How to Play
Gothic Earth is not played live on this website, but in person on Wednesday nights in Bradenton, Florida. Nearby readers should contact Scott if they're interested in joining, but all others are merely invited to follow along with the group's adventures as they're reported online. This page explains the rules to the people playing in person.
Gothic Earth is a tabletop RPG that borrows elements from two other games, the setting of Masque of the Red Death and the rules of Tri-Stat dX, both significantly modified. This page summarizes the rules and gameplay mechanics. Anything not covered here is decided in-game by Scott.
Characters are built with points that are spent to improve their talents and capabilities. The primary method for acquiring points is being rewarded for good gameplay. Some reward points are planned in advance for whoever accomplishes something at a crucial moment, while others are given spontaneously when players do good things that Scott didn't anticipate.
Besides points given in-game, these are the additional methods of acquiring points:
- every character begins with a base of 45 points
- each game session, the players in attendance earn 1 point
- players who miss a game session but return later receive 1 "catchup" point to keep up with the group (3 "catchup" points per session after November 2013, 5 after January 2017)
- players can find an image online to represent their character for 1 point, or draw/paint their character for 2 points
- players can write a biography of their characters for 1 point per 500 words, up to 10 points
- defects (see below) are handicaps worth varying points
Points are spread evenly across the three primary components of the character: stats, attributes, and skills. Of every three points earned, the first must be spent on stats, the second must be spent on attributes, and the third must be spent on skills. The web site takes care of this counting for the players.
Once per chapter, each participating player can write a report from their character's perspective, reporting to the organization that employs them. If this report is at least 500 words, it will give 1 point and $1.00 to the character. The report can only be written after the next chapter begins.
Additionally, players may contribute content to the wiki. Every 3000 characters of text (approximately 500 words) is worth 1 point for the player. These points apply to all characters played by that player. The number of points is limited to the number of chapters to date.
Stats and Dice
There are three primary stats for characters. Body represents a character's physical condition, health, dexterity, strength, and constitution. Mind represents his or her wisdom, memory, perception, intelligence, and reasoning. Soul governs willpower, courage, mysticism, psionics, and luck.
Gothic Earth is played with 2D6 and no other dice. Almost everything that a character attempts involves rolling 2D6 against the appropriate stat. If the character attempts to jump to a ledge, Scott might ask for a "Body check": The player rolls 2D6, adds the result, and succeeds if the sum is less than or equal to his or her Body stat.
Various modifiers affect dice rolls. Making a particularly difficult recall attempt might necessitate a "mind check at -3," meaning that 2D6 must be less than or equal to the character's Mind stat, minus three, to succeed. Easier goals have a corresponding positive modifier. Skills (see below) give trained characters an edge in their areas of expertise. Rolling snake-eyes (natural 2) is a guaranteed success, while rolling boxcars (natural 12) is a guaranteed failure, regardless of the stat, and will result in a small helpful or hindering bonus in the game's plot.
In addition to the three primary stats, four lesser values define the character:
- Health Points (Body+Soul*5) keep the character in good condition. Damage reduces them, until the character becomes comatose at 0 HP. Characters heal at 1 HP per day.
- Energy Points (Mind+Soul*5) represent the character's fuel for certain supernatural abilities, and can be spent until the character becomes drained at 0 EP. Characters regain 1 EP per day.
- Attack Value (Body+Mind+Soul/3) is the character's odds of hitting a target with a given attack in battle. It is rolled just like rolling a stat. See below for more info.
- Defense Value (AV-2) is the character's ability to defend himself or herself from attack during combat. Under most circumstances, a successful roll means that no damage is taken.
When characters are first created in Gothic Earth, they are "mundane": Ordinary people with no supernatural talents at all. Their advantanges in life include such things as having friends in high places, coming from a privileged family, and being exceedingly beautiful. Once the characters are touched by the supernatural elements of the game, they begin to manifest powers beyond the human realm, fantastic talents like telekinesis, flight, and invisibility. All of these are attributes, the positive traits of a character.
All attributes have levels representing their scope. For instance, the ability to create hallucinogenic illusions for other characters at level 1 might only allow the character to project sounds, but at level 3 could include visible static objects, and at level 5 could include walking & talking people. Each attribute costs a certain number of points per level, costing more as they become more powerful and influential on the game.
After creating mundane characters during the initial generation, players are encouraged to outfit their characters with increasingly powerful abilities as the game goes on, reflective of their growing power and responsibility in the world of Gothic Earth. In addition to any attributes already listed in the game, players are welcome to request new attributes at any time; Scott will provide a written description and point cost. Virtually anything a player can imagine for their characters is feasible as an attribute in the game.
Certain attributes can be taken as spells or other temporary effects, rather than being a permanent part of the character. These attributes cost less points overall, but require Energy Points to be activated. The EP cost is the same as the point cost of the attribute at that level. When a character runs out of EP, he or she must wait until some are regained.
