Sorties

One of the roles of the War Councils is to organise Affinities to go out on sorties in a Domain facing a Call To Arms. Several times per Muster, the Spymasters prepare and curate a list of possible options, from which the Generals select the sorties that will actually be undertaken over the next half-night or so. The Captains decide which Affinity will undertake which sortie, and the Quartermasters make sure they have what they need. Then the Affinity reports the outcome to the Spymasters upon their return, and so on.

The Anarch Revolt makes use of the services of an Affinity of highly specialised Abyss Mystics, blood magicians, and war scouts to facilitate these sorties. Each Affinity (and, indeed, each character) can go on only one sortie per game, and no more than 6 Anarchs can go on a given sortie (except in explicitly-different circumstances). If any member of an Affinity goes on a given sortie, the rest of their Affinity must accompany them or else lose their opportunity to go. Anarchs who are not yet part of an Affinity can go with an Affinity, or as a loose group of unaffiliated individuals, so long as they are allocated to do so by the Captains. Two Affinities can go on the same sortie, so long as no more than 6 Cainites take part in total. Individuals can only be allocated to a sortie if they are not part of an Affinity; otherwise they must either participate with their Affinity or not at all. There will be enough slots for every Affinity (and unaligned Anarch) to go on one, and the Councils are expected to use all available slots; Council Conveners will work to emphasise this.

  • If you are unable to take part in your Affinity’s sortie due to unavoidable OC factors, come and talk to a Storyteller and we will do our best to find a way for you to participate later.

This is in part driven by out-of-character factors. We have a finite number of resources, which includes how many sorties we can write and run in the time available. We also want to make sure that everyone gets an equal share of the spotlight available in this more PvE area of the game. As such, we ask that players not try to leverage their character’s abilities to go on an impromptu sortie, and keep in mind the rules about these being primarily aimed at keeping Affinities together. Any attempts to use character abilities to get around these limitations will fail without a satisfying in-character explanation. The Abyss Mystics mentioned above are already using the best possible combination of rituals to make travel as safe and swift as it can be.

Each sortie will be presented to the War Coucils with the following information:

  • Overall purpose/goal
  • Any Requirements for the Affinity undertaking the sortie (e.g. certain Skills, Disciplines, Merits, Backgrounds, or information or items discovered by previous sorties)
  • Any additional criteria that might provide an unexpected advantage
  • Expected difficulty (Easy, Standard, Difficult, Challenging, or Epic)
  • The broad category of challenge faced (Mental, Physical, or Social)

The War Councils can use this information to select sorties and assign Affinities and resources to those sorties however they wish. Each War Council has ultimate authority over their area of specialty and are not subject to formal audit or review – though of course individual Anarchs may take a different view!

The Engagement Test

Each sortie must be led by one single Anarch. A Requirement (see above) of all sorties is that the leader has at least one dot of the Leadership Skill for every two other characters joining them on the sortie. The leader is responsible for making the Engagement Test, using a pool of their Leadership Skill plus relevant Attribute (Mental, Physical, or Social, as defined in the sortie’s description) plus a wild card bonus equal to the lowest Vinculum rating anyone on the sortie has towards them. In this way, tightly-knit Affinities have an advantage over groups of unrelated individuals. The difficulty of the Engagement Test is determined by the sortie’s description.

Easy5
Standard8
Difficult15
Challenging20
Epic30

If the Affinity undertaking the sortie don’t meet the listed Requirements (including the leader having sufficient dots of the Leadership skill), then the difficulty of the Engagement Test is increased by one category. If they meet the listed Requirements and any listed additional criteria, the difficulty of the Engagement Test is decreased by one category.

  • If the leader loses the Engagement Test, their starting position is Desperate
  • If the leader wins the Engagement Test, their starting position is Risky.
  • If the leader gains an exceptional success on the Engagement Test, their starting position is Controlled.

The engagement test abstracts and represents all the detailed planning and preparation the Affinity has undoubtedly undertaken before starting on the sortie. It determines how much trouble you’re in when you put that plan into motion: this system assumes that there’s always some unknown factors and trouble in every sortie, and you just have to make the best of it. It assumes that you are approaching the target as intelligently as you can, so we don’t need to play out tentative probing maneuvers, special precautions, or other ponderous non-action. The engagement roll covers all of that. The PCs are already in action, facing the first obstacle—up on the rooftop, picking the lock on the window; kicking down the door of the Camarilla coterie’s Haven; maneuvering to speak with a Lord at the masquerade party; etc.

The engagement test determines the starting position for your actions. Once this initial obstacle has been overcome we follow the normal process for establishing position for the subsequent challenges during the score.

