The Prince is dead ... long live the Queen!

The Prince is dead … long live the Queen!

[This is a guest post by one of my group’s players, Eddie, about his Vampire characters]

Lady Ashira (Elder)

A protecting mother, a lover of beauty, self involved survivor.

“ The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Lady Ashira has taken control of New York, after an extensive war with the Sabbath has ruined both groups and resulted in Final Death for most of the low generation vampires. Her rule is one of subtlety and charm, where those who make open threats or threaten ugliness have a tendency to mysteriously find divine retribution. As she would say, she truly, full-heartedly strives for everyone to feel safe and happy, and would gladly crush anyone who doesn’t.

Embraced by the Brujah, the clan’s fury shows in her only if she, or the kindred and kine under “her protection” are harmed. She has been known to rage when her advances are refused or some beautiful art or innocent person is harmed in front of her. The Queen is extremely possessive, and it is not uncommon for people to regret asking for her protection, for while when given she will honestly do everything in her power to protect her proteges, the lines between protection and enslavement tend to blur for the Elder vampire. Some kindred have woken after years, only to find they’ve been under the Lady’s spell because they asked to be safe…

Where the lady comes from is an unknown, but most agree it is probably from somewhere in north Africa. When asked, she always names a different country that touches the mediterranean sea; and follows it with a stream of phrases in the native tongue of the place she mentioned. Most people know not to push her too much on the matter; for some reason the Queen gets extremely … upset … when probed for information on her past.

Those very few who know her well know that there is a streak of hidden survivalism to her, there are ugly rumours of her breaking under pressure or war, havens that burned to the ground and scores of surviving neonates with their memories shuffled. Those who know or suspect of these events, know also to keep their mouths shut, it is better that the gears turn smooth and the Lady remain kind and homely, for when they don’t, death and destruction seem to follow.

The Good

Kind, Understanding, Peace keeper

The Bad

Overprotective, Obsessive, Irrational


Medium height, light skin, long red curly hair, dark eyes, slender figure.


“Order and peace are safe havens. The Masquerade keeps us all from Final Death, and provides our weakest with protection. Nevertheless, beware of the Tyrant who would use it as an excuse for power.”


“I can’t help but love their passion, it is a thing of beauty; but the real anarch movement is long dead. What is left is rebels without cause. The Anarchs, whether they remember or not, achieved their goal long ago, and we all paid the price for that. I hold them accountable for the Sabbath.”


“Ugh, ugly, ugly, UGLY!!!!”


“As long as they keep to themselves, let them have their weird rites and beliefs, especially if they bring me gifts from time to time…”

Here's an offer you can't refuse ...

Here’s an offer you can’t refuse …

Johnny Falco (Ancilla)

Mobster out of time, Territorial Demon, Anti-hero Daredevil

“There are no atheists in a foxhole? Hah! What strunz came up with this shit? Spend a day in a trench, it’ll take you no time to realize, there is no God.”

Everyone who is someone in New York knows Johnny Falco, the man can’t help but to be in your face. Dressed like it’s still the ’30’s, the loud mouth maniac has an unhealthy predilection for “making sure everyone knows their fucking place”. If he weren’t Katherine’s boy (and the Queen’s toy by relation), someone would’ve tried to openly whack him long ago. Not that they haven’t tried on the down-low, but “fuckin’ with Johny Falco, it’s signin’ up for a one item instant bucket list”.

Johnny was impossible to deal with until the town got its senses together and gave him the perfect job, The Scourge. Now, instead of getting yelled at, icing random unannounced neonates is his fuckin’ job! What a sweet deal, though sometimes mistakes get made … but meh, watcha gonna do ‘bout it?

Apart from being the bosses boy, in case you needed more reasons to stay way the fuck away from Falco, I’ll give you two: One, the man is a world war survivor, I’m talking Great War here. He was a trench fighter, and if the stories are real, he was part of a band of lunatics who would raid enemy trenches at knife point, going direct body to body in the dark. If you doubt it, ask him to show you the razor he used to scalp people with. Me, I’m easy with believing, man says he gutted soldiers in the middle of the night, hell I need no proof.

Two, the man knows no fear. I’m not saying he is a hardass tough motherfucker, which he is, but I’m talking about borderline suicidal daredevil shit. I’ve seen him jump off roofs and into oncoming traffic, “just cuz it’ll be fun to watch ’em lose their shit the moment before the party started.” You wanna see crazy shit go down? Tell ‘im “I dare you to…” and add whatever the fuck crazy shit comes to your mind, then RUN, ‘cuz a massive fuckton of shit is on an expressway to meet the fan.

All in all, you keep the man friendly, and a safe distance away, never step on his territory, and never ever talk shit about the Lady if youse anywhere close to him, and aaaaall will be easy peasy.

The Good

Loyal, Fearless, Friendly

The Bad

Short-fused, Territorial, Dark Secrets


Short black hair, black eyes, tan skin, slim and medium height, decent looking, easy smile, Italian, always dresses in mob fashion


“The Cappo de tutti Capi says we play by the rules now, so we play by the rules now.”


“Oh man, how I love these crazy fucks, they never back down from a fight and are always trying to break the rules, man I enjoy catching them off-guard.”


