Monday, September 30, 2013

Fianyarr: Fantasy Inns & Taverns

Where would a fantasy game be without the medieval equivalent of a pub? I'm not sure where the fates of both taverns and fantasy lands became inextricably linked but linked they are and since your intrepid adventurers in Fianyarr will doubtless be nipping in to the local tavern on many an occasion it's best to come up with a widely diverse range of taverns they can visit. So without further ado, here are eight succinct options.

Traveller's Inn 

This inn sits within a walled stockade in a rural area. Simple in design, it has a large house with seven small rooms containing straw mattresses and a single larger room with a bed that can be hired by travellers. An open doorway links the kitchen to the public room and one of the innkeeper's children sits in that doorway on a stool, taking orders and helping the innkeeper's with various odd jobs. The open kitchen doorway also ensures that plenty of heat from the ovens will pass through into the main area. There's always a ready supply of mead (or any other local liquor) and a number of locals will fill in at tea time to have a few drinks in public before heading home to their families. There's a stable to one side but most people don't use that. Most people just use the hitching post as they aren't intending to stay.

The Gentleman's Tavern 

This tavern is designed to appeal to gentlemen hoping to get away from the wife and children for a few hours so that they can become embroiled in upper class masculine activities such as reading books in silence and discussing local affairs around the dining table. The building contains plenty of curtained windows to let in enough light and a large central meals room with a sizable table. There's a variety of animal heads mounted to the walls and a perpetual smell of tobacco, leather and wood smoke that pervades the entire place. One requires membership to enter here or needs to be accompanying a member. Naturally women may not enter.

The Ladies Tavern 

Not to be outdone by the gentlemen, a variety of women of the adventuring persuasion have set up their own tavern that has a rather cozy front room containing a shocking variety of doilies and lace which is overseen by a rather matronly figure who sits on a rocking chair doing her knitting and gazing at people over her glasses. Members, or the female friends of members, are allowed to enter the back rooms and cellars which contain a mixture of training mannequins (for sparring), dark libraries lit only by glass orbs filled with phosphorescent moulds, and an underground bar that runs the full length of a narrow room packed with bar stools and booths. The female branch of the thieves and conwoman's guild, a mostly upper class bunch, come here regularly to meet with the poorer members who enter via an underground passageway.

Eco-Friendly Tavern  

All of the chairs are organically grown from dirt-filled holes in the ground and sculpted to create rather attractive but uncomfortable chairs. Several directional chutes in the top of this mudbrick building capture direct sunlight during different points of the day and create a spotlight on different parts of the rushes-covered floor where the bards are encouraged to stand. All the alcohol here tastes vaguely of honey.

Lover's Lane Tavern

This particular tavern is decorated in reds and dark woods and specialise in romantic individuals looking for a pre-wedding gathering place - as is the custom in this city. They have a surprising array of chocolates, more flavors than found anywhere else, which is also why they are ridiculously expensive. The usual adventuring party might find themselves a little bit confused when they slide into a booth and notice the place is filled with couples and celebrating families. Luckily if anyone can afford the costs to get in, it will be adventurers.

The Hunt Club

This club for like-minded adventurers has furs covering just about everything. Fox furs on the back of bar stools. Bear rugs by the fire. Mounted heads of all kinds of things both weird and wonderful line the heavy wood walls. Fires burn in braziers, keeping everyone nice and toasty. Luckily the bedrooms have real beds and glorious furs. Unfortunately the good luck comes with a high price tag.

The Little Hut

There's no real taverns for miles around but there is a friendly alcoholic who will sell drinks from his own hut. He uses the crates and barrels for furniture and then sends them back to be refilled. His hut is a bit sticky from spilled booze and it always smells mildly flammable but hey, beggars can't be choosers. Other than crates and barrels, the only places to sit are on the ground and the mugs are either washed in the nearby river or in a barrel full of scummy water.

The Smuggler's Cave

Alchohol is illegal in this community but that doesn't stop people from creating little spots to booze up and pass out while outside the watchful eye of the authorities. This particular one is managed by the sheriff and woe to anyone who threatens his supply lines as he's managed to become quite rich due to his monopoly on alcohol. Sure there are parties in noble houses where alchohol is served on the sly but his caves are the only places where the poor man can drink. ----------- Hope that's enough to get you started. If you have any cool tavern ideas, feel free to post them below.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Player Advice Regarding Other Players

There are plenty of articles advising players on how to support their Storyteller and on how a Storyteller should treat their players but there's not a lot of advice on how players can keep the other players happy.  This is a shame as there are more players in any game than Storytellers and since PCs have more on-screen time than other NPCs and therefore the other players and PCs have a pivotal role in sculpting other players' play experience.  So what can you do to ensure that the other players are enjoying themselves?

Support The Other Players

Different players have different strengths.  Some remember rules with relative ease, others have comprehensively absorbed and understood the patterns of mechanics available in combat or other avenues, some know all the right investigative techniques or have expert social skills, while others understand the canon behind the setting.  Not everyone is going to be able to have much skill in any one of these areas.  Where possible, offer your expertise to the other players.  Don't tell them what they do and, please, don't badger them into taking their advice but please point out the little facts you know to the other players to make their gameplay smoother.  If you know a feat that would be suitable, point it out.  If you know how to do an investigation, create a very short tip sheet.  Maybe they won't take you up on your offer but it's nice to know the option is there.

Share the Limelight

The other players are there to have their chance to shine. While they should be happy to see your character in the limelight occasionally, they are also here to feel special in some way (even if it's in a way that sees their character shredded by the horrors of them from beyond). If their character has claimed a niche then let them star in it. If your buddy made a pickpocket then it’s only fair their character is the first one chosen to steal someone’s wallet. Don't find a way to muscle in and find an excuse to have your character's primary skill come into play just so you can keep the limelight. It’s also important to help other people have the chance to speak as well and to encourage quieter players to have their voices heard. You can also be proactive in this by actively pointing out opportunities where others can use their abilities. Sometimes the pickpocket’s player won’t spot their chance but you may. Point it out to them.

Give the Other Players What They Want

You might have the perfect solution to a particular problem but if another player who has had less involvement desperately wants to use their solution, and it seems good enough, why not go with it? Why talk your way through every problem when you know the player to your left is desperate for an excuse to cut loose in a fist fight? Why ignore a crime scene in favour of roughing up witnesses when you know the player to your right really wants to play at being Sherlock Holmes? Every player has their own play style. While this is related to Sharing the Limelight, it isn’t the same thing as there’s nothing to say that you can’t indulge in another players’ style by piecing together the clues or throwing a punch yourself.

Let the other players know if you like what they did

Sometimes you think another protagonist did something very clever or you appreciate when the player gave you the spotlight. Sometimes you actually adore something negative about a character – the way their protagonist pushes around yours or the dumb yet realistic decision they made. Speak up about this! It not only gives the player a pick-me-up but also encourages more good roleplaying, clever behaviour and spotlight sharing. Let's face it. Most people deliver criticisms quicker than compliments.

In-Game Arguments

While we all like to think we can clearly define the In Character and Out of Character wall it can sometimes get a bit difficult when we’re in a heated argument with another player while looking through the eyes of our own protagonist. It can often help to break the tension post-argument with a cheerful out of character comment on how much you enjoy the player’s skill in the debate, what points you liked (even if you didn’t agree with them), and that you like having that character around for the extra spice. This can do a fantastic job of smoothing over any ruffled feathers and remind everyone that it was an in-character argument. After all, there's a good chance neither of you actually believe what you were saying or would have that argument outside of the game. If you’re feeling a bit annoyed by the fight you have extra reason for the congratulations as emphasising it as an out of character thing can give you a bit of much needed distance and likely stimulate the other player to do the same.

So what do you guys reckon?  Got any advice for players dealing with other players?  What makes you feel welcome and happy among a group of players?

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Player Advice Regarding Keeping a Happy Storyteller

Yes, I know, we've read all of this before but sometimes it's nice to have a quick refresher and sometimes one needs to read the same thing a different way to really 'get' it. Storytellers are tricky beasts to deal with. If you fuss over them too much, you spoil the game. If you don't fuss at all, they might suddenly and out of the blue declare they're over running games and that's now someone else's turn. They're capricious beings - after all, they are creative types - so every trick of the trade you can put up your sleeve helps you keep your gaming day open. It is a volunteer role, after all, albeit one that provides a creative outlet and willing participants who are also the audience of the world whose appreciative 'coos' and eager dice rolling can hit the spot where other tricks fail. Support your Storyteller Let’s face it. Without your Storyteller, you’ll have no game. A good Storyteller will be too busy trying to meet your needs to worry much about their own so if you have a good one it’s important to help out a little where you can. Sometimes it involves buying that book they were eyeing to help ease off the financial pressure, buying your own dice and pencils or loaning some to other people rather than the Storyteller needing to worry about it, printing out some character sheets for them, or keeping tabs of the snack / food donations so they can focus on the game.

