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 Rules and Mechanics
- Followers, Hirelings, and Animal Companions
- Character Management
- Basic Classes
- Advanced Classes
- Overview of General Procedures
- Town Phase
- Expedition Phase
- Obstacle Factors
- Monsters and Other Adversaries
I. System Basics
Open Table PrinciplesTop
- New or drop-in players are always welcome. Individual sessions stand alone, although they occur within a persistent fictional world. The number of players per session is soft capped by the capacity of the venue, which varies. (The number of players is hard capped at eight.) Diversity and inclusivity are non-negotiable.
- There is no preparation needed before we sit down to play. All rules will be taught at the table as necessary. Character creation always occurs at the table.
- Sessions begin and end at camp or in town. Sessions always begin and end in a safe place (camp, town, or the campaign's "home base"), which allows a different roster of players to participate from session to session and thus facilitates drop-in, drop-out play. If you are not present, then we simply assume that your character is off doing something else rather than participating in the current expedition.
- The setting takes place in a dynamic, persistent world. The actions of one group affect the game world for all players. In other words, the game world is essentially persistent, but is also always dynamic (in that it responds to player activity, as well as fictional developments).
Old School and DIY EthosTop
- The game is challenging. Although the rules are simpler than most full-length modern games, this game is meant to present genuine fictional challenges to the players, and those challenges will always have fictional consequences. As a result, the players' skill, choices, and interests matter. Success is not guaranteed; indeed, failure is an important and meaningful part of old school-inspired adventuring.
- Player skill matters. The rules of the game are intentionally schematic; your character sheet will not exhaustively list everything you can do. Rather, the game works best when you use immerse yourself in the fictional description of the world, and then rely on your knowledge, imagination, and creativity. Your character is, in a sense, the avatar through which you explore the world.
- Power curves are shallow; no expectation of encounter balance. The power curves in the game are gentle. Low level characters have fewer mechanical and fictional advantages or choices than high level characters, but they are not massively lag in their basic mechanical power. The same is true of low and high difficulty adversaries. As a result, clever plans, creativity, and bravado allow players to level the playing field. Inversely, the world is not balanced against the players' strengths; some adversaries will be substantially more or less capable than the players.
- Players' choices matter. The direction of play is driven by the players. For example, there is no overarching "metaplot" or "story" created or driven by the Referee, as occurs in a certain style of game. Moreover, all player choices lead to fictional consequences, which means that players have substantial freedom, but with real stakes.
- Fiction comes first. All action begins and ends in the fiction. Players cannot simply call for such and such a roll. Rather, they must describe how and what they do, and only on that basis will the game mechanics be invoked.
- Focus on exploration of a shared world. The campaign is a sandbox, which means that players will choose what content to engage with and how and when to do so. Procedurally, at the beginning of each session, current rumors, situations, and hooks will be reviewed, and new rumors, situations, and hooks may be added. The regional map will also be set out on the table. Players will cooperatively choose the location(s) they will visit and the agenda that they will pursue, whether following up on a rumor, visiting a dungeon, or pursuing their own plans.
- The basic unit is the adventuring party. The party goes on expeditions and explores the world. Unlike modern editions of D&D, the party is the paramount unit, not individual characters. This both stems from and allows the higher-lethality play that is a hallmark of old school-style play, and which in turn allows players' decisions to entail ficitonal consequences. It also suggests that backstory heavy play is out of place; story results from the choices that the players make for their characters, given the fictional situations and challenges that the party faces.
- Characters develop through play. The game is often lethal, so the most developed characters will be those that are played the most often and which survive the longest. Backstory is strictly revealed through play.
- Players maintain 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).
- All players play transparently and do not fudge or cheat. Transparency in all procedures is expected, including from the Referee. The Referee acts more like an impartial judge than an auteur of a story or film. Players are likewise expected to take responsibility for the rules that affect their characters, including negative effects. It is appropriate and welcome to question to the Referee's rulings, since a discussion of these points tends to elaborate the fictional situation and help everyone involved better understand the shared world.
2. Core Rules and MechanicsTop
The core task resolution mechanic is to roll a d6 dice pool and count successes: Number of Dice in Pool = 2 + Ability.
The Basics: Successes and FailuresTop
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 Natural Ability scores. The most relevant Natural Ability is determined by the Referee, and—along with the associated Obstacle Rating—will be shared with the player before the test is made.
On each die rolled, a 1-3 is a Failure, while a 4-6 is a Success. For an Independent Test, count your successes and compare them to the Obstacle Rating, which is the minimum number of successes that you must roll to succeed at the task. For a Versus Test, compare your successes with the enemy's; whoever rolls more successes wins. To determine the Margin of Success, count how many successes you've achieved in excess of the Obstacle Rating or the enemy's result. (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. (This is true even for a situation with repeated actions, such as sneaking past a series of guards. This principle is called Let It Ride, which stipulates that a result holds until the situation changes substantially.) On rare occasions, however, the Referee may call for an extended test, which involves several Ability 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.
Common Obstacle Ratings
The Referee will use Mouseguard-style Factors to set Obstacle Ratings. These Factors will be shared transparently with the players. Here is a rule of thumb table for Obstacle difficulties:
In general, Ob 1 and Ob 7 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 3 tests are considered to be "average," while Ob 4 tests are usual tough and 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). Characters generally receive a single bonus or penalty die, but if they have a significant (dis-)advantages stemming from substantially different sources, the Referee may grant a second bonus die (or subtract a second penalty die) as he or she sees fit. (In many cases, such strong advantage or disadvantage will negate the need for a roll entirely, and will instead yield automatic success or failure.)
Helping and Teamwork
When your allies provide substantive help, they will hand you an additional Helping die to roll. When one character helps another, all 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.
Margins of Success and Failure, Additional Successes, and Critical Margins
Some Feats 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.)
Conversely, rare effects may cause you to lose a success. This is notated -1s, and it always removes one successful die from your pool, regardless of whether the test would have been a success, tie, or failure. As a result, -1s may end up reducing your Margin of Success, creating a tie, turning a tie into a failure, or increasing your Margin of Failure.
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 unless explicitly noted otherwise. Examples of times to round down include generating Abilities in character creation and attempts to improve Abilities when leveling up. If you must divide a damage result in half, first add any additional successes (+1s benefits).
Setting Obstacle Ratings for Saves
Your Feats, spells, or other powers may call for the target(s) to make a Save with a particular Ability. When they do, the Obstacle Rating 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 Obstacle Rating for any Saves required by monster powers or spells (may be static or contested).
Combat and Damage ProceduresTop
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 somewhere between 20 and 60 seconds, with 30-40 seconds being a common middle ground.
Battle Order: The Parts of Combat
See full description below for more details about the parts of combat.
- Surprise Attacks: Surprisers only act during a free combat round.
- Regular Combat: All combatants declare their actions, and melees and combatants are matched based on who threatens whom. Combat Checks are made to determine the outcome of the round, and damage or other effects are resolved and narrated.
- Fallout: Resolve any "Death and Dismemberment" checks.
Action Declarations, Threatening, and Combat Checks
At the beginning of each round, players will declare their actions for the round. During this kibutzing phase, the group will cooperatively determine who your character threatens. Normally, your character will threaten only one adversary per round, but there are many exceptions granted by specific class feats, 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 other may attempt to interrupt them, if desired). Spells take the entire round to channel, so take effect after any other actions.
In each round of combat, all involved characters will roll a single Combat Check. A Combat Check is a special Ability test that will determine how effectively your character fights that round, and whether they do damage to the character(s) that they are threatening.
All characters roll an Ability based on the type of action that they are taking:
- Combatants test Might when they make hard attacks, such as hand-to-hand attacks with swords, axes, hammers, and polearms, or ranged attacks made with throwing axes, javelins, or bows.
- Combatants test Agility when they make fast attacks, such as hand-to-hand attacks with knives, daggers, shanks, and many martial arts-style weapons, or ranged attacks with throwing knives, crossbows, and firearms.
- While cowering or dodging, non-combatants test Agility + 1d.
- Fel Blasters test Knowledge.
- Sorcerers test the listed Ability while channeling a spell.
- Feats, artifacts, or other special powers may call for any given Ability.
Compare the result of your roll with 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.). If you lose the Versus test and the adversary is threatening you, you will take damage equal to your Margin of Failure. (This is simply the inverse of the first rule, but from the perspective of the adversary.) In case of any ties (not just situations when characters are threatening one another), all participants in the exchange take one damage as they struggle for position or the strain of combat otherwise degrades their staying power.
Non-Combatants and Unsuspecting Foes
Cowering or non-participating characters test Agility as they spend the round dodging and hiding. If they spend all their attention on avoiding attacks, they usually roll a bonus die (+1d). On the other hand, if a character is helpless (e.g. surprised, flat-footed, restrained, unconscious, etc.), or if they are subject to a coup de grace, then they do not roll an Ability test. For all purposes, they do not threaten anyone and their Combat Check result is equal to zero. Thus, attacks against helpless characters deal as many points of damage as attacks roll successes.
When a large group gangs up on a single target, they may choose to make independent Combat Checks, or they may designate a Leader who will make a single Combat Check of the appropriate type with a +1d bonus for each supporting ally. If the targeted character wins the versus test, however, then the Leader takes damage as normal, plus each supporting ally takes equal damage. 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 so, halve and round up the damage rolled on the initial dice pool; do not reduce the dice pool before rolling.)
Damage, Death, and HealingTop
Toughness (Hit Points)
Keep track of your current and maximum Toughness (Hit Points). Toughness represents your staying power in a fight, and thus incorporates stamina, attention, training, skill, aptitude, and even luck. It is, in short, 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.
Bonus Hit Points
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 spells and similar effects that return HP.
In the hands of proficient users, armor and shields may be used to block a set number of points of damage. Each set of armor and each shield may be activated once per day in response to a fictionally appropriate source of damage in order to reduce the damage taken by the Block rating (minimum 0). When armor or shields are used to block, their entire block value is used—it cannot be divided and some points saved, for example.
All armor and shields increase the Obstacle Rating by one for each Slot they occupy for any Channeling Tests or Ability tests of 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, etc. The armor may be mismatched, but it works together to provide minimally comprehensive protection from serious wounds. 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 4)
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 four points of damage, 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, but must be held in a Fast Slot to do so.
Down and Out
When reduced to zero Hit Points, you are down and out. You fall to the ground, unconscious and bloodied. If you receive medical aid by the end of the scene, sum 2d6 and consult the Death and Dismemberment Table below. Roll again on the table for each separate time that you take damage while unconscious. If you don't receive medical aid by the end of the Turn, you die.
|2||Learning Opportunity: Gain 1 XP|
|3||Resilience: Gain +1 max HP|
|4||Trauma: Permanently lose one point from a random Ability|
|5||DEATH, PAINFUL AND GRISLY|
|6||Lingering Injury: Lose 2 max HP|
|7||Broken Gear: Two random items break (Artifacts have 2-in-3 chance to Save)|
|8||Lingering Injury: Lose 2 max HP|
|9||DEATH, PAINFUL AND GRISLY|
|10||Trauma: Permanently lose one point from a random Ability|
|11||Resilience: Gain +1 max HP|
|12||Learning Opportunity: Gain 1 XP|
A Short Rest is a brief sitdown to rest, recover, and recharge. Short rests may provide mechanical benefits to characters: once per day in the morning, and once again in the evening, Characters heal 1 HP and regain one 1 Class Resource (CR) of their choice when they take a short rest. A short rest occupies one Exploration Turn (~10 minutes).
A Long Rest is the equivalent of an overnight period of rest, including food, sleep, and so forth. After a long rest, characters recover all lost Hit Points and Class Resources, replenish any depleted spells, and regain any spent blocks from armor and shields.
Aside from pool of Class Resources, all player characters are described by three types of Abilities: Natural Abilities, Town Statistics, and Cash. Natural Abilities are tested to achieve tasks (or to avoid hazards). Town Statistics are special scores that work in a variety of ways during downtime phases. Cash is a fluid pool of expendable dice that can be used to make purchases or to increase your Town Statistics.
