Saturday, 1 May 2021

A Word on Elves

After careful deliberations I came to the conclusion that neither the snooty knife-ears of modern fiction, nor the playful wisps and faeries of Celtic myth satisfy me. I went in a different direction regarding the elves in Stargod Song. Although I had ideas about a “failed civilisation” in my head for years, it’s The Day We Leave Our Forests To Die In Beautiful Silence that gave me the final push to put a shape to it.

Here’s a little bit of lore and a simple system to play them.


Although they often invoke strange magics, elves are fundamentally human, and indistinguishable from them to an untrained eye. Weaved seamlessly out of flesh and fairy-tale, they’re the characters of stories: the dragon-slaying knights, the wise wizards, the broom-riding witches, the princes in glass castles.

But the age of myth is ending. Stories are forgotten and disbelieved, and much like many before them, the elves will either forfeit their legend, or fade with it, defiant to the end. 

Creating a Character

Pick an archetype from a medieval (or older) story or fairy-tale, and ask your referee if it’d fit the world. 

Describe your character in ways that’d fit the archetype and define you within it. If you’re a knight, do you have a warhorse or are you on foot? Do you use a heavy blade, or an axe? If you’re a witch, do you ride a broom or some strange beast?

Avoid description that wouldn’t fit the archetype. For example, it won’t make sense for a knight to also cast spells, but great strength, bravery or charm certainly would. Try to be brief about it. You can define some of those in the middle of the game when they come up.

Answer a few questions in front of your table. The referee should negotiate with the players regarding their answers and weave a story based on them.

What is your purpose?

I will stop the fall of the elves, what I have to do is...

I am readying for my departure, but before I go, I must...

I will ensure I and the other elves are forgotten, because…

I will survive the fall, but to do so I must sacrifice...

What are you known for?

I saved...

I slew...

I advised...

I brought ruin to...

What do you regret?

I failed to...

I’ve lost...

I’ve forgotten...

Ensure everyone at the table is satisfied with the answers and is interested in the fiction they paint. While elven morality may skew either way, it might be beneficial for the party to be in tandem.

Playing an Elf

Playing an elf is about telling your tale, making choices and seeing their resolutions, and eventually fading out of the world. It’s much less about managing health, equipment or positioning in combat. No matter how fearless or powerful your character is, they will fall and be forgotten.

There are no dice rolls. You can do anything a regular human can do within the archetype. If you try to do something beyond human limitation, address the reality section below.

You have anything it makes sense for your character to have. If you partake in combat, you’re likely to sustain injuries, and will need rest to heal them. If you want to draw on your fairytale nature to ignore the negative consequences of your actions, address the reality section.


You have a reality score of 6 at the start. That is the only specific number that defines you.

You lose reality when you go against your humanity:

  • Forfeit consequences you should be faced with

  • Declare you have something you shouldn’t

  • Accomplish something an ordinary human couldn’t do

You gain reality when you are remembered:

  • You offer mercy to those who wronged you or deny it to those who have not

  • You help those weaker than you, or challenge those stronger

  • You inspire stories to be told about you, for better or for worse

You can lose more than 1 Reality. You never gain more than 1.

When two elves oppose each other, they may take actions as logical for humans, or spend reality until one of them backs down. The one who spends more reality wins the conflict. If both of them spent the same amount, negotiate the outcome between yourselves and the referee.

When your reality reaches 0 or the game ends:

Describe the last action you take before you fade out of the world. Do you pierce the scales of the dragon, cut off the witch’s head or take a sip from the fountain of life?

Describe how you leave this world. Do you die a heroic death? Do you mount a ship headed Elsewhere? Do you disappear into the woods, never to be seen again?

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Diceless Persuasion Method

I’ve noticed that most GMs seem to lack tools that can fill the gap between “charisma roll” and “play the persuasion out” and give some structure to the latter. Here is a possible solution.

This is obviously not a perfectly realistic system. I’m not going to quote Cialdini in here, just provide a loose framework.


The paths into a character’s mind. It’s good for the GM to have an idea of them for the important characters.

You need to figure these keys out for a given character, preferably in a manner that won’t make it obvious to the character, and give a good impression that they can address them.

