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Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Plus, even if you don't care about the feminist messages it's still a rad game about bombing Nazi's. A game can have a message, but it should be a good game first.


Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Well, that spell is like that because they didn't even consider using it for trans purposes in the book, in the game it's pretty explicitly just as a way to explain why the villains can create hideous monsters and the Orc-analogues of the setting. Blue Rose kinda forgets trans is a thing, which is understandable: Gay Rights was a big thing when they wrote it but the idea of Trans Rights being a big issue is actually fairly new and the creators probably didn't even think of it.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Reign is, at its simplest, a very well made fantasy RPG based on Greg Stolzeís One Roll Engine, which also powers Monsters and Other Childish Things, Wild Talents, Godlike, and Better Angels. Reign runs off of a simplified version of those engines that works well as a ďbaseĒ to build off of. If you want just the engine and donít care about the built in setting of the game, thatís no problem: You just have to get Reign Enchiridion which is just the mechanics, and is a very good affordable game for only $10 for the PDF.

But weíre covering the original book, because I do want to tell you about the setting. About the nations, the geography, the magic good god the magic. I also want to talk about the mechanics, how it streamlines the stuff nobody cares about while giving goodly content for the stuff people do.

The biggest selling point is that this is a game built around being Important. Being big, powerful, and mighty, but not how most RPGs handle it: Nowhere in this game are there rules for becoming a god, the greatest of spells can be foiled by a bowman with good aim, and the greatest weapon in the world is a competent officer corps. This is a game of Lords and Leaders. Now, lone heroes are a great, and truly can change the world on their own, but this is a game that assumes your end goal isnít a Sword of Lightning Stroke, or to master the Cataclysmic Transformation, itís to rule the world. To be a power of your own, to wear the crown and bear the sceptre and control the lives of millions.

So, welcome to Reign.


By my words, cities burn.

In my youth, I carried the sword, led from the front, charged the gap and showed the soldiers around me that I would risk death at their side. Those days their shed blood mingled with that of royalty. I killed men face to face, in the clash of arms, and at night I drank in victory and slept in perfect tranquility.

I miss those days.

War taught me well how to seize menís hearts with words, and in the peace I traveled our new lands, telling all they were now free, they were now part of a greater nation, they were partaking in a triumphant destiny that would remake the world. I spoke my grand words and they believed, they endured the taxes on their labor and the exhaustion of their fields and, in time, they gave me their children for the next war. The last war, I promised them. I gave them my word, my royal vow.

Those nights I drank to be cordial. Most nights I slept, having listened only to the very fanatics Iíd persuaded. Most nights I believed it all.

That next war I served as general and I came to understand why my youth had been a series of triumphs, that a good war is not built on fair fights but on maneuver and advantage and the treachery of the frightened. I welcomed betrayers and I poisoned brave champions before they could shake my ranksí confidence. I countenanced atrocity to terrify my enemies, I led sorcerers who could sweep the land with plague, bring the dead back hungry, shatter walls in on the children, the wives, the frail elders huddled within. Given the choice to crush everything the enemy fought for, I accepted it and eagerly.

Those nights, I slept poorly. Or I drank.

Now I wear the crown. My father fell to an assassin who was never captured, who may well be a laborer in my very castle. The people who once adored me whisper that by my hand this deed was done. The whispers are fed by the mothers whose sons never came back, by the soldiers who saw their compatriots made monstrous by enchantment, by the paupers taxed into penury by the armyís hungry demands.

I cannot sleep, and I dare not drink.

The conquered lands have rebelled, and the riots are beginning even here. My own people cry out against me. My people, for whom my blood fell, and that of so many others. The people call me a liar and a murderer, when everything I have done is for them, for the land, for my country.

But the troops who looted and came home rich in my employ, they are loyal. The wizards answer my call, for gold or power or simply a chance to test their twisted might. I speak the word, sign the paper, gesture with my royal scepter and all the horrors I have raised can descend on those cities, my cities, the cities I won. At my command they too can fall.

If I do it, I know what the passionate speakers will say, and I know what cause will call the brave swordsmen. If I turn on my own in wrath, there is no turning back until the land is completely broken, chained with despair, sapped of will like a whipped and whimpering dog.

It may be the only way.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012


ďThe hand is my sword,Ē the martial expert explained.

Laughing Midnight furrowed his brow. ďYour handÖ is a sword?Ē he repeated.

The expert nodded.

Midnight turned to Barthus and switched into his native language. ďMaybe Iím not following something,Ē he said. ďI think that man just said his hand is a sword. Is that right?Ē

ďThatís what he said.Ē

The old man leaned in with a look of intense interest and whispered, ďAsk him how he wipes his backside!Ē

Barthus looked at the martial expert, who seemed increasingly uncomfortable and suspicious. He cleared his throat and said ďMy elderly friend has heard of your honored discipline and is quite curious about how your train your hands to withstand the rigors of battle.Ē

ďOh well, lots of punching and striking practice,Ē he responded, making some sample gestures. ďAnd to toughen them, we jab down into buckets of sand. As you advance in training, you use hot sand.Ē

The old swordsman goggled at the movements with horrified fascination. ďWhat did he say?Ē he asked Barthus.

ďHe said his hand is also a hand.Ē

The One Roll Engine

This part will go quick: Thereís no need to over explain and the ORE is shockingly quick and simple to learn, so letís just jump into it!

Basic Resolution

All rolls are made with d10s only. When you make a roll you grab as many dice as are in your pool for that roll, generally this is your Skill+Stat, plus any bonuses you get from items, magic, special abilities, etc. For a simple example: Most combat is done with a roll of the Body Stat (General physical might and fitness) plus the Fight Skill (General combat ability). If your character has Body 3 and Fight 4, then you would roll 7 dice in your pool, notated as 7d.

Once you roll you look for sets, multiple die with the same result. Any dice that are not part of a set are called Waste Die. Normally they do nothing, but there are spells or special techniques or items that can make them matter.

Sets are read as Width x Height. Width is how many dice are in the set, and Height is what number that setís die show. A set of 3x8 is three 8ís, 4x2 is four 2ís, 2x10 is two 10ís, etc. Higher and Wider are both good, but sometimes you have to pick between multiple sets for a roll, and when that happens the differences between Height and Width come into play.

Width determines, in general, speed. The Wider a roll, the faster it is. It determines what order people go in combat, how fast you climb a tree, how long it takes to forge that sword, if the haggling session takes 3 minutes or 30, etc. Height is quality, how well you did the thing. Where your axe blow lands on their body, how sharp that sword is, how big a discount you get from that merchant, etc.

So, if time matters, wider is better, if time is no issue, higher is better. But ideally you want to roll sets that are both wide AND high.

Types of Rolls

This is pretty standard stuff, no surprises which isnít bad: Donít fix what ainít broken. Thereís three kinds of general rolls youíll make, Static, Dynamic, and Opposed.

Static is simple: Roll Pool, if you get any sets the thing succeeds. If the GM thinks thatís too easy, he can add a difficulty or penalty. Difficulty is a minimum Height you have to roll to succeed: Difficulty 3 means you got to have a set of 3 or higher to win. Penalties mean you have less die in your pool, simple. These are for when a PC wants to do something hard or dangerous or difficult, but there isnít something or someone else involved to compete with, just the situation.

Dynamic rolls are for when two or more people want to do something, but not all of them can succeed. Debates, competitions, races, that sort of thing. Importantly, this is for two people trying to do the same thing, but not in opposition to each other. This kind is also dirt simple: everybody rolls their pools, whoever gets the best set wins. The GM decides whether Height or Width decides based on the contest.

The final kind is Opposed, which is for when one person wants to do something, and the other wants to stop them. Both characters roll their pools, which can differ: Attacking with a mace might be Body+Fight, while the target might try and stop it with Coordination+Dodge to avoid the blow. If the active character, the person doing the thing, fails he fails and the blockerís roll doesnít matter: That mace blow didnít even come close to hitting. If the active succeeds and the blocker gets no successes, the activeÖ succeeds. The blockerís attempt just flat does nothing or doesnít work.

If they both succeed though, then the blockerís pool becomes [/b]Gobble Dice[/b]. Each Gobble Die can counteract and eliminate a die from the active characterís set, as long as that die is of equal or lesser value. Once you lower a set to a single die, itís no longer valid. But, Gobble Die have to be used before the active person can do their thing, so they also have to have a higher width. So, to successfully oppose another's roll, the blocker has to roll a set at least as wide and high as the active characterís. Mind, the width only matters if time is a concern, if time isnít an object then only Hight matters.

Game Terms
This is a section for some miscellaneous game terms that are needed to understand later parts of the book, so Iíll just hit the important ones.

  • Area Dice: Dice rolled for area attacks, generally magic or stuff like bombs or splashes of oil. Notated as Area # Killing/Shock, with the number being how many d10s you roll. Everyone hit rolls that many die, and takes a hit of the appropriate damage type to the hit location shown on the die.

  • Expert Dice (ED): Special die that gets attached to certain skill rolls. Instead of rolling this die, you set it to whatever number you want, then roll the rest of the pool. You can only have one in your pool, and you canít have an Expert and a Master die. If there are any penalties to a roll, you drop the Expert Die first.

  • Master Dice (MD): Similar to Expert Dice, but you set a Master Die to whatever number you want after rolling the rest of the pool. This means you can always guarantee at least a 2 width set if a roll has an MD in it. Penalties work the same as Expert Die: if the roll has a penalty, you lose the Master Die first.

  • Squishing: Some special abilities let you do this, reducing Height to increase Width or vice-versa. This lets you turn an accurate hit into a fast one, or sacrifice speed for quality on a roll.

Thatís it for basic mechanics! Thereís more detail in the Combat and Magic chapters, as youíd expect, but for now thatís enough to let you move on to Character Creation! Which weíll cover next time.


ďNow you kill us for them. Is that a better peace?Ē

ďYes.Ē The judge, the Thubor turned and glared and raised his voice, a little. ďYou have not seen them lay pyramids of skulls. I have. They have traditions for brutality, old man, protocols for the way to burn men alive! TheyÖ the piling of bodies is a language to the Opetkans. If they lay a three-sided pyramid of heads before a village, it means one thing, and if it has four sides, thatís something else. Can you imagine what they must be like to have their massacres so orderly? I donít doubt that you hate them, but you canít hate them more than I. Iím sure you despise me, but no more than I despise myself. But in the night, when I wake sweating, itís not from dreams of what they do now, but what they would do if we resisted again.Ē

ďThe gods never neglect a righteous cause.Ē

ďThey have gods too.Ē

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Well, the game doesn't hide that at all. There's a chart right in the book that flat tells you the odds of getting a match with each dice pool size:

It isn't obscured at all, and in fact it's way easier to get a match. Expert Die only cost 1xp. The game is not really about getting matches, sets are common and getting a roll with no sets at all is meant to be a rare occurrence. It's built more around getting better sets as the ideal not just sets at all. Also, it's easy as poo poo to get up to pools over 5 for whatever you want your character to be good at, and it's perfectly reasonable for a starting character to have 7d or 8d in their important pools and 5d in most others. Reign is built around the idea that characters flat failing rolls should be rare, instead most issues come from being beaten at a roll by other things, or failing because of penalties or difficulty.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Character Creation

Character creation is pretty straight forward, so this will go quickly. Thereís not much here that will be new to regular RPG players, so Iíll mainly focus on the more unique parts and skim over most of the things in the book.

The first part of the chapter is actually a nice few paragraphs about the practical reasons to create a varied party while at the same time making sure they work together as a coherent whole, with exploration of party composition strategies and making sure the GM and players agree what sort of characters belong in the game.

Character creation works on two ways: standard Point Buy and good olí One Roll generation.

Point buy is bog standard, you get so many XP , either 85, 120, or 150 depending on what power level the GM wants the characters to be at, to buy stats, skills, advantages, etc. Absolutely nothing surprising here, but once again: if it ain't broke donít fix it. Thereí s nothing wrong with just sticking to good old Point Buy for the default character generation. If you want to look at the costs of everything, here they are:


Increasing a Stat by 1: 5 points.

Increasing a Skill by 1: 1 point.

Promoting a Normal Skill die to an Expert Die: 1 point.

Promoting an Expert Die to a Master Die: 5 points.

Acquiring an Advantage: Varies, but the cost is listed.

Acquiring a Problem: Free, but you canít have more than 3 Problems.

One Roll is more unique, but itís boring to explain: Roll 11d10, check all the set results and waste die on a series of charts that tells you what sorta stuff you get. Instead of going through everything, here: A REIGN Character Generator. Thisíll let you get a good feel for what sort of characters this generates. For example, I'll just use that to roll up a quick generic character:



1x1 Raised Wild: Perhaps you were abandoned in the woods as a child and were nursed by wolves (or a bear, or an ape, or whatever). Maybe primitives who have no real language of their own raised you. Whatever it was, you're used to living on the edge.
Endurance 2
Hearing 3
Language 3
Language (Native) 0
Sight 2
Throwing 2

3x2 Cutpurse
Coordination 1
Climb 2
Dagger 1
Dodge 2
Run 2
Stealth 3

2x3 Street Entertainer
Charm 1
Fascinate 2
Jest 1
Perform 2

1x5 Press Ganged: Against your will, you were forced onto service aboard a warship. How'd you get out of that one?
Body 1
Craving: Beat On Sailors

2x6 Foot Soldier
Body 1
Dodge 1
Fight 2
Parry 2

2x8 Squad Leader
Command 1
Fight 1
Inspire 2
Ride 1
Tactics 1

Character Sheet

Body 4
Charm 3
Command 3
Coordination 3
Knowledge 2
Sense 2
Climb 2
Dagger 1
Dodge 3
Endurance 2
Fascinate 2
Fight 3
Hearing 3
Inspire 2
Jest 1
Language 3
Language (Native) 0
Parry 2
Perform 2
Ride 1
Run 2
Sight 2
Stealth 3
Tactics 1
Throwing 2
Craving: Beat On Sailors

So, from one random roll we have a charater who: Was raised in the wilderness, a wild animal child. As they grew, they wandered, back to the city, finding a pace in civilization as a street entertainer and part-time thief. But, sadly, one day they were press-ganged, appearently into the Marines, as they were forced into a career as a foot soldier. This gave them a lingering dislike towards sailors, but eventually they rose up to the rank of Squad Leader, which might be what they are when the game begins.

Neat huh?

Stats and Skills

Next up is a quick overview of Stats and Skills. Both get elaborated in a later chapter, but this part is more based around helping a new player quickly understand what each ability does when making a character.

Stats are all pretty self-explanatory:
  • Body: Strength and Endurance combined essentially. How big strong, tough, etc. The BEEF stat.
  • Coordination: Dexterity! Speed, balance, grace, aim, you get the picture.
  • Sense: Wisdom. Itís your alertness and how aware of the world around you you are.
  • Knowledge: Intelligence, the ability to learn and remember, cognitive ability.
  • Command: One half of this gameís Charisma. Command is your presence, raw charisma, and magnetism. Someone with high command might not be likable, but you canít ignore them.
  • Charm: The other half of Charisma. Charm is more about being pleasant and engaging, your likability and general social aptitude.

Skills are the same, and Iím not going into most of them because itís all the old standbyís in general. Athletics, Climb, Perform, Stealth, Weapon: Whatever, Haggle, etc. Iím just going into the more interesting and special skills that are unique to Reign or how Reign works.
  • Counterspell: Linked to the Knowledge Stat, Counterspell is the ability to mess up the flow of magical energy in an area, and is used to counter and disrupt spellcasting. Itís essentially the magical counterpart to something like Dodge. This is not exclusive to Sorcerers, any character can put points into Counterspell and therefore can gently caress up Wizards.

  • Strategy and Tactics: Both linked to Knowledge, these are similar skills based around the command of others. Tactics are unit scale, essentially the nitty gritty of commanding troops in a battle. Strategy is the Logistics ability, itís not about commanding troops, but the overall grand strategy of War, logistics, supply lines, dictating the movement of entire armies, you get the picture.

  • Jest: One of the many social skills in the game. Most of them arenít worth mentioning, itís general stuff like Lie, Inspire, Intimidate, etc. But jest is special: Itís the skill of making people laugh. On itís own not very impressive, but itís worth noting because of a little optional rule:


    If you like movies and books where the hero always has a snappy comeback, you can use the Jest Skill to set this up. Hereís how.

    Before every game session, each player can present the GM with a number of writtenout ďstraight linesĒ equal to his Jest score. The GM should make a good-faith effort to provide these, and the player (presumably) has some clever rejoinder prepared.

    Example: Joeyís character Bo has Jest 1. Before the session starts, he hands his GM a slip of paper that says ĎIndignant woman says ďWell! I never!Ēí During the course of the game, the GM arranges the requested line from the right type of character, so that Joey can come back with ďAnd with that unfriendly attitude, you never will.ĒEnjoying this so much, Joey raises Boís Jest to 2.

    Next session he hands the GM two straight lines, anticipating a confrontation with a hated enemy. ďYou! ButÖ youíre supposed to be dead!Ē and the other is ďWhen youíre in my power, your suffering will be legendary!Ē When these come up, he responds with ďYeah, well, Iím supposed to brush my teeth every night tooĒ and ďLegendary suffering? And here I expected a nice foot rub.Ē

    Itís too bad if the GM canít find a way to insert the line, but she shouldnít feel like sheís supposed to contort the plot to work in bon mot opportunities.
  • Eerie: The Magical sense skill, the ability to detect magic, curses, and supernatural thingies. Once again, a skill everyone can take.

  • Sorcery: This is a special one. This skill represents obviously your characterís ability and training in magic. But, it isnít linked to any single stat. You can roll Sorcery+Body just as easily as Sorcery+Knowledge, it just depends on what school of magic you are using, therefore, no your stats will not lock you out of any magic at all. ANYBODY can learn magic, to some degree. And there a lot of really good cheap easy spells any character would love to get.

Thatís skills done. Next is a bit talking about Esoteric Disciplines and Martial Paths. These are the Feat equivalents of Reign, things you buy with XP to give special abilities generally tied to a specific skill. Theyíre covered properly in other chapters, so weíll come back to them in a later bit. Thereís also a short bit about Money, but that comes later as well. Itís just here so you know that money is a thing and why you would want to buy it up at creation.


If youíve ever played any Burning Wheel games, this will seem quite familiar. Passions are the driver forces of your characterís personality. There are three kinds, and you can have one of each, or none at all.

Your characterís Mission is a concrete goal your character wants to accomplish, a definite task that can be completed. If you fulfill your mission, you get bonus XP and can pick a new one.

A Duty is more vague, this being a sort of overriding ethical or moral principle. ďI Shall Never KillĒ, ďAlways aid a Woman in DistressĒ, ďMy Life is the EmpressíĒ, etc. You can spend 10XP to get rid of a Duty, but if you donít start the game with one you can only get one through plot and roleplay.

A Craving is a personal and selfish goal, a defining desire or passion. You get one at character creation and can never get rid of it or change it. This is where you put your flaws, foibles,and delightful little quirks. ďMake love with as many willing partners as possibleĒ and ďGet drunk whenever nobody is counting on meĒ are two examples given.

How passions work are easy: If whatever you are doing is in direct pursuit of a passion, you get +1 die to any pools you roll. Pursuing two passions? +2 die to your rolls, and +3 die for all three passions. You can also use these ďbonus dieĒ to offset penalties to your rolls. The catch is if you are doing something counter to your passions, then you get a die penalty. These are optional: your character can have none or all three or any in-between, itís just some mechanical reinforcement for acting in character which can act as a hindrance as much as a bonus.


These are little, or big, things that you can get to boost your character that donít fit into any other categories. Special possessions, unique physical traits, special social connections, you get the idea. Some are good, some are crap, and I would actually remove them from the game because of it.
  • Animal Companion: You get a plot-protected Animal Buddy! The rules explicitly state that this companion should not be removed from the game except in important plot circumstances. If you spent XP to get that horse, itís bullshit to have him killed 5 minutes later in a bandit ambush. Notable companions are a trained Stealing Monkey, a Great Ape Bodyguard, a Talking Cat, and a Riding Mammoth.

  • Beauty: Youíre gorgeous! Thereís three levels of this advantage, each giving a bigger bonus. With Beauty, whenever you roll the Fascinate (General charm and socialization) or Graces ( Etiquette and Protocol) skills, you can raise any set to a minimum. The one point beauty is a minimum height of 3, meanwhile the 5 point version bumps that up to a minimum of 10. Yeah, if you get 5 point Beauty, as long as you roll a set you canít fail Fascinate or Graces rolls, and by definition at minimum tie any contests or opposed rolls.

  • Cannibal Smile: You have abnormally strong jaws and sharpened teeth. You can perform a nasty bite attack in combat, and get a bonus to Intimidate rolls thanks to your scary smile.

  • Followers: You get a squad of mooks hanging around. You can spend more points for more and better goons. At max cost, you can either have 50 incompetent boobs, or 10 hardcore badasses. The exact rules are explained later, but Followers are generally fairly expendable, and are good more for backup than a gamebreaker. Nice but never mandatory or overpowered, a good advantage.

  • Fool Lucky: You can spend an XP to re-roll! You have to keep the second result, even if itís worse. This is a good advantage: obvious benefits, but not without a cost. Good reasons both for taking it and for ignoring it, I like this advantage.

  • Knack for Learning: You pick a skill, and improving that skill now costs 1 XP less. This is a bad advantage, because thereís no reason to NOT pick it on your most-used skill. Every character would want this, no exceptions, as it would save you XP in the long run guaranteed. Though itís only worth it if you know youíll be maxing that skill out, so itís not too broken. But, if you wanna specialize in a particular thing? This is a no-brainer.

  • Leather Hard: More Wounds in each hit location, makes you take a bit longer to kill. This would be mandatory if it didnít cost a whopping 5xp, and generally an extra wound box can help but not be a guaranteed bonus.

  • Lucky: once per session, of you completely fail a roll and get no sets, you can re-roll it. This is not a thing that should exist, because itís 1xp. Yeah, no player would ever pass up a free re-roll on a failed roll for no cost to them. Iíd make it more expensive, 3 or 5 maybe to offset the fact thereís no penalty to using it.

  • Patron: Standard NPC boss skill, more points spent means more important patron. It goes from a village chief up to a full-blown King. This is nice, the Patron gives you stuff and helps, but the Advantage explicitly states that the Patron is going to expect services rendered in exchange for their aid. A good roleplaying advantage.

  • Possession: Your special signature plot-immuneÖ whatever. This advantage varies based on the cost of whatever it is you want to get, a fancy sword is a lot cheaper than a castle fortress or pirate ship. No issues with this one, pick a possession from the big item list, you get it and it has limited plot-immunity. Good.

  • Secret: You know somethingÖ Special. A big, important, plot thing you know and few other people do. The cost varies based on the power of what organizations want that secret kept hidden. Knowing Top Secret National Security info is way more expensive than having blackmail material on the town mayor. This is a flexible plotty thing, and really relies on the GM not being a poo poo about it to make sure itís useful, so I canít really rate it. Depends on GM how good this advantage is.

    Hereís some example secrets from the included setting of Heluso and Milonda:

    Secret of the Aqueduct (3 Pts.): The masons of Uldholm are the most advanced in the world, and currently they alone possess the building techniques that let them construct aqueducts. Aqueducts, in turn, are what allow Uldish cities to be unusually clean and healthy, and therefore large. Even the masons donít understand just how important their development is, but they still try to keep it proprietary. Only characters with an Expert: Mason Skill at three or higher have the background to understand this secret.

    Secret of Kratig (3 Pts.): The concoction that gives the Blue-Face tribe of Truils its name is more than just a drug to them. Itís a sacrament. The Secret of Kratig is only available to characters who have at least three points in the Student of Herbalism Skill. (It gets explained more later, but Kratig is basically Ye Olde Fantasy PCP)

    Secret of the Dinda (4 Pts.): The swords that gave a nation its name are the finest known to mankind. They undoubtedly give an advantage to the nation that developed them, but more, thereís a point of pride in keeping outsiders from making swords of equal quality. A character must have at least an ED or five points in the Expert: Blacksmith Skill to learn the Secret of the Dinda. (Dinda are Not-Valyrian Steel, essentially. Swords made out of special metal.)

  • Status: You are in a position of some social standing. This confers no material goods, simply a general recognition that you are, in some way, a Big Deal. A guy with Status 5 and no money may still be a Prince, but heís a broke-rear end vagabond Prince. More points, more important. 1 point youíre a village sage or certified expert in a skill, 2 is equivalent to a Knight or town Mayor, 3 is a proper Lord or Merchant Prince, 4 is a Duke, Grand General, or similar big important guy. 5 Is straight up Royalty or Pope-equivalent.

  • Thick Headed: Bonus wound box in the head, a terrible advantage. The Head is the most vulnerable bodypart, it is the one you want to protect more than anything, and this is only 1xp, no reason not to get it. Make it more expensive and itíd be more balanced.

Spells are considered an advantage, but the proper rules will wait for the magic chapter. It works simply as more powerful spells cost more XP to get. You can either spend Xp for two spells of the equivalent level, or for one spell of the next level up. So 1 XP gets you a level 2 Spell, or two level 1ís. 2xp is one level 3 or two level 2ís, etc.


Problems are your general disadvantages, get them to get bonus XPs fi they cause problems. Except they donít give you the XP at character creation. You get them for free, up to 3, but they only give you XP when they actually come up in the game to cause issues. If they never come up, you get no XP. Also, the Problems are all amazing.

  • Drunken Blackouts: The Hangover Problem. Your character had a bad habit of doing dangerous and illegal things while drunk, and then not remembering it. The player decides when they get blackout drunk, but then the GM dictates what issues resulted from the playerís drunken rampage. If the player does something like lock themselves in a room, or hires some people to babysit them they donít get XP.

  • Gruesome: You look like a tirefire. Itís the opposite of the Beauty advantage, giving you a -1d penalty to Command or Charm skills. You get an XP per session where this causes an issue.

  • Hated Enemy: Somebody wants to kill, ruin, or embarass you. Whenever having an enemy causes a problem or harms you, then you get bonus XP.

  • Jinx: Once per session, the GM can nullify a successful set you rolled, no appeals or re-rolls. This can either be fun or loving obnoxious, depending on the GM.

  • Manifest Density: Every played a low-Intelligence run of Fallout? Thatís this. You can never have more than 1 Knowlege, itís at 1 and can never be raised. But, thatís not the problem: The problem is that you are obviously a moron to everybody you meet, and whenever your sub-vegetable intelligence causes problems in a session, you get the bonus XP.

  • Misplaced Confidence: Pick a skill, any rolls against that skill are made at Difficulty 3, and any rolls that already have a difficulty, get it raised by 3. Itís the Dunning-Kruger Syndrome in action! Whenever you fail a roll because of this, you get an XP.

