Ostog the Unslain

Zeke Bjarnessen's page

103 posts. Alias of Helix Missionary.


Oathday, the 4th of Arodus, AR 4711--Sandpoint, Varisia

This is the first, last, and only time I will make any decisions for your character; they're only for getting us to where this campaign begins.

The road from Magnimar was dusty, as always. The length and condition of the journey was no less familiar to you than your companions, your family. But unlike so many other trips between the city and your home of Sandpoint, the frontier town further up the coast of the Varisian Gulf, this one had an ominous air. It was not silent; Atsuii was still insistent on going over your latest lessons, Ameiko played her shamisen, and even Lonjiku, stoic and seemingly lost in grim thought for much of the trip, did not still his tongue entirely.

But the mood, these past two days, has not been jovial, or even very comfortable. Your parents have both been dour and quiet since the events in Magnimar; any questions about the discussion they mentioned, or about the event itself--the man, the name he asked for, the sudden rush to leave the city when you returned to the inn--are met with gentle but firm admonitions to wait. Even Ameiko, normally so open to discuss anything, merely looks guilty and turns her eyes from you if you ask. "Mother and father say we must wait until we're home to talk about it," she says. "Please trust them, sister. This is important. For all of us."

So two days passed, with Lonjiku driving the wagon through the night and only short breaks for rest. By the time Sandpoint came into view, its familiar streets and buildings seemed almost as unrecognizable as your family's behavior, and returning to the Rusty Dragon offered little comfort as the sun began to set across the waters.

- - - - -

It is past sundown when Ameiko knocks on your door and gestures for you to follow her. The inn is far quieter than you are used to, even at this hour, and your way through the upper floor's halls is lit only by the candle in your sister's hand. She brings you to the family's common room, a rarely used place in a building where the family frequents the areas below. But the room is homely: tapestries on the walls, a shrine to Shizuru and your ancestors at one end, mats and cushions for sitting. Atsuii and Lonjiku are already seated on the floor, candles lit next to them as well to provide dim light, casting flickering shadows across their faces and the room behind them. Ameiko bows to them and takes a seat to the side. Atsuii gestures for you to take the seat before them.

Seated, you look to your family in turn. Ameiko looks anxious, more than anything; you can see her struggling not to fidget, or speak, probably biting back a joke to lighten the mood. Atsuii, to your surprise, has moist eyes, and looks almost fearful, as though she worries for what is to come. Lonjiku looks as he almost always does: the very emblem of composure and discipline, spine straight, shoulders back, head poised, and warm gray eyes meeting your own.

"Atsuii has told me what happened in Magnimar, as she understands it." His voice is serious, but very calm. "But I would hear the events as they unfolded for you, from your own lips. I know it is a fearsome thing, to face such things again in the mind, after living them in the body. I would not ask you to do this if it was not of great importance. But I must know the truth, in full. And I must hear from you the name this stranger sought." It seems such a small request, in some ways, just as the stranger himself seemed to be asking such a simple question. But the gravity of your father's voice makes it clear that whatever this name means, it is as important as he suggests.

Welcome! This will be our discussion thread for the campaign, for out of character questions, comments, concerns, rhetoric, waxes rhapsodic on the spheres, and so forth. I also have a Discord if you're interested in having a more direct and quick method for chatting; just let me know if you want to get in touch there as well.

For right now, I'm mainly interested in seeing a full profile for Rei so I can double-check the mechanics and be sure we're ready to go. Your backstory provided an excellent hook for how to start things off, I believe, so we're good there.

For if and when we need it. I suspect we'll do most of our communication elsewhere, but also figured I might as well make a thread for it.


Oathday, the 4th of Arodus, AR 4711--Sandpoint, Varisia

This is the first, last, and only time I will make any decisions for your character; they're only for getting us to where the campaign should really begin.

The summer sun is finally setting on Sandpoint, the sunset a brilliant arc across the Varisian Gulf. A pleasant sea breeze flows through the town, bringing the scent of brine alongside the market stalls' wares and the chatter of the townsfolk. A frontier town though it may be, Sandpoint is largely a quiet place, undisturbed by more than rumor and tales of dangers further afield. It's been years since the Unpleasantness, now put out of my mind by most folk; and even the goblins and other beasts of the region are only threats to those who travel outside of the safe roads, no matter the bounty posted by Sheriff Hemlock.

So for the most part, this day in the Rusty Dragon has been like any other. Those few travelers who found their way here and preferred it to Sandpoint's other establishments have either gone about their business, or enjoyed the rustic hospitality and foreign touches that make the inn feel at once both exotic and homely. As evening fell, both travelers and locals came for their repast of spiced dishes, noodles and seafood and greens mingling into a wonderful concoction. Drinks are shared, all from home-brewed ciders and beers to mulled wines, and all overseen by the Dragon's proprietors, the Kaijitsus.

Though now but a handful in number here--most townsfolk believe, from rumor or supposition, that there must be other Kaijitsus living in other cities--the clan has strong ties to the community, and indeed the old-blood Kaijitsus were among the wealthy families who helped to found Sandpoint some fifty years ago, at least as the elders tell it. Now, though, Lonjiku and his wife Atsuii own and operate the Rusty Dragon, keeping it one of Sandpoint's finest places for eating, drinking, and sleeping off your travels. Their daughter, Ameiko, has also worked there as the chief of the bar for the past two years, having returned from a stint of adventuring.

And you, Haruto, have also returned to your family's residence and business. Your own travels in the past years have taken you far afield, and you have done battle with everything from brigands to goblins to a rumored Devil in the hills--though it was only the phantom steed of a fiendish sorcerer, in the end. But in recent weeks, you've felt more and more strongly a pull in your mind, as though something were directing you back to your childhood home. When a letter from Ameiko found you in Magnimar, asking when you would return, you wondered if it shouldn't be soon. When you discovered your old companion Sandru in the city, readying his caravan to travel to Sandpoint, it seemed clear that fate had conspired to bring you back home.

