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Kiltayre: Session 24 and Session 25

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The beast appeared at the gate dragging a mountain goat. They launched their attack. Artan and Lorco hit it with fire spells. Lorco, a Fireball, and Artan an Aganazzar’s Scorcher. The bear was then trapped in the gateway by Kalista’s summoned dire wolf. It did not fight long before they killed it. Dressing the large carcass took some hours and they returned to the Secure Shelter to rest. Lorco agreed to go to Muddy Cape and hunt clams with them but he had to cut Dalldra in for a share as well as pay for her services – albeit at half-rate.

Overland the journey was tough. Exposed to the dastardly cold north west wind that came straight off the sea ice they took comfort that at least it wasn’t snowing. Digging about with their one shovel they found a clam after an hour. Then Kalista used Locate Plants and Animals and it was easy to find another score of clams. In all they had three pearls and it was deemed enough clam meat for Madam Lim.

When they returned to Vrim it was only three days to the full moon and Don’ needed to be ready to fulfill his role to the Fey.

It was Lord Tovran who added the complication. They should have known by the serious looking man with the scars and the old wound of a shallow fractured cheek bone, Sheriff Daeus.

“You may have heard that Sheriff was investigating something to the east. That much I know was being talked about. What you may not know is that he has found a troubling thing. Tell them, Daeus.”

The Sheriff complied and let them in on what had happened days ago. A young girl had wandered in from the east frostbitten and alone. She claimed that people had been rounded up and taken by the cult of Ath-Voarnus. Those who resisted were put to the sword, and those who fled were butchered from behind. They had found abandoned farms and buildings. No livestock and a few bodies in the snow. Then they had run out of food and had to return.

“I ask you to aid Vrim again and help us rescue these people, or at least put an end to this cult’s raids on Vrim’s citizens.”

“We have just enough horses,” Daeus said quietly to Lord Mikhail.

On the ride out the next morning they asked about Herath. Daeus had seen a man briefly but assumed it was one of the few lone trappers who lived on the margins. He didn’t try and talk to the man.

Cultists had moved into the area and at first kept to themselves. Then they had become aggressive at getting people to convert. It was the little girl, the lone survivor from the nearest village, that had told Sheriff Daeus the background. Many had fought on the fateful day but the cultists cut them down and that cowed the rest of the villagers. All were marched eastwards, with every last scrap of food and feed, for the livestock. Each village was bare of people and food. Corden, Villyme and Puldup; the farthest. Don’s tracking was superb, as always, and he followed the trails as well as a bloodhound might. They past no campsites but when the reached the fifth bridge, a marker of the furthest reaches of the fief of Vrim, they found heavy destrier’s tracks – as if the horse wore barding.

“A knight?” Don’ asked Daeus.

“Perhaps invaders. Maybe the Livruss and Kulvuss left a contingent behind.” The sheriff mused.

They weakened the fifth bridge, removing recently added bolsters, and did the same at the bridge near Puldup – hiding the material in the woods underneath snowdrifts. Then they rode hard back to Vrim as was promised by Tovran so that they might deal with the Fey in the Lutemakers Woods. The lord understood the need to Don’ and his peoples’ craft guild, and thus livelihoods. The Dwarves had secured the promise of the guildmaster to aid them and continue to provide a beast each full moon. All that left was to deliver the beast Lord Tovran had provided. As he left the area outside the stables Lord Mikhail announced that Daeus would be going with the party, and that Lady Varnia Sipran would also be attending – now that the Sipran family were back in their castle.

“Is she bringing the shield guardian?” It was an innocent enough question from Kalista.

“They have a shield guardian? Why was it not used when their keep was attacked?” Tovran was angry, infuriated actually. He stalked off muttering venom about letting innocents die.

It was the end of the 98th day since they left Felk Bay, that they dined with Lord Mikhail Tovran’s family and retainers, but not Lord Mikhail, who sent his apologies at being in a mood most foul that he would not be polite company. Freyald has many tales to sing, though, and regaled them with a long epic ballad from Iron Claw; Hadramyr the Griever. It didn’t help the feeling.

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Kiltayre: Session 23 review, part one

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Allabrahni was in front of Felghanis’ eyes when he awoke. Her visage at once gave him hope and sorrow.

“You have earned a reward, Felghanis. What would you have that is suitable in the eyes of Araytor?”

“I would know what the Church want with the books,” Fel answered as the sleep seemed to wash from his mind and body as if born away by Allabrahni’s aura.

“That is unclear. It is certainly possible that the collection of the books are for their use, as you well suspect. What else would you know?”

“Where is Jonas headed?”

“To Dwarf Town. They plan to use the altar there.” The angel seemed to be expecting more questions.

“Where is the Titan’s Tear?”

“In the final tomb of the Hrimpursar elders.”

“And where is that?”

“At the feet of the Iron Teeth Mountains, in the silver forest. The trail is marked with stacks of carved stones.”

“How does Hydraxus fit into this?”

“Unclear, although Hydraxus claimed to be beyond the reach of cold when he claimed the throne of water on this plane.”

