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A Look At ... Perceforest, Part 2


Alex Greene

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The timing of this blog turned out to be prescient. Perceforest has been listed on DriveThruRPG for the first time, this week.

For anyone who's just picked up their copy from DriveThruRPG, and want to know what is between the covers, here's Part 1 for you to start with. We'll be here when you're ready.

On that happy note, let's get on with the rest of the book.

We left the book with a tantalising glimpse of what was to follow on page 69.

Aside from the College of Arms, there is a box text with some new magical Gifts. These are Cantrip, a new way of casting Folk Magic; Forest Pact, a trick which allows the character to be ignored by any creatures of The Forest; and Luiton Servant, which made me marvel at the thought that wizards in this setting can get free designer handbags, at least till I found out what a Luiton was. See below.

Then there is the material on the College of Arms, and these are the civilising force which keeps humans from degenerating into barbarism by upholding the ideals of chivalry.

The College acts as the Courts Major and Minor. It is a place of learning. And it is also the major force coordinating the attack against The Forest. The Heralds are held to the highest possible standard of propriety.

In contrast, the next factions described are sorcerers; Les Lignaiges Sorcieres - the Faee or Fairies, the Mauvaise Lignaige, and the House of Glat. These are often broken into minor groupings, cults mainly, and there are Lignaiges outside of the Twin Kingdoms left for the Gamesmaster to develop ... so you could bring in a Sahajiya, an Order of Hermes mage from House Bjornaer, a Chakravanti, a lost Shek-Pvar travelling betwen P-worlds, or an artificer from the Order of Reason if you wish. Nothing's stopping you bringing in the properties of Harnworld, Ars Magica, Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade, or even After The Vampire Wars.

Theism follows, with the various churches of the Seven Gods being given their turn to shine under the spotlights. Each group has its unique rites, restrictions, customs, and of course Gifts. These churches wrap up Chapter Four.

Chapter Five covers Rules; all the basic crunchy stuff. The first table covers the rough competency levels of NPCs. It is the Perceforest version of The Most Important Table In Mythras.

That is followed immediately by Reputation tules. Reputations are measured as a percentage, and the character has two of them - Gallant, and Knavish. Reputation is gained through deeds which reinforce one quality or another, a process known as Renown rolls, which are somewhat like Experience rolls. Next, Nameless characters are described, along with the special rules which apply to characters whose Reputations are, by definition, unknown. These are heroes hidden behind masks and secret identities, and hello ...

Rules follow covering Jousting, Hunting, and Magic, allowing you to run sessions based around jousts at tourneys, the challenge of hunting, and of course the unique rules for magic use in Perceforest - magic point recovery, Divine Intervention, a new Folk Magic spell (Stain), and Wonders, a new kind of Shaping component for sorcery.

The Wonders shaping component allows sorcerers to do things with their spells which are above and beyond the rules from the Core Rulebook such as giving Intuition the power to read surface thoughts as well as emotions and motives.

The next sections focus on Enchantments, then Magic Items - which use modified Mysticism rules from Mythras. The list of Magic Items brings Chapter Five to a close.

Chapter Six opens on The Vill, which contains rules for creating and running settlements for Perceforest. There aren't that many games which have subgames like this incorporated into a core rulebook or core sourcebook. HarnManor for Harnworld is a full sized supplement, but not a core set of rules. In Perceforest, the Vill represents the characters' home base and shelter. This chapter sets up creating and running a vill with rules akin to character generation. The vill is a kind of player character, in its way. It has characteristics like player characters (STR, CON, SIZ, DEX, INT, POW, and CHA). Vills also have Attributes, Features, Passions, Reputations, Advantages, Disadvantages, even Hit Locations. There is also vill-level combat, when two neighbouring vills have at it with one another.

After the section on vill-level combat, attention shifts to Forest Spirits, the entitites dwelling within The Forest which cause so much consternation to the human characters. Spirits are listed in order of Intensity, and each Intensity has one Nature Spirit and one pernicious Regional Spirit. Spirits are meant to be engaged in vill-level combat, the whole vill participating in driving out the malign influence from within its bounds. And here endeth the sixth chapter.

Chapter Seven, Perilous Stories, is all about the Gamesmaster's role here, which is about setting the scene and telling the stories, while letting the players surprise themselves and each other, and the Gamesmaster. The five main themes of Perceforest are reinforced here - High Chivalry, Wonder, the Menace of The Forest, Colonialism, and Sacred Kingship. Each theme is outlined in greater detail in this chapter, and the whole chapter begins with a page full of adventure hooks.

Adventure hooks are listed for each virtue, along with a mini-adventure for each. The terrifying Forest feature Taint (chaos features) is described under the Forest section. There is a box text on mediaeval woodland terminology which is a must-read. Come on, Mark did some research here. Every author puts little bits into their books to show off what they heav learned, and this is among the many little Easter eggs in this book.

The adventure included for the Sacred Kingship section ties in with the main story of Perceforest, as it describes events taking place in the mediaeval tome.

After the Themes, the book moves on to Creatures. These are period specific and thematic. Plant-based creatures such as Charduns (which spread thistles everywhere), Charlocks (which are created by Briarlords and sent into human settlements like living gas bombs spreading Taint), and Briarlords (manifestations of The Forest, not even remotely humanin appearance) as well as warped fauns from boars to dwarfs and giants, to luiton (it turns out, they aren't designer handbags after all, but a type of spirit. Who knew?) to spikenards, all the way to The Yelp ReviewerYelping Beast, which is a chimerical animal of sundry animal parts, with a neck that glows and entrances those who look at it. Oh, and it sounds like a hundred hounds.

And before you know it, you're near the end of the book, in the Appendices. The first Appendix is the TImeline of Perceforest condensing a million words into about 2.15 pages total, sparing you having to spend fifteen years of your life to go through the Cliffs Notes version of the original book. Honestly, you can thank The Design Mechanism later.

The final Appendix has character sheets for vills and horses. And then you're at the index, and closing the book.

Perceforest is a perfect setting for High Fantasy and Epic Fantasy. It comes into its element with its portrayal of a pseudo-mediaeval setting populated by knights in shining armour, jousting, questing, and days of high adventure, a generation before the time of King Arthur and Merlin. The ancestors of the protagonists of The Once and Future KingLa Morte D'ArthurSir Gawain and The Green KnightPrince Valiant (and even Robin Hood if you like) live in the pages of the novel Perceforest; and Perceforest brings that setting to life in a packed sourcebook full of memorable encounters, adventures, and storytelling.

Edited by Alex Greene

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