And indeed, it seems fate is well at hand, for tonight as you busy yourself in the Rusty Dragon, and as the day turns to night, food to drink, and idle chatter to friendly banter, the doors of the inn are thrust open and conversation comes to a quick halt. The men and women who've just entered are a familiar sight to you in shape if not name: clearly young adventurers, returned from their day's work. Three seem in fine enough shape, but one man is pale, and has an impressive stain of blood across his tunic. He walks sturdily enough, though, and you imagine he must have suffered quite a wound before receiving healing spells.

Their apparent leader, a Varisian youth with patchy stubble, thrusts his hand into the air, a leather string of goblin ears hanging from his fist. "A round on the Licktoads!" he cries, soon receiving shouts of approval and laughter from the other patrons of the inn. Lonjiku frowns and shakes his head at the foolishness, returning to the kitchens, but Ameiko laughs and sets about pouring drinks.

It's not long before the adventurers find a place near your own, and you can't help but overhear their conversation--mostly regarding their travels. "I can't believe how well it went, to be honest," the Varisian says, wiping foam from his lip. "Well, apart from your stomach, Derrick. That damned skeleton was quite a foe."

"I'm just glad you idiots were smart enough to grab me and run," the wounded man says, sipping from his own flagon. "That ship was none of our business. What in the Hells was it doing there, anyway?"

"As you say--none of our business." This from a half-elf woman, who has about a half-dozen blades sheathed on her person as you can see. "And you were the one foolish enough to walk up to it."

For thousands of years, Minkai has been ruled by the Imperial Families: five clans given divine mandate to rule by the Goddess Shizuru. Even under the Teikoku Shogunate, the rulers of the Empire of Dawn were of that same blood, and for the past thousand years all Emperors have been of those clans. But darkness has come to the land, foul spirits pervading the realm and tearing apart the ancient traditions that have guided Minkai and her people. The mysterious and deadly oni of the Five Storms have engineered a plot to bring down the Imperial Families, slaughtering all of their blood and instating their own puppet ruler upon the Jade Throne.

But one clan, realizing the danger to come, escaped. Into the north they fled, through the Forest of Spirits, and across the Crown of the World. Pursued by the vicious oni, they shed their ancestral holdings, their wealth, even their name. But while they could hide for a time, it was not enough. The Five Storms and their assassins chased them across the world, and one by one, the clan's members fell. In a last, desperate hope, an infant was hidden with the family's loyal retainers. They fled to the land of Varisia, while the ships bearing the rest of the clan were lost before they arrived.

Now, years later, that child is the last true ruler of Minkai, the last to have the divine mandate of Shizuru flow in their blood. They do not know their past, nor could they imagine their future. For destiny is at hand, and it is time for the rightful heir to reclaim the Jade Throne.

About the Game:
This is planned to be a more or less full run of the Jade Regent Adventure Path, re-imagined into a solo game experience focused on your PC as the scion in question. Things will be altered and twisted; encounters will be redesigned, enemies and their motivations rewritten, entire sections of content added, removed, or turned sideways until only tangentially recognizable. If you've played this campaign in the past, that's not a reason to avoid playing it here; it will be a very different experience from start to finish.

Why Jade Regent? This is probably my personal favorite AP from Paizo, and the one with which I'm most familiar. There are a lot of fantastic themes and moments in this campaign, and the overarching concept of destiny is something that I think shines particularly well here. I also love the element of the journey, which plays out more fully in this than any other published campaign I know of, and the arc of traveling from Varisia--the prototypical Western European adventuring grounds--to Minkai--the archetypal fantasy-pastiche of Feudal Japan--is wonderful if highlighted and used to its fullest.

Why solo? I've thought about running a solo game for some time, and my instinct has always drawn me back to Jade Regent as a perfect baseline. One of the problems with the original campaign, in my opinion, is the lack of agency and feel of an escort quest for the party: they're the heroes of the campaign, yes, but an NPC is the heir. I understand very well why that dynamic needs to be in place for your typical game with a full party--but in a solo game, it can go right out the window! And what more iconic story for a single hero than vanquishing an evil villain to reclaim their birthright to the throne?

Why recruiting? I have a friend (kamenhero25) who's already interested in this, but I'm confident I could run this game for two people--because it will be personalized, and things will play out differently for each character. And I'd like to give back to this community and offer an open recruitment for anyone who's interested in this. I'd love to take everyone if I could, but I will suffice to take anyone.

How many people/How long will recruitment run? I'm looking for one person beyond my friend; I don't want to even get hopes up by giving the possibility of running the game for more than that, because unless there are two exceptional submissions, it's not happening. As far as a timeline, I don't have a set one in mind; it's likely this will remain open for at least a week, but in all honesty, I'll probably just cut it off once I find the right character.

Note: Parts are listed in order of their importance to me.

No, this doesn't mean the mechanical build of the character (see Part II). This is the character: who they are, what they're like, their hopes, their dreams, their fears. Some of this is defined by the core aspects of this campaign, as follows:

-Your character is the sole remaining scion of one of Minkai's Imperial Families. There are five to choose from, loosely defined in flavor (see the Campaign Traits below). You might choose a family because you envision your character as embodying the typical personality traits or beliefs of that clan; you might choose one to contrast those stereotypes and be a new kind of ruler. (I'd hope you won't choose one merely for the mechanical benefits.) However they view that fact, the divine blood of the Emperor flows through their veins, and theirs alone.

This is set in stone; it is a core component to the basic concept of this game. Your parents passed away when you were very young, leaving you to be raised by family friends (in actuality, your family's closest retainers). Barring truly exceptional writing and reasoning, if you present a character who doesn't fit this role, you will be turned down immediately.

-Your character is not aware of the above fact. In their flight from Minkai, your character's family--and their retainers--changed their names, sold their valuables, and generally did all they could to hide their identities. The timeline of the original campaign can feel a tad iffy in any case, but in this game the plot against the Imperial Families has been very long in the planning, and has slowly been executed over the course of generations. Your family has been running for many years, drawing further into secrecy to avoid death at their enemies' hands. This is all to say that you have certainly been brought up with Minkaian (and other Tien) culture, taught and trained as a noble would be--but the truth of your heritage was kept from you. Don't worry! You'll find it out soon enough.

