This is a sketch of an RPG system and setting I’ve been toying with for a while. For now I’m abandoning it rather than finishing it, but maybe it will inspire some hypothetical reader.
In a possibly Asian-influenced fantasy world, a minority of humans use a multi-faceted power called Qi to battle monsters, create magical artifacts, and work miracles.
Types of Qi
In the Middle World – the world in which mortal beings live – there are five types of Qi:
- Earth or intrinsic qi resides in everything. It’s more prevalent in living things and especially concentrated in those who use other forms of qi. Veins of a metal called orichalcum contain concentrated Earth Qi; certain metalsmiths can forge it into weapons that can channel an adept’s qi without burning out and shields that deflect qi without damage.
- Fire or force qi projects from an adept’s body as a blast of heat and physical force. It’s sometimes called the “magician’s qi” because adepts can learn “spells” to shape it for a wide range of specific effects.
- Metal or battle qi surrounds an adept’s body and blunts the force of physical attacks. Adepts can also channel it into physical attacks or shape it into sharp edges and points as a one-use weapon.
- Water or reserve qi replenishes other types of qi as an adept uses it. Advanced techniques transfer Qi to another being or to an object, drain qi from another being, or block the use or recovery of qi.
- Wood or enhancing qi brings luck and sharpens the adept’s skill. Advanced techniques can qualitatively enhance the adept’s physical and mental abilities, or dull those of their enemies.
Beings of the Upper World grant two other types of Qi to their favored agents in the Middle World:
- Light or positive qi, alone among all other types, can heal the injuries of living beings, cure diseases, unweave spells, deflect harm, reveal truths, and perform subtle but profound “miracles”.
- Shadow or negative qi can conceal truths, deceive minds, and inflict subtle but pernicious curses on people, objects, and places.
Just as matter contains Earth Qi, conscious beings contain Aether Qi. This includes living beings of the Middle World, spirits of the Spirit World, and some beings of the Upper World and Lower World. Aether Qi remains a mystery to most masters of Qi, although allegedly sorcerers have devised ways to manipulate it.
Beings of the Lower World bring Chaos, a primordial type of Qi that distorts the natural order. It mimics the abilities of other types of Qi without their restrictions, but inflicts unpredictable effects on mortals.
The Middle World
The Middle World consists of several large landmasses separated by seas and surrounded by islands and a seemingly endless ocean. Most of the land is wilderness, although seventeen Kingdoms – city-states surrounded by cultivated land, farming villages, and trade towns – provide shelter for the majority of humanity and human-like beings.
Roads and ports connect the Kingdoms to each other. Maintaining the roads against the wilderness requires the combined efforts of each Kindom and multiple inter-kindom guilds. As most city-states border one of the seas or a major river, ships remain the safest (if not always fastest) way from one city-state to another. For that reason, most city-states maintain navies rather than standing armies.
The following people or organizations most profoundly shape the events of The Middle World.
The High King
The High King dwells in the largest city-state, Omphalos. While he and his supporters consider him the ruler of the entire civilized world, the other Kings of other city-states consider him merely first among equals. Nevertheless the High King and the royal family often resolve disputes among the other Kings, and each Kingdom hosts diplomats from Omphalos.
With the High King, the main chapters of each guild, and the Great Temple of the Eight Great Gods also in Omphalos, the High King wields enormous soft power within the known world.
The Church of Eight Great Gods
The Church of the Eight Great Gods has a main Temple and multiple shrines in every city-state. Each Great Temple and some sattelite Temples can perform saint-like miracles thanks to dozens of priests and the throngs of worshippers calling down the blessings of the gods.
The Eight Gods are:
- Oh, god of laws and contracts and king of the gods
- Guan, goddess of mercy, healing, fertility, and last chances
- Shin, god of roads, travel, and trade
- Ko, goddess of beauty, art, and poetry
- Han, god of wealth and abundance
- Cho, goddess of luck
- Yang, god of strength and endurance
- Yin, formerly mortal goddess of learning1
In Great Temple of Omphalos dwell the Eight Patriarchs, each the principal representative of their god in the Middle World. Patriarchs rise to power through the priesthood rather than sainthood, however. The relationship between the hierarchy – which values obedience and propriety – and the living saints – who value their relationship with their god over man-made rules or mores – often becomes strained. Not a few accaimed saints have become “heretics” even as they remained heroes of (some) people.
