The Way of the Crow

It is said that the House of Crows can only be found by those seeking wisdom. It is also said that its form matches the desires of the supplicant – for those seeking Truth and Justice, it is an Art Deco hall adorned with the Torch of Liberty, for those seeking frights and scares, a Gothic mansion framed by lightning and for those seeking the wisdom of the East…

A seemingly abandoned dojo?

The supplicant shouldered his rucksack and crunched his way up the gravel path. Easing open the sliding door, he cautiously entered. The dojo seemed less dilapidated inside, but it was hard to make out the details in the gloom.

“What do you seek?” Came a deep voice from the shadows.

“I seek to learn of the Way of the Crow…” the supplicant said nervously.

A shadowy figure stepped forward into the light…

“I am Master Crow.” Said the figure, “I see you are startled by my appearance. Were you expecting a rat in a dressing gown, perhaps? Besides, big eyebrows are a sign of wisdom – haven’t you seen ‘Kill Bill’?”

Master Crow eased himself down onto a tatami in the circle of light cast from one of the many holes in the roof.

“So, you seek to learn…The Way of Crow. What do you offer in return?”

The supplicant thrust forward a brown paper bag and a glass bottle.

“Hmm,” said Master Crow, “a sausage and egg McMuffin and a bottle of West Indies Porter? That’ll do nicely. “

A lot of the current figure manufacturers, in order for you to bankrupt yourself buying their figures, cunningly post the rules for their games for free. Whilst we all like free, once you’ve downloaded and read their rules, you realise that in order to fully utilise them, you do actually need to buy their figures, as each character comes with a pre-printed stat card that details that particular figure’s capabilities. This seems to be a current trend in wargaming and one that I’m not keen on.

Secondly, the rules themselves seem to be overly complicated for what is essentially pushing little tin men around on a table. You have reams of charts and tables, modifiers for this and that, status tokens to stack like pancakes to indicate whether your character is on fire/mind-controlled/exhausted/terrified/having a bad hair day and authors whose grasp of English seems to have been learnt via Google translate.

And because they want you to use their figures (and stat cards), there are no character creation rules, so if you wanted to use Bananaman in The Batman Miniatures Game (and who wouldn’t), you can’t. And trying to work out the system by which they derived the points cost for individual characters by analysing existing characters is an exercise in futility, as they have used some arcane formula known only to members of the Esteemed Order of Dice…

Now, having entered the hobby via AD&D 1st Edition, I am not unfamiliar with complicated rules (THAC0 anyone?), but the advantage of learning a role-playing game is that it’s a group activity and there’s always someone on hand who knows the rules better than everyone else and is happy to teach you – because role-playing tends to be co-operative, with the party all working towards the same goal.

With wargaming, it’s slightly different, as usually you have two players opposing each other and your opponent wants to win – so will use his or her superior knowledge of the rules to give you a bloody good thrashing. Unfortunately, saying “Dude, chill…it’s just a game…” is usually met with derision. I’m not saying all wargamers are like this, but should you be confronted by someone telling you that you can’t field your Napoleonic infantry because “their uniforms are not historically accurate for the time period”, I suggest you punch them. Hard. You’ll feel better and you’ll be doing the World a favour.

Anyway, enough ranting, on with the Way of The Crow…

As I was not enamoured of the various rules that I had perused, I did what I always do when I want something and either don’t have the funds or am not happy with the available options…I made my own.

Now, my home-brew rules are something that I’ve been tinkering with for a number of years, with the intention of typing them up at some point. They were originally designed with Superhero skirmish gaming in mind, so had to cover all aspects of that genre. They were also designed to reduce the number of dice you need, the over-reliance on tables and charts and to be relatively easy to pick up. As I also disliked that fact that in most miniatures games you could field a character or model that was essentially untouchable by other troops, I tried to build into the rules that any character had a chance to damage any other character. True, the chances that a peasant armed with a sling could hurt a dragon were pretty slim, but it should at least be possible.

So, over the next month or so, I will be presenting my home-brew rules in easily digestible chunks, to not only get them out of my head and down onto ‘paper’, but also to give people a chance to try them out and give me feedback. I think they’re pretty good, but I may be a little biased…

Think of it as reading through a set of annotated rules, with the designer not only explaining them, but also why they have done things in a certain way. At the end, the ‘rules’ will be gathered into a single document, which then be available to download from here as an embedded document. You will have to provide your own illustrations, though. And crayons…

The rules do not (yet) have an overall name, as each genre they have been play-tested in has been called something different – for Superheroes it was Liberty Force, for zombie gaming – Survival Instinct and for fantasy gaming – Battleaxe. As we’re currently doing Oriental Fantasy, it will go by the name of Karasudo, which very roughly translates as ‘Way of the Crow’. (NB: According to StuRat, ‘Way of the Crow’ actually translates to ‘Karasu no hoho’, but that just sounds like the crow is not amused.)

