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Revelations 1001

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Ever since Post-Apoc Hero came out, I've been dying to run the Revelations 1001 setting, and I've finally conned talked my players into it! Has anyone else played it? I have a lot of ideas, and am cribbing some old Chivalry & Sorcery stuff among other sources. But I thought I'd see if anyone else here has been down that road, and if so how it came out, what you would recommend, etc?

 

Note that at least one of my players reads these Forums [waves to ghost-angel], so anything you think should be for GM's eyes only (excluding what's in PAH) feel free to PM me.

 

For folks that don't have Post-Apoc Hero, the basic idea is a historical/low-fantasy game set in the year 1001 AD where it appears the events of Revelations may be coming to pass; the PCs are recruited by Pope Sylvester and sent to investigate an Eastern Prince who may or may not be the Antichrist.

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FWIW, here's an interesting bit of flavor text I came across that I'm using to help set the mood. It's from the “Blickling Homilies,” a real-world set of popular 9th Century English sermons:

 

“May we then now see and know and very readily understand that the end of this world is very nigh; and many calamities have appeared and men's crimes and woes are greatly multiplied; and we from day to day hear of monstrous plagues and strange deaths throughout the country, that have come upon men, and we often perceive that nation riseth against nation, and we see unfortunate wars caused by iniquitous deeds; and we hear very frequently of the death of men of rank whose life was dear to men, and whose life appeared fair and beautiful and pleasant; so we are also informed of various diseases in many places of the world, and of increasing famines. And many evils, we learn, are here in this life become general, and flourish, and no good is abiding here.

 

“Now we may perceive that this world's destruction approacheth, wherefore I admonish and warn every man to contemplate diligently his own death, so that he may live here in the world rightly, before God and in the sight of the highest King.”

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It was a time of great decline and despair. Mankind was scraping an illiterate, bestial existence out of the ruins of once-shining empires. Forgotten were the secrets of how to make the straight roads and the great structures that still dotted the landscape. The memory of these empires was so dim that some places attributed these ruins to giants, for mortal men could never have built such wonders. Libraries were few and those who could read them fewer still; what knowledge remained was carefully preserved by monks and guilds who barely understood it, let alone how we came by the knowledge to begin with. Indeed, in those times a stack of half a dozen books was regarded as a library. Order was maintained through force of arms, not law; the common people were stalked by banditry, plague, famine, and godless hordes out of the East. With each passing year, structures decayed, populations shrank, knowledge faded, and hope dimmed. The end times were nigh--that was plain as day to anyone.

 

I guess. I'm not familiar with the 1001 setting exactly, just the 1001 I lived through. ;)

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From your description, I don't see how its Post Apoc. What makes it so?

Yeah, the book acknowledges the setting is "less Post-Apocalyptic than Mid-Apocalyptic."

 

It was a time of great decline and despair. Mankind was scraping an illiterate, bestial existence out of the ruins of once-shining empires. Forgotten were the secrets of how to make the straight roads and the great structures that still dotted the landscape. The memory of these empires was so dim that some places attributed these ruins to giants, for mortal men could never have built such wonders. Libraries were few and those who could read them fewer still; what knowledge remained was carefully preserved by monks and guilds who barely understood it, let alone how we came by the knowledge to begin with. Indeed, in those times a stack of half a dozen books was regarded as a library. Order was maintained through force of arms, not law; the common people were stalked by banditry, plague, famine, and godless hordes out of the East. With each passing year, structures decayed, populations shrank, knowledge faded, and hope dimmed. The end times were nigh--that was plain as day to anyone.

 

I guess. I'm not familiar with the 1001 setting exactly, just the 1001 I lived through. ;)

LOL! Yeah, one of the background themes I want to capture is how Europe is just beginning to emerge from the Dark Ages into the medieval world we typically picture (and game in).

 

I'm finishing up my campaign intro and player guidelines, and will post them for anyone who's interested.

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Without getting into copyrighted material (go buy PAH!), here's the campaign introduction notes I gave my players.

 

 

Revelations 1001: A Fantasy Hero Campaign

 

The Book of Revelations says the Antichrist would arise after Christ had reigned on Earth for 1000 years. Now in the Year Of Our Lord 1001, a dark Prince is gaining power in the East.  Rumors of miraculous powers, prophesies, and demonic forces surround him. Pope Sylvester II (who is rumored to have mysterious powers himself) assembles a group of worthies to investigate these claims and determine if the Antichrist has indeed risen as prophesied – and what if anything can be done to stop him. 

  • This is a historical/low-fantasy campaign set in the “real” Medieval Europe of 1001 A.D. Everything in our history books up through the year 1000 is assumed to have happened in the game world.
  • …Or at least it’s the “real” world as the inhabitants of that age saw it, as told through their legends and myths. So magic and monsters exist, tho they are fairly rare.
  • Europe is just starting to emerge from the dark ages into the true medieval period. The states of “modern” Europe are starting to coalesce and decide who they want to be when they grow up.
  • Parallel with this has been Europe’s transition from paganism to Christianity. Much of Europe has been “officially” Christian for a generation or less, and lots of people still hold to the Old Ways.
  • While most Europeans would never admit it, Europe is something of a primitive backwater compared to the rest of the world. Europe’s largest city, Rome, has barely 35,000 inhabitants, while Muslim Cordova has 400,000 and Baghdad may have as many as one million. Christian Europe has only 2 universities, and not a single public library, whereas Moorish Spain alone has 17 universities and more than 70 libraries.
  • Feudalism in 1001 isn’t nearly as formalized as it became in later centuries, and varies widely from country to country. Similarly the chivalric code is very much a work-in-progress, and is more aspirational than it is commonly practiced.
  • The armored cavalryman is starting to dominate warfare. But most armies still have large infantry components, the quality of which also vary widely.
  • The word “knight” just means any well-equipped armored cavalryman. While generally only nobles could afford to outfit themselves (or their retainers) as knights, the term didn’t become an actual social rank or title until the 12th Century.
  • The "Great Schism" that split the Western and Eastern Churches is 50 years in the future, so officially there is only one Christian Church at this time. But the seeds of that split are already well-sown by 1001. The Western and Eastern Churches have very different practices and ceremonies at this point, and even use different languages. The Patriarch of Constantinople is theoretically subordinate to the Pope of Rome, but the Eastern Church sees the Pope as more First Among Equals rather than their supreme leader per se. So there's definitely some rivalry, but it's still at least nominally in-family squabbling.