Give Your Storyteller What They Want 

Just as every player has those elements which make their eyes light up, so too does the Storyteller. Unfortunately for the Storyteller the game isn't being designed with their enjoyment paramount in their mind (or at least they shouldn't) nor are the players all sitting around thinking about how much they can make the Storyteller happy with every reaction and interaction. Now this is part of the joy and the burden of running the game. After all, it kills immersion for the players to focus on external concerns and also how arbitrary and dull would it be if the player characters all did what was expected or hoped for? Still it is nice to bear in mind what your Storyteller enjoys so that you don’t accidentally kill it dead. What might look like an irrelevant bit of frippery to you, easily avoided, might be the very thing that has motivated your Storyteller entire presentation. I’m not saying “Trust the obvious betrayer” or anything like that but perhaps try to enjoy the odd political encounter or detective work that your Storyteller throws in if that's what they're into. Maybe pay attention to that bit of historical research or world building they tell you about and find some way to make use of it in game even if it would normally bore you.

Have Faith in your Storyteller 

Sometimes things will happen in the game that don’t seem to make any sense. Everything goes to hell. An enemy long thought dead resurfaces. It looks like your PC stands to lose everything. It might make you irritated or despondent with the way the game is going and you might want to take your Storyteller to task over it. Breathe a moment. Think about it. Think about your Storyteller. Understand that without conflict there is no story. Maybe the Storyteller is trying to build up dread and anticipation and things will work out in the end. Or maybe it'll all make sense once you get to the end of the road. At least hold back judgement for awhile to see if things really are as you fear. There’s no point getting angry over assumptions that a session or two worth of patience would’ve revealed to be unfounded.

Be Open with Them 

If something isn’t working for you then let your Storyteller know. Maybe they’re big on political chit-chat whereas you’re keen on wild action. There may be room for compromise. Maybe you’d be happy to have all the social and political scenes if there’s at least one action scene per session – car chase, fistfight, bit or larceny, whatever. Maybe you’d be happy to deal with all of the action if there were an investigation to string it all together. Be sure to talk in terms of what you would like rather than laying out demands with lots of “You should’s” or, worse, telling them off by saying "I don't like THIS and THIS and THIS". You'll get more luck with positivity then negativity.

Let Them Know Your Triggers  

Don’t force your Storyteller to guess at your personal triggers and no go zones. It may make perfect sense to you that you don’t want to see racism, domestic violence or sexual abuse in a roleplaying game but your Storyteller (or the other players) may see the game as a safe place to explore difficult issues. Some people love roleplaying romantic tension and sexuality. Others find it creepy and offputting. Be honest if there’s certain places you don’t want to visit even in fiction. Be honest with yourself, as well. There's nothing wrong with having boundaries if you're honest about them.

Pay Attention

There’s little more draining than watching your players distract themselves with iPods, laptops, and reference books. If you’re a perpetual fiddler then a low-key activity like knitting or drawing could work to keep your hands busy and your mind on the game. If you constantly need mental stimulation than perhaps taking notes or otherwise thinking about the group’s next moves could help. While every group has their own Attention Expectations, if your Storyteller has to repeat themselves then you’re not attentive enough. Trust me, this is coming from someone with ADHD that is exarcebated by the kind of delays one gets in party-based roleplaying games (as opposed to solo games).

Develop your Protagonist

You’re going to have to settle yourself into the mind of this protagonist for long stretches of time so it’s a good idea to pick someone interesting and who has a nice range of skills that will allow you to do what you want to do. While it can be fun playing against your own type, if you’re a big fan of action then playing a bookish pacifist will likely drive you up the wall. There are many ways to play against type while still being able to get involved in the type of plots you like.

Engage with the Plot

Without conflict, there is no plot. Without plot, there is no game. While a certain amount of reticence is understandable – especially if the plot is quite dangerous – it can really grind the game to a halt if your protagonists refuse to actively meet the plot. Since artificial and contrived motivations often damage immersion and undo all the hard work you’ve done in character development, it’s often a good idea to come up with a few drives that could easily motivate your character to get involved. If your character is conflicted about whether to get involved or not, figure out what might give them that final push. Sometimes it might be simple as letting your Game Warden know: “My protagonist doesn’t want to get involved right now but she would if .”

Help the Mood

The Game Warden can set the mood but anybody can break it. If the game is a light comedy then comments that really reinforce the tragic tones of the game should be kept to a minimum. If it’s a horror game then keep your tension-breaking jokes in-character and ditch the movie references. If it’s a high action game then describe your larger than life actions.

Bring Your Own Gear

While some Game Wardens will have enough dice and pencils for everyone, it’s really not fair to expect them to do so. They already have enough preparations and purchases to cope with and this is really quite a small but nice thing to do to help take a load off their mind. If your Game Warden really is happy to take care of this for you then show your appreciation. They really are doing something nice for you on top of running the game.

Update Your Information

Keep your character sheet up-to-date, jot down your own experience points, and keep any vital notes to ensure that the game can run quickly and efficiently.

Let Your Game Warden Know It’s Working

Your Game Warden might not be able to tell if you’re really enjoying yourself – especially if the game is highly tense or has a lot of negative in character emotions. Sometimes you need to tell them or, better yet, show them with big smiles and much cheer after the session. It doesn’t hurt to tell them exactly what you liked about the session and why.

Optional: Keep Focused

Different groups have different expectations as to how much player focus and out of character conversation is appropriate. Different genres also have different needs in regards to this. Be sure that you’re aware as to what the group’s needs are and try to stick close to it. You can help keep the focus in the game by biting back the movie references and not encouraging other players to chit-chat. If focus isn’t a big deal, then you can safely ignore this, though it’s often a good idea to check that everyone is on the same page with this to ensure that your Game Warden (or another player) isn’t slowly tearing out their hair at your antics.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Class Specific Relics, Bards & Witches

Both bards and witches are masters of influence and deception and thus these paths intertwine in the world of Fianyarr.  While bards are lured into the limelight and witches are so often content to live normal (if adventurous) lives, the two are twin enough that those of one path will not automatically lose a relic they have nabbed from the other path.  In this way some of the greatest legends are of bards with a witch's relic or vice versa as such things need to be taken (rather than being fated into their path) and this often leads to the kind of legendary tales that bards do so enjoy singing about.


(*) Musical Instrument of the Snap Open Lock: This instrument or medallion (for singers) can be played to allow another character to attempt a larceny check against a magical lock (which are normally untouchable for those who don't have the right merits)  The would-be lock breaker gets a number of rounds to attempt it as the bard has Wyrd.  Tell: A perky instrument that has high, eager and excitable sound.

(**) Forgettability Charm: While this object is coveted by rogues everywhere, it is only easily available to bard's who jealously guard its existence and rarely admit that it is possible to make such an object - let alone loan it out.  When activated the wielder is entirely forgettable to the point that people will ignore them or break off conversation with them and ignore them stealing objects.  The bard rolls Wyrd + Stealth to become forgettable.  Supernaturally potent senses (such as glamour-infused blessings) have a chance to make a resisted Wits + Wyrd check to penetrate the magic.    The bard can't steal anything larger than his Size, make a loud noise like shattering glass, or attacking a person, or he will be noticed for turns equal to Wyrd.  For every ten minutes under this power, the character suffers a -1 penalty to turn it off (maximum -5).  The bard must make a Presence + Wyrd roll return to memory.  After one day the world begins to forget details of the character, beginning with the good details.  After one week the bard begins to forget details of himself as well.  After a week of this, they become a full amnesiac.  These lost memories stay lost until re-discovered (often through dream journeys).  Tell: The object is often kept on the user's person though they generally forget about its presence until they have a strong urge to disappear or leave a situation.  Then they remember that it's there.

(***) Musical Instrument of Bravery: This might be a medallion for a singer, ocarina, flute or even tap shoes but so long as the instrument is activated and being used to perform those within a number of yards equal to thrice her Wyrd are protected against fear.  Tell: A rousing and resonant instrument that seems to make the heart beat stronger.

(*****) Musical Instrument of the Sleeping Trap: This instrument or medallion (for singers) can be played to prevent a trap from springing and will delay a magical trap's reaction for rounds equal to the activator's Wyrd or until the performance ends, whichever is sooner.  The performance must be begun before the trap is set off.  The trap, if triggered, will occur once these rounds are passed  Tell: A long and drawn out dirge that seems to make the person feel slowed down.

(* to ***) Fireflash: This mirror can be used to blind the target if they fail a Dexterity + Composure roll.  If she fails the roll, she is blind for a number of turns equal to the rating in this relic.  It is charged by reflecting the light of a large fire, such as a bonfire.  Tell: The mirror subtly flashs twice when activated.


