Tuesday 2 May 2023

Another take on demihumans as social constructs.

I had an idea knocking around inside my head, and then I saw that Dan had already done it over on Throne Of Salt, which rather undercut my brilliant originality.
More time has passed, so I figured I'd have a crack at the idea myself.

So. Demihumans (elf, half-elf, hobbit, dwarf, orc, half-orc, goblin, hob-goblin, dragon). Rather than positing each as a seperate species - and then getting our skull-callipers out to compare them - we'll just look at the position each occupies in our setting socially, and extrapolite backwards from that.
EG, let's suppose you're an elf because you do elf things and people treat you like an elf. But you're still recognisably an elf. What would that look like? How do you get that in society?

Suffice to say, this is all a thought experiment. I have no idea how this would play out in a proper setting or actual game.


"This person has autism, but their knowledge or power means we have to treat them respectfully."

An elf is quite possibly smarter than you, but (if you aren't also an elf) the ways they think don't make sense. They follow patterns and customs that most people don't, they prioritise things regular people don't, they just fucking know things sometimes. Sometimes unusually innocent, sometimes deeply worldly and old before their time.

Elves typically go into professions where knowledge is important, and people can't just reject you out of hand for being unearthly and weird. Mages, priests, artists, nuns, midwives. That air of oddness can be a perk; it lets people know they're dealing with an elf, and should be prepared to act accordingly.

You treat elves with respect. After all, they know things and they have sufficient power or clout that if you offend them, they can make you regret it. 

Most have at least a smattering of magic, some handy utility powers and maybe something like a magic missile to smack people who don't show respect. They take to it naturally, and often don't get that others can't just learn magic with the same fluency and focus that they do. Isn't it easy?

It doesn't have to be autism, but that's the most common one, and also the one the author has and is familiar with.

Different types of elves correspond to areas of focus. Wood elves like the natural earthy things like birds and trees, high elves like some 'respectable' topic like history or heraldry, dark elves know about something vaguelly taboo like poisons or spiders.

The term 'half-elf' is basically the same as 'high functioning'. Not really used by elves among themselves, but regular people use it to describe elves that seem more normal and approachable.

Generally, elf-ness is broadly hereditable, about as hereditable as autistic traits in the real world. A changeling is just somebody who turns out to be an elf despite nobody expecting it based on their family.

Elf communities exist. Cloisters and hideaways. They get weird fast.


"From a commoner family that knows marvelous trade secrets."

Being a dwarf means you've inherited the family name (or been adopted or married into it). You're one of a particular clan, and your clan knows how to do something that they guard jealously.

Metalworking is a common one. Mining and underground construction techniques are another. Warfare with specific secret techniques is another. Maybe a mix. Whatever it is, your clan has a secret way of doing things that gives you an advantage. Dwarf-made armour is just better than everybody else's. Dwarves who go to war fight in ways that seem impossible to replicate without their lengthy training, and are shockingly effective.

Dwarves often have magic of their own. More secrets handed down the clan. They have their own little sects of the mainstream religions, and their own priests.

The techniques of the dwarves give them an edge over other people. They're just commoners, but they can negotiate with nobles and even royalty, because if the dwarves aren't paid to their satisfaction nobody else can do it as well. And, really, a noble who's jewellery isn't made by dwarves is an embarassment. 

These secrets need to be kept, or the dwarves lose their wealth and power. Dwarves prefer to live away from outsiders, in innaccessable places like mountain villages or underground fortresses. They don't trust non-dwarves, who might try to steal their secrets. The exception is other dwarves, who have a vested interest in preserving dwarvish independence. 

They know how to hold a grudge. When you're jumped-up commoners bargaining with nobility, you have to.


"These people have fucked off to live independently, and its too much effort to get them to come back."

Hobbits have opted out of mainstream society to go and do something else. Maybe they dig holes in hillsides and make a commune that lives in a rural idyl. Maybe they have a caravan and travel the world with like-minded hobbits, trading goods and stories. Maybe they flee from persecution and live in floating villages hidden in the marshes.

Basically, they're hippies. They rejected the rat race and went to live some more authentic, satisfying or reasonable life off in the middle of nowhere. Their communities are tight-knit, idealistic and egaletarian, mostly. When a hobbit community goes wrong, it goes really wrong really quickly, and then falls apart entirely. 

Some people are first-generation hobbits, who - alongside a group of like-minded individuals - chose to live like this. Some were born into a hobbit community and decided to stay. Some found a hobbit community and got adopted into it.

They love their pipeweed, and they're good at hiding. Hobbits get on with dwarves a lot of the time, even if their relationships tend to be distant.

The author has dated a number of hobbits in her time.

When some horrible dark lord rises up, fueled by the fire and smoke of industry and averice, and starts building dreadful armies and dark satanic mills, hobbits tend to be among the first victims they go after. Them and other minorities. Hobbits don't tend to fight back in an organised way, they go to ground, move on, or form guerilla resistance movements.

They are probably living happier lives than you are. Why aren't you a hobbit, actually?


"Soldiers without homes."

Being an orc means fighting as a way of living. No farms, towns, shrines, capitals. Just a military camp that moves as the campaign moves. War is all you know. Home isn't a real concept, or isn't anymore, you just live wherever the fighting is, or wherever you go the fighting follows.

Some orcs are mercenaries. Poverty or desperation or persecution pushes them to sign up with a mercenary band. A tent in a military camp is still a roof over your head, sort of. Sometimes the orc is fleeing something, or ambitious. 

Maybe they don't intend to be an orc for long. Really, though, cashing out isn't likely to happen. You die young, or if you don't your so scarred - emotionally and physically - that regular society doesn't want you back.

Other orcs didn't have a home to begin with. An invasion took it from you, and now your home is occupied by somebody else. Or your home has been on the front-lines of a trench war for decades and completely fucking uninhabitable, and the conflict is all you know.

Orcs stick together. Their real loyalty is to their comrades. An employer has their loyalty only as much as they pay them, unless that employer is also an orc. 

There's a code. They treat orcs on the other side of the conflict better than the rest of the enemy. If you capture an enemy orc, he's one of yours now. He switches sides. Maybe his whole band surrenders and joins you, and they're with you now. Their loyalty is to the orcs, not to whichever kings and emperors started this war to begin with.

Sometimes orcs end up in the armies of dark lords. This lasts as long as the dark lord keeps paying them and doesn't expect them to break the code. They don't care what fucked up stuff the dark lord is doing, spend long enough as a mercenary and you get numb to attrocities, so long as the money keeps coming.

Other orcs take a more direct approach, and support themselves through banditry and conquest. 

There's a lot of overlap between orcs and goblins. There's surprising overlap between orcs and dwarves.


"Sentient vermin."

Even worse than being an orc. Somebody in power wants you gone, and now you don't have rights anymore. Basically outlaws. 

