Votive 2.5: Combat Playtest

  •     Votive     –

Combat Playtest

Introduction3

Votive – Combat Playtest3

The World of Votive3

Deicide and the Starrite4

The Seers5

Playing Votive6

Character Attributes8

Hit Points8

Magic Points8

Item Points8

Signature Weapon9

Accessories and Feats10

Non-Player Character Grades10

Combat Maneuvers11

Action Resolution11

Striking11

Techs, Super Techs, and Attack Arts12

Items and Defense Arts12

Catalysts12

Divination and Final Techs13

Multiple Target Attacks13

Order of Action14

Initial Action Points14

Action Priority14

Interrupts15

Flow of Action15

Action Costs15

Feinting and Provoking16

Gamemaster Action Points16

Combat Spacing16

Additional Mechanics17

Duels and Skirmishes17

Extra Actions18

Dramatic Actions18

Status Effects19

Struck Down19

Resolving Combat20

Combat Example20

Initial AP20

First Priority20

Second Priority21

Third Priority22

Fourth Priority23

Sample Character 125

Sample Character 226

Sample Character 327

Sample Character 428

Enemy NPCs29

Boss Radicals30

Stages31

Introduction

Votive – Combat Playtest

Votive is a pen and paper role-playing game inspired by traditional console JRPGs (Japanese role-playing games), especially those common in the SNES and PS1 eras. These fantastical games and their moving stories are unique in the way they constructively harness the tension between normally opposed genre tropes. This captivating quality is something Votive aims to replicate. Votive is both an action adventure game and an intense character drama. It is set in a world that industriously fuses high fantasy magic with sci-fi technology. Votive focuses on coming-of-age heroism and spectacular battles, but also has occasionally overwhelming melancholic and apocalyptic themes. Oaths, both spoken and concealed, and destinies, both fixed and flexible, constantly clash and provide the fuel for the fire of the characters’ quest. Like the JRPGs that inspired it, Votive strives to find new and surprising narrative experiences in the reversal, subversion, and occasional unapologetic embracing of well-worn fantasy and anime archetypes.

Votive also features a unique action point combat system that combines elements from many of the most popular JRPGs of the nineties and early aughts, and it is a simple form of that combat system that is presented here to try. What follows is a short introduction to Votive’s world and the unique nature of its player characters. The bulk of the packet is then devoted to a discussion of Votive’s basic combat mechanics, a list of sample player characters, and a brief description of two potential combat encounters with sample enemies to populate them.

The World of Votive

Votive is set on the world of Pale in the middle of a supercontinent called the Lands Eternal. The Lands Eternal is home to two great nation states with a history of war and tragedy. In the West is Everglow, the City of a Thousand Fires. The city is so called because of the seemingly infinite foundries, sapphire smoke stacks, blazing spires, and giant suncatchers twinkling in the sky. Everglow is a technological wonder born from the discovery of a kind of programmable energy called anima, that can be built into gadgets, drones, and other devices to carry out scripted commands in the service of its maker. In the East is Great Wisdom, the Heavenly City, and the seat of the Avering Church which holds a monopoly on the secrets of glyphic magic. Glyphs are magical signs powered by the devoted attention of conscious creatures. Massive glyphs are used to float large sections of Great Wisdom in the sky, to create endless supplies of honey-colored water and crimson colored rice, and to raise the impenetrable shield walls that protect the sprawling city and the hills and forests nearest to it.

Between the two nation states is a vast and underexplored frontier region called the Verge. In modern times Everglow and Great Wisdom have lapsed into a simmering cold war and funded dozens of settlements in the Verge to mine exotic ores, cultivate rare crops, shepherd new breeds of livestock, and expand their political influences. These settlements are far from their respective seats of power though, and after the passing of generations they began to develop a hardy and eclectic culture all their own. This culture comes with a unique religion, that harkens back to before the founding of Everglow and Great Wisdom, to a time when mortals relied less on the four elemental goddesses and looked instead to the stars in the night sky and to the mythic Goddess Highest who must have birthed them and arranged them in constellations. Horaism, as its called, believes that each community possesses the power to call forth a hero from its dreams to defend it when the world turns dark and the fires of endless war burn.

Deicide and the Starrite

Ten years before the present, a group of unidentified assassins wielding exotic magics broke into the castle-cathedral of Ayama, goddess of the sea and the underworld, and engaged her in battle. Incredibly, though many died, Ayama herself was struck with a mortal blow. Ayama’s shimmering form evaporated and the other three elemental goddesses in the other three corners of the Lands Eternal screamed and torn their clothes in pain and in mourning. Without a goddess of the sea, the oceans surrounding the Lands Eternal and the rivers coursing through it became malicious and tempestuous. But worse than this, without a goddess of the underworld the wandering shades of the dead could not find safe passage to their final rest. The shades lingered where they died, became frustrated and mad, and eventually began to seek out new bodies to cleave to in the hopes of finding life again. When enough shades bound together in common sentiment, they could pour themselves into an animal, a corpse, or a living mortal of unsound mind, and take possession of it. The body of the creature would twist and transform, it would crackle, leak, or explode with magic energy, and it would rise with vicious instincts and perverse hungers. 

Such fiends were born by the thousands in the months following Ayama’s death. Everglow built artificial moats with massive cannons pointed outward to blast away any fiend that approached. Great Wisdom raised its walls even higher and abandoned other ground by taking to the skies in magic flight. The many people of the Verge were left to fend for themselves against a tide of hellish beings. But Horaist mystics in many settlements came to the same conclusion. The ancient ritual of Starrite, the calling of the chosen hero, must be performed. And so it was, in dozens of places.

