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May 5, 2011

I know it's been a while since my last post, but here goes:

Adventure! Part Three: First Days of the Aeon Society and pseudoscience!

The next couple of pages of the book cover the remainder of 1923, vaguely recounting the adventures of the Aeon Society from the perspective of Whitley Styles, using his journal to do so. The Society faces off with sexism in the ranks as Annabelle Newfield stands up to Danger Ace and Jack Tallon. Max and intrepid journalist Sarah Gettel come back from battling zombies in Haiti and Max sets up a new office for the Society in London.

Max Mercer seems to always be one step ahead of everyone else and knows exactly what to do, which Whitley is always eating up. It’s not exactly clear if the writers are in love with Max or if Whitley is, but we’re clearly supposed to be very impressed by the character.

Were newspapers back then in the habit of printing nicknames?

We then get a few hints at allies and adversaries. Danger Ace brings someone called “the Furry Man” back after crashing in the Yukon. Jack Tallon escapes an expedition-gone-wrong in the Congo by “intimidating the locals” and Whitley barely gets away from the Ubiquitous Dragon and his Dragon’s Coil Tong (ugh). Mercer reminds the crew that “we’re not pursuing personal vendettas or out to force people to change. After all, the Aeon Society is not a secret government and has no intention of becoming one. We fight against secrets.” I think the writers were going for irony here, since if you’ve read Aberrant and Trinity you know that the Aeon Society does go on to become a shadow government, controlling the world from behind the scenes. They’re also collecting files on people with weird powers and secret organizations from across the world. The Society isn’t keeping this information secret, but aside from Sarah Gettel, no journalists seem to be interested. More significantly, Max comes up with the idea of building a prison for the exceptional people they encounter, to keep them from endangering the public. The Society decides to build a “psychiatric facility” somewhere in Africa to house these people. That closes out the last of 1923 for the Society.

The next section covers “telluric energy” which is basically the juice that gives our pulp heroes their power. This is written from the perspective of Doctor Primoris, who is much more clinical than Whitley. He starts off describing masked heroes, which are… a thing, I guess? It doesn’t really come up as much as it probably should.

Sure, whatever you say.

If you’re familiar with the World of Darkness line and White Wolf products in general, you’ll know that most of their game lines split PC options up into distinct groups. Adventure! is no different, and Primoris introduces us to the three options players have.

First up are the Daredevils. These folks don’t have any real superheroic powers to speak of, but they do have a combination of incredible personal skill and uncanny luck. These are your Indiana Jones and Batman type characters. Since this is the fluff section, their powers aren’t gone into, but it is also noted that they have the ability to use “pseudoaetheric devices” which we’ll get into later.

Next we have the Mesmerists. Contrary to their name, they’re not just mind-readers, they also have the ability to affect the world with their minds. Telekinesis, psychometry, but also telepathy and mind control are all among their powers. Think of guys like the Shadow. Primoris notes that Harry Houdini ran afoul of a couple Mesmerists while he was exposing frauds among the spiritual community, but apparently decided to… not say anything and go looking for a person who could speak to the dead.

(One issue I have with Adventure! is that it doesn’t do much in the way of attempting to make its alt-history matter. Chronologically the next game in the line is Aberrant, which took place in the then-future of 2008, and until that game’s inciting event, apparently not much differs from regular Earth. Which seems like kind of a waste, given that Adventure! includes a great many characters who should be changing the world.)

Lastly there are the Stalwarts. They have a wide range of physical abilities, such as super-strength, enhanced healing, incredible durability, and even the ability to hurl lightning. Primoris seems most impressed with the Stalwarts, as their abilities are, to him, the ones that most seem to defy science. Stalwarts are mostly inspired by Doc Savage and comic book superheroes.

If you know about the Aeon Trinity line, you know that Mesmerists are the Psions that feature in the sci-fi game Trinity and the Stalwarts become the Novas of Aberrant. One of the appealing things about Adventure! is that it ties together the origins of two distinct genre archetypes: the transhumanist sci-fi psychics and the Dark Age superhero comics of the 90s and early 00s. The Daredevils are a left out in the cold, forced to share their book (this one) with scaled-back versions of the other two. This was a bad move, in my opinion, as Daredevils are the most interesting character type.

Primoris has his own categorization method for these new, weird kinds of people. He thinks of the Daredevils as the heroes of ancient myth, the Mesmerists as sorcerers and soothsayers, and the Stalwarts as the gods of legend and the future of humanity (quick, guess which one Primoris is).

Okay, I actually like this. It reads like it could've come out of a newspaper at the time

Most of the rest of this section is Primoris coming up with various terms to describe the method by which the, as Mercer calls them, “Inspired” derive their power. He settles on “telluric energy” though the book uses this interchangeably with “pseudeoaetheric waves.” In July of 1924 an “Inspired madman” attempts to blow up New York with psychic lightning, but the Aeon Society manages to turn it back and blow him up. Primoris notes that the Inspired are rare, and they all seem to step from people getting exposed to this telluric energy.

Primoris notes that these powers don’t seem to have existed before 1922, and that the telluric rays of Hammersmith’s machine may have irradiated people across the globe. He examines his own cells under a microscope and notes that his mitochondria are far more active than a normal human’s. He wonders how much of him is still human, or if he is human at all anymore. He goes on to question the theory of evolution and laments that he cannot obtain samples of the other Society members’ tissue without arousing suspicion.

What does the picture have to do with the news story??

He’s keeping a lot of this information to himself. Well, that’ll probably never come up!

In his final entry, Primoris speculates that the so-called “super-science” employed by other members of the Society and their enemies is not what it seems. He believes that inventors are building machines that only work because of the user’s connection to telluric energy, and will not function in the hands of a non-Inspired (conveniently explaining away why no one invents supertech and gets rich). He reflects on Marie Curie’s experiments with radioactivity and wonders if her work could be combined with his research into telluric energy.

Finally he discusses one last category of devices, which are capable of converting electricity into telluric energy or vice versa, produce strange and incomprehensible effects, and can be used by anyone regardless of whether they are Inspired or not. These devices appear to always be one-offs and cannot be mass-produced, but are dangerous regardless of who has them (in the rules section these are devices created and used primarily by science-minded Daredevils).


May 5, 2011

Count Chocula posted:

So it runs on Mage/Genius rules?

From my vague recollection of the Genius F&F, I think so. I don't know enough about Mage to say one way or the other there. The book really flip-flops on what can and cannot be used by non-Inspired, and clear definitions really don't come until the mechanics section. Even then it is fuzzy.

May 5, 2011

LatwPIAT posted:

[*] Scholar: “You were not put here to ‘Get it,’ Mr. Burton.” (This is probably a reference to some pop-culture thing I haven't seen, because gently caress people who don't have your exact cultural frame of reference, amright?)

I'll admit that I laughed at this because I love Big Trouble in Little China. But this and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer stuff really has no place in the book. The latter would be cute if there was a Buffy RPG, but I don't see how it belongs in an unrelated WoD book.

May 5, 2011

JesterOfAmerica posted:

I have to admit for all the bad parts TORG has a lot cool ideas

If any setting deserves a revival, it is definitely TORG. Give it a better system and rewrite some of the fluff and it would be a great setting to play in.

May 5, 2011

I'll be damned. I should not be as surprised as I am.

May 5, 2011

senrath posted:

You mean what's coming this year?

Yeah, that's what I was thinking of. I just hope the system isn't dogshit.

May 5, 2011

I'm really digging Night's Black Agents. It has plenty of cool spy stuff, but I love that they provide so many options for customizing the vampires. It seems like you could use it to for several campaigns with the same idea of "spies vs. vampires" but keep the players guessing as to exactly what the deal is each time.

May 5, 2011

Hostile V posted:

Vampires being weak to 90 degree angles sounds like an explicit reference to a book called Blindsight by Peter Watts. In the back story of the book, vampires used to exist as an apex predator that preyed on mankind during the prehistoric eras. As apex predators, they were smarter, faster and stronger than your normal human in a fair fight. However, the way their brains were wired to give them an edge in intelligence had a downside, essentially making them cold and logical and dangerously intelligent but putting them on the autism spectrum with a giant aversion to 90 degree angles. Whenever they would see 90 degree angles, it would just overwhelm their brains and cause them to have epileptic seizures because the pattern recognition parts of their brains would just misfire and lock up. Mankind never fought back against vampires. We just invented architecture and unintentionally killed them all with it. The stories about vampires would later be passed down, misremembered and bastardized into various bits of folklore including an aversion to holy symbols. In reality, the Christian cross is just an excellent way to kill vampires because of how many right angles it has in one visible place.

That was an awesome book and by far my favorite version of vampires in anything.

May 5, 2011

I really wanted to like Deadlands, but the fact that they kept the Confederacy around and made them a player option was just insufferable.

May 5, 2011

Why should you have to use every splat in WoD to run a God-Machine game? Use what you want, ignore the rest. Also the God-Machine is a far more compelling entity to me than anything else I've seen in WoD books.

May 5, 2011

SirPhoebos posted:

While we're criticizing reviews, what do you all think of my Planescape write-ups? I enjoy writing it, but I sometimes feel that it's a little out of place. It'd be like if there was a mega-thread for bad FPSs and I reviewed Deus Ex.

Planescape is rad and I'm digging your writeup. Please don't change it. The art is gorgeous and you're doing a great job of summarizing the most interesting bits.

May 5, 2011

I also am planning to continue my review of Adventure! soon. I just want to hammer out a few updates in advance so that I have something to post when the inevitable laziness hits me or work becomes hellish again.

