Ahoy! Just finished my first proper session of BW. I was GMing and my friend was playing a dwarf adventurer. It was a lot of fun, and I jotted down some questions about various parts of gameplay. I’d appreciate any insight you might have to share!
While the PC and their trusty companion (an NPC) were traveling across the kingdom’s rural farmlands, about a month of in-game time passed. I offered the PC to use that time each day while they were walking to Practice a skill if they wished, so long as it was a skill they could conceivably use while they walked. They lacked Orienteering so they logged a month of practice time on that (Forester skill so 1 month of the 6 months needed toward their first test). Was that an appropriate manner and method of using Practice?
The dwarf PC arrived in a village of men later in the session. They wanted to find a burly fellow to challenge to test the mettle of the men of the region (one of his BITs) but knew nobody nearby. He didn’t have any affiliation, reputation, shared lifepath or setting, etc. And he didn’t want to previously know the burly person, but to meet someone new. I didn’t really know how to adjudicate finding someone outside of the PCs Circles (all of which have to do with dwarven life). I ended up having his companion use their Circles for the area instead, but how does someone seek someone out? Do I just “say yes” and introduce someone? Is there a skill I am missing for finding someone that you don’t know and from a setting you don’t share?
There was a big dustup between the dwarf and a barbarian of the mountain folk. I used Bloody Versus, or rather tried to do so. I am still really new to BW and the scene ended up feeling fun and the result was cool (a muddy, rainsoaked slugfest where a Forte test decided the dwarf outlasted the barbarian’s exhaustion). But can anyone point me to some good actual play / demo examples of Bloody Versus? I had to fumble my way through injuries, armor, size differences, and more. I only really know the Hubs and Spokes, which is probably a big part of my lack of understanding. The scene was juicy enough to go beyond a simple test, but far too simple for a Fight, I think. Any help?
Circles is mostly about going to people you have a history with, yeah. Note that it isn’t the only way to bring a character into the game. As the GM, you can introduce NPCs as you like. Even when it comes to people a player might have a history with, recall Roll the Dice or Say Yes; sometimes there just isn’t a conflict.
In your case, I would have gone back to roleplaying stuff out. “You don’t know anyone around here. How do you go about finding a brawny lad?”
“I ask my companion if he knows anyone.” The companion might do a Circles test. (Like you did it.)
“There are houses around here, right? I go knocking on doors and asking people.” That might be a Soothing Platitudes test or Peasant-wise to set people at ease or employ humble farmland etiquette.
“I listen for the sound of hammers on metal. Blacksmiths are usually brawny blokes.” That could be Village-wise, Blacksmith-wise, Sound-of-Hammers-wise, or even just Perception.
Personally, I probably wouldn’t have called for a test any of those cases. I don’t know that failure would have been of interest, and it seems like there was some good stuff to get too!
(But! If there’s a bit of the setting or a piece of the big picture that might create an obstacle, that’s good fun. Basically, what I’m saying is don’t shy away from introducing obstacles you think are cool/evocative of the tone or the setting. (“Everyone here hates Dwarves. If don’t win them over, they might call the Dwarf Hunters on you!”))
That does sound fun! I don’t know that I can point you to any APs/Demos for Bloody Versus – But I could run a demo for you! Meanwhile, I’d be happy to take a closer look at said dustup, if you can tell us more about the rolls at the table. Do you remember who won which rolls and by how many? Do you recall what equipment and stats were in play?
I suspect the biggest stumbling block is that Bloody Vs references a few other rules that don’t get touched on in the Hub and Spokes – Like Injury, Weapon Damage, Armor, etc. The good news is that some of those are handled in character burning – you’ll put your PTGS down; you’ll note your weapon stats – so there should be some easy references.
More good news is that some of that stuff doesn’t apply all of the time. Who has the weapon with greater VA? Often no one has a weapon with any VA! Longer Stride? We’re both the same species! (Maybe not for your Dwarf!) Reflexes are hard to drive up, so people will often have the same value.
Anyway… I’ll go ahead and describe Damage and Injury some. Weapons (including fists!) have three categories of Damage value: Incidental, Mark, and Superb.
