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Red Scar Development Blog 05

Returning to the Journal

Welcome back to the Red Scar Development Blog! Due to ill health, it’s been a while since we’ve had this up and running. Rest assured, however, that we will now be back with regular features. To get us back into the groove, we’re taking a dive into Payback and what it represents for TriCore. Over to our statistician, Benn Greybeaton


Regardless of how competent a hero is, they experience risk every time they go into battle.  The lucky blow that passes under their guard, the surprising burst of strength that pushes them to the ground, or the arrow that punctures the eye slit of their helm can all lay a warrior low no matter how prepared they are. Rather than a static swing, miss, swing, hit affair, a round of combat in a roleplaying game should be imagined as a shifting of guard, trading of blows, and almost continuous motion. In a similar manner, Trauma represents the continuous physical strain that a body will experience during an intense combat. As much as it represents solid cuts and blows, Trauma also provides an indication of the toll a combat is taking on a person physically (Stress, on the other hand, represents the mental drain that also takes place). Heroes are undoubtedly able to punish their opponents—in fact, the odds are often stacked in their favour—but there will always be some element of an enemy being able to sneak in a lucky blow, and Payback is how the TriCore system models this.

Flat Chance

On a flat test, there is a 20% chance per die of payback occurring.  This is independent of success on the task being rolled for; a hero might succeed at slicing a chunk from the troll only to get angrily swatted away in return. In this case, a flat test means a standard roll in which no Keywords or traits are being employed. Most of the time, the heroes will also be able to draw on their skill and prowess to reduce the risks of Payback. Employing a Keyword on a test, for instance, allows a hero to ignore an instance of Payback, although this is at the offset of introducing another die that can then also potentially roll Payback.

On an average roll of 3d10 there’s a 51.2% chance a player will not roll payback, a 38.4% chance of 1 payback, a 9.6% chance of 2 payback, and a 0.8% chance of 3. The percentages for a standard test without Keywords are below, note that Payback doubling isn’t included.

Chance of Payback on standard roll of 3d10

On the surface, it initially seems that introducing additional dice to a test happens at the increased risk of Payback. As mighty heroes (or villains), however, the player characters will be able to mitigate the chances of Payback by drawing on their strengths and training. As already previously mentioned, simply introducing a Keyword will allow a character to ignore one instance of Payback. Archetypes also introduce traits that draw on a character’s training in a profession as a means to change the odds, either by adjusting a die to avoid Payback, or accepting Payback but pushing for additional successes.

Changing the Odds

To put the previous paragraph into context, imagine a character had rolled 4 dice with a Keyword on a test, which resulted in a 1, 4, 6, and 9. This result currently provides 2 successes and 2 Payback (remembering the 6 result provides 1 Payback but also counts as a success). The character can ignore 1 Payback due to the fact that a Keyword was employed, which leaves them with 1 Payback and 2 successes. However, the character also has a trait that allows them to apply a +1 modifier to any die. In this instance, the character could opt to change the 6 result to a 7, which would negate all Payback and still provide 2 successes. Alternatively, they could change the 9 to a 10, which means they accept the Payback but produce Daring and cause and Exploding 10! These sorts of dynamics really allow the system to reflect the fact that characters can push themselves harder, though doing so also sometimes comes at a cost.

Of course, putting a Keyword into play means a character is also putting the related characteristics at risk. If Mishaps are being employed, the character might drop their tool, deactivate a trap but snap their picks in the process, or strain their mighty thews whilst flexing them. With the use of Keywords, this choice is up to the player. They can hold back their character’s best picks and use standard one or opt to not swing at the little goblin with all their might.

Powerful Payback

Creatures taking part in combat rely on Powers to cause players inconvenience. The stronger the creature, the greater the disruption or pain.  Many creatures will only have a 1 Payback spend they can use. Sneaky goblins tend to have Cunning Blade (1) and nothing else. It deals a little damage but that’s about it.  However, more powerful creatures have more abilities. A Centaur Archer might have Relocate (1), allowing it to move for free with a point of Payback, and Cunning Archery (1), allowing it to take a quick shot that is unhindered by any movement it might be taking. Suddenly, 2 points of Payback allows a foe to attack a hero with a hit and run manoeuvre or escape them and fire a parting shot. Players should also watch out for creatures with particularly high Payback spends. If a character puts their all into facing a fearsome and gargantuan beast, they should fully expect it to return the courtesy.  Take a dragon’s Immolate (3) ability as an example (p. 13 of the free Quickstart). Standing in front of the dragon and putting a character’s all into fighting it toe-to-toe also puts them in serious jeopardy.  A touch more caution and waiting for the right moment might mean fewer solid blows, but greatly decreases the character’s risk of being burnt to a cinder. The choice and risk are in the players’ hands.

