So you know what you have to roll to do stuff and you know that there are skills that let you do stuff. So what sort of stuff can you do? We’ll look at that today. Where this starts with actions, we’ll primarily discuss things in terms of powers as a lot of powers are just fancy actions.
- Gamer Contract
- The Core Mechanic
- Actions & Powers
- Character Creation
- Faith - spin-off
The mechanical meat of a system can be summarized with two questions: “what can you do” and “how do you do it”. Most of these get all thrown in together as classes. When 2nd ed AD&D released Player’s Options: Skills & Powers (that brilliant, yet horribly balanced series) I had a bit of an epiphany: why not separate the powers from the classes. At the time, I put together a classless version of AD&D, which we used for our games in college. It wasn’t bad, but a bit clunky since it was just a hack and the powers were disconnected from proficiencies/skills. Nonetheless, that was the earliest version of the idea. Too many years and too little free time later I finally started putting Krendel’s system together.
Actions are stuff you can do. If you’ve got the skills, you can do an action. Powers are special actions that you must train for in order to perform. You get them by spending XP.
Broadly speaking, there are three classes of actions or powers. There’s active stuff, passive stuff, and meta stuff. Specific types of actions and powers (e.g. shouts, rituals, etc.) are called practices.
Active stuff only happens when you do it. The default they are just called actions, because they are stuff you can do, but many of them have special names, like shouts, spells, prayers, assemblies, and the like. These labels do two things. First, they tell you some default settings for actions with that label. For example when you see a shout you will know that it always uses earshot range. Second, they are a keyword that can be used by other things, like developments, stances, and boosts. So where spells and prayers are pretty much the same, because they have different labels one might be affected by a boost when the other isn’t.
Passive stuff is always on. These are called developments, and they simply augment you in some way. They might let you speak a language, give you extra Health, bonus karma, etc.
Meta stuff is used to augment active stuff. These are called boosts. They usually cost one power pool or power well. If your expertise applies, you can stack multiple boosts on one action. Many boosts leverage keywords (practices, methods, skills, expertises, damage types, etc.) that limit when they can be applied, for instance, channeling can boost any faith power whereas shorten ceremony can only boost [faith] ceremonies.
A hybrid of all the above is the stance. You can activate a stance at any time, and once it is active you derive passive bonuses from it that may augment active stuff. You can think of stances like fighting styles, but they are a bit more expansive than that, including trying to be stealthy.
Example Time! A sorcerer casts galvanic maw. This is a basic electrical zap zap spell. He boosts it with extension to increase its range and with shape weave so that it arcs between several targets. If his skill level is high enough, he might also boost it with pierce resistances and empower to cut through defenses and deliver extra oomph. The final, boosted spell packs quite a punch but it’s also expensive to use: each of those boosts costs one power pool.
You probably caught on that powers are fueled by something called power pool or something like that. Krendel uses a simplified “mana” system. Everyone has two types of “mana”. You have a power pool, which refreshes after each encounter, and you have a power well, which refreshes each day.
Generally speaking, if a power is instant to invoke and has a duration no longer than the encounter, then it costs one power pool. “Bigger” stuff takes a power well. You can also dig into your power well to quickly recharge your power pool.
You can increase both your well and your pool through traits and developments.
Powers come in three tiers: lesser, greater, epic. These correspond to skill levels 2, 4 and 6. Outside of a quirk of faith, the only published epic powers are in the core method, and there’s only, like, 5 of them. So essentially all powers are lesser or greater. This encourages characters to grow horizontally, not just vertically.
I’ve mentioned a few times that powers are grouped into methods, and the methods you can use are based on your setting. There’s a method for [most] everything: core for not too fantastical expansions of skills, artifice for making permanent magic items, alchemy for making disposable magic items, arcane for slinging spells, faith for divine intervention, focus for your crazy martial arts, implants for merging items with your flesh, imprints for magical mutations, nanoswarm for technology grounded fantastical effects, psychic for your mind bending nonsense, and resonance for sound effects.
Each method offers a different approach, a different path to power, but many of the underlying powers will be the same. The mechanical differences are also thematic differences. For instance, arcane users can only gain new powers through extensive research or reading manuals. They also need to use a wand or similar to work their magic. Meanwhile, faith users must obey the tenets of their faith and use a holy symbol; however, they also gain bonuses or penalties based on how harmonious their intent is with the faith’s wishes, and they may draw upon the strength of other followers. Despite these differences, both methods can be used to perform amended execution.