 

Character Backgrounds:

  • PCs can be any character that might be found wandering around Europe in 1001 A.D: fighting men, priests, wandering “wizards,” pagan scholars, whatever. As a whole I’m assuming the group will be predominantly European and Christian; but there’s plenty of room for an unconverted pagan or a Muslim sorcerer or whatever in the mix. 
  • You should all be basically good-aligned, at least for certain values of “good.”
  • You can be from the nobility if you want, tho being a king/queen/etc. could be hard to fit in with “real” history.
  • Various non-human races exist, at least in legend, but are very rarely seen in public. So I’m assuming the PCs will all be human, but if you have a cool idea, let’s talk.
  • Your characters have all been brought together by the Pope himself on a crucial mission, so he must have some reason to trust or think well of you. That said, Sylvester II is not exactly your typical Pope, and had a number of associations the Church wouldn’t traditionally approve of. So we can stretch this pretty far.
  • And please don’t feel obligated to have a “balanced” D&D adventuring party…

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I forgot to mention, for anyone interested in the time period, I stumbled across a great reference book for Europe at the turn of the last Millennium:

 

The Last Apocalypse: Europe at the Year 1000 AD, by James Reston.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Apocalypse-Europe-Year/dp/0385483368

 

A great "popular history" book, by which I mean it's actually fun to read as well as decent history. It was published in 1999, and the author kinda overplays the notion that Europeans were actually expecting the world to end in 1000. I sense a publisher saying "Can we tie this in to the Millennium and sell it to the Y2K crowd?" But the year 1000 was definitely a time of major transition for Europe, and that's mostly what he talks about. Reston is very up front that our actual, verifiable history from that time period is pretty thin, so a lot of what he presents are the legends and stories that were told in that day, acknowledging that much of it probably didn't literally happen that way, but with the idea that it still gives you a sense for what people of that time thought of their world. He does a particularly great job describing the extremely colorful leaders of Europe at that time, from King Olaf Tryggvason, the first Christian King of Norway, to Queen Sigrid "the Haughty," to Gilbert "the wizard," a Renaissance Man centuries before the Renaissance, who eventually became Pope Sylvester II.

 

I highly recommend it, even if you're not planning on running an RPG campaign in that time period!

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It was a time of great decline and despair. Mankind was scraping an illiterate, bestial existence out of the ruins of once-shining empires. Forgotten were the secrets of how to make the straight roads and the great structures that still dotted the landscape. The memory of these empires was so dim that some places attributed these ruins to giants, for mortal men could never have built such wonders. Libraries were few and those who could read them fewer still; what knowledge remained was carefully preserved by monks and guilds who barely understood it, let alone how we came by the knowledge to begin with. Indeed, in those times a stack of half a dozen books was regarded as a library. Order was maintained through force of arms, not law; the common people were stalked by banditry, plague, famine, and godless hordes out of the East. With each passing year, structures decayed, populations shrank, knowledge faded, and hope dimmed. The end times were nigh--that was plain as day to anyone.

 

I guess. I'm not familiar with the 1001 setting exactly, just the 1001 2015 I lived through. ;)

 

Fixeder!

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I forgot to mention, for anyone interested in the time period, I stumbled across a great reference book for Europe at the turn of the last Millennium:

 

The Last Apocalypse: Europe at the Year 1000 AD, by James Reston.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Apocalypse-Europe-Year/dp/0385483368

 

A great "popular history" book, by which I mean it's actually fun to read as well as decent history. It was published in 1999, and the author kinda overplays the notion that Europeans were actually expecting the world to end in 1000. I sense a publisher saying "Can we tie this in to the Millennium and sell it to the Y2K crowd?" But the year 1000 was definitely a time of major transition for Europe, and that's mostly what he talks about. Reston is very up front that our actual, verifiable history from that time period is pretty thin, so a lot of what he presents are the legends and stories that were told in that day, acknowledging that much of it probably didn't literally happen that way, but with the idea that it still gives you a sense for what people of that time thought of their world. He does a particularly great job describing the extremely colorful leaders of Europe at that time, from King Olaf Tryggvason, the first Christian King of Norway, to Queen Sigrid "the Haughty," to Gilbert "the wizard," a Renaissance Man centuries before the Renaissance, who eventually became Pope Sylvester II.

 

I highly recommend it, even if you're not planning on running an RPG campaign in that time period!

I think I read that one. Is that the guy who lumped together Norse traditional religion, Magyar shamanism, and Islam, as "Heathenism" as if they were all one undifferentiated "Not Christian" threat, ignoring the fact they had no more in common with one another than any of them did with Christian Europe?

 

Lucius Alexander

 

The palindromedary would like to postpone the Apocalypse indefinitely

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I think I read that one. Is that the guy who lumped together Norse traditional religion, Magyar shamanism, and Islam, as "Heathenism" as if they were all one undifferentiated "Not Christian" threat, ignoring the fact they had no more in common with one another than any of them did with Christian Europe?

I'm not sure I'd describe it that way, tho the book is certainly written from a Christian standpoint (culturally, not necessarily religiously). I did feel the author differentiated between Islam and pagan religions, with the latter being regarded* more as "Rivals Not Yet Converted" rather than outright enemies like Muslims were.

 

* By 10th Century Christians, not by the author himself.

