of All the Earth
A Game of Subversion and Redemption set in a Mythic Biblical Past
The Judge Two System
The core game mechanic in The Way of All the Earth is called the “Judge Two System.” Whenever a player character attempts a difficult action the player rolls two dice and then “judges” the dice by assigning one to be called the Light die and one to be called the Truth die. The result of the Light die, plus the player character’s most relevant attribute, forms a sum that is compared against a challenge level set by the gamemaster. If the sum is equal to or greater than the challenge level then the action succeeds and the player character gets what they want. If the sum is less then the action fails and they suffer a consequence. The result of the Truth die determines what happens next. If the Truth die is a 1, 2 or 3, then the gamemaster takes a turn against the player characters. If the Truth die is 4, 5 or 6, then another player character takes a turn.
The Way of All the Earth is a game of subversion and redemption: the subversion of oppressive kingdoms and their stolen relic magick, and the redemption of those given new life and new responsibility for the poor and the vulnerable. These themes can only be achieved through dramatic action and mortal conflict. This chapter explains how actions and conflicts are described and resolved in The Way of All the Earth.
Actions in Action
Everything that a player character does in the world of The Way of All the Earth is called an action. Any time a player desires for their character to perform an action the player describes what their character is attempting to achieve and how they are attempting to achieve it in conversation with the gamemaster. The action is then resolved using the rules described below to see if the action is a success and achieves the player’s desired outcome or to see if the action is a failure and does not achieve the player’s desired outcome.
There are three basic kinds of actions in The Way of All the Earth: deeds, tests, and saves.
Deeds are the simplest kind of action with low dramatic stakes and low levels of challenge. The outcome of a deed is never really in doubt. Deeds are things like exploring or observing an environment, emoting and conversing with other characters, interacting with and using items and equipment, etc. Under normal conditions a character can perform up to two deeds at the same time.
Deeds are automatically resolved in the player’s favor with gamemaster confirmation. The player describes it and it happens.
Tests are a more complex kind of action with high dramatic stakes and high levels of challenge. The outcome of a test is in doubt because the action is difficult, or because it is being attempted in adverse conditions, or because it is being resisted by another character. Tests are things like feats of physical strength and dexterity, investigation and persuasion, intellectual and creative problem solving, combat maneuvers, social performances, the use of supernal powers, etc. Under normal conditions a character can only perform one test at a time.
Tests are resolved by following the four steps described below.
Step 1: Choose an attribute
Any test a player character performs draws upon one of the character’s attributes. Which attribute is drawn upon is determined in conversation with the gamemaster. Each player character has nine attributes and each attribute has a rank between zero and three. An attribute’s rank represents how effective the player character is in using the attribute. The nine attributes are briefly summarized below.
Arm: Raw physical force, for lifting, carrying, striking, and intimidating.
Breath: Wisdom and experience, for studying, composing, recalling, and judging.
Eyes: Awareness and perception, for noticing, investigating, hunting, and aiming.
Feet: Speed and agility, for leaping, balancing, chasing, and escaping.
Guts: Concentration and resolve, for climbing, swimming, riding, and sailing.
Hands: Skill and labor, for crafting, building, evaluating, and repairing.
Nose: Charisma and imagination, for acting, performing, disguising, and creating.
Spirit: Stealth and deception, for sneaking, thieving, tricking, and ambushing.
Tongue: Persuasiveness and wit, for swaying, negotiating, seducing, and shaming.
Step 2: Assign a challenge level
The gamemaster assigns a “challenge level” (CL) to the test. A challenge level is a number between four and eight and represents the difficulty of the test. The higher the challenge level the more difficult it is for the player to achieve their desired outcome.
CL 4: Actions that average characters could reliably perform if they had to. E.g. Carrying vases filled with water beneath a hot sun, making sense of archaic poetry, flirting with a drunk person, hitting a practice target with an arrow.
CL 5: Actions that capable characters could reliably perform with either effort or preparation and which pose a challenge. E.g. Climbing a shoddy and broken ladder, picking out a face in a crowd, becoming the life of a party, striking a common cutpurse.
CL 6: Actions that expert characters could reliably perform with dedicated effort and preparation and which pose a serious challenge. E.g. Smashing down a reinforced door, researching complex legal codes, haggling with a keen merchant, striking a hardened mercenary.
CL 7: Actions that masterful characters could reliably perform with significant effort and preparation and which pose a massive challenge. E.g. Scaling a fortress wall barehanded and without assistance, predicting the political maneuvers of multiple factions, persuading a mob of slaves to rebel against their masters, striking a grandmaster swordsman.
CL 8: Actions that only the most powerful characters can even attempt to perform and even then only with maximum effort, preparation, and a considerable amount of luck. Such actions are of legendary difficulty. E.g. Throwing a boulder as if it were a simple stone, navigating the underworld undetected, rebuking a sea monster into submission, striking an enraged demon.
Tests involving or directly opposing a non-player character have a challenge level equal to the non-player character’s “power level” (PL). A power level is a representation of the non-player character’s degree of significance and danger. Power levels run between four and eight just like challenge levels.
Step 3: Roll and judge the dice
The player rolls two six sided dice and then “judges” the dice by assigning one die to be the Light die and one die the Truth die. The result of the Light die is added to the rank of the player character’s chosen attribute to form a sum called the test’s Final Light (FL).
Step 4: Determine the outcome
If the test’s Final Light is greater than or equal to the test’s challenge level then the test is a success and the player achieves their desired outcome. If the test’s Final Light is less than the test’s challenge level then the test is a failure and the player does not achieve their desired outcome. The player character instead misses, falls short, gives out, makes a mistake, or is otherwise unable to achieve what they set out to.
If the test’s Truth die is 1-3 then the test is said to be “guilty.” If the test’s Truth die is 4-6 then the test is said to be innocent. The effect of guilty and innocent tests is described next.
Simple Test Example
Variel is trying to sprint across the decrepit tiles of an old storehouse roof as it gives way beneath him. The gamemaster explains that such a dangerous action will be resolved as a test. Variel’s player and the gamemaster agree that the feet attribute, emphasizing the need for quickness and balance, is the most appropriate attribute to draw on for the test. Variel has two ranks in the feet attribute. The gamemaster assigns a challenge level of 6 to Variel’s test, reasoning that only an expert character could reliably pull off the feat. Variel’s player rolls two dice and gets a 2 and a 5 and then chooses to judge the 5 as Light and the 2 as Truth. Variel’s two ranks in his feet attribute are added to the 5 Light from the roll for a Final Light of 7. Variel’s Final Light of 7 is greater than or equal to the test’s challenge level of 6. With 2 Truth, Variel’s roll results in a guilty success. Variel grits his teeth and sprints forward at full speed, choosing where to step with lightning reflexes, and crossing the rooftop inches ahead of its collapsing tiles.
Truth and Turns
At any given time during the course of playing The Way of All the Earth it is always considered to be one of the players’ turns. When it is a player’s turn the narrative spotlight is on them and they have some degree of control over the story. The gamemaster addresses the player, sets up the situation they are in, and then asks them what their character wants to do. On a player’s turn their character can perform up to two deeds and one test, with the deeds resolving before the test. When a player resolves their character’s test the turn passes to another player, who then controls the story and performs up to two deeds and a test. The turn then passes to another player, and another, and another, until every player has taken a turn. Players may take their turns in any order they desire but no player may take a second turn before every other player has taken a first. When every player has taken a turn a round is said to be completed and a new round begins with players taking another set of turns. This process repeats throughout the length of play in The Way of All the Earth.
Whenever a player resolves a test and passes the turn to another player there is a chance that the gamemaster will intervene to challenge the players and their characters. When the gamemaster intervenes is determined by the roll of the Truth die when a player character’s test is resolved. If the Truth die is a 4, 5, or 6, then the test is referred to as “innocent” and the player passes the turn directly to the next player without an intervention by the gamemaster. If the Truth die is a 1, 2, or 3, then the test is referred to as “guilty” and the gamemaster performs an intervention before the player passes the turn to the next player.
