Player Characters

In stillness a silent weight
Pausing as the minutes each evaporate

A desire to leave a scar
To raise a voice from within the dark

Decaying, cascading, existence falls apart
Around me, within me
So I must leave my mark

This is a sacrifice
To prove that I was here
This is a sacrifice
To prove I was at all
And when my voice ceases to be
Will the echo still ring loudly?
And when there’s nothing left of me
Will my memory still go on?

A flicker, transitory state
An echo of an instance that burns a way

A moment, a shard of time
A solitary thread that threatens to unwind

Decaying, cascading, existence falls apart
Around me, within me
So I must leave my mark

(Bragg’s last lament, recorded sometime near the end)

Carlass grunts. The battle has moved and left her, shattered and useless, in its wake. She struggles to raise her head, blinking away tears and fresh blood. The demon that broke her is now facing Captain Breaker, its slender waxen form incongruous against the great dark bulk of the Ogrun. But Breaker is already done, his heavy armour smashed where the demon’s lance tore through it, his arm and chest slicked with thick red blood, now congealing on his hands in amongst the soot that he had used for disguise. The fiend is silent and swift but careful, moving with infernal grace as it prepares to deliver the killing blow, and Breaker has a desperate, hunted look on his face: he knows he is done for, that he cannot run and he cannot win. Just behind this butcher’s tableau the Fire Monk, Shara-jin, stands amongst a pile of murdered Ogrun, her whip dangling uselessly in one hand, looking shocked and confused as if she still has not caught up with the pace of the battle. The anti-magic manacles on her wrist glow with power, and it is clear that she desperately wants to invoke Menoth’s grace, but even Menoth has abandoned them in this dark hole. Shara-jin, too, is covered in blood, listing on one twisted leg and breathing heavily with the pain of her wounds. Near Shara-jin are scattered the remains of their employer, Katrina; her upper body lies on the pile of slaughtered Ogrun, staring slack-jawed at the ceiling, and shreds of the rest of her decorate the charnel pile, some still twitching. Behind them the mysterious Rhulic dwarf, Anya, charges in to attack the demon. A whirling dervish of tightly-contained murder, she runs lightly across the Ogrun bodies, sword in hand, preparing to strike the demon to its flanks as it focuses on Breaker. On the far side of the battle field Alyvia is crouched over her gun, desperately reloading. Her anti-magic manacles also glow, as forgetting their presence she briefly thinks to invoke some deadly charm, only to feel the first sting of their potent restraint. The gun-mage is now just a pistolleer. And no pistolleer will mark this beast. Alyvia’s face is streaked with livid tracks of some vicious whip, one arm moving delicately with pain. She will not last once Breaker is done. None of them will.

Carlass’s face sinks back to the dusty floor, and she swoons briefly. But her anger resurges, and she struggles back to the hellish reality. Her flesh briefly responds to the ever-familiar spark of rage, tries to knit itself together, to regenerate, but it is done. Every one of her kind knows of this moment, when their special regenerative powers hit their limit. Days of starvation, exhaustion, running and hiding, the constant batterings, have worn out even her prodigious powers of regeneration. When first a Trollkin is wounded, the skin heals itself in an instant, eagerly and without asking; push it too soon within a day, and it will respond sluggishly but willing enough; when need calls a third time, the body will drag itself back from any indignity, though the effort is a screaming horror; but after that, well, that is enough for any life. Carlass’s body is done. She tries to raise herself on one arm but finds it shattered – when she does not know, she thought the demon just pierced her chest with one clean strike but now as she feels the knitting fail and tries to take stock she realizes that she has been ravaged: it gutted her from navel to sternum, her arm is smashed on its whole length, and blood is pouring from one leg that cannot move at her will but seems to twitch with a pointless energy all of its own. When did this even happen? It was a moment, a blink, a shard of time, and her whole life was wrenched from her.

Still, wounds that would send a human straight to Urcaen do not carry the same weight for one of her kind. There is yet time. There is always time, is there not, to suffer a little more? It is the curse of her kind. She rolls a little, shifts and grits her teeth against the waves of pain that come rolling in over the broken reefs of arm and ribs. Under here somewhere … yes … there … an arm that still works. She drags it out in tortured shifts and starts that feel as if they take an eternity, and pushes herself upward, blinking back tears of agony, half onto her knee.

Carlass grunts. What had seemed like an eternity was just a few heartbeats. Alyvia has loaded her gun and is about to fire, Breaker is still alive, and Anya the Rhulic dwarf lies sprawled on the pile of Ogrun, blood spreading across her robes from a deep blow in her side, a stunned expression on her face. The demon stands over her for a moment and then flicks back across the battlefield to Breaker, moving with lightning speed and purpose, crossing the space in a blur so fast and otherworldly that it would make a human sick. Breaker is ready, pitiful little scimitar in hand, but he still has that expression – he has seen Anya go down, and he knows his time has come.

