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Medieval - The Experts Roleplaying System

Started by castus nigh, April 10, 2008, 11:55:04 PM

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castus nigh

For all those who have never experienced true role-playing, at its very best, I have detailed a little snipit of one of my recent games.   We use a system called Medieval, The Experts Roleplaying System and consider ourselves to be Medievale.r.s.  In this system there are no alignments, character or otherwise- for alignments have always been a source of DM/player irritation and unending arguments!  Instead, Medieval uses a number of personality traits,  these traits are stacked in order of importance and each trait is subdivided into three main aspects.  Here's how it works and how the game played out!

I, the Narrator, was conducting a game in which the party, consisting of 1)  Alregar - a human Cleric, 2) Allonna- a human Monk, 3) Khan, a human Warrior and 4) Balragor, a tigrene Runecarver, were traveling towards Manacle- a seaport city- in an attempt to claim the bounty upon their decapitated thief, the head being the minimum requirement for the bounty.  One part of the journey meant that the party had to descend into a forested vale via a small footpath that wound its way down a cliff face! a treacherous trek indeed.  When the party was approximately halfway down this path, they were met by another individual who was approaching from below.  This other person, a woman was leaning heavily upon a wooden walking staff, hobbling awkwardly up the path towards them.  As the woman got close enough, the party could see that, while seemingly youthful, the woman was heavily burdened with foul rotting disease of the flesh.  The woman was hobbling forward leaning heavily upon the staff because she no longer had a foot at the length of her left leg.  Her hands, missing multiple digits and her face, missing her nose, most of her lips and at least one ear.  Her clothing and hair, soiled and filthy- the party quickly identified her as a leper.  Partially correct! 

Here is the sequence of events as they occurred and a brief recanting of the reasoning behind the encounter will follow.

As the party approached the decrepit filthy disease ridden woman, Balragor strode forward and with a great leap, lept over the woman's head landing some 10 feet beyond where she stood.  While in midair, Balragor drew both scimitar, one in each massive clawed hand and let forth a menacing growl!  Allonna, suddenly stopped and assumed a battle stance.  Alregar, pushed past Allonna, with open arms, offering  help  to this most unfortunate woman. Khan, taking up the rear of the party, likewise drew his weapon and waited with Allonna.  Allonna, seeing Khan halt, moved forward with Alregar.   

Seeming to react to the Tigrene's threateningly offensive manouvers, the leper woman, suddenly entered into a state of ritualistic chanting, readily identified by Alregar as Faith Magic, magic of the gods!  Khan, ever at the ready, suddenly charged forward, blade drawn in an attempt to kill the woman.  Allonna, bieng a Monk, very quick and agile,  rushed past Allregar  and spun around to face Khan, and issued a warning to the approaching warrior.  Alregar, ever diplomatic, casually attempted to assure the woman that, despite the actions some members of the party, they would not harm her and that she should cease her casting.

Within three seconds of the ill fated leap of the great Tigrene, all actions had occurred and the woman stopped her chanting!  Now it gets fun!  In turn each member of the party were asked what they were going to do from here? 

Balragor- be ready for an attack! 
Allonna-  protect her, if Khan continues to advance attempt to deflect his attack to protect the woman.
Alregar-  continue to talk, ignore the others and see what transpires!
Khan-     I don't like her, continue my attack!

As stated, Khan continued to run forward, and made an attack.  Allonna attempted to parry Khan's attack.  Alregar held his ground and waited.  Balragor likewise waited.  Allonna managed to deflect Khan's attack but took some damage in the process!  Suddenly, the leperous woman reached out and grabbed  Allonna.  Whispering in her ear, 'before too long you too will call upon Malady'!  Allonna suddenly shrieked in pain and agony.  Balragor charged forward and struck the exposed rear of the woman with enough force that she was knocked from the ledge.  The woman fell some150 feet to the jagged rocks below, all the while laughing hysterically.   Alregar simply stated, "that didn't go well at all." 


