Basics of Role-Playing
The core essence of role-playing is to take on the role of a character in an imaginary game. This is something most of us have been doing in one form or another since we were children playing “make believe”. Role-playing has elements of improvisational acting, storytelling, and deductive reasoning in addition to gaming. Your character can be very similar to you, or everything you are not… depending on the world your character inhabits you might be a wise wizard, a cunning vampire, or a noble space marine. The more effort you put into creating a unique persona and acting out that character in the various circumstances in which you find yourself, the more enjoyment you will get out of it.
In a role-playing game, one player takes on the role of the Storyteller (or Game Master, Dungeon Master etc.) with the responsibility of describing the world the characters inhabit and telling the players what they can see, hear, feel, touch, and taste. The Storyteller is also responsible, as the name implies, for coming up with a story to set the players in. This story is not already written with neatly defined roles, but simply a rough framework. The players are the main characters in the story, and their actions determine what happens next. The Storyteller needs to be prepared to adapt to the other players' choices, so the most experienced player in your group of friends should probably start with the role of Storyteller. As the players get comfortable with the game, consider trading off the duties of the Storyteller.
This guide will focus on the role of a player in a game, responsible for a single character in the fantasy world of Lorithandar. For more information about the world of Lorithandar itself please consult the Lorithandar Campaign Guide.
About the Brilliance & Shadow System
Brilliance & Shadow is a tabletop roleplaying system designed for epic fantasy where players take on the roles of powerful characters called Fated in a world of faerie, trolls, and magic spells. What makes Brilliance & Shadow different from many other games is the epic scope of the game. Players begin play with powerful abilities and skills far beyond ordinary mortals, and only become more formidable with time.
Like most role-playing games played around a table, Brilliance & Shadow uses dice to determine the outcome of actions. Anytime a character performs a non-trivial action, the player rolls dice to see whether the action succeeds or fails. This system uses 10-sided dice. We recommend that each player have 10 to 20 dice on hand. The better your character is at performing a task, the more dice you will need. The number of dice rolled to represent an attempt made by your character is referred to as your “dice pool”.
Characters possess a variety of numbers used to describe their natural capabilities, trained skills, and how much injury they can endure before death. These numbers are fully described in the following chapters.
Modifiers are Bonuses and Penalties applied to the dice pool you roll to determine success. In most cases, bonuses add the listed number to the dice pool as additional dice, while penalties remove the listed number from the pool.
Rolling the Dice
When your dice pool has been modified by all applicable bonuses and penalties, the remainder are rolled to determine success. Each die is considered a success on an 8, 9, or 10. Some actions require only a single success, while others improve the result the more successes are rolled. Additionally, rolling a natural 10 (0 on the die) allows you to re-roll that die. Some powerful spells and powers can expand this allowing re-rolls on 9's or 8's as well. Sometimes dice pools suffer penalties that would reduce the dice pool to below 1 dir. In these cases your character still gets to roll a single die.
Types of rolls
There are a variety of actions your character can perform, but nearly all actions are a combination of one Core Statistic + an applicable Skill. Some typical examples are below:
To calm an angry forest bear, your character would roll the combined dice pool of their Charisma Stat + their Handle Animal Skill. The Storyteller would set a number of successes for the attempt to succeed. The required number is referred to as a Difficulty Check (DC).
To sneak unnoticed past an observant guard, your character would roll the combined dice pool of their Dexterity Stat + their Stealth Skill. They would apply any modifiers such as bonuses for night time, or penalties for broad daylight. The resulting dice pool would be rolled and successes would be compared against the guard's Perception roll.
Types of Actions
All actions are classified in a number of different ways, which help to structure what you can and can not do in a given length of time.
Free actions are actions which either do not take any time at all, or are difficult to determine how long it actually takes. Thinking a thought, calling out a message in the heat of battle, and similar non-actions are all classified as free actions. You may take any number of free actions in a round, subject to Storyteller discretion. A full conversation would take more time than just a quick battle cry, even though both are 'just talking'.
Fast actions are similar to free actions, in that they are actions which take almost no time at all, but more than free actions do. Examples include drawing a weapon with Quick Draw and drinking a potion. You may only make 1 fast action in a round.