Characters come into the game with professional experience in certain fields such as medicine, law enforcement, and private investigation. The longer they have extraordinary adventures, the better they get at achieving their goals along the way. These are represented by skills.
Like attributes, skills have levels and a point cost for each level. All skills have 6 levels, with no difference between levels except for the affect on dice rolls. Whenever a character attempts something related to his or her skill, the skill level can be subtracted from the dice roll to improve the odds of success.
Once a character has taken at least one level in a particular skill, the character can specialize in specific disciplines within that field. For instance, a doctor who has studied the Medical skill might specialize in Surgery, Pathology, and Anatomy. Each specialization related to the dice roll results in an additional -1 bonus. Each specialization costs 1 point.
A sort of "reverse attribute," defects represent a character's handicaps and hardships, and result in points being added to a character's total. Major defects like blindness and infirmity can grant more points, while minor defects like phobias and addictions grant less points. Like attributes and skills, defects have levels and a point value per level.
Defects represent specific handicaps that make it harder to succeed as that character. Personality elements like crankiness or preferring to work alone can make the character annoying, but don't represent hardship, whereas alcoholism and being uneducated can significantly reduce a character's contributions to the game.
While there is no cap on defects, players are encouraged not to take defects just to get points, because every defect will come into play against the character as often as possible. Additional defects can result from events in-game such as injuries and traumatic experiences. When a player has had enough of a defect, it can be "bought off" for an equal point value, as long as there is an in-game reference to why the character is no longer afflicted.
In each round of combat, Scott goes around the table clockwise, asking each player what action their character will take on that turn, and then asking for a die roll to determine success. The action does not happen at that moment; instead, all combat actions happen simultaneously after Scott has gone around the table and also factored in the actions of his NPCs.
To attack a target, a character must roll below, or equal to, his or her AV. As with other stats, positive or negative bonuses may affect the roll depending on battlefield circumstances, and critical rolls produce guaranteed outcomes. Damage is done according to the weapon. Unarmed attacks do 2 damage. Players are encouraged to keep handy a list of their characters' most common attacks for reference during the game.
If attacked, a character gets a chance to defend by rolling below, or equal to, his or her DV. If successful, the attack against that character will fail, except for special circumstances.
Players characters can be knocked unconscious by a very powerful attack that exceeds their "shock value," one-fifth of their hit points, and require a successful mind check to wake up. If all of their hit points are spent, they are knocked out and lie comatose until healed above 0 HP again, at which time they need a successful mind check to wake up. A violent action taken against a character's body, such as a mauling or decaptitation, can result in death, as can a heroic act of self-sacrifice.
Although characters' natural healing rate (1 HP per day) is slow, many options exist for rapid healing and group healing.
Additional combat notes:
Various battlefield conditions may make attacks easier or harder, such as the enemy taking cover behind furniture or a foggy haze making it difficult to see. Scott will declare attack modifiers as appropriate.
It takes one turn to draw a weapon if the character is not holding one when the battle begins. (Attacking and defending is impossible when drawing.)
Each gun holds a certain number of bullets. The character must stop to reload for one turn (neither attacking nor defending) when that happens. Players should keep track of ammunition so that replacements can be bought when appropriate.
Characters can make "called shots" to a specific part of the target (like the enemy's head instead of just "the enemy") or to disarm the target. Scott might declare a higher or lower penalty depending on the difficulty of the shot, but by default it adds a -4 penalty to the shot. Characters can avoid this penalty by spending one turn carefully aiming (not attacking or defending) before striking the next turn.
Characters can attack with a weapon in each hand. There is a -4 penalty for attacking the same target and -8 for two simultaneous targets.
It is possible to "strike to wound." When an attack is successful, the player may declare that any damage amount less than normal is inflicted, including as little as 1 point.
When attacking from or to a moving vehicle, characters attack at -4. This is not cumulative if both are moving.
Characters begin with basic supplies and the clothes on their backs, chosen for them by Scott. They begin with no cash at all, and must earn money in the course of the game. All items acquired in the game can be sold, and supernatural-touched items are worth more. When a character sells an item, the proceeds can be kept solely by that person, or distributed evenly to all current characters in the group. Cash can then be spent in the General Store on the site to acquire more equipment. As noted above, each chapter report is worth $1.00 to the character.
"Gothic Earth" is just like our world in 1899, but with two key differences: The paranormal is real and dangerous in this world, and literary characters like Sherlock Holmes and Dracula exist here. There is considerable tension between the emerging technology that promises to save mankind from the darkness, and the old ways that concerned superstition, black magic, spirits, unnatural creatures, and other frightening elements. The average person may believe a little more in the occult or trust a little more in science, but only a few are aware of the true scope of paranormal activity in the world.
In 1899, the gap between the rich and the poor, and the horrors inflicted on the latter by the former, were considerable. Manners were everything in Victorian times, and the poor were second-class citizens by definition. Education was available to all but needed by few; work was dangerous and difficult; life was short and painful for all but the privileged wealthy. Dreams of fortune and power corrupted men almost as well as having the real thing.