A few children of the strongest will, each beneath the age of twenty, were taken before a gathering of all the settlement’s people. Arcane rituals were performed, indecipherable scripts were drawn, and alchemical substances were mixed. In the end the gathering cast off their ability to dream and condensed that power into physical form in the shape of a few, small, incandescent spheres. Gruesomely, but with much care, one eye of each of the chosen children was scooped out with a hot iron spoon and replaced by a glowing sphere. The children instantly fell into a coma from which many would never wake. But some would, three days later, and when they did they were not the same. For while three days passed in the Lands Eternal, the shades of the children were taken up into the endless black beyond the sky, into the crystalline halls where avatars of the ten constellations watched over the universe. It would be twenty years in their own reckoning, during which the avatars trained the children in martial combat, elemental magic, and in the histories, philosophies, and arts of the many mortal civilizations of Pale. Those that endured the process returned to their comatose bodies. Those that did not were laid to rest among the stars.

The Seers

The children that returned to their mortal bodies from the presence of the avatars were transformed by the experience. The Horaist mystics called them “seers” because of what they had seen above with their blazing eye. The seers were equipped with all the skills they needed to become true heroes. Seers no longer had much need for food or water, air or rest. They had become preternaturally strong and quick, and masterfully skilled in the use of a unique weapon that they could call into being with an act of will. Seers also became capable of gathering and shaping aethereal energies to cast magic arts. But even more fundamentally they were filled with an overwhelming sense of purpose and determination and a profound empathy for the suffering of mortal kind. At the same time they were inevitably scarred by the Starrite, as any child would be, and the latent trauma of the event would be a permanent companion on their journeys. The first task of the seers was the immediate safety of their own settlements, which involved hunting down local fiends and annihilating them in their corrupted nests and their stolen fortresses. But after this larger stakes needed to be considered, those involving the fate of the entire world. Is it possible to bring Ayama back to life? What can the other goddesses do to fill the void left behind for the time being? And what was the goal of the mysterious assassins that murdered a goddess and plunged the world into chaos? Each question had an answer, but only those with the right eye to see might be able to find them.

Playing Votive

In Votive the players take on the role of seers. Bearing the dreams of their desperate frontier settlements, bearing skills of war and magic, and bearing the tribulations of what had been done to them, seers venture into the Lands Eternal to find others like themselves. In bonded groups they combat fiends and delve into the deepest reaches of the Verge in search of any vestige of Ayama’s power they can find. Together they collect resources, discover lore, and increase their own power in an effort to rise to whatever challenge stands between them and a renewed world. For ten years no seer has succeeded in restoring life to the death goddess and for ten years the world has suffered as a result. But the characters the players create and guide might be the ones to succeed where others have failed.

Mechanics

Character Attributes

Hit Points

A character’s hit points (HP) represents their armor, resilience, and ability to defend themselves. Each character has a maximum number of hit points and a current number which is decreased by damage effects and increased by recovery effects. So long as a character’s current hit points is greater than or equal to one they are able to act and participate in a combat encounter without penalty. When a character is reduced to zero hit points they finally suffer a definitive blow and are “struck down.” A character that is struck down is incapacitated and is no longer able to act or to benefit from items and magic that recover hit points.

Magic Points

A player character’s magic points (MP) represents their personal reserve of aethereal energy and their efficiency in welding elemental arts. Each player character has a maximum number of magic points and a current number which is spent to cast spell-like abilities called “arts.” Each time a player character casts an art they must pay the art’s cost in magic points. All arts cost two magic points unless otherwise stated. When a player character is reduced to zero magic points they are no longer capable of casting arts but there are otherwise no consequences. Non-player characters do not have magic points and may freely cast any arts they have.

Item Points

Item points (IP) represent the sum total of the potential material resources available to the party of player characters at any given time. Unlike hit points and magic points, item points are not possessed by individual player characters but held and spent from a common pool. Item points are spent to use items, which are produced from the player character’s bags and pockets when needed. Each player character has individual item skills, which allow them to draw and use specific items. Without the appropriate skill, a player character cannot draw and use an item. Non-player characters do not ever have item points.

Signature Weapon

Each player character is equipped with a signature weapon that defines their fighting style. Each signature weapon has eight attributes which are frequently referred to in combat encounters.

  • Range (RNG): Determines the distance at which the weapon strikes by default; either close range or long range.

  • Speed (SPD): Represents the weapon’s lightness and balance. Determines a player character’s minimum initial action points and the maximum amount of action points a character can recover back up to in a combat encounter.

  • Martial Attack (MA): Represents the weapon’s accuracy and ability to overcome enemy defenses. Determines the number of dice rolled to resolve strikes and techs used by the player character.

  • Martial Defense (MD): Represents the weapon’s ability to block and deflect physical harm. Determines the number of dice rolled to resolve strikes and techs used against the player character.

  • Aether Attack (AA): Represents the weapon’s ability to channel and direct offensive magics. Determines the number of dice rolled to resolve attack arts used by the player character.

  • Aether Defense (AD): Represents the weapon’s ability to ward against offensive magics. Determines the number of dice rolled to resolve attack arts used against the player character.

  • Damage Ratings: Represents the weapon’s lethality and the force if its blows. Determines how much damage the weapon deals in different circumstances. There are three damage ratings; partial damage (PD), full damage (FD), and critical damage (CD).

  • Power Ratings: Represents the weapon’s ability to magnify the power of the wielder’s soul. Determines the numerical effect of arts in different circumstances. There are three power ratings; partial power (PP), full power (FP), and critical power (CP).

Accessories and Feats

Accessories are magical, alchemical, and masterwork items of considerable power that the player characters can equip in order improve their abilities in combat encounters. Accessories tend to grant passive effects that do not require the expenditure of hit points, magic points, or item points to use. Enemy non-player characters have traits which grant similar passive effects.

Non-Player Character Grades

Each non-player character in Votive has a grade which represents its general degree of narrative significance and its approximate level of challenge in combat encounters. All non-player characters have a series of three threat ratings; partial threat (PT), full threat (FT), and critical threat (CT). These ratings double as both the corresponding damage ratings and the corresponding power ratings whenever they are referenced.

