Rules of Play

This section covers the basics of rules on how to physically interact with the world of Altera and include the combat system, legal target areas, player to player physical contact, and behavior in general.

Mechanics of Combat

Taking Damage: Hit Locations
At the most basic level Altera is a “boffer” combat uses padded weapons and bird seed packets to represent weapons and effects (guidelines for the construction of weapons and packets can be found. These are then used in a “Hit Location” system to track damage and resolve combat. Each person is considered to have 5 separate hit locations which are Arms (one location each), legs (one location each), and torso. There are many ways to absorb or avoid attacks but at some point defenses run out. When a basic attack cannot be blocked or avoided it causes a Wound to the location struck.

Physical Shields

Hand Held shields wills top all physical strikes along with any carrier effects. If a strike with a non magical effect hits the shield this effect is stop, provided that the effect does not directly target the shield. All shields posses a Spell Value (SP) this value is on the tag that comes with the shield. Shields also stop magic that is equal to our less than the SP of the shield. By Default Large shields  have a SP of 1, Medium Shields of 2 and Bucklers of 3. These spell values can be adjust through higher quality or speciality smithing.

Invalid Targets:
Hands, Feet, Groin, Neck, and Head. Accidents may happen and we ask all players to be gracious. Intentionally aiming for an illegal target is a violation of our game rules and will be dealt with appropriately. Any attack from any source that hits an invalid target is considered to have missed or have no effect upon the target. By that token however intentionally moving an invalid target to block an attack, such as trying to swat spell packets out of the air with a hand, is equally a violation of our game rules and will be dealt with appropriately.

Sensitive targets:
Thrusts into the breast (both men and women, men can have sore nipples too) and the back of the knee are locations that that no player should ever intentionally target, however, if an attack is delivered unintentionally it is still considered valid. This is as much of a safety concern as a player comfort concern. If this becomes a repetitive problem or appears to be intentional it will result in appropriate action by the staff.

Taking Damage – Being Wounded
A wounded arm cannot hold any tagged items and should hang at the player’s side. A second hit to an already wounded arm immediately transfers to the torso.

A wounded leg cannot be used and the player should drop to at least one knee. With one wounded leg the character can, with assistance of another character, move at a normal walking pace. With two wounded legs the character cannot move on their own and only be moved at half speed while assisted by another character.

A character with a wounded torso becomes immediately critical.
A character who has suffered either 3 limb wounds or a torso wound becomes immediately critical and is Bleeding Out. Characters who are Bleeding Out must fall to the ground unconscious (or at least kneel with head down and unresponsive depending on environmental conditions), may not speak, look around, use any in game abilities, or interact with other players in any fashion. If untreated a character who remains Bleeding Out for 5 minutes will immediately die (see further rules on Death and Resurrection below).

Speed of Combat
Weapon strikes – no weapon (melee or ranged) should be swung/thrown/shot faster than one swing per second. Measuring at the elbow each weapon swings should have no less than a 45-degree angle when pulling the weapon back. They should have no more than 90 degrees.
Machine Gunning is a term for someone who is swinging too fast (and likely too hard) and is explicitly against our combat conduct rules
Packets – All packets have a verbal component. In some cases, these are considered In Play incantations and sometimes they are considered Out of Play effects. In either case the full Out of Play verbal must be concluded before the packet can be thrown. Once a verbal is completed the player has 2 seconds to throw the packet or the spell is considered to be lost.

Recovering Per Combat Abilities
Any Per Combat ability are normally derived from Attributes however may be gained from other mechanics as well. Per combat abilities can be reset after use but this requires 30 minutes of uninterrupted time where no game skills are used. This should be role-played in some fashion such as stretching, resting in a chair, taking time to get stitched up, or anything else that is appropriate. After 30 minutes of rest all per combat abilities are reactivated.


