One player takes on the roll of Deck Master (DM) and is responsible for running the game, controlling the enemies and other Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and adjudicating the rules. The remaining players each choose three decks from the provided set. Players should choose one deck of each color: one blue deck, or Class, for combat; one green deck, or Craft, for exploration; and one purple deck, or Profession, for interaction. Each resulting combination of decks creates one Player Character (PC).
Each player will have a set of gold Gear cards depending on the decks chosen. Each player should arrange these cards before them in the play area. Gear occupies slots; you cannot have more Gear in a slot than the total amount allowed for that slot as described in the table below. You can play entries from equipped Gear in scenarios. Flip over any Gear cards that are not currently equipped.
SLOT # ALLOWED Hands (Combat) 2* Armor (Combat) 1 Clothing (Any) 1 Item (Any) 1 Accessories (Any) 1 Exploration Expertise 2 Interaction Expertise 2 * Two-handed gear cards take both hand slots
Most gameplay takes place within one of three types of scenario: combat, exploration, or interaction. When the DM declares the start of a scenario, each PC and NPC that draws cards should draw initial hands (5 cards for PCs).
For combat and interaction, it's then time to roll Initiative. Initiative can be found on the role card (class or profession) for the relevant scenario type; NPC initiatives can be found on their entries. Resulting initiatives determine the turn order of play from highest to lowest. PCs win ties over NPCs. PCs that tie with each other can decide their order themselves. The DM determines turn order for NPCs that tie with each other. PCs may choose to set their Initiative values to less than the actual roll, but only before the first turn has begun.
The objective for combat scenarios is to reduce the enemies' Hit Points (HP) totals to 0. The objective for exploration scenarios is to find and reach the goal. The objective for interaction scenarios is to reduce the enemies' Will Points (WP) totals to 0 or advance the Debate Counter to a certan value on the Debate Axis before time runs out.
The turn sequence plays out the same regardless of scenario:
During your turn in combat or interaction, you may attempt to Move once any time after your Draw Phase and before your Discard Phase. In exploration, you may attempt to Move during your turn or an ally's turn (within the same phases), but only once per round.
STRATEGY: Played during your Strategy Phase.
ACTION: Played during your Action Phase against one or more targets. Targets are permitted to play a Reaction in opposition.
REACTION: Played in response to an enemy targeting you with an Action.
ASSIST: Played off-turn in response to an ally trigger being met.
INTERRUPT: Played off-turn in response to an enemy trigger being met.
You can only play one Assist and one Interrupt per turn, and only when it is not your turn.
Dice are described in the following format: XdY, where X is the number of dice (dice number) and Y is the number of sides on the dice (dice level). An entry that reads 2d6 would be interpreted as two six-sided dice.
When instructed to modify the dice level, change the number of sides by 2 in the proper direction for each level (to a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 12). For instance, when increasing the dice level of 1d4 by one, you'd change that roll to a 1d6. A d20's level cannot be modified.
Actions and Reactions often include dice entries used to see if the play is successful:
SCENARIO ACTION REACTION Combat Hit vs. Miss Exploration Inflict vs. Endure Interaction Argue vs. Rebuttal
Each PC or NPC makes the roll as described on their play; highest result wins. Ties go to the Action. If either the Action or Reaction have no opposed roll entry, then both plays take effect.
Any entries under Damage or Special require the play to take effect. Damage rolled is subtracted from the target HP, EP, or WP; if it reaches 0 the target is defeated (negative values are not tracked). Defense values are special in that they take effect even if the play as a whole does not. Defense results subtract from any incoming enemy damage, reducing the total suffered. So, a Damage roll of 4 and a Defense roll of 2 would result in 4-2= 2 total damage taken.
If the Damage entry has the Piercing property, any enemy Defense entry is reduced a number of dice levels equal to the Piercing number. Unlike other dice level reductions, Piercing can reduce Defense to no dice rolled (by reducing further than d2).