  • Missing Arm: You donít have an arm, duh. YOu canít do anything requiring two hands, trying to do something that generally uses both arms like climbing that roll now has an added difficulty, and if somebody hits you where your missing arm would be, hit locations 3 and 4 or 5 and 6 depending on the arm, you instead get hit straight in the body. Any session when one of these things come up and causes a problem, you get a bonus XP at the end.
  • Missing Hand: A less-severe version of the above. Instead of a hand you have a hook, clamp, wooden hand, or other prosthesis. Same as Missing Arm, but you only take the torso damage if they do damage to Hit Locations 4 or 6.
  • Peg Leg: Yaaar! You get a Difficulty added to any rolls dealing with running, climbing, or other leg-intensive actions, and any damage to the missing leg goes straight to the Torso.
  • Repulsive to Animals: You make any rolls to ride or handle animals at Difficulty 3, and animals are more likely to attack you. Whenever you fail to ride a horse, or get mauled by a random tiger, you get a bonus XP.
  • Stupidly Forgiving: You are a moronically nice guy, who would rather give villains a lecture then stab them in the face. If you forgive or let an enemy go, you get Bonus XP, and it probably wonít bite you in the rear end later, right?
  • Unwholesome: Whenever you meet someone for the first time they roll their Eerie pool, if they get a success, they start out disliking you because you feel creepy and weird to them. You can overcome this initial dislike, but you start off in the red, socially speaking.

And thatís pretty much it for character creation! The last part is a bit dull to cover, but is actually really nice for players and I wish more RPG designers would include it: A strategy guide to creating a good character. Stolze breaks down the actual odds of getting matches with each size of dice pool, how to choose between investing in Stats vs. Skills, whether being a generalist or a specialist is better, and when you would want an Expert Die vs a Master Die on a skill.

But, thatís it for Character Creation, next up is the start of my favorite part of this game, the Setting! Well, part of the setting. Reign splits the setting bits up into several chapters throughout the book, instead of clomping it all into one big chunk. So, next time The First Nation: Uldholm.


Kranach preened his feathers and elaborately yawned at the fortress before him. ďEasy,Ē he said.

ďEasy,Ē repeated his employer, skeptically. Her name was Illurya and sheíd hired the stormtongue magician to help her dig out a troublesome Oblob rival. As long as the island fortress stood, her ships would never make it up the river to the markets beyond.

ďPrimitives like the Ob-lobs wonít have any experience with an aerial assault,Ē Kranach said, his tone pedantic. ďLook at their architecture. Itís open to the sky. Thereís nothing to keep me from simply flying over there, swooping in and burning out their siege engines from above.Ē

ďNothing but those enginesí discharge.ĒďThe big catapults canít be aimed upwards. Iíll fly over the arc of any loose shot. As for the scorpions, I can dodge those bolts easily. Machinery like that is constructed to aim at large, slow targets like your ships -not a single, swift individual.Ē

Illurya didnít like Kranach, but he came highly recommended and from what sheíd seen he certainly knew his sorcery. She gave him the sign and felt a ripple of enchantment as he surged up into the air.

She squinted, cast a spell of her own and saw his distant form as if it was a short bowshot away. She blinked as the lightning stroked down from his mouth and as heíd predicted, the stones of the war machines were low and ineffective. She smiled. Could it be he was doing it?

Then she frowned. Something was coming out of the open fortress top. Was it smoke? Steam? No, it boiled out and moved against the wind, a cloud but a purposeful one, like a flock of birds but denser and darker. She squinted at Kranach as the black shapes enclosed him, as he spat lightning out to no visible effect. He turned and began flapping back towards her ship, taking sharp cuts in the air, trying to shake off a multitude of inky shadows, finally plunging down to dive into the waterÖ

Just as a shower of stones arced through the air, blanketing him and the sea for a thousand paces around him. He hit the water like deadweight and she scanned the surface, waiting for him to come up again. Sheíd just resigned herself to another failed assault (with the slim consolation that she wouldnít have to pay the final installment of his fee) when he broke the surface, his wings draggled and stroking weakly. There were swift Ob-lob chase boats coming from the docks, setting a course towards him, but they retreated as Illurya gestured her own ships to close and ready weapons.

An hour later, Kranach was on the deck of her flagship, shivering under a blanket, bruised, covered with tiny circular bites and sipping hot rum with quivering hands.

ďEasy, huh?Ē Illurya said.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

The First Nation: Uldholm

This is the ballad the Uldfolk sing:


ďClever Criff was a bakerís son, a bold and dissatisfied lad
For The Empire was marching in Uldholm and the ladies loved men at arms.
He slipped off in the darkness and was soon in armor clad.
They marched all night and day and then engaged the foe at noon.
Then Criff learned the labors of war outweigh any maidenís charms.

ďOne hard blow to his helmet, and Criff collapsed in a swoon.
He awakened hours later to a crowfeast and a shout,
ĎIím blind! Oh god of Pahar, bring me home, give me this boon!í
Criff answered him in his own tongue, ĎIíll help you if I can!í
For he could see weíd lost the day, with only invaders about.

ďCriff entered the enemy camp disguised and aiding the Pahar man.
He spun them quite a tale of being ĎCriff the Imperial Wizard.í
They led him to the General to confer on the battle plan
Where Criff was much distracted by the generalís lovely daughter.
He swore, ĎIíll win her favor tonight,í and he was good as his word.

ďAs the girl lay dreaming of all the joy stout Criff had brought her
Criff dressed and crept away in darkness, towards the storage quarter.
Heíd pocketed their battle maps and then, to make things hotter
He lit their food stores all afi re, save one cart he could fl ee in.
He chuckled, ĎBaker? Mage? Translator? Now Iím an exporter!íĒ

The Uld are a modern, egalitarian, hard working, progressive, forward thinking people. Theirs is one of the few rare non-feudal nations in the world, instead the Uld are ruled by a council of Trade Guilds, who fairly and equally represent the Uldish people in a meritocracy based government where the competent and hard working are rewarded.

That is of course assuming you arenít too lazy or unskilled to join a guild, in which case you donít deserve any of the proper privileges of good Uldish Guildfolk. Or if you werenít a native-born Uld, immigrants obviously cannot be trusted to know whatís best. Or because you just so happen to practice a trade that doesnít have a guild, but thatís their fault for practicing a worthless trade. Or just because the guilds donít like you due to byzantine internal politics, but in that case you obviously arenít worthy or deserving of being a part of a guild you worthless leech.

Itís not hard to be more egalitarian than feudalism after all.

This isnít to say Uldholm is a bad nation, in fact itís a downright nice place to live. It truly is the most egalitarian nation in the world, has a very good quality of life, and just the fact that you can actually improve your lot in life instead of getting stuck farming the same patch of dirt as everybody else in your family for the rest of your life is a revolutionary idea.

As a culture the Ulds value ambition, loyalty, personal excellence, innovation, and cleverness. Uldfolk are obsessed with the concept of progression, modernity, and upward mobility. One of the largest philosophical issues in Uldish culture is what the best way to pursue those values actually is. Most Uld fall into one of two ideological camps, the ďVisionariesĒ who are progressive and always seek a better, more efficient, and easier way to do things, and the ďTraditionalistsĒ who believe the best way forward is through hard work and traditional Uldish Values.

History of Uldholm

These values, and this unique system of government, came about due to the simple expedient of the total extinction of anybody with noble blood in the entirety of Uldholm.

You see, Uldholm used to be a traditional feudal monarchy, with dukes and princes and a King at the top ruling by divine mandate and all the other standard things. This lasted until the Empire showed up. The Empire was expanding rapidly, conquering nation after nation, but they had hit a bit of an issue: While they can certainly conquer a nation, holding one is another thing. If the Empire left enough troops in a conquered land to ensure control then they wouldnít have enough to keep conquering, but if they did keep expanding the conquered lands would fall to chaos and insurrection.

Fortunately, the empire found a solution: Bloodcutters.

The Bloodcutters were an order of sorcerers whose magic worked through ties of blood. By casting magic on one person, they could then strike at anybody related to that person, no matter how distant. They could slit your second cousinís throat, and wipe out the entire family tree in one swipe of a blade. To show the power of the Bloodcutters, Uldholm was chosen to make an example to the rest of the world. Whenever a nobleman was captured, his entire family line was dead within a fortnight. Nobles either fled to foreign lands or were killed off, eventually culminating in the death of the entire Uldish royal family. This lead to other nations quickly capitulating to the Empire, allowing them to rule without having to disrupt the local power-structures of their conquered lands. Meanwhile though, Uld one of the few nations that didnít surrender.

Instead, with the elimination of the nobility, the local Trade Guilds stepped up to lead the nation, in particular one General Rolf Sorgersaard a common born soldier. As the Uldish nobility was wiped out, Rold found himself with more and more power and leeway to fight the war against the empire as he wished. Through his tactical expertise he turned the war from a traditional affair into a bitter guerrilla war, which the Empire was poorly equipped to fight. In time the Empire gave up on holding Uldholm, ending the war and allowing the Guilds to consolidate their power and found modern Uldholm.

Uldish Culture

The Uldís favorite genre are tales of hard working, clever, innovators who rise to power and success through their own talents and hard work. Two of the most popular Uldish tales are those of ďRolfís BattleĒ, a dramatized war epic recounting the life story of Rolf Sorgersaard which has essentially created its own literary genre full of stories and songs meant to fill in details of the story, tell of events both before and after the tale, and essentially build a Star Wars-esque expanded universe around the story. The other is The Ballad of Criff the Clever, and Uldish Culture Hero who personifies all good Uldish things. The ballad is fifteen verses long, telling the tale of the clever Criffís various adventures making money, seducing women, and foiling the wicked Imperials at every turn always in service to his homeland. Throughout the tale, Criff acts as a member of every one of the Uldish guilds, and acts as a unifying figure for the people.

In the arts the Uldish prefer music that is upbeat, peppy, shallow and fun. For theater, there are three rough genreís in Uldholm: Buffoonish slapstick comedy, over-the-top action plays with magic special affects, and heavy romantic tragedies called ďanguish playsĒ. Yes, the Uld listen to pop-music, watch low-brow comedy, special effect driven action flicks, and Oscar bait dramas.

In the Crafts though, they are unmatched. While purely decorative art is rare, most artwork is built into architecture, murals, walls and the like decorating a practical object, their functional work is without compare. Uld artisans are skilled and rewarded for it by the Guilds, pushing Masters to always innovate and improve.

Uldish cuisine is typified by bread, meat, and booze, in as many varieties and flavors they can get. Bread and pastries are the staple foodstuff of the Uld, in as many types and varieties as possible:


Walk down an Uldish bazaar and within a mile youíll be offered fresh sweet rolls with honey glaze, thick black bread reputed to promote virility, fi ne-crusted bread fi t for the daintiest of teeth, chewy sourdough pies with meat baked in the center, long rolls, hard rolls, fl aky and delicate pastry rollsÖ any sort of bread one might imagine and some (like the peculiar ďhorse hair string bread,Ē an acquired taste) that one might rather not.

Ulds eat fresh fruit and cooked vegetables, though these are generally a side or garnish for bread or meat.

The Uldish are obsessed with meat, anything that flies, swims, walks, hops or digs and doesnít talk back thereís a gourmet recipe for it. What meat you eat is based on your income, with the poorest Uld make do with pork and beef often sausage form with properly greasy and questionable contents, while the rich dine on sparrow brains, lizard tongues from the Truil Wastes, snake meat of the Tuumblahd Strangler, and Pucklish monkey livers.

There are sweets, but they are seen as an innately childish food, and an adult eating sweets more than once in a while will be seen as immature. Instead the favored vice is liquor. Beers and Wines are everywhere, with hard liquors being a recent introduction that are quickly gaining popularity.

Uldish Fashion is all about ostentation. Bright colors, complex design, and accessories everywhere. Fringes, feathers, tassles, slashed and puffed, fur lined, fur edged, elaborate buttons, braids, beads, bells, buckles, and anything else they can think of. This is because to the Ulds success is tied to moral rightness: Being good, honest, hard working, intelligent, and loyal, will lead to success and wealth. The rich are seen as more respectable than the poor, so even the poorest Uld keeps a set of fancy clothes for special occasions.

Two things the Uld specialize in is jewelry and embroidery. The Uld make and spend more on jewelry than any other people, and their textile arts are the best in the world with elaborate tapestries being a popular home decoration.

One oddity of Uld fashion is their love of going barefoot. Even the riches Uld will gladly go about without shoes if the weather permits, though this is rare abroad as most cities arenít nearly as clean as Uldish ones. Summer wear is made up of trousers and skirts with pull over shirts and a broad hat to keep off the sun, with winter clothing being supplemented by thick quilted coats and long thick scarves worn wrapped around the head like a turban.

The Politics of Uldholm

The government of Uldholm is made up of members of the fifteen Guilds, composing the Senate and the Council, which act as the legislative, judicial, and executive branches of the government. The government works almost exclusively for the benefit of the guilds, even though more than half of Uldholmís population are not members.

To be a member of one of the guilds has three requirements. First, the prospective member must be a native-born Uld, barring any immigrants and minority races living in Uldholm. Secondly, you have to pay an entry fee, the fee varies based on guild but itís enough that the poor or lower working class couldnít afford it. Thirdly, you have to be a member of whatever profession the guild represents, and be in good standing.

Guild membership is lifelong, and qualifies you for guild-taxes. New members are known as Apprentices. They cannot vote, but can attend meetings and propose measures, as well as petition to be tried by the guild in legal proceedings instead of civil authorities. Technically apprentices can serve on the Council or Senate, but itís very rare. Only four apprentices have ever served on the Senate, and never on the Council.

After a while, an Apprentice can take a competence test, and sometimes pay an advancement fee, to become a Journeyman which entitles them to vote in Guild and Government matters. This is the rank occupied by the majority of guild members.

The next level up is Master status. After passing another test and paying another fee, Masters are given two votes for representation, and are allowed to petition to be tried by the Council in criminal cases, though this is very rare as it tends to backfire.

The Senate is the main legislative body of the Uld government, and currently has 222 members. It does the normal Senate duties of proposing, debating, and passing legislation, while also acting as judges in capital manners by creating 4 Senator juries to decide cases.

The formula to determine how many Senators there are is constantly revised, but at current time each master equals twenty apprentices and five journeymen. This works out very favorably for guilds with high numbers of masters, but poorly for those without. In fact the Cultivators guild, by far the largest, has been lobbying for a revision to the rule but oddly even though they are almost unanimously for it they just canít get it to pass.

The Council of Fifteen is the executive branch of the Uldish government, made up of one representative from each guild. Certain councilors have been given extra power to perform certain governmental acts like appoint tax assessors or manage tariffs, but these powers can be revoked by the Senate at any time and so Councillors with these powers generally use them to their full extent as quickly as possible. Generally the Council has broad powers to interpret and enforce the laws of Uldholm, if they can act together enough to exercise those powers.

Local mayors or governors are appointed by the Senate generally, though the Council does appoint the mayors of major cities. During their tenure, they are required to renounce their guild membership while they serve to maintain impartiality. These positions are held to have little actual power or tenure, mostly being seen as positions for lackeys or as a stepping-stone to joining the Senate. Governors can request aid from the Soldiers guild at their discretion, though generally they prefer to hire their own mercenary troops. Longevity in most local government is dependent on being either dishonest, a guild lapdog, or both.

The Guilds
  • The Cultivatorsí Guild (71 Senators): The largest guild by membership. They are generally fractious and disorganized, and are all over the political map. The only thing they can all agree on is tax cuts for farmers and more taxes on non-farmers.

  • The Merchants Guild (30 Senators): Pacifistic and isolationist, they like not spending money and not claiming territory as whenever territory is claimed, the Cultivators are the ones that grow the most.

  • The Guild of Miners and Gemcutters (21 Senators): Aggressively expansionist and the second richest of the guilds. More lands means more mines to get more ore and gems, and more wealth for the guild.

  • The Guild of Weavers and Woodcarvers (16 Senators): Very unified and politically neutral. The entire guild swings for whoever gives them the best concessions on any given issue. Everybody hates them, but needs them to get anything passed, because nobody can turn down their aid on an issue.

  • The Masonsí and Buildersí Guild (12 Senators): Peacefully expansionist, but against military action. They love spending public money on big public works projects and infrastructure, and actually back up their rhetoric. The Masons have the highest taxes of any guild.

  • The Guild of Butchers, Teamsters, and Tanners (11 Senators): No real definite politics, but are pro-expansion against the Truils.

  • The Bakersí Guild (10 Senators): Not a factor, small, disorganized, and generally coopted or bullied by other guilds.

  • The Guild of Bankers, Lawyers, and Mercenaries (9 Senators): The riches of the guilds and more influential than their size would indicate. The mercenary branch is very hawkish for obvious reasons. Rivals of the Soldiers and Enchanters guild.

  • The Blacksmithsí Guild (9 Senators): Shrewd negotiators and generally aggressive politically.

  • The Guild of Soldiers (8 Senators): Authoritarian and conservative, but generally anti-war. They get along with Masons and Enchanters. They act as the official law enforcement of Uldholm, and can wield a lot of unofficial power because of it.

  • The Guild of Traffickers (7 Senators): Seperate from the guild of Merchants, this guild is specifically for import/export merchants. Theyíre pacifists and internationalists, and are distrusted by everybody but the Musicians, Brewers, and Enchanters.

  • The Physiciansí Guild (6 Senators): Politically passionate, but not organized in any way. Lead on health matters, but nothing else.

  • The Guild of Enchanters, Sages and Lifelong Students (5 Senators): Small but influential, mainly due to their support from the Uldholm magic schools. Closely tied to the Soldiers.

  • The Guild of Musicians and Translators (4 Senators): Love foreign adventures, peaceful or warlike because they make for good work and songs. Known as spendthrifts and are generally distrusted.

  • The Guild of Brewers, Innkeeps, and Givers of Hospitality (3 Senators): Small, disorganized, and irrelevant on the large scale.

Uldholm at War

Uldish military power relies almost totally on their technological inventiveness and their powerful sorcery. Home to both the Stormtongue and Flame Dancer schools of Sorcery, the main strength of the Uldish military is in its powerful war-sorcerers, which act as the main projection of power and the Uldish special forces. Otherwise the military is mainly staffed by bulk troops of typically armed spearmen and crossbowmen, but their forces lack the training or combative instincts of their neighbors. The Uld tendency to self-interest makes poor footsoldiers.The Uldís biggest weakness is a dire lack of higher class warriors. There is a definite shortage of irregular troops, saboteurs, scouts, and heavy infantry.

The two biggest military threats to the Uld is Dindavara to the North and the Empire to the East. Against Dindavara, the premier military power of Heluso, the Uld rely on layers of fortresses packed with the most advanced weapons and devices the Uld can think up. This may actually work, as the border between Dindavara and Uldholm is hilly, mountainous, and the few large passes are easily guarded.

Sadly, this is not going to work against the Empire. On the Imperial border there is nothing but rolling fields, and the Empire are masters of siege warfare. The Ulds only home that their sorcery and merit-based military will be able to stand against the Empire, if they ever invade again.

Seeking to expand their territories the Uld have started a slow colonization of the Truil Wastes, seeing the nomadic tribes as easy pickings. Which is both true, and false. The much smaller bands of the Truil cannot stand up to an organized Uld army, but an organized Uld army doesnít have a hope of actually catching Truils in an open batte. Instead the general strategy is for their armies to march into an area, build some fortified homesteads, and then be completely ineffective at actually holding the border as Truil bands wander freeling in ďconqueredĒ territory.

Next time: The Playerís Chapter

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Uldholm fills an important place as the "normal" place in the setting, a safe fantasy kingdom that would be familiar to players without involving too much work. If you're introducing people to the game for the first time, Uldholm is where you would probably start. It's also the first area detailed to let you ease into the game a bit. There's plenty of fun adventure ideas: Dealing with Truil geurillas, military conspiracies from the Empire and Dindavara, Guild politicking, etc. just it doesn't go as out there as some later regions.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

The Uldholm Commentaries

I feel I haven't been doing this game justice, partly that's because we haven't gotten to the really neat and fun mechanics, but I feel like I've shortsheeted the lore. So, consider this an addendum to the last post about Uldholm where I share more of my thoughts and feelings about that bit of the setting.

One thing I love is how they book will throw terms at you and they won't explain them yet, or never explain them. The world is explicitly built with large holes in the lore for GMs to fill in as they please, and what is there is just to spark some inspiration.

First off, look at that loving map! Now, as a navigational aid it is barely adequate, but as a map to give your party, it's loving amazing. Just in this map we have the concepts of:
  • Talking Frogs! But it's important you never listen to what they say. Why? Do they speak misleading prophecies? Give really bad advice? Just flat lie about everything? Maybe they're giant vicious monsters and if you ignore them they attack, so you have to engage them in polite conversation but they're so vapid and dumb they just say useless drivel?
  • A loving LIVING LAKE. Is it some sort of magic water-elemental? is the area Demon-Possessed? Maybe the lake is actually a giant ameoba-like creature. Is it sentient? can it talk? What sort of things live on a living lake? Or in it?
  • Ruled by Changeling Boy. It's important to note, this is literally the only mention of Changelings in the entire book. They never tell you what a changeling IS, so, what does that mean? And isn't Uldholm a pseudo-democracy? Why is that mountainous area ruled by a Changeling? What even IS a changeling?

Plus all those little other notes that hint at bandit strongholds, greedy merchant cities, a place of proposals you cannot refuse and other such fun events. Every setting bit will get a map like this, and they're great.

Now as to Uldholm itself: This really does feel like the PC Starting Area, which is actually very nice. It's set up to be the perfect place for a good Rags to Riches story, the Guilds give neat definite character concepts, an easy-to-understand political system ripe for player manipulation and interferance. Want a war story? Uldholm borders two expansionist military powers and has a lack of dedicated top-flight soldierguys. Or, you could be in charge of one of the frontier towns out in the Truil Wastes. Uld has a definite police-system in the Soldier's Guild so it fits right in for playing a Night's Watch-esque fantasy Police Procedural. Uldholm is also home to two schools of magic that are actual... schools. Most magic in this game is... very unusual, but both the Stormtongues and Flame Dancers run actual dedicated academies of magic, and all the fun that comes from having two possibly rival magical tradeschools in your nation.

Uldholm is essentially built to be a nice fairly easy to understand place for PC's to start out in which is literally designed to reward and allow the sort of independent daredevil actions PCs love to do, and while the lands themselves are not crazy, Uldholm is essentially climatewise central European, temperate and never hitting serious extremes at any particular time of the year, it is next to some very interested and fun places. That Lightless Jungle will be explained later, but it's exactly the sort of hideous death-trap place full of potential riches beyond belief that PCs loving flock to like moths to a golden spike encrusted light.

Oh, and a note about Uldholm: The Uld are explicitly black. Like, African-featured, very dark skinned, with tones describes as "earth colored". Just changing that, making the Uld black can suddenly change completely what images go through your head, yeah?

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Beast is Otherkin Freddie Krueger the Game.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Since someone started Hellas, thatís a perfect cue for me to revisit an old F&F that I half-assed back a few threads ago to make it not-poo poo. See, Kheperaís games are based on an engine that started waaay back in 1987, for a game that people flat out donít remember at all. Seriously, Iíve found more conversations online about Fantasy Wargaming than this game! A game whose 4th edition is one of the finest designed and best put together RPGs Iíve ever seen.

I think thatís a shame, a real honest to god shame. As I said, I talked about this game AGES ago, but I didnít do a good job at all. And, Iím going to run a game of it soon, so yíknow what? Doing this is a good way to renew my knowledge of this wonderful game.

Created back in 1987 by Stephan Micheal Sechi, Talislanta was designed to be a direct response to the hegemony of TSR and D&D clones that dominated the market in the 80ís. The main sell-motto of the game was:

This isnít really correct, the setting is quite different from your standard D&D/Tolkienesque milieu, but itís not completely out there weird like say Tekumel or Jorune can be. Which is fine. There are a lot of races and nations that are well known concepts just with a minor twist or mixing of two traits, but thatís good. Itís strange enough to feel exotic and alien andÖ just interesting to explore, but not so much that you need to read and memorize the setting book to know what the deal with something is. I really like the setting, and it has this wonderful mix of breadth without excessive depth. It gives you this big massive varied world, and just enough detail that you won'tí be overwhelmed and GMís can feel free to twist and create without worrying about changing the ďCanon SettingĒ, if youíre one of those GMís who care about that.

But anyway, back to the history lesson: Talislanta has gone through 5 different editions each being put out by a different publishing company in different formats with a different staff every single time, making the game a mess for collectors to gather. In fact just finding a decent copy of every book is very difficult, to the degree that the creator himself, Sechi, just did it in 2015, after five years.

So, to keep things nice and neat, Iíll be covering the 4th edition, which was created under the now defunct Shootingiron Design, by John Harper. Yes that John Harper as the Game Designer, and Stephen Micheal Sechi as Creative Director. Of special note will be the art, almost all of which is done by P.D. Breeding-Black, who is basically just known for Talislanta which is a real shame. Her art, while not technically amazing, is beautifully evocative and really sells the mood of the game. Other art shown will be by Ron Spencer, who favors a darker shading-heavy style, Adam Black who does some very nice pencils, and Eric Patrick who does a lovely rugh sketch-style. This edition is considered to be the ďAuthoritativeĒ version by Sechi, as the existent 5th edition changes a lot about the mechanics and setting.

Itís also important to note: This game is totally free on the Talislanta Website. Sechi owns the rights to the game, and has put literally every book released under the Talislanta name up as free PDFís. So, please do feel free to check it out. So without further ado:

Chapter One: The Rules

Yes, this is a game that actually just flat gives you all the rules in the first chapter. The resolution mechanic, what the attributes and skills are and how they work, how to make rolls, how to gain and spend xp, how to create a character, how combat and magic works. All in the first chapter. Oh, there are chapters for Magic and Combat and Skills yes, telling you in more detail how they function, special rules relating to them, skill and spell lists, etc.

But if you are playing, just the first chapter tells you everything you need to know to sit down and play the game. Which is amazing after having seen so many games which scatter their mechanics and rules across half the drat book! Oh, but you probably think that sounds complex yes? Like weíre frontloading the rules, dumping a big fat steaming load of mechanics up-front? Itís 15 pages. The entire mechanical portion of the game, is 15 pages of large print two-column text with minimal art. Nobody who wants to play will ever have to look at more than 15 pages of content once youíre done with character creation. That, is efficiency like a motherfucker.

But now, to the rules themselves! After a short one and a bit page introduction which is your standard ďWhat is and RPGĒ thing, yíknow explain what a GM is, that you need some funny dice, etc. we get the primary, IE ONLY resolution mechanic in the entire game.