Move actions are slower than fast actions, and consume actual effort to conduct. Walking down the hall, drawing a weapon without Quick Draw. You may only make 1 move action in a round, unless you do not also take a standard action, in which case you may make two move actions.
Standard Actions are the slowest combat action speed, and is the common action length for most actions. Attacking, casting most spells, and similar actions. You may only make one standard action per round. You may exchange your standard action for a second move action if you wish.
Readied vs Delayed Actions
A readied action is a prescribed action which may be any action above, or valid combination of actions above, which is to occur when the conditions you specify are met. No other action may be taken this round, regardless of what type of action that is. When the triggering conditions are met, initiative is changed to the point in the initiative order which corresponds to when the trigger condition is met, and the readied action is performed before anything else at that initiative. For example Quiv readies an action to counterspell the enemy mage. Quiv's initiative and all actions are deferred to when the enemy mage begins casting a spell. When that trigger is met, Quiv casts his counterspell as his only action that round, and the counterspell occurs before the mage completes his cast. Quiv's initiative becomes the same as the enemy mage's, only immediately preceding the mage for the same tied initiative. If Quiv had also specified a move action as part of the readied action, then the move would take place as well, if it was still a valid move. If the enemy mage did not attempt to cast a spell that round, Quiv would not act at all, and would have lost his actions.
A delayed action is similar to a readied action in that the initiative and all actions are deferred till later in the round. However, no conditions are pre-specified, and all actions are possible when the player elects to take action. Using the above example, if Quiv didn't want to risk wasting an action, he could instead delay his action to respond to the enemy caster, and choose to take his actions when the mage casts. However because the action was not readied, Quiv can not cast a spell prior to the mage casting a spell (and thus not successfully counterspell), and Quiv's new initiative would become the same as the enemy mage, only immediately after the enemy mage's action in same tied initiative.
The distinction between readied actions and delayed actions lies with what you gain for what you are giving up. A readied action sacrifices flexibility of what to act, risking taking no action at all, to be able to get in an action that prevents another action from taking place, or synchronizes perfectly with a partner's action. A delayed action gives up the advantage of timing to retain the flexibility of what to do at that time.
Other actions can take much longer. For example Rituals are typically 10 minutes long. Most of actions that do not fall into action types above are up to the Storyteller's discretion unless otherwise detailed.
Combat is treated the same way as other forms of rolls. An applicable Stat and Skill are combined, Modifiers are applied, and the results indicate the success of the attack, or spell. Unlike many other tabletop games, rolls to hit and rolls for damage are combined into a single roll. This helps keep combat moving quickly so players don’t spend the bulk of the game waiting for other players to roll.
The basic formula to get the initial dice pool for all attacks is: [Base] + [Statistic] + [Skill] + [Applicable Modifiers] = Dice Pool
|Melee Weapons||Weapon Dice||Strength or Dexterity||Melee Weapons||Weapon Style Modifiers
* One Hand & Shield
* Dual Wield
* Two-Handed Slashing
* Two-Handed Piercing
|Vex's Sneak Attack|
6 [+5 Dagger] + 5 [Dexterity] + 5 [1H Piercing Skill] + 8 [+50% Weapon Style] = 24 dice
|Thrown Weapons||Weapon Dice||Dexterity||Thrown Weapons||Weapon Style Modifiers
* Thrown Weapons Style
4 [+3 Dagger] + 8 [Dexterity] + 4 [Thrown Weapons Skill] = 16 dice
|Ranged Weapons||Weapon Dice||Dexterity||Ranged Weapons||Weapon Style Modifiers
* Ranged Weapons Style
|Whisper's Steady Shot|
6 [+3 Composite Longbow] + 4 [Dexterity] + 5 [Ranged Weapons Skill] = 15 dice
|Casting (Channeler)||Domain Rank||Intelligence||Channeling||Caster Focus Modifiers
* Channeler Focus
|Casting (Mage)||Sphere Rank||Intelligence||Magecraft||Caster Focus Modifiers
* Mage Focus
|Casting (Shaman)||Spirit Rank||Intelligence||Shamanism||Caster Focus Modifiers
* Shaman Focus
|Casting (Sorcerer)||Seed Rank||Intelligence||Sorcery||Caster Focus Modifiers
* Sorcerer Focus
|Malatar's Energy Blast|
1 [Seed Energy Rank] + 4 [Intelligence] + 5 [Sorcery Skill] = 10 dice
The dice pool is then reduced by any applicable defenses that the target has, such as armor, dodging, and magic armor.
