Tales of the Venture Society
A Play-by-Post System for Online RPGs
This document describes a system for running role-playing games through a Play-by-Post medium. The intent is to keep the action flowing by letting both GM and players advance the action. In a nutshell, whenever a conflict arises the GM (or player) can set up the situation, and announce the actions of one side. Then, they post the effectiveness of the action as a number on a sliding scale of success. The initial number will usually be a failure, but the action remains unresolved. The opposing side may then invoke abilities of their character to mitigate that failure or more hopefully, turn it into a success. They can only do this by narrating the action and specifically invoking abilities. Otherwise, the actions stands as it is, and the instigator of the action narrates the outcome.
In this way, players and GMs are encouraged to post often, to maintain the narrative and the success of the characters they control. Players who post often and thoughtfully, are rewarded with greater success and more narrative control.
A Property is a broad descriptor of a character. It is the basic aptitude of the character toward different types of interaction. Characters have four basic Properties: Physical, Mental, Social and Combat:
Refers to things that are of the body.
Refers to things that are a result of training or education.
Refers to things that deal with non-combat interaction with other characters
Refers to general fighting ability.
Properties and Characters
Properties are general indications of a character’s aptitude in these areas. A character with a high Mental Property is usually one who has lots of training or general intelligence.
Beginning characters start with 10 points, which they may divide however they wish between the four basic Properties. Unless you have express permission from the GM, beginning Properties have an upper limit of 4. It is permissible to have a Property of 0, but negatives are not allowed for player characters.
Most contests and conflicts are resolved by comparing two Properties or a Property vs a difficulty rating, using modifers to increase chances of success. Properties are fleshed out with (normally) 0-4 Expressions.
Each property can have a number of Expressions. An expression, is simply a way that property can be demonstrated or used in a game. For example a Physical Expression might be “Strong as an ox”, or a Social Expression might be “Outsider”.
A Property can have anywhere from 0 to 4 Expressions. Expressions are especially noteworthy applications of a given property. A character with no expressions of a given property does not represent somebody with a deficient property, merely that they are unexceptional. For example, Tira the Adept has a Combat Property with no expressions. She can defend herself, stab someone with a knife, etc. She is just no better at it than the average person with no training.
Beginning characters may choose up to 10 Expressions, dividing them in such a way that they may take one expression for every point in a Property. Thus a person with a Mental of 3 may choose 3 Mental Expressions. If a concept requires a different division, clear it with the GM.
If a character is almost legendary in a given Expression, they may take it twice.
Certain NPCs may have more or less than 10 expressions. Some villains are meant to be a threat to a whole group of roleplaying characters, or may be simple thugs of little consequence.
Using Expressions is detailed in much greater depth below, but the basic idea is that a player can gain a bonus to his actions by using an Expression during a post.
Which Property do I use?
It’s entirely up to the player which Property they wish to attach their Expression to. A good guideline is to decide what type of Exchange the expression would be useful in. "Beautiful" would probably be better as a Social Expression, since beauty more often affects how people interact.
Example: Torsus the Mighty, Barbarian of the East, has the Expression “I Can Drink Anyone Under the Table”. So does the rogue, Antioch the Charming. Torsus decides to attach his to his Physical property, to better show that his superior physique keeps him from suffering the debilitating effects of alcohol. Antioch decides to attach his to his Social property, to simulate his ability to get the upper hand in negotiations when he needs to loosen tongues with spirits.
An Expression is normally used for a bonus only once during an Exchange. Many Expressions also confer constant abilities, however. If White Crane, Mistress of the Martial Arts has the Expression Master of Kung Fu, she is never considered unarmed in combat. She does not need to expend the Expression for this ability, it’s a constant feature of her character. She only needs to expend it if she wants to use the +1 bonus it confers during an Exchange.
Experience Points (see below) are general use Expressions, but they can only be expended for a single bonus during an exchange, and can’t be used for confering Constant abilities.
A GM may set up an Exchange in a setting that has an unusual environemental characteristic that characters could take advantage of. Examples might be a burning building, thin ice, deep forest, swift moving stream. Characters may take advantage of this if they can come up with a creative way. Just being a difficult surface is not enough. Gorchuk the Half-Ogre could use “Thin Ice +1” as an Expression in an Exchange if he states something like:
Example: “Gorchuck does not hit the wimpy paladin with his club, Instead, he smashes it into the ice at the paladin’s feet, hoping to send the goody two-shoes to a frigid death.”
An Environmental Expression can also indicate a resource that is available. For example, a character attempting to rebuild a broken radio can get a +1 Environmental Expression if he is in an electronics workshop. This has some overlap with "Tools", but is a bit broader in scope.
Expressions Outside of a Conflict
Most of the discussion so far has been about using Expressions in a conflict, usually to gain a +1 or +2 bonus. Players are encouraged to remind the GM of an expression they are bringing to bear when stating a general action. For example, Enrique da Rosa has the Social Expression "Streetwise". He states to the GM that he is going to go look for information down at the docks. The GM could set up an Unopposed Action (see below), or he could just narrate the results of the fact-finding mission, keeping in mind that Enrique is good at this type of work.
Using an Expression in an Exchange
An Expression is so named, because it must be expressed.In otherwords, if you want to gain the bonus conferred by an expression, you must state it in prose form. It is not enough to note that Katrinla is “Deadly with a sword +1” at the end of a post, it must contain a line in narrative form.
Example: Katrina sneers at the orc chieftain’s threat. Her prowess with a blade is well known in the lands of the West, and is about to become known to the Orc Tribes of the East.
Deadly with a Sword, +1
Which Expression do I use in an Exchange?
In general, this is determined by the type of Exchange. If the contest is a Physical one, then only Expressions listed under Physical" can be used. If you want to use a Combat Expression, you must use your Combat Property and take the -1 hit from changing the nature of the conflict.
Example: Sam Sly is attempting to convince Knuckles Malone to give him an extra share of the loot.. Sam has Social 2 and is using the Expression "Fast Talker" (Total Value of 3). Knuckles only has Social 1, and no relevant Expression. Even Sam’s lousy XDice roll of -1 has left Knuckles at a total -1 advantage. Knuckles decides to change the nature of the conflict, and moves it to his Combat 3, and uses the Expression "I punch things that annoy me." This ups his resistance to Sam’s Fast talking from 1 to 3 (Combat 3 +1 for the Expression, -1 for the change of conflict). This changes Knuckles’ outcome from Qualified Failure (-1) to Qualified Success (+1). He narrates:
"Knuckles’ brow furrows as Sam rattles on with his reasons. Finally he can take no more. He pops Sam one in the mouth. That’ll shut him up about loot division. For now."
