RPG Creations and Musings.

Posts tagged ‘Writing’

What have I been doing?


Gosh, it’s been ages since I posted a new blog entry. I hadn’t meant to let it go so long. So if I haven’t been writing here, what have I been doing? Well, here’s a quick run-down, at least as far as it relates to RPGs.

Seven Hills

I teamed up with my faithful comrade in arms Graham Spearing to organise a new RPG convention, Seven Hills. It was my first time organising such a thing. Seven Hills 2014 was a fairly small affair with about 40 people attending. The atmosphere was wonderful, and thoroughly relaxed. It was focused with a science fiction theme. I played in three games (a Savage Worlds space opera, a game in the new River of Heaven setting, and a game of Eclipse Phase) and ran two (a game of Wordplay in my own Starfall setting, and a game in the Transhuman Space setting, but powered by Fate Core), and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

It was two months ago now, so it’s probably a bit too late for post convention analysis, but I’m looking forward to us organising 2015, which has the theme of Steel.

Playing Games

Besides games at Seven Hills, I’m playing and running other things now. I’ve recently fallen a bit in love with 13th Age, which I’ve decided is <i>my</i> D&D. I’m using it to run a game of an old love, which I thought I’d never return to, namely the Planescape setting. I might post more about the campaign later on, but for now I’ll say that it’s wonderfully straightforward to run, with enough tools to keep it interesting.

I’ve just started playing in a game of Esoterrorists. It’s smooth and subtle so far (we’re only one session in), with notes of creepiness just starting to build. I do like the Esoterrorists premise, and do like the Gumshoe system. I’m keen to find out what happens next.

Finally I’m involved with a fun play by post game, namely De Profundis. By play by post, I mean it literally- we’re sending hand written letters to each-other. The game is set in 1893, and plays with notes of Lovecraftian horror. This is by it’s nature a slow mover, but now it’s getting really interesting.


I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing, just not on this blog. Let me give you a list.

  • My OpenQuest setting with Simon Bray, Crucible of the Dragons (formerly known as Here Be Dragons) came out earlier this year.
  • I’ve finished an expanded draft of my Starfall setting. It’s a 1950s alien invasion setting for Wordplay, intended to play more at the hardish SF rather than pulpy end of the scale.
  • I’ve finished significant revisions to Ninth Legion for Reign. This is starting to sing.
  • I’ve added a scenario to a revised version of Blood of the Gods, which is now out there in the wild.
  • I’ve literally just now finished the first draft of a scenario pack for Age of Arthur.

I’ve also written or am writing a couple of other things for publishers who haven’t announced them yet, so I won’t do it here. So there’s been lots keeping me busy.


My Writing Business (Part 3)



In this blog post I want to talk about my one self-published project, Age of Arthur. I say self-published, but for this one I had a coauthor. We both fell for the Fate system, and after a game of Diaspora we played together in (well, technically, I ran it and Graham Spearing was one of the players, but you know what I mean), we both had an urge to write a Fate-based game.

We had similar likes and dislikes for what would work, so we started working together. Then Graham had the idea for an Arthurian setting with a more dark ages feel than Pendragon (we both loved Bernard Cornwell’s Warlord Chronicles trilogy), and I did lots of research, our friend Andy Sangar put together an Arthurian timeline, and we both did lots of writing. I don’t want to write about the writing and research process, interesting though it was at the time. I want to write about the extra stuff that was involved aside from just writing the thing involved in bringing the game to print.

At various stages in the draft, we each ran a few one-shots using the system, including one that became the scenario in the main book. I also ran a campaign, which let me see for the first time how other people reacted to character generation. I didn’t change the rules during play- that sort of thing tends to derail games, but I did get lots of ideas for tweaks afterwards.

When the tweaks were made, we did some serious self-editing, before contacting an artist, Jason Behnke and map maker, Steff Worthington. Steff came up with a lovely map of dark ages Britain, and, with his friend Genevieve Fournier, gave us some handy feedback on the Gazetteer, which was duly incorporated. And Jason’s art when it came was absolutely beautiful, going a long way to defining the look of the book. It was the quality of the art that led to the decision to make a full colour version available. The art consists of a covers and a full page spread in between each chapter.