  • Minion Grade: Minions are the least significant characters and serve a role as anonymous mobs, background characters, and cannon fodder in combat encounters. Minions do not have hit points and are struck down when they take any damage or when a status effect is imposed on them. Minions have level appropriate feats, abilities, and threat ratings. Minions cannot gain the clash and evasion conditions described below. The default target number to act against a minion is 6.

  • Solitaires: Solitaires are non-player characters of moderate significance and are capable fighters in combat encounters. Solitaires have hit points and can suffer status effects. Solitaires have level appropriate feats, abilities, and threat ratings. The default target number to act against a solitaires is 7.

  • Bosses: Bosses are the most significant characters, the primary obstacles in the path of the player characters, and the deadliest threats in combat encounters. Bosses have hit points that scale in proportion to the number of player characters and can suffer status effects. Bosses have level appropriate feats, abilities, and threat ratings, and a unique ability called a radical. When a boss’s hit points are reduced to zero the gamemaster rolls a die to determine what radical the boss acquires. Each radical restores the boss to some percentage of its original hit points and empowers it for the remainder of the fight. The default target number to act against a boss is 8.

Combat Maneuvers

Action Resolution

Any time a player character attempts to resolve a challenging action, dice need to be rolled to determine if the player character achieves their desired outcome. Votive exclusively uses ten sided dice (d10s). Players roll a number of dice equal to the rank of their most relevant attribute. Each die that rolls greater than or equal to a target number (TN) assigned to the action by the gamemaster earns one check. Unless otherwise noted, a single check is all that is necessary for the action to be a success and for the player character’s desired outcome to be achieved. If a roll does not earn any checks then the action fails and the player character does not achieve their desired outcome.

Votive’s mechanics are asymmetrical, meaning that players do all of the rolling to resolve actions their characters participate in.

Striking

A strike is the simplest kind of combat maneuver, where a character uses their strength, speed, and their equipped weapons to attack an enemy.

Player character strikes against non-player characters are resolved by rolling the player character’s martial attack attribute against the non-player character’s target number. Success deals the player character’s full damage to the non-player character. Failure results in the non-player character resisting the strike.

Non-player character strikes against player characters are resolved by rolling the player character’s martial defense attribute against the non-player character’s target number. Success results in the player character resisting the strike. Failure deals the non-player character’s full threat in damage to the player character.

Techs, Super Techs, and Attack Arts

Techs, super techs, and attack arts are powerful abilities that often have effects beyond simply dealing damage. These abilities are resolved in the same general manner as strikes. Most techs and super techs are resolved with the player character’s martial attack attribute (if they are using the tech) or martial defense attribute (if the tech is being used against them). Most attack arts are resolved with the player character’s aether attack attribute (if they are using the arts) or aether defense attribute (if the art is being used against them).

A successful roll when a player character is attacking imposes the tech’s, super tech’s, or attack art’s full effect on the defender.* A failed roll results in the defender resisting the effect. 

A successful roll when a player character is defending results in the defender resisting the effect. A failed roll results in the attacker imposing the tech’s, super tech’s, or attack art’s full effect on the defender.

*Many attack arts and some techs have a range of effects comparable to a signature weapon’s damage and power ratings, i.e. a partial effect, a full effect, and a critical effect. The significance of these differences are explained below.

Items and Defense Arts

When characters use items or arts with defensive and utility based effects no dice need to be rolled to resolve the action. These actions are automatically successful and their effects are immediately applied, though their magic point and item point costs still need to be paid.

Catalysts

A catalyst is an ability that some player characters have which allows them to spend extra magic points to modify or empower the effect of an art as it is cast. Each art costs two magic points unless otherwise stated which must always be paid when casting it, and then the caster may pay one magic point to apply a minor catalyst to the art or two magic points to apply a major catalyst to the art. If a player character casts an art with multiple catalysts then each catalyst cost must be paid. A single catalyst can only be used to modify an art once per cast. So long as the player character can afford to pay the costs, and so long as all the catalysts can apply, there is no limit to the number of catalysts a player character can use with a single cast.

For example: Casting an art on its own would cost 2MP. Casting the art with two minor catalysts (1MP each) would cost a total of 4MP to cast. Casting an art with one minor catalyst (1MP) and one major catalyst (2MP) would cost a total of 5MP to cast. Etc.

Divination and Final Techs

Divination is a heightened state of power and awareness that player characters can enter into during the most brutal combat encounters. If a player character is at half hit points or below and rolls either a pair of numbers or a run of any three numbers on a roll to resolve any action, they may choose to  immediately “achieve divination.” While in divination a player character gains one bonus die on all rolls and is eligible to use final techs. Final techs are resolved just like techs but each final tech can only be used once per combat encounter.

A player character is forced out of divination if the combat encounter ends, if they reach 0 hit points, or if they ever have three or more status effects at once.

As long as one player character is in divination, other nearby player characters may pay half their remaining hit points to “force divination” and instantly achieve divination without needing a specific roll and without declaring or resolving a particular action.

There is no limit to the number of times a player character can enter divination in a combat encounter.

Multiple Target Attacks

Some techs and arts, and some arts modified by catalysts, attack multiple opponents at the same time. Such abilities will describe which opponents can be targeted and any other limitations involved. When abilities target multiple opponents it is important to note the difference between the ability’s partial effect and its full effect.

Multiple target attacks made by player characters against non-player characters are rolled against a TN equal to the highest TN of all the targets. A failed roll results in all the defenders resisting the ability’s effect. If the roll results in one check then the ability’s partial effect is imposed on all the defenders. If the roll results in two or more checks, then the ability’s full effect is imposed on all the defenders. 

