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 adventure campaign.

Table of Contents

I. System Basics

  1. Introduction
  2. Core Rules and Mechanics
  3. Abilities
  4. Equipment
  5. Followers, Hirelings, and Animal Companions
  6. Magic

II. Character Guide

  1. Character Management
  2. Basic Classes
  3. Advanced Classes

III. Adventuring Guide

  1. Overview of General Procedures
  2. Town Phase
  3. Expedition Phase
  4. Obstacle Factors
  5. Monsters and Other Adversaries
  6. Treasure

IV. Design Notes

V. Authorship Notice


I. System Basics

1. Introduction

Open Table Principles

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Old School and DIY Ethos

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2. Core Rules and Mechanics

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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 Failures

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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.)

Simple and Extended Tests

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.) Occasionally, 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:

Obstacle Rating Difficulty
1 Trivial
2 Easy
3 Moderate
4 Difficult
5 Very Difficult
6 Fiendish
7 Superhuman

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," and Ob 4 tests somewhat harder than average. Ob 5+ tests are always extremely difficult except for 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 other words, are contested actions. The Referee will tell you the Obstacle Rating for any Saves required by monster powers or spells.

Combat and Damage Procedures

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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.

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 one adversary per round, but there are many exceptions granted by specific class feats, spells, artifacts, or fictional considerations.

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:

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—generally, substantial damage.

Ganging Up

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.

Variable Damage

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 Healing

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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, armor, 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 once any bonus HP are exhausted. Bonus HP almost always expire; at the end of the communicated 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.

Armor

Armor is rated in a number of bonus Toughness (Hit Points) that are gained while the armor is worn. Worn armor takes up a number of inventory slots equal to its +HP rating. A carried shield takes up one inventory slot.

The HP bonuses from armor do not stack--instead, evaluate the total degree of protection and assign a composite armor rating (+1 to +3). In addition, any character who dons a shield gains +1 maximum Toughness. (The shield bonus stacks with any bonus from the composite armor rating.)

Though it rarely matters, the bonus HP from armor and shields are lost first and regained last for the purposes of damage and healing.

All armor and shields add their +HP rating to any Obstacle Ratings for Channeling Tests or stealth and flexibility-based Ability tests.

Light Armor (+1 HP)

Light Armor includes incomplete protection from one or more small or mismatched pieces of armor, frequently including quilted or leather torso protection, a combat-ready helmet, or similar equipment.

Medium Armor (+2 HP)

Medium 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 consist of medium armor; only the heaviest, knightly sets are more protective.

Heavy Armor (+3 HP)

Heavy Armor is both rare and 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 is virtually always cumbersome to don and wear.

Shields (+1 HP)

Shields grant +1 maximum Toughness while used defensively. This bonus Hit Point stacks with the bonus granted by worn armor, if any.

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.


Down and Out Table
Result Consequences
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 Wound: Lose 2 max HP
7 Injured: Roll -1d on all tests and saves until the end of the session
8 Lingering Wound: 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

Resting

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.

3. Abilities

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Characters have 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. Cash is a fluid pool of expendable dice that can be used to make purchases or to increase your Town Statistics.

Natural Abilities

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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

MIGHT
Strength, vitality, toughness, stamina

AGILITY
Coordination, reflexes, quickness, balance, grace

PRESENCE
Social intelligence, rapport, charisma, charm, leadership

ACUITY
Awareness, insight, perception, wits, critical thinking

KNOWLEDGE
Relevant "know that" and "know how," e.g. history, religion, nature, dungeons, geography, arcana, architecture, lockpicking, bushcraft

DISCIPLINE
Resolve, composure, morale, teamwork and group coordination, endurance

Town Statistics

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Town Statistics cover a range of special abilities, each of which works in a different way.

Circles

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 makes them 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 is rated from zero to six bonus dice (0 to +6d). For new characters, Circles starts at zero (but +2d for Leaders). A character's Circles score may be improved by spending Cash; see that section for details.

Reputation

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

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

Lifestyle is a qualitative description of your general socioeconomic wellbeing. It is derived from your Wealth score. The five lifestyle grades are:

Businesses

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.)

