The Environment

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VERS -> Book I - Player Rules -> Gameplay -> The Environment

The previous sections have all been about characters conflicting with other characters (combat and chases), or different ways to model the uncertainty and complexities of action (stunts). This section, then, can be seen as the final section detailing rules for conflict: characters versus the world around them.

Breaking Objects

When damage occurs to inanimate objects, the following rules outline process of resolving it. However, remember it is not always necessary to determine the full effects of such interactions as they add unnecessary complexity for very little dramatic gain and will grind any game to a standstill if the attempt is made to calculate the damage for every single item the troop interacts with. Used judiciously, however, object damage can add a little extra zing to any encounter.

Making the Attack

First, targeting an inanimate object sitting on it own without an NPC nearby (such as trying to shoot an apple on a ledge) is always a passive roll. The difficulty rating for the attack roll is equal to (-1 x size) + range penalty (if any). If the object has a shape that makes it particularly hard to hit or is at a strange angle that belies it true size it may give additional penalties. Examples would include a sewer grate (more likely to shoot through the metal than to hit it). If the object is held in the hands of an NPC, such as trying to shoot a gun out of someone's hand, then it is an active roll using the NPCs defense.


Rank Example Material
-5 Butter
0 Flesh
1 Cloth, paper
2 Leather, rope
3 Glass, pottery
4 Wood, bone
6 Bronze
7 Stone, iron
8 Tempered steel
9 Star/Dwarf steel
10 Diamond

Beyond Size, objects only have one other attribute, and that is their Hardness. This is a very abstract measurement of how hard it is to destroy an object. It is used similarly to the resistance attributes (Composure, Resolve, or Stamina) when figuring out damage, in that the EV of the incoming attack is compared against it to determine the NDV. See the chart below for examples.

When damaging an object, it is important to remember that there are more factors than just the toughness of the material to consider. Thickness is the major concern. The chart considers these materials at a thickness of 3 cm (roughly 1 inch), which is the equivalent of -6 ranks of distance. The Hardness is increased by 1 for each additional rank of thickness.

The other major consideration is the complexity of the item. Solid slabs of material are much harder to break than objects made up of moving parts like gears, or which are holding softer materials inside. Complex items take a -2 penalty, and compound materials take the average of the top three materials involved in their construction.

Dealing Damage

Once the attack is ruled a success and the NDV is determined, the only thing remaining is to apply the appropriate condition. Objects take Durability conditions, which are, in order of least to greatest: Worn, Damaged, Tattered, and Broken.

  • Worn: The Worn condition applies if the NDV is between 0 and 2. These are small nicks, fraying, or other such small damage. This can be seen but does not imped the item's function. Regardless of the tone of a game, an object can have up to 3 of these before they start being upgraded.
  • Damaged: The Damaged condition applies when the NDV is between 3-5. Knicks, cracks, rust, holes; these are the signs of the Damaged condition. Regardless of tone an item can have 2 of these before they begin upgrading to the next level. Uses of the item take a -1 penalty to all rolls per condition at this level.
  • Tattered: The Tattered condition applies when the NDV is between 6 & 8. A tattered item is so damaged it is barely holding together, with large gashes, missing chunks, or other major signs of damage. Because of the poor condition any use of the item takes an additional -2 penalty. Object can only have one Tattered condition.
  • Broken: This condition applies when the NDV is greater than 9. A broken item no longer functions, but is in total disrepair. Any function that the object once had is lost, and if that function was structural then it crumbles, possibly with disastrous results.

Objects do not get recoveries as characters do. The only way for an object to remove Durability conditions is for a character to use an appropriate Craft, Profession, or Art skill to make repairs.

Weapons: Impromptu and Designed

A character can use an object from the environment as an impromptu weapon, such as a wooden chair in a tavern brawl. The impromptu weapon has a base EV equal to half its Hardness plus its Size, with a minimum of 0. An impromptu weapon takes an equal amount of damage on a successful strike as the full EV dealt to the target before Protection, mitigated by its Hardness. Also note that such a weapon cannot do more damage in a single attack than it would take to reduce it to Broken condition, in which case the object breaks with the use.

Weapons and armor do not normally count as objects in terms of breakage rules, however GMs wishing for a grittier feel can have such equipment take a Durability condition for every day they are used but not cared for. Treat this as a roleplaying task, no roll required. The character mentioning they sharpen their blades and oil their chainmail before putting it away after a battle is sufficient.