Interventions are descriptions of actions and circumstances that challenge the players. Three example interventions are described below. Which kind of intervention a gamemaster chooses is up to them and the needs of the story, but certain kinds of interventions are more common in certain kinds of scenes.
The gamemaster might introduce a new challenge, obstacle, or opponent that the players must overcome or otherwise deal with, or the gamemaster might deprive the player characters of a resource, tool, or ally that was aiding them.
The gamemaster might describe a situation which compromises or undoes some of the success of a player character’s action, requiring them to try again to achieve their full desired outcome.
The gamemaster might ask a player to attempt to resist a danger from the environment or the gamemaster might grant a non-player character a full turn of their own to perform hostile actions against a player character.
Player A takes their turn and gets a guilty roll
The gamemaster intervenes
Player C takes their turn and gets an innocent roll
Player B takes their turn and gets a guilty roll
The gamemaster intervenes
Round 1 is complete
Player C takes their turn and gets an innocent roll
Player B takes their turn and gets an innocent roll
Player A takes their turn and gets an innocent roll
Round 2 is complete
Player B takes their turn and gets a guilty roll
The gamemaster intervenes
Player A takes their turn and gets a guilty roll
The gamemaster intervenes
Player C takes their turn and gets a guilty roll
The gamemaster intervenes
Round 3 is complete
Saves are the third and final kind of action. Saves are like tests in that they involve high dramatic stakes and substantial challenges but differ from tests in that they are defensive in nature and attempt to avoid, deflect, or resist some hostile action or dangerous circumstance facing the character. When a save is successful the hostile action or dangerous circumstance is thwarted and the player character is spared any negative consequences. When a save fails the hostile action or dangerous circumstance harms the player character.
Saves are resolved in the same manner as tests with two important differences.
1. Saves draw on essences not attributes
While saves are resolved exactly like tests, saves draw upon a player character’s essences instead of their attributes. Each player character has four essences and each essence has a rank between zero and three. A player adds the ranks of their character’s most appropriate essence to a save’s Light die in order to form a save’s Final Light. The four essences are briefly summarized below.
Heart: Poise and willpower, used against manipulation, temptation, and fatigue.
Mind: Sharpness of thought, used against surprise, ambush, and deception.
Strength: Sheer physical endurance, used against pain, violence, and physical hazards.
Faith: Force of conviction, used against fear, supernal beings, and magick.
The first three essences described above are all related to three of the the player character’s nine attributes. Each of these three essences has a rank equal to the sum of the ranks of its three related attributes, divided by two and rounded down.
Heart = ? (Nose + Guts + Tongue)
Mind = ? (Breath + Eyes + Hands)
Strength = ? (Arm + Feet + Spirit)
Faith is determined differently and explained in detail in chapter 2.
2. Saves are not performed as part of a player character’s turn
Saves are resolved as part of a gamemaster’s intervention and therefore between two players’ turns. Unlike with tests, which a player character can only perform one of and only on their turn, there are no limits to the total number of saves a player character can perform during a round. A player character performs one save for each hostile action or circumstance that faces them, no more and no less. Additionally a player character cannot perform any deeds when they perform a save. They must perform the save by itself.
As with tests, guilty saves result in an intervention by the gamemaster which would then immediately follow the prior intervention. As long as saves continue to be guilty the gamemaster continues to perform interventions. Only an innocent result on a save in such a circumstance can pass the turn to the next player.
Simple Save Example
Variel is trying to dive for cover as a burning building collapses. The gamemaster explains that a desperate action like that will be resolved as a save. Variel’s player and the gamemaster agree that the mind essence is the most appropriate essence to draw upon for the save, because it represents reflexes and awareness. Variel has one rank in the mind essence. The gamemaster assigns a challenge level of 5 to Variel’s save, reasoning that a capable character could reliably perform the task. Variel’s player rolls two dice and gets two 3s. With doubles, there isn’t anything to judge, and both Light and Truth become 3. Variel’s one rank in his mind essence is added to the 3 Light from the roll for a Final Light of 4. Variel’s Final Light of 4 is less than the save’s challenge level of 5. With 3 Truth, Variel’s roll results in a guilty failure. Variel tries to run and dive for cover but is too slow to act. Fire and stone pelt Variel, battering him into the ground beneath a smoking pile of ruins. The gamemaster would then intervene before the turn passes to another player.
Degrees of Success and Failure
A successful test or save is said to have a “degree of success” equal to the action’s Final Light minus the action’s challenge level, and a failed test or save is said to have a “degree of failure” equal to the action’s challenge level minus the action’s Final Light. High degrees of success represent actions which succeed spectacularly, perhaps even achieving more than the player character set out to. Low degrees of success represent actions which only nearly succeed by a desperate margin. High degrees of failure represent actions which fail utterly, perhaps setting the player character even farther back than they began. Low degrees of failure represent narrow losses and missed opportunities. During conflict scenes, degrees of success and failure take on a special significance, and determine the full effect of attacks and defenses.
Action Resolution Summary
Tests and saves can have four possible outcomes. The degrees of success or failure of an action are always noted with a number immediately following the result with a +X for degrees of success or a -X for degrees of failure.
Innocent Success (Truth 4-6 and FL >/= CL): The best result. The player character achieves their desired outcome and the turn passes directly to another player without a gamemaster intervention.
Guilty Success (Truth 1-3 and FL >/= CL): A moderate result. The player character achieves their desired outcome but the turn passes to another player only after a gamemaster intervention.
Innocent Failure (Truth 4-6 and FL < CL): A moderate result. The player character does not achieve their desired outcome but the turn passes directly to another player without a gamemaster intervention.
Guilty Failure (Truth 1-3 and FL < CL): The worst result. The player character does not achieve their desired outcome and the turn passes to another player only after a gamemaster intervention.
Bold and Faint Actions
When resolving tests and saves in The Way of All the Earth specific abilities, items, and situations can grant bonuses or impose penalties on rolls. Bonuses come in the form of bold and quick rolls and penalties come in the form of faint and long rolls. Each of these situations is described below.
A bold test or save is a test or save in which the player character is acting with a distinctive advantage. When rolling a bold test or save the player rolls three six sided dice, chooses one to be the Light die and one to be the Truth die, and then ignores the third die.
A faint test or save is a test or save in which the player character is desperately facing disadvantageous circumstances. When rolling a faint test or save the player rolls three six-sided dice, discards the highest roll, then chooses one die to be the Light die and one die to be the Truth die.
Bold and faint actions are opposites of one another. If a non-player character performs a bold action against a player character it would be resolved by the player making a faint save. If a non-player character performs a faint action against a player character it would be resolved with the player making a bold save.
If for some reason a player character’s roll should be both bold and faint at the same time, these effects cancel each other out, and the player rolls the default two dice and resolves the action normally. This is true even if there are multiple sources causing bold and faint rolls and even if there are more sources of one than the other.
A quick test or save is a test or save that is safer, faster, or more more controlled than other actions. Quick tests and saves cannot lead to a gamemaster intervention, regardless of test’s or save’s Truth die. The turn always passes from one player to another player following a quick test or save. Quick tests and saves still count as innocent or guilty for other purposes, like interacting with feats and other abilities, as the Truth die indicates.
A long test is a test which is slowed, obstructed, or weighed down such that more time or more resources are necessary to perform it. When a long test is resolved the gamemaster first intervenes, with any saves this prompts being quick, and then the player resolves their test as normal. The immediate gamemaster intervention represents what happens as the player character takes the time to perform their action.
Saves cannot be long. If some ability or effect would compel a player character to resolve a long save, they resolve a faint save instead.
If two or more players have turns available to them in the current round, and if the player characters are near enough to one another and available in a way that makes sense, the player characters may take their turns simultaneously and act together to perform a group test. A group test is a test where each participating player character works together to achieve the same desired outcome. A group test can involve either two or three player characters. If four or more player characters desire to perform group tests together, they need to do it in smaller groups of two or three, one at a time. E.g. Four players could act in two pairs, five players could act as two then as three, six players could act either as three pairs or as two sets of three, etc.
