Season 3, Episode 8: "Marriage Between the Houses"

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 8: "Marriage Between the Houses"

In Episode 8, "Second Sons," there is all manner of talk of marriage. Not only do Robb Stark and his allies journey to the Twins for the alliance of his uncle Edmure to an as-yet unknown Frey girl, but there is also a wedding in King’s Landing: an unlikely union between Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark.

Marriage in Westeros is more than just a man and woman finding one another and starting a life together. Much more. In many ways, it is how alliances are cemented between the Houses. As a result, the children of the nobility often have less say in their futures than do the meanest of the smallfolk they rule. Marriage is a pact between Houses, a way of creating allies for the future, and the whims of impressionable young men and women aren’t allowed to have any play in that.

Of course, the laws of the land say that no one can be married against their will. Ultimately, they themselves must speak the words that create the bonds of matrimony. The flip side of this, of course, is that there are many ways to force one’s children to agree to such a union. Sansa’s fear of what might happen to her if she refuses is an example of this. In the A Song of Ice & Fire series, Ramsay Snow actually captures the widow Lady Hornwood and imprisons her until she agrees to marry him.

Though small weddings that are not major affairs are certainly known, most of the Houses choose to make a major affair of their unions. At the very least, there is a grand feast where the two families may be in one anothers’ company. Many Houses go further, throwing great fairs, domain-wide celebrations (including a processional of the newly-married couple so the smallfolk can see them) or even sponsoring a tourney.

Weddings are also a great opportunity for intrigue, as it’s one of the few instances when nobles of different Houses meet together and have plenty of opportunity to pursue their own ambitions and desires. With that in mind, here are a small handful of rules and suggestions for facilitating such events in the A Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying system:

  • Betrothal Negotiations (Complex Intrigue): Arranging marriages is a long process, filled with courtesies, negotiations and compromises. This is a Complex Intrigue, with one victory point required per individual in the other House who has a say. Frequently, this is a mother and a father, but sometimes other relatives or advisors must be convinced of the wisdom of the arrangement. If the Houses are from different realms, and thus serve different Lords Paramount, sometimes even their liege must be convinced to the union as well.
  • Wedding Preparation (House Action): During the month in which a wedding occurs, it is usually the major concern of the House. Accommodations for myriad guests must be arranged, lavish feasts planned and prepared, entertainment of all kinds must be secured and a household must be presentable before guests. All of these thing take effort…and coin. Part of this process are the invitations to one’s guests, as well, convincing them to attend. The roll for this Action is a Status (Steward) test, with a Routine (6) test for Minor Houses, Challenging (9) test for Major Houses and a Formidable (12) test for Great Houses.

Success indicates a wedding that is free from any sorts of embarrassments or disasters: no one is seated next to their arch enemies, there is plenty of good food to go around and the minstrels do not sing mocking songs about any of the guests or their allies. (This does not, of course, preclude any intentional havoc, planned by either hosts or guests.) A successful wedding costs 1 Wealth for Minor Houses, 1d3 Wealth for Major Houses and 1d6 Wealth for Great Houses, but they result in an Influence gain for the host equal to 1d3 Influence for Minor Houses, 1d6 Influence for Major Houses and 1d6+3 for Great Houses. This is, of course, in addition to the Resource gains that come from the simple act of Houses joining (see below).

  • At A Wedding (Intrigue Environmental Quality): Weddings create a certain type of environment. While at a wedding event, a Narrator might choose to grant a –1 Disposition Rating against the Charm and Seduce Techniques, as well as against Convince Techniques that attempt to forge alliances.
  • Newly Joined Houses Resources: Once a wedding has occurred, both the bride’s House and the groom’s House see a change in their House Resources. The bridal House loses an amount of Resources equal to the bride’s Status, given over as a dowry. However, they gain a point of Influence if their bride joined a House that is equal or lesser in Status, or gain one Influence plus one point of Influence per point of difference in their respective Status. So, a House of Status 4 that marries a daughter into a Major House (Status 6) gains 3 points of Influence (1 + the difference in their Status ratings).

The groom’s House gains an amount of Wealth equal to that lost by the bridal House. Additionally, if the daughter comes from a House of higher Status than the groom’s House, the groom’s House gains 1 point of Influence.

  • Wedding Vows (Destiny): When speaking their vows, a couple may spend (not burn) 1 point of Destiny. For the next year, until their first anniversary, they gain a +1B die on all actions they take to strengthen their personal union. This might be used to defend their beloved physically from danger, to engage in Intrigues to resist seductions or attempts to convince them to take actions to betray or harm their beloved or even in Endurance tests to survive difficult pregnancies or sicknesses.