It is now or never. Carlass wants to make one last booming call, but her breath is coming weak and in stuttering gasps, drowning in the blood that fills her chest and bubbles from her nose and mouth, and anyway she cannot see clearly enough through the blood and broken bone to make a mark for her voice. Her rebellious mortal flesh will not even respond enough to heal her voice, her most precious of gifts. She cannot call; but a fell-caller is not just a booming voice to shatter stone and bone. A fell-caller is also the keeper of her people, guardian of the secrets of Dhunia. Now is the time to call upon them. She pushes herself up a little more, so that she can be seen above the pile of Ogrun corpses, and coughs a great gout of blood over her chest. Sucking in a pained breath, she raises her voice in a thin, keening wail, and calls forth in her orator’s voice:

You, demon, hoy! Hear me! I, Carlass of the Scharde Kriel, I am your last mark. I curse you. I curse you with the wrath of Dhunia! With this blood and flesh of Dhunia’s I bring down upon you her rage and her vengeance! Know that I was your last mark, and that with my death you invoked the curse of all of earth’s children. You will never see the surface, and you will never know the sun, for you are doomed by Dhunia!

And then she collapses. She does not know if the demon even heard her, though she thought she saw it twitch a sideways glance at her. The Fire Monk heard her, she knows, she saw the dawning horror in her eyes. As death’s dark tendrils reach up to her, Carlass whispers

Avenge me, Fire Monk

and then her voice, too, is beyond use. All her flesh has given in. Now she wishes Hrif were here, but he is far gone and lost. She cannot call on their special bond, because these manacles bind her magic from use. Even if she could call him, he is far from helping her now. She is alone. She has failed her new Kriel just as she failed her last Kriel; and just as she was not there to see how her last Kriel ended, so too she will not know how it is for this strange patch-work Kriel she had so recently made her own. She has failed again. Nothing is left of her tribe or her flesh … will even her wrath endure?

Poem note: Bragg’s last lament is actually the song Document by Assemblage 23, with one tiny change

I have two session reports to write, which will give the context to this little story.

Magic License: Rie 518967301

Magic License: Rie 518967301

On Sunday I played in a short Shadowrun (5th Edition) adventure, which is likely to become a campaign. I think Shadowrun is a brilliant idea, and I can’t play it without playing some kind of magic-user: the idea of playing a wizard or a shaman skipping through the shadows of a corporate dystopia is too cool to pass up for something mundane like a gun-toting maniac, so I have to do it. For this adventure I decided to make a character reminiscent of my Feng Shui shrine maiden, who I played three years ago in London and who was a huge amount of fun to play. This time I made a Gothic Lolita mage called Rie of the Fallen.

Rie is a classic Gothic Lolita girl, who happens to be a magician. She has no appreciable physical strength, robustness or skills, and as much as possible she avoids any form of exertion or physical activity. All she does is cast spells. She maintains an extremely high class and expensive lifestyle, in order to afford a wide range of expensive clothes and cosmetics, and when asked she will assure you that this is why she is a shadow-runner. She has basically no skills except magic, hiding and looking good. She’s short, a little bit chubby, a little bit haughty and suffers from the negative quality Distinctive Style, which means she can’t hide in a crowd (I wonder why?) Her magic is a mix of attack spells, investigative magic, and support magic – she is not the kind of mage who expects to be ‘running on her own, but as part of a team.

Rie is from the Shamanic tradition, though her particular tradition does not so much ally with its spirits as worship them. She is a follower of the Nephilim, the Watchers Out of Time, angels who fell from heaven after a war with god and who are popular in such diverse cultural traditions as the works of John Dee (16th century British mystic), the Angel Sanctuary manga, and gothic bands like Garden of Delight or Fields of the Nephilim. In fact she has a mentor spirit, Alexiel, who is one of the minor Nephilim.

Mentoring in an Angelic Fashion

Mentoring in an Angelic Fashion

Rie is also an active member of the Gothic Lolita scene, which in 2070 has become a little more active and shamanic than it is now – a scene like that will get very magical once magic becomes real. In the present, Gothic Lolita events often involve fashion shows and also people selling their own home-made fashion items – there is a big amateur fashion scene. Rie makes hairpieces and lockets for this scene, but uses her alchemy and artificing skills to imbue them with minor magics that might be useful. She also has contacts in this scene, and in the media and entertainment world generally, as well as some knowledge of corporate etiquette connected with this world.

As an example of Rie’s general character and style, we did a brief shadowrun on Sunday, just doing a delivery run from Denver to the UCAS. This was nothing unusual, just a couple of border crossings and a fight with two rival gangs who “ambushed” us in a traffic jam. When our Face had failed to get the two bands to fight each other, Rie realized that the fight was on, so she tapped the man in the car next to her (giving him combat sense), told him to prepare for battle, and started it herself with a manaball. She spent the entire fight sitting primly in the back of the Face’s Ford Americar, directing spells at one gang using her make-up mirror and not bothering to duck or panic. When the gang finally shot the car to shit she simply stepped out on the far side before it could catch fire.

When that battle was over and the last ganger had surrendered, Rie walked over to him, squatted down in that classic Japanese girl way, and pulled a pair of containment manacles from her pristine little bag. Lacy, of course.

Rie’s basic Shadowrun stats are set out below.


