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Theatrix Highlander

This page contains rules for running a Highlander campaign using the Theatrix system. These rules will be used in my HDR campaign on Dreamlyrics.



The number and type of Descriptors possible is infinite. The guidelines below just give some examples, including some typical ones appropriate for a Highlander campaign. Complexity is subjective, and if you aren't sure where a given Descriptor lies on the complexity scale, ask the GM.

Primary Descriptors

Your Primary Descriptor should be a single concept that sums up your character. Every character will have several Descriptors, and all of them may be very important to the character's concept, but only one is central to what s/he is. For example, if your character is a Viking Finn sorceror, your primary Descriptor should not be "Viking Sorceror." Is he a Viking who happens to be a sorceror, or a sorceror who happens to be a Viking? Choose one as your Primary Descriptor ("Viking" or "Sorceror"); the other one is a secondary Descriptor.

Primary Descriptors have a bigger impact, and tend to have a greater effect (and a broader range of potential effects) when using Plot Points to activate them.

Simple Descriptors

Average Descriptors

Complex Descriptors

Convoluted Descriptors

Twisted Descriptors

Attribute Scales

0.0 Baby BabyBaby
1.0ChildChild, asthmaticChild
2.0TeenagerOut-of-shape, elderlyKlutz
2.5Average adult female
3.0Average adult maleAverage adult maleAverage adult
3.5Average adult female
4.0Athlete, brawnyWeekend athleteAthletic
5.0Big, tough, "strong as an ox"Serious athleteProfessional athlete, martial arts expert
6.0Professional bodybuilderSEAL, Special Forces trainingWorld-class fencer, dancer, marksman, etc.
7.0Arnold Schwarzennager at his peakOlympic marathon runnerJackie Chan; you could do your own stunts in a Hong Kong action movie
8.0World champion weightlifterTireless; you can breeze through marathonsOlympic medalist
9.0Conan; strongest man in the worldYou just don't get tired, and are almost immune to painYou can do HK action movie stunts, and they don't have to speed the film up
10.0Legendary: Heracles, Samson, etc.Inhuman, machinelikeYou can't quite dodge bullets, but you're practically Spider Man

Score IntellectIntuitionPresence
2.0TeenagerOblivious, socially ineptWimpy
3.0Average adultAverage adultAverage adult
4.0BrightPerceptive, sensitive to others' moodsCop or bouncer, a little bit intimidating
5.0Very sharpDeep understanding of the human psycheSecret Serviceman, underworld enforcer, charismatic politician
6.0GeniusYou have a captivating personality, and can read most people like a bookReally scary or really charismatic
7.0Super geniusAlmost preternatural in your ability to read and manipulate peopleHitler; hypnotic and/or terrifying
8.0You're in the dictionary under "mastermind"A spiritual master, completely in tune with people and your surroundingsLegendary charisma; wherever you go, you become the center of attention
9.0The most brilliant person who ever livedNothing surprises you, everA face that could launch a thousand ships, a voice that could command a million men to fall on their swords for you
10.0A mind like a computerPsychic, or indistinguishable from a true psychic; you know what people are going to do before they doYou can make strong men tremble and weak men faint just by looking at them

Plot Points

You earn Plot Points for completing a thread. The number of Plot Points earned depends on the length and complexity of the thread. 1-2 will be about average.

You can use Plot Points in several ways:

  1. Character Development: See the Complexity Rating chart under Improvement, on the Character Creation page. This will tell you about how many Plot Points you need to achieve any given improvement, whether it's raising a skill rank, acquiring a new Quickening power, or earning a new Descriptor. Usually, subplots are initiated (after discussion between the player and the GM) specifically to generate Plot Points for a particular development.
  2. Activate a Descriptor or Personality Trait: This is basically a way for you to take control of a small part of the plot; if you have a Personality Trait or a Descriptor that would be appropriate in a particular scene, spending a Plot Point guarantees that that Descriptor or Trait takes full, dramatic effect in that scene. Usually this means an automatic success with an action, but it can also mean altering the storyline to suit you.