There is one exception to this rule about Expression purity. A character may use an Expression from another Property without changing conflict, if it is spot-on-the-nose for the exchange, and gets GM approval. When in doubt, ask the GM before narrating.
"Example: A high tech secret agent is using a Vertigo Ray on Charles Brady. Normally Charles has no combat expression to help him bolster his Combat Property of 3, and the dice have determined that he is in trouble. However, Brady is a pilot who has a Physical Expression of Outsanding Equilibrium. The GM agrees that since this is extremely applicable to this situation, he can use it to keep his balance and beef up his Combat Property rather than his Physical, allowing him to resist the effects.
A knack is a capability that a character has that cannot be acquired through learning or training. They might improve their knack through learning or training, but ultimately, it’s an ability that they are born with. This can represent things like super powers, magic spells, psionics and such. In Savage Earth, it is most often used to for Adept Devotions, and for Animate abilities.
A Knack is treated like an extra Property. This means that any points that go toward the knack must come from the ten points a character may spend during character creation. They must also require an extra Drawback. Thus a starting Adept character would have four Drawbacks.
A Knack can be a list of abilities, but still only count as one Knack. Thus, an Adept’s list of Devotions or a Mage’s list of spells counts as one Knack. A Knack’s description will tell how and under what circumstances it could be used, as well as how often. In general, if a Knack is used in an Exchange, it confers a +1 to the general success, unless otherwise noted. Often a knack simply allows a character to perform an action that other characters can’t, and no modifier is needed. For instance a spell that creates light might do just that, allow a character to make a visible light. Creative use of the spell might confer a bonus, but it’s not the primary purpose.
An inherent knack refers to a special nature of the character, but confers no expressions by itself. An example might be an elf who has some inherent elvish abilities (long life, reduced need for sleep, etc), but no exceptional skill at archery. Not every elf is an archer. These expressions are purchased normally under their approriate Property.
The GM will have prepared lists of Knack and their expressions that are suitable to the campaign. Some expressions are only available to characters who have a certain level of their Knack Property. The Knack Property may be increased after character creation by permanently expending one Experience Point. This point still counts against the total possible of 3 that can be learned during a character’s existence.
|Fantasy||Sci Fi||Superhero||Savage Earth|
|Level||Knack: Fire Wizard||Knack: Psi Force||Knack: Speedster||Knack: Adept|
|1||* Create Light
* Heat Metal
* Light Normal Fire
|* Read Emotions||* Run Fast
* Catch Normal Missiles
|* Spirit Sight|
|2||* Burning Hands
* Create Flame Without Fuel
|* Read Thoughts
|* Run on Water
* Catch Bullets
|* Lesser Devotions|
* Imperishable Flame
|* Read Memories
|* Run up Vertical Surfaces||* Major Devotions, one Aspect (Anima, Morphia or Psyche)|
|4||* Summon Fire
* ‘’ Elemental’’
* Improved Fireball (+2)
|* Command||* Phase Through Objects||* Major Devotions, two Aspects|
* Flame Wave
|* Change Personalities||* Time Travel||* Major Devotions, three Aspects|
Just because a character has the potential for having particular Expressions of their Knack, it does not mean that they automatically have all of those Expressions. The GM may require they adventure for them, or receive special training, or decipher mystic texts. In general, the number of Expressions known or usable should be worked out during character creation in a way that makes sense with the character’s background.
Using Knacks in an Exchange
Although a Knack is a sort of Property, it is not usually used as the main property in an exchange. Depending on the type of Knack, a character may wish to use it in a Physical Exchange, a Mental Exchange, Social or Combat. It depends on the definition of the Knack and the definition of the spell or ability itself.
For example Fireball is probably a Combat Exchange, Suggest is probably a Mental or maybe a Social Exchange. If a player wishes, they may use their Knack property in place of a standard Property. A wizarding contest might be a place to do that.
The Level of a knack (1-5) is more often used as a control on what powers or abilities are available to a character. The most bonus a character can get from using a spell is +1, just like any other Expression, unless otherwise noted (see Improved Fireball (+2) in the example list above or in Appendix 2). The GM should work out with the player the general description of each ability. Some examples may be found in Appendix 1: Knacks
No character is perfect. All characters should start with three Drawbacks. There is no point value associated with these, other than that the GM may invoke them as a modifier against the character in a given Exchange. This is not always necessary. Usually a drawback limits a character’s range of actions or effectiveness, and is used as an aid to role-play. Gilead has the Drawback of “Honorable”. He doesn’t fight unarmed people, nor kill helpless prisoners. He also keeps his word. These are enough of a limitation that they do not require being used as modifiers in an Exchange. However, a GM may rule otherwise in special circumstances. When Gilead is trying to convince someone he is speaking the truth (and he really is) he might use “Honorable” to gain a +1 to make himself believed. Similarly, an GM might use “Honorable” as a -1 against him in an Exchange, if Gilead must lie for some reason, no matter how noble.
In general, if a player willingly neglects or circumvents a Drawback, the GM is justified in using it as a long term negative modifer, or even causing campaign repercussions. (If Gilead slew a prisoner in a cell, his reputation might be tarnished, or he might suffer a crippling lack of self-confidence for an indeterminate amount of time.
Drawbacks are meant to be seriously limiting, and flagrant abuse should invite serious repercussions.
Some Expressions require Tools. I.e., Gilead cannot express his cartography skills without a compass or sextan. The tools required will vary by situation.
Weapons and Armor
Weapons are the tools of Combat. In general, a character is classed by whether they are at a significant advantage or disadvantage during combat. An unarmed character vs one wielding any weapons gets a -1 situational modifier to a combat resolution. These do not stack. In general, two armed characters in combat have equal threat to each other, unless the weapons are decidedly unequal. Here is a rough grouping:
Normal (sword, spear, dagger, broken chair leg)
Powerful (spirit weapon, pistol)
If it will make a fight more dramatic, a GM or players may agree to fine tune the threat levels. This should only be done for important duels and the like. In normal combat, you are usually either, unarmed, armed or powerfully armed.
Characters with an expression of being able to fight unarmed (a martial art, for instance), are normally never considered unarmed. This does not require expending the Expression.