Mar wants to hit a city guard with his longsword. His Strength Stat is 3, and his Weaponry Skill is 4. His raw dice pool before Modifiers is 7 dice. Longswords add a 3 dice bonus to attacks, which raises his attack to 10 dice. The city guard is wearing leather armor and a light shield. Leather armor adds 1 to defense, while the light shield adds another 1. The guard also has a Dodge of 1. This makes his combined defense a 3. This defense is applied as a penalty to Mar’s attack roll reducing his dice pool to a total of 7 dice. Any successes Mar rolls with this dice pool are applied as Lethal damage to the guard.
The target's defenses may be further modified by further attack attributes or circumstances
- Armor Piercing reduces the target's effective armor
- Ignore Dodge reduces the target's effective dodge
- Dodge is reduced by 1 for every physical attack received in a single round
These reductions can be further modified by defensive bonuses:
- Armor Piercing Reduction reduces the Armor Piercing applied
- Ignore Dodge Reduction reduces the Ignore Dodge applied
This can get confusing very quickly, so take it slowly until you understand what all applies when.
Here is an example using all of these factors:
- Edward Sumner is a retired General and is under attack by two cutthroats wielding daggers and their archer friend. Edward is wearing full plate armor with a light shield and a longsword. Edward has a total defense of 5 [3 Full Plate + 1 Shield + 1 Dodge].
- Cuttthroat 1 attacks with a starting dice pool of 7 (1 [Dagger] + 3 [Strength] + 3 [Skill]). This pool would be reduced by Edward's 5 defense to a dice pool of 2. However, daggers have a 1 Armor Piercing bonus, so 1 of 3 Armor that Edward would not count, so the Cutthroat's dice pool would be 3, not 2. The adjustments are not yet complete. Edward's shield has Armor Piercing Reduction of 1, so the dagger's 1 Armor Piercing is reduced to 0. The Cutthroat has an attacking dice pool of 2.
- Cutthroat 2 then makes his attack, and since he is Cutthroat 1's twin brother, he has exactly the same skill and strength, so his starting dice pool is also 7. This time, Edward has already been attacked once in the round, so Edward's Dodge is reduced by 1 to 0. The same Armor Piercing, and Armor Piercing reduction applies, which negate each other. Edward's 3 Armor and 1 Shield defense are removed from the dice pool for a final attack dice pool of 3.
- The hostile archer gets in his attack then, and uses a full action to Steady Shot, and has a starting dice pool of 8 (2 [Longbow] + 3 [Dexterity] + 3 [Skill]). Steady Shot negates up to 3 of Edward's Dodge. Edward doesn't have any Dodge left anyway, so this does not have any further impact. Longbows have 2 Armor Piercing, and Edward's shield negates 1 of those, so Edward still has his armor reduced from 3 to 2. With his shield, Edward is still able to remove 3 dice from the Archer's dice pool, for a final pool of 5.
- Edward then gets in his attack, and then the round starts over again, and the Dodge that Edward had lost from Cutthroat 1's attack is restored. The cycle continues until Edward has the cutthroats on the run, or begging for their lives ... because Edward is a badass and it is never smart to attack an experienced soldier in full plate.
- Physical Defense is the combination of Physical Armor, Dodge, and Shield bonuses and protects against physical attacks from melee/mundane sources and some types of magical attacks
- Physical Armor is a 'hard shell', either through worn armor or physical armor spells like Seed: Armor, and Ice Armor (mage)
- Magic Armor is granted by magical abilities to protect against some types of magical attacks
- Resistance is a dice pool used to oppose certain types of attacks, including poison, disease, and some magical attacks
- Magic Resistance is a bonus to the Resistance dice pool to defend against some magical attacks
- Physical Damage Reduction converts physical damage actually received from lethal to non-lethal (until Vigor is used up, then no more conversion)
- Magic Damage Reduction converts magical damage actually received from lethal to non-lethal (until Vigor is used up, then no more conversion)
- Ward is a magical shell that absorbs incoming damage, before damage is actually applied.