What do they mean? Mark is the baseline. When you wrote your weapon down on your character sheet, you saw that it had a Power number attached to it – a longsword has a Power of 3 (or +3), for instance. You add the weapon’s Power to your Power exponent to get your Mark damage value. So, if you’re a typical person, you have a B4 Power, +3 from the sword for B7. That’s the Injury type you inflict on a decent – a Mark – hit.
On an Incidental hit – not so decent – you inflict an injury with half that value (rounded up), so B4. On a Superb hit – very extra decent – you inflict the 1.5 times the Mark value (round down), so B10.
Those calculations are usually done once and then written by your sword on your sheet.
So then, maybe you’re thinking, “What determines a decent hit from a very extra decent hit?” And the answer is extra successes. Most weapons (fists included) reguire two extra successes to go up to the next damage category. In a Bloody Vs test, 1 success more than my defense dice let’s you hit; that’s a weak, Incidental hit. If you want to up it to a Mark hit, you need two more – 3 successes over my defenses total. If you want a Superb, you need two more than that – 5 successes over total.
Okay, so what does the B4, B7, B10 mean? Well, you remember when you filled out your Physical Tolerances Gray Scale? You were recording what a given severity of attack meant to your character. For most people, a B4 wound is a Superficial Wound; you have +1 Ob to stuff because of the pain. If you’re a bit frailer, that B4 might be a Light Wound; you’re down exponent dice from stats and skills and have to make a Steel test. Fictionally, it’s maybe the difference between a flesh cut that’ll heal into a sexy duelist scar… And a fractured skull.
So, to give an example, you and I might be fighting with swords. We build our dice pools, split them between attack and defense, and roll. I get a nice attack roll and end up with 2 successes over your defense. My defense roll is abysmal, though, and your attack dice are hot – you have 3 successes over my defense. I tag you with an Incidental hit – 1 over to hit, and not enough to go up to Mark. I look at my Incidental value and find a B4. You find B4 on your PTGS and see that it’s a Superficial Wound. You also see that you have enough successes to go up to Mark – quite harshly! – and do so. Your Mark damage value is B7. I look at my PTGS and find that a B7 is a Midi Wound – yikes. A Midi is bad enough that I must make a Steel test. I fail and opt to fall prone and beg for mercy. This fight is done.
As @Gnosego wisely spouts, you can always say Yes if flat out not finding a person doesn’t add something interesting; however, one of the GM’s task is to challenge beliefs so that should be a Yes and… or a Yes but…
You find the largest lad in the village but he’s just staggering away from another brawl; he points in your vague direction and says that he can take both of you…
You find the largest lad in the village but he just laughs and says fighting’s for fools…
You find the largest lad in the village but he’s currently locked up on what he claims is a false charge of stealing a chicken…
If the dwarf PC wants to find someone he knows in the fiction, test Circles.
If he wants to find someone new and there’s juicy stuff to get to / there’s no real interest in a scene of him seeking them out, just Say Yes and get to the good stuff sooner (with bonus points if I can Say Yes in a way that complicates a belief or raises the stakes a bit).
If the scene of him searching might lead to some cool drama itself, dig deeper in the moment and ask him to elaborate how he is searching to see if a fun test may result from this moment (his companion failing a Circles test and getting the Enmity Clause, a test toward opening Village-Wise to give him a chance to start learning more about the world of men while he bumps into a band of kobold bullies, etc.)
RE: the Bloody Versus test
You are completely right. I was thinking that I could handle it in a with a slightly more rulesy test but the dwarf, with their small size and heavy mail, and the barbarian, with their hulking size and shirtless frame, plus the pounding rain, slippery mud, each trying to FORK, then comparing attack/defense dice but not knowing how to handle the health tracker, … It was fun but I definitely bit off more than I could chew.
Thank you so much for the write up. It’s a lot to parse, even though I can tell that you are simplifying a lot. I am going to review your words a few times and try making my way through the Weapon, Injury, and Armor chapters near the end of the rulebook. I am far from ready to even think about Range and Cover, Fight, or Duel of Wits, and would like to get solid on rolling Bloody Versus tests first.
