The ability scores of a Dragon Warriors hero represents the foundation on which the character must build his legend and their nascent talent in the arts of adventure that will be shaped through professional training.
But any set of numbers without context is meaningless, and each of the chapters in this section will not simply describe each of the Dragon Warriors' ability scores (which you can get from the main rulebook), but provide context and, hopefully, some useful information about how to use these scores in the game for more than just resisting poison or modifying secondary ability scores.
This section also looks to expand on the number of numbers by which a Dragon Warriors hero is defined, introducing new abilities with which to resolve social encounters: guile, conviction, renown, and recognition. And one of the most important numbers of all, a character's rank, gets its own treatment.
- Roleplaying Low Ability Scores
- Minimum Ability Scores for a Profession
- Looks vs. Presence
- Awarding Experience Points
- Guile & Conviction
- Renown & Recognition
- Game Mechanics vs. Realism
- Rolling the Dice
Roleplaying Low Ability Scores
High scores are less of a challenge to role-play than low scores, but an easy game is no fun at all! GMs and players should be encouraged not to shy away from low scores but to embrace them as part of their character. Ideas for how to do that are listed for each ability score, below.
A low Strength score does not just mean your character is weak, perhaps he is weak because he is old, which introduces its own role-playing opportunities. Maybe being weak has meant he has avoided manual labour and combat, reinforcing his attitude that he is 'above that sort of thing', treating labourers, mercenaries and even Knights as second-class citizens. Characters with low scores in one or more of their primary characteristics may be envious of those with higher scores and be standoffish or rude in their dealings with them. Indeed, a low primary characteristic could be a motivation for adventuring in the first place - continuing with the example of a low Strength score, the character may wish to prove himself worthy in the eyes of his farming friends or thinks the exercise of adventuring will improve his Strength score. Also remember that a low characteristic score does not make a character useless - a weak character may not hit as often or as hard as a strong character, but there is plenty they can do during combat; even if it is just to yell for the town guard or run to get reinforcements!
A low Reflexes score does not necessarily just mean the character is clumsy and a low score should be seen as an opportunity to flesh out the character's background - a low Reflexes score could be the result of having a wooden leg or suffering an other sort of major wound before beginning their adventuring career. Maybe, again, the character quests to find a way of restoring his health.
A low Reflexes score is not just about balance, though, but also fine motor control - maybe a sorcerer with a low Reflexes score has 'seen too much' and suffers bouts of hand tremors and twitching.
A low Intelligence score as much reflects what a character knows as it does their speed of thought, and a character with low Intelligence may have led a very sheltered life, which immediately introduces a motivation for adventuring - to see the world!
A character with a low Intelligence score may spend their experience on additional lore skills and approach every new land, race and encounter with awe. The player should also be free to solve puzzles and have ideas, even if playing a character with a very low intelligence score - after all, even the dim-witted can have flashes of genius!
Psychic Talent has a very limited impact on role-playing and non-magickers are unlikely to notice their lack of magical aptitude at lower ranks. However, being unable to feel something other characters feel may make the character with a low Psychic Talent score feel like they are missing out on some important experience, something they are unable to express or put their finger on, but yearn to one day feel themselves.
Lastly, Presence, which has the biggest role-playing effect on the character, can be the hardest to role-play well. Whilst being 'ugly' may account for a slightly below-average Presence score, a truly low Presence score comes from a character's lack of self-respect and confidence, combined with a lack of etiquette, plain rudeness and ignorance. Also, unlike other characteristics, no-one is born with an exceptionally low Presence score and the character's background is likely to be littered with events that have eroded the character's belief in themselves - an accidental death, an abusive family, slavery, depression, etc. A character with a low Presence score could be adventuring to get away from something or maybe has been driven out of his community for some reason. Characters with a low Presence score may also be suffering from a madness or two.
Minimum Ability Scores for Professions
If a characteristic drops below the minimum required to enter a profession due to major wounds or age, for example, or wants to enter a profession without the requisite scores, they may do so but may struggle to advance as quickly as their more qualified counterparts.
