The new and improved defender of RPGs!

Thursday 7 May 2015

Dark Albion: The Rose War PREVIEW: The Critical Table

I've just recently received the latest update from Dominique Crouzet, as he proceeds with the final layout for Dark Albion: The Rose War.  In case you've not been reading my blog until now, "Albion" is going to be an epic OSR-setting book in a fantasy version of the War of the Roses, the civil war in England that was, among other things, the inspiration for a huge list of Shakespeare's plays and a little thing called Game of Thrones.

The book will focus on both playability and historical authenticity, ideal for a fairly gritty style of D&D play. It will be viable for Sandbox play or for a more linear sort of 'historical campaign', and will feature plenty of elements for both old-school adventuring with a medieval-authentic twist, or for political-intrigue gaming in the style of everyone's favorite fantasy TV show.  And just like Game of Thrones, there's a very good chance that all your favorite characters will be dead before it's over.

The layout process is up to 200 pages now, and thanks to Mr. Crouzet it looks stunningly gorgeous.  It's going to be jam-packed with spectacular medieval/early-renaissance art, magnificent maps (ranging from a full-sized two-page hexmap of Albion & The Continent, to localized hexmaps of specific counties or regions), and some awesome schematics of some fairly unusual dungeons.  You can find a sample of the type of setting-gazetteer material here in what was the early origins of the setting, though the print version will be widely expanded and will feature a lot of other material you won't find on that thread, not to mention looking much prettier.

It will include guidelines on rules, new magic rules (including a medieval-esque system of demon summoning), lots of material on the Continent, the evil Frogmen, the Church of the Unconquered Sun, a set of rules for managing noble houses (their resources, mechanics for using house influence, and a simple resolution system for large battles), and plenty more!  There's going to be historically-based rules on law and justice, on economics and prices, social class, sumptuary laws, historically-accurate common names by region, lots of tables for random events and encounters, and house descriptions (and heraldry) for the major and minor noble houses that played a part in the Rose War.

The book will not contain its own full-blown game system.  But it will have two very interesting appendices: the first, written by Dominique Crouzet, will be a conversion appendix with lots of interesting new powers and classes for his Fantastic Heroes & Witchery RPG rules!  Any FH&W fan will want to take a look at this.  In addition to this appendix, and all the editing/layout work, Dominque also helped co-write several of the adventure scenarios in the book, as well as some of the other sections.

The second will be "Appendix P", which are my own old-school D&D house rules.  A mix of stuff I've used from a variety of sources and of my own inspiration, these house rules are pretty ideal for creating a particularly gritty game for old-school play.

Today's preview comes from these house rules, and it's my Critical hit rules.  Perfect for making sure that even a great hero might die at any moment from an unlucky break (again, just like what happens to some of our most beloved characters in a certain HBO TV show..).  Without further ado, here they are, straight from "Appendix P":

Optional Critical Rules (for ultra-gritty play)

Given that Dark Albion is inspired by the very bloody War of the Roses, and gamers may also be inspired by the bloodiness of certain fantasy novels and TV shows that are inspired by and have the same style as the Rose War, it may be desirable to have some rules for those types of critical hits that leave characters with terrible and often permanent disfigurement, or even instant death to even the greatest of warriors.

Whenever a natural 20 is scored on an attack roll it is a critical hit. In that case, roll 1d20, modified by Charisma. Fighters also add their level to the result. Modify the details of the results according to what is sensible for the kind of strike made. 

D20 result
1-3 A serious cut or bash that does an extra +1d4 damage!

4-6 A severe cut that will leave a bad scar on the body, but can be hid by clothing. +1d4 damage!

7-9 A severe strike that in some way leaves a scar or disfigurement on the face (a gash, burn, etc.); +1d4 damage AND a -1 to reaction rolls in any situation where physical beauty would matter

10-11 A very bad wound that bleeds profusely! +1d6 damage, and the character loses a further -1 hp per round from bleeding until he receives some form of first aid from a qualified person.

12 Character loses a finger on one hand (roll randomly). The character must make a saving throw to avoid dropping anything held in that hand. If it is a dominant hand, the victim will have a -1 to hit in combat until the next time they gain a level.

13 A bad injury (+1d4 damage), make a saving throw to avoid falling to the ground. The wound leaves the victim in constant pain. They only heal ½ as much from regular methods, and suffer insomnia. May turn to drugs for pain-free sleep.

14 A bad injury (+1d4 damage) to a leg; the victim falls to the ground and cannot get up without aid until healed. The victim will suffer from a permanent limp, only able to run at half-speed from then on.

15 A bad injury (+1d4 damage) to an arm (roll randomly to determine which); the victim drops anything held with that arm. If it is the dominant arm, the PC will have a -2 penalty to all to-hit rolls until they gain a level, at which point it will be reduced to a permanent -1 penalty.

16 A severe strike (+2d6 damage) to a muscle of the torso; the victim must make a saving throw to avoid collapsing in shock. The character from that point on can only carry half as many objects without penalty, and can only march for half as long in a day without suffering exhaustion.

17 A brutal strike to the groin (+1d6 damage, plus losing -1 hp per round until receiving first aid); the victim must make a saving throw to avoid collapsing in shock. Any male who survives is left permanently impotent; which will have enormous (negative) social consequences if it is known!