We then asked for playtesters (thanks to our lead playtesters, Neil Gow of Omnihedron Games, and Ben Quant), Graham set up a website, and I started promoting by chatting about the game on forums. I started a thread on the ads/promos section of rpg.net, which I seeded with occasional updates, and UK Role Players was good enough to host a forum for the game. Graham set up a page on Google+. This all generated some initial interest which was good.

The playtest feedback was appropriate robust, with comments pointing out that some rules were just plain not working or broken. Others were unclearly written. So we made more changes- that’s what playtesting is for. In particular, Neil really helped us tighten things up.

Then we were nearly done, right? Ha ha ha ha ha. More self-editing. Then an external editor. Mitch Williams volounteered for this noble task, and he helped us clarify many more points in the text where the rules were unclear, and what I thought was a surprising number of little typos and grammatical mistakes. This surprised me- we’d self-edited, and I thought I wrote good anyway. It was embarrassing to find that there were places where I’d done things such as writing “viscous” instead of “vicious”. He’s someone else who went well beyond the call of duty in helping us out.

Oh, and layout. We’d had various ideas, but over time I came to realise I wanted to do layout myself. I knew what I wanted in terms of hyperlinks, bookmarks and index, and I knew that I didn’t trust anyone else to do the job. Lots of work in life is made with that philosophy. Incidentally, by the time I’d started the layout, the initial date I’d mentioned for release of the game had already passed. Whee! There’s a moral there.

So, more layout, which was a fiddly technical job, and more comments from the editor, with bonus layout glitches to spot. More posts on forums as we started getting the lovely finalised art pieces. I also set up a Facebook page to show a bit more off. More interest from people, with a hint of impatience. More helpful advice from Tim Gray of Silver Branch Games, and Neil Gow. Eventually, six months after the initial planned release, the PDF was ready to go. I uploaded it to Drivethrurpg to test it out, and a few hours later realised it was actually on the front page, had generated some interest and sales, and was out there in the world.

We’d done one other thing I thought was rather clever at the time, promising a discount equal to the value of the PDF to any early adopters for the print version when it came out. More on that later. Ah, print. That took another couple of months to sort out. Why? Well, the first few attempts at uploading a print file were turned down- my margins were wrong. Then we got the first proof back, and there were two problems.

The first problem was an example of my ridiculous stupidity- the covers were the wrong way round. The front cover was on the back, and the back on the front. Remember when I said I wouldn’t trust anyone else with the layout? That seemed laughable. The other, worse, problem was that we’d used the printer’s standard colour for the physical book. For what we wanted, standard colour wasn’t good enough. Pages didn’t bleed to the edges, leaving white margins, and worse, the beautiful artwork, which is rather rich and varied in colour, had all life leeched out of it. The book did not look good.

This led to the decision to bring the book out in premium colour, but premium colour is rather expensive, so we did a cheaper black and white version. After a couple of comments, we also decided to go for both hardback and softback options. I hadn’t initially planned hardback, but I’m really glad we went for it in the end.

In the first black and white proof, the tone was out on one of the pictures, but the second proof was fine. Wahey, a book for release! As for the premium colour, the first proof looked breathtaking gorgeous, with a lovely hardback cover, and high quality paper, but the margins were out, leaving white space. Fortunately, the second proof was as we wanted it- and the thicker pages made it look soooo much better than the standard colour version. I was able to wrap up the second proof and take it to Graham Spearing’s birthday party- it had arrived the day before.

So the physical books were released, and discount codes were sent to those who’d bought the PDF. Our travails were, unfortunately, still not over- not every PDF buyer had received the codes. Plenty had settings on Drivethrurpg blocking e-mails from publishers. Incidentally, logging into Drivethrurpg through Facebook sets up such a block automatically. Fortunately, that was solvable by a quick e-mail with the codes for those who got in touch.

I hope I’ll make fewer mistakes next time I self-publish something. I haven’t even catalogued every single error made. I’m glad I did the self-publishing thing. It was hard work. I wouldn’t have managed if it hadn’t been a joint endeavour with Graham, and we hadn’t had advice and help from those mentioned here.

One day I’ll self-publish another project. But not yet!