“The sorry SOBs in the trench facing ours, I don’t know and couldn’t care less why we’re raiding then, but by god I love it when the Boss tells me to go open them a new one.”


“Bookies and deal breakers the lot of them, excellent for when playin’ by the rules ain’t gonna cut it. Just remember they ain’t family, and never will be family.”

In the land of the mortal the One-eyed is king

In the land of the mortal the One-eyed is king

Michael “One Eye” O’Neal (Ghoul)

Dreadnaught, Dock Worker, Falco’s Toysoldier



Ever heard of the gentle giant? the massive slab of cuddles? One eye Mike is exactly half of those statements. A titanic irishman with a simple love of smashing into unsuspecting crowds. The simple straightforwardness of his lifestyle is an inspiration for the masses. Boss says jump, he smashes through walls and enemies (jumping is hard when you weigh almost as much as a bear).

And that’s that…

Oh yeah, Falco took his left eye after Mike tried to go for one of the Boss’s harpies, bad for the image to have the commoners mixing with royalty he said, Mike can “have it back when he starts playing nice.”

Before that, being the hulk of a man he is, Michael was on the fast track to becoming next in the Brujah line of nutjobs, but now, without an eye and in the bads with the Lady, there is little hope he makes it so far. He will try though, the recent events are his opportunity to shine and see if he can get his eye back.

The Good

Hulk’s body

The Bad

Hulk’s brain


Hulk (colour variation)







A smear of grey across the sky
A warning in the distance
An indecipherable alarm

And there you stood, your mouths agape
Your minds adrift and far from harm

Smoke on the horizon …

Black Company mantra

The boy and the wildling

Lithvar was just finishing shelving the day’s manuscripts when he heard the noise; when he was shelving Lithvar  had a tendency to be distracted by every creaking and cracking sound in the temple compound, and especially by any sound or smell from the kitchen. So when he heard the rustling and banging in the kitchen, he immediately thought of someone was preparing something for tomorrow, something he could cadge a little of. Even though he spent all day sitting down in the library, Lithvar was at that age of boyhood where he was constantly hungry, and he had long since become a familiar fixture in the kitchen. Strict rules of asceticism were supposed to apply in this temple, but Lithvar was no trainee – just a library assistant – and all the serving staff liked him. Seeing his chance, he hastily stuffed the last manuscript into its slot – some pointless document about the coming End of Times – and dashed swiftly and quietly down to the kitchen. He was given a lot of leeway, but disturbing the monks in their interminable evening prayers was not part of it, so he had to move silently. No trouble for a light-footed wood boy on the cusp of adolescence …

… he reached the kitchen to find it abandoned and silent. It was dark, but he could hear a scrabbling noise from inside. He slipped through the doorway and found himself staring at a bizarre scene of theft and rapture. To one side of the kitchen the smaller scrap bin had been overturned, and something was digging around inside, scratching hungrily for food. At first he thought it an animal, but after a moment it seemed to sense him and stuck its head over the bin’s edge: it was a wild-eyed elf-child of some kind, its hair ragged and matted, its face covered in filth. In its mouth was the messy remnants of a fish head, and in one hand it held stale bread. They didn’t have a chance to lock eyes though before Lithvar noticed the other thing on the kitchen bench. The bench was a great stone thing, that ran along half the length of the middle of the room. It had been cleaned down after dinner but Lithvar had left a single illuminated manuscript here after dinner, when he had sneaked down to steal some apple pie and eaten it while reading the book. Moonlight streamed down from a window high on the south wall of the room, and the book lay in a pool of silver radiance like some holy text that the gods wanted to be found. And indeed someone had found it: squatting on the bench staring down at the book was a tiny creature, a gnome child no more than maybe half a metre tall. In one hand it held a leg of rotten chicken; a chunk of the festering meat hung half-chewed out of the side of the little beast’s mouth. But it wasn’t eating, or looking around, or anything: it was staring in wonderment at the gleaming letter “D” that took up the top half of the page, and with one grubby finger it was tracing the outline of the silver dragon that traced the outline of the “D”, a dragon that shone like a real living thing in this mystical moonlight. The little beast was so wrapt in the lettering of the book that it didn’t notice Lithvar at all – it was captured in the joy of letters, just as Lithvar had been two years ago when he was first brought here.

Lithvar knew of these things: they were wildlings, children abandoned on the edge of the Wildwood by slavers, bandits or reckless families and left to fend for themselves. Most died, but the smarter ones formed together into wild gangs, moving from town to town and living by their wits, mostly by theft and sometimes a little prostitution. They were lost to the wilderness, mostly they didn’t speak or they shared a language their own band had created, forged together out of all the tongues of the members. They didn’t usually make it to adulthood, but those few who did would end up at New Port or Santa Cora, living as thieves, or would be inducted into a bandit gang and used as savage scouts till they died. But these two were too young for that, still wandering the wilds stealing food. Lithvar found himself not at all scared of them, just moved by a desire to help them. He stepped forward into the edge of the moon’s glow and whispered a greeting to the tiny thing. As he moved the other wildling dissolved into shadow and was gone with that supernal grace and speed that only wild wood elves can master. The gnome-child, however, was not so fast – it leapt back from the book but, still part entranced, didn’t leave the bench; instead it crept slowly away from this giant boy striding into the light, but it kept one eye on that book.