Strongholds

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:

Cash

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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 dice represents roughly the net income of an unskilled laborer for two to three months' work, or for several weeks of work by an artisan or skilled laborer.

Cash dice are used in two ways:

  1. They may be wagered to purchase goods and services that Cost more than your current Wealth.
  2. 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:

Cash Obstacle Rating by Target Town Ability Rank
Type 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Circles 1 2 3 4 5 6
Wealth 2 3 5 6 8 9 11 12 14 15
Businesses 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 6
Stronghold 10 12 14 16 18 20

4. Equipment

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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 of narrative importance, even small ones, take up an entire slot.

Inventory Slots

Characters have eleven Inventory Slots with which to carry gear:

Other gear may be carried by Hirelings, Followers, or Pack Animals, or else left in camp/town:

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 an Inventory Slot (e.g. a longbow requires a quiver in another Slot; a pistol requires a cartridge box; etc.).

Items Occupying Multiple Slots

Some items take up multiple Slots. In the lists below, asterisks are used to indicate items that take up one or more additional Slots (one slot per asterisk).

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.

Equipment Lists

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Costs for Goods and Services

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This list provides Cost guidelines for various goods and services. Basic rules about purchasing gear, goods, services, etc. may be found under "Cash", above.

Buying

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:

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.

Selling

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).

Cost 1

Cost 2

Cost 3

Cost 4

Cost 5

Cost 6

Cost 7

Cost 8

Cost 9

Cost 10

Cost 14

Cost 20

Cost 30

5. Followers, Hirelings, and Animal Companions

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Non-Player Characters (NPCs) fall into three general classes, each of which uses the same underlying mechanics. NPCs have only two notable mechanics: Level and Role. NPC Levels are rated from zero to six.

When NPCs make a test, they roll a dice pool equal to their Level plus two. 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 function, personality, or similar.

Examples of Roles: Expert Survivalist, Skulldugger, Man at Arms, Carpenter, Librarian, Burgler, Nobleman.

Non-player characters have Toughness (Hit Points) equal to their Level, unless they are mooks (Level 0 hirelings like torchbearers, porters, or other pure civilian/laborer types), in which case they have 1 Hit Point. If an NPC's HP drop to zero, they are immediately out of action.

Followers

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 they are 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, in other words.)

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

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.

6. Magic

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.

Spellcasting Rules

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). 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 affeted 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 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 a 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 reference 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

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 one Exploration Turn per point of maximum Control that the Sorcerer possesses.

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 raraely, 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 defending Combat Ability: 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 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 such a 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 duration. Furthermore, both characters must be activated to advance the process's project clock. Following the period of study, the sorcerer makes a Spell Mastery check. The Obstacle Rating for the check is equal to the 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.

Spell Families

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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 more 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.

Spell Families
Roll Family
1 Blood Magic
2 Conjury
3 Diabolism
4 Divination
5 Elementalism
6 Enchantment
7 Shamanism
8 Psychomancy
9 Translocation
10 Warding

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.

Blood Magic

In addition to Knowledge, Blood Magic spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Presence.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. Hex (Presence Ob 3): Curse a living creature: they suffer ongoing bad luck, or else they become supernaturally afraid of you (Discipline Save negates).
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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):
    1. Turn on the sorcerer in anger
    2. Become catatonic
    3. Collapse into mundane corpses
    4. Dissolve into toxic biological goo
    5. Are sucked through a black hole into the land of the dead (but the black hole remains open for a time)
    6. Become permanent minions

Conjury

In addition to Knowledge, Conjury spells depend on the sorcerer's Agility and Acuity.

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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:
    1. Smooth
    2. Rough and textured
    3. Covered in vines and thick undergrowth
    4. Slippery like grease or ice
    5. Warm and hairy
    If you sacrifice a material component that is consumed by the channeling of the spell, you may instead cause the spell to imitate the component's surface texture.
  5. 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)
  6. 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):
    1. Everyone it touches dies messily and in massive pain.
    2. The gases deal one acid damage per round, including to objects.
    3. The gases cause burning blindness.
    4. Everyone in the area retches uncontrollably (making all but the simplest tasks impossible).
    5. The gases deal 2d cold damage each round, and anyone killed within the area rises as a malicious ice revenant.
    6. Chaos gases force anyone who fails a Discipline Save to go berserk and randomly attack anyone within reach.
    If you sacrifice 3 HP, you can instead choose the effect.
  7. 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.