A goblin might be a heretic, a criminal, somebody whose land got stolen, a fugitive, or something like that. Or just born to goblin parents. You're not part of regular society, and regular society wants you fucking gone. There's overlap between goblins and orcs. People don't like to admit it, but there's overlap between goblins and hobbits.

There's absolutely no social safety net when you're a goblin. Individual people might be nice to you, but others won't be, and maybe there's a bounty on your head again. Best to hide from them, then.

Goblins get really, really good at hiding. They find places they can escape from the world, and they band together with other goblins. When society is your enemy, fuck 'em. Feed yourself through subtle theft, banditry, whatever it takes. Trust your fellow goblins to keep you safe. If regular folks look at you funny, kick their teeth in so they won't want to chase after you in a hurry, and go to ground. Fill your home with cunning traps. Fuck 'em, look out for your own.

The world wants you dead, but you're clawing and spitting and snarling and still alive.

Hobgoblins are when these outlaws arm themselves and actively fight back. Guerillas, terrorists, militias, what have you. They cobble together uniforms, and stick the heads of those who'd oppress or exterminate them on spikes before fading back into the shadows. They're probably also orcs.
Kobolds are when these outlaws are also dwarves, and have secret knowledge that mean you have to take them seriously, even while trying hard to get rid of them. Kobolds tend to be very good at building impregnable fortresses full of traps.



"Personally strong enough to do whatever the fuck they want with no consequences." 

The rule of thumb is this: if you can walk into an average town by yourself and demand they give you tribute, and get it without any noteworthy resistance, you're a dragon.

You probably weren't a building-sized fire-breathing carnivorous flying lizard to begin with. But once you hit a certain level of power, you realise nothing's stopping you from turning into one if you want to, and there never was. 

Dragons shapeshift. They look like people, until they don't. Every one is a legend. Every one is unique.

Kings aren't dragons. Their power comes from systems of laws and heirarchy and custom meaning people choose to follow them. Wizards might be, as might particularly mighty warriors. Subtlety and subterfuge aren't particularly inclined towards making you a dragon, normally, but often somebody who excels in those areas will - when their back is to the wall - reveal that they were a dragon all along.

If you can personally reduce anybody who speaks back to you to two whisps of smoke coming from a pair of shoes (or a red smear), you're a dragon.

Some dragons do their best not to act like dragons. They try to be benevolent, to blend in with society, to only flex their power in emergencies. The rest - the majority, even - are problems.

A typical dragon ensures those who follow them are loyal by making dramatic examples. They tend to enjoy skull fortresses, big piles of treasure, and appending titles like 'the terrible' onto their name. 

People who set out to slay dragons generally fail. Those who succeed normally become dragons themselves. 

Elves become dragons disproportionately often. It's the focus that does it. They're often the most reasonable dragons.

Orcs do too. We call them black dragons, and they burn bright and furious, leading a horde of orcs behind them until they inevitably perish doing something exciting.

Goblins also produce a lot of dragons, particularly kobolds. A goblin who becomes a dragon is really good news (for the goblins and hobgoblins and kobolds and orcs of the world) and really bad news (for the sort of people who decided you were a goblin in the first place). These get called red dragons, because of all the blood that they leave behind.

Red dragons tend not to be inclined to be merciful to their enemies. Their followers, on the other hand, often do pretty well for themselves. When you have a red dragon on your side, you might not have to be a goblin for long.

Very successful kingdoms have been founded by a red dragon with a big dream.

Friday 28 April 2023



In hell, they don't have physical matter to forge weapons out of. No iron for swords, lead for bullets, saltpeter for gunpowder, or wood for spear-shafts. Nothing but each other, and the souls of the damned. 

They still fight, though. When they do, instead of making armaments out of matter, they weaponise souls, hurling them at one another in huge salvos. 

This is a game about when that happens.


You are a demon. Or maybe not. Maybe an angel, a devil, a psychopomp, a reaper, or some other powerful spiritual being mucking about with souls. Get a model for yourself. Something big and impressive. Full of dark majesty. That's you, right there. 

At the start of the game, only you and your demon enemy are on the board, you'll have to summon souls in as you go.

You have thirteen Lives. If those Lives run out, you're defeated. Everything but your thirteenth Life point can be sacrificed. Have a little pile of tokens on your base to represent spent lives, or track it with a dice.

If you collide with an enemy soul, it deals its damage to you, and is then removed. If you collide with one of your souls, push it out of your way.


On your turn you have six actions to spend. Each one can be used to do one of the following:

Move: Move an inch in any direction. If you collide with an enemy soul, it deals its damage to you (you lose that many Lives), and is then removed. If you collide with one of your own souls, it's pushed aside to make way for you. If you collide with an enemy demon, or a terrain piece, your movement ends there.

Spawn: Place one of your souls touching you, and then move it its full speed in any direction. Follow the normal rules for moving souls.

Direct: Select any one of your souls and move it immediately, using the normal rules for moving souls.

Reap: Remove any of your own souls, putting them back in your available pool. Useful for if they get stuck behind something, or bugger off somewhere useless.


Less important playing pieces. Random dead humans under your power. If they didn't want to be the bullets in a bullet-hell shooter, they shouldn't have damned themselves, hm?

Each is defined by six values.

Cost: How much of your budget it takes to have one of these.

Speed: How far it moves, in inches.

Damage: How much it hurts when it hits something.

Health: How much hurt it takes to remove it.

Pattern: The direction it moves.

Quirks: Things this soul can do, that others can't.

Your souls begin in a pool off the table, and are put into play using the Spawn action. When a soul is removed, put it back into your pool, so you can summon it again. You'll recycle the same souls over and over. They're already dead, so they can't be properly killed, see.

A soul that moves off the table entirely is removed from play and can be summoned again. Obviously.


After you've acted yourself, all your souls activate. You can choose which order they activate in, but they all have to act before you pass the turn over.

Each soul moves its full speed in the direction indicated by its Pattern. Except for Kings, you don't have a choice in what it does.

If it collides with an enemy soul, each deals its Damage to the other. If that damage is equal to or higher than the other soul's Health, remove that soul. Then, continue the movement in the same direction it was already going, if possible. You might have both souls removed, both survive, or only one prevail over the other.

Damage to souls DOESN'T stack up over time. Either it's enough to remove the victim, or it isn't.

If it collides with one of your own souls, or an enemy soul it didn't have enough Damage to remove, or a terrain piece, or you it stops right where it is. End its move right there.

If it collides with the enemy demon, it deals its damage to them. The enemy loses that many Lives. Then remove it.


First, you and your opponent select the souls you're bringing to this fight. You have a total cost of 40 to spend on souls.

Then you and your opponent place terrain on the board. Do it however looks suitibly dramatic. Once you both agree that the board looks nice, you're done.

Then flip a coin roll a dice to see who goes first.