Periodically the Church carries out inquisitions against heretical saints and adherents of other religions and philosophies. It also sponsors the crusade against the Demon King
The Adepts’ Guild
Officially, the Adept’s Guild studies all forms of Qi, teaches Qi spells and techniques to Qi Users, and maintain harmonious relations between the Qi-Using minority, the Kingdoms, and the overwhelming majority of Ordinaries.
Unofficially, the Adepts’ Guild polices its members and “resolves” (covers up) incidents of Qi Users damaging property and injuring people. Qi Users, even Heroes, who abuse the hospitality of a Guild chapter’s host kingdom may find themselves hunted by Guild Enforcers. In rare cases the Guild has sealed the Qi powers of antisocial Qi Users (even non-members), making them little different from an Ordinary.
The Adventurers’ Guild
The Adventurer’s Guild acts as a clearing house for Ordinaries and Qi Users willing to venture into the wilderness for the sake of civilization. Clients and sponsors – including the Guilds and the Kingdoms themselves – post jobs which Guild members take on for sometimes extravagant amounts of money. One job might be collecting a rare herb; the next might involve killing a monster preying on a nearby village.
As with all the inter-kingdom Guild, each chapter keeps a close relationship with its host Kingdom and a close eye on its members. They will not post any job that violates local law, risks conflict with another Kingdom, or creates friction with the Adepts’ Guild or Merchants’ Guild. They will also suspend or expel members who engage in unneccessary destruction of property, unwarranted violence, or other antisocial behavior. That said, adventurers are a notably rough bunch, and any prospective members should be able to defend themselves in a fight.
The Merchants’ Guild
The Merchants’ Guild mainly regulates businesses in each kingdom to ensure a free and healthy marketplace for all businesses. As an inter-kingdom organization, however, it has a vested interest in keeping the paths between kingdoms open. It therefore maintains close relations with the Adventurers' Guild: adventurers guard caravans, push back encroaching wilderness, gather materials that the kingdoms cannot successfully farm, and provide extra muscle against royal overreach and irresponsible Qi Users alike.
The Merchants’ Guild provides an additional service to adventurers and travelers in general: an inter-kingdom bank. Those with more wealth than they wish to carry can deposit their gold and silver (no bronze please) with one Merchant chapter and withdraw paper bank notes they can then exchange with any other chapter for gold or silver. Despite their portability paper notes are susceptible not only to thieves but fire, water, and strong gusts of wind.
While the Church is the dominant and domineering religion of the World, other religions still persist in the margins.
Freethinkers, found mainly among the educated ordinaries, they reject the Church and all other forms of worship. Some freethinkers even believe that all gods are simply demons in disguise. They also reject Church orthodoxy and the scholarly consensus influenced by the Church, and seek to develop a new type of “natural philosophy” based on observation, experimentation, and exploration.
Normally freethinkers trust only in the Qi Powers of the Middle World. A subset of Freethinkers called “Naturalists” go a step further: Qi abilities, limited to an elite few, hinder social and technological progress. They favor natural medical treatments and labor-saving devices for ordinary mortals over tools for the adventuring elite. A surprisingly large number of Alchemists follow this philosophy.
Various rural regions secretly (or not so secretly) venerate Spirits, ancestors, and other beings as protectors of their land and bringers of good fortune. Miracles from such beings are few and far between.
The Trickster Cult
The Church insists that “heretics” worship the Trickster God, exiled from the Upper World for giving humanity “forbidden knowledge”. Some believe that forbidden knowledge was Sorcery; conservatives point to Alchemy. Some allege that the Trickster God became the Demon King, or at least granted him his power.
If a real Trickster Cult exists, it’s too tricky to leave evidence.
The Demon King
The Demon King dwells somewhere in the vast wilderness of the World. Allegedly his capitol of Pandemonium is teeming with Monsters and Demons. Entire armies of demons wait to descend upon the Kingdoms and subjugate humanity to their rule. Only the power of the Eight Great Gods deters them.
Or at least this is what the Church teaches. The Guilds and Kingdoms have collected enough evidence to confirm the following:
- Demons do, indeed, pay homage to a Demon King.
- Since Demons respect strength above all else, the Demon King must be powerful, and tales told by relatively friendly Demons tell of almost godlike feats.
- It’s unclear, however, if the same Demon King has reigned for thousands of years, and whether all Demons pay homage to the same Demon King.
“Heroes” generate and use all five forms of Qi. As their name implies, most such gifted people travel the World slaying monsters, righting wrongs, and earning their keep through the Adventurers’ Guild or the Adepts’ Guild.
