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[Hippogryph] Using Elements in Play

hippogryph system

Using Elements in Play

The following is an abridged excerpt from the Hippogryph Codex on how to use elements in play. References to page ## will of course direct you to actual page numbers in the completed book. 

There are two major things that you can do with an element. Invoke allows you to leverage an element that you control or are free to use. Compel lets you take advantage of another character’s element, or one that’s not already open for your use.

Invoke

To invoke an element, spend a hero point before making a die roll. You can also invoke elements for free, if you have a free invoke from you or an ally creating an advantage you can use (see Advantages on page ##). In short, an advantage allows you to either take a +2 bonus to your roll, or to re-roll a failed result.

With an invoke you may also add an important or unlikely detail to the story based on an element in play. Don’t spend a hero point when the element has already been established as true. Pay when it’s a stretch or when there’s no relevant element already in play.

Most of the time an element is invoked, it’s a character element or a situation element. Sometimes you’ll invoke an opposing character’s elements against them. This is called a hostile invocation, and it works just like invoking any other element. There’s one small difference—when you make a hostile invocation, you give the hero point to the enemy. They don’t get to use the hero point until after the scene is over. This only applies when a hero point is actually spent on a hostile invocation. Free invokes do not require the exchange of hero point.

Examples of Invoking: Using Elements in Play

  • Manuel’s background is that he grew up in this city. He wants to invoke that to establish that he knows a merchant who sells the thing the group needs. He spends a hero point and it becomes true.
  • Havel knows that his opponent has children. He wants to invoke that to gain an advantage as he tries to persuade the opponent to surrender peacefully. He give the opponent a hero point and gains a bonus to his Charisma roll.
  • Kira wants to use their low-light vision to read the runes painted on the cave wall. Since their ability to see well in dim torchlight is an established fact, no invoke is necessary.

Compel

Elements can be compelled to complicate the situation and earn hero points. To compel an element, the guide or a player offers a hero point to the player whose character is being compelled. You must tell them why an element is making things more difficult or complicated. To refuse a compel, you must spend a hero point and describe how your character avoids the complication. If you don’t have any hero points, you can’t refuse a compel.

When offering a compel, make sure that the complication is a course of action or major change in circumstance, not a denial of options.

Examples of Compelling: Using Elements in Play

  • Antonella knows that Mathu’s problem element is stuttering. During a difficult social interaction, they decide that Mathu would be nervous and this problem would manifest itself. They offer a hero point to Mathu, who accepts the compel. The interaction is more difficult because Mathu has to try to deal with their stutter.
  • Peyton knows that there is a thunderstorm raging outside. They offer a hero point to the guide, wishing to compel the villain to be distracted by the flashes of lightning. The guide accepts and the villain is distracted, making it harder for them to notice Peyton sneaking past.
  • Devorah is being chased by their opponent, and has a choice of two paths. The opponent is far enough behind that they can’t see which path Devorah takes. Using a compel, Devorah spends a hero point and asks the guide to make the opponent choose the wrong path. The guide accepts the compel, and Devorah gets away.

Events and Decisions

There are two general kinds of compels: events and decisions. An event compel is something that happens to a character because of an external force. That external force connects with the element in some way, resulting in an unfortunate complication. A decision compel is internal, where the character’s flaws or competing values get in the way of better judgment. The element guides the character to make a particular choice, and the fallout of that choice creates a complication for them. In either case, a resulting complication is key. Without the creation of a complication, there is no compel.

Guidelines for Compelling

There are a few additional guidelines for using compel:

  •  Any element can be compelled. It doesn’t matter if it’s a character element, situation element, or complication but it must be something that affects the character being compelled.
  • Anyone can offer a compel. The player proposing the compel must spend a hero point, but their character does not have to be involved in the scene. The guide then runs the compel.
  • A compel can be retroactive. If a player finds they have roleplayed themself into a complication, they can ask the guide if that counts as a self-compel.
  • A compel can be withdrawn. If the group agrees that a proposed compel wasn’t appropriate, it should be withdrawn at no hero point cost to the compelled character.

Hostile Invocation versus Compel

Don’t confuse hostile invocations and compels. Though they are similar in that they give a character an immediate problem in exchange for a hero point, they work differently.

A compel creates a narrative change. The decision to compel is the guide or player proposing a change to the story. The effect can be broad, but the target gets the hero point immediately if they accept the compel, and can choose to refuse the compel.

A hostile invocation is a mechanical effect. The target doesn’t get a chance to refuse the invocation. While they do get a hero point, they don’t get to use it in the current scene. As with any invocation, you will need to explain how that element makes sense to invoke.

