Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Viscounts & Vagabonds - attributes and skills

Bath Races
So to work on the first draft of the Viscounts and Vagabonds rules, with a view to a play test in the near future. Comments, observations and general ribaldry are of course invited.

A quick summary of where we are so far. I've decided to write the rules from scratch, although inspiration has been drawn from a number of other RPGs I've played in the past.

At the moment, each player will control one Viscount and will start with a Vagabond as well. In this case, the player has more limited control over the Vagabond, determined by his relationship pool. Viscounts can either begin the game with a Vagabond, or acquire one in the course of play. It is, of course, not compulsory to have a Vagabond - a Viscount can try to survive without one, but it is harder, much harder...


Each Viscount has six attributes:

Physique - covers general strength, physical health, athletics, used in any tests requiring physical skill

Spirit - covers mental aptitude, general willpower, energy, indeed most non-physical stamina and capabilities not covered by Physique

Parley - an important attribute in this game, it is used as the base for any interaction, from flirting to oratory

Note: Each of the above attributes can be replenished relatively easily. They can be damaged through loss of contests. They can even be reduced to zero. A negative number, however, has permanent consequences. Negative Physique means your character is dead. Negative Spirit means he / she probably has killed themselves in some dramatic way, or been sent to an asylum. I've not worked out the consequence for a negative Parley yet.

Wealth - measures the character's wealth. Zero wealth means you are broke, negative wealth sees you in debtor's gaol or pursued by creditors. You are completely destitute or owe money. I'll go into more detail on the wealth mechanics in a later post.

Reputation - also extremely important, this is how you are viewed by polite society. Negative Reputation sees you pretty much ostracised by all and sundry, and you may as well emigrate to Virginia. Reputation can be Tainted - i.e. you can have good social standing, but you are considered as somehow untrustworthy (e.g. rumoured membership of the Hellfire Club, fought a duel, etc). Tainted dice sit alongside your Reputation pool, and are rolled with it. Viscounts can do something ostentatious to increase their Reputation - e.g. spend 1 Wealth to increase 1 Reputation by making a charitable donation, but this is limited to one attempt per session, and once between sessions.

Luck - you can use this pool instead of another pool. You can also spend a Luck point voluntarily for a re-roll. You can also burn a Luck point permanently to save a character from going out of play. Your Luck cannot be replenished. Once your Luck runs out, you're on your own.

Vagabonds only have Physique, Parley and Spirit attributes. Viscounts have all six.

Attributes can be replenished. A good night's sleep can replenish Spirit and Physique by one point. Wealth can be earned in the course of play and via other sources of income - e.g. a share in the cargo of an East Indiaman might bring you +1 Wealth, a farm in Norfolk might restore +1 Wealth between sessions. Luck never replenishes. Reputation can only be replenished through play, and is usually awarded at the end of the session by the GM, along with tainted Reputation points.

Attributes can suffer permanent damage. This occurs when something happens that makes it impossible to raise the score higher than where it is when the damage takes place. A good example is a wound that cripples a character in some way - e.g. losing a leg to gangrene. This might also have implications for some skills. This is rare, but it can happen through play.


Skills break down into Polite Skills, Street Skills, and Common Skills. Viscounts usually have access to Polite skills, Vagabonds to Street skills, and both types of PC can buy Common skills. You can buy skills outside your social standing, but you pay x3 points to acquire them. Thus, a Vagabond could purchase points in Letters, but at three times the cost a Viscount would pay for it. Indeed, Viscounts have Letters 1 for free, reflecting basic education.

Polite skills - Letters (reading and writing), Academics (scholarly skill, includes the study of scientific topics, history, fine art, etc - a Viscount can nominate as many specific Academic fields he specialises in per point of Academics, and will receive a bonus die for tests in these fields), Duel (breaks down into Sword and Pistol, reflecting skill with the weapon in a duel situation and knowledge of duelling etiquette, you must have Shooting 2 or Blades 2 to buy points in Duel), Dance, Sing, Play Instrument, Medicine

Common skills - Language (foreign languages - Viscounts get French 1), Horse (everything from riding to being able to evaluate the health of the animal - male Viscounts receive Horse 1), Bargain, Flirt, Bluff, Forgery, Gossip, Gamble, Carouse, Shoot (includes muskets, shooting for fowl, etc), Hunt (includes fox hunting and poaching), Blades (use of bladed weapons in unorganised melee), Oratory (everything from sermons to rabble rousing to a speech in Parliament), Run, Intimidate, Sea (covers sailing, boating, swimming, and general nautical knowledge)

Street skills - Brawl (unarmed combat, improvised weapons), Repair, Cook, Drive (wagons / carriages), Locks, Clean, Torture, Boss (managing other Vagabonds, running a farm, bosun on a ship, etc), Land (agricultural skills, knows how to plough a field properly, assess value of a sheep), Street (general streetwise ability, including filching, shadowing, breaking and entering, etc. - I've got lockpicking under Locks, but might subsume this into Street).

A Viscount being seen to use Street skills will need to make an immediate Reputation test - Torture, for example, would be a Rep 9 or Rep 10 test if news of this got out.

I'm also thinking of adding another Vagabonds only skill called Shadow - Viscounts cannot buy this. It is the Vagabond's ability to blend into the background when Viscounts are around. Think of how many servants show up in a typical Jane Austen novel - they must be there, but they rarely, if ever, get mentioned. This provides the Vagabond with the ability to move around, looking busy and purposeful, and not being noticed by their social betters. It does not work on other Vagabonds, however.

Character generation

At present, I'm considering 30 points for Viscounts, and 15 points for Vagabonds. Initial points allocation is simple - Reputation 5 would cost you five points, Horse 2 would cost you two points. Starting characters cannot go above five on their attributes.

Relationships - I'll go into Relationships in another post, but in summary, a character begins with a number of Relationship points, which can be spread between other PCs, their Vagabond and NPCs of their creation. Viscounts have both negative and positive Relationship points to spend - it is not all good news.

Assets - for each point of Wealth, characters can pick an Asset from a list I'll compile - e.g. Horse and Harness, Faithful Hound, Carriage, Small Cottage, Rapier, Suit of Fine Clothes, etc. Some will require a minimum Wealth score to buy - hence, a carriage might be Carriage (3) - costs one point to acquire at character generation, but Wealth score must be minimum 3. Later in the game, you will need to test Wealth to buy one.

I hope that all makes sense, but do feel free to comment below if you have any queries or observations.


  1. All looks good.

    Recommend that you steal an idea from Wraith: players play another's vagabond. Making it possible for them to betray their liege. Just an idea. :)

    1. Good idea!

      It all looks good to me. I'm looking forward to trying it!

  2. Looking forward to playing a version of Baldric! :)