All rolls in Talislanta work like this: You take the characterís Skill or Attribute rating, which are explained later but we have to start somewhere, yeah? Take that rating, whichever will apply to this specific roll, and compare it to the Degree of Difficulty. This is the final result of combining all the modifiers to a roll into one number. Then you take the difference, add it to the roll of a d20, the only die in the entire game, and then take your result and look on that chart up there. Thatís the Action Chart, itís on the default character sheet so every player has one, and it tells you what happens with your roll.
  • Mishap: Your action has failed, and in addition something bad beyond just failing happens.The GM determines exactly what that is based on the action and situation. Note, that unless you are rolling with a negative modifier, meaning the Degree of Difficulty is greater than your Rating, you cannot get a mishap. This means these only happen if the character is doing something explicitly beyond their capabilities, and are literally relying on luck, and acting at an explicit disadvantage. Mishaps should only happen when a player does something obviously risky or stupid, or the GM is an rear end in a top hat. But thereís not much you can do to prevent rear end in a top hat GMís, so I canít really knock if for that.í

  • Failure: You fail. Thatís basically it, you fail, donít do whatever you were trying to do, too bad try again next time. Not much explanation needed.

  • Partial Success: You succeed! Kinda. You partially get the result you want, but not to the degree or in the way you want it. The results are desired but disappointing.

  • Full Success: You do whatever you were intending to do, as you intended to do it. Itís success, what do you expect?

  • Critical Success: You succeed and something extra special good happens, fulfilling the playerís intention with a bonus! Itís a critical success, not much beyond that.

Right, thatís the central resolution mechanic done. Now obviously Combat and Magic chaptersíll expand and define the levels of success to a degree, removing more of the fuzzy GM-fiatness from those aspects of the game. But for your run of the mill Attribute or Skill roll? Thatís all you do.

But now let's move on to how you get the modifiers for your roll. Yep, they just go right into how you get numbers and what they mean.

These are as expected your natural physical abilities, inherent and generally unchanging. They are based at 0, and can be either negative or positive numbers, such as +3 or -2. An attributeís Rating, that is what you use to determine the modifier to your roll, is double the level. This means that if you are rolling a pure attribute, you double the level and thereís your modifier. Note, this applies to both positive and negative. So a +3 attribute is a +6 bonus, while a -1 turns into a -2.

Skill Ratings
Skills are skills, they represent learned and trained abilities and talents that your character has acquired during their life. Though there are some inborn special abilities, racial traits if you will, that also act as skills. There are two numbers you need for skills, the Level and Rating. Level is just how good you are at the skill. The base is 0, and they go up from there. Skills are never negative. Rating is the combination of the Skill Level with the skillís associated attribute. For example, Deception is a Charisma skill, so if you have a Deception of +3, and a Charisma of +2, then your Skill Rating for Deception is +5, which you would compare with the Degree of Difficulty to get the modifier for your roll to use Deception. But, if instead it was a Deception +3 and a Charisma of -3, then the resulting rating would be a 0, as the negative Charisma actually subtracts from the Skillís level.

Gets an entire paragraph. Any action stated should include what the playerís intended result for that action is, so that the GM can both apply the results of the action table in a fair and understandable way, as well as to help determine the Degree of Difficulty of the roll.

Degree of Difficulty
This comes from how difficult the GM thinks whatever act the player wants to do would be to someone with a 0 in the relevant attribute or skill, per the rulebook. They also recommend that the modifier stays within a range of -10 to +10. This is a handy shorthand but, think about it: this game has a static target number. That means the GM always knows what the probability of any roll will be, always, and quickly and easily. That action chart means a GM can just know exactly what Degree of Difficulty will appropriately challenge the player to the desired extent, so that they can avoid both pointlessly easy rolls and punishingly hard ones due to mad math because of overcomplicated modifier algebra. Itís nice, and Iím guessing a few D20 DMís know what Iím talking about.

Opposed Actions
An action directly opposed by something else, creature, person, whatever, uses the opposerís ability rating or Skill/Attribute Rating for an appropriate opposing skill as the Degree of Difficulty. Here have a gameplay example:

The Rulebook posted:

Sherra the thief wants to use her Stealth skill to sneak past a watchman. Because this is an Opposed Action, the Degree of Difficulty is the watchmanís ability to detect the thief. The watchman has the Guard skill at rating 7. Sherraís Stealth skill rating is 9. Sherraís player rolls a d20 and adds +2 (the difference between Stealth 9 and Guard 7) to the roll. If the watchman had a Guard skill of +11, Sherraís player would roll a d20 with a -2 modifier to the roll, instead.

Multiple Actions
By default you get one action per round, but you can take additional actions at a cumulative -5 penalty for each additional action. If you ever roll a Mishap, then you cannot take any additional actions that round. An action is pretty much anything that takes effort or time. Speaking a short sentence, looking around a room, dropping a held item, etc. would not count as actions but attacking, defending, moving around, longer speeches such as attempts at diplomacy, etc. would.

The Rulebook posted:

Thena the Danuvian Virago wants to throw her empty mug at a rude male across the table, then stand up and punch him in the face. First,Thenaís player makes an attack roll to hit withthe mug. This is a normal attack roll since it is Thenaís first action during the round. Next Thenaís player rolls to see if she punches the male. This attack roll suffers a -5 penalty (in addition to any other modifiers) since Thena has already acted once during this round. If Thena wanted to then take a third action, her player would roll with a penalty of -10.

Other Modifiers
Some skills, Combat, and Magic all can add other situational modifiers to rolls in special cases, but weíll get to that when it comes time.

Next up is Experience Points! XP is spent to level up your characters skills, not accumulated in levels. How you spend them is explained in the Skills chapter, but this bit tells the player how they will receive them and why.
  • 1-20XP per Adventure or Session, the exact number varies but they give guidelines in the GM chapter.

  • 1-10XP for good roleplaying, once again more information about rewarding these in the GM chapter. The game explicitly says that the GM can and should adjust or get rid of this based on the style of the campaign and players.

  • 1XP per in-game week a character devotes to training a particular skill. Yeah, you explicitly can give XP to players just for having a ďOne month laterĒ timeskip as long as they note that theyíre actively working on training their skills. Itís nice, and can be a good way to do some burst-XP leveling if someone wants to get just that last few needed XP.

Okay, now we get to the next big session after the basic rules, Character Creation, which fits on one and Ĺ pages.
  • Step One: Choose an Archetype Iíll go over the archetypes when we get to the setting chapters of the book, but essentially Archetypes are sorta starter packages of race, attributes, skills, and equipment. They all follow a standard format:

    As you can see, the archetype gives you a sort of generic-view of how a character of this type would generally think and act, a sort of base personality to work off of, as well as the common racial traits for appearance. The base attributes and skills are give, as well as a set of beginning equipment. Now, I know you probably think that this is limiting, itís really not. Thereís a massive list of them, and they are customizable beyond this starting template. Itís honestly a great idea as it gives even complete newbies to the game a really solid basically idiot-proof base to work off of. It also works to enforce the setting, as the Archetypeís are not balanced at all. A Kharakhan Giant is not just strong, they are just naturally stronger than any other playable race. Just flat higher Strength flat out. Only an Ur that bumps their Strength up by +2 can even match them for natural power. A Cymrillian Magician is not just good at magic, but flat out superior at magic to almost every other archetype by raw stats. Itís appreciable if you get sick of various races basically being the same drat thing plus or minus Infravision and a tiny bonus to Dexterity or something.

  • Step Two: Record The Archetypeís Information Okay, this just means write down all the archetype information on your character sheet, nothing to see here moving along.

  • Step Three: Personalize your Character This is both the part where you come up with your characterís personality and appearance, but also where you customize your attributes. Basically you can shift-around your attributes up to a maximum of 2. So, increase Strength by +2, so you decrease Intelligence by -2, or you raise two by +1 and drop one by -2, etc. you get the idea. This can help shore up an Archetypeís weaknesses or emphasize their strengths, without completely changing the base idea of the Archetype.

  • Step Four: Determine Other Characteristics Calculate your HP, Movement and Encumbrance ratings, which will be explained in a bit on the Attribute sections.

  • Step Five: Choose Skills Some archetypes have choices for the character to make about their skills, such as a choice of weapon skill, or an additional language, that sort of thing. This is also where spellcasting Archetypes pick their magic skills.

  • Step Six: Record Equipment and Wealth You put down your gear and starting cash on the character sheet, weapon stats, etc. Some classes have choices of equipment, so make that choice here too. This is also where you spend your starting cash to start with some additional equipment if desired.

  • Step Seven: Contacts and Character History Work with the GM to come up with a desired background for your character, as well as Contacts. Contacts are NPCís your character knows, and can go to for favors, information, and the like. Thereís a list of premade contacts in the GM section Iíll be going over to help newbie GMs. I actually like this step, and the contacts can really help kickstart the game and give some good NPCs for the GM to build on.

  • Step 8: Choose a Name Choose a name, nicely enough thereís actual guidelines for how different peoples name themselves in the setting section alongside sample names.

Thatís it, youíre done! Hooray for Character Creation!

Okay, this post is getting on, so Iíll leave you here, but next upÖ

More the Rules! Attributes, Skills, Combat, and Magic!

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

The Rules: Part 2

This post will finish up the Rules chapter, and I should be able to keep it short, as a lot of the rules are pretty intuitive and familiar to most RPG players. Iíll mostly focus on the things unique to Talislanta. So, lets start with:


Most of these attributes act exactly like they do in every other fantasy or non-fantasy RPG ever, so Iíll mainly go over the more interesting attributes or ones that have unexpected uses.

Intelligence, Charisma, Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution are all act exactly like youíd think, same as in D&D, all D20 games, and a tons of other things. No surprises.

The traditional Wisdom attribute is essentially split into two, Perception and Will. Will handles the mental strength aspects, determination, clear thinking in stressful situations, resistance to torture, social manipulation, and magical mind-control. Perception covers the characterís sensory awareness, including all mundane senses and any supernatural ones. Use to notice ambushes, find hidden objects, notice details, etc. I honestly like this change, as Wisdom always felt crowded and didnít make much sense as was.

Speed isÖ speed. It affects initiative, movement speed, and is used in chases, races, pursuit, etc. Itís explicitly movement speed, dodging and quick reactions fall under Dexterity.

Combat and Magic are separate stats not tied to any others! Representing your natural aptitude for either Combat or Magic, not learned abilities, they are used exactly how you think. This decoupling of Combat and Magic doesnít change the game massively, but it keeps the Caster/Magicless imbalance down, as now Magic doesnít just put absolutely everything on intelligence, and allows melee fighters to actually have decent stats in non-physical attributes without crippling their combat abilities.

Next up is the derived attributes, Movement, Encumbrance, Hit Points and Healing. Movement is based on your speed, 100 feet per round plus 20 feet per +1 Speed and minus 10 feet per -1 Speed, assuming ideal movement conditions. The game explicitly says though that you shouldnít care about movement rates outside of combat, and directs you to the combat chapter for more details about combat movement, so Iíll cover that later.

Encumbrance is how much weight you can carry. Default is your own bodyweight, plus 25 lbs per +1 Strength, or minus 10 lbs for every -1 Strength. You canít have negative encumbrance, you can always carry at least one pound. If you exceed your encumbrance you take a -5 on all rolls involving any physical activity. If calculating the encumbrance of quadrupeds such as mounts you quadruple all the numbers involved.

Your Hit Points act like basically any game, hit 0 to die, you know the drill. HP is based on your Archetype, such as the Cymrillian Magician last time starting with 19 HP, which is then modified by your Constitution. You add your Constitution to your HP at character creation to get your final HP. So that Magician with an unmodified Constitution will actually have 18 HP, 19+(-1)= 18. Of note, that this is legit your final HP. Except for magic spells or enchanted items, your HP will stay the same forever and will never permanently change. Characters in Talislanta donít get tougher by getting more HP, they just get better and not being hit at all.

Healing is based on Constitution. Default is 5 HP per day, plus 1 per +1 Constitution and minus 1 HP for every -1 Constitution, to a minimum of 1 HP a day. This is assuming natural unaided healing with just regular rest, actual medical treatment massively speeds this up.

Of course now that we have HP the game takes a second to tell us about DEATH. Death rules have hints of d20 and will be familiar with D&D players out there. Hit 0 or less HP (You can have negatives), and you are unconscious and dying. You are out of the fight for a while no matter what, but when this happens you make a roll modified by adding your Constitution to your current HP, which means getting negative HP is really bad. Depending on what result you get, the following happens:
  • Mishap You hosed up and are now straight dead forever, burn that character sheet and make you a new PC meat.

  • Failure You arenít dead yet, but youíre drat close. You are going to make another death roll every minute to stay alive until someone does some healing or first aid, with each minute adding a -1 penalty cumulative. Roll a Failure or Mishap? Youíre dead, roll any Success? You get to live for another minute. When you are healed enough to not be dying, you treat as though you got a Partial Success.

  • Partial Success You arenít going to die if you donít take any more damage, but you arenít out scot-free. You gain some permanent injury, recommendations are a 1 point reduction in an attribute, GM enforced mental illness, some physical disability such as a missing limb, disfiguring scars, etc.

  • Full or Critical Success Unless someone hits you again, youíre going to be fine. You get no permanent or lasting effects from your brush with death and will be fine once youíre healed back up to at least 1 HP.

The game also notes that these rules should be saved for PCs and very important NPCs, anybody else should just be dead at 0HP to save time and effort.

Skills isnít an interesting section. Most of the actual skills information is in the Skills chapter, this section is just some rules for how to use skills. Iíll just cliffnotes this part for brevity:
  • If your character is untrained in a skill you can either use an Attribute roll, use another related skill at a penalty, or just roll the skill at 0 if thereís no thereís no other choice. Some skills like Magic or Alchemy canít be used untrained at all.

  • Skills are improved by spending XP. The cost is twice the new Skill level in XP. Improving a +5 to a +6 costs 12XP, level +1 to +2 is 4XP, etc. You can only improve a skill one level at a time, and need at least an in-game week between levels, so you canít clear a dungeon and walk out the door having suddenly become a master swordsman on the climb up.

  • Learning new skills is more complicated. The XP cost of a new skill, meaning raising one from level 0 to +1, is 1XP per week of time required to learn the skill. Every skill has a learning time listed in their entry in the skill chapter. The GM may require the player first track down an NPC who already knows the skill to teach the player first, if the skill is far enough outside of the characterís established expertise. You canít learn skills marked as Special Abilities, as these are essentially racial powers and are often biological, though you can improve them if your archetype starts with them as normal.

  • Monsters and minor-NPCs donít have skills, instead they have an Ability Level, which is used as a general purpose modifier for anything that NPC can reasonably do or be skilled at, with everything else just using the raw undoubled attribute as if they were using a level 0 skill.

Okay, that does it for skills, so let's move on to Combat! OKay, Combatís split into round and turns and it works exactly how you it does in every other RPG. One round is how long it takes for everyone involved to do a thing, each characterís time to act is called a turn, you get the idea.

Damage Rating (DR) and Protection Rating (PR) are the numbers for weapons and armor. Weapons do a fixed amount of damage, though generally Strength will be added in for melee weapons, while armorís PR negates that much damage. More information in the Combat chapter, along with what sort of special maneuvers and tactics one can utilize.

Next is a step-by-step of combat procedure, which is actually interesting!
  • 1. Roll Initiative Every combatant makes a Speed attribute roll, and then everyone goes in order of highest to lowest result, pretty typical. You only do this in the first round of combat, unless something interrupts the fight.

  • 2. State Intent This is where the player states what they want to do. All players state their intent at the beginning of the round, as all actions are assumed to happen near-simultaneously. They decide which weapon or Combat Skill they will use, and what Tactic they will perform, Attack, Defend, Movement, or Stunt. Shades of fate, eh? No seriously Iíll go into it more in the Combat chapter but this really, really, reminds me of the Four Actions of Fate Core in happy fuzzy ways. Interestingly, the players can choose to state their intent last in order of initiative, so as to know what everyone else is doing first. This is similar to how initiative works in ORE games like Reign and Godlike, but itís player choice instead of mandatory.

  • Step 3. Determine Bonuses and Penalties Okay I donít need to explain these you calculate your bonuses and figure out the difficulty, the mathy bit. Follows the normal rules for Skill Rolls.

  • Step 4. Roll Bones You roll dice. Thatís it, you roll 1d20, and do the math to get your result.

  • Step 5. Judging the Results You resolve everyoneís rolls in order of initiative. The actual results are based on what tactic the player used, but are generally similar to default Skill results. The main variation is for Attack rolls:

    • MishapThe attack fails, and you suffer some mishap such as a broken weapon, hitting an unintended target, etc.

    • Failure You miss.

    • Partial Success You hit but only do half damage, rounded up.

    • Full Success Full damage.

    • Critical Success You do full Damage, and cause a Critical Wound, which forces the target to make a Constitution roll. This has a variety of effects based on the result of the targetís roll, which Iíll go over in the Combat chapter.

And thatís the primer on combat! Next up Magic!

Yeahhhh I love the magic in this game! Itís so gooooood. The best I can compare it to is sorta Ars Magica-y, in how freeform it is.

Essentially, Magic is not made up of distinct spells, but instead special skills called Modes that are tied to Orders. Orders are ďschoolsĒ or ďflavorsĒ of magic. They describe what your magic looks like, what itís good at, what limitations it has, etc. Examples are Pyromancy, Natural Magic, Witchcraft, Shamanism, etc.

Modes are tied to an Order, and act as the skills you actually roll. They determine what the actual effects of the magic are, such as Attack, Heal, Illusion, Move, Reveal, Summon, etc. Which mode you use is based on what you intend the magic action to accomplish.

So how do you cast spells and use magic? Well, thereís two ways: Casting from Memory and Casting from Written Works.

Casting from Memory is what you would be using in Combat and during action scenes, and is most similar to standard D&D Vancian casting. The procedure is as follows:
  • Step 1. State Intent The player figures out what kind of spell they want to cast based on their Orders, Modes, and what they want to accomplish with the magic. This determines what Order you will cast in, what Order youíll use, and what the general effects of the spell will be.

  • Step 2. Choose Spell Level Spell Level is essentially how powerful you want the spell to be. What the actual effect of increasing the level is based on mode and can vary based on intent but itís intuitive stuff like increasing the damage of an Attack spell, or the duration of an Alter spell. There is no hard limit, but the roll to cast has a cumulative -1 per Spell Level.

    The Rules posted:

    Cyrila the Aeromancer has a skill rating of +7in the Move mode and wants to cast ďTouch of the WindĒ (a Move mode spell) at Level 6. Her final Action Table modifier is +1 (7 - 6 = 1).

  • Step 3. Determine Bonuses and Penalties Standard do the maths, figure out the modifier stuff.

  • Step 4. The Casting Roll You roll the 1d20, add modifier, yadda yadda you know the drill.

  • Step 5. Judging the Result Look at the action table, determine what happened.
  • Mishap The spell fails resulting in a MAGICAL MISHAP. Which is gamespeak for the GM gets to gently caress you hard. Hereís some samples of recommended Mishaps:

    Magical Mishaps posted:

    • No noticeable effect (50% chance of side-effect occurring later)
    • Spell rebounds upon caster
    • Spell strikes unintended target (random direction)
    • Reverse spell effect (rebounds upon caster)
    • Reverse spell effect (random direction)
    • Static spell effect; area charged with magical energies (5-foot radius around the caster)
    • Wandering spell effect, 5-foot radius charged with magical energies, moves at random
    • Phase-shift: caster teleported to random location
    • Black hole effect: caster and any individuals within 20 feet are drawn into another dimension
    • Temporal rift: caster falls backwards (or forwards) in time
    • Random spell effect (Gamemasterís choice)

  • FailureSpell fails, and fizzles out to no effect.

  • Partial Success The spell has half the intended effect, the GM determines exactly what this means based on the spell.

  • SuccessSpell does what it do.

  • Critical Success Itís cast perfectly, doing the full effect and incurring no Spell Penalty.

Whatís Spell Penalty? Well, casting spells from memory is mentally exhausting, and repeatedly doing it quickly wears down a magician. Every time you cast a spell from memory and donít get a Critical Success, you get an accumulative -1 on any further spell casting rolls until you get seven hours to rest and recuperate. This doesnít just mean sleep, but any relaxing activity.

The Rules posted:

Torren the Wizard wants to cast ďArkonís Bolt of Destruction.Ē He has already cast three spells in the last few hours, so Torren suffers a minus 3 Spell Penalty ( in addition to any other Action Table modifiers). After the spell is cast,Torrenís player notes on his character sheet thatTorrenís new Spell Penalty is -4. The next time he casts a spell, he will take an additional -4 penalty to his casting roll.

This is a much less obnoxious way to implement Vancian spellcasting in a free-form system than burning through a predetermined number of spells a day, and I honestly really like the Spell Penalty idea, especially as it naturally leads to powerful spellcasters being able to throw out infinite low-level spells while also packing a goodly number of high-power stuff for when things get nasty without the complex picking and choosing of fixed spell lists.

The second way to cast spells is from written works, such as spellbooks or scrolls. The benefit of doing this is that they donít accrue Spell Penalty, and gets a fixed +5 to the casting roll. The downside is that it takes 1 minute, or 10 Rounds, per spell level to cast any spell from writing making it useless for combat or any sort of time-limit. These are better suited for when using magic isnít an urgent thing, and for casting powerful ritual spells and the like. Of note that scrolls are light, portable, and infinite in use but can only hold one fixed spell determined at the time of the scrollís creation. Spellbooks and the like can hold hundreds of spells, but are generally big, clunky, and not suited for carrying around willy-nillly.

Next are the rules for Counterspells. This isnít used to defend against a spell, as that can be done with regular skills or another Mode that can counter the effects of the spell, such as using Defend against Attack, or Reveal against Illusion. Instead Counterspelling is used to completely negate a spell as though it failed. To counterspell you must use the same Mode as the spell youíre countering, with a -5 penalty to the roll if youíre using a different Order from the spell being countered. You cast per normal spellcasting, then if you succeed you compare the level of the Counterspell to the level of the Target spell. Use the difference on a roll of the action table to determine the effects of the Counterspell. Full or Critical Success completely negates the target spell, Partial Success reduces the spellís Level and all effects by half rounded up, Failure has no effect, and Mishap can actually increase the power of the target spell.

The Rules posted:

For example, Alanar casts a Level 9 spell that creates a Wall of Winds between him and his rival, Cyrila the Aeromancer. However, Cyrilais proficient in this Mode (Defend), and is ofthe same Order as Alanar. She successfully casts a counterspell at Level 8, hoping that this will be sufficient to dispel her opponentís magic. After her spellcasting roll, Cyrilaís player rolls again at a penalty of -1 (her level 8 counterspell minus Alanarís level 9 spell = -1). She rolls a 17, for a result of Full Success. Alanarís barrier sputters and dissolves before his eyes.

And thatís it for the Rules! Next time we go into Combat and check out all the special rules for beating things to death with warhammers!

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

This is 4th edition, which came out in 2001. 1st Edition Talislanta was similar, though had some clunkier elements, dice rolls for damage instead of fixed numbers for example. The rules were mostly the same though, just 4th has a few decades of polish and got rid of a lot of the more complicated elements of the game. And yeah, the rules are not mindboggling or original. But they are a really nice, super easy to learn ruleset for a fantasy RPG. This whole chapter was 15 pages and would be the only part of the book you'd really need to look at after character creation.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Chapter 2: Combat

The combat chapter is less about the mechanics of combat, which was covered in Chapter 1, but more edge-cases, special rules, and how to adjudicate certain actions that can come up in combat.

The first section is just an elaboration on Damage and Protection and how equipment modifies it. All weapons have a Damage Rating or DR, which is a fixed amount of damage that is caused by that weapon on a hit. Melee and some ranged weapons have their damage modified by the character's Strength modifier as well, or have special rules attached to them. Magic weapons can also just have an increase to DR via the standard +# notation scheme. A +1 Longsword does DR9 damage instead of the DR8 of a mundane sword. They also include a table of damage ratings for various non-weapon damage sources such as punches and kicks, environmental damage such as burning and drowning, and special tactics like shield-bashing and choking.

I honestly do like just rolling environmental effects into damage over time instead of creating an entire useless subsystem that overcomplicates the game and will be hand waved out of existence by GMís every time. Also, incorporation of terminal velocity into falling damage instead of falling bodies accelerating infinitely until they explode by touching something.

Protection Rating or PR works as the opposite of DR and is used for armor and other protective things. Armor absorbs itís PR in damage from every attack, so if you attack something with a higher PR than you have DR, they straight take no damage from a normal attack. Enchanted armor adds to its PR the same as weapons get enchanted addition to DR.

Shields do not provide PR, but instead improve your defense and ability to avoid damage. They provide a bonus to your ability to Parry attacks based on the Shield skill, in addition to a blanket -2 to the attack die roll of any enemy. They do have a disadvantage of creating a -2 to any rolls by the player based on Dexterity, to represent the awkwardness of doing stuff with a big metal thing strapped to your arm. If you donít have the Shield Skill you use Combat Rating as the attribute, and enemies get a -1 to their rolls and you get a -4 to dexterity to represent the lack of training you have at using a shield. Otherwise you treat them like doing any unskilled action.

The majority of the chapter is about the various combat tactics and how to resolve any edge-cases or apply any special rules to these situations. First up is:


This coversÖ attacking. Any attempt to do physical harm to an opponent in Combat. Talislanta 4th Edition categorizes attacks into four varieties: Close, Ranged, Grappling, and Subdual.

Close attacks cover melee, hand-to-hand, close range attacks meant to do damage. Itís treated as an Opposed Action unless the enemy is completely unaware of your attack, or actively makes no attempt to protect themselves. The only special rule associated with this type of attack is that if the attacker uses multiple actions to attack a single enemy, are treated by the defender as though they are a single attack. This means the defender only has to ďdefendĒ once, instead of for each individual attack.

Ranged attacks are ranged, projectile weapons, thrown items, and attacks using siege weapons like catapults and ballistae. If the target is unaware of the attack, or is stationary, the difficulty is based on the range to the target, how big the target is, and if they are in any form of concealment or cover. If the target is actively trying to dodge or block the attack, then you also add their opposition to the other factors. Helpfully, they just give you straight guidelines for calculating modifiers so you donít have to pull numbers out of your rear end:

Range Attack Modifiers posted:

  • Target is within half effective range: no penalty

  • Target is beyond half effective range:-5

  • Target is beyond effective range: -10

  • Target is beyond 2 times effective range: -20

  • Target is moving:-3, plus an additional -1 per point of targetís Speed Rating

  • Target is protected by cover:-1 per 10% cover

  • Target is smaller than man-sized:-1 to -10

  • Target is larger than man-sized: bonus of +1 to +10

The range, firing rate (how many times you can fire per round with multiple actions and how many rounds it takes to ďreloadĒ) and such of each weapon is in the Equipment chapter. The exception is thrown weapons, which are always 50 feet plus 10 feet per +1 STR, or minus 10 feet per -1.

Both Close and Ranged attacks use pre-defined results on the action table as follows:

Attack Action Table Results posted:

  • Mishap: The attack fails due to a mishap of some sort; the attacker stumbles and falls, hits himself, hits an unintended target, breaks the weapon being used, etc. (GMís ruling)

  • Failure: The attack misses the intended target.

  • Partial Success: The attacker scores a glancing blow that only does half the attack formís total Damage Rating (rounded-up to the nearest whole number).

  • Full Success: The attack does its full Damage Rating.