Healing wounds or other conditions can come from the Empathy Attribute, various healing skills, consumable items, or magic. Immediately once started or administered all healing pauses the relevant count. Healing limb wounds requires one level of healing per wounded limb. The Torso requires two levels of healing to treat. Any healing that is not sufficient to treat the wounds of the target is instead stabilized and considered to be Walking Wounded.
Example: Fred the Fighter has a Torso wound (requires heal 2) and two limb wounds (requires heal 1 per limb). In order for Fred to be effectively healed someone but be able to administer a single Heal 4 effect. Any lesser healing effect will still stabilize Fred and he will fully recover in one hour. In the meantime Fred is considered Walking Wounded. A more skilled healer can always treat Fred later if they have sufficient power or skill.

Types of healing are:

  • Skill based. All skill based healing effects take 1 minute of constant role played focus as the healer physically stitches the patient back together. This can be interrupted by striking the person or otherwise forcing them to stop. This can be a “flat” attack and does not require that damage be done to interrupt the process. If they stop administering Healing for any reason the targets Bleeding Out count resumes and the healing process must start again. Skills can always be used at will.
  • Consumables: Draughts and other substances may be able to provide healing. These take no time to apply but should always be role played as pouring a mixture into the targets mouth or applying a salve as appropriate. Once applied the consumable will take 1 minute to take effect.
  • Magic: There are many sources of magical healing which must be discovered in play. All forms of magical healing are considered touch based spells (see below for rules regarding personal contact). They take no time to use except what is required by the individual spell. Once cast the spell takes 1 minute to take effect.
  • Empathy is the only source of instant healing in the game. Healing from the Empathy Attribute is always considered to be in effect immediately.

Walking Wounded characters are in the process of a slow recovery but are able to perform basic functions. They may move at a slow walk and may talk in a low conversational tone. They may not use any in game ability or take any action that requires focus.

Duration of Effects:
Altera uses a set of duration which are listed in the effect specific list. There are occasions where a modifier is applied to a tagline and this is to indicate that it is *different* from the standard duration of the effect.
Common Duration modifiers are:
Instant: The effect happens and resolves instantly.
Combat: The effect lasts until the target exits active combat/rests to recover abilities.
Day: The effect lasts until the next sunrise.
Phase: The effect lasts the duration of the event
Permanent: The effect cannot be removed or cancelled

Packet and Weapon colors
Altera uses a set of limited color codes to help make types of magic and weapons immediately obvious to all players: Please keep these in mind when constructing weapons and packets
Weapon Specific Colors:
Steel: Gray colored Tape
Silver: Silver colored Tape
Gold: Gold colored Tape
Bone: White colored Tape
Wood: Brown colored Tape
Packet Specific Colors:
Magic: White and Gray packets
Packet AND Weapon Colors
Natural:* Red colored tape and Red packets
*this includes vials of thrown alchemical substances, Open Hand weapons, Claws, spines, quills, and venom sacs.
 Purple – No player should use Purple in any weapon or packet without direction from the plot staff. Purple packets or weapons give off an obviously otherworldly feel that is recognizable to all as something beyond current understanding.

Death, Dying, and Resurrection

Death can come to characters in many ways. Altera is not a safe or friendly world and this should be an expected part of a character’s growth. Death, as they say however, is not the end.

When a character dies whether from Bleeding Out, poison, or catastrophic damage their soul remains attached to their body and begins a Death Count for an additional 5 minutes. During this time, they can be resuscitated if someone has the appropriate skill, consumable, or spell. Regardless of source it takes 5 minutes of concentrated and role played effort to drag a soul back into its body. If this process is interrupted for any reason the effort fails. Consumables or Spell energy are considered lost and the Death Count resumes where it left off. So long as the soul remains attached to the body and skill or resources are available this may be attempted again. Successful resuscitation does not significantly impact the target’s soul however physically they are considered to be Walking Wounded for 15 minutes. This recovery time cannot be effected and must run its course.