Natural Abilities are rated 1-10. At character creation, roll each in order: scores are equal to the average of two six-sided dice (2d6 divided by two), rounded down.
Throughout play, Abilities will occasionally fluxuate up or down. Ability scores are meant to be somewhat fluid: they will go up and down over the course of a character's career as a result of Boons, bonuses from artifacts and relics, and the effects of Mutations.
The Six Natural Abilities
Strength, vitality, toughness, stamina
Coordination, reflexes, quickness, balance, grace
Social intelligence, rapport, charisma, charm, leadership
Awareness, insight, perception, wits, critical thinking
Relevant "know that" and "know how," e.g. history, religion, nature, dungeons, geography, arcana, architecture, lockpicking, bushcraft
Resolve, composure, morale, teamwork and group coordination, endurance
Town Statistics cover a range of special abilities, each of which works in a different way.
A Circles check is a special Presence 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 is a player-initiated check that will always author or reintroduce a non-player character into the fiction. Circles is used both to establish new relationships, as well as to track down familiar characters.
Before rolling the check, the player will Ask to find the person for such and such reason, and then the Referee will reference the Circles Factors and inform them of the Obstacle Rating (which will depend on the person and the character's possible connections to them), after which the player may choose to commit to the roll or to abandon it.
To make a Circles check, roll a Pool of six-sided dice equal to two plus your Presence score (as usual for Presence tests) plus an additional number of dice equal to your Circles rating. If you belong to a Faction that would plausibly make your Ask more credible or better received, you may also add a number of dice equal to your Faction's Reputation (see section below).
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 (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.
The Circles score starts as zero bonus dice, but may be improved up to six bonus dice +6d) by spending Cash.
The players' Company (and any other Factions created by players) possesses a Reputation score with other Factions. Reputation scores start at zero, but may increase or decrease (to a limit of ±10) as a result of fictional events. Reputation is added to relevant Circles checks at a rate of +1d per point of relevant Reputation; any Circles checks benefit if your association with the Faction would make your ask more credible or better received.
In addition, the Referee may roll to check whether a character or group of characters is recognized by their factional affiliation. Roll 1d12: if the result is equal to or less than the your Reputation with the given Faction, then the character is recognized as a member of the organization in question.
Wealth is an abstract measure of your holistic financial position, including assets and creditworthiness (your reputation for repaying debts). Wealth is rated 0-10 and is not directly tested. Instead, you may automatically purchase goods or services of any Cost equal to or less than your current Wealth rating. You may do this up to three times "for free" per Town Phase. Additional purchases may be made for an additional and cumulative +1 Cash each.
Whenever you want to acquire goods or services, purchase equipment, bribe guards or officials, tithe, or otherwise spend money for things that Cost more than your Wealth rating, you must wager Cash. (See the "Cash" section below for more details.)
At any time, you may sell assets or call in debts; when you do, decrease your Wealth rating by one point, but gain twice as many Cash dice as the former rating.
Examples: You may reduce your Wealth from 5 to 4, but gain 10 Cash. Or, you may reduce your Wealth from 6 to 2 and gain 18 Cash.
Lifestyle is a qualitative description of your general socioeconomic wellbeing. It is derived from your Wealth score. The five lifestyle grades are:
- Destitute: 0-2 Wealth. You are probably homeless, and you own only what you carry.
- Meager: 3-4 Wealth. You have just enough to live on, including a rented hovel or room in a tenement, plus a few treasured assets.
- Modest: 5-6 Wealth. You rent or own a small home and live comfortably, though not indulgently.
- Bountiful: 7-8 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: 9-10 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.).
Businesses is a composite rating that summarizes the total income and assets of all businesses and other investments that you own. Like Wealth, Businesses is not generally tested, except in one particular case: when a character is first activated for a session, roll a number of dice equal to your Businesses rating. Each success immediately generates one income of Cash. Keep track of the different businesses that you establish or develop. (As a rule of thumb, you may establish a new business or grow an existing one whenever your gain a point in Businesses.)
The company as a whole may invest time and money to construct Strongholds, which range from simple fortified houses or businesses (with staff) in the city, to rural estates or fortified manor houses to temples or shrines to a proper keep, castle, donjon, or other settlement. Strongholds provide bonus dice equal to their rating to characters taking relevant activities within their walls.
Stronghold, then, is a shared, company-wide rating that represents how developed each of your collective Strongholds are. Strongholds are each rated from 1-6.
While in a stronghold and doing an activity that benefits from your established place there, you roll bonus dice equal to the Stronghold's rating. These bonus dice accrue to such various activities as defending the stronghold against attackers, researching in the stronghold's library, using the stronghold's facilities to train, interrogating enemies in the stronghold's dungeons, and so forth.
Bonus dice only accrue from plausible, in-fiction sources that have been explicitly established—for example, characters must assemble a library to gain the bonus dice on research tasks. Whenever a Stronghold rating is increased, the company may choose to add two tags to the Stronghold to express the new facilities or other upgrades to the location. Additional tags may be added through diegetic effort.
Sample tags include:
- Garrison/Staff: Laborers, servants, and guards. The working population equals the number of Garrison/Staff tags squared, times five. (With one tag, five individuals, then 20, 45, 80, 125, and 180.) With four tags, the stronghold probably begins to anchor a small, rural community. With eight tags, a town might form around the stronghold. With twelve tags, the stronghold usually anchors a city.
- Fortification: Quality of fortifications, armaments, stores, etc. With fewer Fortification tags, mixed construction is common: new and old works combined, earth and wood mixed with mud/clay, etc. With several tags, quality wood or brick construction becomes common, and multiple layers of defense begin to be added. With many tags, strongholds are improved to full stone defensive works.
- Facilities: Each tag may name a new facility created in the stronghold, such as Stables, Library, Blacksmith, etc. Additional tags of the same type increases the scope or skill of the associated facilities.
- Economy: Tags referring to the economic productivity of the area immediately around the stronghold, from agriculture (e.g. Vineyards, Orchards) to husbandry (e.g. Cattle Ranch) to taxes collected (e.g. on market commerce, trade, etc.).
Cash is an abstract measure of your liquid assets. You may gain Cash by adventuring (finding treasure), by investing in businesses, or through roleplaying activities (such as completing jobs for patrons). Cash is measured as an open-ended pool of expendable, non-refreshing dice. Each Cash die represents roughly the net income of an unskilled laborer for two months' work, or for several weeks of work by an artisan or skilled laborer.
Cash dice are used in two ways:
- They may be wagered to purchase goods and services that Cost more than your current Wealth.
- They may be wagered to permanently improve one of your Town Statistics (Circles, Wealth, Businesses, or Stronghold).
Using Cash to Purchase Goods and Services: If you would like to purchase something with a Cost higher than your current Wealth rating, you must wager Cash. Spend (remove and lose) any number of Cash dice; these dice form the dice pool that you roll against the purchase's Obstacle Rating, which is equal to the difference between your Wealth and the thing's Cost. For example, if your Wealth rating is 4 and you would like to purchase a Cost 6 service, you must succeed against an Obstacle 2 Cash test, which requires wagering four Cash dice on average (but you may spend any number of Cash to assemble your dice pool, up to your current total number of Cash dice).
Improving Circles, Wealth, Businesses, or Stronghold: To try to improve a Town Ability score, wager and then roll (spend/lose) a number of your Cash dice against the relevant Obstacle. Each Ability must be purchased one point at a time, with additional ranks requiring more successes (and thus costing more Cash). Each session, you may only attempt to increase each different Town Ability once, regardless of whether you succeed (and gain one rank) or fail. Wagering Cash on Town Statistics represents investing in the appropriate areas: for Circles, for example, the expenditure facilitates membership in associations, organizations, social clubs, and other Circles situations. For Wealth, in involves saving money or investing in property, etc. For Businesses, it involves direct investment and development costs. For Strongholds, it involves building, improving, stocking, and recruiting staff for your stronghold.
The Obstacle Rating that you must beat to successfully gain a point in a given Town Ability is listed below:
Players will quickly amass many items. A simple slot system is used to track gear and other items. In general, a single larger item, or a bundle of small items, will take up a single slot. Items (or sets of items) of potential narrative importance, even small ones, take up an entire slot.
Characters have eleven Inventory Slots with which to carry gear:
- Readily at Hand ("Fast Inventory"): Three Slots of items that are always readily at hand. They are usually held, worn on a belt, secured in an exterior pocket, slung over the back, or the like.
- Carried or Worn Gear: Eight Slots of items worn, strapped to your body, carried in a backpack or pouch, etc. The items are accessible, but not immediately.
Other gear may be carried by Hirelings, Followers, or Pack Animals, or else left in camp/town:
- Hirelings, Followers, and Pack Animals: Porters and other hirelings/Followers may each carry three Slots of gear. Pack animals carry six Slots (or a rider). Small (Hand) Carts may transport three Slots, while Large Carts (Wagons) may transport six Slots each.
- Camp Inventory: Mark all gear that is habitually (or currently, if dungeon delving) left in camp, including that held by porters.
- Town/Stronghold Inventory: All other gear that is held in a safe place "back home," either in the city or, if applicable, in a stronghold. Note where such gear is located.
Common Starting Equipment does not take up any Slots, with the exception of Torches and the Basic Weapon (both of which must be placed in an Inventory Slot).
To use a ranged weapon, characters must also be carrying the appropriate type of ammunition in a carried or worn Inventory Slot (e.g. a longbow requires a quiver in another Slot; a pistol requires a cartridge box; etc.).
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.
The Usage Die
Expendable equipment uses a Black Hack-style Usage Die. Items using a Usage Die will list the die type in parathenses after the item's entry, e.g. "Torches (d6)." In short, roll the listed die once after using such an item in a scene, no matter how many times it was used during that scene. On a result of 1-2, step down the die type by one step (d12 -> d10 -> d8 -> d6 -> d4). If a d4-rated equipment rolls 1-2, then it is completely expended or broken at the end of the scene.
Costs for Goods and ServicesTop
This list provides Cost guidelines for various goods and services. Basic rules about purchasing gear, goods, services, etc. may be found under "Cash", above.
To purchase a good or service, a player must pass a Cash test whose Obstacle Rating is equal to the Cost of the relevant thing. The Obstacle Rating of all purchases is reduced by one for each point of Wealth that a character possesses. If the Ob for the Cash test is reduced to zero, the thing may be purchased for "free," but only three free purchases may be made each Town Phase (additional free purchases require the expenditure of +1 cumulative Cash die, automatically spent to make the purchase without a roll required). The following specific modification apply:
- Hirelings: +1 Cash (cumulative) for each additional hireling after the first.
- Animals, Livestock, Pack Animals, Mounts: +1 Cash (cumulative) for each additional medium or large animal after the first.
- Buildings and Boats: Only one of these big-ticket items may be purchased per Town Phase.
Moreover, 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 the Wealth score from the Cost and roll that number of dice; successes generate a point of Cash (analogous to a Business roll).
- Basic Expendable (e.g. torches, rations, arrows, bullets)
- Simple Weapon (club, sling, etc.)
