Unspoken Rules of the Scarterra D10 System

Session Zero

  Session Zero is a highly useful thing for a good campaign if not a critical thing to have. The Game Master needs to be clear on what he expects the campaign to be like, so the players can create their characters to fit it and adjust their expectations accordingly.   Conversely the players should communicate what style of play they like best, so the GM can adjust the campaign as best he can to meet what the players actually want. Player-GM feedback should not stop after Session Zero.   In Session Zero, the Game Master can allow or disallow anything in character creation, even if it is technically within the rules. Some characters might not fit. In some circumstances, certain Merits and Flaws are very imbalanced and in others circumstances, they are perfectly fair and balanced.   Nothing kills more RPG campaigns than scheduling conflicts. Life happens and schedules are not always predictable but it is imperative that the GM and player communicate their schedule as best as they can to the other people involved. This communication should not stop after Session Zero.   Once, you figure out your character's niche, it is not hard to set up a ten dice dice pool within your instance, for instance it doesn't take a lot of freebie pointes to have Dexterity ●●●●● and Melee ●●●●● in session Zero. You might not want to do that, because then your character has less room to grow. Though some might like the story where a great warrior is forced to slowly learn skills outside of combat.   It is said that in 3.x and 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons, levels 1-4 is a survivalist game, levels 5-10 is high fantasy, levels 11-15 is epic fantasy, and levels 16-20 is punching gods in the face.   Lacking levels, Scarterra D10 uses a points buy system, so characters grow gradually as opposed in giant jumps. By design, the high fantasy window is stretched out on both ends.   In most long running games, the nature of combat does not change very much from beginning to end, but games more often not become gradually more political. At the beginning of a campaign, the PCs are probably taking orders from superiors and responding to events and towards the of end a long campaign the PCs are usually causing events and directing the actions of minions and allies.        