Some tools are of such incredible quality that they confer a +1 when they are used in an exchange. An example might be a demon blade. This is a case when it would stack on top of the threat level described above. Thus, Iron John, who bears the demon blade Crystalwind, when fighting a person bearing a normal sword, gets a +1 for having a powerful melee weapon, plus another +1 for its particularly devastating ability (it can cut through stone and metal). The GM could rule that if he is fighting someone armed with a spirit sword, the weapon itself is not of enough quality to count as a superior threat, nevertheless he still gets the +1 for its special quality. With a Major Success, the wielder would be within their rights to declare that such a blade had shattered and destroyed an opposing normal weapon.
Remember that an exceptional tool is truly exceptional. A finely made sword does not count. A finely crafted gun does not count. Exceptional tools should be one-of-a-kind, very rare objects.
Some tools a character has with them pretty much all the time, like a sword or a wristwatch. Extremely useful tools carried or worn as a matter of course should be listed on the character sheet. The player should also note any unusual items the character might own but are not carried (such as a laboratory or a field cannon). In general, a player should be allowed any piece of equipment that it would be logical for them to have. Rex Powell, billionaire playboy quite likely has a mansion and a yacht. He’s not likely to have either with him at any given time. It is entirely likely he has a hundred dollar bill
Experience points are granted by the GM over time, and can represent characters with a long history. The idea is that if a character has survived an adventurous life this long, there must be a reason. A character can use Experience in several ways:
A character can keep his experience unsepent to use as a wildcard Expression in an Encounter.
Whenever a character uses Experience, they must reference something that happened to their character in the course of play.
Characters with several Raw Experience Points can use one or more of them in a single Exchange if they wish, but they are used up until the the GM declares a Reset. Raw Experience cannot be used to simulate constant abilities.
Buy off a Drawback
A character can trade an Experience to buy off a Drawback.
Example: Hod Sammelson the Cleric has been blind since character conception. The player has felt that he has gotten all that he can out of role-playing that, and has discovered that having to watch out for him is no fun for the other players. He talks it over with the GM and they contrive a story to restore Hod’s sight. The character permanently expends his experience to buy off the Blindness Drawback.
Improve a Property
A character can trade an experience point for a permanent boost in one of their base Properties. This results in a general overall improvement of their effectiveness in that Property, but doesn’t add any new abilities (Expressions)
Levels of experience
|3||Long history (Maximum)|
Expressions, Experience and many Knacks represent resources a character may draw on during an encounter. They are used up during the course of the encounter, so a player needs to use them wisely. Once they have exhausted their various modifiers, they are down to resolving Exchanges with only their base Property value. They are not gone forever. At the end of an encounter, the GM will call a Reset, and all Expressions, Knacks and Experience once again become available.
The purpose of this is to encourage creative use of a character’s resources, and to increase tension as an encounter progresses.
An Encounter is a discrete interval of dramatic time. It might represent a fight lasting a few seconds, to an escape attempt lasting hours or days. Usually, a GM will call a reset after a particular problem has been addressed and resolved. However, if the intent is to simulate the party being worn down by hardship, a Reset might take longer.
Spiritual Enhancement (Special to Savage Earth)
A Character who is enhanced may use an expression at +1 normal value. In other words, referencing it once counts as a +2. They can only do this if their enhancement could logically affect their expression. This does not stack with Experience, although a character could use Experience to use a second expression in an Exchange.
A player (usually the GM) sets up the situation and opposition. Characters state their general intention (fight or flee, sneak or play dead, etc.) The GM will roll [1d6-1d4-1] to add to the appropriate Property. This is call the Exchange Dice Roll, hereafter referred to as XDice. This generates a bell curve from -4 to +4, with a nice flat area of probability in the middle.
He will compare it to the opposition (usually unknown to the player, but not always), add the positive or negative result ot the roll and post the result. He may decide to use an Expression when setting up the situation.
The result will be on the following scale
|-3 or more||Major failure||The character has definitively lost the exchange. Depending on the nature of the Exchange, the loser may be Impaired or Incapacitated. The Winner is entitled to narrate the status of the Loser, within the bounds of narrative reason, and subject to GM approval.|
|-2||Failure||The character has lost the Exchange. Impairment is possible, but Incapacitation is unlikely. The Winner is entitled to narrate the status of the Loser, within the bounds of narrative reason, and subject to GM approval.The Exchange will probably end here.|
|-1||Qualified Failure||The character has lost the Exchange. He has not been totally defeated, and might have gained some small portion of what he was trying to achieve. The Exchange might continue, based on the circumstances.|
|0||Tie||The characters in the exchange each fail to gain an advantage over the other.|
|1||Qualified Success||The character has won the exchange. He has failed to fully achieve his goal, but may have partial success or have lost something else in the winning. The Exchange might continue, based on the circumstances|
|2||Success||The character has won the exchange. He has achieved his stated goal, and may narrate the outcome for the Loser within the bounds of narrative reason, and subject to GM approval.|
|3||Major Success||The character has definitively won the exchange. Depending on the nature of the Exchange, the loser may be Impaired or Incapacitated. The Winner is entitled to narrate the status of the Loser, within the bounds of narrative reason, and subject to GM approval.|
Notice two things about the chart above. The first is that the descriptions are fairly reciprocal. A Major Failure for one character equals a Major Success for the other. Hence the descriptions are fairly similar, since they describe the outcome between the two characters. The second thing is that the descriptions of the outcomes are deliberately vague. They are meant to be used as guideline. Not Every Exchange has such dire consequences. The consequence of failure in a duel could be a wound or even death. The consequence of failure in a debate might be minor academic embarrassment. In alls cases, let common sense and what is fun, guide the description.
Also, the GM may decide to set the stakes of the outcome when posting. Saying that if a character achieves a certain value, then they can expect a certain result.For example, if a character is trying to translate a cryptic inscription, the GM could say that a Qualified Success will yield the nature of the message (a waning, a prophecy), a Success is needed to get the general meaning, and a Major Success is needed to get the literal translation. This gives players incentive to creatively use their Expressions, tools and other modifiers.
Example of an Exchange
This will be posted as:
Character 1, Property, Expressions, [Result]
Character 2, Property, [Result]
A shadow suddenly looms over the professor, as a man with a face like a sack of new potatoes, and hands like dinner plates steps out of the shadows. He advances far faster than the Professor would expect from a man that size and strikes a practice boxing stance. He assumes a gap-toothed grin and begins a left cross that could drop a moose.