Felghanis was troubled. Hydraxus was a god, and on this plane? Does that mean the elemental lord of water walks Kiltayre? He shuddered.

“Will Araytor accept my worship?”

“Araytor accepts all worship,” Allabrahni smiled and gently caressed Felghanis’ brow as a mother might. “Be at peace and have Aid for this day.”

Felghanis was suddenly looking at the ceiling for Allabrahni was gone.

In Kalista’s room the young animist-wizard awoke.

“Ah, my girl. Araytor is proud of you,” Allabrahni beamed and took Kalista into an embrace.

“Now, what reward do you think is suitable from Araytor?”

“ I have given this much thought, and to answer the question: something to help me Defend the People and Reveal the Truth? The answer is myself. So all I ask is this: To have the Strength to Defend those that do not. To be quick of body and mind so as to act when action is needed. To have the endurance to persevere through the thickest of storms. To recognise truth from lies, good from evil, and for the wisdom to judge accordingly and lastly, the patience and pressence to lead the people to the truth and encourage others to do the same.”

“Of course my child,” Allabrahni touched Kalista on the forehead. A silver glow swelled and Kalista felt an energy surge through her. It was like her mind removed blocks and needles complexes – her soul grew.

When Kalista opened her eyes it was to a murky room without the safe warming glow of Allabrahni.

Don’ was already downstairs in the common room eating with the Dwarves. They all seemed distant and quiet, yet happy and content. Allabrahni had left a mark on their hearts and the enjoyed its lasting warmth.

“I had some questions answered,” Felghanis said as he joined them. He shared his impromptu interview with the angel to nods and smiles of approval.

“What should we do next?” It was Aenir who asked it once they were all fed.

“I’m not sure but my components are thin so I at least have to visit the markets,” Kalista said.

“The library likely holds answers for me. I want to know where the Iron Teeth Mountains is exactly and find out more about the Hrimpursar elders. Goran’s body needs to be buried. I can’t leave it there.”

“Goran’s body can wait, or someone else can take care of it, Felghanis.” Donhallan’s distaste for this was clear.

“What about the Scours?” Kellor aksed. “We might be able to catch them.”

“They’re too far gone,” Don’ said. “They have nearly a day’s head start on us and in the high plains it’ll be almost impossible to catch their trail.”

“You’re a bundle of joy,” Aenir mumbled into his beard.

Don’ scowled, “What we ought to be doing is finding out if Lady Sipran intends to go back to Vrim and then inform Lord Tovran.”

“Yes. Then let’s go see her,” Felghanis said.

“All of this is in one direction and we can stick together,” Kalista put forward, pleased that there was no need to separate.

The did so and at the Beaming Censer found the pompador they met last time.

“Ah, hello again. How may I help you?”

“We would like to speak to Lady Murelle, or Varnia, Sipran.”

The pompadour sat them in the lounge and returned shortly.

“Did you see an angel by the library last night, by chance"?”

“We saw a woman in a cloak,” Don said quickly, as Kalista covered her mouth in surprise.

“Oh. There are people looking for her and they’ll pay well to find her. If you see her do let me know.”

They were all distracted by the heavy footsteps of the shield guardian that shadowed Murelle Sipran to the lounge. Pompador left with a hurried bow.

“My young friends,” Lady Murelle said warmly but there was no smile.

The conversation was brief. Lady Sipran would be returning tomorrow.

The door of the Beaming Censer closed behind the last of them.

“She really had no idea what a treasure was passed down to her in the books,” Felghanis mused.

“It’s her dreams that bother me. She has so many that she can’t interpret them all. It’s sad,” Kalista added.

“Whatever the case she has been gracious and helpful. We will tell Lord Tovran.”

In the library they approached the keeper of books: the Blakh who was in four places at once. It smiled briefly.

“Is there a book on the Hrimpurar’s last tomb?”

“Hmm, this one may aid you.”

History of the Hrimpursar, Meyendir Aravalon – archmage & scholar.

The book was well-written and led them through many facts about the Hrimpursar, their society, and how they were exterminated by Kentos and his army. What stood out most to them was the Wunder Trial and how it was a requirement to enter the moot where debate for leadership of the clan could take place.

To Felghanis it was something else that stood out. Some of the elders who went to sleep, from which some would rise as Frost Titans, died or never came out of the last tomb. What if Hrimpursar had a ritual like a Baelnorn; undead guardian of a people? It caused tumultuous excitement but he contained it.

Brannighan was there for farewells and they left through the ‘private rooms’ of the Sipran family. Felghanis collected Goran’s corpse, two day old entrails fell all over him, and only Aenir would help.

Lord Tovran was pleased with their report and sent two servants with Felghanis to make the burial. He was surprised when Felghanis said he would bury Goran in the chapel’s graveyard.

The ground was hard and icy. With the rest of his party away Felghanis took a few spells on the shovel. It had been almost a lifetime since he’d unearthed a grave, or even dug one, and all that strength was lost. The servants were well used to labour and they kept at it far longer.