Power Gaming Versus Roleplaying

  You can min-max a character to be unsurpassed in certain niches, or you can read the flavor text descriptions on the dots and build your character completely from that. Both approaches are fine approaches to character creation, and most characters fall in between, but if half the players are power gaming and half the players are not, that can weaken group cohesion. Some players don't mind playing second fiddle to a stronger fighter as long as they have roleplaying opportunities. This is why feedback between the players and GM must never stop.     Appearance is usually the least rolled attribute of in the game. But this does not make it useless. A lot of roleplaying is dice-less and the Game Master ideally should have NPCs approach your PC in a manner dictated partially by your character's Appearance. Most social rolls involve Charisma or Manipulation, but if you want to play a character with high Charisma and Manipulation and low Appearance, the lack of Appearance will sometimes cause difficulty (like Tyrion Lannister from Song of Ice and Fire series).     Dexterity is the most rolled attribute in combat. You roll it to hit and accurate hits enhance damage, arguably making this better for killing your enemies than Strength. Dexterity also helps with stealth and movement. It is possible to play a character with Dexterity 5 and Strength 1 who is surprisingly effective at killing enemies though it's not especially realistic. You probably want Strength 2 at least to meet the minimum Strength for most armor and weapons.     Strength is used mostly for rolling damage. Secondarily for Lifting and Feats of Strength rolls. It also determines what kind of gear you can carry and what weapons and armor you can use without penalty. Once it a while, Strength can affect swimming and climbing but usually swimming and climbing is dice-less unless there is some unusual circumstance making the climb or swim dangerous.     Stamina is probably the least useful physical attribute in combat because it only helps resist bashing damage and most damage adventurers have to deal with is lethal and lethal damage doesn't care if you have Stamina ● or Stamina ●●●●●.   lengthy combats introduce fatigue checks and many spells and effects are resisted by Stamina, as are most poisons, so Stamina is far from useless in combat. Stamina scores become more important in combat     Perception is the most common rolled mental attribute in most games, possibly the most commonly used attribute overall after Dexterity. At least most of the games I run. I like to have a mix of social interaction and combat. Perception is good in social interactions to figure out if people are lying or hiding their true feelings and Perception is good in combat situations to avoid being ambushed or notice the missing scale on the dragon's armored chest.     Intelligence is most rolled to see if your character knows things. Player characters can ask the Game Master if their knowledge of (insert a relevant ability) applies to a certain situation or if the Game Master knows there is a applicable but uncommon lore that can help the PC, he will probably ask the player to roll Intelligence + Relevant Ability to see if their character knows it. Players can also ask the GM "Does my character know ______?" and trigger an Intelligence roll. Sometimes this is dice-less. If your character is an expert in a field of a specific knowledge, it is assumed you know a lot of things without rolling, but it if it's a question of whether you know something or not, a roll is required.   Intelligence is also used for solving puzzles, making educated guesses on what the enemy is likely to do, setting up ambush sites, and any situation where deductive reasoning and intuition are apt to help solve a problem.     Wits is least rolled mental attribute. From a power gaming perspective, Wits may be the least important attribute of all. It may be the least rolled attribute apart from Appearance. Wits is for thinking and reacting fast in a wise matter. Normally, since Scarterra D10 is a table top RPG, it is easy to say what you want your character to do and say but if your character has less time to figure out what to do than the player has, that is often a good time to roll Wits.   Wits shows up periodically when the Game Master improvises a need for it, it something I personally relish doing because I want to make Wits more useful. Wits is often rolled reflexively when a character's instinctual reaction is not beneficial and you have to repress it. You may be in a social situation where you have to feign surprise at learning something your character already knew or you have to pretend to not be surprised after hearing something shocking. If a declared course of action suddenly becomes undesirable in combat, you may have to roll Wits to not waste your next action.     From a power gaming perspective, since attributes are used for almost everything and abilities are used for specific things, it is more efficient to put the bulk of your freebie points and experience points into attributes rather than abilities. Though if you raise your abilities primarily, you can probably raise something every time you get experience whereas if you concentrate on raising attributes, you may go many game sessions at a time without raising anything which can be frustrating to some players.     From a mathematical perspective, if you goal is to get all your attributes maxed out to 5, than at character creation, you should probably arrange things to have as many 1s and 5s as possible (or even Zeros and fives). Characters like that are not realistic and a Game Master can veto character built like this. There is a time and place for power gaming, but this approach to "winning" character advancement goes against the spirit of a role playing game. Character advancement is all well and good, but your goal should probably be something other than filling every dot on the character sheet.   Players that min-max in a such a literal fashion, can and should expect a GM to set up situations where the character will have to act in a field they are weak in. This isn't entirely out of spite, as it can be good fun role playing.   There is another more realistic min-max philosophy. Don't strive to make your character great at everything, strive to make your character great at everything he does. It's okay to focus on your niches and let the other PCs have different niches.     After a session or two, if you find your character doing the same types of actions over and over, buy some ability specializations. The first one per ability only costs a single experience point which is a bargain. If the vast majority of the time you swing a melee weapon, that weapon is a sword, then why not specialize in swords?   If 70% of the time you roll Empathy it's to try to figure out if someone is lying, why you don't specialize in "detecting falsehoods" etc. Specializations are one of the rare things that helps characterization and metagaming simultaneously.     Temporary Willpower is very easy to recover by design. Do not be afraid to spend temporary Willpower points liberally. In fact, Willpower is arguably the single most powerful trait in the game. Unless you want to roleplay a character that lacks confidence and assertiveness, you should probably raise your Willpower as high as you can justify during the character creation in Session Zero.    


  Scarterra D10 uses health levels and soak rolls instead of hit points. Compared to most past versions of D&D, combat is usually more survivable for both the PCs and the NPCs...except when it's not.   Without the abstraction of hit points, between defense actions and armor, it's theoretically possible to withstand a limitless number of attacks, but it is also possible that a freakishly good attack roll could meet up against a freakishly bad defense roll and allow an underdog to take down a stronger opponent in one hit.   As characters progress, they will gain new skills, better equipment, and new political equipment but they will usually not gain new health levels, so a newbie character or an advanced character can still both theoretically be killed by a lucky peasant with spear. This forces PCs and NPCs alike to be a little bit more circumspect about initiating and undertaking combat.   Put this all together and NPCs are more likely to run away or surrender when a fight start going against than in many other RPGs where it seems everyone is always fighting to the last man. This encourages PCs to try cool maneuvers or think outside the box to appear more intimidating in order to entice foes to give up more easily. This also discourages PCs acting like murder hobos. If a group of characters gets a reputation for never showing mercy and never taking prisoners, their enemies probably will fight to their last breath (and laden with Willpower expenditures) because they feel they have no choice. If a characters get a reputation for showing mercy to prisoners, enemies will be more likely to surrender.     Experience is given at the Game Masters entirely discretion and there no immutable rules for how much experience is appropriate. You do not necessarily gain experience faster because your character defeated a lot of enemies in combat unless the GM wants to steer things in that direction.   If you look at the guidelines for gaining experience in the sidebar, none of them require combat.     Most of the time, combat really is about life or death and PCs and NPCs alike give their all. The game is not balanced like D&D where an adventuring party can expect to complete four level appropriate encounters every day before stopping for a long rest. Scarterra d10, there is usually a period downtime or a "long rest" between most fights barring extenuating circumstances such an ongoing cat and mouse game between the PCs and their enemy.     Even a little bit of a "soak pool" is better than no soak at and can make the difference being dead and alive. Unarmored characters are very vulnerable.     Combat is a lot easier if the PC party includes a divine spell caster with Healing ●●●, but this is not required. Healing potions are relatively cheap (by design) and the action economy of Simple Combat Rounds makes it easy to use a partial B action to drink a potion without impairing your other actions much. If the party lacks a magical healer or potions, each combat encounter is going to require a long period of down time to recover which may be realistic, but it is not especially exciting. I would recommend making healing potions readily available but not limitless.   Intelligent enemies will usually try to kill the magical healer first.     The rules for Scarterra d10 are pretty straight forward and easy to follow but whenever I explain multiple actions to a new player their eyes often glaze over in confusion or border.  Multiple actions is probably the most fiddly aspect of the system, but it's worth the effort to learn.  Because the GM has lots of characters to manage, for simplicity NPCs rarely split their actions.  Strategic split actions is one way for PCs to really shine, and if you your character has a combat pool of six dice or higher, it is usually more efficient to attack multiple times a round than to attack once because this wears down a defender's parry successes faster.  