Body 2 Agility 4
Reaction 3 Strength 1
Willpower 5 Logic 2
Intuition 6 Charisma 3
Edge 3 Magic 6
Essence 6


  Con 2   Summoning 5
  Performance 5 Spellcasting 6
  Etiquette 4 Counter-spelling 3
ENCHANTING 1 Artisan 5
  Alchemy 4 Assensing 3
  Artificing 3 Drive 4
STEALTH 1 Perception 2
  Sneaking 4
  Disguise 4


  • Bilingual (English and Japanese)
  • Focussed Concentration 3
  • Mentor Spirit
  • Quick Healer
  • Distinctive Style (negative)


  • Lightning Bolt
  • Manaball
  • Analyze magic
  • Detect Magic
  • Clairaudience
  • Clairvoyance
  • Combat sense
  • Heal
  • Armor
  • Trid Phantasm

Rie owns a Honda Spirit, a wide selection of fake SINs, a Gold Docwagon subscription for one year, and various other stuff. Some of her outfits are armored with mesh-weave, and her cosmetics are very high class; it’s possible that with the next job she will be investing in some flash- and fire-proof cosmetics. She uses a traditional clam-shell mobile phone for communication, always carries a bag with her and usually has an extra bag or two that look like they contain shopping (but probably actually contain adventuring gear). Her magic is a fairly innate and antinomial thing (she doesn’t study) and she isn’t that bright, really, but she has a canny sense of what is going on and doesn’t usually miss things, even if she appears to be paying no attention. She is not pretty or sexy, but her careful attention to style means that she always draws attention. She is the very model of a modern-day wizard, walking around completely out of place and time but acting as if it is of no importance whatsoever that the whole world has noticed her difference; and far more dangerous than her weak and timid manner would imply. She also keeps her own counsel: no one will ever know what she really wants or believes.

The perfect companion on a run, she probably is not.

Hey guys, have you heard the one about the Jawa, the Ewok and the Jedi?

Using the idea of random character generation for WFRP from the previous post, I came up with this idea for a character created randomly for the Star Wars universe, using the WFRP 3 template. This character is a Tusken Guide,  a specialist role for an elite minority of sand people. Every aspect of this character class was generated randomly.


The sand people know the desert and its ways with an intimacy to match the intricate knowledge of an Imperial Courtier, but when it comes to interacting with those who share their world they are as naive and helpless as babies. Prone to respond savagely to that which they do not understand, the Tusken long ago realized the need for a kind of diplomatic caste amongst their tribes. These diplomats are not dispatched to the towns and cities of Tatooine to negotiate treaties and settlements with governments; rather, they visit the markets and bars of Tatooine’s smaller settlements in order to carry out the more basic tasks of trade and news-gathering. Tasks that are basic to the social fabric of other societies are so alien to the wild and savage Tusken that they have developed an elite caste of non-raiders to discharge them. Like bards of ancient legend, they move amongst the towns and cities of the desert world gathering news, selling desert products and buying the kinds of products the Tusken need to make their desert lives easier – firearms, vehicles and very basic droids.

The similarity between Tusken Guides and the bards of interstellar legend are only superficial, however, for though they can interact with non-Tusken, Guides have little empathy with them, and in place of the easy charm of the bards of old they maintain a rigid discipline, the better to prevent their natural scorn for the trappings of civilized life from showing itself. They are neither educated nor naturally suited to the sophistication of Tatooine’s human or Jawa societies; rather, they restrain their natural temper while in the company of such people, and do their best to mimic their ways. This barely-restrained scorn for the softness of non-Tusken often manifests itself in ways that cause the Guide trouble, and of course like all Tusken the Guide must be able to defend itself and act decisively in any physical situation; for this reason the Guide remains a formidable fighter and an imposing physical presence, at least while not amongst its tribemates.

Career Details

Career Attributes: Strength, Willpower

Career Skills: Athletics, Coordination, Weapon Skill, Discipline, Charm

Talent Slots: Focus x2

Career Talent: Dilettante (once per session can use any skill as if it were trained, or employ an advanced skill as if it had been acquired)

Force User: No. Tusken have antibodies to mitachloreans[1], so no Tusken can use the Force.


I rolled up a character class that has a kind of jack-of-all trades talent but a strong physical/combat focus, and one career skill – charm – that really doesn’t fit the career abilities. Had I rolled a different career talent the two Focus slots would have suggested some kind of monk or ascetic character, but the dilettante doesn’t fit with that. What kind of character is a combat-focussed jack-of-all-trades? A pirate, some kind of bounty hunter, or perhaps a representative of a savage race. Had I rolled up Agility instead of Strength I would have chosen, perhaps, to make this PC a Jawa trader.

Of course the description here doesn’t have to represent a class at all, but could just be a unique character. Then instead of representing this as a caste of Tusken, I could turn it into a famous Tusken outsider, that has taken it upon itself to act as a social bridge between the tribes and the humans on Tatooine. The jack-of-all-trades element could even mean that the Tusken PC is to be found off-world when the adventure starts.

From this point character development would begin, with the assignment of ability scores, etc. I would be treating Fellowship as a dump stat, so even though the PC has charm skill they remain pretty poor at charming people. I wouldn’t be loading up on social or support action cards either…

fn1: haha, mitachloreans…

I know it’s heretical to consider Warhammer without the career system, but if one were to go about adapting the WFRP3 system for other styles of play this could be a very easy way to change it. Systems without character classes can be made, and I think in some settings character class is less important than in others. In my Compromise and Conceit campaign world I deliberately eschewed classes, preferring my players to have ideas about what kind of character they wanted to be and what special powers they had. Rolemaster was designed with very fine gradations of character class and extreme diversity of development, so characters of the same class might not resemble each other at all. Also, modern settings don’t necessarily suit character classes very well.

