Season 3, Episode 5: "A Duel to the Death"

Episode 5, "Kissed by Fire," opens with Sandor Clegane dueling Beric Dondarrion under a hollow hill, in a cavern lit by a roaring fire and under the watchful eyes of the Brotherhood Without Banners (and, possibly, the Red God R’hllor). Both men are skilled warriors, and unlike the fight between Bronn and Ser Vardis Egen in Season 1, the outcome is very much in doubt.

What happens under the hood when two fighters in armor decide to have at it? When the fight begins, Sandor is wearing splint mail (a cheap but effective heavy armor) while Dondarrion is wearing what’s equivalent to a breastplate (with some added protection for arms and neck). Let’s take a look at their combat statistics and relevant Qualities:

Sandor Clegane

Agility 3
Athletics 6
     Strength 4B
Awareness 3
     Notice 1B
Endurance 4
     Resilience 2B
Fighting 6
     Long Blades 2B, Spears 2B
Defense 12 (9 w/armor, +2 w/shield, AR 7, AP –3)
Defense 9
Health 14
Destiny Points 1
Benefits: Fury, Long Blade Fighter I, Long Blade Fighter II, Spear Fighter I, Tough
Drawbacks: Fear (Fire)
Longsword 6D+2B 7 damage
Shield 6D     4 damage Defensive +2

Lord Beric Dondarrion

Agility 4
Athletics 5
     Strength 2B
Awareness 4
     Notice 2B
Endurance 4
Fighting 5
     Long Blades 2B, Shields 2B, Spears 1B
Combat Defense 13 (11 w/armor, +4 w/shield, AR 6, AP –2)
Health 12
Destiny Points 1
Benefits: Armor Mastery, Long Blade Fighter I, Long Blade Fighter II, Shield Mastery
Drawbacks: Cursed
Longsword 5D+2B 6 damage
Shield 5D+2B     3 damage Defensive +2

From this, both men appear to be fairly evenly matched. Clegane is a little tougher, hits harder and more often than Ser Beric, and his armor protects him better. Ser Beric, on the other hand, is much harder to hit—he’s more skilled with a shield, and his armor’s lighter, affording more agility. Ser Beric’s got a single significant advantage when the fight begins, as we’ll detail below.

Step 1: Battlefield

The Hollow Hill is cramped and dimly lit, with a large cooking fire and a small personal fire inside the battlefield. The Brotherhood stands all around the combatants, cheering Ser Beric. The two fires are considered Battlefield Qualities, or salient features of the field that the Narrator has decreed to be relevant. These Qualities may offer bonus or penalty dice to certain actions (swimming along the current may grant a small bonus to Athletics tests, while trying to loose an arrow in a hurricane would incur a significant penalty). The Brotherhood and Arya are considered Bystanders. While none of them are injured in this fight, opportunistic fighters might try to use the crowd’s presence to their advantage.

Normally the dimness of the cave would be considered Shadowy Visibility. Everyone within would take –1D on all Agility, Athletics, Awareness, Fighting, and Thievery tests, and –2D on all Marksmanship tests. Fairly significant penalties! However, Ser Beric slices his palm with his sword, which then mysteriously, magically, alights with flame. The flaming sword acts as a torch, so the area of the fight is considered Lit (with no penalties suffered due to visibility). The Narrator also rules that while he can stand the presence of the cooking fires, seeing the flaming sword triggers Sandor’s Fear of fire. He’s at –1D on all tests.

Step 2: Detection

In this step, hidden characters may attack and gain surprise against their opponents. Since both men are completely aware of each other’s presence, however, we’ll be skipping this step.

Step 3: Initiative

Both men test Agility, to see who goes first. Ser Beric rolls 4D and receives a result of 10 (5, 3, 1, 1) while the Hound rolls 2D and receives a lucky 11 (5, 6). The Hound goes first! Normally he’d be rolling 3D, but his Fear stops him from testing at his full Agility.

Step 4: Action!

