It’s often easier to understand how a game works if you can see it played. Below is a transcript from a game session so you can see the rules in play along with the flavour of the game.
In this session Paul is playing Hierax, a mortal hunter favoured by Artemis. Sarah is playing Medon, a wrestler and son of the war god Ares. Mike is playing Xanthippe, a mortal soldier. All three are citizens of Vlokis, the city used as the characters’ home in the Quick Start Rules.
The character sheets for Hierax, Medon, and Xanthippe are available to download in PDF format.
GM: At the end of last session you’d found out that the healer, Hepios, spends the summer in a cave near the top of Mount Myronia. The only way to speak to him is to wait for the season to pass or to climb the mountain to meet him. As the sickness in Vlokis shows no signs of abating you decided to climb the mountain. It’s a hot summer’s day and the most direct route to the top is a steep and arduous climb.
Paul (as Hierax): Can I try and find an easier path up the mountain?
GM: Sure, give me an Insight(Survival:Tracking) roll to search for an easier route.
Insight is the characteristic related to observation and knowledge, while Survival is the skill for wilderness activities such as hunting, tracking, and navigation. Tracking is a specialisation of the Survival skill which can add a bonus to the skill check.
Paul takes a number of 10-sided dice equal to Hierax’s Insight characteristic plus his Survival skill. Unfortunately, Hierax doesn’t have the Tracking specialisation, so he can’t get a bonus for that. Paul rolls 4D10 and counts every die which comes up 8 or higher. Usually, only one success is needed to succeed at a task but the more successes you have the better the quality of your success.
Paul: I’ve got a 5, 6, 3, and an 8, so one success.
GM: After some searching you find a worn path used by goat-herders. It will take you a little longer to reach your destination but you’ll be better rested when you get there. Everyone make a Might(Vigour) roll with +1D from Hierax’s success.
Might is the characteristic related to strength and determination, while Vigour is the skill for stamina, fortitude, and discipline.
Mike (as Xanthippe): Two successes.
Sarah (as Medon): Three successes.
Paul: Ah, no successes.
GM: Paul, while gazing up at the mountain ahead of you, you stumble on a loose stone in the path. Gain 1 Risk.
Risk is a measure of the danger a character is in and is usually gained when a character is harmed in some way, whether physically or mentally. It’s easy to remove and doesn’t cause problems when it’s low but if it gets too high—above the character’s Endurance attribute—the character starts taking Wounds instead of Risk.
GM: After several hours of travelling you are approaching the peak of the mountain. Behind you to the north-east you can see the blue waters of the Gulf of Aegina and the town of Epidaurus nestled at the foot of the mountain. Ahead of you the path gets lost in the thick undergrowth. Everyone make Insight(Awareness) rolls.
Paul: One success.
Sarah: No successes, I spot nothing.
Mike: Two successes and one is a 10. I’ll take that as Resolve.
Rolling a 10 counts as a success with an additional benefit. Whoever rolled can choose to gain an additional success, give a success to another character making the same roll, remove 1 Risk, or gain 1 Resolve. Resolve can be spent on a future roll to add a success.
GM: Both Hierax and Xanthippe can hear conversation between two people up ahead. Mike, with two successes Xanthippe can hear sounds of several people moving about as well. Medon hears nothing.
Sarah: Told you.
Mike: When you say people moving about, how do you mean? Are there a lot of them?
GM: With two successes you can tell there are a handful of people near the two people who are talking.
Mike: We might have trouble here, the healer has company.
Sarah: Hierax, why don’t you sneak closer and see if you can hear what they’re saying.
GM: If you want to sneak closer you’d need to make a Cunning(Survival:Stealth) roll with a Difficulty of 3. You can have +1D due to the undergrowth providing cover.
Cunning is the characteristic for lying, sneaking, and misdirection. Difficulty is used for more challenging tasks and is the number of successes you need to beat to succeed. Difficulty reduces your effective successes so if the Difficulty is 1 and you roll two successes you succeed, but your effective success is only one. Most tasks have a Difficulty of zero.
