The Central Oregon Expeditionary Adventuring Company
A living document recording the current practices of my open table game, where everyone is welcome to drop in to play an old school-style sandbox fantasy adventure game.
Table of Contents
- Core Mechanics
- Skills and Saves
- Spellcasting Rules
- Binding Spells
- Acquiring Spells
- Sorcerous Implements
- Harvesting Monsters
- Lists of Spells
I. Core Rules
1. Introduction: Old School Ethos
- Exploration of a shared world. The focus of the game is the exploration of a rich, wonderous, layered world. The world is populated by creatures with gameable motivations, littered with ancient sites and powerful artifacts, and inhabited by a variety of factions ripe for interaction, alliance, and intrigue. Although combat occurs, sometimes by choice and sometimes out of desperation, it plays out quick and dirty (rather than acting as the focal emphasis of play).
- Player agency. Players drive play through their characters' choices and agendas. In particular, there is no overarching
storyimposed by the Referee; rather, players cooperatively determine their agenda(s), destination(s), and task(s), and thereby shape both gameplay and the emergent narrative.
- Real challenges and consequences. The game presents genuine fictional challenges that do not have predetermined solutions, but rather rely on the players' skill and ingenuity to solve (not just requiring mechanical options listed on a character sheet). Fictional consequences, both good and bad, are allowed to unspool. Success is not guaranteed; indeed, legitimate failure is an important and meaningful part of old school-inspired adventuring.
- No "game balance" fetish. The Referee does not impose a vision of "game balance," but instead expresses clear diegetic signals that allow players to adapt to the difficulty of a given fictional situation or adversary. When players choose to face a difficult situation, they do so consciously and with recourse to clever plans, creativity, and bravado.
- Development through play. Story results from the choices that players make for their characters during play and from the consequences that follow, given the diegetic logic of the world. The game is occasionally lethal, so the most developed characters are those that are played the most often and that survive the longest. Any backstory or character development is strictly created through the process of table play itself.
- Fiction first. All action begins and ends in the fiction. For example, players may not simply call for such and such a roll ("I roll my Search skill."). Rather, they describe how and what they do, and only on that basis will relevant game mechanics be invoked.
- Transparent and honest play. Transparency in all procedures is expected from all parties (no fudging, cheating, or arbitrary applications of fiat). The Referee's role is to act as an impartial judge: to adjudicate actions fairly, to follow procedures scrupulously, and to press consequences forward, regardless of how beneficial or harmful they may be for the players. Players are encouraged to question the Referee's rulings, since a discussion of these points tends to elaborate the fictional situation and help everyone involved better coordinate a vision of the shared world.
- Character stables. Players may create multiple characters, though they will only send one character on a given expedition (i.e. play that one character in a given session). All of a players' characters form their character stable. If a character dies, the player may immediately roll up a new character, which will then be incorporated into play as soon as possible (even at the expense of verisimilitude).
2. Core Mechanics
The core task resolution mechanic is to roll a d6 dice pool, count Successes, and try to match or beat a target Objective (Ob).
For most rolls, your Pool will contain two regular, six-sided dice plus a number of additional dice equal to a relevant Skill or Save rating (the Referee will say which attribute applies to the action).
Each individual die that comes up 4-6 counts as a Success. If you roll enough Successful dice to match or beat the Objective (which the Referee will tell you before you roll), then you pass the test!
The Basics: Successes and Failures
When you attempt a task, whether actively (a Test) or in response to a hazard (a Save), roll your Dice Pool. A dice pool is composed of two six-sided dice plus a number of dice equal to one of your Skills or Saves. The most relevant attribute is determined by the Referee, and—along with the associated Objective (Ob)—will be shared with the player before the test is made.
For each die rolled, a result of 1-3 counts as a Failure, while a result of 4-6 counts as a Success. Most rolls are Independent Tests, in which you count your Successes and compare them to the declared Objective rating, which is the minimum number of Successes that you must roll to succeed at the task.
Other tests involve competition with another character. In these Versus Tests, compare the number of Successes that you and your opponents roll: whoever rolls more Successes wins. In many Versus Tests, the effect of the roll may depend on your Margin of Success, the number of Successes that you achieve in excess of the enemy's result (or, in an Independent Test, in excess of the Objective rating). (The Margin of Failure is the opposite.)
Almost all rolls are simple tests (or simple saves), which means that only one roll will be made. The results of the roll stand unless the situation drastically changes, in which case another (or a different) test may be attempted. This principle is called Let It Ride, and it applies even for a situation with repeated actions such as sneaking past a series of guards: a simple roll governs the success or failure of the enterprise as a whole, with no additional rolls necessary unless the situation changes substantially (such as the facility moving to active alert).
On rare occasions, however, the Referee may call for an extended test, which involves several tests in a row. A certain total number of successful tests (or a ratio of successful tests to failed ones) may be necessary to pass an extended test. Extended tests are usually used for long, multi-part plans with discrete stages in different domains, or else for chases or crafting. Extended tests should never be used when a simple test will suffice, and are rather rare in practice.
The Referee uses Factors to set Objectives. These Factors will be shared transparently with the players. Here is a rule of thumb table for assigning Objective scores:
In general, Ob 1 and Ob 6+ tests are rarely seen—the former are usually so trivial as to not require rolling, the latter so difficult that only the most dire situations or enemies might call for them. Ob 2 tests are considered generally easy, even for non-specialists, while Ob 3 tests are considered to be "average" and Ob 4 tests usually tough or risky. Ob 5+ tests are always very challenging except for the most well-prepared and well-suited characters.
Bonus and Penalty Dice
If you have a substantial advantage over your opponent(s), add a Bonus die to your pool (notated +1d). If you have a substantial disadvantage, subtract a Penalty die (notated -1d). A bonus or penalty die should be incorporated for each substantial advantage or disadvantage, though most tasks rarely incorporate more than three Bonus or Penalty Dice, and in many cases just one die is sufficient.
Helping and Teamwork
When your allies provide substantive help, they hand you an additional Helping bonus die to roll. All involved characters share in the success or failure of the test. Beware: this means that you might take damage or suffer other negative consequences if your ally fails a test! In general, all helpers suffer the full brunt of any negative outcome, but the Referee must determine the consequences of failure based on the current fictional situation.
The Referee will often cap the number of players that can help with a task, with the understanding that only a certain number of helpers per task will be efficacious, while others will just get in the way.
Additional Successes and Critical Margins
Some Feats, Spells, or Artifacts will increase your Margin of Success by providing you with "free" successes. They are notated like this: +1s. You only benefit from the additional successes if you've already succeeded at the task. In other words, these may increase your Margin of Success, but will not break a tie in your favor, nor will they turn a failure into a tie or success. On a Combat Check, each +1s equals an additional point of damage dealt. (See Combat, below.)
Most tests do not take into account Margin of Success or Failure, or else the Margins are already built into the mechanics (as with the case of Combat Checks). Occasionally, however, the magnitude of the Margin matters. In general, a Margin of 3 or more might drastically exaggerate the effect, whether positive or negative. (Superhuman effects or statistical improbabilities, however, are not triggered by Critical Success or Failure; rather, success/failure occurs with notable style, efficacy, brutality, speed, etc.)
Rounding and Division
Always round up. If you must divide a damage result in half (e.g. because of a successful Save), first add any additional successes (+1s benefits) to the result of the rolled damage dice.
Setting Objectives for Saves
Your spells or other powers may call for the target(s) to make a Save with a particular Ability. When they do, the Objective for the Save is equal to the number of Successes that you rolled when activating the power or initializing the situation. All Saves in response to player actions, in other words, are contested actions. The Referee will tell you the Objective for any Saves required by monster powers or spells (they may be static or rolled).
In combat, a Round consists of everyone maneuvering and taking action. The length of time for a round is elastic depending on the context, but often signifies around 20-40 seconds of diegetic time. All actions taken during a Round are considered to occur more or less simultaneously.
Surprise and Initiative
In many cases, both sides of a conflict will be aware of the other before open hostilities break out. In that case, whichever side initially acts more decisively (in the fiction) controls the tempo of the fight, though the progress of the combat will determine which side has the initiative at any given point.
If one side attempts to ambush the other, the reactive side is entitled to a relevant Skill roll to recognize the danger (Bushcraft in the wilderness or Streetwise in town). If the test is failed, then the ambushers gain a free Round (they may act without the defenders themselves having an opportunity to act). Normally whoever is scouting, on point, best positioned to notice the ambush, or otherwise "in charge" makes the test for the group as a whole.
Action Declarations and Threatening
At the beginning of each Round, players declare their actions for the round. During this kibutzing phase, the group will cooperatively determine who each character threatens. Normally, your character will threaten only one adversary at a time, but there are many exceptions granted by specific spells, artifacts, and—of course—fictional considerations.
In this phase, it is important that anyone channeling a spell declares that they are doing so (so that others may attempt to interrupt them, if desired). Spells take the entire round to channel, so they take effect at the end of the Round (i.e. after all other mundane actions).
In each round of combat, all involved characters roll a single Combat Check. A Combat Check is a Skill test that determines how effectively your character fights that Round, including how well they defend themselves from various threats and whether they do damage to the character(s) that they are threatening.
All characters roll a Skill test based on the type of action that they are taking:
- Combatants test Brawling when they make close attacks, such as grapples, strikes, marital-arts style techniques, or close-combat weapons like knives, daggers, and shanks.
- Combatants test Hand Weapons when they make melee attacks, such as attacks with swords, axes, hammers, polearms, or close-ranged thrown weapons like knives or axes.
- Combatants test Marksmanship when they make missile attacks, such as long-ranged attacks javelins, slints, bows, crossbows, or firearms.
- While cowering or dodging, non-combatants test the better of the relevant Combat Skill orAgility. In either case, they roll a bonus dice (+1d).
- Sorcerers test the listed Sorcery Skill while channeling a spell, including when they blast a foe with elemental power.
Compare the result of your Combat Check with that of any adversary whom you threaten. If you have more successes, you deal damage equal to your Margin of Success (or your power takes effect, if channeling a spell, activating an artifact, etc.).
Conversely, if an adversary is threatening you and you lose the Versus test, you take damage equal to your Margin of Failure.
In case of any ties (not just situations when characters are threatening one another), all participants in the exchange take one point of damage as they struggle for position or the strain of combat otherwise degrades their staying power.
Any character may, as part of any action, attempt a reasonable combat maneuver, such as tripping, overrunning, throwing sand, swashbuckling from ropes, or anything else that they can think of. When they do, they propose an additional outcome if they are successful (e.g. "My opponent is pushed to the ground"). In return, the Referee (or opposing player) makes a contrary proposal in case they win the contest. The reverse case should be roughly at the same scope as the initial proposal, but does not have to involve merely the inverse of the proposed consequence (though it may). That is, a counter-proposal might be, "But if I win, you are pushed to the ground!" but might also be, "But if I win, I disarm you!" or any other orthogonal goals of a similar scope.
Once the stakes are established, the initiating character always has the opportunity to decline to attempt the maneuver at any time before dice are rolled.
Any character who focuses solely on protecting themselves from harm, including by dodging, hiding, or cowering, tests the better of the relevant Combat Skill (e.g. brawling when threatened with wrestling) or Agility for their Combat Test. As long as they spend all their attention and effort on evading or deflecting attacks, such characters roll a bonus die (+1d). Characters wielding a shield have the option of instead testing Vigor (with the bonus die).
Helpless Characters (Backstabbing)
If an attacked character is helpless (e.g. surprised, flat-footed, restrained, unconscious, or subject to a coup de grace), then they do not roll a Combat Check, cannot threaten anyone, and cannot deal damage. When such a character is attacked, they suffer as many points of damage as the attacker rolls successes (as if their opposing Combat Check result was zero) and they must pass a Vigor Save (Objective equal to points of damage taken) or immediately go down and out.
When a large group gangs up on a single target, they may choose to make independent Combat Checks, or they may designate a Captain who will make a single Combat Check of the appropriate type with a +1d bonus for each supporting ally. If the targeted character(s) wins the versus test, however, then the Captain and each supporting ally all take damage as normal (generally, equal to their Margin of Failure). The Referee will determine and communicate how many people may reasonably gang up in a particular situation.
Firing Into Melee
When you fire at a target in melee with allies, roll -1d since you must hold for a clean shot. If you fail the comparative Combat Check by more than three, you deal 3d damage to a random ally who is engaged in the melee.
Many effects, e.g. from spells, artifacts, or items, cause a variable amount of damage. Variable damage is listed as a number of six-sided dice to roll as a dice pool; each Success deals one point of damage. For example, "Bomb, 6d damage" signals that the grenade deals damage equal to the number of Successes rolled on six dice. (These effects sometimes allow targets to Save for half damage; if they do so successfully, halve the dice pool before rolling.)
Keep track of your current and maximum Hit Protection (HP), aka Hit Points. Hit Points represent your staying power in a fight, and thus incorporate stamina, attention, training, skill, aptitude, and even luck. In short, they abstractly represent your combat readiness and posture. As long as you have more than zero Hit Points, you have not yet become exhausted, harmed, or exposed to the point that a major or life-threatening wound is likely.
