War of Ashes
Fickle Gods and Lost Civilizations
Fickle Gods' Curses and Blessings: Design Notes
This is an expansion of "The Subtle Art", found in the Fate System Toolkit. It adds a little mechanical crunch by creating temporary stunts and aspects that can be invoked for effect. It is suitable for a fantasy setting where the gods are powerful, capricious beings who bicker among themselves and don't always show wisdom or restraint, such as the Greek pantheon.
If used with skills, you may want to define or re-define a skill associated with propitiating the gods and slinging their blessings and curses. Such a skill might be called Commune, Propitiate, or Petition. Alternately, you could use Will as the skill for magic.
If used with approaches, you only need to pick the appropriate one as usual at the time of praying.
The gods are fickle and dangerous—their benevolent attention is nearly as dangerous for devotees as their anger.
Think of people as pets, and the gods as their lackadaisical owners. There's not that much communication going on, and every once in a while the owners remember to put some food down, but all too frequently they completely misunderstand whether you wanted the litterbox cleaned, more water, or walkies. But pee on the carpet or ignore them for too long, and oh boy! It might be off to the pound with you. Or worse.
To represent this, the GM uses a method that looks similar to the character sheet's consequence boxes to trackDivine Interest. It functions like a set of consequences for the entire group of heroes, recording how much attention they have attracted among the gods. Note that Divine Interest consequences cannot be used in conflicts between two player characters.
Attracting Divine Interest
Examples of things that would cause Divine Interest (i.e., add to the next lowest open Divine consequence) include:
- Rolling [++++] or [----] on the dice. Even if a fate point is used to re-roll, the point will be incurred although the result of the action will be changed.
- Obtaining a Miraculous (+9) or better result—a.k.a. succeeding catastrophically.
- Obtaining an Abysmal (-4) or worse result—a.k.a. heroic calamity.
- Performing a magic ritual.
- Certain costs associated with magical stunts(see "Magic").
- Doing something extravagant, extraordinary, eccentric, or otherwise distinguishing you from those around you, in place of taking a personal consequence.
When Rhea rolls a [----] on her roll to decipher an old grimoire containing useful nautical charts, her player invokes an aspect and spends one fate point to re-roll. She rolls a +1 instead so the failure is averted, but the GM still marks a Divine consequence for the group.
Pyrrhus has bitten off more than he can chew. When a group of rowdy pirates takes him up on his challenge to fight them all at once, one of them lands a terrible blow that would result in a severe consequence. Rather than take it himself, Pyrrhus' player opts to have the group gain a Divine consequence instead. Pyrrhus prays to Zeus for strength. And the god answers with lightning bolts!
The GM tracks four Divine Interest consequences—two mild consequences, one moderate, and one severe—for the group of adventurers, each of which represents on-going attention from the gods; you can attract the attention of different gods this way, or get the same one more and more excited about your adventure. They're not watching you constantly, but occasionally they remember your existence and intervene in your favor or against it, depending on the relationship.
Sample Divine Interest Consequences
- Clamor of Armies (Ares, Mars, Tyr)
- Hair Turning Leaf-Green (Artemis, Diana)
- Persistent Localized Thunderstorm (Zeus, Jupiter, Tlaloc)
- River Running Backwards (Tethys, Chalchiuhtlicue)
- Chiming Bells Whenever Someone Is Lying (Hera, Thoth, Bragi)
- Singing Rocks (Ourea, Tepeyollotl)
- Maelstrom (Poseidon)
- Rain of Blood (Ares, Mars)
- Swarms of Locusts (Demeter, Ceres, Isis, Xipe-Totec)
- Turn Wine Into Water (Dionysus, Bacchus)
- Visions of Death (Hel, Hades, Pluto, Mictecacihuatl)
- Attracts Monster Hordes (Loki, Tlaltecuhtli)
- Belch Lightning (Thor, Zeus, Jupiter)
- Fireblast (Apollo, Xiuhtecuhtli)
- Shipwreck (Poseidon, Neptune)
- Withering Crops (Demeter, Ceres, Sif, Centeotl)
Recovery: Mild Divine Interest consequences are easily cleared; a minor milestone will allow one mild consequence to be cleared. But a moderate one will last at least two sessions and until a significant milestone, at which point it can be reduced to mild.
Severe Divine Interest consequences stick with the heroes and change them: the gods' attention is now firmly on you. They will keep continuously watching you and they will use you as their pawn, champion, martyr, or prize in their schemes and struggles. Sure, they will forget about you for long stretches of time, but the gods' divine gaze is now firmly fixed. A severe Divine Interest consequence will last at least through one significant milestone and until the next major milestone.