May 5, 2011

Top Guns, James Bonds, and Sherlocks

So it’s been a while! Nevertheless I am back and still slowly chugging along with more information on a low-key favorite of mine: Adventure!

If you want to catch up, Inklesspen has archived my last 3 posts about the game here Adventure!

The next few pages deal with the other major players in the world of Adventure!, though not nation-states, these organizations are either subservient to states or exist apart from them. We'll cover the nations of the world and the state of the various geographical regions in a later post. These organizations are comparable to the Aeon Society, and run the gamut of foes, friends and rivals. We’re back to Whitley Styles running the writing show, so strap in for more of his, uh, interesting perspectives.

Remember this part, where Styles says that all the information herein is available to the public because of the Aeon Society’s commitment to FREEDOM and IDEALS

The Air Circus
First up is the organization that Danger Ace is associated with. The Air Circus was formed by Ace after World War 1, when he became an aerial entertainer. He had an entourage who followed him around, but he started to notice that he just couldn’t stop running into all sorts of weird trouble out there in the skies, so he started hitting up his high-flying colleagues to ask if they were seeing a lot of weirdness too. “Surprisingly” as the book puts it, they were! So they agreed to meet in Kansas City to talk about how they could protect the fans at their shows and work together to combat the… well the book doesn’t really say what sort of trouble Ace and the others were seeing before, but I’m gonna guess air pirates or something?

The Kansas City meeting goes sideways when Doctor Zorbo reveals his Death Balloons, which menace the city from above with… again, it’s not really mentioned. I’d say it was bombs, but that doesn’t really make sense given our next image.

This seems kinda like a cop-out here. What were the balloons carrying that could hurt people if not bombs? Although I like the detail about the pilots using pistols, because in real life that’s pretty much how early aerial combat went. Pilots started off throwing bricks and grenades at each other, the graduated to pistols before they figured out how to mount machine guns on planes. Of course that was back in at least 1914, but civilian planes like the ones the Air Circus would be flying wouldn’t have guns, so it makes sense that they’d go back to the basics.

Zorbo is sorta a joke villain, always coming up with grand schemes to extort money or steal things from the skies… but always using lighter-than-air craft to do so. I think Zorbo would make for an excellent Better Angels character.

So the Air Circus kinda becomes a thing after Kansas City, traveling in troupes, bringing along entourages and getting into trouble across the globe. The United States isn’t a fan of them, since at this point they are trying to get their own Air Corps off the ground, and don’t like a buncha weirdo civvies saving the day for them. Other countries are cool with it, most ominously Germany, since the Treaty of Versailles limited their air force and people like Zorbo are always trying to start poo poo with them. The Circus is also on good terms with the International Detective Agency and the Ponatowski Foundation (fictional organizations we’ll get to soon), as they can deliver people and packages faster than anyone else in the world.

I dunno if you could run a whole game based around the Air Circus, but there is something to it. Either you’re all playing various flavors of pilot or you’re mixed between pilots and ground personnel/hangers-on. And I think that when the flying action starts the latter players would be left twiddling their thumbs, or doing some kinda grunt work while the real action is happening elsewhere.

Branch 9

So like in the VERY NEXT entry Whitley is saying "remember how we don't keep secrets and we're making all of our files public and information wants to be free"? Well gently caress that noise apparently. The files are still open, you can still come read them, just don't tell anybody, okay? I mean we don't want to compromise top-level state secrets even though our stated goal is to not have secrets. If they really wanted it to make sense, they could just save the "pretty please" stuff and have this come from the redacted section or something, I dunno. This is a dumb section.

Branch 9 are the elite secret agents who report only to the President. Formed by Teddy Roosevelt to combat international and interstate crime, Branch 9 consists of Operators, who are sent out on solo missions to handle crimes that the rest of the world isn't ready to deal with. Shades of X-Files here for sure, and it makes them natural allies and competitors for the Aeon Society. The number of Operators is small, they work alone, and can pretty much do whatever they need to do to get the job done. Operators have designations, not names, and the one Annabelle met was named B1. The book states that there was an Operator en route to Kansas City to stop Zorbo's attack before the Air Circus beat them to the punch. Operators often have war backgrounds, but some are civilians, and they are trained in "Asian fighting styles" plus a smattering of other spy skills like guns, science and languages. They also have a "license to kill" juuuuust in case you didn't think these guys were the American version of James Bond.

Standard gear consists of a bulletproof blue suit, belt radio, and omni-lockpick, plus other gizmos and gadgets as needed.

Also it turns out Teddy didn't seem this idea to himself! He spread it to other friends of the US, including Mexico, Britain, China, France and others. So you have the possibility of running across Branch 9 Operators from other countries. This is plainly a catch-all for superspies and such, but I'm okay with it. It does give us this gem:

Gimme a break Shitley

If you were to ignore the loner style of operations, you could probably easily run a Branch 9 game. An international game with Operators from various countries working together could be cool. But Operators also work well as allies, or maybe even friendly rivals? They are described as competent and capable in many fields, so if you needed an NPC to be one step ahead of the players, Branch 9 can give you that.

The International Detective Agency

Started as an alternative to the Pinkertons, the IDA is run out of London by the mysterious Old Man. But he is not the only Old Man, as each IDA branch office is run by an Old Man, who always comes from a police or detective background. The Old Man in each office oversees a staff of Irregulars, who are detectives for hire. Picked for their skills at investigation as much as for their moral compass, the Irregulars are incorruptible. They consist of both men and women, and they work for the IDA's standard rate. Anyone who can afford them can hire them, but only if the Old Man approves. The IDA are intended to be good guys who work for good people.

Potential Irregulars are sought out by existing members, who find them through the police or private detective work, surveil them and present a dossier to the Old Man, who will approach them if he likes the cut of their jib. They then get trained in special investigation tactics, how to do things the IDA's way, and how and when to ask for help and work with other Irregulars without stepping on toes. Irregulars work as bodyguards, private investigators, and as insurance fraud adjustors. They also do divorce work, missing persons cases and track down kidnapping victims. Basically if there's been a crime and you can afford the standard rate of $5 a day plus expenses, the IDA will work for you.

IDA Irregulars work solo, or in teams of up to three, as assigned by the Old Man depending on what the case needs. They tend to dress in clean suits, though there is no formal dress code. Since they are not beholden to a nation, they are free to pursue international crime in a way that most countries can't yet, and their multicultural make-up gives them access to perspectives and techniques that wouldn't be found in just one nation. They've also pioneered forensic investigation, using stuff like fingerprinting, ballistics, and stranger things like telluric tech.

You didn't think Whitley would let us get away without saying something else that would disappoint Max, right?

I think you could easily run an IDA game if you, again, fudged the numbers on the amount of Irregulars. They mention having offices in Paris, Istanbul, Macao, New Delhi, Rio de Janeiro and others, so you could set a game just about anywhere and have Irregulars from all over the world. I think there's enough variety of detective archetypes out there that each member could be doing their own thing without too much crossover in terms of skills and areas of interest. You could just as easily do this with the Aeon Society, but if you want to focus on pulp crime out of dime novels, I think the IDA could offer a lot of fun.

I kinda like this as an adventure hook. King of the World is a really cool name, and you could have a lot of fun tracking down a super-criminal who steals diamonds and offs detectives.

Next time: Nerds, Criminals, and Nerd Criminals

May 5, 2011

Nancy_Noxious posted:

Beast is a breath of fresh air.

What? Abusers? I always correct that when I GM, therefore the game is fine as is. The game requires a GM by design, so the fact that small corrections are needed is a feature, since it trains GM instincts!

You people say it's fine to say Pathfinder and Next are, on those grounds, if not good games, at least games that Should Be Never Shat Upon, since a Good GM can make them work.

The same should hold for Beast, I guess. It's just thematic instead of mechanical corrections that are needed.

What? Pathfinder and Next are both poo poo games. Beast is even worse. Like if poo poo could take a poo poo.

May 5, 2011

Why the hell would a pistol be more accurate than a rifle?

May 5, 2011

Kurieg posted:

It was written with good intentions but the intended reading requires you to be 100% on board with the 'The LGBT can do no wrong, Gamergate and the Radical Right are literal subhuman scum who have given up the right to live' mindset.

Well they got this part right at least.

May 5, 2011

I only recently made the connection between "gypsy" and "gyp", which I always thought was spelled "jip". Nobody I've spoken to about it has ever realized this either.

But then again, most people I've asked have thought that "gypsies" aren't even real and exist only in movies.

May 5, 2011

Neopie posted:

As a US citizen I've literally never heard of this thing

Same here.

May 5, 2011

Why are so many people allergic to using the word "women"?

May 5, 2011

IShallRiseAgain posted:

It's because using females is age neutral.

At the cost of sounding like a ferengi, sure.

May 5, 2011

gradenko_2000 posted:

I think the rule of thumb is that you use male and female as an adjective, but not as a noun.


Anything else makes you sound like an alien.

May 5, 2011

GM Intrusions feel like Cook went "how can I take Compels from Fate but make them lovely?"

May 5, 2011

Evil Mastermind posted:

It's been said here before that the Cypher System is Monte trying, but not quite getting, how narrative systems work.

It's like he saw the "on a 6-, make as hard and direct a move as you like" in Apocalypse World, but missed the part about the trust needed between the players and the GM.

Like, a compel isn't a punishment. It may look like one at first, especially if you're new to the system, but really they're a reward for playing your character as designed. That's why you can self-compel. But on top of that, the GM is specifically told that a compel should just make things more difficult in that situation, and to not just screw over the characters. On top of that, compels need to tie into the current narrative.