Hit Points, in other words, are actually don't get hit points. When you run out, you are in danger of suffering a serious wound or even death.
If a character's maximum Hit Points are ever reduced to zero, that character is permanently and irreversibly dead.
Spells, shrines, extradimensional patrons, or other sources may grant Bonus Hit Points. Such HP are placed into a temporary, non-refreshable pool. (Bonus HP gained from any source stacks into the same pool.) Whenever you have bonus HP and take damage, first subtract HP from the bonus pool. Only subtract HP from your normal pool after any bonus HP are exhausted. Bonus HP almost always expire; at the end of the established period, any remaining bonus HP in the pool (if any) are lost.
Bonus HP are never regained in any way, including by resting (short or long) or by spells or similar effects that restore lost HP.
In the hands of proficient users, armor and shields may be used to Block damage. Each set of armor and each shield may be activated in response to a fictionally appropriate source of damage in order to reduce the damage taken by up to the Block rating (normally two points of damage). Shields and Light Armor may be activated once per day to block damage, while Heavy Armor may be activated twice per day. When armor or shields are used to block, their entire block value is used—it cannot be divided and some points saved for later.
All armor and shields impose a penalty die (-1d) for each Slot they occupy on any Skill tests or Saves involving endurance, flexibility, balance, climbing, and so forth.
Light Armor (Block 2)
Light Armor protects the major vital areas. It might include, for example, a chain shirt, helmet, and armpit and groin protection, perhaps with one or two additional pieces, such as greaves, bracers, shinguards, or boots. The armor may be mismatched, but it works together to provide reasonable protection to the most vulnerable parts of the user's body. The vast majority of "full" sets of armor count as Light Armor. Light Armor occupies one Slot of carried/worn inventory, and it may be activited to block up to two points of damage.
Heavy Armor (Block 2 twice)
Heavy Armor is both very rare and very expensive. It provides as close to complete protection as is possible, and usually includes a full set of matched armor (plate, chain, segmented, or otherwise) that protects the whole body, from fingers to chest and head to toe. Heavy Armor may be activated to block up to two points of damage on two separate occasions, but it is virtually always cumbersome to don and wear, so it occupies two Slots of carried/worn inventory.
Shields (Block 2)
When used defensively, shields may be activated to block two points of damage. When fighting defensively, shield users may also opt to roll a Vigor Save (in addition to the other options, viz. Agility Save or the relevant Combat Skill).
Down and Out
When reduced to zero Hit Points, you are down and out. Bloodied and fading, you fall to the ground and can do little other than writhe in pain and compress your wounds. If you receive medical aid by the end of the scene (Medicine Ob 3), sum 2d6 and consult the Down and Out table below. If struck while down and out, roll again on the table for each separate instance of damage that you took (regardless of the number of points of damage suffered). If you don't receive medical aid by the end of the Turn, you die.
|2||Learning Opportunity: Gain 1 Boon|
|3||Resilience: Gain +1 max HP|
|4||Trauma: Permanently lose one point from a random Save|
|5||DEATH, PAINFUL AND GRISLY|
|6||Broken Gear: Three random items break (Artifacts have 50% chance to Save)|
|7||Lingering Injury: Lose 1 max HP|
|8||Impairment: Two random Skills decrease by one point each|
|9||DEATH, PAINFUL AND GRISLY|
|10||Trauma: Permanently lose one point from a random Save|
|11||Resilience: Gain +1 max HP|
|12||Learning Opportunity: Gain 1 Boon|
A Short Rest is a sitdown and meal to rest, recover, and recharge. When the majority of the party spends Rations (11+) over the course of an hour, everyone in the party regains up to three Hit Points and a point of the Class Resource of their choice. (The spent Rations must then be checked for Depletion.)
A Long Rest is the equivalent of an overnight period of rest, including food, sleep, and so forth. When the party takes a long rest and you spend Rations, you recovers all of your lost Hit Points, replenish any depleted spells, repair any damage to your shield and armor (i.e. regain the ability to Block), and regain any other per-day powers (e.g. Empower). (Rations must then be checked for Depletion.)
Players will most often roll two different types of tests: Skills, which are tested to achieve tasks, and Saves, which are tested to avoid hazards. Both types are rolled during the Overland, Expedition, and Combat scales of play.
- Athletics run, jump, climb, swim, throw, balance
- Stealth sneak, hide, breaking and entering
- Bushcraft wilderness survival skills, tracking, beasts and vermin
- Book Learning research; knowledge of history, science, culture, languages, and the arts
- Arcane Lore lore regarding plasmids, artifacts, demons, spirits, and horrors; counterspelling
- Medicine first aid, poisons, herbs, tinctures & potions
- Crafting making and fixing things, the vocations
- Diplomacy savoir faire, negotiate, upper class life, business and government contacts
- Subterfuge lie, misdirect, pickpocket, disguise, forgery
- Streetwise trade, rumors, underworld life and contacts, urbanscape survival skills
- Brawling smash, grapple, strike, wrestle, bite, claw
- Hand Weapons blades, maces, spears, polearms
- Marksmanship thrown, shot, and fired weapons
- Produce creation, conjury, origination, calling to be, bearing forth
- Transform alteration, evolution, revision
- Ruin harm, destruction, erosion, degredation, pain
- Reveal seeing, knowing, opening, uncovering
- Vigor strength, toughness, stamina
- Agility coordination, reflexes, quickness, balance, grace
- Discipline resolve, composure, self-control
4. Town Statistics
Unlike Skills and Saves, the town statistics do not use the "Pool of two dice plus [Skill/Save] dice" system. Instead, the town statistics revolve around wagering points of Cash, an abstract measure of treasure, to build wealth, influence, and holdings.
Cash is measured as an open-ended pool of expendable, non-refreshing dice. Cash represents an abstract measure of your liquid assets (as distinguished from your illiquid assets and credit, which are captured by your Wealth score). You may gain Cash by adventuring (like finding treasure or trading for valuable goods), through roleplaying activities (like completing jobs for patrons), or as a benefit from growing your Wealth (via Income).
Each Cash die represents roughly the net income of a laborer for two weeks of work or of an artisan for one week.
Cash dice are used in the everyday course of purchasing goods and services, as well as in the impactful process of building Wealth and Strongholds.
To purchase a good or service, reference the Objective for successfully acquiring the item at this time. For most goods and services, this is the Cost of the item. For Wealth and Strongholds, however, use the Costs outlined in those sections below. Next, form a pool of dice equal to your Wealth score plus any Cash dice that you would like to wager (roll and lose). Finally, roll the pool of dice: if Successful, you acquire the item. If unsuccessful, you cannot acquire the item at this time. In either case, all wagered Cash dice are lost.
To improve your Wealth score, follow the same procedure, but do not include [Wealth] dice as bonus dice. Instead, the dice in your pool consist solely of wagered Cash dice.
Example: Nureddine is looking to purchase a warhorse (Cost 6). She is modestly wealthy (Wealth 5), she she chooses to wager seven Cash dice. These seven Cash dice are added to [Wealth] dice for a total of 12 dice. She rolls the pool and counts the number of individual dice that show a 4-6. If at least six dice are successes, she acquires the destrier. Otherwise, she cannot find a warhorse to buy for a reasonable price at this time. Either way, the seven Cash dice that she wagered at permanently lost.
Later, Noureddine wants to improve her Wealth score from 5 to 6. She cannot use [Wealth] dice as a base, so her pool consists of only wagered Cash dice. The Objective is 12, so she decides to wager 28 Cash to give herself a bit better than even odds of succeeding on the roll!
Recovering treasure and spending it to further in-fiction character goals (gaining power, influence, followers, property, etc.) is a central dynamic of the game.
Wealth is an abstract measure of your holistic financial position, including assets and creditworthiness. Wealth is rated 0-12 and is tested during the Income portion of the Town Phase and when purchasing goods and services or constructing a Stronghold.
At the beginning of each session, each player rolls for their activated character's Income. (Wealth is, after all, a composite rating that summarizes the total income and assets of all businesses and other investments that a character owns.) To generate Income, roll a number of dice equal to your Wealth rating and receive one Cash die per [Success].
Whenever you want to acquire goods or services, purchase equipment, bribe guards or officials, tithe, or otherwise spend money for goods or services, first add [Wealth] dice to your pool. Then, you may wager Cash to add additional dice to the pool before rolling against the item's Cost.
Lifestyle is a qualitative description of your general socioeconomic wellbeing. It is derived from your Wealth score. The five lifestyle grades are:
- Destitute: 0-1 Wealth. You are probably homeless, and you own only what you carry.
- Meager: 2-3 Wealth. You have just enough to live on, including a rented hovel or room in a tenement and a few treasured assets.
- Modest: 4-5 Wealth. You rent or own a small home and live comfortably, though not indulgently.
- Bountiful: 6-8 Wealth. You have more than enough to provide for the basics for you and any dependants, including a modest home and property, servants, and excess money for indulgences.
- Opulent: 9-11 Wealth. You are very rich, own extensive property, and may spend money not only on essentials and luxuries, but also on greater social concerns (philanthropy, public works, cultivating clients or artists, etc.).
- Royal: 12 Wealth. You are obscenely rich, known far and wide for your nearly inexhaustable funds and your ability to maintain a profligate lifestyle.
Each Wealth rank must be purchased one point at a time, with higher ranks requiring more Successes (and thus costing more Cash). You may only attempt to improve Wealth once per sesssion, regardless of whether you succeed (and gain one rank) or fail.
Individual characters or the company as a whole may invest time and money to construct Strongholds, which describe a range of "home bases" including houses or businesses (with staff) in the city, rural estates, fortified manor houses, temples, shrines, holdfasts, hideouts, and even proper keeps, castles, donjons, and other settlements.
Each Stronghold is each rated from 1-12. Whenever a Stronghold's rating is increased, the owner may choose to add two tags to the Stronghold to express the new facilities or other upgrades to the site. Additional tags may also be developed through diegetic effort.
- Garrison/Staff: Laborers, Servants, and Guards. The working population equals the number of Garrison/Staff tags squared, times five (viz. 5, 20, 45, 80, 125, 180, etc.) Growing strongholds often begin to anchor larger settlements.
- Fortifications: Quality of fortifications, armaments, stores, etc.
- Facilities: E.g. Stables, Library, Blacksmith, Ballroom, Guest Cottages, etc.
- Economy: Aspects of economic production in the area immediately around the stronghold, e.g. from agriculture (vineyards, orchards, fields) to husbandry (cattle, goats, cheesemaking) to taxes collected (on market commerce, trade, etc.).
Strongholds provide bonus dice equal when characters undertake tasks related to a fictional tag that epitomizes an asset attached to the Stronghold. After building a library (or similar research asset) in their Stronghold, for example, characters receive a bonus dice on research tasks equal to the number of relevant tags attached to the stronghold. Likewise, economic tags function like Wealth: the owner may roll [Economic Tags] dice for Income during the inital phase of play each session, with each Success counting for one generated Cash die.
Each Stronghold rank must be purchased one point at a time, with higher ranks requiring more Successes (and thus costing more Cash). You may only attempt to improve a Stronghold once per sesssion, regardless of whether you succeed (and gain one rank) or fail.
All of the intelligent monsters and supporting characters (NPCs) in the game—and that's most of them!—possess clear Wants, Aversions, and Relationships.
These characteristics are not only crucial to adequately portraying creatures as part of a coherent fantastical world, but are also key components of roleplaying. To play the Faction game, players must engage with monsters and supporting characters in order to understand (and therefore use) their motivations.
Importantly, monsters and supporting characters will take proactive action(s) to achieve their Wants or to circumvent their Aversions. (NPCs and monsters are not merely passive!) Similarly, characters and groups will have Relationships with other characters, monsters, groups, organizations, and institutions. These Relationships may be positive or negative, and they may function as sources of strength and resilience or weakness and leverage. In either case, they can potentially be used or manipulated by players.
The primary mechanism by which players interact with creatures within the social/roleplaying aspect of the fiction is by asking questions. Information is the player's best resource for keeping their characters alive and for achieving the goal(s) that they set for themselves.
These mechanics (characterization and dialog) are the primary engine for roleplaying. There are several subsystems, however, that mechanically interact with the social exploration or factional intrigue aspects of the game.
The three social skills—Diplomacy, Subterfuge, and Streetwise—do not replace dialog (whether in-fiction acting, i.e. between characters, or game-level discussion, i.e. between players and Referee). They are primarily invoked by the Referee to determine whether an approach works in a given situation when it is not otherwise clear from the established fiction. That is, players do not roll a social skill if their approach (e.g. their offer in a negotiation, or their threat, or their bribe) would logically succeed or fail, given the established facts of the fictional situation and characters involved.
On the other hand, the Social Skills provide a reasonable means of adjudicating plausible but uncertain actions. The Referee will grant bonus/penalty dice, or else modify the target Objective, based on how efficacious a given approach seems likely to be.