Both men start the fight in a situation called engaged, or being adjacent to a melee opponent. Since Clegane goes first, he lunges at Ser Beric and attacks. During a combat round you may make one Greater Action or two Lesser Actions, plus any number of Free Actions. Attacking is a Lesser Action, but may only be performed once a round. If the player doesn’t interpret the character’s action, the Narrator should describe the results of the player’s test in relation to the combat.

Sandor Clegane is one of Westeros’ best fighters, but his Fear makes him vulnerable. He roars and slashes at Ser Beric, and rolls 7 dice for his attack, only keeping 5. With a pitiful roll of 5, 4, 2, 2, 1, 1, he fails to beat Ser Beric’s Defense of 15, angrily slicing at empty air. Ser Beric, on the other hand, whips his sword around in a graceful arc and rolls 5, 4, 4, 2, 3, 4, 2, for a total result of 20, easily beating Clegane’s Defense by two degrees. Clegane would take 5 damage (12 minus his armor), but his player’s concerned about losing a chunk of the Hound’s health this early in the fight, so he opts to take an injury instead. His Endurance is 4, so he takes only 1 point of damage (but is at –1 on all his tests for the rest of the fight). The Narrator describes Clegane as taking the brunt of attack on his sword, straining his forearm and jarring him with the impact. Clegane’s player rolls a d6 but doesn’t get a 6, so his Fear stays with him.

Step 5: Rinse and Repeat

During the second round, Ser Beric’s player again tests fairly high against Clegane’s defense, but Clegane’s player spends a Destiny Point to have the damage affect a bystander! The Narrator describes how Ser Beric’s flaming sword kicks up sparks from striking a rock as Clegane nimbly dodges, sending a poor Brother toppling off the rock (the bystander suffers damage, but isn’t dead). Clegane opts to Catch His Breath (a Greater Action), to reduce his damage to zero.

Both men trade blows with one another in the third round, accruing injuries; Clegane takes one more with a few damage, while Ser Beric takes two and accepts no damage to his Health. During the fourth round, the Narrator states that Clegane knocks his shield on the other man’s and then slams his sword down hard, splintering Ser Beric’s shield and sending the knight staggering. Clegane’s hit causes more damage than can be absorbed with two more injuries, so Ser Beric’s player opts to take a Wound.

Ser Beric, however, chooses to sacrifice his bonus dice to activate his Long Blade Fighter II Benefit. Cleverly maneuvering Clegane by locking swords, Ser Beric slips behind the bigger man and bashes him into the small fire described in the Battlefield Qualities. The Narrator rules that the fire is a Campfire causing 1d6 of damage, so Clegane takes his third injury of the battle, the fire searing his legs and sending sparks soaring into his face. Ironically, Clegane rolls a 6 on his Fear test, overcoming his fright and restoring his full dice pool. While he narrowly avoids being set on fire with his Agility test, it’s on, now.

Clegane’s player decides to reduce Ser Beric’s defenses. He chooses to smash his opponent’s Weapon instead of Ser Beric himself. With 8 dice and keeping 6, he easily smashes Ser Beric’s shield into splinters (using the rules under "Smashing Weapons" in Chapter 9: Combat of the A Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying: A Game of Thrones Edition rulebook. Ser Beric’s player, seeing his character’s primary defense stripped away, decides to Knockdown. Ser Beric’s player spends a Destiny Point, trying to remove the Wound penalty. Maybe it’s the resurrections, or maybe R’hllor doesn’t like Beric, but Beric rolls a d6 and gets a 1, causing the Cursed Flaw to activate. Beric’s Destiny Point is wasted! He attacks and injures Clegane anyways with a succession of quick blows (causing a fourth and final injury) and then sweeps his leg into the bigger man, sending him crashing to the ground and setting his shield alight with a final blow.

