Santicorn: Mothership Culture Tables

Merry Christmas! This is for the Throne of Salt blog.

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Space is a weird place for weird people.

Roll 1d12 for Unexpected Core Cultures to run into while traversing the greater cosmos. The reason for these cultures is kept purposefully vague or non-existent.

Unexpected Core Cultures
  1. Comet Cannibals. In a hollow comet, they live in cryostasis. When water-starved ships come to harvest, they awaken, kill them, take their food and weapons, and return to their frozen sleeps. 
  2. Organic Soup Sea Eaters. On a planet of oily black stone, there is no water, only a sea of organic soup. The colony here has forgotten what water was, and if you arrive with foodstuffs they will steal it and throw it into their seas to further enrich them.
  3. Punk Rock Ring Miners. These ring-miners, stuck in the drab and dreary block-barracks, have taken to graffiti and punk rock music to inject high octane energy into their daily lives. Pink mohawks and fat gages are signs of maturity.
  4. Techno-Guiding Stories. This colony lost access to their recording technology generations ago. They encode important information about their origins, their mission, and their hidden resources in stories they pass down from generation to generation.
  5. Void Children. A colony born and raised as an experiment in the heart of a great void has forgotten what the sun or even starlight looks is. They treat tails of galaxies from far away as myths, and are distrustful of outsiders who yield from the great black.
  6. Aurora Sun Worshippers. The magnetic poles of this colony world are unpredictable, and the sun too far away to provide usable light. Thus, the aurora takes the place of the sun for them, and everything is stark white to better reflect those sacred colors.
  7. Moon Tribe Marriage. With only 20 people per moon-colony, these people send their children away to find lovers and bring them back, so that incest does not taint their gene pool.
  8. Congress of Water Filters. Inside the oort cloud, great respect is given to those who dedicate their lives to filtering water from the void of space. These people live as hermits, and their words are treated as laws.
  9. Those Dyed by Creation. Inside great pillars of cosmic gas, the color of things is ever-changing. It dyes skin and hair alike; those who brave the cosmos long enough, and thus return the most flamboyantly dyed, are treated as princes.
  10. A.I. This cabal of A.I have created their own gibberous language that only they can understand. They prioritize communication with the universe beyond the cosmic horizon. They recieve answers that they too can only understand.
  11. Exile by Meteor. Exiles are put into pods and bound to asteroids in a nearby asteroid belt, which is then fired into deep space. If one returns, they are considered Prime Alpha by the colony, and allowed to spend 1 year doing as they please.
  12. City of the Black Horizon. Just within the event horizon of a supermassive black hole is a city outside of time. The people here travel into the depths of the black hole, from which only a few have returned taller, without eyes, and unable to speak in any language except one other returners understand. These individuals are saints, and the ground they walk is kissed, and the arts they make used to decipher laws.

Now roll 1d6 for the state of the culture.
  1. Flourishing. It has spread to other parts of the cosmos, and a civilization is blooming that adheres to these strange tenets.
  2. Dying. They are the last of their kind, and are desperate to impart their ways--forcibly, if needed--onto others.
  3. Developing. There are currently massive changes on the precipice for this culture. Roll again on the above table; within 1d12 months, the current culture will somehow shift to the next.
  4. Artificial. It is clear this culture is the result of some experiment. Roll any other dice; odds say that the experimenter is still monitoring, and even says they are long dead.
  5. Wrong. The culture rolled is nothing but tall-tales exaggerated. Reroll on the above table; the new result is the actual culture.
  6. Syncratic. The culture absorbs other cultures. Reroll twice on the table above, and take two ideas from both ideas and insert them into the originally rolled culture.
Now roll 1d8 for a defining strange law followed by the culture.
  1. Lying is punished by replacing the fingernails with chips of metal that dig into the flesh painfully.
  2. Murder is allowed so long as a third party states that the victim did not suffer.
  3. Speaking, looking at, or otherwise acknowledging children younger than 10 cycles is punished with removal of a number of teeth equal to the age of the child.
  4. Seeing another naked requires one to stitch one eye shut for 72 hours. 
  5. Artificial Intelligence is banned. If witnessed, not only must it be destroyed, but everyone who witnessed it must commit ritual suicide.
  6. Knowing one's biological parents is illegal. Discovery or intent to investigate is punished with immediate exile.
  7. Alien life is considered the only suitable partner for sexual relations for purposes other than strict procreation. Failure to adhere to this results in severe genital mutilation.
  8. Outsiders must never enter, and those born inside must never leave, lest disease destroy both parties. Trading is accomplished through extensive decontamination processes.
Lastly, choose 2 objects: one of your choice, and a second found by googling one of the following 1d4 words:
  1. Religion.
  2. Chimera.
  3. Abandoned.
  4. Sacrifice.
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If this pic is the kind of weird you wanted, I'll make a sequel post.

So an example culture is:

This colony lives on a world covered in vast organic seas which they consume in the absence of water and food. They've grown distrustful of "alien" nutrition and will steal what you have and destroy it or feed it to their slop-seas. It is clear that this is an experiment that's gone on too long, but it is likely the originator of this experiment is long-dead. Interacting with children younger than 10 is grounds for removal of teeth, for these children have not yet supped on the seas long enough to be considered truly human. Their symbol is a lamp drowning in jars of stagnant fluid, representing how great their world has made them intellectually--or so they believe.


We Mortal Legends - Rules Synopsis

The goal is to eventually have the core rules fit on a 2 page spread. This 2 page spread will go into the front/end papers of every book I write using the system. BUT before I can do that, I have to have actual core rules, so it's time for me to start putting these things down.

This isn't my attempt at making these fit on a 2 page spread. This blogpost is me writing down the 1st draft of the WML's most basic rules. It's unlikely all of this would go into the 2 page spread, and what does likely not as it's written below.

As this is a rules synopsis, this is only going over the rules at a shallow level. We Mortal Legend's, as a book, will likely have all kinds of different smaller rules for GMs to make use of as they wish. For example, rules for chasing things won't be included in this post, etc. This post will not go over Aesthetics (coming soon), Saga stuff, and the special rules that come from both. A lot of the flavor for the game will come from Aesthetics and other small bits in the book, so the below is more how I run things without all the spice.

Things are about to get a little weird..

We Mortal Legends - Rules Synopsis


We Mortal Legends uses a d20 roll-under-attribute mechanic, where you must roll under one of your 4 attributes to succeed on a difficult task. The GM will at times give you a modifier to add to your roll to represent difficulty at achieving the task.

The Game Master (GM) will describe a scene and situation to the Player Characters (PC). If the PCs interact with it, the GM will ask each one in turn what they want to do. PC's then describe what they want to do, which usually consists of moving somewhere and doing something. If that something requires a roll, the GM will call for it. Rolls are rarer in We Mortal Legends than in other systems; only call for one if failure is interesting, the action is resisted or doubtable, and if there is pressure on the PC to succeed.

Helping others is done by another PC rolling as well, and applying any keywords. If one PC succeeds, all PCs do.

Group checks are checks the entire party makes. As long as 1/2 of the party (rounded up) succeeds, everyone does!

PCs consists of attributes, keywords, saves, hit die, a legend, and their AC.

Your attributes, which cannot raise above 18 for PCs, are:

  • Savvy, which is your character's skill, intelligence, and ability to do nuanced things.
  • Athletics, which is your character's endurance, strength, and coordination.
  • Weird, which is how supernaturally capable your character is.
  • A special 4th attribute unique to your campaign/setting, decided at the start of the game.
Keywords are words that help define your character, like "Coward" or "Mercenary." If you can apply a keyword to an action you're undertaking that requires a roll, you roll an additional d20. If you succeed on one, you succeed on the roll. If you succeed on both, it's a critical success!

