Pantheon

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Now begins the work! This is going to be my resource for building up the rules and info for Pantheon, which theoretically will be something great.

This is all work in progress, and will continue to be so but if you have any comments please PM me (rossatdi).

Introduction / Concept

Inspired in part by the Discworld series and its mention of the gods playing a game with mortals, I wanted to set up a way of sitting down and playing as one team of gods setting up champions against a rival team of gods.

This means that to be successful each game has nicely dramatic goals (preventing the destruction of the world, preventing the control of the world, or wiping out the other side's champions). It also, ambitiously, requires the ability to create each world from scratch in a manner that will continually provide interesting and heterogeneous.

To this end, each world will be set in a broadly drawn historic epoc (thanks to an economic and social history degree!) determined as people sit down:

1. Classical period - think Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome.

2. Dark Ages - think post-Roman Britain.

3. Medieval Period - think post-1066 England and NW Europe.

4. Renaissance - think Northern Italian city states.

5. Early Imperial - think of Napoleonic Wars.

6. Industrial Revolution - think Britain up until World War I.

Nations

Each nation will be given a general political background to work from and further built up with simple attributes of success (Wealth, Stability & Military Power) and demeanour (how decent and tolerant the population is & how noble and capable the elite are).

I've stuck to the five core Tolkien fantasy races as I believe they each represent key characteristics and themes.

National Political Structure (d66)
Human Human Elf Dwarves Halfling Orc
11 - Market-led Democracy 21 - Guild dominated City States 31 - Hearth-magic Anarchism 41 - Clan-based Demarchy 51 - Family-organised Kleptocracy 61 - Martial Meritocracy
12 - Fort-led Stratocracy 22 - Multi-nation Empire 32 - Epicureanism (modest, responsible pleasure) 42 - Codified Meritocracy 52 - Federal City States 62 - Loose alliance of clans
13 - Temple-led Theocracy 23 - Athenian style democracy 33 - Magical caste Oligarchy 43 - Genocracy 53 - Plutocracy 63 - Tribal Matriarchy
14 - Court-led Aristocracy 24 - Organised clans/tribes 34 - Diaspora Exilarchy 44 - Parliamentary Democracy 54 - Romani-style travellers 64 - Paladin Society
15 - Monarch-led Feudalism 25 - Matriarchal nature worship 35 - Magical Meritocracy 45 - Autocratic Matriarchy 55 - Thalassicratic empire 65 - Patrician Slavers
16 - Constitution-led Republic 26 - Collective of Chivalric & Clerical Orders 36 - Aristocracy of the Wise 46 - Technocracy 56 - Syndicalism 66 - Imperialism

Rules

In order for the game to work as a collective competition against an opposing force of champions, Pantheon needs some rules. Part of the plan is to make the game rules light but representative of ‘real life’. To this end I’ve stuck to a simple system using only good old fashioned d6. For human sized creatures there will be 9 attributes (the core definition of capabilities that are unlikely to change much) divided into Physical (4) and Mental (4), and Luck (1).

Each of the 4 physical and 4 mental attributes will have 6 skills and a then a further set of weapon skills and magic skills. There will be no class system, it will be up to the players to define their own abilities. Each sentient species is limited to an attribute range of 1 to 6, neither being available at character creation.

An Attribute Test

Most risk factors that occur in the game will be a simple test of competency. For example: Is Irmrie capable of jumping up to that ledge and pulling himself up?

Each attribute will have a list of the general areas it covers. In the above example the character wishes to jump and climb an obstacle, these are tests of agility.

To take an attribute test, roll a single 6 sided dice and add your Attribute. If the result is equal to 7 or more, you succeed.

Or simply;

If ‘Attribute + d6 + any modifiers ≥ 7’ then Success

This system is primitive in some ways but has two really strong characteristics (i) its fast, (ii) there is no confusion about rolling equal or under, more is always more.

The value of 7 is fixed, bonuses and penalties always effect the Attribute + d6 part of the equation. I realize that mathematically it is all relatively irrelevant, but it keeps maters transparent. It also allows for a very simple rating system for any obstacle, challenge or event on penalty or bonus to test. A test of -3 is going to be very difficult for everyone, an there’s only a statistical bonus for anyone with an attribute of 5 or 6.

This leads us on to a layer of complexity: Unlikely, Improbably, Impossible.

Unlikely, Improbably, Impossible

If someone gave you a 1 in 6 chance and told you to bet on it, you’re unlikely to put up a large stake. Just like Russian Roulette players the world know, a 1 in 6 chance is unlikely to come up on a single event basis. However, some things are pretty Improbably, such as a revolver loaded with 5 bullets firing blank on each of 6 spins. The odds are only 1 in 36 but you’d have a real death wish to try that one. Then there’s playing Russian Roulette with an automatic weapon – winning that bet is Impossible.

