Crosses, Piles & Saves

Continuing my efforts to rescue #Greenwoodnesday posts about #LincolnGreen from the depths of G+’s not-very-searchable archive, here’s one from March of 2016 about throwing and saving. A chunk of this has been rewritten to reflect changes in the system since then and edited for format.

#LincolnGreen is turning out to be quite an extravagant game to play. It recommends that everyone bring one to two days’ wages to the table to use as randomizers. Assuming, of course, that everyone playing is a medieval master carpenter.

Coins, Crowns & Crosses

Every player should have about six pennies on hand to play. They can make do with just one, but it’ll be a bit easier with a few more. Instead of dice, you throw pennies and count the crowns and crosses. For most cases, crowns are what you’re looking for, but not always.
I’ll get into some of the fun bits regarding saving throws soon, but let me just take a moment to say how much I love the binary power of yea-nay questions. I’ve got a question-based character creation system that lets you either answer each question with your heart or by throwing a coin and treating crowns as yeas and crosses as nays. Allowing for completely random builds, completely deliberate builds, and everything in between, all at the player’s whim.

UPDATE: A little bit of research has revealed that the face opposite the cross on a coin was known as the pile, and that this name may be a reference to an arrow or spear. I refuse to ignore such apropos symbolism: Crosses & Piles is it.

Points & Levels

I’ve hit on this in previous #LincolnGreen posts, but I’m going to reiterate here to help out anyone who hasn’t seen those posts. I’m a raging asshole who delights in fucking with accepted terminology. In this game, the term points does not refer to a numerical tally as it does in most others. Instead, it’s a shortening of the phrase “point of fact.” A point in #LincolnGreen is like a point or counterpoint in an argument. It is something that has already been established in your fiction or is just about to be. They are the fundamental mechanic of the game.

The Game Warden says the sheriff’s thugs are in hot pursuit and you’re in an open field 60 yards from the safety of the Greenwood’s tree line. These are all points. You say your long-footed outlaw is going to bound for the forest, that’s a point. You emphasis that you’re a anthropomorphic hare, hoping that point will give you an edge in a foot race. Ah, but Warden points out that two of the sheriff’s thugs are horses. You might not make it free and clear.

Points are not invented willy-nilly. This isn’t some Swords Without Master bullshit. There are rules for establishing points. But mostly it’s all common sense. And how points affect what’s happening in the game is also basically common sense. The Warden says things are happening, you say what you are doing, and if there’s some confusion about what happens next, you check the points and see where they lead. When they lead to peril, then it’s time for a saving throw.

But before we get to those, I need to mention levels. Everything in the game has a level. Levels are not points. They interact with the game in very narrow, prescribed circumstances:

  • In a fight, if your level is lower than your opponent’s, you throw one less coin. This puts you at a disadvantage.
  • Character advancement is tied up in levels in ways a bit too involved to go into here.
  • And when you are in peril, what you can do to avoid that peril is based on if your level is lower than, equal to, or greater than the peril’s level.

The important thing to note here is that a level is never used as a point and never used outside its narrow prescription.

You really want to tell the Warden that your hare is level 3, because you’re quite sure the sheriff’s thugs are only level 2, but it doesn’t matter. You’re not in a fight, yet, and you’re not facing a point of peril, yet. So you keep your mouth shut and keep bounding for that treeline.

I also want to note that the difference between two levels is never relevant. It only matters that your level is higher than your opponent, it does not matter how much higher your level is.

So, if everything has a level, what’s everything’s level?

  • Level 1: Commoners and nobles alike who have never taken up arms.

In the Outlaw Tradition this is where characters start, hoping to survive to level 2.

  • Level 2: Green soldiers, thugs, and outlaws.
  • Level 3: All untended peril or peril caused by your own folly, and wild game animals.

In the Merry Folk Tradition you either start at level 2 with an Attribute Point (which I’ll discuss in another post) or at level 3.

  • Level 4: Well-trained or veteran soldiers and outlaws.
  • Level 5: Wild beasts.
  • Level 6: The elite, hard-bitten knights and the like.
  • Level 7: Legendary monsters (if you’re playing in the Children of Herne Tradition).

Points of Peril

When a point has been established that puts your character in immediate and dire peril, it is time to make a throw or three. Immediate and dire peril is peril that threatens someone’s life, freedom, or health; or threatens their ability to secure any of those four.

Sometimes it is obvious. A volley of arrows puts one’s life or at least health in peril. Being caught while trying to sneak past the castle guard puts one’s freedom in peril. Tumbling off a log into a raging river puts one’s health in peril.

The “ability to secure” part, however, is important. A pickpocket can steal a few coins from a rich abbot without imperiling the abbot (though they may be putting their own freedom in immediate and dire peril), but if that pickpocket stole from a poor thatcher heading to the market in the hopes of spending his last two farthings on a turnip to feed his family, that would certainly imperil the thatcher’s ability to secure the health of his family.

When a point of peril has been established, it is time to see if you can throw to save you or someone else from it.

Throw to Save

Before you make a throw to save, you must first tell the Warden what you’re doing to thwart the peril. Are you jumping out of the way? Are you rolling with the blow? Are you just constantly thinking about your last two farthings and the turnip you plan to buy with them?

