The Supernatural & Other Strangeness in #LincolnGreen

Like any folklore still surviving in modern popular culture, the Robin Hood legend has been retold in almost innumerable ways. Some of these ways are brilliant and nuanced, allowing you to explore your own relationship with its themes and morals. Some are brimming with romance and swashbuckling action, that quicken your heart. Many traipse along in levity, lending you excuse to wallow in the pure joy of adventure. A few drift into dark, mysterious places that raise your gooseflesh. And one is directed by Ridley Scott.

It is not my intention to make all of these possible through #LincolnGreen, but there are two takes on the legend from the past 50 years that I absolutely want to include: the anthropomorphic and the supernatural. This #Greenwoodnesday we’re going to highlight some key features of these two traditions.

By the time #LincolnGreen is done, there will be five base traditions: Merry Folk, Outlaws, Scamps, Wolves’-Heads, and Children of Herne. You can read a bit about each of these here. But for today, we’re most concerned about the last two.

Wolves-Head

The Wolves’-Heads Tradition

From Disney’s Robin Hood to Brian Jacques’ Redwall to Sanguine Games’s Ironclaw, there is something irresistible about seeing anthropomorphic critters in Middle Ages garb clamoring over ramparts, swinging swords, and merrily feasting together. I am fundamentally incapable of writing a Robin Hood game without such possibilities. This is what the Wolves’-Heads Tradition is for.

Before we make a Wolves’-Head character, we need to be clear on some terminology. You can dig around in the #LincolnGreen archives to find out more about the specifics, but here’s what you need to know:

  • Point: When you see the words point or points in this game, it refers not to a number but to a “point of fact.” That you are outlaws, wanted by the Sheriff, is a point. That you are hungry, miserable and wet after a long day’s march in the rain might be another point. That you have been struck sharply in the left arm while tangling with a guard, and it is now too sore and tender to carry your loot is also a point, and more specifically a Hit Point.
  • Experience Point: Certain points in the game are important enough to have a specific title. The Hit Point in the previous entry is one example. Experience Points are another. An Experience Point is a point like any other plus two additional bits of mechanical leverage. What these two bits of mechanical leverage might be depend on the individual Experience Point. There’s a bit more on Experience Points and their benefits at the bottom of this post. For now let’s suffice with a quick example. The Experience Point “Outlaw” would entail all that being an outlaw normally entails—you have a price on your head making you a pariah—but it would also come with two benefits: a Proficiency Litany (archery, laying in ambush, and wrestling) and a Saving Grace vs. being caught in the Greenwood.
  • Attribute Point: More expansive than Experience Points, Attribute Points come with a whole suite of mechanical benefits; but where the players get to craft their own Experience Points for their outlaws, there are only three different Attribute Points: Bold, Sly and Stout. The number of these a character can have is limited by their level in such a way that you either start the game at 3rd level or you start at 2nd level with an Attribute Point of your choice.

Establishing Points

In all the traditions, there are points specific to the setting that the Warden reviews before the game, deciding which are true and which need to be altered for the campaign. The Wolves’-Heads ones are concerned with such time honored anthropomorphic questions as:

  • How vast is the size disparity between a mouse and an elephant?
    • By default, all species are relatively the same size as humans with tiny and huge species populating the extreme ranges of the curve.
  • Do snakes have arms? What about birds and wings?
    • By default, anthropomorphic animals have two arms and two legs. Animals with inhuman limbs, such as birds with their wings and weird legs, can use them as humans do.
  • If animals make ups civilized society, what are the beasts of the world?
    • By default, I don’t have a satisfactory answer for this just as yet. Though I’m leaning towards either an Usagi Yojimbo solution or just a world of fantastic beasts like unicorns and chimeras.
  • So a cheetah and a wren love each other very much, what do their children look like?
    • By default, the world is a rich tapestry of complex relationships where a cheetah and a wren can fall in love, get married, and be biologically unable to produce offspring so they welcome another cheetah or wren who acts as both a surrogate progenitor and a godparent, growing the family in more ways than one.

The defaults are the assumptions that the game makes, but you are allowed to break with them. Your mice might be able to easily walk out of a prison built for an elephant. Or your snakes might have to rely on their prehensile tails to swings their swords. You just have to note that in the beginning so that all are on the same page.

The Species Experience Point

Making a character in #LincolnGreen is largely a process of creating a handful of Experience Points to start the game with. Usually they include your career before you became an outlaw and the very fact that you are an outlaw. In the Wolves’-Heads Tradition you also start with an Experience Point related to your species.

This is an Experience Point, which makes it first and foremost a point. Regardless of the associated benefits, merely having the experience point that you’re a wolf or an armadillo or a crane grants you all the fictional leverage having such an anthropomorphic body should.