A while ago, the heroes took the severe consequence Displeased Hera by failing to serve her diligently enough. When the GM declares a major milestone, the group decides to change the consequence to Atoning to Hera and decide to make some amends, perhaps go on a quest to appease her. The consequence is reduced to moderate.
Being Taken out by Divine Interest: When you've already filled all four of the Divine Interest consequence slots for the group without a chance to clear them, and get one more such consequence, you are taken out just like with regular stress. At the end of the session, you will have a Divine milestone. Clear all Divine Interest consequences and discuss a new group aspect, which can be invoked and compelled as usual. This should be an aspect the entire group, players and GM, agrees will make sense and be fun in the campaign.
Pawn of ___: When the god needs a cut-up for some reason, you end up being at hand. You find yourself in some cockamamie situation you are spectacularly not suited to because the god needs a marker of some sort.
Marked by ___: When there is nothing more interesting going on, the god checks on you, causing alarm and repercussions. You may develop a reputation for being bad luck.
Embroiled in Divine Plots: After one god showed interest, others also paid attention. You're like the ball in this game, and the winner will probably spike you before forgetting about you and going out to celebrate.
If you gain mostly favorable attention by doing something the gods think is neat, they will appear to you with a message—probably accidentally setting the place on fire or causing other collateral damage in the process. They may be trying to impress their benevolence upon you, and generally trying to help you, but are in fact being as useful as you are when you help ants build their little ant hill.
If you manage to anger, disappoint, or vex the gods, they will send you the occasional lightning bolt strike, put dangerous and ridiculous obstacles in your path, cause storms, floods, or earthquakes to follow you, or turn you into a talking ox. The only thing that will provide any respite is the gods' gaze turning to someone else.
Being taken out by Divine Interest consequences can be the signal for a major milestone and possibly even a re-scaling of the campaign. The heroes are now embroiled in world-spanning shenanigans. In that case, combine the effects of both the major and Divine milestones.
The Many Gods:It is perfectly possible to attract the Divine Interest of more than one deity, which may in turn result in many different group aspects.
After many adventures, the heroes managed to attract the Wrath of Ares, the Benevolence of Athena, and probably the attention of a few other deities as well
The gods are powerful beings who can grant a worshipper's petition through blessings and curses. Easily bored, they often turn an eye to their most unpredictable creations, the mortal beings who populate this world, wage war, and constantly invent clever new ways of getting in trouble. The gods like to intervene in mortals' affairs to guide, reward or punish, but the force they use is not necessarily commensurate with their supplicants' requests.
Mortals can take the risk of begging the gods for these blessings and curses, knowing that the thunderbolt meant for an enemy may land close enough to singe the petitioner as well. Praying too earnestly can be dangerous; then again, ignoring the gods, neglecting to make the proper obeisances, can attract divine anger and retribution
Magic is in many ways more trickery and taking credit for fortuitous success than actual arcane workings; after all, no one wants the gods to get too close. Priests mostlypretendto perform rituals without actually attracting attention from the gods, whose appearance is dangerous even to their devotees.
So why do magic-users risk it? One: it works. Sort of. Sometimes. In battle it can make all the difference. Two: the gods get very, very touchy when you neglect them, and they react badly. Then it's not ambiguous, two-edged, or risky at all: it's all bad.
Priests' objectives, then, are to minimize the amount of actual god involvement in mortals' affairs while maximizing the satisfaction of their flocks and patrons. They try to do just enough actual magic and no more, covering the rest with a mix of sooth-saying, show-boating, quackery, and blind luck.
Magic: The 30-Second Version
1. Take an appropriate aspect at character creation.
2. Choose a ritual and perform the required chanting, dancing, and so forth.
3. Make an appropriate approach roll to overcome against the target of the ritual.
4. The GM marks a Divine Interest consequence.
5. Cast the ritual:
General ritual: Use to create a temporary stunt on a target individual or item;
Battle ritual: Use during Roar phase to create an aspect appropriate to a curse or blessing on the target group.
Use an Appropriate Aspect
Not everyone can perform magic rituals; you need an aspect that grants permission such as Oracle of Apollo, Freyja-Blessed Seidhr, High Priest of Jupiter, or Self-Trained Hedge Priest of Demeter.