Character        Trait              Aspects of traits                                               Actions taken to Roleplay Traits
Balragor          Untrusting     Be at the ready for an attack,                             Drew weapons                           
                                          Never draw first blood                                        Sought to entice woman into combat (growling)                                                                                   
                                          Seek most advantageous position for combat      Rear attack
Allonna            Brave           Protect the innocent                                          Woman never did anything wrong
                       Respectful    To women                                                        Wanted to help her, turned her back to the woman to protect her from Khan

Alregar             Generous     Offer aide to those in need                                 Offered to heal the woman
                       Trusting        Trust that people are good                                 Believed she would stop casting if he explained that she was safe

Khan               Warlike         Attack if threatened, ask questions later             She began to cast, so Khan began to attack
                                          Seek combat to resolve conflict                          Continued attack despite Allonna/Alregar's attempts to sway attack

Balragor           Loyalty         To Party                                                          She attacked Allonna therefore Balragar attacked woman         

Alregar             Patient         -                                                                     Waited to see how everything unfolded

Allonna            Peaceful       Avoid combat unless no other choice                 Did not attack Khan despite the fact that she was struck by Khan

In all, the character's role-played their characters well and each received both experience points and character points based on the number of traits the successfully roleplayed!   I realize that this is a very scant telling of the full tale however, it actually was very exciting due to the number of actions that were occurring and due to the environment (nobody wanted to fall or be knocked over the edge).  In Medieval, anytime you are struck for damage there is a chance that you will be knocked-down, hence the reason why the woman fell over the cliff!    In any other gaming system, no party member would have turned their back to an unknown person chanting a magical spell and attempt to protect that chanting person against attack!

Castus Nigh   


Ron Edwards


I'd like to ask you some questions about your game, but we have to do one little thing first. Is this a published game (in any sense of the word, meaning publicly available)? If not, then I need to move this thread to the Playtesting forum.

It's no big deal, but we have to resolve that first before carrying on with the discussion.

Best, Ron


Hi Castus,

So if I'm understanding your system right, players are supposed to define their personality up front through traits and aspects, and then in play they do various things. They have an incentive to interpret what they do in terms of defined traits, through character improvement points. Right?

I like that system better than e.g. Pendragon's more famous system where (in some GMs' interpretations at least, and especially for high-scoring traits) you have to roll to do certain things based on defined traits. Your system lets people do what they want and pays them for doing what they say they're going to do, which also supports character verisimilitude. That's cool.

Where I have some trouble even with systems like yours (let alone Pendragon's) is that I like that imaginative sense of what's going on with the characters in the game to unfold in a freeform way. Sometimes my guy wants to do things that make sense somehow for my mental picture of him even though I'm not sure which, if any, pre-defined or pre-established trait of that character the behavior in question would go with.

Which I could do in your system I gather, I just wouldn't get character points for it. But I guess what I'm wondering is, how much do these incentives help, as opposed to just freeforming this part of play? I mean, they can help with the kind of unbelievable acts some players have their characters try in some games just because they think it's the best way to deal with the situation in front of them. "OK, fine, you can do that, but you don't get any experience for it, because you're clearly using OOC knowledge". I like that (again, if I'm understanding you) better than "you can't do that", but why not just be grownups and trust each player to play their character the way they think best?

A system like yours has advantages as 'training wheels' for a certain kind of play, perhaps. But once people have bought into the idea that their primary task as a player is to imagine themselves as their character and do what their character would do in the fantastic environment the GM presents them, how does the system help them go forward from there?

castus nigh

Good question, it has never really come up!  The big thing to consider is that there are 15 aspects in total and these encompass most every situation.    Furthermore, it is possible to change your traits as your character evolves, either from different experiences or game events that have helped shape who the character has become.  Most importantly, the traits identify the core beliefs of the character, this is not to say that these are the only facets of the character's personality!  You will never find a system to cover every eventuality however, the relative freedom of these traits is that they are not single situation criteria, they are applicable to a wide variety of situations and the player can readily identify how the his/her actions were a reflection of their traits.  The true beauty of the traits is that during the game the player will make notes as to how they roleplayed their traits and at the end of the game session, a discussion is held to determine whether or not the player shall receive any points for playing their traits.  Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is, that the character has to make some choice whereby that decision will gain the character some advantage or result in a penalty.  The advantage may be as minor as information and the penalty may likewise be minor.