When two player characters perform a group test the two players each roll two dice simultaneously. The two players then confer and judge the dice. Each player judges one die of the four as their own Light die and then the players agree together on one die of the four to be the sole Truth die. The fourth die is ignored. The players then independently determine their own Final Light with their own Light dice. Each player character typically draws upon the same attribute, but it is not required. If the total degrees of success earned by both player characters is zero or greater, then the test succeeds, with one player character’s degrees of failure cancelling out an equivalent number of the other player character’s degrees of success. If the total degrees of success earned by both player characters is less than zero, i.e. if there is a total degrees of failure, then the test fails. The test’s guilt or innocence is determined normally by the sole Truth die.
When three player characters perform a group test the three players each roll two dice simultaneously. The three players then confer and the judge the dice. Each player judges one die of the six as their own Light die and then the players agree together one die of the six to be the sole Truth die. The fifth and sixth die are ignored. The same process is then used as above. The players independently determine their own Final Light, the total number of degrees of success are determined, zero or more equals success, less than zero (or degrees of failure) equals failure, and the test’s guilt or innocence is determined by the sole Truth die.
Player characters participating in a group test can only perform one deed each. All of these deeds are resolved simultaneously, and, as with tests in general, resolved prior to the group test.
Group tests cannot be bold, faint, quick, or long, and ignore any effects that would otherwise cause them to be so.
There are no such thing as group saves. If multiple player characters need to perform saves simultaneously, they each resolve their saves independently from one another.
Health and Status
Selatsi, the Shadow Crescent, is a dangerous and oppressive land full of bloodthirsty warlords, scheming nobility, and haunting supernal forces. Good health and fortune is a luxury few can afford. As the shuvin player characters cut a swath across the five great kingdoms they will be subject to many forms of injury and distress. A player character’s health in The Way of All the Earth is tracked with one pool of risk points, where the more risk points a character has the more vulnerable they are, and with a series of simple status effects that curtail a character’s ability to act at full effectiveness. A single six sided die can be used to track a player character’s current risk using the boxes indicated on the character sheet, and tokens of any sort can be used to indicate which status effects a player character is currently subjected to, also using the appropriate boxes on the character sheet.
Attacks and Defenses
An attack is a dangerous event or a hostile action that stands to harm or manipulate a character against their will. A wall falling on some characters is an attack. A wire trap being sprung on a character is an attack. A javelin flung at a character is an attack. An attempt to threaten and intimidate some characters is an attack. A cavalry charge into an army’s flank is an attack. Every attack targets a character or group of characters who are called the defender/s of the attack. Successful attacks overcome defenses and impose negative effects on the defender. Successful defenses thwart an attack and avoid negative effects. Attacks and defenses are resolved in different ways depending on who is attacking whom.
Attacks by player characters against non-player characters are resolved with a test, using the non-player character’s power level as a challenge level. If the test is a success then the attack is a success and the defense is a failure. If the test is a failure then the attack is a failure and the defense is a success.
Attacks by non-player characters (or the environment) against player characters are resolved with a save, using a non-player character’s power level as a challenge level (or one set by the gamemaster). If the save is a success then the attack is a failure and the defense is a success. If the save is a failure then the attack is a success and the defense is a failure. The save’s degrees of failure becomes the attack’s degrees of success.
The negative consequences a successful attack imposes on the defender/s depends on the attack’s degrees of success.
An attack with 0-2 degrees of success imposes two points of risk and one threat of the attacker’s choice on the defender.
An attack with 3-4 degrees of success imposes three points of risk and one mark of the attacker’s choice on the defender, or imposes three points of risk and two threats of the attacker’s choice on the defender.
An attack with 5 or more degrees of success imposes a finisher on the defender.
Risk, threats, marks, and finishers are described below.
Risk is a representation of stress, fatigue, and pain. Every character has a pool of risk that accumulates as they suffer attacks and other harmful effects. The more risk a character has the less able they are to protect themselves.
Whenever an attack against a defender is successful the attack’s degree of success is increased by an amount equal to the defender’s risk before determine the attack’s effect.
E.g. An attack with one degree of success against a defender with zero risk would impose two points of risk and a threat. But an attack with one degree of success against a defender with three risk would impose three points of risk and a mark. If a defender has a high enough risk then any successful attack against them regardless of the attack’s base degree of success will lead to a finisher and disaster.
If a character ever has seven or more points of risk then they are said to be in a “critical state.” Characters in a critical state suffer more severe counter attacks in a manner described below.
A character can never have more than twelve risk. If a character has twelve risk then they cannot voluntarily increase their own risk to use other special abilities or items. Any additional risk that is imposed on a character beyond twelve is ignored.
Resistance and Resolve
Resistance is a representation of a character’s ability to endure, shrug off, or fight through risk. There are three forms of resistance, one for each of the three major forms of conflict in The Way of the Earth: martial resistance, subtle resistance, and epic resistance. Whenever a defender is successfully attacked, one point of the defender’s risk is ignored for each rank they have in the appropriate form of resistance.
E.g. If a character has zero resistance and four risk then they add four to the degrees of success to any successful attack against them. If a character has three resistance and four risk then they add only one degree of success to any successful attack against them.
Resolve is a type of resistance applicable to every form of conflict. Whereas resistance tends to be given to characters on account of items or circumstances that protect them, resolve is an intrinsic trait that player characters possess on account of their kind and class feats that cannot be taken away or diminished. Resolve is added to a player character’s conflict specific forms of resistance in order to determine how much total risk the player character can ignore.
Threats are temporary negative effects that inhibit a character’s ability to act. While a character suffers from a threat they are more vulnerable and less effective than they otherwise would be. A character suffering from a threat can often resolve the threat with the use of actions on their next turn but are generally powerless to resolve the threat until then. Threats are described generically here and then in specific detail for each form of conflict below.
Disarm strips a boon from the defender’s control. Boons are described in detail below and are specific to each form of conflict, but include things such as weapons and shields for martial conflicts, scripts and composure for subtle conflicts, and armaments and formations for strategic conflicts. Boons can be recovered once disarmed with the use of deeds and some can be stolen by other characters present if they get to them first. Disarm also allows non-boon items to be stripped from a character’s possession such that they fall to the ground and become available to steal.
Entangle binds the attacker and defender together. Characters that are bound together cannot perform any actions other than attacking one another. Whenever a bound character successfully attacks another bound character they can choose to either continue the bind or to free themselves from the bind. If a bound character has the weaken threat imposed on them by an unbound attacker, the attacker can choose to break the defender off from the bind against their will. There is no limit to the number of characters that can be bound together.
Misdirect prevents the defender from attacking the character who misdirected them. The misdirection is ended when the character attacks them again or when an ally of the defender successfully attacks the character. If it is a character’s turn and all of their potential defenders have misdirected them, or if there is no plausible way in the narrative for a potential defender to escape being attacked after misdirecting a character, then the character can attack a defender. Success removes the misdirected effect but can not impose threats or marks and imposes half the risk it normally would.
Weaken causes all attacks against the defender to be bold until the defender’s next turn.
Marks are more serious, long term negative effects that significantly inhibit a character’s ability to act. While a character suffers from a mark they are severely limited in what actions they can take. A character suffering from a mark can only recover from the mark with a period of short or long rest, described below. Marks are described generically here and then in specific detail for each form of conflict below.
Afflict prevents a character from using any of their abilities and from benefiting from any of the boons they have readied. An afflicted character retains their boons and can ready new boons normally but whatever bonuses these boons grant are ignored.
Crush forces a character to choose to either perform a deed or to perform a test on their turn. A crushed character cannot do both as unmarked characters can.
Pierce prevents a character from imposing threats or marks with successful attacks. A pierced character can still impose risk and finishers normally however.
Stricken prevents a character from attacking in a round until an ally’s attack results in an innocent success, if it is a player character who is stricken, or an opponent’s defense results in a guilty failure, if it is a non-player character who is stricken.
The shuvin player characters no longer have mortal blood in their veins but a cool liquid fire called manna. Manna is the blood of the gods. It is shimmering and luminescent, constantly shifting between cobalt and indigo blue, and it gives off light comparable to a dozen candles. When a shuvin player character suffers a crushing or piercing mark from a martial or physical attack, the manna in their veins is spilled as their flesh is torn and their bones are broken. The dramatic visual effect this entails is called “rivening” and it makes it obvious to anyone who sees the shuvin, or who dealt the injurious blow to the shuvin, that they are supernal in nature. Witnessing a riven shuvin will likely have a significant effect on how characters act. These effects are described below alongside the other effects of fear.
