I have been thinking about the Defense skill and how to simplify its use for a while. I want to get rid of the mechanic where GM’s have to keep track of Defense points (a secondary pool of hitpoints generated every round through a Defense skill check, see the Core Rulebook, pages 43 and 58) and other armor-related details. I’ve had an idea that has made me rethink some other uses of Skills as well.

The concept of characters only being allowed to roll one Defense skill check per Round should be removed (read this campaign log for more information). Instead, characters get to roll a Defense skill check to absorb damage dealt to them whenever they want to (but no more than once per attack). However, as using the Defense skill does not cost Action points, this could make the Defense skill overpowered compared to other methods of defending (such as dodging or parrying attacks).

To balance the Defense skill, I considered imposing an Action point cost for its use, but that would blur the lines between armor and dodging or parrying, and--as one player rightfully pointed out--the whole point of using armor is not having to actively dodge attacks so you have more time to deal damage/do other stuff.

So the only mechanism to offset the improved use of the Defense skill left is to impose a Stamina point cost, i.e. whenever a character uses the Defense skill, it costs 1 Stamina point. This idea--which I’ll still have to test--appeals to me and also made me think about imposing a cost in Stamina, Intellect, or Will points on other Skill checks. Right now, the use of Skills do not have such a cost and such a cost is reserved for Powers and Spells. But I’m curious to find out what it will do to the game mechanics if I change this around.

Of course, this would be limited to certain Skill checks only. Current candidates that I'm considering are:

  • The Agility (tumble) skill (1 Stamina point);
  • The Brawl (parry) skill (1 Stamina point);
  • The Close combat (parry) skill (1 Stamina point);
  • The Defense (absorb, deflect) skill (1 Stamina point each);
  • The Guile (feign) skill (1 Stamina point);
  • The Guile (pick lock) skill (1 Stamina point);
  • The Medicine (first aid, reanimate, treat wounds) skill (1 Intellect point each);
  • The Creativity (perform) skill (1 Will point);
  • The Manipulation (brag, distract, lie, provoke) skill (1 Will point);
  • The Speechcraft (persuade) skill (1 Will point);
  • The Survival (forage, gather, hunt, handle animal) skill (1 Will point each);
  • The Supernatural skills (counter, detect, experiment, and imbue) (1 Stamina/Intellect/Will point each).

Added advantages of this approach would be that players can no longer keep trying certain Skill checks until they succeed (they will run out of points or harm themselves if they keep trying). Also, I can consider introducing new Powers that reduce the costs (perhaps to replace the Tier 1 Specialization power that I intend to remove from the game; read more about that in this campaign log).

A side-effect of this new mechanic is that Stamina, Intellect, and Will points get a bigger role in the game, forcing players to put some more thought into balancing and using resources. I would also have to think about the cost of certain Powers; if these stack with the cost already imposed for using a Skill, we could get end up fairly high costs, rendering the Powers useless or less effective.

I will think some more about this new mechanic. It will depend on part on how we get on with the new Defense skill mechanic, which I expect to be playtesting in the Verden campaign first. If it doesn’t serve to simplify the Defense skill, I’ll have to reconsider.

For now, please find below the amended Defense skill and the Powers that have had to be amended as a result. I’ll be playtesting these during the coming few weeks.

Defense (absorb) application

Skill check: Flat check

Time: 0 AP (Reactive action)

Cost: 1 Stamina point

Mechanics: An armored character that is hit in an attack may generate a number of Defense points through a Flat check. The maximum amount of Defense points is capped by the armor set used. Body damage dealt to the armored character is first subtracted from his Defense points. Defense points stack with the Resistance score of armor. A character can only perform a Defense (absorb) skill check once per attack made against him.

Defense (deflect) application

Skill check: Flat check

Time: 1 AP (Reactive action)

Cost: 1 Stamina point

Mechanics: A character may intercept an attack directed at an adjacent character and use his Defense points to absorb the Body damage. Body damage that is not deflected by the Defense points is subtracted from the original target’s Stamina points (or, if none remain, his Vitality points) as normal. If the original target wears armor or has Defense points left, Body damage is subtracted from those Defense points first.

Power: Block (Warrior, Body)

Through great effort, the warrior can optimize the use of his armor, absorbing more damage.

Tier: 3

Prerequisites: Armsman, Trooper, or Squire power, Defense skill level 4

Type: Active

Time: N/A

Cost: 1 Stamina

Mechanics: The warrior receives a Bonus of +1d to his next Defense skill check.

Special: The warrior’s Defense points are still capped by the specific armor’s maximum Defense points.

Special: This Power can only be used once for each Skill check.

Power: Armor master (Warrior, Body)

The warrior is highly skilled in the use of armors and employs them to greater effect.

Tier: 4

Prerequisites: Lunge, Block, or Dueling power, Defense skill level 5

Type: Active

Time: 1 AP (Reactive action)

Cost: N/A

Mechanics: The warrior may perform a Defense (absorb) skill check at no cost to his Stamina points for 1 AP.

Power: Fortify (Warrior, Body)

The warrior can exert himself to use his armor to a nearly supernatural level to deflect even the mightiest of attacks.

Tier: 5

Prerequisites: The shell, Counter, or Armor master power, Defense skill level 6

Type: Active

Time: 0 AP (Reactive action)

Cost: 2 Stamina

Mechanics: When the warrior’s Defense points are depleted he may – at the expense of 2 Stamina points– generate an additional amount of Defense points.

Special: This Power can only be used once per Round. The additional pool of Defense points cannot be modified through the use of Powers or otherwise.

Group power: Shield wall (Warband, Body)

A wall of armor stands before the enemies of the group. With iron discipline and under the command of their senior fighter, the group can hold the line against the toughest adversaries.

Tier: 4

Prerequisites: Warrior’s mark or Fortified deployment group power, Leader with a Defense skill level 6

Type: Passive

Time: N/A

Cost: 3 Stamina

Mechanics: A member of the Battle group may, at the cost of 3 Stamina points, combine his Dice pool for a Defense skill check with the Dice pool for the Defense skill of another member of the Battle group, regardless of their respective armor set’s maximum Defense points. The other member of the Battle group must be adjacent to the character.

Feedback? Let me know, here!

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