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Low fantasy. High mortality. Medieval England is a harsh land, and only the steadiness of your sword can keep you on both feet.
Low fantasy. High mortality. Medieval England is a harsh land, and only the steadiness of your sword can keep you on both feet.
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What is Foot Soldiers?

Foot Soldiers is a low-fantasy, high-mortality game of medieval strife. A pen & paper RPG system set in England in the 1450s, Foot Soldiers challenges you to take the role of a peasant or a commoner, someone without riches or fame to their name, and bring them to greatness, or die trying. Foot Soldiers tells the stories of real adventurers, people who aren't exceptionally gifted or exceptionally lucky, but still have to make a living. Some of them end up as the skeletons that always litter the floor of dungeons. Others survive, but bearing the marks of their trials, missing limbs and scars. They are ordinary people, like you and me, trying to leave their mark on the harsh and divided landscape.

  • Classless: In Foot Soldiers, you are not typecast. Like in real life, what you are good at is what you pursue, and no two characters must end up alike.
  • Statless: Human beings are not defined by statistics, but the strength of their initiative, the skills they hone, and the favor of God. Simply put, there is no system of several physical and mental attributes (Strength, Endurance, Charisma, etc.) that govern a character's ability.
  • Accurate: The book includes a detailed description of the setting, written by a British archeologist, and the equipment is accurate to the time period.
Placeholder cover of the book. Art style c. 11th century.
Placeholder cover of the book. Art style c. 11th century.

Why England? Why 1450?

The short of it is that England was in turmoil in 1450. The Catholic Church was a seething stew of vested interests, local groups, odd cults, secular power, and naked ambition. Lords frequently quabbled and warred amongst themselves, and even the King was not unquestioned. These events all led up to the War of the Roses in the late 15th century, but while they made England dangerous at that time period, it is also the perfect time for opportunists to make something of themselves.

Before the scientific method, the boundaries between superstition, legitimate religious belief, and scientific fact were blurred and sometimes non-existent. People believed, largely deeply, in ways that are very difficult to fathom nowadays. What we consider today to be mere myth and legend was very real to them. Foot Soldiers plays on this to create a low-fantasy setting where magic is real, but subtle, and difficult to control. It considers all of the various English myths (some bizarre) to be for the most part entirely true.

The low-fantasy RPG Darklands, which is set in 15th century Germany (then the Holy Roman Empire), was an early inspiration for this book.

High mortality?

In Foot Soldiers, you are not what we consider "the hero." Characters in Foot Soldiers have no plot armor. Every violent encounter is a brush with death. A weapon is a weapon, intended to maim and kill, and even the unskilled can deal serious damage to an unlucky foe.

Foot Soldiers models locational damage, which means that every hit lands on a body part. Its location chart is based on a bell curve, meaning most unaimed hits will land on the torso, followed by the waist and head, with arms and legs being less likely, and a hit to the foot or hand being the least likely of all. However, in real combat, both opponents look for an opening wherever available, and will not hesitate to strike an extremity if it may be done without counter-attack.

Foot Soldiers also models bleeding, limb crippling, and dismemberment. It is a real possibility that your character may be disfigured or killed every time he or she enters combat. Medieval fighters played with live weapons, and armor was sparse. Not every injury will be a permanent one, and your characters will likely rack up more scars than missing limbs (after all, emotional investment in a character is difficult to justify if they could die at a moment's notice), but Foot Soldiers simulates the real fear of violence and encourages players to avoid combat where possible.

When played with a grid, proper positioning, tactical planning, and decision-making are vital to survival. The depth of the combat system allows for real teamwork and ensures that no one build is too overpowered. The acquisition of better equipment, skills, and knacks will result in a noticeable improvement in combat prowess.

Of course, physical violence is not the only threat to your life. The English landscape is harsh, and characters will need to ensure that they have enough to eat and drink, and a warm place to sleep at night, both of which cost money. Traveling too much without equipment is rough, and characters must ensure they dress appropriately, which also costs money.

Page 130, Section 7 - Combat; excerpts from Limb Loss and Bleeding.
Page 130, Section 7 - Combat; excerpts from Limb Loss and Bleeding.

What does Foot Soldiers include?

The main book will include:

  • Glossary
  • Character Creation (with examples)
  • Skills (the most important part of a character)
  • Knacks (to add a dash of specialization and uniqueness to each character)
  • Combat (+quick guide)
  • Environmental Hazards (exposure, drowning, gravity, etc.)
  • Miscellaneous Rules
  • Setting
  • Equipment

After its completion, the following will also be included:

  • Game Master Guide (with tips & tricks)
  • 3 Adventure Modules (for instant fun)
  • Automated Character Sheet (to simplify what's complicated)
Current draft of the Automated Character Sheet, available through Google Drive.
Current draft of the Automated Character Sheet, available through Google Drive.

How does it play?

Dice

As a tabletop game in the digital era, Foot Soldiers eschews a single unified dice system, requiring the types of dice that best fit each situation. Foot Soldiers recommends Roll20 or maptool for online play, though it's important to note that the system is fully compatible with real-world tabletop gaming. Bring your laptops.

The classic d20 makes an occasional appearance, as the die rolled for initiative at the start of combat, and for some equipment statistics. It can also be used in place of a d10 if convenient, by subtracting 10 from any roll of 11 or above.

