Freeform Rules

From: Nick Brooke (100270.337@CompuServe.COM)
Date: Tue 14 May 1996 - 02:32:50 EEST

Jesper wrote:

> I actually like the more structured rules, and the better defined and
> described characters. If all Freeform Characters are as interesting and
> well described as the Waertagi Captain that was posted some week ago
> (I've forgotten by whom), traditional Swedish style Live Roleplaying has
> a lot to learn.

Thanks a lot for that! I'm sending another character through today...

> Can someone who knows tell me a little about how certain things are
> handled practically in Freeforms? How is things like mass combat and
> skills resolved? And what exactly can you do with a "Bugger Underling"
> card?

The rules are created by the authors of each game, depending on what's
important: as I've said before, HtWwO had only a rudimentary combat system,
because we (mostly correctly) assumed that clerics attending a Church council
wouldn't be spending too much of their time beating each other up. So things
aren't always done "the same way" in freeforms. (Some Americans in "HtWwO"
didn't really get the hang of this: a lot of them wanted to wander around
wearing bandoliers of followers because that's the way things had gone in
"HotB", giving the Ecclesiastical Council the look of an armed camp).

The rules we use in our games owe a huge debt to Kevin Jacklin, the UK's
uncontested Freeforming Guru, who provided most of the mechanics for the
Reaching Moon productions.

MASS COMBAT: depends on the game. In our freeforms, we generally assign troop
values to units possessed by various players; interaction between these (whether
on-site or at some remove from the main action) is resolved based on the total
values committed to various actions. Thus, in "Home of the Bold" there is
military action on up to three fronts (Lunar front-line troops in Kethaela;
fyrds of the Sartarite chiefs; potential uprising in the streets of Boldhome),
and units can be moved between them: moreover, action in Boldhome may directly
affect players and locations within the game (other actions can affect NPCs and
"off-board" resources). We'll usually try to balance things so that players have
to cooperate to achieve anything. "The Broken Council" had a full-blown wargame
with its own map and counters, but this seemed overly distracting to me: some
interesting player characters spent much of the game rolling dice and pushing
stacks around. We prefer to have military forces committed perhaps a couple of
times in the course of an eight-hour game, giving referees plenty of time
(during the breaks) to work out satisfactory (interesting and deserved)
resolutions to their actions, and have a chance to communicate the news to all
of the other players affected.

SKILLS: in our games these have been handled by printed cards granting special
powers. Some of these are one-use, others reusable. Usually we try to give each
character one Unique power that nobody else has. I'll post a smattering from
"How the West was One" following this, so you can see the kind of thing I'm
talking about. Contested skills and combats we resolve with a round of
scissors-paper-stone (to determine win-draw-lose), and often special power cards
will influence the result of these. Combat may use a system of hit points, or be
simpler (lose once and you're wounded, twice and you're dead, or some such),
depending on the setting.

ROMANCE: we usually have a playing-card-based system for this, where the
"closeness" in colour, suit and number of your card to that of your intended
(revealed gradually during small-talk) determines how well the two of you get
along. The Queen of the Kiss, in HtWwO, was a wonderful exception to these
rules: she possessed four Queens herself, used whichever of them she wanted in
any encounter, divined what other characters' cards were, sold Love Potions
which duplicated Romance cards, and had a one-use power which DESTROYED another
player's Romance card (and therefore their chance of ever knowing love: cf.
Gunda the Guilty in WB&RM).

On a wholly different note, the BUGGER UNDERLING card allows you to bugger an
underling, I believe, and is the unique property of the Dara Happan Emperor. In
threatening my courtiers I'm sure I implied that it covered all of them. I can't
remember it ever being played in anger: all the people I'd have loved to use it
on were off shafting me at the Only Old One's court in any case. The next-best
card in any freeform has to be the "Command Mob" card in Home of the Bold: one
player was fortunate enough to hold this Down Under when MOB was a referee, and
saw the possibilities...


