SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: England Upturn’d

England Upturn’d is a 128 page supplement for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying Game. It was written by Barry Blatt, graphic design and interior art by Sarah Richardson, cover art by Jason Rainville, and edited by Matthew Pook. You can buy the fully bookmarked PDF copy here, or get it free with a print copy at the store on lotfp.com. This book is specifically set in the buildup to the English Civil War in 1642, and contains plenty of setting and era information to continue a campaign set in the midst of that conflict.

The adventure within revolves around some Royalist lord draining an area of the fens to make fertile farmland that the king will grant him for the effort. The locals don’t like this as these lands belong to them, and they are heavily Republican and leaning towards Puritanism. Throw in a Puritan witchfinder with an axe to grind with the leader of the excavation and rumours of a king’s treasure lost in the region 400 years ago, and you basically have a bomb ready to go off in the fenlands around Fosdyke. The party could enter as potential diggers (read: treasure finders) and sign up with the lord’s excavation crew, side with the witchfinder and investigate the man he accuses of devilry and sorcery, or do whatever they really feels best serves their own interests if they like. The adventure provides a simple random way to determine how events play out should the players not interact with it.

It should here be noted that the ramifications of events here in Fosdyke may potentially have a dramatic and lasting effect on the landscape and situation in this region of England. I like to keep these reviews as spoiler-free as possible, so let’s just say that things are not as simple and straightforward as they seem here. There are more than one powerful magic-users in the area and they each have their own nefarious plans centered around the lost treasure of King John. It’s all delightfully weird at times, and horrifying at others, and the writer even allows the referee a little room for interpretation as to what parts of the story are true and what are embellishments. The finale has the potential to be fantastic and cinematic, with potentially deadly consequences for everyone within miles, and it was delicious with my own campaign group when we played it!

The adventure is pretty well laid-out, and has a wealth of info on all of the major NPCs and locations on multiple maps. There’s even quite a lot in here for fleshing out minor NPCs and adding more if you feel the need. There are entire sections on the religious and political factions of the period, as well as the arms and armour that were prevalent at the time. There’s a great system for randomizing daily weather that can be used year-round so long as you’re in the South Lincolnshire area, as well as rules for catching the ague (malaria) or dysentery. You get a lot of bang for your buck here that can last you well beyond the provided multi-session adventure, suffice to say!

One thing I didn’t care for in the text was the multiple resolution mechanics introduced for certain situations that felt over-complex and too mathematical. When I start seeing things with multiple modifiers that can equal up to +10 or more I go into horrible flashbacks of the early 2000s version of the world’s most famous roleplaying game…. I shudder to think on it. Anyway, I didn’t like it and I didn’t use most of it in my game, using our own tried and true resolution mechanics with ease.

The artwork is great, and the maps are very good at portraying what you need to know and little else. I struggled at times finding descriptions for the numbers on the maps because there is no key on the map itself, and there are multiple sections in the book with maps and numbers relating to them as well. Throw in an alternate map for after certain events (should they happen), and it just muddied the waters even more for me. Otherwise the layout was quite solid. The beautiful font and text work mostly makes up for a few flubbed minutes trying to find things on a map, I suppose.

Oh yeah, and the fact that it has a second map to use if something really bad happens is pretty damn cool!


Writing – 4
Art – 4
Layout – 4
Usability – 4
Total – 4

1 – Awful
2 – Bad
3 – OK
4 – Good
5 – Great

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: Menagerie of Exiles

Menagerie of Exiles is an adventure booklet for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplaying Game. It was one of the 2019 GenCon exclusives, and I have a fully Bookmarked PDF version which you can purchase here. It comes in at 32 pages and was written by J. Brian Murphy and Tabby L. Rose, art by Teresa Guido, cover by Yannick Bouchard, layout/cartography by Alex Mayo, and edited by Matthew Pook. It is written to take place in the Early Modern Era near the Barbary Coast of Africa, but you can easily change names and whatever else you need to match your own preferred setting.

The crux of the adventure is that the player characters are picked up (willingly or otherwise, up to them and the Referee I suppose) by a group of pirates. In my first playthrough last night we went with the PCs being survivors from a Venetian merchant vessel that had recently been obliterated by some overzealous pirate hunter. To quote the back of the booklet, “The pirates speak of a rich treasure hidden in an ancient and ruined temple guarded by some fell beast.” What are a group of adventurers to do? Insult the captain of the ship that just pulled their collective asses out of the fire? Of course the PCs have the freedom to do as they please, but the Berber slaves in the cargo hold, the only survivors from the last village these pirates “visited”, may serve as a forewarning that Captain Reis is not to be trifled with.

Captain Reis

The scenario is excellently put together in my opinion, because here it lays out things that could happen should the party choose to pursue or interact with certain elements, but it doesn’t railroad you into liking/disliking the pirates aboard the Sultan’s Pleasure or even force you to pursue the treasure mentioned above. There are some great little random charts for tales you may hear from the helmsman, daily activities aboard the Main Deck, and even daily progress and encounters if you want to simulate everything. There’s no set distance to the ruined temple (or even location, for that matter… you can set it off the North African coast as the writers did or even move it to another sea entirely to suit your campaign), so you can spend as much time as you like simulating the day-to-day life aboard a sailing vessel and really get into RPing the pirates and their prisoners. Hell, I could probably kick off a campaign and get the first several sessions just out of this little 32 page booklet!

That didn’t happen though, because I was running a single-session one shot. If you also want to do this as a one shot I would advise getting the party to the treasure location within a couple days of game time. You’re still going to easily get 3-4 hours of play that way, and shouldn’t have to resort to scheduling a second session.