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Season 3, Episode 7: The Emissary from Yunkai

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 7: "The Emissary from Yunkai"

In Episode 7, “The Bear & the Maiden Fair,” Daenerys and her new army of Unsullied are bivouacked outside the walls of Yunkai. She’s sent a message to the Wise Masters of the city, giving them the terms of their surrender, and in response they have sent Grazdan mo Eraz, an emissary to speak on their behalf.

The tense negotiation between Grazdan mo Eraz and Daenerys is a perfect example of an Intrigue in the A Song of Ice & Fire Roleplaying system. For today’s blog, we’ll use this scene as an example of the use of Environmental Qualities for Intrigues. Environmental Qualities can be the edge that makes a difference between winning and losing an Intrigue, and the concept of “home field advantage” is a very real one in such circumstances.

Daenerys has clearly very carefully arranged the scene in which she receives the Yunkish emissary. Let’s take a look at some of the elements of that scene.

The Gauntlet of Unsullied: Target receives a -2 penalty to Disposition Rating against all Intimidate Technique and Convince Technique used to get the city of Yunkai to surrender. First and foremost, the emissary was forced to traverse a gauntlet of some of the most feared warriors in Essos, a tunnel of hardened soldiers standing in battle-ready stance the entire way to Daenerys’ encampment. The emissary would no doubt remember that promenade with every threat Daenerys uttered, and desire to avoid battle if possible.

Lavish Surroundings: The owner gains a +1 bonus to all uses of Persuasion in an Intrigue. Surrounded with reminders of her wealth and station, Daenerys seems to be a gracious figure even when threatening war.

The Queen’s Dais: The owner goes first in an Intrigue. It might be argued that being seated upon a throne upon a dais is the social equivalent of having higher ground in battle, and Daenerys is only too happy to take advantage of the authority it seems to lend her. Her position is that of an authority receiving a supplicant, and so it is only natural that she be accorded the right to speak first.

The Herald: Gain a bonus equal to the Herald’s Language Ability rating to the Shield of Reputation action. Having a herald proclaim one’s titles and dignities is a great way to enact the Shield of Reputation action, and the better-spoken the herald is, the better it works. Missandei is nearly as well-spoken as they come, a fact that Daenerys recognized (among other things) when she demanded her along with the Unsullied.

Bribes: The wielder gains a bonus to Intrigues; this bonus drops by 1 for each exchange following the offering of the bribe. The exchange of wealth in exchange for service or favors is a long-standing tradition, a fact that the Yunkish were clearly aware of when they offered Daenerys boxes of gold and as many ships as she desired. Among the great powers of Westeros, a bribe gains a bonus equal to the Wealth rating that bribe would equal (remembering that a point of Wealth is worth about 200 gold dragons). As an Intrigue continues, however, the bonus that bribe offers drops by one per Intrigue exchange; a bribe may make a dramatic impact when it is offered, but soon loses its lustre as intriguers vie for their goals.

Dragons: Gain a +1D to uses of the Intimidate Technique in an Intrigue. An excellent example of using an Animal Cohort in a non-combat capacity, Daenerys allows her dragons to make her threats for her, gaining a bonus dice to those threats.

Summary: To sum up, Daenerys has set up her negotiation with the emissary distinctly in her own favor:

Grazdan mo Eraz loses 2 points from his Intrigue Defense against Intimidate and Convince Techniques intended to get Yunkai to surrender.

Grazdan mo Eraz gains a bonus of +5 (roughly) when he presents his bribe; this bonus drops by 1 point per exchange thereafter.

Daenerys gains a +1 bonus to all Persuasion tests.

Daenerys goes first in the Intrigue.

Daenerys gains a bonus (probably +4 or so) to her use of Shield of Reputation.

Daenerys gains a +1D bonus to Intimidate when she uses her dragons.

In the end, it’s fairly simple to see why Grazdan mo Eraz chose to Quit the Intrigue – he was distinctly outclassed, and probably in danger of giving in to Daenerys’ demands (assuming, of course, that he ever had the actual authority to do anyway).

Season 3, Episode 6: “Scaling the Wall Together”

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 6: "Scaling the Wall Together"

In the episode “The Climb,” Jon Snow, Ygritte and the rest of Tormund Giantsbane’s raiding party scale the Wall itself, attempting to find a way into the green lands on the other side. Now, our Night’s Watch sourcebook has rules for scaling the Wall on page 43. Rather than reiterate those rules, we thought we’d take a look at using the Ability test mechanics as a way of framing a scene.