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After some scheduling delays, we finally had our first game of the new campaign last week! Our Heroes are -

 

Father Edmondo Laevinus: Italian priest, a learned and well-traveled scholar of both the secular and divine. Zero combat skills apart from the ability to perform the occasional Miracle. Designated adult supervision. May or may not have a secret or two hidden in his backstory.

 

Thyri Torvaldsdottir: Viking warrior maiden, proud pagan, and occasional berserker. Much smarter than most people assume, especially because her Latin is so poor. After she killed a Roman Bishop in a tavern brawl, Father Edmondo has been placed in charge of her penance/redemption.

 

Aeddan ap Bleddyn: Welsh Prince, archer, woodsman and falconer, highly skilled with a bow, uncomfortable in crowds. Harbors a fierce hatred of "Danes" (ie all Scandinavians) for what they have done to his country. Yes of course he has Mind Link with his pet falcon.

 

Geralt Mac Uaid: Irish minor noble and holy warrior, extremely devout, stout swordsman. Practices a semi-heretical branch of Christianity; he seems to have miraculous powers, but do they truly come from the Divine, or from Elsewhere? First time outside of Ireland. Designated straight man.

 

Abida al Cordova: Alchemist and astrologer. Born in Africa, sold into slavery, converted to Islam, and wound up in the service of an ancient alchemist who (eventually) taught her all his secrets. When the Vizier Al Mansur decided to purge all non-Islamic teachings from Cordova, her master was killed and Abida fled. The stars revealed to her that great things were afoot, and directed her to Rome.

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Here's my summary of the first session. Once we got the meta-plot introduced, the bulk of the night was spent with the PCs just getting to know one another and riffing off each other with minimal GM input.

 

Episode 1 – Rome: You have each been summoned to Rome to meet with Pope Sylvester II. His Holiness tells you they have been hearing troubling reports about a Khazar/Turk leader named Prince Kor, who has been uniting the steppes tribes in the area east of Byzantium and north of the Caspian Sea. Some claim Kor has mystical powers, and that his armies include many foul and monstrous creatures. The Pope confides he has received information from other sources indicating that Prince Kor may be more than he seems, and it’s possible he may in fact be the Antichrist foretold in the Book of Revelations. He needs people he can trust to journey east, investigate this Prince Kor, and report back if these fears are well founded or not.

 

Your journey is to be completely unofficial, but the Pope will support you with whatever resources you need. He introduces you to a trusted confidant, a merchant named Giordano Pironti, who will take you East to Constantinople, and can deliver messages back to Rome. If you need assistance or advice, His Holiness also says you can contact Arnulf, the Archbishop of Milan who is currently in Constantinople trying to arrange a bride for Emperor Otto III.

 

Afterwards, Tyri and Aeddan bond over drinks in a tavern, while Geralt holds vigil overnight asking God to bless your journey. Father Edmundo has some affairs to put in order before you leave. And Abida is invited to dinner at the estate of Gregory I, Count of Tusculum, who claims to be a friend of the Pope and is eager to support your mission if you’ll only tell him what it is…. Abida tells him little of substance, but he gives you some names of people you can contact in Constantinople if you need assistance.

 

The next day, you set sail on Pironti’s ship. A favorable wind takes you to the Isle of Rhodes in 10 days, where you put in for the night.

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This week's session got cancelled :weep: so no recap for you. Instead, I figured I'd post the magic systems we're using for the setting, starting with a general overview. Comments & suggestions welcome as always!

 

 

Magic - Overview: Most people in 1001 believe magic exists…and they are of course right! Magic tends to be relatively low-powered (typically 30-40 AP max), and is usually far less flashy than D&D-style magic. It typically draws power from outside sources – demons, gods, God, etc – rather than the caster’s own internal power, but that doesn’t mean casting isn’t also physically tiring.

 

There are four broad categories of magic:

  • Sorcery
  • Miracles
  • Pagan Wizardry
  • Alchemy

 

Sorcery, Wizardry and especially Alchemy spells tend to be very formulaic, with lots of Limitations (material components, gestures, incantations, prep time, etc.) and are somewhat restrictive in your ability to make up new spells on the fly. Spells must be learned or researched ahead of time and generally must be cast as written. Straightforward attack spells are rare, but not unheard of.

 

Miracles are the system of “divine magic” used by Christians, Jews and Muslims to invoke God’s will. (And could easily be adapted to other religions as well.) Miracles tend to be much more spontaneous and flexible; they can range from routine blessings to epic Old Testament-style CGI spectacles, as long as the caster has enough faith and enough goodwill from their deity.

 

Magic items are rare, but they exist: holy artifacts, pagan amulets, alchemical potions, etc. Note that you generally can’t mix-and-match types: if you’re a pagan priest, then a Christian holy relic won’t generally work for you, and vice-versa. (Alchemical items are the exception.) 

 

Spellcasting Maneuvers: available free to all casters

  • Focused Casting: +1/2 Phase and 1/2 DCV in exchange for +2 to Skill Roll.
  • Defensive Casting: +1 DCV in exchange for -2 to Skill Roll.
  • Spread Attack: -1 DC for each +1 OCV, or -1 DC for each 1m Area Of Effect.
  • Overcome Limitations: -1 to Skill Roll and additional x1 END (ie x0 becomes x1, x1 becomes x2, etc.) for every -1/4 of Limitations ignored.
  • Pushing: See House Rules

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Here are the Sorcery rules, which borrow a lot from the Valdoran Age. None of the PCs went for it, so looks like this is just going to be used by NPCs.

 

Sorcery:  Dark powers obtained by summoning or bargaining with demonic forces.