When Goran was interred Felghanis said a few words and instead of the normal closing line he replaced it with, “May Davinus watch over your soul.”

Something flew out of the grave. But it was so fast Felghanis thought he was seeing things.

One of the servants laughed, “That’ll teach him.”

The other answered, “Worshipping the wrong figure head. Everyone knows Davinus is the true head of the church.”

Felghanis was shocked. Not only did these peasants assume everyone knew that he felt something inside him. It was calling.

“Avenge me and I will aid you with the power of death.”

“What are you?”

“I am Goran.”

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Kiltayre: Session 20 review, part 2

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A large pavilion tent had been raised in the courtyard of the keep. The stables were cleared out and long sheets of silk were being hung as if to dry. Don’ looked it over in awe. A small fortune was in front of him.

“Ah, Ghanis,” Tovran addressed Felghanis. “I’m glad you have brought your friends. We have found something… odd. Perhaps you can tell what it is?”

The bottle that he showed them was polished iron with a brass stopper. Inlaid in silver were arcane runes and glyphs. It had a faint trace of magic when Kalista cast her spell. Together Fel and Kalista figured out what the Iron Flask did and reported to Lord Mikhail Tovran.

“It’s an Iron Flask. It’s used to summon creatures from other planes into the container. With the right command words one can release them into  a service after which they return. This one has a fine crack in it, like it was only ever meant to be used once.”

“Where was it found?”

The guards showed them the base of the path to the Sipran Keep. Don’ checked carefully for depressions in the mud under the snow and he found some. Five sets of boot print at least three of which were people in armour. Again the guards of Vrim were awed with his skills.

It was now that Kalista confessed her encounter with Jonas and Mellevictus.

“I gave them the book,” she said.

“You what?” Felghanis yelled. Then he stamped about cursing in Draconic until Lord Tovran’s face wrinkled in disgust.

“Cease this man’s rantings. They offend my ear,” he ordered the guards.

Kalista explained.

“Jonas was… friendly. He willingly offered information. There’s a conjunction coming, of the stars and planets, and that’s worsening the winter. It is only in this time that the Fimbulwinter can be brought back and the Church aim to stop that by securing all the books in the Vatican. Under the Saint’s own protection they will be safe.”

“But they’d only need one book to prevent anyone performing the ritual.” It was Donhallan’s stoic logic.

“The only reason to have them all is to perform the ritual,” Felghanis agreed, then frowned. It didn’t bode well when the agreed about the diversion in this very keep.

“Nevertheless, they have the book and when we left I tried to scry its location but it was nowhere in this town. However the third book is here and we must find it. Jonas said there is a portal in the keep that leads to a library and that is where the third book of Fimbulwinter resides.”

Tovran swore them to secrecy and allowed them into the keep.

“Lady Murelle showed me this many years ago. It will not allow you back through for some time so you must be sure you want to pass.”

Everyone went through the shimmering field and on the other side were met with the grisly corpse of Goran. His body cleaved from shoulder to navel.

Felghanis quickly cast Speak with Dead and pulled back Goran’s memories. They moaned and wailed.

“Let me go.”

There was no such mercy. Of the three questions only one bore good fruit. It was Jonas who had the Iron Flask. When the spell ended the sigh of Goran’s mind leaving sent chills down their spines. The dwarves were nervous and kept looking at the portal which would not let them out.

A large shaft let in a soft pink light and in that diffuse glow was a table and three large chairs. All around bookshelves were well-stocked and there must have been a thousand books in that place.

“I didn’t know there were so many books in the world,” Donhallan mused aloud in wonderment.

Felghanis snorted.

Bloody tracks led about the shelves but they were so crossed the Don’ couldn’t tell if it was one shelf they stopped at or all of them.

The cornices were in a strange script and whilst the others helped with the tracks Felghanis deciphered them.

Stonecrest Library

Davinus, Lord of Kiltayre across all planes

Page, spine and tome. Wisdom across the ages.

Branner, Marquis of the High Western Fief.

“The book is not here”, Kalista sighed after what seemed like hours of searching.

In the next chamber they found a large statue of a bearded man seated on a large throne. The whole thing was on a dais and the inscription, although in an old form, was legible to all of them.

Davinus, Great-thane of Kiltayre.

Ahead was the last doorway. As Felghanis and Kalista walked through they felt the pull of teleportation magic. Sound still passed through and they were able to reassure Aenir and Kellor enough to follow.

Polished flagstones lined the colonnade on which they now stood. In the centre was a kind of square full of tables and what was like a forest of bookshelves beyond that. Felghanis squealed with delight.

Everyone else looked at him wide-eyed. They’d never heard him make such a noise or look that excited about anything.

I didn’t think he had it in him,” Aenir mumbled.

A vigorous discussion of higher arcane-physics was being held at one edge of the square. One elf seemed to be holding a kind of impromptu lecture. It was going well until a half-orc began to counter the elf’s points and the others left as they argued.

Excuse me,” Kalista said to a handsome man.

The man smiled pleasantly and looked up at her. His eyes were purple and his skin had a silver glow about it.

I’m sorry… but what are you?”

