Originally published at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2012/06/01/tabletop-review-clockwork-and-chivalry-2nd-edition/
The original Clockwork and Chivalry was a D100 system based off Mongoose Publishing’s RuneQuest II rule set. With Mongoose losing the Runequest license back in 2011, Clockwork and Chivalry creators, Peter Cakebread and Ken Walton decided to evolve Clockwork and Chivalry, using the OpenQuest rules and the original Runequest SRD as a base while putting their own spin on it. The result was the Renaissance system, which was used for the Second Edition of Clockwork and Chivalry. While different in some details, the general mechanics remain the same. So those familiar with either the 1st Edition of Clockwork and Chivalry or Mongoose’s Runequest will be at home with the new Renaissance system.
For those that may not be familiar, Clockwork and Chivalry is set in the 17th Century during the English Civil War. At this time the Crown and Parliament were at war with each other for control of the kingdom, while many other factions are trying to influence the outcome of the conflict. But this England isn’t an exact historical recreation of our own world. In the world of Clockwork and Chivalry, magic and alchemy is real and giant clockwork machines are used as weapons of war. So it does have some fantasy elements as well while using real world history as a foundation. Just do not expect to find elves, dwarves, or other demi-humans running around. They are not present like they were in Cubicle 7’s Victoriana, so if your role-playing must include pointy ears, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
Clockwork and Chivalry characters have seven main stats called characteristics. They are strength, constitution, dexterity, size, intelligence, power (which represents a characters will power) and charisma. You determine your strength, constitution, dexterity, power and charisma by rolling 3D6. Your size and intelligence are determined by rolling 2D6 and adding 6 to the result. There are also some secondary stats called attributes that are calculated using your base characteristics. You have damage modifiers, hit points, movement rates, major wound levels (Damage taken from one attack over this amount cause serious or grave wounds. More on this in the combat section.), and if you use witchcraft, you also have a Magick attribute.
The attribute generation is simple and straight forward. Your base characteristics will be familiar to anyone familiar with a D20 based system, with power being somewhat analogous to wisdom. The secondary attributes are simple to calculate, and after a short time you should be able to calculate them on your own without referencing the book.
Now we move on to selecting the characters’ previous experiences prior to adventuring. This is where you determine the social class, profession, and faction of your character. The most important of these is your social class, for it will affect your profession choices. Your choices are Peasant, Townsman, Middle Class, Gentry, and Nobility. You really want to put some thought in to thia decision. You social class for one determines your starting money amount. The higher the class, the more money you have to start. Also each class gives you bonuses to the common skills every character starts with, as well as giving your character access to other advanced skills. Each social class is different in these regards. Finally, the most import aspect of character creation your social class affects is your profession. Different professions are available to each class, and if you want to play sailor for example, you can be of Nobility. There are just some jobs that nobility would not lower themselves to. Just like if you are a peasant, you cannot be a cavalier. Someone of such a low social standing would never be accept into such highly respected positions.
This is the point in the character creation process you really need to have good idea of the character you want to play. I recommend looking over all the professions before selecting your social class, finding the profession you want then selecting the appropriate social class. Otherwise you may find that your townsman is locked out of becoming an alchemist.
The final portion of character creation is selecting your faction. The English Civil War, while primarily involved the Royalists versus the Parliamentarians, had many other groups trying to influence the outcome. So there are many choices when it comes to what faction you wish to be a part of. You can of course choose to be a Parliamentarian or Royalist. You can also be Catholic or Presbyterian. For the more evil of character, you can also be a Satanist or a member of the Horsemen’s Word. You even have the choice of Self-Interest for those that’s primary motivation is benefiting themselves. There are twenty-five different factions in total. All have a different world view and ideals they live by. You might even think of factions as a sort of alignment system, since each group has a specific set of belief they follow.
Your Righteousness points also come into play when dealing with the various factions of the game. Righteousness points represent how dedicated to the cause of your faction. A starting character’s Righteousness points are equal to the sum of their charisma, powers, and faction zeal. If you have a lot of righteousness points, then you are a zealot of your cause. If your points drop to zero you could be converted to another cause. These come into play when you get into a debate with a rival faction. Say you get into an argument with a drunken Royalist at the tavern; you both would make a roll against your Righteous points. You would try to roll under your RP, while the opposing character would do the same. You would compare the results of the check and depending on what was rolled; you and your opponent could either gain or lose RP points, showing how persuasive both parties were. Righteousness points will also change if a character is victorious or defeated by an opposing group, or if the character hears of a overwhelming victory or defeat of his group. This one would come in to pay when the player hears the results of major battles he’s not directly a part of. Overall I find the concept of righteousness interesting. Often times over the course of a war, a person’s convictions to one side waxes and wanes, and I think this does a good job representing that. However, some players may dislike the idea their character may be converted to a different belief system, strictly based on die rolls.