XDice Roll: -2
Lars the Pug 5 = Combat 3 Avid Boxer, Dazzle ‘em with Footwork, Success (1)
Professor Eldritch Pope 2 = Combat 2 , Failure (-1)
If a player wants to up their success rating (or turn a failure into a success), they can use an Expression. I.e. they write into their post a use of the expression.
The Professor (from above) is in trouble. He can draw his gun to give himself a +1 for being better armed than Lars (who has now brought knuckles to a gunfight), and raise it to a tie. If he wants to raise it to a success, he can Express his Combat Property with “Crack Shot”, giving him a total of +2, and raising his Failure (-1) to Success (1).
He posts, “The Professor realizes that this fellow thinks he can intimidate a scholar with his hamfists? Not today. Reaching into his jacket, he pulls forth his always ready Mauser semiautomatic pistol and aims it unshakably between the Pug’s eyes. “Stand back you lout, or well see what passes for brains inside that thick skull!” The shuffling man-brute hesitates for a moment and then takes a few cautious steps backward, dropping his fists.
The GM reserves the right to veto (re-write) a player’s account of the outcome, but this should be done sparingly, only used when the player has insufficient information (I.e., they don’t know that their opponent has a magic sword or Ring of Regeneration), or when someone is abusing the system. In the former case, a player should be rewarded with a +1 bonus for their next Exchange.
The above example was perfectly acceptable for the result of Success. The fight will probably end here, unless Lars is highly motivated not to let the Professor get away.
If the player elects not to respond, or has not responded in a reasonable amount of time, the GM will narrate the outcome with the results as-is.
Example: “Lars’s hamfist snakes out and pops the Professor on the nose, causing it to stain his magnificent beard with blood. ‘Give it up, Perfessor. I’m the champeen of Muggsie’s Gym. You ain’t got no chance!’”
The Professor is not likely to take that egregious assault on the Mother Tongue!
The comparison of Property to Property (example, Combat to Combat) is handled by the GM. The player only needs to modify the exchange through the use of Expressions, Knacks, Raw Experience or the like. If the player wishes his character to challenge the Attacker by using a different Property, they must declare that before the XDice are rolled.
Example: The Borgad the Barbarian has become very upset that Darrell the Dashing has spilled beer on him, and is going to clobber him. This is obviously a Combat Exchange. Darrell says he is going to try to fast talk his way out of the fight. It is now an XDice Exchange between Combat and Social (with a -1 for attempting to counter one property with a different property. Since Borgad has a Combat of 3 and Darrell has a Social of 4, this is actually a better chance than using Darrel’s Combat of 1.
How many bonuses can a character use?
In some cases, using more than one expression is allowable. Here is a breakdown of what can be used in an Exchange. Attacker refers to the one who sets the conditions for the Exchange, Defender, the one who reacts. It does not necessarily mean a fight. It could be a debate, or trying to overcome a physical or social obstacle:
|1 Property||1 Property|
|2 Expressions||1 Expressions|
|1 Knack (if available)||1 Knack (if available)|
|1 Experience (if available)||1 Experience (if available)|
|1 Environmental Expression (if available)||1 Environmental Expression (if available)|
|1 Exceptional Tool (if available)||1 Exceptional Tool (if available)|
Characters with a double Expression Ex: “Greatest Swordsman in the Land x2”, may use the Expression twice before a reset, or use it up as a +2 in a single Exchange.
Exceptional Tools are not expended during an exchange. They can be used over and over.
In general, a knack must be an Expressed Knack, rather than an Inherent Knack to be used as a bonus. For example, just being an Elf (a 1 point knack) confers some abilities, but no Expressions. Those expressions are bought normally on the character sheet. See the section on Knacks for more detail.
Finally, a character may get a +1 bonus for being decisively better armed in an exchange (such as having a gun vs a sword, or a knife vs. fists. This is not limited to combat. A disputant in a Social Exchange may get a +1 if his opponent is not conversing in his native tongue. A Mental exchange bonus might be given to someone who has the Internet or other reference materials available to them that their opponent lacks.
If combat is not resolved by the end of the Exchange, the defender may elect to continue, this time as the Attacker, (with the attackers benefit of using two Expressions). In this case, the player should narrate their actions, setting it up by using any expressions, knacks etc. The Defender now has the responsibility of rolling the XDice and using any modifiers available to them to narrate the outcome.
This cycle continues until the Exchange is resolved.
Example 1 - Combat"$":1
Gilead a Captain of Tallon, a hero who has just escaped from bondage in the so-called “Celestial City” and has encountered Abaddon, a winged seraf of the ruling class of that city. Abaddon wants to return him to captivity. Gilead doesn’t want to go. They are in a lightly forested section of the Wilds.
The GM Posts:
“Abaddon calmly draws his blade, but does not strike. Instead he stands nonchalantly, as if inviting the attack. A haughty smile curls one corner of his mouth. ‘If you seek to leave this area alive, you will have to go through me. I recommend surrender, for your own good’. +1 Badass +1 Superiority Complex”
The GM does not state that Abaddon has a Combat of 4 to begin with. That is information the player might have to guess at. A character with the Expression “Know Your Enemy’s Style” or similar might petition the GM to use that expression to gain an idea of his opponent’s opposition level. But in any case, the player should have an idea of what expressions are being invoked in order to give the narrative flavor.
You may also noticed that Abaddon has used two expressions. Characters are normally allowed to use only one. (plus Knacks, Experience or Tools). If you are the one setting up an Exchange, you may indeed use two expressions. This reflects the advantage of being proactive and setting the scene.
The Player (Gilead) posts:
“I intend to attack him. There’s no way I can let him take me into captivity.”
At this point, he is using no expressions. He’s just indicating that he will use his combat property to resolve this action. We’ll look at other ways this could be resolved momentarily.
The GM takes Gilead’s Combat Property of 4 and Compares it to Abaddon’s modified Combat Property of 6 (4 + 2 Expressions) He XDice and gets “4 minus 4 minus 1” for a total of -1. This lowers Abaddon’s Combat Property to 5, compared to Gilead’s 4.
Nothing is resolved at this point. Now comes the part where player interaction creates the outcome.