(*) Comb of Unobtrusiveness: The witch is treated as an unobtrusive and ordinary member of the general public no matter what they are wearing so long as they aren't brandishing a sword or carrying something obviously illegal (like a corpse) though a bloodstained rug rolled up around a corpse is fine.  This comb doesn't work against individuals who are already looking for the witch or the perpetrator of a crime.  In other words, it will work while the witch strolls through a market full of the unwary with the rug rolled up around a corpse but will not help her leave a castle while everyone searches for their missing lady.  Tell: None.

(**) Lucky Rabbit's Foot: The witch can activate the foot to upgrade the level of success following the results of her roll.  A dramatic failure becomes a mere failure.  A failure becomes a success.  A success becomes an exceptional success.  This doesn't work on extended actions as it only works for a single roll during a single round.  The rabbit's foot can be used only once per day unless the character wants to risk dread misfortune (where after the first successful roll the next significant roll suffers the inverse where an exceptional success becomes a success, etc.)  The rabbit's foot intervenes in the roll by having some lucky turn of events - perhaps a nearby object - assist with the action.  Tell: The rabbit's foot is green.

(***) Brooch of the Innocent: Despite the powers that a witch may possess, many try to avoid combat where they can and sometimes all that is needed is to simply make it difficult for another to harm them.  Each time the brooch is activated, during that round, each attacker must spend a point of willpower to attack the witch.  Tell: The brooch has an image that is culturally accepted as an icon of gentleness - such as a unicorn or a dove in modern times.x

(****) Thought Sower: This multi-faceted jewelled necklace flashes with sparks of light can implant a thought so long as the target is paying attention to it.  The thought must be spoken aloud by the usher.  It could be either simple or complex or even be a triggered event.  These must be a single set and can't involve two unrelated tasks and must be doable within the hour.  The target won't do anything that will hurt himself or seem impossible.  When activated, the character rolls Wyrd + Expression versus the target's Wyrd + Resolve.  If the task becomes threatening to the target they can make another roll to break free of the suggestion.   TellFlashes with sparks of light.

(*****) Gateway Creator: This stick of chalk can mark a doorway or gateway and define a condition upon which the Verge will appear and open freely between the Hisil and the World.  This might be vague such as "midnight" or convoluted enough to be highly specific.  The Verge remains open for hours equal to the character's Wyrd and then closes for a month.  The creation of a Verge consumes the object in its creation unless the character burns a single Mental Attribute point.  A Verge can be created in any world (even the Dreamscape - to unpleasant results) though it always connects with the Hisil.  It is said that there are other objects that might do the same to the Underworld.  The creation of a verge requires 15 successes on a Wyrd + Occult roll.  Tell: None.

(* to ***) Intoxicating Aura: Those in the presence of the object feel pleasantly intoxicated as though slightly tipsy.  Those within the object's radius (equal to witch's Wyrd + successes in yards) suffer a -1 penalty to Dexterity, Intelligence and Wits-related dice pools but gain a +1 bonus to Presence and Manipulation for every dot worth of relic.  These modifiers affect the user as well so long as they are in the area of effect and the aura lasts for hours equal to Wyrd after activation. Tell: The faint smell of perfume, cigars, and expensive alcohol.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Fianyarr Vampires

Whatever you do with vampires, make them dramatic....
(Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2)
While I could give you statistics for each of these creatures that would take up a lot of room and anyone using these creatures could easily come up with attributes and skills themselves.  So instead of doing that I'm going to give you a couple of interpretations / myths and the rules used to create them for Fianyarr and you can take it from there and customise it to your heart's content.  That way I can fit in more content without making this article ridonculously long (that's a word now).

Charismatic Vampires

There are those who feared the penalty of aging and grew terrified of wrinkles, weakness and infirmity.  So desperate were they to keep their young looks that they made pacts with terrible unseen things and dabbled with blood magic to find the secret to eternal youth.  While many people may have done the same, those who would become vampires did it with a purity and dedication that surpassed any other.  For their efforts they gained eternal youth but at a terrible price ... their bodies are locked in a stasis that only the sun can unlock and the sun gives nothing without a price of its own.

Creation: Charismatic vampires can infect another with their curse by biting them over three successive nights but their victim must either love the vampire or be enthralled with a need for eternal youth.  If either condition isn't met they will simply waste away and die.

Signs: Pallor due to a lack of sunlight, clear pale eyes, fangs in place of incisors, cold skin, faded aura.

Powers: 10 dots (elder), 7 dots (ancillae) and 5 dots (neonate) worth of Majesty, Nightmare, Animalism, Vigor, and Dominate from Vampire: the Requiem.

Attributes and skills: 10 / 7 / 5 attributes and 16 / 11 / 7 skills for elder vampires.  7 / 5 / 3 attributes and 13 / 9 / 5 skills for ancillae.  Neonates share the same character creation dots as regular characters.

Power Level: Epic (elders), Overwhelming (Ancillae) and Powerful (Neonates).

Useful Bloodlines

Some bloodlines are more useful than others to a fantasy world so I thought I should include them here.  Unless you're planning on a more expanded and intellectual society of vampires I would recommend using each bloodline as a separate and distinct group of bloodsucker rather than throwing them all in together.  You could also go through all of the bloodline weaknesses and swap out existing vampire weaknesses for a new bloodone one.  Thus you could remove vitae's addictiveness, binding nature, fire's damage, sunlight's damage, risk of frenzy, ability to be staked, bashing damage from arrows or ability to enter into torpor.  You could add additional powers (only take one point of damage from each source of damage); change the fluff (must feed from the liver rather than a vein); or make it more difficult to kill them (ash stake, dead man's blood, or beheading).

The Carnival

If you want a darker form of circus with some more interesting relics, potions and fruit to sell you can look no further than including a few denizens from The Carnival among their ranks.  With all of the benefits of Clan Daeva, Nosferatu flaw on top of the Daeva one due to some freakish aspect of their appearance, as well as a custom discipline these guys can provide you with a lot of interest.

Children of Judas

Some vampires spontaneously arise from those who died unclean and miserable deaths.  Those who died from suicide sometimes have a sudden moment of clarity before their death where they realise the solution to their problems.  Despite their desperation to suddenly live, most still pass on to the other side.  Some come back.  These vampires feel a need to explore other people's pain but it's recommended that the Zelani weakness of requiring an invitation to enter a home and sunlight simply making the vampire sleepy (halving all dice rolls) would give them sufficient distinction.  Perhaps also they can only be killed through a recreation of their method of suicide - though the latter would work better for a darker game.

Spina / Toreador / Zelani / Kallisti / Taifa

These vampires work well for a nobleman turned vampire - perhaps due to a curse or some terrible tinkering with alchemy using the deaths of others to extend their lives.  If you want to have a society of similar (or slightly different) vampire families then these five would do well for it without allowing knowledgeable players to make assumptions.  In fact, if they hear that there are five families most players will leap to the conclusion that they will be the five core clans and will be in for a rude surprise.


In a world with Nixies there is a need for underwater kindred and what better than a race of vampires that need to feed while utterly submerged?  If you would like to provide a more confusing title, the characters might confuse a Mara with a Rusalka.  It is recommended that you remove a vampire's issues with fire an replace it with similar fears of salt for freshwater Mara and an avoidance of certain symbols for saltwater ones.

Vedma / Dragolescu

These  vampires could theoretically make a decent guide or advisor, providing a less evil or sociopathic vampire type if you have a need, with individuals visiting them to learn secrets much as one might a strange witch.  Vedma should have the Zelani weakness toward entering homes uninvited though they should be able to sustain themselves on animals.  Vedma might also retain their clan blessings though they may not cross a line of seeds thrown in their path nor may they approach a religious symbol nor tread the floor of a religious institution.  Dragolescu work well for monasteries run by the undead and might lack a reflection, fear direct (though not indirect) sunlight but be repelled by certain herbal concoctions and be unable to face their own reflections.


Those infected by disease can develop a tenacious will to live and if they have a little knowledge of the darker arts then possible they can transcend the effects of illness - while remaining a carrier themselves.  Such a figure shouldn't be allergic to sunlight (too easy to spot) but should retain the pallor and vague appearance of death.  Perhaps replace the sun allergy with a lack of a reflection.  Issues with fire remain useful with this type of vampire.


These flesh eating vampires make for good foes for adventurers as they lurk in crypts and devour the dead.  If you liked, however, such a vampire might not be evil and might even be performing an important function as corpses provide nourishment for the vampire and can breed diseases for everyone else.  Of course, people tend not to like creatures defiling their dead which could create an interesting moral dilemma for those so disposed.


A vampire that buzzes with bees that live within their corpse?  A vampire that obsessively tries to maintain order over a good little group of obedient humans?  You can imagine the story potential when the players arrive at a hamlet that belongs to one such vampire or deal with a set of caravans that are, in truth, the procession of a new Queen in search of a hive of her own.