Diabolism

In addition to Knowledge, Diabolism spells depend on the sorcerer's Presence and Discipline.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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.
  6. 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)
  7. 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.
  8. 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)

Divination

In addition to Knowledge, Divination spells depend on the sorcerer's Acuity and Discipline.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
    If you roll zero successes on the Channeling Test, the target may instead raid your mind with the same two options. Alternatively, you may channel the spell for the benefit of a nearby willing person: implant one of your captured spells into the target's mind (and, thus, lose it for the day), after which the target may channel the spell once before the next sunrise. (The beneficiary must roll a Channeling Test for the implanted spell as usual to determine potential spell magnitude or damage.) (W&W 25)
  5. 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)
  6. 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.
  7. 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)

Elementalism

In addition to Knowledge, Elementalism spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Agility.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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].
  6. 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)
  7. 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)

Enchantment

In addition to Knowledge, Enchantment spells depend on the sorcerer's Agility and Discipline.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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.

Psychomancy

In addition to Knowledge, Psychomancy spells depend on the sorcerer's Presence and Acuity.

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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)

Shamanism

In addition to Knowledge, Shamanism spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Presence.

  1. 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)
  2. Stormspeech (Presence Ob 2): Command the weather (in generalities). Invariably, weather modification results in threefold retribution in the days to come. (W&W 15)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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)
  7. 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)
    1. bat/centipede
    2. cat/rat
    3. eagle/rabbit
    4. owl/frog
    5. serpent/chicken
    6. wolf/sheep

Translocation

In addition to Knowledge, Translocation spells depend on the sorcerer's Acuity and Discipline.

  1. 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)
  2. 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)
  3. 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)
  4. 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)
  5. 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)
  6. 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.
  7. 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)

Warding

In addition to Knowledge, Warding spells depend on the sorcerer's Might and Agility.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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).
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
    The glyph lasts a day per [Success] or until triggered.

Rituals

Rituals may be practiced by any character as long as they meet any listed Restrictions. Some Rituals may require Materials, or else may have their power boosted by using them. Most Rituals takes days or weeks to complete, and they may involve one or more Ability tests. Some Rituals may allow or require helpers, but only the primary Ritualist alone should make the associated tests.

Attune Artifact

After a ritual involving several minutes (a short rest) of meditation and experimentation, 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 takes one point of damage, but may try again. Each additional failure causes an additional cumulative point of damage. It causes strain to control more than three artifacts: for every attuned artifact or relic in excess of that number, users must roll -1d to all tests and saves.

Arcane Ceremony

Anyone may attempt to summon a plasmic entity and force it to exert its supernatural force in the world (i.e. channel a spell). To do so, however, is difficult and unpredictable. The ritualist must spend hours or even days completing a complex ceremony consisting of numerous rites or other ritual activities (the nature of which depends on the spell effect desired and the ritualist's latent magical signature).

At the end of the ceremonial period, the ritualist makes a Knowledge Test. The Obstacle is equal to the normal Obstacle Rating of the targeted spell plus three. On a success, the spell takes effect. On a failure, the spell fails, and the ritualist suffers damage equal to the margin of failure.

The ritualist may use sorcerous materials (like souls, cybalt ore, harvested organs and glands, and so forth) to boost their Knowledge test. Roll +1d for each die worth of materials expended.

Affix Spell

Restricted: Sorcerer

Sorcerers may make a spell effect permanent by irreversibly binding the relevant plasmic entity to a material anchor.

To do so, the Sorcerer must channel the desired spell every day for three days, while expending processed Cybalt Ore during each channeling (one per Channeling Obstacle Rating per day). Alternatively, the energy cost to affix the spell may be paid with the vital energy of a human sacrifice, though such an act is undeniably evil.

At the end of the final day, the spell is affixed if the Sorcerer succeeds at an Ob 5 Knowledge test. Otherwise, the ritual fails and must be started again from the beginning with new materials.

If the affixing is successful, the Sorcerer permanently loses control of the spell and can never capture it again.

