House Rules and Homebrew Elements

The core gaming system used in Blackthorn is the True20 roleplaying game, one of my most beloved gaming systems. However, I’ve ended up using quite a number of personal rules and adaptations.

Combination of Toughness and Hit Points: Default True20 rules employ the Toughness mechanic, a kind of saving throw characters make to resist damage. Damage results, determined by the degree of failure, are documented with a damage condition track. In Blackthorn, while characters all have Toughness saving throws, they suffer hit point damage instead of damage conditions.

Hit points are accumulated by gaining levels, with variation based on role and Constitution. Each damaging attack a character can be subjected to has an attribute called a severity modifer. The severity modifier of an attack determines the difficulty of a particular Toughness save. In addition, all such attacks have a default amount of hit point damage to be dealt (modified by feats, ability scores, and other special qualities). Failing a Toughness save increases the damage dealt by a degree; succeeding on a Toughness save decreases the damage dealt by a degree, possibly to as low as zero damage.

Expanded Feats and Powers: Characters are able to choose from a broad list of homebrew feats and powers, in addition to the core feats and powers supplied by the True20 rules.

Stunts In addition to feats, characters obtain something called stunts upon gaining levels. Stunts, in essence, are techniques and tricks of expertise that characters master to increase the normal usefulness of skills, powers, and combat maneuvers. Generally, stunts are less potent than feats, but are significant enough to grant the character greater flexibility with their existing abilities. Applications of stunts include special martial arts techniques, crafty uses of skills that most characters haven’t mastered, and personalized uses of powers such as spells or mystic arts.

Players are allowed to invent their own stunts within certain guidelines, free to design them to suit a character’s concept and focus. In a sense, which stunts can be learned is less restricted than which feats can be gained by role, although all stunts have to be deemed to be appropriate by the Narrator.

Elan: Characters in Blackthorn have a resource known as Elan. It represents emotional or psychic tension. Characters are rewared with Elan when things start getting sticky, such as when one fails a saving throw against a pivotal attack, when one becomes severely wounded, or when an ally is in serious danger. Points of Elan may also be gained in instances in which a character is extremely excited or deeply moved, such as during scenes of intense import.

Elan functions similarly to Conviction, but is less powerful. Points of Elan can be expended to provide minor bonuses to actions, to stave off fatigue, or protect one’s mental health (see Courage and Mental Health, below). In addition, certain abilities in Blackthorn require the expenditure of Elan. These include the Rage feat, certain kinds of supernatural powers, and some homebrew feats.

Courage and Mental Health: The horrors of Faery are not dangerous only to the body, but to the mind. Some supernatural beings, including the mysterious Howler, can threaten a human’s self control or grip on reality. Each character in Blackthorn has a special saving throw, called Courage. Courage saves are modified by Charisma, and are made to resist fear and terror (using the optional rules for mental health found in the True20 Companion). Fear and terror conditions can even be severe enough to inflict psychosis. Characters in this world must be brave to maintain their wits, though being among companions eases this threat – being alone makes fear a much more pressing matter. Some traits or feats can make characters more resistant to fear and terror effects, and some powers can be used to repair mental health (as can Elan; see Elan, above).

House Rules and Homebrew Elements

Blackthorn Mamelon