Payback is worse for some than it is for others.
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Red Scar Development Blog 04

Kings of War RPG Visual Logo

Drums of War

The world of Pannithor is one that has ever been trodden under the heels of armies marching to war. Its tapestry is rich with epic tales of brave generals marshaling their troops to face down nefarious warklords. In Red Scar Development Blog 04, drawn directly from the most recent Update for the Kings of War RPG Kickstarter, we take a look at the crossover potential with other games set in the Kings of War universe.

Crossing Over

As there have been a few questions about this topic, we’re using Red Scar Development Blog 04 to take a closer look at the crossover potential for the roleplaying into the other Kings of War related systems that Mantic produce. Having spent time on the Kings of War: Vanguard rules committee, the potential to hop between systems with the same characters was always something I wanted to explore. Crossover rules for Dungeon Saga, Vanguard and Kings of War will feature in the Corebook. As with the miniatures-related questions, I can confirm that you won’t need to use the crossover rules to enjoy the main roleplaying game. The Kings of War RPG will always remain just that at its core: a pen-and-paper tabletop roleplaying for epic storytelling.

Ranging Out

We appreciate that many folks would like to use the expansive ranges of miniatures and dungeon terrain they might have, however, and have those skirmishes, battles, and fast-paced dungeon crawls mean something beyond the game’s end. I know I certainly do! The framework for the crossover rules can already be seen in many of the features and abilities of the system itself. NPC power levels, for instance, follow the conventions of Vanguard – which themselves are also related to Kings of War – and plenty of Keywords and traits are take some of their inspiration from their sister mechanics. With core conversion rules contained in the rulebook (which can be taken or left as GMs see fit), that enables us to provide crossover scenarios and their potential outcomes within the epic campaigns that we have planned beyond the Corebook funding.

With an epic title like Kings of War, we wanted to focus on the players driving equally epic narratives from the moment we sat down to plan the RPG’s scope. Each campaign will aim take the players on a journey that will set them up as powers to be reckoned with in their region. If that’s where they choose to go, of course. We’re all about options for play, rather than telling folks how the game should be played. Within that journey and throughout that growth, there will be ample opportunity to scour a dungeon for a unique and powerful item, fall foul of roving warbands, and lead massed armies into battle (this last option will have a narrative component in the rulebook too).

Pressed for Time

In our often time-poor lives that face various scheduling issues, think of it this way. The group can only meet for an hour instead of three or four for their regular slot. No problem! Let’s crack open Dungeon Saga with our characters and track down that ancient tome we need. Some of the group can’t make it, but there’s a roving band of Abyssals threatening town that need dealing with. All good, let’s lead a task force out using Vanguard. A huge force of orcs and goblins has come boiling out of the mountains. Let’s muster our troops and have some fun tackling it in Kings of War. As already mentioned, each campaign will highlight points were these options can be explored, including GM guidance for good and bad outcomes. This includes potential dungeon layouts and scenario-specific rules, etc.

Dungeon delving is dangerous work.

We’re working with the system experts to make sure the character crossover rules are robust, then we’ll be opening them up to the wider community for input. It’s important that we get this feature right, and for that we need to get as much feedback as possible. I hope that helps explain the scope of what we’re intending! But it’s also important to keep remembering that this is an RPG first. We’re excited to be including them and they will definitely enhance the game for people who want to experience the entire Kings of War range, but the game and campaigns run perfectly well without them.

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Kings of War RPG @ Gen Con

Auguries have been cast, the stars have aligned, and prophecies have come to fruition. Thanks to the mighty powers of the Shining Ones, the Kings of War RPG will be @ Gen Con!

What is Gen Con?

Gen Con 2019

Gen Con is the premier tabletop gaming event in the world. Over 60,000 people will be making their way to the Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis, from the 1st to the 4th of August. With all manner of games and gaming experiences available, Kings of War the Roleplaying Game now joins the list of those you can try for free!

How Do I Join the Kings of War RPG?

Simply head to the Gen Con website. Click on the Find Events tab on the left of the page. Search for the Kings of War RPG session using one of these three codes:

RPG19165543 – Friday 8am Session

RPG19165543 – Friday 1pm Session

RPG19165527 – Saturday 8am Session

Hurry, though, because places are extremely limited!

Join the Kings of War RPG Action @ Gen Con!

Mantic Open Evening

Mantic will also be hosting an Open Evening. There’s plenty on offer there too, including more demo games of the Kings of War the Roleplaying Game. A ticket for this event snags a whole host of goodies, so make sure to book in soon!

