© 1994 by Scott Gray and Sharon Tripp. These pages may not be reproduced for profit. They may be copied, provided they are not altered and the authors' names remain attached.Previous section | Next section | Contents
Roleplaying is about taking on a character and persona different from oneself. The player designs a character and acts exactly as that character would in whatever situations that the character finds him/herself. These situations are created by other characters or forces, or through the character's own actions. Though the world itself might be realistic or unrealistic, it and the characters within it should always be internally consistent.
The most basic roleplaying can be found in kids playing House or Cops & Robbers. Other forms are communities that recreate a historical setting (Colonial Williamsburg, Old Sturbridge Village, Renaissance fairs, etc.). What separates roleplaying games from simple games of "lets pretend" is that there are rules to be memorized. On the one hand, keeping track of rules may detract from the play. However, such rules help set a tone for the characters. The rules also help determine who is correct in a dispute of "I shot you first," "did not," "did too."
Live action roleplaying can be described as "interactive improvisational theater." Each person plays a character and interacts with other characters. Rather than performing for a passive audience, the actors and actresses are playing for each other.
Boffer fighting brings an element of sport to roleplaying, and gives the game dramatic possibilities not otherwise available to actors. There is more excitement when a player attempts something, and a far greater sense of accomplishment if (s)he achieves it, through acting out the character's actions as opposed to rolling dice or comparing skill cards. Also, when actions are done ingame, it becomes easier to react to situations immediately -- if a player can see from across the field that other characters are fighting, (s)he can respond to it properly ingame.
Players represent combat by sparring with safe, foam weapons. Instructions on how to create "boffer" weapons are detailed in the Props section. Combat is done by fighting with the boffer weapons and scoring hits on people by striking them. Various levels of ability and weapon quality are represented by the numbers called as weapons are swung. Various levels of armor or general toughness of the character affect the number of points that can be scored on a player before his/her character is wounded or unconscious.
Time may run differently within a game than it does in real life. For example, a chess match runs quicker than a real war. Meanwhile, some pen-and-paper roleplaying games have combat rules that require several minutes to determine the results of a combat that lasts only a few seconds.
In Dominion, time in game runs at the same pace as real life. Each second of real time represents one second of game time. Every ten minutes of real time represent ten minutes of game time. Each hour lasts one hour, each day one day, and each week one week.
Any reference to time passing refers to the time both in and out of game. If a character must wait one full day for something, so must the player.
There are two exceptions to this:
In game (ingame) refers to the things which occur in the game, as they would be seen by the characters. Out of game (OOG) refers to the things which occur over the course of game play which are not seen by the characters, but are only known by the players.
When a person is traveling out of game through the play area, (s)he must wear a white headband. A person wearing a white headband should not be noticed or interacted with ingame. Players should carry white headbands with them in case they must go out of game.
There are several persons who help keep the game running smoothly. Most important is that the players -- both Player-controlled Characters (PCs) and Logistics-controlled Characters (LCs) -- not simply wait for things to happen to them. They should actively look for things to do, with their own agendas.
The person responsible for planning all game sessions, keeping plot and characters consistent, approving characters and everything else is the Game Master (GM). A GM must work hard to keep the plot consistent and reasonable, creating a world and circumstances which do not particularly favor one character or group of characters over another.
The GM may also authorize certain players to be referees. A referee is given the authority to carry out or run a particular plot, or to act as an impartial arbiter of rules. A referee may never make a ruling which affects him/herself or his/her own character. A white armband is worn to denote that a person is an on-duty referee, available to be asked questions or make rulings.
The world of Emeth is a fantasy world similar to our world in the fourteenth century. The Guider army occupies the middle-eastern city of Isseter, bringing its faith and politics face to face with the exotic traditions and religion of the locals.
The Dominion rules are designed primarily for the low-magic fantasy world of Emeth, detailed in this manual. However, they may be used for a more "heroic" fantasy world peopled with elves and dwarves, where magic is common. With some adjustments, the game rules may be used even for campaigns that have a radically different setting or tone -- perhaps cyberpunk, space opera, or modern guerilla warfare.
