Tinkering Under The Hood: High Valor & Wamphyri (Pt 1)

I’ve said it a lot on here before, and I’ll continue to say it: High Valor is awesome for a quick, fast paced system that allows you to do minimal stat prep (and gives you more time to actually develop setting, plot and details to make the game memorable!) I’ve used it for a quick fantasy fix, a more heroic/dramatic campaign….I’ve even ripped off D&D adventures and settings and ran them quickly through HV’s more abstract combat system. For a game where the bulk of the mechanics can be covered in just a couple pages, HV has offered a lot of game. And also like I’ve mentioned: the core mechanics (aka The FEAT System) lends itself greatly to homebrewers and rpg tinker gnomes like myself.  One of my favorite game nights last year was a friend of mine running a Steampunk-Fantasy game using the system. It may be a simple game system, but it allows the weight of the rules to be in the setting and the fluff more than the dice.

Roll Up The Sleeves….Time to Home Brew!

For years, my buddy Mercer has been building this unholy fan RPG setting inspired by the Necroscope novels by Brian Lumley, as well as the “Legacy of Kain” series of video games.  We’ve originally tried this under both World of Darkness systems, tinkered with supers systems like Mutants & Masterminds, and even test drove a version using D&D 4th edition rules. Nothing seemed to fit what he was going for.

The setting itself is Medieval/Feudalistic, but in a society where these “Wamphyri” vampires are lords over everyone in a dark, unforgiving world. The players are actually these monsters, and the whole scale of the game was to entail court politics, epic battles, alliance building and backstabbing. That said, he’s been wanting a system that’s relatively quick and painless to run. Mercer is definitely a story over mechanics type role-player, and tactical and rules heavy systems like D&D and GURPS are a bit much. With the Vampire RPG’s (Masquerade and Requiem) the scale felt a bit off, and becomes troublesome when dealing with mass combat.

After much rigorous hounding on my end, I finally cornered him into giving a full shot at using High Valor to handle his campaign world.

Quick and Dirty Character Creation

Stripping the setting out, High Valor is very light weight and flexible. Character creation is essentially the distribution of “Traits” which begin rated Lesser, Greater or Heroic (+2 to +6 respectively.) You have so many ranks to distribute from your character’s background, your “Profession of Note” and finally traits selected as things your character picked up over the years since they’ve began adventuring. Traits are very broad; covering not only skills, but professions, family inheritance, special items or weapons, social status, super natural abilities…….all covered using a base mechanic.  After picking these traits, you then get to distribute points into “Feat Pools” which are used instead of attributes. HV itself uses “Valor, Faith & Will” for its pools; for our experiment, we changed them into Flesh, Bone & Blood for more setting appropriate pools. Flesh is a measure of coordination, agility, skill as well as physical presence, beauty and attraction. Bone is physical toughness, strength, combat ability. Blood, of course, is the esoteric mysteries such as lores, rituals, supernatural abilities and the like.

We slapped a character out referencing just a few things from the HV book, and the rest I encouraged him to just make up (it is his project, after all.) It came out looking like this:

Wamphyri Warlord

Flesh: 2       Bone: 4      Blood: 2
Kinship Trait: Wamphyri Nature (Greater)
(Essentially from his “race”. This trait can be used for things like heightened senses and increased physical abilities.)

Background:

  • Wamphyri Descended (Lesser) (this world’s version of saying he was born into nobility, as opposed to being made. It’s a status trait.)
  • Sword of Sires (Greater) (a bonecrafted weapon, handed down from sire to sire. Each recipient adds to the design.)

Profession of Note:

  • Battlemaster (Greater)
    –Commanding Voice (Lesser)

Additional Traits:

  • Torture the Dead (Lesser) (a necromantic ability to interrogate the souls of the dead)
  • Flesh of the Beast (Greater) (ability to transform creatures into warbeasts using “flesh crafting”)

Challenges:

  • Wamphyri Weakness (allergic to sunlight, garlic)
  • Rage (prone to anger when he doesn’t get his way.)

That’s it right there! A complete, fully playable character that was made with little reference and built mostly by concept! Best of all, it works perfect with the mechanics.  He’s not a perfect character….as you can see, he’s kind of a sucky leader (Since his Flesh and Blood are relatively weak.) Instead, he chooses to lead by example and force (thus, the high Bone rating.) All of these actually came into play during a short scenario I ran him through to demonstrate how “large scale” combat could work under the rules. I’ll write up on that in Part 2.

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