The players' Faction (the Company) possesses a Reputation score with other Factions. Reputation scores start at zero, but may increase or decrease (to a limit of ±6) as a result of fictional events.
The Referee may roll to check whether a character or group of characters is recognized by their factional affiliation. Roll 1d8: if the result is equal to or less than the absolute value of your Reputation with a given Faction, then the characters may be recognized as a member of (or enemy of) the organization in question.
In addition, Reputation is added to relevant Circles checks at a rate of +1d per point of relevant Reputation. The bonus/penalty applies to any Circles check that would plausibly benefit from your association with the Faction or that would otherwise make your ask more credible or better received by the character/organization in question.
A Circles check is a special Skill test that allows you to find someone: a specific person, a type of person (e.g. by profession), or a person with a specific agenda. Circles checks are player-initiated checks that will always author or reintroduce a non-player character into the fiction. They may be used both to establish new relationships and also to track down familiar characters.
Circles checks are most commonly used to find/create a supporting character who can provide information, assistance, or a favor to the company. The mechanic is powerful, however, and can be used in creative ways to address problems or open up new avenues of play, so players are encouraged to learn how to best utilize Circles.
Before rolling the check, the player will Ask to find such-and-such person (or the sort of person appropriate for a given reason), and then the Referee will reference the Factors (below) to set the Objective (which will depend on the person sought and the characters' possible connections to them). After learning the Objective, players may always choose to either commit to or abandon the roll—but once dice are rolled, the consequences follow.
A Circles check consists of either a Diplomacy test (for high-status targets) or a Streetwise test (for underworld or low-status targets). If you have Reputation with a Faction who might facilitate the connection, add ±Rep bonus dice.
Circles Factors should always be counted and shared transparently before a player commits to the test. Circles tests have a wider variance of Objectives than other tests: it is not uncommon to see tests ranging from Ob 1 to Ob 8.
To calculate the Objective for a Circles test, begin with a Base Ob of 0 and then increase or decrease the Objective according to the following Factors:
- Role/Profession/Identity: uncommon +1, rare +2, unique +3
- Degree of Connection: similar circles +1, not much connection +2, very different circles +3
- Aggravating Factors (+1 Ob each): hostile, in a small town/settlement, in the wilderness, in hiding
- Mitigating Factors (-1 Ob each): sincere ally or former PC, known general location, actively looking to connect with character(s)
A successful Circles check puts you in contact with the desired person and establishes them as generally amenable to your Ask. A failed Circles check, on the other hand, still authors or reintroduces the target—they just aren't amenable to or available for whatever you want from them without further negotionation (which may involve payment, missions, or any other complication introduced by the Referee).
Furthermore, Circles tests that are failed by a substantial margin (e.g. three or more failures) may invoke the Enmity Clause, which allows the Referee to establish the target as a new or returning rival, competitor, or enemy.
This section covers the rules for channeling spells, binding spells, arcane ceremonies (ritual casting), arcane implements, and gaining new spells through play. It also contains the spell lists, including descriptions of each of the core spells in the game.
1. Channeling Spells
Spells are the shorthand name for bizzare, extradimensional energy beings that sorcerers attract and imprison in their minds. By focusing and then releasing a plasmid's power through their body, characters can cause spell effects to manifest in the world. This process is called channeling a spell.
A great deal of mental control and attention are required to channel a spell by unleashing a plasmid's energy and causing it to affect reality in the intended way. Sorcerers must spend one Control and then test one of their sorcery skills as they channel a spell to determine both the Potency of the spell attack, as well as whether the sorcerer is able to avoid spell backlash.
Sigils, Signatures, and Signs
Channeling a spell is never a subtle endeavor. Unless otherwise noted, it is impossible to conceal the fact that the sorcerer is channeling. Moreover, spells leave substantial and clearly supernatural effects in the world, always manifested through the lens of the sorcerer's unique aesthetic signature. A second sight spell, for example, might leave a glowing mark around the affected person's face. The marks left behind by spells are like arcane fingerprints: it is possible to study and learn the unique form of mark left by other sorcerer's spells.
Crucially, only one instance of a given spell may be active in the world at a time; if the spell is cast again, all ongoing effects from the first casting are immediately ended and the sorcerer's mark is removed (and instead appears on/at the new target).
The Potency of a channeled spell equals the number of successes that the sorcerer rolls on the Channeling (Sorcery Skill) Test. Potency affects the duration of most spells and determines how difficult it is for an unwilling target to Save against a spell's effect. A greater Potency also makes it less likely that you will take damage while channeling a spell.
If you fail a channeling test by rolling zero successes, the plasmid's energy cascades out of control: immediately pass an Ob 5 Vigor Save or gain a random mutation.
If you are attacked during a round when you are attempting to channel a spell, use your Channeling Test result as your defensive Combat Test. If you fail and take damage, you must immediately pass a Discipline Save whose Objective equals the damage taken; failure indicates that a spell catastrophe occurs.
|1||You suffer a random mutation.|
|2||Everyone nearby (including you) must pass an Ob 4 Vigor Save to stop vomiting blood.|
|3||Everyone nearby (including you) takes 6d damage from a cascade of psychic energy (Ob 4 Discipline Save for half).|
|4||The spell changes targets: you suffer harmful spells, or a foe benefits from a helpful spell.|
|5||Another spell that you control is immediately cast on a random nearby target.|
|6||Reality tears and an extradimensional being enters from another realm.|
Most spells have one of three durations: an instantaneous effect that causes permanent change in the world; an ongoing effect that depends on the Potency of the spell, either short (one Round per [Success] rolled on the Channeling Test) or long (one Exploration Turn per [Success]); or a non-standard duration, such as until a condition is met or for a longer ad hoc period, like a day per [Success].
If a duration is not listed, assume that a spell lasts for an Exploration Turn per [Success].
Saves Against Spells
If a target does not wish to be affected by a spell, they are usually entitled to a Save (as indicated in the individual spell descriptions). The Objective for the Save is equal to the spell's Potency (the number of Successes rolled on the caster's Channeling/Sorcery Skill Test when creating the spell effect). If the target fails the Save, they are affected by the spell. If the target succeeds, the target takes reduced damage/effect (or, more rarely, the spell fails entirely).
When channeling, sorcerers' spells must pass a specified threshold to avoid Spell Backlash. (The Objectives range from 2-5 and are listed prominently in each spell's description.) If the Potency of the spell does not meet the listed Objective, the spell effect still occurs, but then:
- The plasmid escapes control for the day, rendering the spell unavailable for further casting until after a long rest.
- The sorcerer takes points of damage equal to their Margin of Failure on the Channeling test as the plasmid lashes out with psychic power.
(Alternatively, certain spells might carry other risks on failure; for example, mirror road may result in being lost in the Mirror Dimension.)
Sorcerers are sometimes able to psychically interfere with another's ability to successfully channel a spell.
To do so, you must first spend one Control. Then, you must pass an Arcane Lore Skill test whose Objective is one rank higher than Potency of the spell (as channeled by the opposing sorcerer). If you pass the test, the spell fails to take effect in the world. (The opposing sorcerer suffers all other effects of channeling as usual.) If you fail, the spell takes effect in the world and you take points of damage equal to your Margin of Failure on the roll.
Arcane Ceremony (Ritual Casting)
If you spend an Exploration Turn rather than a Combat Round when you channel a spell, you may enact a ritual ceremony to boost the spell's Potency: roll +1d on your Channeling Test for every HP of damage that you self-inflict and for every Cash die (or Cash die's value of a commodity) that you sacrifice.
When you use Ritual Implements as part of an arcane ceremony, you may be entitled to roll additional bonus dice or to benefit from other modifications to the normal ritual casting procedures.
2. Binding Spells
In addition to channeling spells, characters may also bind a spell's energy inside their body. To do so, the sorcerer must make a Channeling (Sorcery Skill) Test as usual (with all the details discussed above), but the spell does not take effect in the world and becomes unavailable for channeling for the remainder of the day. Instead, the bound spell energy is stored and may be released later to either empower an action or prevent damage.
Binding a spell is an intense mental process: it takes a full Exploration Turn of concentration to bind a spell, and only one spell may be bound at a time. While the spell is bound, it cannot be channeled and its sigil appears on the sorcerer's body. If the sorcerer takes physical damage while the spell energy remains bound, she may choose to expel the infused energy to block one point of damage.
Alternatively, the sorcerer may release the spell energy to boost her performance on any single Skill Test or Save until she takes a long rest. When she does, she adds a number of bonus dice to the roll equal to the Channeling Objective rank of the bound spell (e.g. a bound Ob 4 spell grants +4d). All the bonus dice from a given bound spell must be completely spent at the same time (they are all or nothing).
After a bound spell is released (either to block damage or to boost one's performance), that spell escapes control for the day (rendering the spell unavailable for further casting until after a long rest).
3. Acquiring Spells
It is possible to learn new spells through play. When a character encounters a wild plasmid, she may attempt to capture the spell for future use by casting it blindly. This is as dangerous as it sounds! First, you must cast the spell blindly. Then, immediately make a Spell Mastery Check. The Objective for this check is equal to the normal Channeling Ability and Objective for the spell plus one.
If you pass the Spell Mastery Check, you immediately learn the spell (and may spend Control to cast it each day, as usual), while the previous controller of the plasmid permanently loses the power to cast the spell.
If you fail the Spell Mastery Check, however, you not only fail to master the spell, but you also may never learn the spell in the future. Furthermore, a powerful backlash of energy punishes your hubris: immediately make a Down and Out Check.
A variety of sorcerous relics grant sorcerers the ability to Empower a Sorcery Skill test. Like Block points, Empower points may be spent once per day and must be spent all at once on a single test. Each point of Empower grants +1d on a single Sorcery Skill test, which increases the likely Potency of the spell. A sorcerous implement must be attuned in order to be activated.
Similarly, special materials—like magical ore, drugs, souls, and harvested monster parts—may be expended to add bonus dice to a Sorcery Skill roll.
When worn, most arcane vestments—especially enchanted robes, headgear, or jewelry—grant Empower 1, though rare relics may provide more substantial bonuses (sometimes with a cost). Each enchanted piece of clothing occupies an Inventory Slot and interferes with the proper fit of armor—hence, sorcerers donning arcane vestments cannot also benefit from worn armor.
Wizard orbs are smooth, fist-sized mineral spheres that pulse with a misty interior glow. Once per day, a held orb may be activated to grant Empower to a spell. The most common orbs may be activated to grant Empower 2 to any spell from two specified spell families.
An orb may be integrated into a staff or arcane vestments (as jewelry or enchanted thread). The process requires a successful Ob 5 Arcane Lore test as a Downtime Action, followed by the expenditure of ten Cybalt and ten Cash as raw materials. Doing so maintains the orb's individual effect, but frees an Inventory Slot and empties one's hand.
These common types of wizard orbs are well-known to most sorcerers:
- Obsidian Orb: Once per day, activate to grant Empower 2 to a Blood Magic or Diabolism spell.
- Jade Orb: Once per day, activate to grant Empower 2 to a Naturecraft or Primal Speech spell.
- Opal Orb: Once per day, activate to grant Empower 2 to a Hypercognition or Psychomancy spell.
- Marble Orb: Once per day, activate to grant Empower 2 to a Metacomposition or Translocation spell.
Staffs and rods modify the rules around binding spells. In addition to rarer types, the following staffs and rods are well-known among sorcerers:
- Staff of Protection: Block 2 (instead of Block 1) when you release bound spell energy to prevent damage.
- Staff of Power: Roll +1d when you expend bound spell energy to boost your performance on a skill test.
- Rod of Opportunity You may bind two spells at one time (instead of just one).
- Rod of Haste: Once per day, a spell may be bound in just one Round (instead of one Turn).
A wide variety of ritual implements, from sacrificial weapons to special cauldrons, can further empower spells cast through an arcane ceremony ritual. The following ritual implements are commonly used by sorcerers while performing arcane ceremonies:
- Cruel Dagger: Roll +1d for each set of three HP that a willing companion sacrifices in the course of an arcane ceremony.
- Barbed Self-Flagellation Whip: Roll +1d whenever you sacrifice at least two of your own HP in the course of an arcane ceremony.
- Demonic Cauldron: Roll +1d for each set of three Cash-value of treasure or commodities that you sacrifice in the course of an arcane ceremony.
When a sorcerer holds a wand and attacks with the fell blast spell, they may spend an additional point of Control to impose a secondary effect with the attack. The Control must be spent at the time of casting, but the secondary effect only triggers if the fell blast damages (successfully strikes) the target.
In addition to rarer types, the following classes of wands are known to those who study such things:
- Piercing Wand (ivory): Deal +2d damage to a single target.
- Blasting Wand (horn): Deal +2d damage to an area-effect attack.
- Spiteful Wand (brass): Deal +4d damage to a single target, but also 2d damage to the user.
- Burdening Wand (lead): Target is pinned in place (Vigor or Agility Save negates).
