Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

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Sword & Scoundrel, Book 1 (Not Even Thursday Edition)

Thought I'd post a minor update and a bit of a teaser. 

The rewrite is going full steam ahead and making good progress. Higgins is doing well with school stuff, so with luck, he'll be able to join us again soon. In the meantime, I didn't want to leave you guys completely in the air so I pulled Higgins away just long enough to approve a bit of a spoiler for you guys. 

Sword&ScoundrelBook1.pdf

The above is the raw text output from scrivener, spaced as such to make it easier for Henri to red-pen me to death. The document isn't pretty, but it gives you a good idea of the tone/feel of the next draft. It's also functionally the core of the system. If you're using pre-gen characters (and yes, we'll be including a bunch when complete), then this is all new players would need to know up front. The rest can be taught as the game goes on. 

Of particular note might be a new feature entirely. This edition will have a glossary in the back as an appendix, because no game has ever been accused of being too well-organized or too easily referenced.

Enjoy.

(As always, feel free to join the conversation on our forums!)

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Registrar Woes

Looks like our registrar is attempting to hijack our forum domain. As such, our forum's domain address doesn't currently direct where it's supposed to. And naturally it's weekend and nobody over there picks up their phone.

So, if you're experiencing withdrawal symptoms, feel free to visit the forums by it's less fancy address: http://heresy.planet.ee

[edit: that's no longer a valid address! Continue using http://www.grandheresyforums.com/ ]

It's the exact same thing. Everything you post will be there once we get the domain issue fixed.

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'Bastards 0.2

If you lurk around our forums, you may have already heard: Band of Bastards is currently in the middle of a substantial overhaul. I thought it was appropriate to make some kind of a statement about what we're doing and why.

We've done this a few times before, though most were before we were ever under as much scrutiny. 'Bastards was (fittingly) the illegitimate child of the Trosfans forums, in their project to produce a new, unofficial, and revised edition of The Riddle of Steel after Driftwood went dark. This burst of creative impulse ultimately gave birth to Blade of the Iron Throne as well, which we still look at as a sibling for that reason. Like most siblings, though, we wound up going very separate directions.

The first iteration of the game was exactly what it set out to be - a TROS update, with all the bells and whistles. We had something like 60 maneuvers, 150+ weapons (most of which had more than one stat-line), and a whole mess of very exacting specifications for everything we touched. After the initial creative rush of cobbling together every optional rule from all of the TROS books and somehow making them more-or-less work together, we realized that this was a beast so ungainly that it would be a nightmare to run, let alone teach a new player.

Back to the drawing board.

The next iteration of the game would become what we promoted as Song of Steel. At the time, our focus was still on historical fiction -- a position we leaned into all the harder with Blade selling itself by contrast as a Swords and Sorcery game. It's a funny thing that siblings do. Bernard Cornwell had a prominent place on our bookshelf, along with a great deal of non-fiction that we picked up on swords and swordsmanship (including the book with a very similar title). This is about the time when we started pestering people like Nikolas Lloyd, Roland Warzecha, and Matt Easton for insights, which they all graciously provided.

This was the iteration when we really came into our own. Systems were scrapped, new bits invented, unnecessary bits stripped away. Our ranged combat and skirmish systems date back to this iteration (both of which were Higgin's contributions, amusingly enough. Thank him. He was very insistent on ranged combat being awesome).

Then came Song of Swords. What were the odds of another game being developed by another indie-dev team based on the same original game with a nearly identicalname? We discussed the thing with them - their hands were tied. The name was chosen by their fans. They were polite about the thing and even complimentary. At least one of them had been a fan of our work. It's always nice to be noticed.

Restriction breeds creativity. We were already competing for attention in the same sub-niche of a sub-niche of an already niche hobby, so we were left with the options of either sharing an initialism with who was arguably our closest competitor or redefine ourselves. We chose the latter.

