Coterie is an engine for a fantasy “kill things and take their stuff” game. The spin it puts on this well-known genre is that the group (“party”) of player characters actually operates as a group. Conflicts are resolved by the whole group acting as a unit. Coterie also tends to quantify things with small handfuls of discrete levels. For instance, the result of a successful conflict can be a “minor,” “major,” or “decisive” victory. This leads to a certain level of abstraction, but many kinds of detail will nonetheless be present. Specifically, the game will detail the tactical subtleties of combat, like ground height, cover, and perhaps of arms. These are not present in this basic shell of rules, though.
Characters possesses a host of skills, ranked from 1 to 10 (commonly). Each may also have “nuances” which describe sub-skills the character has. These may or may not apply in situations that involve the parent skill. [Nuances may be positive or negative. Skills can also be negative, in which case they are called “faults.”]
They have ratings for leadership and how well they work within groups.
They also have an endurance rating
In each phase of a conflict, the participants on either side tally up their relevant skill points, plus nuances that are relevant. They may have to describe how they bring a nuance into play.
Both sides then roll 2d6 and sum them. A modifier may be applied for the coherence of the group and its leadership, perhaps in the form of additional dice to roll (or dice given to the opposition). The sum of the dice is added to the total skill of the group and then each group’s total effort is compared. The group with the higher total wins that phase of the conflict. The results are based heavily on the degree of success though, and affect the group as a whole.
|16+||Decisive victory. Opposition crushed, flees or is defeated. Its members will be harmed.|
|6-15||Major victory. Opposition can decide to fall back or its members can suffer harm.|
|1-5||Minor victory. Push the opposition into disadvantageous position.|
|0||Draw. No substantial effect, except (maybe) increased tiredness.|
The exact consequences of a conflict depends on decisions made by the winning group. The GM will present the players with several options, based on how well they did, and they may select between them, or perhaps propose their own. These may involve a conclusion to the conflict, changes in tactical position (and modifiers for subsequent phases) or to harm befalling the opposition.
Characters can do better or worse than their group does as a whole.
In each phase, each player rolls 2d6. Each die can count as a positive shift in individual performance or a negative shift. 1s count as -1, 6s as +1.
Every additional skill the character can bring into the phase, beyond the first one, gives a bonus of +1 to the roll of one die (the player can decide after the roll which die to apply it to). Nuances don’t count. Injuries and such may give a penalty. (Once the bonus or penalty reaches ±5, a shift of ±1 becomes automatic, but the dice are rolled normally for a further shift. Further bonus or penalty repeats the process.)
The individual performance thus affects what harm the character receives (see later section). With a +2, the character gets a special action.
Special actions are unique, personalized, cool things that a character does during a conflict, apart from his group. They are made up by the player. They can give bonuses to the character or to the group in a later phase, alter the conflict in some other way (like initiating a duel) or have a more long-lasting effect.
The player will propos an idea and the GM will decide if it’s not too outrageous; if so, he and the other players can help modify it. Once its made acceptable, it will be described by the player and/or GM. The GM will largely be in charge of determining its effects, unless the player has something specific in mind, but keep in mind the following guidelines.
If no character on a side gets a +2 in individual performance, someone will chosen to perform a mild special action. If one character has a +1, he will be chosen. If there are multiple characters with +1, or no one with +1 or +2, then the character who contributed the largest number of points towards the group’s effort is chosen. This character’s special action should be more modest in result than a regular special action, but still highly personalized and invented by the player.
Even though characters are acting as a group in a conflict, its members still each contribute in their own way and do not need to be doing exactly the same thing. In a battle, one character might fight with a sword, another cast spells, another distract enemies.
At the beginning of each phase, every player can describe what kinds of individual actions his character is taking. Often this merely adds color, but based on his individual performance, it may have a more palpable effect on the conflict. For instance, a player might want his character to generally fight the enemy, but to maneuver his way towards the enemy tent in the process. If the group does well as a whole, or if the character does well, then the GM can decide that this action was successful. The character will then be on a path to taking further individual action.
Some time an individual won’t be working with the group during a conflict, even if he is physically present, in which case it is settled without him. Yet his actions may come to have an affect on the group conflict’s next phase. Duels are the prime example of this.
A duel occurs when a single character faces a single opponent in an important personal battle. The duelists don’t affect the larger conflict directly until one of them has won; then the result may be significant.
A duel is handled much like a regular conflict but simplified. There is no separate individual performance, and so only the basic, skill-based roll. The results of the roll differ as well.
|7+||Decisive victory. Opposition defeated, with harm.|
|3-6||Major victory. Opponent can decide to fall back or receive harm.|
|1-2||Minor victory. Push the opponent into disadvantageous position.|
|0||Draw. No substantial effect, except (maybe) increased tiredness.|
Whoever wins a phase of the conflict essentially gets a special action, in terms of describing what happens, but does not receive any further bonuses or advantages beyond what’s recommended in the table above.
One thing characters must contend with in the midst of a conflict is getting tired. Depending on the individual actions they choose to take, characters may accrue fatigue. Every point of fatigue penalizes a character’s contribution to the group effort (or his performance in an out-of-group action) by that same amount. He may also be penalized in his individual performance:
* (automatic loss of 1 effort)
When the players’ group wins a phase, they have choices about what happens to their enemy. Generally they can push the enemy back or otherwise harm their tactical position, kill or injure them bodily, or harm some other trait semi-permanently.