- Crippling Wand (copper): Target is stunned (Vigor or Discipline Save negates).
- Celestial Wand (meteorite ore): Ignore cover and double range.
- Vampiric Wand (bone): The user regains one lost HP.
- Restorative Wand (maple): The target regains HP rather than suffering damage, but the user suffers half the damage restored.
- Brilliant Wand (rosewood): Target is illuminated with a bright glow for a Turn (Discipline Save negates).
- Haunted Wand (yew): Target becomes supernaturally afraid or avoidant of the user (Discipline Save negates).
- Hunter's Wand (ash): Deal +3 damage versus beasts.
- Dominating Wand (iron): Against demons, deal +2d damage and the target becomes supernaturally repelled from user (Discipline Save negates).
Special sorcerous materials may be expended to add bonus dice to any Sorcery Skill test. Such materials are usually inventoried as a certain number of bonus dice, e.g. "Refined Cybalt Ore (4d)." Any number of the bonus dice may be expended; the entire sum does not need to be used all at once.
- Cybalt: Cybalt is a magical ore composed of elemental mercury infused with extradimensional energy. It may be found in raw, refined, or gaseous form, and it may taint other materials. One "point" of cybalt may be expended to add +1d to any spellcasting test (including Spell Mastery tests). Because of its efficacy and rarity, cybalt is effectively unavailable for purchase, though it may be bequeathed as a reward by wealthy or well-connected patrons.
- Hallucinogens: Sorcerers who take a hit of a hallucinogenic drug roll +1d on all Sorcery Skill tests for one Turn, but also suffer the effects of the drug for the rest of the day (usually -1d to any other Skills or Saves involving reason, attention, perception, resolve, social credibility, etc.).
- Souls: Demons (as well as certain other extradimensional beings) traffic in the psychic echoes of lived lives. As a result, captured souls are not only a source of barter with demons, but may also be extorted to grant a single favor in exchange for their release. In addition, a soul may be destroyed to provide one Control for immediate use, to add +1d to any Sorcery Skill test, or to thematically modify the effects of a spell in a way associated with the soul's former nature.
- Harvested Monster Organs: In addition to their other uses, harvested monster parts may be expended (usually, eaten raw) to provide the listed number of bonus dice on a Sorcery Skill test (from +1d to +6d, depending on the cut).
Roll 1d100 whenever something causes you to mutate. All mutations have reasonable narrative effects (negotiated by player and Referee) in addition to any benefits or drawbacks listed on the table.
Mutations are risky! Approximately two-thirds of the random mutations are generally beneficial or interesting, while nearly 20 percent are harmful and the worst 10% are almost certainly fatal.
6. Harvesting Monsters
Supernatural beasts and extradimensional beings are infused with raw plasmid energy.
When you harvest an occult monster for parts, roll three times.
- For a small monster, roll 1d6.
- For a large monster, roll 1d10.
- For an unique or ancient monster, roll 1d12+3.
Cook and eat the monster part to gain the listed benefit, or expend the part to add the listed bonus dice to any Sorcery Skill test.
|1‑3||Scraps||No benefit from eating.||+1d|
|4‑5||Meat||Regain +1d4 HP when used as Rations in the next hour; or 50% chance to preserve meat for later (meat spoils on failure).||+2d|
|6‑7||Viscera||Remove any mundane or supernatural afflictions affecting a character, e.g. poisons, curses, etc. May attempt to preserve by pickling, as above.||+3d|
|8‑9||Bones||Gain +1 maximum HP (max 20).||+4d|
|12‑13||Heart||Gain +1 to a random Skill and a random Save.||+6d|
|14‑15||Brain||Learn a random spell that the monster knew (if none, a random spell from a school thematically related to the monster).||+6d|
Relics and Artifacts are generally unique, and each will have its own rules attached. The Referee will scatter magical treasures throughout dungeons. They may also be used as hooks for Rumors. Some Relics or Artifacts may be cursed, and all can break the rules in various ways. In general, Relics and Artifacts are priceless; they literally cannot be bought, and they can only be sold to the extremely wealthy (like the Crown). Waving them around too ostentatiously can bring status and hangers-on, but also thieves and ne'er-do-wells. Many Relics ultimately end up in the possession of churches or other established, wealthy organizations.
Some artifacts or relics are activated simply by being used. Others are used up, but leave behind a permanent effect, including some Ability-boosting relics. In many cases, however, characters must attune themselves to the plasmic entity that powers the artifact into order to access and control its power.
|Roll||Random Artifact Subtables|
|3-4||Armor and Shields|
|5-7||Relics and Enchanted Items|
Many artifacts require bonding with the user before their esoteric powers may be unlock. After a ritual involving hours of meditation and experimentation (a long rest), the user makes an Ob 3 Discipline test. On a success, the user gains control of the relic's powers and may activate them at will (or otherwise following the rules for the specific artifact). On a failure, the user fails to bond with the artifact, but may try again the following day.
Alternatively, a character may spend a Downtime Action to automatically attune to an artifact.
Communing with an artifact strains a person's attention and energy, so it is trying to be attuned to more than three artifacts at a time. For every attuned artifact or relic in excess of that number, characters must roll -1d on all tests and saves.
Affix Spell Ritual (Create Artifact)
Sorcerers may make a spell effect permanent by binding a plasmic entity that they control into a material anchor. This strenuous ritual can only be taken as a Downtime Action.
To do so, the Sorcerer must first prepare the physical anchor. To do so requires the expenditure of 5 Cybalt and 5 Cash per point of Channeling Objective Rating for the spell.
Next, the physical anchor must be conditioned to receive the plasmid. The sorcerer must successfully channel the relevant spell on the anchor every day for three days. The base Channeling Objective Rating for the spell may be increased for particularly powerful effects, such as combining many powers into a single artifact, making an artifact "always on," avoiding a chance of breakage or burnout when the item is used, etc.
Finally, at the end of the final day, the sorcerer impresses her capacity to capture the plasmid into the physical anchor. The spell is lost for the day (but may be regained as normal), and the artifact is empowered.
Shrines are places imbued with magical power. Many grant blessings (or curses) to characters who visit or who engage in special rituals or triggers at the shrine. Each shrine is unique; players are encouraged to experiment with, inquire into, or boldly activate newly discovered shrines. Shrines' effects may be temporary or fleeting, but usually involve permanent change or improvement. (Shrine effects may occasionally be dangerous, especially to lend some risk to shrines that grant powerful improvements.)
As with artifacts, the best shrines do not (merely) grant mechanical bonuses, but rather (also) grant novel abilities or powers that characters may bring to bear in solving problems.
9. Spell Families
Based on their effects, spells may be categorized into eight different thematic sets known as Spell Families. Many sorcerers specialize in one or two Families.
A number of the spells—some 45 in total—are adapted from (and explicitly reference) Brendan Strejcek's excellent Wonder and Wickedness. The remaining spells are original or derive from a variety of sources, but mostly from various editions of Dungeons and Dragons or DIY D&D. Specific derivations are noted in parathensis following the spell descriptions.
These two common spells are widely known and shared by sorcerers—they are frequently among the first spells that a sorcerer masters. Second Sight allows a sorcerer to perceive traces of plasmic energy, while Fell Blast is a special combat spell that shapes energy in the form of the sorcerer's signature and uses it to blast foes. Both spells are gained through the selection of special sorcerer Boons, not through the normal process of gaining spells (by Boon or otherwise).
- Second Sight (Reveal Ob 2): You can see visible traces of magic. Sorcerers radiate because of captured spells, while enchanted items crackle with glittering energy leakage that reveals the general nature of their enchantment (e.g. destruction magic, healing magic, transformation magic, etc.). Invisible and spectral things are visible. (W&W 28)
- Fell Blast (Ruin Ob 0): Blast one or more foes with horrible arcane energy (Combat Check negates). If you target and successfully strike a single target, deal 4d damage. If you target everyone in a melee area, deal 2d damage to all whose Combat Check you beat.
Blood Magic spells benefit from strong Produce and Transform.
- Death Mask (Produce Ob 2): With a touch, you peel the face from a corpse, the rest of which then immediately rots to dust. When you (but not anyone else) wears the mask, you look and sound exactly like the person who previously wore the face, but only to people (humans, beastmen, demons, fairies, and the like--not animals, spirits, or golems). There is a 1-in-6 chance that the mask is permanent; otherwise, it lasts lasts [Successes] days before crumbling into dust. (GLOG necromancer spell list)
- Occult Consultation (Reveal Ob 2): Perform a rite to lure a gaggle of nearby ghosts and spirits to converse. If you have material remains, a treasured possession, or a spirit's true name, you may compel that particular shade to materialize. Afterwards, you and any companions may choose to accompany the departed souls on a katabasis to the Spirit Realm. (W&W 18)
- Hekaphage (Ruin Ob 3): Summon an extradimensional immunological creature to gorge on an enchantment, curse, or magical element (Channeling Test Save negates). There is an even chance that the fat, sated hekaphage manifests in the material world after eating a powerful enchantment (Level 2 + the Channeling Objective of the eaten enchantment, spell, etc.). (W&W 27)
- Wandering Eye (Reveal Ob 3): Detach one of your eyes, which grows wings and flies like a hummingbird. When you close your other eye and concentrate, you may look through the wandering eye. You may also cause the eye to wither and die in order to curse a person it is observing: they become blind, unlucky, or supernaturally terrified for the remainder of the duration (Vigor Save negates). If destroyed, the eye regrows in its socket over one day.
- Vitalize (Produce Ob 3): Animate a statue, sculpture, painting, or the like. If it was previously living, it returns to life permanently. Otherwise, when the spell wears off, the animated object has equal chances to 1) return to its original, statuesque form; 2) disintegrate into raw materials or toxic goo; or 3) remain animated, but independent. (W&W 37)
- Leech (Transform Ob 4): With a touch, you transfer youth or vigor from one person to another (Vigor Save negates). The first party sacrifices up to [Successes] HP or years of life; the second party regains 2d of the same for each point sacrificed. There is a 1-in-6 chance each that the spell will either permanently mark the recipient with dark magic or double the magnitude of the effect (to 4d per point sacrificed). (W&W 18)
- Genoplasm (Transform Ob 4): Your touch is imbued with pure, vital chaotic energy. If you touch a living creature while channeling, they gain a random Mutation. If you touch a pile of fresh organs and viscera from one or more formerly living creatures, a writhing tumerous mass recombines the biological remnants and births a novel creature (there is a [Successes]-in-6 chance that you may determine one of its characteristics). If you touch a mass of inorganic material, the area (up to roughly the size of one human per [Success]) progressively softens, weakens, gestates, and metastasizes before collapsing into biologial goo. (W&W 34)
- Graft (Transform Ob 4): Fuse any object you can hold to a recipient's body (Vigor Save negates for unwilling recipients). If the object is biological, the recipient may use it as if it were part of their own body. The graft lasts for up to [Successes] hours. If the graftee permanently sacrifices two HP, the graft is instead permanent.
- Zombify (Produce Ob 5): Reanimate [Successes] worth of eager, overenthusiastic (but not particularly clever) corpses as undead servitors (3d, 6 HP). The spell lasts up to a day per [Success]. When the spell wears off, the undead (W&W 17):
- Turn on the sorcerer in anger
- Become catatonic
- Dissolve into toxic biological goo
- Become permanent minions
- Simulacrum (Produce Ob 5): Your body rips in two. Divide your current HP between the two bodies in whatever proportion you choose. Both halves act independently but otherwise share all mechanical resources (e.g. class resources, spells controlled, etc.) for up to [Successes] Turns. When the spell expires, the body with lower HP collapses into clotted blood.
Diabolism spells benefit from strong Ruin.
- Poltergeist (Produce Ob 2): Haunt an area or object with troublesome spirits. The ghosts make noises, move small objects, and generally act like obnoxious nuisances. (W&W 21)
- Spectral Harvest (Reveal Ob 2): Collect loose, disembodied spirits in the area. Ghosts, resistant shades, or other autonomous spirits may resist being captured with a successful Discipline Save. You may speak with captured spirits at will, though they are frequently disoriented and can rarely recall anything about the circumstances of their death. Spirits are highly sought-after barter for demons. As a result, many spirits will perform a simple task in exchange for release. Captured spirits contain psychic energy that may be manipulated by sorcerers, and as such are frequently used to power, empower, or alter other spells. (W&W 21)
- Black Speech (Reveal Ob 3): You may communicate with vile creatures or their allies, including demons, undead, hateful spirits, and vermin that creep or crawl. When you loudly recite dark incantations in Black Speech, all others who hear are reduced to retching and vomiting (Discipline negates).
- Demonic Blessing (Transform Ob 3): Beseech a powerful demon for a demonic blessing that lasts for [Successes] Turns. The blessing grants you darkvision (you can see in black and white, even in pitch darkness) and demonic wings (you may fly clumsily on grotesque bat-wings).
