Cthulhu Confidential and other upcoming One-2-One games recommend using physical cards (or the digital equivalent) in play. Giving a player something to hold onto has several benefits.

  • It’s a reminder. In a multiplayer game, key plot elements get discussed endlessly at the game as players speculate about what’s going on, how they rid themselves of troubles, and how they can take advantage of items or favour acquired. In a solo game, especially a plot-heavily Confidential scenario, it’s good to give the player plenty of reminders of important discoveries and ongoing problems.
  • It’s a call to action. Having “Bleeding Internally” or “Mickey Don’t Like You” weighing down your hand motivates you to look for ways to counter those pesky problems. Similarly, if you’ve got “Charlie Chaplin Owes You” or a “Spare Bomb”, then you’ll itch for ways to play them to your advantage.
  • It’s satisfying. There’s something undeniable fun about handling physical cards, as opposed to scribbling notes on a character sheet. And as there’s only one player, it’s viable to have lots of highly specific cards.

Every published One-2-One scenario includes plenty of Problem and Edge cards, covering every likely eventually – but what about unlikely ones, when the player goes “off-piste”? How to improvise cards on the fly?

Have a bunch of blank cards (index cards are fine) to hand. When you need to write a card on the fly, quickly think about ways to connect it to future events in the scenario. A problem like “Fear of the Dark” is only interesting if there’s a scene later on where the player has to go into a dark place. An Edge like “Colt .45” is only relevant if there’s a good chance of a shootout.

The best Problems are the ones that push the player in interesting directions in the story, or anticipate future dangers. A “Bleeding Neck Wound” that gives the player a penalty is fun, but “Vampire Bite” that doesn’t give a penalty, but hints at a psychic threat can be much more interesting. At the same time, you want a few cards with clear mechanical benefits or penalties for variety, to avoid overloading the player with possibilities.

Edges without a defined benefit leave things open to player input. “Colt .45” obviously benefits Fighting, but “Got The Drop On Them” could be construed as a bonus to anything from Stealth to Shadowing to Fighting, or a Push to Streetwise or Intimidation, to a story benefit where the player gets to arrive at just the right moment to put the bad guys at a disadvantage. Working out what a card actually does when it’s played keeps options open – just stay away from Edges that give the player too much leverage over key figures in the adventure. “Charlie Chaplin owes you” is great; “The Cult Leader owes you” risks derailing your plot again. (And if you’re running a game where Chaplin’s the cult leader, I want to play).  

As a quick list of options:

 Edges

  • A bonus (say, +1 or +2) to a single Challenge
  • A bonus to multiple Challenges, either when a particular condition is met (+2 when sneaking around Budapest) or for a limited time (+2 to your next two Fighting challenges)
  • A bonus to an entire category of General Abilities (Physical, Mental, Manual)
  • A free die on a Challenge (and remember, if the player has any dice left over, he gets a free Push)
  • A free Push in a particular situation (“You know this city like the back of your hand. Discard this Edge for a free Push of Architecture, Cop Talk, or Streetwise while in Prague.”)
  • A free Push when dealing with a particular character or faction
  • A free Push for a particular type of Investigative Ability, usually Interpersonal
  • The ability to Counter a type of Problem
  • A general description of some advantage, giving the player scope for creativity (“The priest blessed you.)

Problems

Injuries: Injuries are a special category of Problem, so include the Injury keyword on any Injury cards. Some abilities (like Medic) give the ability to counter Injuries quickly.

Most injuries give a -1 or -2 penalty to Physical tests; injuries that specifically impede hand-eye Co-ordination might penalise Manual tasks instead.

In GUMSHOE One-2-one, the player doesn’t have ‘hit points’ or a Health score. The penalties from injury cards may stack, but a player may hold any number of injury cards and keep going. Injury only threatens death if the injury card specifically says this (see Dooms, below.).

Light injuries might only last for a scene, or for a few scenes (usually, three scenes, or three Challenges of a particular type), or be automatically Countered when the player Takes Time. More serious injuries might explicitly require the player to Take Time to Counter them, require medical treatment, or both.

Penalties: Penalties make it harder for the player to succeed in tests. Penalties are usually -1 or -2; go to -3 or -4 if you really want to emphasise the adversity and give the player little hope of success without Countering the problem. Penalties apply to one (or more!) of the categories of General Ability:

    • Physical: Most injuries penalise physical abilities; it’s hard to run, climb or fight when you’re been hurt. Drugs or restraints (manacles) also impair physical ability tests.
    • Manual: Injuries to the hands or eyes are the usual cause of manual ability penalties.
    • Mental: Shock, mental trauma, emotional distress or exhaustion can hit mental abilities

Levies: Levies require the player to spend an extra Push in a particular situation. Usually, this refers to Interpersonal pushes and applies to a particular individual or group – if Dr. Tollen doesn’t trust you, you might have to spend an extra Push when trying to persuade her with Reassurance to let you see her notes on blood diseases. Levies can apply to any investigative ability, though – for example, if Cryptography is needed to decode an ancient book, then if the book gets damaged, it could impose a Cryptography levy to get the information.

Blocks: Blocking Problems prevent the player from taking a particular action until the Problem’s resolved. They can be nuisances that prevent the player from tackling bigger issues, like an Injury card (“Blood in your eyes”) that gives no penalty to tests, but has to be Countered before any other injuries can be removed. They can be more serious complications that restrict the player’s actions – for example, if the player’s been disarmed, then she can’t make Shooting tests until she obtains a gun.

Dooms: Doom Problems shape the ending of the story, usually in a negative way. If the player’s still holding the card at the end of the operation, bad things happen. Dooms can result in death (“you’ve been poisoned – if you haven’t found a cure by the end of the adventure, you’re dead”) or other terrible consequences (“The cult has kidnapped Lenny, and will sacrifice him to Cthulhu unless you stop them”). Dooms should always describe how to Counter them.

 

 

 

a column on roleplaying

by Robin D. Laws

On a recent episode of our podcast, Ken and I talked about adapting Dreamhounds of Paris as a GUMSHOE One-2-One setting. In a moment of rash exuberance I promised to provide character cards for some of its key figures. Use these as a model for your own conversion if I failed to include the surrealist your player most wants to portray. You’ll need a copy of Dreamhounds to make use of this.

Luis Buñuel

Two Fisted Filmmaker

Investigative Abilities: [Academic]

Anthropology [Academic]

Art History [Academic]

Assess Honesty [Interpersonal]

Bargain [Interpersonal]

Charm [Interpersonal]

Chemistry [Technical]

Dream Lore [Academic]

History [Academic]

Inspiration [Interpersonal]

Intimidation [Interpersonal]

Languages (Spanish, French) [Academic]

Photography 3 [Technical]

Streetwise [Interpersonal]

Theology [Academic]

General Abilities:

Art-Making (Filmmaker) 2 dice

Athletics 2 dice

Cool 1 die

Devices 2 dice

Disguise 1 die

Dreamscaping 2 dice

Fighting 2 dice

First Aid 1 die

Instability 2 dice

Preparedness 1 die

Stability 2 dice

Starting Problem

Pugnacious

Continuity

You let your hot temper and Iberian machismo, not your superior intellect, determine when your fists go flying.

-1 to Cool tests to keep your fists in check when your temper flares.

Jean Cocteau

Resplendent Anathema

Investigative Abilities

Architecture [Academic]

Art History [Academic]

Chemistry [Technical]

Cthulhu Mythos [Academic]

Dream Lore [Academic]

Flattery [Interpersonal]

History [Academic]

Library Use [Academic]

Literature [Academic]

Medicine [Academic]

Occult [Academic]

Pharmacy [Technical]

Seduction [Interpersonal]

Streetwise [Interpersonal]

General Abilities:

Art-Making (Visual Art, Film, Fiction, Playwright) 2 dice

Art-Making (Poetry) 1 die

Athletics 1 die

Conceal 1 die

Cool 1 die (-1 penalty in real world, +1 bonus in Dreamlands)

Disguise 2 dice

Dreamscaping 2 dice

First Aid 2 dice

Fleeing 2 dice

Hypnosis 1 die

Instability 2 dice

Preparedness 1 die

Stability 1 die

Starting Problem

White Dragon

Continuity

You’ve kicked your opium habit a number of times. Which is the optimistic way of saying you never quite kick your opium habit.

-1 to Cool tests when tempted by the opportunity to smoke opium, or any of its Dreamlands equivalents.

Salvador Dalí

Calculating Visionary

Investigative Abilities:

Anthropology [Academic]

Archaeology [Academic]

Architecture [Academic]

Art History [Academic]

Biology [Academic]

Charm [Interpersonal]

Chemistry [Technical]

Dream Lore [Academic]

Flattery [Interpersonal]

History [Academic]

Languages [Academic]

Library Use [Academic]

Theology [Academic]

General Abilities

Art-Making (Visual Art) 2 dice

Art-Making (Film) 1 die

Art-Making (Poetry) 1 die

Athletics 1 die

Dreamscaping 2 dice

Cool 1 die

Fleeing 2 die

Instability 2 dice

Preparedness 1 die

Stability 1 die

Sense Trouble 1 die

Stealth 1 die

Starting Problem

Dependent on Gala

Continuity

Without your tigress wife by your side, even ordinary tasks, like crossing a busy street, paralyze you with fear.

-1 to Cool and Stability tests when away from Gala. After reuniting with Gala, gain +2 to Cool and +1 to Stability tests until next interval.

Gala

Protective Devourer

Investigative Abilities

Accounting [Academic]

Assess Honesty [Interpersonal]

Bargain [Interpersonal]

Biology [Academic]

Bureaucracy [Interpersonal]

Interrogation [Interpersonal]

Intimidation [Interpersonal]

Languages (Russian, French, English) [Academic]

Library Use [Academic]

Locksmith [Technical]

Medicine [Academic]

Occult [Academic]

Seduction* [Interpersonal]

Streetwise [Interpersonal]

*After making a Seduction Push, roll a die. On an even result, regain the Push.