  1. What is the most important thing to them?
    This is usually an abstract concept.

    A character who values their nation over riches won’t be easily bought, but they could be manipulated with jingoistic arguments. Likewise a character that values power or gold won’t be moved by valorous speeches.

    This implies a hierarchy of values that can be constructed more thoroughly for main characters and just hinted at for minor characters. For example, a character can value riches, but they might put that aside to protect their family.

    Examples of this are: Power, Influence, Riches, Family, Nation, Ideology, God, Pleasure, etc.

  2. What do they want?
    This is more immediate, actionable, usually directly stemming from what’s important to them (in point 1).

    Family - I want my son to become a cavalier.
    Riches - I want my business to succeed.
    Pleasure - I want money to feed my addiction.

    In order to successfully persuade someone, offer them something they desire. It has to be demonstrable that you can do it.

    For example, if you’re established as a captain or an inquisitor, you can offer to recommend the character’s son for a promotion in the army. It’s provable that you can do it (you just need to show the badge).

People won’t always give you a straightforward answer as to what they desire. Study them closely, ask the right questions, figure out what makes them tick.

You don’t need to do everything verbally. If the person you’re persuading is interested in Riches, shaking a jiggling sack and a mention of pay in your request may be persuasion enough.

  1. What do they hold dear?
    This is something tangible (unlike 1. which can be abstract) that they have and want to keep.

In order to intimidate them, threaten to take it away in a provable fashion.

Holding a member of someone’s family hostage is an extreme example of this. You can also show an inquisitor’s badge and mention interrogation (implying taking away their health or social standing) or wave an order from the governor (imply taking away their business or causing other trouble).


For deception, another layer is added: how likely are they to notice that you’re lying?

Here, you are weighing the things that match versus the things that don’t, that they’re likely to notice.

For example, when trying to pose as a guard, ask first: are you trying to pose as someone specific before someone from their life, or just another guard? If you can appear semi-trained to another guard and are dressed in a uniform, there is little reason to believe you are anything but.

Issues might arise in specific patrols in elite groups where guards know each other’s names, silhouettes, style of movement, etc. Similar problems show up when you’re trying to pose as someone you’re not before their family member.

My policy for this is “So long as they don’t have a good reason to doubt you and you have some skill in deception, you’re fine”.


For the purpose of seduction, the factors that come into play (i.e. what they desire) may include: body type, personality type and sometimes assets such as riches or noble birth.

Take into account that a character may have different requirements for a one night stand versus a prolonged relationship.

Thanks to thethulr from FKR server for having a look at it.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Damage in the Tapestry

Quick word of introduction: I’m working on a system with minimal complexity (no classes, stats or levels) and no damage rolls. This is why you won’t get much in the way of concrete numbers or anything d20-based here.


It’s a wound, a poison or some other effect that weakens your character. You can take up to 3 of it, after which you roll a death save.

There are certain rules to defining harm.

  1. It must be narratively described.
    It’s not a “you got hit by a sword” but rather a “the sword sliced through your arm, opening a large vessel” or “the arrow is stuck in your thigh”, etc.
    The reason for that is because it allows for the next point.
  2. It must be fixable.
    If an arrow is stuck in your thigh, you must surgically remove it.
    If you lost an arm, you must replace it with prosthetic (preferably a magical one)
    If there’s poison in your blood, you must find an antidote, etc.
  3. It must be the result of a failure.
    Most obvious thing - you don’t get harmed by doing things you should or when things go your way.
I believe this produces a cool system that makes health more gameable and the role of a healer significantly more enjoyable than in D&D-style hit-point systems. The answer to harm shouldn’t be “go rest up for X days” or “go use a healing spell”, it should be “figure out a way to sew yourself up” or “find a blood donor”.

There are three ways of interacting with harm:

  1. Ignoring
  2. Worsening
  3. Healing
I will describe healing separately.


You can roll without factoring the harm in if you take an action where harm wouldn’t affect you.
Let me give you an example:
Joe got hit on the thigh with an arrow.
He wants to ignore his wound. To that end, he hunkers down in a corner and uses his hand crossbow to shoot at opponents.
Because the referee decides his thigh wound is irrelevant to this tactic - he doesn’t factor in the harm into his rolls.