I can hear you now going “so wait, this is just a bunch of pirates looking for treasure beneath an old ruin? That doesn’t sound very weird at all…”, and you’d be right if I wasn’t holding back all the major spoilers! There is a mystery that the players can try to solve aboard the ship (and even later in the village) regarding a mysterious illness that has been effecting some of the crew, but none of the prisoners. Is it a disease? A curse? Are the ancestors that these Berber slaves worship haunting the very pirates that sacked their village, killing and enslaving their descendants? Whatever it is, it surely couldn’t have anything to do with the village you are approaching… you know, the one with the ancient ruined temple that is the X marking the spot on the Captain’s very secret map… could it? Nahhhh!

Overall, Menagerie of Exiles is very well written with only a few noticeable editing mistakes within. These were simple typographical and grammatical errors which I won’t bore you with the minutia and pedantry of, and you may not even notice them when you read the book. I did, but I almost always do because I’m a pedantic prick!

The artwork is mostly simple, but very effective at portraying the people and things within the covers. Speaking of covers, Yannick’s artwork is excellent as always and he is probably the first artist I think of when I think of great LotFP cover art.

The layout didn’t blow me away, but there’s nothing wrong with it either… I’d call it serviceable, and the maps were pretty good as well. My biggest gripe though would be that the maps don’t match very well to the text of the adventure. When I read the descriptions of the temple and the tunnels below, I had a hard time at first figuring out where the entrance to the lower levels should be as it isn’t shown on the map of the temple grounds. A minor complaint, especially given how good the maps actually look, but those who know me know I’m a real bastard when it comes to maps in books. Ironic, because I can’t draw a hangman to save my life, but it is what it is!

This booklet has a lot of useful charts and NPCs and even a section with bullet-points on Pirate Life in the time period in case you’ve never researched for a pirate game before and want to get right into it! That and the daily “What happens?” chart are worth their weight in gold-pressed latinum! The only other booklet that I’ve gotten this much use and potential game time out of is The Magnificent Joop van Ooms which I easily got at least a session per page out of!

Scores (my first time trying this):

1 – Awful
2 – Bad
3 – OK
4 – Good
5 – Great

Writing – 4
Art – 4
Layout – 3
Usability – 5

Total – 4

To see more from Lamentations of the Flame Princess check out the official website at http://www.lotfp.com/RPG/ for books, merch, free rules and scenarios, and more.

LotFP Campaign – March 2019

Ironing out a few details for the campaign we just kicked off this past week:

Magic – since magic in LotFP relates entirely to the extremes of Law (Divine) and Chaos (Arcane), I will treat the concept of supreme/powerful beings the same way. What if Angels and Demons were two sides of the same coin? An Angel is a creature of pure Law, just as a Demon is a creature of pure Chaos. Gods and Devils are even more extreme examples of the same dichotomy.

So when a Cleric worships his God or Gods to gain his Divine Spells, he is really harnessing the magical power of Absolute Law… just as the Magic User harnesses Absolute Chaos. Ultimately it is not important which God the Cleric worships, nor which Devil the Magic User has sold his soul too… it is the alignment of the character which allows him/her to manipulate that magic.

Now extrapolating further on this idea of magic, one assumes that any creature brought forth by a Summon spell is a Demon. Also, there is no actual rule here regarding what must be good or evil. One could theoretically Summon a “Good” Demon, just as one could potentially encounter an “Evil” Angel. The idea that one is inherently malevolent while the other is benevolent is merely a human misconception, demonstrating the limits of our perception of the universe.

As I’m writing this at stupid o’clock in the morning I realise I am going to have to have another look at the Cleric spell list and see how I may be able to work Angels into the game world. Demons should be easy… and since I am running Better Than Any Man to kick off this campaign I know of at least seven Demons already at work in the immediate vicinity.

Review: The Copper Jackals, by Tabletop Terrors

Ever since Absolute Tabletop formed, I’ve been watching their products with interest. They’re all good guys who I would consider friends, but until now none of the content has stood out to me as something I would actually use myself. The Copper Jackals caught my attention many months ago however, back in the early stages of its conception. Soldiers Without Compromise… squads of elite badasses that take on the impossible. Paramilitary D&D. Now that sounds exciting!

CONTENT:  The material presented in the book that actually pertains directly to the Copper Jackals organisation is really quite good and gave me a lot of inspiration on ways to use it. There’s great info on how Jackals are chosen and trained, and then organised into Chapters based on their skill sets and specialties. Jackals gain Boons every four levels that are essentially extra Feat-like abilities that they get to use on top of whatever they normally receive for their class and level. It doesn’t matter if you’re a wizard or a berserker, you get your C-Jack abilities at the same rate as any other member of the organisation. There’s also a lot of demo chapters and character archetypes for you to use if you don’t want to deal with customisation right out the gate. 

The fluff of the setting is decent. I find Dragongrin to be the most interesting of the AbTab settings so far. There’s a decent section that lays out a basic outline of the timeline of major events that, while not necessarily laid out very well (more on this in a bit), gives you plenty to work with if you’re a GM of any skill to fill in the blanks and run a game in the setting proposed. Personally, I would probably still customise my own setting, but that’s a matter of personal preference and/ot taste. 

LAYOUT/DESIGN:  This is the biggest weakness of the supplement, in my opinion. The artwork is inconsistent and mostly substandard from what I’ve come to enjoy in my RPG books. The layout is neither as attractive nor as efficient as it should have been given the amount of passion that the writers have put into creating The Copper Jackals. The margins at the top and bottom of each page, for example, are far too large and filled with (again, in my opinion) art that wasn’t really necessary as it is the same on every page. This places the page numbers in a weird position when the PDF is looked at in a full sized A4 format. Content seems to be too spaced out, making it look like the intention was to use as many pages as possible to fill a desired page count. The supplememnt is 140 pages long, but probably could have been done in closer to 100.