Earning Hero Points

If it’s not already clear, you can earn hero points by allowing your character’s elements be compelled. This serves to complicate the situation or make your life harder, but you gain points that can be used later at crucial moments in the adventure. You may also get a hero point if someone uses your element against you in a hostile invoke or when you concede (page ##).

Remember, each session you start with a minimum of 3 Hero Points, or the amount left over at the end of the last session. If you were compelled more than you invoked in the prior session, you’ll show up at the next session with more hero points banked.

Using Elements in Play

Watch for more excerpts from the Hippogryph Codex later this week.


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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[Hippogryph] How to Create Characters

hippogryph system

How to Create Characters

The following is an abridged excerpt from the Hippogryph Codex on how to create characters.

There are multiple steps to creating a Hippogryph System character. The process is the same for player characters and supporting characters. It’s suggested that you read this whole chapter first, then refer back to individual sections as needed.

Character Creation Summary

  • Pick Elements (choose 5)
  • Assign Ratings to Attributes (9 points)
  • Select Skills and Assign Ratings (20 points)
  • Pick Features
  • Calculate Hero Points
  • Calculate Stress and Complications
  • Add Finishing Touches

Elements

Elements are word or phrases that describe something special about your character. You begin with 5: a background element, a concept element, a problem element, a connection to another player character, and a rounding element.

Attributes

Each character has six abilities that represent their raw talent and prowess: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These are individually rated from 0 to +3. You have 9 points to assign at a cost of 1:1 (i.e, a +2 rating costs 2 points).

Skills

Skills are trained abilities and things learned through experience. Your concept element will offer suggested skills, but you’re free to choose any. They are individually rated from 0 to +3. You have 20 points to assign at a cost of 1:1 (i.e a rating +3 costs 3 points). All other skills default to a rating of 0.

Features

Features are maneuvers, tricks, or even pieces of equipment that make your character unique and interesting. They’re individually rated at a cost of 1, 2, or 4 points. You have a total of 10 points to spend on Features.

Hero Points

Hero Points allow you more control over the destiny of your characters. Rather than being entirely at the mercy of die rolls, turn can turn success into failure, and even alter the degree of success, but spending Hero Points.
You begin each session with at least 3 Hero Points. If you had more than 3 at the end of the last adventure, they carry forward and you have that amount. For example, if at the close of the last session you had 5 Hero Point, you start the next adventure with 5. If you ended the last session with less than 3, you always begin the next session with 3.

Stress and Complications

Stress is how your character withstands the mental and physical toll of their adventures. You have three points for physical stress, plus additional points equal to your Constitution rating. You have at least three boxes for mental stress, plus additional points equal to your Wisdom rating.

Complications are temporary elements that your character gains when they are injured or harmed. A character can have up to 3 complications, one mild, one moderate, and one severe.

Finishing Touches

Give your character a name and physical description, if you haven’t already. Make some notes about their personality, their likes and dislikes, and things about their back story. These are details that don’t affect the mechanics, but make playing the character interesting.

Character Record Sheets

There is no character record sheet for the Hippogryph System. The do-it-yourself, toolkit vibe of the system means you can take as much or as little space writing out your elements as you choose. There’s no way one standardized form can accommodate that. We recommend using paper or a notebook. This allows you to write out your character’s abilities and document their adventures and changes to their elements, modifiers, and equipment over time.

How to Create Characters

Watch for more excerpts from the Hippogryph Codex later this week.


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

 

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The Eagle and The Horse

hippogryph system

The Eagle and The Horse

Let’s get this out of the way up front: this system is highly derivative and breaks little new ground in tabletop roleplaying design. That’s intentional. It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. The Hippogryph System had to feel familiar and comfortable. The way it operates had to be simple and intuitive. There had to be a solid foundation that gave us common ground for discussion, yet still leave room for you to tinker, create, and modify it.

To me, all arguments about tabletop roleplaying systems come down to what the proper balance between wargaming versus storytelling should be. Some people firmly fixed rules with only a hint of character development and plot. Others want a story-first approach, with a few mechanics to reinforce the needs of the unfolding tale. I want to explore the middle ground. The focus here isn’t on the eagle, which in this metaphor is the storytelling, with its artistic hopes and lofty ideals. Nor is it on the horse, the rules set with its wargaming pedigree and the steadfastness and dependability that come with it. I want to look at the whole creature, the hippogryph. I want to explore what this amalgamation of a beast can be.

The Hippogryph System began as a hybrid of the D20 SRD and Fate Accelerated. Wargaming and storytelling. Locked-down and free-form. The horse and the eagle. Not a conversion of one to the other, but a whole, new thing incorporating the strengths of both. I like how it turned out. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it for what it is.