And, of course, there are many more bloodlines that could each be pulled forth and turned into a type of vampire all of their own.  Which bloodline do you think you would use and what story would you put behind them?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Cultural Customs - Humans & Nixie

In this Fianyarr article we will learn more about the human race (which has its own peculiarities that distinguish them from Earth Humans) and the semi-aquatic Nixie race. Both races are known for their versatility and curiosity though the Nixies lack humanity's drive they have a fierce independence that ensures they are equally well-travelled. Both are known for both their fierce wars and their sudden generosity in the aftermath of a disaster where, in times of plenty, they will give much to other communities. While the two mix often, they have a number of key cultural distinctions which ensures that none ever consider the two to be too alike.


Humans maintain a range of settlements that vary quite dramatically between countries. They are also keen to borrow elements and styles from foreign natures, including other races, leading to a delicately wrought combination of styles that is sometimes greater than the sum of their parts. In places of plenty they tend to create more densely packed urban settlements, preferring larger densities of people for reasons of efficiency and protection rather than continually branching out to form small communities elsewhere. Naturally this doesn't apply to the nomadic cultures, however, only the agrarian ones.

• Humans make a point to never discuss religion or politics at the dinner table or at large family gatherings. To even bring it up is a matter of gross indecency.

• All humans must select a favored weapon, normally that of a beloved older family member, and are mentored from the age of seven. Where possible their first proper weapon is one passed down through the generations, especially due to the costs of a good sword or warhammer, but if they must accept a new one then there is a formal ritual in order to induct the weapon into the family.

• Humans are always armed except in a very few special cases: a mother in childbirth gives her weapon to a shieldmaiden who defends her and her midwife, certain religious ceremonies that are protected by angelics or circles or warriors, and visits to a monarch or other person so powerful that one may safely put down one's weapon in the knowledge that their safety is assured by the person they are visiting.

• Humans enjoy a variety of tactical games and prefer to gamble on things that involve an element of skill - such as horse racing and certain card games involving subterfuge. This has also made them notorious as gamblers, though not all humans have the gambling bug. Despite their protestations that these are games of skill, human gamblers are notoriously superstitious and are likely to do a number of weird and wonderful things for good luck.

• Humans enjoy a good celebration and will whole-heartedly embrace other people's traditions, co-opting them to suit their own cultures, and then continuing with those festivals or ceremonies as though they were tradition.


Nixies are a rather bright-eyed race who tend to prefer smaller communities that are built partially in - or at least alongside - sources of water. They might have homes whose basements are flooded, buildings that sprawl half in and half out of a river, or even sea palaces that contain dozens of people with some of the floors flooded and others dry. They prefer to avoid large urban populations, largely due to the resultant pollution of the water.

• Nixies have the most efficient waste management systems in Fianyarr, especially in terms of recycling and magical / creature-based solutions for sewerage. After all, while other races can always dump such waste in the water or in the soil, the Nixies don't have that advantage. They often get quite cross with any signs of people polluting the waterways in the expectation that the water will dilute it down to nothing as Nixies are aware that it's a fallacy.

• Nixies tend to be pretty touchy feely people and prefer a hug to a handshake any day of the week. They also like to make a lot of little touches over the course of a conversation, tapping the elbow or touching the shoulder as they talk.

• Nixies generally live within other countries as they don't often maintain territories too far from water and they take full advantage of this by ensuring there's a contingent of young Nixies at every local celebration. On the plus side, they're big on bringing gifts - especially food. It's considered bad form to refuse a gift of food or to expect it. One must also immediately try the food once they receive it so that the Nixie can see their joy. One can't eat it all, however, and the Nixie must be specifically asked to have a bit themselves.

• Nixie courtship is a complex dance filled with compromise and confusion for members of other races. One needs to give in at certain times, stand one's ground at other times, protect the independence of their partner, while simultaneously making them feel needed and welcome. Nixies take to these complications quite easily but members of the other races are often lost.

• Nixies love face painting, especially with ochres, though naturally these don't last underwater. The trouble is they prefer to look at the face paint rather than wear it, so they generally like to convince landdwelling races to let the Nixie paint their face.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Flashpoint: Mythic Ritual

The ritual begins. Lunjun marks chalk sigils across the floor with a circle for each participant and a larger central circle for the manifestation. The team seek to make contact with the God that is watching them. Proteus hopes (and prays) that it is Shelyn but none can be sure. Lunjun begins the chant – a series of syllables from a variety of languages that really draws upon a variety of languages style of speaking.

Finally they feel the moment of sacrifice where they each lose two points of an attribute. Archer donates 2 Strength. Lhye and Lunjun donates 2 Charisma. Proteus donates 2 Wisdom. The dryad donates 2 Dexterity. The succubus donates 2 Intelligence. The actress donates 2 Wisdom. The agathion familiar donates 2 Strength..

For a wonderful few instants as the power swells within Lunjun and he gets to enjoy the dizzying stat boost before he channels it all into the central circle and a crack, a mild emanation, a slight touch of some divinity begins to etch its way in. The sight of it temporarily pulls Lhye’s demonic nature to the surface, driving him Chaotic Evil, and giving others the certain impression that for now he is no tiefling but a demonic figure.

Although the edge of divinity has no visual component, it gives the impression of being a sliver of darkened mirror glass and within it they can each see themselves and a terrible promise of their future. They would gain power, such wonderful power, they would reach their maximum potential (level 20).

Lhye felt the evil draw loose from him, hanging by threads, allowing him to make his own decision (bit unfair to offer power to a forcibly Chaotic Evil demon because, err, yeah, auto-yes). He was offered love and acceptance wherever he went. He would be so charismatic that he would never be an outsider again. He was tempted and only refused because he recalled his mother’s experiences with love potions. The fact that he would be so powerful that no one would dare act the spurned suitor towards him didn’t keep him from saying ‘No’.

Archer saw himself bringing the world to heel to keep Andoren safe. He would usher in a time of peace, prosperity and law to Andoren and famines, plagues and slavery to all of the ‘lesser races’. He would be capable of stopping Nidal from marching onto Varisia (which was declared as the future) and Cheliax from crushing fragile Andoren (which was possible). He refused it as he believed that the world could only be protected by the strength of will, not by the might of magic.

Lunjun saw himself tapping into the source of magic and for one brilliant moment being all-powerful before destroying magic itself and scouring it from this world. From that moment on, he refused any thought of acceptance as, well, he wouldn’t want to have to manually do things.

Proteus saw himself in his fated role as the destroyer of the world as the power he unleashes begins to even destroy himself. Yet there was the promise of reforming the world as he so chose, creating in it something new, something fresh, something brilliant. He rejected the idea, though he was tempted as well.

It seemed that all had been granted the choice, however, as the nymph, succubus and actress disappeared.

At that point, they saw the shadow of a masculine figure emanate from the mirror. Proteus considered it might be the same shadow that he saw earlier at the theatre, something which he considers to be Zon-Kuthon. His hand-bone was eerily silent at this stage.

They tried addressing the shadow but to no avail, suggesting that if this is a divinity they have contacted then it is either a Messenger (whose form, behaviour or words should disclose something to them – this shadow disclosed nothing at all) or an Avatar (whose form, behaviour and words represent a key aspect of the divinity).

Proteus figured that considering Zon-Kuthon is the Lord of Shadows, it was likely him. Or perhaps Norgorber. Deciding to take one for the team, especially as Zon-Kuthon half had him anyway, he stepped free of his protective circle further onto the sigil.

Immediately Lunjun lost control of the magic which violently whipped about the sigil, then froze. Proteus found himself in the point of time before the power imploded and felt that he could pull free one of the three individuals who were being drawn into the mirror and yet hadn’t or perhaps had (it was all very wibbly wobbly timey wimey). In that long instant, Proteus pondered.

The succubus had granted him a favour. He would permanently lose Charisma if she were destroyed. He decided not to save her.

The nymph was an immortal being of goodness and nature. He justified not saving her by figuring she’d had a good long life and had been recently tortured anyway, so it might just be time to call it quits. (Not that he truly believed she would be allowed to die).

The actress was only here because he had brought her here. She was an innocent human and if she disappeared it would have been a direct consequence of his actions. Still, while he tilted toward saving her he almost wanted to save the nymph as well.

The fact that he was willing to sacrifice himself granted him a divinely gifted inspiration (not given by the Shadow of a God nor the Mirror but by something else). Rather than letting the energies of that proto-dimension safely implode, he could let it explode instead, thus preventing the trio from ever reaching the Mirror.

After a long moment, he went with that, shattering a portion of water from the Underground Plinth onto the floor, destroying some of the chalk. The energies erupted opposite to how it had before, ripping apart the walls of this realm but leaving this sigil as the eye of a hurricane. This became quite literal when the sigil appeared 80 feet high hovering above the mansion garden while a Pit Fiend pulsed above the Mayor’s mansion before exploding in a burst of gale force winds that pulled a literal hurricane above them.

Before the Shadow of a God disappeared, they saw that it had white and blue cracks, like little lines of something, right where the eyes should be.

Lhye figured they may have allowed Dou-bral to exist briefly while Proteus figured they may have even woken him up.