Saves require you to roll a certain range on a d6 whenever your character is in danger that they can't otherwise escape. Every campaign has 3 saves. These are decided at the start of the campaign by the group!

Hit die determine your character's hit points, and the hit points for other creatures. A hit die is a d6 that you roll, and the number generated is your hit points. When your hit points reach 0, your character dies, triggering a death mechanic. You can heal by spending 5 minutes patching yourself up, raising your hit points to half the maximum. To get further healing you'll need special tools, abilities, or a week of rest!

Death Mechanics are unique to each campaign and are decided by the table when the campaign begins. Some of these open up the way to more adventure, make your character stronger, or give you another chance at life.

Legends are archetypes applied to your character. These give you special methods to use for overcoming obstacles. Each legend has a Character Advancement Table (CAT)--a d100 table that you spend Experience Points on to gain new character features. The first 50 options of every CAT are the same, and options 51-00 are unique to your legend!

Armor Class (AC) is a pool of points that you can use to reduce damage. Your AC is calculated by taking every point of Athletics you have above 10 and then adding your armor AC bonus to it. When you take damage, you reduce your AC by the amount you want to decrease the damage by. You regain 1d6 AC whenever you spend 5 minutes to patch yourself up, and full if you spend an hour taking care of your armor. If the GM targets the player with an attack, the player will roll under Athletics (usually with a modifier) to see if they dodge away or need to use AC to survive!

Experience Points (XP) are gained at the end of every game session. Every We Mortal Legends campaign has 3 methods of gaining XP. 2 of them are picked from the book, and the 3rd is decided by the table. By spending XP=1/2 the 10's digit of a feature on your CAT, you can get that feature directly!

Damage die are rolled whenever a PC deals damage to something. These are d8s. When you make an attack, you roll under your Athletics. You then add how many points you rolled under by and add that to whatever you roll on your d8.

Tools help the PCs do things that they normally can't. They are broken up into 4 categories:
  • Weapons have unique tags to them, giving weapons special properties when used.
  • Armors add to your AC pool and can have special properties natural to them.
  • Simples are basic tools, like waterskins or healing potions, that PCs use.
  • Utilities are advanced tools, like those of an alchemist. Roll 3d6 under Savvy to use them; if you roll doubles or triples, you get bonus effects! If you take your time using Utilities, there is no way to fail, but roll anyway to see if special things happen!
Encumbrance defines how many items PCs can carry. Calculate your encumbrance by adding half of your Savvy score to your Athletics. Items will take up differing amounts of these slots! If you have more items then you do slots, you are over encumbered and add +4 to any Athletics checks you make!

Conditions are status effects that impede PCs. Conditions take up inventory slots and have special effects depending on what they are.

Esoteries are supernatural effects, items, or abilities, split up into 8 defined groups. When a campaign begins, the table decides on 1-3 Esoteries that the game will use. Each Esotery has different mechanics and purpose behind it! They are:
  • Miracles, or godly interventions that shake up the situation.
  • Psionics, or mental powers used by characters.
  • Sorcery, or powerful spells that warp the world.
  • Folk Wises, or random bits of knowledge that work, like a circle of salt to keep out demons.
  • Mancy, or divination through different means to learn different things.
  • Curses, or dangerous supernatural effects that plague characters.
  • Curios, or magical items with different abilities.
  • Pacts, or interacting with spirits or other supernatural entities for power.
Edge Cases are common things the player's may want to do, like hiding or grappling creatures. There's a lot of these, and only a few will be covered in the greater rules. For the two above, see:
  • Hiding (including moving around sneakily) requires a roll under Savvy. For every point you roll under, another point is added to other creature's Savvy rolls to find you.
  • Grappling (or otherwise subduing a creature) requires a roll under Athletics. For every point you roll under, another point is added to other creature's attempts to escape. Creatures grappled are considered to be subdued.
Traveling requires one PC to serve as the guide if there is not one already. The guide will roll 2d12 under Savvy. On a failure, 1d6 hours/days/months (decided before the roll) are added to the trip's length. If doubles are rolled and under Savvy, a shortcut is found. The GM should have something prepared (either from tables or their own work) in case either happens. This traveling check is made whenever PCs encounter something on their journey.

Random encounters happen if one of the dice for the traveling check are above a certain number. The lower the number, the more dangerous the journey, and this number can change throughout the journey! The GM rolls a random encounter check this way with 2d8 instead of 2d12 if the PCs are in a dungeon of any kind.

There is no encounter initiative. The flow of the game remains fluid even when something is encountered! It is the GM's responsibility to ensure everyone, including NPCs and/or monsters, get to go at least once before someone goes again.

Helpers are NPCs that the party either pays for or convinces to help them! These are given HD, AC, and a blurb about what they can do.

So that's it for the basic core rules. Here's an example of an optional rule that will be found in the book (or at least the 1st draft of it):

Morale is rolled whenever a creature is reduced to below half their maximum hit points from any damage source, or when specifically tested by a unique ability or feature. This includes PCs! Test morale by rolling a d6 under their remaining hit points. On a failure, they are panicked, a condition that adds +4 to all rolls. Characters can calm down only when they believe they are safe again, requiring one of the following three methods:
  • Another character rolling a d6 under your hit points as they try to console you.
  • Exiting the situation entirely without being followed.
  • Making whatever harmed you exit the situation entirely with no chance of it returning.

Anywho, that's what I'm thinking for now. I'm going to start playing these immediately with a couple of my groups as soon as I have some more legends (formally known as classes) and other little bits made, but that's the core. Don't be afraid to share thoughts below!

Fluid-Combat: Stat Blocks, Initiative, Tools, and Healing

I'm thinking for We Mortal Legends, combat won't exist as it does in most Fantasy games.

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Yes, there will still be violence. There must always be violence.

That's a big statement to make, so first I'll explain why that's the case, and then I'll discuss. For me, combat is a sore thumb. I like games where encounters can be solved a number of ways. Combat having so much mechanical heft to it means that it's usually the only real way to deal with encounters. Games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess deal with this by making combat something to avoid. Other games like 5E deal with this by making combat a sport to indulge in. This usually involves rolling initiative to determine which side goes first or what characters do, and then a whole bunch of abstractions and rules for moderating combat.

I don't think any of it is needed for a game where combat is not the primary option for solving encounters or overcoming obstacles. To be forward, I am not saying that one roll combat (which is both sides roll a dice and the outcome determines the winner) will be how We Mortal Legends handles violence. Instead, there are three main pillars to encounter situations: Stat Blocks, Initiative, and Tools. This ends up involving healing too, as that deals with damage.

STAT BLOCKS

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I hate reading these.
In the 2nd Little Brown Book for OD&D, we are given a bestiary. In the bestiary, there is a huge table of stats for every monster inside of it. Following the bestiary are entries that elaborate on these stat lines with lore and special abilities. An example, for the Djinn, is below:

DJINN: All Djinn are aerial creatures and have not the powers typically credited to them in fairy tales. They fight as Giants with a –1 as far as damage is concerned, thus doing from 1–11 points of damage when hitting. They can carry up to 6,000 Gold Pieces in weight, walking or flying (the latter for short periods only). They can create food which is nutritionally sound. They can create drinkable beverages. They can create soft goods and wooden objects of permanence, but metallic items last but a short time when created by them (the harder the metal the shorter its life), so that Djinn-Gold lasts but one day. They can create illusions which will remain until dispelled by touch or magic, and they need not concentrate upon the illusions to maintain them. They can form a whirlwind 1” base diameter, 2” top diameter, and 3” in height which otherwise is like that of an Air Elemental. Djinn are also able to become invisible or assume gaseous form. 