  • Most Europeans regard sorcery as straight-up evil.
  • Most sorcerers believe (or at least tell themselves) sorcery is just a tool that can be used for either good or ill. They talk about fighting fire with fire, and the poetic irony of manipulating evil beings to do good deeds, and there is some truth in that. However, bargaining with demons is the original slippery slope to the Dark Side. Most sorcerers eventually wind up corrupted and/or insane no matter how well-intentioned they start out. Assuming they live long enough, that is. 
  • In addition to Summoning per se, a wide variety of Powers can be created with “summon a demon” as the sfx, ie – “I send a demon to go look and report back” built as Clairvoyance, or “I summon an infernal spirit to protect me” bought as Resistant Defense.
  • All sorcerers must buy Sorcery Skill (INT-based Power Skill) and KS: Demons (11- or better). Spell Research (aka Inventor) is needed if you want to create new spells or modify existing spells.
  • Most sorcerers take Social Complication: Sorcerer (Infrequently or Frequently depending on how visible your powers are, Major Effect). Negative Reputation may be appropriate for characters that are commonly known to be sorcerers. In extreme cases: Distinctive Features: Demonic Aura might even be appropriate.
  • Sorcery MP: Spells are typically purchased in a Multipower. Adding new spells (slots) requires in-game learning/research, as well as XP expenditure.
    • Common Limitations: All sorcery spells must take at least -2 worth of Limitations, including:
      • Requires A Sorcery Roll (@ -1 per 10 AP; -1/2)
      • Side Effect  (Minor, on failed Sorcery Roll; -1/4)
      • Unified Power (-1/4)
      • Plus at least -1 of the following additional Limitations: Concentration, Gestures, Incantations, Extra Time, Foci, Increased END, or Charges.
    • The following Limitations cannot be bypassed with the Overcoming Limitations maneuver: Requires A Roll, Side Effect, Unified Power, Charges, or Increased END.
    • Sorcery Roll: Casting a spell requires a Sorcery Roll, at -1 for every 10 AP in the spell. The Sorcerer may get the usual bonuses from taking more time, excellent equipment, etc, and may also spend Obligation to add to the roll (see below).
    • Side Effects: If you fail your Sorcery Roll, in addition to incurring Obligation (see below), the GM will roll on a custom Spell Failure table (TBD) to determine the consequences. Most failure results will be relatively minor, but can increase in severity based on how much you missed your roll by. 
    • Trigger: Some experienced sorcerers have mastered the ability to complete the bulk of a spell ahead of time, leaving only a final key word or gesture to activate it quickly. The number of spells a sorcerer may carry prepared in this manner is equal to INT/3.
  • Spell Research: Most sorcerers learn their spells from other sorcerers, musty old grimoires, or from demons themselves. But sorcerers with the Spell Research Skill can attempt to create new spells, or modify spells they already know.
    • Spell Research typically takes 1 day of research per 10 AP in the spell.
    • Creating a new spell requires a Spell Research Roll at -1 for every 10 AP; the roll for making changes to a spell the character already knows is only at -1 for every 20 AP. (The GM has final word on what constitutes a “new” spell vs. modifying an existing one.)
    • The Sorcerer may take the usual bonuses from additional time, etc, and can spend Obligation to add to the roll (see below).
    • Failing a Spell Research Roll has no Side Effects. The sorcerer can usually try again later, but failing three times generally means the desired spell is impossible or beyond their abilities.
    • The sorcerer must pay XP for new spells or any increase to the cost of existing spells.
  • Obligation: Invoking demonic forces is a decidedly two-edged sword. While demons can sometimes be commanded outright, much of sorcery involves bargaining with them for favors, knowledge, power, and ultimately souls. To reflect this, each sorcerer keeps track of their Obligation, a running total that reflects how much leverage they have over their demonic contacts…and vice versa. While narratively Obligation is typically spread among different demons or entities, for game purposes we’ll treat it as one “fungible” account.
    • Obligation is earned by:
      • Exceeding a required Sorcery Roll: +1 Obligation for every 2 below the needed roll. However, any bonuses from taking additional time, etc. (or from spending Obligation) do not count towards earning Obligation.
      • Exceeding an EGO contest with a summoned demon: +1 Obligation for every 2 below what you need to command the demon.
      • Giving information: Knowledge is power, and providing secret information to demons can buy Obligation proportionate to the usefulness and secrecy of the information.
      • Performing tasks: Similarly, agreeing to perform a task for a demon can buy Obligation proportionate to the nature and difficulty of the task. Be wary…
      • GM reward: As appropriate in game.
    • Obligation is lost by:
      • Failing a Sorcery Roll: -1 Obligation per 1 above the required roll.
      • Failing an EGO Contest with a summoned demon: -1 per 1 you missed it by.
      • Additionally, if a sorcerer loses control of a Summoned demon, any evil acts committed by that demon may reflect on the summoner’s soul as negative Obligation.
    • Spending Obligation: Carrying a positive Obligation balance doesn’t accrue any direct benefits, but allows the sorcerer to spend Obligation on various things:
      • Add to a Sorcery Roll before dice are rolled: +1 per 1 Obligation spent up to a max of +3.
      • Overcome the results of a failed Sorcery Roll after dice are rolled: +1 per 2 Obligation spent. Note this is in addition to the loss of Obligation that accrues from failing the roll, and any Side Effects from the failure still occur.
      • Add to EGO Contests with summoned demons before the roll: +1 per 1 Obligation spent up to a max of +3.
      • Overcome the results of a failed EGO contest with a summoned demon: a sorcerer can spend Obligation to try and bribe the demon into voluntarily doing what the sorcerer wants. The cost will depend on the nature of the task requested, but at a minimum “Don’t attack me and return to Hell immediately” typically costs 1 Obligation for every 1 the Roll failed by.
      • Sorcerers can spend Obligation to add to Spell Research Rolls, essentially calling on infernal powers to help them create/modify spells, at a cost of +1 per 1 Obligation spent. Obligation cannot be spent to overcome a failed Spell Research Roll after the roll.
      • Spending Obligation can also reduce the amount of time required for Spell Research by 1 day per point of Obligation spent. (Time required cannot be reduced below 1 day.)
      • Sorcerers can also spend Obligation to barter information from demons, as if they were Contacts. Cost varies based on the type and value of information sought.
    • Results of carrying a negative Obligation balance:
      • Being in debt to infernal powers shows up as a stain on the soul, which may be detectible by other magicians and practitioners of faith. Even those unable to consciously detect the taint may react to it subconsciously, making people less likely to trust the sorcerer. In game terms, this works as a kind of Negative Reputation, starting at -5 Obligation and increasing from there.
      • As more debt accrues (typically starting around -10), the demons may call in the sorcerer’s marker by asking them to perform a task. These tasks can range from minor to epic, depending on how much Obligation the sorcerer owes. If the sorcerer refuses the task (or accepts it and then fails), the points in negative Obligation convert to additional character Complications – typically Distinctive Features, Social Obligations, or Hunteds. These Complications are permanent, at least until/unless they are bought off by a combination of XP and roleplaying.
    • Keep in mind that Obligation is a practical measure of who’s controlling whom, not really an ethical comment on how good/evil the sorcerer is. Similarly, you don’t gain or lose Obligation for doing good/evil deeds; you gain Obligation by staying in command of your demons, and you lose Obligation by losing control. (Which may very well result in you being forced to commit evil acts, but that’s another matter.)
  • Magic Items:
    • Many sorcerers use enchanted items to assist their work: providing bonuses to Sorcery Rolls, boosts to certain Powers, Endurance Reserves, or enchanted weapons and armor.
    • Most sorcerous items can be used by any sorcerer, but some are specific to the sorcerer who enchanted them. A few are specifically made to be used by non-sorcerers.
    • However, religiously devout characters (to include those able to perform miracles) cannot normally use sorcerous items; conversely sorcerers cannot normally use holy items.  
    • Generally, if you want to start the game with an enchanted item, you need to pay points for it. Items acquired in game are usually free and distributed by GM.