This rule can bend, but not break; it is probably more reasonable for your character to suspect a deep family secret than to live in blissful ignorance. They may even have an inkling of the truth, or have overheard a whispered conversation, or come across a hidden artifact or memento of days long gone. You may even know your family's true name--although you've almost certainly been instructed not to use it lightly. But at the start of the game, your character is not aware that they are a destined and rightful ruler of the Jade Throne.

-Your character lives in (and likely grew up in) Sandpoint. The seaside town in Varisia has certainly seen more than its share of calamity and chaos over the years; assume that its canonical background (including the burning of the cathedral and Jervis Stoot's murders) took place, but that the other APs set in Varisia did not. But it is home to your character, as well as their oldest friend, Ameiko Kaijitsu, whose own parents practically raised you in their inn, the Rusty Dragon. Sandpoint will not be home for much longer, and may well not feel like home to your character--but it is where they currently reside, and where they know the people they call friends and family.

This rule is malleable; it is quite possible your character has lived elsewhere in Varisia, or perhaps even in one of its neighboring nations. They may have attended a boarding school in Magnimar or Korvosa; it's even possible (if unlikely) that they've dwelt with one of the nomadic caravans. Whatever the case, though, Lonjiku and Atsuii Kaijitsu and their daughter Ameiko have been constants in your character's life, bringing them up to respect their traditions and be a just and upright individual (as best as possible, anyway).

Beyond these points, however, you are free to characterize your submission as you like, and in whatever medium you prefer. The Ten-Minute Background is a good starting point if you're unsure of where to go, but I strongly encourage other options as well. Give me a writing sample of an impactful scene from their life; give me an image you feel captures your character's appearance and demeanor; give me a theme song that would play to showcase their personality. There are no limits to what you give me beyond those you set for yourself, although generally speaking, the more, the better. This is, after all, my highest priority, by a large factor over the other two. A solo game in a written format will rely much more heavily on characterization and roleplaying than how big your numbers can go.

Part of me felt like I should use a different system for this game, one more purely narrative-focused and -driven, but it is, after all, a Pathfinder Adventure Path--and with some tweaking, the system can work well for the story I'm hoping we'll create.

System and Books: Pathfinder 1st Edition. All Paizo products are fair game to choose from; I generally refer to the Archives of Nethys, so if it's on there, it's an option. Please refrain from asking about 2nd Edition--requests will be ignored.
--Third Party: Some third party materials are available, if they are accessible by me, upon request. A popular highlight worth mentioning is the Spheres of Might system, which I allow (including related classes, feats, and so on). I'm less familiar with the related Spheres of Power system and find it less potentially suited to this game, but you may certainly request it.

Starting Level: 3rd. You are not, in all likelihood, a particularly accomplished adventurer at the start of the game, but you are very well-trained and capable.

Ability Scores: 20 points to spend on a point-for-point basis (i.e., a score of 14 costs 4, a score of 16 costs 6); no scores below 8 or above 18 after racial modifiers. Your mental ability scores should be at least 10 each, preferably higher. This is not a game to dump any of them, and you have enough points to get reasonable scores elsewhere without making a sacrifice; neither should you be a one-trick pony, no matter how good the trick.
--Leveling Up: At 4th level, and every 4 levels thereafter, you will be able to add a +1 bonus to two ability scores (instead of one). You cannot apply both points to one score.

Races: As a blood scion of an Imperial Family, at least one of your parents had to be a human. This means the following races are available for this game: Human, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Aasimar, Dhampir, Ifrit, Oread, Suli, Sylph, Tiefling, Undine. Be aware that the further from a human in appearance you stray, the more difficult your time will be upon reaching Minkai. (This is not a warning against such a choice, merely a warning about it.) The various racial features to "pass as human" are strongly encouraged.

Classes: Gestalt. Between your classes, you should represent training and competence (if not skill) in some manner of traditional Tien culture; how you accomplish this is up to you, and I am open to working together to make a concept work. All Paizo-published classes and archetypes are available, and I am potentially willing to bend rules if a racial archetype fits your concept but not your race.

HP: Use maximum for your hit dice so far. As you level up, you will roll and/or take half+1, but for now you can use the extra durability... just in case.

Feats: We'll be using the popular Elephant in the Room Feat Tax house rules. If this impacts your build--e.g., you would receive a bonus feat that has been replaced or removed--let me know and we'll work something out.
--Bonus Feat: You receive a free feat at 1st level; this must be a "skill feat" (i.e., one of the feats that boosts one or two skills, a la Alertness or Skill Focus) or a racial feat for your race. You will receive an additional feat of this type at 5th, 11th, and 15th level as well.

Skills: We'll also be using the popular Background Skills optional rule, so you gain an additional 2 points to spend on those at every level. Artistry is in play, Lore is not; don't overlook the usefulness of some of these skills in this campaign, and bear in mind the sort of skills someone raised as a foreign noble might possess.

Traits: You may take two traits, plus a Campaign Trait from the list below. You are allowed to take a Drawback for an additional trait, but be warned I will use it in the campaign; no free rides.

Wealth: 1,000 gp, plus a masterwork weapon of your choice (most probably your family's chosen weapon). We're using the Automatic Bonus Progression rules, so don't worry about not being able to afford magic items. They're rare and special here. Spend your money on fun, useful, and thematic mundane equipment.

Alternate/Optional/House Rules In Play, Now or Later (Subject to change)
Automatic Bonus Progression at level+2, with small changes (Pathfinder Unchained)
Background Skills (Pathfinder Unchained)
Caravans (Jade Regent Adventure Path)
Elephant in the Room Feat Tax Rules
Various Intrigue Systems (Ultimate Intrigue)

This is where you as a player can reach out to me with ideas you'd like to see for a personalized, solo experience. In particular, if you have any things you'd love to see (or not see) in this game, let me know! I'm interested in playing with the tropes and motifs potentially available here, and there are a number of tones we could go for.