Imagine this blurb without the table for AC, HD, movement , or any of that. Without that table, this blurb becomes terrifying. You have a creature that can fly, create items and gold, deals some hefty damage, carries tremendous amounts of money, can assume gaseous form or become invisible, and can even make whirlwinds. Without a measure of how to kill it, this is now an obstacle and a monster, and not just something to kill. The party will have to find some kind of special, esoteric or creative way to talk their way past or otherwise deal with the Djinn.

Now, this isn't enough for me. I'd want the above with something else too. Right now, I'm thinking 3 tables.

Table 1 is the reaction table for the creature. If you have more than one of these obstacles in a dungeon room or what have you, roll on both tables and that is how these things are reacting to each other when the party finds them. This should be unique to each creature.

Table 2 contains sample ways to overcome the obstacle. These are also specific, and are meant to give the Referee some idea of how the party can overcome this thing. This table serves as a guidepost for what the party can also do--if they come up with something similar to the option rolled, or even something more bizarre yet that vaguely fits it, their ideas probably work.

Table 3 is a series of Omens. These are things you roll on to telegraph the encounter; things like a green dragon's domain being covered in mist that makes people greedy, or the Djinn above being sealed into an oil lamp mysteriously placed before a king's tomb.

The blurb itself should contain the gist of the creature, how much damage it can do if any, what special aspects or powers it has, and a potential pool of AC points and a potential number of HD to be rolled for its hit points.

Not all creatures will have all of the above. Slimes don't have AC for example--they're slimes, so they don't dodge or withstand things. Likewise, a creature without HD implies some form of immortality or that it's something ethereal or supernatural. 

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I like the Qu'ran form of Djinn, where they are things of smoke and fire.

Let's have some sample tables for the Djinn above:

Djinn Reactions
Roll 1d6
1. Anger that the party has interrupted its pressing business.
2. Enthralled by a PC's beauty, poise, artistic ability, or some other trait of theirs.
3. Terrified that the PCs will seal them away into something.
4. Bored out of their mind and ready to challenge the PCs to a duel of riddles.
5-6. Sealed inside an oil lamp, incense burner, ring, or turbaned mannequin. Rub 3 times to release.

Overcoming the Djinn
Roll 1d6
  1. Wishing for the Djinn to have either freedom or eternal happiness.
  2. Tricking the Djinn with 3 riddles, thus earning 3 wishes.
  3. Removing the air from a room, causing the Djinn to temporarily lose its form.
  4. Catching or tricking the Djinn into being unfaithful to its god, thus causing it to be sealed away into something.
  5. Removing the Djinn's rings, thus banishing it back to its smoke-filled plane.
  6. Challenging the Djinn to a duel of swords and somehow disarming it.
Omens that the Djinn Draws Near
Roll 1d6
  1. Whirlwinds in the shape of dancing women twirl in the air.
  2. Prayers to the Goddess of Destiny, and incense smelling of jasmine.
  3. An oil lamp, incense burner, ring, or turbannend mannequin somewhere conspicuous.
  4. The sudden desire to take what one wants.
  5. Pieces of poetry and song flitting through the air.
  6. Piles of gold and coal, with random pieces of gold turning into random pieces of coal.
So the idea is that these three tables inspire the referee when prepping their game to ask "Why" is this the case for their monster. Why does the Djinn I just rolled as haunting the Sultan's court foretell it's arrival with pieces of scattered poetry in the wind? Why can this Djinn be overcome by tricking it for wishes? Questions like these, even if rolled on the spot for impromptu GMing, make my games richer, so hopefully this format of stat block does the same for others too.

For generic monsters, like a bunch of Orcs, or for people like Bandits, you would have these tables in reference to what they are. So you'd have 3 tables for a group of Highwaymen, or 3 tables for an Orc warband, etc, that you roll on. You don't always need tables either; simply make an option for each of the 3 categories if you don't want to make a full table and you got what you need.


INITIATIVE

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Yeah I'm kinda' over this.

It's unneeded.

No need for combat rounds or stuff like that. A fluid game round where everyone goes at least once is the standard for my tables. If there are times where people need to or want to go twice in a row, I allow it based on circumstance. This is how my games flow--I ask specific people what they want to do, and they tell me what they do.

Initiative in its oldest sense is just to see who goes first in a round, the baddies or the PCs. With the We Mortal Legends fluid combat idea, what we have is if the players are surprised by an obstacle or something pops out and reacts poorly immediately, it acts. Then the players act and, if the monster has some kind of ability it can potentially act in the middle of the players.

Players (or referee) popcorn things, saying who goes next. 

So no combat mini-game, no need for breaking the flow of the game, no need for abstractions like each round is somehow 6 seconds, etc. If the PCs resort to violence, nothing in the game changes--the players are simply using violence as their means for dealing with the obstacle in front of them.

For many tactical gamers, of which this may sound silly, I state this: real-time strategy is, to me, way more interesting in a tactical game then turn-based combat. Turn-based combat can work well, and it's been done in virtually every major fantasy RPG, but this fluid, RTS-method can offer just as much tactical depth, and more in certain ways, than turn-based combat can. This is assuming you are playing We Mortal Legends for the sole purpose of fighting things, or if you just enjoying fighting in addition to everything else.

The ultimate feel I'm going for is that when you encounter something, you shouldn't be thinking how to roll initiative and kill it. You should be thinking how to deal with it (or avoid it, which is still dealing with it).

This is not a revolutionary idea. Narrative initiative is an old hat idea.

TOOLS

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Tools are one of the bread n' butter things for We Mortal Legends. A tool is anything that your PC uses to interact with the world. They are broken up into roughly four different categories:
  1. Weapons, which deal d8 damage and each have a special trait depending on weapon type.
  2. Armor, which add points to your AC pool and may have certain special features.
  3. Simples, which are things like bedrolls, cloaks, waterskins, etc.
  4. Utilities, which are special items like Alchemist tools that have a utility to it.
When doing violence, weapons and armors are your big things. Without a weapon, anything you deal damage with is considered an improvised weapon like in 5E, dealing d6 damage and sometimes having a special quality to it depending on the referee.


Weapon types have different features. This is what makes weapons different from one another. Example:

Daggers automatically hit against enemies surprised, subdued, or otherwise unaware or unable to respond to an attack. Add +5 to the damage rolled when attacking this way.

Mauls remove armor's AC bonus every hit, equalling half the damage (rounded down) removed.

Warbows can shoot up to 400 yards and ignore any damage reduction from armor.

Whips can subdue a target if max damage is rolled. Targets subdued this way can be shoved to the ground or disarmed at the same time.

Bastard swords double damage from the Athletics check if wielded in both hands.

Shields (because these are really weapons, tbh) add 2-4 points to the PC's AC pool depending on shield size.

Torches light things on fire if max damage is rolled.

Spears shove enemies back when hit by 10 feet.

Lances skewer targets when max damage is rolled and the attacker is riding something, subduing them and dragging them around until removed.

Stuff like the above makes weapons kind of like a bag of tricks and what weapons you prefer influences your playstyle pretty heavily if you're into combat, etc. A dagger can just automatically hit and shank most people, while a lance is a specialty weapon that can really take something out of the equation.