“Would you like me to read it to you?” Lithvar asked gently, but this scared the thing even more; it slipped further back into the shadows, and out of the spell of the book.

“Oh, okay … how about some food…?” Lithvar stepped slowly away from the table and turned to the pantry, unlocking it and opening it as quietly as he could. When he turned back bearing bread and cheese the gnome-child was gone, lost in the shadows. He sighed, not unsurprised, and placed the food on the table between the book and the shadows, just on the edge of the moonlight. A few moments later he saw two wide, pale blue eyes staring from the edge of the bench. Slowly the child moved back onto the bench, looking for the food but staring at the book.

“Would you like to know what it says?” He asked gently. The gnome child obviously couldn’t understand him much, but it understood his tone; it seemed to relax a little as it reached for the food.

They shared a few moments more before some noise in the upper levels of the cloisters disturbed the gnome. Lithvar heard someone coming, and moments later the gnome was gone, properly this time, carrying a chunk of bread with it into the wild night. Lithvar hastily cleared the food away, sighing in disappointment as he did so. His moment of connection was over, and it was back to the books for him …

… but over the next nights the gnome-child returned, and for a few weeks he had a strange and savage friend. He taught the gnome-child a few of the rudimentary letters in the book, and helped it to eat and rest. But eventually they were caught; he was caned and the gnome-child fled, moving on with its band to the next village, probably to forget him and his kindnesses forever …

The prisoner and the knave

In the years after he met the gnome child Lithvar grew into an awkward, shy teenager. He still loved books, he still spent his days in the library, and he still had no patience for prayers and asceticism, though he had begun to learn a little of the secrets of the temple where he lived. He had also become more comfortable with the grounds of the temple, and especially liked to take the air in the Southern garden, which had a pretty fountain and pool that he liked to relax by in the cool of the early morning. He felt very lucky here in this temple. Though he knew nothing of the religion that had found and sheltered him – and indeed, knew nothing about why he was here or where his family were – he trusted the priests implicitly. They were sometimes strict and often distant, but he been treated well here and although he knew little of the outside world, he knew enough to guess that life would have been much harder in the outside world for a seemingly orphaned boy of his age.

So it was that one morning he descended the marble stairs from the library into the cool of the garden, to sprawl on the bench beside the pool and have his faith in his elders shattered.

When he emerged into the garden he found it already occupied, by a sobbing boy no older than himself. The boy was staring at himself in the pond, his reflection disturbed only by occasional teardrops. His sobs were almost silent, but it was enough for Lithvar to know that this boy was upset about something. He coughed gently, always shy of speech even now, and the crouched boy spun around. For a moment Lithvar was reminded of that strange evening years ago in the moonlight, but that child could not have grown so much, this must be some other interloper. This boy was obviously injured in some way: his head was bandaged, blood and something else seeping through the bandages that were clearly freshly applied. His tear-stained face appeared to be bruised, and he wore ragged clothes that, in the places where they were ripped away revealed fresh scars and bruises. Was this what Lithvar had looked like when he was taken in by his nameless temple?

The boy backed away from him in obvious fear. “It’s okay,” he said, slightly helplessly, holding out one arm cautiously. “I’m not here to hurt you, I just want to sit on this bench.” He sat down carefully. The boy stared at him for a moment longer, then with an outraged howl he tore the bandages off and thrust his entire head into the pool, shaking it under the water. Lithvar, shocked, rushed forward to pull the boy from the pool. “Don’t!” he gasped. “You should keep the …” his voice trailed off as the boy turned to face him, dripping water from … two horribly disfigured stumps growing out of his skull. They looked for all the world like the stumps of horns, as Lithvar was used to seeing on the strange beast head hanging preserved over the fireplace in the library. Blood and clear liquid oozed from the base of the stumps where the damage had been done. It looked incredibly painful! The boy was sobbing again, and collapsed with a howl at Lithvar’s feet.

“What has happened to you!” Lithvar asked in horror. And then, remembering to always be reassuring with strange interlopers … “Don’t worry, our priests will make it better.”

The boy’s head snapped up from its huddle, and he stared furiously at Lithvar through stunning eyes, one violet and one black. “Your priests did this!” he snarled.

“What?” Lithvar took a step back, shocked at the accusation. “No! They are kind!”

“Kind?” The boy spat. “They want to drive my demons out. They had me locked in a room, they cut me and beat me.”

“No! They must be trying to heal you!”

The boy rocked forward a little, head tilting to one side, eyes widening. “You don’t … believe they would do this?” He asked softly.

“No! They are kind. They have always been kind …” His voice trailed off. He remembered the night they found him with the gnome child, and the boy’s cries and screams after they dragged him away. Where was that child now? They would never tell him what they did …

The boy rose up onto his knees, grabbed Lithvar’s hand before he could recoil. Was it Lithvar’s imagination, or was the boy’s skin slightly dry and … scaly?

“Please, help me!” The boy gasped urgently. “You know this place. You can help me leave!”

“Nothing is stopping you! Just go to the gates! Here, I’ll show you!” Lithvar drew the boy up, but then paused. “But wait, if you’re leaving, I should get some food for the road. You can’t go off without food!”

