hippogryph system

[Hippogryph] Using Elements in Play

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.


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.


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.