- Household Good
- Bed and a Warm Meal
- Quality Expendable (e.g. lantern oil, gunpowder)
- Basic Tool (e.g. hammer)
- Small Animal (chicken, cat)
- Quality Tool (e.g. crowbar)
- Crude Weapon (spear, shield, bow)
- Medium Animal (dog)
- Small Livestock (sheep, goat, pig)
- Porter (2d, 2 HP)
- Cheap, Local Passage/Travel (+1 Cost per several persons)
- Regional Parcel/Delivery
- Specialty Tool (e.g. alembic)
- Quality Weapon (sword, battleax, polearm, firearm)
- Shoddy Light Armor
- Pack Animal (horse, camel, mule)
- Large Livestock (cow, ox, buffalo)
- Horse-Drawn Cart
- Simple Rowboat
- Torchbearer/Shieldbearer (4d, 2 HP)
- Regional Passage/Travel (+1 Tier per several persons)
- Long-Distance Parcel/Delivery
- Quality Light Armor
- Hut, Hovel, or Tenement Unit
- Mercenary (4d, 4 HP)
- Long-distance Passage/Travel (+1 Tier per several persons)
- Ceremonial/Heirloom Weapon
- Heavy Armor
- Cabin or Apartment
- Expert Craftsman/Professional (5d, 3 HP) or Veteran Mercenary (5d, 5 HP)
- Small Sailing Vessel
- Modest House
- Rural Shrine
- Seasoned Adventurer (6d, 6 HP)
- Sorcerous Adept (6d, 4 HP): 2 Control, may channel two spells from the same family
- Exotic Mount (riding lizard, giant bird)
- Exotic Warbeast (e.g. elephant, rhino)
- Urban Shrine
- Large Building (inn, warehouse)
- Large Sailing Ship
- Small Complex/Estate and Land
- Private Security Company
- Fortified Manor House or Tower
- Small Militia
- Small (Baronal) Castle/Fort
- Professional Mercenary Company (dozens of soldiers)
- Large (Royal) Castle/Palace
- Standing Professional Army (hundreds of soldiers and support staff)
5. Followers, Hirelings, and Animal CompanionsTop
Non-Player Characters (NPCs) fall into three general classes, each of which uses the same underlying mechanics. NPCs have only three notable mechanics: Role, Pool, 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 generally 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.
Non-player characters have Toughness (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.
If a Feat grants a Follower, it really grants a "rechargeable" Follower slot. If a specific Follower dies, another may be recruited, but is not able to join the expedition until the beginning of the session following the loss. Followers can also be gained through fictional play/the narrative, but these Followers are lost if they die or depart. (Players are not entitled to a replacement for Followers gained through the fiction.)
Animals, Animal Companions, and Familiars
Mundane animals and beasts can be bought. Untrained beasts act at the Referee's whim. 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 Followers, but may also possess special intelligence or, potentially, other supernatural abilities.
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. Hirelings must make morale checks like monsters and other creatures, and they may need persuasion to do jobs outside of their expertise (or expected working conditions). The Referee is responsible for roleplaying NPCs.
Players normally introduce magic into the game in one of two ways: by playing a Sorcerer who channels spells, or by engaging in rituals. Spells are the shorthand name for extradimensional plasmic entities that Sorcerers have captured and bound in a meticulously arranged mindtrap within their brain, and which they must repeatedly bend to their will. Rituals, on the other hand, are ancient codified practices that may generally be accomplished by any properly trained and prepared individual.
Overview: A great deal of mental control and attention are required to channel a spell, which releases a plasmid and causes it to affect reality in an intended way. To channel a spell, you must pass a Channeling Test tied to one of the six core Abilities. If you fail a Channeling Test, you lose control of the spell: its effect still occurs, but the plasmid thrashes and escapes, which both damages you and causes you to "lose" the spell for the day (making it unavailable for channeling until after a long rest). Unwilling targets of spells are usually allowed a Save to avoid some or all of a spell's effects.
Unsubtle Magic: Channeling a spell is never a subtle endeavor. Unless otherwise noted, it is impossible to conceal the fact that the sorcerer is channeling. Moreover, plasmids leave substantial and clearly supernatural effects in the world, always manifested through the lens of the sorcerer's 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. Only one instance of a given spell may be active in the world at a time; if the spell is cast again, all effects from the first casting are immediately reversed and the sorcerer's mark is removed (and instead appears on/at the new target).
Channeling Test: To channel a spell, spend one Control and then make the listed Ability test. Regardless of the result of the test, the spell effect occurs. If you successfully pass the test, you will be able to attempt another channeling of the spell later today (as long as you have Control to power it). If you fail the test, however, you 1) take damage equal to your Margin of Failure, and 2) cannot channel that specific spell again until you've taken a long rest. (Alternatively, certain spells might carry other risks on failure; for example, mirror road may result in being lost in the Mirror Dimension.)
The Magnitude of a spell's effect depends on the number of successes that you roll on the Channeling Test—see references to "[Successes]" in the spell descriptions. A greater Magnitude indicates that the spell's effect may last for a longer duration and that it is harder for any targets to resist or avoid the spell's effects. A greater Magnitude also makes it less likely that you will take damage while channeling a spell, largely because the effect occurs more quickly and powerfully than opponents might expect. (See below for details.)
If you fail a channeling test by rolling zero successes, the plasmid's mutagenic energy cascades out of control: you gain a random Mutation.
Two factors increase the difficulty of Channeling Tests:
Channeling Test Factors
- Damage Taken While Channeling: +1 Ob per point of damage taken
- Armor: +1 Ob from each Slot that armor or a shield occupies
Spell Duration: Most spells have one of three durations: an instantaneous effect that causes permanent change in the world; an ongoing effect that depends on the Magnitude 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 two Exploration Turns per [Success].
Damage While Channeling: If you are attacked during a round when you are attempting to channel a spell (but not when attacking with a Fel Blast), use your Channeling Test result as your defensive Combat Test. If you fail the Combat Test and take damage, add the points of damage taken to the Obstacle Rating for the Channeling Test when you resolve the spell at the end of the Round—taking damage while channeling a spell makes it much more likely that you will also take damage from the act of channeling itself (since pain and external attention cause your arcane control to falter).
Resisting Spells: If a target does not wish to be affected by a spell, they are usually entitled to a Save. The Ability to be used for the Save is listed in the individual spell descriptions; the Obstacle Rating for the Save is equal to the number of successes rolled on the Sorcerer's Channeling Test to create the spell effect. If the target fails the Save, they are affected by the spell (see the specific spell descriptions). If the target succeeds, the target takes reduced damage/effect (or, more rarely, the spell fails).
Example: Katie's runecaster is trying to channel the spell miasma, a potent attack spell which normally requires a Knowledge Ob 5 test to channel. As she channels the spell, however, a troll swipes at her. Katie must use her Channeling Test as her defensive Combat Check: she has a base score of 4, so she only rolls six dice against the Troll's attack (also six dice). Katie fails, with just three successes to five. So, Katie not only takes two points of damage, but she must also add her Margin of Failure (2) to the Channeling Test's Obstacle Rating, which means that she must now pass a Knowledge Ob 7 test to channel the spell without taking damage and losing access to it for the day! Yikes! Katie takes an additional four points of damage (three successes versus Ob 7) and loses the spell. Hopefully the hellish gases will destroy the troll!
Capturing Wild Spells: When a new spell is encountered in the wild, a sorcerer has a few minutes to interact with it before attempting to bind the spell for future use. The Obstacle Rating for a this Spell Mastery Check is equal to the normal Channeling Ability and Ob for the spell plus one. The sorcerer may expend sorcerous materials to roll +1d per unit of material spent, plus +1d to +3d based on how successfully she came to understanding the plasmid's nature during her experimentation period. If the Spell Mastery Check succeeds, the spell is added to the sorcerer's list of known spells. If it is failed, the sorcerer can never learn the spell, no matter how many times she retries the test.
Learning Captive Spells: Sorcerers may learn spells from other sorcerers. Such secrets are closely held, and thus are rarely for sale, but a spell might be taught by an ally or patron. It takes two sessions of teaching and study per point of Channeling Obstacle Rating to prepare to capture the spell in the sorcerer's brain. Only one spell may be learned or taught during any given period, so both the teacher and the student must not engaged in any other spell research for the duration. Furthermore, both characters must be activated in the current session of play in order to advance the process's project clock. Following the period of study, the trainee sorcerer makes a Spell Mastery Check. The Obstacle Rating for the check is equal to the normal Channeling Ability and Ob for the spell plus one. The sorcerer may expend sorcerous materials to roll +1d per unit of material spent. If the Spell Mastery Check succeeds, the spell is added to the sorcerer's list of known spells. If it is failed, the sorcerer can never learn the spell, no matter how many times she retries the test.
Each species of extradimensional plasmic entity (plasmid) creates a certain spell effect when channeled by an experienced sorcerer. Like other organisms, plasmids may be taxonomized and classified based on their attributes. Most sorcerers specialize in channeling one or two broad families of plasmids, each of which might encompass the equivalent of several orders, families, and genuses of plasmids with similar effects, methods, targets, or spheres of influence.
Table of Spell Families: There are ten families of plasmids that are relatively well understood by modern sorcerers. To speed up character creation, you may roll 1d10 to determine which family you have first started to master. This method is recommended for players who have not previously played a Sorcerer, since it obviates the need to learn all the spells in advance before choosing a Family.
Many of the spells—50-some in total—are adapted from (and explicitly reference) Brendan Strejcek's excellent Wonder and Wickedness. The remaining spells are derived 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.
In addition to Knowledge, Blood Magic spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Presence.
- Occult Consultation (Presence Ob 2): Perform a rite to lure a gaggle of ghosts and spirits to converse (a nekyia). After digging a trench and filling it with milk, honey, and wine, call out to summon nearby spirits. If you have material remains, a treasured possession, or the true name of a spirit, 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)
- Death Mask (Knowledge 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)
- Hex (Presence Ob 3): Curse a living creature: they suffer ongoing bad luck, or else they become supernaturally afraid of you (Discipline Save negates).
- Vitalize (Might 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)
- Genoplasm (Knowledge 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)
- Life Channel (Might Ob 4): With a touch, you may transfer youth or vigor from one person to another (Might Save negates). If you transfer vigor, choose a number of HP up to [Successes]; for each point of damage taken by the first party, the second party is healed for 2d HP. If you transfer youth, each year of life forfeited by the first party grants the second party 2d years of extended life. There is a 1-in-6 chance each that the spell will either permanently mark the target with dark magic or double the magnitude of the effect (to 4d per point spent) for the recipient. (W&W 18)
- Corpse Craft (Presence Ob 5): Reanimate [Successes] worth of eager, overenthusiastic (but not particularly clever) corpses as undead servitors. 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
- Collapse into mundane corpses
- Dissolve into toxic biological goo
- Are sucked through a black hole into the land of the dead (but the black hole remains open for a time)
- Become permanent minions
In addition to Knowledge, Conjury spells depend on the sorcerer's Agility and Acuity.
- Gleam (Acuity Ob 2): Summon and direct one magical flying spirit of radiance per [Success]. Each radiant spirit illuminates an area like torchlight. The spirits may also be used to blind or distract enemies in combat (Discipline Save negates). (W&W 12)
- Spawn Homunculus (Knowledge 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 five-year old. The golems cannot communicate and are worthless in combat (and, indeed, will actively flee it in terror), but are otherwise enthusiastic minions.
- Spell of Subterranean Gullets (Agility Ob 3): All tunnels, pits, crevices, and underwater springs are the mouths, throats, and visceral spaces of the earth god. You may command instantaneous opening or closing of a sphincter-like aperture in any stone or rock surface (up to [Successes] times before the spell expires). (W&W 15)
- Transmogrify Surface (Knowledge 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
- Bind (Acuity Ob 4): Entrap [Successes] enemies in magical chains, web, overgrowth, or so forth for up to [Successes] Rounds. Entrapped targets are helpless and cannot move. Targets may avoid the spell (or break free at the start of subsequent rounds) with a successful Might or Agility Save, target's choice. (W&W 10)
- Miasma (Knowledge Ob 4): Summon a choking, poisonous cloud of hellish gases. The miasma lasts for [Successes] Rounds 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, Might Save for half damage or to resist the effect):
- Everyone it touches dies messily and in massive pain.
- The gases deal one acid damage per round, including to objects.
- The gases cause burning blindness.
- Everyone in the area retches uncontrollably (making all but the simplest tasks impossible).
- The gases deal 2d cold damage each 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.
- Disintegrate (Agility Ob 5): You blast an enemy with pure, disintegrative entropic energy. The targeted creature takes 7d damage + 1d per [Success] (Might Save for half). If the target passes its Might 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.
In addition to Knowledge, Diabolism spells depend on the sorcerer's Presence and Discipline.