Clegane chooses to Stand and then Attack (forcing Ser Beric to take his second Wound), but the Narrator informs him that unless he rips his shield off next turn, he’ll take fire damage. Clegane chooses to activate his Fury Benefit, hoping to end the encounter quickly. It works; with a lucky roll, Ser Beric takes more damage than his Health can absorb even with injuries, so Ser Beric’s player takes a third Wound (and laments his earlier choice not to take injuries instead of a Wound!). Clegane suffers a Wound in return from Ser Beric, and the fire causes damage to the Hound futilely hacks at the flaming escutcheon, but his player wisely keeps the Defensive bonus. With a final roar, Clegane rolls 6, 6, 4, 2, 2, ending the encounter with a Critical Hit! Between the damage increase from Fury, the damage increase from the Critical and the two degrees of success over Beric’s Defense, Beric must take a fourth Wound (and die) or be defeated—and since this is a duel to the death, the consequences are the same for either option. Clegane’s sword shears through the flaming longsword of Ser Beric, cleaving deep into the elder knight’s chest. Ser Beric dies, but Thoros of Myr rushes over to him…

From this, we can garner a few items of note about SIFRP’s Combat system. First, it’s pretty deadly, and well-trained fighters are going to hit each other most of the time. Therefore, combat becomes a balance between maintaining high Defense (albeit to minimize the degrees of success the opponent achieves on damage, not to avoid the attack altogether) and good armor (to minimize the damage again). Failing that, a combatant must be willing to suffer injury, and nobody escapes unscathed.

Had Ser Beric not been Cursed, his negation of a Wound penalty meant potentially dealing a Wound to Clegane in return, rather than a mere injury. Ser Beric’s player may have done better if Ser Beric fought a bit more defensively, though a character as skilled as Clegane would likely have hit him anyway. Ser Beric was hampered by his armor rating (a single hit would allow Clegane to damage him), while Clegane’s armor could stop a meager blow cold. Ser Beric’s player gambled at Clegane running out of Health, but Clegane was willing to take damage to his Health while Ser Beric’s player took Wounds instead. The combination of Wound penalties and Ser Clegane overcoming his Fear spelled doom for the cursed lord.

Season 3, Episode 4: “A One-Handed Kingslayer”

In this blog, we take a look at the world of A Song of Ice and Fire through the lens of the hit HBO series A Game of Thrones and the game systems of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying for some ideas on how to incorporate themes and elements of the show into your own SIFRP Chronicles. There may be spoilers for both the books and the show, so be warned!
Season 3, Episode 4: “A One-Handed Kingslayer”
In the episode “And Now His Watch is Ended,” Ser Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth have been taken by the vicious Locke, who deprived him of his hand at the end of the previous episode.
At one point, Locke’s men begin tormenting poor Jaime unmercifully – tricking him into drinking horse piss, and eventually kicking him contemptuously over and over while he flails about, weak from injury and fatigue. They taunt him the entire time and basically begin to strip him down. By the time they’re done with him, he is a man beaten.
Since this form of torment and torture seems to make up a fair chunk of the story with a number of characters this season, let’s look at some mechanics for those type of wholly unsavory scenes. These mechanics are going to look at the infliction of injury as a form of Intrigue, whether that means is by torture or simply contemptuously beating down a weaker or less-skilled opponent.
A Word of Caution: Though we all know that Martin’s setting for A Song of Ice & Fire is a brutal, ugly place to live sometimes, please remember the main purpose of playing in a roleplaying game: to have fun. To this end, please respect the limits of your players. Before playing through any of the sorts of scenes these mechanics might inspire, check with your players. Figure out what their limits of personal taste are, and respect them. If necessary, resort to the mechanics and pull a “fade to black” for the precise details, and then get on with the good stuff. You know, like the player character’s revenge for what was done to him!
Torture (Intrigue Action)
If a target is incapacitated in some way, whether because they are defeated in battle, bound and imprisoned or for some other reason, a character might enact violations upon their physical well-being in order to mentally break them. Using this method, a character may utilize his Fighting or Healing skills as Intrigue skills. The torturer may substitute his Intimidate, Act or Bluff specialties in place of any Fighting or Healing specialties. This approach can only be used to mimic the Intimidate Technique.
Contemptuous Strike (Combat Action)
In battle, a skilled warrior might display his contempt for his enemy by casually striking out at that foe in such a way that demonstrates he might have greviously injured him, but simply chose not to. This is handled as a normal attack roll against the greater of the target’s Combat or Intrigue Defense, though the attacker may substitute his Intimidate specialty for any Fighting or Marksmanship specialties that might otherwise apply. The first degree of success applies as physical Damage; the remainder applies as Influence as though an Intimidate action were being taken. A character who is defeated through Influence or Frustration has no fight left in him or her, in addition to the other effects of being defeated in an Intrigue by the Intimidate Technique.