  • Critical Success: The attack does full Damage Rating and achieves the attackerís stated Intent. If the Intent was to injure or kill, the victim suffers a Critical Wound, and must make a roll using his Constitution Rating to determine how badly he is hurt. Subtract the Damage Rating of the attack from this CON roll. Partial Success means the victim suffers a penalty of -5 on all further actions until healed of the Critical Wound. Failure or Mishap means the victim is incapacitated until healed.

And yes, a critical hit can straight kill you with a bad roll. Combat in this game is kinda loving deadly, if I didnít tell you already.

Grappling Attacks arenít a giant pain in the rear end! Yes, a loving grappling system that isnít overcomplicated trash. When you want to grapple someone, which means to grab, restrain, or throw them, or use the grappling attacks of some special weapons the attacker just rolls like a normal Close attack. Grappling has itís own results on the action chart separate from the normal attack results:

Attacking Grappling Action Table Results posted:

  • Mishap:The attacker has twisted himself into an awkward position and failed to effectively hold his opponent. The opponent receives a +5 bonus on their next attack vs. the grappler.

  • Failure:The attacker fails to grab the defender.

  • Partial Success:The attacker gets a partial hold but has little leverage. No choke or throw attacks may follow this attack. The defender gets a +5 bonus to his or her attempt to escape this hold.

  • Full Success:The attacker achieves the hold they were attempting. They may throw or choke the defender with their next action, or simply continue to hold.

  • Critical Success:The hold is especially well-placed and strong. The defender takes an additional -5 penalty to any escape attempts.

When the target is Grappled they can take no actions except to attempt to escape from the grapple by making a successful Escape roll:

Escaping Grappling Action Table Results posted:

  • Mishap:The defender twists them self into an even worse position. They take an additional -5 penalty to any further escape attempts. Note that further Mishap results do not add to this penalty. The maximum is -5.

  • Failure:The defender remains in the hold.

  • Partial Success:The defender slips part-way out of the hold. Add +5 to their next escape attempt.

  • Full Success:The defender escapes the grapple.

  • Critical Success:The defender performs a perfect reversal. The defender may make an immediate attack on their opponent at full skill, flee, or perform any other action.

This roll is made either with a Strength attribute roll, or if they are trained in the Brawling skill, or one of the Martial Arts skills they use those at a -3 to the roll. If the defender cannot escape, then the attacker can either Throw, Body Slam, or Choke the grappled opponent. Throwing is at a distance of 5 feet plus one foot per +1 of STR, Body Slam damage is on the chart I posted earlier and does DR3+STR damage, and choking is probably the best option: It does DR 4 and ignores armor. The average HP for most humanoid enemies will be around 20, so 5 rounds of a guy in a chokehold can end the fight there, assuming your friends arenít all stabbing the guy youíve just completely immobilized to death. Yeah, not that great in 1 on 1, but completely immobilizing an enemy for a round can be a death-sentence in this game.

The last kind of attack are Subdual, which is your standard non-lethal knockout attacks. These attacks need to be made with a blunt attack, so no knocking someone out by stabbing them in the face. This works the same as any other attack, but if someone is reduced to 0 HP or lower by a subdual attack they are just knocked out for a minimum of one round. The rules say 1-20, but give no indication as to how to determine this, which is honestly the first time Iíve seen an arbitrary number in this game.

Iím pretty sure itís supposed to be based on a roll of a d20, so 1d20 rounds, though you could also tie it to HP, with a minimum of 1 and another round unconscious per -HP caused by the subdual attack to a maximum of 20. As I said though, this is basically a houserule, but I think this was just caused by poor editing instead of an intentional hole in the rules.

When the target awakens, they will heal from all subdual damage done either within 1-10 minutes, or with a successful CON roll against Difficulty 10. Once again, this might by a 1d20 /2 roll for the minutes, or tied to the amount of HP lost in the subdual attack to a maximum of 10 minutes. Either one works perfectly well though, so apologies for my minor houseruling.


Defense in Talislanta is split into two actions: Dodge and Parry. The player has to declare if they are defending against an attack before the attacker rolls for their attack. The defender rolls first, as a Full or Critical success means they dodged the attack, so the attacker doesnít need to waste time rolling.

Dodge is the simplest, and is about just not getting hit at all. Itís performed with either the Evade or Mandaquan (A form of martial arts) skills, the Acrobatics skill at a -5 penalty, or a Dexterity or Combat Rating roll. Thatís all.

Parry is a bit more complicated. Itís used to deflect or block the attack by actively intercepting or redirecting the attack. If someone with the Shield Skill uses a shield to Parry they get a +3 to their roll, while people without the Shield skill still get a +1. A shieldís enchantment level applies to Parry attempts with the Shield, so a +1 shield would provide a +4 bonus to a trained wielder. You can use your chosed Weapon Skill, the Guard or Shield Skill, or a Martial Art skill to parry. You can also use Brawling to parry unarmed attacks, though it will be with a -5 penalty to parry weapon attacks. Parrying uses Combat Rating if you are untrained in any applicable skills.


In combat movement is a bit more complicated that general movement, which is abstracted in most situations. Movement in combat is broken into three types: Retreat, Flee, and Advance.

Retreat is when you attempt to escape from a fight, but in an intentional and orderly manner. You can only move up to half your Movement per round, but can continue to fight and defend as usual.

Flee is when you want to get away ASAP and donít give a poo poo what happens. You can move your full movement rate every round, but cannot attack or defend. If you try and flee from an opponent you were engaged in Close Combat with, your opponent gets one free unopposed attack against you. This applies to every enemy that was in Close range with you when you ran away, so it can get very nasty against multiple opponents. Your enemy canít do this though, if on previous round you successfully dodged or parried an attack from that enemy.

To see if you can safely get away after fleeing, you and any pursuing opponents must make a Speed Attribute roll every round of the chase:

Flee Results posted:

  • Mishap: stumble and fall; youíre injured and cannot continue next round.

  • Failure: stumble and fall; you can get up and continue next round

  • Partial Success: move up to half your maximum Movement Rate

  • Full Success: move up to your maximum Movement Rate

  • Critical Success: maximum Movement Rate plus you gain an additional 50' on opponent

Advance is used to close with an opponent. You can move up to half your movement rate without penalty. If you advance at full Movement then it is called a Charge. While Charging, you cannot Defend, but can make attacks at a penalty of -3 for Close attacks or -5 for Ranged. If you hit someone while Charging with a close attack though, you add your Speed to the DR of the attack.


This is a final catch-all category for any sort of action in a fight that doesnít fit the above. There are no actual rules for stunts, this section is more advice for adjudicating them for GMís. Of note is the recommendation that if a stunt-like action would naturally flow into another action, such as leaping over a table to stab a guy on the other side, the stunt-action shouldnít be rolled for or accrue a multiple-action penalty. Stunt actions should be discrete and separate things, not just part of an Attack or Defense.

The final part of the Combat chapter is actually super important:

Aimed Shots

Aimed shots are super freaking important. An aimed shot falls into two categories: An action intended to do a very specific thing, such as aiming for a particular body-part, parrying an attack to a specific direction, dodging in an exact way, etc. These actions may have some additional penalty, but the main rule is that to succeed with an Aimed Shot, you have to roll at minimum a Full Success, as a Partial Success is treated the same as a Failure.

The other use for Aimed shots is a much bigger deal: It lets you ignore an enemy's PR. To do this, you add the targetís PR to the Difficulty of the attack in addition to the other modifiers. If the attack is a success, then it ignores enemy PR completely doing full damage. This is meant to represent aiming for chinks in the armor such as eye slits on helmets, unarmored armpits, gaps in a monsterís chitin, etc.

And thatís it! Combat is finished! This whole chapter was 7 pages long. But next time we start getting into the really interesting stuff:


Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Chapter 3: Magic

Magic in Talislanta is built off of a variation of the game's standard skill system, with some additional rules already covered. This chapter is meant to cover specifics of Orders, Modes, and creating Enchanted Items. In short: Modes are essentially magic Skills, theyíre what you roll and define the mechanical aspect of your spells. Orders are the narrative category of Magic, what flavor or style you practice. This does have mechanical effects, generally in the form of bonuses to certain modes or some modes not being available at all, but it is mostly for narrative effect. Iíll also be incorporating some additional information and rules from Codex Magicus, which is a 4th Edition supplement about magic, the Talislantan Multiverse, etc. These rules are optional, and I donít like some of them, and some of them are actually useless because they didnít think the book through very well, but it does add some very useful new mechanics and fluff. This Chapter Iíll split into four posts, Covering Modes first, then Orders, then Enchanted Items, and finally the Codex Magicus stuff. So let's get started!

Before we actually get to the Modes though, first some general rules of magic:

  • Mechanically Freeform, Narratively Defined While the magic system is very free-form and allow you to make up spells on the fly, in the narrative magic is a highly-defined system in-which a competent mage will know hundreds to thousands of discrete spells. So even though you thought a spell up on the fly, your character always knew it and that spell is a set thing in his spellbook.

  • Modes are specific to an Order Basically, if you have more than one Order, such as both Wizardry and Witchcraft, each would have their own separate ranks in every Mode. So the Attack Mode in Wizardry is a separate skill from the Attack mode in Witchcraft, and when you cast a spell you have to choose what Order youíll be casting it with.

  • Things Modern Magic Canít Do Thisíll get covered more when I get to the Setting, but in clif notes version: There used to be your semi-standard Ancient Magical Civilization called the Archaens back in the day, they got apocalypsed to death, you know the drill. The Archaens were masters of magic, but modern day mages have to do with stuff wither made after the Archaens were wiped out or stuff salvaged from what they left behind so thereís lots of stuff magic canít do anymore. The main things are: you canít return the dead to life so no Resurrect spells, you canít make life either. So no homunculi or golems or any artificial life. Modern magic canít affect time or causality either. And the biggest deal is you cannot blend or mix Orders or Modes. So, no combining an Illusion with an Attack to make an invisible fireball, or mixing Aeromancy and Pyromancy to create a magical MOAB or something. Obviously though if you find some ancient lost tomb in a distant monster-infested ruin that has a lost Archaen spell, wellÖ there you go. Codex Magicus actually has several kinds of lost Magic for GM use, so Iíll cover it then.


First up is just a quick overview of the mechanical parts of the mode, and what a spellcaster can modify to customize their spells.

  • Area Itís area, how big an area the spell affects. Noteworthy, a spell with no area affects a single point in space, effectively no area at all.

  • Duration How long an effect lasts. Spells with no or ďInstantĒ duration last just a moment then end.
  • Casting Time How long it takes to cast the spell. If you do anything besides cast the spell whileÖ casting the spell automatically fails. Unless otherwise specified the default is a single round.

  • Range Itís how far away you can affect things with a spell.

  • Resistance How the target can resist or defend against the spell. If nothing specific is listed, then the target can Dodge the spell as they would a physical attack.

Okay, now for the MODES!


This mode is what you use to buff and debuff things. Itís about altering the abilities and stats of a target. Basically, if itís a number you can change it up, though each type of number has some special rules. Each alteration is classified as a Specific or Broad alteration with different effects. Specific Alterations increase the Spell Level by 3 for level of that stat you change, while Broad increases it to 5 Spell levels per point of change. In short these are:

  • Skill Level Specific Alteration, canít go below 0.

  • Attribute Broad Alteration. If an attribute is lowered to -7 or below, that character flat out becomes incapable of doing anything that uses that attribute. Someone with -7 Dexterity literally cannot move without falling flat on their face, -7 Perception is blind, deaf, and numb, etc.

  • Damage and Protection Ratings Specific Alteration. Increases to Damage Rating can be applied to Unarmed attacks, and Protection to skin and normal clothing. You canít reduce either below 0.

Now, if you want to Alter something that isnít represented in mechanics, like making someone more attractive or how much others respect them the GM just assigns a value of 1 to 10 based on what they think the targetís ďrankĒ in that quality is, and treat it as a Specific or Broad alteration from there. This is specifically allowed to mess with abstract qualities not just physical ones.

Now for other limitations and rules: For every extra person you want to affect with the spell, you get a -1 to the casting roll. The base duration for any Alter spell is 1 minute, with a -1 penalty per additional minute. And all Alter spells are Touch range. You canít cripple a guy from the next county over, you gotta slap skin to do it. So if you want to affect a bunch of people, they all have to be touching in a giant magical conga-line. Last thing, Alter spells donít stack, only the highest level spell affection a specific quality applies, any lower level spells donít work and higher level spells overwrite the weaker. This is so you canít just cast +1 Combat Rating ten times to become a combat monster with an easy spell. Depending on your Order there may be additional limitations to this mode.


This is your kill dudes Mode. You use this to reduce somethingís HP, and it does nothing else. This oneís a lot simpler than Alter. You do 1 HP more damage per spell level, the default range is 50 feet with a -1 to the roll for each additional 10 feet of range. Ranged Attack spells donít have a duration, so no persistent damage effects. If instead you want to do something like make a fire-sword for melee combat, then the melee spell lasts for 1 round per Spell Level and uses an appropriate Weapon skill to hit with instead of the Mode which is just used to make the weapon or start the effect. By default they have no area, but you can increase the area of effect for a -1 to the roll per foot of radius. You canít specifically target multiple things, just use area attacks.


This mode allows the spellcaster to create material objects from magical energy. Each Spell Level can increase the mass by 10 pounds and amount by 1 cubic foot. Default range is 50 feet, with -1 for each additional 10 feet, duration 1 minute with -1 per extra minute. As you can see a lot of the modifiers are standardized between modes, for easy memorization.

You cannot conure living stuff, just inanimate objects or substances. The caster has to be familiar with the substance or object, at the least knowing what it looks like. Creating an exact or convincing replica of an existing object may be subject to an additional penalty at GMís discretion. When the spell duration ends, the object vanishes, returning back into magical energy. The exception is magical consumables, as their effects still persist. Conjured water still holds off dehydration, magic food satisfies hunger, etc.


Defend is used to protect against attacks. Specifically, it is used to absorb damage from an attack. A Defend spell absorbs twice its Spell Level in HP before being dissipated. Defend spells last 5 rounds at minimum, unless they are destroyed first. Each additional round of duration is a -1 to the casting roll. There are two kinds of Defense spells, Auras and Barriers, with different modifiers for each.

Auraís are your classic magic shield. They affect a single target and surround them with magical protection. Unless hidden by an Illusion spell, auraís are always visible to the naked eye, though what it actually looks like depends on the Order. They are always air and light permeable, so the target can see and breath through them, and they do not protect against blinding light, poison gas, drowning, etc. You cannot have multiple auras on a target at one time, if a new one is cast then the one with the highest HP remains. While in an aura, the target is immune to Critical Wounds.

Barriers are your magical wall or whatever. They can be any simple shape the caster desires, namely a flat surface, cylinder, cone, and dome or sphere. This is where you get your walls of fire and such. Barriers are a lot tougher than Auras, and have a Protection Rating equal to the Spell Level. In exchange, they are immobile, and must be fixed or supported, and cannot just float in the air disconnected from a solid surface. They can prevent the all physical intrusion though, including light and if desired air depending on the nature of the barrier. They cannot stop non-offensive magic though such as Illusions.


Itís healing. Recover HP, cure diseases, repair objects. 1 HP recovered per Spell Level, and you can cure diseases as long as the Spell Level is higher than the level of the Disease. There are several pre-made diseases in the GM chapter, and of course you can make up your own.. Heal spells are all Touch range. Spellcasters can actually use Heal to harm people by causing wounds and disease at 1 HP of damage per level of the spell or by inflicting a disease at the level of the cast Spell. The reason this is worse than attack is that all Heal spells can only affect a single target at Touch range, and have no area of effect.


Magic Illusions, pretty simple. Base modifier stuff is: 50 Foot range, _1 to roll per 10 Foot of range, duration of 5 rounds -1 to casting roll for each additional round., you get the idea. Now, for fancy Illusion specific stuff! The basic Level 1 Illusion creates an illusion that affects a single sense, of low magnitude, and does not move, and lacks any specific details. For 3 additional Spell Levels you can add one feature:
  • One additional sense affected, such as sight and sound, or scent and taste.
  • Motion or animation, so that the illusion moves through space. You have to be within the spellís range to move it. You can tie the movement to a target, for example to create illusionary clothing.
  • Precise details or complex elements. Copying an individualís appearance, creating actual text instead of a page full of lorem-ipsum, just making an illusion a lot harder to see through.
  • Magnitude of the illusion. This is based on what the illusion is, and this scales, with 1 additional feature making the illusion ďloud as a shout, as bright as a torch, as big as a humanoidĒ, while 5 Feature magnitude is ďLoud as a hurricane, as bright as the greater sun, as big as a shipĒ.

Illusionís can be broken either by casting a Reveal spell, or with a successful Perception Attribute roll both against the level of the Illusion as the Difficulty. Success means that you know the illusion is suspect or unnatural, though it generally does not dispel the illusion completely.

If you want to blind someone with illusory light or something similar, itís considered to be a ranged attack roll separate from creating the illusion itself. This is specifically for blinding with illusory light, though I see no reason it couldnít be used to deafen someone with a booming noise, nauseate them with disgusting smell or taste, etc. Per the rules itís a -7 penalty to the ranged attack, and the effects last for 3 rounds with an additional +1 round for each magnitude feature added to the spell. ThisÖ seems poorly thought out. Iíd use the duration of the effects, as thereís nothing wrong with that, but just use modifiers as normal for a ranged attack.

To make something invisible is a starting level 10 spell, level 13 if you want to be invisible and move as well.

Illusionís can be cast while Scrying, giving them effectively infinite range in combination with the Reveal mode. Thatís the one what does scrying you know.


Charms and mind control magic. Influence spells have a maximum range of 5 feet, and last 1 round by default. When affected by an influence spell, the target obeys a single simple instruction from the caster transmitted directly into the subject's mind. The command should fit in a sentence of less than 5 words it looks like. The subject canít do anything that it canít naturally do or that it doesnít know how to do, and wonít do anything that involved directly harming itself IE: no commanding people to slit their own throats.

Increasing the spell level makes it harder to resist the spell. When someone is the target of an Influence spell, they can make a Willpower roll, with every 2 Spell Levels amounting to a -1 to the Willpower roll. The subject will remember everything that happened during the spell, but if the casting roll is a critical success then the subject thinks everything was their own idea.


Spells involvingÖ moving things. This involves things like Telekinesis, levitation, that sort of thing. Move spells basically act the same as a Strength roll, with a base Move spell affecting up to 100lbs, and increasing as +1 Strength per 3 Spell Levels. You can also boost the speed of moved objects from a base of 10 foot per round, make it area of effect, and increase the duration above the base 5 rounds. Range is the standard 50 feet.

You cannot move an object while performing multiple actions, though you can leave it levitating or similar while you do other things. Move can both hold and lift things, and can even attack as a Grapple, though they cannot be restrained or moved in addition to the attack. Magicianís can also use move to perform mundane tasks at a range, such as fighting with a floating sword, or writing with a pen from another room. This is done with whatever applicable skill fits the action, the spell merely allowing the object to move.


This is for supernatural senses, detecting spells, scrying, that sort of thing. See through walls, detect lies, find hidden doors, you get the idea. Base conceal spells are effective up to 50 feet, and last for 1 minute. More powerful spells are used to defeat both mundane and magical attempts to conceal the desired information.

Scrying is given special note: When scrying you have a range of 1 Mile per spell level, it requires the caster to look into a reflective surface, and canít automatically ďgo toĒ a specific spot unless the caster knows the location. Magical senses do not work when scrying, only sight and sound.

Conceal is the Reverse of Reveal, similar to Heal and Harm. Conceal spells are used to hide things from normal or supernatural senses. The protection is specific, making a single lie harder to spot, protecting from scrying, blocking magical senses, etc. It cannot be used to make something invisible though, thatís Illusion, but it can make something more difficult to see than otherwise.


Calling up things from another dimensions! What exactly depends on the Order, but Elementals, Ghosts, Demons, etc. are all possibilities. The level just determines how powerful the summon is, giving them an ability level equal to the Spell Level. Summoning requires a number of rounds equal to the Spell Level, and the summoned being sticks around for a base of 1 minute.

If cast correctly, the summoned being appears and will either answer any 3 questions it knows the answer to, or to perform a single specific service for the summoner. A failure still summons the creature, but it is unrestrained and can just do whatever it wants.

A mishap straight rips a hole in spacetime, letting things from another realm into the material plane uncontrolled. It lasts for one minute per Spell Level, and the book specifically asks the GM to make it very very nasty.

The reverse of Summon is Banish, and is used to send extradimensional things back home. The Degree of Difficulty is the targetís Ability Level, and takes 1 round per Spell Level to cast.


Transmutation, transmogrification, animation. Spells that change the nature and form of something. The level of the spell required is based on how different the starting form and the end result are.
  • Trivial Change: Level 3 Changing something into another of the same species and sex, minor changes to appearance of inanimate objects.

  • Minor Change: Level 5 Same species, but significant change in appearance, keeping an object's substance the same but changing the shape.

  • Major Change: level 10 Changing something into a similar species, minor unnatural alterations like feathered hair, scaly skin, etc, changing an object into something of related material, IE lead to iron.

  • Radical Change: Level 15 Change a living thing to a completely unrelated species, transmute a material to an unrelated substance like water to sand or stone to wood.

  • Total Change: Level 20 Change something inanimate to into something animate or vice-versa.

Transformation affects a single subject at a time. Subjects retain their mental abilities regardless of the form. The new form just gets an Ability Level based on the Spell Level of the Transform spell cast. To turn into a specific creature the spell has to be equal to that creatureís Ability Level, and cannot increase the creatures Ability Level beyond itís normal maximum.


Ward allows you to place specific defenses on a target you can touch. Wards are cast at minimum Spell Level 10, and cannot be cast any lower. A ward will make the target completely immune to that specific effect. You can have multiple wards active that protect against different types of effects, though you canít have more than one ward that effects the same type of effect.

The things you can protect against with ward are:
  • A single specific type of weapon. You can protect against Greatswords specifically, not all swords period.

  • A single element. Fire, Ice, Lightning, Heat, Cold, etc.

  • A single Thieving Skill, such as Deception, Forgery, Legerdemain, Sabotage, etc.

  • A single Mode, regardless of Order. It is not possible to Ward against Wards.

  • A single type of creature, such as a specific species of animal, race of humanoid, or type of extra-dimensional being like Demon or Elemental. Specifically this prevents the target being from being able to touch the person or item, or pass through a warded portal or doorway. If a warded person intentionally touches the specified creature, the ward is broken.

Wards last a base of 10 minutes, and are always visible as a sigil or sign that can be read by those who know magical scripts. Warded items are considered to be enchanted items.

You can also reverse a Ward to make a Hex, which causes the target to take double damage from the specified source. If the source is also an attack, the attack is harder to defend against, the defender getting a -1 penalty to defense per 3 Spell Levels for the Hex.

Woof! Thatís all the Modes finished! Next time we get into the more fun and fluffy part of magic! Orders!

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

There actually is a big bunch of spells for every Order, but that's also more for players to start with before going into gonzo spell customization. You aren't really intended to customize and fiddle with every spell you cast, instead you should create a few "base" spells for each Mode to use, and modify from there. Also, no character starts knowing every Mode, and many Orders have banned Modes, so it's really easy to keep track of what rules you care about.

By the way, how is my coverage of the book so far? I'm trying to really sell this sucker, but don't want to bore everyone to death before we ever get to the setting. Which is 2/3 of the book.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Halloween Jack posted:

I always liked the way Talislanta's D20 mechanic worked as opposed to D&D's. Looking forward to all the archetypes and all the crazy races.

What are the major differences between 4th and 5th editions? All I know is that mechanically, it appears they modeled the unique racial abilities as feat-like abilities, rather than skills.

Talislanta reminds me of Jack Vance's Dying Earth and Planet of Adventure series. Do you know whether or not that was a major influence?

The 5th Edition completely changes how Magic works to be way less free-form and more of a structured spell list, and character creation is completely different, being more of a skill-package system instead of premades. The differences are really massive, they are mechanically two different games, with only a few similarities. Basically the same sort of difference between 3.5 and 4th Ed. D&D, they're recognizably related, but still very distinct.

The book is blatantly a Jack Vance RPG. The original concept was to be the Jack Vance alternative to D&D's Tolkien inspired fantasy, though there are obvious connections between the two due to the shared influences, Talislanta is 100% Dying Earth. It takes place in basically a post-apocalyptic Dark-Age, and like 50% of problems are because of some ancient wizard hosed something up. Also, at least one race is explicitly from another world and came to Talislanta when their spaceship crash landed.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Magic Part 2: Orders

Orders are the second half of the magic system. While Orders are mostly flavor, tied to the setting, they also have a variety of mechanical effects, as well as narrative limitations that make each Order unique. Iíll be going over the basic flavor of each order, what makes them unique, and a few of the cooler sample spells for each.


It means ďCard MagicĒ. This is an Order which casts spells using an enchanted deck of ďZodarĒ cards, the Talislantan equivalent of Tarot, made of twenty cards each with a unique meaning and use. The most common use of the Zodar is in fortune telling and prophecy, which are generally difficult to understand if always correct. More traditional spellcasting is done by shuffling the cards, arranging them in specific orders and combinations that shape the magic, with each card having a specific function and use in spells. Cartomancers keep the actual spellcasting part secret, using it rarely. It isnít an art learned in schools, and is self-taught. Anybody who uses the Zodar long enough slowly becomes attuned to the magic, slowly developing Cartomancy.

The Zodar Deck posted:

The twenty cards of the Zodar are:

1. Zar: The Dark Moon. An ill-aspected card, signifying evil, conspiracy, black magic.
2. Laeolis: The Blue Moon. Sorrow, disappointment, heartbreak.
3. Jhang: The Crimson Moon. Rage, violence, dark passions.
4. Ardan: The Purple Moon. Romance, passion, desire.
5. Phandir: The Green Moon. Mystery, things unknown.
6. Drome: The Amber Moon. Peace, repose, relief.
7. Talisandre: The Silver Moon. Good fortune.
8. The Lesser Sun. A matter of little import.
9. The Greater Sun. A matter of great import.
10. The Charlatan. Deception or deception discovered.
11. The Rogue. Loss, thievery, distrust.
12. The Warrior. Confrontation, conflict, vigilance.
13. The Assassin. Treachery, betrayal, death.
14. The Peddler. Opportunity, the chance for profit or loss.
15. The Wanderer. Travel and adventure.
16. The Wizard. Sorcery, chance, uncertainty.
17. The Mystic. Hidden knowledge, secrets.
18. The Alchemist. Change, transformation, the unexpected.
19. The Reaper. Inevitability.
20. The Archon. Victory.

Physical Components: Cartomancers cast spells by shuffing and manipulating the Zodar. A Cartomancer must have at least one hand free to manipulate the cards to cast spells. No need for magic words or other gestures, just the cards.

Advantages: Basically, Cartomancy is stealthy. Most people donít know it even exists as a form of magic, just considering Zodar to be playing cards or fortune telling toys, and Cartomancy have no magical effects like magic lights or noises. A Cartomancer can cast spells in a crowded room, and just look like heís playing solitaire.