- Poltergeist (Presence Ob 2): Haunt an area or object with troublesome spirits. The ghosts make noises, move small objects, and generally act like an obnoxious nuisance. (W&W 21)
- Spectral Harvest (Knowledge 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 plasmids. (W&W 21)
- Repulsion (Discipline 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)
- Covenant (Knowledge Ob 3): Magically seal a bargain, based on free assent, between the sorcerer and a counterparty. The souls of both are pledged to a demon as collateral. (W&W 12)
- Demonic Blessing (Presence Ob 3): Beseech a powerful demon for a demonic blessing. Roll +1d on the Channeling Test for this spell for every HP of damage that you self-inflict and for every Cash Die that you sacrifice during the ritual. The spell lasts for [Successes] Exploration Turns. Choose one of the following effects:
- Darkvision: You can see in black and white, even in pitch darkness.
- Black Speech: You may communicate with truly evil creatures or their allies, including demons, undead, vile spirits, and vermin that creep or crawl.
- Demonic Wings: You grow (and may fly clumsily on) large, grotesque wings.
- Summoning (Presence 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)
- Banish (Discipline 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.
- Black Mark (Discipline Ob 5): Summon a demon and negotiate payment to kill a target whose name you provide. The target must carry an object with your sigil on it. The target's soul is always part of the payment. (W&W 12)
In addition to Knowledge, Divination spells depend on the sorcerer's Acuity and Discipline.
- Conduit (Knowledge Ob 2): Use an object or a willing person as a relay for your spells. Your Conduit sigil must be placed prominently on the person or object. As long as the sigil remains, you may also meditate to perceive the sigil's surroundings. (W&W 26)
- Second Sight (Acuity 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)
- Thought Tether (Discipline Ob 3): 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. Tethered allies may help with psychic tasks (such as a Save against fear).
- Plasmic Manipulation (Acuity Ob 3): Examine another's mind for plasmic entities (Discipline Save negates), and then choose one option:
- Steal a spell for later channeling (one time only, using the normal channeling rules).
- Free (void for the day) up to [Successes] captured spells from the target's mind.
- Spectral Body (Discipline Ob 4): Project your spirit from your body into either this reality or the Spirit Realm. Your spirit is spectral: it may pass through nonmagical, non-thick barriers, and it sees perfectly in darkness. You may raid other's surface thoughts (Discipline Save negates). 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)
- Hindsight (Acuity 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 (Knowledge 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 use 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)
In addition to Knowledge, Elementalism spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Agility.
- Transmit Breath (Knowledge Ob 2): You and [Successes] creatures marked with your sigil do not need to draw breath to sustain life for the duration; rather, an inscribed sigil transmits the atmosphere around itself directly into the targets' lungs. (W&W 33)
- Rockspeech (Might 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 1-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 (Knowledge Ob 3): Strip naked and enter a river, lake, pool, or other body of water. The spirit of the water will obey commands, e.g. to part, raise, lower, or otherwise be modified. If you enter the sea or ocean, only a local area responds to your requests. When the spell expires, the spirit may have a request of you. (W&W 15)
- Cacophony of Air (Agility Ob 3): Summon and direct a discordant tumult of air spirits. The spirits will lift you or another willing creature aloft and 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 Wind Barrier, in which case strong, swirling winds surround and move with you; the winds diffuse gas, put out unprotected flames, and deflect small missiles. (W&W 14 and 16)
- Phase Change (Might Ob 4): With a touch, transform a person or object into gaseous, liquid, or solid form (Might Save negates for living creatures). Gaseous forms are coherent 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 (normally non-material things may, of course, be transformed into solids). You may affect mass roughly equal to one human per [Success].
- Pyrokinesis (Might Ob 4): Gain complete control over a fire: you may cause it 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 ends the spell. (W&W 14)
- Trapped Lightning (Agility Ob 5): Place your sigil on a bottle or copper rod and it set out under the open sky. The spell causes lightning to be called down into the vessel, giving it a charge that lasts up to [Successes] hours. You may then use the vessel as a melee weapon: it deals +1s damage and has a chance to knock back human-sized targets (Might Save negates). At any point, you may also release the charge to deal 5d damage + 1d per [Success] in a long line or in a small burst centered on yourself (Agility Save for half). (W&W 16)
In addition to Knowledge, Enchantment spells depend on the sorcerer's Agility and Discipline.
- Hekaphage (Knowledge Ob 2): Summon a spectral creature to eat an enchantment, curse, or magical element. (Powerful sorcery may require a Versus test.) There is a 50% chance that the fat, sated hekaphage manifests in the material world after eating powerful enchantments. (A manifested hekaphage's Level is twice the Channeling Obstacle of the eaten enchantment). (W&W 27)
- Soul Transfer (Discipline Ob 2): Transfer your soul 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 vs Discipline test). If your new body is slain, make a Save (Acuity Ob 3) to successfully return to your original body. (W&W 21)
- Plasmic Boundary (Discipline Ob 3): You and [Successes] people are protected by a field that disrupts magic and is spectrally opaque and impassable. Other sorcerers' spells may penetrate the field with a successful Acuity Save. (W&W 26)
- Torpor (Agility Ob 3): All creatures within a melee area are stricken with supernatural lethargy (Agility Save negates). Affected creatures move at half their normal speed and otherwise act slower than usual. The spell may also affect mechanical devices, large-scale mechanisms, or other things that engage in progress or change. (W&W 35)
- Quickening (Agility 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). The spell and sigil fade after being used significantly. After the spell ends, target creatures may fall unconscious, while target objects might break (Might Ob 3 negates). (W&W 35)
- Shroud (Knowledge Ob 4): You, a willing creature, or an object that you touch becomes invisible to mortal creatures, but appears as a blazing beacon to those with the second sight, as well as to most natural denizens of the Spirit Realm. While shrouded, the recipient of the spell partially exists in both worlds, looks simultaneously into both as if through heavy fog, and may be harmed in either. When the spell expires, nearby spirit creatures may return with the target into the material world. (W&W 28)
- Dread Manifestation (Discipline 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.
- Serves you until the next new moon, if offered additional targets.
- Disappears in fire and smoke.
- Haunts the area erratically.
- Persists as a fear doppleganger, reflective of other's fears or nightmares.
In addition to Knowledge, Psychomancy spells depend on the sorcerer's Presence and Acuity.
- Comprehension (Acuity Ob 2): The meaning of obscured or indecipherable communications is laid bare, including any language, the true intent of a cyphered missive, and sometimes even spirit or animal speech, the groaning of clouds, the howling of wolves, etc. (W&W 22)
- Oneiromancy (Presence 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.
- Bewitch (Presence Ob 3): When you channel this spell, you subtly infuse your speech with supernatural charm and charisma. If the target fails a Presence Save, their disposition permanently improves by one step: a hostile creature becomes neutral, a neutral creature becomes friendly, or a friendly creature becomes infatuated. In any case, the target is aware that a charm spell was cast on them—but in the case of a failed Save, they simply don't care. (W&W 22)
- Dust of the Sandman (Acuity Ob 3): All creatures in a single melee group/area fall into a deep, natural sleep (Acuity Save negates). (W&W 23)
- Fascinating Gaze (Presence Ob 4): Transfix the target of your gaze for as long as you maintain eye contact and don't do anything but speak (Presence 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 (Knowledge 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 Acuity Save. The illusion lacks sounds, 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.
- Mind Spike (Acuity Ob 4): Brutally assault others' minds with a full frontal psychic attack. You may target up to [Successes] living creatures who randomly flee, cower, or attack a random nearby target for the duration of the spell (Discipline Save negates). If you roll zero successes on your Channeling test, the effect is instead turned against you.
- Dominate (Presence Ob 5): Stand still and concentrate to psychically enter and control the body of a nearby person (Discipline Save negates). You may dictate the target's actions for a Round per [Success], though the victim may choose to take 2d damage + 1d per [Success] to resist the commands, in which case they move like a marionette and act with a -1d penalty to all dictated actions. (W&W 22)
In addition to Knowledge, Shamanism spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Presence.
- Living Gate (Knowledge Ob 2): Inscribe your sigil into the body of a willing, living creature. When you concentrate, you know the direction of and distance to the creature, no matter the distance (but not if the creature is currently in a different dimension). When you channel this spell, you and [Successes] companions may step through and out of the sigil, although this process is extremely painful for the marked creature. Channeling the spell does not remove the sigil. (W&W 29)
- Stormspeech (Presence Ob 2): Command the weather (in generalities). Invariably, weather modification results in threefold retribution in the days to come. (W&W 15)
- Ravening (Might 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. In addition, they will try to 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)
- Serpent's Kiss (Might Ob 3): You grow long, hollow fangs (+1d in melee combat) for the duration of the spell. The fangs may be used to draw out poison (negating its effect on the victim), though this process is extremely painful for the recipient. Venom so extracted is stored in a new gland in your body; you may automatically deliver it later with a successful fang bite attack. (W&W 36)
- Bloodlust (Might Ob 4): Awaken the target's savage inner beast: she grows claws and fangs, rolls +1d on all attacks, and gains two bonus HP (Discipline Save negates). An enraged creature must attack a nearby person each round in a violent, aggressive way. If no targets are available, she can not do anything but rage and trash her surroundings. The spell lasts up to [Successes] Rounds. When it ends, the target must pass an Ob 3 Might Save to avoid falling unconscious. If the target rolls zero successes on the Save, she contracts lycanthropy. (W&W 34)
- Obsecration (Presence Ob 4): Summon a nearby living, conscious animal, beast, or vermin of Level equal to or less than [Successes]. You may specify a particular type of creature or one with specified characteristics (e.g. can fly), but the spell will fail if no candidate creature is nearby. The creature happily serves you for an Exploration Turn per [Success], and subsequently will feel oddly satisfied to have helped you unless you forced it to commit acts against its basic nature. (W&W 24)
- Totem (Might Ob 5): Every person has two connected totems, predator and prey. (After being rolled, record the totems for future reference.) This spell shapechanges the target into your choice of either their predator or prey totem (Might Save negates). In addition, you may shapechange into the form of any animal or beast (up to roughly human mass per [Success]) whose internal organs you have entirely consumed, raw and fresh. People in totem form are marked by your sigil in an obvious location. Worn or carried equipment does not transform. (W&W 37)
In addition to Knowledge, Translocation spells depend on the sorcerer's Acuity and Discipline.
- Recall and Revisitation (Acuity 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 (Discipline 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)
- Mirror Road (Knowledge Ob 3): Guide your companions into and through the Mirror Dimension. 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 Mirror Dimension 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 Mirror Dimension. (W&W 30)
- Portal (Knowledge 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)
- Wormhole (Acuity 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 size of one human. (W&W 29)
- Pocket Sanctuary (Discipline Ob 4): You create and completely disappear into a comfortable extradimensional subspace where you and your companions are perfectly safe. You may enfold and transport yourself and [Successes] willing creatures into the pocket sanctuary. The subspace remains stable for the length of a full rest, although the effect ends for everyone if you leave the pocket dimension. When others leave the pocket dimension, they reappear exactly where they were when the spell was cast. If they exit the pocket dimension before the end of the spell, they may not return.
- Dimensional Rift (Acuity 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)
In addition to Knowledge, Warding spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Agility.
- Spectral Lock / Spectral Knock (Might Ob 2): Seal shut a door, portal, latch, lid, or window. It may only be opened with supernatural force (Might Save to open). The spell may also be cast on a person's mouth (Might 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 (Might Save negates).
- Spectral Disc (Knowledge Ob 2): Summon a strong, hard, slightly concave disc (3' diameter) that floats four inches above and parallel to the surface. The disc may hold 100 pounds per [Success] (or you, without gear) 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 move.
- Mirror Image (Agility Ob 3): You create [Successes] illusory, insubstantial copies of yourself (up to a maximum of five) and imbue each with a small part of your consciousness. The copies stand close around you and imitate your every action. Incoming attacks have an equal chance to striking you or one of the images; hit images disappear in a puff of colored smoke. The copies are not quite perfect: an observant opponent may pick you out as the real person with a successful Acuity Save. When the effect ends, you take one point of damage from the mental strain (Discipline Ob 3 negates).
- Energy Absorption (Might Ob 3): The person or thing marked with your sigil ignores the next instance of elemental damage (e.g. fire, cold, acid, poison, etc.) that would harm them, and instead regains one HP. The spell protects [Successes] creatures and lasts until used or the next sunrise.