Likewise in Apocalypse World, one of the MC's principles is "be a fan of the players' characters". You're supposed to put challenges in the character's way, set stakes, and have failure have consequences. But (again) the book is very clear that you're not supposed to just screw over players because of a bad roll. And, again, what you have happen has to follow the fiction.

But in Cypher, intrusions don't have to be based on what's going on, and as near as I can tell there's no inbuilt assumption of trust or fairness on the GM's part.

The really big thing to me is that Intrusions are a punishment in the worst way. Either you accept it and let the GM dick with you, or you pay XP to ignore it. Now to someone like Cook this may seem the same as paying an FP to ignore a Compel, but Fate Points are constantly-renewing, expendable resource that is meant to be used and awarded consistently. XP is literally how you advance your character in the Cypher system. So paying to not have the GM screw with your character hurts even more because it represents slowing down leveling your character!

May 5, 2011

The non-people people of The Strange were clearly thought up as a way around the old "slaughtering a village of orcs" thing that annoys D&D fans to no end. I mean how can you feel bad about killing things that just look like people but aren't actually people? Unfortunately, this is a piss-poor solution that normalizes violence and just excuses even worse acts.

May 5, 2011

Ominous Jazz posted:

Mummy sure throws a lot of heat at Brendan Fraser's The Mummy right out the gate despite it being the first thing a lot of people think of when you say mummy.

The Mummy is my personal model for how an adventure game should go in pretty much all situations.

May 5, 2011

Doresh posted:


Your Godbound write-up has convinced me to buy the game. Really well-done stuff, keep it up!

May 5, 2011

Mors Rattus posted:

Mock Zombies remind me of iZombie, where the zombies can retain their looks and intellect as long as they make sure to get some brain fairly regularly and can explain why they are suddenly pale and moody. Plus, super strength and absorbing memories from the people they eat, but, y'know, that's iZombie.

I was just thinking this too.

All we need now are zombie zombies: zombies who eat the flesh of other zombies.

May 5, 2011

Doresh posted:

  • Womb-Drying Salts: If you feel like being a dick to a female rival, this taste and oderless salt will cause violent cramps that not only have a 5% chance of killing the victim, but will guarantee that she's now permanently sterile. Access to this stuff is heavily restricted and usually only allowed for use by prostitutes, but there are plenty of assholish heirs and other backstabbers who make use of it. There's also male version known as Spring-Stilling Powder.


May 5, 2011

Just call them paladins. They're basically the same thing.

May 5, 2011

Actually I suppose you could call the whole "warriors for the divine" classification crusaders. That comes without the paladin baggage and is more generally applicable.

May 5, 2011

Doresh posted:

That's why I'm hoping for the election allegory. At least that's somewhat funny.

Are you posting from Bizzaro World

May 5, 2011

Kurieg posted:

Yeah, the video game was basically Gauntlet Legends except you used guns, axes, and samurai swords while cleaving through wave after wave of zombies.

The tabletop game was not that.

This always disappointed me because I loved that game.

May 5, 2011

I've been reading this game a ton over the past few weeks and I cannot get enough of it. I keep seeing people ask for a review/F&F so I figured that I'd give take a shot at explaining why I love...

Shadow of the Demon Lord

Shadow of the Demon Lord is a 2015 tabletop RPG by Robert Schwalb. Schwalb has worked on various editions of D&D, writing supplements for 3.5 and 4th, and then working as lead designer on 5th Edition. He’s since started his own company, and so far Shadow of the Demon Lord is his flagship product. SotDL is what I’d call a retroclone done right. The math is simple and straightforward, the character creation provides mounting variety, the game has lots of progressive mechanics built into it and the default setting provides a sense of tone that I would like to see in more games.

I’m not sure I could do a better job of summarizing the game than the description in the Introduction section, so I’ll just throw it up here.


The Demon Lord wears many masks. It is the One Foretold, the Destroyer of Worlds, the Hunger, the Shuddering One, the One Who Whispers, the Shadow in the Void, the Dark Between the Stars, and the Unspeakable One. Its will alone snuffs out the stars and its shadow ends realities.

Shadow of the Demon Lord is a roleplaying game set in a fantasy world’s last days. Reality frays as time and space unravel, weakening the laws governing what’s possible and what isn’t. As a result of this deterioration, threats from beyond the universe intrude, vile demons spawned in the endless Void, hungering for the utter destruction of all things. Where they tumble free into the mortal lands, they bring death and doom to all.

These are dark times foretold by the oracles and prophets, shouted by preachers on their pulpits, and whispered on the hot winds swirling out from the gates of Hell. All the unrest, suffering, doom, and decline spread from the Demon Lord’s shadow that creeps across the mortal world. It corrupts whatever it touches, twisting it to evil ends, fomenting madness, and quickening the doom this being demands. The resulting chaos has seen horrors long forgotten to rise up from their tombs to roam the lands as they once did. Armies muster over the most minor slights, bringing war, famine, plague, and death across the civilized lands

As bad as things are, all is not yet lost. Exceptional men and women have a chance to delay or possibly avert the looming disaster. They come from all backgrounds. They are hard-bitten mercenaries, power-hungry sorcerers, and priests of inscrutable gods. They are the people living in the bowels of the earth and the cities’ slums. They rise from the fighting pits, emerge from the academies, and venture from the farms and fields that sustain the great cities. These peoples, from all across the lands, come together in the world’s hour of need to be its champions, its defenders, and, perhaps, its saviors.

The game doesn’t have the typical “what is a roleplaying game” section like a lot of books do. Instead it provides two small descriptions of the Game Master and the Players, laying out what you’ll be doing in both roles.

Schwalb explicitly defines the game as being a conversation between the GM and the players, and reminds you that the rules are there for you to fall back on when you can’t decide what happens using common sense. He also lays out teamwork as a core part of the game. The stories that SotDL is used to tell revolve around why your player characters are together, and the idea of a strong group that sticks together is emphasized. The game clearly wants the players to work together, and encourages the players to have good reasons for why their characters will be sticking together.

The three core themes of the game are laid out in the Introduction section:

Moral Ambiguity
The End is Near
Danger Everywhere

These function, in my opinion, a lot like the Agendas from Dungeon World. They are the guiding principles of a game of Shadows of the Demon Lord, and when you’re unsure of how to proceed or what you can throw up as an obstacle for the players, these themes can be really helpful in coming up with things to use.

Shadows of the Demon Lord uses d20s and d6s, with the standard D&D xdy notation. Sometimes 1d3 will come up, and the game explains how to roll those.

After this introduction, there is a customary Example of Play section that gives a pretty good breakdown of how a few actions would go in the game. If I have one complaint about the book, it’s that there are no other Example of Play sections used throughout it to explain things with actual examples of the mechanics in action.

After the Introduction, there are a few more chapters, which I’m going to be covering in order:

Chapter 1: Character Creation
Chapter 2: Playing the Game
Chapter 3: Novice Paths
Chapter 4: Expert Paths
Chapter 5: Master Paths
Chapter 6: Equipment
Chapter 7: Magic
Chapter 8: A Land in Shadow
Chapter 9: Running the Game
Chapter 10: Bestiary

Chapter 1: Character Creation

Shadow of the Demon Lord starts characters off at level 0. Aside from the stats and talents determined by your Ancestry (race/species in other games) and some minor differences in equipment all characters are pretty much the same at this level. SotDL is designed in such a way that these 0-level adventurers are thrown into a Starting adventure, and at the end they will be ready to form a party and also advance into a 1st-level Novice Path.

The core book has 6 Ancestries: Human, Changeling, Clockwork, Dwarf, Goblin, and Orc. Each Ancestry has some set stats and modifiers for those stats, and provides you with a selection of tables to roll on if you need help coming up with story aspects for your character. The book is careful to point out that rolling for these things is not mandatory, but can be helpful if you’re stuck or want some prompting to flesh out your character.

The game has 4 core Attributes: Strength, Agility, Intelligence and Will. Like a lot of retroclones, you have a score and a modifier in these attributes. You modifier is always equal to your score minus 10. So if you have a 13 Intelligence, your modifier is +3.

At character creation you can increase one score by 1 while decreasing another score by 1. As you level up, you get more score increases of your choice.

You then have 10 Characteristics:

Defense (your AC. Monsters have to match or exceed this to hit you)
Health (your HP)
Healing rate (the amount of HP you can heal after 8 hours of rest, used for lots of healing spells)
Perception (how aware and observant you are)
Size (how big you are. Humans are usually 1, with dwarves being ½)
Speed (how fast you can move, measured in yards)
Power (your magical ability. You only get this with magical Paths)
Damage (how much HP you’re missing)
Insanity (how crazy you are)
Corruption (how much of a bad guy you’ve been)

Each entry also gives you a few languages and professions as well as some talents. At level 4, you get a new talent from your Ancestry.

I’m gonna go through the Ancestries in the order the book presents them:

You know humans, they’re not all that different in Shadow of the Demon Lord. They come in all shapes and sizes, skin colors and creeds. The book stresses the breadth of human diversity and reminds you that humans can be anything and just about any concept you can think of will fit somewhere in the setting.

Humans have totally average stats, 10s in everything, and you can increase one stat of your choice by 1.

Being the baseline Ancestry, I’ll post the block of Characteristics for Humans and then just note where other Ancestries deviate from this standard.