All this applies to armor too. Some armor examples:

Plate armor adds +8 to your AC pool, is loud as all hell, and prevents dismemberment. AC from Athletics is reduced by -2.

Arming doublets/aketons adds +2 to your AC pool and you can add pieces of other armors to it, increasing it further by +1.

Lamellar armor adds +4 to your AC pool, though you can't spend AC to protect your arms or legs from called shots.

Some pros and cons (big numbers + loud, or small numbers + variable bigger, or an average number + not protected in all cases) for armor makes armors dynamic and incentives picking armors for certain situations.

There are no mechanics for Simples, they just do what they do.

Utilities, like Alchemist tools etc, are speciality objects that require a roll. When you roll a utility, you roll 3d6 under your Savvy and consult the chart below:

Under Savvy: Success, reference your tool.
Doubles: Unexpected stroke of genius, reference your tool. 
Triples: Something's gone amazingly right, reference your tool.
Over Savvy: Failure. Mark an X by your tool. At 3 X's, your tools require maintenance before they can be used again. Reference your tool.

If you have the luxury of taking your time when using your tool, you gain automatic success, and the rolling is just to see if you get doubles or triples. You ignore failures in these cases. This is to represent that an Alchemist in the heat of the moment may make a mistake, but one who is in the safety of their lab won't have an issue.

The purpose of utility tool mechanics is to encourage people to use them and think of how they can be used either with ample prep time or in the heat of the moment.

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Some actual alchemists' tools.

An example tool:

Alchemist tools are used to transmute objects from one form or state into another. When rolling a Utilities check, reference the following chart for alchemist tools: 
Under Savvy: You succeed in your transmutation to turn something from one state into another, like one type of metal into another, or something solid into something liquid. Last for a number of hours equal to the # rolled. 18 hours if you take your time.
Doubles: The thing you've transmuted is permanent unless undone by another alchemist.
Triples: You've created something special. Choose an Esotery effect in your campaign and apply it to the item.
Over Savvy: Your tools must be cleaned, lest the transmutations be tainted beyond repair.

HEALING

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An NPC you'll want to make friends with.
Healing must be fluid in a game without super distinct phases of downtime - exploration - combat.

If you spend at least 5 in-game minutes patching yourself up, you can restore yourself to half your hit point maximum and no more.

In order to regain full hit points, you must do one of the following things:
  • Spend 1 week or more relaxing and otherwise safe.
  • Have a tool that can restore hit points.
  • A character feature that can restore hit points or something giving you aid.
  • An esotery that can restore hit points.

And that's it. You can pretty continuously get yourself back up to half, but getting topped off requires either a lot more time or tools to get yourself back up. Usually healing tools will be Simples, but Utilities have the benefit of possibly producing these things. All in all, this makes healing a bit of a hassle for a taxed party or a party that's under duress or a party that is just not prepared.


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Sometimes violence is the only answer though.

So there you have it. No need for a combat system--fluid play is what I'm after in We Mortal Legends. And while violence is still a useful approach to situations, it's no longer treated as the Special Best One.

We Mortal Legends - An Overhead of What I'm Making

We Mortal Legends is the current project name for the rulesbrew I'm creating. I'm creating this because most fantasy systems don't check the boxes I want checked for my campaign play (that aren't super focused). This is not to say I don't enjoy these games--I love Lamentations, 5E, Black Hack, Knave, etc. But none of them do for me all of what I want, and not all of them create the kinds of characters I want to run games for.

I guess every blogger makes their own game at some point.

This system will end up being the system for my Heaven BLess'd & Burned, Revelations of the Mononoke-Hime, Psionic Wastelands, etc.

The following things are the things I want the system to be able to do (keep in mind a lot of this is high-concept stuff that won't mean anything until I provide actual examples of it in the game):

  • Modular but cohesive. I want systems that work together, and that produce options, but only a few options should be chosen. 
  • Levelless but class-based characters that grow in depth. I don't like how most OSR games have the only thing you increase is spell amount or chance to steal something or to hit bonus. I also don't like how in 5E all classes grow pretty much the same. See my Bastard class as an example class in this setting.
  • Ways to quickly define who a character is and what they do without taking 30 minutes. This is where my Keyword system comes into effect. I want to run games for interesting characters, but I don't want a lot of time in character creation or else it makes the high lethality a con, not a pro, of the system. 
  • The ability for the whole table to use the game to come up with a game world in a session 0, and not just put all the pressure on the GM. My tables love to roleplay and come up with stuff, and this is the product of that.
  • Encounters to be about overcoming obstacles, not about just reducing someone's HP or avoiding combat. This means that combat isn't a core of the system thus truly making it one of many options without just saying "come up with something yourself" or "avoid it."
  • To invoke atmospheres like Dark Souls, Princess Mononoke, etc, where things feel esoteric and juuuust understood enough (in terms of magic) to be usable and grokable but without the "standard" feel of Vancian magic.
  • To be hackable. This is a given.
  • To create gameplay that emerges from mechanics, including player abilities etc.
  • To focus less on heavy math and more on experimental game-like mechanics. Board games are three thousand lightyears ahead of RPGs on making interesting mechanics that don't get in the way of playing the game. It's time to adopt some of these.
  • To be able to run my favorite modules such as a Red & Pleasant Land, Maze of the Blue Medusa, and even more modern adventures like Curse of Strahd
  • The core rules to fit on a 2 page spread put into the endpapers of every single supplement for this system.
  • The game is a game about solving problems which in turn create stories. This is the biggest high concept of it before we get into the style, nuance, genre, etc.

A lot of the above will sound either obvious or trite, but I think as I work on developing the game and share my work, a lot of it will make more sense.

Somewhere between this and actual superheroes is where I see PCs.

Check out my Exploring Character series for how character creation will be. Right now I can roll up an interesting (to me) character in 5 minutes or less. Right now I'm thinking in the core book I'll be establishing 9 classes, broken into groups of three.

The first three are the systems rifts on the standard core three. Thief becomes Bastard, Fighting-Man becomes Brave, Magic-User becomes Baroque. Each of these has a good number of nuanced differences to them as compared to the standard in mainstream, hence the name changes.

The next three are some more nuanced/niche ideas that are still pretty common. These are Ranger, Summoner, and Warlord.

The final 3 are really niche classes that show how far the system can be pushed, and to show which experimental ways hackers can take their new classes. These are Medusa (monster/race-as-class), Saint (based off one of the magic systems, Miracles), and Gunslinger (something very genre-specific).

There will be a procedure for the session 0. This procedure helps the group, if not using an adventure already, to come up with what their base campaign will be about. This involves heavily the mechanics of the game. It is as follows:
  1. Decide Aesthetics. Aesthetics is your genre, tone, and atmosphere for the game. Right now the system will probably support genres of: Cyberpunk (specifically stuff like Blade Runner and less like Night City), Macabre (dark and creepy fantasy), Apocalyptic Fantasy (Dark Souls type stuff, Dark Sun too), Myth (Princess Mononoke or Saga Hero type stuff), and Surreal (A Red & Pleasant Land). These can be mixed and matched too.
  2. Decide Experience systems. There'll be a big list of XP gaining systems. Pick 2 and then make up a third one.
  3. Decide mode of play: Death March or Saga. Death March has a list of death mechanics for changing play and you pick one. Saga is a more sprawling game with many characters people end up playing. 
  4. Decide Keywords. You'll need about 20 or so. These Keywords are kinda' like backgrounds, and help describe characters.  
  5. Decide your 3 saving throws for your campaign. I'll provide 3 for each genre, and guidelines to make your own if you want.
  6. Decide your 4th Attribute. Again, will be provided for Aesthetic, but guidelines for your own.
  7. Pick your Esoteries. Esoteries are magic systems. There are 8. Pick 1-4 for your game and that's the only magic that will exist in this campaign.
  8. Decide 4 classes. Given how classes are designed in this system, if all 4 played the same they should still turn out pretty differently. 