- Shield (Might Ob 4): The spell wraps the marked target in protective swathes of spectral energy. The target gains [Successes] HP that last until used in a substantial way (e.g. the end of a fight where the warded person takes damage or after a trap damages them, etc.) or until they rest. Because of the plasmic energy involved, the target blazes like a beacon to those with second sight.
- Kinetic Freedom (Agility Ob 4): 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 (Might Ob 3 negates).
- Elemental Wall (Knowledge Ob 4): Summon a thick wall of pure elemental physio-energy 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 be stably anchored to the ground.
- Glyph (Might 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).
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 1/3rd of the random mutations are more or less beneficial. Approximately 40% are more or less neutral, with a slight tendency toward being useful or interesting. Approximately 1/4th are harmful, and the worst 10% overall are likely (or guaranteed) to be fatal.
II. Character Guide
The character-focused rules of the game are divided into four parts: Overview and Character Creation, Experience and Boons, Basic (Primary) Classes, and Advanced (Secondary) Classes.
1. Character ManagementTop
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.
- Generate Abilities: Roll for each Natural Ability in order. Set each Ability equal to the average of the sum of 2d6, rounded down.
- Swap a Pair Abilities: If desired, swap any two Ability scores. If you decline to do so, instead take 2 Cash.
- Choose a Class: Choose a Class.
- Record Town Statistics: Your Wealth and Businesses are zero. Your Circles score is +0d. Your Lifestyle is destitute.
- Record Equipment: Record your equipment on the Inventory portion of your character sheet. Each character possesses the full list of Common Starting Equipment. Next, roll for random equipment on the Miscellaneous Equipment Lists. Finally, choose equipment from the relevant Class Equipment List. Finish by choosing your Basic Weapon (from the Common Starting Equipment list).
- Record Health: Begin with four (4) points of Toughness (HP). You may receive additional HP from Equipment (like Armor or Shields) and Boons.
- Boons: Select two Boons. You may always select boons from the generic (adventurer) list or from your class's list.
- Failed Career and Origin: You may declare or roll for a random Former Career (that your character undertook before taking up adventuring), or you may wait to declare or roll until later in play. (If you defer the decision, at any point you may declare or roll your former career.) Likewise, you may choose your starting Origin—Umiyid, Veniz, Lyriamos, or the Pearl Islands—or you may wait to declare your Origin until during play. Once established, details such as these should not be changed.
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 will receive 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 only spend one of each type of Class Resource per Round unless explicitly noted otherwise. If a character has multiple kinds of CRs (e.g. from taking +Control Boons or from Advanced Classes), they may use one of each type of CR per Round.
Experience and BoonsTop
Characters begin with two Boons, special characteristics developed through their training and experience as adventurers.
After you return from a successful expedition, your current character gains one Boon. Boons may always be chosen from the generic Adventurer list, from your Basic Class list (Explorer, Warrior, Leader, 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 fo the session, grant the Boon to the newly rolled replacement character.
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.
When you choose Improve an Ability from the generic (Adventurer) list, follow this procedure: Pick one Ability that you'd like to improve. As during character creation, sum 2d6, divide by two, and round down; if the result is higher than your current base score (ignoring the benefit from any non-permanent enhancements, e.g. from relics or artifacts), permanently increase the Ability by one point. If you fail to improve that Ability, choose another Ability to try. Continue until you've improved one Ability, or else until you've attempted but failed to improve all six. If you fail all six, start over again.
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 may choose one (and only one) of the three following benefits for your new character:
- Your new character benefits from the experience and mentorship of the retiring character: the new character gains +1 to a different Ability (of your choice) for each complete set of five Boons that the retiring character possesses, up to a maximum of +1 to all Abilities at 30 Boons.
- The retiring character transfers ownership in her businesses and investments to the new character: the new character gains one rank in Businesses for every two full ranks in the retiree's Businesses score.
- Your retiring character uses their connections, influence, and reputation to advance the Company's Reputation with an associated Faction (one that the retired character interacted with). Roll 1d8 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 them by one point per complete set of ten Boons.
Whenever you retire a character, you may select one of these three benefits. You cannot, however, gain part of multiple benefits, for example by splitting the retiree's number of earn Boons between +1 to Abilities and to an Improve Reputation roll. Moreover, existing characters never receive benefits from other characters' retirement; an incentive only applies to the new character rolled to replace the retiring character.
2. Basic ClassesTop
Rugged Adventurers, Tomb Raiders, Scouts, Artifact Hunters, Globetrotters, Expeditionary Enthusiasts, Survivalists, Wilderness Rangers, Ascetic Monks, Settlers, Nomads, and Indiana Jones Fans
Class Resource: Luck
Play an Explorer if you want a well-rounded, highly survivable character who can specialize in wilderness exploration, dungeon delving, scouting, or pushing their luck and succeeding.
Starting Package for Newbies:
Starting Boons: "Gain +1 Luck" and either "Superior Senses" or "Disappear"
Class Equipment: Crossbow/Blunderbuss; Case of Bolts/Cartridge Box; Pack Mule (or a Trained Hound); Chain Shirt (+1 HP); 60' Strong Silk Rope
Soldiers, Mercenaries, Gladiators, Knights, Bounty Hunters, Martial Artists, Tribal Warriors, Berserkers, Street Fighters, Thugs, and 80s Action Heroes
Class Resource: Momentum
Play a Warrior if you are want to shine in any form of physical combat, from archery to mounted combat to the scrum of melee to advanced strategy and tactics.
Starting Package for Newbies:
Starting Boons: "Gain +1 Momentum and +1 HP" and either "Break Anything," "Whirlwind Attack," or "Gain +2 HP."
Class Equipment: Sword; Shield (+1 HP); Warhorse; Full Plate Armor (+3 HP).
Crime Lords, Gang Bosses, Religious Leaders, Fixers, Spies, Knaves, Assassins, Nobles with Shady Connections, Disgraced Diplomats, Wandering Minstrels, and Smooth Operators
Class Resource: Guile
Play a Leader if you are want to marshal a group of followers in battle or if you want to excel in social, political, or criminal situations.
Starting Package for Newbies:
Starting Boons: "Gang Leader" (twice) or "Roll +1d in Social Situations" and "Gain +2 Circles and +2 Businesses"
Class Equipment: Embroidered Gambeson (+1 HP); Set of Four Exquisite Daggers; Letter of Introduction from a Prominent Local Aristocrat; Sack of Contraband (1d8 Cash)
Wizards, Witches, Blood Magicians, Rune Casters, Shamans, Alchemists, Psychics, Warlocks, Druids, Astromancers, Enchanters, Mad Scientists, Evil Geniuses, and Diabolists
Class Resource: Control
Play a Sorcerer if you want to channel powerful extradimenional forces to manipulate reality, blast your foes with arcane power, or delve into the mysteries and danger of other dimensions.
Starting Package for Newbies:
Starting Boons: "Gain 2 Random Spells and +2 Control" and either "Fel Blast (Single Target) and Gain +1 Control" or "Familiar (Level 3)."
Class Equipment: Intricate Staff; Chest of Arcane Tools; Vials of Antitoxins (d6); Pouch of Psychoactive Drugs (d8).
3. Advanced ClassesTop
By selecting the relevant Adventurer Boon or by achieving an exploit in the fiction, you may choose to unlock a single Advanced Class. When you do so, choose one of the classes below. There should be fictional antecedent for your choice, though unlocking the class might also emphasize or further develop that nascent theme.
After you've unlocked an Advanced Class, you may take Boons from the class's boon list whenever you gain a Boon. Note that unlocking the Advanced Class also provides an initial Class Resource.
The duration of any activated Feats function as per spells. Similarly, any Feats that require a Save require a contested test.
List of Advanced Classes
Class Resource: Deep Memory
- Historical Attunement: Roll +1d when you deal with ancient knowledge, such as interpreting symbols/iconography, translating text, researching history, identifying relics, etc. Roll an additional +1d when you spend Deep Memory.
- Lasting Bond: You have an old connection—a friend, lover, mentor, or rival—who is still alive and active. Discuss the nature of your relationship with the Referee. You automatically succeed on Circles tests to locate that individual.
- Well of Knowledge: Gain +1 maximum Knowledge.
- Temporal Disorientation: Spend Deep Memory to force another creature's perception to phase in and out of temporal sync. This is always a disorienting and uncomfortable experience (Discipline Save negates). The effect lasts one Round per point of maximum Deep Memory.
- Muscle Memory: Spend Deep Memory to temporarily recall a long forgotten skill. Roll +1d while practicing that skill.
- Beyond Ancient: Gain +1 maximum Deep Memory.
Co-designed with John M.
Class Resource: Allure
- Glamour: You are supernaturally sexy. Among other things, roll +1d when you use your sex appeal to manipulate an opponent. When you do so, you may spend Allure roll an additional +1d.
- Sense Pheromones: Spend Allure to sense a nearby target's emotional state and general intentions.
- Invigorating Kiss: Your kisses are supernaturally potent and fortifying. Spend Allure and take two damage to restore 4d HP or to allow your target another saving throw against a negative status effect like poisoned, paralysed, stunned, or a similar psychophysical incapacitation.
- Erotic Vampire: When you sleep with a character, they feel an intense yearning to sleep with you again. In addition, you may choose one: permanently reduce a random Ability score by one; reduce them to zero HP; impel them to tell you a secret (of their choice); or cause them to have a sleepless night, plagued by nightmares.
- Succubus: Spend Allure to temporarily unmask your true demonic form, complete with goat horns, cloven hoofs, and leathery bat wings. Make a Presence test: for [Successes] Rounds, you gain the ability to fly clumsily, receive [Successes] bonus HP, and deal +1s damage. At the end of the transformation, you fall unconscious and revert to your masked human form. Even in human form, your aura henceforth registers as demonic.
- Dead Sexy: Gain +1 maximum Allure.
Class Resource: Subterfuge
- Mimicry: After observing a person for a time, you are able to disguise yourself to look like them (given the proper materials). When you spend Subterfuge, you may also expertly mimic their voice and mannerisms for an Exploration Turn.
- Espionage: Roll +1d when you lie, manipulate, misdirect, impersonate, or create forgeries. On such rolls, you may spend Subterfuge to roll an additional +1d.
- Assassination: When you strike an unsuspecting or defenseless opponent and spend Subterfuge, you deal damage as usual plus 8d damage.
- Breaking and Entering: Spend Subterfuge to quickly pick any lock or break into any secured room/object without leaving a trace. You may also set the lock behind you, if you wish.
- Cultivate Asset: When you work to gain the trust or assistance of any person, spend Subterfuge to add +3d to the test.
- The Cunning of Odysseus: Gain +1 maximum Subterfuge.
Class Resource: Shroud
- Mark of the Grave: You always emanate a signature mark of the grave: a lingering chill, a whispering voice, pale/gaunt mien, solid black eyes, dusky leathery skin, anatomically correct bone or organ tattoos, strange brands, or etc. In addition, roll +1d versus deathly effects (fear caused by the undead, ghostly effects, blood magic, etc.). When you do so, you may spend Shroud to roll an additional +1d.
- Deathly Gaze: You have a vague sixth sense that alerts you to traces left by ghosts, revenants, and the touch of Death. You may spend Shroud to perceive ghosts, spirits, and the ectoplasmic signs of recent death, whether they are manifested in reality or nearby in the Spirit Realm.
- Grave Servant: Gain a faithful undead Follower raised from a recently deceased corpse. The zombie (Level 3) will eventually decay into a faster, hardier skeleton (Level 4).
- Ghostly Servant: Gain an incorporeal spirit Follower (Level 3).
- Ghastly Servant: Gain an quasi-living, quasi-undead feral cannibal for a Follower (Level 4). Whenever the ghoul consumes a corpse, it regains all spent HP and rolls +1d during its next combat that day.
- Corpse Speech: Spend Shroud to communicate with a ghost, spirit, or intact corpse, whether in reality or nearby in the Spirit Realm.
- The Stench of Death: Gain +1 maximum Shroud.