Dropping character classes from WFRP3 would be easy, because all the careers are designed the same way. They are composed of 4 elements:

  • Two career attributes (usually one physical and one mental)
  • Five career skills
  • One career talent
  • An advance scheme

In the case of the magic-using classes, the career talent is magic. So we can change this to make the system free of character classes as follows:

  • The player chooses two career attributes for their character
  • The player chooses five career skills. If the PC is going to be a magic-user, this five skills has to include at least one of the two magic-using advanced skills (channel power and spellcraft for arcane magic, or curry favour and invocation for divine magic)
  • Choose one starting talent in negotiation with the GM, that suits your character vision; for a magic-using PC, you get no career talent (because you have magic)
  • Choose a starting stance (2 spaces in either direction, or 1 space/3 spaces)

Then, instead of having an advance scheme that matches the career system of WFRP, we have an advance scheme that matches the rank system. So in one rank you can spend 6 career advances and the 4 universal advances. The advance scheme is the same for all PCs (e.g. 2 action cards, 1 talent, 1 fortune, 1 wound, 1 stance, 2 skills). Or maybe players can choose a style for their PC, either attribute-heavy (e.g. 2 action cards, 2 talents, 2 fortune, 2 wound, 1 stance, 1 skill) or action-heavy (e.g. 3 action cards, 1 talent, 1 fortune, 1 wound, 1 stance, 2 skills). They then have to stick with this forever more; maybe also every rank they gain some bonus special ability related to their PC vision, e.g. a unique action or a unique talent. This enables PCs to play, for example, Indiana Jones exactly as they envisage him.

You could even use this system for completely random character generation – randomly assign every player first to a magic or a non-magic type, then randomly assign them attributes, skills and talents and get them to imagine their character from there. That could be fun for a one shot, maybe in the star wars universe or a slightly cthulhu-tinged Indiana Jones-style world.





A few weeks ago I played in a Double Cross 3 session, and wrote up a few reports on it. This post constitutes the final report on that session, in which I describe my experience of the Lois and Titus rules and how they affect gameplay.

Lois and Titus

When you roll up a character in Double Cross 3, you are also required to generate a set of Lois‘s. Lois’s are people you know, connected to you through your life path, who help to keep you connected to the real world of ordinary human life. They can be colleagues, school-friends, family members, or people who helped you in your earlier life. When you develop these relationships you have to roll up a negative and positive trait for them, which will be things like “envy” and “charity” or “rivarly” and “love,” and you then choose one of these traits to define your relationship to the Lois when you start the game. Lois’s don’t have to be present in your life during play – they can be memories, distant figures, or the legacy of dead people.

Ideally, as you adventure in a rich world of secrets and superheroes, you gain more Lois’s. Your Lois’s have three direct effects on the game-play:

  • They give you allies and contacts you can call upon. These people aren’t henchmen, but people tied intimately to your lives who will aid you when you need help
  • They give the GM (and the players) adventure hooks. Just as they will come to you when you need their help, so they also will come to you when they need your help, which gives the GM a lot of opportunities to start or interfere with adventures
  • They save you from corruption. As you adventure, your use of your virus-related powers increases your level of corruption, which draws you ever closer to losing your humanity and becoming a germ. At the end of every session you get to roll 1d10 for every Lois you have, and subtract this from your corruption total. The lower your corruption the weaker your powers, but the higher your corruption the greater the risk of permanently sliding into darkness and ruin

This type of relationship could actually be introduced to Warhammer, come to think of it…

But there is another aspect to the Lois’s which makes them particularly potent. Their kindness (or their memory) can be abused, at which point they become Titus, so-named after the Shakespearean character of that name. A Titus is a lover spurned, a friend whose kindness was abused one time too many, a family member with a grudge… they pursue you to the end, wrathful as only someone once-loved can be. A Lois can become a Titus through your own stupidity, or through the game-mechanics device of sublimating a Lois.


When you sublimate a Lois you get rid of them from your life altogether, passing them from Titus through to gone. In the process of doing this you gain one of a series of in game benefits – adding 10 dice to a single roll, or healing a certain number of hit points, and so on. The in-game benefits that derive from this are quite significant in some cases – 10 dice is a phenomenal bonus – and well worth tossing your grandmother in front of a bus for. I think you can also do this with Lois’s who have become Tituses through the story (rather than a deliberate choice by the player). I’m not sure what the downside of burning a Titus is, besides that you have lost a story hook – this seems to be a way to get a vengeful ex-lover out of your life, which is only a good thing, right?

I haven’t read the section in the rulebook about this yet (I’ve been very busy) and we didn’t get around to seeing the benefits or disadvantages of a Titus in the game I played. So I’m not sure why one would allow the process of deLoisification to stop at merely producing a Titus, but I’m sure there’s a good reason.