This 8 step process is for the whole group to undergo together. It'll probably take a couple of hours. It's meant to be fun--people discussing what kind of magic is in the world, what kind of experience, the aesthetics of it, etc. I want session 0 to be a bigger group thing for my players, and with these 8 you end up with a table that's already invested into the game before things start. It might not be for all tables, but nothing is.

Image result for old school D&D art
Probably not a lot of this to be honest. 

Thoughts on some OSR Standard Practices

Encumbrance I'm keeping. You have slots equal to Athletics + 1/2 your Savvy. This is because you have to be strong/physically able to carry a lot of shit, and you have to be somewhat savvy when it comes to organizing your shit to carry more.

Stat blocks are a lot like the stat blocks from the little brown booklets of OD&D minus the numbers. I want monsters to be obstacles in most cases, not just numbers etc. Sometimes I won't include a creature's AC or HP or HD because it won't matter. Reaction rolls, etc, will exist in more specified formats.

Combat will be different. As most of the game and features don't focus on combat, combat becomes one of many ways to solve an Encounter. An Encounter can be with traps, the environment, a monster, another person, a group, etc. Initiative is popcorn where one person decides who goes next. Idk how firm I am on this--this is the thing most liable to change.

Time Records are not a thing I keep track of in my games. I probably should, but I don't. I doubt there'll be a lot of this in the final version of what I end up drafting.

Hirelings exist. Loyalty will be based on how much XP characters have spent so far, as well as possible 4th attributes and keywords, as will overall Morale. The game won't assume Hired Help, meaning that Hirelings shift balance in favor of the party if they go through the pains of doing it.

Lethality as HD doesn't always increase when XP is spent to roll on a Character Advancement Table (CAT), if you do choose combat, things will be pretty damn lethal. This makes engaging in fair combat usually a bad option; always try to stack things in your favor if you want to kill them.

HD and Damage Die are d6 and d8 respectively. This makes the above more true.

Related image
Def. a lot of weird encounters like this.
Thoughts on more Modern Practices

Conditions will take up encumbrance/inventory slots and give other effects. Thank you to Michael Bacon for this idea.

Weapons will have a different feature for each weapon, to make them different as they all do d8 damage. For example, a hammer breaks down AC fast, and a dagger can be used to automatically hit if used on someone that is surprised/grappled/otherwise unable to react.

Healing is done with a quick 1d6 minutes of rest and tending to you to pick you back up to half your maximum hit points. If you ever want to get topped off gotta roll well on a CAT, find some healing shit, etc.

Meta-currencies I don't tend to like, so they won't exist.

If you run into this you don't fight it, you deal with it another way.

These are my thoughts as of now, and are liable to change. Most of my existing ongoing projects fit into this, and by working on them I will be working on this and vice versa. Hopefully what comes out is a game unique, fun, and desirable to play!

Saga-Style Campaign Play pt. 1: Setting Up a Game, Characters, and Moderating the Session-to-Session Story

So first, quick update:
  • The Cleric Replacement Project will be returning completely rethought.
  • Once I get more work done on my current rulesbrew, I'll be finishing Revelations of the Mononoke-Hime & the Psionic Wasteland.
  • Heaven Burned & Bless'd, my Dragon Bride project, will be huge for me and coming out sometime next year. So will my rulesbrew as an actual system.
  • The Exploring Characters Series is over. The next part of that project will be creating the overall structure of the game, as well as more classes.
This is just to update some people that've asked me if I'll finish any of these projects or not.

I did a post a few thousand years ago about playing RPGs in a style that produces Norse Saga-style stories.  I want to revisit this concept with more detail to make it something usable. I suggest reading the linked blog post, because I don't want to repeat a lot of what I already wrote. But to recap the most important points:
  1. The game takes place over several generations or is very episodic.
  2. Characters do not develop, but they do die or disappear.
  3. Characters die a lot.
  4. Characters are not nobodies, but instead chosen by gods or born special.
These 4 tenets can be clearly seen in a variety of Norse sagas. Let me clarify the 4th point a bit more.

art-shannonigans: Rebecca YanovskayaĆ¢†’Winged... | Pipistrella Felix
What I'd give to have Rebecca Yanovskaya do art for this project.

A saga is not a story about random people. In every saga, the start of it includes some godly interference or otherwise special birthing. The Volsunga are literally related to Odin, and he chooses them as a family to harvest warriors from.

This means sagas are not about:
  • Some bastards trying to get rich.
  • Some bastards clearing out dungeons.
  • Some bastards trying to reverse the Death Curse.
  • Some bastards randomly sucked into Ravenloft.
  • Some bastards trying to steal the painting of the Maze of the Blue Medusa.
A saga can and should include some of the above. But those situations are not the core of what Saga-style play is about. THIS MEANS THAT SAGA-STYLE PLAY IS NOT FOR EVERY TABLE.

I suggest you attempt Saga-style play if you meet any of the below criteria:
  • You and your table want to make an epic of some sort.
  • You and your table want to play lots of mid-high tier characters over a length of time.
  • You and your table want to do something like an alternative to a West Marches campaign.
  • You have a bunch of random modules you want to string together.
  • You want to explore a setting in a different and new way.
  • You and your table want to do a series of heroic tales.
In short, Sagas are the heroic version of West Marches. I don't expect everyone to enjoy Saga-style play, just the same as I don't expect everyone to enjoy reading actual Sagas. 

So then, how to mechanically play Saga-style? Below, an outline for this blog post:
  1. Setting Up the Game
  2. Creating Characters
  3. Session-to-Session dynamic
Keep in mind, I have not personally played all the content in this blog post, and this is an early draft. I plan on cleaning this up, testing it out, and making it into a booklet one day. Feel free to riff off of this material and to use it as is, but I do plan to make it into a product.

This is part 1 of the series. Part 2 will include a fuckton of plot points for different aesthetics/settings. If there are more parts in the future, they'll be linked here.



STEPS FOR SETTING UP THE GAME

Step 1: As a group, decide what kind of aesthetic you're searching for.

Saga-style play can happen in any setting, from cyberpunk to norse mythos to veins of the earth stuff. Where you decide is important for the next few steps.

Step 2: Choose or outline a number of very powerful and threatening beings to have in your saga.

For the Volsunga Saga, we have a dragon, valkyries, and kings. You need stuff like that. If you were to do this with Frostbitten & Mutilated you have 3 witches, an undead king, and two apocalyptic gods to use. If you were to do this with Veins of the Earth you have the anti-phoenix, weird nightmare elves, and the rapture to play with. Notably, this won't work with some adventures. The Tomb of Horrors or Against the Giants or White Plume Mountain won't work with this. But, these modules can be dropped into a saga as a portion of it, albeit shortened. Most adventure paths from Paizo or WotC won't work; they are completed stories and you have to butcher the story up in order to make it fit in a Saga-style game. Other than these major enemies, all other enemies require only one successful hit to kill. Your players will be cutting through great swathes of foes until they get to the Big Guy (TM).

Step 3: Decide what your Saga is about.