There are also several editorial mistakes that were overlooked before release. I found a typo or grammatical error on every couple pages or so it seemed as I read it through, one example of which was even a large Boldfaced title, which only serves to make the mistake even more glaring to this reviewer’s critical eyes. Neither of these detracts from the actual usable content found within, but it’s a glaring opportunity for improvement for the team on future publications. I promised to be candid in my review so I point these issues out to help, not hurt, the publisher’s future endeavours.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:  I really like The Copper Jackals. I only finished reading the supplement a couple hours ago but I already  have several ideas for customising my own Task Forces and Chapters based on themes that just screamed out at me as I perused the many Boons presented within. I think Tim and James Kearney (Tabletop Terrors) have a really winning idea here, and that we will see lots of reader engagement of this product in our online gaming communities. Personally I can’t wait to try it out on both sides of the GM’s screen. I would also like to give a shoutout to Michael Barker of Be A Better Game Master, and Matt Click of A Fistful of Dice, both of whom contributed some very useful tips and ideas within the book. I think that Absolute Tabletop are moving in the right direction with this release, and look forward to seeing what they come out with next.

Links:

You can buy The Copper Jackals at the publishers website at http://absolutetabletop.com

You can find people to play this and other games with at https://www.facebook.com/groups/tabletoprpgoneshot/

The League of Legendary Monster Hunters

Brainstorming post:
Episodic Campaign for Optimised Characters/Party Configurations. Players can have more than one character on the roster, and can come and go between sessions. This puts no constraints on the game to require the presence of certain players in order to maintain continuity. Each session will be run like a one shot.

Characters will get max HP, but so will monsters (if not more).

Monsters will use every advantage possible (Terrain, Environmental Hazards, Minions, Spells (including preparatory buffs), Lair and Legendary Actions, etc).

Though the game is about killing monsters, there will be plenty of roleplay and exploration as well.

Optional Rules will be used to give the game a real feeling of danger/survivalism.

No holds barred, no punches pulled. Dead is dead, though magical ressurection or reincarnation will be allowed. In the case of a TPK, the video will not be published. Another group will get a chance to try and finish the job, maybe even retrieve the bodies and equipment of the fallen, but this group must consist of different players.

Optional Rules (DMG page number noted) currently being considered:

Healer’s Kit Dependency p.266

Slow Natural Healing p.267

Rennaisance Era Firearms and Bombs p.268

Speed Factor p.270-271

Climb onto a Bigger Creature p.271

Overrun p.272

Hitting Cover p.272

Injuries p.272

Massive Damage p.273

Fatigue rules for lack of food/water PHB p.185

Wilderness Survival Rules DMG p.109-112

The Defiance Chronicles – People, Places, and Things

STAR EMPIRES

Alpha Quadrant:

Authority of Man
Elven Transcendancy
Fist of Moradin
Gnomish League
Githyanki Dominion (led by Vlaakith)
Githyanki Rebellion (led by Amon Drokhar)
Githzerai Solitude
Illithid Tyranny

Beta Quadrant:

Drow Dynasty
Orkish Empire
Draconian Imperium
Horde of the Dead
Wyldspace

WORLDS

Alpha Quadrant:

Erestia – a traditional D&D fantasy world within the Authority of Man star empire on which The Defiance was built, using enchanted beams and planks from Everwood, a forested continent of wood elves and the labour force of Morthos Creed of Bilgewater, master shipwright. Also the homeworld of Morthos Creed, Haakon Ninefingers, Seranei, Malcolm Roberts, Braedyn the Bronze, and Samuel Swift.

Analia – Capital planet of the Elven Transcendency star empire. Home to the colossal trees from which the living ships are carved.

Beta Quadrant:

Freeport – a space station in Wyldspace ruled by the Drow pirate Ilraen T’Sarran

Planet Gith – abandoned planet inside Dead Space containing the ruined former capital of the Uplifters (pre-separation Gith)

IMPORTANT PEOPLE

Morthos Creed, deceased? – Tiefling Shipwright who designed the Defiance, unaware that a hybrid Arcane/Psionic Gith Helm would be installed on it. He hired the original crew to help him steal his life’s work from the spoiled lord Arthur Brand who’d sacked him on the eve of its completion. Sentenced to Hang on the Elven R&D world, but he escaped. Killed on Freeport Station by Carric.

Haakon Ninefingers – the Bloody Nine, the Mancleaver, the Black Knight of the Githyanki… Haakon has had many names, and many men have died to each. Haakon was exiled from his Northlands on Erestia when he joined the crew to steal the Defiance. He was chosen as her first captain on a coin toss by Samuel Swift. He was defeated and captured by Amon Drokhar, who gifted him with a demonic sword that dominated his personality. This is how he became the Black Knight Haanok U’nath. Seranei and the Defiance were sent to eliminate the Black Knight and his warforged army, but they managed to separate him from the sword and rescued him. Lately Haakon is disturbed by voices inside his head, and has abandoned his former order to pursue a wilder, freer life.

Seranei – formerly the most prized courtesan in Madame Yueh’s House of Falling Flowers, Seranei was kidnapped by the Dread Pirate Greymere and made to serve as his personal concubine. Seranei incited a mutiny however, and escaped his ship (The Black Scourge) to make for Bilgewater. There she joined the crew, becoming Haakon’s first mate and later captain after his disappearance. On the space station of Freeport she became the lover of Ilraen T’Sayla, who infected her the the vampiric virus. Sera fed on the blood of Morthos Creed before slaying Greymere, and now finds herself a full-fledged creature of the night. Will she be able to continue to lead the crew of the Defiance?