Want this to be a gritty political tale of vicious intrigue? Let's do it. Prefer the high adventure and classical romance of a more traditional samurai story? Awesome. Want to go full-out shonen anime on this? It might take some work, but I'm willing to try if you bring enough energy and roleplaying meat to the table.

This part of your submission is the least necessary for me, and can even be ignored entirely if your character and their mechanics do a good summary of what you're looking for. I'm mostly including it on the list to let you know that I'm happy to work with you to make this a great game for both of us--so long as you uphold your end of the RPG bargain.

Campaign Traits:
Amatatsu Scion: The Amatatsu were known for their cunning and adventurous spirits, producing many explorers, traders, and reformers throughout the centuries. Amatatsu Aganhei was perhaps the most intrepid traveler in Golarion's history, finding the Path that connects Avistan to Tian Xia across the Crown of the World. That same adventurous blood flows in your veins, and the tradition of exploration has been instilled in you from birth. You have also been trained in the classical swordsmanship of your clan, wielding the razor-sharp katana.
You have a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (geography) and Survival checks, and both are considered class skills for you. In addition, you are proficient with the katana, and may treat it as having the monk property.

Higashiyama Scion: The Higashiyama were well-respected and honorable to the core, deeply devoted to the worship of Shizuru and the pursuit of knowledge. Throughout the ages they have produced great scholars, including Higashiyama Tensin, who revolutionized academia with the invention of a printing press. The blood of wisdom has been passed to you, who must now hold a torch of knowledge to these dark times. You have also been trained in your clan's archery methods, letting instinct guide the arrows from your daikyu.
You have a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (religion) and Linguistics checks, and both are considered class skills for you. In addition, you are proficient with the longbow, and once per day, you may ignore concealment on a single ranged attack with that weapon.

Shojinawa Scion: The Shojinawa were once revered as grand traditionalists and pious rulers, a family known for faithful ancestral worship and great public works. With time, though, they grew decadent, and rumors of madness and dark magic plagued their name; Shojinawa Fundo was respected and feared for his sorcerous power. Still, you have inherited the blood of ancient days, and the crafty nature which brought down your clan name may enable you to return it to glory. You have also been taught to wield the powerful and versatile methods of the yari in the style of your clan.
You have a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (history) and Bluff checks, and both are considered class skills for you. In addition, you are proficient with shortspears, spears, and longspears, and may treat them as having the monk property.

Sugimatu Scion: The Sugimatu were a well-loved family, peacemakers and diplomats who kept in touch with the needs of the people. They have produced some of the most prosperous and beloved rulers in all of Minkai's history, including Sugimatu Izumi, the Empress of Pleasant Rains, who presided over a golden age of peace and plenty. That same nature is your inheritance, and with luck, you will once more guide Minkai from war to order. You have also been tutored in the elegant styles of the naginata, the traditional weapon of the clan.
You have a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (local) and Diplomacy checks, and both are considered class skills for you. In addition, you are proficient with the naginata, and may treat it as having the monk property.

Teikoku Scion: The Teikoku were the most powerful and traditional of the Imperial Families, and have held rule over Minkai for more years than any other family. Teikoku Hideyaki led the families in their earliest years of divine mandate from Shizuru, and helped to establish the Teikoku Shogunate that would rule the nation for centuries. His same imperious blood is your birthright, and you have been raised with the commanding mien of a traditional noble. You are also a skilled wielder of the nodachi, a fearsome blade synonymous with the Teikoku name.
You have a +1 trait bonus to Knowledge (nobility) and Intimidate checks, and both are considered class skills for you. In addition, you are proficient with the nodachi, and may treat it as having the reach property.

If you have any questions, comments, concerns, or the like, please let me know! And please send them here, not via PM, because a question you have may well lead to an answer someone else needs.

Male Human Cleric of the Helix

Welcome one and all! I'm very excited to get this game under weigh, although that likely won't happen in earnest for a few days yet. As mentioned in the Recruitment post, my family visit has been upheaved slightly, and so there's a bit more going on during this "vacation" than I'd originally planned and hoped for. That said, I should have enough prepared to get us going soon in any case!

For right now, I'd like you all to say hello and put finishing touches on characters, including finalizing aliases. Feel free to dot in Gameplay as well, so that you can keep track of things properly! (Maybe someday Paizo will give us tools to add people to campaigns without necessitating that.) If you want to tweak characters at all from mechanical choices made so far, feel free. And if you don't have access to the core rulebook, please let me know--I'll get you any and all info needed.

Finally, I'd like a definitive answer for everyone regarding where you were when you joined this caravan to Xanaste (doesn't have to be too specific, just a place-name and/or general description), and why you signed on with this motley group. Some of you already have this in your backstories, or at least have hinted at it, but putting it all here will help with gathering it in one place to establish facts.

It's also quite possible some of you joined in the same place, or near one another, and very well may have gotten to know one another by this point, if only slightly! We'll be starting with you all a few days' journey from Xanaste, which means you've all been traveling together (in a group of perhaps two-dozen folk) for at least a week, in all likelihood (and perhaps much longer).

Some say all roads once led to Xanaste, and that may have once been true, in ancient days long withered beneath the sun. Some say the Great Road was once but one of many, other highways extending to distant lands, even beyond the Wastes of Apheth or the dark-hearted Fenwood. Some say these Great Roads were paved with gold, lined with marble, protected by the Gods or the god-kings, such that no danger could touch travelers who sought the Holy City.

But now, these stories are little more than myth, and those who speak them little more than fools who dwell in days gone by. The Great Road is the only of its kind, and little deserving of a name whose meaning is as crumbled as the walls that once ran along its ways. In some places, cobbled stone remains yet, weathered and worn and weed-covered. For most of the Road's length, it is merely a wide swath of dirt and mud, a path beaten by countless trodding feet, carved with the ruts of countless wagons.

