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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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Kings of War Kickstarter Levelling Up

Kings of War RPG

Kings of War the Roleplaying Game is live on Kickstarter! Pledge now to help us fund an RPG set within the epic fantasy world behind the extremely popular Kings of War miniatures game.

The Kickstarter will fund the production of a printed edition of Kings of War the Roleplaying Game. This full-colour hardcover rulebook of approximately 320 pages will not only provide new content for Pannithor, but will also feature the TriCore ruleset; a lightweight ruleset designed to empower both GMs and players alike with the ability to use the system to keep the game focused on both the characters and narrative.

The core book takes a look at the factions from a new perspective and offers several ways to create characters from amongst your favourite. It also offers a comprehensive timeline and full crossover comparability for Dungeon Saga, Vanguard and Kings of War. Backers who pledge for a print copy will now also receive an exclusive cover only available during the Kickstarter campaign.

But that’s not all! Thanks to our friends over at Mantic, we’re adding a digital copy of the Kings of War: Vanguard rulebook to each Gift of the Elohi pledge. PLUS the Dungeon Overlord pledge will now provide a 15% discount code for the Mantic webstore once the project funds for extra savings all round!

Thank you all so much for your feedback on the quickstart, which has allowed us to tighten the rules and add more high-quality art to the book. Please do spread the word about this project to your readers and followers. The campaign is live now, and can be reached here:
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Kings of War RPG Kickstarter Now Live!

The Kings of War RPG Kickstarter is now live!

Pannithor has a turbulent history wracked by war and conflict. From the arrival of the Celestians, to the seemingly endless war between the Shining Ones and their twisted reflections, this is a world that has rarely known peace.

For the first time ever, Kings of War the Roleplaying Game allows you to explore Pannithor like never before. The setting for Kings of War explodes into life like never befroe thanks to the TriCore mechanics.

Follow the link above or the small ‘K’ in the top left corner of the  video below to join in:

Mantic’s Ronnie Renton also hopped on camera to introduce the kickstarter and talk about just how excited the crew are that Pannithor is finally getting it’s own roleplaying game.

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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.
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Development Blog 01

Time to Forge Your Own Legend

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!

Stake your own claim on Pannithor

The Kings of War Saga

Mantic’s Kings 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 left behind.

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.

Characters and their traits are fundamental aspects of TriCore

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.