Now let’s talk about the professions in a little more detail. In all there are thrity-seven different professions to choose from. Each profession has a social class requirement and provides bonus to common skills and some advanced skills as well. These professions really run the gamut of 17th Century society. You can be a farmer or a merchant, a ruffian or an outlaw, or if you want something a little more dignified, a courtier or a scholar. If magic is more your thing, you could choose witch or devil’s horseman. Each profession has a detailed description as well, giving you a good idea of the type of people the profession usually attracts and what their work details. These professions represent your life before the game begins and whether you continue on this work in the game is up to you. With so many choices of professions are a bound to find several that spark interesting character concepts.
With so many possible character concepts, having a cohesive adventuring party develop out of some very different professions and social classes can be a difficult task. To aid in this, a random event table is provided that players can roll on and it provides little hooks that can be used to connect to players. By using this you can develop reasons why players know each other and would be willing to take part in dangerous adventures with each other. The initial, “Why do these characters know each other?” is always something I’ve struggled with when running games, so having a nice little chart I can use to connect everyone makes my job as game master a whole lot easier.
After choosing your faction, social class and profession, you can now determine your skill values. Every character starts with certain common skills these are basic things such as close combat, first aid, perception, range combat, dance, and athletics. Also depending on your social class and profession, you will have more advanced skills that not everyone else has. The values for tour skills are determined by using your characteristics. Some skills will add two characteristics together to get your value. Others may be two times one characteristic. That results ends up being your base value. Now is the time you add in any bonuses provided by your social class or profession and that gives your final skill total. Now whenever you go to use a skill you roll a percentile and attempt to roll under your score.
The combat system works the same way. Roll under your range or melee combat value it hit. Characters that are being attack also have defensive options as all. When hit with a close combat attack or hand thrown missile weapons, a character can once per round try to dodge or parry the attack; this give the character a change to either reduce the amount of damage taken or avoid it all together. This adds an extra dynamic to combat and more resembles an actual sword fight.
Combat in Clockwork and Chivalry is rather lethal when compared to your typical roleplaying gaming. If you take more than your major wound level in damage from one attack, you consult the major wounds table. Using the ones die roll from the attack roll, you cross reference this chart and determine hit location and the results of the hit and additional effects that this blow had. You could end up with losing an eye and receiving facial scars, or you receive a nasty stomach wound and start losing 1 hit point a round until you are patched up. Or if you take a bad blow to the heart, you die instantly. So even the mightiest of heroes can be maimed or killed in Clockwork and Chivalry. So players should not expect to be able to hack and slash their way through every situation. Sometimes running is the best solution.
When it comes to magic in Clockwork and Chivalry, there are two distinct flavors: Alchemy and Witchcraft. Alchemy draws itS powers from the elements while witchcraft draws it’s from much darker places. Alchemy is the more acceptable of the two, with would-be alchemist documentation being freely available in the Oxford University library. Witchcraft, much like you would imagine, is feared by the populace and there are those that will hunt down and kill witches or those mistaken for witches.
For alchemical spells to be cast, the alchemist must first construct a philosopher’s stone. This stone acts as a magic power battery, and as the alchemist cast spells power is drained from the stone until it is an empty useless rock. To create a philosopher’s stone an alchemist must make an alchemy check for every hour of construction. Every hour of construction adds two magick points to the stone, but on a failed check it’s possible a mishap happened that can cause serious damage to the alchemist and those around him. Anything from taking major damage from an explosion or suffering permanent constitution loss due to noxious fumes can happen. This is why very large, powerful stones are rare. They are too dangerous to construct. After successfully making a stone, the alchemist can then cast spells, which each spell draining its magick point cost from the stone until the stone is down to zero MPs. At this point the stone is useless and the alchemist must make another. Also the Alchemist must make an Elemental Casting roll of the appropriate element, success meaning the spell works and failure meaning the alchemist was unable to control the elemental forces and at times this can have dire consequences.
Witchcraft is a much darker form of magic. Yes, there are the unaligned “good” witches if you will, but the most powerful are the satanic witches. Witchcraft uses to stats when casting spells, the witchcraft skill and the Magick attribute. The witchcraft skill roll determines if the spell succeeds. The Magic Attribute determines how strong the spell is and how powerful of spells can be cast. The reason satanic witches are the most powerful? Only those that are aligned with Satan can increase their magic score after beginning the game. Much like the dark side of the force tempts people with power in Star Wars, so do the dark powers of witchcraft in Clockwork and Chivalry.
I’ve also been torn when it comes to magic systems in role playing games. I tend to prefer the Vancian style of magic where, if a caster uses a spell, it just works. The spell system of Clockwork and Chivalry is far from Vancian magic. The magic comes across more wild and people have less control over it than they would like to think. Fumbling a skill roll for either form of magic can have dire consequences, requiring rolls on their respective fumble charts. The results can then be anywhere from an annoyance to very lethal. It does help play into the common peoples wariness of it though, considering even the “experts” have issues controlling the forces they claim to control. This lack of control fits in with the game setting nicely and for this particular game works far better than Vancian magic.