Change the nature of a wound, usually for worse.
Let’s say Joe got an arrow in the thigh again. This time he immediately pulled the arrow out and kept on going.
Now, instead of an arrow wound, he would have blood loss. A more ruthless referee may add blood loss on top of his arrow wound as another harm.
In order to fix them, he must first sew up the wound, then do something about the blood loss.


Instead of relying on healing potions and poultices, I’ve decided to expand the range of medicaments and herbal remedies.


They heal postoperative sepsis, and let you ignore common infections.

The surgeon rolled low on sewing you up? Drank from a standing water source without boiling first? Had some other stupid idea that didn’t end up with you dying? Antipyretics are your friend.


Pain meds. Allow you to ignore pain-based harm. Come in two forms:

  • Ointments - require time to apply.
  • Pills/fluids - can be applied immediately, but worsen the harm in the long run by turning it from a pain into a poisoning.(The referee may decide they only do that in case of overdosing)

Specific/Healing Medication
All the specific medications for ailments. Your antibiotics and antineoplastics (magic gives you cancer in my setting, don’t ask) go here.
Their purpose is treating the cause rather than the symptoms, so they rarely give any immediate effect, but can speed up the healing process from “multiple days” to “overnight”.


Not a medicament, but a healing method.
It’s a means of healing wound-based harm and preventing blood loss or contamination.
Usually boils down to sewing things together and/or cauterizing them. An incorrectly performed surgery (unsterile environment/tools) results in post-operative sepsis.


To take harm and interacting with it a tad further, I’ve introduced very basic alchemy into the mix. You can obviously use the stuff above and completely ignore what’s in this section, but if you want to delve a tad deeper, I won’t stop you.

There are 4 basic humours: blood, phlegm, yellow bile, black bile. I will get to the last one later.


Colour: red
Association: vitality, strength, physicality
Potion ingredient: sanguinic


Colours: colourless, grey, blue (not in human body)
Association: mind, mental capacity, memory
Potion ingredient: phlegmatic

Yellow Bile

Colours: yellow
Association: strength of will, influence upon others or resistance against such influence
Potion ingredient: choleric

You can see this is a bastardized version of the humour theory. I changed a couple of the meanings for the purpose of making this more gameable.

Now let’s see what happens if you drink a potion of either ingredient.


If you’ve lost blood, you are weakened, your strength is lowered, etc.
Drinking a red potion heals you in that case.
(generally you still want to rest for a bit, though)
This is analogical for other colours. Failed a will save? Yellow potion! Ran outta spell slots? Blue/Grey potion!

Imagine you’ve got all your blood and drink a red potion:

  • Your willpower and mental capacity are lowered due to humour imbalance. 
  • Your vitality, strength or physicality are enhanced.

Again, analogical for other colours.

Blue weakens your strength and willpower.
Yellow weakens your strength and mental capacity, etc.


You can have pathological humour excess caused by a disease - it carries only negative effects of the imbalance.

Let’s say your proverbial tuberculosis or COPD fills your lungs with phlegm, maybe it makes pus-filled blisters pop out all over your body.

That means you have pathological excess of phlegm. You don’t get any smarter, only weaker and have less willpower.


Your healer can fix the symptoms:

  • Drain the excess with a needle.
  • The measure is temporary - seek means of fixing the cause.
  • The resulting drained humour is a contaminated disease vector. It has no use in alchemy. Have fun infecting village wells or something.

Black Humour

The black bile is poison - plain and simple. Instead of having an effect of its own, it corrupts another humours. Human body produces it as it ages, but it is impossible to distill out of a living human. Might work for a corpse, though.

It works on the strongest or the weakest humour, depending on whether others are in balance.

If one of the humours is low, the black bile corrupts it. For example

  • If you’re low on blood, you might die if poison is applied to you.
  • If you’re low on willpower, poison will make you break down completely.
  • If you’re low on mental capacity, the poison will drive you into madness.

If all humours are in balance or one of them is higher than others, the black bile turns the dominant humour into a twisted version of itself.