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Here's the system for divine miracles, which Father Edmondo is using:

 

Miracles:

  • With enough faith and God’s favor, some people can perform miracles, ranging from minor blessings to epic Old Testament-style CGI spectacles.
  • [This section is written from a Christian viewpoint, but a Muslim or Jewish version would probably work much the same, just with different “flavor text.” For that matter, it could probably be adapted to most pagan religions if you wanted.]
  • [For game purposes I’m calling this a magic system. But keep in mind that Christians (et. al.) don’t think of their miracles as “magic,” and would in fact be quite insulted at the comparison.]
  • Miracles are accepted as a normal part of the world of Revelations 1001, tho physical, tangible miracles are fairly rare and impressive.
  • Note that the ability to perform miracles is not restricted to the clergy. Kings, great warriors, and even commoners have been known to perform miracles.
  • People who perform miracles are generally revered rather than feared, so being able to perform miracles rarely qualifies as a Complication per se. However characters that perform miracles will often have other religion-based Complications such as Psychological Complication: Pious Believer, Social Complication: a Muslim in Christiandom, or the like.
  • Characters known for performing miracles may have (or develop) Positive Reputation.
  • Faith (Skill): This EGO-based Power Skill is used to control the Miracles VPP. (It’s not really a learned skill, but we’ll treat it as such mechanically.) Various religious Knowledge Skills may also be appropriate.
  • Miracles VPP: The ability to perform miracles is built as a Variable Power Pool.
    • Individual VPP slots do not have to be defined in advance, and are frequently made up on the fly. (Tho common blessings and the like should be statted out in advance whenever possible to speed up gameplay.)
    • The most common miracles are variations of Aid, Healing and so forth. Overt attacks like fireballs or lightning from heaven are rare, but not unheard of.
    • The VPP takes a +1/4 “Miraculous” Advantage to reflect the following:
      • Changing powers out of combat requires a Full Phase Action and a Faith Roll at -1 per 20 Active Points in the effect.
      • Changing powers in combat requires a Half Phase Action and a Faith Roll at -1 per 10 Active Points in the effect.
      • Note this means most miracles will generally take at least a full Phase: ½ Phase to change the slot, and then ½ Phase to “cast” it.
    • All slots take the following Common Limitations, which can be abbreviated as “Miracle, -1”:
      • Conditional Power: Only If God Wills It (-1/2)
      • Incantations (Audible Prayer, -1/4)
      • Unified Power (-1/4).
    • Most miracles will have very few other Limitations. For simplicity, things like taking extra time, use of a holy symbol, and the like are generally handled as bonuses to the Faith Roll, rather than Limitations per se.
    • Typically, the only Limitation that can be ignored with the Overcoming Limitations Maneuver is Incantations [-1 to the Faith Roll an additional x1 END].
    • Although miracles rely on Divine power rather than that of the caster, channeling that much energy is still tiring; normal END costs usually apply.
  • Divine Aid: This Talent allows a character to occasionally perform miracles that exceed their VPP Pool. Divine Aid costs 10 points.
    • Excess Hero Points can be banked as “Grace,” representing extra bits of divine love and mercy you have earned. HPs can be converted to Grace at any time, and there is no limit to how many you can bank or carry over. (If things get ridiculous, we may have to revisit this.)
    • Using Divine Aid requires spending Grace. Each point of Grace applied grants 1d6 Aid  to the user’s Miracle VPP. (Mechanically, this increases both the pool and the slot simultaneously.)
    • The GM reserves the right to limit how many points of Grace may be fed into a given miracle to maintain game balance.
    • Other characters of the same religion may donate one Hero Point to be used as Grace by a character performing a miracle, but it must be used immediately; it cannot be banked or saved for later.
    • In extreme cases with GM approval, a character may go into “negative bank” on Grace by swearing an oath to do something specific to earn the points back as soon as possible afterwards. You’re essentially asking Heaven for a loan. Example oaths might include swearing off alcohol, making a pilgrimage to the Holy Lands, or whatever. The character then suffers 1d6 of Unluck for every point they’re in the red, and is unable to accumulate positive Grace until they have fulfilled their oath.
  • Items
    • A standard (ie - free) cross or other holy symbol has no in-game effect. Or you can buy one that gives a bonus to Faith Rolls. [Holy Cross:  +1 with Faith Roll; OAF; Cost 1 CP]
    • Holy relics, mostly of the Saints, are hugely popular and sold/traded shamelessly throughout Europe. The vast majority of these are fakes, but a handful are real and have genuine power.
    • Genuine holy relics can do anything from giving bonuses to Faith rolls, to increasing the effectiveness of Grace, to providing stand-alone abilities like basic blessings.
    • While it is possible to build a character’s entire ability to perform miracles around their possession of a holy relic (ie – making it a required Focus), we should talk first about what your character would do if they ever lost that item…
    • Blessed or holy weapons may have OCV bonuses, damage bonuses, or even advantages like Armor Piercing. Sometimes just the fact that they’ve been blessed may make them more effective against demons and other forces or darkness.
    • Generally, if you want to start the game with a holy or enchanted item, you need to pay points for it. Items acquired in game are usually free and distributed by GM.
    • Some relics or holy items can only be used by those able to perform Miracles; others can be used by anyone with enough Faith.
    • People Of Faith cannot normally use sorcerous or pagan enchanted items, and vice-versa.

