|Gallant And Bold|
Gallant And Bold
This is a game from John Grümph, the prolific french author. He released it in French as Coeurs Vaillants and in English Gallant & Bold. The illustration above is from John Grümph, his imagination and his taste are well served by his hand, in writing and in drawing.
You are about to embark on new adventures, across a romanesque and magical world, full of sorcerers and wraiths, dragons and goblins. You will become one of those incredible adventurers, gallant and bold, always on the front line to protect those who can’t defend themselves and face the most terrifying threats. You are destined to perform glorious feats – if you do not die first in the clutches of a monster – but neither glory nor death really matters to you, nor wealth or honors. You are a wanderer and a gallivant. You are an adventurer. You’re a hero!
By prolific I mean that John Grümph released four or five of those games inspired by the oldest and most revered of all adventure games (his words). Why should I focus on Gallant & Bold and not on Princes and Vagabonds?
I could simply answer that since Gallant (allow me this truncation) is released in English as well and I write in English, then that's the one I should cover here. But I've already covered a John Grümph game in French, New York Crossings.
I am a patron to Le Grümph, and last week, he released for his patrons a Gallant extension while admitting he was playing that game a lot these days. So my answer is: I cover Gallant & Bold because its author plays it a lot and writes extensions for it (albeit only in French for now).
The PDF is 84 pages, system, world, monsters. The illustrations are beautiful as the illustrations in this post can attest.
Feel free to jump to my conclusion.
Since it is inspired by the oldest fantasy adventure game, each adventurer is defined by the six classical abilities, Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. Like the ancestor, one rolls 3d6 to determine the ability score. Unlike the ancestor, the lower the better, the best strength score a player can roll for her or his adventurer is a 3.
This is because the system uses d20 and expects you to roll high, better than your ability score. For example, should you try a strength feat and your strength score is 5, you have to roll 5 or better with the d20.
One has then to choose their race, Human, Elf, Gnome, or Dwarf. Each race has its quirks. For example, choosing a Human let's one replace their higher ability score with an 8, and earn a +1 Scholar craft. Dwarves may become fighter or cleric, they have a +4 to AC vs large enemies, +1 attack bonus and +1d4 damage against Goblins and Orcs, +4 save vs Magic and Poison, and they earn +1 Courtier craft.
Crafts are bonuses your adventurer adds to rolls to checks in a certain domain. For example, the Burglar craft encompasses eavesdropping, walk climbing, trap disarming, hiding in the shadows, etc. There are four crafts, Burglar, Courtier, Ranger, and Scholar. This simplifies skill checks in an open and elegant way.
There are four classes, Fighter, Thief, Magic-User, and Cleric. Each class comes with a level table. The simplest of the table, the one of the Fighter, matches level (1 to 7), with a Hit Dice (HD), Save score, and a Basic Hit Bonus (BHB). The thief gets an Armor Class (AC) column and a Craft bonus column. The Magic-User and the Cleric get spell slots.
Each class also has quirks not present in their progression table. For example, the fighter chooses a weapon category (sword, axe, spear, bow, ...) and gets a +2 when using weapons in that category.
Each class gets to choose between 1 or 2 starting equipment packs.
Class descriptions span 5 pages, there are 3 pages of Magic-User spells, and 2 pages of Cleric spells.
The spells are standard OGL spells.
Experience and talents
At the beginning of each game session, an adventurer automatically receives 2 XPs. To level up one need to use current level x 3, so 3 XPs to level up from level 1 to 2, 6 XPs to go to level 3, etc.
Levelling up should probably happen right after a session, because during a session XPs, can be used to re-roll any d20 with advantage. One has to survive in order to level up...
One can purchase 1 XP for 100 gold pieces, this represents the necessary costs for training, donations to divinities, etc.
At levels 2, 4, and 6 a player can choose a new Talent for their adventurer. Here are some examples:
- Hardened.* Lower by one an adventurer's ability score (3 is the minimum).
- Brutal. +1d8 melee damage.
- Tough. +1 on any saving throw.
- Linguist.* speak an additional language.
Beyond level 7, adventurers received 1 XP per session instead of 2. They progress by purchasing improvements on a dedicated table. Here are some of its entries:
- One additional hit point to the HP total (max 10), costs 1 XP
- Lower the Save score by 1 (max 5 times), costs 2 XPs
- +1 to Base Hit Bonus, (fighters only, max 5 times), costs 3 XPs
- One new Talent, costs 10 XPs
There are four rolls in Gallant & Bold, they are Ability checks, Attack rolls, Manoeuver checks, and Saving Throws. All those rolls are d20 rolls.
An Ability check is used when performing a physical, technical, intellectual, or a social task. The target number is the appropriate ability score. For example, when trying to impress an adversary, the player can roll 1d20 to equal or surpass its Charisma score.
An Attack roll needs no introduction, the target number is the adversary's armor class.
The Manoeuver checks are used when the character performs a special move, running, jumping, stealth, etc. The target number his the characters's own AC. Thieves don't check against their AC, they check against their Dexterity ability score. For all the others, the higher your AC, the harder it gets to manoeuver.
A Saving throw's target number is the save number. Some race, class, or magical item grant bonuses, generally on a category of save, like Breath, Death, Magic, or Poison.
Rolls are modified by bonuses determined by class, race, or magic yielded. Basic Hit Bonus, Save Bonus, Craft bonus, etc.
Advantage and disadvantage do apply.
As written above, craft bonuses do apply. The four crafts are Burglar, Courtier, Ranger, and Scholar. Thieves have access immediately access to two crafts and their craft bonus increases as they level up.