One day, I'll shake Jimmy Rome's hand. Rebranding seemed like a setback at the time, but in the process, we had the license to re-evaluate everything we had chosen to do up to that point. Everything got cleaned up and polished, had the rough edges smoothed out. A lot of the stuff we had been so insistent in trying to replicate in exacting detail simply got dropped or abstracted. 'Bastards began to really hone in on what it wanted to be, which was a game about ambition and conflicts of the moral, physical, and bloody variety. In a strange way, despite being the furthest mechanically from its forebear, it may have been the closest in essence to what TROS wanted to be about.

This latest revision is a continuation of the iterative saga this game has undergone. The purpose of a beta test is to get feedback and have room to make adjustments. Between some of the cracks that have shown themselves at the fringes of our own play, and some of the feedback we've gotten on the forums, we're finding places where things could be better, tighter, or (conversely) need to be loosened up and made less rigid.

Higgins and I have both grown a lot as both players and designers since we started this project back in (dear God, really?) 2011. The last couple years, in particular, have been spent in a kind of ongoing game design boot camp. One of the driving forces in the revision is that certain areas of the game reflect designs that were either inherited from TROS once upon a time, or products of our early attempts to fix the products of those inherited parts. We can do better, and we're going to.

The end goal is to make a game that we will be inspired to play again. In slaughtering some of the sacred cows we've held on to in search of better design, of cleaning the clutter that we've amassed, we hope to create the kind of game that we're going to want to play and run for years to come. I want to be so again impassioned by this project that we have the energy and drive to see it through to the full vision we had for it. We hope that in making ourselves passionate about the thing, in cleaning up and overhauling the design of the thing, we'll make you passionate about it as well.

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Beta Release Part 6

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Beta Release Part 6

It's Thursday in Estonia and that's close enough for me. Today's release updates the Skirmish chapter and releases our Wounds and Healing rules entirely, in case you wanted your characters to occasionally recover from their own butchery. 

Release 6 is now available on our Downloads page, which you can pick up at your leisure. 

Exciting things coming down the pipe, however. With this release, we've begun work on a new draft that makes a number of changes to the existing rules in the interests of making the game more dynamic and easier to learn, play, and run. We'll have more information on the specifics of those changes and the reasons why as the draft takes shape. 

Big things coming. Stay tuned. As always, you can let us know what you think on our forums

 

 

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Beta Release Part 5

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Beta Release Part 5

Just a quick (if anticipated) update. You can now pick up Release 5 from our Downloads page. This update includes Chapter 12: Skirmish, as well as some minor edits and changes. Some clarifications have been made following forum feedback, and the rules for fighting multiple opponents have been rewritten.

Chapter 13: Wounds and Healing is nearly complete, save for the examples to be written, and will be following next week. 

Let us know what you think. 

Thanks for sticking around,
-The GH Crew

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Beta Release Update - Dueling Kit v3

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Beta Release Update - Dueling Kit v3

If you've been hanging around the forums lately, you'll already be aware of our Dueling Kit, an abridged arms, armor, and wounds document designed to get you up and fighting while we hack away at the next sections of the book. 

Version 3 has just been uploaded, featuring some feature corrections and the usual errata but also a rebalance to wounds based on player feedback. If you haven't gotten your copy already, head over to our downloads section and give it a look. 

As always, our forums are up for any questions or feedback. 

- The GH Crew. 

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Beta Release Part 4

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Beta Release Part 4

Last week we said we'd be delayed until Friday. We were right(ish). We just got the wrong Friday. Oops. 

Release number 4 is now available on our downloads page. This week's update includes a number of minor fixes and clarifications, some technical updates to the file itself, and even the proper cover finally formatted and applied. 

However, the most exciting update is the addition of the ranged combat section, letting you pour copious amounts of arrows, bolts, and bullets into people you dislike. A discussion thread will be up on the forums, as always, and any feedback is welcome. 

Next week we hope to get caught back up and on schedule. Stay tuned!
- The GH Crew

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Beta Release - Part 3

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Beta Release - Part 3

Another Thursday, another release. Last week we got a ton of feedback on 90 pages of content and some very interesting discussions going on the forums. You guys have been phenomenally helpful. We tried to incorporate as much of that as time allowed, but we've still got a great deal of it ahead. That will be a project to carry us through the weekend. 