Each time the character with insufficient primary ability scores is ready to go up in rank, roll 3d6. If the 3d6 roll is under all of the characteristics that are below the profession's minimum requirements, they may train to increase in rank as normal. Otherwise, the character loses as many Experience Points as they rolled on the 3d6 and must regain those Experience Points before they can attempt once again to go up in rank.
Looks vs. Presence
I always took issue with the Looks score in Dragon Warriors as it never seemed to add much to a character. Indeed, I always preferred to leave what a character looked like up to the player. However, I can see the value of an ability score that measures a character's social and leadership aptitudes, bravery (or just bravado), confidence and strength of self-image. Presence is such a score and whilst it still has the least effect on game mechanics, it is now a more encompassing ability and is used to determine reactions, first impressions, loyalty, etc., and how the character conducts himself in social situations.
Changing Looks to Presence and giving it a meaningful definition that can be applied to game effects, makes less of a 'dump' statistic:
|3-5||-1 Stealth; -1 Magical Defence; -2 Conviction|
|16-18||+1 Stealth; +1 Magical Defence; +2 Conviction|
|19+||+2 Stealth; +1 Magical Defence; +3 Conviction|
In one of Dave Morris's blog posts, in which he talks about a Dragon Warriors version 2, he mentions that Charisma would replace Looks and, presumably, become a more useful ability score within the game mechanics.
Heroes that explore Legend, face its many challenges (successfully, or otherwise...), and open their minds to the possibility that more than they could ever know is waiting to be discovered, delved, and understood will gain experience. Experience is no mere boon for fighting trolls, disarming traps, or learning new spells, it is the essence of everything the character is becoming as he adventures with a value beyond wealth, land or power.
In game terms, gains in experience equate to progress in their professional career and when a character has amassed enough experience, is then ready to progress to the next rank. The terms 'Rank' and 'Experience' are game terms: knights do not walk around boasting that they are 3rd rank or 7th rank (although they may boast about campaigns in which they have fought and trophies from fallen enemies they have collected, which may give an astute player an inkling as to their rank), nor do characters necessarily know that they just need to kill one more goblin or cast one more spell to be ready to progress to the next rank, the character comprehends it as a gradual awareness that they are capable of more and that they should probably find an instructor to help them develop these burgeoning talents.
GMs are responsible for the speed at which characters advance by awarding (or otherwise) experience points (XP). XP are awarded principally for surviving an adventure, overcoming obstacles, and role-playing. Experience awards are not made until the end of an adventure or some other appropriate break during which a character will have sufficient time to reflect upon recent events. GMs should remember that experience awards are as much a reward for the player's contribution to the game as the character's success (or otherwise...) in an adventure.
Surviving an adventure should be worth, on average, about 5XP for each character. Adventures that did not require the characters to think much or did not put them in much danger (in addition to being poorly written adventures!) should be worth fewer than 5 (to a minimum of 1). Adventures that carried great risk and sacrifice, may be worth as many as 10.
Each party member will get the full adventure experience award, it is not divided between all party members.
Combat and Creatures
All combat encounters use an additional attribute called Rank Equivalence, which is designed to give the GM a general idea of an opponent's combat ability compared to an average knight. This is only a guide and a fully armed and armoured knight is a significantly greater threat than the equivalently ranked knight without his arms and armour (the same can be said for any magicker profession either with or without their reserves of magic).
It is not necessarily important to 'kill' an opponent to defeat it and as much (if not more) experience should be awarded for outwitting or evading an encounter as blundering through it! To paraphrase Sun Tzu, winning shows strength, but winning without fighting shows skill.
Combat experience is totalled and divided between all party members (rounded down). Before making an award of experience, GMs should also consider the danger in which a combat put the characters or the cleverness of the tactics used. Some combats may not be worth even a single experience point (consider a gang of seven PCs surrounding a single giant rat).