The GM Posts:
At this point Gilead is failing the encounter with a minor setback. Missed It By That Much. If Gilead’s player fails to post his response in a reasonable amount of time, the GM may use this value as shown, and post:
“Gilead rushes forward, but his blade is neatly deflected by Abaddon, who turns the parry into a slicing motion that leaves a red streak on Gilead’s forearm”.
If the GM is feeling nasty, he could even burn one of Abaddon’s Experience points and change the -1 to a -2 and end the combat. This should be done very sparingly, and only when needed to advance the action to a new scene. In most cases, leave the interaction as is.
If Gilead does respond, he will likely decide to use at least one expression to raise his outcome to “Just Made It”, indicating the barest possible of successes. He posts:
“Gilead draws his own sword. It’s only a weapon recovered from a fallen foe, but any blade is deadly in his hand. He feints, causing Abaddon to attempt a block, and then neatly brings the blade around from an unexpected quarter and cuts into Abaddon’s side. Not a big enough wound to seriously inconvenience the Seraf, but enough to make him think carefully when Gilead says, ‘I think you are the one in trouble here. Back away and return to your city.’
+1: Deadly With A Sword
Result = 0, Just Made It”
Note that Gilead has stated his actions without narrating the response of his opponent. When possible, players should narrate their own actions, and the GM those of NPCs. This may not always be possible, though.
Consider: Gilead wants to end this encounter now. The above post allows combat to continue. It does not resolve the action. He wants to turn it into a true success. At least a +1. He posts:
“Gilead draws his own sword. It’s only a weapon recovered from a fallen foe, but any blade is deadly in his hand. He has fought the Serafim before and knows that they are likely to use their aerial advantage to confuse the enemy. He feints, causing Abaddon to leap upward, spreading his wings with a loud snap. But Gilead’s feint has maneuvered Abaddon under a tree branch, which he collides with, throwing him off balance. Gilead’s sword is ready and cuts the blade from Abaddon’s hand leaving it bloody and useless. Gilead says, ‘I think you are the one in trouble here. Back away and return to your city. Tell your masters that Gilead is not theirs to threaten!’
+1: Deadly With A Sword
+1: Experience (has fought Serafim before)
Result = +1, Success
Some other potential modifiers that might have come into play.
1) If Gilead had had a Spirit Sword, his Expression of Deadly With A Sword would have counted at +1.
2) If Gilead had been unarmed, he would have been at a distinct combat disadvantage and the initial exchange would have had a starting value of 5 vs (4-1), or -2. Gilead would have to think quickly to come up with a way of leveraging his Properties and Expressions.
Which brings us to the alternate solutions we talked about at the beginning of this section.
If Tira had been the one faced by Abaddon in the same situation, she would be better off coming up with an alternate solution. Her strength is her mind, or her social position. She decides to go with her Mental Property of 3. Unfortunately, trying to counter one property with a different property is always at a -1. So she starts with a 2. She needs to get at least 5 to pull even a minor success. Let’s see how she could accomplish this.
“Tira knows she is no physical match for the Seraf warrior. She has to use her brain. They are standing in a clearing of the wilds, where she was raised. She knows things he couldn’t possibly be aware of. She raises her hands in meek surrender. The seraf binds her wrists and marches her off towards the city. But Tira remembers a particular grove of trees that they passed on the way here. As they near them, she makes sure to angle herself to pass under their boughs. As they do, she holds her breath, knowing the trees target animal exhalation. She concentrates, using her spiritual devotion of Anticipate Movement to judge just the right moment and position, then ducks just as a vine drops from the Hangman’s tree and grabs Abaddon. Taking advantage of this, she leaps into a nearby seemingly impenetrable thicket of thorns. She knows easily how to avoid their branches and has a good head start by the time Abaddon can get himself free.
Mental vs Combat -1
Comfortable in the Wilds +1
Experience: Hangman’s Trees +1
Knack: Anticipate Movement +1”
This has given her a grand total of 3 - 1 + 3, or 5 = “Just Made It” It wasn’t enough to truly resolve the situation; Abaddon can still track her and try to finish her off, but she has now made the contest one of wilderness and tracking skills, where she excels. Abaddon lacks the necessary Expressions to find her, and barring a lucky dice roll, will likely lose her in the jungles where she is so at home.
A character may use an expression to help another character. For example, Persia could warn Ragachu of something heard with her sensitive feline ears, and help him avoid a surprise attack. Or Khaz could use his Military Training Expression to aid Persia in a fight. If a character is helping another character, that is their action. They post that they are throwing an expression to an ally and the bonus they are conferring.
Example: Khaz posts:
“Khaz notices that the guard Persia is trying to sneak past is a raw recruit. He whispers to her, ‘If you cause a distraction by throwing a stone, then that guy is likely to leave his post for a moment, rather than bother his sergeant and face a reprimand for giving a false alarm.’
Military Training, +1”
In this case, Persia can post that she throws a stone as suggested, and may add the result to her bonus. The most a character can get from being aided is +1 total.
This is a special form of helping another. If one character is involved in the same general conflict as another, instead of using an expression to give their ally a +1, they may elect to automatically downgrade their own conflict to -3: Catastrophic Failure. This grants a +3 to their ally. They may elect to describe their own catastrophic failure, or have the ally or even the GM describe it for them.
Ex. Persia and Tira are facing a band of riven. Tira is attempting to use her adept powers to slow down the leader before he can dispatch a fallen Farallon. Give her roll and her bonuses, the best she can achieve is a -1: Missed It By That Much. Persia can’t do much more with her rolls either, so her player elects to Sacrifice.
"There is no way Tira will be able to affect that huge riven. Persia does the only thing she can to slow him down and throws herself in front of Gilead, giving Tira time to muster her adept powers. The riven’s axe bites deep into her unprotected flesh.
Sacrifice: +3 to Tira"
This gives Tira enough of a bonus to raise her -1 to a +2: major success. She describes in her post how the riven leader is near parayzed, giving time for them to subdue or dispatch him. She or the GM (or Persia’s player) may then describe how Persia is critically injured, and in need of major medical care.
Limits to Modifers
In no case, may a character modify his base Property higher than twice i’s base value. Thus, the highest Gilead could achieve in combat is an 8. However, any character can modify themselves up to a minimum of +1 to their base.
This yields the following table
|Base Property||Upper Limit|
Status is explained after the play examples, since it is usually the result of an Exchange gone poorly.