Malcolm Roberts, deceased – Malcolm was one of a trio of pirates who found themselves in Bilgewater without a ship when the Defiance job came up. He was a renowned rogue and quartermaster, but was killed by an Iron Golem during the mission in which the crew rescued Haakon.

Braedyn the Bronze – Braedyn was the second of the pirate trio, and an expert navigator. His sorcerous powers also allow him to pilot the Defiance, a job which he has proven belongs to him like no other. Braedyn holds elves in contempt, having been abandoned by his elven mother at birth. The Githyanki played on his abandonment issues when they captured and tortured him.

Samuel Swift – The third of the trio, Sam Swift is a likeable bard who always has something to add to a situation to perk his comrades. He served as the doctor on the Defiance, and was Seranei’s first mate until he decided he needed to strike out on his own for while. He showed up at the Battle of Six Empires at King Randaell’s Flotilla to help the Defiance escape, hurling his own ship into another. Recently returned to the crew after spending some time in the Domain of Death.

Abraham Blackthorne – Abraham is the mysterious stranger. Nobody knows where he came from, nor does anyone really know anything of his past aside from the fact that he seems to be an able pirate. He was captured and horribly tortured by the Githyanki, and during his recovery he vanished. He hasn’t been seen since.

D’keth Achali – the Githzerai monk saved Seranei when the Githyanki set her loose on a jungle world inhabited by Feral Mind Flayers. He became a fast friend and ally of hers, serving as her personal bodyguard and frequent advisor for over a year and a half. When he witnessed her transformation into a vampire, D’keth gave up on their friendship and planeshifted back to Limbo.

Waerrin Tomekin – this likeable Gnome was the only survivor of his crew on the blasted world where the crew found Haakon (the Black Knight). He had escaped capture, and helped the crew to rescue their former captain and fled the world with them. He’s been a member of their crew ever since, and as a cleric of knowledge he has proven to be quite useful and quickly become an integral member of the team. After Seranei’s transformation, Waerrin seems to be struggling with what he should do next.

Carric – nephew to King Randaell and cousin to Prince Ellendar of the Elven Transcendency, the albino noble was never much liked by his more privileged family members. After the betrayal at Randaell’s flotilla, Carric swore to get revenge against his family and joined the crew of the Defiance. He’s never gotten along with most of the crew, but seems to have a newfound respect for his captain now that she has become a vampire.

Jacisvaustuimaulka, deceased – Jac is a Dragonborn druid who the crew discovered on their first planetfall in the Beta Quadrant. He joined the crew when Orks attacked the tropical world on which he had been studying ancient Uplifter ruins. Through their discussions, the crew have learned that the so-called Uplifters of the ancient history of the Beta Quadrant were actually the Gith. The timelines seem to suggest that they were pre-separation Gith, before the people were split into two factions (Githyanki and Githzerai). Killed by Samuel Swift for threatening Seranei after her transformation.

Arthur Brand – Nephew to the Duke of Bilgewater (planet Erestia) who made a clandestine deal with some pirates of the Githyanki Dominion to build a state of the art frigate to test their new hybrid spacefaring helm on. He hired Morthos Creed to design and oversee the building of the frigate which he named The Twinkling Star of Analia. He had hoped to expand his power by allying with the Gith pirates, but Morthos hired a crew and stole the ship upon its completion.

Prince Ellendar Ellarion – Son of King Randaell Ellarion of the Elven Transcendancy, and captain of the ETS Gaia. He befriended the crew of the Defiance, and became Serenai’s lover. Their relationship was forbidden to be formalised due to her half-human lineage. He may have died at the Battle of Six Empires, after taking his father hostage went wrong and he slashed the king’s throat, causing the Imperial Guards to attack him.

King Randaell Ellarion – King of the Elven Transcendancy and father of Ellendar. He used the Defiance to serve his empire for over a year before betraying them to the Authority of Man. He may have died after having his throat slashed by his own son at the Battle of Six Empires.

Ilraen T’Sarran – Drow Pirate King of Freeport Station in Wyldspace.

Ilraen T’Sayla – Elder Sister of T’Sarran and Mistress of The Dark Lady, renowned brothel on Freeport Station. Lover of Seranei, she is also a powerful vampiress who has shared her “gift” with her.

Djundak – Minotaur captain of the Horns of Sovngarde and “blood-brother” to Haakon.

Roman Dex – Drow warrior assigned to the Defiance crew by Ilraen T’Sarran.

Amon Drokhar – Githyanki Lord who has lead a rebellion against Vlaakith. Captured Haakon and made him into his puppet knight until he was rescued by Seranei and the Defiance crew.

Sorcerer: An Intense Fate Hack, first rough draft

This is my personal attempt to create a version of my favourite Indy RPG that works in the FATE system, so that I may run it with ease with new players who may not have access to the original game or who just couldn’t wrap their heads around the original rules or system. If you find this interesting, please support the original works at:

http://adept-press.com/games-fantasy-horror/sorcerer/

 

Sorcerer and Demon Basics

Crucial Mechanic: in Sorcerer, successes on one roll would carry to the next if the rolls were related. Shifts from one roll carry to the next roll if appropriately related, e.g. Contact succeeds with 3 shifts, then Summoning gets +3 to the roll.

SORCERERS

Humanity: Will try this as a Stress Bar, but one that only reduces when a character does something to redeem themselves. Humanity starts equal to Physique or Will, whichever is higher. When marking off Humanity Stress you mark from the highest down, and when gaining you go in reverse. Any gain beyond your starting max gives an extra box, to a maximum of ten. Actions which test Humanity (Contacting, Summoning, Binding, and Pacting with Demons, also Actions of Questionable Morality) will require an Overcome or increase Humanity Stress. Banishing any Demon which has a Power equal to or higher than your current Humanity warrants a roll to gain Humanity. When Humanity Stress is full, the character is Taken Out. If a character is Taken Out due to Humanity Loss they become unplayably inhumane.