Season 3, Episode 3: “The Master of Coin”

In this blog, we take a look at the world of A Song of Ice and Fire through the lens of the hit HBO series A Game of Thrones and the game systems of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying for some ideas on how to incorporate themes and elements of the show into your own SIFRP Chronicles. There may be spoilers for both the books and the show, so be warned!

Season 3, Episode 3: "The Master of Coin"

In Episode 3, “Walk of Punishment” Tyrion struggles to find himself a new place in the court of the Red Keep. Though his father Tywin has returned and laid claim to his position as Hand of the King again, everyone’s favorite dwarf still has something to contribute (a fact that his father clearly recognizes, even if he refuses to admit it out loud).

After a bit of jockeying for places at the Small Council table – including a bit of a triumph for Tyrion setting himself at the other head of the table – Tywin announces that his youngest son will be replacing Petyr Baelish as the Master of Coin for the royal court.

These kinds of titles and roles are important in the life of a character, easily important enough to warrant Benefits that reflect their power and prestige. With that in mind, we’re presenting a series of seven new Benefits, one for each of the traditional titles of the Small Council.

The Small Council

In keeping with certain Andal traditions, the Small Council of the King traditionally consists of seven advisors. Though these are the traditional roles, there have of course been times when some of the roles were vacant for want of a good candidate. Likewise, the King has the option of adding additional advisors (a particularly devout King might invite the High Septon to a seat at the Small Council, for instance).

A Note on Requirements: In an ideal world, the members of the Small Council would have Requirements that reflect their skill and aptitude for the job they’re being given. Sadly, the history of Westeros points out over and again the many advisors to the Kings who are woefully inadequate for the responsibilities they are given.

Status Increases: These Benefits all confer a tremendous increase in potential Status. Note that this is potential Status, however – the Benefits themselves do not raise the newly appointed councilor’s Status to that new rank, but instead simply increase the maximum Status that character can have. A poorly regarded man of low birth does not immediately gain the respect of those around him just because he is appointed Hand of the King. He must work to increase that Status (through the expenditure of Experience) in order to grow into that potential.

You may also download these Benefits as a PDF for free RIGHT HERE!

Hand of the King (Fate)

You are the king’s strong right hand, his advisor and confidant. You may also be tasked to sit in his place at Small Council and on the Iron Throne alike. They say “What the King dreams, the Hand builds.” But they also say “The King eats, and the Hand takes the shit.”

Requirements: Must be appointed by King

Effects: Your maximum Status increases to 7. You gain a bonus equal to your Status to all uses of the Bargain, Convince, Intimidate and Seduce techniques in an Intrigue. Additionally, you are automatically assumed to use the Shield of Reputation action without actually using an action to do so. You are also the master of the Tower of the Hand, with the authority to wear the Hand’s sigil. Your immediate servants may also wear the sigil of the Hand to show their duty to you.

Finally, you are also permitted to speak with the authority of the King. When you do so, your effective Status equals that of the King for the purpose of Intrigues, including increasing your Intrigue Defense. Doing so, of course, comes with the potential of inciting the King’s wrath if you use his name in a way he does not approve of.

Lord Commander of the Kingsguard [Fate]

You are the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, master of the White Sword Tower.