Multiple target attacks made by non-player characters against player characters require each player character to roll against the attacker with each player character’s roll determining what effect is imposed on them alone. A failed roll results in the ability’s full effect imposed on the defender. If the roll results in one check, then the ability’s partial effect is imposed on the defender. If the roll results in two or more checks, then the defender resists the ability’s effect.

Order of Action

Initial Action Points

Combat encounters in Votive use a system of action points (AP) to determine when and how each character can act. At the beginning of each combat encounter each player and the gamemaster rolls one ten sided die and the result of this die becomes their initial AP. The gamemaster rolls only a single die regardless of the number of non-player characters participating in the combat encounter. If a player rolls an initial AP below the speed stat of their character’s signature weapon, then their AP die is set at the rank of the signature weapon’s speed stat. If the gamemaster rolls an initial AP below the total number of non-player characters in the combat encounter, then their AP die is set at a value equal to the number of non-player characters in the combat encounter. A signature weapon’s speed stat determines the maximum AP a player character can recover back up to during a combat encounter. The gamemaster’s maximum AP is always ten.

Action Priority

Whoever has the highest current AP is said to have “priority.” If a player character and the gamemaster have the same AP, then the player character takes priority. If multiple player characters have the same AP, then they may decide between themselves which one of them will take priority. Whoever has priority must declare and resolve an action. The AP cost of actions is always paid at the time the action is declared. A player character or the gamemaster with priority cannot refuse to declare and resolve an action or to pass priority to another character.

Interrupts

After the person with priority declares an action but before any dice are rolled to resolve the action, any other player or the gamemaster may declare the use of an interrupt action. When an interrupt action is declared it is resolved before the declared priority action. Again, the AP cost of actions is always paid at the time the action is declared. If multiple interrupt actions are declared then the most recently declared is resolved first, followed by the next most recent, then the next, then the next, etc., until the originally declared priority action is resolved last. A player cannot declare an interrupt of their own character’s priority action, but the gamemaster can declare interrupt actions by one non-player character of another non-player character’s priority action. Once the first interrupt of a priority action is rolled to be resolved, no other interrupts of the priority action may be declared.

The gamemaster can never have more total declared actions than the player characters, unless the one action the gamemaster has declared is their own priority action. Otherwise, the total number of the gamemaster’s priority and interrupt actions must be less than or equal to the total number of player character priority and interrupt actions.

For example: 

If a player character has priority, and no other player characters have declared interrupt actions, then the gamemaster can only declare one interrupt action (1 to 1 total). If the player characters were then to declare two additional interrupts, the gamemaster could then declare two additional interrupts (3 to 3 total). Etc.

If the gamemaster has priority, and either no player characters declare an interrupt action (1 to 0 total) or one player declares an interrupt action (1 to 1 total), the gamemaster cannot declare an interrupt action since that would exceed the amount of actions the player characters have declared. 

In this way the player characters set the pace of action and the gamemaster follows suit.

Flow of Action

Once all interrupt actions and the originally declared priority action are all resolved, then each character’s AP is consulted anew to determine which character has priority and the process repeats until the combat encounter ends.

Action Costs

The costs for each combat maneuver, and the ways each combat maneuver can be declared, are described below.

  • Provoking can be declared as either a priority action or as an interrupt action, both at the cost of 0AP.

  • Feinting or using an item can be declared as either a priority action or as an interrupt action, both at the cost of 1AP. The IP costs of items are paid when they are resolved, not when they are declared.

  • Strikes, techs, and arts can be declared as either a priority action at the cost of 2AP or as an interrupt action at the cost of 3AP. The MP costs of arts are paid when they are resolved, not when they are declared.

  • Super techs can only be declared as priority actions at the cost of 2AP.

  • Final techs can be declared as either a priority action or as an interrupt action

  • Forcing divination does not cost AP and neither is it declared as a priority action or as an interrupt action. Paying the cost to force divination can be done at any time and it instantly takes effect regardless of the normal order of action resolution. Entering divinationally naturally by roll also takes effect instantly as soon as the required roll hits the table.

Feinting and Provoking

Player character AP does not recover naturally or periodically over the course of a combat encounter. Instead once the player characters’ initial AP is spent they and their allies must rely on feinting and provoking in order to recover action points. Recall that once a player character’s initial AP are spent below the speed stat of their signature weapon, the speed stat becomes the maximum AP they can recover to.

When a player character feints the player chooses an opponent. The chosen opponent then strikes the player character. When the strike is resolved, whether the player character takes damage or not, the feinting player character recovers 2AP and all of their allies recover 1AP.

When a player character provokes the gamemaster chooses any non-player character to strike any player character. When the strike is resolved, whether any player character takes damage or not, the provoking player character and all of their allies recover 2AP.

Gamemaster Action Points

The gamemaster cannot declare a feint or a provoke on behalf of their non-player characters. Instead the gamemaster’s recovers 2AP whenever a player character resolves an attack action against one of the gamemaster’s characters. This commonly includes strikes, most techs, super techs, and final techs, and attack arts. It commonly does not include items and defensive arts, and it never includes feints and provokes.

Combat Spacing

In Votive the player characters are superpowered and heroic and the enemies they face are often monstrous and fantastical. As a result Votive’s mechanics do not attempt to track the precise distances between characters in a combat encounter, since it is assumed that characters are constantly moving around with lightning fast dashes, preternatural leaps, and agile flips and vaults that can traverse any surface or obstacle that may stand between combatants. Whether characters are equipped with close range or long range weapons or abilities, any character can attack or take action against any other character at any time.

The difference between close range and long range attacks is instead captured with the clash and evasion effects, which reward close range attackers for attacking other close range attackers, and which make long range attackers slightly more difficult to catch. The clash and evasion effects are described below.

When a character successfully attacks a defender with a close range attack the attacker may choose to clash. Clashing characters spend one less AP on all close range attacks, down to a minimum of two, against any defender that is not evasive. If a close range attack ever succeeds against a clashing character then the attacker can choose to negate the clash effect on the defender.

