Above all, Sword & Scoundrel is a role-playing game about characters. The PCs are center-stage, and through their actions they drive the story forward. It's a game about hard choices, where players must declare what is most important to their characters. Through their actions they must decide what they are willing to do and how far they are willing to go to further, uphold, or protect what they believe in. More than anything, it is a game about conflict and consequences, sometimes moral, sometimes social, and often physical. It is a game of passion, violence, and general skullduggery.
Sword & Scoundrel uses a simple dice-pool system based on readily available six-sided dice. The simple resolution mechanic can be picked up in seconds, making it easy to introduce to new players.
All of the advanced resolution systems are optional, allowing the GM to pick them up either as the group becomes interested in them, or as they become relevant to the campaign. This modular approach also allows the advanced systems to be tweaked, hacked, removed or replaced as fits the group's preferences and the focus of the campaign. We give you optional rules to help with just that.
Drives and Character-Based Progression
Drives are the heart of the game, representing what the PCs care about most. When a character is fighting for what is important to them, they are that much better at it. Rather than awarding experience points for enemies slain or milestones achieved in the game master's plots, drives also form the primary character advancement mechanism. They reward the players for pursuing their goals, dreams, and motivations. They put the players in control, giving them a direct means to communicate to the GM exactly the kinds of stories they want to see and the ways in which they want to be challenged. For the GM, they are built-in hooks that virtually guarantee that the scenario built upon them will be one that has the players actively engaged and excited to play out.
A robust, classless character creation system gives you the tools you need to create whatever you can dream up, while providing enough structure to keep the process simple and manageable. Like our favorite characters on screen or in novels, PCs are given enough capability to be the movers and shakers of the setting. Whatever it is you want to do, you can be among the best at it right out of the gate, rather than having to earn competency through play. Meanwhile, the focus is kept not just on what your character is, but on who, with players rewarded for defining and engaging with their Drives and Traits in play.
In whatever form, combat is fast and lethal. Based in a deep love of Historical European Martial Arts, every system has been designed to emphasize player choice and incentivize smart play and clever tactics. Melee combat is built around a dynamic split-dice pool system, giving the players an element of risk and reward as they engage in the ebb-and-flow of historical swordplay. There are no generic attacks, with each blow represented by a specific maneuver and aimed at an area of your opponent's body. A location-based wound system records successful blows without HP, tracking damage in broken bones and severed flesh. Ranged combat is treated with a similar level of care, given its own risks and options to keep archers and marksmen as engaged as their sword-wielding peers. Finally, a unique Skirmish system organizes hectic combat scenes in a way that mimics their portrayal in novels and film, resulting in a cinematic experience that brings order to chaos without sacrificing too much of its unpredictable nature.
Arms and Armor
Weapons and armor have been given careful attention, with a design that keeps true to the historical realities of their use without bogging the game down in unplayable detail. Armor reacts to different weapons as it should, with plate turning sword blades aside and passing on any injury sustained as blunt trauma. Weapons are treated in a fluid, dynamic way that gives the players the ability to customize their own weapons to suit the image they have of their characters.
Wealth is handled in an abstract system that lets players choose between leveraging their assets and dealing directly in cold, hard coin. A character's resources are kept relevant to the game without wasting valuable playtime on accounting exercises.
Characters are thrust into a gritty world akin to the European Renaissance. It is a time of profound change, and an era roiling in the throws of social, political, religious, and technological upheaval. Aside from its dramatic and adventurous potential, a default Renaissance setting also allows the game to be easily tweaked to any other setting from the height of the Roman Empire to the beginning of the early modern period with minimal adjustment. The implied nature of the setting within the rules also makes it easy to import your own favorite settings, whether home-brewed or patterned off existing fantasy worlds.
However you game, we want to support it. In addition to our printed products, all of our offerings will be made digitally available. Further, we're already developing tools specifically to take advantage of digital play. Our downloads section currently contains a form-fillable Pdf character sheet, and for those of you who play on Roll20 a comprehensive Sword & Scoundrel character sheet is already live in their system. Both include auto-calculating fields and a full character calculator to make character creation even easier. Finally, we have a small but active forum community willing to answer any questions you might have and help you get started that much faster.
On The Horizon
While the bulk of the game is ready, playable, and will be released over the coming weeks, with your support we'd like to do even more.
- Factions: rules to support player-run factions from secret cults and street gangs to merchant guilds and mercenary companies.
- Mass Combat: scaling rules that allow large-scale conflicts to be supported with meaningful mechanics while keeping the focus where it should remain — on the players.
- Magic: A massive and dynamic subtle-sorcery system mimicking magic as depicted in folklore and real-world occult traditions, along with rules for supernatural gifts and artifact creation.
- Play Packs: prepackaged scenarios to serve either as one-shot adventures, or to serve as fodder to kick start a campaign.