Choose a Ritual
Some rituals have similar working in all versions of Agaptan magic, although their trappings will be vastly different from one faction to the next and even one school to the next. In addition, each has its own exclusive rituals. Notes for rituals can be literal pieces of writing, but they can also be recorded as complex series of knots in a string, glyphs carved in stone, etc. It's difficult for a priest to decipher rituals from another school, and painstakingly difficult to even guess at another faction's rituals.
Rituals' primary effect is to allow a blessing or curse to be placed on a target—the person, place, or thing it's being cast on. Sometimes a ritual will also have a subject—the person, place, group, or thing which will be the focus of the ritual's effect on the target.
A Rage ritual to make Julius angry at Lilia would be cast on Julius (the target) and focused on Lilia (the subject).
Casting A Ritual
In order to cast a ritual, the priest must use one or more actions to overcome the target difficulty. With a success, the ritual creates a temporary stunt (see the list below). Rituals that produce good luck or beneficial effects for the target can either give a +2 bonus in narrow circumstances for one scene, or give a one-time special effect before dissipating. Rituals that produce bad luck or negative effects for the target produce a one-time special effect lasting up to one scene, then dissipate.
Assuming a single target—a person, or a thing perhaps as large as a hut—enough time to chant or mumble the sacred words, and the appropriate ritual trappings, the roll is made against a difficulty of Average (+1). So long as the character succeeds, then the target gains the blessing or curse—see below for details—for the scene or until it is no longer dramatically appropriate, whichever comes first. Further modifications follow:
|Base difficulty (self, object, or other person within contact range)||Average (+1)|
|Object, area, or person is in sight but not touch range||Add +1|
|Target person not present, but a powerful symbolic tie to them is present(their blood, a treasured possession)||Add +2|
|Target person not present, but is known and named, or is a known location||Add +3|
|Target is as big as a ship or small building||Add +1|
|Target is as big as a large building or arena||Add +2|
|Target is as big as a small town||Add +3|
|Unforeseen difficulties (performing the ritual in a rush, while underwater, at spear point)||Add +1 to +3(GM's discretion)|
|Praying to a god you have angered (having unfavorable Divine Interest consequences or aspects)||Add +2|
|Unwilling target||Add +1|
Larger targets require much more time, the efforts of several priests, and luck.
Some rituals have a subject, such as a ritual that makes your lord mad at his daughter. The absence of that subject similarly impacts the difficulty: +0 if present, +3 if you only have a name, as above. The one qualifier is that if the subject can be made to accept some token of the ritual—a potion, a trinket—then they are effectively "present." Such tokens must be used within a short time, typically three days.
Success with style on a ritual generates a boost as normal.
No target can be the focus of more than one ritual at a time. The newest ritual replaces the existing one.
Some blessings and curses have their own additional modifiers.
High difficulties can be beaten by having multiple priests working together and by treating the ritual as a challenge (see"Challenges".) Create as many steps as you need, assigning static difficulties; the sum of these difficulties must be equal to or greater than the ritual difficulty you calculated.
Coronos, priest of Ares, is performing a ritual to bless his brother Vettias with good luck; however Vettias is halfway across Achaea, doesn't want Coronos's help (or any attention from Ares for that matter), and Coronos has recently displeased Ares by fleeing from battle. He has the Divine consequence Coward in Ares' Eyes. The difficulty to cast the spell therefore is +1 (starting), +1 (unwilling target), +3 (Coronos has no link to Vettias), +2 (Ares is displeased), for a total of Epic (+7). Vettias won't go into combat for another day, and Coronos has two assistant priests nearby to help him out. They cast the ritual together and break the difficult ritual into three smaller challenges.
Using Skills: First, one of them prays to Ares to forgive Coronos, a Fair (+2) difficulty using the skill Propitiate, then another focuses the ritual on Vettias at a Fair (+2) difficulty, and finally Coronos forces his no-good stubborn brother to accept the blessing at a Good (+3) difficulty.
Using Approaches: First, one of them Flashily prays to Ares to forgive Coronos, a Fair (+2) difficulty, then another Carefully focuses the ritual on Vettias at a Fair (+2) difficulty, and finally Coronos Forcefully forces his no-good stubborn brother to accept the blessing at a Good (+3) difficulty.
Casting a ritual incurs a Divine Interest consequence. The priest can eliminate this cost—in other words, avoid Divine Interest—by performing the ritual as a challenge instead of a single overcome action: one roll to avoid the god's attention, one roll to cast the ritual, and one roll to make it look coincidental.