If any Combat Exchange during an Encounter results in a negative result, the character might be in some way reduced in capacity (wounded, embarrassed, captured, outfoxed, etc.). Here is a rough guide:
Character is considered to be functioning normally, though they may have a few cuts and scrapes of little consequence. If the Exchange is social, they may have suffered an insult, or if mental, be slightly confused. The Exchange may go on, or it may end here, depending on circumstances and whether the disputants wish to continue. Failure will end most Exchanges of little consequence.|
Character is considered Impaired. For every Major Failure sustained during an Encounter, they are -1 to all future actions until the GM decrees enough time has passed to recover, or special healing has been performed.|
Character is Incapacitated. They are severely wounded or Unconscious, or tied up, or confused or terminally embarrassed (depending on the nature of the Exchange) until the GM decrees enough time has passed to heal, or special healing has been performed. They may use no Expressions, Experience, nor most Knacks, and all relevant Properties are considered to be at 0.|
Death occurs when a character either suffers two catastrophic failures during one Combat Encounter, or there is no logical way a character could survive an action. For example, if Abaddon suffers a catastrophic failure at the hands of Khaz, but continues to fight with all Properties at 0 and no modifiers, and suffers another Catastrophic Failure, then he is considered dead.
Note that these states above do not necessarily equate with physical damage, just a reduced state of effectiveness. Someone is unlikely to be killed in a duel of wits, unless the exchange is over which goblet of wine contains the poison, for example. Incapacitated could mean may things. It could be that you’ve lost an arguement so badly that your confidence is shattered, or you’ve made a big enough social blunder that no one trusts you. In any case, the result is that for a certain amount of time, all actions you perform with the Property you used in Conflict are at a penalty. How long it is before the penalty goes away is determined by the GM and/or common sense.
Branak the Barbarian has been rendered Incapacitated in a brawl. The GM rules that he was simply overpowered and his limbs bound. He is -3 to any action that would require use of his limbs until he is untied.
Branak the Barbarian has been rendered Incapacitated in a brawl. The enemy this time was much more brutal and had a far greater hatred of Branak, and broke several ribs and his nose with a merciless pummeling with Branak was down. Branak is -3 in most actions until such time as he has healed or received the proper medical attention.
Professor Engleheart has lost (Failure, -1) a terrific argument with Professor Pope. Pope pointed out that the outmoded scientific theory he has been espousing has been thoroughly disproved by the Academy, and provides a scathing indictment of Engleheart’s credentials. Chagrined at his display of ignorance, he becomes very hesitant in making scientific claims for the rest of the Symposium. Any Social or Mental Exchanges he gets into will require him to suffer a -1 penalty. Perhaps he can recover more quickly if he spends the evening researching the subject so as to be better armed.
Damage to Minions
Certain classes of opponents are there to act as general deterrents: low level guards, sentries, hordes of slavering mutants, etc., are generally considered dispatched with any “Major Failure -2” or worse. Games with a grittier outlook might require all characters to have the same level of durability and 3 dimensionality as the PCs, but more cinematic campaigns treat these unfortunates as they are treated in heroic literature: expendable and forgettable. They may be dead, they may flee or be knocked unconscious. The upshot of it is, they are no longer a problem.
In general recovery is handled by dramatic license. The GM determines a reasonable amount of time, or special healing abilities or knacks have been invoked. The GM may or may not communicate the time or conditions to the players, depending upon the specifics or the needs of dramatic license.
Monsters and Animals
Creatures which function on a scale different from human, may have a base bonus to their property. For example, no normal character is as strong as an elephant. An elephant might have a base Physical Property of 6. The GM doesn’t even have to use an expression; the elephant is just massive beyond the scale of normal characters.
Nevertheless, this is a game of larger-than life people, and even though Ragachu is not going to win a tug of war, he might figure out a way to turn something else to a physical advantage. Hence the elephant has a high defense, but not an insurmountable one. Note that the GM might require a really creative post from Ragachu to allow the contest to stand without Veto.
This section probably needs the most playtesting.
Humans are assumed to be Scale 0, the baseline, since the action of the game is centered around humans. Animals of great or diminutive size function on a different scale and are comparatively easier or more difficult to combat than humans. The Scales below refer to combat, although it is conceivable that scale could be applied to the Mental Property for aliens or computers, a Social property for some sort of psychic empath and so one. Scale can be considered to be a Knack, although no attempt is made to balance it. Without special permission from the GM, all PCs are considered to be Scale 0.
|Scale -2||Scale -1||Scale 0||Scale 1||Scale 2||Scale 3||Scale 4||Scale 5|
|Rat Puppy Kitten||Badger Small Dog||Wolf Attack Dog||Moose Crocodile Panther||Lion Tiger||Elephant Rhinoceros Small Dinosaur||Large Dinosaur||Dragon Whale|
Also of importance to note is that most animals that PCs might need to fight will likely have some natural weaponry, giving them an edge over unarmed humans. Most herbivores have a Combat of 1 or 2, depending on whether they are the type to run (antelope) or the type to fight (moose). Most carnivores have a Combat 3, though top-of-the line predators (Tiger) might have Combat 4.
Thus a savage maneating tiger would have a minimum Combat value of 6 vs. an unarmed human, It could add expressions to bring it even higher. Animals are dangerous. A typical predator will have a 1 point knack for natural weaponry (teeth, claws, horns, etc.) These do nothing more than make it count as "armed" against an unarmed foe. It will usually have several combat expressions (pounce from above, chase down prey, pack hunter, red in tooth and claw are some examples) that it will actually use in combat.
This includes things like scaling walls, resisting poison, deciphering a manuscript, etc. These generally fall into four categories. (The number after the category tells the opposition factor for skilled and unskilled characters, explained below).
’’’Routine ‘’’(Auto / 0)
Anyone with a relevant expression can perform this. Climbing a Wall can be performed by any character with a relevant expression, with no rolling or modifiers needed. In the examples below, Persia could do it with “Acrobat”, or Ragachu with “Takes to the Trees”. For Routine Actions, this does not count as using an Expression. A character may perform an unlimited number of Routine Actions during an Encounter.
If a character does not have a relevant expression, they must take their most relevant property and roll XDice against an opposing value of 0. Climbing a wall would most likely be a Physical challenge. This would be handled like a Normal Exchange. Characters may use Knacks, Tools or Experience to help them in this roll.
Ex: Tira, Persia and Gilead post that they want to climb a wall.