When a character successfully attacks a defender with a long range attack the attacker may choose to become evasive. Close range attacks cost one additional AP when declared against evasive characters. If a close range attack ever succeeds against an evasive character then the attacker can choose to negate the evasive effect on the defender.

Arts do not grant clash or evasion on success unless otherwise stated.

Additional Mechanics

Duels and Skirmishes

The flow of action described above (initial AP -> priority action -> interrupts -> resolution -> repeat priority) is appropriate for skirmishes; combat encounters involving multiple characters on both sides. A simpler set of mechanics can be used for fights involving only two opposing characters – fights called duels.

In a duel between two opposing characters, action points, priority, and interrupts are ignored entirely. The first character to act is the one with the most aggressive or advantageous position, as judged by the gamemaster. The first character declares a single action of their choice and resolves it. Any combat maneuver can be chosen; strike, tech, super tech, art, final tech (if the character is in divination, etc.) If it is successful they may declare and resolve a second. After a single failed action or two actions, the second character takes a turn and declares and resolves either a single action that fails or two actions. Once both characters take a turn an “exchange” is said to be completed and the process repeats with as many exchanges as necessary to resolve the duel.

Actions that involve item use, defensive arts, or anything else that does not require a roll cannot earn a second action in an exchange. Such actions can still be used as a second action however after a first successful action.

Extra Actions

Any time a character declares an action and spends two or more AP it is assumed that the character can move one “length” and interact with the environment around them once in addition to whatever combat maneuvers they have declared. This movement and this interaction are referred to as “extra actions.” Extra actions are limited by what is reasonable in the scene at hand but cannot involve an action so challenging or so complex that it would require its own roll in normal circumstances. 

Moving as an extra action does not need to be precisely defined but generally speaking moving one “length” involves traversing a space that could be described by one phrase and that does not exceed a distance of about twenty yards or about half that if there are obstacles. So descriptions like “I sprint to the top of the stairs” or “I leap atop the low roof” or “I flank around the edge of the room” are all permitted. But complex descriptions like “I climb the ladder, then vault the table, then step onto the rail” are not permitted.

Interacting with the environment can involve opening and shutting doors or other portals, picking up or setting down objects, pushing, pulling, or switching objects, or anything similar. Again the action must be simple enough that in other circumstances it would not require a roll.

Extra actions must be performed prior to a character’s declared action. E.g. A character could move to a door, kick it open, and fire a weapon. But a character could not fire a weapon, shut a door, and then retreat back inside.

Dramatic Actions

No list of combat maneuvers or abilities could ever comprehensively describe the breadth of actions players might attempt in a pen and paper role-playing game, and from time to time it may be necessary to improvise rules in order to accomodate a creative tactic. “Dramatic actions” is a broad category of actions that fall outside of what is possible with strikes, techs, arts, and even extra actions. 

Dramatic actions cost 2AP when declared as a priority action and 3AP when declared as an interrupt action. The player and the gamemaster should clearly establish the desired outcome of the dramatic action in conversation with one another. The gamemaster then assigns a target number to the action based on how beneficial the action’s success would be. Players roll two dice to resolve dramatic actions and single check results in success.

Status Effects

Status effects are persistent debilitating conditions that harm a character over time or limit their tactical options in a combat encounter. Status effects persist even after combat is resolved. Only certain items and arts, along with periods of rest, can cure status effects.

  • Blinded: A blinded character cannot use techs of any kind.

  • Dazed: A dazed character cannot declare interrupt actions in a skirmish and cannot attempt more than one action per exchange in a duel.

  • Poisoned: Each time a poisoned character resolves an action they are dealt one half their own partial damage.

  • Silenced: A silenced character cannot cast arts of any kind nor use techs that involve casting arts. Silenced player characters can still use techs that draw on the aether attack and aether defense attributes however.

Struck Down

Characters are struck down when they are reduced to zero hit points. Struck down characters can no longer declare actions or benefit from items and abilities that recover hit points. Struck down characters cannot move on their own and must be carried with dramatic actions. Non-player characters that are struck down are presumed dead. Player characters that are struck down are at the mercy of the gamemaster and their non-player characters.

Resolving Combat

Combat encounters end when all of the characters on one side are struck down or when all characters on one side manage to flee with dramatic actions.

Combat Example

What follows is a description of a short and simple combat encounter between two of the sample player characters and a handful of minion non-player characters that are available below. The encounter serves as an example of how the action point system of Votive works, as well as how to resolve a variety of attack and defense actions.

Initial AP

Kain and Joi find themselves surrounded in a forest clearing by half a dozen prowling corpses called begrudgers. The gamemaster along with Kain and Joi’s players each roll a die to determine everyone’s initial AP. The gamemaster gets a 4, Kain’s player gets a 6, and Joi’s player gets a 7. Since there are six enemies, the gamemaster’s initial AP is moved from 4 to 6. Since Kain and Joi’s weapons have speed attributes less than their rolls, their rolls determine their initial AP. So, the gamemaster is at 6AP, Kain is also at 6AP, and Joi is at 7AP.

First Priority

With the highest AP, Joi has priority. Joi’s player declares that she will use the “combat reload” tech to attack the nearest begrudger, and she pays the 2AP cost for the action (5AP left). The gamemaster declares that one of the begrudgers will interrupt her tech and attempt to strike her from behind, and the gamemaster pays the 3AP cost for the action (3AP left). Kain’s player declares that he will interrupt the begrudger’s attack to cast the art “cinder” catalyzed with split cast, and he pays the 3AP cost for the action (3AP left). The gamemaster declares a second interrupt for a begrudger to strike at Kain, and the gamemaster pays the 3AP cost for the action (0AP left). With no more interrupts to declare, actions are resolved one at a time beginning with the most recently declared.