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Here are some very sketchy guidelines for pagan magic, which I never fleshed out because none of the PCs went that direction.

 

Pagan Wizardry:

  • I’m using wizardry as an umbrella term for many different possible flavors or styles of magic that are neither obviously divine, nor overtly demonic. Rather than fleshing them all out, I’ll just give the basics here and whichever ones you’re interested in we can develop more. Or if you have another idea you think might fit, let’s talk.
  • A generation ago most of Europe was still officially pagan, and unofficially many individuals still are. So pagan magic is far more common and less mistrusted than sorcery. The Church’s official position is that wizardry is just disguised sorcery. But at the risk of oversimplifying, my take is that in this time period the Church treats paganism more as a rival or competitor, rather than an outright enemy. People may look down on pagan wizards or discriminate against them in minor ways, but they’re less likely to run away in fear or come after you with torches and pitchforks.
  • Some examples of possible styles of wizardry are:
    • “Classic” wizardry: Works similar to sorcery, except you’re appealing to pagan deities and spirits rather than demons per-se. (Many Christians would of course argue they’re the same thing.) Incurring obligation to Odin may not be as bad for your soul as getting in debt to Asmodeus, but it probably won’t be a ton of fun for you either.
    • Witchcraft: While the term is often used interchangeably with sorcery/wizardry, for game purposes we’ll use it to refer to more naturalistic/shamanistic practices, relying on nature spirits or power drawn from nature itself.
    • Rune Magic: A Norse school of magic that combines various runes of power to create different magical effects. Rune scripts are typically prepared in advance; scribing them on the fly is difficult but not impossible. There’s an interesting rune magic system in Chaosium’s Mystic Iceland that we could easily adapt to Hero. Mechanically it could be a type of VPP limited to effects represented by the runes the character knows. For example, combining the runes for “animal” and “communication” and “trust” could create an animal friendship spell. New runes can be learned from other runemasters, or if you’ve been really good Odin might reward you with one in a vision.
    • Merkabah/Hekhalot Mysticism: Not technically pagan, but I’m lumping it in here for simplicity. This Jewish tradition is a precursor to Kabbalism, and is mainly focused on gaining theosophic knowledge, visions and such. But there is also a “practical” tradition that speaks of invoking the secret names of God and His angels to perform acts here on Earth. As such, it could function like sorcery, or like rune magic, or more like miracles, or some mix.

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Lastly, here are the Alchemy rules that Abida is using. My original guidelines for alchemy just said "not appropriate for PCs due to the Road Trip nature of the campaign." But one of the players wanted to go there and had some ideas, so we built this out including the "field work" rules below. I know this is way long, but we were mostly trying to get it all straight in our heads...

 

 

Alchemy:

  • Concerned with the nature of matter, transforming substances, turning lead into gold, etc.
  • As of 1001, alchemy is extremely rare in Christian Europe but fairly popular in the Muslim world.
  • It is considered more “science” than “magic” per se. The churches generally eye it with some suspicion, but don’t regard it as evil or demonic.
  • Alchemy typically requires a lot of lab equipment, materials, etc. Creating alchemical effects “in the field” is much more difficult, and is only attempted by the most experienced alchemists – or the most desperate.
  • Most alchemical effects are created as some form of item – potions, powders, devices, etc. But for rules clarity I mostly just use the generic terms “powers” or “slots” here.
  • Alchemy Skill: This INT based Power Skill is required for the creation of alchemical effects and items using known processes or recipes. Various Knowledge or Science Skills may also serve as Complimentary Rolls, or for simplicity those can be assumed to be part of the Alchemy Skill Roll.
  • Alchemy VPP: Most alchemical effect and items are built as a Variable Power Pool.
    • Individual powers (ie slots) must be defined in advance.
    • The maximum number of powers (ie slots) an Alchemist is capable of knowing is equal to their INT score. (Alchemist PCs typically start with ~INT/2 to allow room for growth.)
    • The Control cost of the VPP represent the maximum effect (AP) the alchemist can achieve in a laboratory setting.
    • The Pool must be no less than ½ the Control Cost, and may be bought higher than that.
    • The VPP takes the following Limitations:
      • All slots must be pre-defined, number of slots limited to INT score (-1/2)
      • Slightly Limited Class Of Powers (Alchemy, -1/4)
      • RP of Triggered items that can be held ready limited to Pool x2 (-1/4)
      • (Because all alchemical slots take Extra Time (below), VPPs may not take an Advantage or Limitation for how quickly slots can be changed.)
    • All slots take the following Common Limitations:
      • Trigger (+1/4) – see below
      • Requires an Alchemy Skill Roll (typically @ -1 per 10 AP, -1/2)
      • Focus (at least -1/2 worth) – most are also Expendable
      • Extra Time (1 Hour per 10 AP, Only to activate, -1¾) – some individual slots may take even longer.
      • Concentration, 1/2 DCV (-1/4)
      • Gestures (-1/4)
      • Minor Side Effects (minor explosions, fires, etc on failure, -1/4)
      • Most take Charges (see below), but that may not fit for all powers.
    • The following Limitations are not normally allowed on alchemical powers: Concentration (0 DCV); Costs Endurance; Incantations; Lockout; or Unified Power.
    • Some powers may be built outside of the VPP at normal cost. This may be particularly appropriate for defensive powers or others that are in effect most of the time.