Those who live long enough may retire from adventuring to become petty nobles, masters of one of the three adventurer-friendly Guilds, or reclusive “wizards” studying the nature of Qi.
Some Qi adepts can generate only one form of Qi. These limited Adepts go by different names dependent on their governing type of Qi:
- Champions use their Metal Qi in daring martial feats.
- Healers transfer their abundant Water Qi to other Qi adepts. Most practice the arts of natural healing as well.
- Mages weave and cast spells with their Fire Qi.
- Sages channel Wood Qi to enhance their own substantial physical and mental abilities.
Paragons possess abundant Earth Qi but manifest no other types of Qi. They possess abundant natural gifts: powerful physiques, quick wits, uncanny beauty, and a charisma that draws others toward them. They use self-taught techniques to maximize their gifts that resembles an Upper World blessing or curse. They almost always become become leaders, knights, and lesser nobles, but fall short of being true “heroes”.
Saints serve one of the Eight Great Gods and channel Light Qi (and Shadow Qi) on the god’s behalf. Unlike the more martially-oriented Heroes and Adepts, Saints tend toward more peaceful careers helping ordinary people through healing miracles, more mundane healing arts, and acts of selflessness.
Saints who channel too much Shadow Qi or defy the will of the Eight Patriarchs become “heretics”. Curiously they never lose their connection to their god.
Alchemists refine Earth Qi into Qi-restoring potions, orichalcum arms and armor, and scrolls that cast a single spell when read aloud. A subset of alchemists called “naturalists” create healing poultices, new alloys, and other slow advances in the arts and sciences; they believe depending too much on gods, heroes, and adepts only weakens humankind.
Sorcerers lack sufficient Earth Qi of their own, but through alchemy and dark rites they steal the qi of other beings and use it to fuel their own spells. It’s said some have made pacts with the Demon King.
Most of the living beings in the Middle World – people, animals, plants – are “ordinaries” with only a little intrinsic qi and no special powers.
Compared to the Qi users and their monstrous opponents Ordinaries are fragile. For this reason Ordinaries fear Heroes and other Qi Users as much or more as they respect them.
Immortals come from the Upper World, sometimes disguised as mortals to observe quietly and sometimes in splendor to advise or admonish the Church. The latter has not happened for at least eight hundred years.
Immortals do not use Qi as the Middle World understands it, but they do possess certain powers. All Immortals can change their form to any human or animal, walk invisibly among mortals, and achieve superhuman feats. Some have reportedly performed miracles like a Saint, but doing so defies the laws of the Upper World.
While Immortals can eat and sleep like mortals do, they only really need to breathe. Drowning or burying an Immortal will put them into a deep sleep. Killing their physical forms requires orichalcum, decapitation, or bisecting their torso, and even then their spirit will return to the Higher World.
Spirits both embody and channel the five types of Middle World Qi:
Dragons dwell among clouds, at the bottoms of lakes, or in otherwise inaccessible places. As embodiments of Water Qi they replenish the Qi of favored mortals and drain or seal the Qi of those who earn their disfavor.
Fairies dwell in the wilderness and protect places of natural beauty. Manipulating the flora, fauna, and terrain of their domain, they use Wood techniques to misdirect, ensnare, or lash out at interlopers.
Jinn dwell in the wastelands and take out their rage against humanity. They use spells of Fire Qi, some of which are unknown to mortal Mages.
Kobolds dwell deep underground and protect natural treasures, particularly veins of orichalcum. They use Metal techniques to defend their domains against interlopers, although they prefer traps and ambushes over direct hand-to-hand combat.
Lares protect a particular civilized region or mortal family. As embodiments of Earth Qi they use subtle influence to bring fortune to those they favor and ruin to those who earn their wrath.
Monsters are the natural enemies of Heroes. They are beings of the Middle World contaminated by Chaos, which gives them unnatural strength and resistance to physical harm comparable to Qi Users. Many also develop unique and sometimes disturbing powers. Maddened by pain and rage, the only humane – and safe – response to a monster is to kill it.
Demons are denizens of the Lower World trespassing in the Middle World. They are far more dangerous than Monsters: possessed of human or superhuman intelligence, able to shape Chaos energy like a Qi user shapes Qi, and utterly unconcerned with petty mortal morality.
Using “Dice Pools Revisited” as a basis, all combat and non-combat tests follow the same basic pattern:
- Assemble a pool of six-sided dice based on the Rank of the Skill used, Qi points expended, gear used, and other situational factors.