In addition to some editing for clarity, this week we introduce two chapters that you have been eagerly awaiting.
 
Chapter 09: Full Contest gets into the core rules we use for chases, debates, and other prolonged skill-based conflicts. 

Chapter 10: Melee Combat gets into the meat of our fighting system, which many of you have been speculating over for months now. 

We haven't had as much time to work on everything this week as we had hoped, so the examples are still missing in certain areas. If our schedules allow, we may toss in a mid-week update before next Thursday to get everything taken care of and our release schedule back on track.

You can pick up your copy here or on our downloads page. As always, we'll be opening discussion threads for feedback on our forums.

Thanks for sticking with us, folks. Enjoy.

- The GH Crew

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Beta release - Part 2

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Beta release - Part 2

What a week. With the last edits as fresh as this morning, we've pulled through. Grand Heresy is happy to announce release 2 of our rolling beta. This week we cover a ton of material, going from about 15 pages to 95, putting us up to Chapter 08. 

You can download your copy here

Chapter 03 Anatomy of a Bastard takes you through the structure of character creation, starting with creating your band of bastards first and establishing the overall tone and expectations for the campaign ahead. 

Chapter 04  Attributes & Skills has full writeups for each, exactly as you'd expect, as well as some more specific rules on using them in play. 

Chapter 05 Proficiencies & Maneuvers is what many of you have been looking forward to. It covers a character's training at arms, our proficiency system, and the maneuvers 'Bastards uses to make combat interesting. In addition, it also covers Simple Combat, allowing for less intensive combat resolution for quick scuffles or groups that are less interested in the ebb-and-flow of melee. 

Chapter 06 Edges & Flaws is thus far the largest single chapter in the book, accounting for 23 pages on its own. Therein we list all of the information for the various options available to your character, and how to get the most out of your flaws in play.

Chapter 07 Story Aspects details the mechanic that really drives our game forward, covering the role it plays in allowing the player to guide the story, the reward cycle, and how SAs play into character advancement.  

Finally, Chapter 08 Supporting Cast covers how players can establish NPC relationships at character creation, or make new contacts and enemies through play. 

Threads have already been set up on a chapter-by-chapter basis on our forums for feedback. 

We look forward to hearing from you! 

- The GH Crew

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Beta Release - Part 1

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Beta Release - Part 1

This wasn't how we intended to do it, but we figured we've kept you guys waiting long enough. Credit for the decision can actually go to some of the posters on our forums, who made an argument for a chapter-by-chapter release of the documents we have. Alright, you guys win. 

This first release is going to be the intro chapter and basic mechanics. Each Thursday, we'll release another chapter or two to you guys to dissect and discuss. With the biggest chapters mostly behind us at this point, we expect the rest of the document to be finished in the next couple weeks anyway. 

The download can be found here. If you share the link or the document, we'd appreciate it if you used the original link, just because we want to keep track of how many people downloaded the thing as we go. 

This is for you guys. Thanks for sticking with us. 

- The GH Crew

(Feel free to join us on our forums and post any feedback you might have)

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Teaser 11: Short and Sweet

We've been putting more work into writing than teasers lately, but we thought we'd share this one with you. It largely speaks for itself.

I present, the Band of Bastards Beta character sheet. 

Pdf available HERE.

Let us know what you think on our forums!

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Unofficial Teaser

Thought I would share a little of what we've been up to. 

We're now in the process of going back and adding example text to everything, which if you've never done it is a huge pain in the butt. We have a character sheet done and it's looking pretty decent, if I do say so myself. In any downtime we've had (one of us waiting for the other to finish/check something) we've been working on some of the supplemental material and play-aids.

I'm happy to announce that at Beta launch, we'll have maneuver cards set up and ready to go.

We remember how hard it was to learn TROS the first time through. I know how hard it is to pick up something like Burning Wheel. The overwhelming trend in indie games these days is for rules-light games that are quick to pick up and we know full well we are bucking that trend, so we're making sure we do everything we can to make things easy to pick up, learn, track, and play.