"Escarmouche, Escarmouche, will you do the Fandango!". In French a "skirmish" is an "Escarmouche". Gallant & Bold has "Skirmish Rules", that sets the tone.
One rolls 1d8 plus level to determine initiative. Fighters roll 2d8 plus level. Monsters roll 1d8 plus their hit dice (HD), group their initiative.
Characters keep their initiative throughout the skirmish, unless they sacrifice their action to gain a 1d8 for the next turn.
On their turn, a character may move and perform an action.
The typical adventurer moves 12 square (30 feet) per turn, half if they're careful (+1 AC or +1 to hit), double if they run (AC - 2 until next turn). If the movement is tricky, dangerous, opposed or ludicrous, make a manoeuver check.
To attack, one rolls 1d20 plus the BHB (Basic Hit Bonus) plus other bonuses (magic weapon or fighter mastery). If the roll is equal or higher than the AC of the opponent, a wound is inflicted, if it's inferior, it's only a bruise.
A monster rolls 1d20 and adds its HD (with a maximum of +12).
A natural 20 doubles the damage inflected. A natural 1 and no damage at all is inflicted, and the unlucky falls to the ground, losing weapon or shield, they will need a move to get up again and an action to pick up their weapon (or draw another one).
On a wound, the damage roll for the weapon is performed, add any available bonus (for example Dwarves get a +1d4 against Goblins and Orcs). On a bruise, the opponent incurs 1 damage point per weapon damage dice (if one uses a 2d8+4 zweihänder and misses, it still inflicts 2 points of damage).
The sacrifice of a shield lets a character cancel up to 20 damage points on one hit.
During a skirmish, a character is granted a single second wind upon falling to 0 hit points, granting him 1d8 HP per level. Should the character fall again to 0 before the next long rest, they will be dead for good. That makes second wind risky, a healing spell or a potion is preferable, or even simply waiting to get rescued by victorious partners.
Rest and Healing
On a short rest, an adventurer recuperates 1d4 hit points per level.
A long rest can be taken once per day, if the camp is comfortable, the adventurer is allowed to regain all their hit points.
The classic D&D monsters are provided. See here on the left how the stat blocks for Goblins and Hobgoblins.
There is a method provided to build monsters, and a table to generate loot given the monster's HD.
I skipped the travel and encounter rules, the loot and magical object generation tables, the minimal description of Argosia.
There is no sample adventure, and I appreciate that, it keeps the booklet small. And it's so easy to adapt any of the OSR adventures out there to Gallant & Bold.
Companions and Extensions
John Grümph wrote two companions to Gallant & Bold, unfortunately, they are not yet translated from French to English.
The first companion provides:
- Some precisions about what surrounds the minial Argosia setting
- Optional Adventure Point rule, similar to the XP tradeoff rule, but cheaper and more flexible
- Rules for followers and companions
- New monsters, mostly outer plane monsters, undeads, and "cleaning team" monsters
- A set of 33 tables to generate a village, from its name, its architecture, its main inhabitants, its economy, ...
- a mini sub-setting "First Rampart" by Islayre d'Argolh
The second companion contains:
- A goodness vs badness point system
- 4 new playable races: city-goblins, owlbear, young wandering mound, and small gelatinous cube. Yes
- 7 new lesser talents that each can be bought for 2 XPs
- A set of martial arts that can be used when fighting bare handed, or that can provide an effect upon a natural 20
- 10 pages of new magic-user spells, 5 new pages of cleric spells
- extensions to the travel and camp rules
- 6 pages of special powers for monster customization
- a set of 11 tables to generate factions
- a short game master guide section on adventure creation and management
- a set of 11 tables to generate a Taberge (Taverne + Auberge, an inn)
- a set of 10 tables to generate a ruin
In October 2020, John Grümph released a Patreon-only 87 page supplement porting Earthdawn to Gallant & Bold. I don't know anything about Earthdawn, but this supplement contains interesting mechanisms and monsters.
Last week (May 9 2021), John released another Patreon-only 28 page supplement detailed how to play Argosia fey. It lists new spells and magical objects and explains how the faery world might differ from the everyday world.
- it's a distillation of the oldest of the adventure games
- the thief is truly an expert
- the illustrations are massively inspiring
- the fighter advantage on initiative (2d8 instead of 1d8)
- the craft system that elegantly abstracts skills away
- rolling against abilities directly (those 5% increments really do matter, they are not dissolved into a modifier)
- the bruise damage, reminiscent of shock damage in Stars without Numbers and friends
I do not like:
- the thief might be the only expert, others have to wait and/or pay to enhance their craft and their craft bonuses (maybe I should put that under like)
- this fear that the author might run away and create yet another system. Oh well, we all do this, but at our lower level, with our DIY rule patches...
- Argosia, the setting is minimal, no maps, no cities, feels just a background to draw in a specific selection of monsters, I would prefer it to be firmly setting-agnostic
In 5th Edition and in World without Numbers, ability scores are turned immediately into modifiers. I think it's fairly easy to roll high with 3d6, write down 17 (for example) and then 21 - 17 aka 4 in the adjacent column on the character sheet, the "higher is better" score for its feelgood effect and right next to it, the "lower is better" counterpart for actual rolls (like a 5th Edition modifier).
The biggest advantage to the craft system is that players do not have a list of sheet on their character sheet, they do not come up with solution that sound like "may I roll against this skill to do x?" aka "what happens if I press this button?".
Gallant & Bold, USD 6 on DriveThruRPG, warmly recommended.