- Roll the dice and count each five or six as a success.
- If there is even one success, the test succeeded, and the number of successes define the Degree of Success. Otherwise, the test failed.
If penalties reduce a dice pool to zero dice (0D) or less, the player may still make a Luck Roll: roll two dice and use the lower value to determine success. (The player still has a 1 in 9 chance of succeeding.) The GM should not allow a Luck Roll unless the player has the relevant skill or ability and is simply having difficulty using it.
Optionally, every session the GM may give each PC a “Luck Point”. Spending a Luck Point allows the PC to reroll some or all dice once after a skill or combat test. The GM may hand out additional Luck Points during a session as a reward for roleplaying, completing a story milestone, or any other reason.
All Player characters are Heroes, with a full range of Qi abilities.
Each player characters has the following:
- Scores for their Fire, Metal, Water, and Wood Qi, which determine the maximum number of points in their corresponding Qi Pools.
- An Earth Qi score determining the number of Qi points recovered per unit of time (TBD) and their Injury Check.
- A list of “Skills”, i.e. mundane abilities the character is good at.
- A list of “Spells”, i.e. magical abilities fueled by Fire Qi.
- A list of “Stunts”, i.e. special uses of Metal, Wood, Water, or (rarely) Earth Qi.
- A list of equipment, both mundane and alchemical.
Exact procedures for character generation are to be determined.
Expending points from each pool has the following effects:
- To cast a spell, the character must spend a number of combat rounds weaving the spell and then expend the required number of Fire Qi points.
- Each point of Damage consumes one point of Metal Qi, automatically.
If the Metal Qi pool is zero but Damage points remain,
the target must make an Injury Check against the remainder.
One can also expend Qi points to add damage to a melee attack. However, adding Qi to an attack with a mundane weapon will do the same damage to the weapon as was done to the target, usually ruining the weapon. Only orichalcum weapons can withstand the force of Metal Qi.
Certain stunts can create one-use projectiles, enhance the user’s strength, and briefly substitute for missing tools.
- The player may take a combat round to transfer a number of Water Qi points to their other Qi pools. Certain stunts allow the character to transfer points to other characters or objects, or seal the Qi abilities of an enemy character they touch.
- The character may take a combat round to expend a number of Wood Qi points. The next round, the player may add that number of dice to a Skill check or combat roll. Certain stunts allow the character to use Wood Qi to qualitatively enhance one’s own mind or physique.
The complete system would (will?) define a list of skills for PCs and NPCs. They may fall into the following three categories:
Basic: All characters can perform this type of action to some extent. (E.g. running, seeking, striking.) The skill has a Rank determining how many dice the player rolls in addition to a default number of dice. Characters without the skill roll only the default number.
Advanced: Only characters with specific training can perform this type of action. (E.g. surgery, using a bow.) The skill has a Rank determining how many dice the player rolls
Knowledge: This type of action requires specific knowledge but only ordinary senses and hand-eye coordination. The skill is either unranked or a qualitative rank (Apprentice, Expert, Master). Those with the skill know more, perceive more, or can do things than those without it (or at a lesser rank).
Each spell produces a specific effect for a fixed or variable number of Fire Qi points. Enacting a spell takes at least one full combat round.
A spell is either learned or it isn’t. Directing a spell at a moving target requires a general Aiming Skill check and/or the expenditure of Wood Qi to improve the chances to hit. Failing to hit is equivalent to
Fire Qi is versatile but volatile. Thus all spells have the following limitations:
- Attack and defense spells require rolling dice to determine the actual amount of damage done or blocked. On average, a Fire Spell is only 1/3 as effective as Metal Qi expended.
- Fire Spells cannot enhance a die roll, although they can enhance other aspects of skill checks and combat (i.e. outlining a target in the dark).
- Fire Spells cannot do what Water and Earth Qi do at all.
- All Fire Spells have an instant or short-term effect, generally a few combat rounds or minutes at most.
Stunts enable new uses for other Qi types. Some possible examples:
- Arrow of Qi: Form a point of Metal Qi into an arrow and shoot it at a target using a Throwing or Shooting skill. Damage Bonus is +0.
- Befuddle: Use (TBD) points of Wood Qi to confuse an enemy, causing them to lose their turn.
- Drain: Touch an enemy and expend an amount of Water Qi; the enemy loses that much Qi from the pool(s) of their choice.
- Transfusion: Touch two willing targets; Water Qi flows from one to the other up to the capacity of the recipient and the choice of the donor.