Chemicals and Poison: EV over Time
Weak Moderate Strong
Dilute +1 per hour +2 per hour +4 per hour
Moderate +1 per minute +2 per minute +4 per minute
Concentrated +1 per turn +2 per turn +4 per turn

To keep things simple, all Chemicals have two attributes: Concentration and Potency. The concentration of the chemical determines the time it takes for the chemical to do damage, with properly mixed chemicals that the average person would have contact with being so weak as to require hours before doing appreciable harm. Potency, on the other hand, determines how much damage that damage actually is.

The chemical deals damage at the end of every time interval prescribed by the concentration until the chemical is removed in some manner. In addition the damage is cumulative, with each application adding to the overall EV, making even weak, dilute chemicals deadly over an extended period of time.

Chemicals apply at full potency to all materials they touch, however porous materials like cloth also allow some of the chemical to seep through and affect lower layers. Seeping chemicals take a -1 penalty to potency per layer they seep through.

In addition, any strong potency chemical releases noxious fumes when reacting with objects. These fumes pose a similar threat as direct chemical damage to the head. Any damage taken via chemicals to the head can cause blindness, respiratory distress, and even suffocation.


Poison is a special type of chemical that damages internal tissues while typically not affecting skin or equipment. Many poisons can make the character blind, suffocate, and similar effects, while other poisons have more esoteric effects like hallucinations, reduced attributes, and more.

There are four main Vectors for poisoning: contact, inhaled, ingested, or injected. Most poisons only have one vector, but it may have more than one vector, or even work on all vectors, depending on the type.

Contact poisons are rare, and usually come in the form of toxic materials like mercury, and are almost always accumulation poisons (see below). Inhaled poisons enter the body through the lungs, and often target the respiratory and circulatory systems. Ingested poisons enter through the stomach and tend to target the endocrine system, especially the liver and kidneys. Finally injected poisons enter through the bloodstream like snake and spider venom, which often targets the nervous system. Of course these are all just typical examples, and many of the most famous poisons like cyanide function by disrupting specific molecular reactions the body needs to survive instead of targeting specific organ systems.

It is said that everything is poison, and there is poison in everything. The only question is the Dose. Each poison must specify a time which is the maximum length between doses. If the poisoner administers another dose within that time then it counts toward the overall effect. If the next dose is not administered in time then the body has processed enough of the original dose for it to no longer be a danger and the process has to start again from the beginning.

Finally, like a chemical, poison has a Potency (weak, moderate, and strong) which determines how powerful the poison is and how hard it is to resist. The EV of a poison is equal to the severity (2 for weak, 4 for moderate, and 6 for strong) plus the number of doses accumulated. Each time a victim takes a dose of poison, she must make a resistance roll with the new penalty. Poisons use the same status effects as the Afflict ability effect, although some types of poison may used Injury conditions, depending on design and purpose.


Sometimes the true danger when adventuring is extreme temperatures. Exposure EV is equal to 1 per 10ºC the temperature falls below 10ºC or rises above 30ºC, and doubles for each hour that the character experiences the extreme temperature. Each hour the character must make resistance rolls against all three types of damage (Focus, Injury, and Morale). Recoveries cannot be taken until the character is able to equalize temperatures. Treat extremely wet weather, or a character who has gotten wet as 10ºC colder than it really is.

If the environment is cold, the character also risks frostbite from long-term exposure. Frostbite exists in four stages. The signals of stage one are itching and numbness in the afflicted areas, but is mostly cosmetic, healing back to normal in (10 – Stamina) days. First degree frostbite occurs in the extremities (fingers, toes) when a character has taken a Scratched condition from the environment. Second degree frostbite occurs when the top layers of flesh actually freeze, but the inner parts of the body remain alive, blistering and turning black as they heal, but returning mostly to normal in (10 – Stamina) weeks. After healing back the tissue remains insensitive to both heat and cold. Second degree frostbite sets into tissues affected by first degree frostbite when a character has a Wounded condition, and the first degree frostbite spreads (hands, feet, nose, ears).

Third degree frostbite occurs when the deep tissues of the body part freeze. At this point the flesh takes on a waxy feel and if help arrives at this point saving the affected body part requires a successful First Aid roll. If the First Aid roll is successful, the affected body part heals back in (10 – Stamina) months, although it loses all feeling, and is typically deformed and discolored permanently. If the roll is not successful the only option is amputation within a number of days equal to Stamina to avoid gangrene. Third degree frostbite sets into tissues affected by second degree frostbite when a character has gained an Impaired condition due to exposure, and the frostbite expands, with previously first degree tissues becoming second degree, and first degree frostbite spreading to the lower arms, lower legs, and face.

