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  1. #1
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    Thumbs up Houses of the Blooded

    John Wick recently released a game called Houses of the Blooded. I'm about halfway through its 436 pages, but I'm posting this now.

    Wick likes to proclaim that he dislikes D&D and its tropes, and he wrote this game as his "anti-D&D". According to him, in D&D, you play a rootless adventurer, perpetually aged 25ish, who kills his way through the world looking for loot.

    In HotB, you play a landed noble who grows and changes over time, tied to the land you rule, your vassals and liege, and the families you come from and marry into. Time marches on inexorably. Maybe your children will succeed you.

    He claims never to have looked at Birthright. This is both good, and too bad. Too bad, because I think he would have seen stuff he liked there. Good, because if he had been satisfied with Birthright, he might not have written this game, and we wouldn't get to check it out.

    You can read a bit more about the game in a review at rpg.net. It's already all nicely written.

    To that, I'll add that a good chunk of the game revolves around domain rules. Provinces, income, maintenance, espionage, war, it's all in there, and very engagingly done. So far, I particularly like the way you can increase a vassal in effectiveness over time. A Personal Guard 2 is obviously more effective than a Personal Guard 1 in Personal Guard-type business (killing bad people what come to kill you, mainly). But from rank 3, you can increase a vassal to the status of NPC- for example, a Personal Guard 3 remains a Personal Guard 3, but is now captained by a Swordsman, who makes it more effective, has his own motivations, and can take domain actions under your direction (like a BR lieutenant).

    There's an interesting gamey bit regarding income- each region in your domain generates a different resource (farms yield food, forests lumber or food, etc), and you have to manage all this to meet your obligations at the end of a given year, have extra to trade for resources you need, produce enough to build new holdings, bribe people, etc. It's a bit more complex than the BR-style GB and RP, but it could be fun.

    The game is flavorfully written, though a little disorganized- the sidebars don't always match up with what's being discussed on the current page, for instance. A couple of rules are a bit unclear, but the game is a simple enough die pool system that you can infer what is meant. There's a clear philosophy that runs through the rules- if it fits the setting/genre, and Wick therefore intends it to be common in the game, it gives you bonuses.

    For example, in the setting, the Blooded are both artists and patrons of the arts. Therefore, if you create or sponsor a great work of art, it gives you Style (the main game resource, fate/fudge/action/hero/whatever points) and gives you a bonus to actions relating to the art for a certain time period. If you create a work of art meant to inspire valor, anyone viewing it gains a bonus to valorous actions for a certain time afterward.

    The reason I'm posting this now is that that PDF of the game is currently on sale for 5 bucks, and they claim this is a limited-time price. I'm liking the game, though I'm not sure I'll run it straight as written. But I'll certainly pillage it for parts. And, again, it's 436 pages. 5 bucks.

    If my recommendation, the review, the website, or anything else piques your interest, you can find it at IPR. I'll answer any questions people have if I can.

  2. #2
    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    I agree with Wick's fundamental critique of D&D. But as a DM, I always thought I can shape the campaign as I want. In a thread from a few months ago that turned into what does Birthright mean to you, I argued that that in normal D&D, you play the ultimate outsiders, no connections, no consequences, no attachments. In Birthright, you play the ultimate insiders, full of connections, consequences, and attachments.

    I don't think its really so much D&D, as the way a lot of people play D&D. Sure the game makes the assumption that you are a rootless individual who associates with people with whom you have nothing in common (except maybe a rough alignment) for common adventures involving nothing more than the collection of loot. But the game doesn't have to be played that way.

    Anyway I downloaded the doc and look forward to reading it through.

    Thanks for the heads up!

  3. #3
    Senior Member Elton Robb's Avatar
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    I was checking this out, and watching the videos. although I agree with him, and it looks like a great game; I'm frustrated in the fact that this is one game I can't investigate and read further. The game is probably the best game with this type of a theme to come out since I bought Pendragon 4th Edition (and I bought Pendragon before I bought Birthright).

