To help matara playtest a new game project, and to test some of my own solo/GM-less stuff, and just to write some hopefully fun fiction, we’re going to use the project’s draft document to guide a fantasy story.

I won’t be posting the draft doc itself, but you can join the MEGALOS Discord to learn more. Contact matty on Twitter for details.

And so we begin…

Roland is on patrol around the village, as he always is when his family don’t recall him to help with the farming.

He kicks a stone as he trudges along his patrol route, watching with satisfaction as it ricochets off his intended target, a tree trunk.

Nobody really appreciates what he does. He chases off wolves, foxes, all kinds of vermin that would be after the chickens.

Once, he even chased off three bandits! Well, there were two at the time, but they called one other person’s name as they fled, so that makes three.

Roland doesn’t belong here. He should be a knight, up at the castle. He should be going to war! All the old storybooks, with their gallant champions in their bright and invulnerable armor - that’s where he belongs. He knows it in his soul.

We’re going to be creating the first of our characters, a typical JRPG protagonist named Roland.

Roland’s concept is “Young hothead from a sleepy farming village”. He dreams big, he’s impatient, he wants to leave and make something of himself, all the while forgetting what his life has already made him into.

His starting stats will be Vigor 30, Agility 20, Will 20, Nous 10. He’s not the brightest.

He gets a bonus to four skills. We pick Force, Move, Survival, and Watch.

It’s not like he’s a good farmer anyway. He can carry stuff around, and get around the farm easily enough. He can go hunting for days at a time, finding his own food and water. And nothing surprises him - at least, nothing here.

He doesn’t have a green thumb, or a love of plants and planting. He sees the farm animals as loud hindrances, always doing whatever they feel like no matter how much trouble it causes for the farmers.

He wants to be out doing! He’s restless - all the time. Even when the elders overwork him to try and drain some of that nervous energy, he gets the work done. He’s just not happy about it.

After all, there’s a war to fight.

His Aspect will, of course, be Flame! He gets +5 to Vigor. His Aspect relationships are Frost (opposed), Aero (complementary), and Wave (weakened).

His Background is Smallfolk. This is worth another +5 to Vigor. He’ll take +1 to Create and +1 to Restore, and the Country Mouse trait.

War? Of course there’s a war. Not a week goes by that the villagers don’t see someone on the road. Nobles escorted by their armored guard, or furtive couriers carrying dispatches to the castle, or an increasing number of injured soldiers warning of battles that began in far-off places but whose names are growing more and more familiar.

They need someone like him, Roland thinks to himself.

He’s good with a spear, even if it’s supposed to be for hunting. And he’s got a shield, and special armor, made for him by a blacksmith who seemed like he was humoring him more than anything. He can fight. He should be out there fighting. For himself, for his village–

For Cath, we’ll take the human-like Hyulan. He’ll take +5 to Vigor. For traits, he’ll take Heart of the Party and Roadcath.

For Discipline, we’ll take the Hoplite. Roland is going to be the party tank, and we’ll give him abilities appropriate to the role: Closing Step for his free action, and Shield Wall for his free boost.

Two armed men in strange leather armor emerge from the underbrush nearby.

Let’s make a skill check to see if Roland was aware of their passage. The difficulty is Average - the men aren’t particularly trying to be sneaky, they’re searching for something. The DC is therefore 8 + (Disc) or 9, since we’re on Disc 1. Fortunately Roland rolls a 4 and a 3, plus 2 for his Watch skill, giving him a total of 9!

“An interloper,” one growls in a surly voice.

“Kill ’im. No witnesses,” commands the other.

Roland gulps. He - he’s going to be fighting!

True to form for a JRPG, if the sleepyhead hero isn’t being woken up by his mother, he’s going to be dropped into a battle immediately.

Roland’s enemies are Basic-rank Soldiers. Their stats are SPD 2, DASH 3, ATK 30, MGK 00, PDEF 15, MDEF 5. They have 5 HP each.

We set up a turn tracker. Roland’s SPD of 3 still puts him ahead of the soldiers. In terms of the map, he’s in the northwest zone of our 8x8 battlemap, and the soldiers are in the northeast and southeast zones. If we label columns as A through H and rows as 1 through 8, Roland is at B2, Soldier 1 is at G2 (four squares away), and Soldier 2 is at G7 (four squares below Soldier 1).

Roland steadies his grip on his spear, and tightens his fingers around the leather straps of his shield. Whoever these guys are, they mean business–!

He isn’t thinking of being a soldier any more. He isn’t thinking of anything. He’s just charging forward.

Roland’s spear has an Attack Cost of 3 and is a Combo weapon. Its Damage Value one-handed is 19. Its Guard Cost is 3 and Guard Value is 1.

