Rules of Play

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. 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 an attack cannot be blocked or avoided it causes a Wound to the location struck.

Physical Shields

Hand-held shields will stop 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 possess a Spell Value (SP). This value is on the tag that comes with the shield. Shields also stop magic damage that is equal to our less than the SP of the shield. By default, Tower & Large shields have a SP 0, Medium & Small Shields 1 & Bucklers 2. These spell values can be adjusted through higher quality or specialty Smithing.

Example: Janet is fighting with a Small Shield (SP 1) against a horde of goblins. Her shield takes a barrage of minor 1 point fire spells and she would take no damage (she should call “blocked” to let them know her shield is holding, if possible). However, when the large goblin throws a Fire Shard 4 at her this magic passes through her shield and she takes a Fire Shard 4 to her arm that holding the shield. This does not prevent her shield from stopping the next Fire Shard 1 that hits it however if the arm became injured from the previous attack she should not be attempting to block with it.

Invalid Targets

Hands, Feet, Groin, Neck, and Head are all invalid targets. 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 to the breasts (both men and women) 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.


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.

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

Swinging too too fast (and likely too hard) and is explicitly against our combat conduct rules.


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.


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.

Recovering Per-Combat Abilities

Any Per-Combat Ability is normally derived from Combat Attribute, 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 roleplayed 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.

Recovering Per-Day and Magic School Abilities

All Per day abilities or Magic school magic abilities reset at the next sunrise OR sunset. While spells that last for a day or protective all last till the next sunrise magical spent abilities reset on the next occurrence of sunrise or sunset. These times during the day have in game surges of power that cause a refreshing of strength for both casters and fighters further info into the in game explanations of these times should be found out through the course of play.

Copying Formulas & Spell Patterns

All Formulas cost 1 Crafting Point (unless otherwise noted)  to copy and can be copied by any crafter of the appropriate production skill. Like wise all spell patterns cost 1 CP  (unless otherwise noted) to copy and can be copied by a caster of that school. All casters get CP (Crafting Points) equal to their level in that spell school for free, exclusively for copying their own spell types. Finally anyone with the Academic skill/craft of transcription can make copies off any formula. Their is no in game cost for making copies only the use of the CP.

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.

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 a 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 immediately becomes 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, Dying, and Resurrection below).

Killing Blows

A killing blow may be delivered by hand (see 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 3, Killing Blow 2, Killing Blow 1”. 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 3, Mutilating 2, Mutilating 1”.

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.


Healing wounds or other conditions can come from the Empathy attribute, various healing skills, consumable items, or magic. Once started or administered all healing immediately 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 must 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: Alchemical 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.

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.