Let us begin…

Karasudo – The Attributes

All characters (and the majority of objects) are defined by the same five basic attributes – Vigour, Agility, Will, Awareness and Stealth. These attributes are rated from 0 to 10, with a zero rating meaning that particular character (or object) doesn’t have that attribute. A rating from 1 to 5 is within the realms of normal human ability and 6 to 10 is beyond normal human ability. I know I said I disliked reference tables, but I’m going to use one here to explain the ratings and their points costs:

Rating

Definition

Points Cost

0

Inapplicable

0 points

1

Weak

1 point

2

Below Average

2 points

3

Average

3 points

4

Above Average

4 points

5

Peak Human

5 points

6

Exceptional

10 points

7

Superhuman

20 points

8

Metahuman

30 points

9

Demigod-like

40 points

10

God-like

50 points

As you can see, once you go above ‘Peak Human’, the points costs increase substantially, reflecting that these characters are more capable. I probably should explain that the system utilises a single d10 for resolving ‘Tasks’, so you can understand that a character with a rating of 8 is going to have a decided advantage over one with a rating of 3.

Vigour defines how strong the character is, how resilient to damage they are and how much damage they can deal in combat. It also gives a rough indication of how big the character is. All characters and all physical objects will have a Vigour rating, unless they have no tangible form, such as a ghost. Vigour is also used to derive the secondary attribute of Health, which is how many points of damage the character can take before they are rendered unconscious and/or dead. Health is equal to double the character’s Vigour rating. An Average human would therefore have a Vigour of 3 and a Health of 6.

Agility defines how quick the character is, how far is can move in a single Action and is used in combat as the base for the character’s attack and defence rolls. Agility is also used to generate the secondary attribute of Actions, which is how many ‘things’ the character can do in a single Round. The number of Actions a character has is equal to half their Agility rating rounded up. An Average human would therefore have an Agility of 3 and 2 Actions per Round.

Will defines the character’s mental strength and fortitude and is used for resisting mental abilities and attacks, such as Dominate or Fear. Will is also used to generate the secondary attribute of Spirit, or as we are doing Oriental Fantasy, we shall refer to it as Ki. This secondary attribute is a limited resource used when casting spells or activating Ki powers – when you’ve used up your Ki, the character is mentally exhausted and can no longer gather the necessary concentration, so strategic use of your Ki points is recommended. The character’s Ki is equal to double their Will rating. An Average human would therefore have a Will of 3 and 6 Ki points.

Awareness defines how aware of their surroundings the character is and their mental agility, and is used when rolling Initiative, detecting concealed objects and characters and for working out puzzles or other tests of mental acuity. An Average human would therefore have an Awareness rating of 3.

Finally, Stealth. This defines, unsurprisingly, how good the character is at sneaking about unnoticed and concealing themselves or objects from other characters. Unlike the other Attributes, this is more like a skill than an actual Attribute, but as surprise and sneak attacks are part and parcel of skirmish wargaming, it’s part of the basic statline for every character, although it is rated lower. An Average human would therefore have a Stealth rating of 1, representing the fact that everyone has the ability to tip-toe about.

So, to bring it all together, an Average human would have the following shorthand statline and points cost:

Average Human – V3 A3 W3 Aw3 S1 – H6 #2 K6 – 13 points

This represents an Average human with no training, armour, weapons or special abilities of any kind, so basically an Estate Agent. Or to stay more genre-specific, a peasant or villager.

In contrast, the basic statline and points cost for an Oni (Japanese ogre), without any weaponry, armour, skills or supernatural abilities would be:

Oni –                              V8 A3 W4 Aw3 S1 – H16 #2 K8 – 41 points

So, an Oni is equivalent (points-wise) to three Average humans in a bare-knuckle fight. However, unless you’re playing a tabletop version of Fight Club, every character will have at least some fighting ability or equipment. These and all other options, be that highly ornate lacquered armour, three-section staffs, the ability to summon the elements or a ‘hundred-hand slap’, fall under the catch-all term of ‘Abilities’, which we will be looking at next time.

Comments, feedback and malty ales both welcome and appreciated.