Sorcery Rituals: Contact, Summon, Bind, Punish, Pact. Each of these requires a skill roll against the Demon involved. Binding always works, but the roll determines who has the advantage in the relationship.

Price: Sorcery comes at a price. This price will be reflected in the character’s Trouble. What price have you paid to become the powerful Sorcerer that you are? This can change through the narrative of the game to become more serious as the character progresses.

Telltale: this is an extra Aspect that comes after High Concept or Price (Trouble) and is something that gives the character away to people in the know. It can be a detail of physical appearance, dress or hairstyle, or even a mannerism or speech pattern. It doesn’t have to be overly obvious or informative, but must be specific and precise.

Required Skills for Sorcerers: Physique is the available energy the character expresses through physical acts. Will represents force of personality, presence of mind, clarity of thought. Lore specifically defines sorcerous training. Non-sorcerers cannot have the Lore skill, but substitute Knowledge instead. (Note that even a Lore of +1 can still use Sorcery, they just are more of a naive user than a trained one.)

Cover: in most settings, Sorcerer is not a viable job description. Your characters Cover is shown in what other skills you take.

 

DEMONS

Type: there are many types of Demons. Each Demon has a Telltale of its own, which may be wondered at by a suspisious person. A Sorcerer may roll to identify a Demon using their Lore skill. Default difficulty is +1 unless the Demon has a stunt to increase this. A list of Types follows:

Inconspicuous: these Demons are hard to perceive. They almost always have the ability to Cloak themselves. They may merely be small, or they may be composed of something like shadows or light or mist, or they may be able to make themselves invisible. Inconspicuous Demons may not carry out obvious actions and remain unnoticed! Even an invisible Demon becomes obvious if it is tearing someone’s head off! They may confer their abilities to themselves or another as defined per ability, and they may have the Boost ability.

Object: these Demons are invested into physical items and usually must be carried around. They can act and move, but in that behind-your-back way that all inanimate objects seem to have once in a while. They may have the Boost ability, and they may confer their abilities upon themselves or another. Their Physique refers to their physical toughness and capacity to use abilities only as they cannot usually carry out independent physical acts.

Parasite: these Demons must live inside a host, usually the summoner and/or binder but not necessarily. They may be actual critters nestled into some body cavity, or they may exist only as an agent in the bloodstream or nervous system. Their powers confer onto the host alone, except for Boost. Boost and Vitality are common.

Passing: these Demons look almost perfectly human or animal, and they mix directly into society, which is why they almost always have the ability Cover. They have a natural physical attack. Their powers confer upon themselves alone, and they may not have the ability boost.

Possessor: these Demons completely supplant another being from its body, using their Power versus the hosts Physique. If the takeover is successful, the host remains as a flickering bit of consciousness barely hanging on, unless the Demon gained a number of shifts greater than his/her Humanity, in which case the host personality dies. Possessors have a natural attack corresponding the the body they inhabit, e.g. in a human body they can attack with their fists, etc. Their abilities may not be conferred, and they may not have the ability Boost. They may or may not have the ability Cover, but if they do they can use it to mimic their host. Many Possessors are limited to certain types of hosts, as defined for the particular Demon.

 

DEMON CHARACTERS

I will attempt to use customised FAE character sheets for the Demons in this hack. Instead of 6 approaches, Demons will have 4 Scores: Stamina, Will, Lore, and Power. Demon abilities will work as Stunts. Demons also have aspects like normal FAE characters, including a Trouble and Telltale. Their High Concept will describe their Type and maybe something about their personality. Their Need and Desire will also be included amongst their aspects.

First choose it’s Type and appropriate Telltale.

Demon Scores – a Demon has a Lore equal to the number of Abilities given to it. Set it’s Stamina based on how physically tough you think it should be. It’s Will should be one higher than either Lore or Stamina, whichever is higher. Power is equal to Will.

Desire – every Demon has a special interest and it will urge its master into situations that give it a chance to indulge. A Demon frustrated in its Desire may well become cranky and rebel. Example Desires are Mayhem, Mischief, Corruption, Power, Sensual Gratification, Creation/Artistry, Knowledge, Competition.

Need – every Demon has a Need to do or get something. Binding gives the Sorcerer responsibility to help or allow the Demon to meet its Need; failing to offer this incentive in a Binding contract will confer a -5 Penalty to the Sorcerer’s roll. A Bound Demon gains a +1 bonus to its rebellion rolls for every week or so that its Need goes unmet. If a Need is being unmet, the Demon will suffer badly, as described in the Rule of Need below.

A Need may be fulfilled by the Demon actually doing something, or maybe it just has to be present while something is done. Needs often reflect the Demons’ Desires, but they don’t have to; for example, familiar Demons may merely have to drink their masters’ blood with their Desires varying widely. Sometimes the connection is a little oblique; a mayhem-Desiring Demon may have a Need to gamble. The GM should make sure that Demons’ Needs are not just silly.

Needs may vary extremely widely and are left to the play group’s imagination, but the GM may use the following guidelines to tell players what sort of Needs are appropriate.
– Gross and Savage: eat small animals, drink human blood
– Annoying: sing loudly, overtly come on to possible sexual partners, start fights, disassemble household appliances
– Plot Movers: make bets, follow the news, hack into the internet, follow people, eat other Demons
– Trivial: get ears scratched, stay clean, meditate regularly

 

The Three Rules

All Demons share three concerns: the Rule of Binding, the Rule of Need, and the Rule of Secrecy. All Demons get a +5 bonus to refuse commands that contradict these concerns.