Middle Ground Between The Eagle and The Horse

I want to explore the oft-overlooked middle ground. The focus here isn’t on the eagle, which in this metaphor is the storytelling, with its artistic hopes and lofty ideals. Nor is it on the horse, the wargaming-pedigreed rules set with its steadfastness and dependability. I want to look at the whole creature. The Hippogryph. Rather than get caught up with distinct and separable parts, I want to look at what this allegorical amalgamation of a beast can be.

The system you’re about to read began as a hybrid of the D20 SRD and Fate Accelerated, another contrasting pair. Wargaming and storytelling. Locked-down and free-form. The horse and the eagle. What I’ve tinkered with was never a conversion of one to the other, but incorporating the strengths of both. Over time it evolved into its own thing, albeit with the marks made by the original influences still clear. It eventually became the thing that I needed it to be, and now I share with you.


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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Tabletop Roleplaying as Creative Outlet

hippogryph system

Tabletop Roleplaying as Creative Outlet

Most dedicated roleplayers create characters and build worlds. Even when we know, with near-absolute certainty, that we’re never going to use them. We do this because it’s fun. It is an act of creative expression on par with constructing Lego sets. Building model kits. Taking crayons to coloring books. It isn’t too far removed from keeping a bullet journal not just to organize information, but for the satisfaction derived from writing things down, crossing things off of lists, and doodling. These activities are relaxing, therapeutic, and the serve no greater purpose than generating the enjoyment derived from doing them.

Dungeons & Dragons

My frustration with Dungeons & Dragons has always been that, aside from characters, the rules for creating many elements are missing, scattered across many books, or difficult to work with. I understand the business model of selling books full of pregenerated monsters, spells, or magic items. Yes, there’s a need for a common baseline because of tournament play. Let’s be serious, though. What percentage of roleplayers do much gaming beyond the home game and maybe an occasional convention? To some degree “making stuff” has gotten a bit easier over the years, but it still feels like they want to obfuscate the process in order to sell me more manuals, guides, and handbooks.

Fate

If you think I’m going to transition immediately into praising Fate, well, you’re only partially right. I love the concept of aspects, and the ability to make up whatever you want from whole cloth. What I don’t like is the near-complete lack of rigor around it. You can pick through various books to find examples. There’s a bottomless supply of advice available on creating good aspects. However, I’ve yet to run any iteration of Fate with a group of casual or new players where someone didn’t ask me for list of abilities they could choose from.

There’s a middle ground in there, between strict pick-lists and wide-open toolkits. Thus, the dichotomy of the Hippogryph, part grounded horse and part soaring eagle, makes itself known once again. The balance between providing ready-made solutions and leaving things open to player creativity was one of the first design goals of the Hippogryph System.

 


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.

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Coming Up Next: The Hippogryph Codex

hippogryph system

Coming Up Next: The Hippogryph Codex

A hippogryph the poster child for two things that, by all logic, should not go together. Yet somehow, they merge into a new entity that not only works, but elevates both components. It’s a strange hybrid creature, combining elements of a giant eagle with a horse. Various cultures over time have used the hippogryph as a symbol for everything from the perplexing nature of religious belief to the immeasurable power of romantic love. For me, it represents how the whole can be more than the mere sum of its parts. It’s lofty yet grounded, poetic yet practical.

I named this project Hippogryph because it’s full of such dichotomies. The hobby at its core is the melding of wargaming and storytelling. My strongest influences are both heavier legacy games like Dungeons & Dragons, and lighter, free-form systems like Fate Accelerated. My goal is to leverage the strengths of each element, use them to compensate for their collective flaws and drawbacks, and create something singular, entertaining, and useful.


About the Hippogryph System

Hippogryph is a d20-based, story-driven tabletop fantasy roleplaying system. It is the collision of the D20 System and Fate RPG, but like the legendary creature it is more than the sum of its parts. This isn’t off-brand D&D with Fate aspects stapled on, nor is it a collection of feats, spells, and class abilities translated into Fate terms. Hippogryph is a unique system that blends established legacy fundamentals with flexible, DIY story game ideals. Info Page ¦ DriveThruRPG ¦ Our Shop


About Dancing Lights Press

Dancing Lights Press is a lo-fi publisher of tabletop roleplaying systems and system-agnostic creative aids, including the best selling Building series, the DoubleZero action thriller system, and Hippogryph, a fantasy story game system with traditional  roots. Our products embrace a minimalist aesthetic in design and presentation because roleplaying is an activity, not a collection of expensive rulebooks.