Class Resource: Faith
- Prayer: Meditate for an Exploration Turn and spend Faith to humbly beg a being of light for a favor. There is a 1-in-6 chance that it is granted. You may increase the chance that it is granted by 1-in-6 (to a max of 4-in-6) by spending Faith (multiple points may be spent). If your request grossly oversteps the bounds of humility or hubris, you may lose the ability to pray until you complete an act of atonement as assigned by the insulted being of light.
- Crusader: Roll +1d when you make a Versus test (Combat, Channeling, or otherwise) against a being of pure evil, darkness, or hate. If you hit, you may spend Faith to deal +1s damage.
- Divine Aid: When you use Prayer, you may instead ask for a substantial intervention. The base chance increases to 2-in-6 (and may still be improved by spending Faith).
- Enlightenment: You can detect the taint of undead and demons as a sixth sense (usually interpreted as sight in humans, but actually works through proximity, like any other sense). Especially evil or depraved targets are highly perceptible.
- Shield of Faith: Spend Faith to negate all negative non-damage effects (e.g., status effects) from any source this Round. You may do so after finding out what the effect(s) will be.
- Conviction: Gain +1 maximum Faith.
Class Resource: Primal Nature
- Animal Companion: You gain an Animal Companion Follower (Level 4). If the animal companion dies or is dismissed, you may capture and train another after a period of mourning (i.e. at the beginning of the next session). Furthermore, any existing human Followers that you have may be replaced with animal companion Followers of the same Level.
- Feral Aspect: Spend Primal Nature to temporarily gain one of the following animal features: bear claws, elk antlers, toad tongue, duck flippers, wolf snout, owl eyes, or crab pincer.
- * Menagerie: Gain a new Animal Companion (Level 3). You may take this Feat twice.
- Red in Tooth and Claw: Roll +1d when you attack unarmed or with only natural weapons (e.g. claws, teeth, talons, etc.). When you do so, you may spend Primal Nature to roll an additional +1d.
- Spirit of the Forest: Gain +1 maximum Primal Nature.
Class Resource: Wyld
- Fey Blood: Fey ancestry, exposure, or a curse have begun transforming you into a fey creature. You no longer require sleep, you are immune to charm and confusion effects, and you are supernaturally bound to keep (the letter of) any promises, commitments, deals, or arrangements that you make. Your aura clearly reveals your fey nature.
- Fairy Lights: Spend Wyld to create a modest sensory illusion nearby. Characters that physically interact with the illusion may make an Acuity Save to see through the illusion.
- Court Alignment: You are bound to a seasonal court. Among the fey, you have natural allies (from similar courts) and natural rivals or enemies (from opposed courts). Among other things, your court rulers may ask you to complete tasks, but they will also provide aid when they can. Roll +3d when you test Circles to contact someone from your court.
- Open the Hedge: In any natural place with plants, you may spend Wyld to cause the plants to grow into a huge, tangled mass of thorny brambles. Any creatures that passes into and through the Hedge exit into the Fairie (or vice versa), but take 3d damage as their flesh is torn by wicked brambles.
- Steal Memories: Spend Wyld and touch the target's forehead to steal a memory (Discipline Save negates). You may choose the general topic, time, event, or other circumstances from which the memories will be drawn.
- Wyld Aspect: Gain +1 maximum Wyld.
Class Resource: Mutagenesis
- Affinity: When you interact with other beastmen or mutants, roll +1d on Circles checks and social tests, and add +1 to the result of Reaction Rolls.
- Enhanced Mutation: One of your mutations can be temporarily juiced for enhanced effect. Spend Mutagenesis to activate the effect; the boost lasts for one Exploration Turn. Consult with the Referee to settle on an appropriate effect.
- Armor: Thick hide, chitin, etc. grants +2 bonus HP.
- Bioweapon: Roll +1d on combat checks with a natural weapon like claws, teeth, horns, claw, etc.
- Speed: Move twice as fast.
- Senses: Incredible sense perceptivity for a turn.
- * Accelerating Mutation: Your body continues to transform. Roll two random Mutations, then pick one to gain. (You may take this Feat twice.)
- Accumulating Enhancements: As "Enhanced Mutation," but for a different mutation (only one enhancement per mutation).
- Unstable Blood: Gain +1 maximum Mutagenesis.
You have latent, intrinsic psychic potential that suddenly manifests. To creatures with Spirit Vision, Second Sight, or aura reading, you crackle with psychic potential. Choose a manifestation for your psychic abilities, similar to a Sorcerer's manifestation. You are now vulnerable to psychic attacks.
Class Resource: Psi
- Empathy: You may spend Psi to read psychic auras, which provide vague insight about a person's current emotions and disposition.
- Spiritual Path: Choose "Psychic," "Soul Knife," or "Living Weapon" as a subclass. You may now select the Feats that are part of that subclass, but you may never select the other two Feats (or, thus, the other Feats that depend upon them). (N.b.: All subclasses may select the "Perfected Meditation" Feat.)
- Psychic: You have strong, innate psychic gifts. Choose one of the following powers: telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, clairvoyance, or object reading. Spend Psi to activate the ability. Psychic abilities generally require a contested Ability test in order to affect a resistant target, affect no more than one target per [Success], last no longer than one turn per [Success], are difficult to control with precision, provide somewhat incomplete information (e.g. impressions, fragmented visions, or snippets of thoughts or feelings), and are exhausted after being used significantly (e.g. to attack or harm a creature, to provide Advantage on a test or save, or to roughly replicate a spell's effect). Gain +1 maximum Psi.
- * Growing Powers: Choose one additional psychic power from the list above. You may take this Feat twice.
- Psychic Focus: When you use a conspicuous psychic focus (like a large crystal or a set of divination tools), you roll +1d whenever your powers require a contested roll (e.g. Acuity vs Discipline to read thoughts with telepathy). You may spend Psi to roll an additional +1d.
- Soul Knife: As long as you have Psi remaining, you may concentrate to summon a blade or similar weapon in your hand. The psi weapon is made of pure psychic energy and deals +1s damage. The psi weapon lasts until it is used significantly (e.g. at the end of combat), until you run out of Psi, or until you dismiss it.
- Sharpened Will: When you attack with your Psi Weapon, you may spend Psi to roll +1d. If you do so and deal damage, deal +1s damage.
- Psi Blast: When you strike one enemy among a group with your psi weapon, you may spend Psi cause your attack to explode or arc to the rest of the melee group for 3d damage each. You may use this feat even if you have already spent Psi this round.
- Imbue Weapon: You may spend Psi to imbue your psi weapon for the remainder of a combat. An imbued weapon grants +1d to Combat Checks and harms creatures that are normally resistant or immune to physical, magical, or other special types of weapons (such as demons, ghosts, and other extradimensional beings).
- Living Weapon: You are able to empower your martial arts attacks by focusing psychic energy in your body. As long as you have Psi remaining, roll +1d when you fight using unarmed martial arts techniques. Whenever you take damage, you may spend Psi to reduce the incoming damage by 2d points.
- Celerity: Psychic power accelerates your speed and reflexes. You always move with preternatural grace and efficiency. You may also spend Psi to move 50% faster than usual for [Agility test Successes] Rounds. Among other things, this often grants +1d to relevant tests or saves.
- Psychometabolism: Psychic energy fuels your body, making you strong and resilient. Gain +1 maximum HP. You are immune to the effects of exposure (cold, heat, etc.). You may spend Psi to heal one HP.
- Immaculate Body: Meditation and discipline elevate your body and soul. Gain +1 maximum HP. You no longer age, and you roll +2d on saves against poison, disease, paralysis, petrification, and shapechanging.
- Perfected Meditation: Gain +1 maximum Psi.
Co-designed with Tanner C., Troy D., and John M.
Class Resource: Osteon
- Bone Speech: Spend Osteon to speak with loose bones. They're stupid, but will talk to you and follow your commands to the best of their ability. You may temporarily detach your own bones when you target then with this ability (e.g. a crawling hand).
- Bone Armor: Spend Osteon to cause your own bones to erupt and grow into armored plates. Gain +3 bonus HP for one Exploration Turn.
- Bone Collector: You may attempt to magically graft loose bones onto your body. For each bone structure that you attempt to graft, make an Ob 4 Might test. On success, the bones are permanently attached in the place you want and function in a normal, nonmagical way. On a failure, make an Ob 4 Discipline Save or permanently lose one maximum HP. You may only attempt a graft once per particular loose bone.
- A Bone to Pick: Spend Osteon to forcibly rip a random bone from an opponent's body with a magical touch. In addition to narrative consequences: (1-3) Minor Bone (2d damage to target), (4-5) Major Bone (4d damage), (6) Crucial Bone (8d damage). The target must also pass a Might Save (Ob = damage taken) or be stunned during the next round.
- Bone Shift: Spend Osteon to remodel your bone structure. You may grow taller or shorter, fatter or thinner, change proportions, and alter facial structure (e.g. as a disguise, or to make a more menacing mien). The effects are permanent.
- Extra Boney: Gain +1 maximum Osteon.
Class Resource: Jaded
- Never Say Die: Even when down, you are rarely out for good. Whenever you make a Death and Dismemberment check, roll 1d8 rather than summing 2d6.
- I've Seen Worse: Roll +1d on saves against fear, charm, or other mind-affecting supernatural effects. When you do, you may spend Jaded to roll an additional +1d.
- Juggernaut: Gain +3 maximum HP.
- The Stories I Could Tell: Spend Jaded and tell the brief story of how you overcame a more difficult obstacle or a worse danger. When you do, roll +1d per point of Jaded spent on a relevant Test or Save (multiple points may be spent).
- Badass Scars: Your physical scars inspire admiration and/or fear (+1d on relevant social tests). Moreover, your reputation gains you a Follower (Level 4). If the admirer dies, you may attract another after a short period of time (e.g. at the beginning of the next session).
- Too Cool For School: Gain +1 maximum Jaded.
Class Resource: Erudition
- Depth: For every point of maximum Erudition that you gain (including along with this Feat), choose one subject area. You have an expert's familiarity with topics or questions related to that subject matter. For example: national history, politics, folklore, science, literature and arts, geography, sailing and hydrology, a genus of plasmids, a category of artifacts, etc.
- Breadth: You are very well read. Roll +1d on any knowledge-based test about a topic that a well-informed generalist might have read about. On such tests, you may spend Erudition to roll an additional +1d.
- Linguist: You can read, understand, and speak all languages in common circulation. In addition, you may make a Knowledge test to decipher the gist of any ancient or unknown message.
- Tenure: Receive an invitation to the faculty of a prestigious institution of learning. Gain +1 Knowledge.
- * Book Magic: Through intense practice, you have mastered the ability to channel a plasmid while reading from a book of incantations or spiritual disciplines. Choose one spell from the Diabolism, Divination, Enchantment, or Warding families. Spend Erudition (rather than Control) to channel the spell, as long as you read from your spellbook while doing so. (Otherwise, follow rules for spellcasting.) You may select this Feat up to six times.
- Continuing Education: Gain +1 maximum Erudition.
Class Resource: Veil
- Shadow Step: When you step into the shadows (no more than dim lighting), spend Veil to instantaneously teleport to another shadowed place within sight. You arrive and remained cloaked by shadows until you move or act.
- Creature of Darkness: Roll +1d when you hide or sneak. When you do, you may spend Veil to roll an additional +1d.
- Cloak of Shadows: When you spend Veil and remain still, you are slowly wrapped in shadows and then disappear completely from all senses, including magic, until you act or move.
- Dark Fog: Spend Veil to summon a large bank of supernatural heavy fog that lasts one Exploration Turn, even in sunlight or a heavy breeze. You can see through the fog perfectly.
- Dark Demeanor: The shadow's touch is apparent on your face and in your eyes. Among other things, roll +1d when you roll to intimidate, threaten, cajole, bully, or dominate. On such rolls, you may spend Veil to roll an additional +1d.
- Deep Darkness: Gain +1 maximum Veil.
Class Resource: Essence
- Otherworldly: Roll +1d on all tests and saves related to spirits with whom you are interacting.