General Abilities

Athletics 1 die

Card Reading 2 dice

Conceal 1 die

Cool 2 dice

Fighting 1 die

Filch 1 die

Fleeing 1 die

Stability 2 dice

Sense Trouble 2 dice

Shadowing 1 die

Stealth 2 dice

Starting Problem

Grasping

Continuity

Survival means everything. Your brother’s death during the Russian Revolution taught you that. And in this world survival means one thing: money.

-2 to Cool tests to avoid the temptations of avarice.

Kiki de Montparnasse

Free-living Muse

Investigative Abilities:

Assess Honesty [Interpersonal]

Bargain [Interpersonal]

Bureaucracy [Interpersonal]

Charm [Interpersonal]

Dream Lore [Academic]

Flattery [Interpersonal]

Locksmith [Technical]

Photography [Technical]

Reassurance [Interpersonal]

Seduction [Interpersonal]

Streetwise [Technical]

General Abilities:

Art-Making (Visual Art) 1 die

Art-Making (Dance) 1 die

Art-Making (Singing 6) 2 dice

Cool 1 die

Athletics 2 dice

Conceal 2 dice

Filch 2 dice

Fleeing 2 dice

Instability 1 die

Stability 2 dice

Sense Trouble 2 dice

Starting Problem

Hard Liver

Continuity

You adore nothing more than another drink. Except of course for the drink after that.

-1 to Cool tests to avoid overindulgence in intoxicants.

Valentine Hugo

Little Swan

Investigative Abilities:

Archaeology [Academic]

Architecture [Academic]

Art History [Academic]

Assess Honesty [Interpersonal]

Bargain [Interpersonal]

Charm [Interpersonal]

Dream Lore [Academic]

Flattery [Interpersonal]

History [Academic]

Medium [Academic]

Occult [Academic]

Pharmacy [Technical]

Photography [Technical]

Reassurance [Interpersonal]

General Abilities:

Art-Making (Painting/Illustration) 2 dice

Athletics 1 die

Cool 1 die

Conceal 1 die

Disguise 1 die

Driving 1 die

Dreamscaping 1 die

First Aid 1 die

Fleeing 2 dice

Hypnosis 1 die

Instability 2 dice

Preparedness 1 die

Stability 2 dice

Stealth 1 die

Starting Problem

Lovesick

ContinuityWhen you fall in love, you fall hard, and never give up, no matter how much resistance you face. Others call you a fool. You call yourself a lover.

-2 to avoid throwing yourself humiliatingly at the current object of your obsession, Andre Breton. Void during the brief period after 1931 when he finally gives in to you.

See Page XX

a column on roleplaying by Robin D. Laws

In his influential book on the films of Howard Hawks, the late film critic Robin Wood identified one of the director’s key themes as “the Lure of Irresponsibility.”

This phrase has stuck in my head over the years, connecting itself to a subject far from its original intent.

One of the key appeals of roleplaying is the lure of irresponsibility.

Like the stoic bands of adventurous outsiders populating such Hawks films as Rio Bravo and Only Angels Have Wings, player character groups leave behind the strictures of ordinary society. Whether they’re killing monsters and taking their stuff, solving occult mysteries, or bringing rough justice back to the spacelanes, they no longer have to take the standard guff of bosses and paychecks and paying one’s parking tickets.

In the extremest form of this phenomenon, you get your murder hoboes. The band of outsider heroes becomes a gang of bandits, subjecting others to the rule of the sword and suffering no consequences for its depredations.

Even when the fantasy of irresponsibility stops short of a fantasy of violent psychosis, it can come into conflict with other elements that make a roleplaying session feel satisfying.

As much as a GM may want to establish a particular tone for her series, even after getting explicit buy-in from the players at its outset, the lure of irresponsibility can rear its head and send those plans spinning into the gutter.

Everyone might agree, say, to play Night’s Black Agents in gritty Dust mode, evoking the real-world despond of a Cold War Le Carre novel.

Tone requires ongoing player cooperation. To maintain itself, all the players have to make decisions the way Le Carre characters would, and not as James Bond or Xander Cage.

All it takes is a player or two to show up to the game table punchy and looking to blow off steam, and suddenly the GM faces two choices, both unfortunate:

1) Stick with the tone and slap the characters with the realistic consequences of acting like superheroes in a gray and workaday universe, like Vin Diesels in an Alec Guiness world.

2) Give them their steam-venting, shifting the series to roleplaying’s default mode of crazy, violent nonsense.

As the creator of Feng Shui, I can hardly shake a fist a crazy, violent nonsense. But while some games are conceived with that in mind, all will devolve in that direction without tone enforcement from the GM.

Players don’t necessarily thank you for either choice. Derail the story with realistic consequences, and you’ve followed the setting’s internal logic straight to a disappointing narrative dead end. Shift the tone to Kookytown and even the player who made everything blow up may later wish the series had stuck with the original tone, which was one of the factors making it special and different.

In complex rules systems with lots of moving parts, you can blame the system for outcomes that break one’s sense of what ought to be possible in a story like this. Yep, you stacked that spell with that magic item and rolled a 20, so of course you topple the tower down onto the village and kill all the orcs. Never mind the desire to play in a low-fantasy world; the rules and that die roll had other ideas.

GUMSHOE One-2-One, as seen the system’s flagship title, Cthulhu Confidential, helps with tone maintenance in several ways.

One, there are only two of you, and the experience of playing the game is unusually intense. If one or both of you feel punchy or tired, you’re probably going to either lock in and achieve focus, or you’re going to choose to do something less demanding with your block of time.

Two, much murder-hoboism happens because players are either showing off for each other or egging each other on. Outside of a group setting, that goes away. Likewise the syndrome where one player decides, consciously or otherwise, to steal focus from everyone else by doing something crazy and stupid. You know the drill: the player who has his character punch the king in the face at the royal audience, starts a bar fight where the secret rendezvous has been set up, or decides to murder the prisoners while the rest of the group has its collective back turned. In multiplayer this then forces the rest of the group to deal with the consequences of the focus hog’s actions instead of having the expected story about the entire group unfold. In One-2-One, the focus hog gets all the attention he can handle. He doesn’t have to make it all about him—it already is. (But then maybe This Guy doesn’t choose to play One-2-One in the first place, because his fun comes from wrecking it for everyone else.)

Three, you can frame Challenges to only yield tonally appropriate results. If the player still insists on doing something the audience would reject as stupid in the movie or novel version of the same story, you can ensure that it happens within the bounds of your prevailing tone. Let’s go with the gratuitous bar fight. Where in standard GUMSHOE with its Health thresholds and weapon stats you could conceivably kill an innocent bar patron and throw the rest of the storyline into a cocked hat, here the Challenge could look like this:

Meaningless Bar Fight

Fighting

Advance 9+: You manage to deck a guy and somehow make it seem like he had it coming. His pals drag him off before you can do any damage that would lead to an arrest warrant.

Hold 4-8: A typical inconclusive tavern struggle breaks out. The chump you wanted to deck has friends, and they hold you at bay until the bouncers can drag you out and throw you out of the bar. “And don’t come back!”

Setback 3 or less: As per above, but the bouncers take you outside and beat you black and blue. Gain Problem Card “Beatdown.”

You wouldn’t write this out ahead of time, but rather improvise something along those lines.

Unless you have a player you know will pull this stuff, who you inexplicably want to run One-2-One with. Then you might want to have a few on hand as responses to his most obvious usual tone-busting moves.

ROB_tileJonathan and I usually agree on the mechanics of 13th Age, but our memories don’t always agree when it comes to how key mechanics were created.* The escalation die is a prime example.

I remember using the escalation die in a bizarro 4e game, fighting minions of Torog, back before we started work on 13th Age. Jonathan remembers coming up with the mechanic on his own, as part of a system he ran for a couple of months that I…er…never showed up for. Both those memories may be accurate; but recently I discovered that the true origins of the escalation die lay elsewhere.

During a period when Jonathan and I weren’t GMing, Mike Fehlauer manned the captain’s/GM’s chair and took us on a 4e cruise through the Savage Tide. Mike’s excellent campaign benefited from a lot of mechanical experiments, and here’s one that he recently unearthed from an ancient email thread:

Another idea I had for speedy play was to put a card for “end of round” into the initiative deck. Each time that card comes up, all combatants (including monsters) add +1 to all their attacks. Second time it comes up, everyone starts adding +2 to all their attacks. And so on.

The pacing isn’t right, but the general idea is that as time goes on, the combat’s pace toward resolution increases. Sort of like how the blind keeps increasing in poker.

Maybe a better pace is “when a monster or character is bloodied, the ‘combat blind’ goes up by 1. All monsters and characters add the ‘combat blind’ to all their attacks.”

Hmm. Instead of “combat blind”, let’s call it “Savage Tide”. That way, as the Tide rises, things get more deadly. I like the sound of that. :)

Jonathan said that the idEscalation_Die_LKEea was interesting, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to track it. Paul Hughes commented that you could just use a die to keep track.

Jonathan and I both went off and used our own versions of the escalation mechanic in our games, giving the escalating bonus to the player characters but not the monsters. As a result, by the time we decided to design 13th Age together, we were both locked in with using something like the escalation die at the table.

Turns out that it’s really important to have a good gaming group!

*To be honest, Jonathan and I don’t particularly care which of us created specific mechanics, or how—the topic only comes up when other people ask.


 

13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

13th Age GM Resource Book cover

Pre-Order the 13th Age Gamemaster Screen and Resource Book, and download the PDF now!