The big downside of burning a Lois, of course, is that you then lose the ability to call on them for corruption amelioration, which will make your adventuring life a lot shorter than it would otherwise be (not that your Titus will care).

Game example

In my game, I sublimated my mother and the memory of an old, long-dead client of the Robot-driving business he worked for. I sublimated both of these Lois’s in order to regain 1d10 Hps each time (hey! what can I say? I sell my loyalties cheaply). My relationship with my mother was characterised by hostility, due to anger at her tolerating my Father’s secret membership of the False Hearts; my relationship with the memory of my dead ex-client was ishi, the will of the dead, some long-carried-over request or obligation to his memory.

So how did I burn these Lois’s to get a healing surge? The first was my Mother, whose memory I discarded like an oily rag after the minions of the False Hearts struck me down in an alley. I imagined this as my character realising he had been ambushed and outdone by the False Hearts, and as he struggled to retain his consciousness, recognising that all his life he had been thwarted and ruined by that hateful organisation first manipulated and preyed upon by his father in pursuit of a secret goal, then pursued through the dangerous underworld of Tokyo when he worked in the mecha business – perhaps even to the death of his client – and now to be hounded to death? All this was too much! And then I imagined that his mother called him on his cellphone, just as his last breaths were ebbing away, and that call (of course it has a special ringtone) penetrated the fog of impending unconsciousness – here was all his anger at the False Hearts crystallized in the form of the woman who he had always felt had betrayed him and who would not relent from constantly trying to get him to forgive her. Why should he forgive anyone for the harms done to him? I imagined him surging back to life, anger at his mother charging through him in the form of his viral payload, generating a healing surge at the same time as it destroyed his cellphone in a vicious series of sparks and lightning bolts. Just as every anime character has to surge to wakefulness with a scream at least once [1], so Kintaro regained consciousness surrounded by clouds of electric rage, blasting his phone and symbolically eliminating his mother from his life.

The next was his client. This time Kintaro had been knocked down by the False Hearts leader, his life’s blood ebbing away in some shitty Tokyo Snack. Again, as he felt his defeat looming, he remembered all the failures and defeats thrust upon him by this sinister organisation and raged against them. This time I imagined Kintaro had given up on his hopes of a normal life, and realised he had to fully embrace the powers he had inherited, rather than pretending he could continue to live like a normal person. He would have to cast aside his past life and devote himself to destroying the organisation that had so plagued him. So thinking, he cast aside his last contact with the ordinary world – his last Lois from outside of UGN – and all the long-overdue obligations it had shackled him with. Surging back from that fading state, again imbued with electrical power, he screamed his rage at the world that had wronged him, and reentered the fight…


Lois’s offer excellent game hooks, dramatic opportunities and mechanical advantages. They also offer an excellent narrative technique for justifying (and stunting) healing surges, recovery from corruption, and other phenomena that might otherwise just seem like in-game fixes. I think they could be repackaged in some way as an excellent addition to Warhammer as a mechanism for helping draw PCs back from insanity or corruption. They are another example of the differences between Japanese RPGs and Western RPGs, and an interesting example of incorporation of a dramatic element into the game through the rule system.

fn1: I’m reminded of when only one company distributed anime in Australia – was it madman entertainment? – and their adverts always involved a screaming guy, and someone else yelling “what’s going on in here?!!!”

Over at tenletter, there are some example abilities for Fighters to take when they have leader training. This reminded me of some of the more fun feats that my players chose for their characters in the Compromise and Conceit campaign, and which I thought I would reproduce here. These feats are sometimes overpowered, either because they were given at first level or because I like people to have feats which add to the character, even if they’re nasty. Each feat described below also includes the name and “class” of the character who used it.

Powerful Voice (Anna Labrousse, enchantress)

Can be used 3 times / day, using a presence vs. will challenged skill check. The target suffers a suggestion-like effect for 1 round per point of failure (Max. duration=Anna’s level).

Infernal Tango (Lord Merton St. Helier, sybarite)

Lord Merton and Russell Ganymede, his batman, have an almost supernatural understanding of each others’ moves in combat. Whenever Merton is able to use his ranged weapon, he gains an attack of opportunity against a single target in melee combat with Russell Ganymede.

Infernal Synergy (Lord Merton St. Helier, sybarite; and Russell Ganymede, his faithful batman)

This feat must be taken by both Merton and Russell; it extends their innate understanding of each others’ combat style, and enables each of them to gain a +2 attack bonus when fighting attacking someone who is engaged in melee combat with their ally. This also applies to ranged attacks.

Horrid Death (Dave Black, King’s Torturer)

If Dave delivers a killing blow, he can choose to kill his opponent in such a horrid and gruesome fashion that all allies of the target who witness his/her/its death must immediately suffer a will vs. presence challenged skill attack. If they fail, they are shaken and suffer a -2 to all actions for 1 round per point of failure.

Torturer’s Tale (Dave Black, King’s Torturer)

Once per day, Dave can touch one target and, on a successful will vs. presence check, learn the truthful answer to 1 question.