Additionally, you are not penalized for taking actions beyond the scope of your traits, only if you go against them.  If such instances arise, there are rules in Medieval that allow the Narrator to award additional experience for creative game play as well as the normal allowance of experience points for combat...  It is hard to describe the actual ramifications of the traits on fostering roleplaying but, if you actually seen my players in action a lot of your questions and curiosities would be resolved.  It truly is a very versatile system that has almost infinite applications.

I hope this somewhat answers your question.



Cool. I have some more stuff I want to follow up on but Ron's a moderator here, you should get things squared away with him first.


An administrative note: Castus confirmed that his game isn't published, so I've gone ahead and moved this thread to Playtesting.

This isn't a punishment or anything, just category housekeeping. Carry on.

site tech admin

Adam Dray

Hello, Castus. What you describe sounds cool enough (though the hyperbole in the first sentence has me eye-rolling a bit). I'm curious how your reward system works?

I can see that you encourage players to role-play their traits by awarding XP for each use. Who decides if an instance of role-playing is sufficient to earn an XP?

What can a player buy with XP?

Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777

castus nigh

Hey Adam, glad you allowed your eyes to roll completely around and continued reading.  I have to admit, the Personality Traits are one of my favorite things, so I like to ramble on and on and on....  I'll try to be brief and concise.

I'm curious how your reward system works?
The reward system for Personality Traits is a two part system.  Firstly, each time a player successfully roleplays a Personality Traits (hereafter referred to as a trait or traits) they are awarded both experience points and character points.  For each trait successfully roleplayed a player will receive 100 xps per LoE (Level of Exprience)  and 1 Character Point.  Hence, if a 6th level Warrior successfully played 6 traits that player would receive 3600 xps and 6 Character Points.  Consequently, the benefits for roleplaying are significant.
What can a player buy with XP?

If you can believe it, experience is not the main reason why the players roleplay their traits, the Character Points are!  Like all systems, you can get experience points in many ways.  In Medieval, Character Points are used to purchase almost everything, including your Class (cleric, warrior, thief...) and Class Abilities at the Class Cost and  Other Class Abilities at the Other Class Cost.  Hence, if you are a member of the Cleric Class you can purchase Cleric Class Abilities at a minimal Character Point Cost.  However, if you wanted to purchase a Warrior Ability, you would have to pay the Other Class Cost since you are a Cleric and not a Warrior.  The Other Class Cost is much more expensive therefore it costs you many more Character Points to purchase Other Class Abilities.  Furthermore, there are some Class Abilities that may not be purchased by Other Classes.  In this way, the Warrior is the best Warrior, the Thief is the best Thief.... 

This two fold system is why players will do almost anything to roleplay their traits.  Trust me, it is almost unbelievable! 

Who decides if an instance of role-playing is sufficient to earn an XP?
This is not as easy to explain.  Basically, a discussion between the Narrator (aka. DM, GM..) and the player takes place at the end of each gaming session.  During the game, the player will record specific instances where he/she feels that, a situation presented, whereby the player had to roleplay a trait. If the Narrator agrees then the player is awarded the trait and all the benefits for roleplaying the trait.  That is simplest way I can put it.

It must be understood that Personality Traits make up the most important mental aspects of your character's persona, but not all of your character's persona.  Personality Traits are a system of ideals and beliefs that make your character the character you want them to be.  A virtuous knight, a pious cleric, a cowardly thief, a brave warrior....   However, there are many other aspects of your character's persona that are not as important to your character, these you can dismiss without a second thought.  Things that you don't feel are important.  These are not identified in your Personality Traits selection but they do exist.  These make up the other aspects of you roleplaying your character but are not treated like traits.