 

  • Preparing Alchemical Powers:
    • Many alchemical effects take considerable time and effort to prepare, but are quick to activate. This is generally reflected by a +¼ Trigger Advantage for all slots.
    • The exception to this is certain transmuted items that are always in effect once prepared, such as many defensive powers, or lead that has been transmuted into gold.  
    • Once all the preparations have been completed (Extra Time, etc), the item or effect is created with the full number of Charges on that slot (or less if the player wishes), and the Trigger set if appropriate.
    • Typically an alchemist can work on creating multiple powers at once, as long as they have enough Points in their Pool to have multiple slots active.
    • Once a power is prepared, the alchemist can switch slots normally and work on a different power without affecting the Trigger – the prepared items remain set and ready to activate.
    • In order to maintain game balance, the total RP cost of alchemical powers a character may maintain currently active or prepared (ie with set Triggers) is limited to 2x the Pool Cost.  The alchemist may give items to other characters, leave them in fixed locations, etc, but they still count against this “readied” limit. Note that powers with multiple Charges only count once against this limit.
  • Activating Triggered Powers:
    • Activating a Triggered power does not affect any other slots currently active; nor does it affect any other powers with set Triggers, or other Charges of the same power.
    • The time required to trigger an alchemical power may vary. Most potions and the like take at least a ½ Phase to drink, and the effects may or may not kick in immediately. Some defensive powers may be triggered as a 0 Phase or No Time Action, depending on the nature of the power.
    • Many Triggered powers, particularly potions and the like, are built as Expendable Foci and are used up when activated. Resetting the Trigger for such item therefore requires obtaining replacement materials and another use of the power.
    • Some Triggers may expire after a certain time period. Since the value of the Trigger Advantage cannot be reduced below +1/4, the GM may allow “Trigger expires after ____” to be taken as a stand-alone Limitation for some powers.
  • Charges: Most alchemical powers are bought with limited Charges. The number and type of Charges may vary with different powers/slots.
    • In many cases, the Charges of a power can be treated narratively as individual items, i.e. – a potion with four charges can treated as four separate potions. Mechanically however, it is important to remember that they still count as one power when calculating how many powers the character may have ready, etc.
    • Most Alchemical Charges do not automatically recover daily like normal. Instead, they are re-created by going through another full use of the power.
    • This is typically done in well-equipped laboratories well-stocked with high-quality materials. To reflect this, most Charges are bought with the Adder “Charges Only Recover In Lab” (-1/2).
  • Field Work:
    • Some alchemists are able to create some effects (ie – recover charges) even when working in the field with limited equipment and scrounged materials. Alchemists who want to do work in the field generally must still carry some minimal lab equipment with them (see Equipment below).
    • Any power the alchemist wants to be able to create in the field should have a second “Field” version of the power stated out as follows:
      • Field versions of powers are generally restricted to no more than 75% of the AP cost of the regular “Lab” version, to reflect working with inferior equipment and materials. This reduction of AP cost may come from reducing the Base effect and/or reducing or eliminating Advantages as appropriate.
      • Field versions do not buy the “Charges Only Recover In Lab” (-1/2) Adder. The difficulty of replacing materials (ie Expendable Foci) remains unchanged.
      • For simplicity, most other Limitations should be kept the same as on the Lab version, unless it makes sense to change them.
    • Not all alchemical powers can be effectively duplicated in the field. As a general guideline, only about half of a character’s powers should have Field versions; the player and GM should agree on which ones.
    • If a character has both Lab and Field versions of a power, that power only counts once towards the total number of powers the character can know.
    • Some bookkeeping may be necessary to keep track of which Charges are full-power Lab versions, and which are the low-power Field versions. For purposes of counting against the number of powers a character may have active or ready, players may count Lab and Field Charges together as one power, provided together they don’t exceed the number of Charges on the slot.
      • Example: An alchemist has a smoke bomb power that costs 5 RP for the Lab version and 4 RP for the Field version; both versions have 4 Charges. Having used up 2 of her Lab-created Smoke bombs, the character creates 2 Field Charges to replace them. The combined smoke bombs only count as 5 RP against the character’s limit of powers. Had she decided to create all 4 Field Charges, that would count as a second power and therefore another 4 RP towards her limit.
  • Researching new powers: Alchemists can create new powers or modify existing powers, through use of the Inventor Skill. The GM has final word on what constitutes a “new” power vs. modifying an existing one.
    • Making changes to a power the alchemist already knows typically takes 1 day of research per 20 AP in the power, and requires an Inventor Roll at -1 per 20 AP.
    • Inventing a new power typically takes 1 day of research per 10 AP in the power, and requires an Inventor Roll at -1 per 10 AP.
    • The alchemist may take the usual bonuses from additional time, materials, etc.
    • Failing an Inventor Roll has no Side Effects. The alchemist can usually try again later, but the subsequent roll is at a -1 for every 1 the previous roll failed by. This penalty is cumulative over multiple rolls.
    • Newly invented powers count against the total number of powers a character can know. It is up to the GM whether or not a “modified” power is different enough to count towards that total. A player may always choose to drop old powers in order to make room for new ones.
  • Lab Equipment and Materials: The details of exactly what kind of equipment and materials are needed, and their costs, can be as detailed or as vague as the GM & player wish. Some general guidelines are presented here.
    • A well-stocked alchemy lab typically costs 1000-5000 silver pieces to set up, and takes up one room or more. To reflect the cost of maintaining the lab and stocks of materials, the GMs may require players to pay 20-50 silver per month, or alternately have them pay 1 silver per 10 AP of every power they create.
    • Traveling alchemists who want to work in the field must generally still carry some basic equipment with them. A typical traveling alchemy lab costs 500-1000 silver, fits in a small traveling chest or pack, and weighs 40-60 pounds. As with fixed labs, the GM may have a player pay for resupplying materials – tho probably at a reduced rate to reflect their generally poorer quality – or else have the player scrounge whatever materials are available.
    • With both fixed and traveling equipment, high or poor-quality equipment and materials can add or subtract to Alchemy Skill Rolls.