Paul: That gives me six dice and I rolled three success, two of which are tens! I’ll use one to add a success and keep the other as Resolve.
GM: You have gained a point of Risk earlier. You could remove it.
Paul: Oh yeah, I’ll do that instead.
GM: As you get closer to the voices you see a clearing around the mouth of a cave. At the mouth of the cave a man and a woman are talking. He’s dressed in a dirty khiton and matches the description you were given of Hepios; she’s richly dressed and armed and armoured as a hoplita with a doru in hand. Surrounding them are six men and women, roughly dressed bandits, carrying peltes and clubs.
A khiton is a short tunic. A doru is a long spear. A pelte is a crescent shaped shield.
Paul: This doesn’t look good but it could be nothing. Does Hepios look frightened?
GM: Make an Insight(Diplomacy) roll.
The Diplomacy skill governs most social interactions.
Paul: No successes. I’ll gain a point of Risk to get a success.
As well as being a measure of the danger the character is in, Risk can be gained voluntarily to add a success to a roll.
GM: You move a little closer to better see Hepios. He’s putting on a brave face but you can see tension and maybe a little fear in his eyes. It sounds like the woman is threatening him. As you gained Risk to succeed on the roll lets say you cracked a twig as you moved from one hiding place to another. Two of the guards leave the group to investigate where you were. The haven’t spotted you but they’re on alert.
Sarah: How long has Hierax been gone? Only Medon isn’t that patient…
GM: Couple of minutes.
Paul: They’re armed and they’re threatening the healer. I quietly pull out my sling and fit a stone into the pouch.
GM: We’re now entering combat and, Paul, as you’re the only one currently acting you have the initiative. What are you doing?
If it’s obvious who is making the first strike in combat then that person goes first with no need to roll. This gets round the problem of declaring an action, then rolling initiative only to find you’re going last and your action, which started the combat, is no longer relevant. If it’s not obvious who gets to act first then Cool, Insight, or Reflexes can be rolled with Awareness, depending on the situation.
Cool is the characteristic which governs peace of mind and ability to remain calm under pressure. Reflexes is speed, agility, and coordination.
Paul: The woman is the most threatening to Hepios so I want to take her out first.
GM: She’s not aware of you so she can’t use her hoplon to defend. Make a Might(Missile) roll to hit. You’re at Short range to her so there are no penalties.
A hoplon is a large, round shield, faced with bronze. Range bands are an abstract measure of distance used in combat. Melee range is close enough to strike with a hand weapon or a fist; Short range is a dozen or so metres, too far to hit with a hand weapon but great for thrown or missile weapons; Medium range is 50-ish metres and the maximum range for most thrown weapons; Long range is 100-ish metres and the maximum range for missile weapons.
Paul: As she’s not aware of me I can use my Ambush talent, right? That lets me use Cunning instead of Might to attack and I’ll use my Maneuver to Aim. That gives me seven dice… Two successes, one of which is a ten so I’ll activate my sling’s Stun quality and do 8 points of damage.
On their turn, every character gets a Maneuver and an Action. An Action is a complicated task and usually involves a skill check; a Maneuver is a simple task and usually doesn’t involve a skill check. If you need to, you can trade your Action for a Maneuver.
In addition to gaining successes or adding Resolve, a ten can be used to activate item properties such as Stun or Pierce.
GM: There’s a loud clang as the sling hits the back of her breastplate and she staggers forward. She certainly felt that.
The GM subtracts the hoplita’s 6 points of armour from the 8 points of damage and increases her Risk by 2.
GM: You succeeded on your action, so who do you pick to go next?
Paul: I shout “Attack!” loudly so the group can hear and pick Xanthippe to go next.
Mike: As we can hear Hierax yelling I’ll ready my doru and move closer. How far are we from the clearing?
GM: You’re at Medium range. One Maneuver will get you to the edge of the clearing and within Short range of the group.
It takes one Maneuver to move from Melee to Short range, or from Short to Medium range. To move from Medium to Long range takes two Maneuvers.
Mike: I’ll move to the edge of the clearing and I’ll hammer my doru against my hoplon and yell “Cowards!” at the bandits.