Quite alright. I am Brannighan and well it’s a bit complicated really. You see my father was an angel and my mother an archon. I suppose that rally makes me free of the heavenly host since I am neither. For that I am ever thankful.”

They talked briefly and Brannighan warily cast a spell, announcing it to everyone, to determine Kalista’s place in ‘the way of things’.

His eyes began to glow blue and he said gravely, but with kindness, My dear. I am afraid you shouldn’t be here.”

It wasn’t long before Kalista had asked about the Scours. Brannighan had heard that such people were in the library.

I will  look for them if you promise to wait here. Out there, people are much less… civil.”

Kalista nodded like a child. Brannighan had effortlessly cast an Arcane Sight, a tier four spell, that she only just recognised. If he was nervous then she was doubly so.

He had been gone and Kalista had shaken off most of the reverie that had come over her from being in this place and talking with Brannighan. Like Felghanis she thought to read a book that was here. It took her little time to find one and she noted that all her companions had begun to read a volume or three – like Felghanis.

Felghanis was just beginning to concentrate on the text in the Draconic tongue when a gentle voice said, “Excuse me. I couldn’t help but overhear that you are looking for someone. That happens to be my expertise, people and things; finding them that is. Who are you looking for?”

Felghanis answered, “Four men and a woman in armour bearing a quadrant of grey green blue and black. Some have heraldry on it. A red bear rampant on a black field with a gold poleaxe.” He described the complex healdry of the Inquisition Exarcanum that Mellevictus and Frellan wore.

Why ever would they have those symbols?” The thin man seemed taken aback. “It matters not,” he dismissed it with hand-wave. “They left the library a few hours ago. It was quite odd because not long after it seemed they were followed by two women and two girls. All of them having come from the same private room that you and your friends did.”

That surprised Felghanis, “After; are you sure?”

“Yes, quite. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement for me to find them for you?”

What would that be?”

You take this little quartz crystal statue to a tomb in the Iron Teeth Mountains and place it on the bier, there.”

Why? What will that do?”

The strange man, who had eyes the colour of rust and ruddy-grey-skin drawn taught over a thin frame suddenly stood up. “Never mind. Thank you for your time.”

Felghanis blinked as the man strode quickly through the forest of shelves and was lost from his sight. He picked up the book and went off to find the others to report.

Brannighan approached them all. “I have found where they went. To the Beaming Censer hotel, but they have left through the North Gate. This is bothersome because they may not find their way back to the same place as the one they arrived from.”

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Kiltayre Session 12: Ideas

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Session 11 really put the rudder on the party, I felt. The books of Fimbulwinter show the means of what is happening. It’s the motive and whom that remain unanswered. This is a good thing because can’t have it all revealed in the middle; it ruins the climax of the tale.

What’s coming? The players are likely to head to Kentos’ Barrow. Greywynd River, and its surrounding woods, is the territory of Garren. They’ll risk encountering the Wood Wraiths and all that entails.

My feeling, as GM, is that we’ve regained some cohesion with the main plot and put the direction back into the group (in-game). It’s looking good for the next few sessions.

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Synapse: Review Part 3 (final)

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Conversational Resolution: there’s a mapped out way to figure out how to essentially manipulate NPCs by appealing to their self-interests. Those self-interests are the same as the Motivations that we see when creating a PC – so they are the same semantic terms, but with the NPCs individual values. As a PC you aren’t meant to know what the NPC motivation values are. There’s a process to do it through conversation with rolling dice. I guess it’d be a good mix of role-play and roll-play.

So the method, I read, is to start with a skill. I’ll use the Ratling, whom I’ve named Kirigi. So the situation is a market trader in the deep Byzantine-like streets of the city of Imjin (from Khara Thel). Kirigi is engaging the trader in a Haggling situation for a hand-lantern that Kirigi needs to do work in a cave. Kirigi wants to appeal to the merchant’s Blame Avoidance by stating that some of the goods are like the stolen stuff that the watch are on the look out for. The GM would check the disposition towards the character at the start. I find it a page further on past the method. So we’ll say it’s Indifferent (no mods). Unfortunately the write up is out of order. It puts the disposition part after the method of how to perform the “conversational resolution”. It’d be better if each component was discussed and the method put last – as a finale or summary.

Back to the process. I wonder what else is in weird order so read the whole lot instead of doing as I go. So I read the whole lot and think that it’s clumsily written but the ideas are very good.

Kirigi tries the skill roll. Appeal to the Merchant’s ‘Blame Avoidance’. Secretly the disposition is one. The merchant is negative to Kirigi, and all Ratlings. Also done secretly is the motivation values: Acquisition is the Merchant’s highest at 7 and Blame Avoidance is at 4, leaving 3. The Merchant has 4 resistance dice. Since Kirigi is ‘Attractive’ the NPCs resistance dice are reduced by 1. Leaving 3. The GM puts 4 dice on the table, Kirigi’s player reminds the GM of the Attractive trait and the reduction of the dice, leaving 3 dice on the table at the start of the Haggling process. This is to give an idea of the first few seconds and the receptiveness of the Merchant to that tangent of conversation. It’s a great abstraction I think.