Coronos is at it again! He's trying to perform another difficult ritual but this time he's all alone, and terrified of incurring more of Ares' wrath by praying to a different god, Zeus. The ritual's difficulty is Superb (+5) but Coronos is going to try it anyway. First he avoids the gods' attention with a roll using Stealth (in a skill-based game) or Sneaky (in an approach-based game). Since the gods are often forgetful and currently distracted by a war, the GM sets the difficulty at only Average (+1). Then Coronos casts the ritual itself, hoping nobody around him notices, using Propitiate (skill) or Quick (approach) at the Superb (+5) difficulty. Finally, he pretends he had nothing to do with the storms gathering overhead. Ares may have not been paying attention, but his fellow Athenians sure are wary of him, so the GM sets that at a Good (+3) difficulty for Deceit (skill) or Sneaky (approach). If he succeeds at all three, the ritual is cast without anyone being the wiser and he doesn't gain a Divine consequence. Phew!
Why Risk It?
Why would your priest character bother to cast a ritual and thus get a Divine Interest consequence for the group to worry about?
Because this allows you to create effects that would not be possible otherwise, like a Sudden Gust of Wind created by using (Bad) Luck on enemy archers, harmlessly dispersing a volley of arrows.
Because if you are very Careful and don't mind anonymity, you can cast without attracting attention to yourself.
Because attracting a god's attention can get you a boon!
Because sometimes it's do or die.
Because it's fun! Divine Interest is part of the flavor of the world of Agaptus, and if your characters are going to be heroes—even reluctant ones—then sooner or later they will attract Divine Interest. Embrace the risk!
You Can Always Cheat
Some do it all the time. Your character tells onlookers that you are casting a ritual, you chant some nonsense, and donothing. But if you really want them to believe you, consider using Deceit (skill) or Flashy (approach) to overcome an obstacle, and put on a good show. If you are getting paid to cast the ritual, you pocket the money and go to the nearest tavern to have a drink. Naturally, you can only use this trick so many times before your deception catches up with you. Perhaps your customers become angry, or perhaps the gods are starting to notice anyway
Magic rituals typically influence luck in small ways or push and pull on the target's emotions.
Annoyance: The target rubs people the wrong way. If the ritual has a subject, then this particular subject is more easily annoyed by the target of the ritual. Creates temporary stunts like:
Grating Voice: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target's voice is so irritating that those they speak to can hardly remember the actual words.
Looks Like This Jerk I Used to Know: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target creates a bad impression on someone they just met.
Sounds Fishy to Me: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is refused the assistance they asked for.
Charisma: While related to love, this turns it on its head by improving the target's general presence and demeanor. It's sometimes a subject of ridicule—specifically, ridiculing those who would need such a ritual—but it sees a lot of quiet use. Creates temporary stunts like:
Great Hair: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Flashily create an advantage when good looks would matter.
Isn't That the Famous Guy?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is treated like a Very Important Person by those they meet.
Charming Wit: For one scene, that target gets +2 to overcome social opposition with Rapport when they have a chance to impart a witty comment to their audience.
Clarity: Popular among those who fancy themselves cutting-edge scholars, for some this ritual is their cup of coffee, sharpening their thoughts and senses and allowing them to study all night. It's also a popular "counter-ritual," used to remove curses. Creates temporary stunts like:
Ready for a Long Night of Study!: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Carefully create advantages based on detail and research.
Sharp As a Tack: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Forcefully overcome obstacles that would dull their wits, like fatigue or too much kogg.
Can't Fool Me: For one scene, the target gets +2 to defend against social or verbal attacks based on Deceive.
Clumsiness: You know those days where you dropped a glass, spilled your kogg in your lap, and ripped your shirt on a latch? This makes for that kind of day. Creates temporary stunts like:
All Thumbs: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, anyone picking up the target object acts unusually clumsy and awkward.
I Never Even Saw It: As a one-time effect, the target collides while in motion (walking, running, riding, etc.) with someone or something they had not noticed.
It Could Happen to Anyone: As a one-time effect, the target missteps, or drops an object they were holding.
Confusion: People tend to misunderstand the target if it's a person, or get easily lost if it's a place. Creates temporary stunts like:
It's That Accent: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target has difficulty getting understood, and everyone misinterprets their speech.
Was It Left or Right?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, people reaching the target location become disoriented and tend to retrace their steps or take the wrong path.
What Was the Middle Part Again?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target forgets or jumbles the instructions they received and commits a rookie mistake.
Health: The magical equivalent of your mom's chicken soup. Creates temporary stunts like:
Feeling Better Now: As a one-time effect, the target can immediately clear a mild health-related consequence (injury or illness). For a +2 difficulty, the target can immediately downgrade a moderate consequence to mild; for a +4 difficulty, the target can downgrade one severe consequence to moderate. Only one target can be affected per scene, and consequences can only be improved once per session this way.
