07 September 2008

Houses of the Blooded by John Wick

I grabbed the pdf of this due to Wick temporarily dropping the price to USD$5. I'd thought it looked a bit too similar to Greg Stolze's Reign to look at in much detail before. I was wrong... well, kind of. It is similar in many ways, but the emphasis and mechanics are very different.

Everyone in Houses is member of the aristocracy of a passionate race of created beings called ven. They're basically humans with certain drives turned up to 11. They live in the ruins of the people who created them, and they're slowly re-taming their lands. The game is about the lives of these nobles, in epic tragedies. There's rules for vendettas, romantic affairs (kind of like the tradition of courtly love) and for building up your domains (or taking over those of others).

The domain rules are a basic framework that everything else fits into. Each season, the nobles will arrange the production of their lands and order their vassals to do this and that. It is also expected that each player character will play out 1-3 stories or adventures in more detail. This side of the game also brings in a huge number of non player characters - rival nobles, vassals, spouses - who will increasingly entangle the lives of the player characters.

Some details of the mechanics that are interesting:

  • Rolls are made to win control of narration, not to determine success or failure. 
  • Players can elect to hold back dice they are entitled to roll to allow them a greater degree of success, with a lower chance.
  • Uses a more limited version of Aspects (from FATE 3.0 as seen in Spirit of the Century). Instead of being able to be used whenever they are appropriate, each one has specific triggers to allow it to be invoked for yourself, tagged by someone else, or compelled by the gamemaster.
  • Detailed rules for duels (when a Revenge or vendetta has been called), with some neat stuff in the different maneuvers available.
  • Detailed rules for Romance, covering everything from the initial flirtation to when it all ends in tears, heartbreak and possibly bloodshed.
  • Lots of cool stuff you can do in your domain. E.g. raise a secret army; explore a ruin of the old sorcerer kings; throw a party; write an opera; build a city; fight off monsters in untamed lands.
Overall, a very cool system that I hope to play with my group soon. I think we'd have great fun with it in the epic mode (tragedy with buckets of blood, like Hamlet or Macbeth). 

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