Edith the Thrice Dead, an old wolf, can use her tail to brush the jailer’s keys off the table while disguised as a drunk friar come to deliver last rites to the doomed prisoners.

 


Jack Scathe, a young armadillo, can curl into a ball in the middle of a fray to shield himself from the crossbow bolts of the Sheriff’s thugs.

 


Terry of Duncaster, a ne’er-do-well crane, can stretch their neck through back of the market tent and skewer a loaf of bread on their long beak.

Atop of this, like any Experience Point, there are two bits of mechanical leverage that you get to specifically reserve for your outlaw. These are things about your species that your character is particularly good at. Again, the bottom of this post will give you a more precise list of the types of leverage available, but here are a few examples to give you an idea.

Question/Demand: If your species has a keener sense than humans, or are known for their attention to a certain detail, you could work with the Warden to craft a Question or Demand for your Experience Point. These Questions or Demands are added to the suites of questions and demands available to all the players in different parts of the game. A hare could add “What slight or distant noises do my long ears hear?” to the list of questions they can always ask the Warden or “What unseen dangers abound?” to the list of questions they can ask during combat.

Edith the Thrice Dead, who long ago lost an eye, relies heavily on her sense of smell. She adds “What tales to the scents on the land and wind tell me?” to the suite of questions she can always ask the Warden.

Proficiency Litany: Unless another point says otherwise, just having a species related Experience Point gives you the tools for the job of being that species, just as we would, unless otherwise noted, assume humans have feet, eyes, teeth, etc. But that doesn’t mean you’re particularly proficient in the job. A Proficiency Litany would help out here. To ensure their safety, a hare might take Proficiency Litany with bounding, leaping and hiding.

Jack Scathe has claws, a scute-covered back, and inflatable intestines, and he knows how to use them. He adds a Proficiency Litany to his species Experience Point and starts the litany with digging, armor-use, and swimming.

Toiling & Tending: When there’s a question about whether your anthropomorphic hero is more human than animal and you really want to establish that you have a particular capability your animal species has, use Toiling & Tending. This is especially useful if you want to really nail down how an unusual ability works. If your outlaw is venomous like a platypus or has weaponized anal glands like a skunk, this is the benefit for you. A hare wanted to ensure they could jump higher than a fit human would might take “A momentary crouch followed by an energetic spring yields a leap reaching the higher limbs of an oak.”

Terry of Duncaster wishes to soar, and who wouldn’t? They add the “A running start and a mighty flapping of wings yields glorious flight” as a Toiling & Tending benefit to their species Experience Point.

Saving Grace: There are other benefits you can choose from, as long as you and your Warden agree that they are inherently related to your species. After you’ve chosen one, your second benefit for the species Experience Point must be a Saving Grace based on your sleeping habits:

  • Diurnal: Save vs. being exhausted during the day. Refresh after a good night’s sleep.
  • Nocturnal: Save vs. being surprised at night. Refresh after a good day’s sleep.
  • Crepuscular: Save vs. being detected at twilight. Refresh after both taking two good naps, once during the day and once during the night.
  • Cathemeral: Save vs. being caught unaware at random moments of the day or night. Refresh after taking any sort of nap.

These are based on your outlaw’s personal sleeping habits, which may go with or against their species.

The Attribute Point

Speaking of going with or against type, keep your species in mind when it comes to choosing your first Attribute Point. The Attribute Point is personal to the character, and not tied to their species, but it will often be characterized in relation to the species. Predators like wolves and tigers tend to be Bold. Prey like rabbits and mice tend to be Sly. Large or armored critters like elephants and turtles tend to be Stout.

But plenty of animals fit more than one category. Are you a Bold or a Sly fox? Are you a Bold or a Stout bear? Are you a Sly or a Stout armadillo?

Or do you break with mold altogether. Are you a Bold rat? Are you a Sly sloth? Are you a Stout hummingbird?

The choice is yours, but it’s kind of a juicy one, isn’t it?

Going Feral

Often one species Experience Point is enough. You’re a crane and you can fly, but that doesn’t define you. You’re also a Bold outlaw who was once a tinkerer and who is now known for defeating Erin of Lincolnshire at quarterstaves.

But perhaps you’re a honey badger and there’s a thousand weird things your body can do. And you want to make sure everyone knows it! In this case, you can always take more Experience Points related to your species whenever you have a chance to create a new Experience Point. These new species-related Experience Points basically add two new benefits to your existing one, and neither one of them has to be a Saving Grace related to your sleeping habits.

There is, of course, a tiny trade-off here, because if you use an opportunity to get an Experience Point just to add a bit more detail to an older one. But there’s a slight benefit to them, too, since advancement in #LincolnGreen favors points already established in play, and your species, by definition, has already been established.