- Sixth Sense: Whenever spirits are nearby, a vague sixth sense alerts you to their presence. You may spend Essence to reveal any invisible spirits, or else to allow you to converse (voice only) with a spirit across the dimensional boundary.
- Medium: Spend Essence to invite a spirit to possess your body. While possessed, your visage is altered by the spirit's influence and the spirit lends you a portion of its power. Roll +1d on all combat checks, as well as on any other tests congruent with the spirit's nature. You also gain +1 bonus HP for the duration.
- Pierce the Veil: At a site with strong spiritual resonance (a cemetary, shrine, beloved statue, sublime natural feature, etc.), you may spend Essence to safely transport yourself and any willing companions into the Otherworld.
- Totem Spirit: You are accompanied by an invisible, incorporeal spiritual totem. You may spend Essence to cause the totem animal to manifest in the world. While manifested, it counts as an Animal Companion (Level 4). Manifested totems have the powers and capacities natural to their type.
- Quintessence: Gain +1 maximum Essence.
Class Resource: Nature Attunement
- Wilderness Expert: Roll +1d on wilderness survival tests, such as wayfinding, foraging, hunting, tracking, concealing a trail, identifying plants and animals, creating shelter, and so forth. Roll an additional +1d when you spend Nature Attunement.
- Wild Stride: In any natural setting, you are able to pass without leaving any trace. Any difficult wilderness terrain—thorns, mud, snow, thick undergrowth, shifting sand, etc.—does not appreciably slow your progress. In natural terrain, you may also spend Nature Attunement to hide, even if being directly observed.
- Animal Companion: Capture and train an Animal Companion (Level 4). The animal may be of any type appropriate to the area where you captured it. If your companion dies, you may capture and train a new one after spending a period of mourning (i.e. at the beginning of the next session).
- Wild Speech: Spend Nature Attunement to temporarily gain the supernatural ability to converse with any natural animal or beast.
- Master Archer: Roll +1d when you attack with a bow or similar weapon.
- Wild Soul: Gain +1 maximum Nature Attunement.
III. Adventuring Guide
This guide addresses the Referee's rules and mechanics. It describes the general phases of play, the procedures that govern each phase, lists ("Factors") for calculating Obstacle Ratings, rules for NPC characters, rules for monsters and other adversaries, and guidelines about treasure.
1. The Phases of PlayTop
Each game session follows the same progression of phases, each with their own procedures. First, there is a brief Planning Phase. Then, a Town/Camp Phase lasts as long as necessary to complete related activities. In many sessions, this phase is short—perhaps only a few minutes or tens of minutes—but it occasionally requires more time, especially when plans are being hatched or logistical issues need to be resolved. As players begin to found strongholds, businesses, and other social institutions, this phase takes on increased importance. Third, the majority of the session is occupied with the Expedition Phase, during which players adventure. (Note that the Expedition Phase can occur in town, e.g. with an urban adventure, or else may be based around player agendas related to social machinations or issues with a business, institution, relationship, etc.) Finally, there is a very brief End of Session Phase.
Each Phase is briefly described in this section. The following section describes the procedures specific to the most involved phase and the one in which most play occurs: the Expedition Phase.
As a group, the players decide where to go/what agenda to pursue during the session. Each player activates one character from their stable.
When the players start in camp or town, they may undertake typical Downtime Activities, such as Circles or Wealth-based activities, pursuing their independent agendas, or arranging to take on a job (start a hook). Abstract these activities to simple Ability tests when possible, and play through scenes in more detail only when it adds substantially to the fiction, e.g. when establishing a new hook or setting a scheme in motion.
In addition, if an activated character has any ranks in Businesses, check to see how many Cash they generate. Players may also wager Cash in order to gain new ranks in any Town Ability, though each Town Ability may be tested once per session.
The remainder of the session is spent following the Expedition Phase rules, which govern e.g. the passage of time, random encounters and wandering monster checks, inventory management, ability tests, combat, etc.
End of Session PhaseTop
Players 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 before the end of the session, each player must roll on the Desperate Returns Table. A player's active character gains one Boon at the end of every session.
Before concluding the session, players must divide the treasure and gear that they found during the session between the present characters. Finally, each surviving character (even those who entered halfway through the session) mark one successful expedition on their activated character's character sheet.
2. Town Phase ProceduresTop
In addition to the mechanics from the Player's Guide, the Referee uses the following procedures during the Town Phase.
During the Town Phase, play proceeds at an abstract level. When rolling is necessary, resolve actions with a single test. Roleplaying should be reserved for interparty drama and Circles checks only. During Town Phase, characters may purchase goods, roll their Businesses, and make Circles checks. In general, players may also make one Downtime Action per Town Phase.
Some Downtime Actions advance a longer-term project. Such projects are measured by Project Clocks, an abstract indicator of completion. (Players are encourage 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 4-6 normal for shorter projects and 8-10 normal for serious, involved projects. Each session that a character dedicates time to a project, she may fill in one "tick" until the project is complete.
When players habitually narrate how they carouse or socialize with particular groups or strata of society, they are generally entitled to roll +1d on tests that might benefit from their exposure to those groups. (Rather than rolling a bonus die on Circles checks, however, the Obstacle Rating will instead be lower—see those rules for more details.) The Referee is also encouraged to present hooks, rumors, and potential jobs related to characters' carousing or socializing.
Research and Training
When players habitually narrate how they train or conduct general research, they may be entitled to roll +1d on relevant checks, but only of limited provenance (not +1d on all Combat Checks, for instance, but rather on e.g. history of religions or trapping). In other cases, they may fictionally qualify for an Advanced Class (e.g. Scholarly or Wilderness). As with carousing, Research and Training may present an opportunity for related hooks, rumors, and potential jobs. If a character researches a specific question, the Referee should call for a Knowledge test. If the player seeks out a knowledgeable source, instead call for a Circles test.
To determine the project clock for learning a spell, multiply the spell's Channeling Obstacle Rating by two. Both the teacher and the learner must take this Downtime Action for the learner to advance the project by a tick.
3. Expedition Phase ProceduresTop
In addition to the mechanics from the Player's Guide, the Referee uses the following procedures during the Expedition Phase.
Timekeeping: Rounds and TurnsTop
As described above, combat occurs in Rounds. Exploration, on the other hand, occurs in Turns (see next section, below). These rules use the two terms in this technical sense. In addition, the rules refer to a "session" to mean one actual gameplay meeting.
Random Encounter ChecksTop
Random Encounter Checks, also called "Wandering Monster Rolls" when in a dungeon setting, must be rolled when the party travels through the wilderness or in a dungeon. There are different check frequencies for overland/wilderness travel and for different dungeons. This section lays out the general principles for judging appropriate frequencies.
Encounter Check Mechanics
As often as is called for by the procedures of the area, make a Random Encounter Check by rolling a single die (d12):
- 1-2: There is an encounter. Make the indicated die roll on the Encounter Table created by the Referee or provided within a module or other product.
- 3: There is a a Sign or Sighting. Roll on the relevant Encounter Table to determine who/what has been sighted. The sign or sighting may include tracks, a lair, detrius, etc. In any case, it provides a clue to the players about what they might face. In many cases, a future "encounter" result will automatically reincorporate the entity that made the sign, rather than leading to a roll on the Encounter Table.
- 4-12: there is no encounter or event.
Encounter Check Frequency
In general, an Overland Turn is a day of wilderness travel (~10 hours on the move). Normally, Random Encounter Checks ought to be made once per Overland Turn. (Travel by boat, or in a very safe place, might only call for half or fewer Random Encounter Checks.)
When exploring any adventuring site (a "dungeon"), an Exploration Turn covers roughly 10 minutes, which should be used as a common, default length of time by which to count the duration of any tasks. That is, dungeon actions are usually measured in a number of Exploration Turns, and most standard dungeon exploration actions (like searching a typical room) will take one Exploration Turn.
Different dungeons may have different Random Encounter Check rates. In general, populous dungeons check once per Exploration Turn, depopulated (average density) dungeons check once every other Turn, and empty dungeons check every third turn. Expendable items—e.g. torches in a dungeon—should be subject to a Usage Die check every other Exploration Turn.
Difficulty Guidelines for Encounter Tables by AreaTop
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. The following five categories are used throughout these rules as a guideline, for example to help align the amount of treasure that might be found in a horde in the an area, as well as to help the Referee maintain a reasonable, consistent level of difficulty throughout the area. As always, exceptions should be made as the fiction demands!
- Easy Areas: Average encounters with L1 creatures (normal range: L0-2).
- Moderate Areas: Average encounters with L3 creatures (L1-5).
- Hard Areas: Average encounters with L5 creatures (L3-7).
- Very Hard Areas: Average encounters with L7 creatures (L5-10).
- Fiendishly Difficult Areas: Average encounters with L9 creatures (L7-14).
Number of Monsters AppearingTop
Encounter Tables are constructed with a "number appearing" tag that signals how many adversaries the Referee should introduce. To maintain an even degree of challenge for different group sizes, this number varies based on the number of players, rather than being a static dice expression or fixed number.
- [Singular Name] or a Pair: As listed. This amount is 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. (An Acuity Test may be called for to avoid surprise.) 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 Random 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 ten-sided die roll:
- 1-3: Aggressive
- 4-9: Cautious
- 10: Friendly
Whenever there are questions about an adversary's motivation to continue fighting or to go into danger, the Referee uses Morale Checks to determine the opponent's likehood to continue fighting (as opposed to fleeing or surrendering). In general, mindless enemies or those immune to fear will fight to the death—undead are scary!
Morale checks are made a critical combat junctures. A morale check is normally made for a single combatant, for example, when they first take damage and when they drop below 1/3 Health. For a group, moral checks are usually made when the first creature goes down, and when half of the total number on one's side are incapitated or killed. (Groups make shared morale checks.) Morale checks are also often appropriate when a person/side is surprised and ambushed, when one side's leader is killed or otherwise taken out of action, or when the opposing side has an overwhelming combat advantage, such as the ability to deny the creature from dealing damage entirely.
Legendary creatures are not subject to morale checks.
To make a Morale Check, the Referee rolls a single polyhedral die based on the creature's discipline, bravery, and willingness to fight. In most cases, a d8 will be rolled. Particularly timid, cowardly, cautious, undisciplined, or pacifistic creatures instead roll d6, while particularly militant, disciplined, savage, or ruthless creatures roll d10. Add +1 to the result of the die roll if the enemy acts 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). Subtract -1 from the result if the enemy acts with a substantial combat disadvantage or if the group's leader has just been killed, captured, or incapacitated.
On a result of five or higher (5+), the enemy continues to fight. Otherwise, they withdraw, surrender, cower, or otherwise refuse to act.
If the players fail to return to town or make camp in a safe, secure location, each player must roll a d6 on the following table to abstract their losses as they beat a hasty retreat:
- Lose a random artifact (if none, lose a random mundane item, as below).
- Lose a random item from your Fast Inventory slots (if not possible, from Carried/Worn Inventory).
- Lose half of your Cash and Cash-equivalent Treasure.
- Lose 2 maximum HP.
- Lose one point from a random Natural Ability.
- Die, messily and in great pain.
4. Obstacle FactorsTop
To set an Obstacle Rating (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 occasionally be used, when they are particularly relevant. A Factor in (parathenses) counts as zero, i.e. counts as the baseline assumption for the task—count the first non-parenthetical Factor as 1.
Many tasks, of course, will be Contested Tests rather than Independent or Extended Tests that require an Ob. The following common activities, for example, are best resolved as Contested Tests:
- Forgery: Knowledge vs Acuity
- Pickpocket: Agility vs Acuity
- Hide: Agility vs Acuity
In principle, any action where two people are working at opposite purposes, even asynchronously, ought to be resolved as a Contested rather than an Independent Test.
General Factors (All Tests)
- Lighting: (bright), dim, dark
- Weather: (mild), inclement, tempestuous
- Pressure: (none), some, dire
- Wounds: (healthy), severe injuries (i.e. 0 HP or a relevant disability)
Circles can be used to find:
- A specific person you know (of).
- A person with a specific agenda/goal.