Top Form: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target gets an extra mild consequence slot. If the extra mild consequence scene is not used in the scene, it vanishes at the end of the scene. If the target takes two mild consequences in the scene, they both last until the end of the next scene.
Strong as an Ox: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Physique when overcoming obstacles that require feats of strength.
Love:One of the better-known but also most contentious rituals, especially when used with a subject. Without a subject, it simply makes the target more friendly towards the world, but with a subject, it inclines the target toward the subject. A lot of people view this as skeezy at best. It's a touchy topic, and a number of priests get around this by deliberately casting dud rituals. Creates temporary stunts like:
Be Still, My Heart!: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is distracted with interest for the subject, eager to make a good impression on them.
Hey, Check This Out!: For one scene, the subject gets +2 to Flashily create advantages by befriending, charming, or flattering the target.
What A Wonderful Day!: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is as cheerful and well-disposed as circumstances allow. If in an adverse situation (pursued by hungry wolves, chained at the oars of a war galley, etc.), the target keeps up their spirits and see the silver lining to every cloud.
Luck: This is the most common ritual in circulation, and it can take the form of good or bad luck. Creates temporary stunts like:
This Is My Day: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Quickly overcoming dangerous obstacles.
I Should Have Stayed in Bed: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target is the victim of a mishap such as mistaken identity, lost purse, stolen cart, mud splash, etc.
Wow, Really?: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target benefits from a happy coincidence such as finding a long-lost item, being favorably noticed by their superior, or getting the best seat in the theater.
Obscurity: The target is easily overlooked—by the subject, if appropriate. Whether this is a blessing or a curse depends a lot on your perspective. Creates temporary stunts like:
Not Worth Paying Attention To: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Sneakily create advantages based on remaining in the background.
This Has Been There Forever: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target item is overlooked by passers-by.
Ho-Hum: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Deceive when defending against attempts to discover their true identity.
Prosperity: Another popular blessing, financial things fall the target's way. It's rare that this turns into a large windfall, but it can show up as a loan extension or free drinks. Creates temporary stunts like:
Next One's On Me: As a one-time effect, someone buys the target a meal or a drink.
It Must Have Been in the Lining of My Pocket: As a one-time effect, the target finds a small, useful object in a pocket, usually a coin.
Ride That Streak: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Cleverly overcome while gambling. Naturally, anyone caught casting this sort of ritual will be run out of town with extreme prejudice�
Rage: Small things annoy the target more than usual, as if they'd woken up on the wrong side of the bed. If the ritual has a subject, then the target of the ritual is more easily enraged by that subject. Creates temporary stunts like:
I Swear, If They Ask One More Time: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target snaps at the next person who talks to them or approaches them. This does not mean the target will place themselves in danger—a merchant won't attack an armed warrior, but she may be short-tempered and unhelpful.
Raw Nerves: For one scene, you or an ally get +2 to Provoke when create an advantage by goading the target into anger.
I'm Not Gonna Take It Anymore: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target gets angry whenever a particular topic comes up.
Safety: Keeps the target or area safer than it would be. Creates temporary stunts like:
Not Worth Attacking: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Deceive when defending against search attempts.
Nothing Going On Here: As a one-time effect lasting one scene, the target location attracts no attention unless and until someone does something noteworthy, like screaming for help, having a fight, etc.
Snug As a Bug in a Rug: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Sneakily create an advantage by hiding.
Augury: A peek into the near-future. Creates temporary stunts like:
I Saw This Coming: As a one-time effect, the target can choose to completely avoid the effects of one attack instead of rolling defense.
I Had a Hunch: As a one-time effect, the target can claim to have made any preparation for the scene such as bringing an object, speaking to a contact, prepared a meal, etc., if they could reasonably have done so by knowing in advance this situation was coming.
Two Steps Ahead of You: For one scene, the target gets +2 to Quickly overcome obstacles and challenges that are also based on speed.
A band of soldiers are pounding on the door of the abandoned farm house where our heroes are spending the night. Gudrun the Witch asks her daughter Siggi to hide in the root cellar while she goes out to check the source of ominous noises. Before she leaves, she casts a Safety ritual, invoking Frigg's protection.
The target (Siggi) is present (+0), normal size (+0), there is no specific subject because Gudrun doesn't know who the threat is, so the difficulty would normally be Average (+1). However, time is of the essence so Gudrun wants to shorten the ritual; the GM says this will increase the difficulty to Fair (+2) and require the use of the Quick approach.