And as with all roads in these days, there is little safety to be had, especially where the Road nears the Wastes, and the wild places far from the walls of cities. Bandits and worse lurk in the creeping grasses and trees which line the way...

Feel free to dot (and delete, if you wish).

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The Holy City of Xanaste. A decadent place, unworthy of its epithets in this day. It is a den of serpents, run by a court of bloody knives, a haven of debauchery perched on the edge of ruin. Plagues run rampant across the countryside. Zealots and heretics preach and brawl in the streets, seeking revolution, enlightenment, blood for blood's sake. The tombs of ancient god-kings are revealed in the shifting desert sands, guarded by ancient magicks and the horrors of the Wastes. And amidst this all, the nobles hire assassins for garden parties, hire adventurers for the sport of it, hire pawns for their endless games of politics and society.

The Holy City of Xanaste? Should the Gods deign to cast their eyes on this place, surely they weep, or curse, or spit. The Fey and the Demons have as much power here as any God.

And it is to this place you come, bearing your hardship, your woes, your weariness of the world. By all means, enter within our gates, walk our stone-paved roads. But do not mistake the city walls for safety. They are as much to lock us within as they are to keep danger without.

The Pitch:
The core concept of this game is a gritty fantasy world, where the party are heroes in the classic sense of the term: men and women who go beyond the average person. They do not, as a rule, run faster than horses or leap over tall buildings, but they can unravel ancient mysteries, survive pitched battles, and unlock the eldritch magicks that lurk in the shadows. They are exemplars of their people, but they are very mortal, with all the inherent curiosities and failings of such folk.

Setting Sliders
Low Fantasy 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 High Fantasy
This game will be firmly grounded in a lower fantasy feel than, say, Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons, or other such fancies where magic is flung about willy-nilly and a vicious monster is merely the villain of the week. This will be more in line with Lord of the Rings in some aspects, perhaps even Game of Thrones, or The Witcher with less spellcasting. Magic is mysterious, inherently dangerous, and generally considered to be the work of madmen (or, at best, dangerous zealots in the case of the divine). Monsters exist, but the average person in a city or town has never seen one, and thinks of them more as the stuff of stories than actual dangers. In this world, your fellow men and women are a far more pressing danger than dragons or sorcerers.

Grim & Gritty 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Explosive Action
For the most part, this game will keep a very dark and dangerous tone, in keeping with the general "low fantasy" guidelines above. The setting evokes the struggle to survive, the ever-present danger of a dark and deadly world, and the importance of pragmatism. The party are the heroes of their story, and may not have a great impact on the world at large. The threat of mortality is ever present, if not constantly impending, and a knife in the back serves even better than an open duel in many cases. That said, the party are heroes, and have the chance to act as such should they desire.

The Campaign: Although it'll start out a touch linear for the length of a short adventure, I envision this game as something of a sandbox, where the party can make their own decisions about who to trust, who to work for, where to go, and what to accomplish. All of these may be terrible decisions that lead to ruin, but they could be profitable and lead to greater comfort, or fulfilling a personal quest. I have plenty of plans for adventure hooks and paths of many kinds, from social intrigue to a megadungeon. And I don't necessarily expect everyone to stay together all the time--part of the beauty of the play-by-post format is that splitting the party doesn't necessarily take time away from anyone!

The Setting:
The setting for this game will be loosely defined, at least to start. The level of technology is roughly that of the early Renaissance: gunpowder and weapons using it exist, and they are terrifying tools of war, feared as much for their inaccuracy and volatile nature as their capacity to destroy and kill. Society is somewhat less advanced, tending more to the superstition and fearfulness of the Middle Ages (although as with most fantasies of the period, we'll make some allowances in the way of less prevalent racism and sexism, at least regarding adventurers).

The wider cultures and history of the world will be left unstated by me to start things out, and I encourage players to help me fill them in as we play. Feel free to create a town, or region, or nation, from which your character hails; share with the other party members what foods you ate, what holidays you celebrated, what banner you wore when conscripted to fight for your baron or prince or king. So long as it fits the overall sword-and-sorcery tone of the game, and doesn't contradict what has already been established, I'm fine with things being made up!

As far as specifics go, the actual gameplay (again, at least at the start) will be focused on the region around the Holy City of Xanaste. The city itself, and the surrounding area, are a mashed-up pastiche of Western Europe, the Mediterranean region, the Near-to-Middle East, and even touches of North Africa (mainly Egypt). You could picture Xanaste itself as a cobbling of Jerusalem at the time of the early Crusades, Paris in the late Middle Ages, and practically any Italian city-state at the height of the Renaissance, all viewed through the lens of popular fantasy and brushed over with a darker veneer. It is an old city, built on layer upon layer of violent and complex history, and now facing perhaps a more fraught period than ever before.

Within the history of the world, Xanaste was originally an Elvish city, later conquered by Dwarves, and most recently battled over by various factions and eventually claimed by Humans, who are at this time far more populous than any other race. It is called the Holy City because it is here, according to pseudo-mythical history, that the Gods first gave Magick to the Elves in ancient days. Countless relics and temples rest both in Xanaste and in the surrounding ruins and cities of the wider region. It is considered one of the great cities of the known world, a place of culture and learning as well as religion and enterprise. It is not just the destination of pilgrims, who travel sometimes thousands of miles in search of spiritual grace; it is also a place of merchants and adventurers.

On a slightly wider scale, Xanaste sits in a fertile but perilous region, crossed by a multitude of rivers and with many rolling hills and forests. The River Xanaste, which runs through the city, offers a quick journey to the Sea of Trials, a dangerous body of water the subject of many tales involving horrors which lurk in the depths. It is also not a far journey to the edge of the Wastes of Apheth, broken deserts and arid crags scoured by some ancient monster, should the legends be believed, and filled now with the unclean monsters that haunt the nightmares of any who encounter them. A week's ride from Xanaste can take you to sparkling oceans, treacherous swamps, barren wastes, black forests, or the snow-capped peaks of great mountains. It can also take you to forgotten necropolises, bandit fortresses, sites of eldritch rituals, dens of monsters, and even another Holy City of lesser renown.