- A general type of person (by occupation, social milieu, ideology, etc.).
For a Circles test, use the Factors from one relevant category in the first two groups. Then, use the Additional Factors as is fictionally relevant.
Target (use one category):
- Occupation/Role: common, uncommon, rare
- Specific Agenda: (well known), private, secret
- Specific Person: celebrity, well-known, private citizen, hidden/undercover
Connectivity (use one category):
- Prior Real Relationship: (intimate), friends, acquaintances, severed
- Background/Class: part of same social circles, up or down a class, no shared background or social milieu
- Shared Affiliations: members of same organization, members of affiliated/kindred organizations, no shared affiliations
Additional Factors (use only as relevant):
- Time: (eventually), soon, right now
- Location: (local), regional, distant
- Social Density: (high), low
While making Channeling tests, the following Factors must be added to the base Obstacle Ratings for spells.
- Damage Taken While Channeling: +1 Ob per point of damage taken
- Armor: +1 Ob from each +HP from Armor and/or a Shield: Light (+1 HP), Medium (+2 HP), Heavy (+3 HP), Shield (+1 HP)
Athletics: Swim, Balance, Jump, Throw, Climb
- Distance: close, near, far
- Circumstances: (favorable), unfavorable, challenging
- Health: beaten and bruised, serious wounds
Improve Relations (by 1 step/success)
- Starting Disposition: friendly, cautious, hostile
- Approach: with signs of goodwill, without signs of goodwill, with signs of animosity
- Distance: local, regional, continental
- Terrain: open, irregular, rough, brutal
- Path: paved, dirt, pathless
- Weather: (mild), inclement, tempestuous/severe
- Time Passed: hours, days, weeks
- Number: a lot, a few, one
- Terrain: muddy, dirt/grass, stone/gravel
- Weather: (mild), inclement, severe
- Distance: near, far, distant
- Weather: mild, blustery, tempestuous
- Crew: experienced, green
Pick a Lock
- Difficulty: cheap, well-made, very secure
- Pressure: none, some, high
Disarm a Trap
- Pressure: none, some, high
- Complexity: simple, hard, intricate
- Danger: physical attack, poison, magical attack
Force Open a Door
- Security: latched, locked, stuck
- Material: flimsy, average, strong
Find Hidden Object
- Pressure: none, some, high
- Hidden Things: sloppily hidden, well hidden, masterfully disguised
- Difficulty: simple, moderate, complex, cutting edge
- Timeframe: (months), weeks, days
- Resources: easy access to appropriate tools/space/colleagues, little access, no access
Learn a Spell
- Difficulty: Base Spellcasting Ob +1
N.b.: Generally takes two weeks per point of Spellcasting Ob. Costs often include a side quest, and/or Cash (5-6 Cash per Ob).
- Instructor: (masterful), experienced, inexperienced
- Difficulty: (trivial), easy, moderate, complex
- Timeframe: eventually, soon, right now
5. Monsters and Other AdversariesTop
This section outlines the major components of monster design and statistics. The Bestiary of monsters and other foes, however, is kept privately by the Referee.
Level measures the basic strength of a monster. Monsters generally roll a Pool of dice equal to Level plus 3. Their pool gains a bonus die for strengths, and a penalty die for weaknesses.
Monsters have a Toughness score, which is their number of Hit Points (HP). The baseline formula for a monster's Toughness is 2 HP plus 2 HP per level. Elite monsters have 50% more HP, while Legendary monsters have 100% more HP.
Monsters have a Save score, which is the Obstacle Rating for player characters to resist their Moves. A monster's Save is equal to half of the monster's Level plus one, rounded up.
Adversaries may possess up to several Moves. A move is a special effect may occur as a standalone action, activate as part of other actions (including attacking), or be triggered by other conditions (like being hit, the characters taking certain actions, it being the end of the round, or any other conceivable fictional trigger).
As a standalone attack, a move often automatically deals a set number of dice in damage (e.g. 4d), counting successes as usual. Otherwise, it may impose a status effect. In either case, the move will almost always allow a listed Save for half damage (rounded up, as usual) or to avoid the effect. An example is dragon breath.
Attack moves may take different forms, like a strike, blast, line, aura, etc. Such moves are usually used either once per round (in addition to a normal attack) or once per encounter (e.g. upon engagement/being seen, at death, etc.) rather than replacing a normal attack. Diversity is the rule, however!
Special Damage is an additional effect that accompanies an attack.
In many cases, special damage automatically accompanies a successful attack (i.e. one that deals damage with a positive Margin of Success, but not a tie). The most basic examples transform the type of damage dealt or increase the amount of damage done.
Spectral Claws (+2s damage).
Poisonous Bite (+4d poison damage).
Frequently, however, special damage is not automatic, but rather allows a Save to avoid the effect or for half damage. These effects are notated in two parts: first, the possible damage or status effect, and second, the type of Test and Obstacle Rating for the Save.
Mind Spike (+4d damage, Discipline Ob 4 avoids).
Toxic Spores (-1d ongoing, Might Ob 3 ends).
Vampiric Blow (Drains 1 HP, Agility Ob 3 avoids).
A common form of special damage encompasses status effects. Statuses include paralyzed, blinded, slowed, stunned, knocked back, afraid, etc. An attack almost always allows a listed Save to avoid the effect of a status effect, or occasionally to shorten its duration. Such Saves may sometimes be repeated in future Rounds to end an ongoing effect. Status effects may or may not accompany damage.
Example: Claws (Paralysis, Might Ob 4 avoids).
Random Trap TablesTop
- Pressure Plate (on Floor/Pedestal)
- Internal Sensor (Messing About w/ Item)
- Trip Wire
- On Open/Close
- Poison Needle/Dart
- Swinging Blade
- Crushing Walls
- Trap Door (Pit or Chute)
- Disintegration or Magical Attack
Coins, Jewelry, Art, Commodities, Rarities, Antiquities, and All Manner of Lost TreasureTop
|8-12||Easy||Kobold Clan, Bandit Camp, Wealthy Merchant's Tomb|
|16-24||Moderate||Noble's Entourage, Troll Tribe, Infamous Pirate Captain's Cache|
|35-45||Difficult||Knight's Holdfast, Small Bank, Vampire, Major Demon Cult|
|70-90||Very Difficult||Baronal Treasury, Giant Warlord's Hall, Mature Dragon's Horde|
|140-180||Fiendish||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.
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.
Relics and ArtifactsTop
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. (See the "Attune Artifact" ritual for more information.) For every attuned artifact or relic in excess of their Level, the user takes -1d to all tests and saves.
|Roll||Random Artifact Subtables|
|3-4||Armor and Shields|
|5-7||Relics and Enchanted Items|
Attune Artifact Ritual
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 Obstacle Rating for the spell. Alternatively, the costs may be paid with the vital energy of an unwilling human sacrifice, though such an act is undeniably evil.
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.
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. (More Forthcoming.)
IV. Design NotesTop
Over the course of playtesting these rules, a number of situations arose that benefitted from discussion about the goals and methods of this design. At other points, orthogonal concerns were introduced. These design notes aim, in no particular order, to address potential points of difficulty or to establish guidelines or models for additional (supplemental) material beyond the scope of this game.
In many cases, these notes are copied from historical conversations about the system, and are only lightly edited for content. At some future point, I may choose to return and work them into a more comprehensive, analytical document.
The Feedback Trifecta: Wealth, Relics, Level
- To get better Abilities/dice pools, earn Boons or recover artifacts and relics.
- To unlock additional mechanical options for your character, recover artifacts or survive to earn Boons.
- To get richer, recover more treasure hordes and invest in Wealth and then Businesses.
- To get more allies, make more Circles checks.
- To get better allies, invest money in building connections (i.e. improving Circles).
- To unlock additional aspects of play, explore new areas and also invest in Strongholds.
This point has been made many, many times before on blogs and from the mouths of old grognards, but I often repeat it when introducting old school play to new players:
Old school D&D is totally unmodern in the sense that random combat is 100% the failure state, because combat is costly (in time and resources) and potentially lethal.
This is very, very different from prevailing media. In particular: in superhero fiction, you fight to show who you are/your values: Spiderman protects local innocents, Sir Goody liberates Elfenvale, whatever. In MMOs/videogames/hack and slash, you fight because winning makes you more powerful.
In old school D&D, why fight? It's dangerous and costly. So you either fight because you fucked up (or got unlucky) and can't escape a bad situation, or because fighting will get you something you can't get any other way. In other words, you choose to fight because winning will achieve something for you, in the fiction: gaining a stronghold, removing enemies permanently, taking something that you can't get in any other way, rescuing allies, etc.
Notice that this overlaps the other categories: you, like Sir Goody, might choose to liberate Elfenvale. But in the hero game, you have to, because that's what the game is about. Here, you can choose to, or you can piss off elsewhere and let them all die. (That's the whole player agency schtick I'm always on about.) Likewise, sometimes someone has something you really want and that will make you powerful, so you choose to murderify them, just like in an MMO. But you don't have to: there's always another score or pathway to power.
In other words: intentional combat, good! Random combat, costly and dangerous.
On Difficulty, Dungeons, and Depth
The deeper you go, on average, the higher both the risks and rewards.
Note that doesn't necessarily signal anything mechanical. I.e. It doesn't mean "harder" enemies with higher dice pools, though that might be the case sometimes. Instead, it might mean more ruthless enemies, or more hostile environments, or more complicated factions/geography, or just straight up weirder and more dangerous shit.
But also more Cash and better/rarer artifacts.
Designing Artifacts and Relics
- Artifacts and relics break the rules in any way you want. Balance isn't an issue.
- A relic's effects should always be fiction first. Why does a black panther statue, when eaten, give +1 Agility? Because it literally gives you panther features. (And boom, that enriches the fiction and gives additional room for fiction-first creativity.)
- Generally, make artifacts limited use. This reinforces a key principle of the game overall, which is that ideally every player choice is meaningful. Making relics a resource to be managed can (but doesn't always) support this. In most cases, a Usage Die (UD) approach is best for limited-use equipment-like relics: for example, grenades or alchemists items or a ray gun or whatever. Charges are appropriate for very powerful, spellcasty types of things, like a wizard staff or something. You can have charges recover at whatever rate us appropriate, and price abilities relatively. For most other relics (esp. utility relics), an x-in-y chance of loss is usually perfect.
- Artifacts that don't destruct, like some weapons, should definitely require attunement. Relics that give ability boosts skills definitely require attunement.
- Static bonuses are super strong. Consider adding a counterbalancing drawback.
- It's important to give a fair number of ability boosting relics (to partially make up for lost abilities from going negative), but not too many, lest you get ability creep. (Abilities should generally fluctuate in the 2-7 range, with the average about 4 for a high-level character or 3 for a low-level one.)
- Consider lots of consumables, esp. for ability boosts. Artifacts that give an ability boost AND can be looted from a dead person and reassigned lead to dangerous ability score bloat (which is fatal to the balance of the game).
Effects can do lots of things, and I have a ton of weird ones. (The OSR blogs are full of great ideas, too.) But there are a few recurring categories/themes:
- Permanent, one-time ability boosts, usually to a single ability (but more complex effects are possible).
- +1d to a specific type of ability (sneaking, archery, composing poetry, fighting giants, whatever).
- Imitates one or more spells (with charges, if multiple). I don't do to many of these.
- Makes spell-like effects, including adapting or riffing off spells from other editions. Great way of adding diversity without adding actual new spells (core spells get used a lot, so even one addition can drastically alter gameplay, so requires very careful consideration).
- A power with similar scope to a Class Feat.
- Bonuses to other things on the character sheet: HP, an extra Class Resource, bonus to a Circles check, etc.
V. Authorship NoticeTop
This reference document was written in MacDown, a MarkDown editor.
The document is copyright Stephen Parkin, 2017-19.
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 Obstacle Factors.
- Lady Blackbird and The Shadow of Yesterday, in ways direct and indirect.
- Classic Traveller, a classic old school game, for influencing the scale of Natural Abilities.
- Hundreds of discussions at Story-Games.com and posts across the OSR Blog-o-sphere.