The player going first puts their demon on the board anywhere they want. Then the other player does. 

The player going first takes their turn: they use their demon's six actions, then move all their souls. Then their opponent does, alternating until one demon has no Lives left.


You have eight types of soul to pick between: Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Rook, Jack, Queen, King, Joker. You have a budget of forty to spend on them.


Cheap useless souls you can sacrifice in vast numbers. The worst type of common soul, but you can throw out lots at once.

Cost: 1

Speed: 2

Damage: 1

Health: 1

Pattern: Moves straight forward in whichever direction its facing.

Quirks: When you Spawn an Pawn, one action can spawn up to three of them in one go.


Souls that still have faith. Fast and slippery and hard to block. You need to destroy them, because you can't hide behind stuff from them.

Cost: 3

Speed: 5



Pattern: Moves towards the nearest enemy demon.

Quirks: Moves through terrain and (if it survives the collision) other souls, rather than ending its movement.


Martially minded souls, dead soldiers. Decent at everything, and can get in among the enemy and ricochet around among them, wrecking stuff.

Cost: 3


Damage: 2

Health: 2

Pattern: Moves towards the nearest enemy soul or demon.

Quirks: When it contacts an enemy soul, after dealing damage, it picks a new victim rather than keeping going in the same direction. Point it towards the next closest enemy it hasn't been aimed at yet this turn, and continue its move.


Solid, defensive and stubborn. Probably died at, like, age 120, and even then only after a frustrated relative applied a pillow to their face. A good unstoppable wall to hide behind (but beware bishops).


Speed: 2

Damage: 1

Health: 5

Pattern: Moves directly away from you.

Quirks: When a rook collides with another soul (friendly or enemy), and that soul survives, the rook keeps moving. Push the rook the rest of its movement, and push the enemy soul back with it.


The best souls. Absolute wrecking balls that smash things to bit and don't give a fuck about anything. Girlbosses. Many demons secretly want this sort of soul to step on them.

Cost: 8

Speed: 4

Damage: 2


Pattern: Moves towards the nearest enemy.

Quirks: Double damage against souls.


The smartest souls. Not particularly strong or anything, but you can get them to do unexpected stuff and keep your enemy off guard. Sneaky scheming bastards you need to keep an eye on.





Pattern: Moves in whichever direction you want.

Quirks: Can even change direction in mid-move. Goes wherever you want.


Quiet, supportive souls. Not much use on their own, but they can coordinate with others. Throw them out alongside other souls to support them.





Pattern: Moves towards the nearest friendly soul its not touching, or directly away from you if there aren't any.

Quirks: If a Jack bumps into another friendly soul while moving, after the Jack's move is done, that friendly soul gets a bonus move for free. PEW!


Wildcard souls. Who the fuck knows what they're going to do. Maybe they're the fastest, hardest hitting souls available to you. Or maybe they're fucking useless. Who knows? Throw 'em out there and find out, baby!


Speed: d6



Pattern: Moves towards the nearest enemy soul or demon.

Quirks:A Joker's stats are random. Each time a stat matters, roll a six-sided dice to see what its value is right now.

Use 28mm. Or bigger, I'm not your boss. You're looking at a maximum of 41 models (you, and forty pawns, you fucking maniac), and a minimum of six (you, and five queens/jokers). Make them suitibly gothic and horrible.
Zombies, ghosts, demons etc can all make a good base for this sort of thing. Be creative. My souls are all bright yellow nighthaunt, and my demon is nagash converted to have a hood, scythe, wings and a fucking halo.

Friday 7 October 2022

The Masquerade Grid, for VtM

 A little subsystem for tracking the state of the masquerade in your vampire games.

I wanted a minigame that tracked masquerade breaches and had the potential to have worse problems pop up unexpectedly, and which took into account where and how the PCs have influence. I wanted there to be basically a set of patterns for players to investigate, analyse and deal with. So here's what I came up with.

This system assumes the PCs are the main active vampires in the domain. Perhaps they're a coterie in a small town, so there aren't really other vampires. Or perhaps you're running a larp or play-by-post game with a bigger playerbase.

First, The Grid.

In our home domain, we can divide society up into a 4x4 grid, each square representing a section of society. As a rule of thumb, the higher-status a section is, the higher up it is, and the more concentrated power it has, the further to the left it is. I ended up drawing this grid for a pretty typical town, but if your setting is odd you could put different groups in various squares. Heck, a particularly big or small town could be a 5x5 or 3x3 grid.

But here's an baseline example I put together. It doesn't need to be too carefully thought out.

So. Each grid represents the general state of that part of society, They default to 'Calm'. Here, everything is okay, the masquerade is completely intact, all is well. Leave that box empty.
If there's a masquerade breach of some sort, pick the section of society it affects the most. That box goes to 'Breached'. Mark a big cross across it, and note down what the breach was.
If a breach would happen in a square that's already filled, it spills into a neighbouring one that would equally apply. So, a breach in Suburbia might - if Suburbia is already breached, spill into The Cops.

So, our grid above with a couple of masquerade breaches might look like this:


You can clear a box by dealing with the masquerade breach in it. Pin the blame on something mundane (or bogus: blaming organised crime works just as well as blaming aliens), or cover up the evidence, or silence the witnesses, or just make something much more exciting happen to distract attention.

If things get bad and the masquerade breaches are wide-spread enough, you might have the kine put things together and form hunter cells. This happens if you can draw a line linking several squares together. This might be a horizontal, a vertical, a corner-to-corner diagonal, or an-off-centre diagonal of three.
When this happens, members of these disparate groups come together, realise what's going on, and form a hunter cell. Draw a line linking them together, and name the cell.
So, if thigs go tits up in our example before, and a hunter cell emerges, it might look like this:

To deal with that hunter organisation, you need to subvert, kill or otherwise get rid of those involved. Blood bond them, arrest them on terrorism charges, get them sectioned, stab them in the gut, whatever. Once they're all dealt with, pick the square that best represents where you attacked them, and clear it, returning it to Calm. The rest of the squares will go back to being Breached, and you'll need to deal with the breaches in them individually before they spawn another hunter cell.

So far so simple, yes?

But here's the thing: only the ST can see the grid. Players can tell discover what's up by actively investigating it. This might mean doing the legwork themselves, probably taking a scene or two of activity. Once their investigation succeeds, they can see the state of the square. Contacts, Influence, Allies, etc all apply.

Otherwise, they can leverage backgrounds/merits/advantages to do it for them: for each dot in that trait, they can pick one square that the background can monitor. They can tell the state of the square automatically, just by contacting their NPC assets and asking them. 

With the right traits, such as Influence, perhaps, they can make some phone calls to clear up a breach without needing to intervene in person.

