Feedback: Lances, elves and supplements

Charging late medieval reenactorCarl Walter is converting a pre-existing campaign over to Blade & Crown, and wrote me to ask several questions about how to do so. Rather than just replying to him, I asked if it’d be okay if I quoted his email and answered here, so that more people could see my responses. He happily agreed.

Carl’s first question:

I have a character in the game who is an artist with a lance and not only can I find no Lance skill, I cannot find any real way for him to specialize with the weapon in some way. I have considered using the Spear/Polearm skill, or creating a separate Lance skill at 3 or 4 to compensate, but there are no stats for the Lance to begin with so I would be using the polearm anyway. Do you have any suggestions that might help me in this?

I certainly do! First, though, I should explain a bit about my assumptions for Blade & Crown. The game presumes a technology level roughly similar to that of Anglo-Saxon or Norman England, so the armored cavalry charge is (in the presumptive B&C campaign world) still a novelty. For that reason, I didn’t include lances as a specific, predetermined type of weapon in Blade & Crown.

However, I did include spears, which would have nearly the same effects, and I allowed for bonuses when attacking from horseback (p. 96). You might allow a player to make a Riding skill roll and give an even higher bonus (probably +2) on a critical success.

What about specializing in Lance skill? Rather than creating it as a new skill, I’d recommend creating it as a specialization of the already extant Spear/Polearm skill. Perhaps “Charge from Horseback” or “Mounted Lance” would work as the two restrictions. That way, the character is still knowledgeable with other polearms, but gets the advantage of specializing in lance-like effects.

Carl’s second question:

Also, any thoughts on converting elves or dwarves of the Hârn or Tolkien variety?

Like lances, I designed B&C without playable elves or dwarves. This is partially because it’s hard to do an original take on them, but also because I wanted to keep them thoroughly mysterious when they do appear. So, in my B&C campaigns, many tales are told of elves and dwarves, but they have never yet been seen.

Yet that can be unsatisfying if you want your players to interact in the game with elves or dwarves. So how to handle them?

I suggest making heavy use of Traits. For example, you might say all elves have the Trait of Immortal. What positive and negative effects could this have? Positive effects are easy to imagine: advanced age & experience, first-hand knowledge of things most humans consider ancient history, being immune to poison and disease, etc. What about negative effects? Many things are possible here, too: coming across as uncaring, having flattened affect, being unable to see the trees for the forest (as it were).

Elves, at least by the standard depictions, could also be considered Proud, Fated, Attractive and World-Weary, among other things. Give the elves Traits at high enough ratings (3 or 4 or even higher) and those Traits suddenly become magically powerful tendencies.

What about dwarves? Many Traits describe the standard formula for them: Proud, Driven, Refined, Loyal, Irrepressible, Loud. Perhaps Stigmatized, and it’s easy to imagine a Short or Stocky Trait as appropriate, too. Again, giving them high ratings will evoke a sense of power and strength beyond human ken.

Should elves and dwarves have characteristics in the normal human range? Should they get the usual number of characteristic points and skill points? I suppose that depends on whether they’re going to be powerful but rarely-seen NPCs, full fledged members of the party or something else. Someone like Galadriel or Elrond, certainly, should be quite a bit beyond the level of a starting character. “Whatever’s dramatically appropriate” is the rule here. But if you’ve got a PC who resembles Legolas, for example, it seems fair to put them on the same playing field as the other PCs. You might give them slightly increased characteristic and skill points in exchange for requiring certain Traits. (After all, that is a strong theme about elves and dwarves in Tolkien’s writing: that their worldly power is balanced by not being masters of their own fates.)

And Carl’s last question:

Are there any supplements or additional works pending? I would love to see some additional works.

So would I! I’ve got a few B&C adventures written, but getting them into a form ready for publishing will take a while longer. And there’s the campaign world I developed for use with Blade & Crown, Calteir, but it’s even further from being ready for prime time. And there are other things on my to-do list: pre-filled in disposable NPC sheets and NPC cards; more characters; player handouts; and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought of doing a Kickstarter to publish an edition with better art. I know better than to guarantee any of this on a particular timeline yet — other RPG publishers have taught me that lesson — but I am curious what you’d like to see first. What would help you the most in play? What Blade & Crown possibilities interest you most?


Feedback: Lances, elves and supplements — 8 Comments

  1. Rachel,

    I want to thank you for the quick replies both in email and here, it says a lot about the product and the level of support and thought that has gone into B&C.

    I particularly like the lance suggestion, and was considering the same line of action for elves and dwarves balancing characteristics with traits. Fortunately, my Harn games have no player character dwarves or elves, so it is a subject that can be addressed indirectly for the most part. The lance issue was one that was a key element of the character as it was his greatest skill under Harnmaster, and a key reason why this particular character had gotten the attention he had.

    I also have a character with latent psionic abilities that were recently made active under Harnmaster. I am considering handling this in much the same way as magic is handled but utilizing fatigue rather than nodes or a similar construct. I will forward my thoughts when I have penciled something out.

    Thanks again, and I look forward to any further thoughts you or others might have.

    • Glad my suggestions are helpful! And it sounds like you have a great game going there. I hope B&C serves your group well, and in particular I hope specialization works for that character.

      Psionics could be tricky! Yeah, it sounds like it’d require new mechanics to work. Magic-like effects with exhaustion sounds like a good compromise. Or perhaps willpower, or sapping Traits. I guess it depends on what flavor of psionics you’re going for.

      Thanks again for the kind words! And hey, if you like B&C, spread the word! 🙂

      • Thanks, Rachel, I will spread the word.

        I have seen you already spreading the word in a few places – including on – sharing the love for B&C and it is clear to me that this has been a well thought out product. The more I read the book the more I discover the subtlety and versatility contained within. I am a fan of FATE-inspired games as well, and can see some aspect of that same versatility in B&C particularly in the area of magic and Traits.

        • Subtlety and versatility are lofty goals — it’s wonderful if I’ve accomplished even half of what you mention. 🙂

          FATE and similar games were certainly considerations when I designed Traits. I like the idea that fundamental aspects of a character are both positive and negative. That feels both realistic and dramatically correct.

        • And by the way, do let me know what sorts of supplements you’d like to see first! Your input, and that of other people using Blade & Crown, is very important.

  2. More examples, traits, and some expansion of existing rules might be nice. Maybe for jousting? 😉

    I came up with another thought on the joust and that might be to make it a Fighting Style. After all, it requires more than merely carrying a spear into battle as there is a specific skill and equipment set that must be brought into play to accurately engage in it.

    • Those all sound like good areas to expand. Thank you for the feedback!

      Making jousting a Fighting Style might not make it feel powerful enough; an extra die or two can be significantly more useful than a +1. But it could possibly be both: name a particular jousting style in addition to skill specialization and you may have just the right combination.

  3. Pingback: [Q&A] Rachel Kronick (Blade & Crown) | The Hardboiled GMshoe's Office

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