The trio of women lay beneath the sigil alongside the animal companions. The four adventurers realised that they were now god-touched (Mythic Tier 1 obtained) and more potent (Level 9 obtained) and both Lhye and Lunjun teleported the rest back to their ships.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Fianyarr: Seven Ruins Aplenty

There is just something marvellous about ruins that really captures the imagination. The idea of people living their lives so many years ago, leaving behind intriguing remnants of their lives that one can explore and cast one's mind back, really grabs the attention and sustains our interest. Unfortunately most ruins in fantasy games are merely an excuse for a dungeon. While this is fine in its own way, it also removes a lot of the mystique of ruins. In Fianyarr, I want to capture that mystique. Here are seven different themed ruins, each with its own possible encounters and styles. And yes, a few of them work in the monster bash.

The Stone Cabin

Although there have been no stonemasons in this area in living memory, there is a cabin in the woods made from slabs of chisseled stone brought down from the nearby mountains and erected on this spot. Strange twigs braided with human hair and formed into shapes can often be found in the nooks and crannies of the wall though no one ever sees them placed. Years ago a local boy found a human jawbone in the chimney, weathered and aged. In truth the cabin had been crafted by foreignors just over a century ago who kept to themselves and went undisturbed for ten years before a comet seen in the sky convinced them the world was ending. They lifted up one of the stones from the floor which covered their safe retreat and crept inside with their food supplies. Unfortunately the stonemason in the family had been too skillful and the stones fit together too nicely. By the time they realised the air was too thin and they were struggling to breathe, they thought that all of the air in the world was stolen and burned up by the comet. Down in the stone room below are etchings in the wall that describe this situation and five bodies lie huddled in the corner. If in need of a little combat, those bodies could well reanimate. Otherwise the tortured souls might haunt the dreams of those who disturb them unless they are given a proper burial. As for the human jawbone? The kid had actually found it in the woods and lied about where it had come from. The jaw is a few centuries old and might well come from a grave exhumed by animals.

The Breach

There is a ring of thick walls of fitted stone twelve feet high and three across that mark out an old hamlet whose thatch buildings have long ago decayed into nothing. Within the ring is hard-packed soil studded with strange pockmarked stones that whistle in the wind. While several people have tried to benefit from the stone walls, any efforts they make to seal the large sundered breaches in the wall come to nothing as the mortar or packed mud is slowly removed and the gaps are bared once more. Anything built on the patch fares no better and even campers find themselves awakening covered in itchy bites. The one-time rich citizens who moved to construct their hamlet here didn't realise that they had built it on a nesting ground for a type of termite that steals away any mud and mortar used to patch the walls (or construct houses) and uses it for their own little homes. If a battle is needed then perhaps all of those termite hives connect underground to a larger cavern where a massive queen lays millions of tiny eggs once a year.

Ye Olde Tavern

This tavern is built atop a portal to the underworld and on each New Moon it really shows with a variety of ghostly figures arising for some good old-fashioned drinking. It is vital to the success of the town that there's barkeeps aplenty to keep them boozed up lest the ghosts rush down the hill to torment them. However the tavern is always closed outside of that New Moon. Impossible to dust, weirdly creaky, and perpetually falling apart, it can never be made liveable with rushes that smell old and mouldy even when freshly lain, new wooden boards becoming splintery within hours of being nailed into place, and perpetual drafts that can never be truly located, this place just isn't a good place to run. Besides which, the ale spoils if it's used for normal occasions. On the New Moon, however, so long as there's plenty of booze to go around the ghosts really don't mind drinking with the living who might not know who they're spending time with. The tavern itself is quite old and appears to have been patched over throughout the years, even though the locals gave up on trying to repair it just shy of a century ago. The tavern even has rooms at the inn, though it isn't recommended that anyone stay there.

The Carved Castle

This moderately sized castle sits on a manmade island of filled in soil at the edge of a lake and its stone walls are decorated both inside and out with large carvings in the white sandstone that are in some strange and ancient language that no one can speak. The castle itself has surprisingly advanced clockwork technology that is still somehow maintained, ensuring that the portcullis can be lifted with a level pull and that sections of stone wall can be turned open when the right fangs on a nearby statue are pulled or pushed. Although these ruins are worth a mint to any nobleman who could claim them, any who try soon find their numbers disappearing and going missing as walls seal themselves, doorways seemingly disappear, and the entire place seems to lay itself out differently. Or so the occasional fragments of notes and diary entries seem to indicate. Strangely enough archaeologists and other research teams have no such problems while there. It's only a problem for those who try to move in. An elaborate hoax? Or something about the castle itself?

The Bridge Hut

Contrary to anyone's predictions, this wooden hut that clings to the underside of a rickety suspension bridge that crosses a wide ravine hasn't fallen apart. Those who walk across the bridge will find a short rope ladder that will lead them into a small hut that clings to the underside of it, just wide enough for a two people to lay down and sleep side by side. The hut had been built on the bridge a century and a half ago and abandoned ever since. Few people have dared to sleep in it, mostly due to the rather rickety nature of the bridge, but those who have reported no problems. At this point it's just a strange peculiarity and nothing more.

The Well Prison

This prison had been drilled down into the desert over a thousand years ago when a narrow well was taken over by a Djinn ruler and expanded underneath after the underground waterways dried up. The old rivers were turned into passageways and lined with narrow, lightless cells with small slits for doorways that required a person to turn sideways to fit within the gap to enter and which were largely bricked up behind the prisoner, leaving a small hole for food and water to be passed through. While this well prison only has four spokes radiating from the central well with twenty cells on each spoke, those who go down there often find themselves afflicted with vertigo and confusion, finding themselves easily turned around and confused. Many of the cells have obscure markings, some the more obvious graffitti and day counting, but most are seemingly arcane, as though the prisoners were in the process of subconsciously setting off a terrible ritual before food supplies were cut off and they each died in their cells.

The Carven Loss

This graveyard is filled with monoliths carved with the names of those whose ashes were interred within the soil beneath the stone. Each stone, when struck with a tuning fork, produces a unique and distinctive sound that is said to carry the souls off to their eternal resting place. What is odd about these stones is that they appear to be entirely nonmagical and yet no stonesmith has been able to recreate the effects. The initial monolith-builders constructed these stones over five thousand years ago and thus the techniques are lost to the annals of time as, unfortunately, the craftsman also had no known written language.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Class Specific Relics, Brawlers & Fighters

In Fianyarr, Brawlers and fighters are twin paths that both favor those who use their physical might to advance either their own goals or the goals of those they serve.  These goals might be something as fleeting as "don't look at me funny" or as long lasting as "all those who oppose the Godking must be vanquished".  Either way those who follow this path put a lot of effort into their ability to wield such physical might and often become well known for their talents.  Thus while relics from the Path of the Warrior are different from the Path of the Soldier and try to settle into the hands of those from their own path they won't be immediately stolen away by fate if they end up in the hands of their twin path.  If a Brawler picks up a Sunderer from a fallen Fighter, she may keep it.  The Brawler just isn't going to randomly happen across it the same way a Fighter may.  A Brawler can also give a Fighter an Armored Tattoo if pressed.


(*) Settle Down Manacles: This person who places these manacles upon a target's wrists gains a +3 bonus to all Intimidation rolls made against that target.  Tell: The manacles always seem slightly wet in patches as though someone had freshly cried upon them. These wet patches disappear once they are placed upon someone's wrists.

(**) Ring of Minor Telekinesis:The brawler can activate this ring to lift an object no heavier than 3lbs and move it for up to 10ft.  The ring only works once per day and is rejuvenated at midnight.   Tell: If examined under a ray of light where motes of dust are evident dancing in the air then one will notes the motes seem to dance around a funnel above the ring.

(***) Mask of Life:Damage done to the brawler is never visible to onlookers.  It simply appears that the wounds either immediately closed or the blade simply didn't strike true. The brawler also suffers no wound penalties until the end of the scene.  Can only be used once per week.  Tell: The mask is surprisingly effective at portraying anger and malice as though the shadows within its eye sockets are following you and wishing you harm. 

(****) Obedience Collar: Anyone wearing this collar must make a Resolve + Composure roll to try to escape. Even if successful, they must make additional rolls for every day that they attempt to flee and if they fail any of those rolls then they must spend a day trying to come back to their masters. If they try to remove the collar then they must make the Resolve + Composure roll every round and even a single failure prevents any additional tries for the rest of that day. This doesn't prevent the wearer from trying to attack the Brawler only in efforts to try to flee.Tell: The collar was made with a lot of love and lavish devotion with an incredibly detailed design. Even after extensive study, one keeps discovering new things about the design.

(*****) Medallion of Power Exchange: This medallion lets the user spend health to temporarily buff a single attribute that is chosen at the time of the object's creation. In other words it may buff Strength or Dexterity or Stamina, but once set it can't be changed.  The medallion can only be used once per session.  Each bashing damage taken grants a +1 bonus to the Attribute while lethal damage grants a +2 bonus to it (maximum 5).  This only works for a single hour.  Tell: The medallion always seems to have dried blood within its grooves no matter how well it is cleaned.