So, here's how it works in two examples, one where the PCs are on top of things, and one where they aren't.
Competent PCs first:

Josephine has Influence in the Media. Every now and then, she checks in with her friends working at the local news station to see what interesting stories they're working on. Recently, two vampires fighting in the street were caught on camera, and the news is about to run that story: the 'Local Media' section has been crossed off. However, because Josephine has media influence, she can pull some strings to hush that story up, clearing that square before it becomes a problem.

And then, the disaster situation:

A coterie has been concentrating on internal camarilla politics and ignoring what's going on with the kine entirely: they have no idea about the state of the grid. A series of masquerade breaches happen, linking Big Business, Suburbia, Small Businesses and The Downtrodden masses into a hunter cell. The first the PCs know about it is when hunters at the local bank start shutting down their bank accounts: investigating Big Business reveals a hunter cell active, and now they need to work out who else might be connected to it, and shut it down!

What this means is that players are incentivised to monitor particular areas of society, and respond proactively to other incidents and rumours to prevent things spiralling out of control. If they don't, then problems will grow without them being aware, until trouble comes to them. 

PS: Black Death Walking is finished and released! You can get it here!

Tuesday 23 August 2022

So What Is Black Death Walking?

A narrative wargame I'm making, in the same vein as something like Mordheim, Necromunda or Gorkamorka.

 Let's start with the setting. I'll quote right from the text, since I think this sums things up pretty well:

The Year Is 1460.

It has been a century since the Black Death arrived in Europe, bringing with it mass death, madness, and despair.

It has been two generations since the dead filled hell and spilled back into the mortal world, rising from their graves to prey upon the living.

It has been a generation since the Beast rose to power, opening the doors to hell.

If this is the apocalypse, how much deeper will things sink before this world is redeemed?

This is a damned world.

A world of rot and pestilence, where the living dead stalk the blighted landscape, the servants of hell preach openly, and those mortals who survive huddle in their hidden villages and besieged castles.

The great powers of the world number SIX:
The Beast, who is the mailed fist of corrupt political power.
The Whore Of Babylon, who preaches decadence and delight.
Wormwood, which fell from the sky and brings madness.
The Four Horsemen, who will scourge the earth.
The Dragon, Satan, whose rage sets the world ablaze.
Hades the abyss, where the dead walk.

So in the mix here we have grotty medieval fantasy, a plague-fuelled zombie apocalypse, and all the biblical weirdness talked about in the book of revelations. Tonally, I'm drawing inspiration from black metal, the whole turnip-28 wargaming thing, mordheim, mork borg, and the weirder bits of medieval history.
But! I'm keeping the setting pretty loose and open. I want this to be a sort of jumping-off-point for modelling and stories, not a tightly detailed setting you're expected to be accurate to. It's one of those settings that's made of themes rather than facts, y'know?

OK, so! Mechanics!

It's a skirmish game, with maybe ten models to a side, each with individual stats.

The core game itself is pretty streamlined, but not the bare-bones minimalism you sometimes see. Tests are roll-under, and advantages and disadvantages let you roll an extra dice and take the better/worse. Pretty simple.
Each turn, each model gets to do exactly one thing. It might move, use a special ability, shoot, or resolve a fight. That last one bears some thought: a model has to spend its one action that turn to resolve the fight, and then every model involved rolls off to see which side wins. 
This means that timing becomes important. An action spent resolving a fight is wasted, when you could instead wait and make your opponent use their action to resolve the fight instead. But if you wait, maybe your opponent can bring more of their forces to bear, tipping the scales in their favour. So when to wait, when to push more models into a melee, and when to seize the moment becomes an important tactical decision. Timing and momentum matter.
Violence isn't super lethal. A shot has maybe a 1-in-4 chance to take a model out of action if everybody has middling stats. The same goes for a blow struck when you win a fight. So shooting lets you whittle down the enemy, and winning fights is as much about pushing back and disrupting enemy formations. Decisive blows that take a model out of action are turning points.

On top of this, most games will have zombies present. Sometimes only a couple, sometimes over a dozen. More might well join over the course of the game.
The zombies use their own AI. Each turn, after every player has gone, you draw a card (from a standard 54-card deck) for what the zombies do, and the suit and value will give you some instructions that you can resolve automatically. Some games, zombies will be a complication to play around or cause mild attrition. If you get unlucky, though, the zombies can prove to be a massive problem as they swarm vulnerable models. 

All in all, this produces a game where timing and position matter, where you can lock down enemies or force their hand with careful timing, and this lets you play over objectives since a board-wipe is probably going to be fairly inefficient. 
Notably, scenarios in this game use loose objectives - things like 'hurt a particular enemy' or 'defend a monument' or 'find as much treasure as possible' - but these are your suggested goals at the start of the game. What you're trying to do might shift as the game progresses. Maybe one enemy model becomes a real problem for you, and you want to take that particular fucker down. Maybe things go badly, and you just want to get out of things intact. 
The game ends by mutual agreement, when both players agree that the outcome isn't in doubt. You win if you honestly feel like you can call how the game ended 'winning'. It's possible for both players to claim a win, if their goals were orthogonal to each other. It's possible for you both to lose if the zombies got lucky.

But when games end, that leads to the campaign system. At the end of the game, models that got taken out of action suffer a wound, lowering the value of a random stat. Likewise, models that survived intact on the winning side get a battle scar, improving the value of a random stat. So, depending on how the games go, your models will find their stat lines evolving to reflect what they've been through.
If a model dies, however, it's not gone. That would be too merciful. Instead, the plague in their blood brings them back as undead, which is a bit of a debuff but hardly career ending. 
Then, you get a bit of income. More if you did well during the game. Probably enough to buy a new model every couple of games.

Lastly, then, you roll for Events. This is what happens to your warband before the next game. Maybe you find wandering strangers who want to join up with you. Maybe you find treasure or somewhere useful. Maybe there are grim portents of the end of days, and your warband are... altered. More than anything else, Events will make your warband evolve and mutate over time. A warband can end up going in unexpected directions, as the end times fuck with them.
On top of this, every warband has an expiration date. When you make them, you decide what their ultimate destiny is. This could be glorious, tragic or quietly poignant, but it's the end of the road for them. Maybe they go out in a blaze of glory fighting the forces of the Beast. Maybe they succumb to the plague infecting them. Maybe they establish a beachhead in the depths of hell. Whatever it is, their story is over. Certain events will bring you one step closer to this final destiny, as might the results of the games you play.

Really, the game's about telling stories over winning or losing. Success brings you closer to your inevitable end, and failure isn't too punishing, so go with where the dice take you and make it interesting.

So lastly, warbands. Who can you play as?
There's twelve warbands in total. Each has a selection of default models it can take, but you can always pay a little extra to hire in a model from a different warband as a mercenary. There's also hired swords that can only be taken as mercenaries. So while each warband is tightly themed, you can spend a little to diversify things.
The warbands available to you are:

Survivors. The regular remains of humanity, living the most normal lives they can. Regular soldiers, knights, nuns etc. They're a pretty default middle-ground warband, with average stats, access to most equipment but nothing particularly weird about them. Good for new players, and you can adapt them in most directions as the game progresses.