My Writing Business (Part 2)

In my last post on writing, I spoke about writing for Arc Dream, and making the leap from writing lots down for myself to getting things published. One reason I didn’t say was why I like to get things published. The answer is a not completely comfortable combination of generosity and vanity. Generosity because it’s great to be able to share what I’ve done, and others getting value out of it. Vanity, because it’s nice for me to see others appreciate my work, and to see value in it.

Someone actually giving me money for my work is the most direct way I can think of to see that there’s value in it. Maybe this is all a bit too self-analytical, and writing for publication (or self-publication) is simply another hobby that nicely exists alongside my actual gaming.

After Blood of the Gods for Arc Dream, my next bit of writing was for Newt Newport and D101 Games. Newt seems to be receptive to my ideas (ah, that vanity/appreciation thing again).  He peer-reviewed an early copy of Blood of the Gods, and the first draft was much improved by his input. I’ve done bits and pieces of editing and proof reading on a good few D101 products. Perhaps most significantly, I co-edited the marvellous game of fallen Chinese immortals doing good deeds and kung fu, Monkey.

I’m still rather pleased with Drowned Lands, the first thing I wrote for D101. What is it? Well, here’s the setting pitch (from which you can, if you want, take a good guess at when it was written):

The summer of 2011 was blisteringly hot and humid,
both in Britain and in the rest of the world.
Perhaps nothing too unusual.
Then it started to rain.
Still nothing unusual.
It started to rain everywhere in the world, even in deserts.
And it didn’t stop.

It’s a setting included in Worlds of Wordplay– a version of Graham Spearing’s Wordplay RPG including various settings that is published by D101. Drowned Lands is based in VSCA’s Deluge setting toolkit, which, like Wordplay, is creative commons. My setting a rather British post-apocalypse, based around the south coast of England, where I grew up, after a hundred years of constant rain.

While talking about D101 games, I should mention OpenQuest. From the start (before I was writing for D101), I loved OpenQuest, which is a take on fantasy gaming using an engine in the same family as Basic Roleplaying and Runequest, but to my mind more elegant than Basic Roleplaying and simpler than Runequest. I should say here that I also have a soft spot for Runequest’s crunchier take, especially when it comes to combat, but OpenQuest scratches a different itch. I should also mention that OpenQuest 2 is out soon, and the PDF I’ve seen looks great!

I’ve helped a bit with OpenQuest 2, but my big thing for it is a setting I cowrote with Simon Bray called Here Be Dragons. Now this one came into being almost by accident. Both Simon and I submitted articles to Newt on similar themes- mine being a city ruled by a Dragon, and Simon’s on creatures called Dracorians and a scenario based around them. Newt suggested combining them into a book, so we wrote more and did so.

The writing for this one was absolutely frantic, with ideas and e-mails flying back and forth. We were done with a first draft remarkably quickly. I think the result is glorious- a swords and sorcery setting with Simon’s art and maps, a lot of dark stuff, bits inspired by Greek mythology, a city that was my take on Byzantium, and parts of the style owing as much to Pratchett as to anything else. I like writing with a coauthor. It makes me efficient and the results, based on the two times I’ve done it, surprise me in a nice way.

Fate RPG Magic

I’ve liked the Fate RPG engine for a long time- long before the latest iteration came out to play. I liked it so much, I cowrote my own Fate-powered RPG.  But that’s not what this post is about.  What it’s about is sharing a magic system I designed for Fate before Fate Core was around.  I’m not currently using it for anything at the moment, but would if I wanted something a bit more like “typical” RPG magic in a Fate game.  Here you go…

* * * * * *

Elemental Sorcery- A magic system for FATE

Under this system, there are three magical skills. They replace the Mysteries skill.



The sorcery skill is used to cast spells. Any character can learn this skill; however, without certain stunts, he is restricted to common magic, and can only cast spell from one of the five domains: energy, life, matter, mind, space. The element must be chosen when this skill is taken.

The character knows one common spell per level of his sorcery skill. 


The countermagic spell is used to defend against a magical attack made against the character. Any spell affecting the character can be neutralised, even if he is not the only target. However, indirect attacks cannot be defended against with this skill. Further, without certain stunts, existing spells are unaffected.