When a player fully dies after the Death Count ends their spirit departs their body. The player must leave all In-Play items and tagged phys-reps on the ground. They must then go Out of Play and walk directly to Monster Town for further instructions. Additional instructions will be given by a member of Plot at that time. Once the Death has been recorded out of play and you have been cleared by a member of Plot the player will be given a either blue spirit ribbons or glow bracelets depending on the time of day. They and the plot member will return into play and the plot staff will marshal the resurrection process as needed. Once the In Play portion of the resurrection is complete the target character will be be Walking Wounded for 30 minutes. This recovery time cannot be effected and must run it’s course.

There is always a chance that any given character may not successfully resurrect. This is called Permanent Death. The risk of Permanent Death is a possibility to all characters and we are not going to be coy about that. Every member of the Plot Staff has lost a much loved character before and we will do everything we can to make any Permanent Death have meaning There are secrets of Death that must be discovered in play and while all things may be possible Permanent Death is not something that a player should ever expect to find an escape route from.

Etiquette of Contact, Combat, Searching, and Stealing

Physical Contact
At no time should players ever physically touch each other without explicit permission from both parties. Any spells that have “touch” as a requirement should be done by touching a packet to the person and casting the spell rather than actually placing a hand on the person. It should always be assumed that you do not have permission to touch someone and that any previous permission was specific to that instance. We strive to make all players comfortable and respect that every person has different levels of tolerance for physical contact. We expect all of our players to be respectful of this as well.

Calling “Flat”
The base assumption is that weapons are always being swung with the intent to do damage. It takes a measure of intent and self-control to swing a weapon and not actually hurt the target. To do so the attacking character must call “flat” on every attack to show that they are intentionally pulling their swings. If someone is struck by a “flat” attack it causes no damage and does not trigger any defensive protectives.

If you hear “HOLD!” called that means that all action needs to stop immediately. Holds can be called for a variety of purposes such as allowing a Marshall to describe an event, to address a safety issue, or because of a medical emergency. Regardless of cause when a HOLD is called all players should stop all actions including conversation immediately. Players should kneel if possible and at the very least look down at the ground or keep eyes closed. During a hold is not a time to look around out of play or talk to other players.

The only exception to this is that archers may attempt to collect arrows during a hold. They may not call a hold for that specific purpose and cannot request the hold go longer than it normally would in order to collect arrows. They are expected to not use any knowledge gained for any in play benefit as a matter of sportsmanship.

Charging is the act of moving into another person’s personal space such that they are forced to step back as a safety issue. Charging does not imply speed. A person can be charging at a walk or at a run. You should never full body close on another player such that you can reach around them or that your body is closer than your weapon’s normal given swing arc.

Corkscrewing is the act of moving in a circular motion around a single opponent to constantly pivot or rotate on one knee. When fighting someone on one knee it’s fine to move to the side slightly to get a better attack angle or wait for an ally to attack the kneeling person from behind but do not do so in a way that forces constant rotation. This can be physically damaging to the other player’s costume as well as to their physical knee.

Turtling is fighting from cover such that no legal target areas are visible. Most commonly this happens when a fighter is crouching behind a shield but can apply to other forms of cover such as tables or window. When fighting there must be, at minimum two legal target areas exposed at all times. Shields and weapons can always be moved to cover those areas but doing so must expose a different location.

Killing Blows
A killing blow may be delivered by hand (see above rules on physical contact) or by weapon. Delivering a killing blow requires contact with hand or weapon for the entire duration of a slow three count of “Killing Blow 1, Killing Blow 2, Killing Blow 3”. Upon completion of the full count the target is automatically dead. The character can still be resuscitated by the appropriate skill or spell. A killing blow may be interrupted by striking the weapon or the person. This can be a “flat” attack and does not require that damage be done to interrupt the process.