Paragons may have stunts like these:
- Animal Friend: You have befriended an animal smaller than you. You may communicate with it and ask it to do favors to you. Putting it in danger or denying it rewards will make it less inclined to obey; treating it well will encourage others of its kind to respect and follow it. Play your cards right and you might have an army of squirrels, birds, rabbits, dogs, etc.
- Charm: Use your Earth Qi value instead of a skill when attempting to persuade or befriend another being. If the attempt succeeds, the subject will have lowered resistance to further Charm effects. If the attempt fails, the subject may turn fearful or hostile. Qi Users will perceive this power and may counter with their own Qi; each point spent subtracts from the Charmer’s dice before they roll. Certain stunts and spells may also counter this effect. May only be used once per day.
- Earthsight: You sense vibrations through the earth. Even in darkness, you can tell the number and direction of beings walking toward or away from you as long as a hand or bare foot rests on the ground. With practice you can even guess at their identities. You can also sense open spaces around you, and whether a wall or floor you touch is hollow or solid.
- Fortune: Once per day, roll your Earth Qi value; this is how many silver coins you find on the street, behind couches, in your pocket, etc. You must be out and about one hour for every coin you find, although you may perform other tasks during those hours.
- Might: Use your Earth Qi value instead of a skill when a task requires brute strength. May not be used for combat. May only be used once per day.
- Spirit Friend: An Earth Spirit watches over you. You get an extra Luck Point for every day you make an offering to them, either in your household shrine, before a portable effigy, or even on an improvised altar (takes an hour to construct). The ritual typically takes ten minutes. Failing to make an offering for more than a week incurs a penalty; the GM may steal a Luck Point per session until you make an offering.
All stunts should delineate the conditions under which a player can use it and the time or resources it uses.
Non-Hero PCs may not fit into a standard Hero-based campaign:
- A character without Metal Qi risks death every time they’re hit.
- Alchemy, saintly miracles, and sorcery probably cannot make up for the combat abilities of Metal Qi, the skill boosts of Wood Qi, or the quick spells of Fire Qi.
An Adept has only one type of Qi and Qi Pool: Fire, Metal, Water, or Wood. The GM may allow players to play a more limited Adept under some conditions. For example:
- All players are Adepts. A group of four or more might cover all active Qi types.
- The Adept is stronger in one type of Qi than any of the Heroes. Ideally the Adept would cover a deficiency in the group as a whole.
- The Adept has other abilities that compensate for their limited repetoire. (See also Ordinaries as PCs.
Alchemy is a skill (or set of skills?) which any character can learn. An alchemist will need a lab and a steady flow of materials for experiments plus any special ingredients for potions and scrolls. Alchemists who work with orichalcum need blacksmithing skills, a forge, and enough orichalcum to forge whatever weapon they’re building.
If the GM allows it, a PC may be only an Alchemist, i.e. an Ordinary with the Alchemy skill(s). He or she would carry self-made potions and scrolls to defend themselves. Alchemists would probably load up on knowledge and survival skills to make themselves useful.
Ordinaries have a hard time keeping up with Heroes. An Ordinary PC would have only the following:
- A score for Earth Qi
- A list of Skills
- A list of equipment, both mundane and alchemical.
The GM may want to give them more or higher Skills, better equipment, or more starting Luck Points.
A Paragon is essentially an Ordinary with high Earth Qi and a special Stunt tied to their Earth Qi. The player should work with the GM to define that stunt lest it prove too weak or too powerful.
If the GM allows Saints as PCs, Saint characters have the following:
- Attributes of an Ordinary
- A fluctuating score for Divine Favor
- A list of Stunts for Light Qi and Shadow Qi
“Divine Favor” measures the Saint’s connection with their patron deity and their mastery of Upper World Qi. It can increase or decrease based on the number of times a Saint has invoked their god’s power, the degree to which they’ve followed (or disobeyed) their god’s will, and (temporarily) the influence of other gods or demons.
To use Light Qi or Shadow Qi the Saint must roll a number of dice equal to Divine Favor and score enough successes to match the degree of miracle they are trying to perform.
In combat, Saints can erect a “divine shield” to protect themselves and others. Roll their Divine Favor score each turn; each success counters one point of Damage as if it were a mundane shield. That said, Saints do better behind the Heroes rather than in front.
Sorcery may end up as a system unto itself with only occasional resemblances to Fire Qi. For example, Sorcery can create long-lasting alterations of reality, albeit at a price.
