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Conflict and Damage: an Eternal Rule D20 Developer’s Diary

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Conflict is the heart of drama and any story worth telling needs drama. Continuing our look at what makes Eternal Rule D20 Fantasy tick, we look at how conflicts play out, as well as their inevitable outcome, damage.

Combat tends to be one of the largest defining features in a tabletop roleplaying game. ERD20F is designed for fast-paced, brutal combat that enables encounters to be resolved quickly so that they don’t overtake the entire session, while still allowing players breadth of options and opportunities for heroism and daring-do. That being said, ERD20F gives equal weight and design consideration to social conflict for players that want to portray characters who are just as dangerous to their enemies in back rooms and royal courts as warriors are on the battlefield.

The Two Types of Conflicts

Eternal Rule D20 recognizes two basic categories of Ability Scores that define the basics of a character, physical and mental, and these categories also correspond to the two basic types of attacks that can be made.

Mental Attacks

Mental attacks work in almost precisely the same manner as physical ones, though their outcomes are different. There are two types of mental attacks: social and sanity. The major difference between these two types of attacks is that while sanity attacks are used to degrade a target’s sense of reality and mental fortitude, social attacks actually damage the sentiment people feel for the target, meaning that the target may not even be aware that they are being attacked in this manner, or even need to be present to be attacked!

When a character wishes to mentally attack an opponent, they simply make an Ability Check by rolling a twenty-sided die and adding their Ability Modifier; Intelligence for sanity attacks, Wits for social, and then adding the relevant Skill Rank; Comprehension for sanity, or Manipulation for social. If their result equals or exceeds the target’s Mental Evasion Rating, it succeeds. A creature’s Mental Evasion Rating is simply their Wits Ability Score plus any situational modifiers, as well as any other factors from powers and special rules they may have access to.

“The ogre tribes of Garbage Mountain called. They want their boots back!” Duke Foffnip is disdainful of the barbarians who have been invited to court on a diplomatic engagement. He decides to turn the crowd against them by socially attacking one of their group, Boodraka. He makes an Ability Check with his Wits modifier and Manipulation Skill, damaging the crowd’s sentiment towards the barbarian.

Physical Attacks

As you’ve surely guessed, physical attacks are used to injure the opponent’s body. Just as there are two types of mental attacks, social and sanity, there are two types of physical attacks: close-combat and ranged. Both close-combat and ranged attacks can be carried out with a number of weapons and special powers possessed by your character. As you’ll see below, the more damage a character takes, the more physically degraded they become, potentially suffering lasting physical traumas.

Using the same formula as mental attacks, when a character wishes to attack an opponent, they simply make an Ability Check by rolling a twenty-sided die and adding their Ability Modifier; Strength for close-combat, Grace for ranged, and then adding the relevant Skill Rank; Melee for close-combat weapons, or Accuracy for ranged ones. If their result equals or exceeds the target’s Physical Evasion Rating, it succeeds. A creature’s Evasion Rating is simply their Grace Ability Score plus any situational modifiers such as range or lighting, as well as any other factors from powers and special rules they may have access to.

Barbarians have little understanding of sarcasm, so Duke Foffnip’s joke went over Boodraka’s head. Unfortunately for Foffnip, Boodraka’s tribe doesn’t countenance any slight to honor and implying she stole anything-even from the hated trash ogres-demands retribution. Boodraka makes an Ability Check using her Melee Skill Rank to stab the guts out of Duke Foffnip.

Damage

Once you’ve hit your target with an attack, you’ll want to know how badly you’ve wrecked them. Both mental damage and physical damage are dealt with in exactly the same manner. Every weapon has a Damage Rating associated with it, typically ranging from 1 to 4, with a typical unarmed attack having a Damage Rating of 1. Mental and social attacks also have their form of “weapons” in the form of Powers that represent tried-and-true verbal assaults and ploys that are a bit more abstract than a physical weapon but allow for socially-oriented characters that can be just as menacing as physically-oriented ones and have the same range of Damage Ratings. Now, a Damage Rating of 1 or even 4 might not sound like a great deal, but keep in mind that characters often begin play with the capacity for anywhere between 8 to 15 damage and typically have a wealth of powers to choose from that can add to their attack’s Damage Ratings, which we aren’t covering in this particular article, let alone the fact that critical successes in attack rolls are a major threat (which we’ll cover later).

Characters also will have a Mental Armor Rating and a Physical Armor Rating, typically ranging from 1 (unarmored) to 7 (heavily armored) or more, which will attempt to reduce the amount of damage leveraged at them. Damage rolls in ERD20 don’t require the typical assortment of polyhedral dice, instead opting for only ten-sided dice. When a target is hit a number of d10s equal to the Damage Rating of the attack are rolled and any that show a number greater than the target’s Armor Rating inflict one point of damage.

When a character achieves a natural roll of a 20 on their attack roll, the attack is considered a critical hit. Some powers and special rules offer characters a choice of beneficial effects on critical hits, but the typical outcome is that any damage dice that are successful may be rolled again until they are unsuccessful, allowing for potentially double damage! Add to that weapon Traits like Puncture, Brutal, and Painful, there are a wealth of ways that weapons interact with their targets without overly complicating the process.

Health and Tranquility

In keeping with the theme of the separate categories of attacks, each character also has a separate tracker for both their mental and physical wellbeing. When a character suffers physical damage, whether by a close-combat attack or a ranged one, they lose an equal amount of Health from their Health Tracker. In the same manner, mental damage removes Tranquility from the character’s Tranquility Tracker. Each tracker contains three rows, and once a row loses all points, the character will begin to suffer negative effects, worsening as further rows of points are lost. Ultimately, a character that loses all of the Health will have to roll to avoid dying from their horrific wounds and potentially acquiring a lasting or even permanent wound, while a character that has lost all Tranquility risks lasting or even permanent insanity.

When your character is created, their Health and Tranquility are added to the character sheet from top to bottom, in columns going left to right. When damage is removed, it is done so from right to left in rows going top to bottom. This means that characters with higher numbers of Health and Tranquility are able to take more damage before their negative effects are felt.

When a character is created or when it increases its capacity for damage permanently, those points are added from top to bottom, right to left (as shown on the left). When damage is suffered, points are removed from right to left, top to bottom (as shown on the right). This works the same for both Health and Tranquility.

Rest and Recovery

Characters have a variety of means by which they can regain lost Health and Tranquility, both metaphysical and mundane. Typically, characters regain Health and Tranquility (called Recovery) by resting. Characters can take Short Rests, during which they can shed Stress Points and tend to the immediate effects of wounds, or Long Rests when they can attempt to recover Health and Tranquility. Normally, one Health and one Tranquility are regained during a Long Rest of at least eight hours, and characters who have rested for a full day and night may make an Ability Check to regain an additional one. This, of course, assumes that the character is resting in a safe and sanitary location. Certain environments may make it more difficult to rest and recover, even actively harming characters instead, but that’s a subject for a future article.

What makes your drama?

Ultimately, Eternal Rule D20 Fantasy is a rules toolbox, not a strict code to enforce how you play your games. The rulebook contains a wealth of options that are just that. Optional. We’re striving to create a game that can be as light and flexible as you want, or as deep and complex as suits your needs. Not every gaming group has the same interpretation of engaging drama, but we feel confident that ERD20F will offer a framework to set the stage for precisely what you want in your hobby. Keep your ears open or subscribe to our newsletter for updates on the upcoming playtest and for our next article when we start to peel the lid back on character creation and the wealth of options you’ll have at your fingertips!

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