Now we go from the magical to the mechanical as talk about clockwork devices and their creation. The clockwork devices range from massive machines of war capable of turning the tide of any battle to a bible page turner. Clockwork devices can be constructed to perform most any task and the book provides a nice variety of both military and civilian clockwork devices. While the list of clockwork devices is quite nice, most players will at some point want to build a device of their own creation. Fortunate for them as rules for clockwork creation are provided.
Clockwork creation is a three step process: design, funding, and construction. The first stage is where the GM and player work out what the device will do and how complex it is to construct. This involves some work on the GMs part has he has to determine the complexity and effects on his own. Some guidelines are given but this is more of an art than an exact science. So new GMs to the system may find this daunting since the possibility exist to create a game breaking device if you give in to the player too much. I highly recommend any GM to reference to the predesigned devices and use them as a reference for what should be allowed in the game. Anything that does way more than anything in the book, I probably wouldn’t allow just because of that game breaking potential. After the GM and player work out the complexity and game effects, then the player makes a clockwork design roll. This determines how well the character’s design process went. If all goes well, they could complete the design quicker than expect or the devices works a little better than originally intended. Rolling poorly however can result in either wasted time, as it takes longer than expect to design, or worse, the device has a design flaw not obvious to the designer. After the initial design stage we move on to the funding stage.
Now that the character has their design, they have to find a way to pay for it. The cost is determined by the complexity level, the size, weapons, armor and speed (if a vehicle) of the device. The more complex, the more weapons, the better the armor and so on, the more it will cost. This phase is where the GM can have some fun roleplaying with the players, as they try to find a way to pay for the construction of their creation. Maybe the local lord will fund the creation provided they will do some dirty work for him. Maybe they’ll be all to charm some rich merchant into investing in their new creation. The possibilities are limitless and the creative GM will find a way to tie the funding in with the great story of the campaign.
Now that the money has gather it’s time to construct the device. The complexity level determines the time it takes for construction and the size determines how many helpers are needed. At the end of the first day of construction and every week thereafter, a Craft (Clockwork) roll is made. If the roll succeeds construction continues as normal. If it fails construction is delayed. If it was a fumble then the construction mishap chart is rolled on. This is where characters can suffer industrial injuries or severe damage can be done to the device ruining raw materials, increases the cost and construction time of the device.
There is a lot to the clockwork creation system. The design process involves a lot of fudging by the GM to create a device. The cost of the device must be calculated, funding sources must be obtained as well as raw materials. Then the construction itself involves several roles and possibly a month or more of in game time, not to mention the in game time spent creating the device. It’s a rather exhausting process that can easily take a character out of the game for a while, during the design and construction. It reminds me a lot of magic item creation in other systems. It always really time consuming and most players will be excited at first to create something of their own, then realize the amount of work that goes into it and say never mind. I think the same will apply for the clockwork construction rules. I like the rules overall. They make sense, but they are too time consuming and when mixed with the amount of GM fiat required, I really don’t see them being used that often.
Lastly we’ll talk about the setting itself. As I admitted earlier, my knowledge of The English Civil war is minimal. Fortunately a wealth of information is provided so you do not have to be a 17th century scholar to run a compelling game of Clockwork and Chivalry. The background of the lands is provided which helps set the stage for the civil war. The major players for both sides are profiled. You also are given information on the current customs, the legal system, fashion, and other aspects of daily life. There’s just enough detail to give the GM an overview of the society, without getting bogged in minutia. A map of the providences of England and Wales are provided along with who controls each. There is a lot of information in the background chapter. It’s actually overwhelming in some ways, since this time period was heavily personality based and there are a lot of important figures on both sides of the war. My thought is to just skim this chapter and focus on the parts need for your game, then read the rest as needed. There is too much to consume at once and don’t expect your players to know everything either. Just carve out the parts you need and focus on that, and you can run an enjoyable game. No need to get bogged down in details you won’t need.
A small bestiary is present. It has a mix of everything from the undead to dragons to wild animals. Running just fourteen pages, it’s a little on the small side, but most of the combat in the game will be human versus human so I can understand the lack of depth in this. Still I’m sure a GM will want a type of animal or creature not listed and it will be up to them to stat them out themselves.
Clockwork and Chivalry is an interesting system especially if you’re looking for something from your standard D20 fair. The base mechanics are simple, just expect to spend some time referencing charts since just about every system be it spell casting, combat or device creation involves them. Combat can last longer as well because of the parry and dodge mechanics, as it slows the game down a little while increasing the realism.
Overall I like Clockwork and Chivalry. The setting is rich and not overplayed out like many other games. Mechanically it’s easy to understand, even though the chart referencing can slow the game down. The Clockwork creation aspect isn’t extremely newbie GM friendly, but I’m not expecting it to see much us either so it shouldn’t be a major concern. If you are looking for something different from the standard D20 fair, give Clockwork and Chivalry a chance. It’s one of the better D100 systems out there and after a few sessions you’ll be running epic battles between witches and clockwork ballistae.