Perception equals Intellect
Defense equals Agility
Health equals Strength
Healing rate equals one-quarter of your Health, round down.
Size is 1 or ½
Speed is 10
Power is 0
Insanity is 0
Corruption is 0

Humans get the Common Tongue by default, and can either add another language or a profession.

Level 4 Humans get +5 Health and either learn a spell or get the talent Determined, which allows you to reroll a 1 that you get on a Boon die roll (more on Boons in chapter 2)

The tables you get for a Human are Background, Personality, Religion, Age, Build and Appearance. You do not have to roll on any of these, and can pick a thing or create your own if you like. There are a few interesting options on the Background table such as “you died and returned to life. You start the game with 1d6 Insanity”, “the faerie held you prisoner for 1d20 years” and “you foiled a plot to kill someone important or you brought a killer to justice”. There is a decent spread of these options, some of which have mechanical effects and others of which are just for flavor or plot hooks.

Appearance is interesting. Intelligence and Will both have facets of the traditional Charisma score, allowing you to pick how your character looks without it having an explicit mechanical backing, which is something I like.

These are living beings who are actually faerie constructs. Made from sticks and dirt or other natural materials they are created to replace the children that the fae steal. Most of the time the magic animating them fades away and they become inert, but sometimes it doesn’t and a changeling is created. Changelings are capable of changing their appearance to match anyone they can see, but doing so can have negative effects on them as they struggle to match that person’s personality and habits, for fear of being found out.

In their natural form, changelings look like humanoid shapes formed from rocks, sticks and dirt with a pair of glowing green eyes.

Changelings are mostly like Humans, but have 9 Strength, but add +1 to their Perception. They speak the Common Tongue, and are immune to disease and being charmed. They also have Shadowsight, which lets them see in shadowed areas, and Steal Identity, which lets them take the appearance of any flesh-and-blood being they can see that is Size 1 or ½.

They also have Iron Vulnerability, which causes them to become Impaired when in contact with iron. If they become incapacitated (0 HP), or touch an item made of iron they immediately revert to their natural forms.

At level 4, Changelings either learn a spell or they gain Doppleganger’s Advantage, which allows them to use a triggered action to use Steal Identity, and while wearing someone’s appearance they get 1 boon on attack rolls made against the person who’s appearance you stole.

For determining your Changeling’s physical characteristics, you first decide on the apparent Ancestry and then head to that section to see those tables. But the Changeling Backgrounds have another couple of gems like “you have no idea you’re a Changeling. You think you are a member of the Ancestry you adopted. Add an extra profession and until you are incapacitated or touch iron for the first time you cannot use Steal Identity” or “the first time you stole someone’s identity you also stole a few of that person’s memories.”

Next time, I'll covering the next 2 Ancestries: Clockwork and Dwarf!

May 5, 2011

PurpleXVI posted:

Shadow of the Demon Lord sounds interesting, generally any game that starts off with an assumption that the players have agency and can change the world, rather than being doomed to die eating dirt because of some universal or social constant, has a chance of making it somewhere fun.

Yeah, the core idea of the game is that despite the grimness of the setting and the decaying state of the world, there is still hope. The world can be saved, and the PCs are the ones who will have to do it. I really like that aspect of the game, because I'm generally not into the grimdark stuff that crops up a lot in our hobby, but this is done right in that the darkness is a setting aspect, but instead of being ruled by it the PCs are encouraged to struggle against it and overcome.

May 5, 2011

Shadow of the Demon Lord Part 2: More Ancestries

This time we're covering the Clockwork and the Dwarf.

Mechanical people, the Clockworks are described as being “made from metal plating, gears, wires, bits of spring, and cogs”. However, they are not of a scientific origin, instead being constructs to which souls ripped from the Underworld have been bound. Thus allowing you all the redundant cogs and gears that you want because it’s magic, you ain’t gotta explain poo poo. Clockworks are sentient beings and the magic that tethers their soul also allows them to manipulate their mechanical bodies - but only so long as their key is turned.

Clockworks all have a key located somewhere on their bodies that they cannot reach, and the key must be turned in order for them to function. Clockworks retain minimal memories of their past lives, and those who have more memories are often more traumatized by their new form and require more time to adjust.

Clockworks have the most unique character creation process of the core Ancestries. Their Strength is 8, Agility 8, Intellect 9 and Will 9. They begin with an innate Defense of 13 and a Speed of 8. For talents they are immune to disease, poison, sleep and fatigue, they have a Mechanical Body which means they do not need to eat, breathe, drink or sleep, but cannot swim and will sink to the bottom of any body of water.

They have a Key, which is assumed to always be cranked unless a couple of things happen. If a Clockwork is incapacitated, their key stops turning, and if they make an attack or challenge roll and the result is a 0 or lower, their key stops turning at the end of the round. When a Clockwork’s key is not turned, they become an object instead of a creature. Anybody who can reach your key can use an action to turn it, which causes you to become a creature again. If you were incapacitated, you roll a d6, on a 4+ you heal 1 damage and become a creature at the end of the round. On a 3- nothing happens.

At level 4, Clockworks get +5 Health and either learn a spell or get Grind the Gears, which allows them to take another action on their turn. When they do, they roll a d6. If the result is an odd number, their key stops turning and they become an object.

Clockworks have a more involved step after this, where rolling or picking from the following tables determines a lot about your Clockwork mechanically.

Finally we have the Clockwork Backgrounds, some of my favorites include “goblins captured you and almost took you apart for scrap materials. You have replaced your missing components with bits of wood, old weapons and other rubbish”, “you fell off a boat and spent 2 years walking to shore” and “you were one of 1d6 other Clockworks made at the same time. You hope to find them one day.” Also, in the Personality section, there’s a cute nod to Asmiov with “your maker gave you three commandments and you must obey them”.


Dwarves! These folks are always my favorite in any game, and Shadow of the Demon Lord is no exception. Here Dwarves are Tolkien on steroids. They live in cities under the mountains and toil away digging up gold, silver and gemstones, and they’re paranoid about people taking their stuff so they don’t make friends easily. They all have beards, moustaches or big muttonchops regardless of gender, and they’re short but dense people. They can put off outsiders, and their ancestor worship and belief in being constantly observed means they can seem very dour as they do not want to dishonor their clan.

Dwarves get a 10 in every Attribute except Agility, where they have a 9. They get a +1 to Perception and a +4 to Health and their Size is ½ and Speed is 8. They can speak the Common Tongue and read, write and speak Dwarfish. They have Darksight, which lets them see in darkness perfectly within Medium range, and treat anything beyond that as lit. They get a Hated Creature which gives them 1 boon while attacking creatures of that type, and they have a Robust Constitution that lets them take half damage from poison and gives them 1 boon to challenge rolls to avoid or remove poison.

At level 4, Dwarves get +6 Health and either learn a spell or Shake it Off, which allows you to use an action to heal equal to your Healing rate and remove one of a few afflictions. This talent can only be used once until you complete a rest, which essentially makes it a Daily power. One of the complaints I have about SotDL is that it doesn’t borrow enough from D&D 4th Edition, and when it does, it borrows them in clumsy ways. The wording of the “once until you rest” talents is clunky and could’ve been executed with more grace.

Dwarves get a couple of interesting Backgrounds. I’m partial to “you sold your soul to a devil to gain wealth. The devil betrayed you and left you penniless. You start the game with 1 Corruption”, “the creatures you hate overran your home and wiped out your clan” and “you inherited a battleaxe or warhammer from an ancestor”. That last one sounds kinda lame, but real weapons are hard to come by as a level-0 character, and getting one for free is pretty sweet, even before you have a Novice Path.

Next time: the last 2 Ancestries, the Goblin and the Orc!

May 5, 2011

Kurieg posted:

For a moment there I thought you were talking about Monte Cook's Obsidian Shaft and was very confused and alarmed.

The Something Awful Forums > Discussion > Games > Traditional Games > FATAL & Friends 2017: Monte Cook's Obsidian Shaft

May 5, 2011

Shadow of the Demon Lord Part 3: Goblins, Orcs, and some character creation!

Probably my second-favorite species in most settings, in SotDL Goblins are faeries who were cast out a long time ago by the Faerie Queen, but no one but her remembers why anymore. Goblins have since moved in with the Human societies and live in trash heaps and sewers and other places no one else wants to live, doing jobs no one else wants to do. Goblins have even more varied appearances than Humans, with features like horns, pig snouts, and fangs being common but no two Goblins look the same. Goblins also have weird habits, since they used to live with the faeries, and can seem capricious and odd to other people.

The book doesn’t refer to Goblins as monsters, and instead they seem to be accepted members of society. So long as they have something to do, which most often appears to be digging through garbage, they seem to make for perfectly fine neighbors.

Goblins get an 8 in Strength, a 12 in Agility, an Intellect of 10 and a Will of 9. They get a +1 to Perception and have their Size set to ½. The speak the Common Tongue and Elvish, they are immune to disease and being charmed, but have Iron Vulnerability, which causes them to be impaired while touching iron. They get Shadowsight and talent called Sneaky, which allows them to roll with 1 boon on Agility challenge rolls to be stealthy.

At level 4, Goblins get +4 Health, and either learn a spell or gain Spring Away, which lets you use a triggered attack to retreat when an enemy you can see fails to hit you. The game defines a “retreat” as the character moving half their speed, which doesn’t provoke any free attacks.

Goblins get two interesting tables, one for the Distinctive Appearance and another for their Odd Habit. The Appearance table has a few gems like “you have the head of a dog”, “you have a tooth growing out of your forehead”, “you have all the warts” and “you have 1d6 extra fingers, placed on your body wherever you wish”.