Join Pannithor’s mightiest heroes and start forging your own legend with Kings of War the Roleplaying Game this coming weekend.

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Red Scar Development Blog 03

We’re taking a departure from the rules development side of the blog for Red Scar Development 03. Mark Barber of ‘Steps to Deliverance‘ fame has joined the team and written a guest blog to introduce the plans that are afoot!

Development Blog 03: Beyond Deliverance

Fantasy RPGs have stood the test of time for several decades now, with a reported spike in popularity in recent years. Following news that Mantic’s Kings of War setting will soon be a world open for exploration and adventure in this format, fans of the game across the globe have already been showing their excitement with a steady stream of social media comments. However, I’m even more excited than them because I’ve somehow wangled my way into an opportunity to write for it!

So, what am I doing, where do I begin, and what’s the process?

My task in all of this is to write a campaign aimed at a party of good or neutral aligned player characters (PCs) which will link a number of adventures and span an extended period of time within the game. After chatting through a few options with the fine minds at Red Scar, we decided to come up with a campaign which will thread in and around the events occurring in the Kings of War novel ‘Steps to Deliverance’. Doing so will give the players an opportunity to have an indirect involvement with some of the key events in the novel and allow them to interact with some of the established characters.

With that in mind, the first step I’m undertaking is the planning of a rough story arc for the players (and that’s currently Top Secret!), which includes the setting for the campaign itself. Given that the novel is set in the rural northeast of Basilea, that is the obvious place to start. Fortunately, there is a good amount of reference material to draw from in the core rulebooks for both Kings of War and Vanguard, plus some contained in previous sourcebooks. The map of Basilea lays out the basic geography, so, with Mantic kindly approving the plans and schemes I wrote in ‘Steps to Deliverance’, the next step is to delve a bit deeper into the area of the world the players will find themselves in during the course of the campaign.

Available Now!

The Shining Bulwark

The Hegemony of Basilea is a rather unique place. Whereas the Kingdoms of Men are classed as ‘neutral’ in their alignment, the Basileans are most definitely ‘good’. This is backed up with the history of Basilea; a faction who are literally the chosen people of the Shinning Ones — the good deities of Pannithor. We also know that Basilea is a nation of great wealth, power and security. So, in a nation favoured by the gods themselves with securely defended borders, is there really any opportunity for adventure?

The answer is yes! Very much so.

Starting with the most obvious threat, the Abyss itself — the figurative and literal gateway to hell — is northeast of Basilea, and not by that far, marking this part of the noble country as the closest to the Abyss and therefore the most under threat from attack. The mountainous terrain in the area makes it difficult to build an extensive wall of defenses, so there are always gaps that Abyssal or orc warbands can exploit to cross the border. Though this doesn’t mean that the spawn of the Abyss or hulking orcs will be found wandering the streets of Basilean towns, it does mean that they are well-placed to cause havoc and mayhem; the sort of calamity a group of heroes would be required to stop. The Abyssals have a long reach, however. Anybody familiar with Vanguard will know they can and do make use of arcane portals to travel great distances, so it is possible for the Abyssal threat to appear in the very heart of Basilea in smaller numbers.

Options, Options

If Abyssals and orcs aren’t your thing, the opening Kings of War novel revealed that the foothills and mountains of the region known as Tarkis are also home to networks of subterranean barrows and burials sites, many filled with treasures from ancient civilizations. But the trouble with the dead is they don’t always stay that way. This region of Basilea has a history of troublesome undead roused from their slumber by greedy adventurers. And then there are the Nightstalkers who murderously haunt the isolated farmsteads, manor houses, and mines of rural Basilea. In short, there’s plenty for the up-and-coming adventurer to warm up their sword arm against!

Now, all of that is useable information for anybody who wants to plan a Kings of War or Vanguard campaign involving Basileans and their host of enemies. So what makes an RPG different? In RPGs, there’s a lot more to the game than just fighting. To dig deeper into that element, I needed to scratch my head a bit more about what day-to-day life is like in Basilea.

Nightsalkers Terrorise
Nightstalkers Threaten the Very Fabric of Pannithor

Fantastic Reflections

Lending from history, there are certain themes running through the societies of both classical and medieval Western Europe and, judging on the aesthetics of the Basilean military, that seemed a pretty good place to start. Whilst the Hegemon retains overall control as the head of state and the head of the church combined, there is also a democratically elected Duma who theoretically represents the people’s will. So, even with a democracy of sorts in place there is a dictator-like figure at the top, and this fits in rather nicely with a caste system built on social status being heavily influenced by birth.