Requirements: Must be appointed by King, Man of the Kingsguard Benefit

Effects: Your maximum Status increases to 7. In an Intrigue, any attempt to Influence you towards an action that acts against the King or the royal family is hindered; reduce the Influence of all such actions by one for every bonus die you have in the Will specialty of Dedication. Additionally, increase the Man of the Kingsguard bonus you gain to fighting for the royal family to a +2. You also gain this bonus to all Persuasion tests in Intrigues when working to protect or aid the royal family as well.

You are also the head of the Kingsguard, able to command those who wear the white cloak, and master of the White Sword Tower. It is your responsibility to record the noteworthy deeds of members of the Kingsguard in the White Book; when you elect to do so, that knight of the Kingsguard gains one point of Glory immediately. You also council the King on new appointments to the Kingsguard (although the final decision remains his).

Master of Coin [Fate]

You are the King’s chief financial advisor. The ebb and flow of the material wealth of the Realm is your bailiwick.

Requirements: Must be appointed by the King.

Effects: Your maximum Status increases to 7. When making a House Fortunes roll for the royal House, you may use the King’s Status, with a bonus equal to your ranks in Cunning. You also gain a bonus equal to your Cunning for all uses of the Bargain technique in Intrigues.

You are the head of a large organization of those involved in the prosperity of the crown. You oversee the four Keepers of the Keys, the King’s Counter, the King’s Scales, the officers in charge of mints, harbormasters, tax farmers, customs sergeants, wool factors, toll collectors, pursers and wine factors.

Master of Laws [Fate]

Though the King decrees justice, it is your duty to see that justice is properly administered.

Requirements: Must be appointed by the King.

Effects: Your maximum Status increases to 7. When using the Incite technique on an Intrigue target, you generate Influence based on your Knowledge instead of Cunning, as long as you are attempting to convince your target that someone else is a lawbreaker.

You wield the power of the law in the Realm, capable of ordering the arrests of lawbreakers (genuine or otherwise). You are responsible for managing the dungeons in the Red Keep, supervising the chief gaoler and his respective undergaolers, as well as the King’s Justice (his executioner) and the City Watch of King’s Landing.

Master of Whisperers [Fate]

You dwell in the shadows, your tendrils of influence spreading far and wide, carrying information of all manner of things back to you. Your influence spreads like a weed.

Requirements: Must be appointed by the King.

Effects: Your maximum Status increases to 7. Once you have this Benefit, each time you purchase the Connections Benefit, it grants access to three lands or cities, rather than one. You also gain a bonus to all Deception-based Intrigue rolls equal to your Status, and reduce any penalties to your use of Deception by an amount equal to your Cunning.

Master of Ships [Fate]

The Royal Fleet is your responsibility. You are beholden to ensure the safety of the Realm from the dangers that might approach it over the waves.

Requirements: Must be appointed by the King.

Effects: Your maximum Status increases to 7. You gain a bonus equal to your Cunning to all Warfare tests meant to command warships and other naval units. Additionally, when you are awarded Glory at the end of a Warfare engagement, the royal House also receives a like amount of Glory.

You are the master of the royal fleets, including being responsible for building and maintaining warships, securing and training crews and commanding naval operations. In addition to all the above benefits, you are given command of a fine warship in the royal fleet to serve as your flagship.

Grand Maester [Fate]

You are the Grand Maester, the singular maester chosen to sit on the Small Council and offer your wisdom to the benefit of the one who sits the Iron Throne.

Requirements: Must be appointed by the Conclave of the Citadel, Maester Benefit

Effects: Your maximum Status increases to 7. Regardless of your respective Status, you may cause any Intrigue with any maester except the Archmaesters to be adjudicated as a Simple Intrigue. You gain a bonus equal to your Knowledge ranks in all uses of the Bargain or Convince techniques in any Intrigue involving those areas covered by your Knowledge Focus Benefits, so respected is your learning. Finally, you may substitute your Knowledge for Persuasion when performing the Mollify action in an Intrigue, offering learned words of wisdom to those you advise.