Locking eyes with the Damned (Father David Cantrus, Jesuit)

Cantrus catches the eye of another spellcaster in order that both parties can appreciate the inevitable damnation of their souls, reflected in the eyes of another destined for the same flames. If Cantrus succeeds in a challenged will vs. will skill check, he and the target are unable to cast any magic until Cantrus deliberately breaks eye contact. The effect can work around corners/through walls if there is a mirror or other reflection by which they can be seen. The target takes 1 fatal wound every round that they fail a will vs. will challenged skill check, thus hastening their descent into hell. The target may yell for aid from fellows, but cannot cast spells or attack Cantrus, though they can attempt to move to escape Cantrus. Cantrus can move, but cannot attack or cast spells.

Because some of these feats were chosen at quite high level, I didn’t put any particular pre-requisites on them. Had I been writing them from the very first, I would obviously make some of them have attack bonus and feat pre-requisites. They were also intended, obviously, to personalise the PCs and make the player’s vision more personalised. In fact, some of these feats – particularly Locking Eyes with the Damned and Powerful Voice – were not used as much as expected. After Cantrus took Locking Eyes with the Damned, I chose battle with the final enemy to depend on it.
The remaining PC, Brian the Woodsman, didn’t have many specialist feats but he did have to regrow one of his arms, which was reformed in a dark ritual of faerie magic so that he had a massive, thick-thewed limb of wood and moss, wreathed in shadow. With this limb he could cast a spell, The Long Arm of the Lore, which I also describe here.

The Long Arm of the Lore

Range: Touch

DC: 25

Challenged: vs. Spellcraft

Effect: Brian’s shadow-wreathed arm grips the target and wraps them in a flickering halo of shadowy force drawn straight from the depths of the Faerie kingdom. For 1 rd + 1 rd per point of success, the targeted spell-user loses the ability to use their spellcraft skill in casting spells, but must instead rely on will.

As an example of this spell in action, Anna Labrousse finished the campaign with a spellcraft skill total of 21, and a will of 2. This significantly reduces her ability to successfully cast higher level spells. In future iterations of my system, it is likely that all secondary skills will be closer to primary skills, so an equivalent Anna Labrousse would have a will of about 10-12. This would still vastly reduce her power to cast more serious enchantments, like her infamous Grendel’s Demise. Sadly, the campaign finished before Brian got a good chance to use this spell.

The characters find themselves wondering at the many puzzles which present themselves, in light of both the recent attempt on their lives, and the unfinished matters from the last year of warfare and slaughter. There are some questions they need to have answered, and some things they might want to do…

  1. What is this Remade Infernal Assassin? Who sent it?
  2. Who was the Satanic figure they killed on the deck of the boat in Albany? What was he doing?
  3. What were the Irish doing with the Satanic figure from Newfoundland?
  4. What is really happening with Infernal Magic, and do the Indians have an insight not available in the Old World?
  5. Why were the Northwest Frontier Company, nominally British, helping Washington, and in such a nasty way? Money and power, or something more sinister?

To investigate these things, the characters can:

  1. Find an expert in Infernal Remaking, either in Montreal or in New York. The former will involve avoiding the attention of the French; the latter will require infiltrating the British forces in New York, where the characters are not popular
  2. For this the characters can visit Newfoundland, and try to find clues to the man’s real identity and purpose
  3. Though the characters may find answers to this in Newfoundland, they may need to go to Ireland or track down the remnants of the Irish forces in Montreal or New York
  4. The characters might be able to learn something from a spirit walk… or from a physical journey into the Black Hills, which hold powerful spirits that could help (or hinder!) the characters
  5. This would involve a trip to NW Frontier company headquarters in New York, and possibly elsewhere.

Note that some of these things can be done together, especially the tasks in Montreal or New York.

No doubt other distractions will arise in the course of the characters’ adventures. But if they select one of these paths, perhaps it will lead them somewhere useful…

Yatta! We did it!!! Even though the pop-up porn virus Echo put in the world’s computer system didn’t work because the architects of the flesh knew we were coming to their space  station to throw their god into space to join the christian god who is all beardy and looks down on you from very far away and didn’t like his own son very much but maybe they were too busy looking at all the colourful lingerie that the porn girls were wearing and they didn’t have time to arrange a proper party for us because all they had to throw at  us were 50 space zombies and a spinning dragon called Desdemona who’s really a woman. They really really must hate clothes in the future because the space zombies weren’t even wearing space suits they just fired them out of the space station straight at us in just their underwear but I suppose if you’re dead you don’t care what you’re wearing or maybe once you die in the future you get some sense and you refuse to wear their  stupid grey clothes I wish I did! Actually after Grandma Noodles’s Apprentice fired me out of the airlock with all the other rubbish I thought about that a bit and I used my magic to change my body so I didn’t have to breathe anymore and then I didn’t have to wear that stupid grey suit. I suppose I got the idea from Grandma Noodles because I had to help her change her suit so it could fit all those bottles of special potion that smells like bad sake. She fights really well after she drinks that potion but it smells pretty bad especially since she’s such a good noodle cook (her noodles are sooooooooo oishii yo!!) but I’ve never actually seen her make the potion so  maybe she buys it somewhere anyway when we take over allllllll the Feng Shui sites in the world maybe she can make a better potion.