The Odd Habit table warrants being posted in its entirety.

These range from the downright fishmalkian (looking at you number 7) to cute and then to disturbing.

The Backgrounds do not disappoint, and actually have some very good story hooks in there. My favorites are “you spend the last 1d6 years in a drunken stupor. You are not proud”, “you spent 2 years believing you were a fearsome dog. You start the game with 1 Insanity”, “you stole a knife from a dashing knight” and “you snuck into Alfheim and stole a lock of hair from the Faerie Queen.”

Orcs are another favorite of mine. In Shadow of the Demon Lord’s default setting the Orcs were once the jotun, a warrior species from the icy southern parts of the world who fought against the Emperor. Captured jotun were brought north and dark magic was used to twist them into the Orcs, who became the backbone of the Imperial military, conquering nations and quelling rebellions for centuries.

The assumption of the default setting is that the orcs have rebelled against the Empire, slain the Emperor and now they run things in the capitol while the rest of the Empire falls apart. Orcs have a variety of skin colors, with blotchy, mottled flesh, and start at 6 feet, 200 pounds, going all the way up to 8 feet 600 pounds.

The default setting of SotDL picks up right after an orcish leader, Drudge, kills the Emperor and seizes the throne for himself. As an aside, the “Shadow of the Demon Lord” is a real thing in-universe. It is a corruption of the world or the people that sows chaos and opens the cracks in reality wider, allowing the demons to enter the world in greater numbers. The Shadow can manifest in lots of ways, but the default assumption is that the “Fall of Civilization” is occuring, a sort of fall-of-Rome thing, where Drudge has been affected by the shadow, and killing the Emperor is a move meant to destroy the civilized world and allow the Demon Lord to take more control. There are other manifestations of the Shadow that are presented later in the book, some of which I like more than this one.

Orcs are about what you’d expect stat-wise. They get an 11 in Strength and a 9 in both Intellect and Will. They get a +1 to Perception, speak both Common and Dark Speech and have Shadowsight.

At level 4, an orc gets +6 to Health and either learns one spell of gains Rising Fury, which allows them to, upon taking damage, make their next attack roll with 1 boon.

Orcs then get some interesting Background options. Ones that stand out to me are “you stayed loyal to the Empire and fought against other orcs. You were branded as a traitor and cast out”, “you were made a eunuch and stood guard over the emperor’s concubines”, and “the Gods of Blood and Iron visit you in your dreams. You start the game with 1 Insanity”.

This is the skill system for SotDL. The way Professions work is that they guide your actions, what your character knows and how they would behave. A person with the Soldier profession and another with the Woodcutter profession will probably approach situations in different ways. Professions can allow you to automatically succeed at things that would fall into your Profession, or grant you boons to your roll, depending on what the GM says.

You get 2 Professions at character creation, and you can trade 1 of those to become literate in one language you know how to speak

Like everything else in Shadow of the Demon Lord, you can roll randomly for your Professions. First on a 1d6 table for a broad category, then again on a d20 table for a specialized choice. The broad categories are Academic, Common, Criminal, Martial, Religious and Wilderness. Academic provides the bonus of making you literate in one of the languages you can speak by default.

Your starting gear is determined by your Wealth, which you roll on a table using 3d6. The categories are Destitute, Poor, Getting By, Comfortable, Wealthy and Rich. Each level of Wealth provides a different assortment of gear for a Starting character.

In addition, you also get an Interesting Thing. This Thing can be an object, a person, or even a feeling or connection. A few interesting ones are “a curious odor, a pungent stench, or a skin condition that never quite heals”, “unrequited love”, “a newborn baby that might or might not be yours”, “a tiny, inert, mechanical owl”, “the true name of a very minor devil” and “three small white mice that whisper strange things to you as you sleep”

Making a Character
So, in keeping with Shadow of the Demon Lord’s desire to provide you with a quick and easy way to roll up a character, I’m gonna make one right now!

Since they’re the most interesting of the Ancestries, I’m gonna pick Clockwork. I’ll adjust the stats how I see fit, and roll for everything that I can.

Okay, so I rolled 3d6 on the Age table and got an 8 which means this Clockwork is “new, 5 years or younger”. On the Clockwork Purpose table I rolled another 8 on a d20 and got “You were built to work. Increase your Strength by 2”. On the Clockwork Form table I got a 12 on 3d6 which means “You are a humanoid Clockwork. You are 6 feet tall and weigh 300 pounds”. I then rolled a 14 on 3d6 on the Clockwork Appearance table and got “You appear well made and in good working condition”. On the Clockwork Background table I rolled an 18 on a d20 and got “You found a cryptic message inside your body. You have not deciphered its meaning” and then on the Clockwork Personality table I rolled 3d6 and got an 8, giving me “You didn’t ask for this existence, but you make the most of it while you have it.”

For my Professions, I rolled a 1 both times on a 1d6, and then a 5 and an 18, which means that Spradley has experience in Folklore and Religion.

Finally, I rolled for Wealth on a 3d6 and got 12 which means “Getting By”. I rolled for my Interesting Thing, which is a “fist-sized blue-spotted egg” and Personality, which was a 4 and a 9, meaning that our Clockwork is Dependable but also Obnoxious.

Our Clockwork, who I’ve taken to calling Spradley Sprocket, is 5 years old. They are humanoid in shape, weighing 300 pounds with powerful lifting arms and legs. They appear to be in good condition, which is easy given their age. Spradley was built to move heavy things around, specifically, they were sold early in their life to a traveling scholar, who needed an assistant to carry around her gear. Following this scholar, Spradley learned a lot about her field, which was the study of the Old Faith and witchcraft. Progressing from simple packmule, Spradley became a research assistant and traveling companion. They aren’t very good with people, but the scholar covered for them and came to understand Spradley.

One for introspection, Spradley began to wonder about their own existence. After all, they had been a soul plucked from the Underworld and bound to this metal body. Who had they been before? They didn’t ask to be brought back, but at the same time the certainty of life as a Clockwork was better than the unknown of reincarnation. So Spradley began tinkering with their own body. In the process, Spradley discovered a hidden recess inside their arm, containing a message, written in a language Spradley doesn’t know. When Spradley asked the scholar to read it for them, she claimed she couldn’t understand it, but even as bad as they are with people, Spradley knew she was lying.

The unknown ate away at Spradley, and so one night, under the cover of darkness Spradley ran away, stealing money and supplies from the scholar. They traveled west, seeking the free cities where they could maybe find someone who could read the message, or better yet, their own creator. After all, who could have left the message if not him?

Spradley Sprocket
Strength 11, Agility 8, Intellect 10, Will 8
Perception 9
Defense 13
Health 11
Healing Rate 3
Size 1, Speed 8, Power 0
Damage 0, Insanity 0, Corruption 0
Languages: Common (Literate)
Professions: Folklore, Religion
Immune to disease, poison, asleep and fatigued
Mechanical Body
Repairing Damage
Gear: Staff, basic clothing, backpack, 1 week of rations, waterskin, tinderbox, 2 torches and a pouch with 2 copper pennies.

Audience Participation
Let’s make a character together! Let me know what Ancestry you would like to see rolled up. The one with the most votes wins. I’ll take this character and level them up alongside Spradley to give you an idea of how the character advancement system works.

The options are:


Next time: finishing up character creation and moving on to how the game is played!

Serf fucked around with this message at 02:25 on Jan 6, 2017

May 5, 2011

Shadow of the Demon Lord Part 4: Finishing up character creation and some rules

The chapter on Character Creation ends with a few things to put the finishing touches on your character. There are some suggested questions to ask yourself about you character. These include things like what they value, what they fear and hate, what secrets they may have and how they see the world.

Then the book moves on to talk about the first adventure. As mentioned, in SotDL, you start out as level-0 characters who go on a Starting adventure, after which you level up and pick one of four Novice Paths. Players are encouraged to use the Starting adventure to learn the rules of the game, and to keep track of what their character did and what they enjoyed doing. Was your character the one to take up a weapon or did you like engaging in combat? Consider the Warrior or the Priest. Did you like casting spells from scrolls? Magician could work for you. Stuff like that is pretty helpful I think, since you get an adventure just to nail down what you like doing. And due to how character advancement works in SotDL, you’re not locked into that choice forever even then.

One cool thing is that in a few Starting adventures I’ve read, there are Path Points. These are a hidden thing that tracks when players do certain things. If they sneak around and eavesdrop on people, they get a Rogue Path Point. If they pray to the gods or ask about the local temple, they get a Priest Path Point. When the adventure is over, you reveal the Path Points to the players, which helps them decide on how to proceed.

After this, they talk about Building a Group. It gives four goals for players to follow during the Starting adventure to ensure that they come out as a cohesive group ready to have more adventures.

Simply put: work together and you’ll succeed. You’re encouraged to help each other out and look for ways to build stronger connections between the characters.

Avoid Conflict
poo poo is scary at level 0. You’re not very good at fighting, and the enemies will rip you apart in short order. You want your character to survive, so you should look for creative ways around fighting and definitely not start anything with the other characters.

Find Gear
You don’t get much to start out with, and the book encourages players to make deals for gear, loot corpses, and poke around to find things to shore up their weaknesses.

Achieve Your Objective
Finish the adventure! This is a reminder to pursue the goal of the adventure and not let yourselves get distracted or sidetracked. This is to both get you to level 1 faster and prepare you to work towards completing future adventures and pursuing your goals.