    Example: Eleanor Yee has a Descriptor: Immortal Mentor. (Akiko Inoue, who taught her long ago.) This means that Akiko will sometimes come to Eleanor's aid. Eleanor calls Akiko, but the GM says she's not able to get in touch with her (he didn't want to introduce that NPC into the thread). Eleanor's player spends a Plot Point, and the GM says that a message was relayed to Akiko, and she shows up a day or two later.

    Second Example: Nguyen has a Personality Trait: Devious (Strong). He is trying to sneak up on Techo, an immortal who is several thousand years old. There's no way that Nguyen's stealth and ambush skills, high as they are, would be sufficient to take such a wary, elder immortal by surprise. However, by spending a Plot Point, Nguyen's extraordinary deviousness allows him to lay a cunning and effective trap...this time.

    Note that a guaranteed success doesn't mean a guaranteed outcome. Nguyen's deviousness, for example, will get him a shot at Techo, but he'll still have to succeed in executing his trap and finishing off Techo. Also, the GM has final interpretation of the results of using a Plot Point; you can suggest what you want to have happen, but the GM may alter the results as he sees fit.

  3. Disregard External Control: Sometimes the GM may rule that your Personality Traits, or someone else's influence, dictates a certain response from your character. You may spend a Plot Point to overcome your Trait, or ignore said influence, for one scene. In some cases, the GM may require more than one Plot Point.

    Example: Abbegail has a Personality Trait Afraid of Dogs (Strong). Confronted with a large, snarling dog in her path (and her without her sword), she has little choice but to retreat in shame. However, Abbegail's player wants her to stand her ground and shout at the beast, then press forward. The GM says she'll have to spend a Plot Point.

    Later, she finds herself facing an entire pack of wild dogs. When they come baying after her, the GM says that it will take a Plot Point just to avoid running in terror, but two Plot Points to stand her ground and fight them off.

    Second Example: Dr. Elainne Dunaway has a Descriptor: Doctor. She can perform normal medical procedures, diagnose patients, etc., without using Plot Points. However, when trying to save the life of a soldier who jumped on a grenade, the GM rules that the man will not survive unless she spends a Plot Point.


In Highlander: 2000, we will be running flashback threads, much as you see in the TV series. These threads will be roleplayed normally, and will be a source of additional Plot Points. However, they will be limited in their effects, because they cannot alter established history. (In particular, you obviously cannot kill someone who's known to survive until a later date.)

You should accept that flashback threads will involve a greater level of GM fiat or deux ex machina than usual. Duels may have predetermined outcomes, for example. Obviously, getting in a duel in a flashback is less "dangerous" than dueling in the present.

Since losing a duel in a flashback will require the GM to come up with an arbitrary plot device to keep your character from losing his/her head, there should be some risk entailed. Thus, the penalty for losing a duel (in such a way that had the duel been run in a "current" thread, your character would have died) will be that you will earn no Plot Points for that thread!

The Quickening

When one immortal beheads another, he gains the loser's Quickening. This is represented in Theatrix by gaining Quickening Points.

Every immortal begins with 1 Quickening Point. Immortals gain 1 Quickening Point every century. They also gain Quickening Points for taking the head of another immortal, as follows:

Victor's QP/Loser's QPYou gain
<1/101 QP
1/10 to 1/22 QPs
1/2 to 13 QPs
1 to 24 QPs
>25 QPs

Quickening Powers

Quickening powers are ranked like skills. Some function much like skills, in that the GM sets a difficulty for a particularly action, and your rank determines how likely you are to accomplish that action. Others allow for additional powers at higher ranks. The powers below are examples, but this is not a comprehensive list.

Arcane Quickening

This is the ability to avoid notice possessed by many stealthy immortals. It functions like a skill, and allows the following feats, at the appropriate difficulty level, for one minute. Maintaining an Arcane "cloak" for prolonged periods effectively lowers the immortal's skill by one level per minute. (Degraded Arcane skill will "regenerate" after a few hours . . . or after the immortal spends a Plot Point.)

Note that a subject's Intuition or other perceptive traits may make the use of Arcane more difficult against that individual.