A family being harvested for Ragnorak? A family trying to become great? A family trying to get revenge or get something back? Have a d6 table to decide if you can't think up anything:
  1. A deific being puts obstacles before the family in order to turn them into heroes for some other purpose.
  2. A family has had something important taken from them, and must deal with the consequences of losing it, and of getting it back.
  3. A family has been scattered to the winds and must regroup to bring order back to something.
  4. Some power has blessed the family, and that blessing will be stolen if not defended by completing different obstacles.
  5. A family wishes to become great rulers over something else.
  6. A family has been cursed and must, over generations, eventually break the curse.
Step 4: Generate a handful of plot points to start the game with.

Sagas are heavily plot-based. You should have a number of tables, or a nice d100 table, to roll plot points on. To begin with, you'll roll on this table 2-4 times. This will produce a number of plot points for you to build sessions around, and give you ideas for where to bring material in. This also means that Saga-style play has a slight railroad built into it. The fun is having a plot point, introducing it, and seeing how the party interacts with it, then introducing the next organically from that. For groups who don't prefer overarching plots, or for groups who want to do whatever the hell they want to do, Saga-style play is not for them. This is not to be confused for this being a full railroad or a novel or w/e. Plot points are things like "Odin puts a sword into a tree and one day a PC will pull it out, becoming a hero," or "A dragon will kidnap one of the PC's loved ones, and the PC will have to figure out a way to get them back." These plot points are basically adventure seeds being tied into a generational campaign. When you finish using your first 2-4 pre-rolled plot points, either roll for more or create them based on what's happening in the game.

Step 5: Create NPCs to randomly drop into the game. (Optional)

This part is more important than it sounds. While impromptu NPCs are perfect for all kinds of games, for a Saga-style thing, you should create a suite of NPCs to be able to drop at the ready. You don't need to introduce them all at once, or even introduce all of them, but it'll help you moderate the saga by creating NPCs already.

Image result for Rebecca Yanovskaya

CREATING CHARACTERS FOR SAGA-STYLE PLAY

If you are playing a game other than the one I am creating, follow the below points:
  • All characters should be mid-high tier characters. This means 9th+ for most kinds of D&D, etc.
  • All characters must be related to one another either through blood or some kind of favorable history.
  • All characters should be roughly special. Jarls, fallen Valkyrie, exiled monarchs, princes, demi-gods, what have you. 
  • No character should last more than 2-4 sessions if you are doing standard generational play.
  • Players should have whatever mundane equipment they want, from full plate to cool weapons to hirelings, etc. If you want to put a maximum on this, take whatever it is they start with in terms of currency and multiply that by 20.
The above 4 points are pretty simple. With these, be it Lamentations of the Flame Princess, B/X, D&D 5E, L5R, Traveller, the Witcher, etc, you should be able to make characters fitting for a Saga-style campaign.

Note This for Generational Play: Regardless of the system you're playing, expect to run through 5-10 characters each during the length of the campaign. Some will be written off. Others will die. Every 2-4 sessions though, everyone should be playing something else, and the timeline moved forward to accompany this.

If you do want to play with the rulesbrew I am creating:

Establish the following:
  • Saves & 4th Attribute.
  • A death mechanic, if any.
  • Keywords. You'll want around 50 instead of the normal 20, given the amount of PCs you'll be going through.
  • Classes
I'll be making a Saga-style Hero CAT (Character Advancement Table) at a later date for this.

There will be rewards for your characters.

Roll for the type of the reward below.
  1. A magical weapon.
  2. A magical trinket.
  3. A blessing of some sort.
  4. A reward in the form of castles, land, or hirelings.
You should create a number of tables for each one of these things. You will roll on them before the beginning of each session; these are potential rewards to give to your players.

Note This for Generational Play: Characters do not level up in Saga-style play. They do not gain XP, they do not gain new class features, they only gain new rewards in the form of the above. 

Note This for Same Caste Play: Characters will level up every 2-4 sessions, or otherwise gain some new features to show their progress.

Writing Off Your Characters: If you need some inspiration or help doing so, roll on the table below.
  1. And so X ruled until their eventual death.
  2. And so X exited the story.
  3. And so X died soon after.
  4. And so X was no longer the center of the story.
  5. And so X married Y and lived peacefully.
  6. And so X was slain by Y.
It's simple stuff, really. The circumstances of the game can probably lead to more interesting ways of writing off characters.

If you want, you can also have a time-limit on characters. This is how many sessions you can play the character before having to write it off. If you go this route, then roll 1d4 when you make the character. The number rolled is the number of sessions before they are written off.

New Character Relationships: For determining how your next character is related to the rest, roll on the following table.
  1. The child of the player sitting to my left.
  2. The child of the player sitting to my right.
  3. The new spouse of the player sitting across from me.
  4. An ally of the original family.
  5. Someone in love with, awed by, or who greatly respects the player sitting left to the GM.
  6. Someone who owes a great debt to the player sitting to the right of the GM.
If a character ever dies mid-session: Roll up the next one and introduce it that same session.

There are some sagas that feature the same character or cast for a long time. Beowulf, for example, or the stories of Odin and co. For these types of sagas, you are basically doing episodic generations, where every 2-4 sessions the entire backdrop changes but the cast remains the same. 

Image result for Rebecca Yanovskaya

SESSION-BY-SESSION PLAY

Your game will need a starting situation. Use the plot points you rolled for this. Each subsequent session should be themed around another plot point. If you want, you can put multiple plot points into a session. That is fine, but keep in mind that for every plot point that the table decides is "handled," there will be a timeskip.

Timeskips are important. A Saga will spread outwards for generations. At the end of each session, the table has 2 options: timeskip forward, or continue playing in this same era. If you can't decide, roll a dice, evens being timeskip and odds being same era.

If a timeskip happens before a plot point is resolved, that plot point is now the problem for the next generation of characters. It's up to the table or GM to decide why the plot point was not resolved. Remember you do not have to timeskip in between sessions. However there should be a time-skip every 2-4 sessions. The goal is not to spend too much time with a specific generation.

Whenever there is a timeskip, characters should be written off and replaced. It is valid to keep 1 character around, if the table prefers. My suggestion is that during the campaign, each player can keep 1 character alive from generation to generation, so everyone has that opportunity.

How long is the timeskip for? Roll on the table below.
  1. 1d4+1 years.
  2. 1d10+2 years.
  3. 1d4 decades.
  4. The same year, but with completely different characters separate from the current cast.
Do not apply timeskips if using the same cast of characters

Once all plot points are resolved from the batch you already rolled them in, either roll new plot points or create some of your own. I suggest rolling, usually, because it creates a constraint of "how do I make this work?" and I like that constraint.

The purpose of plot points is to stretch out the original cast's goal over several generations. If there comes a point where the table wants the saga to end, don't roll more plot points. Instead, for the next 1 or 2 sessions, have this cast of character tie up their family's saga.

During each session, players should get some of the rewards you rolled up. Characters, by time they are written-off, will be kinda' loaded with new shit, but that's the point of their individual legend.

Note This: Sessions are fast-paced. In one-session, a lot should happen. Killing a dragon, marrying a queen, and losing the kingdom in one-session should not be a strange occurrence. Stretching these sessions into short chapters or arcs of 2-4 in length is the sole reason that generations tend to last 2-4 sessions long. But in that handful of sessions, an entire story, somewhat focused, should be played out.

Keep track of events in each sessions so you can bring them up later. A simple 1-sentence summary for each major event will go a long way in making the whole saga feel consistent.

Combat rounds, if your system of choice has that, should only exist when fighting something big, like a king or a dragon. If fighting minions and "going back and forth through their ranks" (a common Norse saga phrase), there's no combat round really, just attacking and dealing with the situation as it comes.