And the chapter closes with the level advancement chart, which I think is cool. Shadow of the Demon Lord is full of a lot of modern design that I love, and one of the best things it has done is completely obliterating dead levels.

We haven’t been over the Paths yet, but suffice to say that you get something cool at each level for all of them. Even level 4, which is just your Ancestry, gets you some Health, and either a spell or a new talent.

Another cool thing is that the game has no XP. You level up after significant story moments, typically once at the end of each adventure. You also level up as a group, so no mixed-level parties. All in all I love the advancement system in SotDL, as you always get something interesting and you advance at the same time, meaning no one is ever left out when they level up.

Chapter 2: Playing the Game

This chapter starts off sensibly by telling the players and the GM that some things just happen. You don’t roll to walk down the street or to drink beer. Those things are assumed to succeed and there’s no need to roll for superfluous things. The dice only come into play when there is a reasonable challenge presented.

Time is also discussed as something that the GM and players don’t have to track meticulously during most parts of the game. A voyage could be just a short description of a few days passing, but a negotiation probably needs to be played out in real time. When combat happens, the game busts out rounds, which we’ll get into later in the Combat section, but I don’t think you’ll be very surprised by any of that.

Rolling the Dice
As mentioned before, SotDL uses d20s and d6sm with the occasional d3 notation for certain things. There are 2 types of rolls in the game: attack and challenge.

Attack rolls are, of course, rolls to attack an enemy. They are called for when attacking with weapon, or casting a spell that has to effect the target. Melee attack rolls use your Strength modifier, and ranged attacks use Agility. Spell attacks will usually use either Intellect or Will, and target one of those attributes on the enemy.

If you’ve played D&D or a retroclone before, you know how these work:
1d20 + modifier + other modifiers

Importantly, when you deal damage, you do not apply your modifier to it.

Challenge rolls are pretty much everything else. When the outcome of an action is uncertain because of extenuating circumstances and you’re not directly opposed by another creature, you make a challenge roll. This is for picking locks, eavesdropping on people, and for avoiding damaging stuff. The GM decides which attribute applies to the current situation. The target number for challenge rolls is always 10. Yep, no more DCs and fiddling with how hard things should be. You just want to roll over a 10. There’s also no critical successes, except with certain talents/spells.

The formula is identical to attack rolls:
1d20 + modifier + other modifiers

Get a 10 or above and you succeed. Get lower than that and you fail. Later on in the GM section Schwalb presents a somewhat interesting fail-forward system, but if I was running the game I’d go with my gut.

The book talks briefly about modifiers, but they are mercifully rare in Shadow of the Demon Lord. Mostly you just have the modifier from your Attribute and maybe rarely some static bonuses. Like most retroclones, these modifers are cumulative and have to be added all together.

But now we have the real interesting modifiers in boons and banes. Boons are things you get when you have and advantage to make a roll, and banes are for when the chips are down. When you roll with boons, you roll 1d6 for each boon. Then you take the highest of those numbers and add it to your d20 roll. So if you have 3 boons and you roll a 1, 2, and 5, you only add the 5. Banes work in the same way: roll your d6s and subtract the highest number.

If you have both boons and banes to a roll, they cancel each other out 1-to-1, so if you have 2 boons and 3 banes you just roll with 1 bane.

I really love the boons and banes system because, combined with the low and extremely limited modifiers, you get math that doesn’t have much opportunity for being broken. Boons aren’t set in stone, so you could get anything from a +1 to a +6 on your roll, and banes work the same in reverse. There are talents and spells that interact with boons and banes in awesome ways and I can’t wait to get to them.

Next up is an overview of the four Attributes and their derived Characteristics. One good thing about this is that each Attribute only corresponds to one Characteristic, there’s no math aside from the occasional +1 conferred by an Ancestry or a Path.

Strength is easy. This is a combination of the Strength and Constitution scores from D&D and most retroclones. It tells you how much Health you have, it is added to your melee attack rolls, and you use it to push, pick up, and pull stuff. As is required for all RPGs of a certain level of crunch, SotDL has included this handy chart:

The number under the “Normal” column is what you can lift with no problem and the number under the “Success” column is the maximum you can lift with a Strength challenge roll.

Agility is basically just Dexterity. It is the baseline for how hard you are to hit, and it applies to ranged attack rolls. You use this for quick movement, jumping and rolling around, and slipping out of tight places.

Intellect measures how good your brainmeats are. It confers your Perception score, is applied to lots of rolls to hit with spells, and you use it for challenge rolls that deal with puzzles, recalling information, and for resisting mental effects like illusions.

Will is essentially Wisdom and Charisma rolled into one. It lets you know how much Insanity you can have before you snap, and you use it to resist getting Insanity in the first place. Some spells use Will for their attack rolls, and challenge rolls with Will are used to determine willpower and determination in achieving a goal.

These are derived from your Attributes, as seen above. They’re pretty simple, but each one has a few quirks that you might not be used to.

Health is basically your HP. But unlike HP you do not reduce it when you take damage. Instead, you increase your Damage score. If your Damage ever equals your Health… we’ll get to that in the combat section. When your Damage is equal to half your health you are Injured, which has no effect here, but some talents and spells consider it.

The reason Health is counted separately from Damage is because you can get penalties and bonuses to it. For example, the Berserker Expert Path gives you a +10 to Health as part of their Rage talent. Bonuses and penalties to your Health makes you easier or harder to kill, and reminds me of a more flexible version of temporary hit points. If your Health ever reaches 0, you die.

Healing Rate is how fast you can heal after an 8-hour rest. For most characters, this is your Health divided by four. Healing spells will cause you to recover HP equal to your Healing Rate or multiples of that value.

Defense is your AC. It might be increased by certain Paths, but mostly you get higher values through armor. Without armor, your Defense equals your Agility. The maximum Defense anything can have is 25.

Perception measures how well you see and hear etc. It is all of your senses rolled into one. It usually equals your Intellect, and most often comes up in challenge rolls, but some talents and spells target it or allow you to target it in your enemies.

Insanity is where we get into the fun stuff. This is a measure of how crazy you are at any given time. Building up Insanity is obviously bad, but nothing happens until you gain more. You begin the game with 0 Insanity usually and you can never have more than your Will score. You gain Insanity when you see bad poo poo going down. Some monsters cause you to gain it, other times you’ll get it from seeing something horrific or discovering That Which Man Was Not Meant to Know. When this happens, you make a Will challenge roll to resist, and on a failure, you get a little crazier!

When you gain a point of Insanity, you become frightened for a number of rounds equal to your new Insanity total. Frightened means you take 1 bane to all attack and challenge rolls, and you cannot take fast turns in combat (more on this later). If you were already frightened, you instead become stunned, which is pretty self-explanatory.

Now, if you gain enough Insanity to equal your Will score, you go mad. This isn’t the end! In fact it’s not even close because Shadow of the Demon Lord is pretty lenient for a retroclone. Going mad means you roll a d20 on the Madness table and take the result you get. These can vary from “Death” on a 1, to “Sickened” which causes you to puke and poo poo yourself for a while, to “Rage” which gives you a boon to attack rolls and makes you do more damage to “Revelation” on a 20 which reduces you Insanity and gives you a permanent boon to all Will challenge rolls to resist gaining Insanity.

When you go mad, you reduce your Insanity score by 1d6 + your Will modifier.

Don’t want to go mad? Take a Quirk! This allows you to reduce your Insanity score by 1d6 + your Will modifier in exchange for getting a little weirder. This includes things like phobias, manias, and paranoia and such. You can only get 1 Quirk per rest, and the GM gets to choose it.

Corruption is also interesting. This is a measure of how bad of a dude you are. When you do a stereotypically evil thing like murder, give an innocent a disease, use forbidden magic etc you gain a point of Corruption. When this happens you roll a d20. If the number is under your new Corruption score you roll again on the Mark of Darkness table and get yourself a shiny new weird thing.

Options include:

“You never cast a reflection in mirrors”
“A weeping red eye appears in the palm of each of your hands”
“Your eyes become pools of darkness; in the dark they glow with an evil red light”
“You grow a second row of teeth in your mouth and a new row of teeth in an unexpected place”
“Once each week, a child within 1 mile of you sickens and dies”

There are four levels of Corruption that have escalating bad effects

Getting rid of Corruption ain’t easy. There’s no specified mechanical way of doing it. There is magic that can cleanse low levels of Corruption, but those spells aren’t listed in the book and are explicitly rare and exotic. The best way is to be a better person. By working to help others selflessly, you can shed some or all of your Corruption.

There’s technically no further penalties for having a high Corruption score aside from the fact that you’ll look hosed up and have some banes to social interaction. Non-mechanically, when you die, your soul will be sent to Hell, where devils will torture it for years to extract that sweet, sweet Corruption that they need to live.

Power is a measure of your magical ability. It is gained by following certain Paths, and determines thing like how many castings of spells you have per day and the effects of some Paths’ talents. You aren’t told this here, but following a pure spellcasting series of Paths the highest Power you can naturally attain is 5, and the highest level of spells in the game right now is 5.

Size is, as mentioned, how big you are. 1 is for human-sized people/things. ½ is half that, so these are your dwarves and goblins. 2 is twice as big as a human. It goes on like that for a while. The biggest creature I’ve seen is the roc, which is Size 25. From your Size you know how much space you take up and your reach. Bigger creatures have longer reach, like you might suspect.

And then there’s Speed, which isn’t linked to Agility but is instead its own stat. This is how far you can more, in yards, in a round. Most things have Speed 10, but there are faster and slower things out there. The game then gives a crunchy breakdown of how far you can move in certain time increments at that speed. This is the kinda stuff that I find rarely comes up in games, but is handy to have around when it does.