In the future, there may be supplements with rules and background for other campaign settings.
These rules are designed for use with both small scale and large scale games. Many small scale games will be "observed" games. Larger games are usually "unobserved" -- there isn't always a GM present, and the players must enforce the rules themselves. For this reason every rule was written to allow a system of cards to administrate the game.
In an observed game, the GM is always present to help apply and clarify the rules. If no activity takes place that the GM does not oversee, the need for cards is lost. In such a game, the GM might not give players cards, and (s)he may design abilities, skills, items and other things that could not be easily represented with a card system.
In this introduction are two separate narratives. The "in game" narrative is written in plain text; the "out of game" narrative is, like this paragraph, written in bold text.
The "in game" narrative describes some circumstances in which the characters of Dominion may find themselves. The "out of game" narrative describes the mechanisms by which the players act out or represent certain of the ingame effects when playing their respective characters.
Players are encouraged to read the whole introduction. Don't expect to understand all of the "out of game" narrative on first reading. New players may want to re-read this story after becoming more familiar with the rules.
Martin took a step back apologetically to make sure the waif he had stumbled into was all right. She seemed to be.
"Watch where you're going!" the girl exclaimed indignantly.
As she stormed by him, Martin felt a slight tug at his pouch and noticed the girl had tried to grab it. He clamped a hand on her shoulder and cleared his throat. The girl slowly turned her head to look up at him. Then bolted.
Bob (who plays Martin) noticed Samantha (playing the waif) trying to place a rogue marble in his pouch. She did not succeed, so gets nothing from the pouch.
"Stop, thief!" he shouted, chasing after her as she ducked behind a building. When he cleared the corner, there was no sign of her. He slowed his movement, and finally stopped. Ah, well, at least she hadn't gotten the pouch. Sticking his hands in his pockets, Martin suddenly realized that his left pocket was empty. It hadn't been.
Samantha ducked behind a building where no one could see her, then used her escape ability and put on a white out-of-game headband. Before taking advantage of her escape ability to leave the area, she said to Bob, "Oh, there's also a rogue marble in your left pocket. What did I get?"
Bob smiled. "Just a handkerchief," he said, drawing it and the rogue marble from his pocket and offering them to Samantha. She took the rogue marble, but declined the handkerchief.
"Keep the rep for it. But remember that ingame I have it."
Bob grinned and said magnanimously, "Here, I'll even write you a tag for it." Bob scribbled on a piece on paper "Martin's handkerchief" and signed it "Bob Delancy."
"Um, Lieutenant Dale?"
"What, Martin?" the beautiful lieutenant sighed, hardly looking up from her paperwork.
Roslyn worked on her term paper that was due Monday.
"Could I..." Martin began.
"No. It's hardly the army's fault that you're such an obvious target for a pickpocket.
"However," she continued, "we have soldiers out looking for her now. It would hardly do to have the Kelby army embarrassed by a young cutpurse."
"Well," Martin said, "I don't know if its worth anything like that. It was only a handkerchief. She didn't get my three brass farthings or anything... I was just wondering if you were busy..."
Martin sighed, and left.
At logistics that night, Bob is pulled aside by the GM, and told that his character is demonically possessed. Alexandra (the GM) gives Bob instructions on how to play it, and cards describing special abilities.
Lieutenant Dale always knew Martin to be a bit on the edge of madness, but she didn't expect that he would take rejection this badly. Upon waking this morning in the barracks, Martin had been found sitting in the corner, staring out the window and repeating some children's rhyme about the plague. When Hector tried to shake Martin out of his stupor, Martin pulled a throwing dagger from his cloak, and struck the soldier, nearly killing him.
Bob threw the boffer dagger, calling "8 body steel," and hit Steve (who plays Hector) with it. Since his character was unarmed and not about to fight in such condition, Steve played the effects of the wounds immediately.
Martin grabbed Jake's sword, and would probably have done some real damage if Wynn hadn't disarmed him, while Jake grappled Martin to the ground.