Roland starts his turn with 4d6 battle dice and 1 Dash point. He rolls his dice and gets 5, 1, 2, and 6 - a surge! Roland spends 1 Dash to move closer to Soldier 1, stopping at F2. He also uses his Closing Step action, based on the Maneuver basic action. This costs him the rolled 5, and lets him Shift 3 more squares - into melee range. It also gives him a +3 to ATK on his next attack.

The soldier draws a cruelly curved blade from his belt, raises it in a practiced motion, and beckons mockingly at the young man.

Roland’s instincts guide his hand. These guys are the enemy. I can’t let them get to the village.

Roland wants to use the rest of his dice to attack. The Soldiers are Metal-aspected and Roland is wielding an ordinary spear, so there’s no elemental interaction.

He makes a Strike. He pays the Attack Cost of 3 with the 1 and 2 dice, then the cost of 4 for a second hit in the combo with the 6. The spear’s DV is 19, Roland’s AB is 5, so the total ATK is (24 * 2) or 48. Roland’s Closing Step gives him a +3 to ATK, and the surge gives another +10, for a total of 61.

Soldier 1’s PDEF is 15. Roland’s attack is enough to do 5 HP. However, the Soldier has a Counter and spends it to Defend, leaving him at 1 HP.

It is now that Soldier’s turn.

We roll 1d6 for his AI, and get a 2, for a Careful Strike. This is Dash -1, Melee Attack +0, increase DEF by 5 until next turn.

The man groans at the impact of the spear, but does not fall - not yet. With Roland close, he swings his wicked blade.

GM-controlled units don’t have battle dice, so Soldier 1 will just inflict his ATK of 30 against Roland’s PDEF of 25. This is enough to inflict 1 HP of harm - Roland didn’t save any dice for Counters.

Roland raises the shield at the last minute, surprised at his own actions and how little control he feels he has over himself right now. He feels like a rider atop a horse that’s going wild.

He’s almost too distracted to notice the second soldier charging forward, pulling a knife out, and throwing it.

Soldier 2 uses his Boot Knife move. This is a ranged attack at +5, plus the Territorial Advantage the soldiers now have of +10. This is a total of 45 against Roland’s PDEF of 25 - enough to inflict 3 HP.

Roland feels dizzy and sick. There’s something sticking out of his side - it’s a knife, he tells himself in delirious amusement. That guy threw a knife at me.

The wounded soldier’s blade descends, catching Roland unprepared.

Soldier 1’s Careful Strike didn’t move him quite to the bottom of the initiative order, so he’s now acting again. This time he’s making a melee attack, with an ATK of 45 for another 3 HP.

Roland is now up again. He rolls his battle dice and gets 6, 5, 1, and 5 - another Surge, thank goodness. He’ll avoid moving, so his Shield Wall boost grants him another 4 PDEF.

He needs to finish Soldier 1 off, and knows that Counter will protect him from a weak attack. He spends the 6 for a single hit with an ATK of (19+5+10) or 34. Against a modified PDEF of 20, this hits for 2 HP. The Soldier can Counter, but it won’t save him.

Roland spends a 5 and 1 on a Second Wind to heal 2 HP, leaving him with a 5 to Counter.

Through the blood and burning red, Roland finds clarity. The soldier raises his sword for a second hit, and Roland’s spear pierces the leather armor in the opening he’s given. The soldier falls, and Roland wheels to face his surviving adversary.

The second soldier is naturally more wary thanks to the fate of his comrade. He swings his blade in a series of quick feints, trying to create an opening to exploit. Roland can feel his blood flowing. Can the soldier simply outwait him?

Soldier 2 Dashes to south of Roland, at F3, and attacks at +5. His ATK of 35 goes against Roland’s modified PDEF of 29, enough to hit for 1 HP. Roland spends his spear’s Guard Cost with his remaining 5, and reduces the damage by the Guard Value of 1.

Roland alternates between spear and shield, and the soldier’s weapon rings against metal but does not cut flesh.

Time to finish this, the wounded farmboy tells himself. Battle is nothing like he imagined. It’s frightening, and painful. But in this moment, he knows why he’s doing it. It’s not because of grand dreams of knighthood and adventure.

It’s because these two men would have killed any of his village neighbors, had the pair come across them instead of him.

Roland rolls his battle dice and gets 5, 4, 4, and 6. This is enough to buy a four-hit combo, but he’s capped at 3 hits with his current weapon. This is an ATK of 10 + (19 + 5) * 3, or 82. This is enough to pierce the Soldier’s PDEF and break through his Counter.

As the second soldier falls, Roland slumps down to the ground. He feels for the knife - and cannot bear to disturb it, despite how it hurts.

He’s still conscious. But he’s bereft of purpose. He’s just killed two men - for real. Who were they? Where did they come from? What did they want?

A girl’s voice cuts through his confusion, and he sees a slender and feminine figure emerge from the brush.

“Thank you, stranger.”

The first thing he really notices about her is the ruby pendant hanging from her neck…

We’ll stop here, and introduce our second character in the next post. Where will their adventure take them?