- Circle of Protection (Produce Ob 3): Protect yourself and [Successes] other creatures inside a physical, marked circle that automatically repels extradimensional creatures. Repelled creatures may cross the circle with a successful Discipline Save. Alternatively, you may trap extradimensional entities within the circle, though the effect immediately ceases if the marked circle is broken. (The trapped entity cannot affect the circle in any way.) (W&W 10)
- Banish (Ruin Ob 4): Rip an extradimensional creature out of this reality and force them back into their original dimension (Discipline Save negates). If you learn and leverage the entity's unique weakness(es), it is automatically banished. If you roll zero successes on the Channeling Test for this spell, you are catapulted into the originating dimension instead of the target.
- Cripple (Ruin Ob 4): Incapacitating waves of agonizing pain roil the victim for [Successes] Rounds (Vigor Save negates each round). The victim's pain may be bottled in specially prepared alchemical vessels, in which case it functions as a powerful addictive drug for demons.
- Summoning (Produce Ob 4): Conjure an extradimensional creature. If you use an entity's true name, you summon that exact creature and automatically control it. Otherwise, you may name a general category of fiend. If the creature's Level is equal to or less than [Successes], you dominate and control the entity (Discipline Save negates). Otherwise, you must negotiate with the being, in which case it will make a Reaction Roll as usual. (W&W 10)
- Black Mark (Ruin Ob 5): Summon a demon and negotiate payment to kill a target whose name you provide. Your sigil appears on the target's body, which causes her to become supernaturally aware of the mark on her soul. The target's soul is always part of the payment. (W&W 12)
- Miasma (Ruin Ob 5): Summon a choking, poisonous cloud of hellish gas that lingers for [Successes] Rounds. The miasma is slightly heavier than air and tends to drift down toward the place whence it came (W&W 13). The miasma has a random effect (at the beginning of each Round of exposure, Vigor Save for half damage or to resist the effect):
- Sulphurous hell-gases kill anyone they touch in a geyser of blood and gore.
- Acidic hell-gases deal 3d of corrosive damage per Round, including to objects.
- Frigid hell-gases deal 3d of cold damage per Round, and anyone killed within the area rises as a malicious ice revenant.
- Chaos gases force anyone who fails a Discipline Save to go berserk and randomly attack anyone within reach.
Hypercognition spells benefit from strong Reveal.
- Conduit (Reveal Ob 2): Inscribe your Conduit sigil prominently on a person or object (Discipline Save negates), where it remains for up to [Successes] hours. You may meditate to perceive the sigil's surroundings. As long as the sigil remains, you may also use the object or person as a relay for your spells (another Save permitted for unwilling conduits). (W&W 26)
- Telesthesia (Reveal Ob 2): You and up to [Successes] willing creatures may communicate telepathically over any distance. In addition to language, you may share visions, impressions, feelings, and memories.
- Babel (Reveal Ob 3): The meaning of obscured or indecipherable communication is laid bare, including any language, the true intent of a cyphered missive, and even figurative meaning like the groaning of clouds, the howling of wolves, etc. You may respond intelligibly in kind. (W&W 22)
- Object Entanglement (Transform Ob 3): Link the spatial movements and gross physical experiences of up to [Successes] objects that are each individually light enough to be carried. All enchanted items must be nearby when the spell is cast.
- Bounty (Reveal Ob 3): Learn the explicit direction of and distance to a creature or object that you can visualize, even across dimensional boundaries and through sorcerous wards. If desired, you may also learn the name and general location of the closest person who will pay top dollar to possess the target.
- Plasmic Inception (Produce Ob 4): Implant a copy of one of your captured spells into the target's mind for them to channel once before the next sunrise. (The beneficiary must still roll a Channeling Test for the implanted spell as usual to determine spell potency.)
- Plasmic Manipulation (Ruin Ob 4): Examine another's mind for plasmic entities (Discipline Save negates), and then either steal a spell for later channeling (one time only, using the normal channeling rules), or else loose (void for the day) up to [Successes] captured spells from the target's mind. If you roll zero successes on the Channeling Test, the target may instead raid your mind with the same two options. (W&W 25)
- Hindsight (Reveal Ob 4): You psychically travel back in time to a particular moment up to [Successes] centuries in the past. (N.b.: the Referee may modify this timeframe to suit her setting and genre.) Name a specific event that occurred or declare the specific amount of time to travel back: you observe the specified scene (and only that scene) as an invisible, incorporeal, undetectable presence before returning to the present moment. The spell does not change your actual location or reality; it just projects your consciousness backward in time. You must be physically present in the place where the event occurred or have physical possession of a focus item that was present during the event in order to channel the spell, and your perspective is tethered to that place/item.
- Petition (Reveal Ob 5): Step through a large, reflective surface (like a mirror or expanse of still water) to be brought into the presence of a knowledgeable extradimensional entity who will answer [Successes] questions. The being will answer questions to the best of their considerable ability; although their answers are often literal and may not be entirely complete or selfless, they are always generally helpful and relevant. You may invoke an entity's true name to ask questions of that particular being; otherwise, the Referee will determine who responds to your entreaties. (W&W 13)
- Spectral Body (Reveal Ob 5): Project your mind from your body into the boundary between this reality and the Spirit Realm. Your mind is spectral: it may levitate, pass through thin barriers, and see perfectly in darkness. You may raid others' surface thoughts (Discipline Save negates) by merging into the same physical space that they occupy. You must return to your body by time the spell ends or pass an Ob 4 Discipline Save to avoid having the connection to your body severed, leaving you permanently marooned as a spectral undead. (W&W 26)
Metacomposition spells benefit from strong Produce and Transform.
- Spectral Disc (Produce Ob 2): Summon a strong, hard, slightly concave disc (3' diameter) that floats four inches above and parallel to the surface. The disc holds up to 100 pounds per [Success] and floats silently just behind you and at the same speed that you move. If you mount the disc, you may direct it where to go.
- Spawn Homunculus (Produce Ob 2): Transform raw materials like mud, sticks, leaves, water, and so forth into [Successes] small golems (1' tall), each with roughly the intelligence, coordination, strength, and eagerness of a typical four-year-old. The golems cannot communicate and are worthless in combat (and, indeed, will actively flee it in terror), but are otherwise enthusiastic minions.
- Spectral Lock / Spectral Knock (Transform Ob 3): Seal shut a door, portal, latch, lid, or window. It may only be opened with supernatural force (Vigor Save to open). The spell may also be cast on a person's mouth (Vigor Save negates). Reversible: Closed objects, including stuck objects or objects with mundane locks, are opened with a loud bang: windows and doors blast open, locks on chests shatter, people have the wind knocked out of them or vomit (Vigor Save negates).
- Elemental Wall (Produce Ob 3): Summon a thick wall of a random type: fire, ice, steel, thorns, bone, or mud. The wall may cover up to roughly 100 sq ft per [Success] and be arranged in any reasonable shape you desire, though one side must always be stably anchored to the ground. If you hit Ob 5, you may choose the type.
- Transmogrify Surface (Transform Ob 3): You magically alter the surface of a substantial area (~100 sq ft per [Success]). You may transform the surface to be:
- Rough and textured
- Covered in vines and thick undergrowth
- Slippery like grease or ice
- Warm and hairy
- Inertial Bonds (Ruin Ob 4): Pin up to [Successes] targets to within a few feet of their current location for up to [Successes] Rounds. Targets may avoid being constrained to the location (or may break free at the start of subsequent Rounds) with a successful Vigor or Agility Save (target's choice). (W&W 10)
- Resize (Transform Ob 4): Modify the size, height, or density of a person or similar-sized object by up to 10% per [Success].
- Spectral Fabrication (Produce Ob 4): Create a facsimile of any mundane object that could be made by a journeyman crafter with a day's work. The object is made of pure spectral energy, so it can interact with ghosts and other spectral beings. Following any substantial interaction with the object, there is a one-in-ten chance that the object evaporates back into pure energy and dissipates.
- Disintegrate (Ruin Ob 5): You blast an enemy with pure, disintegrative entropic energy. The targeted creature takes 7d damage + 1d per [Success] (Vigor Save for half). If the target passes its Vigor Save, this damage cannot reduce it below 1 HP. Alternatively, you may target an object or structure: up to one cubic foot of mundane matter per [Success] is reduced to fine ash.
- Glyph (Produce Ob 5): Inscribe a nearly invisible sigil on a surface or object or else inside an object like a book or chest. You may set specific trigger conditions to determine when the glyph will activate, e.g. when revealed, when touched, when a certain type of person approaches, etc. The glyph may:
- Make a very loud noise.
- Stun whoever triggers it or all in a small area (Discipline Save negates).
- Deal 5d damage + 1d damage per [Success] to whoever triggers it (Agility Save for half) or in a small area (Agility Save negates).
Naturecraft spells benefit from strong Transform and Produce.
- Living Gate (Reveal Ob 2): Inscribe your sigil into the body of a willing, living creature. When you concentrate, you know the absolute direction of and distance to the creature, no matter the range. When you channel this spell, you and [Successes] companions may step through and out of the sigil. Channeling the spell does not remove the sigil. (W&W 29)
- Fog Cloud (Produce Ob 2): Summon a bank of thick fog that covers up to a large area. Up to [Successes] creatures that you designate instead treat the effect as thin fog.
- Avatar of Nature (Reveal Ob 3): You may speak with any beasts that run, fly, or swim, and you may step into one large tree and out of any other within sight (up to [Successes] times).
- Ravening (Ruin Ob 3): The growth process of several animals are accelerated, thereby inducing ravenous hunger. Up to [Successes] animals, beasts, or vermin roughly double in size and strength. Left to their own devices, the beasts will eat anything nearby, even gaining sustenance from normally inedible things (dirt, wood, etc.), though they always prefer flesh. At the end of the spell, the creatures have equal chances to either (1) return to normal and collapse unconscious, (2) remain permanently doubled in size, or (3) continue to grow until they become gargantuan and insane with hunger. (W&W 36)
- Swarm (Produce Ob 3): Summon and direct a swarm of biting rats, snakes, wasps, spiders, or scorpions. In combat, the swarm deals one damage each Round (no Save), has Hit Points equal to [Successes], and is immune to damage from small weapons.
- Bloodlust (Transform Ob 4): Awaken the target creature's savage inner beast (Discipline Save negates): she grows claws and fangs and must violently attack a nearby person each Round: she rolls +1d to attacks with the natural weapons and deals +1 damage. If no targets are available, she can do nothing but rage and trash her surroundings. The spell lasts up to [Successes] Rounds. When it ends, the target must pass an Ob [Successes] Vigor Save to avoid falling unconscious for an hour. If the target rolls zero successes on the Save, she contracts lycanthropy. (W&W 34)
- Calling (Produce Ob 4): Summon a nearby animal, beast, or vermin (but not a creature of human-like intellect). You may specify a particular type of creature or one with certain characteristics (e.g. can fly), but the spell defaults to merely a reasonable match if the candidate creature is not nearby or if the particular creature named succeeds at a Discipline Save. The summoned creature enthusiastically follows your verbal commands and will subsequently feel oddly satisfied to have helped you unless you force it to commit acts against its basic nature. (W&W 24)
- Carapace (Produce Ob 4): A creature you designate rapidly grows thick natural armor (chitin, bark, gravel, scales, etc.). While transformed, the target is immune to the effects of exposure. The armor may be expended to Block [Successes] damage.
- Totem (Transform Ob 5): Shapechange another into the form of the mundane beast that best expresses their symbolic inner predator or prey, your choice (Vigor Save negates). Worn or carried equipment is absorbed during the transformation. (W&W 37)
- Skinwalker (Transform Ob 5): You may shapechange into the form of any animal or beast whose internal organs you have entirely consumed, raw and fresh. Worn or carried equipment does not transform.
Primal Speech spells benefit from strong Transform and Produce.
- Gleam (Reveal Ob 2): Beseech radiant spirits of sunlight to come to your aid. You summon and direct one small flying spirit per [Success], each of which illuminates an area like torchlight. (W&W 12)
- Rockspeech (Transform Ob 2): Awaken the greater spirit of a hill or other stone prominence. It responds (slowly) to basic commands. You may encourage it to expedite its actions, but doing so has a 2-in-6 chance to cause a powerful earthquake. At the expiration of the spell, the spirit falls back into senescence. (W&W 14)
- Water Communion (Transform Ob 3): Invite burbling spirits of water into your lungs. You and [Successes] allies do not need to draw breath to sustain life. Moreover, when you swim, the aqueous spirits smooth your path, allowing you to swim as quickly and adeptly as fish. Local waters obey your commands, e.g. to part, raise, or lower.
