time, have the same effect.
Taking away their stuff can also be used in an Open way (explained in The World chapter) to increase tension during a scene where the availability of some resource is important by stating that “it is about to run out”. Sure, spending a level of Supplies might be all that it takes to find out that the PC “had more of it” after all. But the emotional pressure of running out of something important when you need it the most is still going to be there.