The most commonly used dice in the system are d4s, d6s, d8s, and d10s. The d12 will also come into play for higher-level characters. These four dice make up the contents of a character's Attack Dice or Evasion Dice Pool, and are often used for equipment statistics and environmental hazards. Skill checks are rolled on a 3d6, placing character's abilities on a bell curve.

Skills & Knacks

Character progression in Foot Soldiers is based on the acquisition of skills and knacks. Skills are almost always used actively to solve problems in a wide range of scenarios, whereas knacks are largely passive benefits that allow characters to specialize and individualize themselves.

Every time you gain a level in Foot Soldiers, you are given the choice between gaining some health, putting a rank in a skill, or purchasing a knack that you meet the requirements for. This is the only effect that levels have on gameplay, and they are purely an abstraction to represent how life experience has changed a character.

Page 12, Section 3 - Skills.
Page 12, Section 3 - Skills.

Combat

Combat is turn-based and designed to be done on a grid. Both square and hex grids are supported. Initiative is rolled on a d20 to determine order in the turn and your score is improved by the Readiness skill. Each character has a movement score, which represents how many meters they can move walking, jogging, and running, improved by the Acrobatics skill. Each character may take two half actions, or a half action and a full action, each turn. Jogging is a half action, running is a full action, walking is a free action. Each square is 2 meters from a cardinal direction, and 3 meters diagonally.

When attacking, an aggressor rolls all of the dice in its Attack Dice pool. The defender can choose to block or try and evade the attack, rolling all of the dice in the appropriate pool. If the aggressor's highest die result is more than the defender's, the hit is successful, and a location is rolled. The aggressor deals damage to that location, potentially resulting in long-term health complications for the defender, or even instant death on a well-placed attack (it's very difficult to survive beheading). Some weapons cause bleeding on a hit, dealing damage over time unless the bleeding is stopped.

There are even more maneuvers and tricks that can be employed to help you win a fight, and scores of knacks to give you a leg up against your opponents.

Luck Points

Everyone needs a certain amount of luck to get them through the day. Luck Points are what really separates players from NPCs. A Luck Point is gained every time a character gains a level, and can be spent freely to save a character from a bad roll or help them make a better one. They can also be used to recover more quickly from injuries and increase resilience in combat. Once spent, a Luck Point is gone forever, and they are by no means a guarantee for success. They simply help nudge the odds in the player's favor.

Campaigns

Foot Soldiers is capable of being used for any length of campaigns. Traditional open-ended campaigns are well-suited for it, allowing freedom to the players to shape their own destiny, their adventures only ending when their lives do. Backers of the $25 tier and up will also receive 3 Adventure Modules, which each detail a campaign along a set path with a set finishing point. Players may supply their own characters, and their actions may change the course of the plot and its ending, but the overall story is linear and definite.

Some GMs may also want to make shorter games or one-shots, and these are also easily supported. Foot Soldiers is a system, and it is flexible enough to support any scenarios that fit its atmosphere, theme, and time period. With a little homebrewing, it can be extended even further.

Page 9, Section 2 - Character Creation.
Page 9, Section 2 - Character Creation.

How will this money be spent?

The Kickstarter money will be split between commissioning artists and graphic designers, and soliciting the input of professional editors. It will also be used to cover unexpected costs. The point of the Kickstarter is to raise money to add attractive and high-quality images and formatting to the book.

I've lined up a copy-editor for anywhere from $100 to $500, depending on how much is raised and how many art assets they're going to have to work with, and I've made inquiries with several promising and talented artists for freelance work, which is unlikely to go for less than $100 a piece.

Risks and challenges

In my experience, the #1 cause of abandoned or sunken Kickstarter projects is the effort and money required for making and shipping physical rewards to backers. To solve this problem, there are no physical rewards (except possibly a postcard)! Everything is digital and therefore easy to distribute, and the costs for digital rewards have been carefully balanced to ensure they don't disrupt budget. I have no plans for a physical copy of the book or its resources. If I did print one, I would sell it normally (though Kickstarter backers might receive a discount).

I am a financially stable college student with a home, a steady Internet connection, and two pets. I know where my next meal is coming from. I'm in no danger of being thrown out on the street or losing the ability to communicate with backers. My personal life will not interfere with my ability to complete this project and deliver on my promises.

And don't worry about receiving nothing for your money. Every backer will receive the current unfinished (but playable) version of the PDF, so even if the project tanks, you'll still get something out of it. It's 155 pages long, nearly complete, and already playable, though the finished and edited PDF will likely be much shorter. All of the core mechanics are already in the game, they simply need to be balanced and refined. There are several additional mechanics that may or may not make the final cut, but most of what will be added with the money is just art and design. The document I have now is plain text and charts.

I have no more desire to make this a complicated, dramatic affair than you do. But skilled creators don't work for free. I need your help to pay professionals, to create a professional product, and deliver it to you.

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    Alright, you clearly have a lot of money and a lot of interest. To be totally honest, I'm not entirely sure what would compel you to pledge this much. I'm pretty sure there's nothing I could do to justify or reward this level of support, so I won't try. You will receive everything in the $150 tier, and I will mail you a signed postcard thanking you and recommending a psych evaluation.

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Funding period

- (30 days)