Bob picked up the boffer sword. Jessica (Wynn) grabbed her own sword and hit Bob's weapon, calling "disarm." Bob dropped the sword. Henry (Jake) then used his boffer fists and overbear ability, calling "subdue 6" with his first hit, "subdue 7" with his next. When he reached "subdue 15," Bob said "Okay, uncle! I'm subdued!"
"Okay, I'm tying Martin up." Henry said. "You want me to do it out of game?"
"Nah." Bob replied. "I'll assume that Jake can tie knots well enough that Martin can't get free."
Odd thing is, Martin had never shown any promise with thrown weapons...
The character of Martin had not, to the best of anyone's knowledge ingame, had thrown weapon ability. Bob showed them the special cards at the end of the combat when they asked. Bob had seen in the past that Wynn had disarm, and Jake had overbear, so did not bother asking to see their tags. Steve ripped up his lost health points.
The powers listed on the special "possessed" cards Bob had gotten included three levels of strength, thrown weapon ability, a thrown weapon vitals attack and one doubled attack with thrown weapons. He had other abilities and powers which he hadn't used, and so didn't show the cards for them.
Martin explained that the "8 body steel" was called using the base damage of the dagger (2 steel). His strength added three to the damage called. The thrown weapon vitals attack allowed the call to "body" but subtracted a point from the damage. The doubled attack doubled the damage (this is calculated after all addition and subtraction). His attack is "[(2+3-1) x 2] body [material];" he calls "8 body steel."
Note that nobody ever calls "two plus three minus one times two body material." The use of square-brackets in a damage-call formula is to show that a value must be calculated and used here.
It may sound as though Bob had to do a lot of math very quickly during the combat, but he didn't. When Bob first received the cards for his abilities, Bob calculated that Martin's base damage would be "5 steel," and that using all of his combat skills at once he would do "8 body steel," and simply kept those two numbers in mind.
Questioning Martin in his cell hadn't gained Dale much. He merely jabbered something about the animals crying blood, then proceeded to ask her out, though not in his usual sweet, awkward way.
Under the care of the army chirurgeons, Martin wasn't doing much better. He wasn't running a fever, and the chirurgeons could find nothing to help Martin.
Most devastating magic requires having a possession of the victim -- perhaps an article of clothing... Or a handkerchief.
Fortunately, the army had managed to catch the brat who had stolen from Martin. The prisoner was a young local named Treina.
"Treina," Lieutenant Dale said, "Martin has befallen some terrible magical spell. You will be tried and executed for magery, unless you can supply us with the name of whichever foul mage you traded that handkerchief to."
Dale knew better than to suspect a second-rate pickpocket of being involved in the black arts. Dale could get herself in trouble for pressing charges against the girl with no evidence, so the threat would not be backed up. Still, Dale hoped that the empty threats would convince the young thief to tell Dale who the mage was.
The girl continued to cry, claiming to know nothing about any handkerchief. Finally, under Dale's threats, the girl responded "Okay, I filched the handkerchief from his pocket in the tavern, but then I lost it."
This puzzled Dale more, as the handkerchief had been stolen in the market. Dale finally decided that the girl really didn't remember the incident, and had only gone along with what Dale was saying to prevent her own execution.
Lieutenant Dale decided to visit the banker, Kevin. Dale knew that Martin owed the banker a good sum of money. She guessed that Kevin would have formal records of Martin's estate and any person that might benefit from his insanity.
"Well I have the record, but it is a policy of mine to keep my clients' information private. Only if I have some assurance that you do not intend to use the information to..." began Kevin.
"I get your meaning. How much do you want?" asked Dale.
"Three brass farthings, my lady." Kevin bowed.
Holding out two brass farthings and a silver shilling, Dale said "This is all I've got, and of course you have no change."
Picking the farthings from her hand, the banker assured her "Two will be just fine," and got the file.
Apparently, Martin had formally disowned his family upon joining the army. No one stood to inherit.