“We have targeted the game toward experienced gamemasters and players at all levels of roleplaying experience.” – 13th Age core book

13th Age assumes you already know how to run an F20 roleplaying game—in fact, you’ve probably already done it more than a few times. You’re comfortable customizing a game to fit your style of play, improvising adventures based on player input, being the final decision-maker on rules questions, building out a campaign setting based on a few cool ideas, and creating your own monsters.

As a result of this design approach, 13th Age sometimes asks more from GMs than other games. That’s why we’ve always tried to support 13th Age GMs by answering questions and supplying resources and guidance. A few months ago, we reached a point where we felt we knew enough about where our GMs needed a little extra help that we could write a solid GM’s guide for the game.

Using the Trail of Cthulhu Keeper’s Screen and Resource Book as our model, Cal Moore and I huddled with Rob Heinsoo and talked about what would be good to include in this slim volume (around 64 pages). Based on what GMs had been asking us over the years, what would be most useful?

We’d definitely need to talk more about icon relationship rolls, which were brand-new tech in the core book and have been relentlessly discussed, debated, tested, and tinkered with by 13th Age GMs and designers since then. We often see  questions about using terrain in combat, and Cal had lots of ideas he wanted to develop around that. His recent experience with the Battle Scenes books (still in development) gave him great insight that we could share about building better battles in the game.

13th Age GM Book NPC sampleThe Keeper’s Resource Book included NPCs, so I eagerly volunteered to create (statless) characters associated with the 13 icons that GMs could easily pop into their games as one-off encounters, recurring characters, or even major villains. I also wanted to revisit the subject of backgrounds, which I wrote about in a previous Page XX article.

ASH LAW had begun work on an ambitious toolkit for improvising adventures, but other priorities left it orphaned. I took it apart and rebuilt it into a lean, mean, GMing machine for running zero-preparation sessions of 13th Age. And hey, speaking of ASH, we decided that it was finally time to make his Montage mechanic from Organized Play an official part of the rules. So from now on, when someone asks, “Where are Montages described?” the answer is, “In the GM’s Resource Book”.

We also recruited Rob to write a section called “Six Things Rob Does Now”, and compiled general-purpose GM advice scattered across various books.

We hope you like it, and we hope you get a kick out of the accompanying GM screen, which features freakin’ gorgeous new player-facing art from Lee Moyer and Aaron McConnell, and GM-facing quick-reference rules chosen with input from our community. (There’s also a map of the Dragon Empire, this time with the roads included. Huzzah.)


13th Age combines the best parts of traditional d20-rolling fantasy gaming with new story-focused rules, designed so you can run the kind of game you most want to play with your group. Created by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet, 13th Age gives you all the tools you need to make unique characters who are immediately embedded in the setting in important ways; quickly prepare adventures based on the PCs’ backgrounds and goals; create your own monsters; fight exciting battles; and focus on what’s always been cool and fun about fantasy adventure gaming. Purchase 13th Age in print and PDF at the Pelgrane Shop.

last doorEarlier this month, Phoenix Online Studios invited us to co-sponsor a short-short-short fiction competition to promote The Last Door Collector’s Edition. We’re all for creepy 8-bit Lovecraftian horror, and gladly joined in. Five prize winners got a Pelgrane PDF of their choice (and all of them chose either Trail of Cthulhu or Bookhounds of London); and 5 winners got a free copy of The Last Door.

Here are the winning entries for your enjoyment:

The 5 Pelgrane Press PDF winners:

She didn’t give me her name. I gave her mine. When she left the bar, she took it with her. – Paul Kirsch

Napping in a crowded metro, a whisper in my ear: don’t wake up. – Victor Ribeiro

“The ‘virus’ is an idea,” she said, “spread via sentence. It commands me to obey.” Chuckling, the doctor replied, “The ‘virus’ is an idea…” – Steven Marsh

As her hand slipped from my grasp, I marveled at its rate of descent compared to the other parts of her body. – Philip Gonzales

A step, drip, cold, door, dark. A step, twist, claw, fur, flare. It’s ok, you can’t see anything wrong. Or anything at all. A step. – Linda Evans

The 5 winners of copies of The Last Door:

I woke before dawn & warmed my shivering wife before returning to slumber. I woke again with a scream when I realized she died a year ago. – Brian Webb

He told me to get a bottle of wine from the cellar. I suppose that’s what he told the rest of these women to do, too. – Kyle Williams

Frightening was hungry eyes, watching me from the gloom. Terrifying was knowing I’d seen them before, every time I’d gazed into a mirror. – Noah Baxter

A bump, a creak, a faint rustle; all from me. I wait till you feel safe with these sounds. Then, as you sleep, I emerge from the shadows. – Gerry Bibaud

Slowly the words formed. We are legion it said. He stared at the readout from the quantum correlation encryption experiment. – Christian Mintert

Horror in the Museum_FinalI didn’t take any advanced statistics courses in college, so that title may not be precisely accurate.

Survey, survey. Oh, yes. Simon sent out a survey to all the current subscribers of Ken Writes About Stuff, upon whom may blessings shower without sensible restraint. We got about 180 responses back, which is a pretty good percentage, I’m told. Almost all of the respondents play both Night’s Black Agents and Trail of Cthulhu, which is very gratifying to me — and we have a good spread of all the other Pelgrane games as well. (About half of them are playing TimeWatch … perhaps it may not just be a game!!) In short, you guys seem to be pretty devoted Pelgrane players, which makes me feel much better about doing GUMSHOE Zooms going forward.

That said, only a third of the respondents rated the GUMSHOE Zooms so far a ‘4’ on a scale of 1 to 4 for enjoyment and usability, although another 40% or so gave them a ‘3’. So we need to tweak them a bit, apparently.

In happier news, better than 77% of the respondents rated my Mythos monster series Hideous Creatures a ‘4’ on a scale of 1 to 4 for enjoyment and usability. (Almost everyone else rated it a ‘3’.) So that’s golden.

See how this works? You respond, I carve this block of electronic marble in front of me a little closer to the PDF elephant you truly want. That’s how this works.

Of the eight mostly random suggestions Simon offered, we got the strongest response for more Looking Glass pieces (top four answers!), although each of them could also be read as “campaign frame” settings. (The settings got about 60% of you up to ‘4’; a little stronger than the pure Looking Glass: Mumbai did.) So you like campaign ideas, probably in cities. It’s not a perfect science, and did I mention I only took basic stat?

And we got some lovely responses and specific requests — I only wish I could fulfill them all! Lots of people wanting settings, which tends to reinforce my previous deduction. One really good suggestion for a new “Ken’s Time Machine” type issue, about possible counterfactuals, what-ifs, or historical enigmas — once TimeWatch gets up to speed, I may try to construct something along those lines. The first of those might happen later this year. We had a number of completely fair and understandable requests for more SF-focused KWAS material to support Ashen Stars and Gaean Reach games.

And my favorite response, which I saw a gratifying number of times: “Whatever Ken wants.” As the man says in Joe vs. the Volcano, “Sir, may you live to be a thousand.”

So taking all of those responses — including the last one, ho ho — into account, here’s what the first half of Ken Writes About Stuff, Volume 2, is shaping up to look like:

 

April 2014: Hideous Creatures: Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath. “Worlds of sardonic actuality impinging on vortices of febrile dream – Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Goat with a Thousand Young!” Are they nameless horrors or numbered servitors, Druidic nightmares or ab-natural abominations? Where do they grow, and on what loathsome food do they thrive? Follow them to Hell and Hydra, or to Mormo and Monsanto.

May 2014: GUMSHOE Zoom: Voodoo. The first of a new series of GUMSHOE Zooms looking at historical magic traditions — and giving you the tools and rules to evoke these puissant powers in your own game! This one examines sympathetic magic and zombies, and Zooms in on the Afro-Caribbean magical-religious complex encompassing Vodoun, Candomble, Santeria, Obeah, and Hoodoo. The loa ride in May!

June 2014: Hideous Creatures: Serpent Folk. “The features mingled and merged in a seemingly impossible manner. Then, like a fading mask of fog, the face suddenly vanished and in its stead gaped and leered a monstrous serpent’s head!” They built Valusia before the dinosaurs, and lurk behind half mankind’s darkest cults. Are they extra-dimensional, extra-terrestrial, or just extra venomous? You won’t fool the Children of Yig, in any skin they wear.

July 2014: Exo-Archaeology! “No other ancient city on Mars had been laid out in that manner; and the strange, many-terraced buttresses of the thick walls, like the stairways of forgotten Anakim, were peculiar to the prehistoric race that had built Yoh-Vombis.” From the Face on Mars to Precursor artifacts orbiting dead quasars, the mysteries of space aren’t all astrophysical. For some answers, you have to dig. Ruins — of cities, starships, and planets — hold danger and horror, riches and knowledge. What a lost species or a cunning GM can build, bold exo-archaeologists and their players can uncover.

August 2014: Hideous Creatures: Lloigor. “You make the usual mistake — of thinking of them as being like ourselves. They weren’t.” God or monster? Species or phenomenon? Dragon or disc — or discontinuity? Invisible, invulnerable, inexplicable — the vile vortices of the lloigor encompass all and care for nought.

September 2014: The School of Night. “Black is the badge of Hell; the hue of dungeons and the School of Night.” Queen Elizabeth’s realm lies vulnerable, not just to the Spanish or the plague, but to occult forces perhaps more dangerous than either. You study those forces at the risk of torture — at the risk of your soul — but you must hold them at bay or see England destroyed. This GUMSHOE campaign frame sets the PCs on the stage with John Dee, Christopher Marlowe, and Sir Walter Raleigh … and perhaps with traitors in their ranks.

 

As always, every Ken Writes About Stuff issue will be available as a single-PDF purchase — but you save more when you subscribe for the year! Shakespeare and Shub-Niggurath, Baron Cimetière and barren planets, serpents and … er, ghosty uncaring cancerous serpents — they’re all waiting to play with you!