Kirigi decides to push on thinking he has the goods to take on this slightly hostile merchant. Kirigi is Trained in Haggling, for +2 dice, the attribute is Empathy for 4 dice, and he has the Persuasion talent for +1 dice. Total dice is 7. The three dice fall for the Merchant, and each is 3, no successes. Kirigi rolls his 7 and only gets one success. Kirigi gets the price of the hand-lantern down but the GM secretly determines that the merchant now has a rivalry against Kirigi which further increases the resistance dice by 1 point.

I think that’s a pretty good mechanic. It will require the GM to keep lots of notes about NPCs that will recur in the game. Tracking their dispositions to the PC (and possible each separate PC).


This section is pretty good. As soon as combat starts you incur stress. Stress forces a Stability roll. So if Kirigi incurred 2 points of stress from Mental Anxiety he has to make a Stability roll and get two successes (2 points of stress). Extra successes will reduce the stress incurred. If Kirigi had Willpower talent he would add something. Not sure what. Probably an extra dice since that’s what the Talents do for skill.


A list of mechanics to cope with stress. I really like the idea. You have to Relax or Cope. Relaxation is permanent reduction of Stress. Coping is when Stress is higher than the Stability of the character. With a Willpower roll. Successes reduce stress by a point but not below your Stability. I read on and find that coping actually moves the stress point to something called Residual Stress. I guess this is compartmentalised stress – or emotional stuff that the character has swept under their rug of consciousness. You can’t get rid of these Residual stress points until after you remove normal stress. I’m unnecessarily reminded of Maslow. Lots of stress will take at least one die off any amount you roll.

Trust Points

The flavour and fluff on these brings up the distrust that is common when something negative happens to a player. Trust Points can be used as an award for going along with the GM’s story events. Ie. let your PC be arrested and you get a trust point. The player decides whether or not to do this, retains their freedom of choice, but knows that the GM is putting them in a tough situation for a story reason. In return the player can use the Trust Point to get an automatic success with every dice rolled – after the fact. So it’s possible that the Trust Point can get the PC out of the situation if it can be brought to one dice roll for determination.


Synapse has a lot of very good premises – in particular Culture, Life Experience and Motivations -  but needs extensive playtesting and revision for Attributes, Skills and Combat.

(repost from

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Synapse: Combat Review

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To find out how combat works you have to actually roll your way through one, or more preferably, a few. In testing homebrews this is what I’ve done, alone, and with others – which is always better.

Kirigi the Ratling Spy & Assassin is going to fight an average NPC. Context and surprise will be ignored. It’ll be a stand up fight without terrain considerations. Kirigi will be wearing quilt arrmour or equivalent and be armed with a shortsword & his natural weapons. The NPC will have heavy leather armour and be armed with a club and buckler.

I already know that Kirigi will act first unless the enemy has Synapse of 7. With Multitasking Kirigi can do something in addition to making an attack. I’m not sure what these extra things are so I refer to the PDF. It says “two different actions” in a synapse phase. That’s a bit loose a description so I’ll go with the high-end, double actions.

NPC declares, “Club Kirigi in the head”

Kirigi declares, “Shortsword attack at shield arm, claw attack at club arm”

Kirigi makes his attacks. Synapse phase 6 is started. NPC can react to being attacked with a Block or a Dodge. Having a buckler the NPC blocks. As a conscript town guard the NPC is Amateur with a club. The combat section isn’t very clear on how to handle this. I have to assume it’s a skill test. Melee Weapon, Spatial/Balance. Spatial is only 3. He is Trained in Melee weapon for +2 dice – so rolls 5 dice, but -1 dice from aiming for the arm. A rather poor roll and only 1 success. It states that the GM determines the difficulty – I think that’s a bit rubbish. The target’s awareness and actions should determine the difficulty.

The guard NPC rolls to Block. It’s a Synapse/reaction roll. 3 dice with +2 for the buckler (doubled vs. edged weapons) and +1 for Amateur. 6 dice, roll and (wow) no successes. I really expected some that time.

All weapons inflict Strength damage unless otherwise stated. I check the Equipment section for shortsword. It does 2 slashing or penetration. I figure this is a slashing attack. I look for armour and find Leather is the lowest so I up the guards armour to Banded. Slashing protection is 2.

I really think this would be better done like in my Simple 2d6 system (and others) where the Melee exchange is an opposed contest. The most successes strikes the lesser. If they don’t block or dodge then they will be smashed because there’s no roll to counter the successes of the attacker. Back to how it actually works.

Kirigi has hit the armour which saved the guard’s arm. Kirigi has his claw attack against the other arm. Kirigi is not trained in unarmed. He rolls Spatial/Balance, 3 dice, and scores 3 successes. The NPC guard can’t do anything against this because the action is gone. Kirigi claws the guard’s arm for Strength damage + 1 slashing (claws), 4 and -2 from the armour, leaves 2, which is halved to 1 but the limb is disabled. The guard only has its buckler. Next synapse phase Kirigi can attack twice more to which the guard can do nothing. I think it’s safe to say the guard is toast.