A begrudger attempts to pounce on Kain as he begins to cast his art. Kain’s player rolls his martial defense attribute (rank 1) against a target number of 6 for the minion begrudger, and gets a 5 for zero checks. The defense fails and the begrudger bites down hard on Kain’s shoulder (4 damage, 10HP left).

Kain casts his catalyzed attack art against the begrudgers attacking him and Joi. He pays the 4MP cost (2 base + 2 for the major catalyst, 2MP left). Kain’s player rolls his aether attack attribute (rank 3) against a target number of six for the two minion begrudgers, and gets a 1, a 6, and a 7 for two checks. The attack art is a success, imposing its full effect on both targets (9 damage, enemies struck down), and Kain hurls two balls of orange flame that devour a pair of undead. With the action resolved the gamemaster gains 2AP (2AP left).

Since the begrudger attacking Joi was incinerated, it cannot carry out its attack and its action is canceled.

Joi takes a knee and uses her combat reload tech against a begrudger. Joi’s player rolls her martial attack attribute (rank 2) against a target number of six for the begrudger, and gets a 1 and an 8 for one check. The tech is a success and Joi fires off a quick shot to take down the begrudger (3 damage, enemy struck down), before conjuring a shining aetheric bullet and shoving it into her rifle’s chamber to gain the “loaded” effect. Joi would also normally recover 1AP with the success of combat reload, but since her weapon’s speed attribute is 5 and she is already at 5AP she cannot gain any more. Joi also becomes “evasive” with the success of a long range attack. With the action resolved the gamemaster gains 2AP (4AP left).

Second Priority

With the resolution of the originally declared priority action, the character with the highest AP gains priority. Kain is at 3AP, the gamemaster is at 4AP, and Joi is at 5AP, and so she gains priority again.

Joi’s player declares that she will use the “rapid fire” super tech, allowing her to use “shatter strike” potentially twice in a row and finish off the rest of the begrudgers. She pays the 3AP for the cost of the action (2AP left). Both the gamemaster and Kain’s player decide not to declare interrupts to save AP.

Joi rolls to the side and charges her pulse rifle attack with the shatter strike tech. Joi’s player rolls her martial attack attribute (rank 2) against a target number of six for the begrudger, and gets a 2 and a 4 for zero checks. The tech and the super tech are a failure and Joi fires a scintillating blast of bolts that the three remaining begrudgers evade with an insane fury. With the action resolved the gamemaster gains 2AP (6AP left).

Third Priority

With the resolution of the originally declared priority action, the character with the highest AP gains priority. Joi is at 2AP, Kain is at 3AP, the gamemaster is at 6AP, and so the gamemaster gains priority.

The gamemaster declares that one of the begrudgers will strike at Kain, and pays the 2AP cost for the action (4AP left). Kain’s player declares that he will interrupt the begrudger’s strike to use the “focus elements” tech, and he pays the 3AP cost for the action (0AP left). Joi’s player declares that she will interrupt Kain’s action to feint against a begrudger, and she pays the 1AP cost for the action (1AP left). The gamemaster is then able to declare that another begrudger will interrupt to strike at Kain as well, and pays the 3AP cost for the action (1AP left). 

A begrudger dashes for Kain’s legs and strikes. Kain’s player rolls his martial defense attribute (rank 1) against a target number of 6 for the minion begrudger, and gets a 3 for zero checks. The defense fails and the begrudger claws at Kain, forcing him to backpedal, then slip and fall onto the ground. (4 damage, 6HP left).

Next, Joi takes a low snap shot at a begrudger, drawing its attention. It flanks to the side and charges at her with a strike. Joi’s player rolls her martial defense attribute (rank 2) against a target number of 6 for the minion begrudger, and gets two 9s for two checks. The defense succeeds and Joi resists the attack by nimbly leaping over the begrudger’s charge. With the feint resolved, both Joi and Kain recover 1AP (2AP left and 1AP left, respectively).

Kain then uses his focus elements tech, and concentrates a swirl of elemental power between his unsteady hands. Since the tech is not an attack, it is automatically successful. Focus elements allows Kain to recover 3AP (4AP left).

Finally, another begrudger then jumps into the air and comes down on Kain with balled fists, striking at him. Kain’s player rolls his martial defense attribute (rank 1) against a target number of 6 for the minion begrudger, and gets a 2 for zero checks. The defense fails and the begrudger pounds relentlessly on Kain’s chest, knocking the air from his lungs (4 damage, 2HP left).

Fourth Priority

With the resolution of the originally declared priority action, the character with the highest AP gains priority. The gamemaster is at 1AP, Joi is at 3AP, and Kain is at 4AP, and so Kain gains priority.

Kain’s player declares that he will use the “elemental blast” super tech, and cast cinder catalyzed with split cast for free, targeting two of the remaining begrudgers. He pays the 3AP cost for the action (1AP left). Joi’s player declares that she will interrupt Kain’s action and declares a strike against the third remaining begrudger. She pays the 3AP cost for the action (0AP left). The gamemaster does not have enough AP to interrupt.

Joi strikes at a begrudger, firing a long stream of steady shots. Joi’s player rolls her martial attack attribute (rank 2) against a target number of six for the begrudger, and gets two 6s for two checks. The strike is a success and her shots tear the begrudger to ribbons (6 damage, enemy struck down). With the action resolve the gamemaster gains 2AP (3AP left).

Kain lets out a desperate roar and casts his art. Kain’s player rolls his aether attack attribute (rank 3) against a target number of 6 for the minion begrudgers, and gets a 4, and two 10s for two checks. The attack art is a success, imposing its full effect on both targets (9 damage, enemies struck down). Kain unleashes a wave of swirling fire that reduces the last begrudgers to ash. With the action resolved the gamemaster gains 2AP (5AP left).