If the Sorcery system is well-developed enough for a player to use, the GM may allow Sorcerer characters. They would have the following:
- Attributes of an Ordinary
- A list of special skills to perform Sorcery. to be determined
- One or more grimoires of quick spells they can prepare and slower rituals they can perform through recitation.
- A pool of Sorcery Qi abstracting their collection of Qi-rich animal, vegetable, mineral, and monster parts used in their spells.
Sorcery normally takes minutes if not hours to cast as the Sorcerer draws mystical circles, chants invocations, gestures, and sacrifices some of his Sorcery pool (or rather the parts within) to power the spell. This implies the Sorcerer has precisely the right material components for the spell and a grimoire telling them how to put the whole spell together.
To cast a Sorcery spell in combat, a Sorcerer must first prepare a bundle containing all material components required for a spell.2 (This invests part of their Qi pool in the bundle.) At the time of casting, they then grasp the bag in one hand while chanting a final incantation. The system may also impose limits on the number and power a Sorcerer may keep prepared at any one time, probably related to a Sorcery skill.
Non-Player Characters fall into one of the following categories.
Ordinaries, including people and animals, have only the following:
- An Earth Qi score.
- A tally of Injury Points (IP) starting at 0.
- A list of Difficulties corresponding to one or more Skills. Each Difficulty subtracts a number of dice from a Skill use. These may be freeform, e.g. “Skepticism -2” will subtract two dice from any skill used to persuade or influence the NPC by any means, even bribery or the unvarnished truth.
- A list of Knowledge Skills denoting what special knowledge or functions this character can perform. E.g. an Alchemist will have alchemy-related skills.
Most humans have Earth Qi of 3-6; animals have an Earth Qi score proportional to their size, but probably no larger than 12.
Qi User NPCs
Typical Qi Adepts are Ordinaries with one Qi Pool (Fire, Metal, Water, or Wood) and complementary spells or stunts.
Other types of Qi Users are Ordinaries with the following additions:
Alchemists have special alchemical skills and self-made alchemical equipment.
Paragons have an Adept-sized Earth Qi score and one or more stunts tied to their Earth Qi.
Saints have a Divine Favor score determining their ability to channel Light and Shadow Qi and stunts for each type of Qi, as described above.
Sorcerers have spells and a single Qi Pool which doesn’t replenish unless they go “harvesting”.
The GM should create a Hero NPC exactly like a Hero PC. Run the NPC as a Rival, i.e. rolling dice that counter the PCs.
Spirits resemble Qi Adepts with the following differences:
- As spirits, they can appear, disappear, or walk through objects at will. Qi effects still affect them.
- Spirits often have special Spells and Stunts not available to mortals, reflecting their role in the World (and the story).
- When a Spirit loses all its Qi, it makes no Qi check against further damage. it simply disappears to the Spirit Realm.
Monsters consist mainly of their Chaos Pool, their Damage Per Turn (a function of Chaos Pool TBD), and any special Chaos Stunts they can perform.
The Chaos Pool acts like a Metal Qi pool with respect to damage done. When the Chaos Pool goes to zero, the Monster is incapacitated and will soon die.
Demons can be separated into Minor Demons, Lesser Demons, Demon Folk, Greater Demons, and Archdemons. Scholars still debate the nature of Demon Folk and Archdemons.
Minor Demons have small Chaos Pools even compared to Monsters, but far more intelligence than most monsters or demons demonstrate. Demons use them as scouts or in extreme cases cannon fodder. They are very good at hiding and dodging.
Lesser Demons are essentially Monsters with bigger Chaos Pools and a more versatile list of Chaos Stunts.
Demon Folk have Earth Qi and a Chaos pool comparable to a Qi Adept’s Qi pool. They usually only appear near demon strongholds in the same sort of roles as Ordinaries, Qi Adepts, or Alchemists, depending on their Chaos score.
Greater Demons have huge Chaos Pools. They have as many spells, skills, and stunts as a PC, probably more. The GM should play them as intelligent yet ultimately undone by their own ego.
Archdemons, including the Demon King, have powers even beyond Greater Demons, yet appear to be of Demon Folk stock. Thus they have Earth Qi as well. Create and run them as Rivals except they have only a single Chaos Pool and abilities unknown to mortal Heroes.
Immortals have both Light Qi and Shadow Qi values, reflecting whether they come as messengers, observers, or judges of mankind. They have corresponding Light Qi pools and Shadow Qi pools to power their spells and stunts, and can take Damage from both as if it were Metal Qi.