Finishers definitively defeat the defender and prevent them from participating any further in the present conflict. Finishers also place the defender completely in the attacker’s power for a moment, allowing the attacker to permanently change the defender or to destroy them outright. Finishers are specific to each form of conflict and are described in more detail below.
Rest and Recovery
Between scenes the player characters may have an opportunity to rest and recover from wounds and other maladies. The Shuvin player characters in The Way of All the Earth have raw divinity coursing through their veins and their resurrected bodies are held together by force of will as much as by flesh and bone. Shuvin heal from many injuries, both physical and otherwise, at a supernatural rate, but they still require time and relative quiet to focus their hearts on mending themselves back to health. Shuvin also do not require sleep but sleep aids in the recovery of their supernal power.
Periods of rest are measured in three lengths and each length grants the recovery of different negative statuses.
A quick rest is little more than ten or twenty minutes. A quick rest is not enough time to sleep, eat, or tend to wounds, but it is enough time for feel safe, refocus one’s thoughts, and review recent events in conversation with allies and other characters. Following a quick rest player characters reduce their risk pool to zero.
A short rest is two or three hours in length and permits genuine rest and sophisticated planning of future objectives. Following a short rest player characters reduce their risk pool to zero and recover from either the afflict mark or the stricken mark.
A long rest is eight ten ten hours in length and permits a full night’s sleep, in addition to the physical and psychological benefits discussed above. Following a long rest player characters reduce their risk pool to zero and recover from any two marks of their choice.
Death and Dying
There are two ways for a character to die. The first is if they have a finisher imposed on them by a martial attack or some other attack of a physical nature. With gamemaster confirmation, this results in the immediate death of the character.
The second is if they come to the end of a scene with three or more marks, where at least one of the marks has been imposed by a martial (or physical) attack, and where they do not have the opportunity to immediately rest and recover. In this instance the character fades out and dies without medical attention.
Conflicts in Action
Conflict is inevitable and the most dangerous conflicts are not necessary the ones fought with blood and iron. Some conflicts risk a character’s standing in the land of Selatsi, others risk a character’s most fundamental beliefs. Regardless of the stakes the shuvin player characters will never make any progress in their war against war if they are not willing to tackle both the physical and the spiritual obstacles in their way.
Conflicts are the pinnacle of The Way of All the Earth’s game mechanics, drawing upon each rule established thus far. Conflicts involve intense and strategic decision making along with a flurry of dice rolling. But every rule comes back to the fundamentals of the Judge Two System detailed above, and those rules can always be relied on if the details below become difficult or cumbersome to employ.
Conflicts in General
A conflict is an extended exchange of attacks by two or more opposing groups of characters with the overarching goal of defeating the other side by imposing enough risk on opponents to eliminate them with finishers. Conflicts in The Way of the Earth take four forms. Martial conflicts are skirmishes between small groups of fighters. Subtle conflicts are arguments, debates, and more indirect and suggestive forms of coercion. Strategic conflicts are large scale battles involving hundreds or thousands of soldiers, chariots, siege engines, and cataclysmic magic at play. Naval conflicts are ship to ship battles, where ramming, arrow volleys, and boarding action are the order of the day. Each form of conflict is resolved using the same rules and mechanics. Below are a few rules for conflicts in general followed by specific notes on each of the individual forms of conflict.
Boons are tools that characters employ in conflicts to give them advantages. Each form of conflict has boons unique to it but all of these boons fall into three broad categories which share similar mechanical effects. Boons must be readied by a character in order for a character to benefit from them. Some boons are considered to be readied merely be being equipped or possessed. Some boons must be readied in the middle of a conflict. Readying a boon requires the expenditure of a deed, and as a result, can only be performed on a character’s turn. Once a boon is readied it grants its benefit to the character that readied it until another boon of the same kind is readied in its place or until the end of the scene. Many boons can be disarmed and removed from a character’s control, requiring the boon to be recovered with a deed and then readied again with yet another deed.
Power boons improve a character’s attacks by granting bold atack tests in specific situations. For example, a sword might grant a bold attack test when used to attack an unarmored opponent. Having a power boon readied is required to counterattack and to impose marks on an opponent with attacks. By default power boons can be disarmed.
Vital boons protect a character from harm by granting them resistance in one or more forms of conflict. Generally speaking, the more resistance a vital boon grants the more serious drawbacks it imposes as well. Vital boons are readied merely by having them equipped or in a character’s possession. By default vital boons cannot be disarmed.
Keen boons prevent certain threats from being imposed on a character. Keen boons also limit the kinds of power boons that a character can have readied at the same time. Some keen boons are controlled by merely possessing them whereas others need to be readied. By default keen boons can be disarmed.
When a defence is successful the defender may be eligible to counter attack their attacker. The specific conditions under which a defender can counter attack depends on the nature of the attack the and the power boon used to execute it, and is described below in detail for each form of conflict. If a defender can counter attack then they may impose a threat of their choice on the attacker, if the attacker has six or less total risk, or either two threats of their choice or one mark of their choice on the attacker, if the attacker has seven or more total risk. Counter attacks do not impose risk or finishers on attackers by default.
When a character is attacked in a conflict, an ally of the character that is nearby and reasonably able can attempt to intervene and defend against the attack on behalf of the character. This is called “guarding.” The guarding ally voluntarily increases their own risk by two and then becomes the defender of the attack as though they themselves were attacked to begin with. If the defense is successful then the attack is thwarted and the guarding ally may counter-attack as appropriate. If the defense fails then the attacker may impose a threat on the guarding ally and then impose the normal effects of an attack on their original target, whatever is appropriate for the attack’s degree of success against the guarding ally.
There is no limit to the number of times that a character can guard in a round, though a character must increase their own risk by two each time and no character can have more than twelve risk.
A veiled attack is a careful and cunning kind of attack that represents an attacker's attempt to gain an advantage over a defender without the defender noticing or being able to respond. A veiled attack can be attempted against any opponent an attacker can see. What a veiled attack looks like in practice can vary depending on the action at hand but generally involves stealthily maneuvering to put oneself in an advantageous position over a defender. Sneaking up on someone, setting up trap, lining up a shot, observing a weakness, signaling to an ally, preparing an ambush, reading an opponent's tells, moving to a weak side, lowering an opponent's guard, causing a distraction, etc. can all be considered examples of a veiled attack. Veiled attacks can be used in any form of conflict and a player must explicitly state that they are using a veiled attack before they attempt to resolve it.
Veiled attacks cannot benefit from boons and cannot impose threats, marks, or finishers, but they do impose appropriate amounts of risk. If a veiled attack succeeds the defender cannot alter their behavior to respond to the attacker. The defender must continue on their present course as though nothing happened. If the defender is unaware of the attacker they remain unaware. If the defender assumes nothing of note is occurring between the attacker and themselves they continue to believe this. If a veiled attack fails, the defender becomes aware of the attacker and their aggressive intent, and can alter their behavior to fight back. Veiled attacks cannot be counterattacked however.
Veiled attacks tend to drawn upon a player character's mental attributes more than those more commonly used in conflicts. Attributes like breath, eyes, hands, nose, and spirit can all be appropriate depending on how the veiled attack is described.
Veiled Attack Examples
Vaalin attempts to sneak up on a soldier guarding a wagon. Vaalin’s player declares a veiled attack, intending to build risk against the guard without the guard knowing, and then come in for a knockout blow on his next turn. Vaalin’s player rolls and gets an innocent failure. Vaalin trips over some strewn rubble on the ground and makes a sound. The soldier turns around and draws his sword in surprise, becoming aware of Vaalin in the shadows.
Gaalik is wounded and surely will not survive another counterattack. He attempts to line up the perfect shot in the middle of a pitched battle with his long bow. Gaalik’s player declares a veiled attack to eliminate the possibility of being counterattacked, hoping that he will be able to follow up with a finishing blow after. Gaalik’s player rolls and gets an innocent success. Gaalik feels his aim lock into place over his target's heart, imposing two risk, and readies to fire at his next available opportunity.
