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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.