EasyAvoid notice in a crowd, if no one is specifically looking for you. This will also allow someone to stroll through a public place with a suspicious bulge under his jacket, and attract no attention.
NormalAvoid notice in a crowd if someone is specifically looking for you, and stroll past an individual without "registering" on his awareness if he isn't particularly alert. ("No, of course I didn't just see a woman with a sword walk past!")
DifficultCompletely avoid notice, even if you're being searched for, unless you do something to call attention to yourself (such as attacking, firing a weapon, etc.)
ExtraordinaryBecome literally invisible to normal senses (but not cameras or Quickening Sense).
ImpossibleBecome invisible to the Quickening Sense. (For every two levels of a subject's Quickening Sense, your skill is effectively reduced by one for this purpose.)

Body Quickening

This allows an immortal to slow or stop his metabolism. He can survive with less (or virtually no) food, water or sleep.

Breath Quickening

This power allows immortals to function without air.

Psychic Quickening

This includes a variety of psychic powers; precognition, clairvoyance, "aura reading," etc. As a rule of thumb, you get one psychic sense for every two levels of Psychic Quickening, and using any sense is treated as a skill. (For example, an immortal with Psychic Quickening 4.0 could have Psychometry and Clairvoyance -- or any other two psychic sense the GM approves of -- and would be able to use them both at a skill level of 4.0.) Difficulty levels are set by the GM. For precognition, for example, knowing whether it will rain this afternoon might be Easy, while predicting exactly how an opponent will react throughout a fight, fast enough to counter his moves before he makes them, is an Impossible Feat.

Quickened Illusions

This power allows the immortal to create illusions.

A Simple Illusion, a single image that only affects sight, and will be dispelled by the touch of any physical object, is an Easy feat. The illusion can move, but requires continual concentration from the immortal creating it. Complex movements are an Normal feat.

A Complex Illusion which affects sight and sound is an Normal feat (Difficult to make it move in a complex manner). It does not automatically disappear if touched, but any forceful blow will dissipate it.

A Perfect Illusion which affects all the senses is a Difficult feat. A Perfect Illusion can move, speak, and so on without the immortal having to concentrate (though all movements and sounds must be "pre-programmed"; the illusion cannot think or react to external stimuli in any way.) A Perfect Illusion can be "disrupted" by objects passing through it, but it will not fade until the immortal turns it off (or the duration expires).

All of this assumes a man-sized illusion; anything larger will increase the difficulty. Maintaining an illusion for more than a minute also reduces the immortal's effective skill by one level per minute.

Mirror Image: Creating a mirror image of oneself (such as to confuse opponents during a fight) is an Normal feat, increasing by one level of difficulty per extra image. Mirror images will exactly duplicate the movements of the immortal, but do not require concentration to maintain.

Illusory Disguise: This can be a function of either a Simple Illusion, Complex Illusion, or Perfect Illusion, adding one level to the difficulty.

Quickening Sense

Every immortal has this power, at a default of 0.1 upon awakening from one's first death, and you're assumed to reach 1.0 after a year or so. Beyond that, your character would have to specifically try to improve his Quickening Sense (or behead another immortal with a better Quickening Sense rating.....)

Quickening Sense functions like a skill. Sensing things has a difficulty level; some examples are below.

DifficultyYou can sense...
EasyAnother immortal is nearby; You are standing on Holy Ground
NormalA pre-immortal
DifficultApproximately how many immortals are in proximity; Holy Ground is nearby; Recognize a specific immortal who is familiar to you
ExtraordinaryRoughly the direction and range to a particular source of Quickening; A general idea of how much Quickening someone has (more than you, less than you, about the same)
ImpossibleExactly where a Quickening source is (well enough to shoot another immortal in the dark...); Exactly (almost) how much Quickening is in someone, and maybe some details about them

Quickened Healing

This is the supernatural healing ability that all immortals have, but some immortals can heal faster than others. Your rank determines how quickly you heal. All immortals have this Ability at a default rank of 1.0.

Besides increasing healing time as below, an immortal can attempt (as a feat) to heal a single wound. Failure will preclude similar healing attempts for the rest of the day (but won't prevent his normal accelerated healing.)
Wound LevelDifficulty

Healing Time
RankRegenerate WoundsRecover from Dying
1.0Several minutes per wound levelA day or more
2.01 minute per wound levelLess than a day
3.010-30 seconds per wound levelSeveral hours
4.05-10 seconds per wound level1-2 hours
5.03-5 seconds per wound levelLess than an hour
6.01-3 seconds per wound level5-15 minutes
7.01 wound level per secondA few minutes
8.02 wound levels per secondLess than a minute
9.03 wound levels per secondA few seconds
10.0You recover from all wounds (except losing your head) the second after you're wounded. If you die, it takes you 1 second to revive, and another second to regenerate completely. Or maybe vice versa.