Nominally speaking, this task is basically an Extended Basic Test, as described in “Chapter 2: Game Rules” of A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying: A Game of Thrones Edition core rulebook. A perfectly acceptable way of running this scene is to make a flurry of rolls for each climber, award the appropriate Rewards all the way around, and then move on.

However, the climb is a major scene in Episode 6. The interactions between the characters (as usual) really tells us a lot about who those characters are: Tormund is at the lead, and devil take the hindmost; Jon and Ygritte stick close together, risking their lives for one another if necessary; and Orell is quick to cut those below him loose if there is the slightest hint of danger. So, it’s worth it to make this situation a bit more complex in the play to give the opportunity for those kinds of interactions.

Extended Degreed Tests: By the rules in the Night’s Watch sourcebook, it takes 8 successful checks (along with a flurry of other Endurance tests as well) to make it to the top of the Wall. Of course, this method doesn’t take into account individual degrees of success, providing no real opportunity for truly skilled individuals to shine.

Rather than using the Extended Basic Tests rule, in which a given task is complete with a certain number of successes, we encourage constructing tasks that instead require a certain number of degrees of success instead. Each roll of that Extended test still takes a certain amount of time.

This mechanic can apply in a number of ways: climbing the vast expanse of the Wall (20 total degrees of success, at an interval of 30 minutes per roll), exhaustively researching the lineage of House Baratheon (15 total degrees of success, at an interval of one hour per roll), brewing a batch of wild fire (40 total degrees of success, at an interval of one day per roll), or combing the dock ward looking for a refugee from the Night’s Watch (10 total degrees of success, at an interval of one hour per roll).

Cooperative Checks: The scaling party is roped together, providing them the opportunity to avoid tragedy should one of them fall, but also limiting their overall movement. They have to stick together, basically. Similarly, an Extended Degreed Test might be undertaken by multiple individuals who are aiding one another. There are a couple of ways of modeling different scenarios.

• Assistance: One might have characters all be considered to be Assisting the main character. This works well in scenarios in which one character is doing the bulk of the work while others undertake different tasks to aid her. If a master smith is doing the shaping of a fine blade, his apprentices might be working the bellows, working on the other parts of the sword and the like. In such an instance, use the basic Assistance rules: each helper adds half his appropriate Ability rating to the roll for the main character.

• Covering Weaknesses: In this scenario, everyone is basically engaging in the same sort of action, though some may be doing better than others. The situation is set up so that those with greater skill are able to help those with lesser. In this scenario, characters who generate multiple degrees of success can “give” some of their degrees of success to other characters. So, a group trying to sneak through a dark courtyard to the gate might have sneakier characters hissing instructions or moving alongside those who are less stealthy, ready to contribute some of their excess successes to cover the weaknesses of their allies.

This is a good model to use when characters can only go so far up the scale of success without their allies; for instance, a group of characters who are climbing the Wall while roped together may be disallowed from going more than 2 degrees of success from the next person down, for instance, so that when someone gets to the limits of their rope, they spend some time helping the person beneath them climb.

Milestones: A canny Narrator might decide to add interesting “milestones” into the ladder of progress, as well. By placing such interesting events at certain “points” along the scene’s progress, the Narrator breaks up the monotony of roll after roll. These are often hazards that might be bypassed or avoided through the use of certain Ability tests, or simply something that occurs.

For instance, in this episode, the climbers hit a patch of ice along the wall that fractures and causes an avalanche. If the Wall takes 20 degrees of success to climb, the Narrator may have placed that hazard at the 10th degree mark. Once the group reaches that point, everyone must make an Awareness (Notice) test. Tormund and Orell pass the test, but Ygritte does not, and she places her climbing spike at just the wrong point in the ice. The Narrator describes a cinematic avalanche that wipes out a few of the Narrator Characters across from them, and forces Ygritte and Jon to make quick non-Cooperative Athletics (Climb) tests or fall.

Consequences of Failure: Finally, because any extended test is going to carry the possibility of failed rolls, the Narrator should be careful to detail exactly what happens when such a roll fails. While this can be a large disaster, causing the entire scenario to go pear-shaped, it shouldn’t necessary do so all the time. It can be far more interesting to create events that are “triggered” by failed rolls. A group sneaking across a courtyard may encounter servants or guards that they need to deal with quickly and quietly, while a test to successfully find one’s way across the countryside may result in various hazards or dangers with each failed roll.

Alternately, a terrible mistake may spell doom for one member of the team, unless the others aiding them can spring to their rescue. Ygritte falls, and Jon catches her. Or a team of pyromancers act quickly to negate the chain reaction in their batch of wild fire when one of their number adds the wrong ingredient at the wrong time.

As always, thanks for reading.