With all of the characters on one side of the conflict struck down, the combat encounter is resolved.

Characters & Encounters

Sample Character 1

Name: Ren

Sign: The Horns

HP: 20 / MP: 3

Signature Weapon and Accessories

Golden Fighting Gauntlets

Range: Close

Speed: 8

Martial Attack: 2

Martial Defense: 2

Aether Attack: 1

Aether Defense: 2

Damage Ratings: 4GD / 5FD / 7CD

Power Ratings: 3PP / 4FP / 5OP

Whirlwind Scarf: +1 martial defense against long range attacks from minions.

Special Abilities

Flash Step (tech): Executes a close range attack against an evading character without penalty. Success deals GD damage and breaks the defenders’ evasion.

Intercepting Strike (super tech): Provokes a ranged attack. The Horns rolls first to defend against the attack. If the defense is successful the attack is resisted. If the defense fails, the Horns suffers no damage or effect, and the gamemaster chooses another target to attack as normal.

Poison (art): Executes a long range aether attack. Full effect imposes poison. Partial effect imposes poison only if the target already has at least one status effect.

Counter Cast (minor catalyst): Allows the art to be cast instantly and with an automatic full success when the caster rolls two or more checks on a martial or aether defense.

Blasting Fist (final tech): Executes a long range attack. Success deals CD damage and recovers 2AP for all allies.

Focus Incense (item): Costs 6IP. Cures blind and silence on self and all allies.

Sample Character 2

Name: Joi

Sign: The Hunter

HP: 16 / MP: 0

Signature Weapon and Accessories

Custom Pulse Rifle

Range: Long

Speed: 5

Martial Attack: 2

Martial Defense: 2

Aether Attack: 2

Aether Defense: 2

Damage Ratings: 3GD / 6FD / 8CD

Power Ratings: 3PP / 5FP / 7OP

Targeting Scope: If a long range attack fails but a pair or run of three numbers was rolled, select a new target and reroll the attack against them. 

Special Abilities

Combat Reload (tech): Executes a long range attack. Success deals GD damage, recovers 1AP, and grants the “loaded” condition.

Shatter Strike (tech): Requires and expends the loaded condition. Executes a long range attack. Success deals CD damage, and then GD damage to one nearby non-boss target.

Rapid Fire (super tech): Executes either a strike followed by another strike if the first is successful, or, requires and expends the loaded condition to execute a shatter strike followed by another shatter strike if the first is successful.

Final Shot (final tech): Executes a long range attack. Success deals CD damage, breaks clash and evasion, and reduces the gamemaster’s AP by 2.

Revivify Drone (item): Costs 8IP. Raises a struck down ally and returns them to 1/4th HP.

Sample Character 3

Name: Kain

Sign: The Sleeper

HP: 14 / MP: 6

Signature Weapon and Accessories

Crystalline Scythe

Range: Close

Speed: 6

Martial Attack: 1

Martial Defense: 1

Aether Attack: 3

Aether Defense: 3

Damage Ratings: 4GD / 4FD / 6CD

Power Ratings: 4PP / 5FP / 9OP

Special Abilities

Focus Elements (tech): Grants the “focussed” condition. If the character has 1MP or more, then focus elements also recovers its AP cost.

Elemental Blast (super tech): Requires and expends the focussed condition. Casts an attack art, with one major or minor catalyst, for zero mp.

Cinder (art): Executes a long range aether attack. Full effect deals FP damage or OP damage against a target with 50% or more hp. Partial effect deals PP damage.

Daze (art): Executes a long range aether attack. Full effect imposes daze. Partial effect imposes daze only if the target already has at least one status effect. 

Split Cast (major catalyst): Changes a long range aether attack into a multi target attack against any two opponents.

Reflex Cast (minor catalyst): When cast as an interrupt action, a successful cast recovers 2AP and a failed cast recovers 1AP.

Summon Sorcery (final tech): Automatically deals ? PP damage to all opponents and recovers maximum magic points.

Blood Potion (item): Costs 4IP. Recovers FP HP of self or ally.

Sample Character 4

Name: Sara

Sign: The Maiden

HP: 18 / MP: 6

Signature Weapon and Accessories

Massive Stone Hammer

Range: Close

Speed: 6

Martial Attack: 2

Martial Defense: 3

Aether Attack: 2

Aether Defense: 2

Damage Ratings: 4GD / 5FD / 8CD

Power Ratings: 3PP / 5FP / 7OP

Shield of the Sun: If a pair or run of three numbers is ever rolled on the character’s defenses, then the attacker is blinded.

Special Abilities

Take Wing (super tech): Gains flight. While flying the character cannot be targeted with, or declare, close range attacks. Being successfully attacked with a long range attack ends the flying effect and causes the loss of 3AP. The flight effect may be instantly ended voluntarily for no cost.

Desperate Prayer (super tech): Casts a single target defensive art on self or any ally at 50% or less HP for half cost (rounded down).

Salt (art): Recovers FP HP for self or any ally, or OP HP for self or any ally at the cost of silencing them.

Void (art): Executes a long range aether attack. Success transfers all status effects from one ally to the attacked enemy.

Valkyrie (final tech): Executes a long range attack. Success deals PP damage, recovers PP HP for self and all allies, and cures all status effects for self and allies.

Demon Killer Lore (item): Costs 2IP. Used as an interrupt to an ally’s attack. Grants the ally two additional dice for their attack.

Enemy NPCs

Wrathling (minion) – A former dog, cat, or wolf, twisted to have additional limbs, blazing red eyes, jet black fur, and inexhaustible aggression. 3PT / 4FT / 5CT. 

  • Close range strike

  • Fury (feat): Declares interrupt strikes for only 2AP.

Belie (minion) – A former bird, twisted to grow in size, to have four monstrous wings, and to spit bolts of fire with deadly accuracy. 2PT / 3FT / 4CT. 