anyway so they fired 50 space zombies and a dragon at us, so Grandma Noodles’s Apprentice fired me out of the airlock with all the rubbish, and then he found out that the spaceship has this big claw on it which must be what he was going to use to bring me back inside when he realised he’d fired me out of the airlock but instead he started hitting the zombies with it which is a really good idea because in space even a little bump makes you fly off forever into the sun unless you’re like me and you can fly wherever you want and wear any miniskirt you want even a grey one but I’m never gonna wear grey again never ever! So I thought making the  zombies fly into the sun is a good idea so I threw rubbish at them with my magic and it hit lots of them and Grandma Noodles and Kitsune and Echo and Uncle Ed who turns up sometimes when I think really hard went out onto the spaceship and started killing space zombies who move like really slowly but then the big dragon stopped spinning round and round and landed on the nose of the spaceship so everyone had to fight her but she kept blowing up and even though I was a long way away and hiding behind rubbish I nearly died which is weird because my science teacher told me that there’s no fire in space so it must have been magical fire who knew that a dragon has magic fire? I thought they just flew around and had a pearl in their brain and said clever things but then I didn’t know they moved by spinning around either so I suppose you learn something new about people every day before you kill them.


so after Kitsune turned the whole spaceship into an electric exploding death rocket and Grandma Noodles’s Apprentice crashed the spaceship into the space station through the dragon and Kitsune had somersaulted off its exploding spleen we all went to the door to the space station which the Architects of the Flesh had to keep locked because there’s no air in  space so I disintegrated the door and then Echo opened the inner door because she’s really clever but I came in late because I had been burnt really bad like the yakitori Grandma Noodles makes only yakiyuki so I had to spend  a bit of time healing myself. We all got inside the door and looked around and there was a room with these scientists in and there was a hole in the roof but no air was escaping because  it actually went to the netherworld which has air in it even though demons don’t need to breathe which must mean they like yelling a lot which is what the dragon did when Grandma Noodles’s Apprentice flew the  rocket ship through her stomach only we couldn’t hear what she was saying because there was no air and if there was we probably would only have heard lightning and explosions anyway


but the Little God that’s tougher than our God was there in Fox form with one tail sticking into the netherworld and the other 8 tails swishing about like my Cat did when it was watching a mouse and the God was looking at us but it was kind of see-through like a jellyfish so I don’t think it had manifested properly which is kind of an oops but then when we looked down under the floor we saw that the shrine box that Gods come in was bound in a kind of magic circle that must be stopping the Little God from getting out  which is weird because that’s what the Architects wanted to do with the God but we didn’t think about that too much yet because we don’t think we just Do because that’s what Bruce Lee said works and it’s worked so far hasn’t it? But Echo thinks and she said she thought Omega was somewhere in the room and she would know because she’s just like him only younger so I cast a spell through my phone and I could see omega was right in front of us and I sent everyone the picture and then Echo did a thing with her big sword and one of his scary guns broke and all his scary agony grenades that hurt us last time fell on the floor like that time I was trying to leave the convenience store with the chu hais and my high school skirt unrolled by accident and they all fell on the floor and I’d forgotten to pay and the guy behind the counter got really angry and it took me like 10 minutes to calm him down which is really long for me and then the other customers were really angry because they were locked out and there was a special offer on UFO Noodles. Only Omega didn’t get to pick up his agony grenades and go home and lie down like I did because then everyone started kicking and punching him and his other gun exploded and melted his face and then Grandma Noodles touched him on the elbow like Bruce Lee does and then while he was standing still looking at the ceiling Kitsune said something to him that none of us could hear and then he died horribly and I said “otsukaresamadeshita” and everyone else clapped and Grandma Noodles had a drink


which makes me think that if the Buro’s super soldier is that easy to kill then maybe the God is too but the scientists didn’t want to let the God out for us to kill but then I disintegrated the glass barrier between us and them and all the bits of Omega that Kitsune left on the glass went spattering into the room and I think that scared them so they let the God go but that was a really stupid thing to do because we were just going  to talk to them and maybe also throw them out of the airlock to die unless Kitsune got to them first but the God stole their souls and turned them into wraiths and then the God changed from its Foxy Form to its Wraith Form and I didn’t know shrine Gods had a wraith form maybe that was something Mummy was going to tell me if the Copycat Ninjas hadn’t killed her


so anyway I was thinking that maybe I should go out of the airlock too but my scooter blew up with the rocketship and its a long way to fly to earth without a scooter and anyway I’d be trapped in the future with the grey clothes and a mad Fox Wraith chasing me after it ate my friends’ souls so I figured I’d better stay and die well so I stayed. We had this magician with us and he turned out to be from 9AD and because in 9AD they don’t have the internet or philosophy or anything their magic is really really evil so he offered us snakes we could use to become evil too and only the good die young so everyone said YEAH we’ll have snakes and be powerful and evil and live forever and me and Kitsune said no we’ll be good and weak and die young because we don’t think we just Do like Bruce Lee who must be good because he  died really young. And the WraithFoxGod made its dead scientist wraiths attack us and plugged itself into the  computer because all the chi beaming up from earth was going to go into it and it was going to keep getting bigger and tougher until it was bigger and tougher than anyone so Echo plugged the Big God that’s weaker than the WraithFoxGod into the computer too and then Echo started trying to channel the chi from Earth into our God instead of the bad God but they were fighting in like the spirit world or something which is a really boring place but at least they weren’t doing it where we were. So we fought the 9 Scientist Wraiths which steal chi but then I remembered that I’m like a priest so I started banishing them and Grandma Noodles hit a few and Kitsune killed a few and then they were all gone.