The cards (like the character sheet) will come in two flavors - the fancier looking, but ink-heavy, and a more printer-friendly variety that is more or less text only. We've been printing them on colored card-stock, with offensive in one color and defensive on the other for easy recognition. 

Hop on our forums and let us know what you think!

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Teaser 10: Tracking Wounds

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Teaser 10: Tracking Wounds

 

Cover image by Steve Slater

Last week we discussed the way in which wounds were determined and measured in 'Bastards, along the lines of type, location, and severity. This week we'll be talking about how you actually use that information in combat and track the results.

Impact

When a wound is taken, the victim suffers Impact, representing the immediate pain and distraction caused by an injury. This is measured by an Impact Rating and manifests as a number of dice discarded from your current pool, equal to twice the wound level received (4 dice, at level 2). This effect is immediate, and only effects the pool in the next tempo without the need for further tracking.

Base TN

As you're probably aware by now, 'Bastards uses a d10 dice pool system based around the number of individual successes rolled, rather than adding them together. Each die that shows a number equal to or higher than you the Target Number counts as a success. For example, rolling seven dice against TN6 and getting 7, 6, 2, 2, 5, 3, 9 would be three successes.

The TN required is usually determined by what we refer to as the Base TN. By default, that begins at TN6 but when wounded or fatigued it can be raised. A broad guideline follows:

Had the character in our previous example been significantly wounded, they would have needed to roll vs a Base TN8 instead and would have scored only a single success.

In the case of multiple wounds, the Base TN is determined by the worst injury that the character has. A character with one level 2 wound and two level 3 wounds would make up Base TN8.

Benefits

The escalating Target Number system in ‘Bastards has a number of advantages over the "wounds reduce die pool" system that we used in early testing:

No need to adjust the character's Combat Pool, meaning that we need to do less math and track less information between tempos.

Base TN only shifts when you receive a worse injury than you already have; breaking two fingers does not hurt twice as much as having one finger broken.

Making the penalties for wounds scale on TN instead of subtracting dice means that wounded characters are penalized evenly, no matter whether they are making a skill check with 6 dice, or have 25 dice in a pool with SAs firing.

It can sound complicated at first, but in practice it’s remarkably simple. The first significant injury often decides the outcome of a fight, placing the victim at a disadvantage, and limiting the amount of wounds that need to be looked up at all. Impact takes effect immediately, requiring nothing in tracking. The agony and disability of a wound is represented in the Base TN, which is represented by a simple mark on the character sheet.

The only other details aside from the shifting TN you need to track are the wound location and its severity. Some wounds also cause bleeding, which we didn’t cover here, but in all but the most severe cases, Blood Loss is something that takes place in the aftermath of combat, rather than in the rapid clash of steel.

In short, discard a few dice when you’re hit. Mark down the wound location and Blood Loss (if any). If the wound was worse than your character already had, shift the Base TN. Repeat until someone surrenders or stops moving. If you’re still standing, have someone ready with bandages.

Until next time, join us on our forums and let us know what you think!

 

 

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Teaser #9: Bodily Carnage

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Teaser #9: Bodily Carnage

Title image by Vicky Burton

Band of Bastards comes from a tradition of violent fiction and bloody ends. For all the work we've done on the fighting itself, it felt criminal to abstract damage out to some form of hit points. Instead, every injury in 'Bastards is measured in flesh maimed and blood lost.

So what does that mean in game terms? Band of Bastards measures all damage as Wounds, which represents the nature and severity of the injury received. There are three axes which combine to determine the exact wound taken.

Damage Type

The first axis is the kind of damage taken. For the overwhelming majority of Wounds, the damage received is of one of three kinds:

  • Piercing damage, as done by arrows or the thrust of a sword.

  • Cutting damage, as done by the swing of an axe or saber.

  • Blunt damage, as the result of a club or hammer to the face.

Each type of damage results in different kinds of wounds, and interacts with armor differently, having its own advantages and disadvantages.