  • Long range strike

  • Soar (feat): Grants flight whenever the character declares an action. While flying the character cannot be targeted with, or declare, close range attacks. Being successfully attacked with a long range attack ends the flying effect and causes the loss of 1AP.

Begrudger (minion) – A long dead corpse, reanimated with malice and envy, and twisted to have a massive distended jaw. 3PT / 4FT / 5CT.

  • Close range strike

  • Unstoppable (feat): Immune to status effects.

  • Jaws (tech): Executes a close range attack. Success deals PT damage and imposes daze.

Cravenist (solitaire) – The corpse of one who fled from battle, returned to snipe at courageous warriors from the edges of a conflict with a gun built into an oversized arm. 4PT / 4FT / 4CT. 8HP.

  • Long range strike

  • Skitter (feat): While evading, attacks against the cravenist use one less die.

  • Running Shot (tech): Executes a long range attack. Success deals PT damage and breaks clash.

Defiler (solitaire) – A former horse, twisted to have emerald fire for hooves, and to snort noxious smoke with every breath. 3PT / 4FT / 5CT. 10HP.

  • Close range strike

  • Poison (art): Executes a long range aether attack. Success imposes poison.

  • Trample (super tech): Executes a close range attack. Succes deals PT damage and reduces all non-clashing, non-evading player character AP by 2.

Resentrix (solitaire) – The corpse of a recently murdered woman, returned to life to inflict as much pain as possible before expiring again. 3PT / 3FT / 7CT. 10HP.

  • Close range strike

  • Revenge (feat): Successful attacks against characters with more than 50% HP deal CT damage.

  • Banshee’s Wail (super tech): Executes a long range aether attack. Success imposes blind and silence.

Farcicar (boss) – A person who voluntarily gave up their body to shades in exchange for power. They have gnarled, flightless wings, clawed hands, a forked tongue, and a massively muscled frame. 4PT / 6FT / 8CT. 16HP

  • Close range strike

  • Monstrous Strength (feat): Close range attacks against the character are penalized one die, and close range attacks by the character penalize the defense one die.

  • Shaded Blast (super tech): Executes a multi target attack against all opponents. Full effect deals FT damage and dazes. Partial effect deals PT damage.

Acrimonia (boss) – A fiend of the underworld, wielding fragments of the death goddess’ power. They are tall women, clothed in sea-green dresses and veils, with black squid tentacles for hair and three luminous eyes. 3PT / 5FT / 7CT. 14HP

  • Close range strike

  • Blinding Storm (art): Executes a multi target attack aether against all opponents. Full effect imposes blind. Partial effect imposes blind only if the target already has at least one status effect. 

  • Drown (art): Executes a long range aether attack. Full effect deals FT damage or CT damage against a target with a status effect. Partial effect deals PT damage.

Boss Radicals

Roll a die to determine which radical a boss enemy receives upon reaching 0HP.

1-2 Death Knell: The boss is returned to 1HP and immediately executes the following tech – Last Wish (tech): Executes a multi target attack against all opponents. Full effect deals 2X CT damage. Partial effect deals CT damage.

3-4 Bloodlust: The boss is returned to 50% HP, becomes immune to all status effects, and becomes permanently enraged. An enraged character can only declare interrupt strikes and must declare an interrupt strike at every available opportunity. Enraged characters are never considered to have priority and cannot declare priority actions. Declaring an interrupt strike costs an enraged character no AP and successful strikes deal CT damage. Enraged characters in a duel may only declare strikes and deal CT damage on success.

5-6 Ambush: The boss is returned to 50% HP and four random minions suddenly appear to fight beside the boss.

7-8 Pride: The boss is returned to 100% HP.

9-0 Second Form: The boss is returned to 50% HP and gains a new ability – Doom (super tech): Executes a multi target aether attack against all opponents. Full effect deals PT damage and imposes blind, daze, poison, and silence. Partial effect imposes daze and poison.

Stages

Twilight Caverns

A nest of fiends has been discovered in the rocky hills above a mining settlement. The seers must venture inside through a series of dank chambers and winding paths and find the brood mother at the cavern’s heart.

The player characters begin with 20IP and no more can be scavenged as they descend.

Entrance Chamber: A long rectangular room dripping with jagged stalactites and filled with small, fetid pools. Several belies dive from the darkened ceiling to assault the player characters, followed by another wave when the first is defeated.

Spiral Paths: A narrow series of corridors that turn back and forth down into the caverns depths. The cries of a resentrix can be heard long before she is seen. The player characters are harried by half a dozen wrathlings as they make their way down, only to reach a narrow passage where the resentrix launches an ambush.

Heart of the Cavern: The narrow passage opens into a circular chamber filled with stinking, knee deep water. Two resentrixes kneel before an acrimonia and several dozen scaled eggs. The resentrixes attack first while the acrimonia looks on, only to join the fray when least expected.

Haunted Battlefield

Shades have been seen congregating on the blood soaked hills of a recently deserted battlefield. The seers must journey across blasted ground and into the obscuring mists in order to put down any risen corpses and discover what evil is attracting the shades.

The player characters begin with only 5IP but can scavenge 5IP at the end of each encounter.

Charred Supply Train: The player characters enter the battlefield alongside a still burning supply caravan, two dozen wagons in length. A dozen begrudgers rise from around and beneath the wagons, one or two at a time, becoming increasingly aggressive as they do.

Shattered Bridge: The player characters approach a demolished bridge and the whinnying sounds of a distressed horse can be heard in the distance. As the player characters near, a defiler comes rushing out of the mist to attack, followed by a volley of gunfire from a handful of cravenists hiding behind dilapidated sections of the bridge.

Killing Field: At last the player characters come to a hill of dead bodies radiating the black and turquoise light of underworld magic. Standing atop the hill, devouring passing shades, is a massive farcicar with leather wings unfolded.

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