Krendel Characters: The Guardsman

Last week I asked what people wanted me to talk about with respect to Krendel and how it relates to the new iteration. The answer I got back was, among other things, character types and their play styles. 

As folks may know already, Krendel is pretty open when it comes to the type of character you can play; though, changes are being made to open the door even more. A fair amount of attention has gone into making sure that each skill has healthy room to grow. Other areas (combat, sorcery, and faith) needed less expansion, but still got attention to give them balance and more clear avenues of growth.

Before I dive into talking about a character type and its play style, I wanted to talk about a small addition to character creation. Krendel offers a lot of options, and those options can make the process of making a character seem daunting. To help out, archetypes have been introduced. These just give you a mechanical build out of the gate, picking your traits, skills, and powers for you, so all you have to worry about is the species and persona (motivation, friendships, etc.). After creation, you're free to do whatever you want with your character: Archetypes are just a starting point. I'll be using some of these archetypes in the coming weeks to talk about various character types, but with the assumption that the character will continue down the path they started.

I'm starting with a combat oriented character because there's a lot of variety there and because all the stances are reworked. So let's take a look at the Guardsman. 

The guardsman is the professional soldier. There's not a lot of them in the ruined kingdoms of the Cerulean Sea, where more attention is given to simple survival as opposed to supporting a standing army. However, they are relatively common in Ravishan and Telren with a scattering in Torynce and Elasona. Here's the archetype's current stats.

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Background: Soldier
Elective Traits: agile (limber), robust (solid)
Skills: Athletics (Endurance, Vigor) 2, Influence (Forceful) 1, Intuition (Urban) 2, Melee (Balanced, Shields) 2, Projectile
(Mechanical) 2, Ranging (Urban) 1
Powers: armor use, diamond leaf, fortitude, rebounding block, weapon training
Equipment: Light Armor, Light Crossbow, Medium Shield, Light Blade, Medium Spear, 20 Bolts

The traits, among other things, grant extra expertise. This is how the Guardsman has two expertises for Athletics and Melee. 

Athletics (Endurance) is mainly for defense and encumbrance. It helps make the Guardian a wall. Athletics (Vigor) is, like it sounds, about the application of force, raw strength. Its good for pushing people around and unlocks some strength based powers. 

Influence (Forceful) helps the character intimidate or give commands, if she wants to go down a commander path. 

Intuition (Urban) is initiative and the ability to spot things in an urban environment. Clearly she is best in a city, rather than chasing down bandits in the forest where her Intuition is halved.

Here, Melee clearly gives the character the ability to properly use a shield, but balanced? Balanced weapons include daggers, swords, spears, and staves. Blades are great against lightly armored foes and very versatile with powers. Spears have reach and are good for charging. Staves also generally have reach and are good for parrying. As many options as she gets there, she's mainly designed around her shield, so you could easily swap balanced weapons for flexible or weighted instead.

In Krendel fantasy there's really only two types of projectiles: thrown and mechanical (guns don't really exist here). The latter are bows, slings, and crossbows. At a glance, you may have picked up that the Guardsman is a pretty typical Grecian or Roman soldier, but here's where she diverges as she'll be packing either a bow or crossbow. However, its not her main weapon.

Ranging is your ability to move around and survive in an environment. Focusing on the urban world means easier navigation in a city and a better idea of where to find someone she might need to talk to.

With those skills, there's a lot of different directions, but her powers really help her specialize.

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Armor Use reduces the penalty from wearing armor. She can purchase this a number of times equal to half her Athletics (Endurance), allowing her to more easily cope with the weight and damage incurred by armor (its a tropical environment, heavy armor takes a toll).

Diamond Leaf weds the guardsman to her shield. This power is a stance. Once activated, your stance gives you a bonus for the whole encounter. This stance is built around blocking with a weapon (in game terms, performing a Melee Counter). Normally, you can only perform a Melee Counter against Melee attacks; however, a shield lets you also use it against ranged attacks. This is why the character has no Acrobatics for dodging: She just uses her shield instead. As mentioned above, all the stances have changed. The extra actions they were giving as lesser powers was a bit too much when combined with other powers. Now, Diamond Leaf simply allows you to block for other people, block better for yourself, and shove people with your shield.

Fortitude gives extra Health. Everyone in a High Campaign starts with it or Determined. Like Armor Use, she can purchase this a number of times equal to half her Athletics (Endurance), which gives her good potential for taking damage.

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Rebounding Block is new. If you fully counter an attack with your shield, then you can apply any excess successes as an automatic shove against your attacker. This is a boost, so you have to declare its use before you roll, but since you can see what your attacker rolled, you can kind of predict when it will or won't do you any good before your have to declare.