  • If you’re high on blood, the bile makes it tougher for you to control your body and adjust strength to the task.
  • If you’re high on willpower, the bile will drive you to rage and ruthless greed or ambition.
  • If you’re high on mental capacity, the bile will make you consider all the possible outcomes and introduce choice paralysis.


The above humour system makes potioncraft limited, (which is suitable for my low-magic game) but far simpler and easier to mess around with for your own use.

Knowing if something is an alchemical ingredient or not requires alchemical training. Treat it as you will for your system.

Historically, alchemists did not teach one another, but instead used deeply symbolic (i.e. hermetic) texts to transfer their teachings.

Alchemical ingredients are separated into four types (as with humours):

  • Sanguinic - red
  • Choleric - yellow
  • Phlegmatic - grey/blue/colourless
  • Melancholic - black

They allow you to produce corresponding potions/poison.


Mixing two of the three base potions (red, yellow, blue) produces a potion with both of the base effects, and double the aftereffects.
For example, an orange (red + yellow) potion:

  • increases both your strength and willpower
  • lowers your mental capacity twice as much
  • this level of damage might force you to roll for things you normally wouldn’t.

Other potions

I might one day make a detailed potion making system for spell-like magical effects. For now, though, I’d leave it at this.

If you kill and properly butcher a magical creature, you may grind the body part responsible for the magic (such as a fairy/dragon’s wings) into a magical ingredient, then cook it into one or more doses of potion.

Such a potion will poison you in the long run, but will give you the sought-after effect for its duration.

For nonmagical ingredients, you must mix them with a magical ingredient that doesn’t produce any effect on its own.

For example, to achieve flight, mix a crow’s feather (nonmagical) with aetherite (magical, no effect of its own).
After the effect wears off, you can proceed to enjoy your cancer.

Thanks to Gaptooth for previewing this.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Ancient Art of Haruspicy

“Murder is a sin worse than digging wells in our hometown. Not because the soul is sacred, but because a body is. What is not whole, is not holy. A torn body is but a foul parody of the universe.”
- Pathologic

Necromancy and haruspicy - the art of divining from dead things, from their entrails, souls or entire bodies. It’s a ritual that requires time, skill and knowledge. Incorrect incisions will damage the tissue and render the flesh worthless. Too big or too dull a tool will do the same. Lack of knowledge will render the whole endeavour moot, and the conclusions erroneous. The art can be learnt only from another person, and perfected through long practice.

Organs and Limbs
Let us split haruspicy into a source of knowledge a few things: mind of an individual, health of an individual, or the disease that killed them, and the world, if the individual (or animal) was tied to it.

Mind finds its shelter there. Each part of the brain corresponds to a part of the mind. If part of a mind is rotting, so will the corresponding part of the brain, and vice-versa, if part of a brain is damaged, so is part of the mind. Parts of the mind that reside in the brain are as follows.
1. Logic
2. Spirituality
3. Memory
4. Perception
5. Motion
6. Will

Health - if the brain fails, so does the rest of the body. A disease that gives mental or pain-based symptoms in the head may be striking the brain.
World - brain and the heart are the anchors of the soul that speak with the Higher Self and the gods.

Eyes and Ears
Mind sees the world through the eyes and hears it through the ears. If there’s something wrong with them, then the view of the world is skewed. If the view of the world is skewed, the mind will eventually be, too.
Health - the inflammation of either can spread into the brain, and damage to these organs means impaired perception.
World - does it have eyes or ears? Does the world watch us as we watch it? What are its eyes? What are its ears? What does it think of the things it sees?

Mind is held up by the spine. Spine is the morality, the integrity of a person.
Health - a broken spine means crippling. Rot in it means awful pain. Spine holds the body together and allows it to retain its shape.
World’s integrity depends on the spine. Breaking it means the breaking of things as they are, an apocalypse to usher in a new era. Rot in it means the things that hold the world together, be they a man-made system, the Laws or the Engines are coming apart at the seams.

Mind - heart is the keeper of emotion and a second anchor of the soul.
Health - heart pumps blood within the vascular system; damage to it may be even less repairable than damage to the brain.
World - the heart of the world allows it to function, perhaps even feel. Its destruction could mean either the world’s emotions grows rotten, or that the emotions of people take a turn for the worse.