 

by Paul Fanning

When Paul sent us this larger-than-life character class he said, “A Fighter can accomplish many great deeds, fighting more fearsome foes and saving villages then regions then the world. But the Fighter is also essentially an action movie hero: more skilled than the average warrior or soldier, a little luckier, with grit and resolve that carry him through. He relies on himself, his sword, and his allies and wins the day. But, if the stories are to be believed, he is no Hercules, Achilles, Beowulf… or Mordred. These are characters with explicitly superhuman capabilities, often with a direct connection to the Icons of their land. 13th Age also has a spot open for a tough character with caster-like resource management. So the Stalwart was born.”

Stalwart

OVERVIEW
Stories tell of some champions who serve or oppose the Icons—not through “borrowed” spells or magic; nor through mortal grit, training, or luck; but from a seemingly inherent supernatural strength, stamina, and force of arms. These stories (the mostly true ones, anyway) are talking about the Stalwart.

A Stalwart might be the blood relative of an Icon or fearsome monsters like giants . They may have been enchanted at infancy,  blessed after a unique initiation, or returned from seeming death with renewed purpose and power. Other stalwarts are brought by the Icons seemingly from nowhere, from across the sea or beyond the wastes, to join in their conflicts. And many say that the attention of an Icon can warp reality to create a Stalwart—that the belief that there exists a person who champions or threatens that Icon can empower a being to make it so.

Play Style:
The Stalwart is a bit of a challenge to play thanks to Greatness powers that depend heavily on whether you last hit an enemy or were hit yourself, as well as the management of the many Stalwart powers that are daily or recharge resources. The class can be very engaging for the player who wants a “tough” character with a lot of choices during play.

Ability Scores: You need Strength and Constitution for the deeds of might and endurance you can perform. Some Stalwart attacks also reward high Dexterity.

The Stalwart gain a +2 class bonus to Strength or Constitution, as long as it isn’t the same ability you increase with your +2 racial bonus.

Races: Humans are the most common race for a Stalwart, which is fitting for such a seemingly mundane (to some) race that seems to have an undue(to many) influence over Icons and the world… and human adventurers seem almost likely to bear the blood or influence of something other than strictly humanoid.  Dwarves also have their share of stalwarts: some of the songs and lore telling of the absurd deeds of Dwarven warriors battling giants are actually true. Perhaps due to their unusual origins, members of the optional races have a high proportion of Stalwarts allied with or opposed to the Icons that are their alleged progenitors.

Backgrounds: Child of giants, enchanted by the Sorceress that raised you, warrior from across the sea, raised as the child of a god, commander of an imperial legion, infamous killer.

Icons: Like any adventurer, a Stalwart may feel the influence of any Icon. Traditionally, however, it is the Archmage, the Crusader, the Dwarf King, the Emperor, the Lich King, the Priestess, and the Three that empower the Stalwart. The Archmage, and those before him,  has been said to deliberately create Stalwarts he believes will do his work on the battlefield, while the Archmage toils in magic and isolation. Seeing threats everywhere, the Crusader is likely responsible for his share of Stalwarts who oppose him — though the fact that there are Stalwarts devoted to and seemingly empowered by the peaceable Priestess makes as much of a case for Icons creating Stalwarts unwillingly. The Dwarf King and the Emperor have feelings on Stalwarts similar to each other, hoping that “their” Stalwarts have no aspirations to the respective Icons crowns and are content battling their enemies. Stalwarts connected to the Lich King are said to be terrible things, bringers of death who may be unable to die.

 

Stalwart Armor and AC

Type Base AC Atk Penalty

None      11              

Light       13              –

Heavy      15           -2

Shield       +1             –

Weapons
Melee Weapons

One-Handed                                   Two-Handed

Small                     1d4 dagger                                      1d6 club

Light or Simple    1d6 hammer, shortsword             1d8 spear

Heavy or Martial 1d8 longsword, warhammer      1d10 greatsword, greataxe

Ranged Weapons

                           Thrown                 Crossbow                                      Bow

Small                  1d4 dagger           1d4 hand crossbow (-2 atk)      —

Light or Simple 1d6 javelin           1d6 light crossbow (-2 atk)        1d6 shortbow

Heavy Martial   —                          1d8 (–2 atk) heavy crossbow    1d8 longbow

STALWART LEVEL PROGRESSION

Stalwart Level Total Hit Points Total Feats Powers Known Pool Available Level Up Ability Bonuses Damage Bonus From Ability Score
Level 1 (7 + CON mod)x3 1 adventurer 4 1ST level ability modifier
Level 2 (7 + CON mod)x4 2 adventurer 5 1ST level ability modifier
Level 3 (7 + CON mod)x5 3 adventurer 5 3rd level ability modifier
Level 4 (7 + CON mod)x6 4 adventurer 6 3rd level  +1 to 3 abilities ability modifier
Level 5 (7 + CON mod)x8 4 adventurer, 1 champion 6 5TH level 2 x ability modifier
Level 6 (7 + CON mod)x10 4 adventurer, 2 champion 7 5TH level 2 x ability modifier
Level 7 (7 + CON mod)x12 4 adventurer, 3 champion 7 7TH level  +1 to 3 abilities 2 x ability modifier
Level 8 (7 + CON mod)x16 4 adventurer, 3 champion, 1 epic 8 7TH level 3 x ability modifier
Level 9 (7 + CON mod)x20 4 adventurer, 3 champion, 2 epic 8 9TH level 3 x ability modifier
Level 10 (7 + CON mod)x24 4 adventurer, 3 champion, 3 epic 9 9TH level  +1 to 3 abilities 3 x ability modifier

 

STALWART STATS

Initiative, AC, PD, MD, Hit Points, Recovery Dice, Feats, and some Talents are level dependent.

Ability Bonus +2 Strength or Constitution (different from racial bonus)
Initiative Dex mod + Level
Armor Class (light armor) 13 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level
Physical Defense 11 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex + Level
Mental Defense 10 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + Level
Hit Points (7 + Con mod) x Level modifier (see level progression chart)
Recoveries (probably) 8
Recovery Dice (1d10 x Level) + Con mod
Backgrounds 8 points, max 5 in any one background
Icon Relationships 3 points
Talents 3
Feats 1 per Level

Gear

At 1st level, stalwarts start with a melee weapon or three, a ranged weapon or two if they want them, possibly some armor, and standard nonmagical gear that is suggested by the character’s backgrounds.

Stalwarts in direct service or opposition to an icon start with 25 gp in savings. Those trying to make their own way start with 1d6 x 10 gp.

Melee attack

At-Will

Target: One enemy

Attack: Strength + Level vs. AC

Hit: WEAPON + Strength damage

Miss: Damage equal to your level

Ranged attack

At-Will

Target: One enemy

Attack: Dexterity + Level vs. AC

Hit: WEAPON + Dexterity damage

Miss: Damage equal to your level

CLASS FEATURES

Greatness
Greatness represents the belief in your power during the ups and downs of battle. Many of the stalwart’s powers function only when the stalwart has greatness. Greatness is either on or off: you either have greatness, or you don’t. The default is that you do not start a battle with greatness.

You gain greatness when you are hit by an enemy attack.

You lose greatness when you miss all enemies with an attack. You also lose greatness when you become unconscious, and when a battle ends.

The default is that you can use greatness powers without losing greatness, but a few powers specify that you must spend your greatness to use them. You don’t have to use attacks that require greatness against the foe you hit to gain that greatness.

Greatness powers that do not require you to spend your greatness are generally classified as interrupt actions. You can only use one interrupt action a round, which keeps your greatness powers from dominating the battle.

Empowered by Fate
You gain 1 relationship point with the Archmage, the Crusader, the Dwarf King, the Emperor, the Lich King, the Priestess, or the Three; you choose whether the point is positive, conflicted, or negative. This point can add to your normal relationship points but you can’t exceed the normal relationship maximums with it. (Remember that positive relationships with villainous icons like the Lich King or the Three are limited to 1 point).

When an ally rolls a 5 or a 6 on an icon relationship roll with the Icon(s) this feature gave you a relationship point with, start the next turn in battle with greatness.

Adventurer Feat: When you roll a 5 or a 6 on a relationship roll with the icon from this feature, start the next round in battle with greatness.
Champion Feat:
Gain another relationship point with one of the above icons. As above, you must follow the relationship maximums.
Epic Feat: Gain another relationship point with one of the above icons. This point can exceed the relationship maximums.

Strength of Many
You can lift twice and support about as much weight as two otherwise identical creatures normally can, and can move normally while carrying about your own weight (or twice your weight total). You also gain the use of power stunt.

Power stunt: At the start of each battle, roll a d6. Any time after the escalation die reaches that number, you’ll be able to use a quick action to spend your greatness and execute a power stunt. Normally you can only use power stunt once per battle, but circumstances, geography, or excellent planning may suggest that you can pull it off more than once.

Power stunts are improvisational effects that play off your preternatural strength. Things like muscling an enemy out of your may or leaping over the head of that enemy, knocking a stalactite onto your opponent, forcing a foe onto a soggy patch of ground that slows them down, wedging your enemy’s sword into a stone floor, busting open a barrel of lamp oil into the eyes or under the feet of incoming foes, shaking the tree that brings the sniper that thought he was out of reach crashing down to earth, etc. Power stunt effects are something any strong character might be able to accomplish, except you do not to make a check while using power stunt. Gaining increased strength by spending feats on this feature may allow you to describe more incredible effects for power stunt, affecting more or larger foes.

Adventurer Feat: You instead lift, support, and move normally with a total of about five times the normal amount. Also, roll an additional d20 for power stunt (any time after the escalation die reaches that number, gain an additional use of power stunt this battle).
Champion Feat:
You instead lift, support, and move normally with a total of about ten times the normal amount. Roll an additional d12 for power stunt instead of a d20.
Epic Feat:
You instead lift, support, and move normally with a total of thirty or more times the normal amount.  Roll an additional d6 for power stunt instead of a d12.