The Unlikely/Improbably/Impossible division is applicable when characters find themselves in a situation where their attribute is effectively reduced to below 1 (such as a character with an Attribute of 2 suffering a -2 penalty to an action) an even a roll of 6 wouldn’t make 7.

If the task to be completed is Unlikely, the test will pass on a roll of a 6.

If the task to be completed is Improbably, the test will pass on a roll of a 6, then an unmodified Luck test.

If the task to be completed is Impossible, the character cannot complete it.

Examples:

  • “I’m going to take a shot at the rider in the distance!” That’s Coordination test -3 on your Attribute of 3, its pretty unlikely to happen. UNLIKELY – a roll of 6 will succeed.
  • “I know I’m still suffering from that concussion but I think I can shoot the apple of John’s head with this bow.” That’s, well, that’s just not going to work but technically it is possible, IMPROBABLY – a roll of 6 followed by a successful Luck test will save John instead of the apple.
  • “I know both my arms are broken and I wouldn’t be able to move it normally but I’m going to try lifting the portcullis.” You physically don’t have enough strength in your body to pull that one off, IMPOSSIBLE – no chance to roll.

Impossible exists primarily to stop abuse of the Luck attribute and ensure that something that is physically impossible remains so. When it comes to matters of accurate shooting or linguistic deftness, that is something the GM has to make a call on.

Can I keep trying?

Typically, no. If you failed the roll, its failed your character is unable to do the task or isn’t stupid enough to try it again. This is to promote players looking for other solutions.

In a situation where each player character could attempt a task (kicking open a door) only the character with the highest attribute/skill combination (ie attribute of 3 with 2 skill levels trumps attribute of 4 with none) gets to try. If character two (or more) characters share the same attribute each can attempt the task.

Team Work

It is quite likely that a group of characters will come up against challenges that require a semblance of team work to accomplish. This is most commonly something simple and heavy that needs to be moved but might involve outwitting a very suspicious soldier.

In these cases the GM will decide the basic modifier, this is likely to be quite high (3-6) as to provide a challenge that one person could not easily accomplish. These situations tend to be Impossible without team work.

One character is nominated as the main actor and rolls a d6 adding his attribute (as if in a normal test), the penalty is then applied. Each supporting character then makes an unmodified attribute test, if successful they add 1 to the main actor’s value. The action is successful when this value reaches 7.

Constraints – Some actions will likely have a restriction on the number of people that can help (it difficult to get twelve people round something the size of a football if it needs lifting).

Typically these efforts are sustained over a period of time, with extra people chipping in to help as needed. Each turn after the first the main actor must make an attribute test with a bonus equal to the number of people successfully helping him – this test is to ensure that there isn’t failure. Each actor who joins the effort cannot move (whether or not he failed the test) without causing the main actor to need to pass an unmodified attribute test.


Combat

Combat, as with the basic rules, will be relatively simple - with an aim of modelling ability quickly without too much reference to charts and so on. One of the key design goals in Pantheon is to create a simple combat system that can survive the transfer from swords and spears to rifles and artillery. I love the concepts that some of the indie RPGs throw around for more abstract combat but I'm going to stick to a simple initiative run system with a couple of twists.

There will be additional rules for fighting creatures larger than about 10ft, as the standard rules set become somewhat obsolete when something is the size of a cottage.

Basic Concepts

Combat revolves a series of rounds wherein each character takes a turn. Each turn a character may do a number of things, actions – some of these are consider free actions and the rest full actions. Turns are taking in initiative order.

Full Actions: Melee Attack, Ranged Attack, Magic Spell, Sprint, Stand Up, Aim, Draw weapon

Free Actions: Move, Shout, Drop weapon

Lead Attributes

Each weapon has a lead Attribute, the main attribute that rates how effective someone is likely to be with it. For most weapons of war this is likely to be strength, for example an axe, a broadsword or a mace all rest on a user's strength. Coordination, although generally always somewhat important, is the dominant attribute used for a number of precise weapons such as types of light sword (rapier, sabre) and long spears (but not pikes, detailed breakdown to come!). Finally, Wits, in its roll as a rating of a character's perception and reactions is the most important attribute for small weapons (knives and daggers mostly) but also using ranged weapons in combat as looking for an opening to strike is more important than a dexterous attack or the weight of the blow.

The principle behind this is to divide up the responsible attributes for combat in a realistic manner (ie being incredibly strong doesn't automatically make you a great knife fighter).