GM: The bandits are Minions so I’m going to split them into two groups. The group of four that are still near Hepios and the group of two that went looking for Hierax. Which ones are you yelling at?
Minion groups are an easy way for the GM to manage combats with multiple similar foes. Instead of getting separate turns in the round, the group takes one turn with the other members of the group giving +1D assistance, up to a maximum of +3D, to the lead actor.
Mike: The group closest to Hepios.
GM: Great, this sounds like a Taunt action so make a Might(Manipulation) roll.
Each characteristic covers both physical and mental aspects of a character. They’re more like the approach your character is taking, so Might is used to attack, both physically and verbally; Cunning is used to lie to someone and sneak past someone.
Mike: One success and with my Come and Get Them talent that means they gain 2 Risk.
As this isn’t a physical attack armour doesn’t protect against it so the bandits gain 2 Risk, which is applied to the group as a whole, not tracked separately.
GM: Mike, the bandits are now now eyeing you up, ready to charge. As you succeeded you get to pick who goes next.
Mike: Should Medon go next or do we want to see what the bandits do?
Sarah: I think we should let the bandits go next. I’ll go at the end of the round so we don’t get swamped.
Mike: I pick the group of four bandits to go next.
GM: As you Taunted them they’re going to use their Maneuver to move to Melee range and attack!
Mike: I’ll use my Shield defence of 3.
GM: The bandits normally roll 3D to attack, +3D as they’re a group of four, -3D from your shield, gives them 3D. What’s your weapon Reach?
Mike: I’m using my doru, so 4.
Reach is the effective attacking range of a melee weapon. Most one handed weapons, such as swords, axes, and clubs, have a Reach of 2. When moving to attack someone, the character with the lowest Reach takes a penalty equal to the difference in Reach ratings.
GM: Their clubs have a Reach of 2, so -2D gives them 1D to attack. Yes! One die and they manage to roll one success causing you to take 5 points of damage.
Mike: My armour is 6 so that bounces off.
GM: Still, they succeed so they pick the other bandit group to go next. They’ll use a Maneuver to close with Hierax and attack.
Paul: Slings are one handed so I’ll use my Shield defence of 2.
GM: Yep. They normally roll 3D, +1D as it’s a group of two, -2D from your shield, leaves them with 2D. As you’re using your pelte with a Reach of 1 they don’t suffer any further penalties. Unfortunately, they roll no successes. As I’ve got 2 points of Hubris here, I’ll spend one to give them a success, causing 5 points of damage.
Minions don’t have Resolve and can’t gain Risk to add successes but the GM has a pool of Hubris points to spend during the session.
Each PC has a Hubris rating, which is gained through misdeeds or excessive pride. At the start of the session the GM gets a number of Hubris points equal to the total Hubris of the party. In this group Medon has 2 Hubris while Hierax and Xanthippe have 0, so the GM starts with 2 points.
The GM can spend Hubris to gain a success on a skill check or activate item properties or powerful NPC special abilities, in a similar manner to Resolve.
Paul: Ouch! Through my armour I’ve gained 2 Risk.
GM: As they succeeded, they pick Medon to go next.
Sarah: Not the hoplita?
Sarah: Am I close enough to attack them with my labrys?
A labrys is a large two-handed and double-headed axe.
GM: Both of the bandit groups are at Short range with you, so you can engage with them. The hoplita is at Medium range, so unless you have a missile weapon you can’t attack her.
Sarah: I do have a sling… But I’m going to use my Maneuver to move to Melee range with Hierax and the bandits that are attacking him.
GM: The bandits will use their Shield defence of 2, so make a Might(Melee) roll with a -2D penalty.
Sarah: My labrys has the Heavy quality so I can ignore 1 point of that. I roll 5D and get… two successes, one of which is a ten. Lets call it three successes and 9 points of damage!
GM: That’s 8 points of damage through armour. One of the bandits falls to the floor in a bloody heap while the other takes a deep cut to the thigh.