Unarmed Attacks
Stalwart unarmed attacks are light/simple weapons that do 1d6 plus any applicable modifiers.

Champion Feat: When your natural melee attack roll equals the number currently showing on the escalation die, you can make an immediate basic unarmed melee attack against the same enemy as a free action.

CLASS TALENTS

COLOSSAL STAMINA
Your base hit points are now 8.
Adventurer Feat: Your recovery dice are d12s while you have greatness.
Champion Feat: Your recovery dice are always d12s.

CONFIDENCE
You are always affected by fear effects as if you were at full HP, and gain greatness when you successfully resist a fear effect.
Adventurer Feat: Gain a +2 to MD.

EMPOWERED BY THE EARTH
The relationship granted by Empowered by Fate may now be with the High Druid. You gain the Elementalist feature Elemental Bond and may improve it with feats up to your tier. In addition, you may select one Elementalist power of your level or lower instead of a Stalwart power. You may improve this power with feats normally.

Adventurer Feat: You may change any elements from the Elementalist class that you possess to use Constitution instead of Wisdom.
Champion Feat: You gain the Elemental Manipulation class feature, and may improve it with feats up to your tier.
Epic Feat: You gain an additional Elementalist power of your level or lower and may improve it.

GODSLAYER
When you hit an enemy that has more hit points than you with an attack, increase the damage of that attack by their level.

Champion Feat: Once per battle, instead increase the damage by twice their level.
Epic Feat:
Once per day, instead increase the damage by five times their level.

LEGION OF ONE
When you are hit by an attack from an enemy with fewer hit points than you, reduce that attacks damage by your level.

Champion Feat: Once per battle, instead reduce the damage by twice your level.
Epic Feat: Once per day, instead reduce the damage by five times your level.

LIMBS OF IRON
You use strength rather than dexterity when determining AC in no armor, when making ranged weapon attacks and when using stalwart powers.

STRIDE THE WORLD
You gain resistance 16+ to two of Cold, Fire, or Poison. You are vulnerable to the other type.

Adventurer Feat: You lose the vulnerability.

TITAN GRAPPLE
You can grab a creature using the normal grab rules, with a successful strength+level vs. PD attack as a standard action.

Adventurer Feat: If you wish, you move and are moved when grabbed or grabbing as if you were one size larger.
Champion Feat:  If you wish, instead you move and are moved when grabbed or grabbing as if you were two sizes larger.
Epic Feat: If you wish, you can move any creature when grabbing it, and cannot be moved by any creature grabbing you.

WEAPONS OF GIANTS
You wield, forge, or improvise oversized weapons. While you have greatness, increase your weapon and unarmed damage dice by one step.

Champion Feat: Instead, increase your weapon and unarmed damage dice by one step whether or not you have greatness.

POWERS

1ST LEVEL POWERS

HORIZON THROW
Ranged attack
At-will
Special: When the escalation die is even, you may use this power while unarmed (having picked up an appropriate rock etc.) using your unarmed damage. You may also use this attack at any time with a melee weapon you are holding… but it doesn’t return to you unless it would normally do so.
Target: One far away enemy
Attack:
Dexterity + level vs.  AC.
Hit:
Weapon + dexterity + constitution damage.
Miss: 
Damage equal to your level.

UNSTOPPABLE BOLT
Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after the battle
Free action, requires greatness
Trigger:
You reduce an enemy to zero hit points with a ranged weapon attack
Target:
One enemy that was in a group with, or farther away than, the triggering enemy
Attack:
Dexterity + Level vs. AC
Hit: Weapon + Dexterity damage
Miss:
Damage equal to your level
Adventurer Feat: You may also use this power if the triggering attack staggers an enemy.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+
Epic Feat: As long as your attack staggers an enemy or reduces them to zero hit points, you may keep making this powers attack against enemies in the same group, or who are farther away from you.

CATCHING MICE
Melee attack
At-will
Quick action, requires greatness
Target:
One creature
Attack:
Strength + Level vs. PD.
Hit:
You grab the target.
Special:
You may use this power as a free action when an enemy attempts to disengage from you, by spending your greatness.
Adventurer Feat:
You may use a standard action on your turn to deal one-half of unarmed + constitution damage to a target you have grabbed.

INDOMITABLE
Greatness power
At-will (once per round)
Interrupt action; requires greatness
Trigger: You are subjected to a condition, or an effect a save can end.
Effect:
Roll a saving throw. On a success, you are not subjected to the condition, or you save against the effect.
Special: You may use this power when first subjected to a last-gasp effect, to make a free saving throw against it.
Champion Feat: You may use this power to save against an effect that lasts until the end of your or the triggering attacker’s next turn

TITAN SWING
Melee attack
At-will
Target:
Each enemy engaged with you
Attack:
Strength + Level – the number of targets vs. AC
Damage: WEAPON damage
Miss: –
Adventurer Feat:
Do damage equal to your level on a miss.
Champion Feat: Add your strength modifier to the damage on a hit.

GIANT STRIKE
Melee attack
At-will
Target:
One non-staggered non-mook enemy
Attack:
Strength +  targets Level vs. AC
Damage: WEAPON + Strength + Constitution Damage.
Miss
: Damage equal to your level.
Champion Feat: Instead of the targets level, you may add your level to the attack roll.

DIVINE STAMINA
Greatness power
Daily
Recharge:
11+ after the battle
Interrupt action; requires greatness
Trigger: You are damaged by an attack
Effect:
You heal using a recovery.
Adventurer Feat: You may use this power when you hit an enemy with an attack.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 6+

3RD LEVEL POWERS

ECLIPSE SHOT
Greatness power
At-will (once per round)
Interrupt action, requires greatness
Special: You ordinarily use this power while holding a ranged weapon. When the escalation die is even, you may use this power while unarmed (having picked up an appropriate rock etc.) by spending  your  greatness. You may also use this attack at any time with a melee weapon you are holding… but it doesn’t return to you unless it would normally do so.
Trigger:
One nearby or far away enemy rolls for a ranged attack vs. ac that targets one creature.
Effect: Roll dexterity + level -2. If your roll equals or exceeds the triggering roll, the triggering attack has no effect. Otherwise, this power has no effect.
Champion Feat:
This power works against attacks that target PD.
Epic Feat:
This power works against attacks that can target one group of far away creatures, but you must equal or exceed the highest attack roll for this power to have any effect. If successful, this power complete negates the triggering attack.

INESCAPABLE DOOM
Daily
Recharge 11+ after the battle
Move Action
Special: You must not be engaged with any enemy
Effect: Place yourself next to one nearby enemy you can see, that you could have (eventually) reached normally—you move right where fate needs you to be, or you were there all along.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 6+
Epic Feat: You may place yourself next to any enemy you can see.

JUDGEMENT
Melee or ranged attack
Daily
Special:
This must be your first attack this battle
Target:
One enemy you are engaged with (melee) or one far away enemy (ranged)
Attack:
Strength (melee) or dexterity (ranged) + level vs. PD
Hit: 
Weapon + Weapon + constitution + strength (melee) or  dexterity (ranged) damage, and half as much ongoing damage. You gain greatness.
Miss:
Half damage, and you regain the power during your next quick rest. You lose greatness and cannot regain it until after your next turn.

UNFINISHED STORY
Greatness power
Daily
Recharge:
11+ after the battle
Interrupt action, requires greatness
Trigger: Your hit points are reduced below 1.
Effect:
You do not fall unconscious, but continue to track your hit points, and make death saving throws at the end of each turn. You die when you reach negative half your hit points, or when you fail your fourth death saving throw this battle. You do fall unconscious if you lose greatness, or at the end of the battle if you are still below one hit point.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 6+

BAT ASIDE
Greatness power
At-Will (once per round)
Interrupt action; requires greatness
Trigger: A melee attack that targets AC hits you.
Effect:
You take half damage from that attack.
Adventurer Feat: The power also triggers on an attack against PD.
Champion Feat:
The power also triggers on a ranged attack.
Epic Feat:
Once per day, you can use bat aside to take damage equal to the attacker’s level instead of half damage.

REND
Melee attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after the battle
Special:
You must spend your greatness.
Target: One enemy you have grabbed.
Attack:
Strength + Level vs. PD
Hit: Weapon + strength + constitution damage. On a natural even attack roll, the target takes ongoing damage equal to 1d3 times your level. On a natural roll of 16+, the target is weakened.
Miss: Damage equal to your level
Effect: The target is no longer grabbed by you, and gets a free disengage check.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+
Epic Feat:
Once per day, you may reroll the attack roll for this power and choose either result.

5TH LEVEL POWERS

SUNDER
Melee or Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge: 16+ after the battle
Special:
You must spend your greatness
Attack:
Strength (melee) or dexterity(ranged) + level vs. PD
Hit:
Weapon + constitution +strength(melee) or dexterity(ranged). The target is also stuck (on an odd attack roll), dazed (on an even attack roll), or vulnerable (on a roll of 16+). One hard save ends all.
Miss:
 Half damage.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+.
Epic Feat: You may add or subtract 3 from the result of this powers attack roll.

BATTER
Melee attack
At-will
Special: You must have a creature grabbed, that you can move while grabbing; requires greatness
Target: 1d2+1 enemies engaged with you except for the creature you have grabbed.
Attack:
Strength + level  –number of targets vs. PD.
Hit:
Half of Unarmed + Constitution damage. The creature you have grabbed also takes this damage on each hit.
Miss:-
Champion Feat:
This power now targets 1d4+2 enemies engaged with you.
Epic Feat: Add your constitution modifier to the miss damage.