Position

The position represents how dangerous or troublesome the action might be. There are three positions: Controlled, Risky, and Desperate. They are defined as follows:

  • Controlled: You act on your terms. You exploit a dominant advantage.
  • Risky: You go head to head. You act under fire. You take a chance.
  • Desperate: You overreach your capabilities. You’re in serious trouble.

The position of a given test determines both its difficulty and the possible consequences that could result. Controlled position indicates a test that you’re likely to succeed, and the possible consequences aren’t so very bad. Risky position indicates a test of noticeable difficulty, with more serious consequences. And if you’re in a Desperate position, things are bad: the test will be made against a significant difficulty, and the consequences are really severe.

One key thing the sortie system does is abstract the behaviour of any NPCs in the scene, as you’ll see below. On an exceptional success, the PC making the test wins and has their effect; on a success, both the PC and the NPC have their effect; and on a failure, the NPC wins and has their effect on the PC.

The member of the Encounter Crew sets the position for a given test after the player has said what their character is doing and established what Skill, Discipline, or other method they’re using. The default is Risky, modified by the action being used, the strength of the opposition, and the overall situation described by the fiction. If the situation seems more dangerous, then it’s Desperate. If it seems less dangerous, then it’s Controlled.

Progress Clocks

A progress clock is a circle divided into segments (see examples at right). We use progress clocks when we need to track ongoing effort against an obstacle or the approach of impending trouble.

Sneaking into the constables watch tower? Make a clock to track the alert level of the patrolling guards. When the PCs suffer consequences from successes or failed tests, we fill in segments on the clock until the alarm is raised.

Generally, the more complex the problem, the more segments in the progress clock.

A complex obstacle is a 4-segment clock. A more complicated obstacle is a 6-clock. A daunting obstacle is an 8-segment clock.

A clock represents the obstacle, not the method. The clocks for an infiltration might be “Interior Patrols” and “The Tower,” but not “Sneak Past the Guards” or “Climb the Tower.” The patrols and the tower are the obstacles­—the Anarchs on the sortie can attempt to overcome them in a variety of ways.

Remember that a clock tracks progress. It reflects the fictional situation, so you as players can gauge how you’re doing. A clock is like a speedometer in a car. It shows the speed of the vehicle—it doesn’t determine the speed.

We also use clocks to represent a progressive danger, like suspicion growing during a con, the proximity of pursuers in a chase, or the alert level of guards on patrol. In this case, when a complication occurs (see below), we tick one, two, or three segments on the clock, depending on the consequence level. When the clock is full, the danger comes to fruition—the guards at the manor might notice the Cainite intruders, or the noble guests at the masquerade ball might tear off the Nosferatu’s mask. This will naturally lead to a change of direction in the fiction, and present a new obstacle, possibly in a worse position.

During a Sortie

In order to successfully complete a sortie, the Affinity must overcome a number of obstacles described by the member of the Encounter Crew running the sortie. Obstacles can be approached in any appropriate way the characters see fit, making challenges using the normal pool for the relevant Skill, Discipline, or similar.

Another character who is physically present with you can assist you by spending 1 Willpower and describing what they are doing to help; doing this provides a wild card bonus equal to the vinculum between them (if these numbers are not the same for some reason, use the lower of the two). If no mutual vinculum exists between the two, then the assistance is of no use.

Each obstacle will have a clock made up of up to 16 segments (4-8 is the usual range), and the obstacle will not be overcome until the clock is fully ticked. The difficulty of challenges against obstacles depends on the current position, as follows:

  • Controlled: 5
  • Risky: 10
  • Desperate: 15

On a failure, the character adds no ticks to the obstacle’s clock and suffers a consequence appropriate to the position (see below) and the situation described in the fiction unless they pay the appropriate Willpower cost to resist it.

On a success, the character adds one tick to the obstacle’s clock, and suffers a consequence appropriate to the position (see below) and the situation described in the fiction unless they pay the appropriate Willpower cost to resist it.

On an exceptional success, the character adds three ticks to the obstacle’s clock. If you fill up a clock with an exceptional success, and have any ticks left over (e.g. there was one tick left empty on the clock, and you got an exceptional success, which adds three ticks) then each excess tick refreshes 1 spent Willpower, up to your normal maximum.

When your character suffers a consequence that you don’t like, you can choose to resist it. Just tell the member of Encounter Crew that you want to do so. Resistance is always automatically effective; you play rock, paper, scissors with the Encounter Crew member to determine how much it costs:

  • If you win, it costs 0 Willpower
  • If you draw, it costs 1 Willpower
  • If you lose, it costs 2 Willpower

If you run out of Willpower in this way, you may gain Beast Traits instead, at a rate of 2 Beast Traits per Willpower you didn’t have available. For example, if you currently had 1 Willpower, and lost the test to resist a consequence, you would lose 1 Willpower and gain 2 Beast Traits.