I will happily recount the Bloody Versus test for you, but it was honestly a mess. A fun, chaotic mess, but a mess nonetheless. We established intent and task of the dwarf, “I want the barbarian to leave me and my companion alone, but I’m not going to allow him to demean our shared war service or my clan’s history. I agree to his challenge. I join him outside in the rain and will make him submit in a bare knuckle fight.” We both rolled Brawling, FORKing various other skills and each losing a die from the rain making things difficult. The dwarf rolled two more success than the barb’s defense, and the barb gave him one success above defense in return. I fudged something about us both taking superficial wounds to make the successes mean something (no clue moment #1) and neither character wanted to back down so I threw up my hands and decided we’d roll again at -1 from the wounds as the fight dragged on (no clue moment #2). Should the dwarf have won the fight then and there? Bloody Vs is supposed to be one roll for the whole fight, right?
Anyway, we rolled another Bloody Vs. The barb gave him another success over defense and took none in reply so the dwarf marked another bubble (no clue moment #3) and we continued. It was also starting to feel like rounds of combat from a game of Dungeons and Dragons 5e, which was not what I wanted, but I didn’t know how to adjudicate the moment better. The third roll of Bloody Vs resulted in exactly the right amount of success being cancelled by the other in both directions, which felt like fate telling me that this fight was dragging on as both character tired out. We rolled a regular versus Forte test, the dwarf eeked out success one beyond the barb, and I narrated that they huffed and puffed, leaning on one another, delivering body blows like heavyweight boxers in the final round, when the dwarf dug deep and delivered a blow that sent the barb onto his back and he was too exhausted to get back up.
That is so kind of you to offer! I am going to look around a bit more for some write ups that explain the Bloody Versus in more detail but I may just take you up on your offer. Would you prefer to play by post, via voice chat, discord, phone?
Happy to help! Feel free to ask any follow-up or clarifying questions!
(Honestly, Duel of Wits is more self-contained than Bloody Vs. Just sayin’. )
Hey! You’re not on trial here! This is a pretty chill place. We’re all here to learn and (hopefully) pass on what precious little wisdom we’ve managed to wring out of these harsh, harsh years.
That may not have been by the numbers, but it was a good instinct! (It may have also been by the numbers, depending on the fighters’ stats.) I can also tell you that you were almost certainly not far off in choosing a Superficial wound. You handled that no clue moment with grace.
It’s often wise to open the book up to pages 426 and 427 when running a Bloody Vs. It can feel rough fumbling through the book in the moment, but you get used to it, and we all do it.
Under Bloody Versus Results on 427, you’ll see a subheading for Both Sides Hit. As you say, the Dwarf got 2 attack successes over the barb, and the barb got 1 success net. So, both sides have hit. The subheader tells us to apply a wound result as per the Weapon rules (basically what you did); to make Steel tests as appropriate (no need given they were only Superficial wounds); then, if no one fails a Steel test, the side with more attack successes decides what happens next. That can be another round of fighting – ideally with another skill – a Forte test to outlast your opponent, a Power test to subdue them, or a Speed test to escape.
So, the Dwarf player having 2 net successes versus the barb with 1 gets to make the choice on how to proceed. I could imagine a Power test as he seizes the opportunity and tries to take the big guy to the ground, or a Forte test as he plays his advantage and pokes away until the barb tires (assuming he wins, of course).
Quite funnily, you guys basically ended uo here the way you handled things. Maybe with a couple of extra steps (although another round of fighting is an option!), but, like I say, you’re doing great!
Marked another wound bubble? Yeah, that’s legit. Three Superficials upgrade to a Light, but you’ll see that in the Injury chapter. It can be noteworthy, though, because going up to a Light will cause a Steel test.
Marking another experience bubble is not legit, though. Only 1 mark per ability per conflict/series of test. Generally, you use the highest Ob in in the series.
Yeah, for sure. Happy to help. I quite like Discord!
EDIT: Oh, one more thing. Disadvantages like rain or Superficial wounds don’t subtract dice from a roll; they increase the Obstacle – essentially, they cost successes nasty stuff.
Thanks again for all of your encouragement and support. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, working through the Weapon & Injury chapters for the first time. I had no idea that I’d need them both for a Bloody Versus. My original conception of the test was that it was just a teensy bit more involved than a normal Versus Test. Tis not the case.
I’ve reviewed your notes, reread the BV section of the rulebook, and have been doing more online reading. I wrote up my best attempt at a cheat sheet for Bloody Versus. This kind of method helps me learn new systems. When you have a chance, I’d love your notes on it. Feel free to make suggestions directly to the doc, add comments, or add/subtract to to the text itself if you feel like it. I also included my seemingly-endless questions nestled between the numbered bits.