Player characters can engage in group attacks if all the player characters involved have turns available to them in the current round and they would otherwise be able to attack the same defender. A group attack is resolved just like a group test with two important differences.
A successful group attack imposes one set of consequences on the defender per attacker. If a group attack is a success each attacker imposes the appropriate risk, threat, marks, or finishers to the defender. But a group attack cannot impose more than three total risk. There are no limits to the number of threats, marks, or finishers that can be imposed however. The attackers can decide among themselves who imposes which consequences in what order. Risk imposed by individual attackers in a group attack does not impact the degree of success of other individual attackers who impose consequences after.
A successful defender of a group attack can only counterattack a single attacker if they are eligible to counterattack at all.
Non-player characters do not take group actions and therefore do not make group attacks.
Group attacks can be veiled attacks.
Tests in Conflicts
Most turns player characters and non-player characters have available to them in conflicts will inevitably be spent attacking opponents and maneuvering for an advantage. But characters are not required to attack anyone on their turns and may instead spend their turn attempting some sort of non-attack test. Perhaps while conflict is raging all around one character is attempting to force open a gate, or pick a lock, or repair an object, or search a room, or steer a wagon, etc. In these cases the gamemaster determines whether or not the test can be attempted and resolved as normal or whether or not a long test is required.
In even more rare cases a player character may be forced to do nothing but pass their turn during a conflict, on account of them performing only deeds, or not doing anything at all. In these instances the gamemaster always intervenes before the turn always passes to another ally player character, just as if the former player’s roll had a guilty result.
Non-Player Characters in Conflicts
The Way of All the Earth’s rules and mechanics allow the players and their characters to drive most of the action. Player characters take tests and players roll dice to determine the outcome of actions. Non-player characters controlled by the gamemaster fill scenes, provoke saves, and react to tests, but are ultimately secondary in importance to the actions and aspirations of the player characters. But during conflicts player characters come face to face with hostile non-player characters with wills and abilities of their own, yet not all non-player characters are of equal significance.
Non-player characters are divided into three kinds depending on the role they play in conflicts. These kinds are distinct from a non-player character’s power level with represents danger and difficulty. The three kinds have an effect on how the non-player characters act when they are given turns by the gamemaster, how risk, threats, marks, and finishers are imposed on them, and how they use boons.
Brutes are the gathered crowds, the armed cannon fodder, the skulking shadows, and the other unnamed henchmen that challenge the player characters. Brutes are mechanically simpler than other non-player characters and the player characters themselves. Whenever a brute is successfully attacked the attacker can either choose to impose a finisher on the brute, irrespective of the attack’s degree of success, or to impose a threat on the brute and a number of other brutes equal to the attack’s degree of success. These additional brutes must be legal targets who could be attacked, and they must have power levels that are equal to or less than the original brute defender.
E.g. A character successfully attacks a brute with two degrees of success. The character can either impose a finisher on the brute, or, impose a threat on the brute and two additional brutes that are close by and have equal or lesser power levels.
When imposing threats on multiple brutes, the attacker must choose one threat to impose on all of the brutes and cannot choose different threats for different brutes.
Brutes cannot have risk imposed on them. Brutes cannot benefit from boons. They are not granted bold attacks from power boons, resistance from vital boons, or threat protection from keen boons. Brutes are still considered to have whatever items they have for the sake of weapon ranges in martial conflicts and for the sake of player character power boons in every form of conflict. So if a brute was wearing armor they would not get any martial resistance from it, but a player character’s weapon that granted bold attacks against armored opponents would still provide its benefit.
Brute characters are counterattacked differently than other characters. If the total number of brutes in the conflict is greater than or equal to the number of player characters, then when a brute is counterattacked the defender can impose a threat on the brute. If the total number of brutes in the conflict is less than the number of the player characters, then when a brute is counterattacked the defender can impose any threat or finisher of their choice on the brute.
Foes are non-player characters of middle tactical value. Foes have names and the basic outline of a narrative contribution to the ongoing story. Lone characters function exactly like player characters in conflicts with respect to risk, threats, marks, finishers, and boons.
Nemeses are the most challenging of all non-player characters and represent a tactical impasse the player characters must combine all of their abilities and fortune to overcome. Nemeses are the “bosses” of The Way of All the Earth and serve as the primary antagonists of the player characters. Nemeses function like foes (and therefore like player characters) in all but two respects.
The first is that nemeses can counterattack every attacker when a group attack fails against them and if a nemesis counterattacks a player character at twelve risk the nemesis imposes a finisher on the player character.
The second is that each nemesis has an ability called an omen. Nemeses cannot have risk imposed on them until their omen condition is met. If the omen condition ever ceases to be met, the nemesis ignores all of their current risk and no more can be imposed on them until the omen condition is met again. Omen conditions vary, and later chapters offer several examples, but generally speaking omen conditions are, or are equivalent to, threats. For example, a dread character that is a master swordsman might have their specially crafted pair of blades being disarmed as their omen condition. The master swordsman would be immune to risk so long as the blades were readied but would lose the immunity if they were both disarmed. The immunity would then be restored if the master swordsman could recover the blades. Etc.
Foes and nemeses can have boons in the same way that the player characters can. If a foe or nemesis has a power boon that grants bold attacks in a specific situation and they attack a player character in that situation, the player character’s save is faint.
Player vs. Player Conflicts
Attacking and defending generally assumes a conflict between player characters on one side and non-player characters on the other. It is assumed that the shuvin player characters, by virtue of their covenant bond and shared purpose, will be allies in most everything they attempt to do. But occasionally player characters may come into conflict with one another and attacks and defenses between them may need to be resolved. Player vs. player conflicts are resolved in three steps.
The aggressor player character attacks and the player rolls as though resolving a normal attack test against a target defender, summing their final Light and getting a Truth die result.
The defending player character defends and the player rolls as though resolving a quick save with a challenge level equal to the attacking player character’s final Light. If the defense is a success then the attack fails. If the defense fails then the attack is a success with a number of degrees of success equal to the defense’s degrees of failure plus the defender’s risk.
The attacking player character’s Truth die determines what happens next. If it was guilty, then the defender’s side takes the next turn. If it was innocent, the attacker’s side takes the next turn.
The gamemaster intervenes after every second attack during a player vs. player conflict, regardless of which side of the conflict is acting and regardless of any Truth die results.
Martial conflicts are violent skirmishes generally involving two to a dozen participants. With armor and shields, weapons and bodies, combatants fight to put the other side down.
Attacks and defenses in martial conflicts can draw upon a variety of attributes and essences depending on the circumstances of the attack or defense. Listed below are a few examples.
Arm: The default attribute for martial attacks. Always applicable.
Eye: For attacks using ranged or thrown weapons.
Feet: For unarmed attacks or acrobatic attacks with lots of free room to maneuver.
Guts: For attacks while mounted, or while swimming, or climbing.
Spirit: For ambushes, surprise attacks, and attacks from behind.
Strength: The default essence for martial defenses. Always applicable.
Faith: For defenses against magick or supernal beings.
Mind: For defenses against ambush, surprise, traps, and most veiled attacks.
Martial power boons are weapons. In addition to granting bold attacks based on a defender’s equipment or circumstances, weapons also have a range and a handedness. Range determines the distance at which the weapon can be used. Close range weapons can be used against targets within three or four strides. Near range weapons can be used against targets up to a dozen strides away. Far range weapons can be used against targets up to a hundred strides away. Handedness simply determines how many hands the weapon requires to ready, either one or two. If one, the other hand can hold an object, or use a readied weapon or shield. If two, then the character has no free hands when the weapon is readied. Two handed weapons tend to grant bold attacks in situations where the attacker can bring the situation about, whereas one handed weapons tend to grant bold attacks in situations over which the attacker has no control.