(* to ***) Armored Tattoo: The fighter has a mystical tattoo somewhere about their body from which they can draw a defensive armor from use of the spirit within the icon for a single scene.  The 1-point tattoo provides armor equivalent to chainmail, 2-point equivalent to Lorica Segmenta and 3-point is equivalent to Plate Armor.  The character doesn't take any penalties from these armours.  This costs a single point of glamour and lasts for a week.  Tell: The tattoo seems to have some greater significance to onlookers.


(*) Unbreakable Shield: Its durability can't be bypassed by any mundane weapon.  Tell: When first lifted on any particular day, the shield feels twice as heavy as normal. This only lasts for a single round. Bear in mind that this is merely a sensation. The shield itself doesn't literally weigh any more than normal.

(**) Returning WeaponThis weapon can be activated as soon as its left its master's hand (even if it is pulled from your sheath).  The weapon tries to get back to its owner's hand which causes a -1 penalty to all physical rolls made by the thief. If no one is holding it then it will jerk itself back into the fighter's hand, moving three feet per round. The bond can be forged in one of two ways. If the weapon currently has no other bond then a person can forge the bond by spending one point of willpower and ten points of glamour which are invested into it. If the weapon currently has a bond then it is only relinquished if the weapon is gifted to another by the wielder through their own free will or upon the wielder's death. Tell: There is a sensation of 'rightness' when held by the bonded wielder and a sensation of 'wrongness' when held by any other person.

(***) Sunderer: This hand-held weapon ignores Durability when it is attacking a mundane (non-magical) object.  If it's used against a magical item than the weapon ignores up to two points of the object's durability.  Tell: The weapons edge will chew through any scabbard that isn't made of basilisk skin.

(****) Dire Weapon: This weapon can be empowered through the expenditure of  two points of glamour to do aggravated damage for a single round.  Tell: The weapon has rather vicious sigils engraved into its blade that evoke concepts of violence and death.

(*****) Dragonglass Armor: Similar in design to a beautiful set of plate armor, this armor provides an armour benefit of 4 / 4, requires 2 Strength and gives a penalty of -1 to Defense and Speed.  All damage dealt by fire is downgraded to bashing and all damage dealt by electricity is halved.  Custom Mechanic.  Tell: Well, it is a beautifully designed and ornate plate armor made from obsidian. That's a pretty obvious tell.

(* to ***) Keen Weapon: Some weapons are so well-made that their damage bonus can be increased through the expenditure of a point of glamour.  These Keen Weapons boosts the weapon's damage bonus by one for every rank possessed in this merit to a maximum of 6.  Tell: The blade is so sharp that it makes a distinctive sound when it cuts through the air similar to what you find in movies.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fianyarr Spirits

So I've been building the Fianyarr fantasy world out of various mechanics from the World of Darkness and, naturally, I've needed to populate a bestiary.  The Hisil is a dangerous place and as it overlaps and functions concurrently with our world its important to have a few potential spirits in mind.  As most of the spirits listed in the Book of Spirits and Werewolf books can largely be reused I thought I'd talk a bit about how to get the most bang for your buck from spirits as well as providing three rather interesting spirits that have sprung from myth and which are likely to be found on our side of the gauntlet.

Using Spirits from the Books

Naturally one of the difficulties you'll have with utilising spirits found in the various supplements is that those spirits often have a modern flavor.  In truth you should be use any of the Natural spirits like spirits of dogs or cats but Artificials and Conceptuals can require a bit of thinking.  The trick is that you can often do a bit of a reskin to make a spirit that doesn't work become a spirit that does.  Car spirits can become carriage spirits.  Electrical spirits could be conjured from alchemist's laboratories or a lightning rod.  Data spirits could be linked to data crystals (hold them in your hands to download information).  Oftentimes having to sit back and justify its abilities and its background when adapting an old spirit can cause you to come up with more unique options than simply creating a new one.

Developing Your Own

You can, of course, always develop your own spirits.  Just be sure to find a way to make the ban meaningful as monsters having an achilles heel is a pretty big fantasy trope. So don't give them a ban regarding having to avoid the colour red unless that could be used as a meaningful exploit by the players during the session.  This goes a bit against the grain for those used to using spirits as the spirits' ban is only based on what makes sense to the spirit rather than what might be sensibly used and therefore they are seldom useful. As for finding the inspiration and initial concepts, well, simply dive into myth or your favourite fantasy videogames to get some ideas brewing. You can create a spirit around any concept. After all, that was kinda the idea behind White Wolf's creation of them.

Spirit of Unjust Cruelty

A hellhound is a translucent figure with glowing green fur, glowing eyes, great strength and speed, a sulphurous odor and the ability to talk.  These spirits are raised by the concepts of unfair death, hypocrisy and cruelty and thus they tend to be raised by communities who have a lot of cruel secrets where decent people suffer for the crimes of the cruel.  They are exceptionally likely to be formed in an area where a person is killed for a crime they didn't commit.

Bans (any two): It must answer five questions to any who have anointed themselves with sulphur.  It must attack any oath breakers it finds and attempt to drag them back into the Hisil.  It must strive to kill any who have seen a hellhounds' eyes thrice (even if they were different hellhounds).

Rank 2.  Influence: Fire ** and Dogs ** 

Power 4, Finesse 3, Resistance 2, Size 4, Initiative 4, Defence 4, Health 6.  Essence 15.

Numina: Terrifying Howl, Blast (fire), Abduct, Materialise, Two Numina for an extra Bane, Extra Influence.

Spirit of Vengeance
Sisters to the Valkyries and on good terms with them still, the Furies help the defenceless protect themselves but do so in a violent and controlling manner.  When a person is possessed by a Fury it is to get vengeance against some terrible wrong and the vengeance will be bloody indeed.  Even when a Fury chooses not to possess a person and fetters to them instead that person will be driven by a desire to gain revenge on others for it is that burning need to avenge oneself that feeds them essence.  The Fury's spirit form appears as a tall woman with clawed fingers spattered in blood.  They are demonics and will sometimes bless a particularly vengeful couple with a tiefling.  Pregnant women who are ridden long enough to give birth will also bear a tiefling child.  Naturally such tieflings are more predisposed to the vice of wrath with a focus on vengeance.

Bans (any two): A Fury must possess anyone who approaches them with vengeance in their heart and a plea on their lips. A Fury can't release its victim from possession until either the vengeance has been fulfilled or the target is dead. The Fury must respond to be the screams of a woman harmed by a man.
Rank 3.  Influence: Vengeance *** 

Power 6, Finesse 3, Resistance 6, Size 5, Initiative 9, Defence 6, Health 12.  Essence 15.

Numina: Materialise, Possession, Fetter, Speak Mortal Tongues (can speak any language and not just the spirit tongue), Emotional Aura, Harrow.

Spirit of Honorable Battle
These battle spirits temporarily possess warriors and grant them a measure of their power and strength.  They can also be beseeched by powerful warriors to provide them an entrance to the underworld.  They appear to be highly attractive humanoid warriors of whichever race or culture they favor at the time.  They will only favor those races that favor them with legend, song, and deeds done in their name.  Their presence in an area often marks a society's calendars with festivities and their cities with shrines to their name to which the Valkyrie spirits sometimes fetter on special days.  They don't attach to armies who have conscripts or slaves in their midst nor ones that commit rape.  It's said that in the latter case they may well inform their sisters, the Furies.  They shun squads who kill civilians though they don't depart the army.  Valkyries attached to enemy armies do not hate each other nor do they disrespect the opposing side's soldiers.  There is glory in war and both sides must be willing or else there is no sport in it.

Bans (any two): The Valkyrie never possess an individual who hasn't requested it. The Valkyrie must relinquish control over the host once the battle is over. The Valkyrie will only attack an armed enemy. The Valkyrie must exempt one person from death whom the host least wishes dead.

Rank 3.  Influence Bravery ***.

Power 5, Finesse 5, Resistance 5, Size 5, Initiative: 10, Defence: 5, Health 10, Essence 20. 

Numina: Possession, Materialise, Gauntlet Breach, Fetter, Terrifying Howl, Empower Vessel (spend essence on a one for one basis to boost one or more of the host's physical statistics for a single turn - maximum physical attribute of 10).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Cultural Customs - Elf & Gremlin

In this Fianyarr article I will take a look at the inventive and intelligent gremlins' customs alongside the customs common to the rather determined and stoic race of elves. Both of these races tend to build rather sprawling and lasting communities that are woven into their environments. For the elves it's because they sprang from the forests and the jungles which are filled with so many monsters and creatures that safety is never assured and attempting to clear massive chunks of land for more concentrated urban living is a recipe in disaster. For the gremlins it's because their most famous communities are often built partially underground and when you're dealing with tonnes of rock and soil you tend to want to ensure the walls remain thick and the sections separate from each other so that one cave in doesn't kill everyone inside.