The boy looked around urgently. “There’s no time! We should go. You can’t …”

His protests trailed off, eyes wide, looking over Lithvar’s shoulder. Lithvar turned slowly. The temple Elder was standing there, flanked by two men in steel armour. They carried some kind of chains, strung with wicked-looking barbs and ending in a nasty blunt hook-thing. They both looked levelly at Lithvar with cold, expressionless faces. One twitched his left hand, making the chain rattle. The boy stepped away from Lithvar and started moving towards the stairs he had come down, but stopped as another one of the guards emerged from the shadows of the stairwell.

“Lithvar,” the elder said, not unkindly. “Please, what are you doing here?”

“Um …” Lithvar stumbled. “This boy … I found … he wants to leave. Um, I was just going to get him food and show him the gates.”

“No Lithvar, you weren’t,” the elder said gently. “He can’t leave. Tyhalt is sick, and he needs to stay here until he is better.”

“NOT SICK!” The boy wailed. “Don’t hurt me more! Lithvar, help me!” He stumbled forward and fell to his knees behind Lithvar, wrapping his arms around Lithvar’s waist. “Don’t let them hurt me again!”

The men stepped forward smoothly and swiftly. One grabbed Lithvar by the shoulders and arms, and before he could even think to move the other had the boy Tyhalt in a strong grip. Lithvar heard the chain rattling but noticed a swift glance from the elder, and the chain stopped. He couldn’t look around but he heard the sound of Tyhalt kicking the guard’s armour, followed by a thumping sound and cries. The elder nodded at Lithvar’s guard, and he began to be dragged in towards the stairs.

“We will talk later, Lithvar,” the elder told him. “Tyhalt needs to be returned to treatment.”

As he was dragged into the hallway Lithvar heard the boy crying and howling, then go suddenly silent as the chains rattled. Before the guard kicked a door closed he thought he heard muffled voices, the elder speaking loudly maybe, and then cries. But then the door shut and he was dragged into the cool darkness and merciful silence of the inner cloisters.

Later that day he spoke with the elder, but he learnt nothing of the boy, nor did he see him again. That day something changed in the happy silence of Lithvar’s life. Soon he was gone, taking a bundle of books and food and setting off into the world to find a new way…

The nightmare and the warden

Syrion was really still a boy when his father cast him out. Still a boy, but old enough to be caught atop his father’s third consort, and that was too flagrant an error for even his own long-suffering father to tolerate. Whether it was the shame of being cuckolded by his own son – and with his new favourite, no less! – or the realization that this child would only bring his royal house down, it cannot be said. Certainly as Syrion left the town incognito the next morning, bearing what little he could steal or beg from family retainers, head bowed in shame, the rumours he heard of that consort’s ill-omened end were not pretty. Still, he had got what he wanted, and what fault of his that her high-pitched warblings were fit to wake the dead (and his father’s guards)? Besides, the argument had been waiting to be had, and now he was free he could really show his father how great he was. He would make his own noble future, and return a powerful man to rival his own father. Then they would see who was an embarrassment to who!

… Syrion was still really only a boy a few months later when, down on his luck and too childish to manage his money, he found himself drinking his last gold piece away in a seedy tavern in some pointless town on the edge of the Wild Wood. It was hardly his fault – again, a woman had brought trouble down upon him because she couldn’t keep her ecstasy to herself. This time it was the daughter of the merchant whose caravan he had been guarding, and now here he was, unceremoniously dumped from his work and lucky not to have copped a stupendous beating – a good thing for him that the merchant’s retainers lacked any military prowess, and had been scared to touch him. Still, he had already handed over his deposit to a loan shark in Newport, and had been depending on the payment on delivery for food, clothes and lodging. So here he was, in a nowhere town with nowhere to go and no money. So it was that he found himself nursing bad ale and a bad heart, wondering if he would have to go slinking back to his father in shame, because there was surely no work to be had hereabouts, when a little group of men sidled up to him and offered him a paltry sum of money to beat up a local troublemaker.

Now that he could do! And what an easy troublemaker to find – some kind of demon that could be found in a barn nearby, a real demon with horns and a tail! They would only pay him a couple of silvers to do the job, but everyone knew that demons had treasure and besides! Think of the fame! And they bought him another drink! Which he downed ceremoniously, before staggering out to find this demon and collect his money…

… At the barn he staggered through the door, yelling bravely, and drew his sword with a yell. Standing there in the half-light was a full demon! It had red skin and fiery eyes, stood maybe 3m tall at the shoulder, and had huge horns and a long, whip-like tail. Was it scaled or furry? He couldn’t quite tell because of his blurred vision – some evil demon magic no doubt. This demon was standing over a supine figure, someone who was twitching and yelling in fear but transfixed before the demon, perhaps even semi-conscious with terror. A desperate tableau! Even though this demon, on closer inspection, appeared to be vague and barely material, in fact almost see-through – a seeming, perhaps? – it was still clearly a life-and-death moment for this poor traveller sleeping in the wrong barn! Syrion charged forward and with a couple of flourishes of his mighty sword arm was able to destroy the beast. It fled to its own plane, disappearing in a puff of sulphur, and leaving behind a little nick of horn. Syrion took the horn as proof of his job done, and sagged down beside the terrified traveller, who seemed to have returned to sleep. Now Syrion too was very tired. He needed to sleep off his drunken state. He would collect his reward in the morning …

