Right, time for Part 1 of a game-play example of Die By the Sword, starring pregen characters Hoo-Len, Ter-Saa and Nesker.
These next few blogs will showcase how the basic GMing and player game-play mechanics work, as well as giving you an idea of the versatility of the character stats.
This example will feature a bar fight, and only one character might be termed a ‘combat’ character in a traditional sense.
Firstly, let’s take a look at the character sheet, via Hoo-Len, so I can get into how things are recorded on the character sheet.
Character Sheet Basics
When play begins, all Focus Points from the Maximum and below are marked. You erase them to Burn Points and tick them when Fuelling (to get Points back). For Tropes, mark the Bonus and Penalty Points up to the Maximum. Advantage Points (Curse and Asset) are blank to begin with and Fuelled during game-play. Limit Thresholds are written in the boxes; all 5s is standard, but this can be altered at character creation, as demonstrated. Starting Limits are indicated on the sheet (3 for Corruption, 0 for Exhaustion and Injury). Whenever you remove a tick from a box marked Lmt to Burn it, this will Adjust one of the Limits. Corruption can be decreased for an action that is moral in nature or increased otherwise, and the other two Limits must be increased when Adjusting. Your encouraged as anti-heroes to make both moral and immoral Choices, otherwise you will have to increase Exhaustion and Injury more often, and thus risk hitting and passing your Corruption Threshold. Instead of Adjusting a Limit, you can instead Fuel an Advantage Points, but only if the Decision you have made as part of the Choice matches one of your Curse or Asset Fuel Criteria. Players wishing to avoid increasing their Limits too far can avoid this by incorporating Advantages into their description. But they only have 5 boxes each, so Fuel them early, and you’ll be approaching Thresholds quickly. Additionally, every Advantage Point will Adjust a Limit, so these are a vital game-changer but can have dangerous ramifications if you use them too much.
Every Choice is a gamble in Die By the Sword.
In the first Phase of the Scene, there are no Challenges to face. Where the Scene begins is described to the players and they are encouraged to role-play, to establish character and what they want to do.
Potential Challenges may be hinted at by the GM, they may have some prepared already, but how the players role-play may indicate either a need for some different Challenges or at least a change to the descriptive nature of ones a GM may intend.
In this example, lets say the Scoundrels (player characters) have just come back from completing a mercenary mission. They are in a watering hole known as the Leaky Tap; a rough and tumble bar, commonly used by local mercenaries, sailors, criminals and other riff raff. The bar is heaving particularly heavily.
The three Scoundrels decide to secure a table in the corner. Hoo-Len is having some of the finest booze she can afford (relatively speaking) and enjoying chatting with bar staff as they approach with more drink. Ter-Saa stands silently, drinking, eyeing up the biggest, scariest, strongest looking patrons. The GM decides that one person in a group of particularly well-armed individuals notices the glance and nudges one of their fellows. Ter-Saa receives a sarcastic smile and a wave.
Nesker is mostly sitting silently too, but with occasional drinks and laughs, as he scrawls out some blueprints.
This is the first Phase of a Scene, so there are no Challenges to face.
Hoo-Len’s player uses her description for the Development Choice where you can either instantly Fuel 2 Points of one type (Focus, Bonus or Advantage) or Burn a Point of 1 type to Fuel 3 of another. She Burns 1 Bonus Point (out of 2) from her Way With Words Trope to Fuel 3 Advantage Points to her Curse, as one of the Fuel Criteria for the Curse is “listening to others speak.”
As she has Burned the first Bonus Point of a Trope, she erases the mark from the first Limit box (indicated as “Lmt” on the character sheet), so she reduces her Corruption by 1 to 2.
Hoo-Lin has Burned 1 point with her Choice, but has 3 other additional Points she can now use in the coming Scene at any time (whereas Way With Words, the Point Burned, was more situational).
Ter-Saa decides to make the Engage Choice. There are no Challenges to Engage, but they expect trouble, so in this case, their Target Number is 0.
The player describes grabbing some empty bottles and lining them all up in easy reach, spending 2 Focus Points as their first Decision (Decision applies when creating a Choice Total when you Engage; Decisions represent each set of points that you choose to spend, an appropriate description and then the GM’s response to that Decision, including any Penalties that occur.)
They Burn a Lmt box; the GM agrees that this matches the ‘dirty fighting’ requirement for the Asset, Cursed Cloak of Battle, and so Ter-Saa Fuels an Advantage Point for their Asset for use for later.
A Choice Total begins at 0, and is now 2; your aim as a playeris try and defeat the Target Number. There are no Challenges yet, so no Obstacles for the GM to Trigger to create Penalties. The GM can still Burn Penalties if they wish, but as a fight as not yet started, they don’t think that Sword Master or Berserker apply, so Burn no Penalties.
The GM asks Ter-Saa’s player if they wish to make any more Decisions; they decline, so the Choice is Resolved. 2 against a Target Number of 0 is 2 Success Points.
(The Choice cheat sheet breaks down the potential options for Success and Failure Points. There are no Challenges yet, so the options are limited.)
Ter-Saa creates an Improvised Weapon Trope with 2 Bonus Points; they have spent 2 Points, but gotten 3 Points in return. In addition, future Choices could be used to Fuel both the lost Focus AND the new temporary Trope, so this is a good tactical move.
They gain a Victory Point for creating a Trope and making the ensuing Scene a little more interesting. (More on Victory Points later.)
Nesker is creating blueprints for an invention rather than haphazardly building one, so the player uses Development to Burn the Penalty Points from their Eureka Trope from 2 down to 1; this will give the GM less room to screw the player with inventions they create throughout the coming Scene.
Ending Phase 1
The armoured mercenaries approach and “what are you looking at?” dialogue inevitably occurs aimed at Ter-Saa. The warrior refuses to answer, one of the opposing mercs, knocks a drink over, Ter-Saa lifts a bottle.. you know the drill.
I explain how Challenges are introduced and how they work and get into the second Phase of the Scene, where the bar fight proper begins.