This combat system is very Attribute/Talent heavy. If you have a good Synapse you could make mincemeat of a professional with a lower Synapse – simply by the number of attempted attacks that could succeed before they get a chance to respond. A professional duellist would have to have a high Synapse and a high Spatial. Tank type characters cannot exist in this system.

Synpase’s combat system needs an overhaul for a few reasons:

1. Clarity. The method of making attacks, defending against attacks, when and how this all works needs more clarity. How the talents tie into the combat system should be repeated here with their function. This all needs to be in the combat section. How to make melee attacks. How defense works. How shooting works. What extra successes do (or not do).

2. Synapse phases, and thus number of actions, seems incredibly important. Untrained but very Synpase heavy characters will probably demolish the trained professional with relatively lower Synpase. I might as well test the assumption. Kirigi vs. Otto das Messer. Otto das Messer, aka. Otto the knife, is a professional messer fighter. The messer is a very large straight single edged sword. Otto is Professional in Melee Weapon: Messer, has Spatial 3 and Synapse 3. He is not fighting with a shield. Kirigi with Synapse 6 goes first and attacks twice. Same as with the guard – attack the off hand with the shortsword and weapon hand with a claw (untrained). Otto is almost forced to block. We roll: Kirigi’s attack, 7 dice, -1 for aim, 6 dice. two successes. Blocking has nothing to do with his Melee Weapon: Messer (Professional) so he rolls whatever his Block skill is. Let’s say it’s professional, too. So 7 dice to block that first attack. Two success – I guess that blocks. Next attack, same Synapse Phase, and this time Otto das Messer cannot block (because he just did). One success (I actually rolled three sixes but rolled again for a less extreme result). 3 +1 slashing damage and Otto almost loses an arm. He also cannot fight effectively. Synapse phase 5 and it all happens again with Otto unable to do anything because he has only one combat action. This will repeat in Synapse Phase 4 and if Otto is still alive he can attack in Syapse Phase  3. I guess it says that to become a professional in combat you require a high Synapse. Which makes skill not very useful. Even if Otto’s Spatial was 8, with a Synapse of only 3 he’ll be destroyed in short order by any untrained enemy.

I’m stopping there with Synapse’s combat system. I know Greg (author) read my first review and am curious if I’m interpreting it incorrectly or missing bits of text. As it stands with the PDF I have, the combat system is far too weighted to favour the Synapse attribute – so much so it makes combat skill not very relevant.

(repost from

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Synapse: Character Generation Review

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Browsing around on a new RPG kick I come across “Synapse”. The pitch is cool. Mind matters more than combat skills. I download the beta PDF and start reading. 12 pages of fluff and flavour later I’m starting a character generation.

So I split a crap piece of A4 in half with a ragged black line and get to it.

Step 1. Brain Chemistry.

Oh-oh. Am I going to get stung and roll up a paranoid-schizophrenic?

It says I need at least one d6. I grab four. Back to brain chemistry.

I get 7 attributes, five talents, and a lack of talent. OK – that sounds like something that does not suspend my disbelief. At Attributes I see Synapse, Cognition, Spatial, Empathy, Stability, Focus and Heroism. Hmm… this looks interesting – quite a few terms I’ve toyed with in my own homebrew system. Validation through others is nice.

Normal humans have a value of 3 in each. 8 is the absolute pinnacle. Nice. There’s a list of Synapse Skills and a Talent against each one. Only three talents that I can see. OK – there’s these purple boxes that tell me what to do. 3 points in each Attribute and spend 8 more points as I see fit. I choose:

Synapse 6, Cognition 3, Spatial 3, Empathy 4, Stability 3, Focus 6 and Heroism 3.

Based on the attribute descriptions I think of a character who is fast, a good communicator, and can process a few things at once – so can probably handle lots of innuendo. That’s how I interpret boosting Synapse, Empathy and Focus.

I’m wondering what I need these dice for but continue.

Synapse aids me in things like Bluff, Block, Dodge, Hide and Probe. It also handles Smuggling. I’m starting to see Malcolm Reynolds from Firefly/Serenity. I’d probably need Stability instead of Focus to make someone like him.

I get to the Spatial page and all the combat skills are there. That’s okay. I flirt with the idea of making Dixon Crow – my stand by veteran mercenary scout character that I test systems with. I’ll do that later as a second post.

Empathy has Torture listed as a skill. I guess psychopaths have understanding of Empathy in this system, enough that it functions like the real thing – that actually makes sense. I’m still on board with Synapse so far.

A quick read of Heroism and it only helps if you have above average value in that Attribute. I guess average people suck at being heroic. That fits with the world as I know it.

Now I get to talents. Each attribute has three. Now I have to choose five. There are restrictions on how many I can take. I can’t take a Talent on any Attribute with a value of 1-3. Then it progresses up from that point.

I take:

Deception & Reaction – for Synapse

Persuasion – for Empathy

Precision & Multitasking – for Focus

I find Deception can mimic other skills but for nefarious purposes. Reaction is pretty  much initiative.