There are a number of criteria that allow you to determine whether or not a player has successfully roleplayed their traits.  Due to the magnitude of the benefits gained for successfully roleplaying your traits, the actions taken to roleplay your traits must likewise be significant.  There must be an associated cost or benefit, a loss or a risk to you and/or your party as a result of your actions...  There has to be some significance to your actions, for you or the ones with you!

For example, Khan is a human warrior who has identified that Bravery is his most important Personality Trait.  While Khan is always brave, there are only three things that Khan must or must not do!  as identified in his Personality Traits.  For Khan, the most important aspects of his bravery means  that he will
   1) never attack from behind  2) be the last to retreat and 3) always attempt to attack the strongest enemy first.  Khan will play his character  by being brave, not baking down from combat, defending the innocent against injustice, defending himself against insults, ready to place himself in harms way.... everything a brave person should do.  However, Khan must never attack from behind or when unseen.  For Khan has identified this situation as a cowardly, ergo not brave!  So in a battle, Khan waits for his foes to be ready, he will call to them if behind them, and will hold his attack if the opponent has been surprised.  When such instances occur, Khan has lost the advantages in combat, that place him at greater risk, all in an attempt successfully roleplay his Bravery Trait.

Castus Nigh 

That is as easy as I can explain it.  I hoped it helped. 


Adam Dray

I like games with personality trait mechanics! Burning Wheel and The Shadow of Yesterday do some pretty cool things with them, too. You can peek at the latter online for free, even. Your system might have more in common with Burning Wheel, though.

Some little things, then one big thing.

Little: You never told me what XPs are used for. You got distracted by CPs. And why multiples of 100 XPs? Why not just give them 1 XP/LoE. Is there some other way you can earn fewer than 100 XP at a time, or can you spend XP in smaller than 100 XP increments?

Big: I'm becoming a bigger fan of games that trust players to reward themselves when appropriate. If players enjoy playing the traits so much, just let them take the CP as soon as they use the trait during the game. I'm not fond of the GM having the final say about what was significant or not. Players are trustworthy, especially when there's not a strong competition aspect to the game. At the very least, reward the players when they do cool stuff. The immediate reward reinforces the behavior you want to see at the table.
Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777

castus nigh


Xp's or experience points are used to determine both your current Level of Experience and how many experience points you need to achieve the next LoE.  Generally, the higher your LoE, the more experience points you need, often in the thousands and tens of thousands at epic levels.  Each time you gain a new LoE you become more powerful (more Damage Capacity, access to higher level magic...).  Hence, 600 or even 3600 xps will not normally grant you access to the next LoE, but it certainly helps.  1xp/LoE would not be worth the time or effort.  There are many was to gather xps (ie. combat, killing blow, good idea, personal risk, use of a skill....) and combined these allow you to reach the next highest LoE.  Other than that, xps are useless.   

I agree that players are trustworthy.  Two reasons why we wait till the end of the game and this was actually a decision made by the players.  These events were adjustments we made during playtesting.  Firstly, we all found it to disruptive to stop the game and award character points.  This still happens, but it is only saved when somebody is about to make a major, game altering, purchase.  Secondly, a lot of purchased abilities require some type of or level of training.  So even when you purchase an ability, you most often, cannot use it immediately anyway- I know that sucks and because it sucks there is an ability, that you can purchase, that will allow you to avoid the training situation.  This ability, called Divine Insight, was fostered during playtesting in response to that 'sucky' situation.   Training is an optional thing but some GM's like it for establishing contacts, bring about new campaign threads...   Originally, both situations were done the way you seem to like, but because the game is so fast and has a fluid model, it was very disruptive and annoyed most of the group.

Finally, I never have the final decision.  If we disagree on some point, the group will vote.  I don't believe in quibbling over experience points, but nor do I give them out like water.  They have to be earned or else what is the point of playing.  Players need a challenge otherwise the game becomes stagnant.  Besides, as Narrator, I can always find 'legitimate' ways to recoup the ill gotten gains of the players (ha ha- just joking- maybe!).

castus nigh


Quote from: castus nigh on April 14, 2008, 11:27:12 PM1xp/LoE would not be worth the time or effort.  There are many was to gather xps (ie. combat, killing blow, good idea, personal risk, use of a skill....) and combined these allow you to reach the next highest LoE.