Limitations You need your Zodar deck to cast spells. If you donít have it, you canít cast magic. If you lose your Zodar, or itís destroyed, you canít just pick up a new one. The Zodar are inherently magic, and you need to spend one week attuning yourself to the new deck before you can cast spells again.

Modes Cartomancy cannot use the Transform or Summon Modes. Alter spells can affect anything relating to one of the cards of the Zodar, such as The Warrior improving Combat Rating, or The Wanderer increasing Speed.

Enchantment Cartomancers can only Enchant new Zodar cards, and are unable to make other magical items.

Sample Spells posted:

Hand of Destiny (Reveal)
Duration: 1 minute
Casting Modifiers: -10 (10th level)
Description: Rahastrans use this spell all the time, as it
is as much a part of their belief system as anything else.
By laying out two cards and divining their meaning, a
skilled cartomancer can determine his destiny. In game
terms, this is the PC asking the GM "What is likely to be
my best course of action?" The level of the spell should
be used as a ruler in deciding how accurate and helpful
the insight will be. For example, a 5th level divination
might yield only general information, such as, "The
future is obscure, but it seems that subtlety is the best
course of action." For a 10th level divination the result
might be more specific, as in "Signs indicate that deceit
would yield greater fortune than direct action." A 20th
level divination might yield more detailed information,
like "Fortune would shine on sneaking into the tower in
disguise", while at 30th level the GM might really get
specific, as in "Use a spell to hide your life-essence and
enter the necromancer's tower in the guise of undead."

Fool's Gold (Conjure)
Duration: 5 minutes
Range: 50 feet (usually cast on self)
Casting Modifiers: -5 (1st level, -4 for extra duration)
Description: Casting this spell and tapping The Peddler
three times will cause a cache of coins (up to 100 g.l., as
the caster requires) to appear in the casrtomancer's
pocket. The conjured coins look and feel quite real, but
will remain in existence for only 5 minutes, after which
they will vanish without a trace. This spell has many
practical applications, though its use is not without
certain risks. Kasmirans in particular have little fondness
for enchantments of this sort.

The Fold (Illusion)
Duration: 5 rounds (30 seconds)
Range: 50 feet
Casting Modifiers: -19 (1st level base, +9 levels for
Touch, Sound, and Scent, +3 levels for Motion, +3 levels
for Complex Elements, +3 levels for Magnitude.)
Description: Every Rahastran knows when to fold a bad
hand and make a discrete exit when his or her luck has
changed for the worse. By drawing The Charlatan the
caster can appear to vanish into thin air, leaving nothing
behind. Even someone holding the caster will believe
that the cartomancer has disappeared, and even beings
with keen senses of smell and hearing may be fooled by
this illusion. While the spell is in effect, the cartomancer
can move silently, hide, or make a quick getaway, as

Wrath of the Warrior (Attack)
Range: 50 feet
Casting Modifiers: -6 (6th level)
Description: By tapping the Warrior card three times
and pointing at a target, the cartomancer causes her
victim to be pummeled by a pair of ghostly fists for 6
points of damage. If the spell is cast at a higher level,
the disembodied hands will appear to hold weapons.


Cryptomancy is the magic of writing. It uses mystic sigils, runes, and inscriptions to cast spells. Once created, these sigils can maintain their magic indefinitely, until activated. Cryptomancy is taught, generally by memorizing the various magical symbols from Cryptographic manuals. These books are always encrypted in a secret alphabet only known to other Cryptomancers.

Physical Components Cryptomancers must have one hand free to at least trace the mystic patterns needed to cast magic. Most spells actually require the cryptomancer to make a physical mark of some kind, so many cryptomancers carry papers, ink, charcoal, brushes, pens, knives, and chisels to write with.

Advantages When a Cryptomantic spell is cast, the magician may define a ďtriggerĒ, a condition that activates the spell. The spell will last until that condition is met and the magic is activated. Spells in this stasis condition can be detected and countered like any other spell. Setting a trigger on a spell adds a -5 to the difficulty, and the sigil must be clearly inscribed. These spells only activate once, for runes and such that work multiple times youíd use the enchanting rules to make a magic item.

Limitations Because a Cryptomancer has to accurately duplicate complex magic symbols, casting a spell can take a while. The default casting time for all Cryptomantic spells is 2 rounds minimum.

Modes Cryptomancy cannot use the Transform Mode. Cryptomancy gets a +3 bonus to Ward and Reveal, but a -2 penalty to Illusion and Influence. Cryptomancers use magical runes to communicate with extradimensional beings for the purpose of summoning. Cryptomancers use Alter by inscribing or drawing runes upon the target of the alteration.

Enchantment This Order is very useful for enchantment, and itís honestly one of the main uses for Cryptomancy. Some example uses are making magical traps and alarms, magical tattoos, inscribing on magic jewelry, and enchanted cages, manacles, and chains meant to hold extra-dimensional or super-powerful beings. Itís magic runes, itís really really suited for enchanting things.

Sample Spells posted:

Symbol of Clarity (Reveal)
Duration: 1 minute
Range: 50 feet
Casting Time: 2 rounds
Casting Modifiers: -Variable (see below) +3 due to Order
Description: Inscribed in the air above a page or other
written surface, a Symbol of Clarity will render any form
of writings or inscriptions clear and intelligible to the
caster. The symbol functions no matter what language
the original inscriptions were written in, or what efforts
may have been used to obscure the message (codes,
obscured letters, etc.) The level of difficulty entailed in
the translation is used as a spell penalty in this case.
For foreign languages, the penalty is -1 to -10, depending
on the age and/or relative obscurity of the writings. For
codes and cyphers, subtract the skill level of whoever
devised the encryption. Obscured writings may cause a
penalty of -1 to -20 to be applied, depending on how
badly distorted, faded, or smudged the original
inscriptions are. All penalties are cumulative.

Talking Runes (Illusion)
Duration: 5 rounds (30 seconds)
Range: 50 feet
Casting Time: 2 rounds
Casting Modifiers: -6 (1st level, -5 for trigger effect, -2
due to Order modifier)
Description: Talking Runes are symbols that slowly
"speak" a secret message when activated by a specific
trigger, which may be as simple as someone opening a
door or as complex and specific as the caster desires
(such as, "When the magician Azradamus reads the last
page of this book"). Talking Runes may speak up to 20
words in any language known to the caster, at a rate
of about 4 words per round. Talking runes may not speak
magical phrases in order to cast a spell.

Sigil of Deterrence (Attack)
Duration: 5 rounds (30 seconds)
Range: Touch
Casting Time: 2 rounds
Casting Modifiers: -10 (5th level, -5 for trigger effect)
Description: A favorite of Kasmiran trapsmiths, this sigil
is usually placed inside a locking mechanism, and is
activated by touch. Unauthorized individuals who
attempt to open a lock protected with this sigil will suffer
a painful blast of energy (5hp damage) sufficient to
damage a key or lock-pick; or incapacitate a thief's hand.
A successful Traps skill roll (with a penalty equal to the
Traps skill rating of the magician that set the rune) will
alert a thief to the runeís presence.

Shaladinís Blade-Icon (Conjure)
Duration: 1 minute
Range: Touch
Casting Time: 2 rounds
Casting Modifiers: -6 (1st level, -5 for trigger effect)
Description: This symbol is commonly sewn into the
sleeve of a robe, or carved into the face of a ring. When
triggered by the wearer, the rune causes a dagger to be
conjured into his or her hand. Shaladin's Blade is not a
magical weapon per se, but does damage equivalent to
a common dagger. Note that a Blade-Icon can be
triggered only once and must be re-cast before it can be
used again. Also note that an untriggered Icon counts
as one of the seven magical items that a person can


Crystalomancy is both a form of magic and a holy art, seen as a gift from Terra, the Earth Mother the chief god of the Gnomekin. Crystalomancy is therefore protected as a holy order, and practitioners are considered to be priests as well as magicians. It is passed down orally from one magician to another, and has no known written works. It is almost impossible to be allowed to learn if one is not a Gnomekin. This order casts spells using magical specially grown crystals.

Physical Components All spells require a specially grown crystal of the appropriate type for the mode to cast:

Alter Topazine Rich yellow
Attack Rubiate Fiery crimson
Conjure Albinite Milky white
Defend Amberite Warm orange
Heal Emeralite Deep green
Illusion Prismatite Clear/refractive
Influence Amethyte Vivid purple
Move Azurite Bright blue
Reveal Glassine Perfectly clear
Summon Ebonite Glossy black
Transform Variagate Multicolored
Ward Umberate Dark brown

Advantages A Crystalomancer can store a spell inside of the proper crystal for later use. This adds 10 rounds to the casting time per level of the spell, but once stored the spell can be used at any time. Even non-Crystalomancers can activate the crystal to cast the spell. Once a crystalís spell is cast, the crystal is now useless and cannot be used to cast magic again. When a crystal has a spell stored, it counts against the limit for enchanted items.

Affinity Crystalomancers get a +1 to spell-casting when using crystals they grew themselves.

Limitations A Crystalomancer cannot perform magic without their crystals. Crystals also have a carat level, which limits what level of spells can be cast with that crystal.

Modes Crystalomancerís cannot use the Conjure or Transform modes. They get a +3 bonus to Defend and Heal spells, and a -3 to Attack and Summon. Alter spells can only affect stone, earth, and crystal, not living beings or abstract qualities. Summoning can only be used to call up Earth elementals.

Enchantment Crystalomancers can create permanently enchanted crystals, which can be used on their own, such as crystals that heal the holder when activated, or worked into other objects, such as a supernaturally sharp sword with the crystal set into the pommel.

Crystal Growing A Crystalomancer can create their own crystals! Itís covered by the Agriculture (Crystals) skill. Crystals grow at 1 carat per week. A Grower can maintain one growing crystal per skill level. Crystals stop growing once harvested.

There are also wild crystals, which work for spellcasting, but at a -5 penalty to use. Crystalomancers still seek them out though, in the hopes of finding a new kind of crystal, or one that allows new uses for their magic.

Sample Spells posted:

Rubiate Beam (Attack)
Duration: Instant
Range: 50 feet
Casting Modifiers: -9 (6th level, -3 for Order modifier for
this mode)
Description: This spell uses a rubiate crystal as a focus
to create a fiery beam of light that will do 6hp damage to
any creature or object that it hits. Targeted creatures
may try to dodge the beam.

Safe Passage (Ward)
Duration: 5 minutes
Area of Effect: 5 foot radius centered on the crystal
Casting Time: 2 rounds
Casting Modifiers: -19 (10th level, -4 for extra duration,
-5 for area of effect)
Description: By casting this spell on an umberate crystal
and dropping it in a passageway, the crystalomancer
can make it impossible for a certain type of creature
(such as Darklings) to pass through the area for 5
minutes. This spell is very useful when fleeing from
pursuers underground.

Sense of Terra (Reveal)
Duration: 5 minutes
Range: Self
Casting Modifiers: -9 (5th level, -4 for extra duration)
Description: This spell gives the caster an infallible
sense of depth and direction while underground. As
long as the spell is in effect the crystalomancer will not
become disoriented or lost, even in total darkness. In
addition, the magician may make Perception rolls at +5
to detect deadfalls, traps, and potential cave-ins.

Glassine Eye (Reveal)
Duration: 2 minutes
Range: 2 miles
Casting Modifiers: -6 (4th level, -1 for extra duration, -1
for extra range)
Description: By placing a glassine crystal in a desired
location, the crystalomancer can use this spell to turn
the crystal into a remote scrying device. As long as the
crystal is within range, the caster can see through the
Crystalomantic Eye as though he or she were there,
with a +4 bonus to Perception for purposes of seeing
hidden things/beings.

Okay, Iíve realized that these are going to be giant posts at this rate, so Iíll be splitting Orders up into aboutÖ 3 posts Iíd say. So next time, more orders!

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

BirdsUponBirds posted:

Hang on--

There is a crystal that does Transform, but the only people who use crystals cannot use Transform? I hope I'm missing something.

The Order rules that modify or ban Modes are optional. Those are included in case your GM doesn't want to limit Modes, so that they can still use the whole crystal flavor aspect. 90% of the Order rules are to differentiate and let casters feel different while still mostly using identical mechanics, so a lot of the hard rules modifications are explicitly optional and are free to throw out.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Magic Part 3: Orders Continued

Elemental Magic

This Order is technically four in one. Elemental Magic obviously covers magic that controls the elements! When you get an Elementalism Order though, you have to pick one of the four elements, Fire, Water, Earth or Air. If you want to learn a second element itís a whole new Order.

Physical Components Elementalism requires no external components, but to cast spells a magician must have both hands free to perform the necessary gestures.

Advantages Elemental Magic doesnít get any special bonuses until you get a +10 or more in a Mode under the Order, but when you do depending on the element you get immunity from that element.
  • Water lets you breathe freely underwater without issue, and you no longer feel or are affected by natural cold, though this doesnít apply to magical cold.
  • Fire Makes you immune to extreme heat, and mundane fire, though your equipment will still be damaged by flames.
  • Earth Is kinda wierd: Nothing made of earth or rock can hurt you. That includes sling stones, stone-topped clubs, and some other primitive weapons. The same goes for landslides, earthquakes, collapsing stone structures, etc. This as norma doesnít apply to magical earth-based attacks. Geomancers also get +2 HP to make up for the more niche invulnerability.
  • Air means that you can ignore wind of any intensity, and lightning doesnít hurt you. Just become immune to tornadoes and poo poo. Magic damage bypasses as normal, like all the others. A bonus thing! Airborne hazards like toxins, gases, smoke, etc. take an extra round to affect an Air Mage than they do other characters.

Limitations Elemental spells are not subtle. You cannot hide that youíre casting them, and their effects are big, loud, and obviously unnatural. This makes it basically useless for any sort of stealth.

Modes Elemental Magic cannot cast spells of Alter, Heal, Illusion, or Influence modes. They get a +3 bonus to Conjure though, and an additional +3 in another Mode based on the element: Attack+3 for Fire, Move+3 for Air, Defend +3 for Earth, and Transform +3 for Water.

Elemental magicians can use Transform to change their chosen element into any related form: Fire into smoke, water into ice, air can turn normal air into clouds of toxic gas, water can turn into ice or steam, Earth from stone to sand to mud and back, you get the idea.

Elementals can only use Summon to summon Elementals of the appropriate kind for their chosen Order. Pyromancerís get Fire Elementals, Aeromancerís get Air, etc.

Enchantment No limits to elemental enchantments really, though the most popular uses are to create elemental warded items (Ring of Water Breathing), objects that produce an element for offensive purposes (Flaming Sword), and items that can produce an element (Infinite Waterskin).

Sample Spells posted:

Scryer of the Deep (Reveal)
Duration: 1 minute
Range: 5 miles
Casting Modifiers: -9 (5th level, -4 for extra range)
Description: This spell allows an aquamancer to locate
missing persons, sunken ships, or almost anything that
has been lost below the surface of any sea, ocean, lake,
or river. In order for the spell to be effective the caster
must have in his or her possession some item or piece
of the lost subject, such as an article of clothing from a
missing person or a piece of a sunken ship. Once the
spell is cast, the aquamancer must make a Perception
check at +5 to locate the specific item being sought.
The GM sets the Degree of Difficulty from 1 to 20 based
on how distant, buried, or hidden the item is.

Pyroclasm (Attack)
Duration: Instant
Range: 50 feet
Area of Effect: 5 foot radius sphere
Casting Modifiers: -12 (10th level, -5 for area of effect,
+3 due to Order modifier for this mode)
Description: This spell creates a stream of coruscating
flames that will inflict 10hp damage to all in the area of
effect and ignite all combustible materials. Victims
caught in the area of effect may continue to take an
additional 3 hp of damage per round from burning
clothing, hair,and/or other items until they spend at least
one round to extinguish the flames. Items of paper or
light cloth (such as books and normal clothing) will
almost certainly be set aflame, while other items may get
a roll at the GM's discretion. Individuals targeted by
this spell may attempt to evade or dodge as usual, but
at a -5 penalty (in addition to the normal penalty of the
caster's Attack rating) due to the spell's area of effect.

Whirlwind (Move)
Duration: 5 rounds (30 seconds)
Range: 50 feet
Casting Modifiers: -15 (6th level for +2 Strength, -12 for
increased speed, +3 due to element modifier for this
Description: This spell allows an aeromancer to use the
minor spirits that exist everywhere in the air to create a
whirlwind that can be made to move individuals and
objects weighing up to 150 lbs. At the caster's discretion,
the whirlwind can be used like a spell of levitation to lift
either the aeromancer or a designated subject into the
air. Or it may be directed in a more forceful manner, to
force back assailants, scatter small objects or creatures,
disperse mists or gasses, and so forth. In the latter case,
the vortex will cause up to 2hp of damage per round and
move objects or creatures up to 50 feet per round (Speed
rating of -5).

Flameform (Transform)
Duration: 4 minutes
Range: Self
Casting Modifiers: -33 (20th level, +10 spell levels for
Ability Level in Sunform, -3 for extra duration)
Description: Only the most skilled pyromancers are
capable of using this spell, which transforms the caster
into living flame. Once transformed in this manner, the
pyromancer is as intangible as fire and cannot manipulate
objects or be hit by ordinary attacks (spell attacks and
magic weapons still hit as normal). Anything touched
by the Flameform takes normal fire damage and may be
set alight. For the purposes of striking and dodging, the
Flameform has a combat rating of +10. While in this
state, the pyromancer cannot cast additional spells, but
can communicate by speaking normally. Any items on
the pyromancer's person when the spell is cast become
part of the Flameform, but revert to their normal
substance once the spell has lapsed. Other elemental
versions of this spell are:
Windform: Intangible and invisible. Cannot make
attacks. Flight at +5 Speed.
Stoneform: Appears as a humanoid pile of stones. +5
Strength bonus. Can wield weapons. Armor Rating 12.
Seaform. Appears as humanoid fountain of water. Can
pass through any opening or through porous materials.
+5 Speed bonus in water. Immune to normal attacks.
Can attack with jet of water (DR 4).


Invocation is magic drawn from higher powers, usually in the form of religious worship, though it also covers pacts with Demons and Devils. The main variations in the game are Aamanian Orthodoxy your vaguely catholic Monothiestic faith, Mirin worship of Borean, God of the North Winds, Rasmiran Death-Worship, and Demonology and Diabolism.

Physical Components
Invokers obviously are fond of various holy symbols and icons, but the only requirement is that they must be free to speak and gesture in order to properly call upon their patron.

Advantages When using magic in line with the goals and wishes of their patron, Invokers can get a variable bonus of +1 all the way to +20 on their casting, based upon how much the patron cares about the act.

LimitationsThe same thing in reverse: If you work against your patrons desires and goals your spells get penalized.

Modes Invocation has no banned modes. They get a +2 to two modes, and a -2 to two others based upon what patron they have. Aamanianís get +2 to Influence and Reveal -2 to Illusion and Summon, Mirin +2 to Defend and Move and -2 to Illusion and Influence, Rajan get +2 to Attack and Summon -2 to Defend and Heal. Other possible patron bonuses are left to the player and GM to work out. Otherwise, no real rules as the flavor of the spells is heavily based upon what entity the magician invokes.

Enchantment Ditto, pretty much anything goes based upon your patron diety or being.

Sample Spells posted:

Conversion (Influence)
Range: 5 feet
Duration: 5 rounds (30 seconds)
Casting Modifiers: -10 (10th level)
Description: Aamanian Priests sometimes use this spell
while traveling to simplify dealing with non-believers.
The target may resist with a Will check at -5. On a partial
success, they will generally agree with the priest on
matters of religion, but will not do anything out of their
nature. On a failure, they will be complete believers in
Aa for the duration of the spell, and will obey simple
commands given. On a mishap they will continue to
believe in Orthodoxy after the spell's duration, and as
long as they are not exposed to anything outside
orthodoxy's teaching, may remain that way until the
magic is dispelled or countered in some way.

Northwind's Blast (Attack)
Duration: Instant
Range: 50 feet
Casting Modifiers: -15 (15th level)
Description: Mirin Priests of Borean developed this spell
for combat against the Ice Giants of Narandu. The
fearsome blast of this supernatural wind deals out 15 hit
points of damage to one target.

Demonic Swarm (Attack)
Duration: Instant
Range: 50 feet
Casting Modifers: -20 (15th level, -5 for area of effect)
Description: This spell was originally created by the
witch doctors of Pana-Ku. When this spell is cast, a
momentary stream of demonic force is unleashed,
allowing hundreds of 1-inch sub-demons to streak out
and attack anything in the area of effect, causing a total
of 15hp damage. Those unfortunate enough to be
subjected may attempt to dodge, but at -5 (in addition
to the normal penalty of the caster's Attack rating) due
to the area of effect. Once the sub-demons have inflicted
their damage, they fade back to nothingness.

Sacrificial Trance (Influence)
Range: 5 feet
Duration: 5 rounds (30 seconds)
Casting Modifiers: -18 (18th level)
Description: Rajan death-priests use this spell to put a
victim into a deep trance so that they will not disturb a
ritual. The target may resist with a Will check at -9. On
a partial success they will be lethargic for the duration,
but still able to act, albeit slowly. On a failure the target
will walk where lead, lay down where told, and die when
stabbed. On a mishap, the target will remain in the trance
even after the spell expires, although any shock (such
as a slap) will awaken them.


Mysticism is basically D&D Psionic powers, as well as covering magic involving spirits and mediumship.

Physical Components None. Mysticism is an art of the mind, not the body.

Advantages Mysticism is completely undetectable. Spells make no sound or visual effects unless desired, and are not detectable by other magical means. Only another Mystic can detect the use of Mysticism. Mysticism requires no gestures, words, foci, or rituals to cast.

Limitations What it does require is a clear and focused mind. Loud noises, bright lights, mental stress, etc. can effect a Mystics casting and cause penalties to the casting roll. A Mystic can remove this penalty, but must first make a successful Meditation skill roll to calm down.

Modes Mysticism cannot use the Transform and Conjure modes. They get a +3 bonus to Influence and Reveal, and a -5 to Attack. A mystic can alter any quality of the Mind, Body, or Spirit of a living sapient being. They cannot alter animals, abstract concepts, or inanimate objects. Mystics can use Summon both to summon astral beings and spiritforms, as well as to Astral Project into the Spirit World.

Enchantment Mysticism doesnít really do enchantment, but what few items they make are generally meant to either reveal hidden or astral presences, or to protect against mental or spiritual attack.

Sample Spells posted:

Subtle Ways (Influence)
Duration: 6 rounds (36 seconds)
Range: 5 feet
Casting Modifiers: -15 (18th level, +3 due to Order
modifier for this mode, -1 for extra duration)
Description: Subtle Ways is a means by which a mystic
may use the power of suggestion to influence others.
To do so, the mystic speaks a phrase in a subtle tone of
voice while focusing on the subject of the suggestion.
If the influence is not resisted (with a Will check at -9),
the subject will believe that the suggestion originated
within his or her own thoughts.
For example, the mystic might suggest something like,
"No need to check that door, no one could be hiding in
there." or "These aren't the slaves you're looking for.
Move along." If the subject fails to resist, he or she
succumbs to the suggestion without hesitation. On a
partial success the subect will be inclined to agree with
the thought, but not completely convinced. On a failure,
the target will go along for the duration of the spell. On
a mishap, they will continue believing the suggestion
after the spell duration, unless shown evidence

Astral Travel (Summon)
Duration: 5 minutes
Range: Self
Casting Time: 10 rounds
Casting Modifiers: -20 (15th level, -5 for extra duration)
Description: This spell allows the mystic to project his
consciousness in astral form, leaving behind the
physical body and material possessions. Enchanted
items, which have an astral form of sorts, may be brought
along into the astral plane. While in astral form, the
caster will be able to see clearly for great distances on
the astral plane, and will also be able to perceive events
transpiring on the material plane, though with somewhat
less clarity; PER rolls are necessary to find the casterís
way around and notice what is happening on the material
On the astral plane, the mystic may meet astral entities,
dreamers, and other beings. All these beings will seem
physical to the astral mystic, and they will be able to
cause and sustain damage exactly as material beings
Like spiritforms, astral entities cannot be seen by
individuals on the material plane, nor can they interact
with physical objects or beings except through psychic
abilities or spells of mysticism.
If the mysticís astral form is slain on the astral plane, his
physical self will also perish. On the other hand, an
astral traveler may be stranded in noncorporeal form if
his physical body is slain on the material plane.

Death Touch (Harm)
Range: Touch
Casting Modifiers: -30 (30th level)
Description: As part of their study of the lines of energy
that flow through the mind and body, mystics also learn
how those lines of energy can be disrupted . One such
method is the Death Touch. By touching a living
creature or being at the exact center of its life's energy,
the mystic can disrupt the victim's lifeforce, with fatal
results (30hp damage). The Death Touch is regarded as
a black art among most mystics, few of whom would
ever use it except under the most dire circumstances.
Nevertheless, certain Mandalan legends tell of mystic
warriors who were tempted to follow the dark path of
this deadly discipline, and of the terrible consequences
that befell them.

Mindprobe (Reveal)
Duration: 1 minute
Range: 50 feet
Casting Modifiers: -variable (12th level, -difficulty of
probe, +3 due to Order modifier for this mode)
Description: By concentrating, the mystic can use this
discipline to reach into the mind of another and read
surface thoughts, relive memories, or even bring to light
hidden knowledge and blocked memories. The target
may resist with a Will check at -12, though individuals
who have been trained to keep secrets may receive a
bonus to the resistance check. For example, a spy may
add their Espionage skill level. The level of knowledge
sought determines difficulty of the probe as follows:
Surface thoughts -0
Recent memories -3
Old memories -6
Forgotten memories -9
Suppressed memories or subliminal observations -12
Past lives -20 or more

Next Time: The last few Orders!

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Actually the sleeve is accurate. Samurai arm armor actually were individual sleeves called Kote that were either tied around the body or attacked to the chest armor.

So that's accurate. Her chest armor is not though, and would quickly chafe her nips right off like a cheese grater.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

The whole Victoriana thing just makes me want to mail them a copy of Castle Falkenstein with a rude note attached.

See, Falkenstein actually does some smart things to make the whole Victorian world tolerable in a steampunk fantasy way: In the alternate universe of the game the world is explicitly better than the real world. The opression of industrialism, racism, colonialism, etc. just didn't happen or didn't happen as badly. And more importantly, it puts those societal ills as a negative! PC's in Falkenstein are explicity in opposition to Empire-building, war-mongering, industrialization, racism, classicism, etc.

It also avoids most of the alternate history weirdness by making steampunk/magic be a relatively new thing, in the setting. Like, it's only within the last few decades that supernatural poo poo has started being relevant on the world stage so most politics and power-structures are unchanged, and what changes there are are to make the world less of a shitshow, like making Manifest Destiny a failed ideology with everything between the Mississippi and the Rockies being Native American land controlled by a loose tribal confederacy.