The GM decrees that Persia succeeds (Acrobat Expression)
Tira has a Physical Property of 1 vs the walls opposing of 0. She will be successful slightly more often than not. If the XDice indicate failure, she might decide to use her Adept Knack Expression of “Efficient Movement” to give her a +1. If that’s not enough, she might use an Experience Point if she can come up with a relevant time in her play history that she has done something similar.
Gilead has a Physical of 4. He will do this automatically by dint of superior physical conditioning. (i.e. he can’t get a modifier low enough for failure.)
Almost no one can perform this with impunity. The aforementioned wall is now slick with moss.
For characters with a relevant Expression, the Opposition factor is now 2. They may use their expression as a modifier, but it now counts as Expended.
Characters without a relevant expression face an Opposition Factor of 4, and work as described above.
As above, but the Opposition for characters with relevant expression is now 4, and non-expressioned characters is 6
The aforementioned wall is now slick with moss and it is night with a high wind.
Nigh Impossible (6/ – )
As above, but the Opposition for characters with relevant expression is now 6, and non-expressioned characters simply cannot do it.
The aforementioned wall is now slick with moss, at night in a high wind, and it slopes backward over the climber’s head.
Difficulties greater than this are pretty much impossible, though a GM might increase the difficulty factor as high as 8 or even 10 if there is a chance that a character is that skilled.
|Routine||Climbing a wall||Reading stereo instructions||A job Interview|
|Difficult||Catching a greased pig||composing a sonnet||Pleading a case before the ducchess|
|Challenging||Diving off a tall cliff||writing a novel||Pretending to be a ducchess|
|Nigh Impossible||Escaping the dungeons of the Mad Trapmaster||Writing a transformative philosophical work||Negotiating a treaty between competing Theocracies|
Appendix 1: Sample Characters
What follows are some basic character descriptions. Some are mere archetypes of their genre to serve as examples, others are more fully fleshed characters.
Dorrin Steelbeard is an archetypal Dwarven fighter in a fantasy campaign. He is fairly likeable in social situations, but a dedicated and effective fighter when it comes to the enemies of his people. He tends to get into situations over his head, and his savagery in combat is mitigated by the long time it takes him to heal injuries.|
Shanna the Knife
Shanna is a archetypal thief in a fantasy campaign. She is likely the best pickpocket in her home city, and has lots of underworld connections.|
|h2(#kurtak-last-of-the-azar). Kurtak, Last of the Azar||XP 0|
Strong as an ox
Tough as steel
Endures Outdoors|Mental 1
Knows the lands of the Southwest|Drawbacks
Bears a Mark of Shame
Haunted by ghosts of his people
Bounty set by Dark Lord
Hated by many victims of the Dark Lord|
Axe fighter of the Azar
At home in the saddle|Social 2
Knows many people and plans of the Dark Lord
Seeks redemption|Knack: Can see spirits 1|
Kurtak is a barbarian fighter in a fantasy campaign. Years ago, he betrayed his people into the hands of the rising Dark Lord in a quest for power and vengeance. He became a thrall and servant of the Dark Lord for many years until he managed to break the magical Sigil of Thralldom on his forehead. He has done many evil things in the service of the Dark Lord, and while he was technically under magical control, he willingly stepped into that situation. Now that he is free, he seeks to redeem himself through service to the opponents of the Dark Lord. He has much knowledge of the Dark Lords mind and plots.
He is tortured regularly by visions of his family and tribe, all dead and victims of the Dark Lord. He can even sometimes see and speak with the shades of the recently dead.
|h2(#tira). Tira||XP 3|
Comfortable in the Wilds|Mental 3
Outsider to Human Society
Bounty from Rats and Gators
Secretly a Sympath|
|Combat 0|Social 3
Outsider to human society
Adept|Knack: Adept 3
‘’ Spirit Sight’’
‘’ Detect Psychic Danger’’
‘’ Anticipate Movement’’
‘’ Read Psyche’’
‘’ Best Defense’’
‘’ Shock Morphia’’
‘’ Efficient Movement’’
‘’ Shock Anima’’
Tira Wolfsdaughter is a young adept student at the Hall of Art. Raised by Gators, Rats and then Wolves, she never saw another human being until she was a teenager.
Tira is learning that the powers that be in Tallon are taking a lot of interest in her activities. She suspected this may be because she has the aptitude to become a Grandmaster, but has recently learned that she is a Sympath, a rare prophet of the Standing Stones. Tira has kept her Experience unspent to use as wildcard Expressions during Exchanges
|h2(#gilead). Gilead||XP 0|
Hatred of the Celestials|
Deadly with a Sword
Know your Enemy’s Style|Social 2
Spirit Sword (+1)|
Gilead is a Captain in the Army of the Savage Earth city of Tallon. Due to his long experience as an adventurer and explorer, he is often sent on long or covert missions by his superiors. He is honorable and noble of bearing, coming from a wealthy family and being of high-minded ideals. His grandfather Elias is his only nearby living relative and often has political aspirations or deals that cause Gilead difficulties. Gilead bears a Spirit Sword whose ley line is held by his friend Tira or his friend Farallon, both adepts.
This section is in note form.
Incompetent Person, 2 points
Normal Person, 4 points
Thugs, Police and Professionals, 6 points
Sidekicks, Accomplished People, 8 points
Heroes, 10 points
Superheroes, 14 points
Appendix 2 Knacks
What follows are some simple lists of Knacks that demonstrate how they can be built or tailored for a particular campaign. Also included are some non-expressioned knacks, which can be used to indicate characters with certain inherent features, such as a droid or a zombie.
The Knack Fire Wizard describes a set of spells that belong to a typical practitioner of the Fire Mage school of the Isles of Smoke and Thunder. In general, a spell can be used only once per Reset, unless otherwise noted. Fire Wizards get their abilities through years of long study and a deal with the Fire Elementals who live in the heart of their sacred mountain. Starting characters may choose one spell from every level for every level of their knack that they have purchased. This stacks. Thus a new character with a fire Mage Knack of 3, may choose three spells from first level, 2 from second, and 1 from third. Gaining new spells requires performing a service for the Fire Mage School, a long period of study, or completing a specific task for the Fire Elementals.
Caster can create a magical flame that does not consume or burn, which casts dim light in the general area. He does not have to hold it, but can set it on or into an object.
The caster can create heat within a metal by touching it. The metal is hot enough to burn flesh, but only lasts for a moment. It can be used as an attack on heavily armored opponents, or can cause an opponent to drop a metal weapon.