The Rule of Binding: if they are present in (Summoned to) reality but are not Bound, they will start to shrivel up and eventually will be automatically Banished.

The Rule of Need: if they are in Need, they will react the same way, basically starving to death, or rather, Banishment. If the Demon is a Possessor or a Parasite, it will suffer in just the same way if it does not have a host.

An unBound Demon, a Demon without its Need, and a Parasite or Possessor without a host will lose 1 Power per day until is is down to zero, in which case it must start making Will rolls to make any roll (Will vs. Bonus desired up to maximum appropriate Score). At that point it will lose 1 Stamina per day unless it rolls its Power successfully vs. original Stamina. Once its Stamina hits 0, the Demon is automatically Banished. These effects are cumulative: an unBound, unhosted, Parasite in Need will lose 3 Power per day and then 3 Stamina per day.

The Rule of Secrecy: no Demon will tolerate a command to appear or use its abilities in a way that seriously risks widespread knowledge of its existence.

As explained above, Demons, not their masters, ultimately control Demon abilities. Either they are the user of the ability, meaning they control them completely, or someone else is the user, in which case the Demon still has control over whether the user can have the ability in the first place. At times they will refuse to use or to confer their powers. They should be played as characters, including most notably 1) the ability to lie, and 2) perfect freedom of movement and communication within their definitions.

Individual demons’ attitudes are very important for this game to work. Demons have relationships with one another, especially if they’re Bound to the same master, and they care about things, especially their Desires. Their dialogue and assertions will more than anything else set the tone of the story.

 

DEMON ABILITIES

Some important terms:

– a Master is whomever the Demon is bound to.
– a Host is whomever/whatever a Possessor or Parasite occupies.
– a User is whoever controls a given Demon ability.
– a Target is the victim of an offensive power.

The user must be defined when an ability is taken. If the Demon is not the user, think of the user as the one clicking a light switch up and down while the Demon crouches at the circuit breaker deciding whether the light switch will work at all.

Demon Abilities – a Demon has abilities equal to its Lore, and each ability has a bonus equal to its Power. Actual visual or other sensory aspects are determined by the player and GM, but they should be obvious and dramatic!

Armor – the user ignores damage shifts equal to the Demon’s Power taken from edged, blunt, or projectile weapons. It has no effect on damage from heat, poison, gas, or anything other than basic weapon or hand-to-hand damage.

Big – the user becomes very large, anywhere from bear to mastodon-sized, and his or her Physique is increased by the Demon’s Power for purposes of resisting damage and endurance only. Without this ability, Passing or Inconspicuous Demons may be dwarf-sized to largish-human-sized. A Parasite or Possessor, of course, is defined by the size of its host.

Boost – the Demon’s Power is added to a given skill of the target for one act. The skill affected is chosen with taking the ability, so if one wanted a Parasite to Boost Stamina and Lore, the demon would have to take two separate abilities. Boosting reduces the Demon’s Power to 1 while it is maintained, decreasing all of its other abilities accordingly. Also, receiving two Boosts of any kind in rapid succession results in the recipient being Confused as per the ability below. Boost cannot be combined with Ranged. Boost cannot be conferred; the Demon is always the user.

Cloak – the Demon’s Power is added to the difficulty of any attempts to Notice it. Inconspicuous Demons already have a passive Cloack operating on themselves for free; other Demons must take it as an ability and state it as an action.

Command – the user may control one general sort of nonhuman animal with a with a Will vs. Will roll. Most animals Will score is 2. The number of individuals controllable at once equals the Demon’s Power (doubled for animals under one kilogram); only one roll is required for all individuals.

Confuse – the user matches the Demon’s Power against the target’s Will to force the target to lose his or her next action, either later in that round or in the next round. This ability is automatically Ranged.

Cover – the user is proficient in any skills associated with a given profession or social status, using a bonus equal to the Demon’s Power. Possessor Demons automatically have this ability.

Daze – the user hits the target with an Attack roll to subtract the Demon’s Power from all the target’s Notice rolls; the effect lasts for the Demon’s Power in minutes. Note that the target is not blinded and needs no Notice rolls to deal with direct attacks or other obvious things. This ability is automatically Ranged.

Fast – the user adds the Demon’s Power to any skill rolled or used to determine initiative. If the demon is the user that is a +1 at least. The user may include more activities in a combat round than is usually possible.

Hold – requires a regular Attack roll; target can’t change position unless he makes a Physique vs. Power roll. A target may be hit by more than one separated Hold. A single Hold does not prevent actions besides shifting places, but a second Hold will prevent motions like shooting, hitting, or thrashing. The third immobilises the target completely. Multiple Holds must be broken separately.

Hop – a Possessor Demon with Hop may change hosts freely, leaving behind either a shaken but essentially okay host or a corpse (depending on the original Possessing roll). The Demon does have to be in touching range, unless Ranged is taken; the Hop effect is visible and obvious unless Cloak is taken. Without this ability, a Possessor cannot leave a host until the host is physically killed. In either case, once separated, it suffers as if it were in Need until a new host is taken.

Link – the Demon and its master can know each other’s whereabouts and gain some idea of what is happening around the other. They do not gain telepathic or empathic communication, with one exception: the Sorcerer may command the Demon to return immediately. Link only needs to be taken once.

Mark – the target rolls Humanity vs. the Demon’s Power; failure means anyone or thing with Lore +1 or higher will thereafter perceive the individual as Marked, permanently. A Sorcerer may remove a Mark by successfully rolling Lore vs. Demon’s Power. A Mark is not perceptible to individuals with no Lore skill, including the target. The act of Marking is obvious unless Cloaked. Marks may be generic or individually recognisable, depending on the group’s definition of sorcery.