Gudrun's player agrees and rolls for Gudrun's ritual, to Quickly create an advantage; the dice roll[0+00]and Gudrun's Quick approach is +2, for a total of +3 (Good), which beats the difficulty. Gudrun's ritual gives Siggi the stunt Nothing Going On Here.
The GM notes a mild Divine Interest consequence for casting a ritual; the roll and result did not generate additional points.
A particular type of ritual, calledbattle rituals, are used to affect the priest's entire side of the conflict before the actual conflict begins. They work differently from general ritual: instead of creating temporary stunts, the priest uses the battle ritual to create magical situation aspects with free invocations. Battle rituals' effects typically last until the end of the conflict scene.
Battle rituals have a fixed difficulty of Fair (+2) to cast.
Optional: If you are using the Roar Phase rules, battle rituals are used only during the Roar phase and call on the power of its transcendent state. After the Roar phase, priests can still cast general rituals that provide temporary stunts for individual targets, but the time for roaring is passed.
Combat Fury:The priest intercedes to the unit's god, asking to lend special strength and savagery in combat. Very similar to the Rage ritual below, but fine-tuned for the battlefield. Creates advantages like Divine Savagery, Divine Wrath, or Divine Strength. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets of the ritual can also make one attack lethal (see"Lethal Attacks").
Troop Movement:A priest may ask the unit's god for assistance in moving them across the battlefield. Hopefully the god will move them in the intended direction. Creates advantages like Pushed by a Divine Wind, A Burst of Speed, or Right Where They Should Be. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets can also move an extra zone for free.
O God Avoid Us, Seek Out Those We Fight: This battle ritual is similar to the (Bad) Luck ritual above, but placing a temporary mild Divine Interest consequence on the enemy for the scene. Weapons miss, the sun glints off the enemy's armor, etc. Creates advantages like Zeus Disapproves, How Could This Have Missed?, or Nope, Not Today. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, force the next consequence that would result from an attack to be taken as a Divine Interest consequence.
Our God Will Smite Them All!: War priests use this ritual to whip troops into a frenzy for the scene. Creates advantages like Smite, SMITE!, Our Blows Land True, or All At Once!. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets can also take one additional mild consequence before being taken out (useable only once per conflict per target). After the conflict, the extra mild consequence remains until cleared normally.
We Are Legion!:Battle priests use this ritual to bolster the focus and discipline of units for the scene, helping them through the often complex battlefield maneuvers required by commanders. Creates advantages like Soldiers, Advance!, Form Up the Ranks!, or To Me, Brothers!. By spending a fate point or using a free invocation and invoking for effect, the targets can also ignore adverse terrain aspects for all zones they move through this turn. In other words, these aspects cannot be invoked against them to oppose movement.
Chaka the shaman, in preparation for the upcoming battle, casts the ritual "Troop Movement" on his scout unit to help them make it through the dense forest and flank the enemy. Chaka's player rolls [+0+-] plus his Will (+2) versus the difficulty of Fair (+2), for a total of +1 (Average) and a success. The scouts can now use the aspect Stalking on Leopards' Feet with one free invocation. The group also gets one Divine Interest consequence for the use of magic.
Using approaches and the Roar phase:
During the Roar phase, Sven casts the ritual "Our God Will Smite Them All!" on the crew of the Skyhammer to get them ready to fight in the upcoming boarding action against the Fiero. The difficulty is Fair (+2).
Sven yells to the sky and sea for aid and the group agrees that sounds like the Flashy (+3) approach. Sven's player rolls an amazing[++++], for a total of +5 (Superb) and succeeds with style.
Sven is now roaring with the aspect Smite, SMITE! and is limited to using the Forceful, Flashy, and Clever approaches to maintain the ritual during the conflict.
The crew of the Skyhammer rejoice and can use the Smite, SMITE! aspect normally or invoke it for effect to gain an extra mild consequence for the fight.
The gods take notice of course. The group gets one Divine Interest consequence for Sven casting the ritual and a second for the natural[++++]that was rolled. It could be Tyr excited by the battle, but the GM thinks it will be more fun for Loki to take notice!
Wondrous Artifacts of the Ancients
Our Ancient ruins are to fantasy worlds what abandoned Roman roads, bridges, temples, and aqueducts would have been to inhabitants of the British Isles circa 900 A.D. They also borrow flavors from ancient marvels of architecture from around the world like the ones left by the Mayans, Inca, Zhou Chinese, Ancient Egyptians, Khmer, etc., and from fiction like legendary Atlantis, Mu, Shambhala, and so forth.