Social Interactions

  There are two basic approaches to handle character interactions. You can simply say "I make a diplomacy check", and then roll a handful of dice" or you start talking in character and forgo the dice altogether.   The downside of the first approach is it cuts down on roleplaying opportunities in what should ostensibly be roleplaying game. The downside of the second approach is that it inadvertently punishes players who frontload their character with social attributes and abilities by wasting their point buys relative to the other players. Physical oriented characters do not require their players to be strong in real life, intelligent characters do not require their players to be geniuses in real life. Why should social interactions be the exception?   Both approaches have their place. If the interaction is not very interesting or important, it is better to resolve it with a quick dice roll. If the player is shy or a newbie to roleplaying, it's probably better to lean heavily on dice rolls. If the players are naturally meshing in in-character conversations, it's probably better to forgo dice rolls as much as possible.   I find a middle ground approach is best in most situations. A fun technique my group pioneered, we roll the dice, gage whether it's effective, ineffective, or in between and then both players and the GM try to adlib roleplaying to match the dice. If the player rolls poorly, he adlibs his character saying something stupid. If the player rolls well, the GM can give the player more time than the character had to choose his words and/or the GM can just make the NPCs more gracious and accepting of the character's position.    


  Treasure is based solely on the discretion of the GM.   There are not wealth by level guidelines. Your character is not entitled to any specific amount of treasure or any treasure of all. At the same time, newbie characters might end up with lots of treasure and it won't derail anything. You could also have a powerful experienced character that is perpetually broke and still tell fine stories (this is sort of the basis of Firefly).   Personally, I prefer for loot that PCs get to primarily take the form of valuable goods rather than giant piles of coins. You can open a lot of story hooks. For example, if the PCs find a priceless heirloom art work that is worth a lot to a certain clan of dwarves, but worth next to nothing for anyone else. It's a good springboard to an adventure in dwarf lands.   If as a player, it's very important to you have treasure be consistent or predictable, you should tell the GM during Session Zero.  


Darkvision is such a common ability in D&D 5th edition that it has become a meme.   Very few Scarterran races have an ability like that, kalazotz have sonar which is similar but other common PC race options have nothing of the sort.   Darkvision can be magically created with the Transmutation spell "Dark Vision" or with a specific application of Augmentation ●●●. Other than that, in order to see in the dark, characters are going to have carry lanterns or torches or use magic to create light.

Guidelines for Awarding Experience Points

  The general guidelines for experience point at the end of a session.   One point: Automatic for just showing up   One point: For making a good roleplaying effort   One point: For maintaining a positive atmosphere with the GM and other players   One point: Character/Player learns a lesson or they learn something about the game world   One point: Character solves a problem in a creative way   One point: Character survives something dangerous   +1-4 bonus points if it's a longer than usual session.   At the end of a long running story, in addition to the end of session experience   One point: Automatically for surviving   One point: The character accomplished at least some of their goals.   One point: Player's choices helped advance the general story   One point: Character demonstrated a roleplaying arc of some sort.
I've watched a lot of Youtube videos with guidelines for running and playing RPGs and my all time favorite is "The RPG Social Contract" by Seth Skorkowsky


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