A sortie counts as one ongoing combat for the purposes of Willpower restoration through Player Acknowledgement (but not Storyteller Acknowledgement), and gaining Beast Traits from committing sins against your Road or Path.

Example consequences

  • Controlled position – one or more, as appropriate, of:
    • Minor complication – e.g. you owe someone a Minor Boon, someone appears who will hinder the sortie, 1 tick on an existing or new consequence clock (e.g. alert level of guards at the manor, suspicion of the noble guests at a masquerade ball)
    • Harm: Take 2 levels of damage or 1 level of aggravated damage
    • You and your Affinity end up in a Risky position for your next test/obstacle
  • Risky – one or more, as appropriate, of:
    • Harm: Take 4 levels of lethal damage or 2 aggravated damage (if you resist this consequence, you halve the damage rather than negating it outright)
    • Complication – e.g. the room catches fire, you’re disarmed, the Affinity takes +1 Inquisition Attention, you must expend a positive Status Trait with no effect, the target evades you and now it’s a chase, reinforcements arrive, you owe someone a Major Boon, 2 ticks on an existing or new consequence clock
    • You and your Affinity end up in a Desperate position for your next test/obstacle
  • Desperate – one or more, as appropriate, of:
    • Harm: Take 8 levels of lethal damage or 4 aggravated damage (if you resist this consequence, you halve the damage rather than negating it outright)
    • Serious complication – e.g. reinforcements surround and trap you, the room catches fire and falling ceiling beams block the door, your weapon is broken, the Affinity takes +2 Inquisition Attention, your target escapes out of sight, you owe someone a Blood Boon, you must expend all your current positive Status Traits with no effect, 3 ticks on a new or existing consequence clock
    • You and your Affinity have no choice but to Flee (see below)

Inquisition Attention

This is a very specific form of clock. Each Affinity has their own Inquisition Attention score, but the entire Muster also has one big Inquisition Attention score (which is each Affinity’s score added together). If a single Affinity fills their Inquisition Attention clock (the number of segments is determined by the level of Inquisition presence in that Domain) then they will encounter Inquisition hunters as an additional obstacle (with a robustly-sized clock) on their sortie – this is always a Desperate position to be in, and almost always results in aggravated damage for the Cainites!

If the Domain-level Inquisition Attention clock is filled (the number of segments is much higher than the Affinity-level clock), then the difficulties of all subsequent engagement tests are one category higher as the streets are crawling with Inquisitors trying to kill or capture as many Cainites as possible. Each subsequent sortie has an 8-segment clock called “The Inquisition Arrives” which represents how quickly the Inquisition will appear on that specific sortie, and this is likely to preoccupy the relevant Cainites. Once the Inquisition are on high alert in a Domain, it is extremely hard to placate them.

Completing a Sortie

A sortie ends either when all obstacles have been overcome, or the characters Flee. Fleeing is a sortie-level action rather than an individual action. At any point, on any PC’s turn, any player can propose that the sortie is going so badly that the characters have to flee. If all of the other players agree (whether their characters are conscious or not!), the Cainites beat a hasty and successful retreat, carrying any fallen comrades away with them. The need to Flee might also result from a consequence on a Desperate challenge – this doesn’t require agreement from all the players.

As a result of Fleeing to safety, the Anarchs suffer a significant loss. The objective is failed in a way that going back and finishing off those enemies later won’t fix – if the Councils even have an opportunity to send someone else to clean up the mess. If they were on their way to rescue a captive from unholy sacrifice, then naturally enough the captive gets sacrificed. Any attempt by another Affinity to try to mitigate these problems suffers from an engagement test one difficulty category harder than normal.The point of this rule is to encourage daring attacks and to make a decision to retreat interesting on the level of story rather than tactics.

Copyright Notices

This work is based on Blades in the Dark, product of One Seven Design, developed and authored by John Harper, and licensed for our use under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Game elements are used from the 13th Age Roleplaying Game from Fire Opal Media Inc. and Pelgrane Press Ltd. See 13thAge.com for more information on the 13th Age Roleplaying Game. Fire Opal Media Inc. does not guarantee compatibility, and does not endorse this product.

13th Age is a registered trademark of Fire Opal Media Inc., and the 13th Age Roleplaying Game and the 13th Age Roleplaying Game Archmage Engine Logo are trademarks of Fire Opal Media Inc. under exclusive license to Pelgrane Press Ltd., and are used under the 13th Age Roleplaying Game Archmage Engine License. See 13thAge.com for more information on the Archmage Engine license.