If you want to introduce other modules into a saga, you have 3 clear options. There might be more, but these are the 3 I'm thinking on.
  1. Shorten the module so that it can be completed in 1 session.
  2. Have that entire module be that generation's story for 2-4 sessions.
  3. Have that module be the entire backdrop for the saga.
The above frameworks should make Saga-style fairly compatiable with whatever modules you want t to run.

Image result for Rebecca Yanovskaya


SO that's it for part 1. A doozy, this post. I'll be testing this out a bit, but I'm always open to feedback.


Exploring Characters pt. 6: Sample Class - the Bastard

Alright, time to make a class. Or a role. An archetype? I'm not sure, but class works for now. First, the class, then below that I'll go over my thought process on why I made it the way I did.

The Bastard
You're not a good person. You might be compassionate, you might be kind, you might be gentle, but deep down, you will lie, cheat, and steal whenever you have to if it means getting what you want. Some bastards are thieves, and they do well. Other bastards are assassins, or wilderness guides, or snake oil salesmen all. But wise men the world round understand that bastards can be as useful as they are dangerous.

Image result for Harrison Ford art
If Harrison Ford has played it, that character has been a Bastard.

Roll 1d6 on the following tables.

What's Your Game?
Each roll on this table will give you a Class Ability from your Class Advancement Table (CAT). Reference the table with the appropriate # received. If no options fit, make up your own and choose a Class Ability from CAT numbers 51-70

  1. Thievery can make a man rich if he knows how to flip his wares fast enough. Start with Class Ability 57-58.
  2. Lead someone through the dark parts of a city, or some dank forest, and let fortune line my pockets. Start with Class Ability 55-56.
  3. This here vial, see how purple it is? A sign of God, surely. Drink it, it'll take all your ills away. Start with Class Ability 61-63.
  4. Fickle, life. Easy to take. Never cheap, though. Never cheap at all. Start with Class Ability 68-70. 
  5. No games, just good fuckin' times! I go in, see what I can shake up, and dip out. Start with Class Ability XX
  6. Daredevils like me live for the thrill. I don't care what gets in the way 'long as the adrenaline pumps. Start with Class Ability 59-60.
Who Wants Revenge?
The NPC rolled on this table is hot on your trail and wants nothing more than to even the score.
  1. I loved them, and I loved a few others too, and now those few others all want a piece of me.
  2. A whole town in an uproar, all over me? Best believe I'll never go back there.
  3. No, I didn't know they were the child of that crimelord. But I know now, and don't plan on ever seeing them again.
  4. It was a memento, but their lover was dead and I had a debt I needed to pay off. What's the harm of helping the living?
  5. Yeah, I killed them. Was a mistake--wrong target and all that.
  6. It was a lot of money, but there were two of us, and two shares is always better than one. They knew it was all business in the end.
Name Your Contact
Name the NPC you roll on the following table. This NPC is a contact you know will always help you with something specific.
  1. They trade in exotic insects from some strange place. Runs a whole den dedicated to getting bit and tripping out. Says you can see the future, for the right price.
  2. Not quite sure if they're human or not. Blue-green skin, black eyes all around. But they know ways I don't, ways into places and ways out too.
  3. Farmer turned warlord turned fucking city watch. Not the most illustrious career, but when muscle is needed, good hell do they raise it.
  4. Not sure if I'd call them a priest, a cultist, or a monk. Something different, I'm sure. But ask them three questions and give a special tithe, and they'll ask a god those questions and give you back three answers.
  5. I've betrayed this one catspaw more times then I can count. Each time, they help me still. Got a dirty favor and I'll pass it on.
  6. Top to bottom the whole organization is screwed. They owe me two more favors, so long as they involve a prized painting or a ring made out of saint bone.

Starting Equipment
You start with 10d10x5 currency, all of it a loan from someone who wants it paid back sooner rather than later. Additionally, you start with the following:
  • (a) a false identity and supporting documents or (b) 3 vials of poison, one of which robs sight, another speech, and another their memories of a loved one
  • (a) a pair of gloves that make it so your touch can't be felt or (b) a pair of boots that make no sound
  • a dagger, knife, or other short-bladed weapon. you always have one, even when you lose it or are stripped of everything.
  • traveling gear containing the basics for your world, though missing either (a) a pillow (b) something to sleep in or (c) an additional set of clothing

THE BASTARD CAT
Below is your Class Advancement Table (CAT) for the Bastard Class. Spend 1 XP to roll on it randomly, or XP equal to the 10's digit/2 (rounded up) for a specific roll. If the option has more numerous slots on the table, choose the 10s digit of the highest number.

1-20: HD increases by 1. Roll again and add 20 to the roll unless you choose this option from #50.
21-30: Add +1 to all saving throws.
31-40: 1+your level of hirelings are attracted to you by reputation alone.
41-49: When you roll for a keyword, roll an additional 1d20.
50: Choose any of the options between 1-49, then roll again, adding +50 to your roll if it's 50 or below.
51-52: Secret Smeller - You got a nose for secretive and hidden things. When you enter a room, you spot a hidden door, secret chest or safe, or a trap of the Referee's choice. If you reroll this, you can spot 1 additional thing.
53-54: Contacts on Every Continent - You gain an additional contact of your choice every time you roll this option.
55-56: Dangerphobia - When something hostile or dangerous happens, you can escape it's attention so long as you have a reasonable way to do so and until it starts looking for you specifically. You can extend this benefit to an additional person whenever you reroll this.
57-58: Second-Story Work - When you see something you want to steal in a building, ruin, or otherwise guarded area, roll 1d10. If you spend that many days studying the thing's security, you learn both all the details about it and a single potential way to get around them. Subtract 1 from your 1d10 roll for every time that you reroll this.
59-60: Danger Sense - Whenever you enter into a room, street, or otherwise new area, you know one of the following details: if something is watching you specifically, if something is following you, or if something is dangerous is waiting for you. If you reroll this, choose 1 additional option.
61-63: Counterfeit Tongue - When talking to a specific person or an audience, as long as no one in that audience contradicts you, you can convince them that any one thing you have has one of the following properties: is worth a king's crown, was sanctified by a major religious figure, can cure any ill, or can bring good fortune to the buyer. This works 1d6 times on an audience and anyone in it, afterwards they no longer believe you. If you reroll this, it will work +1 additional times.
64-67: An Eye for Debauchery - When you meet someone new and talk to them for at least 10 minutes, you learn one of the following details about this: which of the seven deadly sins they most frequently commit, one vice they are addicted too, or one dangerous act they are willing to indulge in. If you reroll this, you can learn 1 additional detail.
68-70: Throat-Slitter - When someone or something is completely unaware of you and you know how to kill it, roll a Savvy Check. On a success, you kill that thing.
71-72: Bad Luck Bares Baby - Whenever someone rolls a 13 or a total of 13 on any check, you cause that person to fail their check. Every time you reroll this, you can choose one of the following numbers instead: 0, 3, 7, 20, 66, or 100.
72-76: Weird Stealer - You've stolen a single estoery of your choice.
76-80: Archthief - You gain one of the following benefits: you can scale walls or cliffs without rope or handhelds, you can hide inside of shadows as if they were utter darkness, you can open any lock, you can pick any pocket, or you can leave no trace of your passing. If you reroll this, gain an additional option.
81-82: The Bastard with a Thousand Faces - Create a new identity, complete with 2 keywords. When you adopt this identity, replace up to 2 of your keywords with these additional keywords. It requires at least an hour of makeup and focus to change identities. If you reroll this, gain an additional identity and another 32 keywords.
83-84: Lucky Flashback - Roll 1d4 at the start of a game session. During that session, you can have a flashback that number of times, explaining why you are prepared for whatever situation you are in. If you reroll this, increase the die size by 1 step. The flashback has to include screwing someone over.
85-86: Trap God - You can construct any trap of your choosing as long as you have 30 minutes and the materials on hand. Additionally, any trap you come across, you know how to disable it if given at least a single minute of uninterrupted work. If you reroll this, reduce the number of minutes needed to make a trap by 5.
87-90: 9 Lives Jack - You've got 9 lives, and you've used 1d4 of them. When you would normally die, you can instead fake your death and reenter any following scene in any manner that you choose. If you reroll this, ignore the roll and roll again on the Bastard CAT.
91: The Trick to Every Trick - Roll 1d4 at the start of your game session. You succeed on that many Savvy checks that you would otherwise fail during that session. If you reroll this, increase the die size by 1 step.
92: One Heist Under my Belt - You have already stolen a veritable fortune. Whoever wants revenge on you knows this, but no one else does. Roll a Savvy check whenever you spend from this endless well of money. On a failure, whoever wants revenge against you has gained 1d6 allies that know about your fortune. If you reroll this, roll again on the Bastard Cat.
93: Deal With a Devil - You've made a deal with something, not someone, very, very bad. Work out the details of the deal with the Referee. The deal must involve somehow involving the entire party. The thing will always uphold their end of the deal. If you reroll this, work out another deal with the Referee. 
94: They Shot First - When you attack, kill, or otherwise hurt someone or something, you can shift all the blame onto them if less than 1d10 witnesses saw you. If you reroll this, decrease the die size by 1 step.
95: Copycat - Choose another Class Ability from a different classes CAT that is 70 or lower every time you roll this ability.
96: A Twist of Fate - Whenever you die, you can twist the skeins of fate. As a result of your death, all other PCs at the table will critically succeed on their next roll. If you reroll this, they gain an additional critical success.
97: Death Stealer - When you see a someone or something do damage, you can steal that method of doing damage for yourself. You can use this method, dealing the same number of damage dealt, 1d4 times. Increase the die size by 1 step for every time you reroll this.
98: A Set of Royal Pardons - You have a set of pardons from a regional ruler that is well-respected. You can use these to commit 1d4+1 crimes without receiving punishment. If you reroll this, you get another 1d4 pardons.
99: Prayer From Their Lips - You've stolen a prayer from someone. When you recite this prayer, roll a d100. If you roll under your total number of HD + Keywords + Spent XP, that prayer comes true. If you reroll this, you get another prayer.
00: The Bastard's Bastards - You've established a syndicate, mafia, black network, or cabal of followers. You have 1d10+7 followers and a secret headquarters at a place of your choosing. For each follower, roll on the Bastard CAT twice and assign a single keyword. They will remain loyal to you until someone makes them a better offer. If you reroll this, you gain an additional 1d6 followers.