Wound Location

The second axis is the location of the damage. Those of you who have been with us the longest may remember our very first teaser, the wound wheel

No attack is simply that. Each attack is specified to be a swing or a thrust, and a target wheel is chosen to receive it. If successful, a d6 is rolled to determine where the blow lands, starting at the top and going clockwise around the wheel. The outside wheel is used for swings, and the inner wheel used for thrusts.

Why is this important? There are two main reasons. The first is that different wound locations have very different effects. A blow to the hand or forearm is liable to make someone drop something. A blow to the head may disorient your opponent. A blow to the legs may trip them or knock them off-balance. The second major reason is that getting stabbed in the face is going to suck way more than getting stabbed in the arm. The latter could potentially cripple you. The former is liable to kill you.

Naturally then, characters will want to prioritize their armor to cover their most vulnerable areas first just as combatants have done throughout history. Armor in 'Bastards is thus relatively detailed, as it becomes tremendously important to know whether your neck is covered by a maille coif, an aventail, a gorget, or whether they were prancing around with an exposed jugular like this guy

Image by Vicky Burton

Severity

The final axis is the severity of the wound. The harder or more skilled the blow, the more trauma you have potentially caused your opponent. Damage is the end result of a number of factors including how well you rolled, the physical strength of your character, and the rating of the weapon you've used. Because the proficiency of your character plays such an important part, a skilled man with a dagger can do as much or more damage than an opponent with a zweihander.

Wounds are rated on a scale between 1 and 5 levels of damage, with 1 being a light or glancing blow and 5 generally maiming or even killing an opponent outright. The exact results depend on the location and type of damage dealt, above.

The Bloody Fortune Cookie

So you've taken your swing, overcome your opponent's defenses, and you know that your Kriegsmesser just scored a level 4 cut across your opponent's crown. What does that actually mean? This is where the fun comes in:

All of the above information is packaged in what we've taken to calling the Bloody Fortune Cookie. Each wound has all of the relevant information, effects, and a brief description in one place. In addition to having all of the mechanical detail, the flavor text gives a strong narrative picture of what's happening. This detail takes a lot of weight off of the GM's back in keeping combat fast and interesting. Gone are the ubiquitous shoulder wounds. Each blow is measured in blood and sinew. When the player finds himself on the wrong side of an axe, they'll remember exactly where and how badly they were hit.

Join us for part 2 next week, we’ll talk about how this all plugs in and the simple method we found for tracking and quantifying wounds and blood loss. In the meantime, join the discussion on our forums, where we're always interested in feedback!

Until next time,

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Intro Teaser

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Intro Teaser

It's Thursday™ and you know what that means: more teasers! 

We're full steam ahead at GH-HQ, with the beta draft being formatted in InDesign as we speak. It turns out, formatting text isn't quite as much of a pain in the ass as writing it. There's still an editing pass to go to make sure everything lines up and that we don't make ourselves look entirely foolish, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We are nearing the promised land. 

In that spirit, I thought I'd leak a little something here both for feedback and a good tease. I hate writing sales text of any sort, so bizarrely this was one of the hardest sections for me to write in the entire book.

Band of Bastards - Introductory Text

Let us know what you think on our forums!



 

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Cover Art: An Experiment

Agamemnon here, and I thought I would drop something for your consideration. 

As we're making the final passes on the beta, the subject of the cover has come up and been tossed around. While we haven't settled on something yet, we did have an unorthodox idea that did have a certain appeal. You can get into the reasoning behind it on Sword and Scoundrel (which, incidentally, is where most of my "what was he thinking" rants wind up), but I will leave it here for discussion as well. 

Tell us what you think, either in the comments, or by joining our discussion on the forum topic.

Regards,

 

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Happy Turkey Day!

The birds have been eaten, our stomachs are full. Except for Higgins. They don't appear to have Thanksgiving in Estonia, which is a shame because it's delicious. It's been an extremely busy month, and we're extremely proud of the amount of work we've gotten done. Today, however, we are taking a well-earned break. We hope you are too. 

Happy Turkey Day!

 

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