Flagellants. Apocalyptic weirdos driven to religious madness by the end times. Half-naked weirdos covered in scars, waving bibles around and hitting you with spiky chains. An all-melee horde list, with lots of models that can hit hard but die fast. 

Hoods. Isolated rural survivalists, shunning the outside world as much as possible. Probably also bandits. On a good day, this is the shire, on a bad day this is the hills have eyes. All-shooty all the time, relying on the weight of massed firepower.

Witch Covens. Weirdo cults in the woods fucking about with the black arts. They were always there, but now they don't really need to hide, and the ancient things they worship are waking up. Their monsters are huge horrible beat-sticks, while the witches themselves hang back to support them or fuck with the terrain. 

Damned Servants. The court of a demon prince, freshly arrived from hell, and its mortal followers. Probably part of hell's organised efforts to take over the world entirely. An elite ranged list that sits back and throws hellfire at you.

Decadent Cabals. "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine". A mix of mortals, succubi and other weirdness, who've concluded that if we're all damned anyway, we might as well go out partying. Physically weak, but with lots of ways to disrupt the enemy through deception, or even take out models just by making them very uncomfortable. Absolutely insufferable.

Haunted Exorcists. A bunch of angry ghosts and the unfortunate mortals they're haunting. All about movement and positioning, with the humans in the list as lynch-pins that the ghosts slingshot around. Impossible to pin down, and good at capitalising on mistakes. And very spooky.

Ressurectionists. The obligatory necromancers. Fucking about with things mankind was never meant to understand as they try to cure the plague, or harness its power. They do mad science to turn wandering zombies or any corpses lying around into husks under their control. Then they stitch those husks together into giant flesh-golem beatsticks.

Helldivers. Since demons keep showing up, that means the gates of hell are open. These are humans capitalising on that to explore the underworld, shrugging off the limits of mortality as they do it. Helldivers turn corpses into harmless waifs, and then use those waifs to bring back their dead models. They also die really easily, and sometimes kill themselves on purpose. Very weird to play.

Plague Bearers. Humans that have caught the black death, quarantined into their own warbands. Not sinister nurgle types, just people coping with the shitty hand life dealt them. That said, if you injure them, their infected fluids splash everywhere, hurting uninfected enemies nearby. And then some of them have a funeral bell they can ring to injure their own models at convenient moments. So: CLANG! SPLAT! AARGH!

Plague Rats. The meek shall inherit the earth, and by that we mean rodents. Rats that are becoming sentient and are very keen about this whole apocalypse business, as once all the humans are gone, that means they get their stuff. Some of them are on a quest to learn how to make cheese. A giant tarpit horde. All of their models are absolutely rubbish, but you get loads of them, and more will show up as the game progresses. 

The Wild Hunt. Want to play as one of the horsemen of the apocalypse? Now you can. The wild hunt are a mix of angels and fairies and bloodthirsty horsemen that charge around the place reaping anybody who gets in front of them. You get one horseman, who's unreasonably powerful, and a few angelic followers, who are still very very strong. Hit hard and fast, but deal with being wildly outnumbered by everybody else.

And in conclusion, here's some page shots of the layout I've been working on. Inspired by metal zines, mordheim, and similar. All stock art, with some image processing and such to make it work. It's coming together okay.

Sunday 17 July 2022

Black Death Walking - a Guest Post!

A guest post by Curatrix Ribston, who can be found here on twitter, and also makes various very cool games. And is very lovely.

She played the other side in the game described here, and made her own writeup of the game from her own perspective.

* * *

 “Notes on a Patch of Skin”: Diary of the Painted Lady

"Sometimes you just gotta shake down some demons on the side of a road without a name."

That's what Sally said to me as she rallied her "Scallopards".

I do not understand this woman.

I suspect she fancies herself some kind of philosopher queen of the lost. I asked her if she was planning to mayhaps elaborate on that aphorism.



Still, I must reluctantly admit that she has a point in that today, we had to ransom people for food and some of these people turned out to be demons. How small the waking world has become that we encounter the denizens of hell on the forgotten roads of this dying country?

How in god’s name did I even end up here?

It seems surreal that only a week ago I was alone in my shack away from the troubles of the world. 

And then these villains showed up. 

Cutpurses all of them, rag and bones shambling about the scorched earth, trying to make sense of a dying world.

I would have not given them the time of day if it were not for the ones at the head of their cohort.

Clearly, the rabble deserved little attention, just wariness, but Sally, John and Mira carried themselves with poise, determination and purpose. 

Not like nobles, not like distinguished scholars or heroes, but like beasts backed into a corner.

They politely asked if I was the one known as the Painted Lady.

I said that it was one of the names people gave to me.

They asked for my help.

They started with an introduction.

I play as a band of Flagellants, the Dirty Scallops, a melee-focused warband of refreshing simplicity. It has:

Sally Scallop, a Preacher with Horrible Trophies, Heraldry and a Flail

Shanks, a Pilgrim with a Knife, a Horse and a Disguise

Jab Nelly, a Pilgrim with a Knife, a Grappling Hook and a Disguise

Mira Ro and Honest John, Prophets with Banners and Relics

Ginny the Skull, a Penitent with a Shield

Crush and Smash, Flagellants with Heavy Weapons

Butcher Nick and Slasher Amy, Flagellants with Paired Weapons

Annie Mad-Eye and Twirly Jo, Flagellants with Flails

The Painted Lady, an Oracle with a Disguise, a Horse and Heraldry

Flagellants are simple as they come, they’re good at one thing and it’s getting in the face of their enemy to drown them in numbers. They’re not very smart or brave and they have absolutely no ranged ability, but they’re decent in a fight and it’s all they need to be. My angle in any fight is to try and get my Preacher and Flagellants stuck in as fast as possible while the Pilgrims grab objectives and the Prophets support them by allowing them to activate multiple times. The Oracle is kind of just there. Although she can help with objectives she is mostly useful as she allows me to roll for two events after a match and keep the one I prefer.

I will admit, I only recently recalled these names. At the time, I was simply stumped by the strange cohort in front of me, too stumped to comment. I was expecting to get mugged, but instead, the leader showed me a map, and insisted that I inspect it.

It was quite compelling nonsense. Strange symbols, a treasure beneath the tides, a grand reward, the usual. I would have dismissed it entirely if it had not been for how Mira spoke. 

There was purpose, but also despair.

Her sleep and John’s were plagued by dreams of this place deep within a lake, a forgotten place, a moment shattered and encased in the turquoise depths.

These dreams, I’d been having them too. 