I see one called Trajectory for Spatial and think I really want to make Dixon Crow.

Not taking Persuasion is a real crippler – no social skills. Ouch! Synapse will make munchkins and combat monsters very unhappy; so much so they’d probably run screaming back to DnD 4e.

Precision seems to control concentration and keeping steady – it says making long range shots with a weapon will require this.

Multitasking – Apparently can take two different actions in a single synapse phase. That sounds interesting – will find out more later.

Now I have to take a lack of talent: Sacrifice. The Ratling is incapable of Sacrifice type stuff.

As I scan through the Heroism talents I see there’s a thing called Morality Type – nice. I’m very much on board.

Step 2. Biology

Alright – this feels like the scientific method of character creation for RPGs. Already I can see it will put a lot of people off. It’s quite technical and requires a high degree of semantic understanding, but I feel like I’m making a person!

Body: I see that we all start the same here. 3 points. This may change based on other choices. OK. That’s good. I read more and realise that it’s 3 points for each body characteristic. How many are there? my lazy-gamer synapses react.

Strength: I find that when wounded I can lose Strength, and if I lose Strength I lose Focus. Death Spiral combat systems are easy to get wrong. I ponder briefly and move on.

Endurance and Resilience are set to 3. They make semantic sense.

I get to Race: and 17 more characteristics. I feel the heavy dark cloud of stat-bloat but push on. As is par for the course humans get nothing – which ends up with a poke in the eye from a sharp dirty stick in actual play in other game systems. Wonder if it’s the same here. I can see the edge of the deck that I’m on board. There’s some fluff about what race is biologically and we avoid that most heinous of crimes in modern western culture.

There is also a few other races. I see High Elf and then realise it is a template. I decide to make this character a Ratling, or man-rat, type race. I need to allocate points to the 17 different things.

Size, Locomotion, Intraspecies, Blood, Gender, Lifespan, Diet, Sleep Cycle, Skin, Grip, Feet, Language, Vision, Augments, Lungs, Heightened, Intelligence. At the end there’s a Culture Rollover. I read up on the process. Appendix B has more templates – I skip to it. They mention cat people but they’re not in the Appendix. I figure that a Ratling is a bit like a Hobgoblin.

Size, -3, ratlings are only 4-5ft tall

Locomotion, 0, bipedal (I wan them to be able to go to all fours to run fast but there’s no option)

Intraspecies, 0 cosmetic

Blood, warm blooded

Gender, -3 Gonadal (the differences aren’t very obvious; because of this the character has -2 connections, I guess it really is a human dominated world, whatever the world is at this stage)

Lifespan, -4 Short (Ratlings don’t live very long, 20 points on Motivation but can’t use Boosts, Stress level is never below 1 and other things)

Diet, 0, Omnivore (Ratlings eat everything that’s organic)

Sleep Cycle, 2, Metaurnal (lots of naps day and night)

Skin, 1, Fur

Grip, 2, clawed hand with thumb

Feet, 4, clawed paws

Language, 0 Expressive

Vision, 5, Low-light

Augments, 1, tail, balance only – no attacks

Lungs, 0, Oxygen

Heightened, 2, Hearing (+2 listen)

Intelligence, -2, Berserk (Ratlings are still animalistic in heightened fear states)

Culture Rollover is 4.

OK – so I’ve got a template for Ratlings. Thankfully you only have to do this once.

Step 3. Culture

I find out there’s 25 more cultural characteristics. The first thing I see is Medieval Franks. I don’t really want to make my own culture at this point so I look for more templates. I figure Ratlings are kind of parasitic in their culture, living within or under other human cultures. Given the obscurity of some of the cultures I’m surprised there’s no listing for Romany/Gypsies. The book references that there is Elven and Dwarven culture templates but they’re not actually there. I go with the Byzantine Empire. To do this bit I have to flip back and forward a lot so I take a grab of the culture template and sit it in another window. Fewer culture templates with their net results would be a better choice for any finished work.

It’s tedious. I have to look everything up. The template needs the results in it. I very nearly give up at this point.

I substitute Enclave into the build. I also set Religious Attendance as Optional. Violence point cost for Defensive is listed incorrectly as 7 points. It should be 4 points. I re-total the package with the substitutions and it’s 84 points – which is perfect for Medieval + 4 points for the Culture Rollover from the racial template! Some inconsistencies in terminology make me remember it’s a beta. I make it through. So far I’m thinking this is a good toolkit to create characters for long term campaigns.

Step 4. Life Experience.

Another packaged process. You can spend 15 points on what you’d like or buy  a package. I choose “Spy” and realise I need another sheet of paper. I contemplate some extra Life Experiences, negative and positive at balanced point cost, but decide against it since this character won’t be played.