Heya Castus,

I believe Adam is trying to figure out whether or not XP only comes in multiples of 100, and if it does, why you are using multiples of 100 when there is no functional difference between earning or spending 100xp and 1xp. Do events in your system ever award amounts (or things cost amounts) that aren't multiples of 100? Do you ever earn or spend, for example, 24xp or 573xp or 999xp etc?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

castus nigh

Sorry, yes there can be any number of xps from 1 to some huge number.  The number of xps earned is based on the Critical Value of the task you are facing whether that task be defeating a creature(s) in combat, navigating an underground catacomb or bypassing a trap. 


Adam Dray

I guess the next thing I need to know, before I continue, is what you hope to learn from this thread? I'm willing to help in many ways. I just need to know what kind of help you want. If the answer is, "I'm fine! I have a great game and I don't need any help!" then that's informative, too, and I can stop wasting my time helping you design or fix playtest issues. (Perhaps you just need help in the Publishing forum.)

If you do need help, perhaps you can demonstrate an instance of the trouble in actual play, here in this Forum.
Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777

castus nigh

Adam or anyone else who would like to express their views.
Actually, I would like your opinion, and anyone else who may want to express theirs, over a particular issue that has my group divided!  In Medieval, I have a unique weapon and magic system whereby all attacks and damage are resolved by a single d20 or d30 roll (d30 for epic level characters and Slayers - a highly  skilled warrior).  Here's how the system works.

Method 1:
All weapons have a Base Weapon Rank or the bWR (ie. a longsword has a base weapon rank of 12).
All modifiers are added to the bWR (ie.  bonus for high attribute score, bonus for weapon skill, bonus for magic....) to get the WR.
When making an attack, the attack die is rolled and the WR is added to the die result.
Consequently, if you roll a 15 and have a WR of 14, the total value of your attack is 29 (15 + 14 = 29).
If the Effective Armor Class (EAC) of your intended target is 21, then you have struck that target for 8 points of damage.  The attack has been resolved.

Method 2
All weapons have a Base Weapon Rank (bWR), as above.
When making an attack die and subtract that from the EAC of the intended target.
Then you apply the WR to the remaining value. 
Consequently, if you roll a 15 and the EAC of your intended target is 21, then you attack was off by 6 (15 - 21 = -6).  Now this does not mean that you missed your opponent, just that your attack was not as accurate as you would like.
Now you apply the WR to the remainder, hence you actually did 8 points of damage to your opponent (-6 + 14 = 8).
Exactly the same damage as above! but more complex math. 

Problems with Method 1
While this method worked extremely well and is very easy to do, a problem comes into play in extreme situations (ie. a powerful magic item).  With the use of a powerful magical weapon (bonus modifier of +15) the weapon rank is now 29, before even rolling the die.  Hence, unless the target is wearing magical armor, you are going to cut them to pieces, to boot, your WR is so high you probably strike you opponent every time you attack.  This method, for calculation purposes, was obviously preferred and some argued that a powerful magical weapon should be able to do that type of damage unprotected targets (ie. peasants, aniamls....).  A powerful magical weapon wielded by a weak person should be quite effective against most opponents!

Problem with Method 2
The math.  This method ensures that a poor roll will still miss the target.  I can clean up the math and make it easier by getting rid of the negative values, it just makes sense to explain it this way and I don't want them to errantly add 6 to their weapon rank for a total damage of 14 when it should only be 8 points of damage.  The powerful magical weapon will only affect the outcome of a battle if the attacks were successful!  Personally, I liked this better.

Would do you think?

Adam Dray

If you like Method 2 better, use that one. Try it out in play and see which plays better. I don't have a "vote" on your game design here, especially something at such a fine level of detail. I can't give an informed opinion without playing it, ya know?
Adam Dray /
Verge -- cyberpunk role-playing on the brink
FoundryMUSH - indie chat and play at 7777