Falkenstein also just integrates supernatural races into the world without any issue, cause they're just treated as people. Like, supernatural races are just a few extra abilities instead of being treated completely different socially. The only real excepts I can remember is that Dragons are pretty much de-facto nobility anywhere just on principle, and Faeries don't join Navies cause being near massive amounts of uncovered iron for long periods of time give them headaches.

Also all the magical races are legit taken from ACTUAL FOLKLORE, and a Leprechaun, Pooka, Kobold, or White Lady are all character choices. Leprechauns can magically force people to dance by playing music! It's not just D&D but with COGS!

They also don't have any different religions! Muslims are Muslims, Jews are Jews, the Catholic Church exists and actually has an order of Monks dedicated to practicing healing magic to act as doctors in hospitals!

Also the historical fiction is both more solid and less loving boring! Why is Racism basically not a thing? Because Abraham Lincoln survived assassination thanks to magical catholic doctor, and he basically forced Reconstruction through proper so poo poo like Jim Crow laws and the Klan never got a foothold! Otto Von Bismarck is the big villain of Europe because he's a warmonger who builds legions of war-zeppelins and steam-tanks! He has a clockwork hand that's also a gun because he's a Bond villain!

Ugh, and when Falkenstein includes actual cultural information it's generally useful and interesting. The book has sidebars for poo poo like Victorian slang, proper dating etiquette, how to address the various ranks of nobility, what different nation's military uniforms look like, what everyday items people owned back then, that sort of thing!

Ugh this game is so loving lame, when there's a better one that does THE SAME THING that came out back in the 1980s!

Also, one of the neatest thing Falkenstein does is make all Victorian fiction actually real, so Sherlock Holmes is solving crimes in London, Captain Nemo sails around fighting pirates, the Time Traveller is bopping around like a steampunk Doctor Who, The Invisible Man is an infamous burglar and thief wanted across the continent, etc. That makes the whole thing feel just that bit more fantastical and fun.

Ugh, gently caress Victoriana.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Green Ronin also has a D20 Thieves World game.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Say Hello to Glorantha:

Arachne Solara

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

The ST is a Brit thing. Consoles were mostly an American thing, in the UK Microcomputers were the main method of playing vidjagams.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

wiegieman posted:

Consider that even 7th sea, yes, Wick 7th sea, has now switched to a narrative mechanic implementation which explicitly tells you to only require rolls if there's actual dramatic risk.

That's not surprising. Wick has never really been bad about rules or being a grog, his issues are more he's kind of an egotistical dick. He makes really solid games that are ruined because he writes like an rear end in a top hat.

Also it's hilarious seeing this thread's reaction to Kevin Crawford. Stars Without Numbers and Other Dust are rock solid, then when he wanted to make a non-western fantasy game he converted them into Spears of the Dawn, Silent Legions is basically OSR Delta Green, Scarlet Heroes is D&D but designed around super-fast solo gameplay with 2 people or a GM Oracle if you want. Then he made Godbound extrapolated from Scarlet Heroes rules. He's not some nobody, he's got a solid track record of really good games with lots of support (Stars Without Numbers has TONS of supplements) and a rock solid release and work ethic. The OSR label doesn't apply to mechanics so much as it's a compatibility layer (Just take any D&D dungeon and find-replace SWORD with LASER) and is familiar to most people who play RPG's.

Wapole Languray fucked around with this message at 05:44 on Dec 16, 2016

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Night10194 posted:

Have you played L5R or the old 7th Sea?

Yeah, but lets be fair: drat near every game back then was poo poo and had hosed up rules because we were still in the post AD&D Wild West of game design that spawned poo poo like TORG and Palladium. It was contemporary with OG Deadlands and Feng Shui and in the heart of the oWoD supremacy and D20 glut.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Falkenstein actually has a crap default resolution system as the card based mechanics are incentivizes playing every card in your hand every roll. They do have alternate resolution in the supplements though, so it's a minor issue.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

unseenlibrarian posted:

The best part of Six Guns and Sorcery is that it's an alternate 19th century with a balkanized US and NO CONFEDERACY.

The US Balkanized because the Native American tribes in Falkenstien all banded together to resist US Expansionism. With the populace unwilling to go int ANOTHER war after the Civil War, westward expansion kinda stopped at the Mississippi, and so the nation (peacefully) split up and the United States couldn't really effectively govern the west coast or southwest anymore with another nation cutting the continent in two.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Atomic Highway is literally an unlicensed Mad Max RPG complete with Road Warrior class. It's legit a really well put together indie game, is free, and has car build rules which are just simple point buy stuff.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Tianxia: Blood Silk and Jade is a Wuxia/Kung Fu supplement and setting expansion for Evil Hatís Fate Core rule system by Vigilance Press, written and created by Jack Norris, with art by url=]Denise Jones[/url]. Created properly after a successful kickstarter campaign back in 2013, and officially released in 2014, Tianxia is one of the best drat Wuxia games Iíve seen.

See, most games of this sort, like Qin: Warring States, Weapons of the Gods, Wulin, Heroes of Ogre Gate, etc. have an issue I donít like. They focus way too much crunch on simulating the nitty gritty of kung-fu combat, there really isnít a lighter game in the genre Iíve ever seen besides Tianxia that isnít like Wushu, so light the genre is basically just flavor, or just cramming kung-fu into an existing fantasy setting.

Also, the game is pretty as hell, and Iíll be posting as much art as I can for you guys to ogle at.

Now, I love Fate, itís probably my favorite system ever, and Tianxia is a wonderful combination of setting and really solid mechanics that hit all the right spots. You do require the Fate Core rulebook to play, but itís Pay What You Want so thatís no excuse.

Anyway, Tianxia is great, I wanna show it off. Itís an obvious labor of love from someone who really really loves wuxia as a genre, so Iíll also be expanding on some of the concepts and setting elements with Real Life History Stuff as we go, because Iím a nerd for it too. So, with that out of the way, let's get started with Chapter 1!

Welcome to Tianxia

The Occurrence at Peach Blossom Bridge posted:

ďThe right ground can turn a man into an army, and an army into a collection of fools.Ē Ma Wei Shengís father had told him this when he was eight.

His father, the Great General Ma, victor of countless battles fought for his Emperor and the Great Empire of Shťnzhōu. He was always right, a fact which comforted and frustrated the young swordsman on alternating occasions. Today, watching thirty swordsmen rush him across the opposite end of the narrow bridge was one of the comforting times.

He had stumbled upon the White Turbans by accident. A murdered farmer, a young child asking for his aid, and a youthful enthusiasm for justice and chivalry had led him to uncover the sect. Their ultimate goal was to overthrow the empire and cast down the priesthoods, replacing both with their heretical theocracy. Wei Sheng had not figured out how the death of the farmer featured in their plot. He might never find out now, not if the next few moments went against them. Of course, he was not unprepared.

ďSwift and thoughtful action saves lives. Swift and thoughtless action ends them.Ē Another of his fatherís sayings, and again, so very appropriate. He had fled the Turbans when he saw their numbers. Not out of fear, but only to find the right ground. He found it at Peach Blossom Bridge.

The bridge was narrow and unimpressive. It crossed a small tributary of the Silk River, little more than a stream but just fast and deep enough to make crossing uncertain. The bridge had been built to allow for the small amounts of traffic between the nearby villages, and it was difficult for more than three or four men to walk side by side. In other words, it was perfect.

Ma Wei Sheng watched as the White Turbans ran across the bridge towards him, all drawn swords and murderous fury and fear. They needed him dead, he knew, lest he escape, bringing soldiers and magistrates to crush their sect.

Unfortunately for them, escape was not Wei Shengís strategy. He did not wish to avoid fighting. He simply wished to find the right place for itóa narrow bridge where their thirty fanatical fighters became rows of three or four pressing against each other with little room to swing their blades. On this little, unassuming bridge, Ma Wei Sheng was the army, and they merely a collection of fools.

The White Turbans slowed momentarily when they realized he had stopped. Perhaps some
among them had read the Great Generalís works and realized their folly, or maybe they were simply confused their prey had stopped running.

ďWondering on its purpose only kills its utility,Ē Ma Wei Sheng whispered to himself while moving to meet the mob of thirty armed killers.

So, this is the introduction chapter, but as this is a supplement to an existing corebook, this game doesnít have to bother with explaining what an RPG is, and we can instead get right into the interesting stuff. This chapter is dedicated to giving some essential background info about the game, elaborating on the genre, and just explaining what the hell this game is.

So, first is a Glossary of Terms. Thankfully, there are neither dry mechanical terms, or nonsensical White-Wolfisms here, instead it exists to explain concepts that your typical person might not understand, especially terminology borrowed from Chinese. So, Iíll recreate in in a condensed form here so we can all benefit!

    Adherents of the Tao/Dao This is the Tianxia version of Taoism/Daoism (The words are pronounced the same, just the romanized spelling differs based on whether you use Wade-Giles or Pinyin romanization). Real world Taoism is incredibly complex, mainly because itís been around for ages, is incredibly syncretic so it has gotten mixed in with every other religion, philosophy, or spiritual belief in Chinese history, and has various differing sects and schools of thought. In brief, Dao, literally ďThe WayĒ is the concept living oneís life in unity with the natural flow of the universe. Generally this means living a balanced harmonious life of simplicity in sync with the flow of the universe. In Wuxia if you do this well enough you become an immortal and get magic superpowers.

    Chi Also spelled Qi, literally ďBreathĒ, is the concept of an internal energy, life force, etc. While it has many varied meanings in medicine, philosophy, and religion, in the context of wuxia stories itís what lets you do crazy physics breaking kung-fu stuff just by working out real hard. The Force from Star Wars is basically qi, for these purposes.

    Da Jiang ďGreat RiverĒ, a very large and important river that flows through southern Shenzhou. While itís not part of the setting detailed in this book, itís considered important enough to Shenzhou as a hole to mention.

    Emperor The ruler of Shenzhou. Also known as Huangdi, ďYellow EmperorĒ, or Tianzi, ďSon of HeavenĒ, he or she is believed to be ordained by heaven to rule all the lands of the world. The Emperor governs through a complex bureaucracy of ministers, governors, and officials.

    Eunuchs Someone who has had their sex organs removed. In Shenzhou this is not surgical, but is done by mystic ritual that makes the subject sexless. They serve as important ministers and imperial officials, and are often portrayed as villains in Chinese media. The closes western concept would be the idea of the ďEvil VizierĒ. Historically Eunuchs were prominent in certain dynasties as important functionaries, especially in the Imperial Court. This was both because, as they could not have children, corruption, nepotism, and treasonous ambition was less prominent and because they couldnít get up to anything freaky with the Emperorís wives.

    Followers of Bodhisattva Also known as Bodhists, they are the Tianxia equivalent of Buddhists. The philosophy is all about seeking enlightenment, peace, and the alleviation of suffering by rejecting material attachments and cultivating an awakened mind.

    Gong Artisans and Craftsmen, part of the middle class of Shenzhou.

    Jade Road An important trade route, named for the mining and production of jade goods, which it serves as a major trade route for. It stretches from the western border all the way to the eastern cities.

    Jianghu Literally ďRivers and LakesĒ the term refers to many concepts in chinese culture. At its broadest, it simply means the culture and community of those whose way of life is not part of traditional society. In modern contexts itís essentially the same as the english term ďUnderworldĒ, representing the culture of criminals and those who live outside the law. In Wuxia, Jianghu refers to the sub-culture of vagabonds, adventurers, and martial artists, those who live on the fringe or outside of traditional society. Another term for the same concept is Wulin ďMartial ForestĒ.

    Jiangzhou ďBorder LandĒ, the province of Shenzhou detailed in this book. Itís the far western frontier of the Empire, and is largely lawless.

    Kung Fu A generic term for all styles of Chinese martial arts.

    Legalism The official religion of the Empire of Shenzhou, and the Tianxia equivalent of Confucianism. Essentially, a philosophical school of thought and religion that emphasized unity with Heaven by moral living according to a divine order or hierarchy. As concerned with how proper governments and societies function, as it is with personal ethics and morality.

    Nong Peasants and farmers, the lowest traditional social class in Shenzhou.

    Security Companies Businesses that hire out mercenaries and bodyguards, specifically for protection of people or property. Often clash with government authorities, they range from heroic protectors, to bandits with pretensions.

    Shang Merchants and traders, part of the middle class, but the wealthiest can have as much power as the elite.

    Sifu ďSkilled PersonĒ, an honorific for teachers. Common translation would be ďMasterĒ or ďTeacherĒ. While it can apply to any sort of teacher, in wuxia itís primarily applied to Kung Fu masters.

    Shen The collective name for the people of Shenzhou, though most people donít call themselves that. Identifying instead by village, province, or family. People and objects from Shenzhou are called Shenese.

    Shenzhou ďDivine RealmĒ, the proper name for the Empire and primary setting of Tianxia. The name was an archaic term for China.

    ShiNobles, Scholars, and high officials. The elite and powerful upper class.

    Silk River A major river in Shenzhou, which passes through Jiangzhou before flowing east to the sea.

    Tianxia ďUnder HeavenĒ, a concept in Chinese political philosophy referring to the Chinese Empire, the entire world, or the idea of cultural unification. Closes western concept would be, itís the Chinese equivalent of ďManifest DestinyĒ.

    Wuxia Literally ďMartial HeroĒ, sometimes translated as Knight Errant or Wandering Warrior/Swordsman. This is both a genre, and a type of character or profession found in said genre. Essentially, Wuxia are highly skilled warriors who operate outside of traditional society.

    Wu Xing A five part concept of connected elements, colors, directions, seasons, animals, etc. A framework of thought and theme found throughout chinese culture. It has been slightly modified to make it easier to remember and work with in the game.

    Yang Positive forces. Proaction, heat, light, and masculinity are represented by Yang.

    Yin Negative forces. Reaction, cold, darkness, and femininity are represented by Yin.

    Yi ďOutsiderĒ or ďBarbarianĒ, a term for those not from Shenzhou, or who are not seen as part of Shenese society at all. The term Hu is also used, primarily when referring to tribes that live near the borders.

    Zhongshou ďCenter LandĒ, the Imperial Province, where the capital and Emperorís Palace are. Often used as a term to refer to anywhere with strong Imperial presence, not just the province itself. Itís located on the eastern shore of Shenzhou, but is considered to be the center of the empire.

Whoo! Now thatís out of the way, and we can continue!

Next is the actual introduction, which gives an overview of each chapterís contents, and explains the design philosophy of the game. Thereís no need to go over this though, so I wonít.

Next is actually something useful! The Cardinal Rules of Campaign Customization. See, Fate is a toolbox game, itís a bunch of mechanics and parts that you are encouraged to mix and match and customize to your taste. Tianxia just adds some new mechanics to support wuxia genre games, so they include some guidelines about how to work out customizing and making things in game in a pretty useful four stage process:
    Step One: Talk it Out Basically, if thereís doubt about the best way to represent something in the game, the GM and players should talk out how each wants to handle it. It lets everyone get their own desires out there, as well as go over any issues or concerns that might pop up.

    Step Two: Figure it Out Work out exactly how the changes or modifications you want to make should work, and clear it with everyone so everybody knows how the changes work and is okay with it.

    Step Three: Now Go Forth Basically, once you got a general idea, implement it and donít get hung up too much on the ganges. You can change it again if things donít work out, itís more important to keep playing and having fun instead of getting obsessed about the setting or mechanics and killing the gameís momentum.

    Step Four: ...and Kick rear end Basically, if things arenít going how you like, just make the changes on the fly and keep up the momentum, demonstrating what you want to happen instead of stopping the game to go over everything every time an issue comes up. Keep it dynamic and generally things will work out, and you can stop to discuss if there are problems.

Who are the PCs? And What do you Need to Play?

Iím rolling these two sections into one, just because theyíre short. THe default assumption of Tianxia is that the PCs are playing wuxia, wandering martial arts warriors embroiled in the struggles of the hidden world of the Jianghu, with players growing in prominence, power, and importance over the course of the game. Equally valid though is playing characters more part of traditional society, in fixed locations or tied into important elements of the setting.

As for what you need to play, is just helpful advice for necessary stuff to get. You need a copy of Fate Core to play, a set of Fate/Fudge Die, though the game does support others, a character sheet for each player, a way of keeping track of Fate Points, a pack of Index Cards, and some way of tracking initiative. They suggest players just sitting in initiative order to make it super simple.

Wuxia, Kung Fu, and Genre

This is a genre game, so itís kinda important to define the genreís weíre working with. Now, Tianxia is, by default, a blend of two related genres: Wuxia and Kung Fu. These two genres are related but distinct, and if youíve seen enough martial arts movies you should be able to know the difference even if youíve never been able to articulate them. While both are focused on the idea of martial artists, and solve their problems via acrobatic violence, the scale and existence of the fantastical are the primary ways to tell the two apart.

Wuxia stories are big. The characters can often do superhuman feats of athleticism and combat, fantastical or magical elements are much more common. Kung-Fu stories on the other hand are generally much smaller scale. There are generally set in grounded historical settings, the stories are small scale and focused on personal issues, and the martial arts are purely practical and what actual humans can do.

The way the game supports a mix is simple: The feats of the characters are very wuxia, with superhuman feats being common once you get some of your skills up there, while the setting favors more down-to-earth grounded and small-scale stories. To change the focus, simply dial up or down descriptions of character actions as desired, and focus on different aspects of the setting.

Whatís in a Name
Chinese naming can be complex, especially with how varying translation conventions render names. Some use straight chinese names in the appropriate format, others reverse the family and given names, others fully translate the names into ones that sound more like poetic titles, and others still mix the two getting names like Silken Wei and Iron Tsang. Tianxia uses all three, but favors the part-english part-chinese names as it stays evocative of the setting, but itís a lot easier to create memorable names for English speaking players.

The Wu Xing

Essentially, the Wu Xing is a major part of chinese culture, and is a motif repeated constantly throughout affecting everything from art and music, to medicine, interior decorating, martial arts, military strategy, religion, philosophy, fashion, etc. etc. etc.

Itís important. Tianxia recommends using the Wu Xing as a source of inspiration, a handy way to create themes and concepts that ring true with the setting. By using the colors, animals, elements, seasons, etc. as inspiration for settings, characters, and events. Basically, donít get obsessive about it, but injecting a bit into your game can add some fun flavor, and help people brainstorm ideas and give flavor to the setting.

So, thatís it for the intro! Next time Shenzhou and Jiangzhou: The Setting Part 1!í

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Goddamn none of you guys have actually read the books I guess? That's... all really not accurate in any way shape or form.

Jovians: Yes, fascists, but not all straight Nazi's. They're an isolationist and paranoid, but a strong motivation is that by rejecting newer technology, the military goverment can more easily stay in power and control the populace. Think Starship Troopers government where information is all propaganda. A lot of Jovian scientists, as well as the population that knows what the outside world is like, generally don't like the goverment. They do have a shared feeling that yeah, the rest of the solar system is going nuts with the AI's and genetic engineering, that poo poo caused an apocalypse like 10 years ago and lots of you aren't even vaguely human anymore and we don't want none of it because it's just asking for bad poo poo.

Consortium: Actually a pretty decent democratic/capatalist system that's ran by immortal oligarchs and super-corporations. Cyberpunk future with a decent HDI. They basically mix traditional capitalism with the whole reputation post-scarcity economy thing. They explicitly try and keep corruption and evil poo poo down, but still megacorps gonna megacorp.

Morningstar: Venus used to be in the Consortium, but they actually managed to break away into their own government, but the Consortium isn't happy. So you've got legit Venus-independents clashing with Consortium influence trying to find a path for the planet. Big contention is exactly how to go about terraforming Venus.

Extropians: Yep libertarians, but they actually kinda figured out how to make it work. Extropia, the asteroid where they're based, is supposed to serve as the Mos Eisley giant space crossroads where anything goes.

Singularity Seekers: People who pursue technological advancement at any cost, but this leads to some doing really ethically questionable poo poo, like trying to make advanced AI's like the Skynet types that killed Earth because they see them as the perfect lifeform.

Exhumans: People who just don't want to be human anymore. Most are harmless, there's one group that basically upload their minds into virtual reality constructs in long-term space probes and shoot off to explore the universe at sublight speed, but some go crazy into it and do poo poo like turn themselves into Xenomorphs and start hunting people for fun.

Ultimates: Wierd spartan/buddhist euginicist war-cult. All about perfecting humanity, mentally, spiritually, physically. Take the Futurist Manifesto and mix it with some Buddhism and you get the Ultimates.

Autonomist Alliance: Just a grouping of all the tiny polities and entities scattered about the outer edge of the solar system. There's just tons of different groups so there's no real single defining trait.

Scum aren't Space Gypsies. Really, they're more bohemian artist punk types. Think Space Burning Man and you got it. Love body modification, hedonism, sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Also run black markets and have amazing parties.

The add-on setting books Rimward and Sunward did a good job expanding on and giving some nuance to the different cultures, but 90% of talking about RPGs on the internet are people repeating things they think they remember pieced together from forum posts and sorta-skimming the PDF one time.

Also, yeah Firewall agents don't get along swimmingly, but they work together to prevent the potential extinction of mankind. The idea that people of varying political opinions must kill each other on sight is not a thing.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Yeah, but literally nothing in their description or nature is Gypsy-ish, like they're called that for some reason but then absolutely no part of the Gypsy stereotype fits except that they're sorta nomadic? Like they used that as a descriptor but nothing about the faction actually fits it.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Fine, conceded, Eclipse Phase is lovely liberal fantasy Shadowrun.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

The earliest prototype guided missiles and bombs were pigeon-powered. posted:

During World War II, Project Pigeon (later Project Orcon, for "organic control") was American behaviorist B.F. Skinner's attempt to develop a pigeon-controlled guided bomb.[1]

The testbed was the same National Bureau of Standards-developed, unpowered airframe that was later used for the US Navy's radar-guided "Bat" glide bomb, which was basically a small glider, with wings and tail surfaces, an explosive warhead section in the center, and a "guidance section" in the nose cone. The intent was to train pigeons to act as "pilots" for the device, using their cognitive abilities to recognize the target. The guidance system consisted of three lenses mounted in the nose of the vehicle, which projected an image of the target on a screen mounted in a small compartment inside the nose cone. This screen was mounted on pivots, and fitted with sensors that measured any angular movement.

One to three pigeons, trained by operant conditioning to recognize the target, were stationed in front of the screen; when they saw the target, they would peck at the screen with their beaks. As long as the target remained in the center of the screen, the screen would not move, but if the bomb began to go off track, the image would move towards the edge of the screen. The pigeons would follow the image, pecking at it, which would move the screen on its pivots.

The sensors would detect the movement and send signals to the control surfaces, which would steer the bomb in the direction the screen had moved. As the bomb swung back towards the target, the pigeons would again follow the image, bringing the screen back to the centered position again. In that way, the pigeons would correct any deviations in the course and keep the bomb on its glide path.

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Halloween Jack posted:

I read the free edition of Talislanta that was released (4th I think?) and it was pretty accessible. IIRC it does have a kinda Vance-like vibe where it just jumps into telling you things about the various character types, and you just surmise things about their culture based on what it's telling you. But that's very very much in the spirit of early RPGs, when there was no such thing as a setting chapter and the setting was just implied by everything else.

You didn't read 4th then, as that has a literally 300 page long gazetteer of every nation and culture on the continent. Also, every version of Talislanta is free online:

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

The gently caress Is This Thing?

Say Hello! To Atlantis: The Second Age! Created by Kephera Publishing the same company behind Hellas: Of Sun and Stone, the Sci-Fi meet Greek Mythology game previously covered here. Atlantis is basically a reimagining of Bard Gameís ďAtlantis TrilogyĒ, a pretty much forgotten game from back in the 1980ís. The Original Atlantis trilogy isnít really important, and actually barely has anything to do with the newest version, so donít worry about it. What is notable is that this Atlantis uses the Omegasystem, which is basically the newest iteration of the system for Bard Gameís actually notable RPG: Talislanta! Timely!

So, in short: Atlantis is a Sword and Sorcery game set in a fictionalized and mythical ancient past at the dawn of mankind, where ancient and powerful inhuman raceís great empires crumble, and monsters and demons run wild. The players are Heroes, larger than life figures of myth and legend who stride forth to shape the world to their will.

Or, in a more succinct terms, as given by the Kickstarter for this game:

Oh, but in case youíre worried about the shady history of being really loving offensive that permeates the entire S&S Genre, especially those that bank on the influence of old paperback writers, hereís a picture of the main creator Jerry D. Grayson:

Oh, and if you like what you see, please buy the books. A portion of all proceeds go to Givewell, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the efficiency of other nonprofits and research into them, and the Against Malaria Foundation which purchases and distributes insect nets to impoverished communities in Africa.

Now to Properly Explain: What Is Atlantis?

Now, most games first chapter is your typical ďWhat is Roleplaying?Ē section, along with a rough guide to the basic mechanics, and is skippable in 90% of games. Atlantis does something else. It tells you what kind of game IT is, by answering a series of 12 questions, basically detailing the premise, themes, and design philosophy behind the game. If you like the answers to these questions, thatís exactly what you need to know if youíd like the game as a whole. In summary:

  • The game is a Sword and Sorcery fantasy, explicitly inspired by Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian, Solomon Kane, Kull, Brak Mak Morn), Clark Ashton Smith (Zothique, Poseidonis, Averoigne, Hyperborea), Micheal Moorcock (Elric of Melnibone), and Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser).

  • Atlantis is explicitly about the personal journeys of the Player Characters, about how they pursue their own personal goals, either grandiose or gritty, altruistic or selfish. Itís a game about driven people working to accomplish their goals. Players are required by the mechanics to be proactive, driven, and goal oriented.

  • The game uses a Lifepath character generation, the most familiar comparison would be with Traveller, in addition to the more traditional Race/Class combo system to make a character. This ensures the Hero comes preloaded with definite connections to the setting, previous events to act as plot hooks and adventure seeds for the GM, and gives a useful basis for a character's personality, and goals in the game.

  • Heroes are not your typical D&D mudfarmers who have to level for ages before they can do more than glorified pest control for the local city council. Atlantis PCís are already veteran and powerful heroes, ďLevelingĒ is more about additional customization and expansion than straight power increase. Instead the focus is on gaining Renown, building a reputation and fame that will live on in legend. The playerís also have codified mechanics for enacting permanent change on the setting and narrative, making them the definite movers and shakers of the world.

  • The setting is designed to be as RPG friendly as possible. It is intended to be a perfect ďkitchen sinkĒ Sword and Sorcery setting while still feeling as much as possible like a coherent world. The setting of a mythical ancient Earth means a lot of cultures and things are ersatz versions of real historical cultures to add a point of familiarity, while the supernatural aspects are intentionally trying to avoid much of the more cliche and dull aspects of fantasy (Tolkien Ripoffs basically). Essentially, the setting is designed to be a place to play an RPG, not as a writerís bible for a fantasy novel. * Cough* Forgotten Realms*Cough*Dragonlance *Cough*

A Brief History of the World

The next section of the introduction is, well, a brief history of the world. Presented narratively, as a teacher giving a history lesson to a group of Atlantean children, itís a rough outline of the mythic past and history of the world, from an Atlantean perspective.

