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.
Like the unstoppable Steel Behemoths of the dwarfs, Kings of War the Roleplaying Game is shaping into a mighty juggernaut and gathering ground-shaking momentum. Gather your band and steel your resolve, for Pannithor is in need of mighty heroes to help shape its destiny. Welcome to the very first Red Scar development blog!
The Kings of War Saga
Mantic’sKings of War sprang into existence almost a decade ago as a ruleset designed to allow mighty fantasy armies of 28mm miniatures clash across epic battlefields. The setting behind the rules has expanded in the years since thanks to multiple supplements to the rules, the fast-paced Vanguard skirmish game, the popular Dungeon Saga board game, an expanded miniatures range, new novels, and even a global campaign that reshaped part of the world. No matter which medium the fans have used to romp across Pannithor, there has always been a thirst for more knowledge and new ways to explore its dangers. What better way to do so than on a personal scale with your own heroic (or villainous) crew?
Enter the Roleplaying Game
Tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) allow groups of people to come together and weave their own narratives as they take on the persona of the characters from the setting they’re exploring. Often requiring little more than dice, a pencil, and a character sheet, a tabletop RPG provides a framework for the players to escape into an alternate reality where they can delve into dungeons, pilot sleek spaceships, solve deadly mysteries, and more.
In Kings of War the Roleplaying Game, we’re working to offer you epic narratives that shape living legends out of characters who are already heroes. Whether you’d like to claim your own crown from a fallen enemy, take your seat at the apex of a dusty necropolis, or become the shadowy master pulling the strings from behind the throne, never has there been a better time to take control of your destiny and become your own King or Queen of War!
Fuelling the Behemoth
The system behind Kings of War the Roleplaying Game
is our very own TriCore ruleset, a lightweight system that uses
flavourful mechanics to both drive the narrative and encourage character
development. As our in-house sysem, TriCore has now been around for a few years
itself. Much like Pannithor, though, it’s been through its own reforging
process during that time. We’ve now spent a good part of the year touring
various conventions for playtesting and feedback, and have also gathered a
tight crew of early playtesters in that time. We’re close to throwing open the
doors on Kings of War the Roleplaying Game and the TriCore system
behind it, but we’ll be using a series of blog posts to introduce some core
mechanics and design concepts of the system before we do so.
The TriCore Concept
When we originally
sat down to conceive TriCore, we approached the design with a view to tapping
into the specific strengths that could be employed by a character. We defined
these as a character’s reliance on one of three core features: innate ability,
trained skill, and gear. Though it’s not a hard and fast rule of the system,
theming areas of mechanics to multiples of three followed naturally on from the
three opening features. There’s also a historical and mythical association to
the power of three, which is impressive inspiration to draw upon. A slightly
cheesy naming synergy was introduced at this point based around a triplet of
words beginning with the same letter — abilities, skills, and gear became
Talents, Trades, and Trappings, for instance — but that’s now thankfully been
Initially, each core feature would provide a specific way
for the player to interact with the dice they rolled and we specifically chose
to ringfence each feature. This meant that a character who drew on their innate
ability to achieve their goals would have a very unique way to manipulate their
dice, which was completely different to how someone who had trained their
skills would accomplish a task. The Keyword system discussed in the next blog is
a direct evolution of this early concept.
Internal playtesting proved positive, so we took the system
to select groups and attended a few conventions. Which is where one of our
other critical design focusses raised its head: accessibility. The system
worked, but it became fairly obvious that the players didn’t necessarily
understand the mechanics during the introductory sessions we were running.
Everyone had fun, but we gathered that not everyone understood the combination
of dice they were rolling, including any factors affecting the dice and their
character’s abilities to offset those factors.
Putting the Tri into TriCore
The core mechanic for TriCore initially drew on the three
core features mentioned earlier, this resulted in players rolling three dice, with
each die representing one of those features. Each die would begin as a d10 but
would then be downgraded or upgraded depending on any influences to the roll,
such as environmental factors that could affect the outcome, or the character’s
own traits. This central aspect of the triplet of dice still remains to a
degree, but the initial system of downranking dice proved to be a tricky
barrier to entry.
In the streamlined system, players still begin with a core
dicepool of 3d10, but the dicepool itself now shrinks or grows in relation to
any Keywords that the character applies. A single positive Keyword —
denominated as a +Keyword — can be applied from a stat, a skill, and an item of
gear. This means that a dicepool can often reach 6d10, sometimes higher if teamwork
or other positive factors are involved. Each task that requires a roll is then
made against a standard Target Number (TN) of 7, with every die that equals or
exceeds the TN equating to a success.
At its core (pun totally intended), TriCore is as simple as that. Of course, there are a couple of peripherals involved to rolling, such as a 6 failing forward by granting a success but also generating Payback, and 1s also generating Payback, but we’ll introduce those Abyssal nuggets alongside Keywords in the next development blog.