Mutations

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

These are the character-facing rules of the game, divided into four parts: Overview and Character Creation, Experience and Boons, Basic (Primary) Classes, and Advanced (Secondary) Classes.

1. Character Management

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This section contains general information about the gameplay lifespan of characters, including how to make new characters, how characters improve mechanically through play, and the mechanical effects of character retirement.

Character Creation

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Characters are mechanically defined by two sets of rules: Abilities and Classes. Each set of rules is made up of multiple components. (See those sections for more details.)

Character Generation

  1. Generate Abilities: Roll for each Natural Ability in order. Set each Ability equal to the average of a 2d6 roll, rounded down.
  2. Choose a Class: Choose a Class.
  3. Record Town Statistics: Your Wealth and Businesses are zero. Your Circles score is +0d. Your Lifestyle is destitute.
  4. 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).
  5. Record Health: Begin with four (4) points of Toughness (HP). You may receive additional HP from Equipment (like Armor or Shields) and Boons.
  6. Boons: Select two Boons. You may always select boons from the generic (adventurer) list or from your class's list.
  7. 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, Venidzi, Lyriamos, or the Pearl Islands—or you may wait to declare your Origin until during play. Once established, these two details should not be changed.

Character Stables

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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.

Class Resources

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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 (only for Luck and certain uses of Focus). If a character has multiple kinds of CRs (because they have taken +Control Boons or have leveled up in one or more Advanced Classes), they may use one of each type of CR per Round.

Experience and Boons

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Characters begin with two Boons, special characteristics granted by their status as an adventurer or by their class.

After you return from a successful expedition, your current character gains one Boon. Boons may always be chosen from the generic Adventurer list, your Class list, and any Advanced Class list 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, grant the Boon to your 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.

Retirement

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At the beginning of any session, you may retire an existing character from your stable who has earned five or more total Boons. 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:

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 Classes

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Explorer

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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


Warrior

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Soldiers, Mercenaries, Gladiators, Knights, Bounty Hunters, Martial Artists, Tribal Warriors, Berserkers, Street Fighters, Thugs, and 80s Action Heroes

Class Resource: Focus

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 Focus 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).


Leader

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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 +1 Circles and +1 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)


Sorcerer

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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 3 Random Spells and +3 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 Classes

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When you reach Tier Two Boons, 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.

When you first Unlock an Advanced Class, gain your choice of one of the Advanced Class's "Entry Boons," and gain one point of the Advanced Class's Class Resource. Now that you have unlocked the Advanced Class, you may use the "Advanced Class Feat" Boons to choose any one of the remaining Boons, either any remaining Entry Boon(s), or else one of the other Feats listed in the Advanced Class description. Whenever you take an Advanced Class Boon, you also gain +1 point of the associated Class Resource.

The duration of any activated Feats functions as per spells. Similarly, any Feats that require a Save require a contested test.

List of Advanced Classes

Generalist Classes

Extradimensionalist Classes

Niche/High-Concept Classes

Ancient

Class Resource: Deep Memory

Entry Boons

Feats

Captivating

Co-designed with John M.

Class Resource: Allure

Entry Boons

Feats

Crafty

Class Resource: Subterfuge

Entry Boons

Feats

Death-Touched

Class Resource: Shroud

Entry Boons

Feats

Devout

Class Resource: Faith

Entry Boons

Feats

Feral

Class Resource: Primal Nature

Entry Boons

Feats

Fey-Touched

Class Resource: Wyld

Entry Boons

Feats

Mutant

Class Resource: Mutagenesis

Entry Boons

Examples:

Feats

Mystic

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

Entry Boons

Feats

Ossiform

Co-designed with Tanner C., Troy D., and John M.

Class Resource: Osteon

Entry Boons

Feats

Scarred

Class Resource: Jaded

Entry Boons

Feats

Scholarly

Class Resource: Erudition

Entry Boons

Feats

Shadow-Touched

Class Resource: Veil

Entry Boons

Feats

Spirit-Touched

Class Resource: Essence

Entry Boons

Feats

Wilderness

Class Resource: Nature Attunement

Entry Boons

Feats


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 Play

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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.