Does this matter in an RPG? Absolutely! Players may have envisaged an anarchic society where physical strength and martial aptitude allow their character to say and do as they feel — and other campaigns may very well delve into this type of setting — but that isn’t going to happen in Basilea. In a secure state with a strict class system, the law is the law. Even in a situation where it is enacted by corrupt individuals, the PCs will have to be clever in how they conduct themselves socially. In other words, if you are thinking of creating a powerhouse barbarian character armed only with a greatsword and a mullet, think twice before committing! In this setting, those social and intelligence-based trades and Keywords will really come in handy.

Touching Base

To sum up, we’re in the early planning of this part of the Kings of War RPG, but right now we’re looking at players roaming the very frontiers of a civilized and affluent nation, fighting the good fight against a host of evil adversaries as well as being caught up in the politics and power struggles of a society on the very fringe of the Hegemon’s authority. Success will depend on skill in combat, the aptitude to survive the harsh environment, and the social skills to exploit situations as they present themselves in the fickle local politics of the area. But, it is early days! We are always open to suggestions, ideas, and comments, so if there is anything you really want to see in this campaign or, indeed, any other, please contact Red Scar.

We hope you enjoyed Development Blog 03. We’ll keep you informed on progress!

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Development Blog 02

Making TriCore Shine

Nighstalkers, Basileans, Salamanders, Abyssal Dwarfs… every race on Pannithor oozes their own character. While some may be staples familiar to most fantasy settings, Mantic have given all of them unique twists and exciting visuals that bend or break tradition to offer something vibrant and unique. So how best to represent that in a tabletop roleplaying game? Welcome to Red Scar development blog 02: Keywords.

Keywords bring exciting dynamics.

Back to Basics

In the previous blog post, we introduced the TriCore system and the straightforward mechanic for success; roll your dicepool and equal or exceed the Target Number (TN) of 7. We mentioned there are a couple of caveats to this in that a 6 on a die fails forward by granting a success but generating Payback, while a 1 simply generates Payback. We’ll come back to Payback later. For Red Scar development blog 02, let’s focus on building the dicepool and adding character.

Almost every dicepool begins with 3d10 (it could be less, but character creation options are a whole different subject). With their 3d10 assembled, players then assign any positive or negative Keywords they’re able to drawn on through stats, trades, and gear, and from any statuses that are affecting their character. External effects aside, a character can normally only apply one Keyword from a stat, one from a trade, and one from a piece of gear. But what exactly is a Keyword?

Personality is a Key(word) Concept

Keywords have been around in some form or other since TriCore’s very inception. Despite originally being called Defining Features, an overhaul between games at this year’s Franticon allowed them to truly flourish. Put simply, a Keyword is a term that defines an effect or character feature that can be applied to a dicepool in a positive or negative manner. Keywords are presented in the text as +[Keyword Name] or -[Keyword Name]. If a Keyword has a + before it, add 1d10 to your dicepool. If your Keyword has a – before it, subtract 1d10 from your dicepool. Because they relate directly to a character’s features, Keywords can then be used as inspiration for truly roleplaying your character. Taking a deeper look at stats, trades, and gear will provide a better example.

A character’s stats are expressed simply as Body, Mind, and Social. Nine ranks are present on the character sheet for each stat. The first three ranks of each stat are coloured red to represent the core dicepool. The remaining 6 are left blank for character creation. Each rank purchased in a stat beyond the three core ranks allows a player to choose a Keyword associated with that stat. Trades work in a similar manner to stats. There are six ranks to each trade (though they don’t have the initial three red ranks). Choosing a rank in a trade allows the player to select a Keyword related to that trade. Let’s break down Obtess, the Salamander featured in last week’s art.

Getting Obtessed

Stats for Obtess

Here we can see that Obtess has 3d10 in each stat and +Keywords in Nimble Reactions, Celebrity Appeal, and Infectious Spirit. The character gains 1d10 to their dicepool anytime their character can apply one of those Keywords. Normally, only one Keyword can be applied at a time from any stat, trade, or item.

Learn a trade, earn a Keyword

Obtess has a bit of panache mixed with opportunities for profiteering. Each time a trade Keyword can be employed also adds 1d10, though only 1 trade Keyword can be used at any time. If Obtess’s player chooses to swiftly manoeuvre some coin into their pouch during a gambling session, they could employ Nimble Reactions (1d10) and Sleight of Hand (1d10) for a total of 5d10. Should the gambling session be slightly rowdier and Obtess is leading the celebrations, they might also be able to use Carouse to gain 1d10. If the player chooses to employ Carouse, this replaces the use of Sleight of Hand (only 1 Keyword from stats, trades, and gear each roll remember).