They are forgotten, made nearly invisible by their ubiquity; everywhere in Sentia one sees ruins, and entire villages and cities are built among these. In addition, the incipient ice age has driven the land's inhabitants to live underground more and more often; what better place than the catacombs, vaults, and half-buried palaces of the Ancients, with their unmatched masonry?
Is it Magic? These marvels are not magic, except in the sense of Arthur C. Clarke's Third Law ("Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."); they come from advanced but forgotten knowledge. Based on real-world knowledge developed millennia ago but either forgotten or never applied to practical uses, we could picture advances in: - architecture - civil engineering - mining and metallurgy - cartography - navigation, including instruments like the compass, backstaff, astrolabe, quadrants, sextant, tide tables - astronomy, including instruments like ephemerids, simple telescopes, and armillary spheres - medicine and anatomy - mathematics - textiles and dyes - printing - paints and lacquers - physics and chemistry - masonry, stone-cutting, and mosaic - glass-blowing, ceramics, glazes - Ship-building - And probably many more; mysterious, poorly understood knowledge. No magic need be involved.
Ancient wonders work primarily as plot drivers, influencing the story: MacGuffins, deus ex machina, objects of quests, and the chance for sweeping changes in the balance of power if some of those secrets are unlocked.
Most of the time, this can be represented entirely by using aspects. A few practical devices may provide a stunt, and if durability or damage absorption is an issue, the device may get a stress track. In order to decide how an Ancient wonder works, we need to answer a few questions:
How complex is the item's function? The more complex, the more mechanical details may be needed; for example, an astrolabe is going to need more detailed definition than a sword.
How general is the players' understanding of the item, and how much do they agree? If it's likely that everyone at the table will clearly understand and agree, you need little in the way of mechanical details, but if it's unfamiliar to at least some of the players, you may need more mechanical detail. For example, ephemerids and maps are about equally complex items, but the map is much better understood by most people, so it may not need more than an aspect, while the ephemerids might deserve a stunt.
How versatile will the item be in the story? If the item is going to be used to do many different things, it potentially requires more definition. For example, a manuscript on medicinal properties of plants may be used more often than one on creating rare colors of ceramic glaze.
How prominently will the item feature in the story? If an item is to be prominent and frequently used—not merely seen, like the ruins of a temple, but used for some story purpose with mechanical effects—then the GM may want to define it more precisely, for example by creating a stress track and perhaps giving the item a minor consequence to absorb damage.
Here are some guidelines for GMs:
Usability: Most of the Ancient technology will get very little actual use in play.
Scale: Most of it is represented by large-scale buildings and ruins: public buildings, bridges, aqueducts, sewers, public baths, roads, lighthouses, ports, monuments, and temples.
Mystery: So much knowledge is missing that the primary purpose of any artifact discovered is probably unclear; the GM should probably give it a few mystery stats, such as unassigned aspects and/or stunts, even a stress track that gets marked off at unexpected times.
Function: Most of the time, the primary purpose should be something practical or logical which you can imagine in the real world, not "boots of flying" and "belts of ogre strength." But the features which are first discovered may in fact be secondary or by-products, just like you can have a whistle on a key chain or a clock readout and a camera on your telephone.
The best way to work through this is to work through a few examples. First, let's look at the most common Ancient wonder, the ruins of some large building or public works. They can generally be handled by aspects, some of which may be obvious and others that the players may have to work to discover.
Example 1: An Ancient lighthouse.
If the site is still in fairly good shape, it may be easy to discover the high concept aspect Ancient Lighthouse, or the aspect can even be known already without the need to create an advantage to discover it.
However, the GM may add one to three less obvious aspects if the site is important to the adventure. For example, it might have Hidden Crypt Deep Below if you want a scene or even a whole adventure about poking in the depths beneath the lighthouse, or Line Up the Two Fires to Navigate Through the Reefs if the lighthouse is a navigation clue to help the heroes reach their destination, or Secret of the Undying Flame if this is really about the liquid fuel which the Ancients had devised to keep the beacon lit.
Note that these additional aspects could also be flaws, but they should be intrinsic to the Ancient location or device. In Example 1, Dangerous Vermin or Dripping Flammable Liquid could exist, but they would be more scene aspects than item aspects. The next time your heroes visit the site, you might emphasize something different. See "Creating Adventures" for more on scene aspects.
