Age of Sigmar: Soulbound is a cornucopia of cool game design concepts I have either been working on in BITS or am adding.
Heck, the idea of “Soul” or a spirit to go along with mind and body has provided “Insight” to BITS! (We will talk about this in a minute.)
So needless to say, this Warhammer game is very, very well put together. I am humbled by it while it is my honor to adapt the system to 2d6 (2 6-sided dice) BITS play!
The Core Mechanic
Soulbound rolls a pile of d6 whenever some re-/action is dangerous or otherwise consequential. Each d6 needs a certain face value or above to count as a success, then a certain number of successes are required at or above a difficulty target to count as having been accomplished.
Roll X dice. Y or more of those need to be at or over Z to succeed in the action.
A normal difficulty is two successes, while the face values and number of dice to roll are determined by skills and abilities.
Since Soulbound heralds from the Warhammer wargame, it makes some sense to keep piles of dice around, the same piles of d6 the wargame uses. HOWEVER, this turns out to be one of the weakest parts of the system in my eyes.
Lots of deduction leads to lots of dice leads to lots of math and I and BITS really will have nothing to do with it.
* throws dice pools out the window *
* goes out, picks up dice so as not to litter *
BITS carries on with 2d6 with tiers of difficulty. The only additions come from a handful of stats and few if any other factors. Minimal rolls, minimal math, maximum speed and ease of understanding. To recap:
|Very Easy||1||5+||Rabble, conscripts, small beasts.|
|Easy||2||7+||Guards, foot soldiers, trained.|
|Moderate||3||9+||Professionals, veterans, brutes, large beasts.|
|Hard||4||11+||Captains, elites, killers, vicious beasts.|
|Very Hard||6||13+||Demi-gods, lords, titular mortals.|
|Godly, Near Impossible||10||15+||The gods, god-like beings.|
Advantage, disadvantage, and criticals get a deep dive over on “BITS of D&D” – go check it out after this. For now, a recap ‘vantage in BITS:
Advantage lets you optionally take the highest 2d6 die and use its value twice. Disadvantage takes and doubles the lowest which you must use.
Criticals apply even before ‘vantage when rolling double face values on the 2d6. If the unmodified face values sum is above the target number, it is a crit success, below, a crit failure. Either way, something extra happens, usually an immediate extra action, double the effect, a bypass of protection, or similar based on context.
Body, Mind, and Soul (BMS) is all the stat tracking Soulbound brings and I couldn’t be happier.
Body details the combined strength and nimbleness of a character. Mind is of course the intellect, but also accuracy. Soul is a relationship with the divine and protection against corruption. Each ranges in value from +1 to +4 in modification to rolls.
For all intents and purposes, BITS has no changes here 🤷♂️ Body is Body, Insight is Soul, Thought is Mind. I would only expand the range of stat values (-4 to +4) and add social challenges to each stat (BITS does this with Body intimidation, Insight charm, and Thought reasoning).
Heck, I am envious at how well BMS works so well, yet BITS includes an abstraction of Skills, something Soulbound includes only in support of the pile-o’-dice mechanic it comes with. Let us touch on that:
Character Creation and Archetypes
Character creation is very straightforward – select a Race (aka species), select an Archetype (aka class), then select a gearset.
The races are classic WH: Age of Sigmar folk. Tree people, elf-likes, humans, dwarf-likes, angels, etc. What race is chosen determines what archetypes are available.
There are generic and race-specific archetypes. Whichever is chosen, a set of stats is assigned automatically (e.g. B 1, M 2, S 3). From there, a small bundle of gear is available for selection. A special ability may be applied for the archetype too.
BITS fits this to a tee – flat stat allocation, descriptions of the species and the character’s role in life, gear packs, and Skill abilities… No change. These are intuitive 1:1 conversions.
I am so hyped for how Soulbound keeps characters functioning and alive. The solution?
Sum all stats (B+M+S) together. BRILLIANT. BITS is “borrowing” this (B+I+T+S).
Additionally, a character is not dead at 0 HP. Instead, they take on ever-egregious wounds, the number being half the total HP. (This works out to about 3-4 wounds per character.) Wounds have a part in BITS as scars and the eventual crippling of a character, but I forgo elaboration here.
This would be it, but this design choice struck me so hard, we ought look in on the math. See more at the bottom of this post in the “Bonus: HP Deep Dive” section.
Heads up: The following may include my own design commentary without me realizing it. Notes got mixed together, so consider the following as Soulbound optimized for BITS!
Nothing special for armaments: Weapon effect (e.g. +0 knives, +1 swords, +2 greatswords) in SB is added to the number of successes which translates to damage. BITS sees this as all value above the needed difficulty results in damage. Doable!
Degrees of Success (DoS) is effect. Need a 7+ and roll a 9? That is 2 effect + whatever the scale of tool is, such as +1 for a sword, equaling a total 3 effect.
Armor merely reduces the amount of damage sustained. Light 1 armor allows sneaking. Medium 2 has no banes but disallows or disadvantages sneaking. Heavy 3 is loud enough that anyone nearby will hear the character virtually no matter what. BITS could expect a Super-Heavy 4, that belittles movement and action (reduction, delays, disadvantage).
Shields give +1 to defensive rolls (+X for the shield isn’t bad), but BITS includes additional options:
- Make shields ‘ablative’ (destroy 1-point of the shield to negate all of an attack).
- Subtract from effect like armor does.
- Give advantage to defensive rolls, but include the ‘ablative’ option too.
Regardless, expand the types of shields that can be carried:
- Buckler 1, can be strapped to shoulders and forearms and still be effective.
- Round or Kite 2, must use a hand or be put on the back to carry.
- Tower 3, must use a hand to carry.