and because Echo was doing really cool computer things our God was beating the WraithFoxGod and so then we all attacked the WraithFoxGod and it died really fast and disappeared and we were all really happy until we realised we were stuck on a space station without a rocketship and the only way out was through the netherworld portal but that goes to the army of the Architects of the Flesh and the way the world works we could probably kill all of them but if they had more spinny-explodey dragon-women then we could all die and that’s what you get for being like Bruce Lee and not thinking before you Do I suppose but he died from taking aspirin not from being eaten alive by a giant spinning exploding dragon (but I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know for sure) anyway then the bad wizard with the evil magic from 9AD made a hole in the floor and said “frying pan or fire”? which I think must be some kind of 9AD invocation of great power, because when we jumped down the hole and he said “oh fiiiiiiiire!” we ended up in Hell. Well, we all guessed it was hell from the fires and the moaning sounds and the colour of the sky and the smell but sometimes Kitsune takes a long time to understand what’s happening like how she didn’t realise it was a copycat Ninja that killed her mother but kept thinking it was Omega but there was this man who was looking over his shoulder at us and he was crying like he’d cut an onion and he told Kitsune we were in Hell


so now we’re in hell but at least we killed a God. Yatta!

Following the discussion of RPG systems with class vs. those without class, I feel now is the perfect time to present my “classless” (but tasteful!) version of the d20 character development system. I hope the brief notes presented here serve to outline how it works without too much concentration on the detail.

Liberating hit points and saves from class

The main way in which class is important in D&D3.5 is in the assignment of feats, saving throws and HPs to classes. The feats part is easy to change, but liberating saving throws and HPs from their class origins requires a little more care. This is done in Compromise and Conceit by turning both Hit Points and saving throws into skills. The four skills for all saving throws are:

Fortitude: Fortitude is the skill which determines your resistance to poison, disease, etc., and also the number of wounds you can suffer before dying.

Reflexes: Your save against traps, elemental spells, and also your difficulty to hit in combat.

Will: Your save vs. mind attack spells

Presence: Your coolness under fire, used to determine intiative and for resistance to  fear

Every wound suffered is a -1 penalty on all actions; so there is a direct trade-off between ranks in fortitude and other key skills.

Other key skills: Base Attack, Spellcraft and Concentration

Concentration: serves the same role as in the d20 system, but also determines how many fatigues a spell-caster can suffer from failing to beat spell DCs

Spellcraft: spell attacks are resolved as a challenged skill check between spellcraft and the appropriate saving throw skill.

Base Attack: Combat attacks are resolved as a challenged skill check between base attack and reflexes. The DC to hit the target is 10+reflexes, or 2d10+reflexes if the target has the dodge feat.

All these actions are penalised by wounds taken. The damage done by a spell or attack is given by the difference between the skill roll and the target, with a maximum determined by the weapon or the spell. For example, maximum damage for a dagger is 1 wound. Armour can reduce this by up to the damage reduction value of the armour, but a successful attack always does at least one non-fatal wound.

Ability scores

The character gets 2 points to distribute between the six scores (strength, dexterity, constitution, intelligence, wisdom, charisma), which are represented as positive or negative effects on all the skills they affect. So for example a fighter might choose +2 on strength and constitution, +1 on dexterity, and -1 on the remaining scores.

Class and non-class skills

At first level, all players choose 5 skills to be class skills, and the remainder are non-class skills.

Skill development points

Characters at first level have 20 skill development points, and then 5 at every level thereafter. Skills are bought at 1 rank for 1 point (class skills) or 1 rank for 2 points (non-class skills).

Class skills can have a maximum of [level+3] ranks; non-class skills half that (rounded up).


At first level characters take 5 feats. Characters can opt to spend 1 feat on minor magic, 2 feats on major magic, or 1 feat on extra skills.

Magic and skill feats

Minor magic: character can use spells of a level up to that of the character. Spells are resolved using a skill appropriate to the realm of magic (e.g. presence for the  Regency School).

Major magic: characters can use spells of up to [level +3]. Characters need to choose spellcraft as a class skill.

Extra skills: character gains 24 skill points at first level and 6 per level thereafter.

Fatal and non-fatal wounds

Fatal wounds can be healed slowly or by magic, and when a character receives more wounds than their fortitude skill total they are dying.

Non-fatal wounds are bruising and shock, and heal at a rate of 1 per hour of full rest. If the last wound a character takes before exceeding their fortitude skill total is non-fatal, they go unconscious and do not die.

That’s the whole character creation system. Characters gain a new feat every 2 levels (including level 2), and a stat increase of +1 every 5 levels. Gaining levels is essentially trivial – distribute 5 skill points and choose a feat. I tend to be pretty casual about what feats can be (witness Anna Labrousse’s powerful voice) and have broken most of the rules at some stage, but that’s because I like characters to be interesting rather than balanced. Does it work? Comments welcome…

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