It looks like Goblin has won the voting, so I'll be rolling up a gobbo friend for us all and posting them in the next update!

Next time: Taking damage, dying, and social conflict!

May 5, 2011

Shadow of the Demon Lord Part 5: Damage, Dying, Getting hosed Up and More!

We start off talking about Damage. Damage is a number that slowly goes up, and if it ever equals your Health, you fall over like a sack of potatoes. Damage can have different sources. These sources aren’t explicitly codified anywhere, but like a lot of retroclones you are asked to just use common sense. Fireballs do fire damage, spears do piercing damage and so on. Some creatures gain resistance to different sources of damage, and rare talents allow characters to do the same.

When you take Damage, you add it to your Damage number. Half damage requires you to round down. AoE attacks roll damage once for all targets, and extra damage, whether in extra d6s or flat bonuses, is added cumulatively.

There’s no system of penalties or wounds in SotDL, and you fight at full strength until your Damage equals or exceeds your Health. If you ever take damage equal to your Health total you die instantly. The effects of getting too badly damaged depends on whether you’re a creature/NPC or a PC.

When Damage equals or exceeds Health, the part where you fall over is called incapacitation. For creatures/NPCs they either die immediately or become unconscious for 1d3 hours, GM’s choice. PCs become disabled. While disabled, you are defenseless, which makes your Defense 5, and you start making fate rolls. A fate roll is a 1d6. On a 1 you start dying. On a 6 you heal 1 damage and become impaired for 1 minute. Any other number has no effect. If after 3 consecutive turns you are still disabled, you instead become unconscious for 1d3 hours and stop making fate rolls. When you wake up, you heal 1 damage and are impaired for 1 minute.

While dying you are unconscious and keep making fate rolls. On a 1, you die. On a 6, you move back up to disabled. This continues indefinitely.

Healing damage is pretty simple. You can get health back from items/equipment, talents, spells, and good old fashioned resting. A period of rest lasts for 8 hours, and you can’t do anything strenuous during that time. At the end of it you heal damage equal to your Healing Rate. You can rest for a full 24 hours to heal damage equal to twice your Healing Rate. Notably, you cannot get in more than 1 rest per day unless you take the full 24 hour rest, this is presumably to prevent you from using 3 rests in a row to get back 3 instances of your Healing Rate.

Dying is what you would expect. A creature becomes an object when it dies and the soul departs the body. Normal souls head to the Underworld where they slowly lose their memories and then are reincarnated. Corrupted souls get dragged to Hell where they are tormented by the Corruption-eating devils, but will also eventually be reincarnated. Powerful magic can bring a soul back to the body, if used in time. When a creature returns from the dead, they gain 1d6 Insanity.

If your character dies and isn’t resurrected, you get a health potion for your next character.

These are the things that will gently caress you up on a temporary basis. Plenty of things dish these out, and they’re basically SotDL’s status effects. I’m going to go over each one and their effects briefly.
  • Asleep is self-explanatory. You are prone and unconscious, and it takes an action or damage to wake you up.

  • Blinded creatures treat everything around them as totally obscured (3 banes to hit/interact), other creatures get 1 boon to hit their Defense/Agility, all Perception rolls based on sight fail, and their Speed becomes 2.

  • Charmed creatures see the person charming them as a friend and ally.

  • Compelled is your domination/mind control. On each round’s fast turn, the compelled creature has to either use an action or move, and the creature that compelled them makes all decisions.

  • Dazed means you can’t use any actions.

  • Deafened means you can’t hear, and any Perception rolls using hearing automatically fail.

  • Defenseless sets your Defense to 5, and you can’t defend yourself. All challenge rolls using your Attributes automatically fail.

  • Diseased forces you to make all attack and challenge rolls with 1 bane.

  • Fatigued creatures make all attack and challenge rolls with 1 bane.

  • Frightened means you make all attack and challenge rolls with 1 bane and you can’t take fast turns in combat.

  • Grabbed is… well, it’s grabbed. Like all systems, SotDL has complicated grabbing rules and I ain’t gonna get into them right now. Basically if you’re grabbed, you get dragged along, and can escape using Strength or Agility challenge rolls.

  • Immobilized sets your speed to 0. All attack rolls against you have 1 boon.

  • Impaired means you make all attack and challenge rolls with 1 bane.

  • Poisoned makes you, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, make all attack and challenge rolls with 1 bane.

  • Prone means you are lying on the ground. You can use a move to stand up, and all rolls made with Strength or Agility take 1 bane. Creatures that can reach you with melee or ranged attacks get 1 boon, but those that can’t take 1 bane.

  • Slowed forces you to only take a slow turn in combat, halves your Speed and prevents you from getting bonuses to your Speed.

  • Stunned means you cannot move or take any actions. You fail all challenge rolls, and creatures attacking you get 1 bane.

  • Surprised forces you to take an automatic failure on all challenge rolls and you can’t take any actions or more.

  • Unconscious creatures have a Defense of 5 and cannot use actions or more, and fails all challenge rolls.
You can have multiple instances of the same Affliction, and the effects to not stack. But you have to remove each of them individually. So if you’re poisoned from being bitten by a snake and from an assassin’s arrow, you have to make challenge rolls or use items to remove both of them before the effects go away

SotDL can be played with theater-of-the-mind combat, using rough maps, or it can be played on an explicit grid. Ranges are defined in terms of yards, and can be used as hard measurements or more loosely.
  • You: this is just for effects that target yourself.
  • Reach: anything you can reach with your hands, so an adjacent space. Larger creatures have more reach.
  • Short: 5 yards
  • Medium: 20 yards
  • Long: 100 yards
  • Extreme: 500 yards
  • Sight: anything you can see
There are three levels of obscurement that impose penalties to looking into these areas.
  • Partial: Rain, light snow, and some fog. This imposes 1 bane.
  • Heavy: a downpour, heavy snow or thick fog. This gives 2 banes.
  • Total: a whiteout. This imposes 3 banes.
These levels of obscurement then translate to levels of illumination.

Lit areas impose no penalty.
Shadowed areas are considered partially obscured.
Dark areas are totally obscured.

I won’t be going over this section in a lot of detail, as it has a lot of basic information that anyone reading this thread is gonna be familiar with. It encourages players to make decisions in keeping with their character’s background and personality, and to keep in mind any connections they may make either before the game or during it. It does have three interesting things, though, the optional Character Bonds system, the rules for Social Conflict and Fortune.

Character Bonds should be familiar to players of Dungeon World. You get a positive bond with one other PC and a negative bond with another. When a character that you have a positive bond with grants you a boon and you roll a 1 on it you can reroll it and use the new result. When a character you have a negative bond with grants you a boon and you roll a 6 on it, you must reroll an use the new result.

Social Conflict is a system for getting people to do what you want with words (sometimes). What I like about it is that it is very streamlined and covers most situations that would normally be determined by skills like Diplomacy and Bluff. When you try to change the behavior of an NPC, the GM will ask you to make a Challenge roll against one of their stats depending on what you want to accomplish and how you try it. I’ll go over each goal in brief, describing the roll and the possible result. If you ever roll a 0 or lower, the creature does the opposite of what you want.

Will vs. Will
This will cause a creature to become friendly towards you, and may give you 1 boon on further social interactions with them if the GM says so.

Intellect vs. Intellect
This will cause them to believe a lie until it is shown to be false.

Will vs. Will (Strength vs. Will if using physical violence)
This will get them to do whatever it was you were trying to force them to do.

Will vs. Will
They will do what you were asking them to do, within reason.

Intellect vs. Will
You get them angry, which could cause them to attack, lose their cool, or just become openly hostile to you.

Fortune is a status effect that the GM hands out for good roleplaying, having a good idea and sharing it with the group, if you pull off a remarkable stunt or just for making the game more fun, exciting or interesting. When you have Fortune, you can spend it in a couple of ways to represent good luck:
  • You can turn a failed d20 roll into a success
  • When someone else rolls a d20, you can spend Fortune to give them 2 boons
  • When anyone is rolling a d6, you can spend Fortune to replace the roll with a 6
Once you spend Fortune, you do not have it anymore until you are awarded it again by the GM.

Okay, so now we get to create our Goblin!

Queegol the Fang
Strength 8, Agility 12, Intellect 11, Will 8
Perception 11
Defense 12
Health 8
Healing Rate 2
Size ½, Speed 10, Power 0
Damage 0, Insanity 0, Corruption 0
Languages: Common (literate) and Elvish
Professions: merchant, law
Immune to disease and charmed
Iron Vulnerability

Goblin Age: 9 (11 to 25 years old)
Goblin Build: 8 (Wiry)
Goblin Distinctive Appearance: 8 (You have a tooth growing out of your forehead)
Goblin Odd Habit: 9 (You refuse to wear shoes)
Goblin Background: 3 (You accidentally got your entire tribe killed)
Goblin Personality: 5 (You try to rise above the filth and squalor of your people and do good in the world)

Profession: 2 (common), 14 (merchant)
Profession: 1 (academic), 9 (law), literate in Common
Wealth: 18!! (rich)
Interesting thing: 16 (a bag filled with curiously fleshy rods)
Personality: 19 (noble), 15 (stingy)
Equipment: dagger, noble’s clothing, cloak, 1 week of rations, a waterskin, a healing potion, a pouch containing 11 silver shillings, a personal servant, a guard and a three horses with saddles.