BROWBEAT. To play this card, you must browbeat and threaten a victim in a
dramatic performance lasting at least two minutes. Threaten him with all the
hidden resources of the Watchdog Council, hint at the fate of other
"disappeared" victims, let him know that his every move will be watched and he
dare not step out of line. In abject terror, the victim will blurt out one of
his "Objectives" from the character sheet. He gets to choose which you will be
told. If this card is used repeatedly on one victim, he must read you a
different "Objective" each time -- though a separate session of browbeating and
reassurance is required for every use.

CAROUSE. You have the talent of getting people to talk about themselves without
their realising they are being pumped. If you play this after chatting to
someone for two minutes they must reveal all of the rumours on their character
sheet to you.

CASTE CONSCIOUS. This allows you to ignore someone of an inferior caste. To play
this card you must obviously ignore your target, and, without looking them in
the eye, show them the reverse of this card.
        Reverse: <Nick> is obviously too busy with important matters of state to
talk to someone as humble and lowly as yourself: you'd best leave now and not
bother him for 15 minutes.

CONFIDE. Play this card in conversation with another player. You may ask that
player what they know about <Name> (any other character in the game). If they
have an entry on that character in the "Who You Know" section of their character
sheet then they must read the entry out in full.

DAMSEL IN DISTRESS. If you are beset by someone harassing you or (gasp)
attacking you, you can call for help in a particularly piercing and irresistible
voice. If there is another uninvolved player nearby, you can show this card to
them and they must try and help you as best they can.

I HAVE SPOKEN! Your decision is final! On a specific issue you have made up your
mind, and all who have sworn fealty to you must comply with your decision
unquestioningly from now onwards. This is your Edict! Show the reverse of this
card to your minions.
        Reverse: Your glorious leader <Nick> has spoken! The time for arguing and
questioning is over. You have sworn fealty to him and must obey him
unquestioningly in this matter. Say to <Nick>: "I hear and I obey! Praise be to

IMITATE MATING CALL OF TITANOTHERE. This exotic and dangerous skill was taught
to you by the hunters of Mondoro, who dwell in the southern land of Umathela.
When the five-ton Titanotheres of either sex are in rut, they bellow their
desire for a mate; the booming sound can be heard for miles around, calling
likely partners to them at the double! You can imitate the call of either a Bull
or a Cow Titanothere. If you should ever feel the need to do so, please contact
a referee.

IMMORTALITY (Spell). This arcane spell allows you to keep the effects of ageing
at bay for a limited period (approx. one season). It requires Arktanian Oysters
to be eaten to be effective. If you manage to locate some oysters and wish to
cast the spell please go to a referee.

INTIMIDATING GLARE. This can only be used on one of your subjects. They must
*honestly* answer one "Yes or No" question.

IGNORE ME! (permanent). Your extreme lowliness and scruffiness, together with a
total lack of bodily hygiene, causes most people to disbelieve that you are
there at all. This means that you can often go almost anywhere
        Reverse: The person before you is so repulsive you cannot believe he is
human at all. Best pretend he is not there at all, and hopefully he will go
away. PRETEND THAT THIS PERSON IS INVISIBLE (unless he assaults you or something

MINDBLAST (Spell). Your target is struck with a powerful confusion spell which
seeks to addle his brains. If you win a round of paper-scissors-stone, then your
enemy is dazed and falls to the ground senseless, unable to defend himself. If
you draw the round, then your enemy must retreat in confusion and not bother you
for at least 30 minutes. If you lose, there is no effect.

MYSTIFY. If you are asked a question that requires a great deal of thought, or
which you are not sure of, then play this card. The recipient of your words of
wisdom goes away with the feeling that his question has been very satisfactorily
answered, if only he had insight enough to see what was meant!
        Reverse: <Nick> has answered your question very satisfactorily. If only
you had the insight and wisdom to know how to interpret his answer. He is such a
wise and mystical man!

