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13 Chapters in 13 Weeks — Chapter 3

May 27, 2009

This week we explore the wonders and mysteries of Chapter 3.

Ok, maybe that is a bit over the top, but can you fault a designer for being a bit melodramatic?

No? Ok. Well, let me cut the chatter, and get right to the point then. 🙂

Chapter 3 of Colonial Gothic Revised is titled Skills & Fate Cards. Of all the chapters, this is the first to show the influences from the work done on Thousand Suns, and the concepts have been brought over to Colonial Gothic. What concepts? Glad you asked. Here they are:

  • Degrees of Success
  • Specializations
  • Change of Terminology
  • Integration between Faith Cards and Fate Points
  • So what does this all mean? Let me take this from the top.

    Degrees of Success

    One of the big knocks against the original game is that confusion abounds when Tests which tie. In addition there is no way to know how much your Hero failed or succeed by. I wanted a little more heft to the results, and reward players for rolling well, and punishing them for rolling bad. By that, I do not mean that Skill Tests are about punishment. Instead, I wanted a easy way for a GM to see how well a Hero succeeded or failed.

    Let me quote the section from the book so you can see what  mean.

    More often than not, skill rolls will beat a Target Number by two or more. For example, your Hero is making a Deflect Test to deflect a thrown knife. Your Hero’s Nimble is 7 and his Deflect is also 7. This gives him a TN of 14, modified by –3 because the GM rules it is a Challenging Test. His final TN is 11. You get lucky and roll 6 on 2D12, meaning you beat the TN by 5 points!

    Strictly speaking, beating a TN by 1 is no different than beating it by 10. Except in combat, where the Degree of Success determines the damage done, the Degree of Success has no specific mechanical benefit. Nevertheless, the GM should often reward beating a TN by more significant amounts as an acknowledgement that the Hero has performed exceptionally well. Colonial Gothic is a roleplaying game, after all, and most players take pride in their Heroes’ accomplishments and like to see some benefit to particularly good rolls of the dice.

    In the end, it is up the Game Master to decide what an appropriate benefit should be. As a general rule, Degrees of Success greater than 2 should be rewarded with, at minimum, some small in-game effect. In the example above, perhaps the skill with which the Hero executed the maneuver was observed by a group of settlers, who spread tales of this feat to the point where there is a song written proclaiming the Hero’s skill. This is but one possibility; the GM can no doubt come up with many more. The higher the Degree of Success, the greater the reward should be, but, by and large, such rewards should enhance roleplaying and add to the overall story rather than grant significant game mechanical benefits.

    So as you can see, a little more aid in helping the GM interpret the dice. For those who are fans of Thousand Suns, all of this should be familiar, and the reason is that how we handle and use the Degrees of Success in that game, really works, and really works well. Here is yet one more example of putting the lessons learned in that game, to use in this game.


    This is a new addition from the game, and is what it implies. Now you are able to have your Heroes or Villains specialize in a specific facet of a skill. For example, if you want your Hero to be deadly with the musket, you can have them Specialize in the Musket. Specializations allows your Hero to have a Higher Rank in one skill, but only for the specialization. From the book:

    You may choose a specialization for any skill above Rank 2. By doing so, your chosen specialization’s starting Rank is equal to one greater than the Rank of the skill of which it is a specialization, while the original skill is lowered by one Rank. For example, if your Hero has Shoot 4 and you decide you want him to specialize in Flintlock Pistols, his new skill write-up would be Shoot (Flintlock Pistols) 3/5.

    Any time you gain additional Ranks in a skill, you may choose to apply them either to a specialization or its parent skill. Using the example above, if your Hero gained an additional 2 Ranks in Shoot, you could apply them either to Shoot or to Flintlock Pistols provided that the parent skill is always at least one Rank lower than the lowest Rank of specialization. Thus, if your Hero has Shoot (Flintlock Pistol) 3/5 and gains 2 Ranks in Shoot, you can apply them to gain either Shoot (Flintlock Pistol) 4/6 or Shoot (Flintlock Pistol) 3/7, but not Shoot 5/5.

    You may also acquire additional specializations at any time, but every time you add another one, the parent skill drops by one Rank and the new specialization begins at one Rank higher than the previous Rank of the parent. For example, if your Hero has Divination (Alectryomancy) 2/4, you can choose another specialization (say, Augury) and this specialization would begin at Rank 3, while Divination itself drops to Rank 1. Your Hero can gain no additional specializations until the parent skill increases to at least Rank 2 (and thus the lowest specialization is at least Rank 3).

    Specializations then allow you to really create the hero you want, and allows for all type of possibilities. Of all the changes, this little one has had one of the best reactions among the playtesters. Again, like Degrees of Success, this is another example of using Thousand Suns as the spring board for the game.

    Change of Terminology

    This is a easy one. Critical Success is now known as Dramatic Success. Critical Failure is now known as Dramatic Failure. This was done to bring the rules into sync with the developments we’ve done with 12° and I really wanted to make the change.

    Integration between Faith Cards and Fate Points

    One of the big things you will notice is that Faith and Fate are linked together, and that players and GMs have far more options when it comes to using the two in play. They allow for the drama, and I really worked to make the two feel right for the game. From the book:

    Fate Cards and Faith Points are meta-game elements, which is to say, they represent a rare example where the player (or the GM) rather than the Hero influences the game world of Colonial Gothic. Generally speaking, the outcome of events in the game is the result of the interaction between your Hero’s Abilities and Skills and the GM’s adventure plots, with the additional random element that dice rolls bring. In a sense, certain things happen in the game independent of both the player and the GM’s desires and part of the fun of a roleplaying game is being surprised at how things unfold. Everyone playing is as much a watcher of the game as a participant in it.

    Fate Cards and Faith Points, though, give everyone a chance to push the game this way or that, and to influence dice rolls so that certain Tests turn out well at the moment when the player or GM wishes them to do so. Colonial Gothic may be a game that includes plenty of random elements, but there is more to roleplaying than letting the dice fall where they may and reacting accordingly. Very few people enjoy feeling as if they are impotent flotsam on the waves of fate, particularly in a form of entertainment like roleplaying. That is why Fate Cards and Faith Points exist: as a vehicle for letting players and GMs alike tailor the story of their campaigns to their wishes. So long as these meta-game elements are viewed in this light, they will be used properly and add to the fun and excitement of your campaigns.

    It is this which drives the action and drama of the game, and in Revised I really worked to give you more options for their use.

    So there you go, Chapter 3. So far you have seen that the game really has not changed that much, what has changed is the approach. Rules have been tweaked, and polished, but the game that you have played since the start is still here. This is important, becasue I did not want to make anything that has come before wrong.

    So what is new?

    Wait till I tell you about the chapters filled with background and advice. Also, did I mention that there be monsters in the book, as well as rules to create your own?

    I didn’t? Maybe I should.

    I should also mention there is original fiction in the book written by Colonial Gothic: Elizabethtown’s Jennifer Brozek.

    I really need to do a better job explaining all of this.

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