Ward is often confusing, as it blocks damage, not attacks. In an attack scenario, any successes AFTER all other defenses are first applied to Ward before being applied to health. Each point of Ward absorbes 1 point of Lethal damage or 1 point of non-Lethal damage, and the ward is then reduced by the same value. Any damage remaining after all Ward points have been used is applied to Health or Vigor appropriately.
If a reactive effect requires a successful attack, that effect will trigger even if all damage is negated by Ward. Examples include Magecraft's Fire Armor and Shamanism's Frost Burst.
If a reactive effect requires lethal damage to be dealt, if the Ward negates all damage, it will also negate that effect. Examples include Bleed effects and Poisons.
Damage Tracking (Health / Vigor)
Your character gets a number of Health Points (Constitution + Racial Modifier) for tracking lethal damage, and Vigor Points (Constitution) for tracking non-lethal damage. Lethal damage is applied to Health Points. When Health Points are reduced to 0, you are disabled (unconscious and unable to take actions) and begin to bleed out into Negative Health Points. A player has a number of negative Health Points equal to their Maximum Health Points. Some special powers and abilities will allow characters to continue to perform actions or fight while at Negative Health Points. Any additional damage when at Negative Health Points (including non-lethal) is dealt as lethal. When the player reaches the last Negative Health Point, they die. Non-lethal damage is applied first to Vigor, when Vigor runs out any additional non-lethal damage is applied to Health Points instead.
Most damage is either Lethal damage (axes, swords, fireballs) or Non-Lethal damage (falling, weapon damage reduced by armor, sorcerous Backlash). However, some rare and dangerous sources may deal Mortal damage. Creatures take Mortal damage from inimical sources (e.g. Undead take Mortal damage from fire). When a source deals Mortal damage, calculate damage as normal and then double the result. If a Fireball spell would deal 3 damage to a zombie, it would instead deal 6.
Health and Vigor Recovery
Players naturally recover one Health point after a night of restful sleep. A successful Medicine roll can increase this to two Health points per night of restful sleep.
Players naturally recover one Vigor point every 15 minutes. This may not be improved by Medicine, however, some Traits may allow characters to recover more quickly. Sorcerous Backlash reduces Maximum Vigor but this maximum recovers one point every 15 minutes.
Each point of magical healing heals 1 Health Point or two points of Vigor, with Health Points being replenished first. Some magical effects may replenish Vigor directly however. Magical healing may not repair Vigor Maximums from Backlash unless it expressly says it does.
Each character begins play with 4 Story Points that may be used to provide 3 bonus dice on a roll. Only one such point can be spent each round. These Story Points are replenished as a reward by your Storyteller for finishing a chapter in the game. Your Storyteller may also reward good roleplaying by individual Story Dice that must be spent in a particular session. No more than 3 Story Dice may be spent in a single round regardless.
Creating a character
Before you can create any sort of stats, you should create a character concept. To help you get a handle on your character’s identity and motivation, come up with a short, two- or three-word description of him/her. Examples: “shadow priest”, “Imperial mage”, “wandering mercenary”. Often looking through the available races can help narrow down your concept as some races are much more suited to certain lifestyles.
2. Select Race
There are nine playable races in Brilliance & Shadow. Each offers distinct advantages and disadvantages. There is no “best” race, but some races are better suited to certain professions and roles. Trolls, for example, are known as fearsome warriors while having little aptitude for magic. See the Races section for more details.
3. Select Source
Each player has access to powers beyond normal mortals. The nature of these powers is determined by their chosen Source. There are 5 sources to choose from, which determine the powers are available to your character. Benefit Points may be spent to gain a secondary source.
|Adept||An adept draws on the power of his own internal energy to perform feats beyond ordinary men. With no knowledge of magic spells, spirits, or prayers, an adept gains skill through hard work, dedication, and supernatural talent. He may be a skilled warrior, cunning thief, or silver-tongued orator and many of history’s greatest tyrants, generals, and warriors were adepts.
You might enjoy Adept if: You enjoy using abilities which improve your own character, or aren’t interested in magic spells. Adepts get the best self buffing abilities in the game.
|One Rank 2 Discipline with one ability from Rank 1, and one ability from Rank 2|
|Mage||Mages are powerful spellcasters who draw on the elemental power of the world to cast devastating blasts of fire or lightning, mind control, teleportation, healing or protective magical barriers.