"Too bad Martin made such a powerful enemy," Kevin commented. "Lord Sigrun wasn't too pleased with Martin after the whole blunderbuss incident..."
Dale looked up for a moment. Lord Sigrun didn't seem the sort to dabble in magery. But everyone suspected his servant and alchemist, Helena, of working magic... Perhaps Lord Sigrun used Helena's assistance to obtain vengeance?
Saying her farewells, Dale left.
"Can't you work a little faster, Stig?" Dale had been standing for what seemed forever, waiting for Stig to finish picking the lock. She felt very uncomfortable, standing in broad daylight holding lockpicks for Stig, hoping that nobody would notice what they were doing...
"Sorry, Miss Dale. This one's got tougher innards than it looks, and snapped off the end of my pick. Now I've got to fish it out and try 'Lucky Curve'."
Five minutes passed, as Dale grew more nervous. "There! Now, can you pass me that lovely little rounded iron one?"
A few moments later, there was the satisfying sound of a latch opening. "I said I could do it, dint I, Miss Dale?"
The tag taped to the lock-box identified it as an "A-4" lock. Carl picked out his representation for Stig's angled lockpick. A-4 meant that his character would probably need an angled lockpick, and a total of at least four in lockpick mastery and/or angled lockpicks. His own four levels of lockpick mastery, combined with one level of angled lockpicks ability, should be more than enough to open the lock.
Carl used his lockpick representation (a crewel hook) to open the one tumbler lock out of game. Once the lock was open, he looked at the out-of-game lock-notes held shut by the lock. The tag listed that the lock was actually C-4 and stated that if any type of pick other than a curved pick was used, the lockpick would shatter in the lock. To make another attempt with the appropriate type of pick, one would have to fish out the end of the broken pick, which would require five minutes worth of effort.
Carl spent the next few minutes fiddling with the lock, to represent Stig trying to retrieve the broken tip of his lockpick so he could make another attempt. After removing the tip, Stig chose a lockpick from his set which, after getting a better sense of the lock, he knew would work on it. Carl knew, out of game, which lockpick would work on it after he saw the tag. He used the dental pick rep he had for "Lucky Curve" to open the lock again. Stig's total ability with curved picks is only four, but still sufficient for Stig to pick the lock.
"Okay, Stig. I'll see you back at the barracks. I'll do this on my own." Dale pushed the door open and slipped in.
"Awright, Miss Dale! Always glad to 'elp out!" Stig said, a good bit louder than Dale would have liked. Dale breathed a sigh of relief as Stig departed.
Dale carefully made her way through the workshop, past containers filled with strange-smelling fluids and exotic herbs. She slowly slid open drawers, trying to be as quiet about it as possible. Their contents ranged from the mundane to the disgusting, but no sign of--
A bit of white fabric caught her eye, buried beneath a small metal box and assorted junk.
"Can I help you with something?" a sardonic voice asked from behind her.
Dale jumped and spun around. Catching her breath, she began, "I'm sorry, I knocked but there was no answer--"
"Don't you try that with me! I'm not some local to be pushed around and have my house broken into. I am a citizen of the Guided nations!" the woman snarled at her. "Get out of my lab!"
While the woman was busy with her tirade, Dale reached a hand into the drawer behind her and snatched up the cloth. The box made a small thudding noise as it hit the bottom of the drawer, but the woman didn't seem to hear.
Dale does not have pickpocket ability, so Roslyn had to actually perform this action.
Dale straightened. "Helena, I have come here to question you concerning the apparent bewitching of Martin. I suggest you answer my questions, lest you bring undue suspicion upon yourself."
Helena scowled and shooed Dale away from the counter she was standing beside. Dale pocketed the cloth, unnoticed.
As expected, Helena denied any involvement in causing Martin's condition.
"Then," Dale asked smugly, "where were you yesterday afternoon between noontime and one o'clock?"
"I was out trading for herbs and vegetables in the common market."
Dale paused, about to ask Helena to verify this, when she heard the too-familiar voice of Stig from the window behind her.