Queegol began her life inauspiciously. She was born a poor goblin and lived among the trash heaps, scavenging shiny objects just like her parents had always done. She had a sharp mind and sharper reflexes, but her natural inquisitiveness is what caused her to unleash doom upon her people. She was fond of books, and taught herself to read. One day, the goblins broke into a rusty iron safe that had been forgotten deep in the junkyard. Inside was a leathery tome that they urged Queegol to read from. She did, and in the process used an incantation that suddenly loosed a demon in the middle of the goblins’ small settlement. She was the only one to escape, leaving the book and the slavering demon behind her as she fled to a distant city.

Once there, Queegol her calling among the oligarchy as a lawyer. She studied the laws and regulations of the city extensively, and used her strange goblin orthogonal thinking to defend the common people, turning the law back on those who would use it to hurt others. She became well-known and respected. People called her The Fang for the tooth that grows from the middle of her forehead, which was damaged during her escape from the demon and now looks like a jagged fang. Her law practice thrived as she took on cases all across the city, with people paying her in donations, and eventually she amassed a store of wealth that most people can only dream of having.

Now she travels from city to city, providing her services to any who can afford the pittance she asks for. She has a few employees that help her out, and her stingy nature promises to grow her wealth even more as she seeks out new opportunities to help others.


May 5, 2011

Because I'm bored and pretty excited about this game, it's time for more...

Shadow of the Demon Lord Part 6: Combat!

When the swords come out and blood has to be spilled, we bust out the rules for combat. Like most games, combat is one of the most important parts of the game session, and thus is where time and positioning are most closely tracked.

The first thing you have to do is establish the battlefield. This can be as rough or as detailed as you like, but people should have a reasonable mental picture of where they are in relation to the enemies and each other, and the locations of any important things in the area. Shadow of the Demon Lord fully supports the use of a grid and miniatures, but can also be played completely without those things. Personally, I don’t know of many games with crunchy combat that I could play without a map and minis, so I like that SotDL can be played that way with relative ease.

We start off with a description of awareness. If one side is unaware of the other when combat begins, they are all considered surprised until the end of the first round.

How a Round Works
There’s no initiative in SotDL. Instead, rounds are broken into fast turns and slow turns. When a round begins, the players decide who will take fast turns and who will take slow turns. Unless you have an Affliction or other effect that says otherwise, you can pick either kind of turn. The GM decides what kind of turn each creature will take as well. Then, players go first during the fast turn, then the GM goes. After that, the players go first in the slow turn, and then the GM goes. Then you end the round. If there are still hostile creatures around, a new round begins.

Basically a round looks like this:

Fast turn
Slow turn
New Round

When the round ends, the GM resolves any effects that last until the end of the round. When an effect says it lasts for 1 round, it ends at the end of the round after the one during which it was cast. Combat ends when all the creatures on one side run away, surrender or die.

A fast turn is one in which a creature can either use an action or move, but not both.

A slow turn allows a creature to use an action and move up to its speed. It can use the action at any point during the movement.

Pretty self-explanatory. You can move up to your speed when you move, but there are some special considerations in terms of how you’re moving and what you might be doing while moving.

  • Balance: to move across a treacherous area, like slick ice of a narrow walkway, you have to make an Agility challenge roll. On a failure, you stop moving for the round. On a 0 or below, you might fall down!
  • Climb: climbing is considered difficult terrain, which reduces your Speed by half. And if there is something making life more difficult, like ice on the rocky handholds or grease on the rope ladder, you will have to make a Strength challenge roll, possible with some banes. On a failure, you stop moving for the round. On a 0 or less you will probably fall.
  • Crawl: while prone you can crawl along at half your Speed. You can voluntarily drop prone without using a movement, but standing up costs you your move.
  • Fly: if you can fly, you can move up to your Speed in any direction you wish. If you are rendered prone or your Speed is reduced to 0 you will fall. You may have to make Strength challenge rolls in order to fly in turbulent conditions.
  • Jump: yes, there are rules for jumping both vertically and horizontally, using Agility challenge rolls for both.
  • Ride: there are lots of rules to riding that I won’t get into here, but they are pretty comprehensive.
  • Swim: water and other liquids count as difficult terrain, and you may have to make a Strength challenge roll in moving water. Armor imposes penalties to swimming and Clockworks cannot swim at all.
  • Teleport: this works how you would expect. You ignore difficult terrain and obstacles and appear where your teleport would take you.

Here we’ve got the meat and potatoes of your combat, covering all the non-movement actions you can take during a fight.

  • Attack: we’ll explain this a little more in-depth later on, but this is for using weapons and casting attack spells.
  • Cast a utility spell: we’ll go over utility spells in the Magic chapter, but these are your spells that don’t hurt enemies.
  • Concentrate: some talents and spells require you to concentrate to maintain them, and this is how you do it. If you take damage or gain Insanity while concentrating you have to make a Will challenge roll. If you fail, your concentration is broken.
  • Defend: while defending, all attack rolls against you have 1 bane, and you get 1 boon to all actions to resist attacks until the end of the round.
  • End an effect: just lets you end an effect you started (usually a spell)
  • Find: lets you make a Perception challenge roll to find hidden enemies and objects, targeting their Agility.
  • Help: you can make an Intellect challenge roll to grant 1 boon to any ally within 5 yards.
  • Hide: you can hide when you’re not being observed, using an Agility challenge roll. You remain hidden until you reveal yourself or an enemy hits you with an attack roll, taking 3 banes. While hidden, you make all attack rolls with 1 bane against the Defense or Agility of creatures you are hidden from.
  • Prepare: this allows you to prepare a triggered action. You specify a trigger, like “when a creature moves into my reach, I will attack it” then, when an enemy does this before the end of the round, you can perform whatever action you specified, and you get 1 boon to the roll.
  • Reload: lets you reload your weapon if it needs to be reloaded, like crossbows and guns.
  • Retreat: you can move up to half your Speed without triggering free attacks.
  • Rush: this lets you move up to twice your Speed
  • Stabilize: you can make an Intellect challenge roll to help an incapacitated creature within reach. You get 1 bane if they’re dying. On a success, they heal 1 damage.
  • Use an item: also self-explanatory. You can do things like light a torch or pull an item out of a bag.

Free attacks are a kind of triggered action everyone uses. When a creature within your reach moves out of your reach, you get to make a melee attack against them for free.

Minor actions are things that don’t take up a regular action. This is stuff like dropping a weapon or opening a door. You can usually do 1 on a fast turn and 2 on a slow turn, but it’s up to the GM.

Making Attacks
Now we’re talking! This covers the primary ways in which you’ll be dealing damage: melee, ranged, items, spells, and attacking attributes.

Melee attacks require you to pick a target and make an attack roll. This usually uses Strength, but could use Agility if the weapon has the finesse property. If you hit their Defense, you deal your damage. SotDL also has different kinds of melee attacks baked in and open to everyone:

Ranged attacks are the same as melee attacks except they use Agility by default. However, unlike melee combat, ranged combat has to deal with cover in some cases,

  • Half cover imposes 1 bane
  • Three-quarters cover imposes 2 banes
  • Total cover means the target cannot be attacked

Attacking with two weapons isn’t advised. You can use one attack to either hit a single enemy with both weapons or two enemies with one weapon. For the former, you roll with 2 banes and if you succeed you add the damage of your off-hand weapon. The latter imposes 3 banes to both attacks.

When you attack with an item, you go by the rules that item has, which we’ll see in Chapter 6. Attack items are things like acid and oil.

Attacking with spells is covered in Chapter 7, but usually they require an Intellect or Will roll against one of the targets Attributes.

Next we get to the section on attacking Attributes, which is a sort of informal stunt system. These are broken down into a few actions that cover most of the basic ways in which you can attack an enemy for bonuses and advantages.

Strength/Agility with 2 banes vs Strength/Agility, whichever is higher
This causes the enemy to drop one thing that they are holding.

Intellect vs. Intellect
This forces the enemy to make its next attack or challenge roll before the end of the round with 2 banes.

Strength/Agility vs. Strength
This is how you escape from grabs. On a success, you break free and move half your speed without triggering free attacks from the enemy who had grabbed you.

Agility vs. Perception
When you do this, you either get 2 boons to attack the enemy’s Defense or Agility until the end of the next round or moving does not trigger free attacks from them.

Strength/Agility vs. Agility
Succeed and you’ve got ‘em grabbed!

Knock Down
Strength vs. Agility
You get 1 bane for each point of Size the creature has on you, and 1 boon if they are smaller. If you succeed, you knock them prone

Strength vs. Strength
This is how you move people around while they’re grabbed.

Strength vs. Strength
You get 1 bane for each point of Size the creature has on you, and 1 boon if they are smaller. If you succeed, you push the enemy 1 yard away, plus a number of yards equal to your Strength modifier.

This isn’t a usual maneuver in that is an attack against an enemy’s attribute. Instead it allows you to move up to your Speed and make an attack at any point during the move. Until the end of the turn, you take 1 bane to all attack and challenge rolls.

You can also try to attack any object or item held by another creature. When you do this, you take 2 banes, and not all objects can be destroyed. For example an arrow cannot damage a sword.

The chapter then ends with a chart of banes imposed in common situations. These are mostly repeated from other parts of this chapter, but it’s nice to have them all in one place.

And that’s it for Chapter 2! Those are the basic rules for how to play Shadow of the Demon Lord. Chapters 1 and 2 could be used to run a Starting adventure no sweat.

Next time: The Novice Paths, and Spradley finds their calling!

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