Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Archery contest

Jerry Stratton, May 9, 2015

Woman with a bow: The silhouette of a woman with a bow on a beach with a low sun.; archery

While our group was in Biblyon preparing for a foray into some ruins, we had a player character compete in an archery contest. Upon discovering that Biblyon ran an archery contest every autumn, the player decided that their character needed to take part, and they postponed the adventure a few game-world days so as to stay in town for the contest.

How difficult is it to hit a target in Gods & Monsters? A real target, the kind attached to hay bales?

The first thing to note is that this is not a conflict. It’s a contest, not just in name but in game rules. So it’s going to be an ability roll, against agility. Hitting a small but unmoving target is very easy, so the bonus will be +4. Range, however, is going to make a difference, and in this case the obstacle size will be the range of the bow used, 20 yards for a normal bow. If it’s twenty yards or more, there’s a penalty of one; forty or more, a penalty of two, 80 or more, a penalty of three, and so on.

For warriors, their Fighting Arts field will apply one way or another. A third-level warrior with a 10 agility shooting at a small target 40 yards away will need 10+4–2+3, or 15 or less, to hit.

Players will likely want their character to take some time, going for the +1 for waiting. It is, of course, very impressive to not wait if the shot is successful.

At these high numbers, bonuses to hit make a big difference. The difference between 19 or less and 20 or less is the difference between “might fail” and “won’t fail”. Because of this, higher level warriors and agile characters will be much better at archery contests.

A quality weapon can make a difference, too: bows with longer ranges will gain penalties more slowly.

Because this is not a conflict, but rather a contest, skill at it won’t be limited to warriors. Warriors can, of course, use their Fighting Arts field either with the appropriate bow skill or the weapon fluency skill. But non-warriors may well have an archery skill in Athletic Arts. Their archery skill is worthless in combat, but will help them in sporting events.

This is likely part of the appeal of impromptu jousts among warriors: those early tourneys involved real combat and thus separated the warrior from the dilettante.

Contests are pretty freeform in the Gods & Monsters rules, leaving the details up to you to tailor to the contest in question. I can think of two obvious ways to model an archery contest.

One way of looking at an archery contest is to apply the difficulty level after the roll. Normally you can’t do this, because the difference in difficulty requires different techniques. But it makes a good approximation if you want a single roll to determine the outcome of a contest. You could think of making the roll at the “extremely difficult” level as hitting the opponent’s arrow, “difficult” as hitting the bull’s eye, and “very easy” as hitting the target somewhere.

Another way to model an archery contest is to make an extended competition: each contestant tries to hit the target; those who succeed make it to the next round where the targets are moved 20 yards back.

Note that this latter method looks a lot like—and in fact is—a contested action. Only one person can win, and they keep trying until one succeeds and one fails. The main difference is that the chance of success keeps falling for each contestant. This doesn’t have the same level of detail as post-determining the difficulty factor, but that’s not a problem: the guide and the player can make that detail up. In any good movie or book, it’s the final result that matters.

Each method has its own level of “realism”. The former gives an idea of where on the target the contestant hit; the latter more closely models real-world contests where there is a need to become progressively more difficult; in many contests, if the difficulty doesn’t increase the best contestants will never fail. Each roll means something, and builds to the next roll.

We chose the latter when we ran the contest, and after six rounds the player character lost to three non-player characters. One was a farmer from out of town; the other two were Tutors set to investigate a ruined castle that the player characters had reported to the library authorities as containing lots of old books (after looting it of as much treasure as they wanted, of course). The ultimate winner was one of the Tutors.

The adventure didn’t stop during the competition. I actually ran the opponents as nameless until the fifth round (100 yards), when there were only five contestants remaining, then chose one known and one unknown (except to me) Tutor to introduce them. The farmer was an unknown made up on the spot, though if he had won, that probably would have meant a greater role for him in the game.

During the contest, they discovered that another group of Tutors, investigating an earlier abandoned castle that the player characters had discovered, were missing, and would the PCs assist in finding out what happened to them?

This led into a second foray into The Lost Castle of the Astronomers with a side trip into the Vale of the Azure Sun.

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