ORATORY. You are such a fine orator that all who hear will be swayed by your
speech. Hold up this card and call out to your audience, "Your attention is
suddenly seized by my words. Cease what you are doing and listen." You must then
give a speech (keep it short) asking your audience to do something (or not do
something). Then say to the crowd: "You are all filled with _______", telling
them the emotion that they experience. Some examples: Rage, Fear, Shame, Hate,
Misery, Joy, Apathy, Awe. Those who were minded to agree with you, even
slightly, will tend to do as you ask; others will be powerfully swayed, but less

PONTIFICATE. Life is a constant source of worry. There are always people wanting
you to make decisions or give them your expert opinon. When everything gets too
much for you then you procrastinate, hesitate and pontificate endlessly on
whatever subject you are being asked about. It usually satisfies them - and
makes them go away.
        Reverse: <Nick> is pontificating again! Can this man never make any
decisions in his life? Can he never give a straight answer to a simple question?
Is he completely incompetent? It's no use talking to him at the moment. Best to
leave him and not come back for at least 15 minutes.

RABBLE-ROUSING. This allows you to incite a crowd to act in the way that you
direct, as long as it is not too extreme. If you wish to use this card go the
referee. For the ability to work, you must make up a slogan for the crowd to

RESURRECTION. You may play this on a dead player to bring them back to life. For
this to work you must buy them a drink from the bar, give them some of it to
drink, and they will miraculously be brought back to life. If you play a CONVERT
card on them then they will be forced into a Crisis of Faith, and if that Crisis
allows conversion then they will immediately join your church.

SEDUCTION. This card allows you to force a member of the opposite sex to reveal
the suit of their Romance Card. If the suit is the same as yours then you may
SEDUCE them. The effect of the seduction is to allow you to impose upon them one
of your objectives for half-an-hour.
        Reverse: This lovely creature has shown you a wonderful time, and now you
feel indebted to them. They have explained their problem and it is your duty to
help them in this regard to the utmost of your abilities for at least half of
one day (half-an-hour game time).

SIR, I HAVE A CUNNING PLAN. You are able to come up with "cunning plans" in the
face of adversity. They are epic in scope, but horribly flawed in their detail.
This is your chance to come up with horribly convoluted plans based on one
fundamental and gaping flaw, idiotic plans, downright stupid plans, and plans
based on blind faith and outrageous and impossible chance.
        Reverse: All present must take time out to listen intently to the whole
of <Nick>'s plan. Only then can you sarcastically take it apart piece by piece,
or just cuff him around the head and say Shut up <Nick>!

SNEAK. This allows you to sneak around. You can sneak up to an individual or
group and observe them for up to five minutes before you have to tear up the
card. Show this card to the group - youll have to trust that they enter into
the spirit of things. This card can also be used to escape arrest by a Street
Judge or to sneak in somewhere where youre not supposed to go. If in doubt
consult a referee.
        Reverse: You cannot see me! Act normal! Go on! Role-play it! I can stay
here for five minutes. After which you can say something like "Did I hear
something? Id better check..." Then Ive got to tear this card up.

TEA AND SYMPATHY. To play this card, you must be sympathetic to a victim who has
just been browbeaten by your colleague in a dramatic performance lasting at
least two minutes. Make disparaging references to his brutal interviewing style,
offer him a nice hot cup of tea, and spend two minutes reassuring him that you
want to be his friend. In return, the victim will gratefully read you one of his
"Other Attitudes" from the character sheet, regardless of how incriminating this
may be. He gets to choose which you will be told. If this card is used
repeatedly on one victim, he must read you a different "Attitude" each time --
though a seperate session of browbeating and reassurance is required for every

WHEN I WERE A LAD. This allows you to cow someone of superior birth. To play
this card you must relate a story beginning: "When I were a lad we were so poor
that...". Then show them the reverse of this card.
        Reverse: <Nick>'s story is so touching and genuine that you feel morally
inferior to him and guilty of your superior birth. His rustic simplicity and
plain common sense cows you. You'd best leave now and not bother him for 15

Please Note: There are also plenty of sensible cards as well ("Strike Deadly
Blow", "Escape", and the like), but I thought these ones were more



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