As a final note on the Setting at large, mainly as an element of distinction and tone: in common practice, the Gods (be they Divine, Fey, or even Demonic) are named. Rather, they are given titles or descriptors which proclaim their general bearing and domain. For example, one does not worship Thor Odinsson; one is a Hammer of the Thunderhead. The ancient god-kings of the mortal races bore names and epithets, and this distinguishes them from the true Gods. Hopheth the Unclean may have been a magnificent ruler in his day, but none would confuse him or his power with that of the Emperor.

The System:
We'll be using the Zweihänder Grim & Perilous RPG for this game, a lovely system that I'm told bears great resemblance to earlier editions of Warhammer's RPG. I like it because it captures very well the tone of a dark, gritty world, where danger is ever present and even the greatest of heroes must proceed with caution, lest they suffer terrible curses or a deadly blow. Combat is fraught with peril, magic is dangerous and chaotic at best, and the heroes by and large are regular people thrust into a world that would very much like to see them dead. It's also a very straightforward and robust percentile system, which is nice for keeping things simpler.

I personally have access to the Revised Core Rulebook and the main supplement, Main Gauche. If you don't have the game, don't let it put you off! I'm happy to share information as required, and you can look at the Quickplay Guide here. It gives the rundown on the basics of the system. Let me know if you're interested and don't have the materials, because we'll absolutely be able to make it work!

For those who do possess the Revised Core Rulebook, we'll be using some of the optional rules from the Game Mastery chapter. Namely, we'll be working with Alternative Weapon Damage to further differentiate weapons (and make combat more interesting), Piecemeal Armor to add some strategy and deadliness to combat, and Alternative Encumbrance because I like it and it makes sense.

The Characters:
The PCs in this game are down on their luck at the start; you've signed on to a dangerous job because, in all likelihood, you had no other prospects. For whatever reason, you're looking to travel to Xanaste with a caravan, in a dangerous route through the dark wilderness. Perhaps you need to make a new start, for reasons personal or criminal; perhaps you're looking for a lost loved one, or collecting an inheritance; perhaps you've simply nothing left to live for, and selling your services as an adventurer seems as good a way as any to ride out your pitiable existence. Whatever the case, you're leaving behind your old life in search of something new.

1. Attributes
These should be generated following the normal Grim & Perilous Method: roll 3d10+25 seven times and set them in order of the core Attributes: Combat, Brawn, Agility, Perception, Intelligence, Willpower, Fellowship.

--Mercy!: This benefit is allowed as usual: You may replace one rolled Attribute's value with 42, OR you may swap the values of two Attributes. This may be done at any point in the character creation process, so you'll probably want to see what your Profession is and gauge options before making use of this affordance.

2. Ancestries
All characters in this game will be human by default, as humans are by far the most populous of the races at this time. The demihumans, or Elder Races as they prefer to be called, are either in decline or simply scattered too few and far between in this day and age to hold much power beyond the odd outpost or a quarter in a city. (Xanaste, for example, still has Dwarvish and Elvish Quarters, as well as pockets where other demihumans congregate.)

If you want to play one of the Elder Races, you may roll on the table as normal to see which Ancestry is available to you. You may decide to play a human even after rolling.

--Ancestral Traits: These are randomly rolled for as normal. Feel free to identify the culture behind your trait, as this world's setting will be somewhat loosely defined at the start, and I hope for players to have input on the origins of their characters.

3. Archetypes and Professions
These will be randomly generated for your character as normal by rolling on the appropriate tables. However, to give you something in the way of options, I'm using a house rule I have termed...

--The Wending Ways: Fate is fickle and mutable, and any story could have been told a hundred ways with the same conclusion. You will generate three Archetype/Profession combinations for your character, and then choose the one you wish to have. Should you generate the same Profession more than once, you may not reroll--it seems destiny has spoken. You may roll for your Profession using either the tables in the Core Rulebook or the tables in Main Gauche, depending on your preference.

4. Background
Although it falls upon you, the player, to put it all together in a backstory, the core elements of your character's past are at some times not yours to dictate.

--Birth Season and Dooming: These should be rolled for randomly on the tables. They are simply flavor, with no mechanical effects, but in this world, many people take their Doomings quite seriously.
--Age Group: Your character's general age may be chosen by you, although you may roll if you prefer.
--Distinguishing Marks: I strongly encourage you to roll at least one of these at random on the table, but you may choose them yourself. The same goes for other purely cosmetic aspects of your character, including Complexion, Eye Color, and Hair Color.
--Build Type: This should be rolled for randomly (unless your Ancestral Trait dictates otherwise). However, you may roll or hand-pick your Height, depending on your preference.
--Upbringing: This should be randomly generated using the table. The early life of a character does not dictate their path forward, but it does leave its mark and suggest facets of their personality.
--Social Class: This should be rolled for on the table, but exchange the results for Lowborn and Burgher. It is true that the majority of people in this world are quite poor, but adventurous stock come mainly from the working people with just enough time and money to spare on things like actual training.

5. Drawbacks
Should you elect to take a Drawback for your character, you may roll randomly on the table; you may choose not to take the Drawback after rolling for it, should you wish to avoid such a complication. Accepting a rolled Drawback grants you an additional Fate Point as usual. You may also choose individual Drawbacks, but doing so does NOT grant a Fate Point, regardless of number. Only the Hand of Fate may grant boons as well as banes.

6. Alignments
Your Order and Chaos Alignments may be chosen by you, or rolled for randomly, depending on your preference. You may even roll to see what is suggested (which I highly recommend), and then choose another if you dislike the result. Your Order and Chaos Alignments are not required to "match" as they do on the table, allowing for very complex characters, morally speaking.

7. Building Your Profession
This follows the usual rules and method: You have 1,000 Reward Points to spend, 100 of which must go toward your Professional Trait, and the rest of which may be used as you wish on the Advances listed in your Profession.