HEAVENS LEAP
Greatness power
At-will (once per round)
Interrupt action, or a quick action on your turn; requires greatness
Effect:
If used as an interrupt, you fall safely to the ground. If used on your turn, you gain flight until the end of your turn.

SKY BLADE
Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after the battle
Target:
1d4+1 enemies
Special:
You must make this attack with a melee weapon you are holding. It returns to your hand after the attack is resolved.
Attack: Dexterity + level vs. AC
Hit:
Weapon + dexterity damage
Miss: Damage equal to your level.
Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+.

7TH LEVEL POWERS

CATAPULT THOW
Ranged attack
Daily
Recharge: 16+ after the battle
Special:
You must have both hands free. Or if you have greatness, you must have a creature grabbed, that you can move while grabbing.
Target:
1d4+1 nearby enemies in a group.
Effect: If you made this attack with a grabbed, it is no longer grabbed by you and becomes an additional target in the targeted group.
Hit: Unarmed + strength damage, and the target loses its next move action. Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.
Miss:
Half damage. Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.

Champion Feat: Recharge is now 11+
Epic Feat:
This power can instead target 1d4+2 far away enemies in a group.

DEIFIC CHEAT
Close quarters power
Special: You may use this power only once per level.
Trigger: You die.
Effect: You return to life the morning after you died. You start the new day with one quarter of your hit points and recoveries, and all of your daily abilities expended. You cannot gain greatness until the turn after a non-mook enemy of your level or greater hits you with an attack.

Epic Feat: You may use this power to instead revive a dead ally.

9TH LEVEL POWERS

MOUNTAIN SPLITTER
Close quarters attack
Daily
Recharge:
16+ after battle
Special:
You must spend your greatness
Target: 1d3 groups of 1d3+1 nearby enemies.
Attack: Strength + level vs. PD.
Hit:
Weapon + strength damage. The target also takes weapon + constitution ongoing damage and is stuck (save ends both). Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.
Miss:
Half damage, and the target loses its next move action. Allies engaged with the target take one quarter damage.
Epic Feat: Recharge is now 11+

COMET SPLITTER
Greatness power
Daily
Recharge
:  11+ after battle
Interrupt action, you must spend your greatness
Trigger:
A creature attacks you or a nearby ally with an attack vs. PD or AC that can target more than one creature.
Target: The triggering creature.
Effect
: You move nearer to the triggering creature or targeted ally without provoking opportunity attacks. Roll constitution + level + the number of targets in the triggering attack. If your roll equals or beats the attacker’s highest roll, the  triggering attack misses you, misses the triggering enemy, and no longer targets any allies. If your roll is less than the highest attack roll, the triggering attack hits you and is a critical hit, and no longer targets any allies.
Epic Feat:
On a successful roll, the triggering enemy is instead hit by the triggering attack. On a failure, they are missed instead.

TALENTS FOR OTHER CLASSES

ELEMENTALIST
CHAMPION OF THE LAND
You gain the use of one stalwart power of your level or lower, and may improve it with feats up to your tier. Once per day when you end a battle with greatness, you may reroll the recharge roll for an Elementalist power.

Adventurer Feat: You may substitute wisdom for constitution when using stalwart powers.
Champion Feat: Gain greatness at the start of the next turn in battle when an ally rolls a 5 or 6 on an icon relationship roll with the High Druid.
Epic Feat:
Gain a second stalwart power.

FIGHTER
MAKE YOUR OWN FATE
You gain the use of one Stalwart power of your level or lower, and may improve it with feats up to your tier. You do not use the normal method of gaining or losing greatness.  Instead, you gain greatness when you hit with an even roll of 12+ on an attack and lose it when you miss with an odd roll of 11 or less on an attack. You may lose one fighter maneuver to gain one more stalwart power.

Adventurer Feat: Once per battle, you may spend greatness to reroll a flexible attack that hit.
Champion Feat:
 You gain the use of power stunt once per day.
Epic Feat: Gain another stalwart power.

PALADIN
HAND OF THE DIVINE
You gain the use of two stalwart powers of your level or lower, and may improve them with feats up to your tier.

Adventurer Feat: You may substitute Charisma for Constitution for any Stalwart power you possess.
Champion Feat: Gain an Icon Relationship point with the Crusader or the Priestess. You must stay within normal relationship maximums.
Epic Feat:
Gain another stalwart power.

SORCERER
ICONIC FIST
You gain the Stalwart’s unarmed attacks feature and may permanently gain one stalwart power slot of your level or lower in exchange for a sorcerer spell slot. You may improve stalwart powers with feats up to your tier. Once per day, you may spend greatness to instantly empower a sorcerer spell.

Adventurer Feat: Substitute Charisma for Strength while making unarmed attacks or using stalwart powers.
Champion Feat:  You may empower stalwart powers.
Epic Feat: You may permanently lose a second sorcerer spell slot to gain a stalwart power slot.

by Christopher Allen

Christopher describes his vanguard character class as “a warrior-type designed to have more active in-combat choices and resource management than the Fighter — a complex Fighter, if you will — with a dash of healing capability.”

What do you think of the vanguard? Join the discussion on the Pelgrane Forums.

Vanguard

To be a vanguard is to live and breathe battle, to be a master of the art of war. Vanguards stand above other warriors and fighters through their skill at arms and their iron resolve. They are first to enter the fray and the last to leave. They are war-masters, commanders, inspirational heroes or terrifying foes.

Overview:
Playstyle: Unlike the fighter, the vanguard isn’t reliant on the dice roll result to trigger powers. Instead you choose which of your techniques you wish to use and expend your Resolve to fuel them. Knowing when to spend Resolve, and how much, is key to managing the class. The Vanguard is both a heavy melee combatant and a leader of warriors: you can aid your allies and pitch in where the fighting is at its thickest.

Ability Scores: Strength and Constitution are the most important abilities for the vanguard as the former lets you hit harder and the latter keeps you alive. Charisma is also significant for some of the techniques available.

Vanguards gain a +2 class bonus to Strength, Constitution or Charisma, as long as it isn’t the same ability you increased with your +2 racial bonus.

Races: Any species can produce the mixture of fighting prowess and authority that makes a great vanguard, but half-orcs, humans and dwarves are most suited to the role. Half-elves also make fine vanguards when they focus on commanding and aiding others.

Backgrounds:
Battle captain, assault trooper, first-into-the-breach, rebel leader, bodyguard, standard bearer, monster-hunter, noble warrior, battle chieftain, veteran soldier, merciless reaver, weapons-master.

Icons: Vanguards are most commonly associated with the Emperor, Crusader and Dwarf King; those of a particularly dark bent serve the Orc Lord or the Lich.

Vanguard Level Progression

Level

Total Hit Points

Total Feats

Techniques

Resolve

Max Resolve per turn

Level-up Ability Bonuses

Damage Bonus From Ability Score

1

(8 + Con Mod) x3

1 adventurer

3

4

2

Ability modifier

2

(8 + Con Mod) x4

2 adventurer

4

5

2

Ability modifier

3

(8 + Con Mod) x5

3 adventurer

5

5

3

Ability modifier

4

(8 + Con Mod) x6

4 adventurer

5

6

3

+1 to 3 abilities

Ability modifier

5

(8 + Con Mod) x8

4 adventurer

1 champion

6

6

4

2 x ability modifier

6

(8 + Con Mod) x10

4 adventurer

2 champion

7

7

4

2 x ability modifier

7

(8 + Con Mod) x12

4 adventurer

3 champion

8

7

5

+1 to 3 abilities

2 x ability modifier

8

(8 + Con Mod) x16

4 adventurer

3 champion

1 epic

8

8

5

3 x ability modifier

9

(8 + Con Mod) x20

4 adventurer

3 champion

2 epic

9

8

6

3 x ability modifier

10

(8 + Con Mod) x24

4 adventurer

3 champion

3 epic

10

9

6

+1 to 3 abilities

3 x ability modifier

Vanguard Stats

Ability Bonus                            +2 Strength, Constitution or Charisma
Initiative                                               Dex mod + Level
Armour Class (Heavy)                15 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level
Armour Class (Heavy + Shield)   16 + middle mod of Con/Dex/Wis + Level
Base PD                                                10 + middle mod of Str/Con/Dex + Level
Base MD                                               10 + middle mod of Int/Wis/Cha + Level
Hit Points                                             (8 + Con Mod) x level modifier (see chart)
Recoveries                                             (probably) 8
Recovery Dice
                           (1d10 x level) + Con Mod
Backgrounds                                         8 points, max 5 in any one background
Icon Relationships                                 3
Talents                                     3
Feats                                                     1 per Level

Gear
At 1st level, vanguards start with one or two melee weapons of their choice, armour that’s either shining and clean or battered and well-worn, and any standard non-magical gear suggested by their backgrounds. A vanguard may, if they desire, also start with a ranged weapon of some sort.

A vanguard who has carefully prepared for war starts with 25gp; those who have recently seen victory or defeat can begin with 1d6 x 10gp instead.

Armour
Vanguards usually rely on heavy armour of some kind to see them through the rigours of battle. Steel scale or plate is most common, but some cultures produce vanguards with stranger protection – carefully treated carapace or colourful lacquered armour, for example.

Vanguard Armour and AC

Armour Type Base AC Attack Penalty
None 10
Light 13
Heavy 15
Shield +1

Melee Weapons
Pretty much anything is lethal in the hands of a vanguard, but their chosen weapons are commonly possessed of particular significance or excellent craftsmanship. Most vanguards choose either the raw power of a hefty two-handed weapon such as a polearm or greatsword, or the defensive capacity of a single-hander and a shield; fighting with a weapon in each hand is generally eschewed for more practical options. Vanguards fight aggressively but with lethal efficiency.

Ranged Weapons
A vanguard is capable of using a myriad of ranged weapons to devastating effect, but they rarely focus on such armaments; only a few become master archers. A crossbow or bow is common enough for those situations that demand it, but plenty of vanguards prefer a heavy throwing axe or javelin that they can loose as they close on the foe.