You might enjoy Mage if: You like versatile characters who can gain access to a huge variety of powers including damage spells, protective magic, and healing. Mages have the broadest power set in the game and can pick up dozens of useful spells, but can struggle with managing Mana, their primary resource.
|One Rank 2 Sphere with two spells from Rank 1 and one spell from Rank 2|
|Shaman||Shamans draw their powers from elemental, nature, animal, or ghostly spirits. These spirits linger unseen in the world, but Shamans can manifest their spirit guides to protect them, imbue the spirits into weapons or armor, and use powers granted by the Spirits. Shamans are often barbaric warriors, holy men, or sages, reaching through the veil of Twilight to see into the realm of spirits and the dead.
You might enjoy Shaman if: You like the idea of having companion spirits to send into battle and draw power from. Shaman have a great mix of buffing, and support powers drawn from their spirits unique capabilities.
|One Rank 2 Spirit with one spell from Rank 1 and one spell from Rank 2|
|Channeler||Channelers are priests, clerics, and avatars of immortal patrons gifted with access to their patron’s power. They may be a member of an established order, or a lone crusader for their god or goddess. The powers a channeler wields are restricted to the Domains their patron offers and always reflect the patron. They range from Order, and Healing, to Death, and Chaos.
You might enjoy Channeler if: You enjoy strongly specialized theme characters. Channelers abilities are based off which patron or deity they serve. Thalu the God of Fire for example tends towards destructive powers while Nimway offers more defensive and healing oriented domains. In the area of your patrons influence, you will be unequalled.
|One Rank 2 Domain with one Line and one power from Rank 1 in that Line and one power from Rank 2 in that Line|
|Sorcerer||Sorcerers are dark casters of primal planar magic nearly beyond their control. They reach into the Outer Planes to unleash raw destructive magic in waves of fire, demonic conjurations, and armies of undead.
You might enjoy Sorcerer if: You enjoy magical brute force. Sorcerers have a few extremely powerful abilities, but very little versatility. In many ways they are the opposite of Mages; trading increased risk and lack of versatility for overwhelming strength in their areas of specialty. Often described as “sledgehammers” they have little utility, and no healing, but are arguably the best in the game at raw power.
|One Rank 2 Seed with the Rank 1 and Rank 2 powers from that seed|
4. Select Primary Statistics
Your characters innate capabilities are Primary Statistics (Stats). Your character begins with one point in each Primary Stat automatically. You may distribute 10 Points among the Primary Statistics. Points costs are cumulative, and the point costs are slightly cheaper if your Race has a Favored Stat (see the Races section for details)
|Statistic Rank||Regular Point Cost||Favored Point Cost|
|2||1 Point||1 Point|
|3||1 Point||1 Point|
|4||2 Points||1 Point|
|5||3 Points||3 Points|
Example: Mar wants to raise his Constitution to 4 as a Wild Elf with a Favored Stat of Constitution. He needs to spend 1 Point each to raise Constitution to 2, 3, and then 4, for a total cost of 3 points. Another character lacking his Favored Stat would need to spend a total of 4 Points for the same starting rank, since Rank 4 costs 2 points instead of 1.
|Strength||Physical might, this stat governs your ability to climb, lift, throw, jump, run quickly, wear heavy equipment, and deal damage with melee weapons.|
|Dexterity||Physical agility, this stat governs your ability to sneak, perform acrobatics, dodge attacks, and fire ranged weapons such as bows and crossbows.|
|Constitution||Physical toughness, this stat governs your ability to soak damage, resist poisons, disease, and certain types of magical spells.|
|Intelligence||Mental might, this stat governs your ability to research, investigate, perform medical procedures, and is the primary statistic for spellcasting. Note: This stat has no bearing on your characters education; that is defined through Skills and Benefits.|
|Willpower||Mental toughness, this stat governs your ability to stay alert, act decisively, resist social influence and certain types of spells.|
|Charisma||Mental agility, this stat governs your ability to carry yourself, interact with animals, influence others, and gather information. This influence may be a combination of looks, personality, or manipulation.|
5. Calculate Secondary Statistics
Your character's Primary Statistics are combined with additional bonuses to create Secondary Statistics such as your characters Health and Initiative. Some Secondary Statistics are based on the average 2 Primary Statistics. Any time one of your stats or abilities is an average, you must round down to the nearest whole number.