Note what happened there. If you can justify using your Keyword in a situation other than the obvious, go for it! Strength Surge to intimidate, Celebrity Appeal to distract while using Sleight of Hand, any type of trade a non-player character could connect to boost a social test, etc.

Keyword Selection

We’re refining Keywords to ensure they’re not language intensive, but choosing one is pretty simple. Keywords are further broken down behind each stat into a simple feature. Body encompasses a character’s strength, dexterity, and constitution. Mind captures intelligence, wisdom, and insight. Social incorporates charisma, forcefulness, and physicality. Each of those features will then have associated Keywords that can be purchased. These are then brought into play when they’re applicable to a situation. Want to be strong or athletic? Choose Strength Surge or Acrobatic Control as a Keyword. Prefer to be intelligent or wise? Choose Cold Logic or Secular Knowledge. For charisma or good looks, choose Honeyed Words or Celebrity Appeal. Add 1d10 to every roll that you’re able to apply your Keyword.

Select a rank in a trade and you also gain a Keyword. Trades are the professions and skills that a character has spent time learning and gaining expertise with. Each trade is also attached to a stat. Take Athletics (Body) if you want to delve into physical training and choose a Keyword from options such as Acrobatics, Climbing, or Swimming. Or teach yourself some Lore (Mind) in areas such as Engineering, History or Language. Maybe you prefer to sway those you interact with through Persuade (Social) in the form of Diplomacy, Intimidate, Manipulate. If you can apply your trade Keyword to a roll, add 1d10. Apply the stat Keyword and Trade Keyword and gain 2d10. (5d10 total).

Vocations with Benefits

If your character isn’t trained in a trade, then simply roll on the associated stat. Be careful, though, as this is where a prominent negative Keyword can come into play: Incompetency.

When a player selects a rank in a trade, their character gains a broad knowledge of the trade and a focussed area of expertise defined by a Keyword. Make a roll in an area covered by a trade that you have zero ranks for and you gain the -Incompetency Keyword. This probably means you’ll be rolling 2d10 (3d10 base and the -Incompetency). If you make a roll covered by a trade you have a rank in but can’t reasonably apply a Keyword, you can happily ignore the -Incompetency Keyword (just roll 3d10). Roll on a trade that you can apply the Keyword for and you can apply the Keyword as normal and gain 1d10 to the dicepool (3d10 plus the Keyword for the trade means 4d10).

Select items of gear might also have Defining Features, such as Thieves tools with Breaking & Entering, or a rapier with Finesse. Again, if you can draw on the Keyword, you add 1d10 to the dicepool. This means that most dicepools will be able to reach 6d10 in the right situations.

Rapiers work best in the hands of the dexterous.


We say most, because teamwork allows a character to add one of their Keywords to another character’s task. If a character has a suitable Keyword from any area, they can choose one and support the roll. The player making the roll then adds an additional 1d10 to their dicepool, which can take the dicepool above 6d10. In most situations, more than one player can assist a roll too.

Keyword Driven Character

With Keywords connected to the features of a stat, related trade, or feature of an item of equipment, a player can truly build their character using terms that capture how they envision them. Which takes us back to Keywords being related to a character’s personality and background. Using evocative Keywords provides a player with a springboard to use when roleplaying their character. You can always work with your GM to create new Keywords too! Here’s Obtess’s background so you can see how those stats and trades relate:

Obtess, Salamander Corsair

Raised in obscurity by a selfish clutch mother who wanted just one hatchling to call her own, Obtess overcompensates and now makes every effort to stand out from the crowd. Their early years consisted of hiding in the shadows of the lazy flames cast by the volcanic birthing pits, stealing whatever scraps could be lifted from the cookfires of the clutch guardians. Perhaps because of this sheltered upbringing, the protective and elemental nature of the Reptilians runs deep in Obtess. Alongside this, however, runs a desire to flare brightly. Obtess’s formative years were filled with tales of the revered history of Kthorlaq and the celebrity of Firebrand, which, when mixed with a desire to step from the shadows, has led to a burning desire to carve a legend greater than both.

Not long after joining a crew, Obtess realised that the life of a corsair would hardly provide the opportunities to grow the legend they so readily craved. Something much more drastic would be called for. Something like defeating the queen of the damned. Obtess took a circuitous route from The Three Kings, which led to a meeting with Kiri’el during a stopover in Infant Maw. The two have become fast friends, with Obtess’s enthusiasm and zest providing ample fuel to Kiri’el’s enthusiasm and passion.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our deep delve into Keywords. Tune in for the next development blog where we’ll be taking a walk in Ishan’s sabatons to explore Payback.

Ishan, a Basilean Paladin on the edge.