8. Backstory
The final step is putting everything together to create a cohesive character beyond the numbers and statistics on a sheet or profile. I'm not looking for a short novel regarding your character's past, but I would certainly like a writeup detailing their appearance and general demeanor. You should include, at the least, why they left their old Profession and took up an adventuring lifestyle, signing onto a caravan headed for Xanaste--for indeed, this is what they have done. Keep in mind the tone of grim and perilous danger in this setting: even more joyous reasons should have a hint of ominous mystery about them.

I hope some folks are interested in this! Let me know if you have any questions. As far as the length of this recruitment goes, I'm looking for ideally 3-6 people, and will leave the thread open as long as I'm getting responses--probably at least until June 14th.

Sample Character Creation:
For the purpose of showcasing the process, using my own rolls from real life.

I begin by sitting down with my dice and an open mind. Zweihänder is not like most systems where I can have a firm build concept planned out and make choices toward that; the emphasis on random chance means I'll get a unique character every time. It may not always be the most optimal, and likely won't be what I envision as things start out, but it will be interesting!

First I generate my Attributes by rolling 3d10+25 for each, in order. Once I'm finished, I have the following:
Combat 45, Brawn 50, Agility 44, Perception 42, Intelligence 36, Willpower 48, Fellowship 41.
At the moment I have a fairly well-rounded individual with more combat ability than smarts, but with Mercy! in my pocket and many rolls ahead of me, that's quite possibly changing up later!

Next comes Ancestry. I'm leaning towards a Human, but just to see my options, I roll a 93, which would let me play an Ogre. I'd rather go with a human, so I roll for my Ancestral Trait and get a 77: Natural Selection. This lets me change any Attribute to a 55, the maximum possible roll. I note that by my Attributes to use later on--like Mercy!, I don't have to use it just yet, and I want to make sure I put it somewhere that will count for the character.

Now onto Archetypes and Professions. Thanks to The Wending Ways, I roll 3 combinations:
80: Socialite -> 64: Provocateur
98: Warrior -> 29: Dragoon
85: Warrior -> 84: Sellsword
Looking over each Profession, I'm ultimately the most interested in the Sellsword. Playing a hardy mercenary type seems quite doable with my current Attributes and sounds like a fun (and practical) time. I mark that as my choice, and think a bit on how I'll Build it later on.

Next comes Background. Because I'm a dice fiend and like the challenge, I'll roll for everything.
A 72 for my Season of Birth puts my character as born in Autumn, and a 31 on the Dooming table results in the cryptic message One step forward, two steps back. This doesn't have much meaning at the moment, but I mark it down to keep in mind during the game, and think on how my character might view it. Being a Sellsword, it probably has an edge of pragmatism and literal interpretation--they probably prefer to know what's behind them at any given time.
A 53 for Age Group marks my character as an Adult, which gives them one Distinguishing Mark. A 23 nets them Clammy Hands--an unusual choice, but I mark it down, appreciating the tactile nature. It's a small but defining detail, which is the point.
A 20 for Complexion gives my character Fair Skin. Combining that with the Natural Selection trait brings to mind a European-themed Renaissance culture with ideals of excellence and proper breeding, which I can use for my backstory.
The Build and Height rolls throw me for a bit of a loop: A 1 for Build indicates a Frail stature, and a 5 for Height is as short as it gets. At this point I decide my character is female, and mark her as being 5'2" tall and weighing approximately 92 pounds. I also use my Mercy! and Natural Selection options at this point, raising her Combat to 55 and swapping Brawn and Intelligence. She's deceptively small and lean, but she has a keen mind and is a vicious fighter!
For Hair, I roll a 28, indicating Dark Brown, and for Eyes, I get an 82, which means they're Blue. I mark these as well.
Her Upbringing is a 32, which means Industrious, and the Social Class roll is a 10: Burgher. Putting these together with my prior thoughts, I have a decent background in my mind's eye. My character was the daughter of a well-to-do craftsman and scholar in the burgeoning middle classes, raised in a small city. She was expected to follow her family's footsteps, but ultimately was too fiery and free-spirited to pursue such goals (not to mention being a little too interested in, and skilled with, weapons of war). She never grew tall or strong, but she knows how to handle a sword with deadly precision, and has a keen mind to boot.

I decide I do want my character to have a Drawback, and roll randomly for the bonus Fate Point. A 23 results in a Crop Ear, and I figure she probably got it cut off or smashed in a fight. I note it down along with the extra Fate Point.

For Alignment I also roll randomly and separately, interested to see what the results will be. My Order Alignment is 46, Gentility: She's a straightforward kind of person with a pure heart, who seeks to do the right thing, easily trusted and not taken as a threat by most people--certainly unusual for a Sellsword! The Chaos Alignment roll is a 37, which indicates Detachment: the danger of being a hermit or stargazer, with muddled thoughts and no comfort. That's a strange partner to Gentility, but I can see how it might play out: If she's so invested in the idea of proper behavior and kindheartedness, it might distract her from actually helping in the here and now. It's definitely not what I envisioned when I picked the Sellsword Profession, and that's excellent! Now my character is far more unique and fascinating than your run-of-the-mill practical mercenary.

Finally it's time to Build My Profession. After taking the Sellsword's Dogs of War Trait, I immediately decide to buy the Tough as Nails Talent, doubling down on her ability to resist Wounds. Next, I decide to buy some key Skills: Martial Melee, Resolve, Simple Melee, and Toughness. I waffle on Simple Ranged, but ultimately decide against it--I see her as preferring to get up close and personal, even if it's not always the smartest plan. Finally, I purchase some Attribute Bonuses, giving a +1 to her CB, BB, and WB to make her deadlier, tougher, and more resilient to mental stress.