… and so it was that he slept beside the warlock boy, Tyhalt, and while he slept there for the first time in a long time Tyhalt’s nightmares did not come – no demons manifested in his sleep, no infernal sendings or seemings troubled him. In the morning he and Syrion set out together, and it was only later in the day that Syrion realized Tyhalt was the demon he was supposed to have given a beating. By then Tyhalt had already proposed a money-making scheme to him: Tyhalt would appear in villages to terrorize them, and then Syrion would arrive fortuitously, collecting money to drive Tyhalt out. A lucrative venture! And one Syrion could hardly turn down. Thus it was that they became friends in crime, and wanderers on the fringe of the Wild Wood, as Syrion established his reputation as a paladin and demon-slayer…

 The doomed and the saved

Smoke on the horizon
Can the flames be far behind?
You run for cover, but it’s too late
You are engulfed, you are
The smoke on the horizon

– Black Company mantra

The cult found Ayn bound and dying in the sacrificial pit of one of their sacred ruins. She had been dumped there by her tribe – some kind of honour killing – doused in acid and left to die, or to be eaten while she died by one of the many ruthless scavengers of the wastes. Of course they only learnt later that her fate had been of such mundane savagery – at first, finding her in that venerated and holy hollow, they assumed she was a message from their crazed doomsday gods, so they saved her as best they could. From that day forth she was their slavish devotee, but scarred beyond recognition and shamed by the accusations of her tribe, she insisted on always being swathed head to toe in layers of impenetrable black cloth. Her face was so disfigured that she could never show it: instead she had a blank black mask, lacking even eyes (for who needs eyes when one’s mysterious gods of the End will give one all the sight one needs?) She became their living shadow, perfect adherent of their teachings, servant of their unholy and morbid gods.

Life passed that way for a few years. Ayn came of age, though no one could tell what changes might be happening inside those shrouds, and the cult too grew a little, found a wealthy patron, set up a little stockade in the edge of the wild woods. Things were going well, perhaps so well that their dreams of the 13th Age’s catastrophic end in fire and acid began to fade. Doomsday became a faint echo of their gods’ purpose, they went through the prayers and the motions but they did not, perhaps, care as much as once they did, living this comfortable life here in their little holy stockade. Except for Ayn. This cult had healed her, and its gods gave her sight – if her faith in their dread purpose ever waned or faded, so did her sight, and so every day she was perfect in her devotions to them, and in truth all she ever really dreamt of was the end of the earth – and especially of her old tribe, washed away in a tide of acid hate. When the Tiefling and the Paladin came, originally planning some scam but then deciding to stay for a few days so that the paladin could try and find what was beneath the strange girl’s robes, Ayn did not notice his attentions. She had thoughts only for the signs of the End Times, for that time when the world would be judged in fire and acid, and she would ascend to the heavens to become whole again. If she noticed the Paladin watching her impatiently, she ignored him. But she probably did not notice.

And noone noticed, either, the shadowy figure on the hillside watching them. The cultists were too comfortable in their easy life; Syrion the Paladin was too focused on Ayn and the mystery beneath her robes; Ayn was too rapt in her religious observances, praying to the dark ones so that she could keep the sight that failed to see the gnome scout hidden in the hills. So it was that he came, he watched, and he slipped away easily to his mercenary band, and he gave them detailed information on how to attack the stockade.

They came the next day: the Black Company, famed for its bravery and cunning, ill-famed for its brutality. The Priestess had paid someone to pay someone to hire someone to find someone to buy a squad to go and slaughter a doomsday cult. The Black Company were the squad, and Cog 11 was their gnome scout. He had come a long way since a library assistant taught him a few words in a glowing book; now he was a murderous adult with no heart, drifting purposeless through life with no greater goal than to fill his empty soul with a lake of blood. The Black Company was his company, but not his place, he had no place. So he watched as they fell on the stockade, but he noted that once again they had failed to follow the plan he had sketched out. They would win, of course – they always did – but it would take longer and be more difficult than needed. Angry at their stupidity, Cog 11 slipped into the stockade through the postern gate he had so carefully opened for them the day before, and prowled the streets looking for men to kill. He cut down a few, the savage pleasure of it muted by his disappointment at being ignored again. They always ignored him.

Then he found them. Syrion, Tyhalt and Ayn, trapped in a barn, fighting. He crept in above them, thinking to set some ambush, but he came to a slow halt as he crawled along the rafters to a good spot for the drop. These people did not seem lost. The big human, Syrion, was fighting with gleeful abandon, but he was brave, not a skulking backstabber like Cog 11. The tiefling and the paladin were obviously allied to each other – not by bonds of military discipline, but by some fierce joy they found in fighting alongside each other. And the black-robed girl, though she could barely muster a prayer, was deep in ecstatic service to her sick gods, flinging weak and pathetic spells about in the vain hope that she could serve some higher purpose than her own shriveled skin.