If the Damage entry has a type (such as Fire), and the enemy has a Weakness value to that type, the Damage entry is increased a number of dice levels equal to the Weakness number. If the enemy has a Resistance value to that type, the Damage entry is instead decreased a number of dice levels (min d2).
Combat scenarios include a tactical battle map that displays the terrain divided into sections. Every entity (PC or NPC) occupies a section on the map. You can only make melee attacks against enemies in your occupied section. Reach, Ranged, and Thrown attacks can cross a number of section borders equal to the number displayed on the entry. However, you cannot play Actions with a Range entry greater than 1 if there is an enemy in your occupied section.
Actions with the Area Attack descriptor target all entities in a section instead of a single entity.
Some section borders have a Height value. Crossing such borders in a downward direction results in falling, taking #d6 damage where # is equal to the Height value. You need special equipment to cross such borders in an upward direction. Additionally, some movement may require making Acrobatics rolls to succeed; this value is found on the Class card. Failure may result in no movement or falling into another section, taking damage.
Some Actions in combat include an Incantation entry. A PC can spend their Action Phase to incant; at the start of their next turn they'll accumulate 1 Incantation charge, which can be immediately spent to play an Action with the corresponding Incantation value. An entity that takes damage while incanting loses the incantation and all charges accumulated.
Exploration scenarios feature an area map with connected nodes that PCs and some challenges move between. Players must explore to uncover the map and find the goal in order to win the scenario.
On the way, PCs will encounter Obstacle challenges that block connections between nodes; Creature challenges that move around and harass the PCs; Environ challenges that make attacks every round against all PCs in the node; and hidden Trap challenges that make attacks off triggered Interrupts. Obstacles that Persist have a separate EP pool for each PC, and a pool is restored to full whenever the corresponding PC moves.
PCs can Search as an Action, using the Search entry on their Craft card. This is opposed by a Hidden roll; success can result in finding secret exits and other useful things. Additionally, some PC Actions include a Lockpick entry; these can be played against Obstacles having a Lock entry. Success on a Lockpick roll results in that Obstacle being instantly defeated.
Interaction scenarios consist of a one-dimensional Stage of positions. Actions can only affect targets in the same position unless they are Ranged. If an entity attempts to Move, one enemy in the same position can make an opposed Charisma roll to stop the movement, with ties favoring the moving entity.
Interaction scenarios also include a Debate Axis, a number axis used for special victory and defeat conditions. The maximum value on the Debate Axis is equal to 2 + the number of players; likewise the minimum value is equal to -1 * (2 + the number of players). So for four players, the Debate Axis ranges from -6 to +6.
The Debate Counter tracks movement on the Debate Axis. It usually starts at 0 but may differ depending on the difficulty of the scenario. If the Debate Counter reaches the minimum value, the players lose. If the Debate Counter reaches the maximum value, the players win. Some scenarios may provide additional win or loss conditions.
Most interaction scenarios include a Round Limit. At the end of the round described by the Round Limit, the scenario comes to a close. This results in defeat for the players in the provided scenarios, but other scenarios may provide victory if the Debate Counter is greater than a certain value when the scenario ends.
Scenario failure often results in Injuries. Each Injury reduces a PC's maximum HP, EP, and WP by 5. A PC that reaches a maximum of 0 in any of those values dies from the Injuries. Injuries last until healed, which usually requires healing services from a city and cost 1 Valuable each to heal. A PC that starts their turn in exploration scenarios at 0EP receives 1 Injury and recovers to their new max value.
Each PC has an additional Karma value used across all scenarios. Some special cards require spending Karma in order to play. Life-or-death scenarios (where defeat ends the game) also permit defeated PCs to spend Karma to regain HP, EP, or WP. Karma is usually gained from selfless acts. In addition to the spending options above, Karma can be lost by engaging in selfish or brutal behavior that unnecessarily harms others. Karma can go into the negative from such acts, but a PC can never spend Karma to play cards or regain HP, EP, or WP if the expenditure would result in a negative Karma value.