You have been appointed by the Conclave to represent the Citadel to the Iron Throne. This gives you a tremendous amount of influence not only in the royal court, but also in the Citadel itself.

Season 3, Episode 2: “The Three-Eyed Crow Is You”

In this blog, we take a look at the world of A Song of Ice and Fire through the lens of the hit HBO series A Game of Thrones and the game systems of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying for some ideas on how to incorporate themes and elements of the show into your own SIFRP Chronicles. There may be spoilers for both the books and the show, so be warned!

Today’s guest blogger is Steve Kenson.

Season 3, Episode 2: "The Three-Eyed Crow Is You"

In “Dark Wings, Dark Words” we start to get our first real explanations for some of the supernatural gifts in the world of Westeros, gifts available as Qualities for SIFRP characters. In particular, we see warging in action amongst the Wildlings and Jojen Reed tells Bran some about the Greensight and Green Dreams.

How do characters in a SIFRP Chronicle learn about Qualities like Greensight and the various Warg gifts? After all, greenseers and wargs are little more than legend to most of the Seven Kingdoms. We see only a handful in all of the books, and even those are primarily in the North (where the Old Gods still hold sway). Bran Stark, a member of a noble Northern family, has only heard of skinchangers in stories, and knows nothing about wargs or greensight. Jojen Reed has the gift, but it’s clearly rare enough that he is self-taught, following his own intuition, guidance, and the stories of his people.

Greensight, in particular, allows the Narrator opportunities for side tales and omens told through the medium of the seer’s dreams. Given their symbolic nature, a green dream can involve more fantastic elements than are found even in the fantasy reality of Westeros, including beings like the three-eyed crow, or meetings between the living and the dead. It is a useful resource for Narrators to provide “hooks” for the players in the form of visionary guidance; Jojen Reed knows to look for Bran and his companions, and where he will find them, thanks to his abilities, which saves a lot of unnecessary narrative time.

Since the effects of green dreams in SIFRP are retroactive (that is, the player chooses the benefit, and then explains it through a premonition or portent) you can encourage players to help make up suitable dreams for their seer characters, to reflect how they’re using the Quality in the game. For example, if a group is trying to figure out how to find someone, and the player of the greenseer chooses to apply a portent to that task, you can ask the player to describe elements of the guiding dream, adding your own details as needed. Perhaps the player’s description will even inspire a new idea for the adventure!

Indeed, when it comes to information, you may even bypass the regular dice bonuses of Greensight and instead simply give the player an answer, perhaps couched in symbolism or a riddle. For example, when the party has to choose a direction at a literal fork in the road, and a player invokes a premonition, you might say: “The dream you had about archery practice where all your shots were veering to the left seems relevant here.”

Speaking of information, Narrators may find it useful to include a more experienced greenseer or warg in the Chronicle, someone who can serve as a mentor and guide to characters who might not be fully aware of their gifts, teaching them the basics of how to harness and use them. This character need not be a full-fledged companion of the characters. Given the nature of supernatural gifts, the mentor could be someone the character only encounters in dreams, for example, either living or dead. Indeed, it may be quite a surprise when the character discovers his or her “spirit mentor” is a living person, who may or may not resemble their visionary persona.

Lastly, given the retroactive nature of Greensight in game terms, you can permit players of greenseers to occasionally spend Destiny for a “do over” of a particular test or challenge, with the failed effort turned into a dream or vision the character had (providing the guidance to make a different choice). For example, the characters are investigating a “mad hermit” who is a former maester who may have information they need. One of the characters trips a crossbow trap and ends up impaled with a poisoned bolt. The player of the greenseer chooses to spend Destiny, saying that the unfortunate incident is, in fact, a vision about the dangers of visiting the hermit.

“Stop!” the greenseer calls out, pointing out the hidden tripwire to her companion. “I dreamed of this. Step carefully.” The companions then negotiate around the trap, although they may have to deal with others the hermit has set (to say nothing of negotiating with the madman for the knowledge they seek).