Step 5. Personality

Motivations: an oft forgotten part of a RPG character. This should be interesting. So far I have a lot of pluses against various motivations from the culture and life experience. I read the section and it tells me I have 15 points to spend on top of those points already accumulated. It also tells me that everything has a base value of one, so that’s in addition to all the other points. I end up with:

Abasement 1
Achievement 4
Acquisition 5
Affiliation 3
Aggression 4
Autonomy 3
Blame Avoidance 1
Construction 1
Deference 3
Dominance 2
Exhibition 2
Exposition 3
Nurturance 2
Order 3
Play 2
Recognition 4
Rejection 4
Retention 5
Revenge 4
Sensuality 2
Succorance 3
Understanding 2

Morality: I read over this and there are categories but not a lot of discussion about how to apply them. I avoid it instead. Later on it suggests types of moral decision making. I think this a better. For the Ratling I make it based on Self-Interest for most things. For other Ratlings he thinks in terms of Rights.

Next is a discussion about Motivation Boosts. A character can overcome their motivations by taking on a stress point and rolling for a chance of success. Interesting mechanic.

Step 6. Connections

You get 5 times Empathy as points for Connections. The example lists other party members, some of which have a “rank” of Family. There are types of connections: Rivals, Enemies and Debts. Great ideas and will help the character be part of something – instead of being spawned into the world with whatever background happened to have been made. I write that I’m skipping this three times then decide to do it anyway.

20 points for Connections. There’s some mod’s from the char-gen so far (-2 from Gonadal gender, +2 from Attractive from Spy template) but they balance out at +0.

I’ll say there’s three other party members. They cost one point each. The rules state that each party member must reciprocate the Connection to you. Agreement must be reached before this is done.

A rebel connection, as a lover. Lots of exciting rendezvous. Transporter, friend; Merchant, friend; Criminal, friend; Transporter (Illicit), favour; Military, friend; Mechanic, favour.

Step 7. Skills

Now I’m in more familiar RPG char-gen territory. Skill points is 3 x Cognition + 10. Hmm… that needs some brackets. A bit more reading (3 x Cognition) + 10. For our Ratling, 19 points, bog standard. However, his culture and life experience gives him a net of +4 skill points. So 23 points. I get into it.

Already have a bunch of skills from the char-gen process so far. I better find out if all those repeats at rank of Amateur stack up or not. They don’t. Some of them give +1, though, so I have to take it that they are at Trained where they also have Amateur. I received Combat skill of my choice but it didn’t say at what level. Since I have Combat training as a Spy and there are so few points I have to assume I have it at Trained.

Appraisal, Amateur –

Beast; Claws, Trained (Ratling tail gives +1 balance, which seems to apply)
Dodge, Amateur – Reaction (Ratling should be good at this)
Barter, Trained – persuasion
Etiquette, Amateur – knowledge
Haggling, Trained – persuasion
Negotiation, Amateur – persuasion
Socialization, Amateur – persuasion
Probe, Amateur – deception
Solider, Amateur – Knowledge/Strength
Meditation, Amateur -willpower
Research, Amateur – deduction

Now to spend those points. I quickly realise that I can’t spend all my points. The leftovers will be used in play for making Connections.

Assassination, Amateur (4 points) – precision
Body Language, Amat (4 points) – awareness
Cartography, Amat (4 points) cover skill – precision
Shadowing, Amat (4 points) – deception
Traps, Amat (4 points) – precision

Step 8. Possessions

Wealth – with -1 to 5d6, I find out I lose a whole dice. Roll 4d6 and get 1300 florins as my starting cash. The Ratling didn’t get any property so I skim that section.

Step 9. Mechanics

Strictly speaking I’ve finished making the Ratling. I’m having fun with this and drinking an Old Mout scrumpy so I continue into the mechanics section.

Basic mechanic is dice pool vs. TN, another skill roll (opposed roll) or combination. On further reading a TN is number of required successes and  you get a success with a 5 or 6. I’m reminded of Shadowrun 4th Edition. The number of dice becomes important so I read on, not very well, then realise that  you use the Attribute for the skill. If you have the Talent you get an extra die. You also get extra dice based on the skill level.

Bartering, trained, persuasion. Ratling gets +3 dice, and Attribute value is 4, so roll 7 dice. Wow. I do a few tests. 3 successes, 2 successes, 3 successes. Cool. That’s straight-forward enough. There’s some fluff about how to roll dice in secret.

Conversational Resolution: this sounds good. I realise I’m back on-board, can’t see the edge of this ships deck so I’m firmly in place. Damn! When can I play this Ratling spy who’s also an assassin and works under the cover of being a cartographer of distant lands and dangerous places. Back to Conversational Resolution. The first paragraph sets the premise that the dice rolling is only when you want to control the outcome of the conversation in some specific way. You appeal to a motivation in the NPC. I can see that you need to Socialization with them first. Then Probe to find out their motivations. Then setup an appeal to the Motivation you think you detect in return for what you want. The complications come when you have to deliver (or decide not to deliver if your character is like that). Nice!

I find out what these conversation resistance dice are and am glad that I took spy package. It means the NPC get -1 resistance die against my attractive Ratling spy. He must be well formed, like the gallant mouse in Prince Caspian.

On that note I reach Combat and decide that it merits a separate post – this one is gargantuan.

(reposted from

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