Strength: Short swords, broad swords, axes, one handed spears, polearms, bludgeoning weapons.

Coordination: Rapier, sabre, court sword, two handed spears, flail, staves.

Wits: Dagger, knife, gauche, buckler, pistol, ranged weapons*.

Weapons

Short Sword Arming Sword (1h broadsword) Sabre Rapier Courtsword Bastard Sword Longsword (2h broadsword) Claymore Scimitar Katana Bolo/Machete

Morning Star/Mace War Hammer

Coiled Sword Flail Chain Whip

Short Spear Long Spear Pike Halberd Billhook Glaive Staff

War Axe (1h axe) Great Axe (2h axe) Throwing Axe

Dagger/Knife

Attributes

There are 9 basic attributes which summarise a character’s abilities. For each of the sentient common species each attribute ranges from 1 (very bad, childlike) to 6 (peak of ability).

Physical Attributes:

Strength

As well as being the most common attribute used in combat, strength is useful for a number of actions a hero may get up to. As a measure of raw physical power it is used for shifting heavier objects, breaking open items, hauling and throwing. Strength is also used in unarmed combat and wrestling, where sheer power makes all the difference. Battle, especially up until Renaissance and Imperial periods, heavily favoured the strong. Non-mechanical bows also require strength in order to be used.

Endurance

A character’s fitness, toughness and pain threshold make up his endurance. A largely reactive attribute but very important. All tests of extended physical hardship are tested against endurance. The raw quantity of damage a character can sustain is also determined by endurance. Fatigue, a character's long term physical exhaustion, is ruled by Endurance.

Agility

A character’s alacrity and range of physical movement is measured by agility. Agility covers athletic actions such as running, jumping, climbing and flexibility. A variety of ancillary actions such a stealth, contortion and dodging are also evaluated by agility. Although the actions it defines may seem somewhat less important than strength or endurance – this feeling can change rapidly when a particularly large monster is bearing down on the group or the ground collapses from underneath them. The skill is vital for stealthy approaches to situations and urban conflict; armour and arms area all very useful in wide open battle but amongst dense streets and tall buildings, a nimble archer may be worth a dozen soldier.

Coordination

Coordination is a measure of character physical precision, manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Any action requiring sleight of hand, craftsmanship or accuracy will by rated by coordination. Coordination is the key skill of marksman but is also used for some delicate melee weapons such as rapiers. Crafstmen, engineers and thieves will all likely have high coordination.

Mental Attributes'

Intellect

A character's raw rational intelligence and thinking power is measured by Intellect. Roughly similar to an IQ, it rates how smart a character is. This doesn't necessary assume knowledge, which is something picked up by skills and background, but rather how good the character is at understanding concepts and problems. Intellect is used in negotiations and politics, in attempting to investigate mechanisms and in magic. It is also used in 'Plan Rolls' where characters can be tested on how well a plan of action is thought through. Military, religious and civic leaders are likely to have quite a high intellect, as are merchants and magicians.

Will

Willpower is a measure of a character's determination and drive. Their ability to shirk of stress or injury and continue on dauntlessly is the basis of will. Any efforts of mind control, or simply persuasive powers may be resisted by a suitably strong willed person. After a character's Endurance has given out, Will may keep him in the game. It also rates 'cool' or nerves in a stressful situations, the likelihood of someone snapping and acting irrationally. Any person might have high will, it is often found in successful people who have had to fight hard for their position in life.

Social Skills

Charisma, empathy, affability; all these are covered in the broad category of Social Skills. This skill rates a character's ability to persuade, to seduce, to lie, to detect lies, to detect motives and to comfort, scare or interrogate. Oratory is also guided by this attribute, an important skill for a hero in motivating people. Great leaders tend to have some combination of high social skills and intellect. Those with low Social Skill will find talking to people awkward, a serious impediment to progress.

Wits

Wits is a measure of reactions and perceptions. If Intellect represents complexity of thought, willpower the strength of thought and social skills the articulation of thought, wits is the quickness of thought. Wits is used to determine initiative orders in combat and for tests against fast threats (reacting to a thrown weapon), it is also the combat attribute of a small number of weapons - most notably knives. It is used for judging shots and detecting out of place items. Thieves, assassins and other roguish people are likely to have high Wits, a combination of high Wits and Social Skills makes for an excellent con man.

Misc.

Luck

You're surrounded, your sword is broken, your team is out cold, now what? If you're lucky it turns out that there happens to be a loaded crossbow on the floor next to you, but then again there might not be. Used in circumstances where no attribute could reasonably cover a variable the great meta stat of Luck comes into play. Luck plays a roll in particularly difficult tasks and when it looks like everything is about to fall apart. You certainly can't rely on it, but once in a while it might save the day. Luck is typically lower than other stats, it is the one stat that characters can take 0 in (if they really wish!) but this means the character has 'no luck' and that everything he does might go wrong.