Perception – user adds the Demon’s Power to Notice or whatever skill is being used for perception. Exactly what is perceived must be defined at the outset. The effect can be aura reading, infrared vision, smell, or whatever, but not telepathy or “mind-sense” of any kind.

Protection – the Demon’s Power is added to user’s Defend roll against damage from Psychic Force or one non-impact form of attack (for example, most of the versions of Special Damage below). The type of attack it protects against must be defined at the outset.

Psychic Force – the user may use his or her Will as a ranged attack. People without this ability Defend with their own Will; users defend with their Will or the Demon’s Power, whichever is higher.

Ranged – one Attack (some form of Special Damage, Hold, or Hop) can be made at a distance. The Demon’s Power sets how far the attack may go, in meters.

Shadow – the user controls degree of illumination in the immediate area (about the size of a big room or small auditorium), which must be at least partly enclosed. Despite the name, Shadow allows light changes ranging from strong indirect sunlight to absolute blackness. The effect can be sustained for minutes equal to Demon’s Power.

Shapeshift – the user has another shape, which can be maintained for minutes equal to Demon’s Power. The new shape may have it’s own special abilities, which may be bought separately. Shapeshift should not be confused with an Inconspicuous Demon becoming conspicuous to attack or do something directly, which can sometimes look similar.

Special Damage – the user gains an Attack which adds the Demon’s Power to damage shifts. The use still must use a normal Attack roll to hit a target. The attack must be defined, and unless combined with Cloak that attack proceeds from some obvious action of the user. Some possible definitions include energy discharge (fire, lightning, sonic, etc.), disease/rot, body malfunction (convulsions, asphyxiation), claws/fangs, apparently normal weapons, poison (gas or fluid). A Possessor, Inconspicuous, or Passing Demon has a natural attack even without this ability, but Parasites and Objects do not.

Taint – the target makes a Humanity vs. Demon’s Power roll; failure means loss of a Humanity. The special effect includes physical as well as psychic malformation, with the details being left to the individual play group. Unlike real Humanity Loss, though, the Humanity will return in a few days. This ability is limited to games where players don’t mind losing Humanity for reasons that aren’t their fault, and are willing to role-play the effects, up to and including temporary loss of their characters.

Transport – the user may carry others comfortably during movement, including Travel; the passengers’ combined Physique may not exceed the Demon’s Power.

Travel – the user has the Demon’s Power as a multiple of normal human movement, and can keep going without a break for its Physique in hours. Travel may be defined as flight, teleportation, or any other mode of travel permitted by the GM. A Demon without Travel has the speed and endurance capabilities of a human with its Physique, although how it moves is left up to the player. If its movement abilities give it special plot capabilities, though, it needs to have Travel. Note that Object Demons may have Travel too. Travel may include simply a faster or improved version of norma human-type movement, unnatural movement like running on water or flying, or totally weird stuff such as teleporting or dimension-walking.

Vitality – Consequences up to the Demon’s Power are removed when the user takes a rest following combat. Vitality also confers resistance to raging, but not total immunity.

Warp – the user may alter the shape of unloving material, up to its Power in kilograms squared. It will not animate material but simply give it a new shape. The effect lasts for hours equal to the Demon’s Power. If any damage is to be done by this act, then the Demon must also have Special Damage; if any feature of the warped object is enhanced or strengthened, it must have Boost; it must be able to perceive the level at which it is Warping, which may require Perception.

 

SORCERY MECHANICS AND RITUALS

More than Mere Mortals – a Sorcerer can use their Will to push on even when they’ve been Taken Out. The Sorcerer can roll Will vs. whatever bonus he or she is hoping to use for a Skill to do an action despite being “Down”. If he or she takes any more damage that cannot be assigned to Stress and/or Consequences then they are Finished, but until such time they can push on even with their guts strewn on the floor before them, missing limbs, etc.

Sorcery – all Sorcerers can do the following rituals at any time during play: Contact, Summon, Bind, Punish, Banish, and Contain. Demons cannot perform sorcery. All of the rituals take from half an hour to three hours to perform correctly. A Sorcerer can attempt to speed things up, like Banishing a Demon right there in combat, for example, but in doing so his or her relevant ritual skill is reduced to +1.

Contact – Sorcerer’s Lore vs. Demon’s Power. Contacting a demon requires expanding one’s mind well out of commonly-acknowledged boundaries. The Sorcerer’s Lore is matched against the Demon’s Power.

Bonuses are awarded for massive doses of hallucinogens refined by the Sorcerer for this use. For every hit dropped, award the Sorcerer one die as a bonus. However, there is a cost to this sort of activity: at the end of the Contact attempt, successful or not, the Sorcerer must roll his or her Will vs. the number of hits dropped. Failure means that his or her Will is impaired by one for several weeks; if they lose by 3 shifts or more this loss is permanent!

One can continue to attempt a Contact even after a failed roll, with a penalty of 1 to Lore and Physique per extra attempt. If the cumulative penalties bring Lore to +0 the Sorcerer is catatonic for several hours; if they bring Physique to +0 he or she faints, again for several hours.

A player may describe a Demon for his or her character to Contact, even specifying numerically if he or she wants, but the GM can always alter the Demon who actually shows up. (see Contacts and Summons During Play below).

Once Contacted, a demon can be perceived and spoken to; any kind of information can be exchanged. But there is no way for either Sorcerer or Demon to affect one another, either physically or in terms of Binding, unless the Demon is Summoned. The communication stays open, so to speak, for about an hour, unless the Sorcerer terminates the Contact or makes another Contact roll to prolong it.