Cog 11 was amazed. His amazement soon turned to a surprising resolution: he would help them. These people had hope. He had nothing. Perhaps there was an alternative to drowning his sorrows in blood – perhaps he could find a place with people. Not the false companionship of the Company, hard men paid to like each other, but something real. He had never really even sought it out – perhaps there was a way?

With this brief irrational moment of hope eclipsing his usual cynical emptiness, Cog 11 dropped to the floor of the barn and shouldered into the door – which of course didn’t move under his tiny weight. “I have a way out,” he told the surprised paladin. But as they all looked down at him, he heard the creaking boom of a Company trebuchet. Moments later the roof of the barn crashed inward in a torrent of broken wood and flames, and the barn collapsed on them…

… By the time Lithvald stumbled on the stockade the main force of the Black Company had pulled back, leaving a ruined and blackened shell. Ash was falling from the sky with a gentle rain, and the whole area stank of smoke and death. He pushed his way through the wrecked gates into the courtyard, and picked past piles of dead and dying, looking for someone he could help. The ash drifted, settled and formed a thin skein of filthy mud in the rain, and the fires dimmed as the rain intensified. Everywhere horses and men twitched out their last breath. It seemed hopeless.

Lithvald was just considering leaving and returning to his forest when he heard a moan from a low pile of smouldering wood. He dived in and began heaving the wood aside, and after a few moments found the tiefling, who he helped out from under the timbers. As the rain washed away the grime coating the tiefling’s horn and slanted features they stared at each other in amazement. They remembered! Was this the boy Lithvald had tried to help years before? As he hauled the half-demon out from the wood they collapsed into each other, laughing with joy. Such a coincidence!

They helped the mysterious priest girl out, and then Syrion, who was battered from the battle and the ruins. Finally they spied a small crossbow focused on the group from amidst the ruins – Cog 11 returned to his old suspicions. But when he saw his teacher from all those years ago, he too crawled out of the shadows, amazed and awed by the power of fate.

This could not be just luck. This had to be fate. This was a group whom fate had conspired to draw together, to some obscure purpose. They could not separate now. They each had their own goals – of vengeance, lost loved ones to find, fame to make. But they had been drawn into the tangled web of each others’ lives by more than just luck. As Cog 11 urged them to leave the stockade before the Company’s camp followers came to murder and loot the injured, they spoke in amazement of their good luck and their future.

There was something in this. Where would it take them?

Note: this is how our new 13th Age party met. The Black Company Mantra is a slightly edited excerpt from the Assemblage 23 song, Smoke.

Another failed revolution, another night on Victory Gin

Another failed revolution, another night on Victory Gin

John Micksen is a washed-up eco-activist, a hippy and an anarcho-syndicalist who spent too long submerged in the circles of alternative politics long after the world around him had slid into a far darker, nastier place than mere authoritarianism. He committed all of his twenties and half of this thirties to a series of movements, committees, campaigns and struggles, only to see the world slipping away from him and becoming ever crueler and more degraded … as if some greater power were guiding the whole thing to ruin. By his mid-thirties he was alone, poor, cynical and sick of his political world but so committed to it that he had nowhere to go and no way out. He had become an activist lifer in a world that was rapidly closing in on his colleagues, with extreme prejudice.

Operatives of Aesir found him at this low ebb, in a sleazy bar after another fruitless meeting, and offered him an unexpected way out. They were looking for operatives, and for some reason something about John had caught their attention. Yet unaware of the chaos and demons tearing at the fabric of his reality, John could not understand what they might want him for, but they were offering him more money than he could ever earn doing cash-in-hand labouring in between activism, and he saw suddenly a chance to do something about his life – a way to jump out of the hole he could see himself slowly sliding into. [John also had other reasons, based around pride and envy, for wanting to leave his old class war days behind … but these he keeps secret from everyone].

John returning from his awakening in the land of the Faerie

John returning from his awakening in the land of the Faerie

Why would Aesir seek the services of a washed-up anti-corporate activist, who had little better to offer them than an extensive collection of anarchist magazines and a rudimentary knowledge of martial arts? Sure, he could talk, but his talk had never achieved anything. He could sometimes inspire others to great efforts, but he was avowedly no leader, and had none of the skills at organization or management that would make him a useful manager … what skills could they have sought? They of course saw something in him that he was not aware of himself – his coming Awakening. After his first mission for Aesir, John was taken into the confidence of the Faerie Queen of Winter, and offered ascension into the powers of a mage if he would agree to be her Winter Knight. Having spent years with no temporal power of any kind, the offer was too good to refuse, and John’s powers were awakened.

John had spent years as an eco-activist and friend of the wilds; it was only natural that upon awakening he was drawn to the path of Thyrsus, and the order of the Free Council. His powers are primarily in manipulation of life and fate, with lesser focus on the other forces of the natural and spirit worlds. In returning from Faerie he found himself stronger, more vigorous and with an enchanted kind of grace that others now noticed – something about him was oddly changed, more feral and wild even as his physical demeanour was tamed by corporate servitude. His eyes had become an icy blue, his skin had lost the worn, leathery cast of a man who has spent years in forests and boats; now he was pale, always cold, and imperious in manner where before he had been rough, warm and careworn. He was stronger, and fought more like an expert than a dilettante – and his blows were hard, cold and lethal, as if his body were no longer mere flesh.