Don't stack too many aspects, though; use the minimum you need to get the story moving. First, too many aspects may leave the scene a confused mess, and dilute the importance of any single aspect. Second, you can always come back some other time, in some other story, and use different aspects for the same location to emphasize what is of interest in the current adventure. Finally, if you don't define more than you strictly need to, you are left free to pounce on any great ideas the players may come up with and use that instead in your next scenario!
Let's look at a second example, something that is still a building but where the original function is versatile and harder to guess at.
Example 2: The ruins of an Ancient apothecary shop.
When you open the scene, you may have this listed as a Small Half-Collapsed Building and let the players do a bit of snooping—perhaps treated as a challenge—before they can discover the aspect Half-Collapsed Apothecary Shop. Note that we've now replaced or redefined what was a scene aspect. Now, every time they return, the PCs will find the Half-Collapsed Apothecary Shop, at least until they manage to demolish it further
The players may want to get some practical use out of a location like this, so if this is meant to be a chance for them to reduce some consequences they have taken previously, you could assign it the stunt:
Ancient Apothecary Shop: Because this is an Ancient apothecary shop, heroes get +2 to a recovery check when fighting off the effects of an illness (recovering from a consequence.)
You may want to limit such a location's use if you don't want to see it become the convenience store open all night which they keep visiting to fix problems. One way to do this is to assign narrower circumstances for use, such as a specific illness or type of illness. Another is to assign a number of uses after which, the supplies or equipment are exhausted. Once is a perfectly valid number!
Here is an example of public works where the original function might seem very difficult to understand at first. Its function is specialized but potentially very important to the setting.
Example 3: The ruins of a canal and lock system.
Depending on how damaged it is, it may not contain water when the heroes first see it; or it might be iced over if it's located in the north or the adventure takes place at some time other than the short summer months. At each end is a body of water, at different elevations.
The high concept to discover would be Canal and Lock System. If the PCs succeed in restoring it to a working state and the climate conditions allow it, a stunt would become available:
Ancient Canal and Lock System: Because this is an Ancient lock system, once per session (or twice a day, or other reasonable time increment that the GM wants) it allows a ship to move between Water Body A and Water Body B.
However, the importance of such a site is not just about moving a ship where you couldn't before; it's about acquiring that knowledge and using it in other locations.
What about something portable, specialized, and arcane?
Example 4: Ancient compass.
This device might be very damaged; if of the wet type, it would probably have dried up and requires refilling with water or clear alcohol and resealing; if of the dry type, the needle might need re-mounting and the moving parts cleaning and waxing.
Understanding, refurbishing, and using the device can be handled as a challenge, perhaps over a long period. Even after the compass is in working order again, its usefulness for navigation might not be obvious.
The high concept could be simply called Compass, or A Device That Always Points in the Same Direction. Understanding its usefulness would make a stunt available:
Ancient Compass:Because this device always points north, heroes get +2 to Carefully overcome obstacles when orienting their course.
Now let's look at something portable, versatile, and fairly complex but relatively easy to figure out.
Example 5: Ancient multi-tool.
Did you know the Romans had invented multi-tools? It's true!
If the tool is in good shape, it becomes fairly easy to guess at the purpose of a few of the attachments; if it's very damaged and partly disintegrated due to rust, it may be much more difficult.
The primary aspect will be something like Folding Multi-Tool. Once a hero figures out how to make the various parts move, some potential stunts may come to mind; but now we're looking at many different stunts that apply in many different circumstances.
Instead of trying to list them, it may make more sense to just grant a number of free invocations of the high concept aspect, say one or two per session. It can of course be invoked as normal at the cost of a fate point. For flavor, it might be renamed to something like I Have the Tool for That!.
Because it might be a coveted item that sees a lot of use, the GM might also want to give it a stress track, say one or two boxes, and even a minor consequence to represent some of the tools getting warped or broken.
Creating Wonders: The 30-Second Version 1. Give the Wondrous Creation a High Concept representing its purpose or nature, and a Flaw representing its dangers or weaknesses. 2. If it will be important enough to feature significantly in more than one scene, give it one or two other aspects such as a descriptive aspect, or a secret representing hidden characteristics. If the heroes discover the secret in play, rephrase it as a known aspect. 3. If it is still able to perform its function, or restored to a working state, give it a stunt—something that will give a bonus to those using it or allow a special effect once a day. 4. If you want to limit the use of such stunt, give it a number of uses and check one off after every use. When all the use boxes are checked off, the stunt stops working for good. 5. If the Wondrous Creation is a coveted item that sees a lot of use, the GM might also want to give it a stress track, say one or two boxes, and even a minor consequence to represent some of its parts getting warped or broken.