Children of Herne

The Children of Herne Tradition

I cannot praise the 80’s British TV show Robin of Sherwood enough. (Some of which is on Hulu right now, if you haven’t seen it and that’s an option for you!) The chemistry among the merry band as they fight, argue, and play together is infectious. Nickolaus Grace’s performance as a greedy, competent, calculating, put-upon Sheriff of Nottingham is delectable. Nasir Malik Kemal Inal Ibrahim Shams ad-Dualla Wattab ibn Mahmud opened the door for Merry Folk from beyond the British Isles. And it added such sorceries to the legend.

It is the magic of this series that I most wish to capture in this game, though I also want to leave room for customization. The supernatural element in #LincolnGreen will not follow the path of traditional fantasy games. Spells are not slung like bullets. They are the products of rituals and preparation. The world is littered with friars who will sell you the finger bones of saints, but items of true power are quite rare. Strange and wondrous creatures may hide deep within the woods, but they are seen only after much adventuring.

Establishing Points

What I present here to you is just the mechanics of how these supernatural matters will work, regardless of the fantastic paradigm that conjures them. Much like in the Wolves’-Heads Tradition, there will be a list of establish points that answer the more pressing questions about the sources of magic and how it is looked upon by society. And you will be able to alter these defaults to suit your campaign. But I do not have that to share at this moment.

However…

The Ritual Experience Point

The fact that you know and can perform a particular ritual or spell is an Experience Point with a Tending & Toiling benefit that describes just what is needed and what is possible. The other benefit is free for you to choose.

I know and can perform fruitful blessings up a newly furrowed field.

  • Tending & Toiling: A spring evening spent wafting the smoke of burnt offerings from last years’ crop over the field yields a harvest more bountiful by half in the fall.
  • Beloved Reputation: With the good folk of Wickham for whom I performed this ritual after a troublesome winter.

I know the name of an irksome imp who will aid only in mischief.

  • Tending & Toiling: The whispering of the imp’s name into a toadstool at sunset will yield the imp before the blue fully leaves the sky.
  • Butt Advantage: In any wager, contest or tourney in which I intend to cheat.

I know of many herbs, salves, and poultices to treat wounds and other maladies.

  • Tending & Toiling: A morning spent scavenging the forest and an afternoon spent toiling on the scavenged will yield a specific treatment to lessen suffering and speed recovery.
  • Question/Demand: I may ask “What properties can I make use of here?” of any plant or fungus I examine.

These are gained either during character creation or through advancement like any other Experience Point. In fact, the basically work just like other Experience Points in all ways, save that they require a Tending & Toiling benefit.

The Mystical Attribute Point

So you have Bold, Sly and Stout, each of which granting you a number of benefits, including a Beloved Reputation, a Saving Grace, and a Question/Demand. In this alone they offer more than a standard Experience Point, which is why they are rationed as they are.

But they also engage with the combat system in a way that no other Experience Point does. Bold combatants need not be rattled by their opponent’s assault, and if they choose, they may attack with such vigor they cannot easily be turned away. Sly combatants slip free of harrying situations, and can fight cautiously enough to live another day. Stout combatants can take a blow that would wound anyone else and walk away merely rattled, harried or unbalanced and attack with such might that they overwhelm their opponents.

The Children of Herne Tradition introduces the Mystical Attribute Point. Like the other Attribute Points, it comes with a number of benefits, including a Beloved Reputation, a Saving Grace, and a Question/Demand. And, like the others, it engages with the combat system.

A Mystical combatant is not just someone who knows a ritual or two. It is not an Attribute Point you choose for a dabbler, but a true practitioner. They are steeped in their arts or born of faerie blood or are themselves legendary beasts.

However they come to it, a Mystical combatant is able to shift the battle in their favor through subtle manipulations, crafty cantrips, eldritch flourishes and outright intimidation. When you rattle, harry, or unbalance a Mystical combatant, they become more dangerous. And they have a vengeful attack that punishes those who stand against them and get the upperhand.

Right, and You’ll Want to Know About the Magic Items

There are seven magic swords in the whole of the world and each of them has a name.

A magical item is a point built like an Experience Point with one or more benefits attached to it. But they are not intrinsic to any specific character. They can be stolen, lost, or destroyed, with some effort. They can aid you for a short while and then turn on you as if with a mind of their own. Some of the more darker, powerful ones can even grant you the Mystical Attribute Point while in your possession. But who is really possessing who then?

If a character wishes to make a magic item an intrinsic part of who they are, like certain king and sword of legend, they may do so with an Experience Point in the usual way. But that does not mean the items cannot be lost or stolen. It just means you won’t forget about them when they’re gone.

 

The icons for the traditions used on this page are CC BY 3.0 Lorc and can be found at Games-icons.net.

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