Minions don’t suffer injuries. Once a Minion gains Risk equal to their Endurance they’re removed from combat—they may be dead, unconscious, or they may flee. With Minion groups, any extra Risk is applied directly to the next Minion in the group. In this case, the bandits have Armour 1 and Endurance 5. Of the 9 points of damage they take, 1 is soaked by the armour, 5 points defeats one Minion in the group, and the remaining 3 points are applied to the next Minion, ignoring their armour.
GM: As you succeeded you get to pick who goes next, but the only person left is the hoplita.
Sarah: What about Hepios?
GM: Hepios takes this opportunity to scurry into the cave. As Medon looks like the biggest and baddest of the group, the hoplita uses a Maneuver to engage. Sarah, do you have a Shield or Parry defence?
Sarah: No, just a big axe.
GM: The hoplita is Stunned so she’s only rolling 5D which gives her two successes, one of which is a ten. That’s 7 points of damage and she’ll activate Pierce to reduce your armour by 4.
Sarah: 6 points get through, that’s nasty! My Risk is now higher than my Endurance so I’m Vulnerable and I’ll mark off my empty 1 point Wound box.
When a character’s Risk is greater than their Endurance the character becomes Vulnerable. Now whenever they would take Risk, they take a Wound of equal value instead. Wounds take time to heal, some apply a penalty to skill checks, and when they’re all filled the character is near death. The one advantage to being Vulnerable is you gain +1D on all skill checks.
GM: Everyone has acted so that’s the end of the round. The hoplita chooses herself to go first. She’ll use her Maneuver to activate her Tactical Direction ability and bark orders to the bandit near her, giving him +2D on his next Action. Then she’ll hit Medon again.
The GM is using a valid tactic here to have the hoplita take two actions in a row, one at the end of the round and one at the beginning. This is what Sarah was trying to prevent by having Medon go last.
Sarah: Medon can take it.
GM: She’s no longer Stunned so she’s rolling 8D. Three successes, so 8 points of damage, no Pierce this time.
Sarah: That’s 3 points through armour so I’ll cross off my 3 point Wound box.
GM: She picks the lone bandit Minion to go next. As he’s already in Melee range with Hierax and Medon he’ll spend a Maneuver to Prepare and then attack Hierax.
Paul: I’ll use my Shield defence of 2.
GM: He’s rolling 3D base, +1D for Prepare, and +2D for the hoplita’s Tactical Direction, which is cancelled out by your Shield defence. Whoa! 4D and a great three successes, two of which are tens! He’ll activate Stun and use the other ten as an additional success. That’s 8 points of damage.
Paul: Ah, that’s 5 points through armour, giving me a total Risk of 8. I’m Vulnerable and I’ll cross off my 1 point Wound box.
GM: The bandit picks Hierax to go next.
Paul: I’m not in great shape so I’ll use a Misdirect Action to jump in the undergrowth and get away from the combat. That’s Cunning(Survival) so I’d be rolling 5D normally, +1D for being Vulnerable…
GM: You’re Stunned so your Cunning characteristic counts as zero and you’re in Melee range with the hoplita who has an Awareness of 3. You’re going to need four successes to do this…
Paul: That would give me 2D… I don’t like those odds! I’ll use my Action to Disengage instead. That would be 2D but I can add my Shield defence giving me 4D. That’s two successes so I ignore the Risk penalty and I’ll use my Maneuver to cross the clearing and get to Medium range of everyone. I should be safer there.
Moving out of Melee range while in combat is dangerous and automatically causes you to gain 1 Risk per opponent you’re facing, so Hierax would gain 2 Risk if he’d just moved away. The Disengage Action lets you cautiously move to Short range while defending yourself so you can reduce the Risk gained by one per success.
GM: You succeeded on your Action, who’s going next?
Mike: I’ve got bandits to deal with.
GM: There’s still four of them and they succeeded on their attack so your doru’s Reach will give you a -2D penalty.
If an opponent with a shorter weapon succeeds on their attack then they’ve managed to close the space and break the advantage of the longer weapon. The Reach penalty now works in their favour so Xanthippe’s doru has become a bit of a hindrance to her.
Mike: I could drop my doru and draw my xiphos… No, I’ll stick with my doru. I’ll use a Maneuver to Prepare for +1D and I’ll attack the bandits.
A xiphos is a short, leaf-shaped, stabbing sword.
GM: They have peltes so will use their Shield defence of 2.
Mike: That doesn’t leave me with many dice… 2D after penalties. No successes. Wait, I’ve got a point of Resolve, so I’ll spend that to get one success doing 6 points of damage.
GM: After armour that’s 5 points, so one of the bandits goes down with a a spear thrust to the chest. Who’s going next? Only Medon and the bandits you’re fighting are left to go.
Mike: Lets see what the bandits can do. If they attack me I’ll use my Shield defence of 3 and I’ve got my Reach advantage back.
GM: There’s only three of them left which gives them 5D, +1D if they use a Maneuver to Prepare, with -5D in penalties they’re rolling 1D. They weren’t hired for their smarts so they’ll have a go. No successes. Medon, is the only one left to act this round; Sarah, what are you going to do?
Sarah: This hoplita needs dealing with so I’ll use my Maneuver to Prepare and hit her with my labrys, which has a Reach of 3.
GM: She’ll use her Shield defence of 4 and you get a -1D penalty as her doru is longer.
Sarah: Wait, what type of shield has a rating of 4?
GM: A hoplon and many ears of training.
Sarah: OK… she’s tougher than I thought. I’m rolling Might(Melee) for 6D with -5D penalties, so 1D. Well, Medon wasn’t hired for his smarts either, here goes. I rolled an eight, one success! That’s 7 points of damage.
GM: Some of that goes through her armour. It’s the start of the next round, who’s going first?
Paul: If I go first I could hit the hoplita with my sling to use up her Shield defence?
Shields can be used to defend against a melee or ranged attack, but can only used once per turn. If Hierax attacks first the hoplita is likely to use her Shield defence, giving Medon a greater chance of success.
Sarah: Good plan, Hierax can start the round.
Paul: I’m going to make a Pin attack Action just in case Medon doesn’t finish her off.
GM: She is going to use her Shield defence and you’re at Medium range so in total you’re taking -5D in penalties.
Paul: A Pin attack is Cunning(Missile) and I’ll use a Maneuver to Prepare, giving me 2D with the penalties. No successes. I have the favour of Artemis and I’d like to call on it now.
GM: You curse as your slingshot looks like it’s going wide of its target. As you watch in disbelief you catch a fleeting glimpse of Artemis, trailed by her hunting hounds, race across the clearing and knock the shot with her hand.
The favour of the gods is incredibly useful. It can be invoked once per session to re-roll all of the failed dice on a skill check.
Paul: That’s better; one success and I’ll spend an ammo load to gain another.
Individual sling shots or arrows aren’t tracked, instead you have ammo loads. As long as you have at least one ammo load remaining you can use your missile weapon. On any missile attack you can spend an ammo load to gain one success—you fire a quick volley of your remaining ammo in hopes of hitting your target or you realise you’re down to your last arrow and need to make this one count.
GM: With two successes the hoplita is taking a -2D penalty on her next Action. Who’s going next?
Sarah: I think you know what I’m going to do…
GM: You succeeded last time so you no longer have a Reach penalty. She’ll use her Parry defence of 2 so you still get -2D.
Parry defence works exactly like Shield defence, except it can only be used for Melee attacks.
Sarah: 5D and two successes, reduced to one because of my 3 point Wound penalty. That’s 6 points of damage. How much gets through her armour?
GM: She’s wearing a full bronze panoply, so none.
Sarah: I think it’s time. As the son of Ares, I’ll use Medon’s Rage ability to add his 6 Risk to the damage.
GM: That puts her on 9 Risk and 1 Wound. Your axe smashes down with a mighty blow, cracking her breastplate. Who’s going next?
As the hoplita is a Champion, not a Minion, she takes Wounds in a similar way to a PC. She doesn’t have as many Wound boxes and, for simplicity, she doesn’t take Wound penalties or gain a bonus for being Vulnerable, but she’s more durable than a Minion.
And the fight continues…