Usually a conflict will end when the enemy decides to cut its losses and retreat, thanks to a series of losses, or a decisive loss is inflicted on him suddenly. Generally two things must be kept track of in a conflict: the enemy’s tactical situation and the semi-permanent penalties he has acquired.
There is one basic kind of tactical change, the push-back, and also innumerable other changes that players and GM’s may think up. Common examples might be surrounding the enemy and disordering his forces. A push-back is simply the enemy giving ground. It may cause some actual problem for the enemy (say if he’s being pushed into a swamp), but usually its main effect is on his morale alone.
Push-backs (and other tactical changes) may be represented on a stepped track, with the enemy beginning at zero and moving backward, into the negative, as he suffers losses. A minor push-back reduces the enemy’s position by 1, a major push-back by 2, a decisive push-back by 3.
Depending on his intrinsic morale, an enemy may flee or capitulate by the time his position reaches -2 or -3. The specifics of the situation will change this, however, so the GM must use his judgment. In some cases an enemy might not be aware of being surrounded, for instance, until the next phase when it is too late. However, if the enemy subsequently wins a phase, then his position drifts back one step towards zero (in addition to any pushing that he may do).
Whenever a side’s position would hit -5, it is over-run and loses the conflict. Depending on circumstances, the GM may allow them to flee in part, but generally enemies will be at the mercy of the player’s characters.
Tactical position does not merely push an enemy closer to retreat though. It may also mean actual penalties for him in the next phase of the conflict. Usually these are fairly small, and depend heavily on the exact nature of the conflict (and on the tactical loss the players chose to inflict), with -3 per step being a base-line.
Players can alternately choose to inflict physical injuries on their opponents, when engaged in a physical conflict. Injuries create penalties to effort in subsequent phases. Minor injuries add to a group’s wounds by 1, major injuries add 2 and decisive injuries 3.
Wounds create a penalty equal to the group’s vulnerability rating. This is basically equal to the number of individuals that compose the group, minus the effects of the armor they are wearing, or of some intrinsic toughness or resistance they have.
Wounds are just one kind of injury however. Enemies (and characters) can alternately be harmed in terms of some other trait, like allies. While wounds apply penalties to almost all actions, other kinds of injuries only afflict a particular, narrow kind of action. Therefore, the penalty for them is doubled.
For example, say the players are a group of wizards and win a minor victory against some bandits. Instead of pushing them back or simply wounding them, the players decide to inflict an equipment injury. The bandits’ weapons crack and rust before their very eyes. The bandit’s vulnerability is 4. While a minor wound would therefore have created a -4 penalty, the equipment injury applies only to a single trait. Thus, the penalty the bandits suffer, to their collective equipment trait, is a -8. If they were only getting +4 from it anyway, the further -4 wouldn’t matter.
When the players achieve a major victory, for instance, they do not have to inflict major injuries or a major tactical defeat; they may instead mix the results. Two minor kinds of harm can be substituted for one major one. Three minor kinds, or one minor and one major, can be substituted for a decisive one.
When the players’ characters lose a phase, they receive harm. Unlike enemies, who receive harm as a group, the characters can also receive it as individuals. How much they do receive depends on an interaction between group success and individual performance.
|Draw||-||-||- / MI||MI / MA||MA / D|
MA = major harm, MI = minor harm, D = decisive harm
Harm can, as with enemies, take the form of injuries or tactical disadvantage. The GM will decide initially what kind of harm he would like to have the enemies inflict (on the character’s group as a whole), including what kind of injury and what kind of tactical disadvantage. He can split the kinds of harm being delivered if major or decisive harm was indicated.
Regardless of what the GM comes up with, however, the players can always decide to take a straight-up tactical disadvantage by intentionally falling back. This may also include fleeing from the conflict. The only exception is with a decisive loss, in which case the GM reserves the right to use one level of harm to inflict injuries; the characters then fall back two levels. As with enemies, reaching a tactical position of -5 spells total defeat. The characters are either killed or captured, excepting some great personal heroics.
When the entire group is assigned injuries as a form of harm, individual members may still escape unharmed based on their own performance. The injuries they suffer are capped off at the level of harm assigned to them (from the table above). If the group was assigned major injuries, but an individual was only due for minor harm, he would receive minor injuries instead.
If the entire group suffers from a tactical disadvantage, then this affects their collective effort in the next phase and individual performance matters little. The only exception is when an individual achieves at least good performance and decides to flee the battleground entirely. One can, however, describe the tactical disadvantage differently for different characters. While the whole group is pushed back into a swamp, one character might achieve good performance and escape that; yet he is also separated from his friends, and suffers just as much for it.
If the GM decides to mix the types of harm he assigns, individuals who did well still receive fewer injuries, as above.
In the case of a draw, the players can decide whether the draw will be neutral or harmful. A neutral draw has no net effect for anyone. Neither side receives harm and their tactical positions do not change. The only possible effect is a fatigue gain. Conversely, a harmful draw inflicts minor harm on both sides.
If they choose a harmful draw, they must also decide what kinds of harm the two sides will suffer. Each side must take minor injuries or a minor tactical disadvantage. Obviously, they cannot both take a tactical disadvantage at the same time, for this would be a neutral draw. Thus, the two sides must either both suffer injuries, or one must be injured while the other is harmed tactically.
Once the players have decided on the basic nature of a harmful draw’s harm, they decide on the exact kind of harm their enemies suffer (i.e. the specific kind of injury or tactical disadvantage). But they do not decide the exact kind of harm their own characters suffer. This is left to the GM.