Houses of the Blooded
This weekend I got a chance to play in a demo of a new RPG game, Houses of the Blooded. What makes this RPG different from most others on the market is that it is a cooperative narrative RPG with the mechanics designed specifically to allow the players to directly add or alter the game world. That's right, the players can actually narrate a change to the story that the GM can just roll into the game. This is a world of hidden wars, seduction, vengeance. Humans are just the servants and fodder of a dying race, the Ven. Each player is a Ven, a noble, of one of six houses. Each house exemplifies a specific Virtue (Attribute or Characteristic in most other RPGs) and each character has to select one Virtue that they lack. The Virtues, and their houses, are Strength (Bear), Cunning (Elk), Courage (Falcon), Beauty (Fox), Wisdom (Serpent) and Prowess (Wolf). Players assign an array of values to the attributes (4,3,3,2,2) and increase the Virtue that belongs to their house by 1. Yes, there are only 5 values for the 6 virtues. One Virtue will be 0 and can't be the player's House. E.g. If the player chooses Bear as her house, then after assigning the array, she increases her Strength by 1. Each character also has a few aspects based on their age. Aspects have 3 parts, Invoke, Tag and Compel, except for the final ones, Solace Aspects. Invoke is the condition under which the player can set off their aspect and gain 3 dice for a Risk roll. Tag is the condition that someone else can gain dice against the player and Compel is something someone can try and force the player to do by paying a point of style. An example Aspect: I pull the Strings Invoke: 3 Dice for getting someone to do something I want Tag: Sometimes the strings pull back (2 Dice to someone making me do something for them) Compel: Must meddle in some affair The main book comes with a number of example Aspects and guidelines for letting players create their own. Style is the last major aspect of the game and is a form of "currency". It can be awarded by the GM to the players for aiding or twisting the story. Style is also used to Compel an Aspect of another character, or even to create an Aspect in the story (such as causing a place to catch on fire to help the player escape or defeat an opponent). Risks are what the players need to take to be able to affect the narrative. To perform a risk, the player declares what they are wanting to do. The GM determines what Virtue is needed for the action, and if the players want to add dice, they can check to see if their Aspects will help and potentially Tag others Aspects if appropriate. With the pool gathered, the player decides how many dice to hold back from the roll. These dice are known as the Wager. The remaining dice are rolled and totaled with a target of 10 to succeed. If the player rolls at least a 10, then each of the dice Wagered become a detail the player can add to the Narrative. If the player fails to roll 10 or more, then the wagered dice are lost. In a contested roll, the participants secretly decide how many dice to wager and how many to roll. Each is trying for 10 or more on the roll, but is also trying to beat the roll of the opponent. The player or NPC with the highest total that exceeds 10 keeps all their wagered dice. The opponents that made at least 10 lose half their wagered dice (round down) and those that fail to beat 10 lose all their wagered dice. With the basics down, we all created characters and the game began. Creating the characters took just a few minutes witht he most time being spent on picking Aspects from the main book. The story started simply. "Someone has been wronged." This led to all of us rolling a risk. The winner of the Risk got to add a detail to the narrative, "It was one of the players", then chose which player was next to spend a Wager. This kept going until all the players had either spent all their wagers or cashed them in for Style. The final details were that I had been wronged in a business deal that had turned personal (mixing business with a bit of pleasure). She had taken me for quite a bit of money (skimmed it off the books of the shipwright company we had going together). I sought out the assistance of my fellow Nobles (the other players at the table) to seek vengeance against her. With their assistance gained, I followed protocol and sought out my Liege, a Duchess, for permission to go before the Senate to plead my case for formal Vengeance (the only way one can legitimately attack another noble directly without it being murder). We all had a week to prepare, at which time she and I became legal for anyone to attack and kill (as she and I were wearing the red of vengeance as required by Senate Law). Each thought we had resulted in the GM telling us what Virtue that would fit under and whether any of our available Aspects were appropriate. The first thing one of the other nobles did was figure out a way to muck with the Castellan of her house who had come before the Senate to plead her case. Turns out another noble was with her Castellan and, in a twist, he was her father (detail added by me as to what her relationship was with the gentleman). He made a deal with us that he wouldn't assist his daughter in my downfall as her lands would revert to him upon her death. As the week came to a close, we headed out to her lands. One of the players knew of a secret route (detailed added thanks to his Aspect). Her Manse was well secured, but we were able to find a hidden door in. Unfortunately she, and a retinue of guards, was right on the other side waiting for us. In her treachery the person before me wasn't really her, but I saw through the deceit and was able to successfully defend myself. I injured her in my counterattack, and somehow the wound became worse and she fell over dead. Hidden in the doorway was her father who had used sorcery in secret to aid us in the fight. That is where our tale ended (store was closing). All-in-all this is an interesting game system to play under, but it does require players and a GM who are good at thinking on their feet. There does seem to be a bias in the usefulness of the various Virtues with Cunning and Wisdom being the two most often used throughout the session (about 90% of the rolls seemed to use one or the other). The biggest dump stat for most characters would seem to be either Strength or Prowess as it might be possible to utilize other stats to influence the game to get someone (like an NPC) to fight for them.