Houserule I dreamt up: Displays

So, I like the displays and the whole idea how they work and I was very excited about them. In actual play however, they don´t seem useful enough to come into play that often, which is a pity imho. Having a system that defines the mental strain in combat, seeing when someone breaks and gives up and runs away, or how trauma of war affects the PC is just to good to be neglected.

Thing is, displays definitely have their uses, but in many cases, it´s just more beneficial for my players to just attack with their weapon instead of using a display. When you don´t inflict a trauma with the display, you will most likely kill the enemy before fulfilling the criteria for another display, meaning you have wasted your attack and should have attacked normally instead using the display.

I have found and tested a houserule and it seems fine, although it certainly will not work at every table, but maybe it can inspire 1-2 of you. There can be something I have missed, as I have only gm´ed a handful of session by now. This houserule is definitely not for people who are trying to keep the rolls at minimum.

I tried out to make every threaten attack like displays to a minor action instead of a standard action, of course you still have to fulfill the requirements.
In turn, defense against them via Discipline is automatic and does not cost Doom.

What I observed is that it is immense fun and it is also quite immersive.

I saw the following advantages:

  1. Resolve drains and vigor drains in combat. You suddenly have a system where you can determine when character breaks, gives up, runs away. It feels “real” when characters are crossing blades and trying to stare each other down while they are doing it.
  2. It gives uses to the Minor Action, which is underused when opponents meet and fight.
  3. It is also more immersive that character don´t "dodge a threaten attack. I don´t know how this would work in real life. They endure or they are shaken, they don´t have to do anything to steel themselves.
  4. Displays are now fun and tactical decisions. Characters wait to use them until opponents are drained and then use a impressive display to scare them away. They don´t use them without real effect (besides a few resolve drain) and then continue fighting.

Hope it can inspire some of you. Feedback negative or positive is always appreciated.




I have been thinking about something like this myself. I don’t have enough actual play to evaluate how things work, but it does feel underused and a waste of a great mechanic. Instead of using minor actions I was thinking it could work like this: every round there’s automatically a struggle between the two groups (using the character that has the highest relevant stat, with the help of the others), and displays are activated when the requirements are fulfilled, giving the option to use their stats instead of the basic attack.

It depends on the GM to set the stage to facilitate usage of Displays. While it is indeed not useful in fights that you want to obliterate the enemy, subduing the enemy might be beneficial from story perspective, and here displays are good fit. Not every combat must be to the death and not every combat requires blood to be drawn from the enemy you fight with.

I had characters that managed to send group of minions into retreat while the more toughed opponents approached, making the fight much more easier, than it was supposed to be.

I like this. And I think, philosophically, some of my recent changes have been similar.

I have a player whose PC appears to be in the habit of grabbing and restraining various NPCs. Unless I’m mistaken, the Core rules contain no straightforward “grappling” rules. Unarmed attacks are essentially ineffective (as in most versions of D&D) and don’t simulate what my player has in mind anyway.

My first instinct was to make the grapple a Struggle, using the PC’s Athletics and the NPC’s Movement. But, were this the case, the PC would be restraining just about any Minion at will, unless the GM wants to pour Doom into the contest.

So my house rule builds on another practice I developed, which essentially ignores most opportunities for Struggles.

The PC makes an Athletics test starting at D1 or the NPC’s Movement Focus. This Difficulty increases according to the circumstances. If the NPC is armed, the Reach of the weapon certainly is factored into the Difficulty.

The attack is, of course, Improvised, with any Complications (on a 19-20) additionally inflicting automatic weapon damage (if the target is indeed armed) on the offending grappler. To reiterate, this automatic damage is in addition to the usual Complications.

If the test is successful, the target is captured and restrained until/if the situation justifies a chance for a change.


My players have very diverse characters to cover a wide variety of roles. Some of them are fighters, others are archers, one is an alchemist and healer, one is a black-hearted sorcerer (who’s a bit delusional about the darkness inherent in the magic), and one is a bard. Celsus (the bard) has an Ancient Bloodline and a 14 Presence and numerous talents that support his displays, and he regularly frightens minions and many Toughened creatures to death/incapacitated/fled, especially since he got the Talent that gives his Threaten attack Piercing 3. Even if he’s just using the base Threaten attack (Steely Glare), his Presence gives him +4cd damage so he’ll do at least 6cd with an average Piercing of 6.

If the monster is Brain-Dead or Inured to Fear, who cares about that? But normal creatures have no Courage Soak and take full effect from him. It’s very effective, and Minions especially can’t handle 5+ no-soak Resolve damage. If he rolls bad on the damage, he’s usually got some Momentum to reroll damage dice.

My point is that for most characters, with “meh” Presence scores, the Displays are a little weak, but if you build a character to focus on that, they can be devastating. And now his Renown is high enough to use A Mighty Name, and that, my friends, is Area so he can frighten mobs to death, not just one or two at a time!

Even someone with a Presence of 8 or less (no cd bonus) can still do enough to frighten minions – Impossible Feat of Might, for example, uses Athletics skill to perform (which the brawny fighter’s probably good at) and does a base of 5cd damage with Area and Stun.

Hi Princelian,

awesome that it works for you, and your sourceror is a case that would work for me. In other cases however, I find characters that focus on frighten people a bit unimmersive. You know, a social character jumping around in the background to scare people, while the burly muscular dangerous people bash people without frightening them. As long as the character is not a dark wizard like yours but let´s say a bard or a princess, I would not like that.

Additionally, still I feel with good attack stats it´s not really a good tactical option for most (of course certainly not all) situations. Of course whatever works for your group is fine, I don´t try to convince you. For us however, the rule above works pretty well. Resolve is now something that gets attacked often while they are fighting, it´s a good morale meter and against supernatural entities, it gets a little lovecraftian feel, we are liking it well.

Important is when trying this rule is to make the Discipline resistance free and not a defence action, so everyone who wants to try that, keep that in mind.

Keep on gaming,