But then came the question, and I asked Sally: why do you care?

And she looked behind her shoulder, and I followed her gaze to her strange cohort. I saw their faces full of loss and grief.

“We all need to care about something.”

Is what she said.

My Destiny for this campaign is to find the Treasure of the Tides. The Scallops have nothing left but this dream of untold riches, and it’s all they need to keep hanging onto life. Is it worth it, to be the richest fools in the graveyard? Maybe not, but what else is worth anything?

A Battle against “The Masque of Blue Delight”

And from that point on, I’ve been following this… Interesting band.

We’ve been surviving for a few days together, and today, we realised we were short on supplies, and so Sally decided to ambush some passers by. 

I adamantly refused to take part in this. I was surprised to find Sally agreeable to that. 

I decided not to watch.

I heard a lot of swearing and some fighting, it was short and to the point, but to hear them tell it, this wasn’t the slice and grab they’d hoped for. 

Their marks ended up being a strange group of drug-slinging demons and their human followers, who tried to give them some weird drugs, hypnotizing some of them into accepting their offers, and stabbing those who would not.

Nelly, Shanks and Crush (or was it Smash?) got badly wounded in the scuffle.

Sally is fuming. Mira is rambling about the strange horrors that accompanied them, formless blobs of… something twitching about the battlefield. They seem satisfied with their “swag”, but grudging anger fills the air.

One would almost feel bad for spending the duration of that scuffle engrossed in conversation with one of the rakish archers of that cohort, a waifish woman trying to get away from the fight.


We played the Procession, with the other warband being a Decadent Cabal. The Flagellents could rob a model defeated in combat rather than injuring it, and the Decadent Cabal could use hypnosis to compel the other side to drink if they were near somebody to offer it: these were our main objectives for the fight.The low Mind score of my Flagellants meant their Disguises efficiently broke up my charges just enough for them not to get bogged down and they got a few good hits in, but in the end my superior fighting skills allowed me to position myself in such a way that their Grotesques were not too much of a problem, so I got the money I wanted even though in the end the fight was starting to look sour for me.

A Strange new Power

I made it up to them, in the end, as my eyes guide us ever towards that strange lake we often stumble upon interesting things.

In this case, it was a corpse. I felt a pull. I felt black smoke. I felt sulphur.

This pulled me towards a wretched creature giving its last breath on the side of the road on a murky night. It looked pathetic, retching and trying to breathe with an arrow deep within its deformed chest. Sally had followed me out of camp. She was taken aback by the sight. She reached out to the dying imp, but before I could even ask why she seemed to want to show compassion to such a disgusting thing, the corpse burst into a thick black mist that poured directly into Sally’s eyes and mouth.

When she woke up, she’d been changed, able to command a black fog to gather around herself seemingly from nowhere. 

I would have been livid, but the woman’s takeaway was that now, she could serve as cover for the band’s advance.

I do not understand this woman.

Yet, with time, I’ve come to respect her.

After the battle, we roll for scars and wounds. Most of my warband got even better at fighting and getting in people’s face, despite the injuries.

I rolled for events after the battle, and thanks to my Oracle got a choice between a Stranger (a Missionary from the Plague Bearers warband) or a Gift of Fumes of Hell allowing my Preacher to cast a spell which would wrap her in dark smoke serving as cover.

Being a sucker for Wyrd Magicks, I, of course, opted for the latter.

Black Death Walking - A playtest!

 Being the Scandalous Diary the Succubus of L'Shan in the year 1466.

It has been three years since I deserted hell. My protégé, a human libertine calling herself Molly, has a vision of the future. One of ecstatic transcendence through the pleasures of the flesh. That, in a moment of perfect beauty, our sins will be cast away, and we will be called to heaven.

I confess, it intrigues me. Could one such as I - cast down from paradise millennia ago - escape the fires of torment? Could we escape this hell on earth? Could Molly be onto something? I don't know, but as I watch the mortals suffer and sicken and starve - as I see the torment I endured for so long inflicted on the daughters of Eve - I long to find out.

Molly numbers ten among her followers. Four are mere mortals, rakes drawn in by her mesmerising charm and stores of absinth. Two are grotesque things twisted by the plague, that shamble and gibber. Two claim to be mortals, but I have my doubts; I suspect spirits of hell like myself, walking abroad as the world comes to an end. And lastly, there is myself and my beloved L'Vor, refugees from hell, wanting something better.

For now, we merely roam the plague-stricken wasteland, in search of alchemical ingredients to further our work.

I'm playing as a Decadent Cabal, a warband that focusses on manipulating the opponent with disguises and hypnosis. My warband consists of:
Molly the Blue (leader) - a Libertine, with a Bow, Knife, Disguise and the ability Hypnosis.
Azure and Turquoise - two Mimics, with Disguises, Spears and the ability Hypnosis.
Agnes, Betty, Vera and Nancy - four Rakes, with Disguises and either Bows or Spears.
L'Vor and L'Shan - two Succubi, with Disguises, Healing Kits and the ability Hypnosis.
The Porter and The Footstool - two Grotesques with Paired Weapons, Horrible Trophies and the ability Unease.

It works like this: my enemies need to take a Test of Nerve to target disguised models, charge models with Horrible Trophies or resist Hypnosis when it's used on them. Every time they fail a Test of Nerve, they risk being hurt if they're around a Grotesque. So my warband is all about disrupting the enemy, and capitalising on that disruption.

My warband's Destiny, in the campaign, is a sort of drug fuelled transcendence. Of the six steps towards it, they've only taken one.

A Battle against 'the Dirty Scallops'

Today fills me with grief to see how the mortals are fallen. Our little band was following a road through the forest, a procession we'd made many times before.

Out of the trees, we saw a handful of pilgrims emerge, pushing a battered cart, asking us for alms. As we went to oblige, producing holy absinthe to share with them, their treachery was revealed, as more emerged from ambush around us! It seems they'd taken to banditry, and intended to rob us blind!

if they want our goods, they could have them. We resolved that before we drove them away, we'd show them a glimpse of heaven from our bottles. Considering the mesmerising charms of so many of us, bending them to our will would not be hard. Perhaps we would inspire them to be better.

The fight was quick and ugly. They fell upon us with chains and knives, ignoring our outward appearance as harmless travellers. Up close, we were able to compel many to drink, but this seemed only to infuriate them, and they fell upon us with great fury, shrugging off our gifts. Before long, a single swirling melee resulted in the centre of the road, as they attempted to surround us, beating us into submission and robbing us of our material wealth. 

One of our grotesques, the Porter, met with their particular displeasure. He was beaten to the floor, twitching and whimpering, and as I attempted to come to his aid, I saw one of their number step forward and bring her boot down on his neck, killing him. I weep to remember the cold hatred in their eyes.