The Awakened activist, ready to fight

The Awakened activist, ready to fight

The awakened John had little time to put his talents to use for Aesir, however, because a team of assassins came for him in his apartment, and he had to flee. He managed to rejoin his team and, mistakenly thinking Aesir had tried to kill them, they set off to find a ay to fix their own problems. His only alliance now is to his Winter Queen, and to his friends … John has been cast even further away from humanity than before Aesir found him, but now he is desperate and Awakened. He has traded dialectical materialism and solidarity for esotericism and desperation, and he no longer cares where his road takes him, provided he can find vengeance along the way…


Drawing on yesterday’s post about simplifying warhammer, here are the outlines for a high fantasy character class, akin to the Rogue class from Rolemaster.


The rogue is a criminal and a thug, the kind of knave who hires themselves out to do nasty jobs in the bad parts of dirty towns. Rogues fight and kill for a living, but they don’t do so fairly: a rogue who finds themselves in a fair fight has made a tactical error, and given their natural tendencies towards cowardice and thuggery, the kind of rogue who regularly gets caught in open combat is likely to die. Rogues get ahead by a combination of bastardry and skullduggery. They don’t resort to “honourable” crimes like thieves, and they don’t resort to honourable combat as do Champions or warriors. They ambush, trick and run.

Class skills

Stealth, Weapon Skill OR Ballistic Skill, Coordination, Guile, Intuition


Primary abilities: Agility, Fellowship

Wound threshold: +0

Strain: +0

Starting talents

  • Agile defender: if the rogue is not attacking, he or she can make a 1D coordination check. Every success on this check adds 1 misfortune die to the enemy’s attack; every bane causes one point of strain
  • Surprise attack: The rogue gains two fortune dice to initiative when attacking from stealth, and two fortune dice on melee attacks against those who have not acted in the first round of such an attack
  • Fluster: make a Guile vs. Discipline challenged check, with +2 misfortune dice. All allies add 1 fortune dice per success for their next action against the targeted enemy

Talent tree

Rogues develop talents according to figure 1.

Figure 1: Rogue Talents

Figure 1: Rogue Talents

How does he keep the hat on...?

This post, third in a series describing my recent experience playing the Japanese role-playing game Double Cross 3, which I have been reading and recently had the chance to play-test, describes the character I played, Kintaro.

Character Concept

Kintaro, aka “The Noble,” is a pure-breed Black Dog syndrome male in his mid-20s, who works for the UGN company and hails from a wealthy family. He is a section chief at UGN, and like most Black Dog Overed, relies on physical strength and the power of lightning and storms to do battle. Black Dog powers don’t have much subtlety or information-gathering power. They smash and fry things. Kintaro’s work history is as a mecha-driver and engineer, using equipment similar to that seen in Aliens or Avatar.


Kintaro’s stats are:

  • Physical: 6 (melee 4, resistance 1, Robot-driving 2)
  • Sense: 2
  • Spirit: 3 (Will 1)
  • Social: 1 (Provisions 2, Knowledge-UGN 1)

Hit points: 35


Kintaro knows the following effects:

  • Resurrect (lvl 1): regain 1d10 Hps, but must have a corruption score below 100 to use
  • Warding (lvl 1): Turns non-overed NPCs into “extras” for the duration of a scene
  • Concentrate (lvl 2): Reduces the critical number required for any effect with which it is combined by the level of this power
  • Cyber Arm (lvl 3): Kintaro has a nasty-looking cyber arm that does bad stuff to bad people
  • Arms Link (lvl 2): Adds [lvl] in dice to Kintaro’s attack roll with his melee skill
  • Lightning Attack (lvl 2): Adds 2x[lvl] to Kintaro’s attack power (the damage he does with his attacks)
  • Shield of ball lightning (lvl 2): Adds 2x[lvl] to Kintaro’s guard value (for resisting damage)

Kintaro has one power which he composed of a combination of 4 of these abilities.

Strike of the thunder arm (雷腕の攻撃): Combining the Cyber arm, concentrate, Arms link and lightning attack effects, Kintaro can add 2 dice to his next attack, reduce the critical target from 10 to 8,  and increase the attack damage by 4. His total dice pool using this combination is 8, and he adds 10 to damage after rolling the damage dice resulting from his attack. A potent strike indeed!

Life path

I rolled for life path in the book, and obtained the following details:


A noble family.


A dangerous job.


Old clients, perhaps people in the world of his dangerous job.






From the above life-path details, we obtain Kintaro’s Lois:

  • His mother: Kintaro’s relationship with his mother is characterised by hostility
  • A client of his old work: This client is dead, and Kintaro honours his memory
  • Silk Spider: A UGN agent who values Kintaro’s happiness
  • Fellow Traveller: Kanamoto Saburota, one of the NPCs, whose relationship with Kintaro is characterised by “alienation.”
  • Domeki, a PC, in whom Kintaro sees much promise

(The last two of these were generated for the adventure).