Vanguard Melee Weapons

One-handed Two-Handed
Small
1d4 dagger 1d6 club
Light or Simple
1d6 hand-axe or short sword 1d8 spear
Heavy or Martial
1d8 broadsword or one-handed warspear 1d10 greatsword or greathammer

Vanguard Ranged Weapons

Thrown Crossbow Bow
Small
1d4 dagger 1d4 hand crossbow
Light or Simple
1d6 throwing axe, javelin 1d6 crossbow 1d6 shortbow
Heavy or Martial
1d8 heavy crossbow 1d8 longbow

Basic Attacks
Vanguards use basic attacks in battle, augmented with powerful Techniques that are fueled by their Resolve.

Melee Attack
At Will
Target: One Enemy
Attack: Strength + Level vs. AC
Hit: WEAPON + Strength damage
Miss: Damage equal to your level

Ranged Attack
At Will
Target: One Enemy
Attack: Dexterity + Level vs. AC
Hit: WEAPON + Dexterity damage
Miss:

Vanguard Class Features:
All vanguards have the Resolve, Technique and War-Tempered class features.

Resolve

Vanguards use Resolve to fuel their powerful combat techniques, representing the character’s determination, ability to resist fatigue and general will to fight. Through their iron willpower and inspiring presence, vanguards can shape the flow of battle.

Your Resolve is determined by your level, as is the amount of Resolve that you can spend each turn. Every time you use a technique, you expend a certain amount of Resolve. All expended Resolve is regained with a quick rest; you can also regain 1 Resolve through the following means:

  • By spending a standard action to regain your breath or assess the tide of battle
  • By rolling a natural 20 on an attack roll
  • The first time each battle that you become staggered

Additionally, whenever you expend Resolve on using one or more Techniques to augment an attack, 1 point of the expended Resolve is restored if the attack misses.

Adventurer Feat: You also regain 1 point of Resolve the first time you are reduced to 0 hit points or below in a battle.
Champion Feat: You may spend 1 point of Resolve as a Quick action to immediately end a Fear effect.
Epic Feat: Once per day as a Quick action, you may spend 1 Resolve point to immediately end any (save ends) Condition or ongoing damage that you are suffering.

Technique

You know a number of Techniques as defined by your level. Each Technique can be used in a specific way, usually a triggered counter-attack, quick action or attack augment. Techniques also cost Resolve to use.

Attack augments have to be declared and paid for with Resolve before you roll the dice for an attack. More than one attack augment can be applied to a single basic melee attack, and all the augments’ effects are applied on a hit.

Melee basic attacks generated by counter-attacks cannot have other attack augment Techniques used on them.

Adventurer Feat: You may now use attack augment Techniques on melee basic attacks generated by counter-attacks.
Champion Feat: Once per day, you may apply all of the non-damage effects of a Technique-augmented attack to a target even though you have missed.
Epic Feat: Once per day, when you make a melee basic attack in the same turn you’ve moved into engagement with an enemy, the entire Resolve cost for Techniques used on that attack is regained on a successful hit.

War-Tempered

Vanguards gain 2 bonus Background points, which must be spent on Backgrounds relating to war, battle, the military or combat training.

Adventurer Feat: Gain an additional 2 bonus Background points, which must be spent on Backgrounds relating to war, battle, the military or combat training.
Champion Feat: When attempting to draw on a relationship with an Icon in the context of military command, warfare or battle, you may roll 1 additional die.
Epic Feat: You are considered a master of warfare and battle; military followers flock to your side to form a warband. If you already have a warband, you gain an elite and loyal personal guard. Exactly how this works out is up to GM and player.

Talents

Choose three of the following class talents.

Break the Line
Once per turn, you may make a normal save to ignore an enemy who has intercepted you and continue on to your original target.
Adventurer Feat: Regardless of whether you make the save or not, you may make a basic melee attack as a free action against the enemy intercepting you.
Champion Feat: Break the Line can now be used any number of times per turn.
Epic Feat: Once per day, every enemy who you successfully Break the Line against in this turn suffers the Fear condition for 1 round.

Canny Fighter
Once per battle, when you miss with an augmented attack, you regain all Resolve expended on the attack rather than just one.

Ebb and Flow of Battle
Once per day, you can pop free from one engaged enemy as a quick action.
Adventurer Feat: You may pop free from up to two engaged enemies with Ebb and Flow of Battle.
Champion Feat: You may use Ebb and Flow on a Nearby ally instead of yourself as a standard action.

Shielded Vanguard
As long as you are carrying a shield, you gain +1AC against ranged attacks.
Adventurer Feat: As long as you are carrying a shield, you also gain +1PD against ranged attacks.

Steelclad Vanguard
As long as you are wearing heavy armour, you gain +1AC against melee attacks.
Adventurer Feat: As long as you are wearing heavy armour, you also gain +1PD against melee attacks.

Stem the Tide
Enemies attempting to Disengage from you suffer a -5 penalty to the Disengage check.

Unshakeable Resolve
Whenever you are affected by the Weakness or Fear conditions, regain 1 expended Resolve.
Adventurer Feat: You also regain 1 expended Resolve when affected by the Hampered and Vulnerable conditions.

Voice of Authority
Choose a single Bardic Battle Cry as if you were a bard of equal level. You may now use this Battle Cry; remember that it is a flexible melee attack. Additionally, when you fail a Background roll relating to intimidating, giving orders or inspiring, and you roll an even number on the die, you may reroll it once.

Warmaster
Whenever you use the Stand Firm or Fight On Techniques, you may target two allies rather than one.
Adventurer Feat: Whenever you use Inspire, you also benefit from the attack bonus.
Champion Feat: Once per day, when you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points with a basic attack, one Nearby ally can spend a Recovery immediately.
Epic Feat: Once per day, one of your Techniques that targets allies also removes any Afraid and Weakened conditions from them.

Techniques
You may freely pick the Techniques that you know from the following list; they are not restricted by level. You can change the Techniques that you know every time you level up, or whenever you have an appropriate period of time for retraining or a chance for a montage.

Bash
1 Resolve
Counter-attack (you may use this when an enemy misses you with a melee attack)
You may make an immediate melee basic attack in retaliation; it deals no damage, but on a success the enemy is shoved back and forced to pop free, no longer engaging you. If you are wielding a shield, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: When you use Bash, you do not need to target the enemy who triggered the counter-attack.
Champion Feat: You deal half-damage on a hit, rather than no damage.
Epic Feat: Once per day, your Bash also stuns the enemy for 1 round on a hit.

Battle Order
1 Resolve
Standard Action
A single ally who can hear your command may immediately make a basic melee or ranged attack against a single enemy, gaining a bonus to the damage roll equal to your Charisma bonus.

Challenging Shout
1 Resolve
Quick Action
Choose one engaged enemy; if they attack one of your allies in the next round, you may make a basic melee attack as a free action against them. If you are no longer engaged with them when they do so, you may make a move first to try to reach them, requiring disengagement or suffering opportunity attacks as normal.
Adventurer Feat: You may add your Charisma to the attack roll on the basic melee attack.
Champion Feat: You may target nearby enemies with Challenging Shout.

Cleaving Blow
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If you hit with your attack, deal half the damage inflicted to the target to another enemy who is engaged with you. The effects of additional Techniques applied to the attack are not carried over to the second enemy.
Adventurer Feat: If your attack reduces the first target to 0 hit points or below, you deal full rather than half damage to the additional target.
Champion Feat: You may deal half the damage inflicted to the target on two other engaged enemies rather than one.

Crippling Strike
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If you hit with your attack, the enemy suffers weakness for one round.

Crushing Blow
2 Resolve
Attack Augment
You may only use Crushing Blow when the Escalation Die is an even number.  If you hit with your attack, you deal only half damage but the enemy is stunned for one round. If you are wielding a mace or hammer, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: You deal full damage with Crushing Blow.
Champion Feat: On an even attack roll that hits, the enemy is also vulnerable for one round.
Epic Feat: Any Resistance (Physical) the enemy may possess is reduced by 4 against Crushing Blow.

Defiance
1 Resolve
Move Action
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Constitution bonus (minimum 1).
You may immediately spend a Recovery.
Adventurer Feat: Gain +1 MD for a turn after using Defiance.

Defensive Stance
1 Resolve
Quick Action
You gain a +1 bonus to AC and PD for one round.
Adventurer Feat: While benefiting from Defensive Stance, any counter-attacks you make gain a +1 bonus to their attack roll.
Champion Feat: While benefiting from Defensive Stance, you may make a single counter-attack each turn for no cost in Resolve.

Drive Back
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If your attack hits, the targeted enemy is forced to pop free and is no longer engaging you or any other ally that they were engaging. If you are wielding a reach weapon, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: If the enemy does not then move away from you in their following turn, you may make a basic melee attack as a free action against them at the end of their turn.

Fight On
2 Resolve
Standard Action
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1)
With inspiring words, commanding authority or scolding anger, you target one nearby ally who is on 0 hit points or below. They may immediately spend a Recovery and regain consciousness.
Adventurer Feat: The targeted ally also gains a bonus to their AC equal to your Charisma modifier for one round.
Champion Feat: The targeted ally may make an immediate saving throw against a single ongoing condition still affecting them.

Heroic Effort
2 Resolve
Special
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Constitution bonus (minimum 1)
You can only use Heroic Effort when you are on 0 hit points or below at the beginning of your turn. You may immediately spend a Recovery and regain consciousness.

Heroic Strike
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
Against a foe that is Large or Huge, your critical range is extended by 2.

Inspire
1 Resolve
Quick Action
A number of nearby allies equal to your Charisma bonus gain a +1 to attack rolls for one round.