The elves maintain a number of sprawling communities built in and around the trees of their homes, often venturing underground beneath the roots that try to claim their homes. Their settlements are always well-guarded as even elves who have settled on the plains have suspicion and fear ingrained in their culture from their years spent in the most heavily assaulted areas on the planet.

• Elves never celebrate the birthday of another elf. Instead they each celebrate their first planting day which occured when they were quite young. Few recall what inspired this custom but most believe it was done because the forest sprites didn't approve celebrations of another birth of the house-makers so the only way to safely celebrate an elf was to pretend the celebration was about what they had planted.

• Elves maintain a silent vigil for three days and nights following the death of a loved one. After this vigil, none may mention the deceased until three full moons have passed.

• Elves wear colours similar to the local terrain as it provides an easy form of camouflage if they need to flee a battle. Their jewellery is kept simple and must not jangle. Elves who wear noisy jewellery are thought vulgar, though few recall that this is anything more than a statement on fashion.

• Elves normally adorn themselves with some form of tattoo that is reminiscent of a native creatures whose skill / resonance is something the elf admires and would love to possess.

• Elves reveal their love through dozens of small gifts and unasked for assistance. Their courting rituals often begin with the silent placement of food by the beloved. The beloved shows their reciprocation by eating the food, thus beginning the courtship, or if they aren't interested they simply ignore the food and politely pretend they didn't see it.


The Gremlins have rather marvellous settlements that branch from both underground to overground with numerous entrances and many traps that are often both practical (to slow down intruders) yet silly and non-lethal (in case a guest triggers them).

• Gremlins will ask you three times if you like a particular invention or design. It is polite to say you do the first time, shrug on the second, and change the subject on the third if you actually don't like it. If you actually do like it, you say so all three times. To immediately denounce a design as stupid is considered to be rather mean.

• Gremlins think it is good luck to rub a baby's head when that baby is born to another race. It doesn't matter which one.

• Gremlins don't understand overarching hierarchy and instead consider people in terms of specialisations. They find it difficult to conceive of ruling classes who are expected to be 'above all others' in all ways. How could a nobleman be better suited to telling a farmer how to farm, after all.

• Gremlins smile when upset, even while crying, to show that their tears are sad tears and not angry ones. The smile is meant to be reassuring.

• Gremlins love to dance. They especially love to watch people dance. Especially uncoordinated people. Foreignors will find themselves asked to dance quite a bit and might be surprised to find the gremlin simply wants to watch rather than to dance with them.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Revealing Fantasy Cities

Fantasy cities are an interesting conundrum. On the one hand you want to make them vibrant, exotic and interesting. On the other hand you want to tap into the occasional sense of familiarity because, after all, these are the urban spots of fantasy so it's nice to feel connected to them. You're best off creating a city that has a strong theme that ties it all together to distinguish it from other cities, but you also want to ensure that there's enough variation within the city to justify calling it one. You also don't want it to be yet another Medieval or Low-Tech-Version-of-Victorian London but you may not have much information on cities that aren't in that mould.

So what do you do? Where do you go from here?

You could go and google "Fantasy Worldbuilding Cities" or some other similar collection of keywords to look up advice given by writers for writers on the subject. When it comes to worldbuilding and research, a lot of the same issues apply to both Game Masters and writers, after all.

Some decent links include the Fantasy Worldbuilding Questions Document, the Greatest Cities in Science Fiction Fantasy for a look at some famous ones and why they're so cool, and rpggm has a list of links on the topic.

But for today we will look at it in terms of two main factors of city building: Internal Consistency and Something Cool.

The Something Cool part is that little iconic flair or thematic line that sums it up and gives it an essential flavor. It might be something physical such as a city in the clouds or on a dragon's back, something thematic like "the city that never sleeps", or something based around a social custom like foot binding or dueling.

The Internal Consistency part is when you take that piece of iconic flair and run with it. Why is this city (especially a fantasy city) called the City that Never Sleeps? Is it because there are nocturnal races that take the night shift? Is it because the city is on a constant state of alarm due to the presence of dragons in the local area? Is it that the city is known for its decadence? Is it a mixture of the three?

Brainstorming is your friend here. Take that Something Cool and run with it. Come up with as many options you can think of and then weed out all the ones that seem tired, old, or just plain don't work for your campaign or wider setting.

Then take those details and have a real think about them. If the city is known for its decadence, then what does that mean for the paupers? For the nobility? What sort of decadence is permitted and how does that tie in to the wider customs and social interplay? Is the place starting to fall apart because the city wastes its money on nonessential parties? Is morale high? Low? Is it easier to get in through the city gates or harder? Does the decadence spill out into out-and-out corruption?

And what does that mean? How does that affect class boundaries and the presence of magical artefacts? Also what sort of quests might a decadent and sleepless city hand out?

What's that? You didn't think of the city's style affecting the quests?

Shame on you!

Matching the quests to the style in some way is one of the best ways to get your players to know the city. They spend much more time questing than listening to backstory, after all (hopefully).

A decadent city might use fetch quests, hunt quests, dungeon quests and delivery quests just like your regular fantasy campaign but the flavor should generally be decidedly different. Fetch quests might be given by alchemists to collect rare herbs for a potent drug, given by the merchant in search of clues to an enemy's dirty secrets or by a noble in search of expensive bottles of alcohol. Hunt quests could involve finding attractive dancers for the ball, hunting an impressive creature with the nobility through the parklands, or trapping a nymph to be the spectacle for a gala. Dungeon quests could become quite literal with fantastic creatures getting loose beneath some noble's playhouse ... succubi and nymphs and dryads, oh my! Delivery quests could involve tokens of affection, letters between the beloved or a love potion that needs to be imbibed by the right person at the right time.

Let's face it, if you were part of a party who had to go through all of that you might get a sense of what this city is all about - socially, politically and thematically. It's a great and easy way to do it and it sure beats having to use more exposition.

Of course, the micro-settings you pick for your scenes are vital as well. A meeting in an opium den, battle in the rafters of an opera house, or gathering in the private wing of a mansion dedicated to a noble's heir can all add to the vibe and allow you to really immerse the player characters in the uniqueness of this city. Now this doesn't mean you can't have classic taverns, cozy cottages, or other non-decadent-urban-spaces but they should feel a bit different, a bit special, by providing contrast to the main points of the story.

After all, the more normal and broad a city's vibe, the more generic it becomes.

The more unique and consistent a city's vibe, the more exotic and interesting it becomes.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fianyarr: A City of Marvels

A wooden city on bridges shouldn't last long, especially in a hot and humid environment like Crezchnoviy, a tropical lagoon in the Fianyarr world. Some people assume that it's magic that keeps the wooden structures standing but it's just dedication on behalf of the residents.

The people here like the taste of the creatures that dwell in the lagoon but the water is too dangerous to swim in for prolonged periods of time so structures were built out across the water to allow the locals to get to all of the different places, dive in to get what they need, then hop out again.

Naturally some people wanted to live close to work and people set up homes and then shops and then marketplaces on the bridges. Soon enough there was a big old rickety city sprawling across the walkways, just waiting for a storm to knock it all over and plunge them into the deadly waters.

Luckily that hasn't happened yet as the lagoon is sheltered within a gulf. So the buildings still stand. And people still live out their lives in them, decorating the ward with beautiful carvings and colourful sea shells, covering the walkways with wind chimes and woven reed mats, using boats made of local wood to take shortcuts beneath the high pilings of some of the bridge sections during low tide.

So what makes the waters so dangerous anyway?

The same thing that encourages such unique and tasty seafood-to-come to live down there.

The water has its own magics that repels outsiders by slowly increasing the temperature of the water around them, eventually boiling them alive until they are reduced to their essential salts. People have about a five minute window of opportunity to get in, grab the food and get out before the temperatures start becoming uncomfortably hot. As soon as the diver resurfaces and gets out of the water, the air steams off the protective magic which causes a hazy aura. The person must wait until they are dry before attempting another dive, lest the cumulative magic boil them too soon.

Visitors come from all around to enjoy the food and bring it back to the nobility of their realm and thus the seafood is the city's greatest exploit - alongside the shell jewellery and wood carvings. There are exotic coral reefs that only grow here where the freshwater meets the saltwater and is imbued by such potent magic and thus visitors can witness how the sunlight hits the clear blue waters to reveal the multicoloured decorations below. While coral reefs beneath a city would normally be spoiled by sewerage and waste, this area seems to have an additional benefit due to the protective magic. You see, the protective magic works on anything, including any waste that is tossed into the water, causing this to be the cleanest city in the world. The only mess that lasts is the local woods, discarded shells and bones, and other local products.