Some examples of martial power boons are…
Scythe Sword : Close : 1H : bold vs. unarmored opponents
Fighting Staff : Close : 2H : bold vs. unarmed opponents
Throwing Dagger : Near : 1H : bold vs. two handed weapons
Recurve Bow : Far : 2H : bold v. misdirected opponents
A character with a readied weapon can impose risk, threats, marks, and finishers with successful martial attacks. They can also counterattack martial attacks depending on their weapon’s range and the range of their attacker. Close range weapons can counter close range attacks. Near range weapons can counter close and near range attacks. Far range weapons can counter near and far range attacks.
An unarmed character can impose risk, threats, and finishers with successful attacks. They also cannot counterattack.
If a character “dual wields,” that is, readies a one handed weapon in both of their hands, then the character loses the benefit of both of their weapons’ bold attacks, but is granted bold attacks against brutes.
Characters can pick up and ready improvised weapons from the environment. Any object that is at least as hard as the body and has a foot or more of length to it can be used as an improvised weapon. Improvised weapons do not grant bold attacks but a character with a readied improvised weapon can impose marks and can counterattack.
Characters can throw close range weapons at near range opponents, though such a test is faint and the weapon’s bold attack condition does not apply. Close range weapons can be thrown as a counterattack against near range attacks.
Martial vital boons are armor. Light armor grants 2 marital resistance but imposes the “burdened” condition on the equipped character when one of their attacks results in a guilty failure. Heavy armor grants 3 martial resistance but imposes the “burdened” condition on the equipped character when one of their attacks results in a failure. When a character has burdened condition, their next attack is resolved as a long test (if they are a player character) or as a quick save (if they are a non-player character attacking a player character).
Martial keen boons are shields. If a character has a shield readied then they cannot have the entangle or the weaken threats imposed on them by martial attacks.
Martial finishers represent definitive blows that strike down and defeat opponents. When an attacker imposes a finisher on an opponent in a martial conflict they can choose one of the following effects…
The defender is killed outright
The defender is knocked unconscious and remains so for the remainder of the scene
The defender is grievously wounded and forced to flee, likely to report their defeat to their nearest allies
The defender is forced to drop their weapons and surrender themselves to their attacker
Weapon proficiencies represent a character’s training in the use of certain arms and equipment. Weapon proficiencies affect the way that certain bonuses and penalties are applied to attacks in martial conflicts. If a character is not proficient in a weapon they are using then they do not add their most relevant attribute to their light die to form the Final Light of their attacks. Characters who are not proficient still benefit from bonuses from other sources and can still benefit from a weapon’s bold attack condition. Every weapon is listed as either a commoner’s weapon, a soldier’s weapon, or a master’s weapon, and those three groups form the three major groups of weapon proficiencies. Commoner’s weapons include knives, clubs, staves, and slings. Soldier’s weapons include nearly everything else. Master’s weapons include the five kind specific weapons. A character can only have a master’s proficiency in their own kind’s special weapon and the master’s proficiency only includes that one weapon.
The captain’s proficiency is different from the other forms of proficiency as it does not represent a proficiency with weapons but with the use of heavy armor and with mounted combat. A character with a captain’s proficiency gains 1 resolve permanently, reduces the penalty for wearing heavy armor to the light armor penalty (burdened condition when an attack results in a guilty failure), and is granted bold attacks against unmounted opponents while mounted.
When a character attacks in a martial conflict it is assumed that they can move to up to three to four strides to cover ground before their attack. A character can move up to a dozen strides, or to any near range opponent, by using a long test. The use of the long test represents how exposed the character is during the window of their movement. Non-player characters can move the same distance but any saves their actions provoke are quick. Maneuvering over, around, or through especially difficult terrain also requires a long test or causes quick saves.
Characters further than near range can only be reached over the course of several turns, using a combination of long and basic tests, as the gamemaster determines.
Deeds play an important role in martial conflicts. Deeds can be used to interact with the environment, manipulate objects, create cover, open and close doors, etc. If a change in the environment would ever strongly benefit a character's attempted action, such as substantial cover would against ranged attacks or as high ground might against close attacks, the challenge level of the action is reduced by one. If a non-player character ever manipulates the environment in their favor in a similar manner, the challenger level of an action involving them is increased by one.
Whereas armor is considered readied as soon as it is worn, deeds need to be used to ready weapons and shields. A single deed can be spent to ready an item in both of a character’s hands, whether the item (or items) is drawn from a scabbard or belt, pulled from a pack or boot, or picked up off the ground. If a character has a boon stripped from their hands or from their person with the disarm threat, the character can recover the item with a deed, if another character does not spend a deed to pick it up first. A character can spend a deed to switch between two weapons in their possession, or simply to stow a readied weapon and leave the hand free. Improvised weapons can also be picked up and readied with a deed.
Describing Martial Action
Martial attacks and defenses represent all manner of combat maneuvers, from slashing and thrusting, to shooting and throwing, to leaps, dashes, charges, slides, and every form of dodging and weaving that can be imagined. An attack should describe the movement of a character, the attribute they are drawing upon, the weapon they are employing, and the use of any feats or other special abilities. It is not necessary when describing an attack to choose the attack’s potential outcome in advance. What threat, mark, or finisher an attacker ultimately chooses to impose can be decided once the attack has been resolved. Similarly for defenses, players need only describe how they are attempting to evade the attack, not what counterattack or special abilities they may employ upon success.
Threats, marks, and finishers all represent glancing or direct hits on an opponent, along with the resulting injuries. Disarming in a martial conflict involves physically stripping an object from a character’s control. Entangling is sweeping, grappling, or cornering an opponent so tightly they cannot escape. Misdirecting is a feint or flank, the use of cover, other bodies, or distracting techniques that allow a character to slip out of sight or beyond a defender’s reach, for a moment. Weakening is a forceful blow that knocks a defender down, or back, or into something in the environment, forcing the defender into a vulnerable position. In martial conflicts the weaken threat can be used to knock defenders from their mounts, off of ladders, ropes, bridges, and other pieces of terrain or bits of the environment that makes sense. Using the weaken threat in this way cannot result in consequences more severe than a threat would imply, i.e. it cannot be used to impose effects equivalent to a mark or a finisher on an opponent. A weaken threat cannot kill a character by knocking them off of something. That would require a finisher. But a weaken threat might force a player character to make a long test, or a non-player character to prompt a quick save, if they have to take extra time to get back into the fight.
The afflict mark represents debilitating confusion, perhaps from a strong hit to the head or from overwhelming pain, fatigue or loss of morale. The crush mark represent bone splintering trauma, likely from a blunt force blow of some kind. The pierce mark is a clean thrust or cut, one that lays the open an opponent’s flesh and leads to withering blood loss. The stricken mark is a product of fear. Attacks that impose the stricken mark might not result in any injury at all, but may be so intimidating or so demoralizing that the opponent’s will is extinguished. The attacker might lift the opponent and throw them across the room with a single hand, or catch an attack between their fingers and smile a vicious smile, or headbutt with such force that it shatters a helmet, or simply let out a beastial roar that turns blood to ice.
Martial finishers are similar in description to martial marks, only more violent and thorough in their destruction.
One special concern in describing martial actions comes in the form of the threats imposed by ranged attacks. Disarming an opponent with the flourish of a sword or entangling an opponent with a tackle are both intuitive ways of imposing threats. But how does a character disarm, entangle, misdirect, or weaken with a bow? Or a sling? Or a javelin? The Way of All the Earth permits every power boon to impose every threat across all conflict types, but some require more creativity in their descriptions than others. It is important to remember that so long as the mechanical effect is observed, any narrative description that makes sense and adds excitement is permitted.
Disarming with a ranged weapon might look like a projectile striking a defender’s arm such that they drop an item, or striking a defender’s leg such that they fall and drop an item, or striking the item itself such that it slips from a defender’s grasp. A defender may “voluntarily” drop a weapon in one hand to pull an arrow free. A defender may dive for cover from a hail of arrows and lose an item in the process. Etc.