Putting the threads together: Kintaro’s story

Kintaro was born the youngest son of a wealthy family, inheritors of a network of nuclear power stations scattered across Japan. In his late teens Kintaro’s power began to manifest and his father, up until then a remote figure, began to draw him into the family business, rewarding his expression of super-power talents and slowly revealing their shared knowledge of the Black Dog skills. Perhaps proximity to the nuclear power plant induced this particular expression of the Renegade virus, but Kintaro’s powers were never strong, and ultimately his father despaired of him, tired of him, and became angry and hateful towards him. Somehow, Kintaro discovered that in fact his father was an agent of the False Hearts organisation, and confronting him with this knowledge, was offered the chance to join the organization by his father. He refused, and his father said terrible things about Kintaro’s weakness and lack of proper renegade manifestation. Kintaro, angered, suddenly manifested his full power and, in a burst of anger, set off such a cataclysm of electrical power that the power station in which their confrontation occurred collapsed around them. Kintaro, severely injured, fled his home and never returned. Somehow in the cataclysm his body fashioned itself a cyber arm from discarded pieces of the powerplant, and he left his home behind him.This explains the awakening of sacrifice.

Showing an affinity for machines, Kintaro took up dangerous work as a robot operator, heavy machinery operator and ultimately mecha driver. In between he associated with Yakuza, Yanki, and all the dangerous elements of the underworld that surround jobs associated with hard physical labour. He had some confrontations with his mother during this time, but discovered she had always known about and tolerated her father’s secret contacts. Angered, he withdrew from his mother, though she constantly calls and contacts him, and disappeared for years into the simple world of hard labour. It was here that he met one of his Lois’s, the client of one of his companies, who was perhaps a yakuza boss or brothel-owner but was like a mentor for Kintaro, helping him to control his anger. This man died, perhaps in an encounter with people connected with the False Hearts.

Eventually Kintaro’s occasional encounters with the False Hearts brought him to the attention of UGN, and they recruited him. Discovering the truth about the False Hearts and the plans his father had had – and his mother had tolerated – enabled Kintaro to find a new depth of hatred for this organisation and its fellow travellers, and this became his driving impulse. He threw himself into his work, becoming friends with the UGN contacts Silk Spider and Saburota, but his devotion to his work and dangerous manner alienated him from Saburota, so they trust one another but have awkward daily dealings. Kintaro took up working in a UGN mecha shop as his cover, but does a lot of agent work.


It should be clear from this description that Kintaro is a driven character, full of hatred for his enemies and impatience with those who cannot aid him. He is quick to anger and slow to forget, capable of bearing grudges against those he loves and who love him, and driven by personal demons and a strong sense of mission. Though he may not be stupid, he is clearly a man of action, unwilling to tolerate the niceties of diplomacy or social graces. People are a tool in his main goal, which is to avenge himself on and ultimately destroy the organisation which changed his life – the False Hearts. This probably suggests an equivocal view of his own powers, which he sacrificed much to gain, and possibly even a quite calculating view of his own employer. But one thing is certain – his mission is destruction, and he has the tools to carry it out.

About the image

The image is from the Black Dog chapter of the Double Cross rulebook. The inset panel says “before you look,” and the main panel says something like, “A bolt of energy that is surely 440 times the speed of sound, a million volts of power, and as much as a gigajoule of energy… that is to say, LIGHTNING.”

There has been some talk on other blogs of the benefits of class vs. classlessness (in character creation of course) in RPG systems, to which I would like to contribute by presenting an example of an enchantress developed using a classless system. Here is Anna Labrousse at her current level (6) from the Compromise and Conceit game.

Anna Labrousse: Level 6

Ability Scores

Strength -2, Dexterity 0, Constitution 0, Intelligence +3, Wisdom -1, Charisma +3

Class Skills

Spellcraft +12, Concentration +6, Social +9, Perception +3, Presence +8

Non-class skills

Reflexes +4, Fortitude +4, Attack (Missile) +0, Attack (Melee) -2, Knowledge(Arcane) +4, Will +0


Major Spell-casting (Regency School); Adventurer (+1 fortitude and perception); Powerful Voice (3/day suggestion effect, presence vs. will);  Supernatural Calm (+2 Presence); Proficiencies (Infernal weapon and Infernal Armour); Alertness (check for secret doors automatically within 3m); Combat casting (make concentration checks to cast spells in combat)


Spell Name DC Note
The Garden of Proserpine 19+1 per additional target Range 10m; puts target to sleep for 1rd/pt of success; vs. will
Moll’s Cunning 20 Range self; disguises Anna as someone else for 1 hour per point of success
Bosch’s Folly 16+1 per lvl of creature Summons a single monster for 1 rd/pt of success
Honour of the King 17 Increases Anna’s presence by +2 for 1 rd/pt of success
Spellbinding 21+1 per additional creature Range 10m;Paralyses target for 1 rd. per point of success; vs. will
Milton’s Grace 19 Increases target’s reflexes and will by +2 for 1 rd/pt of success. Range: touch.
Grendel’s Demise 24 Rips of target’s arm. Vs. Fortitude

Weapons and Armour

Infernal Webbing (Damage Reduction 2, no activity penalty)

Native Coup-belt (Damage Reduction +1)

Infernal Pistol (Max. wounds 1, critical 20/+1, range 10m, ignores armour)

Confustor Field Rod (Range 10m, DC 10 ranged touch, DC 17 fortitude save, 3m radius effect, 10 charges)