Weapon Training is also new. It used to be that expertise let you use bigger weapons more easily. Instead that's been split off into this power. So your average person can only use light weapons one handed, but the trained Guardsman can use medium weapons one handed.

A glance at her gear shows that it followers her powers. She's got armor that she doesn't take penalties from, and except for her back up (a light blade), she's sporting a good selection of medium weapons (each doing +2 damage).

Outside of combat, the base guardsman is mainly backup for other people's show. She can lend some intimidation and help track people in a city, but she's really focused on combat, so how does she do that? 

The guardsman doesn't need to rush in. She has a crossbow for a reason, even if that reason turns out to be just handing it to someone else while they hide behind her and her shield. After all, she's not focused on shooting, her game is her shield.

Once the distance has been closed, the guardsman has two principle rolls. The first is defense. She works amazingly well in tandem with other characters since she can counter attacks meant for them, even after they have attempted their own counter. This has been a game changer in every combat I've witnessed. The second is positioning: She can move enemies around. Aside from shoving someone off a ledge, the value of this is generally best illustrated with miniatures, but if you shove someone hard enough, they might fall prone, which can leave them vulnerable. 

Although she has no offense related powers, that doesn't prevent her from dealing damage, and the choice of spear is to make sure she can perform a "reach attack", which allows her to attack first even if her opponent is faster, but only so long as he has a shorter weapon.

So where do you go with this? As the character advances, she'll mainly focus on Athletics and Melee. She can become more intimidating and couple that with Academics (Tactics) to go full commander. She'll probably also increase her Projectile some. If she sticks with the spear, she won't need to work on her Intuition until much later. She may also want to work on Reflection, which provides mental defense. Again, these paths really get fleshed out with powers.

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In the short term, she'll want to pick up Alertness (gives one extra counter), Squad Tactics (attack past a friend without penalty), Obstruct (make it harder for people to push past you), and Fierce Lunge (extra reach and damage with that spear). She could also go for Addling Strike or Flensing Strike to cause conditions with attacks. At the next tier, her priority is Diamond Oak, which enhances the Diamond Leaf stance with an extra block. She'll probably also want to buy more Armor Use and Fortitude as well as Shrug Off (self heal). For offense, Devastating Strike (extra damage to a prone or dazed target) and Precise Strike (armor piercing) are both solid choices. Picking up Armsman (can re-roll a Melee action) is also kind of a no brainer.

If she wants more offensive versatility, the Guardsman can purchase two other stances. There's a number of melee stances, but the important one here is the only greater tier stance: Sapphire Flame, which lets her combine two stances, but she can only use their lesser effects, not those she'd get from Diamond Oak. Since its possible to shift stances during a combat, such versatility could be a useful advantage. 

Another path for offense is Wild Swing (if you miss, then you can attack an adjacent target, just don't miss both times!) and then Follow Through (take another action after you drop someone) as both leverage her Athletics (Vigor).

If the character leans into that forceful Influence, Cry of Warning (help others who were surprised), Inspire (one time bonus to next counter), and Taunt (force someone to attack you) are good options. The latter works well with the base load out since she can't block for someone else if she is out of position, but she can block for herself. At the greater tier she can pick up Rally (help others throw off mental conditions). Making the jump to leadership, she can get the Carnelian Sentinel stance. Where that is probably best left for someone focusing on that path, since she'd want to study Academics (Tactics) to get the most out of it, she could go for a sergeant type character and use Sapphire Flame to combo this with Diamond Leaf.

If she instead leans into projectile, then she'd first want to get Quick Draw to make loading faster and then pick up a stance for it, probably Citrine Perch (made for snipers and later upgraded with Citrine Lens), since at close range its shields up. Far Shot (extra range) would work well here. Addling Strike and Flensing Strike can work with both Melee and Projectile weapons, making them more attractive purchases. Marksman (the Projectile equivalent of Armsman) would also be an obvious purchase.

As a closing remark on powers, one choice you'll have to make is faith. A priest of the same faith will get some bonuses when helping you out with prayers and ceremonies. Perhaps the most notable "faithful guardsmen" are the Soldiers of Light, guardsmen dedicated to the god Mykael, who, in addition to being the god of light and justice, is a war god. Its conceivable that such a character will even learn a faith power or three.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Guardsman. This isn't to say that your Guardsman has to go down these routes; these are just the ones that best fit the theme of the archetype. After all, your adventures and the nature of organic character growth means you might take a completely different path.