Bloodlust (roleplaying game)
Bloodlust is a French sword and sorcery role-playing game. It was created by Croc, the G. E. Ranne duo and Stéphane Bura, illustrated by Alberto Varanda, and published by Asmodée Éditions between 1991 and 1997. The covers of almost all the books of the series come from paintings by Frank Frazetta.
A new edition, called “Bloodlust Édition Métal” (Metal Edition Bloodlust), has been published in July 2012 by John Doe.
In this game, player characters are living god-weapons (armes-dieux) with magical powers, and their human bearers. The inspiration of the game comes foremost from Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné series, which relates the saga of prince Elric and his demon sword, Stormbringer. The game also borrows inspiration from Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian. The Helliconia trilogy by Brian Aldiss inspired Bloodlust's three moons, whose phases influence human passions.
The continent of Tanaephis is the main setting of the game. Its physical geography is borrowed from real-world Antarctica, but it is shared by several ethnicities. Tanaephis used to host orcs, elves and dwarves, but they are now extinct and only humans remain.
The different people of Tanaephis are mostly inspired by real-world people, but their names come from the board game Freedom in the Galaxy.
The Alwegs are not really an ethnic group: it is a derogative term for the pariahs and half-breeds of the other ethnic groups. Each nation has a different definition of what an Alweg is. They usually are treated as second-class citizens, and many become mercenaries.
The Batranobans, who resemble real-world Arab people, were historically the first human empire and the first humans to create an alphabet. They live in a desert featuring great cities of white stone in the south-west of the continent. Their society is based on trade, especially the trade of magical spices, making them close to the Fremen of Frank Herbert's Dune series.
The Derigions are a decadent people, akin to those in Ancient Rome or Greece. They were formed by the alliance of three local tribes and used to dominate most of Tanaephis. However, after the Vorozion and Batranoban rebellions, the Piorad and Sekeker raids, and especially the political and cultural decadence of the Derigions, the empire slowly crumbled. It is now restricted to the gigantic capital city, Pôle, and the neighbouring villages. Pôle, the greatest city of Tanaephis, was built by the dwarves for their elf friends long before the rise of the human empires. With the extinction of the elves, humans took control of it. The Derigion empire, decadent but scarred by corruption and military defeats, still maintains a great trading city where most of the artists and students of the continent gather.
The Gadhars are a black-skinned people who share their jungles in the south-east of Tanaephis with monsters and dinosaurs. The jungle keeps them apart from other people. They have a limited genetic memory that allows them to feel bits of a forgotten past. Some rare Gadhars can wield weak magical powers, which is an exception since magic normally only comes from the god-weapons.
The Hysnatons, like the Alwegs, are not really an ethnicity. Instead, all the humans showing characteristics of an extinct race (elves, orcs or dwarves) are called Hysnaton. This word actually means Übermensch, coined by a Hysnaton intellectual out of irony to mock the discrimination the Hysnatons suffer. Despite this racism, some Hysnatons can be more efficient than normal humans in some domains thanks to their particularities. For instance, many elf-blooded Hysnatons work as expensive prostitutes. On the opposite, special mercenary units called the scorias are made of extremely hideous Hysnatons.
The Piorads borrow from the Vikings and Cimmerians: they are barbarians who sailed from another continent and burned their ships to fight on the land and become excellent horsemen. Sometimes, a Piorad is born with red eyes: he is an œil-de-braise and will join an elite unit. Piorad warriors ride carnivorous horses called the chagars, and fight brutally.
The Sekekers are wild raider women. They were founded by Batranoban oppressed women. Like the Amazons, they hate men and the only males tolerated in their tribes are castrated slaves. They are few in numbers and live in the plains of the middle of Tanaephis, from which they raid the neighbouring people and the city of Pôle. They do not breed, and need to snatch babies and little girls from foreigners. The Sekekers mutilate themselves through infibulation and breast ablation, to reject their femininity. Only the prettiest little girls are not mutilated: they are instead raised to form an elite unit, the chrysalides, who fight half-naked to intimidate their male enemies.
The Thunks are inspired from the real-world Inuit and Mongol people: they are pony-riding nomads who survive in icy mountains in the far north of Tanaephis. They are mostly pacific, unorganised and sexually free, but they will defend themselves vehemently against their sworn enemies, the Piorads. They prefer to ambush their foes with bows rather than fight them in hand-to-hand combat.
The Vorozions are in their golden age: they have rebelled against the old Derigion empire, and have conquered most of it. They oppose the slavery of the Derigions and see themselves as liberators, but their empire is still dominated by a rigid bureaucracy. They are excellent craftsmen, and the only people in Tanaephis who know how to make plate armour. The Vorozions dominate the farmlands in the east of Tanaephis, between the Piorad lands, the Gadhar jungles, the Sekeker plains and Pôle.
The god-weapons are the main specificity of Bloodlust, compared to other fantasy roleplaying games. They are close combat weapons and shields in which a god has incarnated. They therefore have a mind, a memory, an intelligence and passions, as well as magical powers that their wielder can use. These arms are wielded by humans (and sometimes other creatures) with whom they have a symbiotic relationship. The weapon gives magical powers to its wielder in exchange for the sensations it feels. Without a wielder, a weapon is inert. Without a god-weapon, a man cannot be as powerful and respected.
It is suggested that the player characters of Bloodlust play the wielders, or the god-weapons themselves. Another option is that half of the PC play weapons, and the other half plays their human wielders.
Like the characters of most roleplaying games, the god-weapons grow in power thanks to an experience system. But the god-weapons earn experience by living their desires of prestige, sex, wealth, violence and reputation. These experience points allow them to grow stronger and earn new powers, but also to control their wielders better.
A particularly powerful god-weapon can manage to meld into its wielder. The weapon then disappears but its wielder earns its powers and immortality. Several different things can happen to the minds of the weapon and the carrier: they can meld into each other, exist together in one body, or one can destroy the other. In all these situations, the powers manifest themselves on the body of the wielder; the resulting creature is called a fusionned or possessed one
The game system is rather simple: each character has six traits that can go up to 20, and a number of skills that can go up to 100. One must roll less than these skills with a percentile die to succeed at a task. The result of the second die shows the breadth of a success or failure.
In a fight, every fighter chooses in each round one of six possible actions (brutal attack, quick attack, dodge...), which allows for several different tactics. Combat is usually quick and bloody.
A mass combat system is included in the core rulebook.
In this new edition, characters have a common set of "job" skills and then they choose skills that fit their personality. Rolls are made with six-sided dice against a threshold. Each even result is a quality in case of a success.
On its introduction in 1991, the Bloodlust gamebox was one of the biggest successes of French roleplaying games. Publication of new supplements has stopped in 1997 with the Vengeance book, which is blamed as being so bad it contributed to the game's end.
A new French edition has been published by John Doe in July 2012. Its background is both a continuation of the first one, and a mix with different elements. The world's history is slightly changed, and added details have been added.
Notes and references
- (in French) Le Mois des Conquêtes, main official website.