Upon our poor grotesque's death, a tranquil fury came over us. Even as we were surrounded by more chain-wielding robbers emerging from the woods, we gave up on our generous gifts, cutting them down before we were forced to pull back. They recovered their injured, we recovered our dead.

I weep for humanity, that they should turn so far from beauty and pleasure. What hope remains for the world, when even the supposedly holy resort to such things?

We played the scenario The Procession, with the other warband being Flagellants, called the Dirty Scallops. The Flagellants could rob a model defeated in combat rather than injuring it, and the Decadent Cabal could use hypnosis to compel the other side to drink if they were near somebody to offer it: these were our main objectives for the fight. My grotesques didn't manage to achieve much, but hypnosis proved pretty useful. And having models with lots of spears, and enough disguises to prevent the enemy always being able to charge successfully, eventually let me turn the tide of the ensuing melee.

Our Mourning Interrupted

As we prepared to bury our beloved Porter, something unexpected happened. The poor wretch's carcass twitched, writhed and drew breath once more. It seems the touch of the plague refuses to let him die and reach his final reward, and he's condemned to remain among the damned on earth. Sorrowfully, we welcomed him back among our number. L'Var and I have set about mending his shattered neck.

It seems our recent tragedy has taught us hard truths. We grow cold, hard-eyed, cynical. Our mental scars make us ruthless fighters, but at what cost to our souls? Still, we were, at least, able to make a little money selling our gifts to the local peasants. Not all is lost.

Among those peasants, we seem to have made a friend. A local wise-woman, calling herself Black Peg. The Inquisitors of the Beast call her a witch, but we know better. She has herbs and potions, and we welcome her among our number.

After the battle, the one casualty returns, now undead. The survivors rolled for what they learned, mostly improving their speed, accuracy, and mental accuity.

I rolled for events after the battle, and got a Stranger - a Witch willing to be recruited to my warband. I had enough money saved up to hire her, and spent the rest on some more bows for my rakes.

* * * 

This isn't the first playtest of Black Death Walking, but it's my first using the campaign system. Suffice to say, I like it.

The game was on roll20. Here are some of the tokens I used! (art by wendy ribston).

Molly the Blue, my leader.

Nancy, a Rake armed with a bow.

Azure, a Mimic armed with a spear.

The Porter, a Grotesque who died ;__;

L'Shan, a Succubus and our narrator.

So, what is Black Death Walking?

In short, a skirmish wargame taking inspiration mostly from games like Mordheim. The setting is the mid 15th century, in a world devastated by the black death, then a zombie outbreak caused by that same plague, and then heaven deciding to kick off the apocalypse and smiting the world with four horsemen. It's bleak and grubby and inspired by black metal and grimdark wargames like turnip 28.
Each model is a character in its own right, and the warband as a whole has a destiny that calls to it. over the course of the campaign, your models will evolve as they learn and suffer injuries, and your warband will draw closer to their eventual destiny and end. The focus is much more on building a narrative than competitive play: while nothing is too unfair, the expectation is that balance is less important than being interesting.
Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with it so far. More updates soon, starting with this guest post from the other player!

Tuesday 31 May 2022

If Revue Starlight Was A PBTA Game

What it says on the tin.
If you've not seen review starlight, I don't know how to explain it to you. Go watch it. There's gay longing. There's a fun coming of age story. The show actually actually has some fairly in depth about art and the pursuit of perfection. There's musical numbers that are also sword-fights and also sometimes love scenes. One character is called banana and she's [spoiler redacted]. At one point a character stares directly into the camera to ask why you're watching this. There is a giraffe.
Look, it's really really good but also incredibly strange.
(this is based on my understanding from the anime and the film: if the stage shows or game contradict this pls don't be angry with me)

Seriously, watch this show.

So, a game. 
I'm also going to assume we all know how PBTA games work. I'm not gonna fuck with that too much. You don't need a GM for this: you're a GM while doing GM things.

Three stats, rated between -1 and +3. They are:

Drive. The ruthless urge to excel at all costs. 
Heart. The ability, and desire, to relate to others.
Glimmer. Artistic vision, the spark of inspiration.

When you make your PC, give them a stat each at -1, 0, and +1.


When a move is triggered, roll 2d6 and add the relevant stat. 6- is a miss, 7-9 a hit, 10+ an exquisite hit.

Tear Down
When you try to hurt somebody - physically, emotionally or materially - use this move.
Roll with Drive.
Miss: It backfires, making you vulnerable. Take a condition based on how it went wrong.
Hit: You hurt her, at a cost. Give her a Condition, and she gives you one.
Exquisite: You effortlessly lash out. Give her a Condition, and get a Connection to her.

When you try to get somebody to do what you want, use this move.
Roll with Drive.
Miss: It's obvious what you're up to. She gives you a Condition.
Hit: You're tempting. Give her a choice: do what you want and gain 1 Experience, or resist and let you give her a Condition.
Exquisite: You're incredibly persuasive. Give her a choice; do what you want and gain 1 Experience, or resist and let you give her a condition.

When you try to make somebody feel better, use this move.
Roll with Heart.
Miss: Things are just awkward. Each of you loses a Connection on the other.
Hit: There's some solace to be found. She chooses: one of you cures a Condition, and the other gets a Connection to her.
Exquisite: You both come out feeling better. Both of you can cure a Condition, and get a Connection with to other.

Vibe Check
When you probe somebody to work out what's up with her, use this move.
Roll with Heart.
Miss: Your interest is too forward. She gets a Connection on you.
Hit: You get a read on her. Ask her a question about what she's thinking or feeling, and she answers it. If her answer was completely honest, she tells you and gains 1 Experience.
Exquisite: You can intuit the truth. Ask her a question about what she's thinking or feeling, and she answers it. If her answer was completely honest, she tells you and gains 2 Experience. Otherwise, she gives herself a Condition.

When somebody is motivated or empowered by you, use this move.
A character can only benefit from being inspired by you once. If you inspire a new ambition in her, she can either keep her current ambition or over-ride it with a new one. A character can, however, be inspired by multiple other people at once.
Roll with Glimmer.
Miss: She's lead astray. You both take a Condition.
Hit: She finds a way to do better. She names an ambition, and until that ambition is completed, she can spend Connections to you to get +1 to rolls towards it. When the Ambition is achieved, she gains an Experience.
Exquisite: She find the makings of greatness. She names an ambition, and until that ambition is completed, she can spend Connections to you to get +1 to rolls towards it. When the Ambition is achieved, she gains an Experience. Further, create a new Truth about that Ambition, replacing any previous ones about it.

When you share a close, intimate moment alone with somebody, both of you use this move one after the other - the character who initiated the moment rolls first.
Roll with Glimmer.
Miss: Something's just... off for you. She picks one of you to lose a Connection to the other.
Hit: You grow closer to her. Pick one or both: either you offer her something you think she wants, or you both get a Connection to the other.
Exquisite: You share something special with her. Pick one or both: either you offer her something you think she wants, or you create a new Truth about only the two of you, replacing any previous ones about the pair of you.