Magic Sensitivity

A magic sensitivity skill check is made to sense the presence of magic, a character casting a spell, or magical creatures or objects, even if hidden from ordinary sight. If applicable, the character can sense the element involved in the magic.

The scope of this skill can be increased using stunts.


Spellcasting Stunts

Adept (requires a relevant aspect)

An adept is not restricted to common spells, and can learn those labelled as adept spells. The character gains one adept spell for free when this stunt is taken.

Not every character can become an adept- it requires special talent and training. The knowledge required to train an adept is usually restricted to those in power; most adepts are either nobles or have a noble patron. In any case, a character needs a relevant aspect to take this stunt.


A character with this stunt can use the Countermagic skill to affect spells that have already been cast. Each Countermagic action affects a single spell.

Extra Spells

This stunt grants a character a number of common spells equal to his sorcery skill, of any type available. Adept spells and magus spells can also be learnt with this stunt; however, an adept spell counts as two common spells, and a magus spell as three common spells.


A character with this stunt can identify the precise spell used when using the Magic Sensitivity skill. When he comes across a magical item, he has a general idea what it does and how to use it.

Magus (requires the Adept stunt)

The most powerful sorcerers of all are termed magi. This stunt means a character can cast magus-level spells- the most powerful available. Further, he gains on magus spell for free when this stunt is taken.

New Domain

This stunt simply enables a character to learn spells from a new domain. Further, when it is taken, one spell of the new element is gained.

It can be taken up to four times, meaning a character has access to all five domains.

* * *

Unless otherwise noted, spells can be cast fairly quickly; casting a spell is no different to taking any other action in a conflict. A sorcery skill check against difficulty 0 is made to cast a spell.

However, magic has a cost. Casting a spell inflicts damage to the magus’ composure stress track. The damage is 2 stress for a common spell, 4 stress for an adept spell, and 6 stress for a magus spell. The stress is reduced by one for each level of success.

Countermagic has the same stress cost as the spell being neutralised, with each level of success reducing the cost by one.

A failed attempt to cast a spell or use countermagic costs 1 stress.


Common Spells

Electric Charge (Range: Self)

Causes the caster to crackle with electricity for a scene. Any hand to hand attacks have a +2 damage bonus.

Environmental Protection (Range: Same zone)

Up to one target per sorcery level is unaffected by natural extremes of heat and cold for half a day. Either the number affected or the duration is doubled on a critical success.

Extinguish (Range: One zone)

Puts out all fires within a zone.

Fiery Bolt (Range: Two zones)

A victim is struck by a fiery bolt; this is a normal attack that ignores armour, and has a +1 bonus to damage.

Flame Blade (Range: Touch)

Enchants a weapon so that it blazes with fire for a scene. Any attacks have a +2 damage bonus.

Resist Fire and Cold (Range: Touch)

The beneficiary is immune to the effects of ordinary heat, fire, and cold, and takes half damage from magical fire and cold for one scene.

Silence of the Grave (Range: Two zones)

This spell creates an area of silence within a zone. No sound can be heard at all within this area, or can pass out of or into the shielded area. This spell lasts for an hour.

Torch without Fire (Range: Short)

Enchants an object so that it casts light within the same zone for a week.

Unnatural Darkness (Range: One zone)

This spell creates an area of darkness covering everything within one zone. Normal sight within the area is impossible. Lasts for a day.


Adept Spells

Bolt of Lightning (Range: Two zones)

A victim is struck by a bolt of lightning; this is a normal attack that ignores armour, and has a +3 bonus to damage.

Barrier of Fire (Range: Two zones)

Creates a wall of fire up to 60m long. A ring up to 6m across per skill rank is also a possibility. The barrier lasts lasts for half a day. Crossing the wall of fire needs a Superb athletics check; each level of failure inflicts 2 points of damage.

Up to 1 target per sorcery level can be trapped in a ring; each is allowed an opposed athletics check to avoid this.

Burst of Light (Range: Two zones)

Light blazes out from the caster, affecting up to one victim per sorcery level. This is an attack, with a +2 bonus to damage, but only affects undead creatures, demons, and similar creatures of darkness.