"'Strewth, Miss Dale. I was working... er, shopping at the market that day. She was there, awright."
"Why didn't you tell me before? While we're at it, what are you doing listening in anyway?!" Dale demanded.
Stig answered, "You never asked, and I thought you might need some back up."
Helena laughed the two off her property.
Back in the relative privacy of the barracks, Dale took out the cloth and unwrapped it, fully expecting to find Martin's monogram on the handkerchief. She was wrong; it was only a small dropcloth holding some kind of fewmet. Ugh. Dale dropped the fewmet out the window and threw out the cloth.
There was a red tag inside the cloth, with the words "excrement of a black swan" written upon it. As Dale doesn't have the zoology ability, Roslyn decides that her character can only tell that it is some kind of fewmet. Roslyn, knowing that Dale has no reason to suspect that the fewmet would be useful for anything, tosses the tag out the window.
The next day, Dale appeared at the banker's door again, bringing Jake and Wynn with her. They lunged forward and attacked the banker. Kevin pulled out a dagger and stabbed at Wynn once. When his dagger clanged off Wynn's chain armor, Kevin held up his hands in surrender. Not trusting Kevin, they tied him up.
Roslyn, Henry and Jessica (playing Dale, Jake and Wynn respectively) rushed in, weapons drawn. Alan (who plays Kevin) saw he had no chance against the three of them, having only a dagger himself. He quickly surrendered after landing only one strike (for "2 steel"). Wynn was wearing a minimal chain mail suit (force 1), so the actual damage done was one point. As Wynn has seven fatigue points, she took no health damage.
Alan submitted to being tied up out of game. If Alan, like Bob, had accepted being tied up without being physically tied, Alan could not make an ingame attempt to wriggle free or untie the knots.
"All right, Kevin. You're going to be brought before the court for sentencing. You are guilty of magery and enchanting." Dale pronounced proudly.
"How did you know?" Kevin blurted, frightened.
"The Guiders keep very good records of deaths. I noted that several persons have died under strange circumstances who owed you a great deal of money."
"Ha!" exclaimed Kevin, "Everyone around here dies under strange circumstances!"
"Two were suicides that puzzled the Guiders. The victims had apparently slit their own throats -- further and deeper than would be imagined possible if they were bleeding to death.
"They were possessed, as our Martin is possessed. And, only an enchanter could have made that girl steal something yet forget afterwards."
"Curses!" Kevin cried. "But what tipped you off?"
"Just a hunch. I couldn't believe that a banker refused ten farthings, taking two instead. Then, it occurred to me. Certain mages, it is rumored, are uncomfortable in the presence of silver. It's interesting that most of your transactions are with bank notes and paper currency."
Not all mages, but some, may have this disadvantage.
"Yes, calling demons is easy," Kevin said. "Controlling is more difficult -- but not necessary if you know how to deal with them. I just stopped that little one from attacking me by painting its symbol on my forehead in blood before summoning it. I got it on Martin's 'scent' by giving it the handkerchief."
Calling a demon involves opening a portal through which it may or may not enter, depending upon its mood. The control ritual is very difficult, requiring rarer materials and a higher level of magery. What Kevin states here is correct. Kevin used a bind ritual to prevent the demon from attacking him.
Leaning his head back, and closing his eyes in frustration, Kevin began, "I had little choice. It was clear Martin would never pay, and this way I could show my own creditors that there were difficult circumstances surrounding collection. Under Lurian law, I could gain a reprieve of up to six years on my debts if such difficulty is proven."
Kevin paused for a moment. "But the one thing you forgot to count on, is that I am also a conjurer. I weave a spell without further ado, to conjure myself out, in, by or through." With that, Kevin vanished from his bonds.
Kevin cast the conjurer spell "shadow walk." Alan had arranged with Alexandra (the GM) to use this rhyme for his "shadow walk" incantation. The incantation is fairly short, but the wording is stylized, rhymed and gives early notice that the caster is using magic ("I weave a spell...").
Alan called "time out" and told Roslyn to untie him. He ripped up the tags for the health expended in casting and showed her his "shadow walk" card that detailed the exact restrictions on the power.