Immortals are essentially dei ex machina. They interfere as little as possible; in particular they don’t get into fights with PCs or other NPCs. Essentially they’re a way for the GM to nudge a story back on track or inject a little weirdness.
In most cases, only PCs will roll dice. NPCs usually simply react to the PCs actions, and the GM does some simple math to determine what happens to them.
A Rival, however, is a special NPC: a rival Hero, a Greater Demon, a meddling Immortal, or some other character as or more powerful than the PC. The GM runs them much like a PC, including rolling dice for the skills, spells, and stunts they use. The only exception is that, when damage exceeds its Qi Pool and Armor the character reacts to damage like any other NPC.
The full game will contain a list of mundane and alchemical gear, their use and abilities, and their cost in gold (g), silver (s), or bronze (b) pieces.3
For simplicity the GM may assume that every piece of gear gives a +1 to +3 bonus to a particular set of tasks, or else enables specific tasks. (E.g. lockpicks enable lockpicking; good lockpicks add a bonus to the roll.) Add the bonus to the dice pool when using the appropriate skill.
Mundane Weapons and Armor
All mundane weapons have a Damage Bonus (DB) added to the number of successes rolled in combat. While I’ve yet to run the numbers, these seem somewhat sensible:
|DB||Melee Weapon||Ranged Weapon|
|+0||unarmed strike (fist, kick, head butt)||qi attack, thrown rock|
|+1||light weapon (e.g. knife, club, staff)||thrown knife, hunting bow|
|+2||one-handed weapon (e.g. axe, sword)||longbow, light crossbow|
|+3||two-handed weapon (e.g. battle axe, maul)||heavy crossbow|
Note that channelling Qi through a mundane weapon reduce their damage bonus by the amount of Qi channelled. When the bonus reaches +0, the weapon is ruined.
Likewise mundane armor adds its Passive Defense to a character’s Earth Qi check based on the type of armor.
|+1||Shield (requires a free hand)|
|+1||Hardened leather or wooden armor|
|+2||Studded leather armor or chain mail|
|+3||Metal plate armor|
Orichalcum weapons mimic mundane metal weapons (usually blades or metal rods). In addition to their size (light, one-handed, and two-handed), each weapon has a Capacity determining how much pure orichalcum they contain and therefore how much Metal Qi they can contain before they degrade.
Some weapons like axes, maces, and spears are mostly wood with metal at one or both ends. Replacing the wood with a hollow orichalcum rod increases Capacity.
|arrow, pure orichalcum||+1||2|
|axe, mace, spear (1h)||+2||4|
|axe, maul, polearm (2h)||+3||6|
|staff, orich. ends||+1||2|
|staff, orich. inlay||+1||3|
|staff, orich. core||+1||4|
|staff, pure orichalcum||+2||8|
|truncheon, orich. end||+1||2|
|+ rod, light||+1|
|+ rod, 1h||+2|
|+ rod, 2h||+3|
Orichalcum armor doesn’t look like much: a few plates of orichalcum riveted to a cloth or leather jerkin or simply tied on with straps. However, each plate contributes to a field of protective Metal Qi.
Each armor assembly has an Armor Rating (AR) from 1 to 10. When attacked, the wearer rolls a number of dice equal to the AR; each success blocks a point of Damage before applying it to Metal Qi, Earth Qi, or Chaos points. (For simplicity, assume NPC orichalcum armor blocks AR/3 points, rounded down.)
Given the expense of orichalcum armor – more per AR than weapons per Capacity – most adventurers prefer to assemble their armor piecemeal over time.
Each round of combat, the following happens:
Each player chooses one of the following options:
- Attack an NPC at range
- Attack an NPC in melee
- Block attacks against another PC or NPC
- Cast a spell
- Defened themselves against attacks
- Some other action
The PC may use an item or stunt as part of their action if it is compatible with that action.
The GM chooses the action of the Rival, if any, as if they were a PC.
Each non-Rival NPC under a melee attack must attack their attacker.
Each remaining NPC may join a melee attack, perform a ranged attack, cast a spell, or perform some other action.
Resolve Ranged Combat
- Players roll a Dice Pool for each PC making a ranged attack, including spell attacks from last round.
- If the Player rolls at least one success, the NPC is Hit. Keep all successes on the table.
- For each NPC making a ranged attack against a PC, a player must roll to dodge or block the attack. Failure means the targeted PC is Hit.