Flame Breath (Range: One zone)

The caster can breathe fire, affecting up to one victim per sorcery level. This is an attack, with a +1 bonus to damage.

Scorching Blast (Range: Two zones)

A victim is struck by fire; this is a normal attack that ignores armour, and has a +3 bonus to damage.

Shield of Flame (Range: Self)

The caster is surrounded by fire for a scene. The fires do not harm him, but any within melee range take 1 damage each round.

Magus Spells

Fiery Devastation (Range: Three zones)

Explosions affect up to one target per sorcery level. This is an attack, with a +3 bonus to damage.

Incinerate (Range: Long)

This spell is typically used as an attack against a single target. It has a +5 bonus to damage, and armour is ignored. A target who is taken out is turned to ash.


Common Spells

Circle of Protection (Range: Self)

Undead creatures, demons, and so on cannot approach within the same zone as the caster for a scene.

Protection from Poison and Disease (Range: Same zone)

The target is immune from poison and disease for a day.

Skin of Stone (Range: Touch)

The target gains a +2 bonus to armour for a scene.

Touch of the Void (Range: Two zones)

An attack with a +1 bonus to damage that ignores armour. Damage from this spell leaves no mark.

Adept Spells

Dead Men Walking (Range: Short)

Animates one corpse per skill rank as a zombie- an unintelligent undead being capable of obeying simple commands from the caster.

The corpses remain animated for a week.

Eternal Rest (Range: Three zones)

This spell is an attack only affecting undead creatures. It has a +3 bonus to damage, and ignores armour.

This spell can also be cast on a corpse, or on a location where someone died. In this case, the departed can never return as an undead being, be raised from the dead, or contacted with Whispers from Beyond the Grave.

Internal Alchemy (Range: Touch)

Reduces the effects of a poison or disease in a victim touched from major to minor, or from minor to none.

The Leeching Spell (Range: One zone)

This spell is an attack against a victim. Any damage inflicted is healed by the caster. The character can in fact reverse this spell, draining himself in order to heal another.

Two points of damage healed can reverse a minor consequence, four points a major consequence, and six points a severe consequence.

Rooted to the Earth (Range: Two zones)

A victim of this spell can resist with the athletics skill. He cannot move from where he stands for a scene, gaining a “Rooted to the Earth” aspect, but can otherwise act normally.

This spell typically affects a single victim. However, one extra target is affected per level of spin.

Water Breathing (Range: Same zone)

The target can breathe underwater for a day.

Magus Spells

Curse of Undeath (Range: Same zone)

This spell must be cast on a dead body. It animates the body in the form of a wight. A wight is an undead being with a shadow of its old personality and a hatred for the living. It must obey commands from the caster, although instructions can be twisted and perverted.

However, the caster can keep control of no more than one wight per sorcery level. If he creates more wights, control of those created first is lost first.

Defy Death (Range: Same zone)

This spell lasts for one scene. While it is in effect, the recipient will not die, regardless of damage taken. However, if he has taken enough damage to kill him, he dies when the scene is over.

Immortality (Range: Touch)

The target stops ageing from the moment the spell is in effect. It costs a Fate Point, and permanently lowers the casters maximum Fate point total by one.

Petrification (Range: Three zones)

This spell is typically used as an attack against a single target. It has a +5 bonus to damage, and armour is ignored.

This spell can also reverse the effects of petrification, but any damage to the statue remains when the victim is restored (although the Instant Repair spell can potentially fix this). No time passes for the victim while in this state.

Finally, the caster can also partially petrify a victim, turning him to stone from the waist down. He does not age, and need not eat or sleep in this state, drawing sustenance from the earth. An unwilling victim who succeeds in an endurance check at the usual penalties takes no damage from this variant.

Return from Death (Range: Same zone)

This spell restores an individual to life who recently died, provided his body is largely intact. The victim can have been dead for no more than the last day. It costs a Fate Point.


Common Spells

Charm of Opening and Sealing (Range: Same zone)

The opening charm causes any door, lock, or knot to spring open.

The sealing charm seals a makes a door or other opening as strong as the surrounding material, and turns a number of objects chosen by the caster into keys; the maximum number of keys is the caster’s skill rank. Only an individual carrying a key can open a sealed door. The effects last for up to one day per level.