Entangling with a ranged weapon might look like pinning a defender down with a constant barrage of projectiles, or landing a superficial wound that requires a couple rounds to struggle from free, or literally being pinned to some surface, or a projectile piercing something the defender is carrying, causing them to be weighed down by awkward weight. Entangling can also present a mechanical challenge. If a ranged attacker imposes the entangling threat on a defender without a ranged weapon, the defender is in an especially vulnerable position. The defender still has three options, however. 1) Use a veiled attack on their attacker, representing maneuvering out of wherever they have been trapped. Veiled attacks only require eyesight. 2) Use a long test, if the original attacker is within a near distance, to move to them and attack. 3) Be saved by an ally, who imposes a weaken threat on the ranged attacker and breaks the bind.
Misdirecting is perhaps the easiest threat to describe when imposed by a ranged weapon. The range of the attacker makes it easier for them to hide behind cover, maneuver to a flank, step out of reach, or take full advantage of an opponent's limited line of sight.
Weakening with a ranged weapon might look like any other wound, especially a wound that hobbles, slows, trips, or knocks down.
The cultures of Selatsi are governed by zderek. Zderek are not “laws” in a technical sense but they are rigid social conventions and rules of etiquette that bind all relationships and all forms of social power together in an intricate web. Through endless repetition and the stern reproach of parents, zderek is ground into the flesh and blood of every mortal in the Shadow Crescent from the day of their birth. People are trained to think in terms of zederek before they ever think of anything else for themselves. It is the ground of all communities and all relationships, regardless of kingdom or creed. Speaking, acting, performing, and being in accordance with zderek brings honor. Doing the opposite brings shame. Honor and shame are the twin edges of the social sword in the Shadow Crescent. Subtle conflicts are fought with this weapon and its many permutations. From grand arguments and speeches, to faint body language and whispered words, subtle conflicts represent two to a dozen characters attempting to bend and break each others’ will with honoring flattery and scathing shame.
Attacks and defenses in subtle conflicts can draw upon several attributes and essences depending on the context in which the conflict is occuring. Listed below are a few examples.
Tongue: The default attribute for subtle attacks. Always applicable.
Breath: For subtle conflicts involving formal arguments, or the topics of history, law, and religion.
Guts: For subtle conflicts between warriors, or involving robbery, waylaying, incitements to violence, and pure intimidation.
Hands: For subtle conflicts involving mercantile, trade, and haggling.
Nose: For subtle conflicts while disguised, or taking place at social gatherings.
Heart: The default essence for subtle defenses. Always applicable.
Faith: For defenses against magic manipulation and demonic persuasion.
Mind: For defenses against deception, complex arguments, and politicking.
Scripts serves as the subtle power boon. Scripts are ways of exerting social power that accord with the principals and demands of zderek. Scripts are like weapons in subtle conflicts. When a script is readied it grants bold attacks in certain conditions. Unlike physical weapons however, each subtle conflict begins without any scripts in play. A script is not a physical object that be carried around from one conflict to another like weapons. Instead, scripts must be “drawn” into being by the words and actions of characters in a subtle conflict.
Whenever a character successfully attacks another in a subtle conflict, in addition to the normal effects of the attack, they may choose to draw a script that is not yet in play. When a script is first drawn it immediately comes into the possession of the attacking character who drew it and it is readied by them without needing to spend a deed to do so. From that point on, and through the end of the subtle conflict, the script is in play. The script can be used to attack, it can be disarmed and retrieved and readied again, it can be used by other characters if they can get it, etc. Only one copy of each script can be in play at one time in a subtle conflict. There are four “base scripts” which any character can draw, though a character’s class feats or other special abilities can furnish them with additional scripts that they alone can draw. Once drawn a script is out there in the world, and can be disarmed and stolen just like any other object. A character with a readied script can discard a script from play with the use of a deed, in which case it becomes eligible to be drawn again and it is also possible for a character to draw and ready multiple scripts, though one character can only have two readied at one time. When a subtle conflict ends all of the scripts that are in play are discarded automatically.
The four base scripts are…
Appeal : Bold vs. defenders when attacker’s risk = 6 or less
Flatter : Bold vs. defenders when the defender’s risk = 6 or less
Rebuke : Bold vs. defenders with less prestige
Scandalize : Bold vs. defenders without composure
A character with a readied script can impose risk, threats, marks, and finishers with successful subtle attacks. They can also counterattack subtle attacks. Any script can be used to counterattack subtle attacks using any other script, or from unscripted subtle attacks, since scripts do not have traits comparable to range. Scripts are effective so long as an attacker has the defender’s attention and the defender can hear the attacker speak and see them emote. There is also no subtle conflict equivalent of improvised or thrown weapons. Scripts do have a trait comparable to handedness however. Scripts are considered to be either impassioned or dispassionate. Impassioned scripts cannot be readied at the same time as a character’s composure (described below) whereas dispassionate scripts can be. In this way, impassioned scripts are analogous to two handed weapons, dispassionate scripts are analogous to one handed weapons, and composure is analogous to a shield.
An unscripted character can impose risk, threats, and finishers with successful subtle attacks, but they cannot counterattack subtle attacks.
A character can have two dispassionate scripts readied at the same time and if they do then the character loses the benefit of both of their scripts’ bold attacks, but is granted bold attacks against brutes.
Prestige serves as the vital subtle boon. Prestige represents the hierarchy of social relations in Saelatsi. Each character in a subtle conflict is considered to have one of three degrees of prestige: the highest prestige, middle prestige, or low prestige. This degree of prestige determines how much subtle resistance the character has in the present subtle conflict. Characters with the highest prestige have 4 subtle resistance. Characters with middle prestige have 2 subtle resistance. Characters with low prestige have 0 subtle resistance. Social identity and context determines which characters has the highest prestige, in a manner described below. Any characters who do not have the highest prestige but are allied with the character who does, have middle prestige. All other characters have low prestige.
The character with the highest prestige is the one who meets the most of the following three conditions.
The wealthiest character in the subtle conflict has more prestige. This is apparent wealth, not actual wealth, indicated by clothing, entourage, followers, trinkets and the possession of official documents, seals, banners, or other signs of authority.
Native characters have more prestige. That is to say, the character whose kind matches the location where the subtle conflict takes place. E.g. If a subtle conflict takes place on an Udahite trade road, Udahite characters would be considered native. But if the subtle conflict took place in a Manefite embassy in Udahi, Manefite characters would probably be considered native.
Male characters have more prestige in public spaces and female characters have more prestige in private spaces. Public spaces are not necessarily outdoor spaces or spaces with many people, but spaces where official business, commerce, negotiations, religious observance, travel, and trade take place. Private spaces are not necessarily indoor spaces or spaces with only few people, but are homes, feasts, festivals, and social gatherings.
To put the conditions another way, in public spaces the wealthiest native male character has the highest prestige, and in private spaces the wealthiest native female character has the highest prestige.
If there is a tie after the consideration of each of these three conditions, then the character with the larger and more armed crowd of followers breaks the tie. If after even this there is an apparent tie, then all of the characters participating in the subtle conflict are simply considered to have low prestige and thereby 0 subtle resistance.
A wealthy Udahi noblewoman and her attendants speaking to Leshethi soldiers on a Udahi road would have the highest prestige (wealth + native vs. gender), her personal attendants would have middle prestige, and the soldiers would have low prestige.
A poor male Varodi mercenary speaking to a wealthy Udahi noblewoman and her attendants in a Varodite military camp would have the highest prestige (native + gender for the mercenary vs. wealth for the woman), his men at arms would have middle prestige, and the noblewoman and her attendants would have low prestige. If the same characters decided to move inside a grand tent to continue their conversation, the highest prestige would switch to the noblewoman (wealth + gender for the noblewoman vs. native for the mercenary), her attendants would have middle prestige, and the mercenary and his men at arms would have low prestige.
Lastly there are a few situations where the conventional method for determining prestige is ignored. Supernal beings like the aelyon, aelani, nephilim, demons, and behemoths always have the highest prestige whenever engaged in a subtle conflict. Priests of the royal cults always have a higher prestige than any other mortal character. Finally if the shuvin player characters ever reveal their nature as shuvin to those they are engaged in a subtle conflict with, by rivening, or by wielding revealing magick, or simply giving a convincing demonstration of the fact, then they are considered to have a higher prestige than any other mortal character, except for priests of the royal cults, which they are equivalent to.