Character Generation

Step 1 - Species / Age / Gender

1a - Species (d6)

1-2 Human
3 Elf
4 Dwarf
5 Halfling
6 Orc

1b - Age (d6)

1-2 Youth
3-4 Adult
5-6 Mature

1c - Gender* (d6)

1-4 Male
5-6 Female
  • Exception for Dwarves: Only on a roll of 6 is the character a dwarf woman.
  • Exception for Elves: 1-3 Male / 4-6 Female.
  • Exception for Orcs. Orcs are sequential hermaphrodites (protandry), all adventuring Orcs are ‘male’.

[Editor's Note: Although this game will continue the old age tradition of assuming no attribute difference between genders, it will at least assume some difference in % of adventurers whether it be social or physiological reasons.]

Step 2 - Background

2a - Class (d6)

1 Servant/Serf
2-3 Working Class
4-5 Middle Class
6 Upper Class

2b - Background

1 Tragic past
2 No ties
3 Stable family
4 Legendary ancestor
5 Already famous
6 Great love

Step 3 - True Spirit Archtype

(a) Roll on the True Spirit Type table to determine the broad archetype your character belongs to. Any result that would contradict anything rolled in Step 1 or 2 this step supersedes it.

OR

(b) Choose an archetype, you may not choose an archetype that does not fit with anything rolled in Step 1 or 2.

Step 4 - Attributes

(a) Roll d3+1 eight times. Apply these as you choose to the eight physical and mental attributes. Roll a d3, this is your Luck attribute. These are applied BEFORE species bonus. [The classic gambit, the GM must force a character to stick with a bad set of rolls otherwise there's no point in the option - 17-35, average 26 attribute points].

OR

(b) Divide 26 points between your 9 basic attributes, all values must be between 2 and 4 BEFORE species bonuses are applied. Luck can be as low as 1.

OR

(c) The character's attributes are divided into Strength & Endurance, Agility & Coordination, Intellect & Will, Wits & Social Skills. Their scores are grouped into 4 & 4, 3 & 3, 3 & 3, 2 & 2. Use a d6 roll to determine the allocation of the 4/4, then a d3 to determine the allocation of one set of 3/3, a d2 to determine the allocation of the second 3/3, and the 2/2 is allocated to the remaining pair of attributes. Then roll a d3 for Luck. [This greats fast and archetypal characters - 25-27 attribute points].

Step 5 - Skills

Choose 4 skills from list below. Each weapon skill and magic skill has five levels, each general skill has two levels.

[Under construction]

Step 6 - Species Bonuses

Apply the following bonuses/penalties to your character's attributes.

Human: +1 Willpower OR +1 Luck

Elf: +1 Wits & +1 Agility & -1 Endurance

Dwarf: +1 Endurance & +1 Intellect & +1 Agility

Halfling: +1 Social Skill & +1 Coordination & -1 Strength

Orc: +1 Strength & +1 Endurance & -1 Coordination

True Spirit

A true spirit isn't quite a hero, but they have the potential to be. Rather than the dull drones of the world True Spirits represent unique and interesting individuals.

Some may never reach their full potential and a great many may not strictly be 'good' but they are unqiue. Each champion drawn by a god to play Pantheon will be a True Spirit.

A character's archetype may change an evolve during gameplay. There are villainous archetypes which are used to help generate antagonists.

[Editor's note: True Spirits are a simple short hand for classic character archetypes, they are designed to frame a character not constrict them.]

Young Heroes

11 Young Adventurer
12 Orphaned Youth
13 Precocious Youth
14 Born Under a Star
15 Squire/Journeyman
16 Love Struck

Aristocrats

21 Young Heir
22 Last Scion
23 Rightful Heir
24 Runaway Heir
25 Father’s Shadow
26 Adopted to Status

Troubled Heroes

31 Tragic Hero
32 Byronic Hero
33 Devil-May-Care
34 Inevitable Anti-Hero
35 Ronin
36 Redemptive Hero

Seekers

41 Seeker of Secrets
42 Seeker of Challenges
43 Seeker of Wealth
44 Seeker of Fame
45 Seeker of Power
46 Seeker of Eternity

Epic Heroes

51 Liberator
52 Justicar
53 Paragon
54 Righteous Hero
55 Zealot
56 Romantic Hero

Misc

61 Gold-hearted Scoundrel
62 Cad/Rake
63 Reluctant Hero
64 The Wise-Ass
65 Peacemaker
66 The Guide