- Wall 4, cannot move without wheels or another carrier.
Back to weapons: What is cool is the range which centers around “Zones“, i.e. general areas what have the same features in an approximate space (rooms, groves, a bridge, etc.).
- Close (within reach)
- Short (within the Zone)
- Medium (1 Zone away)
- Long (2 Zones away)
- Extreme (3+ Zones away)
Anything with greater than Close range when used in Close has disadvantage (e.g. a bow would be disadvantaged if shooting someone up in the archer’s face).
A nifty spot in Soulbound is the holy healing water. Special water is the only way to humanely recover life and is the mode of currency in SB.
This is cool design – do you heal or attempt to buy things that will prevent the harm in the first place? Do you protect your wealth in slow-you-down chests, or carry them on your person within reach but also where they might be smashed?
Games like Metro have done this with required-yet-scarce bullets, so I like seeing the mechanic here. BITS isn’t off-the-shelf ready to conflate magic potions with economy abstraction, but a simple count of the number of water bulbs (X bulbs for healing and exchange) or an abstraction to amount of water available (1 for a bulb or two, 2 being gallons, 3 a pool of water, 4 a cistern, etc.) is doable.
SB goes for multiple actions in a turn, pulled from a pool of Soul / 2, regaining 1 at the start of the character’s turn.
BITS is not a fan of point tracking this way, so 1 action per character or group per turn is the way to go. A sample of options:
|Attack||Anything within range.|
|Run||Use the character’s Speed to move around different Zones.|
|Charge||Run and Attack, but have -1 on defense until next turn.|
|Call Shot||Head (-2 to hit, stuns), arm (-1, disarms), leg (-1, makes prone).|
|Defend||Any Attack or movement in or into your Zone has to go through the character first. Advantage given if using a shield!|
|Dodge||+1 to any defense, with advantage.|
|Flee||Attempt to escape the conflict.|
|Hide||A Body (or Mind) roll. Hidden from minds lower than the number of successes (e.g. 3 successes hides from 2 Mind seakers).|
|Shove||A Body roll. Success moves the target from Close to Short range. Critical success knocks the target prone.|
|-1 Speed Actions:||Climb, Crawl, Swim, Squeeze, Sneak|
Mentioning Speed, it comes in levels:
- Slow – Must use an action to move inside the same Zone.
- Normal – Free to move within the same Zone, 1 action to move to adjacent Zones. (Hand-to-hand combat uses this to get within range in the same Zone.)
- Fast – Free move into 1 adjacent Zone, 1 action to move elsewhere.
- Immediate – Added for BITS, this is a free move to any Zone within the play area.
Nothing moves slower than Slow unless the thing is somehow bound, grappled, or crippled.
Probably the best hireling or mercenary list I have every come across. A list, with a few of my own for balance:
|Cook||111||Has a week of hot-meal ingredients and gear.|
|Servant||111||Can carry and do simple chores or tasks.|
|Hunter||211||d6 meats a day in rural or feral environments. Knows trapping.|
|Veteran||211||Frontline fighter. Random weapon set.|
|Medic||121||Helps heal. May attempt field surgery on wounds.|
|Scout||121||Reports on an area at end-of-day.|
|Local||112||Knows the area, rumors, and is charming. May be an entertainer.|
|Scholar||112||Provides a bonus against corruption. May be a pilgrim.|
Warhammer is full of giant monsters, so size needs to play a part. Soulbound‘s rules are simply:
- A character can climb on any character sized above theirs.
- If in the same Zone as a higher-sized character, the smaller character(s) get stomped.
As for the kinds of sizes, BITS might scale based on if a size could eaten or swallowed by the next size up in 1 or 2 bites. Application:
- Sub-Unit (a tiny thing, much smaller than a human)
- Unit (a human, cart, can fit a company of them into a Zone)
- Sub-Zone (warhorse, large vehicles, can only fit so many – a squad – in a Zone)
- Zone (giants, airships, things that takes up an entire Zone)
- Multizone (truly monstrous)
The meta-currencies of DOOM (how bad the world is failing) and Soulfire (i.e. miracles) can provide a nice intervention and reflection of player action on the world, but BITS shies from these kinds of currencies.
We also haven’t touched on personal and group experience, nor mounts or terrain in how they play. Nothing wrong with these – merely need to wrap up here!
All in all, Soulbound is an excellent game full of profound ideas. While its heritage of coming from a wargame can slow it down, BITS is the system to bring the game back to a fast, streamlined pace!
If I missed anything in the last ~1800 words, please say so – BITS, Soulbound, and your own games will be better for it. Cheers ~ 🎲🎲
Bonus: HP Deep Dive
Of all the archetypes, the average sum is 7.6 HP (3-4 wounds). The stat values to get there are distributed approximately:
- 1 = 16%
- 2 = 36%
- 3 = 28%
- 4 = 20%
Tangent: Soulbound is a game about being a champion, a hero in action and ability, a blessed-by-the-divine entity of power. That is clear in the high-powered stats!
If rolling for stats, with a d6, the above 1-2-3-4 comes out about as 1 = 1, 2 and 3 = 2, 4 and 5 = 3, and 6 = 4. Because of the ‘heroic’ setting, using Soulbound‘s content to replicate other difficulty tiers is just a shift of the results (Gods mode added for flavor):
|Stat Value||Wretched||Mundane||Heroic (SB)||Demi-God||Gods|
|1||1, 2, 3||1, 2||1||1||–|
|2||4, 5||3, 4||2, 3||2||1|
|3||6||5||4, 5||3, 4||2, 3|
|4||–||6||6||5, 6||4, 5, 6|
Love it when the match comes together! BITS of Soulbound, as with “BITS of <anything>,” works. Cheers to that and cheers to your SB games!