- Cacophony of Air (Produce Ob 3): Invoke and direct a discordant tumult of air spirits for [Successes] Rounds. The spirits will lift you or another willing creature aloft through the air, during which time subtle actions like quiet speech and fine manipulation are impossible. Alternatively, you may direct the spirits of air to create a strong, swirling barrier of wind around you; the winds diffuse gas, put out unprotected flames, and deflect small missiles. (W&W 14 and 16)
- Tunnelspeech (Transform Ob 3): Your rebuke cows spirits of the deep earth. You may command instantaneous opening or closing of a sphincter-like aperture in any subterrane surface (up to [Successes] times before the spell expires). (W&W 15)
- Direct Gravity (Ruin Ob 4): Convince the gravitons (invisible spirits of gravity) in a local area to flow in a different direction. The spell affects a small area/melee group and "pushes" in a cylinder up to five feet per [Success] in the direction that you specify.
- Flamespeech (Transform Ob 4): Gain complete control over nearby flames: you may cause a fire to grow, shrink, change color, create or suppress smoke, and so forth. You may also detonate the flames to deal 3d damage + 1d per [Success] to all in a melee group/area (Agility save for half damage), although doing so immediately ends the spell. (W&W 14)
- Phase Change (Transform Ob 4): With a gentle whisper, you cause elemental spirits to invert their form. Choose a nearby person or object to transform into gaseous, liquid, or solid form (Vigor Save negates for living creatures). Gaseous forms are coherent, extensible, and weigh only a fraction of their solid weight, but cannot fly or exert strength in the world. Liquid forms may move as usual or flow like water, but are only marginally miscible. Solid forms become firm, stable, and weighty. You may affect mass roughly equal to one human per [Success].
- Primordial Command (Transform Ob 5): Confront any single mass of elemental material (stone, ice, metal, wood, bone, etc.) with a firm, one-word command, e.g. open, close, shatter, melt, part, mend, etc. As long as it is remotely feasible, frightful spirits immediately carry out the command (Vigor Save negates for "living" entities).
- Convention of Storms (Produce Ob 5): Call together or disperse the spirits of cloud and thunder over a wide area. When you summon spirits of the storm, you may call down a spirit of lightning and trap the bolt in a metal implement. The vessel will contain the charge for up to [Successes] hours. When you use the charged vessel as a melee weapon, it deals +1 damage on a hit and has a chance to knock back human-sized targets (Vigor Save negates). If you release the charge, a long line of lightning or a small burst centered on yourself deals 5d damage + 1d per [Success] (Agility Save for half). (W&W 16)
Psychomancy spells benefit from strong Ruin and Produce.
- Oneiromancy (Ruin Ob 2): You enter and manipulate a sleeping target's dreams (Discipline Save negates). Memories, thoughts, and feelings may be planted or erased, and you gain insight into the target's hidden aspirations and anxieties. It is always possible to travel from specific dreams into the Dreamlands.
- Mind Trap (Ruin Ob 2): Transfer your mind into a talisman (pendent, clothing, jewelry, etc.), leaving your body behind in stasis. You may attempt to possess anyone who wears or touches the talisman (Discipline Save negates). If your new body is slain, make a Save (Discipline Ob 3) to successfully return to your original body. (W&W 21)
- Bewitch (Transform Ob 3): When you channel this spell, you subtly infuse your speech with supernatural charm and charisma. If the target fails a Discipline Save, you may temporarily alter their disposition to one of the following: trusting, infatuated, hostile, boisterous, amorous, or depressed. (W&W 22)
- Dust of the Sandman (Ruin Ob 3): All creatures in a single melee group/area fall into a deep, natural sleep (Discipline Save negates). (W&W 23)
- Adrenaline Spike (Ruin Ob 3): Assault another's mind with a brutal psychic attack. The target randomly flees, cowers, or attacks a random nearby target for up to [Successes] Rounds (Discipline Save negates). If you roll zero successes on your Channeling test, the effect is instead turned against you.
- Hypnosis (Reveal Ob 4): Transfix the target of your gaze for as long as you maintain eye contact and don't do anything but speak (Discipline Save negates). The target will truthfully answer basic yes or no questions, but will otherwise stand still and relaxed. The effect ends if the target takes damage, is subjected to a loud noise or similar distraction, or is presented with obvious danger (like perceiving its companions being murdered). Afterwards, the target's memory of the incident is foggy. (W&W 24)
- Hologram (Produce Ob 4): Create a convincing visual illusion of a person, creature, object, or material (basically, a high-quality hologram). Individuals viewing the hologram recognize that it is unreal with a successful Discipline Save. The illusion lacks sound, smell, and materiality, so people automatically disbelieve the hologram if they interact with it in any of these ways. You may control the hologram's actions while in visual range, or the hologram may be programmed to carry out a repetitive program (including remaining still). Illusions are always additive, never subtractive.
- Shroud (Produce Ob 4): Mask yourself, a willing creature, or an object that you touch from the consciousness of nearby people, who attempt to treat the veiled thing as if it were not present. The effect does not work on creatures of less than human intelligence, and it is broken if a person is forced to acknowledge the presence of the concealed thing.
- Puppetry (Ruin Ob 5): Stand still and concentrate to psychically enter and control the body of a nearby person for up to a Round per [Success] (Discipline Save negates). If the victim resists, they move like a marionette (-1d penalty to their actions), but take 2d damage. (W&W 22)
- Dread Manifestation (Ruin Ob 5): Call forth a deep, monstrous fear from the mind of a nearby target. The fear appears real to that person, and it pursues and tormets her relentlessly. The fear appears as a dim phantom to everyone else. When the spell ends, the manifestation (W&W 23):
- Leaves behind material remains.
- Manifests fully as an independent creature.
- Disappears in fog and shattered glass.
- Persists as a fear doppleganger, reflective of other's fears or nightmares.
Translocation spells benefit from strong Transform and Produce.
- Recall and Revisitation (Produce Ob 2): With a thought, you may summon into your hand an item, good, container, or weapon previously marked with your sigil. Alternatively, you may instantaneously return you and [Successes] touched companions to any location marked clearly by your sigil. Your Recall and Revisitation sigil must be laid under the gaze of the sun. (W&W 32)
- Spatial Coincidence (Ruin Ob 2): You and up to [Successes] willing companions may occupy the same space as another physical object. While inside, you cannot move, but you perceive your surroundings as if through a dim haze. You and your companions may enter and exit the object for the duration of the spell, but you always exit from the same space where you entered. (W&W 33)
- Kinetic Freedom (Transform Ob 3): The target moves effortlessly despite any physical impediments, such as when moving through liquid, heavy undergrowth, mud, or quicksand, or when moving on ice, etc. The target can also slip out of any physical bonds or entrapments, and is immune to being pushed, pulled, or otherwise physically manipulated. When the spell ends, the target is paralyzed for several minutes by magical backlash (Vigor Ob 3 negates).
- Mirror Road (Transform Ob 3): Guide your companions into and through the Mirrorlands. Because of nonlinear psychogeography and extradimensional folding, you cover a real-world day's travel in just one hour. Roll encounter checks with denizens of the Mirrorlands as normal for overland travel. If your companions become separated from you, they become hopelessly lost in the reality creases, geospatial sinkholes, and shattered transdimensional reflections that make up the Mirrorlands. (W&W 30)
- Portal (Produce Ob 3): Place your sigil on two established doors. By channeling this spell, the two doors are connected into a single magical whole for the duration of the spell. The enchantment ends, however, if the door is closed after having been opened from a sigil-facing side. (The sigils remain.) (W&W 32)
- Celerity / Torpor (Transform/Ruin Ob 4): The person or thing marked with your sigil accelerates its movements and actions: the target's speed is doubled and she gains +1d on kinetic tasks (e.g. physical combat). After the spell ends, a target creature might fall unconscious or a target object might break (Vigor Ob 3 negates). Reversible (Ruin instead of Transform). (W&W 35)
- Kaleidoscope (Transform Ob 4): Tesselate and rotate the surfaces (walls, ceiling, floor) in up to a large room. Each person or object (including doors, furniture, etc.) stands on and moves with an intact piece of space (nothing significant is divided). Any two things may be moved next to one another, but doing so whirls all the other fractured surfaces apart unpredictably.
- Wormhole (Reveal Ob 4): While you concentrate and remain still, you create a wormhole that connects two points in space that you can clearly see. The wormhole is roughly the diameter of a human person. (W&W 29)
- Dimensional Rift (Produce Ob 5): Smash a sphere of material space, along with everyone inside it, into an analogous place in another dimension, like the Otherworld (Spirit Realm), Plasmic Dimension, or the Fairie. (The sphere is 100 yards in diameter, optionally less 10 yards per [Success] down to 10 yards minimum.) Rifters may exit the sphere into the other dimension. At the end of the duration, anything inside the sphere is smashed back into the material world (or the originating dimension). (W&W 28)
- Time Skip (Transform Ob 5): Hurl yourself or someone you touch up to [Successes] minutes into the future (Discipline Save negates for unwilling targets).
III. Character Guide
The character-focused rules of the game are divided into four parts: Overview and Character Creation, Experience and Boons, Core (Primary) Classes, and Specialty (Secondary) Classes.
1. Character Management
This section contains general information about the gameplay lifespan of characters, including how to make new characters, how characters improve mechanically through play, and how retirement affects the creation of replacement characters.
Reference this document for a full guide to creating new characters.
New or inexperienced players may choose one of the following mostly-complete character sheets for their first character—after filling in a few blanks, they will be ready to play within minutes. Each of the pregens highlights core features and playstyles of their class.
Each player is permitted (and encouraged!) to build a Character Stable, a collection of characters from which to draw upon each session. At the beginning of each session, players decide on an agenda for the session, and then choose one character from their stable to activate (play) for the session. The other characters in the stable are considered to be occupied doing something else, like adventuring elsewhere, doing downtime activities, etc. At the end of the session, the activated character receives a Boon.
At the beginning of any session, character(s) from the stable may be retired.
Each Class has access to a special Class Resource (CR) that can be used to fuel various class features. Characters may normally spend only one of each type of Class Resource during a given action unless noted otherwise (usually by, "Spend an additional CR to...").
Experience and Boons
Boons are special characteristics that characters develop through their training and experience as adventurers.
Whenever you return from a successful expedition, your current character gains one Boon. Boons may always be chosen from the generic Adventurer list, from your Core Class list (Explorer, Warrior, or Sorcerer), and from any Advanced Class list(s) that you have unlocked. Pragmatically, this means that all players gain one Boon per game session for their current, activated character. If your character dies at the end of the session, grant the Boon to your newly rolled replacement character, not to an existing character in your stable.
Please note: Boons cannot be reassigned to other characters in your character stable—the only way to gain a Boon for existing characters is to activate them and bring them into danger.
The Feedback Trifecta: Boons, Treasure, Achievements
Aside from accumulating Boons, there are other (even more important) means of gaining power, both within the fiction and mechanically:
- To increase your dice pools, earn Boons and recover artifacts.
- To unlock additional mechanical options for your character, recover artifacts or earn Boons.
- To increase your resources and become rich, recover treasure and invest it in Wealth.
- To obtain more allies, make more Circles tests.
- To obtain better allies, invest money in building connections to and Reputation with different Factions.
- To unlock additional aspects of play, explore new areas and invest in Strongholds.
At the beginning of any session, you may retire an existing character from your stable. Retired characters live on as non-player characters with influence commensurate with their fictional development, and with access to resources as indicated by their Wealth score at the time of retirement. (Wealth and number of Boons are thus the two scoring mechanics for retired characters.) Retired characters may provide hooks or in-fiction assistance to current characters.
When you retire a character, your next new character gains the following benefits:
- Your new character benefits from the experience and mentorship of the retiring character: the new character gains +1 to a different Skill (of your choice) for each complete set of five Boons that the retiring character possesses, up to a maximum of +1 to all Skills at 85 Boons.
- The retiring character transfers an ownership stake in her businesses and investments to the new character: the new character gains one rank in Wealth for every three full ranks of the retiree's Wealth score.
In addition, if your retiring character has a strong connection, association, or alliance with one Faction of their choice, they may use their connections, influence, and reputation to advance the Company's Reputation with that Faction. Roll 1d6 and add one point for every full set of five Boons earned by the retiring character; if the result is greater than your Reputation with that Faction, increase your Reputation with that Faction by one point.
Existing characters never receive benefits from other characters' retirement; the benefits only apply to the new character rolled to replace the retiring character.
2. Core Classes
Players may choose from four core archetypes when creating a new character. Each of these classes encompasses a wide variety of different character concepts.
Play an Explorer if you want a well-rounded, highly survivable character who can specialize in wilderness exploration, dungeon delving, scouting, skirmishing, or pushing their luck and succeeding.
Class Resource: Luck
Play a Warrior if you want to shine in any form of physical combat, from archery to mounted combat to the scrum of melee to advanced strategy and tactics.
Class Resource: Steel
Play a Sorcerer if you want to channel powerful spells to manipulate reality, blast your foes with arcane power, or delve into the mysteries and danger of other dimensions.
Class Resource: Control
3. Specialty Classes
By establishing a relevant background or status or by achieving an exploit in the fiction, you may unlock a Specialty Class. There should be some fictional antecedent for the choice, though unlocking the class might also emphasize or further develop a nascent theme.
Once you've qualified for a Specialty Class, you may take Boons from that class's boon list whenever you gain a Boon.