Vessels and Nerves
Mind - the connections that join everything together and let things flow. Stemming the flow might mean parts of the mind may be excluded from communication with each other or the world. Logic may not believe what the eyes see, or motion may cease to listen to what thoughts demand.
Health - similarly blood is the medium of nutrient and pathogen transportation, and so bleeding weakens the body. Nerves allow the central nervous system to connect to every organ and muscle, similarly with connections within the nervous system itself.
World - if the paths of connecting the world are severed, peoples are stranded and secluded. Sometimes stranding and seclusion leads to death, sometimes it produces variety and strength.

Mind needs air to exist. Lung is the chimney of the forge of ideas, and larynx needs them to let the ideas out through speech. Breath is the sign of life to the world, a measure of body’s (and by proxy the mind’s) vitality and energy.
Health - destruction of the lungs kills the body. Infection in them slows them down, makes breathing difficult, and by proxy slows down the entire body, weakening it.
World - Lung is the gateway to the Outside; it pulls the positive in and pushes the negative out. What form does it take in the world? It could also mean the damage or destruction of things that kept the evil and good from mixing.

Mind - liver and the kidneys rid the mind of toxins, keep negative or destructive thoughts out. Their impairment allows them to flood in unabated. Furthermore liver and surrounding gastrointestinal glands nurture the mind like soil and allow it to function.
Health - damage to the liver, while it can often regenerate, causes problems with digestion, toxin removal, and a score of other bodily processes.
World - many traditions of haruspicy only require the liver of a sacrificial animal. It contains many a line that tell about the world and the gods. It is the earth which filters water of toxins and upon which the body of life is nurtured.

Mind - liver and the kidneys rid the mind of toxins, keep negative or destructive thoughts out. Their impairment allows them to flood in unabated.
Health - damage to kidneys and other parts of urinary system can be extremely painful and end up in impaired toxin removal, which will slowly poison the body, weakening and killing it in the process.
World - damage to the kidneys might mean damage to things that keep good and evil from mixing, corruption of moral or judiciary systems, potentially end of some duality (similarly with other symmetrical organs)

Mind - intestine, like the liver and glands, is the soil that nurtures the mind. It represents the gritty chains that join the mind and body, change that mind goes through, and the process of aging.
Health - damage to the intestine, especially perforation, may cause its contents to spill into the peritoneal cavity and heavy bleeding; it’s often lethal if not treated.
World - damage or rot in the intestine means the process of change becoming corrupted, the earth that nurtures the body of life growing warped or infertile.

Mind - hands are part of the mind’s expression to the outside world, they give way for emotions and logic both. They also have a role in perception through the skin.
Health - damage impairs motion of the limb, rot may spread to the rest of the body if not contained or amputated. Often limbs are the first thing that gets damaged by area effects (like frostbite, burning, etc.)
World - damaged hand could mean the impact of the gods being stilted somehow, perhaps the death of their Archons or otherwise a halt or corruption of intricate motions of the world.

Mind - legs carry the mind where it needs to be, they represent the journey, so their impairment means stillness, crippling, slowing down.
Health -  damage impairs motion of the limb, rot may spread to the rest of the body if not contained or amputated. Often limbs are the first thing that gets damaged by area effects (like frostbite, burning, etc.)
World - damaged leg could mean lack of celestial motions, stilling or corruption of the grand but not necessarily intricate movements of the universe.

Each line of a world beast has something it represents, and its location. Sometimes multiple lines can represent the same thing or different aspects of it. Disturbances in those lines could represent various disturbances to the things they represent.

Sky - that which is aerial, sometimes that which is aetherial. Divides heaven from earth.
Disturbance - damage to something airborne, like birds, dragons and such; the blurring of the border between Beyond and Here, prediction of rain and draught.
Location - they split lungs into lobes and segments that each tell of a different part of the sky.

Aetheria - that which is ethereal - the souls, spirits and such.
Disturbance - damage to the soul or to the way souls are handled in the world.
Location - follows round ligament of liver, difficult to see intact in its original path.

Aeterna - that which is eternal - the gods, the Laws, the Engines.
Disturbance - change in the Laws, deaths of gods, world being changed or born anew.
Location - follows lesser curvature of stomach, then duodenum up to duodenojejunal junction.