18 A brutal strike to the throat (+1d6 damage)! The victim must make a saving throw versus paralysis or begin to asphyxiate (they will pass out in 1d6 rounds and die in a number of rounds equal to their CON if they do not receive aid from a trained surgeon!). If the victim survives he must make a saving throw; failure means the character can no longer speak (success still leaves the voice changed).

19 A strike to the spine (+2d6 damage!); the victim falls to the ground and cannot get up, and must make a saving throw to avoid passing out from shock. If they survive the battle, a second saving throw is required; failure means the victim will never walk again (barring magical intervention).

20 A brutal strike to the head (+1d8 damage); requiring an immediate saving throw, failure means the head was sliced open or bashed in, and the victim is instantly killed. If the first saving throw succeeds, the victim falls to the ground unconscious. A second saving throw is required if the victim survives the battle; failure means they have lost the use of one eye (with penalties to perception, to hit in melee, and severe penalties to ranged attacks).

21+ An extreme and vicious blow! The victim must make a saving throw, if they fail the roll they are instantly slain (decapitated, cut in half, snapped like a twig, etc.). Even if they succeed the save they take triple the usual damage.

Dark Albion: The Rose War should be available for sale some time in June.


Currently Smoking: Stanwell Deluxe + Image Latakia


  1. The more bits of this I read, the more I like what I see! Very much anticipating this, as well as Mr. Crouzet's Blasphemous Bestiary...

  2. So when is this coming out?

    1. Probably the second half of June, but right now we can't give a definitive date.

    2. Sounds good! I'll likely pick it up when it releases.
      Slight professional question: Will this critical hit chart be considered OGL open content? Because I really, really want to steal it for my own settings.

    3. I'd have to check with my publisher on that. What settings do you publish? Sorry for my ignorance...

    4. Dark Albion is going to be 260 pages long. The last 30-35 pages are the appendix with rules suggestions, where the critical chart will be found. My intent is to turn these appendix pages into Open Gaming Content, if RPGpundit is okay with that. (Setting description will be close content)

    5. I would indeed be ok with Appendix P being open gaming content.

    6. I do a bunch of Pathfinder stuff, mostly modern magic or mixed genre: Black Tokyo (hentai horror/investigation), Psi-Watch (militaristic supers), Otherverse America (politics & military sci-fi) and Heavy Future (70s flavored sleezy space opera). They're all pretty violent settings, and a crit chart like that is definitely in genre for all of them.

      I know you only review print books, and all of these settings are PDF only, but if you ever want to read any of them, send me an email and I'll send you some copies.

    7. Thanks Chris! Feel free to use the table, just give me due credit for it.

  3. Sounds cool and an era ripe for roleplaying. Is it magic-free? I haven't read all your Albion stuff. Wouldn't mind playing in a York/Lancaster type setting as long as there's no magic and healing potions and what not to turn it silly.

    1. No, it's not magic free, but it is "low-magic". There was very powerful magic long ago (in what would have been the "pagan" eras) but now it is much less powerful.
      The whole game works with low level-ranges; the most powerful (human) characters in the world are not quite at 15th level, and the vast majority of people in the setting are under 5th.

    2. If you are the GM, it's not difficult to turn it into a magic-free setting. The real problem would be of making entertaining adventures that are magic free for a whole campaign.

    3. That's not really so hard, if you have the right group. The thing is, not every group digs strictly-historical play.
      However, if what you wanted was to run a strictly-historical "War of the Roses" campaign, this would be an INVALUABLE sourcebook for you.

    4. I've never had any problem making interesting adventures in worlds free of magic. In fact most games I play are free of it. Fantasy is about my least favorite genre of games or books or other entertainments.

      One needn't be "strictly historical" to leave out magic. One can have a fantasy world devoid of magic. Been there, done that. Also: the real world is far more interesting than any magic-filled fantasy world anyone might invent, so the idea that magic is necessary for entertainment is a false premise.

  4. Sounds like a setting that plays great with ACKS. :)

    1. Quite likely, yes! My house-management stuff is much, much less complex than ACKS. ACKS is for the guy who wants detail. Mine is more for the guy who wants some abstract numbers to represent a house's economic, military and political power, and ways to use that without having to do too much accountancy.

  5. Fantastic! Looks like a campaign book of my dream.

    (I am not yet sure I will be happy with the Critical Rules here presented, but they are optional anyway).

    1. The critical rules, as well as most rules suggestions are in the appendix. You are certainly free to ignore them. There are suggestions to play the game with FH&W (in the appendix), but this cannot stop one to run the game with ACKS (as Florian wants to do) for instance...

    2. Yes. The bulk of the book is set up with an OSR-system-neutral tone (that is, generic-enough lingo that you can use it with any OSR rule-set without having to change stuff around).

    3. What the heck is FH&W? You geeks and your abbreviations!

    4. Fantastic Heroes & Witchery; one of the best OSR rule-sets around!

  6. Looking forward to this. Please keep us appraised as to when and where we should give you our moneys!

  7. Replies
    1. There's no reason why it wouldn't be. The language is in old D&D terminology but it's close enough.