Blade & Crown is a full-featured fantasy roleplaying game, suited for courtly intrigue, far-flung wilderness exploration, thievish derring-do in the bowels of a city or even dungeon-delving. Blade & Crown is ready for adventure are you?
How does it feel to play Blade & Crown? It's a gritty system, with lots of detail. There are twelve basic characteristics, a pretty extensive (but not overwhelming) skill list, and no "classes" or "levels". You'll see a lot of influence from 1980's "realism".
But the game is also strongly influenced by modern, indie design. There's a well-unified mechanic; the vast majority of the time, you roll the dice the same way. The system includes active enticements for players to design adventurous, complex characters. The system also gives you bonuses to your die rolls for describing your actions in unique and interesting ways.
Traits in play
What is it like to use a Trait in the game? Let's say your character is Driven: to Exact Revenge on the dastardly Baron Sorus and all his followers. You are about to climb over a wall to get into the Baron's castle and finally strike fear into him. You roll to climb the wall and narrowly fail. You tell the GM that your motivation to exact revenge should give you that extra impetus to get over the wall. The GM agrees. You roll the additional dice for your Trait, and get a success! Your Drive for revenge is a strong one indeed, pushing you towards the inevitable confrontation.
After your deadly confrontation with the Baron, you make a hasty retreat, hounded by guards. You arrive at the castle wall again. The smart thing would be to scale the wall and leave further dreams of revenge behind you, but you tell the GM that your Drive motivates you to stay behind and have it out with the guards, too. The GM agrees that this is appropriate for your Drive, and gives you tokens (to allow more positive Trait uses later) and an experience point. Hopefully, you will survive the encounter to revenge another day...
And the system gives you, the player, some control over the narrative. Every character has Traits that can be used to make your character's life easier, or harder. If you use a Trait to help yourself, you gain dice or narrative control. If you use a Trait to make your character's life harder which is to say, more adventurous you gain tokens to allow helpful Trait use later on, and you gain experience points. Each character's unique Traits bring your roleplaying alive and help immerse you in your role.
Magic provides another way for players to have narrative control, as does religion. Magic has a mysterious, mystical air; religion reflects the vast array of beliefs and practices possible.
Social Class is important. Your wealth is derived directly from your social rank, for one thing, and if you're trying to enter a city yet look like a serf, the guards are unlikely to let you in. Wealth is abstracted, putting the emphasis on getting back to the game, instead of tracking pennies.
Blade & Crown errs on the side of having complete rules, rather than saying every situation comes down to GM or player fiat. There are rules for a variety of tactical situations in combat, developing magic spells, travel, and more.
The game is suited to a wide variety of adventures: plying trade routes in a cog, traveling the land as a company of actors, mapping the unexplored realms, solving mysteries in a manorial estate, tragic tales of love and conviction, seeking treasure in ancient ruins all these stories and more are possible. The rules are flexible enough to make play fun for a variety of campaign types, and for a variety of play-styles.
Blade & Crown primarily uses ten-sided dice. Most simply put: Roll the dice and keep the top number.
What gives you dice to roll? Your character will have different skills, characteristics and Traits that contribute to each task.
In addition, you also roll a single twelve-sided die that helps generate detail and flavor. Most of the time, this helps show how your character accomplished (or didn't accomplish) a task: with style, quickly, efficiently, in a lasting way, sloppily, etc. When you narrate this detail to the enjoyment of everyone playing, you get bonuses to your die rolls.
Blade & Crown uses an elemental magic system. The ten elements are both literal and metaphorical. Fire, for example, is the element of heat, anger, shaping & reshaping, creation & destruction and the color red.
Spells are powered by elemental nodes. Nodes are of varying magnitude, from tiny first-magnitude nodes to earth-shatteringly powerful nodes of seventh, eighth or even higher magnitudes.
Playing a mage gives you narrative control. Within the limits of what a spell can do, you get to describe the effects and results. Effects in the rulebook are deliberately vague, to allow for drama and mystery.
Beliefs are powerful. Blade & Crown reflects this. Your chosen religion can compel you to do onerous things, but it can also help you accomplish great missions and to achieve your dreams.
Religion in Blade & Crown is very flavorful. Some believers have holy books and theological debates, while others may approach their chosen Powers by burning incense, or meditation, or just trying to do the right thing (whatever that is).
Powers worshipped can be demigods, saints, gods, pantheons, oracles, animist spirits, abstract principles or even the Universe itself. You can call upon your Power to perform miracles, swear oaths and place curses.
Like most fantasy RPGs, Blade & Crown includes rules for combat. As with the rest of the rules, combat in Blade & Crown is immersive and flavorful.
When characters are hurt, their characteristics go down directly. Effects are obvious and immediate. There are no "hit points" in Blade & Crown.
Combat in Blade & Crown can be deadly, so a good hauberk or gambeson can be a life-saver. Make sure your Social Class is high enough that you can afford one. Barring that, borrow some armor from your lord -- or steal it!
At the same time, the game makes sure combat isn't so deadly that no one will attempt anything dangerous. Blade & Crown tries to walk the fine line between realism and heroism.
Blade & Crown leaves the door open to whatever setting you want to use. While some people like their games to include settings, others feel that it's a waste of space. I've sided with the latter persuasion. Blade & Crown works best with early medieval, magic-rare worlds, but it can be adapted to many others.
I plan to eventually release a setting that is entirely compatible with, but also entirely optional for, Blade & Crown. For now, though, use whatever setting you feel fits, or create your own. Blade & Crown also comes with pages of advice and guidance on how to create a self-consistent world suitable for play.
Blade & Crown comes fully loaded with all these things:
176 pages of content (not including introduction and other prefatory material).
A two-page quickstart rules section.
Full rules for designing characters, doing tasks, buying & selling, researching and employing magic, practicing religion, conducting combat, traveling and more.
Extensive GM notes and references, including how to build an effective setting, a large bestiary, instant NPCs, rules for disposable NPCs ("mooks") and more.
An introductory campaign seed, "The Gift Map", including deck plans for the cog The Jade Swan, and dozens of adventure seeds.
Character sheets and other reference forms.
An extensive index.
Here are some downloads to arm yourself with:
A sample of the rules, including the introduction, the brief "How to play" section and the table of contents.
The character sheet.
The NPC record.
The PC summary sheet.
The rumor sheet.
A few more sample characters:
Ardda the priest. Curious, optimistic and selfless, and trying to right an old wrong.
Ardos the bandit. Driven by revenge, and enjoying a lawless life.
Armalla the mage. Ever seeking companionship, but wary of others' motivations.
Ethres the thief. Amorous, fashionable and tasteful.
Evoral the merchant adventurer. Once a slave, now working hard to rescue former shipmates.
Kavia the mercenary. Curious about the world, somewhat naive, but a very good fighter.
Terol the knight. Honest, irrepressible and fated to die far from home.
Thaesida the warrior priest. Trying to convert all the heathens.
- All the characters above, as a zip archive.
These characters have setting detail implied, but can be adapted to any setting you prefer.
Blade & Crown is available in different formats for print and screen. You can buy it several ways:
Buy it as as a PDF download on DriveThruRPG.
Eventually, I may offer full-color editions if there is demand.
If you'd like to discuss Blade & Crown or other interesting RPG-related topics, check out the NJW Games blog.
If you have comments or questions, feel free to e-mail Rachel Kronick.
Blade & Crown is ©2012 by Rachel Kronick. All content, text and illustrations save for selected pieces of public domain clipart, are ©2012 by Rachel Kronick. This webpage is also ©2012 by Rachel Kronick. All rights reserved.