Clear Sailing (Range: Self)

This spell protects a ship from storms and hostile currents (including the Turbulence spell), and ensures good sailing conditions for the next day. The caster must be on board for this spell to work.

Cloud of Mist (Range: One zone)

This spell creates an area of dense fog covering everything within one zone. Normal sight within the area is impossible. Lasts for a day.

Favourable Winds (Range: Self)

The caster can dictate the direction and speed of wind around him for the next day. This spell is not powerful enough to create gales and hurricanes, but can, for example, always ensure favourable sailing conditions.

Instant Repair (Range: Touch)

Repairs all damage to a small object. This spell can also be used on larger structures, in which case the number of hit points of damage repaired is d6+1 per rank (double with a critical success). Only inanimate objects can be affected.

Local Storm (Range: Three zones)

Engulfs a target in battering winds for a scene. If flying, the target needs to make an athletics check each round, or be forced to land. Further, all actions made by the target have a -1 penalty.

Razor Sharpness (Range: Touch)

Turns an object into a tool that can cut through anything for one scene. If used on a weapon, it has a +1 bonus to damage, and ignores armour.

Repel Water (Range: Touch)

This spell lasts for half a day. While it is in effect, the recipient stays perfectly dry, water being repelled from his body. Perhaps more importantly, the repulsion is strong enough that he can even walk on water.

Shatter (Range: Two zones)

Destroys a small inanimate object dramatically. Shatter can also be used as an attack against larger objects, in which case it inflicts stress damage rather than causing instant destruction.

Sudden Deluge (Range: Self)

Causes it to rain, snow, or hail for the next day in an area within 1km of the caster per skill rank. The type of precipitation is whatever is natural to the region and season.

Sorcerous Craftsmanship (Range: Self)

The magecraft spell lets a character work earth, stone, metal, or wood at an impressive rate for one minute per skill rank, without using any tools. He can do as much work in each minute as he normally could in an hour.

Winds of Protection (Range: Touch)

All attacks made against the target have a -1 penalty for a scene.

Adept Spells

Barrier of Stone (Range: One zone)

Creates a stone wall up to 1m thick and 30m long. The wall can be up to 20m high, and can be any shape. The wall begins to crumble after one day per sorcery level.

Ice Storm (Range: Two zones)

Falling ice affects up to one target per sorcery level. This is an attack, with a +1 bonus to damage.

Ice Structure (Range: One zone)

Creates an ice wall, bridge, crude building, or similar structure up to 30m and 20m high. It begins to melt after a few hours.

Incorporeality (Range: Self)

This spell turns the character and everything worn or carried into a cloud of dark gas. While incorporeal, the character can pass through solid objects. His senses are normal. However, he cannot interact physically with the material world. Even spells with physical effects are insubstantial, although other magic works normally.

However, while incorporeal, the character can only be damaged by magical weapons or spells. Damaging spells work normally. This spell lasts for one scene, or until the caster chooses to end it.

Water Jet (Range: One zone)

Blasts a victim with a jet of water; the force is enough that an opposed athletics check is needed for him to stay on his feet.

It is possible to use less force, using this spell simply to create drinkable water. In this case, up to one day’s water for a single person per sorcery level is produced.

Magus Spells

Earthquake (Range: Self)

The earthquake spell affects an area 1km across centred on the caster. In that area, normal buildings are destroyed, and fortified buildings are damaged (and treated as normal buildings until repaired). A victim caught within a collapsing building must make a Superb athletics check, suffering one point of damage per level of failure.

At sea, all boats and ships are capsized or sunk, depending on size. This spell costs a Fate point.

Parting the Waves (Range: Three zones)

This spell causes water to flow away from an area up to 100m across per skill rank, exposing the river or sea bed. The spell lasts for a day.

Although dramatic, this spell is too slow to threaten ships and swimmers, although it can create a barrier.

Turbulence (Range: Long)

Surrounds a ship by pounding waves and hostile currents, meaning an opposed Sailing check is needed not to capsize or sink. Swimmers in the water need similar checks to avoid drowning.