Parry
1 Resolve
Counter-attack (you may use this when an enemy misses you with a melee attack)
Your parry throws the enemy off-balance; the next attack against them within 1 round benefits from a +2 bonus. You also gain a +5 bonus to Disengage that enemy during your next turn.
Adventurer Feat: When you use Parry, you do not need to target the enemy who triggered the counter-attack.
Champion Feat: Once per round, if neither you nor the enemy are Engaged with any other characters, then when you Parry you may also make yourself and your enemy to make a single move in the direction of your choice.
Epic Feat: Once per round, an enemy who you Parry also gains the Vulnerable Condition until the end of their next turn.

Pierce
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
Your attack targets PD rather than AC. If you are wielding a single-handed axe or sword, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: If you critically hit while using Pierce, the enemy is also hampered for one round.

Pin the Foe
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
If your attack hits, the target becomes stuck for 1 round. If you are wielding a reach weapon, gain +1 on the attack roll.

Riposte
1 Resolve
Counter-attack (you may use this when an enemy misses you with a melee attack)
You counter with a riposte; you may make a basic melee attack against your attacker, dealing half damage on a hit.
Adventurer Feat: Your riposte deals full damage on a hit and half damage on a miss.
Champion Feat: On an even attack roll that hits, your riposte also weakens the enemy for one round.
Epic Feat: You may use Riposte even if the enemy hits you with a melee attack.

Stand Firm
1 Resolve
Move Action
This Technique may only be used a number of times per battle equal to your Charisma bonus (minimum 1).
Your commanding shout inspires a single nearby ally on 1 or more hit points to stand firm against the foe. They may immediately spend a Recovery.

Sundering Blow
2 Resolve
Attack Augment
You may only use Sundering Blow when the Escalation Die is an even number. Choose a weapon or shield that the enemy is currently wielding. If your attack successfully hits, it deals only half damage but shatters or sunders the weapon or shield, rendering it useless. Magic weapons and shields can make a normal save to avoid being sundered, and are easily repaired with a quick rest; mundane armaments that are sundered require an appropriate background check or the use of a minor mending incantation to fix. If you are wielding a great-weapon, gain +1 on the attack roll.
Adventurer Feat: Instead of sundering a weapon or shield, you may choose to disarm your foe by knocking the item out of their grasp. This does not damage the item, but also places it at most a move away from the enemy, where it can be retrieved and picked up again (magic items still get a normal save). Disarming offers a +1 to hit with any single-handed weapon rather than a great-weapon.
Champion Feat: Sundering Strike deals full damage on a hit.
Epic Feat: The save for magic items to resist being sundered becomes hard.

Toppling Strike
1 Resolve
Attack Augment
Whether with a hooking swing or a strike of overwhelming force, if you hit your target they are knocked down. A knocked down enemy must spend a move action standing up before they can undertake any other kind of movement. Being knocked down may cause other difficulties as well. If you are wielding a polearm, gain +1 on the attack roll.

Vanguard Assault
1 Resolve
Special
This Technique can only be used at the very beginning of a battle. The Vanguard is moved to the top of the Initiative chain, reaching an Initiative score equal to the highest rolled +1.

 

 

DD image 2As I once more turn my hopeful eye upon The Dracula Dossier, digging back into things vampiric and espionagical, it occurs to me that it might be fun to wonder just who we talk about when we talk about Dracula. In The Dracula Dossier, every player knows going in that the Big Bad up on Level 6 of the Conspyramid is Dracula – making him a lowly puppet might have the advantage of novelty, but vitiates the whole point of using Dracula in the first place. But who, in the first place, Dracula is – that, we can leave mysterious.

These seven possible candidates might show up as just such Director’s options in The Dracula Dossier, most likely built out a bit from these skeletal outlines. Which one shows up in your game – well, that’s why they call it a mystery, isn’t it?

Vlad III Tepes

Vlad the Impaler, the historical voivode (closer to prince than count) of Wallachia, is the most usual of suspects. Even Bram Stoker’s great-grandson Dacre pins the Impaler and the Count together, following in the footsteps of Francis Ford Coppola and the historians Raymond McNally and Radu Florescu, among others. In Vlad’s favor: his name actually was “Dracula,” and he signed it that way. He did like death and bloodshed, whether in battle or on a field of impaled boyars. He had an “unworthy brother,” like the Count. He also fits Van Helsing’s description of the Count: “He must, indeed, have been that Voivode Dracula who won his name against the Turk, over the great river on the very frontier of Turkey-land.” As against the identification: Not only is it too obvious, but too many details of Dracula’s life (his Szekely blood, for instance) don’t match Vlad’s – while the most, er, pointed detail of Vlad’s life (the hundreds of thousands of impalements) don’t show up in Dracula’s reminiscences or Van Helsing’s research.

Janos Hunyadi

One thing Dracula is sure of: he is Hungarian, a descendant of Attila, not Romanian. He is also voivode of Transylvania, not of Wallachia. And who was the greatest of the Hungarian voivodes of Transylvania? Janos Hunyadi (1385-1456), that’s who. Like Dracula (and Vlad) he “crossed the Danube and beat the Turk on his own ground,” at Belgrade in 1456. In the fairly confused reminiscence of his lineage (which might, of course, reflect either Harker’s distracted note-taking or deliberate disinformation by Stoker), Dracula’s career fits that of Hunyadi at least as well as it does that of Vlad. Fun fact: Hunyadi’s son Matthias Corvinus became King of Hungary, and later betrayed and imprisoned Vlad in Visegrad.

John Dracula

By Chapter 25, Van Helsing has given up on Vlad’s era and decided that the Count must be: “that other of his race … in a later age.” In their biography of Vlad, McNally and Florescu run down the descendants of the Draculesti line, about fourteen in all. While Mircea II had exceptional physical prowess, Alexandru II enjoyed a good impalement, and Radu Mihnea was rich and extravagant, in the Night’s Black Agents “Linea Dracula” campaign frame I went with John Dracula, who received a patent of nobility from Emperor Ferdinand I in 1535. Intriguingly, the coat of arms he (and his brother Ladislas, another possible candidate) received was that of the Bathory family: a wolf’s jaw with three teeth. Stephen Bathory commanded Vlad in the 1476 war against the Turks that briefly restored his throne; a connection between the Balkans’ two great vampire lineages was too good to pass up. Also, John and Ladislas (like the Count) were Hungarians, descended from Janos Hunyadi through their mother. I picked John over the elder Ladislas mostly because of John’s near-complete obscurity: he had a son (Georg) but no recorded date of death.

Nicolaus Olahus

Finally we have Nicolaus Olahus, who served (from 1553 to 1568) as archbishop of Esztergom and Primate of Hungary, for that “blasphemous vampire Curia” vibe so common amongst Protestant (or atheist) film-makers. He described himself as “ex sanguine Draculae” (“of the blood of Dracula”), which is just about perfect and echoes the Count’s own word choice to boot. He was an adviser to kings and emperors, ideal soil for that medieval Conspyramid to root itself, and although Hungarian by nationality he researched the ancient past of Romania, another field pregnant with possible game hooks.

Graf Orlok

We now leave the fields of recorded history for the realm of secret history. It is well known that F.W. Murnau, the director of Nosferatu, pirated Stoker’s novel for his plot. But what if his research turned up the original story that Stoker concealed – and its German connection? Murnau, of course, was wired into the Berlin occult underground – the producer and designer of the film, Albin Grau, was a member of the Saturnian Brotherhood and a student of alchemy and magic. Through his occult mentor Aleister Crowley, Grau could have turned up British intelligence records of the Dracula operation, and made his film using the real name of the Count, Graf Orlok. The German (or “Saxon”) population of Transylvania goes back to the Teutonic Knights, who built castles there in the 13th century – including in Dracula’s home ground of Bistritz and Borgo Pass. If “Dracula” is German by blood, that complicates the story nicely. This theory also provides a lovely secret-service explanation for every print of Nosferatu (but one) being hunted down and destroyed — ostensibly to defend Florence Stoker’s copyright.

Count Dolingen

Complications multiply even more wonderfully if the connection to Romania is entirely fictional. Stoker’s Notes reveal that he initially wanted to set his novel (by which, of course, I mean “reveal that the original British Secret Service report set the action”) in Styria, a province of Austria famous for both literary and historical vampire infestations. (LeFanu sets Carmilla in Styria.) Stoker’s original draft used the transparent pseudonym “Count Wampyr” for the vampire’s name, clearly indicating that he was covering up the real title. If Florence Stoker hadn’t published “Dracula’s Guest,” a chapter redacted from the original novel, in 1914, we might never know the vampire’s family name. In that tale, “Countess Dolingen of Gratz in Styria” has been buried with an iron stake through her and the epitaph (in Russian) “The Dead Travel Fast.” If she is one of the Count’s brides, that makes Dracula actually Count Dolingen. The common initials also hint at a cover story, which is pretty nice.

Baron Ferenczy

Our final possibility offers a wonderful linkage between Night’s Black Agents and Trail of Cthulhu. In 1924, Charles Dexter Ward visits “a Baron Ferenczy” east of Rakus in Transylvania. His castle “was on a crag in the dark wooded mountains, and the region was so shunned by the country folk that normal people could not help feeling ill at ease. Moreover, the Baron was not a person likely to appeal to correct and conservative New England gentlefolk. His aspect and manners had idiosyncrasies, and his age was so great as to be disquieting.” A-hem. Count Dracula is a necromancer, schooled at the Scholomance: “Baron Ferenczy” turns out to be Edward Hutchinson, a necromancer of Salem, Massachusetts. Unless, of course, both “Ferenczy” and “Hutchinson” are pseudonyms; he signs himself first with “Nephren-Ka nai Hadoth” – in other words, Nyarlathotep. That said … if Count Dracula is actually Nyarlathotep, you’re going to need a lot more garlic. And some more agents, most likely.