A surly sage whose advice the party need; a trap that blocks the way to the bandit's treasure chamber or even something as simple as a locked door are all examples of challenges that are as real an obstacle as any horde or rats or zombie guardian. Overcoming these obstacles may require cunning, skill and risk in as much measure as any combat and should therefore have a rank equivalence rating.
Overcoming an obstacle with 'just' a skill check is not worth XP. However, a challenge requiring party cunning and preparation in advance of a skill check should be worth the full rank equivalence of that obstacle. As a guideline, a skill check difficulty of 15 has a Rank Equivalence of 1 and each step increase in the difficulty also increases the rank equivalence. Some obstacles may require multiple skill rolls to overcome (detecting and then disarming a trap, for example) and the rank equivalence of that encounter is equal to the highest skill check difficulty of all the checks required to overcome or bypass that obstacle. Parties that only partially succeed, may deserve half the award, at the GM's discretion.
As with combat encounters, the total experience award for non-combat encounters is divided between all party members (rounded down).
In addition to overcoming creatures and obstacles, the GM should award experience for good role-playing, good ideas, involving others in the game, creative use of skills, powers or equipment, incorporating their backgrounds into the adventure, etc., each of which could be worth an extra XP or two under the right circumstances. Creativity and actions taken to advance the story are important to the game and should be rewarded.
Not all characters glean equal experience from the same events. An Armsman may learn important techniques from fighting an orc raiding party, whereas a Sorcerer will discover nothing about the arcane magical arts to which he has devoted his life. In addition to the standard adventure awards for meeting the adventure goals and overcoming the obstacles, some professions may benefit slightly more than others if an adventure is skewed towards specific types of events. It is up to the GM if he wants to award a single amount of experience for every party member or distribute different awards to each character and the following sections discuss some options for giving individual experience awards. Experience for achieving adventure goals and overcoming obstacles in which the characters acted together should still be distributed to all characters.
Armsmen and Knights receive an extra bonus to their experience award equivalent to a tenth of the total XPs awarded for creatures fought (rounded down). That is to say if, during the course of an adventure, 4 PCs slew 16 rank-equivalents of creatures, they would each get 4XP at the end of the adventure. However, the fighters in the party would receive an extra 1.6 (rounded to 1).
Combat does not benefit the spell-casting professions the same way as for the fighters, but these magickers earn extra experience from the spells that they cast. Upon casting a spell for the first time in a stressful situation (whilst on an adventure, for example), magickers receive 1XP. Plus, for each time they use a spell in a novel, creative and unique way, they receive a further point. In this way, for example, a sorcerer could earn 5 (or more) extra experience points on his first adventure just by finding a useful way to cast all 5 of his spells for the first time - probably much more than a fighter could earn through combat. However, in the next adventure, a sorcerer would probably have fewer opportunities to use one of his spells in a new and creative way, meaning that over time it should all even out.
Each of the professions' individual awards are included in the profession descriptions and not repeated here.
Against All Odds
If the character has one or more primary ability scores (not including Presence) below 9, award an additional XP for that adventure to that character. Additionally, if a character is at least two ranks below the party average, award an additional XP to represent what they have picked up from the other characters' greater experience.
Not all of the professions have specific objectives for which they can enjoy bonuses to their XP awards by accomplishing. Disciples and knights may have patrons to whom to answer, in whose name they quest and for which they will be rewarded with experience bonuses when they succeed, but an elementer has no such patron to serve, an armsman quests in his own name, but they should not be doomed to fall further and further behind their companions in experience.
The beauty of role-playing games is that the player can just as easily define a goal for a character as the professional archetype. A character with a rich background and reason for throwing himself into danger should be rewarded for striving towards the goals the player has set out for his character, just as a knight or disciple should be for striving to accomplish their patron's goal. As a rule of thumb, if a player brings some element of their background into play for the benefit of the adventure goal or their personal goal, they should be awarded additional experience. The GM is also encouraged to write adventures around a particular character's background in which the whole party can be brought together (and from which the character concerned should receive slightly more experience than the others).