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Summary of last week's session:

 

(Brief minor retcon - I realized the Isle of Rhodes was several days out of their way, so instead they spend the night in port at Patras in SW Greece.)

 

Episode 2: Pirates of the Caribbean Mediterranean:

In Patras, you hear various rumors about odd storms, currents changing course, the occasional sea serpent, and so forth.

The journey from Patras to Constantinople is slower die to bad winds, tho a prayer from Edmondo abates them somewhat. A couple of days out, you are set upon by a galley of Muslim pirates from Egypt. There’s no chance you can outrun them with this wind, so you and Pironti’s crew make ready for battle. The two ships exchange arrows as they draw closer, and while your shooting is far more effective than the pirates’ it is not enough to drive them off and they close to board. Tyri, Geralt and Aeddan leap aboard the galley and fierce fighting ensues. Abida throws several alchemical concoctions that blind or disrupt the pirates, including a piece of mandrake root that turns into a simulacra that further distracts the pirates. Edmondo tends to the fallen. Finally, Thri eviscerates the enemy captain and the remaining pirates surrender. Half of you transfer to the galley and resume your voyage with both ships. Days later (10 days after leaving Patras) you sail into the port at the great city of Constantinople.

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For what it’s worth, I put together some background info for Tyri's player on the telenovela that is Viking politics at the end of the 10th Century. I figured I might as well share it here for anyone who's interested. We don't have a lot of historical written records from that period, so this is mostly pulled from various Norse sagas. The last few years have been even more tumultuous than usual, partly because of the conflict between newly-converted Christians and die-hard pagans.

 

Thyri grew up on the borderland of Norway and Sweden, not far from Danish-held territory on the southern coast. It’s a remote, forested area claimed by all three powers, but in practice it’s said that “In the borderlands few men’s authority extends beyond the length of their right arm.” Tax collectors and missionaries alike tend to wind up captured and sold as slaves. It’s a rough place even by Viking standards is what I’m saying.

 

Sweden is currently ruled by King Olof Erickson, sometimes called Olof the Lap-King, because he was crowned King “while still in his nurse’s lap.” He’s now in his late teens and has recently converted to Christianity. His nickname should give you some idea of how much respect his subjects have for him, but overall he's doing okay.

 

Olof’s mother is Queen Sigrud, known as Sigrud the Strong-Minded or Sigrud the Haughty. The widow of Eric the Victorious, the first King of Sweden, she basically ran Sweden while Olof was a child, and still wields enormous influence. The most desirable bachelorette in Scandinavia, she once dealt with two over-zealous suitors by locking them in a barn to fight it out…and then burning the barn to the ground with them both inside. She’s kindof the achetype of Badass Viking Queen, and I’m guessing Tyri is a bit of a fangirl.

 

Until last year Norway was ruled by Olaf Tryvassen, the first Viking king to convert to Christianity. Olaf is another larger-than-life character, who led his first Viking raiding party at the ripe old age of 12 and is generally regarded as the strongest and fiercest warrior in Scandinavia. He’s spent the last several years forcibly converting Norway to Christianity one village at a time.

 

Two years ago (999), Olaf traveled to Sweden to meet with Queen Sigrud, and proposed a marriage that would unite Norway & Sweden. Things reportedly went well at first, but Sigrud pointedly refused to convert to Christianity, and in a rage Olaf slapped her in the face. Sigrud told him “This may well be the death of you” before departing.

 

Shortly thereafter, Sigrud married Olaf’s chief rival, the Danish King Sweyn Forkbeard, and began building a coalition against Olaf.

 

Meanwhile, King Sweyn had tried to marry his sister Thyri Haraldsdotter* off to the Wendish King Burislav. But Thyri wasn’t having any of it, and instead fled to Norway and married Olaf Tryvassen. Sweyn was pissed and refused to pay Thyri’s dowry, so now Olaf is pissed. Thyri is pushing Olaf to fight Sweyn to recover Danish territory she feels are hers by right. And Sigrud is urging Sweyn to attack Olaf to get payback for that slap. You know that’s all gonna end well.

 

Finally in September of 1000, Sweyn Forkbeard and Olof Lap-King put together a fleet of 70 ships, joined by Olaf’s enemies from Norway. They ambushed Olaf off the Oresund Straight when he only had 11 ships with him. Olaf’s men fought fiercely, but they were too badly outnumbered. After many hours of fighting only Olaf’s personal ship the Long Serpent was left – at 34 pairs of oars, the largest longship ever built. In the end, King Olaf stepped overboard before he could be captured, and let his heavy armor bear him down to the bottom of the Baltic Sea. (Tho his body was never recovered, and “Elvis sightings” persist for many years afterwards.)

 

So today Sweyn rules most of Norway – through various local puppets – in addition to Denmark, and is currently plotting his conquest of England. (Which in “real history” he accomplishes in 1013.) Swedish King Olof earned a bit more respect for his part in the battle and people call him Lap-King less often, tho Sweyn got the bulk of the land and the glory. 

 

And Sigrud's honor has been avenged.

 

 

* Not to be confused with the PC Thyri Thorvaldsdottir.

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