|Magic||This stat governs the limits of Source powers, and increases player's mana pool. Player's may have Source powers (Domains, Disciplines, etc) of a rank equal to Magic + 1. All players begin play with a Magic Stat of 1 which may be raised only by General Experience. (see Earning & Spending XP)|
|Health||Derived: Constitution + Racial Bonus. This stat is the total points of lethal damage you can sustain, and the number of rounds you have before you bleed to death. Recovers slowly.|
|Vigor||Derived: Constitution. This stat is the total points of non-lethal damage you can sustain before you begin to take lethal damage from non-lethal attacks or effects. Recovers more quickly than Health.|
|Mana||Derived: Magic x 10. This stat is the pool of points used to power spells and adept abilities.|
|Initiative||Derived: Willpower. This stat is the ability to react quickly without hesitation in the face of danger. This bonus is added to 1d10 rolls for Initiative to determine turn order.|
|Speed||Derived: Racial Bonus + Average of Dexterity and Strength ( (Strength + Dexterity) / 2 ). This stat is the number of yards your character can travel in a single move action. Note: Faerie derive Flight Speed by Intelligence + Racial Bonus.|
|Dodge||Derived: Average of Dexterity and Intelligence ( Dexterity + Intelligence ) / 2. This stat is the chance of evading physical attacks.|
|Physical Defense||Derived: Dodge + Equipment Bonus (Armor/Shield). This stat is the combined chance of avoiding damage from incoming physical attacks.|
|Magical Defense||Derived: Magical Armor. This stat is the combined chance of avoiding damage from aimed magical spells.|
|Resistance||Derived: Willpower + Racial Bonus. This stat is the chance of ignoring spells, poisons, or disease that directly affect the mind or body.|
6. Select Skills
Your character’s learned capabilities are Skills. Each character distributes 20 Skill Points among their skills.
|Skill Rank||Point Cost|
Untrained skills will incur penalties:
|Base Stat of Skill||Penalty|
7. Select Character Benefits
Your character also has benefits in the form of traits, assets, and training. Each character begins play with 2 Benefit Points to spend toward Character Benefits. Some races or backgrounds may gain bonus benefits or points, however no Benefit may be raised beyond Rank 2.
8. Select Starting Equipment
Every character begins play with starting equipment. This normally includes:
- 1 Martial Weapon
- Light or Medium Armor
- Travel Pack (5 days of food, bedroll)
- Change of clothes (Common Quality)
- 10 Gold
Additional equipment, including heavy armor, improved materials (quicksilver, adamantine, ironwood), substantial supplies, mounts, etc may be obtained using the Improved Background Benefit.
Earning and Spending Experience
At any time in a session, though more commonly at the end of play, you could be awarded with XP that you can choose to spend, or save toward a long term goal. XP can be used to increase the rank of an attribute, learn a new skill, add or increase the level of a merit, and so on. Experience is granted as a combination of General Experience (GXP) and Skill Experience (SXP). Skill Experience may only be spent on raising Skill Ranks while General Experience may be spent on anything.
Experience costs are as follows:
Primary Statistics: Non-Favored Stat: 5 GXP per rank (*/10/15/20/25) Favored Stat: 5 GXP per rank, with a 10 GXP reduction for rank 4 (5*/10/15/10/25)
- all characters primary statistics start at rank 1.
Magic Statistic: 5 GXP per rank (*/10/15/20/25)
- all characters magic statistic starts at rank 1.
Character Benefits: 3 GXP per rank (3/6/9/12/15)
Powers (Sphere, Seed, Domain, Spirit, Discipline): 5 GXP per rank (5/10/15/20/25)
Mage Spells (Mage): 2 GXP times rank (2/4/6/8/10) A Rank 4 spell is 8 GXP
Adept Abilities (Adept): 2 GXP times rank (2/4/6/8/10) A Rank 4 ability is 8 GXP
Domain Lines(Channeler): 2 GXP times rank (2/4/6/8/10) A Rank 4 power is 8 GXP, however Channelers must buy Lines in Rank order (you must have Rank 1 in a line before purchasing Rank 2)
Skills: 3 SXP per rank (3/6/9/12/15) Note: Players may choose to spend GXP in lieu of, or in combination with SXP to purchase skills. Each GXP spent this way is treated as 1 SXP.