This is not to say that characters like knights or disciples, who currently already have a liege, should not also have backgrounds from which they can benefit, and all characters, regardless of profession, should be encouraged to have as rich a character background as they can concoct. Devout non-disciple characters should gain experience for converting people to their faith and despoiling the despotic plans of enemy gods just as a disciple would and if a chivalrous armsman leads from the front, they should get the award that would ordinarily have been due to a knight in a similar situation.
Each new character begins as a young adventurer of 1st rank. This is not to say that they are lowly or incapable, merely inexperienced; the years of demanding training they have endured to reach 1st rank has given them skills and talents that would impress the common folk of Legend. However, whilst 1st rank is indeed a worthy accomplishment, it is not, by far, all that a Dragon Warrior can achieve!
Characters may not understand rank, but they understand titles. A 4th rank character is no mere adventurer and a 12th rank character is no mere hero. Professional titles add depth to a character and the GM is encouraged to grant titles to characters as they progress through the ranks. Knights might be offered lands and noble titles (e.g., baron, earl, etc.), Armsmen may receive military commissions (e.g., sergeant, captain, etc.) and Mystics may receive monastic positions (e.g., abbot, brother, etc.). Of course, along with the status and privilege titles infer, they also come with responsibilities – a Sergeant of Highgrove Keep may enjoy hospitality and other services at the Keep, but may also be expected to serve a sentry duty or two each month and the High Mage of the Kingdom of Aggalat will enjoy research materials and libraries that are second to none, but will be expected to use them for the benefit of the Kingdom, not (just) his personal projects. Such obligations could be opportunities for role-playing or played out between adventures.
Titles do not have to be given at specific ranks for specific professions - anyone could become Warder of the Grey Pass at any time, it need not be a militant Elementer of 3rd rank. Nor should new titles be given to every profession at every new rank or they will become a burden to a character or, worse, they will be so passé that the players will not think them special. Titles should instead be used as character rewards to confer to them a status or give them access to additional resources as the character increases in rank.
A character's Intelligence score covers more than just how easily they can solve puzzles or pick up new skills, it also represents a character's aptitude and how effectively he can convert experiences into practical applications. Consequently, a character may not achieve a rank in any profession higher than his Intelligence score (although characters can continue to use their experience points to learn new skills, etc.).
Guile & Conviction
In a world of egomaniacal demagogues, conniving scoundrels, greedy merchants and corrupt courtiers, a character’s ability to distinguish between lies and truth can be as important to the success of a quest as being able to parry the axe of an angry barbarian. Occasionally, and despite being paragons of virtue and heroism, there may even be times when characters wish to employ deception themselves, either by lying directly or hiding their true motives and emotions.Download supplementary Guile & Conviction rules for Dragon Warriors
Renown & Recognition
Game Mechanics vs. Realism
Strength, for example, has such a significant effect on the game mechanics of Dragon Warriors in terms of combat, encumbrance, metabolic resistances, etc., that it perhaps summarises too much about a character without providing discrete information about all it represents - is a character with a high Strength score blessed with the stamina of a marathon runner, the strength of an Olympic weightlifter, a resistance to disease and poisons, or all three? Clearly a high Strength score makes a character exceptional, but maybe not in all ways.
Dragon Warriors is but a game and the rules are designed to be simple to facilitate play, not to recreate the nuances of the Human condition. Each of the ability scores by which a character is defined will cover such a broad aspect of the character that it is part of the player's role to interpret these numbers to create unique characters where they would otherwise be an identical list of numbers.
Some GMs may simply allow a character to increase in rank as and when they have enough experience to do so, immediately gaining all the increases to their secondary ability scores as are due to them. However, an alternative is to make a character undergo some training to cement their experiences into usable skills and techniques. Training also offers the GM an opportunity to slow down the pace of the game, relieve the characters of some of their excess silver, and provide an opportunity for players to experiment with another character whilst their 'main' character is busy training.