The final, fourth degree of frostbite occurs if the character continues receiving exposure damage. When fourth degree frostbite sets in there is no saving the frozen body parts, and they may even fall off after enough time. If help finally arrives for the character there is no choice; amputation of the affected body parts within the first day of being rescued or gangrene will set in. Fourth degree frostbite sets in to tissues affected by third degree frostbite when the character takes the Disabled condition from exposure damage, and the rest of the frostbitten tissues upgrade and spread as before.

Note that a wounded character stranded in extreme cold may go unconscious before suffering even the first degree of frostbite. However, once the character goes unconscious they progress through the stages of frostbite each hour without the ability to make a Stamina roll.

Starvation and Thirst

Characters on any kind of extended journey run the risk of running out of food and drink. While it may seem trivial to our more modern, urban-centric thought processes, it is a real and present danger even in modern settings. There is a reason why many ancient cultures preferred exile to execution. The average person alone in the wilderness is a dead man just waiting for his grave.

While (often) easier to get, water is by far the more important of the two. A character can only go a number of days equal to 1 + the character’s Stamina (minimum 1 day) without water before feeling the effects of its lack. Thereafter, each day without water the character must make resistance rolls against all three types of damage (Focus, Injury, and Morale). This roll also takes into account any penalties from exposure or other environmental damage the character endures. Recoveries after being found and dehydration begun happen at half the normal rate as the body struggles to regain its chemical equilibrium.

Starvation, on the other hand, is easier to experience and also easier to survive. A character can survive without food nearly twice as long as she could without water, physically feeling no ill effects for a number of days equal to 1 + the character’s Stamina (minimum 1). After that time she must make a resistance roll against all three types of attacks every other day.

A Disabled character due to thirst or hunger becomes lethargic and apathetic. A Disarrayed character due to thirst or hunger becomes confused, disoriented, and may even hallucinate. A Debilitated character due to thirst or hunger becomes irrational, emotional, and moody.


Outside of combat and doing minimal physical activity, a character can hold his breath for a number of minutes equal to half of their Stamina. After this period of time, the character must make Discipline rolls every turn, with a cumulative penalty of -1 per turn. If the Discipline roll fails then the character takes Focus damage, the EV equal to the current penalty. When a character becomes Disarrayed their autonomous body functions kick in and they begin trying to draw in air. At this point they must make a resistance roll against Injury, with an EV equal to the number of Turns since becoming Disarrayed. Upon becoming Disabled they have drowned or suffocated. If the character was merely trying to avoid nerve gas or the like, then they may not take Injury damage, but they will suffer the effects of whatever they were trying to avoid.

Suffocation in combat is a little different. Due to the stresses and activities of fighting off an attacker while also trying to retain oxygen, a character in combat may hold their breath for 1 turn per point of Stamina with no complications. After this period of time they begin to lose Focus as outlined above.


A character who takes an unexpected fall can expect injury as much if not more than one who gets hit with a sword. The base EV for fall damage is 2 per meter fallen. A falling character can attempt an Acrobatics roll to land safely with a -2 penalty on the roll per meter of uncontrolled fall. Each degree of success reduces the EV by 1. Conversely, a controlled fall (i.e. jumping) is somewhat safer, if only because the character has a better chance of landing in the best possible way. The base EV for a controlled fall is 1 point per meter, and the penalty on the Acrobatics roll is -1 per meter fallen. A character does get to apply their Stamina as a RV to the fall damage

Poor Visibility

When adventuring a character will often find themselves in situations where they cannot see very well, either because of poor lighting, fog, or more exotic reasons. Darkness gives a -2 penalty to Perception for a normally lit modern city night, or a -4 for an ancient city. In the modern countryside where lighting is much more scarce, character’s take a -6 penalty. Wilderness and ancient farmland gives a -8. The inside of a cave or other dark enclosed area makes vision impossible without aid. A clear starry night gives a +1 bonus, and a full moon gives a +2, although these bonuses to not apply in modern cities, as the light pollution is too great for the night sky to even be visible, let alone aide vision.

Fog and other forms of weather induced vision loss act as a range penalty on sight. Light fog or moderate rain or snow gives a -1 per 5 meters. Moderate fog or heavy rain or snow gives a -2 per 5 meters. Heavy fog is nearly impenetrable, giving a whopping -4 per 5 meters. In these instances hearing also takes a penalty equal to half the penalty for vision in the case of fog or snow and the same penalty for rain. Characters with advanced senses of smell double the penalties for precipitation. Also, a heavy rain can easily wash away a scent trail, maintaining those penalties on tracking by scent even after the weather has changed. Wind also gives a penalty to hearing and smell, a -1 for a medium wind, a -2 for high wind, and -4 for a gale force winds. Poor visibility penalties also apply to Survival rolls.

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