I’m rereading your comments now, and referring back to other threads that have discussed this issue at length.
One big take away for me is that intents that don’t include some measure of, well, blood just don’t work. But BV also doesn’t do kill-right-now. Like you mentioned, Gnosego, about Bloody also meaning Messy but not Clean or This-Roll-Must-End-In-Death, I am finding. Given the nature of deciding to attack and defend, the chaos and unpredictability of violence, and more, BV works best when we both want to hurt each other and are not concerned if things get a little bloody (or worse), but we also might want at least a chance to back down. I like that it can deal some wounds and then gives each character a chance to have an epiphany, get knocked out, run off, etc. Thor’s comment below expresses it better than I can:
So would you ever use BV for two characters who want to fight to the death? Or is a normal Versus test / Fight! always preferred? Thor’s comments in this thread speak on this, too. BV outlines exactly how much damage, and therefore wound, someone is taking after a BV. It seems highly unlikely you will outright kill someone in a BV based on the # of successes.
But on the other hand, I could see two hypothetical characters who want to fight to the death benefitting from having a little BV first: they open with a BV and my character hits while my opponent doesn’t. I deal them a superficial/light/midi wound and “the fight is over” ala “It’s over Anakin, I have the high ground! Don’t try it!” We trade some more dialogue, maybe have a setting change, have some NPCs arrive to witness the horror of our violence. And at that point, if they want to keep fighting until they die, I’d probably roll a normal Versus test. Or maybe another BV and drag out the drama even further. I’d have to eventually give them the normal Versus with their full intent (“to kill via _____”) to let them actually achieve their means. But, seasoning them with wounds and drama before that happens seems rad.
RE: both fighters situationally disadvantaged by heavy rain and mud
So if I understand correctly, in a BV, both fighters would be at +1 Ob, which would mean they each need one additional attack success to actually meet the other’s total of defense successes? Hence the likelihood increasing that we both are properly defended but failed to attack successfully, slipping around in the mud? In that instance, the “neither side hits” would result, and the fighter with great defense success determines how we proceed because they are more stable and balanced.
Mayyybe, but I would probably use Fight, because I like that system better (it’s so much fun). Or Vs, because it’s cleaner and easier for people intimidated by Fight to use. But, I also don’t think that “Our characters want to fight to the death,” is automatically sufficient to overcome pain, terror, and self-preservation instincts. Everybody gangsta until they get punched in the face. So I’m pretty happy with saying, “I believe your guy wanted to fight to the death… It didn’t work out that way.”
I mean, maybe. Sounds a little like a violation of Let It Ride, but if you know what’s up ahead of time, it might not be a problem.
We’re kind of exceeding my ken with Bloody Vs; I just don’t use the mechanic enough to have thought so much about it!
I think the better Star Wars example is the last fight with Dooku.
“Anakin, only you hit. Dooku takes a Severe wound. How do you best him or drive him off?”
“I best him by disarming him and putting him on his knees at the point of my sword.”
Then it’s maybe a (very brief) Duel of Wits or Vs test with Palaptine convincing you to take his life. Or just a Steel test to kill your captive in cold blood. Fighting someone to the death is different than executing an unarmed prisoner.
Something like a Superficial wound would apply to both pools, I reckon, attack and defense. The GM might declare that a situational disadvantage applies only to attack or defense, I suppose, but that seems very edge case to me.
Fight is a fun system: when you correctly put together all the little things an opponent has done before and script something that outguesses them at every turn, it feels like you’ve really earned your win.
However, I come at the choice primarily from a more narrative satisfaction angle: characters discovering they don’t have it in them to go all the way aside, a fight to the death is the end of a story, either your character’s or your opponents; having a single dice roll decide such a cataclysmic moment doesn’t feel right to me.
So, in a tunnel facing a couple of nameless goblins, perhaps a vs test to see who dies (although would a player risk their character dying to a nameless goblin by going into a “loser dies” conflict?); but if there is any emotional investment beyond not wanting a character to die, then my guide would be “never go with a single test when death is on the line”.
So, for something like this, I would instead test Streetwise or like “Tough Guy-wise” or something. You don’t have to use Circles to find someone in every case, especially when it’s something like this. It doesn’t sound like he’s looking for a contact, but a situation.
Also, lots of fun failure possibilities on those tests!