Time to Train
The time it takes to train each secondary ability score is determined by the current value of the ability, meaning that the better a character is at something, the longer it takes for him to improve. Also, some abilities are easier to train than others and the total time to train is calculated by multiplying the character's current ability score by the multiplier, below:
Insert multiplier table here
It will quickly become apparent that training a magicker is much more time-consuming than training the other professions.
Lastly, some professions receive multiple increases in the same ability, each of which must be trained separately.
Fergus, a first rank Armsman of average ability, seeks to train for second rank. His Attack score needs to improve from 13 to 14 (taking 13 days); Health Points from 12 to 13 (taking 36 days – the Armsman's current HP of 12 multiplied by the HP multiplier of 3); Magical Defence from 3 to 4 (taking 6 days); Stealth from 3 to 4 (taking 3 days) and Perception from 11 to 12 (taking 22 days). After a total of 70 days' training, Fergus has the abilities of a second rank Armsman.
By contrast, Lyona, an equally average character, is ready for her second rank as a Sorcerer, needing training in Defence, Magical Attack, Magical Defence, Stealth, Perception and Magic Points. Her Defence score needs to improve from 2 to 3 (taking 4 days); Magical Attack from 15 to 16 (taking 45 days); Magical Defence from 5 to 6 (taking 10 days); Stealth from 3 to 4 (taking 3 days); Perception from 11 to 12 (taking 22 days); Magic Points increase from 4 to 8, but each of these must be trained individually – from 4 to 5 (taking 4 days), then 5 to 6 (taking 5 days), then 6 to 7 (taking 6 days) and then finally from 7 to 8 (taking 7 days). After a total of 106 days' training, Lyona has the abilities of a second rank Sorcerer.
Spells take 4 days to learn for each level of the spell. For example, a level 1 Dragonbreath spell takes a mere 4 days to learn, but a level 9 Vorpal Bow spell will take 36 days' study to master.
Of all the character's primary abilities, Strength is the only one that can be improved through hard training. To increase his Strength score for the first time, a character must train for a number of weeks equal to the new score to which the character wishes to take his Strength and spend the same number of XP. Subsequent improvements in Strength cost double this initial value. Strength may be improved a maximum of 5 times.
Lyona wishes to improve her Strength score from 8 to 9, spending 9 weeks and costing 9XP. To improve further, she would have to spend 18 weeks and spend 18XP for each additional improvement to her Strength score, up to a maximum of 13.
If a character has suffered a major and/or crippling injury that affects his Strength score, it cannot be trained again until that wound is healed.
Elementers, Mystics and Sorcerers (not Disciples - their spells are gifts from their Divine Liege and may not be improved through practice) may practise their spells to be able to cast them as if boosted with a single magic point (or equivalent penalty to a Mystic's psychic fatigue check). To practise a spell requires 3 months of time per level of the spell and an equivalent number of XPs. The nature of this boost must be fixed at the time of the training (e.g., if a Sorcerer practices Dragonbreath to be able to cause an extra point of damage, he could not later cast Dragonbreath with increased Speed without spending an additional Magic Point during the casting).
A single spell may be practised multiple times, but each subsequent period of training the same spell doubles the cost in time and experience.
To practise casting Dragonbreath to cause an extra Health Point of damage would take 3 months and cost Lyona 3XP. To then practise casting Dragonbreath to also increase the flames' Speed by 1 would take a further 6 months and 6XP. The next improvement would take 12 weeks and cost 12XP, etc. Even spending all this time on Dragonbreath, if Lyona wanted to then practise casting Moonglow to last past the first failed Spell Expiry would take only 3 months and cost her 3XP.
Sorcerer Rituals may not be practised, nor may Elementers practise spells from their minor elements.
Training With Weapons and Armour
Just as magickers can practise their spells to become more proficient in their use, Knights and Armsmen may choose to spend their experience to become masters of their chosen arms.
All bonuses from weapon and armour mastery stack with magical bonuses, should the fighter be lucky enough to own such rare treasures. Also, these skills are unique to the type of weapon or armour mastery, there is not one single weapon mastery skill that makes a fighter master of all weapons. And even not all swords are the same - a deepworld sword is a very different weapon to master than a traditional sword. As with most skills, the maximum rank of a weapon or armour mastery skill is rank 4.