Resolve Melee Attacks
- Players roll the Dice Pool for each PC making a melee attack. The number of successes determine the Damage done to the target of the attack in addition to the weapon’s damage modifier[^base]. Leave only the successes on the table.
- Players making a defensive maneuver or block roll their Dice Pool. Any dice which are not successes may be rerolled once. The number of successes determines the amount of incoming damage nullified.
- If the Rival4 attacks a PC, the GM rolls Damage dice. Each of the Rival’s successes removes one of the PC’s successes. If the Rival has more sucesses and is not making an All-Out Defense, the GM records the difference as the Rival’s Damage Per Turn this round.
- All attacks in melee, by PCs or NPCs, automatically hit.
Resolve NPC Damage
- For each PC’s successful ranged attack or melee attack, add the number of successes and the weapon’s damage bonus and subtract the sum from the target’s defensive pool (Metal Qi, spirit Qi, or Chaos).
- If the NPC takes more damage than it has in its defensive pool, its status depends on its type:
Resolve PC Damage
- For each NPC’s successful ranged Hit or melee attack, subtract the damage from the PC’s Metal Qi.
- If damage exceeds remaining Metal Qi, the PC must make an Earth Qi test against the remaining damage. Consult the PC Damage Chart for effects.
Resolve Spell Effects
- For each PC or NPC casting a spell who wasn’t hit this round, their spell takes effect and they expend the appropriate amount of Fire Qi.
- If the spell created a physical attack, the caster’s next action should be to aim and fire the attack; resolve it next round.
This game represents combat damage as Conditions, notably the following:
- Character takes a -1D penalty on all die rolls on their next turn, including Earth Qi saves. Effects are cumulative.
- Add one Injury Point. Further attacks on the NPC get one success easier.
- Character takes a -2D penalty on all subsequent actions, including Earth Qi saves.
- Badly Wounded:
- Character takes a -4D penalty on all subsequent actions, including Earth Qi saves.
- Character falls, conscious but unable to move. No action requiring a die roll is possible.
- Character is unconscious and unable to perform any action.
- A PC or Rival must make an unmodified Earth Qi test after every minute with one less die each minute. If the character fails to roll even one success or runs out of dice, they are Dead.
- Any other NPC simply expires one minute after the end of combat unless given aid.
- The character is dead. Short of profound Light Magic, the character will never do anything ever again.
PC Damage Chart
Make an Earth Qi test, add Ordinary Armor PD (if any) to the number of successes, and compare the result to the following chart.
|Damage - successes||Condition|
|< 0||No effect|
|0 .. 3||Stunned|
|4 .. 6||Wounded (if not already Wounded);|
|Badly Wounded (if already Wounded);|
|Incapacitated (if already Badly Wounded);|
|7 .. 9||Incapacitated (if not already Incapacitated);|
|Dying (if already Incapacitated)|
|10 .. 15||Dying|
NPC Damage Chart
Derive a Soak score from 1/3 Earth Qi + PD and compare the result to the following chart
|Damage + IP - Soak||Condition|
|< 1||No effect|
|1 .. 6||Hurt|
|7 .. 9||Incapacitated|
|10 .. 15||Dying|
Round all fractions down.
A successful Healing skill check will move a Dying character to Incapacitated.
Mundane healing requires time. Every week a mundane healer must make a successful Healing check. If they suceed, their patient moves one Condition closer to full health:
Incapacitated ⇒ Badly Wounded ⇒ Wounded ⇒ No Conditions
Miracles can accelerate the process. Compare the following chart to the Power of a Temple or the number of successes on a Light Qi check:
|1 .. 2||one step better|
|3 .. 4||two steps better|
|≥ 5||Incapacitated or better ⇒ no conditions|
|≥ 6||Dying or better ⇒ no conditions|
|7||Dead ⇒ Incapacitated|
|≥ 8||Dead or better ⇒ no conditions|
Each character can only benefit from one Miracle per day. Each time a character has benefitted from a Miracle, the next one becomes one success weaker until they have completely healed or they are wounded again.
Who replaced the Nameless One, a.k.a. the Trickster God, after the Gods cast him out. ↩︎
This is the D&D “Vancian” magic system made concrete. When Sorcerers prepare spells, they literally prepare physical objects they activate at the final moment. ↩︎
Suggested conversions: 1s = 20b, 1g = 50s = 1000b. The Merchant’s Guild provides paper notes in denominations of 5s, 10s, 50s, 100s, 500s, 1000s, and so forth. ↩︎
Or another PC … ↩︎