Sunday, August 22, 2021

Violence, That Art of Fools

A sword? What good is a sword? I cannot clean my gutters with a sword, I cannot clear my garden with a sword, I cannot replace the roof of my shed with a sword. It is a tool for making ghosts and of those I have plenty. Away with you, go bother some other fool.


This is an expansion of my Sword That Cuts Heaven class into a game-wide framework, with the intention of making combat a whole load of anime bullshit, without actually having to do any extra work.

It is absolutely untested. It is probably a terrible idea.


Principles of the Art of Fools

1) All PCs, regardless of their class or their weapon, deal damage in Hit Dice, rather than Hit Points.

2) Weak enemies do damage in HP. Strong enemies do damage in HD, as a PC would.

3) HD / HP values are not changed from default for either PCs or monsters

4) Strong enemies are Named. They have connections, and their death will change the greater world. (note: if it makes no sense for a Named enemy to deal major damage, they won't deal it but should be treated as Named in terms of world-importance) 

5) If the enemy can understand the scope of the PCs threat, they will engage only if truly fanatical, desperate, or exceptionally well-prepared.

6) Named Enemies, as well as PCs, can get one action before they die, should they be struck down.


As is no doubt obvious, PCs are ludicrously overpowered under this system. A level 1 they have good odds of instantly killing most of what they run into, but that's a two-way street. This is intentional, as a way of cutting down combat into only the important fights - that is, if you're going to be fighting someone, it's going to be an actual NPC.

The Art of Fools is not for games about dungeoncrawling, obviously. But it's compatible with pre-existing material and that's important.


The Questions of Combat

When someone dies practicing the Art of Fools, consider the following questions.

  • Who was hurt, what was damaged?
  • What happens to the corpse?
  • Who will hear of the death? When, how?
  • What are the closest connections of the deceased?
  • Are there any parties that will seek revenge for the violence?
  • What is the relationship between the law and the act?
  • What outside parties have a vested interest in the outcome of the violence?
  • Does the death leave a vacuum? What moves in to fill the place?

Spin out the consequences and bring them into play. Deaths should have cascading effects.


An Example

The players escape from the orc encampment after negotiations with Esnellir na-Drusi, Warchief devolved into violence. 


  • Esnellir na-Drusi, orc warchief
  • Turon Bull-Tusk, shoulderman
  • Ghent na-Chir, battle-wife
  • Six additional orc soldiers of the Black Eye band
  • Filonius Duld, wizard (PC)

The corpses of the orcs are recovered by the survivors of the band and cremated according to custom. The corpse of Filonius was going to be carried by another PC, but had to be dropped as part of the escape. It was fed to the warband's boars. His silks and rings were taken. His spellbook was burned, forming a fire gnotic at the site.

Word of the battle will spread to nearby warbands by runner. The Curled Tusks will learn by day's end, and the River's Hand and Boar's Wives by the end of the next day. On the PC's side, they will inform the commander of Yellow Hawk garrison when they return that evening, and to Rondarium by morning.

Esnellir and Ghent leave behind two other battle-wives, a battle-were, and three large adult sons (all should get names now). Turon has an apprentice (give a name) and a now-voided spirit marriage to Unsun the Three-Eyed Bear. Filonius has noble parents (estranged) and a younger brother (broke university student).

The survivors of the Black Eyes will declare weregilt against the party, calling in the above listed bands into the pursuit. They are likely to reach out to the garrison and other encampments with offers that, should you be handed over, they will remain willing to negotiate the border treaty. It is likely that the garrison will take this offer seriously, even if the provincial government does not. Filonius' family is unlikely to care that he is dead, save his brother, who lacks the funds to make an appropriate offering to the Furies. Usun the Three-Eyed Bear will absolutely hunt down the PCs if they should intrude in his territory.

Orc law has already been invoked. Under the law of the human polity the PCs are working for, there would be no penalty, unless the garrison commander would invoke a punishment under military law (as it was their actions that derailed negotiations). This would likely be lashes.

On the greater scale, reactions are mixed. Orcs in and outside of the military will consider the event yet another act of senseless violence carried out by the human polity's mercenary armies, lowering an already abysmal opinion. The majority support of finalizing a treaty will not change for this event, but if other such events were to happen in swift succession it might be undermined.

Human leaders will be split between the apathetic, the warhawks, and the "oh come on what the shit" party.

Both human and orc polities will benefit from a peaceful border treaty on paper, but this is always the kind of situation where parties will look at a proposal and go "but we could be getting more" The warhawks are taking advantage of the generally apathetic majority.

The leadership of the Black Eye band will fall to Esnellir and Ghent's surviving battle-wives and were. Turon's apprentice will be made shoulderman, but their lack of experience and rather distressing habits of torturing small animals in secret are not a combination for stability.

The PCs will need to find a replacement wizard soon, though there are few to be had this far from the provincial capital. They might have to settle for more obscure reinforcement.


While the larger situation hasn't budged, it's only because the PCs employers were able to write them off as violent idiot rogues and distance themselves from the event (they may or may not have intended it to go down this way, that is for further investigation Remaining Question: suss out whether or not the garrison leader is pro or anti-treaty).

The PC's though, the PC's are fucked. Best start thinking of creative ways to avoid getting tossed under that oncoming bus.


Even if mechanically it is a disaster, hopefully this provides a basis for "how to make combat interesting" in a only partially-mechanical way, and that can be refined in the future.


  1. No i will not get tired of invoking Auntie Maya

  2. I keep thinking about this and how potentially wacky a game could become verrrry quickly

  3. This looks like it would make for interesting bones to build an updated version of Council of Wyrms...