Image result for grey mouser art
Grey Mouser is a Bastard too.

DESIGN NOTES

The Bastard is my replacement for thieves, rogues, and certain types of specialists. I wanted, in my game, for people who go outside the law and fuck others over to be the thing, as that has a lot of open space to explore and can allow for thieves, assassins, tricksters, daredevils, etc. The name comes from the idea of people seeing this character and saying to themselves "that's one hell of a bastard."

Narrative examples are Han Solo, Indiana Jones, the Grey Mouser, and even Conan if you just have a high Athletics attribute.

A big inspiration was the real life Julie d'Aubigny, who was a duelist-opera singer who slept with nuns and beat up nobles. She's pretty dope, and is the type of character I'd like to play.

The three tables are for building a compelling character pretty quickly, as well as giving the Referee some ideas to play with and your character an ability at start. They'll change for each class, but will follow a rough guideline of:

Table 1: An ability is given
Table 2: An immediate conflict with the external world
Table 3: An immediate ally or thing that can help them in specific situations.

For OSR games, this means starting characters, though still fast to make, have a little bit more oomph to them then compared to, say, a B/X or Into the Odd or Lamentations character. It's not enough, I believe, to push them into 5E territory, and most of it is circumstantial, but it's something to think about.

Starting equipment is an excuse to inject more flavor into a class. Options are given so that not every Bastard starts the same.

The Bastard CAT has 25 Bastard-specific options on it in total. Options 51-70 are considered "basic" stuff for the class, hence their bigger weights. Options 71-80 are more advanced, with the 80s options being very advanced. Options 91-100 are all special; things that put your Bastard firmly in the "they have one really special" thing status as composed to the other 15 "common Bastard" things.

Most of the options aren't gamebreaking, and only a few require rolls. Most of these features are things the Bastard can just do, or things that give the Bastard some kind of material edge. With how their CAT is set up, a Bastard is not so much about combat but more about of multi-purpose tools they can approach situations over. Most of them will make them enemies; this is intended.

You'll notice HD and saves is missing. An HD for all classes is a d6, which can change from certain class-specific CATs. Saves are discussed in the previous blog post.

Let's roll up a sample bastard.

I roll for the 3d6 a 3, 4, and 6.

Let's say I start with 2 XP. I spend them and get an 83 and 88.

The two keywords I've chosen will be from the Cyberpunk list, and I rolled a 2 and 16.

Image result for female cyberpunk art artstation
This is a good pic for a Cyberpunk Bastard. By Adrian Dadich.

Name: B-TREY EL-Series #147, "Teresa"
Keywords: Back alley Doctor, A.I
HD: 1
Hit Points: 4
Saves:

  • Hacked: 2-in-6
  • Techno-Dooms: 1-in-6
  • Humanity: 1-in-6
Attributes:
  • Athletics: 8
  • Savvy: 10
  • Weird: 9
  • Punk (Cyberpunk specific attribute): 15


What's Your Game? 
I sell fake medicines and trojan horses to my consumers. I'm constantly changing shop for when the heat gets too high.

Who Wants Revenge?
Dataeyed Jones. I stole a meteor-gold locket of him and his dead wife while he was under the knife and sold it to pay off a freedom debt to the company that made me. He wants to break me apart and sell me now.

Name Your Contact
Wendigo Corp. They're corrupted and fucked top to bottom, but as long as I give them a ring made out of 100% organic bone (a fucking rarity) they'll do me any two favors I ask.

Loadout

  • A false identity as a human woman whom works as a tattoo artist.
  • A pair of gloves that makes it so my touch can't be felt.
  • Traveling gear missing a pillow.
  • A scalpel, laser-sharp.


Bastard CAT Abilities
Counterfeit Tongue - When talking to a specific person or an audience, as long as no one in that audience contradicts you, you can convince them that any one thing you have has one of the following properties: is worth a king's crown, was sanctified by a major religious figure, can cure any ill, or can bring good fortune to the buyer. This works 1d6 times on an audience and anyone in it, afterwards they no longer believe you. If you reroll this, it will work +1 additional times.

Lucky Flashback - Roll 1d4 at the start of a game session. During that session, you can have a flashback that number of times, explaining why you are prepared for whatever situation you are in. If you reroll this, increase the die size by 1 step. The flashback has to include screwing someone over.

9 Lives Jack - You've got 9 lives, and you've used of them. When you would normally die, you can instead fake your death and reenter any following scene in any manner that you choose. If you reroll this, ignore the roll and roll again on the Bastard CAT.


Took me all of 5 minutes to make what an experienced Bastard. Hopefully others find it as intuitive and easy to make characters as I did, and can use the prompts therein to make their games shine.