These were also touched on back in “Settings”. Each method has a series of styles that you can use to tailor the method better to your setting. All of these are cosmetic, and some styles also have slight mechanical tweaks. For example, the arcane method has the following styles:
- Sorcery just uses the baseline rules. This is your standard, “I’m a Wizard, I’ve read some books, and now I call down fire” kind of thing. It’s probably what you think of when you think “magic spells”.
- Catalyzation draws power from material ingredients. These mages will be shopping for rare dusts, pearls, sprigs of infused plants, and that sort of thing so they can fuel their magics. They can also double the number of required ingredients to give their powers some extra kick.
- Inscription only works when you draw sigils directly on your target. The good news is that its effects last twice as long.
- Vocalization changes spells into words of power. The range flips from sight to earshot.
Where all of those fall under the arcane method and use the exact same powers, they are also just different enough that they give a whole lot of flavor and slight mechanical tweaks. You can use styles to also represent different cultural approaches, not just “what’s available”.
Powers are already sorted by method and practice, now it’s time for one more: elements. Each method has several elements. These are thematic divisions of powers within a method. Their primary purpose is to give you guidance as to what powers to take to achieve a particular theme. The various paths to power within a method are built using elements. Most methods only have about four elements. Arcane and Faith, the two largest methods, have more. Let’s stick with arcane for our example.
Arcane’s elements are air, blood, dimension, earth, fire, fortune, radiance, shadow, vision, water, and weave. With the exception of weave (a universal element), to learn powers from any element you must first buy its charm and you are limited in the number of charms you can know. So if I want to learn air magic, I first buy air charm. This then lets me learn clamoring force, climatize, foundry of mist, galvanic maw, reaching resonance, and tempo. If I grab clamoring force, then I can pick up buffeting sentinel, drifting feathers, and living wind. If I get both drifting feathers and living wind, then I can pick up wind column. Things continue like this: requirements branch and interweave, but they all start by buying that first power in the element.
These requirements for powers are clearly spelled out and can vary by method. So if you want to angle for a particular power, you can see what you will need to do to get there.
This approach also helps keep characters unique and reliant on each other for collaboration since everyone can have a different bag of tricks. Your air mage is going to look different from other characters, not just compared to a priest or a psychic, but also compared to a radiance mage or vision mage.
One of my favorite playtests was a day at the mage academy (aka Scarlet Dynamo) where players got to shift between 22 unique characters, 12 of which were mages, based on what was happening in the story of that day. It really showcased how you can have so many different, yet equally viable builds using only two methods: core and arcane.
After those examples you may thinking it’s awesome to be a mage and wondering about the mundanes. Does Krendel retread other games where the spell casters get all the options and the warriors get none? No, and that’s where the core method comes into play. It has over 100 powers that are just extensions from the sixteen skills. These give your rogue, warrior, face, or sage options and additions to just “I talk” or “I swing at the dude”. These options are most readily apparent with combat where warriors can choose from a number of stances and boosts to augment their performance. So you might drop into the diamond leaf stance to help you defend your allies and then boost an attack with jarring blow to make an opponent easier to strike.
As Krendel is based on skills and powers, there are no strict limitations to what you can and cannot have. Just because you build a warrior at the beginning does mean you can’t grow into a mage, thief, priest, bard, commander, or whatever. Just make sure your growth reflects the story.
So I skipped what I hope are easy to figure out parts of actions and powers. Actions can be free or standard. Each round you get one standard action and free actions on a case by case basis. Actions can similarly be instant, short (they take an encounter to perform), or long (they take a day to perform), and they can have durations that mirror this. There are also sustained action: they keep going so long as you actively maintain them. Songs are a great example here. Ranges are as you might imagine: self, reach, sight, or earshot. Chances are, just reading this paragraph is all you need to get a quick grasp of these bits and bobs. You can, of course, read up on the detail in the Core Mechanics chapter.
The overall structure of powers won’t change. There will still be methods, practices, styles, and elements. They work, but I recognize that it can be a number of moving parts. The best solution to this is, frankly, to release setting material.
I will probably expand the methods to include gadgetry. The main change will be to expand powers across four tiers: lesser, greater, epic, and legendary. So several powers will be shifted up a tier, and several new powers will be included.
I will also be going through all the powers to try to remove options that you purchase with successes. These extra effects will either be built into the power (and the power maybe moved up a tier as a result) or turned into more broadly applicable boosts. The presentation will be more like what you see in Shards. The hope is that this can help speed up your gameplay some.