The cost of these skills may seem steep to fledgling fighters who may prefer to use their hard-earned experience to improve in rank (improving their ability in all weapons and armour), but higher-ranked fighters (especially those who may not be able to increase in rank further) typically begin to master the tools of their trade.
At the GM's discretion, other professions may become masters of weapons and armour with which they are proficient at the beginning of the game, but the cost in terms of both time and experience to non-fighters should be at least double.
Also at the GM's discretion, the GM may include time spent adventuring towards the time required to become the master of a particular weapon or armour type so long as the character uses the same weapon or armour type throughout.
Knights and Armsmen begin their professional careers proficient with every martial weapon with equal skill. However, characters belonging to these professions may begin to favour certain weapons and train to be more effective in their use and learn the Weapon Mastery skill. Each weapon has a training proficiency value, which is the sum of its armour bypass die and its base damage (without any modifiers for quality, Strength or magic, etc). For example, a basic sword (d8, 4) has a training proficiency value of 12, whilst a dagger (d4, 3) has a training proficiency value of 7.
The training proficiency value of the weapon determines the number of weeks for which the character must train to achieve rank 1 of the weapon mastery skill and the number of XPs he must spend at the end of that time. To earn subsequent ranks in weapon mastery, these values are multiplied by the rank for which the fighter is training.
Sir Balin has wielded his trusty sword through many campaigns and now wants to train himself to master his blade. A sword has a training proficiency value of 12, which means Sir Balin must spend 12 weeks in training and 12XP to become a rank 1 sword master. Rank 2 in Sword Mastery would require 24 weeks' training and 24XP. In total, if Sir Balin wished to become a rank 4 Sword Master, he would need to train for 120 weeks and spend 120XP!
However, the many benefits of weapon mastery may entice even junior professionals to invest a few of their hard-earned experience points - for each rank in a weapon mastery skill, the character benefits from the following when using that weapon:
- The armour bypass die improves along the progression: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, 2d6, 2d8, 2d10.
- The character's Attack score with that weapon improves by 1.
- Damage dealt by the weapon increases by 1 at weapon mastery ranks 2 and 4.
Knowing how to move in armour without it impeding combat manoeuvres is one thing, but for many adventurers, it is still nothing more than a passive barrier of leather and metal. However, Armsmen and Knights are able to build on this knowledge to use their armour actively in combat, enhancing their combat skills and defences when bedecked in a suit of armour they have mastered.
For each armour type, the length of time (and cost in XPs) to master it is dependent on the armour's AF. The fighter must spend 1 month per AF per rank of Armour Mastery skill and expend double that number of XPs to achieve that rank.
Sir Balin, having mastered his sword, now wishes to master fighting in plate armour (AF 5). First rank in the Plate Armour Mastery skill takes 5 months’ practice and 10XP. However, rank 2 will take 10 months’ further practice and 20 additional XP. In total, should Sir Balin seek to achieve rank 4 in Plate Armour mastery, he must spend a total of 50 months and 100 XP.
The benefits of mastering armour begin at first rank, with the fighter benefitting from a bonus to his Defence score equal to his rank in Armour Mastery. Additionally:
- The fighter gets a +1 bonus to his AF when wearing armour he has mastered to at least rank 2.
- Next, the fighter benefits from a +2 bonus to his Attack score when fighting in armour he has mastered to at least rank 3.
- The final benefit at rank 4 reduces all the damage done to the fighter (except critical hits) in his mastered armour by 1 point.
As with weapon mastery, all armour mastery bonuses stack with any magical bonuses.
Cost of Training
Assume a typical cost of approximately 5 Florins per day to cover training any training costs - hiring a tutor, materials consumed by the training, etc. GMs may alter this figure up or down depending on circumstances (e.g., training Strength may require a special diet and\or the purchase and construction of special equipment, etc., but learning to play the ocarina may require comparatively little in the way of expense).
Rolling the Dice