Characters can disguise themselves as people of other genders, kinds, or social stations in an attempt to gain access to people, places, and information, or simply to try to have the most prestige possible for a subtle conflict. Three criteria must be met in order to do don a convincing disguise.
Language: In order to convincingly pass in a disguise, a character must be fluent in the primary language of the kind they are disguised as (Deverin for Udahi and Leshethi, Aramaia for Shameri and Varodi, and Iratic for Menefi). See below for more information.
Tools: A character must have access to the tools of disguise. This is generally achieved by having a disguise kit (described in Book 4: Adventure) but tools can be improvised if the character has access to make-up, wigs, bits of cloth or stuffing to alter one's build, etc.
Time: A good disguise takes time to properly and convincingly apply. A short rest, as described above, is required to apply or to change into a disguise.
No dice need to be rolled to successfully disguise oneself, but a disguise will automatically fail to be persuasive if the disguised character ever reaches a critical state, defined as seven or more risk. At that point the disguised character is revealed for who they really are and they automatically stripped of their composure.
The ongoing concentration and acting necessary to maintain a disguise can result in the burdened condition in the same manner as armor. Disguises that differ from the character’s kind or gender impose the burdened condition on a character when their attacks result in guilty failures. Disguises that differ from the character’s kind and gender impose the burdened condition on the equipped character when their attacks result in failures. When a character has the burdened condition, the next time they attack, their attack is resolved as a long test (if they are a player character) or resolved as a quick save (if they are a non-player character). In either instance the burdened condition is removed following the attack.
Composure serves as the subtle keen boon. Composure represents a character’s ability to control their emotions, or at least, their ability to feign control of their emotions. Characters are considered composed by default. Composed characters cannot have the entangle or the weaken threats imposed on them by subtle attacks. Characters lose their composure if they ready an impassioned script, if their composure is disarmed, or if they have a mark imposed on them by a subtle attacks. Characters can regain and ready their composure with a deed, as long as they do not currently have an impassioned script readied and do not have a mark imposed on them by a subtle attack. Composure cannot be stolen by other characters like martial boons or scripts can be.
There are many languages written and spoken in Selatsi and language proficiencies represent a character's education in the stylish and effective use of those languages in social situations. There are eight language proficiencies in The Way of All the Earth, one for the spoken version and one for the written version of each of the Shadow Crescent’s four dominant languages.
Deverin: The most commonly spoken language in Selatsi and the native language of the Kingdom of Udahi. Deverin has become the first language of the Leshethites and is commonly spoken in Shameri, Menefi, and the Kani Riverlands.
Aramaia: The first language of the Kingdoms of Shameri, Varodi, and the northern reaches of the Kani Riverlands. Written Aramaia has become the most prevalent alphabet in Selatsi and thereby the language of scribes, scholars, and priests.
Iratic: The native language of Menefi and thereby the unofficial language of trade throughout Selatsi. A dialect of Iratic is also spoken by the oldest Udahite and Shamerite noble families.
Garith: An elder language from the times before the five kingdoms and a common ancestor to both Deverin and Aramaia in spoken tongue, and to Iratic in written word. Garith is only spoken by the scattered remnants of Old Ninevah and by some in the Kani Riverlands. Written Garith adorns most of the oldest and most powerful relics and ruins in Selatsi and is thereby of some interest to the royal cults.
The languages of Selatsi are all broadly within the same linguistic family and thereby have a variety of similarities. These similarities, combined with body language and the use of short, simple sentences, make communication between people who do not speak the same language possible. This communication is crude however and lacks the nuance and emotional power of fluent speech, nor is it capable of expressing complex ideas or resolving ambiguities and disagreements. As a result…
1) Player characters only gain attribute bonuses to their social tests and subtle attacks when they are speaking a language they are proficient in, to a character who understands that language. Player characters who are not proficient still benefit from bonuses from other sources and can still benefit from the edges of their scripts.
2) If a player character is not proficient in the written form of a language then they can neither read nor write in the language, nor can they translate texts from that language, or even convincingly alter, forge, or recall the contents of texts in that language. Unlike with the spoken word, the written versions of Selatsi’s languages differ dramatically enough that no improvisation can be used to work with them.
Subtle finishers represent a point in the conversation where the attacker breaks through to the heart of the defender, transforming their beliefs and rendering them compliant before the attacker’s will. The defender will likely be silent for the rest of the scene, only giving weak affirmations and mumbles as the conversation continues. Verbose characters may continue to speak and interact with characters, hesitantly and without much energy, but they are unable to perform any more subtle or veiled attacks. The attacker chooses in what way to exercise their unmitigated influence over the defender…
The defender is provoked into a martial conflict with the attacker, immediately drawing their weapons or raising a hand to strike, in whatever way is appropriate for the strength and means of the character. The defender will do this even if it is socially inappropriate or pragmatically unwise for them to do so, but they will not do it if it is obvious that they cannot win. They must genuinely believe that there is at least a chance that they can win in a fight. The gamemaster has final say in the actions of the defender including whether or not they attempt to fight to the death.
The defender is viciously shamed before the eyes of all present and forced to retreat from the scene in a sputtering and emotional mess. This causes some permanent damage to their public reputation and their allies will be less likely to join their causes in the future.
The defender is compelled to give their sincere assent to some proposition of the attacker’s choice. The proposition must be concise, clear, and specific. E.g. X is the best method to proceed, X is not responsible for this, X is the real enemy, X is worth throwing your support behind, X is nothing to be afraid of, X is a traitor, etc. This proposition cannot directly contradict the character’s most fundamental and precious beliefs but it can be in some tension with them. The defender will then live out this new belief to the best as their ability, including by trying to persuade their allies of the proposition’s truth.
The defender’s disposition toward the attacker and their allies is permanently increased, making it so that future subtle conflicts can be avoided. See the description of disposition below.
Deeds are less important in subtle conflicts than they are in other forms of conflict. Deeds are the primary way that characters switch, discard, or retrieve disarmed scripts, as well as the way that characters recover their disarmed composure if they are able. Deeds are also used to move around the environment and engage others in conversation. As with martial conflicts, deeds can also be used to interact with the environment, manipulate objects, approach or disengage from conversation, open and close doors, etc. Concepts like advantageous or difficult terrain, however, do not apply to subtle conflicts.
“Disposition” is an imagined trait that every non-player character has which represents the character’s general attitude toward the player characters. There are three dispositions: friendly, neutral, and hostile, and the dispositions determine when a player character can persuade a non-player character with simple requests and casual conversation and when the player character must employ subtle attacks and conflicts in order to bring about some change in the non-player character and have their desires fulfilled.
If a non-player character is friendly toward the player characters, then they will sacrifice things of moderate importance to them in order to accommodate the player characters’ desires. Subtle conflicts are only necessary if the player characters desire the sacrifice of something that is of the highest importance to the non-player character.
If a non-player character is neutral toward the player characters, then they will accommodate the player characters’ desires if they believe they are being fairly compensated. Subtle conflicts are necessary if the player characters desire a sacrifice of some sort from the non-player character.
If a non-player character is hostile toward the player characters, then they will automatically refuse to accommodate the player characters’ desires at all. Subtle conflicts are necessary if the player characters desire anything from the non-player character, even if the non-player character is being fairly compensated.
Things like bribes and gifts, promises and favors, emotionally significant props, and introductions by trusted intermediaries can improve a character’s disposition at the onset of a social engagement and avoid a social conflict all together. Whereas the same tools in the middle of a social conflict can assure a character that they are being properly incentivized to change their minds. Aside from altering disposition or fulfilling the compensation requirement of a disposition, none of these tools mentioned have a mechanical effect. The gamemaster should make clear (though not necessarily reveal everything) how they function for the scene at hand so the players can make an informed choice about what they do.
Lastly, repeatedly engaging in subtle conflicts with non-player characters can have a permanent effect on the character’s disposition. Coercing friendly characters in ways that conflict with their own best interests can lower their disposition. Persuading hostile characters in ways that ultimately do serve their own best interests can increase their disposition. There is no rule for this, it is up to the gamemaster and what makes sense for the narrative, but the gamemaster may indicate to the player characters that these long-term stakes are in play during a conversation.