The duration of any activated Feats function as per spells. Similarly, any Feats that require a Save require a contested test.
- Commander: Those who embody the Authority to lead zealous followers into danger.
- Devout: Those who use Faith to solicit blessings and smite their wicked foes.
- Mutant: Those who accelerate along the path of mutation and body-enhancement.
- Mystic: Those who have sharpened the power of their mind itself to affect reality, manifest weapons of pure thought, or perfect their body through ascetic meditation.
- Outlander: Those who travel from far away and are renowned for raw Ferocity in combat.
- Scholarly: Those who rely on study and Erudition to face problems with the light of knowledge.
- Scoundrel: Those who use Guile to manipulate and misdirect or who turn to criminal methods to solve problems.
- Wild: Those who make trackless wilds their home, feral creatures their companions, or primal spells their instruments.
- Death-Touched: Those who have faced death's Shroud and been changed by it forever.
- Demon-Touched: ??? [NOT YET UNLOCKED]
- Fey-Touched: Those warped by the Wyld powers of Fairie.
- Shadow-Touched: Those who have been marked by the Veil of the Shadow itself.
- Spirit-Touched: Those who have formed a bond with the Essence of the Otherworld and the spirits who inhabit it.
This section describes player's Inventory, an important subsystem for exploration, as well as rules covering how to purchase goods and services (with cost guidelines).
A simple slot system is used to track the gear and other items that characters will quickly acquire. Each character has twelve Inventory Slots with which to carry gear. Each item of narrative importance occupies a single Slot.
Cumbersome Items (Multiple Slots)
Large, bulky, cumbersome, heavy, or similar items may occupy multiple Inventory Slots. The Referee and players will come to a consensus about specific, unusual items. As a rule of thumb, items will take up an additional Slot if they are either especially heavy or bulky. Armor always counts as a bulky item.
To use a ranged weapon, characters must also be carrying the appropriate type of ammunition in an Inventory Slot (e.g. a longbow requires a quiver in another Slot; a pistol requires a cartridge box; etc.). As long as the appropriate ammunition is equipped, the character is assumed to have adequate shots for combat.
Hirelings, Followers, and Pack Animals
Gear may be carried by Hirelings, Followers, or Pack Animals. Porters and other human hirelings/Followers may each carry three Slots of gear.
Pack animals may carry six Slots (or a rider with her gear). Small Carts like barrows and dog-drawn travois may transport three Slots, while Large Carts like wagons or horse-drawn travois may transport six Slots each.
The game uses an abstract system to track the Depletion of consumable or expendable items rather than using exact accounting of single items, such as just how many torches a character possesses.
After using an expendable or consumable piece of gear, players must roll a Depletion Check. Each item that is subject to Depletion is listed with a Depletion score from 1-20, e.g. "Torches (15+)." After using an expendible item in a scene, no matter how many times it was used during that scene, roll a d20: if the result is equal to or higher than the Depletion score, that item has exactly one use remaining before it is completely expended or broken. (That is, the next Depletion Check is not rolled; rather, the item is completely depleted at that point.)
In some cases, players will not just use part of a bundle, but will instead completely use up a bundle of items. In that case, do not make a Depletion Roll. Instead, simply erase the item completely.
This list provides Cost guidelines for various goods and services.
To purchase a good or service, the character must pass a Cash test whose Objective is equal to the Cost of the relevant thing minus the character's Wealth score. Unlike Abilities, the Cash score enumerates a pool of expendable dice, any number of which may be wagered on the purchasing test. Any Cash dice that are wagered on a purchase roll are lost, regardless of the outcome of the roll.
For example, if your Wealth rating is 4 and you would like to purchase a Cost 6 service, you must succeed against an Objective 2 Cash test, which requires wagering four Cash dice on average (but you may expend any number of Cash to assemble your dice pool, up to your current total number of Cash dice).
If any item is discounted to Cost 0 after accounting for a character's wealth, that item may be purchased for the flat cost of a single Cash die (no wager or roll is required).
The Referee may rule that scarcity causes goods or services to be more expensive (usually Cost +1), especially in rural areas, during shortages or periods of conflict, or at other times when goods or services may be scarce.
If a good has a Cost lower than a character's Wealth score, that good cannot be sold for a significant amount of Cash. (The profits count as pocket change at that degree of Wealth). If a good has a higher Cost than a character's Wealth, subtract your Wealth score from the Cost and roll that number of dice; successes generate a point of Cash (analogous to an Income roll).
Non-Player Characters (NPCs) are described by three formal mechanics: Pool, Role, and Hit Points.
When NPCs make a test or save, they roll a number of dice equal to their Pool (e.g. 4d). The Referee will frequently provide a Bonus or Penalty die on these rolls to help differentiate the things that such an NPC would likely do well or poorly.
This determination is aided by the character's Role, which is a short descriptive tag that indicates their profession, expertise, function, personality, or similar.
Examples of Roles: Expert Survivalist, Skulldugger, Man at Arms, Carpenter, Librarian, Burgler, Nobleman, Interrogator, Fop.
Non-player characters have Hit Points as indicated. If an NPC's HP drop to zero, they are immediately out of action.
Followers are loyal companions of a character. They are not generally subject to Morale Checks, and they accompany a character for an open-ended period of time, though they might occasionally expect rewards for their service. Players control Followers' actions (e.g. in combat), though the Referee may occasionally suggest alternatives. The Referee will roleplay Followers' personalities as necessary.
When a Feat grants a Follower, that position may be "refilled" if the Follower dies, departs, or is dismissed, although it takes a week to recruit any new Followers (so replacements will not be able to join the expedition until the beginning of the session following the loss).
Followers can also be gained through fictional means, but these Followers are lost if they die or depart. (Players are not entitled to a replacement for Followers gained through the fiction and not through a Feat.)
Hirelings are hired by players (with Wealth and Cash) to complete a specific task, usually exploration of a site, manual labor, crafting, or similar services. Unlike Followers, hirelings are not intrinsically loyal, nor are they generally willing to take risks beyond the terms of their contract.
Hirelings must make Morale Checks like monsters or other creatures. The Referee is responsible for roleplaying NPCs.
Animals, Animal Companions, and Familiars
Mundane animals and beasts can be purchased. Untrained beasts act at the Referee's whim, while trained beasts follow players' commands to the best of their ability (until they fail a Morale Check).
Animal Companions are a special term for animal Followers. They use the Follower rules above.
Familiars are special animal Followers who may possess special intelligence or other supernatural abilities.
This guide addresses the procedures, rules, and other mechanics used by the players and the Referee in the course of running the game. It describes the general phases and scales of play, the procedures that govern each scale, the Factors used to calculate Objectives, rules for monsters and other adversaries, and guidelines about treasure.
1. The Flow of Play
Most game sessions follow a similar flow between the various scales of play, which are detailed in the following section. At the beginning of each section, players normally decide on their general agenda for the session and declare which character they will activate for the session. At the end of the session, players usually follow a brief end-of-session procedure.
End of Session Procedures
Players generally end the session by returning to town or by making camp in a safe, secure location. If they do not return to a safe haven of some sort before the end of the session, each player must make a Down and Out Check to determine whether their character was injured or killed while returning to safety.
Before concluding the session, players must also divide any treasure and gear that they found during the session between the present characters. They are encouraged to set aside a share for any regular players who happen to have missed a session in which a treasure horde was found (since this tends to occur irregularly).
2. Scales of Play: Haven, Overland, Exploration, and Combat
There are four scales of play that alternate within a given session of play. The broadest scales cover days or weeks (or more) with only broad strokes; it may be enough, for example, to narrate that a character spends their time drinking and carousing, or studiously training to improve their swordplay, or freely spending money in acts of philanthropy, or cultivating contacts, or investing in property or business endeavors, and so forth. The most minute scales of play, on the other hand, cover just seconds and focus on the details of immediate peril: the give and take of combat, the moment when a lethal trap is sprung, the pounding excitement of a chase or contest.
At each scale of play, there are different procedures for how to engage the Encounter Check mechanics. The guidelines for how often to invoke those mechanics are given here; the actual procedures governing such checks are explained in the following section.
Whenever players choose to spend less-granular blocks of time in a safe place, like a town or a camp, they may engage in a Haven Turn (sometimes also called a Haven Phase). During play at the Haven Scale, time passes quickly in blocks of days, weeks, or even longer.
By definition, a Haven Phase is taken in a safe place, so no Encounter Checks are rolled.
During this phase, play proceeds at an abstract level. When rolling is necessary, resolve actions with a single test. Roleplaying should generally be reserved only for interparty drama, brief exchanges with important supporting characters, and Circles checks. Downtime Activities often present an opportunity for the Referee to introduce related hooks, rumors, and potential jobs.
Once per session during a Haven Phase, players roll for Income.
During a Haven Phase, characters may also roleplay, purchase goods or services, and take one other substantial Downtime Action per week.
Common Downtime Activities include:
- Roleplaying: Playing a brief scene interacting with important or interesting local characters, such as patrons, faction leaders, allies, rivals, personal contacts, and so forth.
- Invoking Circles: Declaring one or more Circles checks.
- Carousing/Socializing: Narrating how a character carouses or socializes with particular groups or strata of society, which may entitle them to carry forward a temporary bonus die on tests that would benefit from their exposure to such groups. (Note that socializing for the purposes of creating contacts should instead be treated as a Circles test. The Referee is also encouraged to present hooks, rumors, and potential jobs related to characters' carousing or socializing.
- Research: Researching the history or known information about a beast, historical figure or event, or similar topic. Anyone who spends the time may learn common knowledge, but rare or hidden knowledge is usually uncovered only after success on a Book Learning test. Research sometimes also generates leads about sources who may possess obscure information (which itself often generates plot hooks).
- Advance a Project: A freeform category encompassing long-term, player-driven projects undertaken exclusively during Downtime. If the project involves research about a specific, obtuse question, the Referee may set a cost in time, money, or effort (i.e. establish it as a project rather than a simple test). If the player immediately seeks out a knowledgeable source, however, instead call for a Circles test and briefly roleplay the encounter.
Some Downtime Actions advance a longer-term project. Such projects are measured by Project Clocks, an abstract indicator of completion. (Players are encouraged to make small pie charts with the appropriate number of wedges, and to fill in a wedge each time that a project advances.) The Referee will tell players how many "ticks" each project requires, with 2-4 being typical for more modest projects and 4-8 typical for serious, involved projects. Each session that a character dedicates a Downtime Action to a project, she may fill in one "tick" (wedge) until the project is complete.
When players travel through the wilds, play proceeds at the Overland Scale. During Overland Scale travel, time passes in Watches, which are a rough portion of a day: one morning Watch and one afternoon/evening Watch. (In particularly dangerous regions, the Referee may also call for an overnight Watch.)
When characters spend a Watch travelling, they may move one hex on the overland map (each hex therefore representing the distance over the indicated type of terrain that a party may traverse in 4-5 hours of travel—that is, roughly ten miles or so). Alternatively, players may pass a Watch in the current area, for example by searching for a person or ruin.
Whether the party travels or delays, the Referee must make one Encounter Check per Watch. The chances of some sort of encounter (whether an Encounter proper or an Omen) is 2-in-6 per Watch.
Water voyages are normally handled differently, since there are fewer interesting navigational choices and things to explore en route: a single 1-in-8 Encounter Check per day of travel is usually sufficient, with an Encounter Table that includes weather, navigational, supply-focused, and other hazards in addition to people and, when appropriate, sites. Over the course of a day, water travellers may move four or more hexes on the overland map (depending on sailing conditions).
When players explore a local site like a tomb, ruins, fortress, labyrinth, or other "dungeon," play proceeds at the Exploration Scale. During Exploration Scale play, time passes in (Exploration) Turns, which are a flexible approximation of how much time it takes to perform a single meaningful action in a room, like searching through debris, probing for hidden doors or traps, disarming traps or picking locks, engaging in combat, or entering an adjacent room. As a rule of thumb, each Exploration Turn occupies roughly ten minutes of diegetic time.
When the players explore a site in detail, the Referee makes one Encounter Check per Turn. The Referee will also call for an encounter check if the characters call undue attention to themselves in a hostile environment (such as smashing open a door). The chances of an Encounter or Omen are 1-in-6 each per Turn.
When players engage in combat or similar activity where detailed, blow-by-blow narration is desireable, play proceeds at the Combat Scale. During Combat Scale play, time passes in (Combat) Rounds, which are a flexible approximation of how much time it takes to perform an exchange of missiles or blows.
The exact length of a given Round will vary based on the context—a tactical skirmish for position over a wide area will benefit from less granular narration than a chaotic knife fight in a packed, dimly lit room—but the crucial criterion is that each character be granted an opportunity each Round to move and to take a single substantial action, like attempting to harm someone with a weapon, casting a spell, rifling through a backpack or pile of refuse for an item, lifting a heavy beam off a companion, diving for cover and then attempting to successfully hide, and so forth. As a rule of thumb, I generally find myself regulating a Combat Round to roughly 20-40 seconds of diegetic time.