Planning Phase

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As a group, the players decide where to go/what agenda to pursue during the session. Each player activates one character from their stable.

Town/Camp Phase

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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.

Expedition Phase

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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 Phase

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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 Procedures

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In addition to the mechanics from the Player's Guide, the Referee uses the following procedures during the Town Phase.

Downtime Activities

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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.

Circles

Carousing/Socializing

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.

Teaching/Learning Spells

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.

Other Actions

3. Expedition Phase Procedures

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In addition to the mechanics from the Player's Guide, the Referee uses the following procedures during the Expedition Phase.

Timekeeping: Rounds and Turns

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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 Checks

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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):

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 Area

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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!

Number of Monsters Appearing

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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.

Encounter Distance

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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.

Reaction Rolls

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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:

Morale Checks

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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.

Desperate Returns

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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:

  1. Lose a random artifact (if none, lose a random mundane item, as below).
  2. Lose a random item from your Fast Inventory slots (if not possible, from Carried/Worn Inventory).
  3. Lose half of your Cash and Cash-equivalent Treasure.
  4. Lose 2 maximum HP.
  5. Lose one point from a random Natural Ability.
  6. Die, messily and in great pain.

4. Obstacle Factors

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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:

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)

Circles Tests

Circles can be used to find:

  1. A specific person you know (of).
  2. A person with a specific agenda/goal.
  3. 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):

Connectivity (use one category):

Additional Factors (use only as relevant):

Channeling Tests

While making Channeling tests, the following Factors must be added to the base Obstacle Ratings for spells.

Exploration Tasks

Athletics: Swim, Balance, Jump, Throw, Climb

Improve Relations (by 1 step/success)

Overland Travel

Tracking

Sailing

Dungeoneering Tasks

Pick a Lock

Disarm a Trap

Force Open a Door

Find Hidden Object

Downtime Tasks

Research

Learn a Spell

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).

Training

5. Monsters and Other Adversaries

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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.

Core Stats

Level

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.

Toughness

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.

Save

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.

Moves

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).

Attack Options

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

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.

Examples:
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.

Examples:
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 Tables

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Trigger:

  1. Pressure Plate (on Floor/Pedestal)
  2. Internal Sensor (Messing About w/ Item)
  3. Trip Wire
  4. Touch
  5. Proximity
  6. On Open/Close

Effect:

  1. Poison Needle/Dart
  2. Swinging Blade
  3. Crushing Walls
  4. Trap Door (Pit or Chute)
  5. Disintegration or Magical Attack
  6. Teleportation

6. Treasure

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Coins, Jewelry, Art, Commodities, Rarities, Antiquities, and All Manner of Lost Treasure

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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.

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 Cash die.

Rule of Thumb Table for Caches
Cash Difficulty Example Dangers
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

Pocket Change: Minor hauls of treasure, like a bag of bronze or tin coins or a semiprecious stone or a minor art work, aren't always worth an entire Cash die on their own. The Referee will instruct the Players to mark a tick/tally mark every time they find a handful of coins or other such minor treasure. When they leave the dungeon, they can convert the pooled minor treasure into Cash dice at a rate of one Cash die per five ticks. (The remainder is lost.)

Relics and Artifacts

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Relics, Artifacts, and Magic Items 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 advanced, 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 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
1-2 Weapons
3-4 Armor and Shields
5-7 Relics and Enchanted Items
8-9 Sorcerous Tools
10 Plasmids

Shrines

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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.)

Sorcerous Materials

Forthcoming.


IV. Design Notes

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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

Avoiding Combat

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

Principles:

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:

  1. Permanent, one-time ability boosts, usually to a single ability (but more complex effects are possible).
  2. +1d to a specific type of ability (sneaking, archery, composing poetry, fighting giants, whatever).
  3. Imitates one or more spells (with charges, if multiple). I don't do to many of these.
  4. 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).
  5. A power with similar scope to a Class Feat.
  6. Bonuses to other things on the character sheet: HP, an extra Class Resource, bonus to a Circles check, etc.

V. Authorship Notice

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This reference document was written in MacDown, a MarkDown editor.
The document is copyright Stephen Parkin, 2017-19.

Inspirations

This particular game design is especially indebted to: