Friday, March 29, 2013

How Barony was Dungeon World Before Dungeon World; a System Review

Durable is possibly the best choice if you want a shot at all the other abilities.
Here's a summary of the Barony system, which had a few names and adaptations as an RPG over the years. Rogue Swords is the version I ended up with.

The building blocks of your character are not numbers like ye olde "Strength 13" or "Social 3 dots" or whatever, they are called attributes (or traits) and they are key words that give you an talent or two and maybe a chance to get certain skills. So it's kind of like everybody has things that set them apart from the fold. The traits are: Artful, Bold, Clever, Durable, Eldritch, and Fast. You chose one to start your character, then roll a d8 and consult the table under each one of these abilities to see what other traits you get (they all have different tables). You can afterwards gain or lose abilities through play.

Skills based of the above come next. Well, kinda. You can only choose your skills after you decide what your Title (read: class) is. The starting titles are at the top of the following workflow chart of titles, which is one of the coolest character tree system things I've ever seen. Lookie/zoomie/clickie:


So, fer instance, if you choose to be a Footman, you will start with 3PCs. That is, 3 "Physical & Combat" category skills, but only if you have the prerequisite attribute(s) they demand (this is actually really simpler than I am making it out to be, I promise). One thing to keep in mind is that even if you don't have a skill for whatever reason, you can still attempt it at an increased difficulty. So to use a skill check the degree of difficulty in its description, adjust for things like if you don't actually have the skill etc, roll 2d8, and consult the following table.

And there you see how this is really like the Dungeon World of the late 80s/early90s. I like the Barony spread a bit more though, as a fail is usually not so bad and a fumble rare if you play smart. The Overkill result is cool too. The DM may say, "Intimidate him? Yeah, you do that, and he will remember your face for the rest of his life." Then draw up some craven revenge plans for the poor NPC.

Magic is not a skill, as anyone can attempt it, but classes will give you the Magic Points to help cast them (otherwise you may end up spending your soul to cast, but we'll get to that). Magic is freeform, with a couple of restrictions: (1)it gets harder the more physical laws you break, and (2) it gets harder to cast a spell that has ever been cast before. Forced creativity is why I love this system! Of course it is ripe for abuse too, being bounded only by imagination, but as the authors recommend, you could just take 5 minutes to roll up a new world if the PCs end it. Or just say, "Stop being a prick, Player X."

Attacking and defending is not a skill either, but these are rolled likes skills and maybe informed by them.

Okay, say you got your skills chosen (or rolled up randomly which would be faster). You are ready to do things! But if you fight something, you may get chunks of your being wiped out for a while. Look at this damage chart:
Everything will damage you in one of those 4 categories. Every character has the Base and Player rows or as I will call them, boxes (as the columns separate the rows) as well as maybe something from their attributes or title (see Durable up there?). Check the boxes off until you run out of them, then go down to the overflow section and follow that. So if you run out of Bruise/Cut boxes, you have to start crossing of Bleeder column boxes and so on. Spirit you may loose depending on how hard the magic you use is and how low your check ends up; most monsters leave it alone. The Bruise/cut boxes come back after a battle, the Bleeder and Vicious ones after an adventure, and Spirit only can be cured by magic, which may be a little too hard-core, I dunno.

Monsters have their own abilities and skills and damage charts with evocative keywords that help you give them metal names. Trust me, monsters are cool and easy to make in Barony. A wee bit like Dungeon World, once again.

So there are tons of skills, but I can't reproduce them all here, sorry. One interesting way skills and abilities get used is during events. Events are not man-to-man standard combat. Sample events given by the book include a bar brawl, fighting in a battlefield (mounted and unmounted and other things), and fighting a dragon. They use playing cards to randomise the montage that makes an event. For instance, in a bar brawl:
It's beautiful! Customize it towards the skills you know your players have if you want to give them a greater sense of awesome, or just revel in the fact that no rules lawyer can stop a Dark Lord from just getting knocked out or whatever. Fighting a dragon feels pretty epic when players have to survive until the event is over through scenes dependent on where they are in relation to the dragon, like this example if you draw a 2 while in the tail zone:
Combat can be pretty strategic, though simple. It has phases and some skills let you do cool things depending on the phase. As mentioned above, there is some mass combat if you want it. This game did have its roots in a wargaming magazine, after all.

It's hard to find much history online about this game. Heck, it's almost impossible to find the game, and rumor has it the creators are like Can't find it? Tough. A barely maintained (and riddled with 1970s-feeling English) website by the creators does give some clues as to how all started. Check out the history here, and you can click through some summaries of the unique qualities the game has here.
I've barely scratched the surface of this game. Between skills, magic, and events, things can get really deep. I can't recommend it enough!
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Edit: 1070s was my imagination I guess; can't find any evidence of when the system was truly first conceived.