Corpse mutilation
A dead body can be further damaged to the point that resuscitation is impossible. This can only be done to a target that is already dead and has not had the spirit leave the body (5 minute window after “death”). In play this represents acts of significant violence on the target body such as carving out internal organs or decapitation. Like killing blows this is done on a slow three count of “Mutilating 1, Mutilating 2, Mutilating 3”. Upon completion the target’s spirit is immediately forced from the body and must go through the full resurrect process. Just like with a killing blow this can be interrupted at any time by striking the person or weapon doing the mutilation. This can be a “flat” and does not require that damage be done to interrupt the process.

Searching a person
A dead, sleeping, or unconscious person can be searched for goods, coin, or other resources that they may have on them. This is considered a touch action (see above rules on physical contact) and requires at least 10 seconds or role played searching. You cannot search a person by sword point. Additionally, the target of the search must either be willing to be searched or unable to resist (asleep, unconscious, dead). Even in a full body snare a person has enough mobility to block a search attempt. Under specific circumstances a target may have concealed items that cannot be found through a normal search. In such cases a more thorough search of the person would be required to find such hidden items. A “detailed search” requires an additional full minute of searching. If the search is interrupted or stopped for any reason it must be restarted from the beginning.

Searching a cabin and other private goods
There may be cause for a player to want to search the private goods or private cabin of another player. This includes searching bags or pouches that have been left in public space by another player as well as their own cabins. These actions require the presence of a plot marshal at all times. If a plot marshal is not available, then any such searches have to wait until one can help. A plot marshal is required to make sure only in play items are interacted with and no out of play property is removed or changed.

Violation of Policy and Sportsmanship Warnings
Violation of these rules can result in sportsmanship warnings which are kept on file by the plot committee. Repeated sportsmanship warnings can result anywhere from a short term ban from a select number of games up to permanent expulsion from the game. More severe discipline actions can be assessed by staff based on the circumstances around any given violation and at the discretion of the plot committee.

Altera uses colored headbands during the day and glow bracelets/necklaces at night to help quickly communicate certain obvious out of play information to our players:

White Headbands:
*OUT OF PLAY* NPCs or Players who have a white headband on should be considered out of play and should not be interacted with from an in character standpoint. We ask all players to not call attention to an Out of Play Character. If you need to ask a question quietly walk to that Out of Play person and ask in a manner that does not distract other players from gameplay.
Orange Headbands/Orange Glowstick: Medical Non-Combat. Players may occasionally have a physical limitation or injury that does not allow them to participate in combat. Any Non-Combat character must have an Orange headband during the day and an Orange Glowstick active on them at night. This should never be covered or otherwise hidden. Non-combat players may not participate in combat and must back away to an unengaged distance. They may not use any combat spells or abilities of any type. Hostile NPC’s will treat any non-combat player as a non-threat unless there are absolutely no other targets around. A Non-Combat character may be wounded or killed by any other character by simply being within 5 feet of the Non-Combat target and declaring “I wound/kill you.” Such players should *NEVER* be targeted out of play with weapons of any kind.

Blue Headbands/Blue Glow Necklaces: Anything that has an obviously blue headband and/or long strips of blue fabric tied to each wrist is somehow connected to the Astral or Spirit Plane. As this is communicating both in play and out of play information it gets a little more complicated.

Blue Headband/Glow Necklace: A ghost or other entity that resides only in the Astral realm. More often than not it is a spirit seeking to be resurrected but could be other things as well which must be discovered in play. Requires Medium to see or interact with.

Blue wristbands/Glow Bracelets: A being that has manifested in the physical world but has a strong astral presence. Any and all persons may see and interact with it. Those with Medium may be able to learn additional information. Headband/Glow necklaces always trump wrist bands so if something has both then the Medium requirement to see and interact applies.

PCs and NPCs stepping into the Astral: Some specialized effects may even allow for a living person (player) to step bodily into the Astral Realm. Doing so requires holding at length of no less than 3 feet of blue cloth with steepled hands above the head for the duration of the effect unless otherwise directed by a marshal. What could go wrong?