The first age of the world was called the Age of Unreasoned Sleep, a timeless period where existence firstÖ existed. Itís called that because the in the beginning, the world was formless and mercurian, the stuff of creation the product of the Elder Gods. The Elder Gods are older than existence, mysterious and unknown beings who literally dreamed the universe into existence. This is also when the first of the Root Races came into being, the Jinn, shapeshifting beings of living magic born from the dreams of the Elder Gods.

The Age of Unreasoned Sleep lasted an unknown time, because time really wasnít a known thing yet, until the coming of the Demiurge, OlůdýmarŤ (One of the names for the supreme god of the Yoruba people, of modern day Nigeria and Benin). OlůdýmarŤís origin is unknown: He may be an Elder God who woke up, a creation of the Elder Gods to give the world form, or maybe the embodiment of the collective wills of the Elder Gods made manifest. In any case, OlůdýmarŤ set forth to catalogue everything dreamed by the Elder Gods, giving order to the Universe and purpose to all things.

The next age of the world was the Age of Screams and Fire. See, OlůdýmarŤ going around making order out of the primal chaos of existence had the side effect of waking some of the Elder Gods, who didnít appreciate his meddling, and wished to return the world back to its primeval state by scourging it with fire and death.

OlůdýmarŤ was not very happy with this, but he couldnít do much about it. He did manage to warn the Jinn in time, and they sealed themselves in jars of amberglass and orichalcum, hiding beneath the earth until the Elder Gods had spent their rage. Itís thought that some Jinn-jars containing these primordial beings are still lost, hidden within the earth, waiting to be found.

Once the Elder Gods had destroyed the world, reducing it to stone and ash, OlůdýmarŤ took action, singing a great song that lured the Elder Gods back into their eternal slumber. But, the Elder Gods had left one thing behind after their sleep, the embodiment of their wrath, named Nemesis. Whenever OlůdýmarŤ sought to repair the damage to the world, Nemesis worked against him, undoing what he did.

But, OlůdýmarŤ was clever: He found the last tree in the world, and from its scorched wood he made a box, which he trapped Nemesis within. He kept this box under his tongue, as he went about reshaping the world. Over time, OlůdýmarŤs voice seeped into the box, changning Nemesis into something else: One day he awoke from sleep and found two small beings crawling from his mouth. He named these two Set (Egyptian god of the Desert, Storms, Disorder, Violence, and Foreigners) and Baíal (An ancient Northwest Semitic world meaning ďLordĒ or ďMasterĒ a title put before the names of dieties, alternately a name for Hadad, a storm god in the ancient Levant). Together these three worked to remake the world.

During this time OlůdýmarŤ also worked to recover the Jinn, freeing them from their hiding places within the earth. Inspired by this, Set sought to create life of his own. He crafted the race known as the Ophidians, a race of humanoid serpents and the second of the Root Races, who quickly spread across the Earth, forming many great kingdoms and empires. Unfortunately, Set, thinking it a blessing, gifted the Ophidians with limitless ambition which lead to them conquering everyone they met, enslaving all others, and fighting among themselves to weed out perceived weakness.

Baíal saw Setís creation, and growing jealous, sought to make his own life, but he could not create something from nothing. Instead, he took many of the Jinn and warped them into shapes and natures he found attractive. These beings became known as the Sons of Baíal, though in common parlance they are just called Demons. They terrorized the world, corrupting nature, and feeding upon Ophidians and Jinn alike.

OlůdýmarŤ grew angry at this, seeing the corrupt children they had spawned he sought to destroy them, banishing them from the world. But, Set and Baíal joined forces, and with their armies, attacked OlůdýmarŤ when he was sleeping upon the Moon. The great battle scoured the moon of all life and cost the lives of countless minions, but eventually the siblings were able to overpower OlůdýmarŤ. They shattered him into a thousand pieces, and threw them to Earth.

This was not the end though, as the eldest of the Jinn gathered the thousand shards of OlůdýmarŤ, and sealing them into the same jars that saved them from the Elder Gods. From within these jars the shards of OlůdýmarŤ grew into new beings of their own right, the Orixa (the name for the Gods or Spirits of the Yoruba). The Orixa rose up against Set and Baíal, defeating them.

For Baíal and his Demons they forged a great prison of Brass deep beneath the earth, and sealed them within it. The touch of brass is anathema to Baíal and his children, and so they live in eternal torment within the buried City of Brass.

Set, they tore limb from limb, throwing his serpentine body into the deepest pit. His thrashings are the source of earthquakes and tsunamis to this day. But, from the blood of set spilled from his torn limbs came the Dragons, embodiments of Setís rage and fury bent on destruction and evil.

While the Orixa set out to repair the damage done by Baíal and Set, the Ophidians, now uncontested, ruled the world without challenge.

Next came the Age of Water and Reason. This age began with the third Root Race. Upon the island of Lemuria, born from Earth and Water, there was a great amber egg. From that egg hatched the Lawgiver (An obvious parallel to Sun Wukong, the Monkey King of Chinese folklore) the first of the Lemurians and father of their race. The Lawgiver was at first immortal, but he gave his power to the Apes of the island, blessing them with great intellect and and deep understanding of the natural world. Before the Lawgiver passed, he wrote down for his people all his knowledge in a single great tome, said to contain the answers to every question in that will ever be asked. Copies are, obviously, rare and heavily guarded by the Lemurians, and few have ever seen one.

The Lemurian ape-men were possessed of an insatiable drive for knowledge, and the spread out into the world seeking to learn ever more, building great cities in harmony with nature across the world in peace and prosperity, until they encountered the Ophidians.

The two races were, almost instinctually, enemies and quickly launched into a titanic war for dominance of the world. The Lemurians developed mighty science and advanced weaponry, while the Ophidians used their dark magics to spawn the Ahl-At-Rab, a race of fierce warrior-slaves. This war lasted for centuries, decimating both empires until they literally could not fight any more, settling down into a protracted cold war.

Meanwhile, on the continent of Gondwana, the final two Root Races arose: The Atlanteans and Humans. The Atlanteans are said to have appeared, fully formed, up on a river bank in western Gondwana. Their exact origins are unknown, though the Atlanteans of course insist they were divinely created to rule the world. Humanity as well has mysterious origins, and it is said they were created by OlůdýmarŤ himself.

In any case, while the Ophidians and Lemurians fought, the Atlanteans built a mighty empire in Gondwana, incorporating Humanity into their empire. While the Atlanteans insist this was beneficent patronage, most human peoples remember the Atlanteans as dominating slavers.

As the Atlanteans spread across Gondwana, the Ophidians began to raid the human settlements on the coasts, seeking slaves and resources to fuel their war with the Lemurians but unaware of their Atlantean masters. The Atlanteans struck back with a fury, crushing the war-weary Ophidians and driving them back to Mu, never to return to Gondwana.

At the same time, the Lemurians were being devastated by a great plague, killing most of their population. Weakened by constant warfare, and now broken by plague the Lemurians abandoned most of their outposts and colonies, retreating back to Lemuria.

With the Ophidians in retreat and the Lemurians withdrawn back to their homeland, the Atlanteans were free to spread across the world. In time they found a new continent, vast and fertile to the west of Gondwana. They migrated their population to this land, building a new capital for their empire, naming both the city and continent Atlantis.

As the Atlanteans conquered the world though, the Ophidians worked to rebuild their armies. They created new forms of dark magic, bred massive slave armies, and even called for the Sons of Baíal for aid recruiting demons into their armies. Finally ready, the Ophidians began a great war to reclaim their empire, slaughtering their way through the Atlanteans forces to the very walls of Atlantis itself.

This war though led to the Atlantean Sorcerer-Scientists to uncover the twin powers of Alchemy and Vril (Harnessing ley-lines and raw magic). Using these powers, they created the Nethermen, a race of savage monster-men to repel the Ophidians. While they were a success at first, they bred so quickly and were so uncontrollable that eventually they had to be slaughtered and exiled to prevent mass rebellion.

Not discouraged the sorcerer-scientists tried again, this time breeding the Andaman, a hybrid of human and animal. Adaptable to nearly any environment, designed to hold the Atlanteans in nearly religious respect, and much more intelligent than the Nethermen they, alongside Vril weaponry and alchemy, turned the course of the war. Eventually the Ophidians were completely smashed, the Ophidian Empire broken and destroyed before the Atlantean armies.

Then came the Golden Age, five centuries of expansion and harmony as Atlantis civilized the world, and build great cities on every continent. But, as many empires go, Atlantis began to slowly slide into decadence.

The final century of Atlantisís domination was marked by corruption and madness. The Sorcerer-scientists began to openly experiment on any non-Atlantean life spawning horrors and abominations. Non-atlanteans were treated like slaves and animals, and the rulers sank into the depths of depravity and perversion. The princes grew paranoid, assassinations and border-wars were constant, and eventually the empire began to crumble in waves of civil war and rebellion.

Finally, Atlantis was all but destroyed by The Cataclysm. The Gods turned upon Atlantis, smiting them for their wickedness and hubris. The island of Autochthea sank beneath the waves, Vril turned wild and ravaged the land, sorcery turned unstable and wild, and all the world was wracked by earthquakes, tsunamiís, volcanoes, and hurricanes.

Now Atlantis is a shadow of its former self, with only the continent and city still remaining under Atlantean control, with the rest of their colonies and cities rebelling and being conquered. Now humanity, and human kingdoms, are the dominant culture in the world.

Atlantis Time Line

Finally, thereís a timeline of the world, giving the dates of important events in the world, based on the Atlantean Calendar. Iím not recreating the whole thing, but thereís some neat world-building information contained, so Iím going to highlight some of the neater parts. For reference: All dates are based off either the founding of the Atlantean Empire, notated by the abbreviation A.E. after a date, or from the Cataclysm, notated as M.K. (Meta Kataklysmos). To give an idea of scale, the earliest event is -7,000 A.E. with the birth of the Lawgiver, the Atlantean Empire lasted until 3997 AE (Which is also 1 M.K.), and the current year is 509 M.K.

    957 A. E.
    King Atlas Amanhene dies on the morning of what should have been the first day of his thousandth year. Lightning splits the sky in a single bolt, big enough to be seen anywhere on the continent. Violet rain falls for seventeen hours and every bird in the empire coos the same mournful notes. He is the longest-lived Atlantean.

    1,862 A.E.
    The Golem War: The Great Sorcerer MalíSorkumar investigates the weird properties of fallen metals. Infusing the metals with his own power, he is able to capture the souls of the dead. Creating golems to hold the souls, he uses them as his slaves. Shut away for years at a time, furthering his alchemical and necromantic research, MalíSorkumar draws the suspicion of the Atlantean council. He is accused of black sorcery and a great battle takes place between the golems and the Atlanteans. The war lasts three weeks before MalíSorkumar escapes to what is now the Black Forest. The golems, not so easily driven off, are put to sleep and buried in a vault, deep
    in the mountains of a nameless and deserted island.

    2,950 A.E
    The Vril Gates of Atlantis
    Atlantean sorcerers create the first Vril Gates, allowing travel between any two of the massive, orichalcum structures. Trade and travel between the colonies increases, allowing even the least of their race to experience the outer reaches of the empire. Atlantean sorcerer-merchants control the Vril Gates; their wealth grows. Lesser merchants and humans still conduct trade over land and sea. The gates are soon dismantled when scholars discover that the space traveled between gates is actually the dreamstuff of the Elder Gods. Most of those who traveled through the gates manifest deformities of the mind and body. Though the council apprehends and slays most of these abominations, some escape into the wilds.

    505 M.K.
    The Golden Box
    Twelve boxes are delivered to twelve kings across the known world. The King of Atlantis receives a box followed by the Queen of Sheba, the Pharaoh of Khemit, The Erlking of the Black Forest, the Queen of Hesperia, then the kings of Ophir, Tarshesh, Khitai, Veda, Nazca, Quechua, and Aztlan. The boxes feel warm to the touch. Gilded and encrusted with precious gems, they draw praise from all who behold them. Inscribed on the side of each box, written in ∆nochian, shine the words ďand so his time shall passĒ. Atop the box sits a small mechanical time piece, assumed to open the box at the appointed time. No known form of scrying can penetrate the box and, if forced open before the time runs out, as in Tarshesh, fire burns the contents. Several kings have called for the best thieves in their realm to open the box but none have yet been successful.

    506 M.K.
    The Boy Usurper
    Zal, an albino boy from Turan, claiming to be a born of true Atlantean blood and raised by wild animals, emerges from the desert wastes. The boy is always in the company of an Owl-woman called Simurgh the Watcher and her coven of Owl-women disciples. Zal commands an army of varied Andamen. He makes himself known by seizing the Tarshesh outpost of Tarsharon, outside of Joppa in Zin. The boy-general is possessed of almost godlike power and arcane magics beyond his apparent 11 years of age. Every Beast-man he encounters falls to his knees and swears and oath of allegiance. The boy and his army travel in a large and ancient barge that moves across both land and sea with ease.

    506 M.K.
    The Black Circle Conflict
    In Awalawa, rumors of a powerful sect of black magicians called the Black Circle surfaces and a horde of Nethermen seethe from the interior of the jungle, infused with demonic power. Te king of Ophir mobilizes his army and calls upon Hesperia for help. The Nubian mercenaries, known as the Lions of Kandake, move to stand against the Black Horde and their Diabolist masters. A call goes out to the heroes of every nation to help stop the threat. In a shining moment of unity, many answer. Quick and bloody, the war culminates with the destruction of the demonic masterís Black Bone Tower. Before the world can catch its breath, the demonic menace that controlled the Black Circle rises from the rubble of the former tower, devouring the souls of the unlucky few too near the desolation. Sorcerers and shaman work countless spells, binding the demon into a large tree, and impale it with bronze spikes. The Nubian mercenaries pledge to watch over the tree, allowing none to pass their wall of thorn and stone.

    508 M.K.
    The Last Beast War
    Zal and his army land on the northern coast of Atlantis and the last Great Beast war begins. His large feral army, bolstered with Formorian mercenaries, clashes with the Atlanteans. The Atlanteans do not send their own Andamen for fear that they will turn and fight with The Usurper. The battle lasts for five months as Zal pushes towards the capital. The city of Atlantis prepares for a siege, but Zal and his forces suddenly board their great barge and leave the field of battle traveling east. The Formorian mercenaries are left to fend for themselves. Most are captured or killed. Zalís current location is unknown.

Next Time: Chapter Two: Character Creation

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Before we get to going through the steps of character creation, we have to go over the attributes first, as thatís a big thing many of your choices will affect.

Now, there are 10 attributes in Atlantis, and they work basically like any other game. They provide the baseline performance for your character, represent their inborn and natural abilities, and such. The biggest difference is that attributes in Atlantis can go into the negatives, 0 being the average ďstartingĒ rating, and are based on an objective scale not a relative one.
  • Intelligence (INT): Intellect, reason, problem solving. Used to figure stuff out, solve intellectual conundrums, do maths, etc. Most animals rate -7, -3 is a smart animal like a Dolphin or Parrot, 0 is an average human, +3 is a certified genius, and +5 would be a Da Vinci style polymath.
  • Perception (PER): Yep, itís an attribute, not a skill! This measures a being's overall sensory acuity, and ability to spot things they are looking for, as well as general situational awareness. -5 would be someone blind and deaf, 0 is a normal human, +4 most animals, and +8 would be an Owl or similar sense-based predator.
  • Will (WIL): Willpower, determination, and wisdom. How good you are at resisting temptation, bribery, torture, coercion, social influence, etc. -3 is a child, 0 is average human and most animals, +3 would be particularly stubborn individuals, +3 would be a dedicated philosopher.
  • Charisma (CHA): The Power of persuasion and personality. Used for pretty much any social acts. -5 would be a repellent boor, -3 a sullen introvert, 0 is average as always, +3 would be a natural diplomat, +5 an inspiring national leader.
  • Strength (STR): How much you can bench, how hard you can bash people, and classing bend bars/break gates. -8 is a mouse, -2 a child, +3 a donkey, +8 an Oxen.
  • Dexterity (DEX): Agility, coordination, and maneuverability. -3 would be a literal cow, +2 an athlete, +4 a natural gymnast, +7 a squirrel.
  • Constitution (CON): Being TOUGH, as well as endurance and stamina. How well you can resist disease, injury, poison, illness, hunger, etc. -4 you have Tuberculosis, -2 is a lazy couch potato, +2 an athlete, +4 a wild boar, +5 a marathon runner.
  • Speed (SPD): How fast you can move, and determines initiative in combat. -5 is you basically canít move period, -4 is a tortoise or sloth, +5 would be Usain Bolt, +10 a racehorse.
  • Combat Rating (CR): This attribute represents oneís inherent capacity and ability to engage in martial and combat situations, outside of particular combat training. Itís a combination of mental and physical abilities, cultural and social factors, biological traits, and personal tendency.
  • Magic Rating (MR): This determines a character's ability to sense and manipulate magic. Itís the magic equivalent of Combat Rating, basically.

There, now thatís covered, letís get into the first decision point:

Yep, if youíve played a fantasy RPG before you know how this works, basically itís picking your species. Race in this case determines your base attributes, HP, and gives several special abilities. Itís important to note though: These stats and abilities are based on the base for a Player Character Hero, not NPCís of the same race. You do not have to account for every racial ability for every NPC you might interact with. NPCís can have none, some, or all of their racial abilities on the GMís discretion.

Sand Devils, Lizard Men, Snake Men, Saurians

The Ahl-At-Rab are an artificial race, created by the Ophidians as a warrior-slave race, though with the collapse of the Ophidianís empire many now live independently. Ahl-At-Rab traditionally live in deserts, wastelands, and other hot and arid lands across the world in nomadic tribes of a few hundred individuals.

While they do not construct buildings or permanent settlements, they are skilled craftsmen and often make fine arms and armor out of copper, obsidian, and the hides of ďSand DragonsĒ. The Sand Dragons are a species of large desert-dwelling reptile used as a mount and best of burden by the Ahl-At-Rab, and are often trained to fight alongside their riders in battle. They prefer spears and clubs, both designed for throwing as well as close combat, along with war whips made of sand-dragon hide. Their armor is generally Sand Dragon hide with copper plating.

Most of the culture of the Ahl-At-Rab is based around their creation as a warrior race, and they live for the thrill of combat. Tribes will often attack even large groups of armed men without hesitation, and will fight to the death unless the situation is obviously hopeless. One reason for this is that the Ahl-At-Rab are highly carnivorous, and have no qualms about eating the bodies of the deceased after battle, or taking slaves from the defeated. While the slaves of the Ahl-At-Rab are generally treated quite well, they live under the knowledge that they are emergency rations for their masters in times of hunger.

Strangely, the Ahl-At-Rab passion for violence also extends to their arts. The Ahl-At-Rab often perform elaborate plays during ceremonies and religious gatherings which are considered to be elaborate and beautiful, often with themes of unrequited love, betrayal, and tragedy. Itís believed that many popular plays by other peoples are adaptations and reimaginings of Ahl-At-Rab dramas.

The Ahl-At-Rab are humanoid reptilian beings, standing an average of 2 meters in height (approx. 6í 5íí). They have scaly hides, which can be any shade of green, brown, tan, and even black. They have a crest along the top of the head, believed to help in thermoregulation, and females of the race have two crest of brightly colored feathers running from their temples to the base of their necks.

Most Ahl-At-Rab are stoic and serious, concerned foremost with survival. They categorize everything foremost as packmate, threat, or food. They do not fear death, especially death in combat, and will fight to the bitter end if they believe the battle has any merit or point at all.

The Ahl-At-Rabís highest attributes are in STR, PER, CR, and CON, and they have the highest base CON of any race. Their greatest weaknesses are in SPD, and MR, but both are only -1, suboptimal but not crippling. This means they are best suited to build as a physical combatant focused on durability over agility.

Racial Abilities
  • Cold Blooded
    Yep, the Ahl-At-Rab are reptilian, including being ectotherms. They donít need to drink much water and are relatively unaffected by extreme heat. They consider their CON to be tripled, with a minimum of +3, when making any CON check relating to dehydration or heat exposure. But on the flip side, they are much weaker against cold, taking a -3 penalty to resist cold exposure and cold-based attacks like ice magic, and if they are affected they get a -3 speed penalty for several rounds based on their CON score.

  • Acute Sense of Smell
    They have freaky snake-tongues that they smell with by flicking through the air. For the purposes of smelling things when making a perception check, they consider their PER to be tripled, with a minimum of +3.

  • Natural Weapons
    The Ahl-At-Rab have sharp teeth and claws they can use to fight, both are really weak though, like worse than a literal kitchen knife, but better than just punching people. Notably, if you're using your claws as the first attack in a round, you get to attack twice without penalty.

  • Poison Spray
    You can spit venom like a Spitting Cobra. Itís an Athletics+CR roll to hit. The venom blinds the target for a number of rounds equal to the Ahl-At-Rabís CON minus the targetís DEX and the PR of any helm they are wearing. While blinded they take a penalty to any action that uses sight equal to the Ahl-At-Rabís CON as well, for a minimum of -1. The Range is equal to the spitterís STR in meters.

Beastmen, Werebeasts, Chimeras
Not so much a single race, but a category of several related beings. Andamen are an alchemical fusion of human and animal, created by the Atlanteans to fight in the Beast Wars against the Ophidians. Each was formed for a certain task within the Atlantean war-machine, and were used as soldier-slaves by their Atlantean masters. When the war was over, they were mostly abandoned, and many have become totally independent since the Cataclysm. They are equally at home both in civilization and in the wilderness, and are often found in small enclaves among other races.

Racial Abilities
These abilities are shared among all Andamen regardless of type.
  • Blood of the Andaman
    If an Andaman feeds an animal of a similar type to themselves milk mixed with the Andamanís blood over the period of a week, this creates a mystical bond with the Andaman. The animal will consider the Andaman itís friend, and will be easier to command and train. Mechanically this manifests in a +10 to Animal Handling rolls regarding that particular beast.

  • Silver Allergy
    Due to their alchemical birth, Andamen are naturally averse to silver. Prolonged contact with silver causes a sever allergic reaction, causing irritation and discomfort as long as they are touching the metal. This manifests as a -5 penalty to all actions if the Andaman is in contact with a silver object for more than 2 rounds until they break contact with it. Silver weapons also do double damage, and wounds from them take twice as long to heal.


The Anubim were created to be guards, enforcers, and aids for Atlantean generals and sorcerors during the Beast Wars. They stand about 1.5 meters (Approx. 5í) tall, and have lean, wiry builds. They have the heads of jackals, and short fine fur which is generally jet black or dusky gold.

They are serious and even-tempered, and known for their loyalty and faithfulness. Anubim never break their word, will gladly die for the sake of a loved one, and will follow their chosen companions to the ends of the earth.

Anubim are the most clever and intellectual of the Andamen, and due to their servitude among the Atlantean sorcerers have carried down a secretive tradition of magic among themselves.

Anubimís highest skills are in INT, PER, SPD, and CR, with no negatives in any stat. They have no real weaknesses, and are the best fit for an Andaman magic-user by default.

Racial Abilities
  • Natural Weapons
    Anubim can bite, once again weaker than any actual weapon, and they donít get the double attack ability the Ahl-At-Rab do.

  • Beast Language
    Anubim can communicate with jackals, dogs, wolves, and other canines to a greater degree than other races. Mechanically this gives them a +3 bonus to their CHA with a minimum of +3 to Animal Handling rolls involving canines.

  • Acute Sense of Smell
    Anubim, being canine, have very sensitive noses. When making Perception checks, or Tracking rolls based on smell, they can double their PER, with a minimum of +2.

  • Manís Best Friend
    Anubim are the best suited to working with other races, but in particular humans. When acting in a coordinated effort with a human both they and the Anubim gain a bonus equal to triple the Anubimís PER with a minimum of +3. Other races get half the bonus rounded up. This applies only to the first dice action in the round, with the maximum number of participants equal to twice the Anubimís INT, minimum of 2. This bonus lasts a number of rounds equal to the Anubimís PER +5, minimum of 5 rounds. This can only be done once per day.


Asena are powerful trackers and warriors. They stand an average of 1.8m (Approx. 6í) tall, and weigh over 115kg (Approx. 250 lbs). They share hair colors with the animal they are based on, blac, grey, browns, and rarely white. Asena are relentless, and known for baring fierce grudges. They are imminently practical, favoring strength and cunning above all else. Leaders are whoever is the largest, strongest, and cleverest among them, and they have no respect for weakness.

Asena are highest rated in SPD and CR, less so in WIL, STR, and CON. Their only weakness is in MR at a -2.

Racial Abilities
  • Natural Weapons
    The same as the Ahl-At-Rab, claws and teeth, same damage, can double attack with claws for your first action.

  • Relentless
    Once per session, an Asena can add triple their WIL, minimum of +3, to any roll as long as it pertains to tracking or pursuing a target or quarry.

  • Acute Sense of Smell
    Identical to the Anubim ability.

  • Wolf Pack
    Asena are masters of coordinated group combat. When the Asena is part of a group, they can provide a bonus equal to twice their PER (Minimum of +2) to all damage done to a single target. The group must surround the target, and make a concerted effort to attack it, and the Asen a has to act first for everyone else to get the bonus.

Jaguar Men

Balam are large and powerfully built, standing 1.8m (Approx. 6í) and weighing around 85kg (Approx. 200 lbs). They are clever and crafty, with an individualistic streak. Most Balam focus on their own personal well-being first and foremost. They are quick to anger and prefer to solve most problems with physical force. Most Balam have a reverence for their ancestors, and many wear jewelry made from the teeth and bones of notable ancestors.

Balam have high STR, SPD, CR, DEX, and CON, but are weak in CR and average in all others. Very much focused on emphasizing the physical over the mental.

Racial Abilities
  • Natural Weapons
    Same as Asena and Ahl-At-Rab, claws and fangs, free double attack, etc.

  • Cat Prowess
    Balam can leap a number of meters vertically equal to their STR plus SPD ratings, and when falling they subtract their DEX in meters (Minimum of 2 meters) when determining fall damage.

  • Night Vision
    Balam can see in very dim light, and any penalties due to darkness are halved, and they receive a bonus to Perception rolls equal to triple their PER (minimum of +3). They canít see in total darkness any better than anyone else though.

  • Climber
    Balam can add twice their DEX (Minimum of +2) to any Athletics rolls when climbing.

Owlmen, Birdmen, Flyers

The Uluka were created as aerial forces for the Atlantean military, and originally just looked like normal humans only with large bird wings on their backs, but over time they developed into their current forms. Uluka are lithe and wiry, standing about 1.5 to 1.75 meters (Approx. 5í) tall but only weighing about 50kg (Approx 110lbs). The majority of Uluka live in a small flying city created by lashing together many ancient Atlantean sky-fortresses together with chains and bridges. The city's magic is slowly failing though, and the resident Uluka are seeking a place high in the mountains to settle the city. Most Uluka are quiet and introspective, and unfortunately very plain spoken. An Uluka will always tell you exactly how they feel and what they think as honestly and straightforwardly as possible.