Conditions are your current status, emotionally, socially and physically. If you get a Condition from a move or a Revue, it lasts until a move cures it, or you finish a Revue.

For each Condition you have, you take -1 when rolling for moves where that Condition gets in the way.

For each Condition you have, other people get +1 when rolling for moves where they can use that Condition against you.

A condition applies both literally and as a metaphor. EG, if you're "Looked Down On", that might mean you have a social disadvantage for being at the back of the class. But it could also mean your rival has the physical high ground over you in a duel.

Example Conditions include (but aren't limited to): Tired, Heartbroken, Retreating, Bruised, Confused, Lonely, Disarmed, Stumbling, Blinded, Unpopular, Aloof, Looked Down On, Cold.

You start play with one Condition; pick what.


Connections are a pool of points representing how much you mean to other characters. You track Connections to each other character seperately. EG, you might have 3 Connections to Claudine, 1 to Hikari, and none to anybody else.

After seeing the results of a dice roll, you can spend a Connection to somebody to give them +1 or -1 to a roll, or give +1 or -1 to a roll involving them. When you do, say how your influence helps or hinders.

When the game starts, pick two other characters you have some sort of relationship with. Give one of them a Connection to you, and get a Connection to the other.


Experience tracks how much you're learning and growing. Keep a tally of how much you have. Whenever you have time to reflect, you can spend five accumulated XP to learn something. Pick one of the following; you get +1 to an attribute (up to a maximum of +3), or you learn a new Trick.


Truths are ideas or themes that are, for want of a better word, true. They shape the world around them in subtle but powerful ways. They apply to everybody and everything, all the time; a Truth is for the entire story, not connected to an individual character.

Truths are defined with a simple phrase, no more than one clause. They deal with matters of emotions, ideals, ambitions and relationships.

Whenever a move succeeding would agree with with that Truth, that roll gets +1. Whenever a move succeeding would contradict a Truth, that roll gets -1. The effects of multiple Truths stack.

You collectively begin with a single Truth. Decide between you what it is.


A revue is a struggle for the spotlight, and to shape the narrative of the world. Contestants fight, debate and sing their hearts out so that they can seize the centre stage and embody their ideals.

They are also deeply, deeply surreal, with the set and props responding to the tempo of the fight, morphing to reflect the emotions between the two contestants.

During a Revue, you don't use the six moves on each other: all that is covered by Exchanges instead. You might make moves immediately before or after the revue, though.

A revue takes place between two contestants. When a Revue begins, each contestant states what they're fighting to prove: this becomes their stake in the Revue. 

A Revue is divided into Exchanges, where the contestants exchange words, blows and ideas in their struggle for dominance.

The first step in an exchange is to pick their strategy. Simultaneously, each contestant picks one of the following:

Yield, to give ground and try to recover.
Push, to press forward aggressively.
Dance, to carefully lead your rival.

A Yield beats Push, Push beats Dance, and Dance beats Yield.

They state how they'll use the situation in the fight to their advantage, what they're saying to their rival, and what this means. In each exchange after the first, what you say and how you fight should build on the events of the previous exchange.

Then, work out each contestant's score for the round. For this, add up:
If your strategy beat theirs, add +5 to your score.
Add +1 for each Condition your rival has that you can take advantage of.
Add +3 for each Truth that agrees with you.
Add +1 for each exchange you've already won.
Add your current Connections to her.
Add the result of a 2d6 dice roll.

Whoever's score is highest is the winner of the exchange. If both scores are the same, then the result is a stalemate.

If you win with a Push, inflict a Condition on your rival, and she loses a Connection to you.
If two Pushes tie, each of you inflicts a Condition on the other.
If you win with a Yield, cure yourself of a Condition, and gain a Connection on your rival.
If two Yields tie, each off you cures yourself of a Condition
If you win with a Dance, gain a Connection on your Rival.
If two Dances tie, Each of you gains a Connection on the other.
Regardless of which happens

Most revues will last for three exchanges, or until one contestant relents. If it goes to the end, the overall winner is whoever won the final exchange.

At the end of a Revue, both rivals are cured of all their conditions. Whatever the winner was fighting to prove becomes a new Truth. If she won because her rival relented, however, then if she wishes, the pair may instead decide to create an entirely different truth between them, based on the events of the Revue.


The game is divided into normal fluid play, which everybody can involve themselves in, punctuated by Revues between two characters.

Each episode, a character has one Revue against another character they've not yet had a Revue against. Decide a dramatically appropriate time for it to happen. If there's an odd number of characters, pick somebody to sit out who hasn't yet.

Once Everybody's had their review for the episode, start a new one. An episode may need to last multiple sessions.

Decide how long you want the story to last. After that many episodes, whoever's won the most Revue's wins the auditions. In the event of a tie, run tie-breakers until there's a clear winner.

Whoever wins the Revue gets to pick a single Truth from those that have built up over the course of the story. Fuelled by the stolen spark of everybody else, they make a performance that truly embodies that Truth, and that Truth (and only that Truth) lasts beyond the current story. Reality may warp quite a lot to accommodate this.

If you choose to play more stories in the same continuity, you can. The Truths chosen by every previous winner are added to the game's starting Truths. You can keep the same character you played before, if you want, but her spark has been stolen. Reset her stats to -1/0/+1, and keep only one of her Tricks. Her Connections and Conditions carry over. New characters are created as normal, and then you begin again.


Tricks are unique facets of a character that let them interact with the world (and mechanics) in new ways.

Supporter: You can spend Connections on somebody to give her +1 to her score for an Exchange when she's in a Revue.
Underdog: If you can turn a condition you're suffering from to your advantage, you get +1 to a roll.
Favouritism: If somebody becomes your favourite person, say who and why. Spending your Connections to your favourite person counts double, but you need to spend two Connections to get +1 for everybody else.
Dreamer: When rolling for moves, you get +2 when following an Ambition or benefiting from a Truth, not +1.
Slippery: If your rival's strategy beats yours in a Revue, they only get +3 for it.
Talented: In a Revue, you get +2 for every Exchange you've already won, not +1.
Curious: Whenever somebody rolls a move on you, you can ask "Why did you do that?" - if they answer honestly, they get a Connection to you.
Favourite Tactic: Pick either Yield, Push or Dance to be your favoured tactic. You get +2 to your score when you use that Tactic.
Metafiction Savvy: You can talk to the players by talking to the Giraffe.

You start out with one Trick, and can gain more as the story progresses.


Listen, interpretations may vary, but if you play this game and it's not very very gay, I shake my head at you in disapproval.


You can assume any out-of-character commentary you make is also being made by the Giraffe. To get into the spirit of things, say "I understand" a lot out of character.