Summon – Sorcerer’s Will – Humanity vs. Demon’s Power. Summoning a Demon may only be attempted if it has been Contacted, whether by the summoner or by someone else. All Demons want to be Summoned and will not resist; the only thing that the Sorcerer must overcome with his or her Will (modified by Humanity) is the Demon’s intrinsic Power. The same penalties to Physique incurred by repeated attempts to Contact also apply to Summon. A summoned Demon is not automatically Bound, which is why the wise Sorcerer may perform a Contain ritual before trying.

One method for improving the chances to Summon is a sacrifice: killing a living thing during the ritual. The victim’s Physique or Will, whichever is higher, is used as a one-time bonus to the roll. The social disadvantages of making this practice a habit should be clear to both players and GM; furthermore, performing a sacrifice entails making another Humanity check. If it is a Human sacrifice, the check is made against the victim’s Humanity instead of the Sorcerer’s own.

Banish – Sorcerer’s Will + Humanity vs. Demon’s Power + Will. Banishing a Demon is much like Summoning, although the Demon will almost certainly resist with its Will, and the Sorcerer uses his or her Humanity as a bonus. If the Demon is Bound, the strength of the Binding (regardless of whose favour it supports) is used as a penalty. A Banished Demon must be re-Contacted and re-Summoned in order to trouble anyone ever again. The successful Sorcerer may make a Humanity Gain roll (current Humanity vs. Demon’s Power) if 1) the demon’s Power was greater than his or her Humanity, and 2) the Sorcerer did not Summon the Demon in the first place.

Bind – Sorcerer’s Appropriate Skill vs. Demon’s Will. Binding a Demon is the most important act of sorcery. One may have Contacted and Summoned the Demon to Bind it, or one may merely encounter it in reality. The means of Binding can vary from person to person, which is why “appropriate skill” is used instead of some specific skill. You can challenge it, promise it something, or even seduce it, whatever is appropriate to the Demon’s Need and your personality. The skill you roll against the Demon’s Will depends on the Binding rite, as follows.
– Stamina: wrestling the Demon, undergoing some sort of agonising initiation ritual, dancing or chanting, sexual exhaustion.
– Will: asserting open authority, mutual exchange of services, emotional seduction, negotiated “sale”, animal-style dominance.
– Lore: tattooing, painting or drawing an image or rune, creating/shaping an object, intoning a formal, memorised formula.

Binding an un-Bound Demon always works! Either the Demon or the Sorcerer will have the success for the roll, and the total number of that individual’s shifts will be used as a bonus for all their interactions thereafter. Demons love to be poorly Bound.

A Bound Demon cannot be re-Bound unless it is freed from the first contract, which requires the Demon to rebel against its initial Binding roll. There is no upper limit to how many Demons a Sorcerer may Bind, but a Demon can only be Bound to one Sorcerer at a time.

Binding a Demon brings it fully into existence and confers on the binder the responsibility for meeting the Demon’s Need, as well as any other agreement the two come to regarding what they want to do in the world. What the Demon wants is explicit in its Desire, and what the Sorcerer wants – well, that’s what the game is all about.

Punish – Sorcerer’s Will vs. Demon’s Stamina. A Demon removes its Power in bonuses equal to the Sorcerer’s shifts. The penalty applies to all the Demon’s abilities; the score is restored by Stamina rolls vs. strength of the Punish. This hurts the Demon a lot, and they really hate to be Punished. You can Punish your own Bound Demon automatically, removing Power equal to your Will, down to Power of +1. Punishing someone else’s Bound Demon uses the strength of the Binding as a penalty.

Contain – Sorcerer’s Lore vs. Demon’s Power. Containing a Demon means limiting its movement, whether to a certain vicinity or relative to another person or object. A Contained Demon absolutely cannot move itself outside or across the Contain’s boundaries. The Demon is also immune to Banishment as a consequence of Need or lack of a host or master (although it can be formally Banished by a Sorcerer). The Sorcerer must prepare the focus for the Containment, such as a pentagram, adding a bonus for every successful Lore roll against his or her own Physique, which represents the concentration necessary. The Containment isn’t tested until a Demon challenges it, which then determines whether it was well made or not by a Basic Success roll. A given Containment must be defined at the outset as general (applying to any Demon) or specific (applying to a certain individual or type).

Group Sorcery – sorcerous cooperation is very effective. Binding and Punishing are always one-on-one, but Banishing, Summoning, Contacting, and Containing can get some bonuses through helpers. One Sorcerer is designated as the primary, and he or she will incur any Humanity checks as a result. The helpers roll just as the primary does; any shifts they get confer as a bonus to the primary, and any failures confer no penalty. This is the smartest way to increase one’s sorcerous chances, far better than messy sacrifices and dangerous drugs. It’s the main reason why covens exist and why adepts take apprentices.

In-game Contacts and Summons – the Demon that begins play with the character doesn’t have to be Summoned; the character’s own beginning story should describe how he or she came to encounter and Bind it and may or many not include a Summons. The only required Humanity check for the starting character is for the Binding.

But sooner or later characters will want to Summon something up (if not, the GM isn’t making things dangerous enough!). In this case, the player of the relevant character must provide at minimum the following: the list of Demon abilities desired and how they confer, the demon’s Type, and the demon’s Desire. The GM writes up the demon, assigning the Power level based on the abilities (e.g. having three abilities implies a Power of at least +4) and filling in any details, most notably the Need.

Alternatively, the player may provide a fully written-up Demon, with the exception of its Need. In this case, if the thing is successfully Contacted, the GM may alter details of the Demon’s write-up, for example substituting abilities or changing the Desire, or even changing the Type. One detail is altered for each shift of the Contact roll, no matter who was successful. This method, by itself, should not add new abilities or increase scores, so the Demon’s scores will be left unchanged.

In either case, the GM may also employ the option to add a point of Power for each shift the player gained if successful. If this option is used, by itself it should change nothing else about the Demon.