Earth - the soil and that which nurtures.
Disturbance - infertility of both life and the soil, emergence of things that will uphold the Laws.
Location - follows the curve of common and external iliac arteries.

Sea - the great waters.
Disturbance - death of fish and other waterborne things, emergence of the Deep Gods,
Location - follows the bile ducts, excluding the cystic duct.

Iron - that which builds towers, forges weapons and flows in the blood.
Disturbance - fall of civilisation, death or corruption of conventional live.
Location - follows splenic artery.

Stars - those that shine above.
Disturbance - astronomical changes, strange celestial motions, arrival of something from the stars.
Location - lymph nodes; different parts of the sky are depicted in different parts of the body.

The usage of body parts in spells, rituals and alchemy.

Brain - spells that affect rational thinking.
Grind a brain into a pulp, add proper herbs and salt, then boil it, chanting spells, until the smoke turns brown. Collect the smoke into a container, preferably glass.
If released, the smoke creates a vapour that quickly dissipates in the air and doesn’t smell, making everyone in the vicinity have a clouded judgement and become prone to bad life choices, without realizing it.

Eyes and Ears - spells that affect hearing and sight
Mark of Blinding
Dry an eyeball and grind it into dust. Mix the dust with blood, bile, ink and some bonedust. Let the mixture stand for a night under moonlight, then use the entirety of it to write down the correct symbol.
If a person to whom the mixed blood, bile or bonedust doesn’t belong to gazes at the symbol, they are blinded for a few minutes.

Spine - spells that affect morality, movement and bone structure.
The Evilizing Whip
Extract the spine and remove the tissue surrounding it and within the vertebral canal. Join each vertebra with metal to form a chain. Sprinkle it with the blood of a unicorn and fashion the handle out of human skin.
Each strike of the whip wears away at an individual’s morality, turning them more and more evil.

Heart - spells that affect emotion.
Bull’s Heart
Squeeze the blood out of a heart of a freshly killed bull onto a piece of cloth. Put the rest of it in a copper chalice, then burn it on a small fire sprinkled with moondust. Wave the cloth over the fire as it smokes and let the smoke soak the cloth as you recite evil incantations.
When you sprinkle the cloth with someone’s blood and later show it to them, they’ll become overcome with mindless, murderous rage.

Lungs - spells that affect breathing
Sand Pest
Dry lungs and grind them into a powder. Mix the powder with finely grounded desert sand and thistle. Move the powder into a clear glass bottle and write infernal symbols on it, all the while chanting prayers to a demonic lord of disease. Let the bottle cool down in a cold stream through a night afterward.
Inhaling the powder will cause the sand pest plague to spread in the victim’s lungs, turning them into a bloody pulp. Blood, mucus and saliva the victim coughs out will spread the disease.

Intestine - spells that affect gastrointestinal tract.
Digestive Biscuits
Separate the large and small intestine. Dry the small intestine and grind it into powder, then mix it with baking soda, flour, egg and sugar grown on a field in a village where a witch was burnt. Add water and finely diced large intestine, make it look like chocolate (you can even dip it in one), and shape the resulting mass into cookies while singing hymns to the forgotten gods. Bake them for a few hours until they’re crunchy.
The person who eats the cookies will open a portal to a random dimension in their gut.

Hands - spells that disarm and affect fine manipulation
Mage Hand
Sever a fresh hand right above the wrist. Shove a magically potent mountain crystal up its carpal tunnel, then secure it with horse or human hair mixed with frogskin glue. Mark the hand with eldritch runes and whisper evil things to it at midnight. Next day, with the first rays of dawn, it’ll start moving on its own and obeying your commands.
The hand is weak and can’t last long in combat, but is capable of fine manipulation and fetching light things.

Legs - spells that affect movement.
Tripping Wire
Grind a femur into fine powder and strip tendons and ligaments of other tissue, then weave them into a rope. Rub the bonedust into the rope. Burn the rope in morning-dew-sprinkled hellfire. Once the ash cools down, you’ll be able to pull out the still-intact rope.
If thrown, the rope wraps itself around the legs of the targeted creature.

Liver - potions of healing and remedies.

Kidney - poisons and spells that poison the body