Weather Control (Range: Self)

The caster can control the weather in an area up to 1km across per sorcery level. Storms can be created or safely dispersed. Any unusual weather lasts for a day.

Violent weather does no damage to living targets, but can make combat or even movement effectively impossible in the area affected. Other possible effects of created storms include the following.

  1. Flying creatures: Flying creatures are forced to land, and must make an athletics check to avoid falling damage from whatever height they are flying.

  1. Ships: The pilot of a ship must make a skill check to avoid capsizing or sinking, depending on size.

  1. Buildings: Normal buildings are destroyed, and fortified buildings are damaged (and treated as normal buildings until repaired).


Common Spells

Dark Adapted Eye (Range: Touch)

A beneficiary can see in the dark for a day.

Dark Command (Range: One zone)

Forces an undead being to obey a single spoken command. An opposed Resolve check is allowed to resist.

Heart’s Fire (Range: Same zone)

Any effects of fear on targets chosen within the same zone, either natural or supernatural, are negated.

Adept Spells

Whispers from Beyond the Grave (Range: Same zone)

This spell summons a shade of a departed being. It must either be cast on the corpse (actually, the head or skull of the corpse suffices), or at the location where the deceased actually passed away.

The shade remains for a scene, and can converse with the caster and others, although it cannot otherwise affect the material world. The shade has the same personality it had in life, and knows what it knew at the moment of death. It may or may not be cooperative when asking questions, although other spells can be used to compel it.

Words in the Wind (Range: Special)

The caster sends a short message to a fixed location within 10km per rank. It can be heard by anyone at the location.

Magus Spells

Mists of Confusion (Range: Self)

This spell surrounds the caster’s current location with mists in a radius of up to rank km, or twice that with a critical success. The mists are almost impossible to navigate; finding the location needs a critical success on a Navigation skill check. Only one attempt is allowed.

Even escaping the mists requires a Navigation skill check at a -2 penalty. Only one attempt per day is allowed for a particular individual or group.

This spell lasts for a year. The caster, and a number of others equal to the sorcery skill level are unaffected by the mists.

Rouse Unquiet Spirit (Range: Same zone)

This spell must be at the location where a particular individual died. It creates a wraith. A wraith is an incorporeal undead being with a shadow of its old personality and a hatred for the living. It must obey commands from the caster, although instructions can be twisted and perverted.

However, the caster can keep control of no more than one wraith per sorcery skill level. If he creates more wights, control of those created earlier is lost first.


Commmon Spells

Clear Passage (Range: Same zone)

The caster, and one follower per sorcery skill level, can travel over any terrain as if it were clear flat level ground. The spell lasts for as long as the caster continues to travel without interruption. 

Hand of Air (Range: Two zones)

For one scene, the character can manipulate objects within range as if using one hand. Direct attacks made by this spell are resolved in the same way as unarmed combat. A weapon can also be wielded using this spell. This spell does not grant extra actions; ranged actions are instead of normal actions.

Penetrating Gaze (Range: Self)

The character can see through solid obstructions up to 1m thick per skill level for as long as he concentrates on the spell, doing nothing apart from looking. 

Spell of Seeking (Range: Special)

The spell of seeking locates an object, location, or material. It finds both the direction and the distance to the target. The caster needs a metaphysical connection to the object sought to use this spell. For example, the character could find a lost earring if he has the other one of the pair. A character can use this spell even with a poor choice of concection on a critical success.

Touch not the Earth (Range: Touch)

This spell affects a single individual touched, and lasts for one scene. While it is in effect, when he walks, his feet do not actually touch the ground, staying an inch or so above it. He can walk across any substance- even water- without sinking, leaving any sort of impression, or even touching it.

Adept Spells

Burst of Speed (Range: Same zone)

A target can move with incredible speed for a scene. A +2 bonus applies to initiative, and he can take two actions in a combat round. Further, actions such as running (using the athletics skill) have a +2 bonus.

Flight (Range: Self)

The caster can fly for up to an hour. Normal flying is as strenuous as walking, and is approximately the same speed. Faster flight is certainly possible, but is as strenuous as running at the same speed.