 

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23 thoughts on “The Way of the Crow

  1. Just want you to know I am saving each instalment to word Doc and I WILL be play testing these rules with avid interest, with a serious eye to switching out entirely and using them for my games. I know you have an interest in superheroes and in oriental, so I think this will be an interesting venture to `invest in` mentally, getting in on the act at the ground floor and having a head start, as it were. From the first part alone, I WILL be making up sample characters and getting myself familiar with the concept. So far so good Jez.. me likey what I`m reading.

    I DO like homebrew, home made, self made, fanzine, non professional (free on line) rules. They have so much more passion and `touchability` than most of the “spose so” cold pro shiny covered mass produced concoctions of.. endlessly churned out samey-ness. As you say yourself, usually they leave a lot to be desired in their literary presentation, and the rules often feels.. I don’t know, like they are written by someone without a true understanding or passion for gaming: more like written because they HAVE to give customers something (write it in nice shiny gloss, and the customers will lap it up and not even notice its – well… fairly average really), but the over all feel is that the pro stuff is written to make money, and that’s all. Luckily for the companies themselves, the average gamer never questions anything if you cover in in enough gloss and tell them enough times (in self promoted reviews) how wonderful it is.

    Also, the guys have decided we are going to get the gang involved (all three clubs) and give your rules a real run for their money. Once we have the whole set, we will play test them to death. For now I`m sort of taking your baby and learning it first. So rest assured Jez, your rules are going to hit Ireland in force.. I will see to that personally.

    Tarot

    Like

    • Blimey. As the song goes “I wasn’t expecting that…”
      Thank you for your kind comments and your support.
      Of course, it will be highly embarrassing if after you’ve extensively play-tested it, you all think it’s shite (correct Irish term, I believe?).
      Way to put a guy under pressure, T…

      Like

    • Not only a title for the rules, but a philosophy to live by…or something…

      And my interests also include Gothic horror – at some point I’m planning on running a “Carry on Screaming” game using a Cluedo board – just need the appropriate figures.

      And the picture in the post wasn’t random – apparently that’s who I most resemble, which is just…lovely.

      Like

  2. Any chance of bunging us over a full set of “The Way of the Crow” some time soon Jez. You can send it to my email or Hils (or Tarot). I would like to make a start on Beta play testing this lot asap (I can theoretically have it with the lads early next week), don’t worry if its rough draft, we will be able to work our way round it.

    If you need any help with layout any time, ask Tarot, she’s a bit of a wiz actually.

    Like

    • Bit of a problem there, Steve. I wasn’t joking when I said the majority of the rules are in my head, so unless you want a brain in a jar…
      About 80% are in my head, the rest in different Word documents, written in notebooks and scribbled on random bits of paper. Because that’s how I roll…
      Seriously though, as I am currently between contracts, the posts detailing the rules will be relatively frequent – I can’t promise EVERY day, but there will be at least a couple more before the end of the weekend.
      I don’t know…you lot are so demanding. 😉

      Like

  3. My daughter bought me a home brew kit for wine for Father’s Day that’s my fave kind of home brew…..this will prob be my second though 🙂

    I wish to become proficient in Karusudo sensei, teach me the way.

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  4. You’re off to a good start, Jez, and with all the positive and enthusiastic comments you must be delighted that your home-brew rules have been so well received. I’m keen to see more of them and I’d like to wish you well in this project. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Thanks Bryan. I would have responded sooner, but I’ve just finished typing up Part 2! It’s rather lengthy, but should give everyone the ability to take the basic rules out for a spin.
      And yes, the reception has been rather overwhelming – I wasn’t expecting such a positive response. Let’s see what they think once they’ve actually played them… 😉

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  5. Pingback: Way of the Crow – Part Two | Carrion Crow's Buffet

  6. Pingback: Introducing…Master Crow | Carrion Crow's Buffet

  7. “They were also designed to reduce the number of dice you need, the over-reliance on tables and charts and to be relatively easy to pick up. As I also disliked that fact that in most miniatures games you could field a character or model that was essentially untouchable by other troops, I tried to build into the rules that any character had a chance to damage any other character. ”

    There were all deliberate design features of Clobberin’ Time. The final was is achieved by making a lot of the mechanisms for powers and combat relatively abstract – you just decide what happened after the roll 🙂

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    • Thanks for the input, Kaptain. Whilst a bit more complex than your wonderful rules (your initiative system is both elegant and simple), I hope that they share some of the sensibilities.

      Like

  8. Pingback: Way of the Crow – Part Three | Carrion Crow's Buffet

  9. Pingback: Thinking Outside The (Blue) Box | Carrion Crow's Buffet

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