From here, the Warden can say one of three things:

  • Given all the relevant points, the Warden can decide that your efforts are clearly sufficient and you save whoever was imperiled.
  • Given all the relevant points, the Warden can decide that your efforts are woefully misguided, and you save no one.
  • It’s a close call, time to make a throw to save.

To make a throw to save, throw a coin.

  • A pile indicates you saved and now ask the Warden, “How have my efforts saved whoever was imperiled?”
  • A cross indicates you did not save and now ask the Warden, “What are the consequences?”

Simple enough, eh? That’s grand. But why all that talk about levels and shit?

Throw to Allay

If your level is at least equal to the level of whatever caused the point of peril (or at least level 3 in the case of untended peril or peril caused by your own folly), then you may also throw to allay.

This throw is made after a failed throw to save and can even be made if the Warden ruled that you don’t get a throw to save.

You do not need to establish any points before making a throw to allay, but you may if you think it might help your position. Such points, like all points, are subject to the Warden’s judgement.

To make a throw to allay, throw a coin.

  • A pile indicates you soften the blow or at least forced a pyrrhic victory on your opponent. Now ask the Warden how you managed to avoid the worst of it.
  • A cross indicates that unfortunately the consequences cannot be mitigated.

Great! Lovely! That means if you’re at least equal to the threat, you always have a chance to lessen it. But what if you’re more than equal to the threat?

Throw to Eschew

If your level is greater than the level of whatever caused the point of peril (or greater than 3 in the case of untended peril or peril caused by your own folly), then you may also throw to eschew.

You make the throw to eschew before the throw to save. No points need to be established. You do not have to tell the Warden what you’re doing to avoid the peril before making this particular throw. If your level is high enough, you simply throw a coin.

  • A pile indicates the peril is not enough to endanger you. Now either use points already established to tell us how you were prepared for this eventuality, or ask the Warden about what you might exploit to avoid this whole mess.
  • A cross indicates you must make a throw to save, just like everyone else.

So, if you are of a higher level than the threat, half the time you don’t even have to bother with it.

Your hare is level 3 and your pursuers, as fast as they are, are as you suspected only level 2. Which means that when the Warden imperils your freedom by having them gain on you just as you reach the treeline, you immediately throw to eschew.

If you get a pile, all is wonderful! You can tell the Warden how you vanish among the trees with bewildering ease. If you throw a cross, you’ll need to make a throw to save. But before making the throw, you must tell the Warden how you weave among the trees and then clamber up one the moment you think they don’t have a direct line of sight on you. The Warden deems that worthy of a throw.

If your throw to save gets a pile, well done! After asking the Warden how your efforts saved you, the Warden says that the sheriff’s thugs thunder past you, but are now diligently searching the wood around you. If you throw a cross, things aren’t looking good, and the Warden says that the sheriff’s thugs lay their hands on you before you can scramble up a tree. Time to allay the situation.

You ask the Warden if it seems feasible that even though they caught you, perhaps you lead them on enough of a chase to get them lost in the woods. The Warden isn’t too keen on that, since previously established points say you’re just at the tree line. So, instead, you say you have a chance to blow your horn to alert your fellow outlaws to your situation before the thugs clamp irons on you. Throw to allay. A pile means the Warden says the outlaws hear you and respond with another horn sounding. A cross means it is just not your day, rabbit.

Unavoidable Peril & Saving Graces

There will be times where the only way through peril is to go through it. You need to run into a burning building to rescue a companion-in-arms, but the Warden says the blaze is so wild there’s no save. If there is no throw to save, there is no throw to eschew. However, if there’s a throw to save, there’s always a throw to eschew. And perhaps most importantly, you can always throw to allay if your level is high enough. The Warden can never deny you that.

Characters also have Saving Graces, which are get out of jail free cards that can be played if you fail or are denied a throw to save. Each Saving Grace can be used once, and then specific points must be established before they can be used again. Our hare from the example way up there could have the following Saving Grace:

Crepuscular: I have a Saving Grace when it comes to hiding and spotting the hidden at dawn and dusk. My grace is replenished when I take a nap during the day or night.

If the chase took place in the late evening or early morning, our rabbit could have used this Saving Grace to disappear among the trees.

Saving Graces may be used after a failed throw to save, so you only have to use them when necessary. And it’s worth repeating that they can be used even if the Warden rules no throw to save is possible.

Banding Together

When there’s a group of you who have married your fates together, two things happen regardless of your level:

  • No single individual can ignore you. So no one on their own, regardless of their level, can throw to avert a point of peril you as a band have caused.
  • When confronted with a point of peril that affects your whole band and will have consequences for your whole band should a single one of you fail your throw to save, you make a single throw to eschew as a group. One throw. Pile and you eschew as a band. Cross and everyone has to make individual throws to save.

Let’s say you are all working together to sneak past the guards at Nottingham Castle. If there was half dozen of you and you all had to make throws to save, someone’s going to alert the guards. But if your banding together, you get that single throw to eschew giving you a fighting chance.

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