So people patch up the wooden structures (local stone is in short supply here and foreign stone would be eaten away) using the local forests that are protected and harvested in special ways to ensure that the few species of trees that the lagoon recognises as local don't go extinct. They deal with the constant damp, the splinters, the creaking floorboards and the sometimes swaying off the structures in strong wings, in order to live above a food supply protected by lagoon that would destroy them if they spent too much time within it.

The nobility and visiting rich folk (many of which come on pilgrimmages as they believe the waters will cure diseases) stay in mansions built ashore upon and just behind the sand dunes while the majority of the locals live, work and die on the weathered walkways, maneuvreing canoes and small boats built of local timber to spear food and trade with the merchant vessels that dare not enter the lagoon and thus weigh anchor a safe distance away.

The citizens are a brave and smiling lot who believe that their city is the prettiest in the world and who take pride in living above such a dangerous and fickle place. They believe that the offerings they make to the spirits and their cultural customs will keep the dangerous storms away. They believe that no storm will ever wreck their town, which is probably the only reason they live there, for should a savage storm break their bridges and drop their homes into the water, there will be many mutilated and maimed folk whose limbs dangled into the water for too long, and plenty of dead bodies turned to steam who couldn't find a dry place to hide.

Those who are renowned divers tend to tan with a slightly golden colour while those who boat often gets bands of golden tanned skin across their hands and legs and feet where water has most often splashed them. There doesn't appear to be any permanent longterm side effects. Yet.

And thus is this city known as the City of Marvels. Unique and exotic in all the lands.

Let me know if you ever use this small city in any of your games. I'm always curious to see my if my imaginings take root in someone else's head.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Encouraging Research Through Exp

This'll be a short post because it's a pretty simple subject. Players love free experience points. Storytellers sometimes need to encourage players to read longer handouts or characters to do more research and read more books. Why not combine the two needs and provide a cost break on a certain skill for certain research options? I saw this while researching how to best run Masks of Nyarlathotep where someone listed all of Elias Jackson's authored works and mentioned that reading each one allowed the character to tick off a skill as though it had been used in the game (which is the BRP system's version of leveling your character). Different books also ticked off different skills which is a great way to get your player to read the various works and choose which one to study first as they only have so much downtime (time between sessions) in which to do it. So yeah, there you go.

Told you it would be a short post.

NB: I believe the list of books plus tickable skills was in the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion but I don't have access to my .pdf at the moment as I'm still in the midst of moving. Feel free to correct me in the Comments box below.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Class Specific Relics, Priests & Exorcists

Priests and exorcists are a twinned path (connected by fate) in Fianyarr as both seek to provide solace in their own way but while the priest seeks to provide gentle release for the dead and succor for the living, the exorcist wishes to remove the kind of nasties that leave behind ghosts and terrorist the living.  A community with a skillful priest and exorcist working side by side is a healthy and safe community, and so the relics dedicated to one path will occasionally end up in the hands of the other path.  Both paths also eschew political gain, fame and fortune in order to undertake their tasks and value their duty above all else.


(*) Ephemeral Revelation: This pouch contains grounded bone dust that may be cast over an ephemeral creature to outline it to allow everyone to see it. This naturally requires a Dexterity + Athletics roll to hit the target. Tell A slight vibration.

(**) Lantern versus Ghosts: This weapon is capable of striking incorporeal creatures (ie those hiding in twilight).  You make Dexterity + Wits rolls with a +2 bonus to strike Twilight entities with a shower of sparks which emanate from the relic. The lantern deals damage to physical creatures much as a regular lantern would - with a -1 penalty and by shattering at the end of the strike.  This lantern can be activated for an entire scene so long as the user chants at the volume of a whisper. TellThe flame within the lantern is always a yellow-green.

(***) Dedicated Object: The Priest can bond an item to themselves through prayers, or other forms of dedications, and the expenditure of four willpower points.  Once bonded, the object will always find some way to return to them.  As an example, were it lost in a river, it could be found later on in one's bedroll or tripped over in a dark alleyway.  They will happen across the object again within 1d4 days.  Always Returns (**). TellThe object always feels somewhat warm and comforting to the touch.

(****) Ensnare Ephemeareal Enemy: This puzzle box can be used to ensnare either a ghost or a spirit (chosen at creation).  Once the creature is trapped within the spirit can be forced to converse with the object's creator - as an example, if a book were used as a puzzle box it could allow automatic writing.  The priest would need to roll Wits + Occult versus the creature's Power + Resistance to entrap it.  Others may assist by contributing one point of Willpower (not glamour) towards this goal which grants a +1 bonus to the priest's roll.  No more than a maximum of +5 bonus dice can be granted in this way no matter how many people are trying to assist.  The entity will be trapped for one day and is forced to answer questions asked of it though it is not required to be honest.  The entity may choose to go inside the puzzle box if it pleases (perhaps so that it can be safely moved to a new destination) but it still costs the user two glamour to place it within the object.  TellThe object seems unusually glossy and translucent faces can sometimes be glimpsed in its somewhat reflective surface.

(*****) Defensive Symbol: This symbol of the priest's religion can be activated to radiate a pale white light.  When activated, an ethereal monster (such as one in Twilight) takes a -5 dice penalty to its next attack roll, be it physical or mystical, whether a domination spell or health damage.  Possessing creatures only take a -2 penalty. As an added benefit, with the expenditure of a further glamour point the protection may be extended to up to three other targets.  This power lasts for rounds equal to Wyrd.  Tell The object seems more important and powerful with the light immediately surrounding it seeming to dim or brighten depending on the deity worshipped.

(* to ***) Smite: This relic can be used once per day and allows anyone within a mile radius to make a Wits + Composure roll to notice it due to the pulsing light.  The priest must hold this item (normally a staff) in both hands to use this power.  The priest who uses this power gains the Narcissism derangement for the following seven days (which is upgrated to Megalomania if already possessed) and leaves the character fatigued and in need of sleep (-3 to physical and mental rolls until he sleeps).  The user rolls Presence + Wyrd to deal a number of lethal points of damage equal to successes + dots in this relic which is dealt to all nearby objects and creatures through a sudden pulse of light.  The power has a range equal to twice the priest's Wyrd + Resolve score in yards.  The user is immune.  TellGlowing runes along the weapon's length and the weapon makes a slight hissing sound that is difficult to hear unless you place your ear to its length.


(*) Veiled Object: Sometimes it helps a bard to make an object (generally a weapon) appear like something else of around the same size.  This is an illusion so it won't cover the smell, touch or taste of an object.  The exorcist must touch the object, spend a point of Glamour and roll Wits + Crafts to make the object look like something else.  Its appearance can be changed between uses.  Each use lasts for a number of hours equal to the exorcist's Wyrd.   TellNone.

(**) The Sleepless Eye
This gemstone is often embedded into a shield or a piece of jewellery.  The user can remain awake for a number of days equal to successes on a Wyrd + Athletics roll on top of the usual 24-hour-period.  Any penalties taken due to fatigue prior to the object's activation are turned into bonuses. Unfortunately, they also gain the Fixation derangement for as long as the object is activated. Once the activation ends, they take all of the fatigue penalties that they should have taken during that time and yet are still unable to sleep for a day.  This gemstone may only be used once per week.  Tell: The gemstone somehow feels as soft as a pillow although it remains rigid.

(***) Clue Finder: This device causes clues to a particular mystery to take on a slight glow visible only to the user which reveals forensic information related to a particular situation (such as murder or a particular visit to a house) - blood drops, barely visible footprints, or loose hair.  Tell: The device makes a slight clicking noise whenever it moves closer to forensic information.

(****) Earhorn of the Past: This earhorn is keyed to the past and allows a person the ability to hear in the past by a year per success on a Wits + Wyrd roll.  The exorcist can finetune the search by a particular timeframe (time / date), by a person or object, or by a particular event.  They can hear the scene play out though can see nothing important.  This horn works best around deathstains or other significant event and provides a -2 penalty to rolls made outside of such areas.  TellIt may intermittently hiss with static near a death stain thus alerting the PC to its existence.

(*****) Goggles of Mental Protection: This pair of goggles can be reflexively activated to prevent one attempt at mental domination though while it does alert the user to the attempt (in case it was a subtle power like Majesty), it also has the unfortunate side effect of causing the PC to gain the Suspicion derangement within an hour of its use.  Tell: Despite the goggles being shaded from the sun the person wearing them can see just fine as though they weren't wearing any glasses at all.

(* to ***) Icon of Respectability: By placing this icon somewhere visible about their clothing, the exorcist's appearance is subtly changed to become more respectable for a scene.  Threadbare clothing appears new, bloodstains disappear from view, and clothing appears to be made from a somewhat more expensive cloth. This is very handy for an exorcist who normally has neither the money or the time to get a nice new set of clothes before entering a village or castle. Each dot in this relic can repair or remove one aspect of their appearance (hair and face, tears in clothing, stains in clothing, value of clothing, etc.)  Tell: The icon has a dramatic sheen across it and those who view it can never quite recall its design.