Uluka are highest in SPD, INT, PER, and WIL, and have no real weaknesses, making them excellent all-arounders and generalists.

Racial Abilities
  • Lords of the Sky
    Uluka can fly! When airborne they consider their speed to be tripled (Minimum of +6).

  • Silent Flight
    In addition to that, they share their Owl relationís skill at stealthy and silent flight. When airborne, they can add triple their DEX (Minimum of +3) to any Stealth roll.

  • Beast Language
    Uluka can communicate with any bird, to a limited degree. This gives them a bonus equal to their CHA +3 (Minimum of +3) to any Animal Handling roll involving avian life.

  • Owl Perception
    Uluka have incredible senses of sight and hearing. THey receive a bonus to any sight or sound based Perception checks equal to triple their PER (Minimum of +3), and also reduce any range penalties for ranged weapons by one range step.

  • Rarified Air
    As they often fly high in thin air, Uluka need much less oxygen than other races. They operate normally in thin air or low-oxygen environments, and can hold their breath twice as long as normal.

Lion Men, Kings of Beasts, Feral Lords

Nemeans were created to be commanders and generals of the Andamen during the Beast Wars. They are mostly golden furred, though rarely a black haired Nemean is born. Both males and females are equally fierce warriors and commanders. Most Nemeans stand at around 2 meters ( 6í5íí) and weigh between 90 and 130 kgs (Approx. 200 to 300 lbs). Nemeans possess an innate sense of entitlement and superiority. They assume the deference of other Andamen to them. While this attitude is off putting to most, Nemeans are loyal to the end to those they consider friends and companions.

Nemeans have high CHA and CR, with lower bonuses in WIL, STR, and CON, and a heavy penalty to MR. Nemeans are best suited to physical builds, but also favor social skills.

Racial Abilities
  • Natural Weapons
    Same as weíve seen before for the Claws & Bite combo alongside Balam, Asena, and Ahl-At-Rahb. Notably, Nemean bite attacks do 1 DR more than the other races with similar abilities.

  • Lord of the Beast-Men
    Nemeans are the natural leaders of other Andamen. When interacting with other Beastmen socially, the Nemeans receive a bonus of triple their CHA (minimum of +3).

  • Beast Language
    Nemeans can communicate with any canine, feline, aquatic, or avian life, giving them a bonus equal to their CHA (Minimum of +1) to Animal Handling skill rolls involving those creatures.

  • Lionís Roar
    Nemeans can loose a terrific roar, that can inspire allies or strike fear into their enemies. If used to inspire, the Nemean gives their allies a bonus to one dice roll (Designated by the Nemean) equal to twice the Nemeanís CHA (minimum of +2).

    If instead used to terrify their enemies, then those opposed to the Nemean must make a WIL roll, with a Degree of Difficulty (modifier) equal to triple the Nemeanís Charisma (minimum of +3). If they fail, they suffer a penalty equal to the Nemeanís CHA for a number of rounds equal to the Nemeanís CON+1.

    This can only be used in either way a number of times per day equal to the Nemeanís CON (minimum of once per day).


Taurans are massive, standing a towering 2.25 to 2.5m (7í5íí to 8í) tall, and weighing between 136 and 181 kgs (300 to 400lbs). They have a reputation as bullies and blowhards. They live life to the fullest and eat, drink, fight, and love to excess. THey have a fondness for jewelry, and often wear many golden rings on their horns, nose, ears, and neck.

Taurans have the highest base STR of any race, as well has high CON and CR, but face penalties in their INT and MR.

Racial Abilities
  • Natural Weapons
    Taurans can use their horns as weapons, and as a nice thing they actually do as much damage as a real weapon!... Well, a knife but still.

  • Bull Charge
    But this is the real reason to use them! A Tauran can charge an enemy with their horns, with a -5 penalty to hit, but if itís successful you hit them for 15 DR+STR, and knocks them off their feet, requiring the enemy to spend an action to stand back up. In reference, thatís enough to one-shot most regular enemies in the game. Mind, if you miss you lose an action next round, and on a Critical Failure you ram into something else and knock yourself for a loop. You have to make a CON roll with a Degree of Difficulty of -10, and if you fail you suffer a -2 penalty for 6-CON rounds (minimum of one round).

  • Strong as a Bull
    Tauranís are tough enough that they keep fighting even after other raceís would be dying. When a Tauran hits 0 HP, they can continue to stay active for a number of rounds equal to twice their CON (Minimum of 2 rounds).

Gillmen, Mermen

Developed for naval, undersea, and marine combat. Tritons were originally more human, and amphibious, but now are almost totally aquatic. They stand between 1.5 and 1.8 meters (5 to 6 foot) and weigh between 68 and 90kgs (150 to 200 pounds). They have green or blue skin, with red and gold accents, with large solid black eyes. Tritons are known for being clear and even tempered thinkers who place the best interests of society above their own. They are highly sought after as tacticians and diplomats.

Tritons have high INT and SPD, with lower bonuses in WIL and DEX, and a minor penalty to MR. They are well rounded, with a slight bent towards intellectual skills.

Racial Abilities
  • Aquatic
    Tritons are naturally aquatic beings, and are most comfortable underwater. They can move at triple their SPD (minimum of +3) when in water, and can breathe freely. When on dry land though, they act as if their SPD is -1 for the purposes of distance moved, but not initiative or other uses.

    Tritons can also only survive out of water for CON+1 hours (Minimum of 1 hour) before suffocating. To counter this most Tritons wear a small water bladder on their necks to hydrate their gills. This allows them to live out of water indefinitely as long as the bladder is refilled every 4 hours.

  • Beast Language
    Tritons can communicate with any aquatic life, for the standard CHA+3 (minimum of +3) bonus to Animal Handling skills involving water-dwelling creatures.

  • Night Vision
    Tritons can see even in the crushing darkness of the deepest seas. Penalties from low light and darkness are halved, and they have a bonus to Perception rolls in low light equal to triple their PER (minimum of +3). This does not apply in pitch or total darkness though.

Little Gods, God-Kings, Noble Creators, Lords of the Earth, Man Shapers

Atlanteans hold themselves to be the greatest of all races upon the Earth. Born, fully formed as a race, without physical, social , or mental evolution, they believe themselves to be the destined masters of the world. A confident, arrogant race that seeks to rule over all others.

Atlanteans act without any sense of humility, shame, or fear of failure. Any setbacks or defeats are recontextualized as ďall part of the planĒ. When their empire fell, it wasnít a collapse, but a tactical retreat in line with Atlantean interest. Even now when they hold nowhere near the position of they once did, they argue that the future is theirs to grasp, and seem to be scheming some new way to re-establish their dominion of the world.

Atlanteans look very similarly to humans. They stand at least 1.8m (6 feet) tall and weigh between 68 and 90kgs ( 150 to 200lbs). Where they differ is in the details. They have skin the color of polished mahogany or deep bronze, with long kinky black hair that they wear in oiled locks. Their eyes are gold or emerald-green, or a mix of both, and their lips are black as pitch. Atlanteans are also, every one, perfectly formed and beautiful.

Non-Atlanteans see them as cold, arrogant, and condescending, Atlanteans would agree as to them most other races seem like children to them, lost and needing guidance. They believe they have a divine right to rule over the world, and that their acts are divinely correct.

Most races also see the Atlanteans as depraved and hedonistic, but to the Atlanteans the world is theirs to experience and master. Sex is casual and common, drugs are seen as a route to enlightenment, and food is to be consumed and enjoyed. The world is their paradise, and they will experience every bit of it they can.

Atlanteans have minor bonuses in their INT and PER, and a minor weakness in their -1 to STR, but the main defining feature for them is the +4 they have to MR, the highest base among the races, making them by far the best choice by default for a dedicated magic character.

Racial Abilities
  • Aura of the Gods
    Atlanteans are born to rule, and over the centuries of their Empire the rest of the world has internalized their inherent mastery. Atlanteans receive a bonus of double their CHA to any Leadership rolls.

  • Unearthly Beauty
    Atlanteans are perfectly, and almost supernaturally, beautiful. Atlanteans add double their CHA (minimum of +2) to any social situation where their physical beauty would be an advantage.

  • Vril Masters
    Atlanteans are the masters of manipulating Vril energies. This is a bit complicated, but Iíll try and give a rough idea of what this does. First, whenever an Atlantean uses a Vril item, they add their MR rating (minimum of +2) to the Vril Itemís effective rating. Vril items are basically ancient Atlantean magi-tech crystal gadgets from before the collapse. Mechanically this means they add that bonus to some aspect of the item: Weapons can have their DR improved, armor its PR, vehicles get better SPD, etc.

    The second bonus is that when drawing power from Vril-enriched areas (Vril Pyramids, Sacred Mounds, Holy Sites, etc. High Magic places basically) they get to double their MR when it comes to drawing temporary Hero Points from those sites. In cliffís notes: You can tap into magical places like your Stonehenges and Great Pyramids to get supercharged with mojo, represented by a mess of temporary Hero Points (The systemís Bennies, Fate Points, etc) based on your MR. Atlanteans get more Hero Points for doing this that other races.

  • Beast Lore
    Because of their mastery of the natural world, Atlanteans know the name of very east that crawls, swims, or flies by making an INT roll with a Degree of Difficulty determined by the GM. This ability also covers their authority over the Andamen, who were created to obey them. Atlanteans will be the last to be attacked by an Andaman, and in social situations they game a bonus of 2+CHA (minimum of 2, and does not stack with Aura of the Gods).

  • Vice
    All Atlanteans are afflicted with some vice, a practice or behavior generally seen as immoral, depraved, degrading, or inappropriate. In essence this is an addiction, and anything that someone can be considered ďaddictedĒ to qualifies. The Atlantean must indulge in their vice once per day, and suffer a cumulative -1 penalty to their INT, WIL, MR, and CHA for each day they go without indulging.

Now for the Mythology Corner! Where I explain some of the real mythological references in the game! Now, the Ahl-At-Rab Iím not sure about. From what my research can tell me I think itís supposed to be Arabic meaning something like ďPeople of the MastersĒ or similar, but Iím not sure. Any ideas?

Now for the others, it goes a lot easier. Andaman is a completely made up term as far as I can tell. The closes is itís a name for a chain of islands in the south Pacific with an unknown etymology, so thatís not much help. Anubim are obviously based on Anubis the ancient Egyptian Jackal-Headed god of funerary rituals and mummification. Asena is the name of a mythical she-wolf from shamanic Turkic mythology. Balam is simply the Mayan word for jaguar. Uluka is the mythical owl companion of Lakshmi, Hindu goddess of Wealth and Prosperity. Nemean is a reference to the Nemean Lion, one of the monsters killed by Heracles in Greek mythology. Taurans are from Taurus, latin for bull, and Triton is the herald and son of Poseidon, the greek god of the Sea.

Atlantis is obviously based on the metaphorical and fictional city from the works of Plato, combined with popular pseudo-science and New Age nonsense. Vril is an energy from the 1871 science fiction novel The Coming Race by Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

And I think thatíll do for one update! Next time Iíll include the rest of the races in Character Creation Continued: More Races!

Wapole Languray fucked around with this message at 05:43 on May 4, 2017

Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

God, when you cover the origins of the aliens, poo poo. That killed my interest in Conspiracy X as soon as I learned them.

Also, speaking of Atlanteans...

Wapole Languray fucked around with this message at 03:52 on May 5, 2017


Wapole Languray
Jul 4, 2012

Character Creation Continued: The Rest of the Races
Yep, letís finish up the rest of the races, this post shouldnít be quite as massive as the last.

Men, The Earth Children, Children of Edom

Humans are human. Currently the dominant and most populous race, though they are not united by any single nation or polity. What can I say, theyíre human. There are great human civilizations, and humans living in primitive stone-age tribes, their hallmark is diversity and flexibility.

Racial Attributes
Donít apply. Yes, thatís right. Technically, itís all 0ís across the board, as appropriate for a typical human, but it doesnít matter.

Racial Abilities
  • Inheritors of the Earth
    This is why the Attributes donít matter. Human heroes get to allot 5 points in their attributes however they want, and if they desire can reduce an attribute to a negative number (maximum of -2 to one attribute, or -1 to two attributes) to increase others. Then, they get an additional +2 to add to any attribute of their choice. This gives a total of +7 to add, or +9 if negatives are taken.

  • Zeal
    Humans have a greater drive to succeed, and prove themselves, than other races. The Hero may add double their WIL (Minimum of +2) to a number of rolls per adventure equal to their CON (Minimum of once).

  • Tyche
    Being the favored of the Gods, humans can enforce their will upon the universe, at least in a small way. Human heroes can force a reroll of any dice action that affects them directly, a number of times per session equal ti their WIL (minimum of once per session). The roll need not be made by the hero, and can apply to GM rolls or rolls by other players. The reroll must affect the hero, and canít be used to help others. If the roll affects multiple people, the reroll result only applies to the Human Hero, not others affected by it.

The Elders, The Children of Fire, Chaos Folk, The Others, Moon Children, The People Under the Mound

The Jinn were the first race born into the world, spawned from the dreams of the Elder Gods made of the raw material of creation. They are, by nature, unlike any other living thing.

The Jinn have never built empires or nations, and see such aspirations as strange, the ruling of land and people an inherently amusing and curious concept to the Jinn. Likewise, they do not engage in warfare. While individuals may be fierce warriors as ag group they have no interest in conquest or using violence as anything but a last resort. The Jinn are also, in general, a disappearing race. Though no one knows the exact reason why, most can go their entire lives without seeing a Jinn even once, and there may be only one million left active in the world.

The reason this is mysterious is because Jinn are not born, and do not die, like any other being. Instead Jinn live through ever repeating cycles of reincarnation. In a single form they have finite lifespans, though the exact length varies from Jinn to Jinn, sometimes as long as a human, sometimes hundreds of years. Upon their death, their essence returns to their Jar, which is hidden somewhere in the world where they are reincarnated some unknown time afterwards as a new being. Reincarnated jinn lack much of their memories, but retain some bits of knowledge and an innate wisdom.

Jinn are physically distinct: Their skin is the color of old parchment, or dark of cold, with hair of any imaginable color or many colors together. The skin of a Jinn appears to be covered in tattoos, resembling flowing script in a mysterious language. These are the written form of the murmurings of the Elder Gods that give each Jinn form. It is said that if all the writings could be collected from every Jinn and organized, you would read a complete history of the world from creation to the modern day.

All Jin have a single horn upon their head, growing from a random location. No two Jinn have the same horn in the same spot on their head. These horns can be any shape or form. When Jinn speak black smoke issues from their mouths, and a small perpetual flame burns above their heads. THis flame, and the Jinnís eyes, change color based upon their moods. Blue for happiness, black for hate, red for rage, and green for any other emotions. A Jinnís shadow is only visible in moonlight, and moves independently of the Jinn themselves.

Jinn have no set height or weight, and vary massively from individual to individual.

Jinn act very oddly to most beings: They start sentences seemingly in the middle, or trail off in the middle of speech. They are prone to seemingly spontaneous emotional outbursts, communicate through strange gestures and cryptic phrasing. This is due to the different way the Jinni see the world, and while many try to be more coherent to the younger races, others donít see why they should bother.

Jinn are fascinated by any form of creation or art or performance that involves emotional or spiritual expression, regardless of the quality or morality of the performance. Jinn will listen to a virtuoso singer with the same pleasure as a wailing child, or watch an execution as attentively as a play.

By default Jinn have high ratings in MR, WIL and PER, with a -1 to STR, but similar to humans, the default attributes donít matter much.

Racial Abilities
  • Child of Fire and Ash
    Because of this ability. This allows Jinn to, essentially, respec their Attributes. How it works is as follows: The Jinn Hero must make a large bonfire, and lay within the flames speaking of the new person they wish to be. The fire does not burn, and the Jinn will slowly fall asleep within the flames. The metamorphosis takes one month. At the end of a month, the fire will die, and the Jinn will reawaken. THe Jinnís appearance and memories are the same, but their attributes and personality will have changed within the flame.

    Mechanically this allows you to swap around your attributes. You canít change any of the numbers, only change which attribute they are associated with. So, a Jinnís default bonuses of +1, +2, +3, and -1 canít be changed, but you can change which attributes those ratings are assigned to.

  • Chaos Speech
    The natural language of the Jinn is incomprehensible to other races. Jinn can communicate with others of their race using a combination of words, environmental colors, smells, and sounds in the area. This language works just as well as any other, but is totally unintelligible to non-Jinni and appears as gibberish combined with senseless movements and gesture.

  • Soul Names
    All Jinn keep their true name secret, names that they have had in every incarnation since the worldís beginning. These names define the Jinn, and tie them into the very fabric of creation.

    Someone who knows the soul name of a Jin can use it to weaken a Jinn, reducing one of the Jinnís attributes by 5 points for a number of rounds equal to the speakerís WIL (minimum of one). The target Jinn must hear the name being said, and it can only be done once a week.

    But, the Jinn can also use their name to access great power. Once per week a Jinn Hero can speak their name aloud to warp the very fabric of creation to their will. This allows the Jinni to add 2D20+WIL to any one roll, or to a DR of their choice. But, this is exhausting, and once finished the Jinni must rest for 7 days minus CON (minimum of one day) to recuperate. If the Hero resists and stays active, they take a -2 penalty to all actions for each day they should rest but have not.

  • Mercurial Nature
    This is a big one, so pay attention! First this lets Jinni shapeshift! Once per day they can turn into any living creature from as small as a mouse up to their normal size. They keep the form until the rising or setting of the sun. Not 12 hours, but literally when the sun rises or sets. The Jinni can revert to their normal form at will. The only way to tell a shapeshifted Jinn is that the new forms eyes will be green. The Jinni gets all the basic natural abilities of the animal in question.

    The second effect is moreÖ complex. In essence, Jinn are highly susceptible to powerful magics. Whenever they are affected by a spell with a total effect of 13 or more (Pretty powerful magic) or whenever they are in a powerful magical field such as a Vril Circle or Vril Line whose level is 3 levels or more above the Jinns CON they must make a WIL roll. If because of a spell, the difficulty is the amount of spell levels over 13, if a high magic field itís the difference between the Jinniís CON and the magic fieldís level.

    If the Jinni gets a critical success (Result for the roll is 20+) they are unaffected and they gain a bonus of +3 to the next resistance roll in the same adventure. If a success (Result of 11-19) then nothing happens. Anything worse, you get to roll on a big honking table of magical effects that happen! These range from minor affects that last a few hours or days, up to permanent changes. You have to get fantastically unlucky to get a permanent effect though. Of note there appears to be a type in the results chart, which as far as I can see is unintentional: The critical failure result states ďThe Hero Rolls on Chart B and the effect is permanentĒ. WhichÖ isnít right? There are three result charts: A is effects that last a few hours, B is a few days, and C is permanent. Rolling a 1 on chart B makes you roll on chart C, but thatís the only way to get to chart C. A critical failure is the only way to roll on chart B though, so Iím assuming it was supposed to just say to roll on chart B, then from there you may be forced to then roll on chart C as a result of that. That seems to be the most reasonable interpretation, and Iím assuming the ďand the effect is permanentĒ bit was supposed to be cut but snuck through editing.

    Some of these effects are really fun though! Not all are even bad, lots are just weird, and could be situationally useful. Hereís some examples:

    Jinniís legs shrivel up and she grows a dolphin
    tail. Movement on dry land is reduced to a drag
    and crawl. Water movement +2 SPD.

    All latches, locks, and buckles open in a 5m
    radius around the Jinni.

    Can only subsist on strong tea made from

    The Jinni breathes fire when he talks (DR5).

    Blood is now fire. Those that draw blood must
    make a Evade roll with a DoD equal to the
    damage done or suffer a DR5 fre splash.

    The Jinniís skin becomes hard polished
    obsidian (PR 5), -2 DEX.

  • Metal Allergy
    Because of their Mercurial Nature, Orichalcum and Iron are anathema to a Jinn. The touch of these metals will stop a Jinn from changing shape, revert them back to their natural form if they are in another, and weapons made of these materials do additional damage equivalent to a Strength 5 poison.

Ape-men, the Tree Folk, The Lawgiverís Children, Lemures

Once rulers of a great empire of their own in another epoch, modern Lemurians have lost all interest in conquest or temporal power. Instead they prefer to seek personal fulfillment over a grand racial destiny. They do not bemoan their current situation, and are more than happy in their current lot.

Overall Lemurians are known as emotionally reserved and peaceful, but have several questionable or distasteful cultural practices largely based upon the fact that the Lemurians are by nature selfish and unconcerned about others. The opinions and beliefs of other beings are of no consequence to a Lemurian. This has led to most of the population of the great Ape-men living on their home continent in isolated tree-cities, uncaring of the affairs of the outer world. Not justÖ uninterested but actively apathetic, violently so. Lemuria is a fortress island, defended by the most advanced technology in the world, and only those that interest the Lemurians are allowed access. Many a group of refugees or exiles have appealed to the Lemurians for asylum only to be turned away without care. The Lemurians blame the other races for the ruination of the world, and they can deal with the consequences themselves.

Lemurians are roughtly the same size as a human, standing 1.8m (Approx. 6í) tall and weighing 90-136kg (Approx. 200-300 lbs). Most have brown or black fur, though rarely they are born with golden or white hides.

Lemurians have a massive +3 in both INT and STR, an respectable +1 in dex as well, making them very well suited to a wide range of skills. Their only real weakness is a -2 MR, as the Lemurians are very much not meant to be using magic and prefer technological solutions to their problems.

Racial Abilities
  • Primordial Might
    Like their non sentient ape cousins, Lemurians are ridiculously strong for their size. A number of times per session equal to their CON (minimum of once) a Lemurian can apply a bonus of five times their WIL (Minimum of +5) to any roll involving Strength.

  • Masters of the Natural World
    This abilities does a lot of things, all relating to the fact that Lemurians live in harmony with the natural world and are generally more in tune with nature than other races.

    First, at character creation a Lemurian Hero chooses an attribute (MR and CR included), and a type of environment they favor (Desert, Ocean, Forest, Savannah, Jungle, etc). When in that environment, the Lemurian can once per day double the chosen attribute after a short period of concentration lasting one round. This doubled attribute lasts for the duration of the current scene.

    Also, when climbing, running, jumping, dodging, or generally moving through their chosen environment, the Hero gains a bonus equal to their INT (Minimum of +2) to any rolls.

    Lemurians are intuitively familiar with the growth and nurturing of plants. A Lemurian Hero can grow plants twice as fast, and four times as large or small than normal. THey also get to add double their INT (minimum of +2) to any Lore (Agriculture) roll.

    Finally as a related bonus, Lemurians add double their INT (minimum of +2) to any roll involving working with or crafting wood. Now, on itís surface this seems TOTALLY useless! Yeah, thereís a good number of very nasty weapons that are mostly or entirely wood. Plus, siege engines, defensive constructions, and good old demolition.

  • The Flow of Heavenly Water
    Essentially, by using geomantic feng-shui gardening and landscaping a Lemurian hero can move Ley Lines a distance equal to a number of meters 100x their INT. It takes 5 hours per 100m moved. Now, this seems useless if you donít know what Vril and Ley Lines do, but itís a subtle sort of benefit. At the simplest level, the area around a Ley Line is unnaturally fertile and healthy, and an intersection of two create an energy field that can make tens of meters super-fertile. More potent uses lets you create or sabotage Places of Power which can do all sorts of crazy poo poo, not the least of which is cripple an entire city via guerilla gorilla gardening.

  • Logic of the Lawgiver
    Essentially, Lemurians can use their super-sized intellects to supplement basically any other action. THey get to add double their INT to a number rolls per adventure equal to their WIL (minimum of once). This allows Lemurians, who already have pretty high INT to, in a pinch, get massively better at basically anything.

Brutes, Throwback, the Misshapen

Nethermen are another slave-soldier race created by the Atlanteans, the precursors to the more successful Andaman. They intended to change human soldiers into a race that is strong, hardy, and easy to manipulate. Instead what they got was an entire race of bloodthirsty, violent, psychopaths who were super-resistant to magic and impossible to control. The Nethermen ďproblemĒ was solved by loading as many as they could onto a literal Ark and shoving it out to sea to hopefully never be seen again. It didnít really work, and Nethermen are now found around the world, though in dwindling numbers.

This because they have short lifespans, 50-60 years on average if they arenít killed, which most are. About half the population are also born sterile, and so the race is on a slow decline to extinction. Most nethermen live in primitive nomadic tribes or small fortified villages in the harshest wildernesses of the world, but some do integrate into human society, often as mercenaries, guards, and general ďmuscleĒ.

Nethermen are basically neanderthals in appearance, looking like bigger, beefier, and slower humans with mottled brown skin. They do have one notable trait: Their eyes are white, with black sclera, looking ďreversedĒ from other races.

Now, personality wise Nethermen are possibly the most alien of the various races. They are, to a man, total psychopaths. They lack the ability to feel fear of any sort, and cannot form emotional attachments with others. Nethermen see everything through the lense of their personal interest. All that matters to a Netherman is their own personal needs and desires. This does not mean they are evil though, Nethermen can operate in ďnormalĒ society perfectly well and are able to intellectually understand and even imitate the thoughts and emotions they canít feel. JustÖ donít put too much trust in them unless youíre sure that youíve giving one the best possible offer.

-1 INT, -1 DEX, -2 MR, they are not very bright, a bit sluggish, and terrible and spellcasting, but christ, +3 STR and +2 CON make them wonderfully suited for a big beefy bruiser.

Racial Abilities
  • Magic Immunity
    Atlantean alchemy accidentally imbued Nethermen with an inherent resistance to magic. A Netherman adds double their CON to any resistance roll regarding magical effects, and any damage done by magic or magic weapons is reduced by twice the CON of the Netherman. It only affects the magical part though, so if a magic weapon also does mundane damage, that goes through as normal.

  • Too Dumb to Die
    Nethermen are so tough they can shrug off crippling injuries that would end the career of any other Hero. How this works is as follows: This can be activated a number of times per adventure for every -1 the Netherman has in INT (minimum of once per adventure) when activated, for a number of rounds equal to three times the Heroís CON the Netherman Hero automatically succeeds all Death Saves and ignores critical hit penalties. Critical hits have a chance to either instantly KO or add a penalty of -5 on all rolls. Nethermen with this activated still make the necessary rolls and still are given the KO or penalties, but arenít affected by them until the duration of the ability is over. The Death Saves is easier to explain: If this is active and the Netherman hits 0 HP they are knocked unconscious, but unless they take more damage afterwards they will recover completely with no need for medical attention and no permanent or lasting injuries.

  • Eaters of the Dead
    Nethermen can eat the heart of a dead being, as long as theyíre freshly killed, and after devouring it they gain one of their innate abilities at a level equal to the Heroís CON (If applicable of course). The Netherman can then use that ability a number of times also equal to their CON before it is expended. As a side effect though, any vice, disadvantage, or weakness possessed by the dead is also transferred.

And thatís it for the races! Next time: Cultural Packages and Professions!

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