Since the Combat Scale occurs over a fine timescale, it is virtually never appropriate for the Referee to call for an Encounter Check at this scale.
This section describes the mechanics for determining whether an Encounter occurs and, if necessary, how to establish the context for that Encounter, including number of creatures encountered, distance between parties, initial disposition, and how to handle situations that might cause foes to rout or surrender.
Characterization and factions are also core aspects of running monsters or supporting characters, so the Referee should always conduct monsters with respect to their Wants, Aversions, and Relationships.
|Minor||3d||4 HP||Ob 2|
|Moderate||6d||8 HP||Ob 3|
|Major||9d||14 HP||Ob 4|
|Severe||12d||22 HP||Ob 5|
Monsters may possess any special abilities that the Referee can invent. The normal rules may be used as guidelines for these abilities: for example, most offensive or harmful special attacks or abilities will grant the character a Save to mitigate or obviate the effect.
The best special abilities do not inflate a monster's statistics (which is boring and should generally be avoided), but instead grant the monster more options for interesting interactions: the ability to cast spells, affect an area, attack multiple foes, heal itself, maneuver in interesting ways, take advantage of the environment, or otherwise use a schtick.
Particular tough monsters may be given the Elite tag, signifying that they have 50% more HP than a normal monster of their grade.
Very rare Legendary monsters may have 100% more HP and may roll +1d more than normal.
When creating Encounter Tables, it is often helpful to classify the general difficulty of an area, a level of the dungeon, an overland region, etc.
- Easy Areas (Minor) Median encounters with minor adversaries. May be a few stronger adversaries.
- Moderate Areas Median encounters with moderate adversaries, plus a few minor or major adversaries.
- Hard Areas (Major) Median encounters with moderate and major adversaries, plus a few encounters with minor and severe adversaries.
- Very Hard Areas (Severe) Median encounters with major adversaries, plus several encounters with moderate and severe adversaries.
- Fiendishly Difficult Areas (Legendary) Median encounters with severe adversaries, plus one or more encounters with Legendary severe adversaries.
The Referee makes an Encounter Check whenever the players are not in a safe place and when they enter a new area, delay or act in the current area, or draw significant attention to themselves.
Overland Phase Encounters
Each Watch, there is a 2-in-6 chance of some sort of encounter. When a one or a two are rolled, roll as d20 and consult the following table. The specific encounter depends on the custom lists of different Hazards, People, Beasts, etc. that the Referee has prepared for the area.
- 1. Hazard environmental or navigational hazards: inclement weather, becoming lost, an impassable trail, a natural disaster (wildfire, plague of locusts, earthquake, flash flood, landslide), breakage or spoilage of supplies or injury to animals
- 2-4. Persons locals, travelers, adventurers, mercenaries, bandits, nomads, witchhunters, criminals, runaways
- 5-6. Beasts chimera, mythical beasts, giant animals or vermin or plants, dinosaurs
- 7-8. Undead revenants, phantoms, predators and cannibals, tomb guardians
- 9-10. Aliens spirits, demons, elementals, horrors
- 11-18. Omen Roll 1d10 for source. A sign, sighting, trace, rumor, indication, or other hint of a nearby danger or opportunity.
- 19. Plasmid An uncontrolled spell in the wild. Defeat or capture allow a spell mastery check to learn the spell.
- 20. Abandoned Treasure A lesser or greater amount of Cash, commodities, gear, or other unattended goods. May or may not be missed.
There is also a 2-in-6 chance that anything encountered is associated with a nearby Site. Sites may include lairs, dungeons, encampments, holdfasts, communities, ruins, ships, landmarks, or any other site-based adventuring location. The nature of the association is up to the Referee: the site may contain many more enemies, could hide treasure ripe for plundering, or might just be a place of potential interest that the encountered creatures could share with (or sell to, or use against) the party.
Finally, the Referee will normally include a strong chance (2-in-6 or 3-in-6 may be a useful rule of thumb) that an encountered creature or person will be a Recurring Character or Monster.
Exploration Phase Encounters
Roll 1d6 each Exploration Turn and consult the following table:
- 1. Encounter any dynamic encounter that the characters can meaningfully interact with; rolled on a custom table prepared by the Referee for the site or region
- 2. Omen a sign, sighting, trace, rumor, indication, or other hint of a nearby danger or opportunity.
- 3-4. Safe no encounter, or the Referee may activate a special dungeon effect
- 5-6. Depletion light sources (and similar, on-going consumables) must be checked for Depletion.
Number of Monsters Appearing
Encounter Tables are constructed with a "number appearing" tag that signals how many adversaries the Referee should introduce. To maintain an equitable challenge for different group sizes, this number varies based on the number of players rather than being limited to a static dice expression or fixed number.
- [Singular Name] or a Pair as listed—an amount common for the most difficult enemies, including mythical beasts
- Several equal to half the number of players ±1
- [Normal Plural Name] equal to the number of players ±1
- Many equal to one and half times the number of players ±1
- Tons of equal to 3-5 times the number of players
Occasionally, a monster concept will suggest an encounter distance. Sand Worms often attack from a burrowed ambush, for example, while Giant Buzzards are likely to first be seen circling high overhead. Whenever the encounter distance is ambiguous, however, the Referee may roll a single standard die to establish the relative distance at which an encounter occurs. On a one, the enemy is extremely close, perhaps even immediately underfoot. A six is very far away, like over the next hill or in the next room with the door closed or near the horizon. The Referee can interpret intermediate results relative to these two poles and to the physical geography of the encounter space.
Whenever a prepared dungeon/module/encounter does not list an intelligent creatures' initial disposition, or when a positive Encounter result signifies that the party encounters another group of intelligent creatures, make a Reaction Roll to determine the initial attitude of the other party. A Reaction Roll is a simple six-sided die roll that provides an initial disposition for the Referee to develop:
- Armed and Hostile
- Indisposed (distraction, drink, injury, sleeping)
- Diplomatic (possibly treacherous)
The Referee must make a Morale Check for all individuals and groups who face imminent harm, such as at critical combat junctures or similar flashpoints. In particular, a Morale Check is triggered by any "Oh Damn!" situation—that is, as a result of any case when an individual or a group perceives itself to be outmatched, outclassed, or facing unexpected or unacceptable danger.
Sample Triggers: First blood. Increasingly outnumbered by foes. Surprised or ambushed. Leader is killed or otherwise taken out of action. Opponent seizes an overwhelming combat advantage. Foe makes an unexpected or overwhelming display of prowess.
To make a Morale Check, the Referee rolls a single six-sided die. The chance of an individual saving against panic and disorder is affected by the creature's discipline, bravery, and willingness to fight:
- Militant, disciplined, savage, or ruthless creatures Save against Rout on a 3+. Normal creatures with a substantial combat advantage (e.g. in numbers, positioning, tactics, technology, supernatural abilities over one's foes, or other forms of perceived asymmetry of power) also Save on a 3+.
- Average creatures Save against Rout on a 4+.
- Timid, cowardly, cautious, undisciplined, or pacifistic creatures only Save against Rout on a 5+. Normal creatures with a substantial combat disadvantage or whose leader has just been killed, captured, or incapacitated also only Save on a 5+.
If the individual or group passes their Save, they continue to fight (or otherwise face serious danger). Otherwise, they withdraw, surrender, cower, or refuse to act.
Instead of rolling a Morale Check for hirelings, the controlling player instead rolls a contested Diplomacy or Streetwise test (depending on the hirelings' social status) to enforce order.
Creatures automatically fail their Morale Check in any "Oh Fuck!" situation—that is, in any case when an individual or a group perceives itself to be in impending mortal danger. Creatures will generally prefer to flee or, if flight is not possible, to surrender. Only if they believe that they will face certain death upon surrendering will enemies continue to fight in the face of bleak odds.
4. Skill Tests
Players use Skills when attempting risky actions. In most cases, the Referee can use common sense and the general guidelines for assigning difficulty ratings to establish the particular Skill and Objective for a given test. There are certain uses of skills, however, that involve special subsystems; those systems are discussed here.
This section also discusses the method by which the Referee may use Factors establish Objectives in a neutral, hygenic way. The Factors are especially useful for fairly assigning Objectives to edge cases, rarely encountered situations, or various special subsystems.
Factors for Establishing Objectives
To set an Objective (Ob), the Referee will count one for each relevant category. (Determining which categories are relevant to a given task is as much art as a science.) Some categories will be used as Factors for most tests, while others will only be used when they are particularly relevant. A Factor in (parenthenses) counts as zero, i.e. counts as the baseline assumption for the task—count the first non-parenthetical Factor as +1 Ob, the second as +2 Ob, and so forth.
These Factors are general categories that apply to all tests and saves. In general, most tests will have a target Objective of 3-4. A lower Ob is achieveable in most cases; a higher Ob is challenging even for prepared characters.
- Complexity (Base Ob): low, moderate, high
- Pressure: (none), some, substantial
- Lighting: (good), dim, dark
- Time: (normal), rushed, breakneck
- Tools/Preparation: (adequate), inadequate
- Health: (unimpaired), a relevant serious injury
A Medicine test is used to...
Coins, Jewelry, Art, Commodities, Rarities, Antiquities, and All Manner of Lost Treasure
|Minor||Kobold Clan, Bandit Camp, Troll Tribe|
|Moderate (Average)||Noble's Entourage, Wealthy Merchant's Caravan, Infamous Pirate Captain's Cache, Aristocratic Tomb|
|Major||Knight's Holdfast, Regional Bank, Vampire's Collection, Major Demon Cult|
|Severe||Baronal Treasury, Giant Warlord's Hall, Mature Dragon's Horde|
|Legendary||Royal Cash Vault, Lich's Laboratory, Greater Demon Spawning Pit, Elder Dragon's Horde|
Treasure Hordes: Caches of treasure are measured in a number of Cash dice, which players can divvy up however they'd like between members of the expedition. The Referee will prepare a Cash value for each treasure horde in his or her notes. Generally, caches guarded by more dangerous enemies are more valuable, as are caches on deeper dungeon levels (which are likewise usually more dangerous).
Other Treasure: Single items, like a gemstone statuette, bag of precious stones, rare painting, or inlaid comb, will be rated in a number of Cash dice and will take up one Slot of inventory. Commodities are measured in Cash dice—like "Silks (3 Cash)". Commodities generally take up one Inventory Slot per 1-3 Cash dice of value. Commodities and other treasure must be returned to civilization in Inventory Slots before they can be converted into (non-Inventoried) Cash dice. Referees are encouraged to mix pure Cash treasures (coins, gems, etc.) with interesting treasures that pose some puzzle as to how to be recovered and returned to civilization.
Scaling Treasure: Because the rate of treasure retreival directly affects how quickly characters gain power, it is helpful to reference a rule of thumb to prevent either paucity or excess in treasure. Generally speaking, the Referee should place a number of hordes in a given site (see the table here) equal to half of the average number of players in the group. (More dangerous sites will still contain greater treasure.)
For example, a ruined keep now inhabited by a tribe of vicious beastmen and by a rival vampire and her coterie might be roughly classified as an "major" challenge. If a group of five player characters generally plays in a game, then the Referee should consider placing treasure equal to roughly two or three hordes of 40 Cash each, i.e. around 100 Cash, in the ruined keep.
In many cases, Referees are encouraged to substitute artifacts and spells for a reasonable portion of a Cash treasure. Moreover, fictional accomplishments frequently come with fictional benefits; it is certainly appropriate for some tasks to pay substantially less, particularly if they involve a counterbalancing reward such as political alliances, goodwill with a Faction, grants of land or titles, and so forth. As always, the best practice is to transparently communicate risks and rewards to players so that they can make informed decisions about how they choose to play the game (how much risk they will incur, what sort of rewards incline the campaign toward their preferred playstyles, and so forth).
V. Authorship Notice
This reference document is copyright Stephen Parkin, 2017-20.
This particular game design is especially indebted to:
- Dungeons and Dragons in all its editions, for obvious reasons!
- Burning Wheel's core dice pool mechanics, themselves inspired by many earlier games, e.g. Shadowrun.
- Wonder and Wickedness, one of the best books from the OSR.
- The Black Hack, which stokes my yearning for a minimalist, Ability-check focused OD&D, and Into the Odd, a notable inspiration into how I handle relics/artifacts, and for its fast, whiff-less combat mechanics.
- Apocalypse World and Dungeon World, not only for playbooks, moves, and advances, but also for helping me learn to be a better GM.
- Mouse Guard and Torchbearer, for a consummate instantiation of Circles, Resources, and Objective Factors, not to mention the core dice pool mechanic.
- Lady Blackbird and The Shadow of Yesterday, in ways direct and indirect.
- Classic Traveller, a classic old school game, especially for influencing the scale of Natural Abilities and Miller's freeform/sandboxy approach to scenario design.
- Hundreds of discussions at Story-Games.com and posts across the OSR Blog-o-sphere.