Forcewall (Range: Two zones)

Creates a barrier of impenetrable force up to 10m long per skill rank. The wall can be up to 20m high. A dome up to 3m across per skill rank is also a possibility. The barrier lasts for half a day.

Up to 1 target per 2 skill ranks can be trapped in a dome; each is allowed an Evasion check at a -2 penalty to avoid this. A further -4 penalty applies to the check if the caster achieves a critical success.

Scrying Pool (Range: Special)

This spell conjures up an image of a distant place, object, or person in a pool of water. The target can be viewed for the next few minutes.

The caster needs a metaphysical connection to the target to use this spell. For example, an item of clothing suffices to magically spy on its wearer. A character can use this spell even with a poor choice of concection on a critical success.

Magus Spells

Gravity Reversal (Range: Three zones)

Gravity is temporarily reversed within a zone. The reversal catches up to one target per sorcery. Victims are hurled up into the air before falling to the ground. The effect is that a victim cannot act for a round (losing their next action), and take damage as if suffering from an attack. An athletics check is allowed to defend against the damage.

My Writing Business (Part 1)

If you’re reading this, you probably know I’ve written a few published RPG products- it’s not something I’m particularly shy of mentioning. If you didn’t know that, you do now. The plan in this post is to talk about my various writing projects, and how they came to be.

I think one key reason I broke into writing things professionally (by professionally, I mean being paid, rather than it being my job) is that I’ve always written a lot when running RPGs, filling folders and folders with material. If someone else could read my handwriting, they could run one of “my” games. It was in some ways a short step from that to typing things up, polishing and sending to a publisher. In other ways it was a giant leap, but the things I write for my own use are already part way to something I write for publication. Of course, one of these is a subset of the other- I’m not going to seek to publish anything I don’t like and use myself.

Another consequence of this start is that I’m generally happy writing setting and adventure material for games, and playing with the mechanics, for example adapting mechanics to a particular setting or coming up with subsystems or lists of funky powers. I’ve not got so much interest in coming up with mechanics from scratch. That’s not the sort of designer I am.

One piece of dabbling I did a few years before my first published work was a column for RPG.net. Some of what I wrote there seems quite painfully naive to me now, but some bits I still stand by. I think having the column to point out stood me in good stead when I made my first pitch to a publisher.

That publisher was Arc Dream. The pitch was for Blood of the Gods. The start of it was me deciding to run a Wild Talents game involving demigods and mythological monsters in ancient Greece. Kind of sending superheroes back to one of their original roots. There was nothing like that in print, so I wrote stuff over a couple of weekends, and it felt rather complete to me and possibly useful to others. I then mentioned on the Gaming Tavern (the actual discussion is now lost to the mists of time, otherwise I’d link to it) that I thought I’d written a game supplement. The response there was overwhelmingly positive, and I was then encouraged to do to something with it.

So I did, pitching the a game supplement to Arc Dream, the publishers of Wild Talents. I didn’t remotely expect them to say yes, but they did after asking to see what I’d written so far. There followed feedback, a couple more weekends of work, and I had a draft to e-mail. In the mean-time I’d run my game with my gaming buddies, and made a couple of changes of things that didn’t work.

The document was tweaked in response to the editor, James Knevitt, though I don’t recall any massive changes. It then went out to external playtesters for play and criticism. It got criticism in spades, chiefly for there not being enough information on the Greek gods or Greek culture, and for one particular demigod power being “broken”. The last bit of feedback came from more than one playtester, so the power was fixed, and I spend a couple of weekends writing more on the background in Greek mythology and history.

Then, some more editing and it was ready for the artist, Todd Shearer. The supplement’s 36 pages long, and it took quite a long time to get out (surprisingly long to me at the time, though I now fully understand why) and it took me about six weekends of work. I like the people at Arc Dream, and I like their games. Since Blood of the Gods, I’ve pitched another couple of book length things for them- Ninth Legion, which is written, but waiting those later stages, and another project I’m keeping under my hat until it’s further developed. I’m mysterious that way.

Besides Arc Dream, I’ve written and cowritten things for D101 games and self-published Age of Arthur jointly with Graham Spearing. Having a coauthor is a different dynamic, though one I quite like. But talking about coauthors, D101 and self-publishing can wait for another blog post.