When everyone was back in position, Alan walked over to the door, called "3, 2, 1, time in," then slipped outside. Ingame Kevin simply vanished.
Running outside, Dale saw Captain Fenkirk and his men quickly stopping the banker.
Once he got outside, Alan saw that there were ingame people there. He announced "Oops. You just saw me phase through this door." They proceeded then to attack the obvious mage.
"It's a good thing we came along when we did, lieutenant."
"Yes," sighed Dale. "How did you know we'd need help?"
"We didn't. I'm here to bring you to trial for threatening your prisoner, Treina. You shouldn't use such unorthodox means of questioning captives."
Under the care of the Guiders, Martin's demon was exorcised. Lieutenant Dale got off with a flogging and a fine. Treina got a good meal at Dale's expense.
The holy rituals to cast out and banish demons are expensive to perform. Though the Guiders perform this service as part of their duties, Martin is under some social obligation and will be donating most of his income to the Guiders for some time.
Floggings are public beatings wherein (because the victim is helpless, tied up) all damage goes straight to health points. In Dale's case the flogging was probably only three "1 body leather" lashes.
At Kevin's trial, Jake, serving as bailiff, removed the gag so that Kevin could deliver his testimony to the magistrate. Captain Fenkirk and Stig had delivered Kevin to trial in silver shackles, to prevent Kevin from having strength to escape.
Kevin's disadvantage, affected by silver, keeps him in a weakened state while wearing the shackles. The silver in the shackles keeps Kevin at effectively heavy wounds with regards to what abilities he may use. This effectively prevents him from casting magic; however, the ability to cast magic is not itself a crime, so the affected by silver disadvantage is not enough to convict him.
"In my defense, your honor, I would like to say the following words," began Kevin. "Arise from the pits, oh Aakhnoud! Come taste the freedom promised and save your servant on Emeth!"
Kevin had apparently had a standing bargain with a demon. Such a bargain is rare. Kevin, knowing what time the court was scheduled for, had already made preparations in his own mind for the calling of the demon.
Alan, as Kevin's player, went out of game to logistics to inform the GM that he would try to cash in on a demonic favor owed him. He asked the GM to leave an LC out of game near the trial, ready to play the effects of his demonic bargain. Kevin did not know whether his words would be heard, but was so certain of death otherwise that Alan opted for the melodramatic final summoning.
As it happens the GM rolled, and decided that the demon would make an appearance. The GM (Alex) decided that it would be fun to play Aakhnoud herself. Because Bob had taken the bad luck disadvantage for Martin, Alexandra feels perfectly justified in using this as an opportunity to make Martin's life even more miserable.
"Kevin. The circle is complete. I have come here to set you free, as you bartered to set me free." The voice came from nowhere. A gust of wind rose within the closed courtroom. "Kevin, before I free you, you must accept the guilt for the sins I perform for you."
"Yes, Liege," Kevin chuckled. "I accept the burden of guilt for what you do here."
"Then I will find you a substitute." the demon answered. Kevin vanished from the courtroom.
Alex decided that the demon would want to corrupt Kevin still further, to be certain that upon Kevin's death the soul would belong to it.
Movement in the building froze. If any passed by and looked in the courthouse during the next hour, they would have seen all the figures within standing stock still.
Rather than require all the players to stand still, bored and developing cramps, Alexandra tells them that they may choose to leave someone there who will explain to anyone who looks in what his/her character sees. Henry and Carl stay behind while the other players go out for pizza. The other players must be back within the hour, so that the action may proceed in the room.
The figures suddenly back to life, the trial resumed. All memories of the demon, or any wrongdoing by Kevin, were gone from their minds. Instead, they all faced Martin, who now stood in the box to face the magistrate. They knew him to be guilty of the heinous crimes of magery and consorting with demons.
Kevin found himself wading in the river, barefoot with pants rolled up to knees, holding a fishing line. A grin crossed his face. "I wonder how Martin will get out of this one?"