Light Normal Fire
The caster may touch ordinary fuel and ignite it as if he had a torch in his hand. This can even ignite problematic (ex: damp) kindling). It is not powerful enough to use it as an attack, except in the case of immobilized or extremely flammable adversaries.
The caster’s mere touch causes flame damage.
Create Flame without Fuel
Kind of a combination between ‘’Create Light and Light Normal Fire ’’except the fire created burns for a reasonable amount of time, is hot like normal fire, and requires no fuel. Like Light Normal Fire the spell takes long enough to cast that it cannot normally be used as an attack except against immobilized or extremely flammable adversaries.
The caster sends a ranged fire attack against s single enemy or tightly-packed group of enemies (1-3 people).
Like Create Light, but the flame lasts until the caster dies or wills it to stop. This flame also gives warming heat, but does not burn fuel or flesh.
Summon Fire Elemental
The Caster can summon a fire elemental to do his bidding. This is one of the mindless servants of the Fire Elemental Lords. It will be able to perform one specific task and then will burn away after a few minutes. The GM has a character sheet for a typical servant.
Improved Fireball (+2)
This is identical to Fireball, but acts as a +2 in conflict resolution. It can also affect a slightly larger number of people (4-8 people). It has a slightly concussive force and can be used at the +1 level to even affect fireproof objects (such as a stone door).
This causes a fire to spring up over a large area, about the size of a building, consuming it and damaging everyone in it. After the initial damage is handled, it will continue to deal out damage as if everyone in the affected area were being attacked by a combatant with a Combat 4, until the entire structure burns down, or the GM concludes that the Encounter is over.
Similar to Holocaust, the Mage can create a huge amount of fire that advances slowly across the immediate landscape, effectively herding or destroying everything in its path using Combat 4. The caster may direct the path of the Flame wave in a line or other simple shape. It requires the caster to do nothing else during the duration of the spell.
This Knack lists the abilities of a Priest or Cleric in a fantasy campaign. For a cleric in a campaign that does not reflect supernatural abilities, it would be better to give the characters a Social Expression: Practicing Clergy.
This includes things like blessings of children or livestock, which may or may not confer an Expression of Blessed to the individual. The effects of this could vary by campaign, but might be used in an Exchange with the undead, for instance
This can be used to raise an individual’s Damage Level from Impaired to Healthy. It can be used once per day.
This can be used to join people in wedlock, perform funerals and other rites of passage.
LIke Simple Healing, but counts as an extra use.
Defended by the Mental Property, forces an undead to flee the area. Attack value is either the priest’s Mental, Social or Knack score, whichever is highest (plus the +1 bonus that the Expression itself confers). This ability can be used multiple times during an Encounter, but is at -1 for each successive use.
The priest can coronate kings, conduct mass blessings, etc.
This can be used to raise an individual’s Damage Level from Incapacitated to Impaired. It can be used once per day. A Simple Healing can be used to raise it up to Healthy. A minimum of 1 day must pass between this and any subsequent healing spells
Invoke the Favor of the Deity
This can be used once per Reset to grant a +2 to any action to any character the priest confers it upon (including himself). The recipient (who can also be the priest himself) must be of the same general faith and in good standing within the strictures of that faith.
This can be used to raise an individual’s Damage Level from Incapacitated to Healthy. It can be used once per day.
The priest can destroy undead, rather than forcing them to flee. The Attacking value is the highest of any of the cleric’s Properties, +3. The priest must be in good standing and strong faith, and in possession of a symbol of their faith. Undead resist using the highest of their Properties.
This can be used to bring a character back from dead to living status. The person comes back at an Incapacitated level and then can be healed by subsequent healing spells. A minimum of 1 week must pass between this and any subsequent healing spells
Single Level Knacks
These Knacks represent an overall special nature of the character. It does not generally impart any expressions, nor can it be improved over time. It is an inherent nature of the character. Players who wish to have abilities associated with such a knack must write down the appropriate Expressions at character creation time. For example, a character who wishes to play an elf, may buy the knack: Elf, but if they want an expression of good with archery, must choose the Expression “Elvish skill with bows” under their Combat Property. Not all elves are archers, but they can all see by starlight.
However, if it is appropriate, a Knack can be used as an expression itself. For instance, if there is a party of hostile elves, an elf character might be able to convince them of her party’s friendliness by using the Knack of being an elf in a Social Exchange.
Flight 1 / 2
The creature can fly. At level 1 it can fly very simply, primarily gliding. Level 2 is full flight.
Extra Environment 1
This represents an animal that is equally at home in two or more environments, such as an amphibian, or typical comic book Atlantean.
These are not usually available to player characters, and represent the special abilities of particular types of animals, monsters or creatures. Some of the higher point Knacks will actually include the abilities of some cheaper knacks.
Knack: Large Animal 2 / 4 / 6
An animal with this knack is resistant to anything from a small on downwards. It may add ½ its Knack value to its Combat value. An animal with a 2 would be the equivalent of a large predator such as a lion or tiger. A 4 indicates something like an elephant or rhinoceros. A 6 would be a dinosaur or dragon. A GM could also rule that a particular animal just couldn’t be affected by a certain type of attack. You can’t punch a T-Rex, for example.
Knack: Zombie 4
A character with this Knack has a Mental of 0, and Social of 0 and cannot make any actions that require complex thought. It is driven to consume human flesh, and is immune to pain, being unkillable by anything other than a head shot, or gross body damage (fire, explosion, crushing, or similar). If attempting to kill one with a head shot, it requires a weapon and the Zombie resists with its Knack value.
Most Racial Knacks are worth a single point and confer small powers or bonuses. More powerful Races will const more than 1 point. Below are some short descriptions. When creating a campaign, these descriptions will typically be much longer and more detailed.
Knack: Elf 1
A character who is an elf can see by starlight, needs only meditate a few hours a night instead of sleep, and ages much more slowly than a human.
Cinematic Elf 2
This elf is typical to the ones seen in Fantasy blockbuster films based on the works of deceased English fantasy authors. In addition to the above abilities, they can use their knack to make fantastic trick arrow shots, walk on snow, climb rampaging giant animals, and perform nigh-impossible acrobatic feats.
Knack: Dwarf 1
A character who is a dwarf makes light of burdens, can tell general direction underground and is fairly resistant to fatigue or damage. A Dwarf can use his knack for Physical or Combat Exchanges where the goal is resisting pain, discomfort or damage.