    John Wick is talented, but I think his Anti-D&D bias drives him too much. But it's like he is influenced by the same concepts that Rich Baker was when he wrote Kingmaker.
    Regent of Medoere

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elton Robb View Post
    I'm frustrated in the fact that this is one game I can't investigate and read further.
    ? Why not? Moral objection to John? Don't like to read long PDFs on screen?

    Ignore me if you don't feel like answering, that comment just popped out at me.

  5. #5
    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    I am frustrated by the interweaving of the setting and the mechanics. I have a setting I'm perfectly happy with (Cerilia) and just want mechanics. Birthright put the rules in the Rulebook and the setting in the Atlas and Ruins of Empire.

    I feel this intermixture is in part the auteur nature of the production, and part the designer wanting to make sure no one could possibly play his game in the style he despises. But it also makes it difficult to take the good parts and use them elsewhere.

  6. #6
    Administrator Green Knight's Avatar
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    Very frustrating - I headed over to see if I could get some good mechanics, and now I'm bogged down reading something I don't really want to read. I don't find the setting overly interesting and not only are game rules and setting material mixed, I also think its pretty disorganized overall. Think I'll park this pdf somewhere on my hard drive for later.
    Cheers
    Bjørn
    DM of Ruins of Empire II PbeM

  7. #7
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    On Mon, Sep 29, 2008 at 11:57 PM, kgauck <brnetboard@birthright.net> wrote:
    > I am frustrated by the interweaving of the setting and the mechanics. I have a setting I`m perfectly happy with (Cerilia) and just want
    > mechanics. Birthright put the rules in the Rulebook and the setting in the Atlas and Ruins of Empire.
    >
    > I feel this intermixture is in part the auteur nature of the production, and part the designer wanting to make sure no one could possibly play his game in the style he despises. But it also makes it difficult to take the good parts and use them elsewhere.



    Hmm, I didn`t quite feel that way, the setting is mixed in with the rules in many places, but I didn`t feel they were inseparable, and I`ve been busily plotting to use them and cobble together other components for them.

    If you`re mainly interested in the domain rules, here`s what I would do:

    The intro and setting chapters can be skipped, there`s no rules there.

    Skim the chapter called "character", it`s an introduction to most everything in the rules. Pages 84-107.

    Read the chapters on Risk (108-127), that`s the core mechanic, and includes examples of what to roll when. Virtues (pp128-137) are the primary attributes, and Aspects (138-168, but it`s mostly examples so it can be skimmed) are from Fate, so if you`ve heard of them from Spirit of the Century, you basically know them.

    You can skip Poison and Romance, those are rules components which are fairly setting-specific. Read them later if you`re interested in building your own rules components, because they`re good examples.

    The Revenge chapter starts on 178, but about the first 20 pages are setting. The rules start on 197 and go to 212, and include both the duel and mass combat. The duel is limited by the setting to only single combat, but there`s no reason you couldn`t use it for more complex fights.

    The Seasons chapter is domain rules, pp230-283. Here be goodness. Also get the Seasons summary from the website. http://www.housesoftheblooded.net/downloads.html

    The Sorcery and Suaven chapters are very setting-specific rules components, like Poison and Romance. Sorcery is for sword and sorcery style blood magic, the Suaven are the setting equivalent of patron saints who give blessings. Skip if you like.

    Then the Player and Narrator chapters, which I haven`t read yet, so I can`t say anything about.

    --
    Daniel McSorley
    Last edited by Thelandrin; 09-30-2008 at 06:34 PM.

  8. #8
    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    Its not that they're inseparable, its that you have to muddle through all this Ven culture while collecting good ideas for BR. The document is over 400 pages, and about three-quarters is setting.

    However, thanks for the index of rules heavy sections, and setting sections. That should speed things up.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Elton Robb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanMcSorley View Post
    ? Why not? Moral objection to John? Don't like to read long PDFs on screen?

    Ignore me if you don't feel like answering, that comment just popped out at me.
    I want the game, it's just that . . . I can't buy it myself. All of my money is locked up tight in a Savings Account for school.

    And going to Norway. Although, I do have a birthday coming up.
    Regent of Medoere

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