Sword Quickening

This is a common (but not universal) ability of immortals. They can channel some of their Quickening into a metal weapon they are holding, to make it lighter, faster, and more deadly.


Combat in Theatrix is more subjective than in many RPGs. Using the pure Theatrix system, the GM decides arbitrarily on the success or failure of every action, including maneuvers and attacks in combat, and then uses a flowchart as an optional tool to determine the degree of success or failure.

Since Highlander involves player characters engaging in duels to the death, quite possibly against other PCs, it is my opinion that combat should contain an element of randomness not completely under the GM's control. Thus, for my HDR campaign, I will be using Theatrix's optional random results tables.

The core of the Theatrix action resolution system is describing your actions in an entertaining fashion, and letting the GM determine the results. So, it's not really necessary for you to understand the "mechanics" of combat. Describe what your character is trying to do; your opponent will do the same, or if your opponent is an NPC, the GM will decide on that character's actions.

Basic tactics each "round" include either "Plain Fighting," "All-Out Attack," or "Full Defense." Your options are not limited to these, but keep in mind how much balance you want to put between offense and defense for any given sequence of blows.

The GM will assign a difficulty to each combatant's maneuvers. Then, using either the semi-arbitrary/flowchart method or the random results method, the GM will determine the success or failure and degree thereof of each combatants' actions.

For opposed actions, your difficulty is raised or lowered by one step per two full levels of difference in skill. This is a general rule, and may be adjusted depending on the opposed skills involved.

Example 1: Swinging a sword in someone's general direction (and connecting) is a Normal feat. If your Swordsmanship skill is 6.0 and your opponent's is 8.0, then the difficulty becomes Difficult for you, and Easy for him.

Example 2: Grabbing and throwing someone is normally a Difficult feat. If you have Judo 4.0 and your opponent has Kung Fu 6.0, it will be Extraordinary to flip him like that. But if he has Thai Kick Boxing 6.0, a style that doesn't include much training in avoiding grapples and throws, then you might not receive a penalty (depending on exactly what tactic he uses -- if he states that he's using long-range kicks to keep you at a distance at the same time you try to grab him, then his skill will apply, but if you're already at short range, he won't be as good as evading as you are at grabbing).

Sample Difficulties

EasyA quick jab or slash which will probably inflict only a light wound if it connects, a basic defense that will stop such a blow
NormalA serious blow intended to incapacitate or kill, an all-out parry that will stop any incoming attacks (but sacrificing any attacks of your own)
DifficultA called shot for an area of the body, a basic feint, a throw, a disarm, parrying a sword with a knife
ExtraordinaryA spinning back kick, an instant death blow (thrust through the heart, decapitating stroke, etc.), a thrust through the chinks in someone's armor, a feint that leaves someone defenseless, disarming a sword with a knife
ImpossibleA flying disarming kick, catching a sword blade between the palms of your hands, eviscerating and decapitating someone with one blow while simultaneously deflecting his blade


If you get hit, you're wounded. The level of wound is based on the weapon you're using, armor, how well you hit, how tough your target is, etc. Wound condition is abstracted in Theatrix into several levels:

BruisedSuperficial wounds, painful but not significantly impairing
Light WoundsA more serious injury, still not impairing in a major way, but it will be painful and inconvenient, and would probably require a few stitches and/or bandaging on a mortal.
BatteredThis is a serious wound -- a deep gash, a fracture, or something else for which a mortal would seek medical help immediately. It is somewhat impairing, slowing most people down by about 50% until they're healed.
GrievousSomething that would get a mortal taken to the hospital in an ambulance, and might cause a permanent disability. Whatever body part is wounded will be non-functional until it heals; if it's a head blow, it will usually cause unconsciousness.
IncapacitatedVery seriously wounded, enough to be life-threatening and permanently impairing for a mortal, and enough to put an immortal out of action until he regenerates.
DeadPermanent for mortals, unpleasant for immortals.

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