With that, I'm more or less set! Once I finalize the mechanics, I really just have to decide what made her sign on to a caravan to Xanaste. After some thought, I decide her Crop Ear is very recent, and she's just finished recovering from the battle where she got it. She's now low on coin and spirits, and decides to hire on as a caravan guard to travel somewhere new. Deciding that's not quite enough, I add a personal touch: she received a letter from a sibling asking her to come home, and it made her decide to separate herself even further from her family--perhaps playing into her Detachment Alignment. Now I have a full character ready to journey into this grim and perilous world!

Male Human Cleric of the Helix

The sky is gray with clouds, an unusual and somehow ominous sight. The air is still, silent without the wind. The heat is cloying, heavy even without the weight of the sun. Five coffins lean, and stand, and lie, not yet laid in the dusty ground.

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Male Human Cleric of the Helix

Welcome to all of you wonderful folks! I'm glad to have you here and excited to see where this game will take us. You've been chosen because I liked your concepts, I liked the characterization you've provided thus far, and I think you'll be a good fit for the game I'm hoping to run. But the road is far from over, folks, and this ain't even quite the beginning, just yet.

First things first, go ahead and dot into Gameplay. You can delete your post if you like, or leave it there for perpetuity, I don't mind either way. That's mostly just so you can keep track of the game at this point, as I know it's easy to lose watch on things if the game isn't easily accessible with update reminders.

Secondly, we come to the second step of pregame work. If the recruitment phase was all about presenting your characters, this part's more focused on presenting the posse as we see them now. That means that we'll be doing some collective team-building as well as personal soul-searching to establish how our gang of rough-riding misfits found themselves together--and ultimately, on the wrong side of a coffin lid. Not to say we're letting all the cats out of the bag right away, but one or two will do just fine. They're pretty hard to wrangle all together like this.

Presented below are a series of spoilers, much like in the first post of the Recruitment thread. Everybody ought to read the first couple of them, since they're directed to the posse in general. The first is what you're all aware of right off the get-go, as a summary of information I've already concocted--it's mostly sorta vague, which is the intention, but provides a little more oomph to kick things off. The second poses some questions I'd like everybody to think about and discuss; ideally we'll have some answers by the time we get into the game itself, but even just stoking the fires is good enough.

Following these are a series of spoilers intended for individual members of the posse to dwell on. You're welcome to look at one another's questions and even offer connections betwixt your fellow outlaws, if any come to mind. At the end of the day, though, each of you has your own say on your own questions. Each of you has two questions intended to form connections with other posse members, and one that's more internal and personal. You should think up some fitting answers and post them here in Discussion. Your fellows won't necessarily be privy to the personal questions' answers--you get say on that, too, partners--but I'm hopeful that we as players can keep our knowledge separate but helpful for creating dramatic moments. Keep in mind that this is all intended to breed fun, interesting roleplaying of the characters and their interactions.

Finally, I'll be going over mechanics while you focus on that aspect of things. If people have lingering questions, please let me know! I'll also bring up anything that I think needs changing.

What the Posse Knows:
You've all known each other for some time. You were, after all, partners in a gang of outlaws, roaming wild and free in a West not yet tamed by the passage of time and the spread of civilization. Exactly how long you've been together isn't clear, nor is the order in which you joined the gang, but everyone's a familiar and trusted face. The extent of that trust depends on your own temperament, but you're certain none of these other folks are responsible, even unknowingly, for your collective demise. Likewise, the nature of your crimes isn't obvious in your memory. There was probably killing and robbing and other unpleasantness.

You're all aware of your own skills and talents, as well as those of your companions (unless anyone wants to declare something a guarded secret, but I'd advise against it). It's doubtful any of you really understand the origin of some of your more supernatural abilities, but you aren't like to cry Satan and string your buddy up for dark magic. You might be rivals, you might have spats, but you're friends, even family, in your own dysfunctional way.

Finally, you're all aware that you've just been betrayed. It may not be obvious at first for your character, but it'll quickly come to light that you were killed, and have come back for unholy vengeance. Precisely who bares the blame isn't something you're certain of, but you're sure of some folks who bare some of it. Certainly at least some of the folk in Thomson Springs--the town you're in, you'd wager--bare the blame; probably not all of them, but at least some of the people you trusted. The Clancy Wells Gang, with whom you've had no love lost, bares the blame. And yet you can't shake the feeling that another man is behind it all, a man whose face is like a ghost in your ruined memory: gaunt, sallow, sneering, and cold, with eyes like Death itself.

Some Questions for the Posse at Large:
You were a gang of outlaws, that much is known. But there's plenty more to be settled upon.

Where were you based, mainly? This doesn't have to be a precise location, such as a named city or town. A region will do, or a more vague descriptor. Perhaps you were the fiercest bunch in eastern Montana, or rode the dusty trails of Arizona. Maybe you holed up in a cave, most of the time, or made your home in the abandoned shacks of an old mining town gone to ghost.

Who was the leader of the gang, if any? It certainly wasn't any of you, that you're sure of; nobody come back to life is the boss of anybody else. If you had a boss, who were they, what were they like? Or maybe the gang was always something of a democracy, where everyone had equal say and share of the power. Outlaws aren't known for their orderly conduct in any case, and it's quite possible you didn't have a hierarchy of any kind.

What were your usual activities or limits, if any? Were you train robbers? Stagecoach highwaymen? Maybe you specialized in long cons or bank jobs. Most likely, you did a little of everything as opportunity presented itself, but if you had any specialties as an organization, that's worth dwelling on. Equally important as what you did is what you didn't--perhaps the murder of women was always off the table, or you found usury and extortion too distasteful even for your leanings. This isn't to say nobody ever did things others disliked, but it's certainly worth mentioning if something was taboo to the group as a whole.

The answers to these questions should be decided in general by the group, and if no clear consensus is reached, they can be left somewhat open-ended. Whatever the answers are, they're mostly vague itches in your skulls--less certain knowledge, and more a general feeling of the way things probably were.

Constance Fleming:
You're aware that you have a way with people, and you're certain that at some point your silver tongue got someone in the gang out of a mighty bad spot. Who was it? Feel free to let them know--and tell them if they owe you one, or if it's all in the past by now.

Although you're awakened with a sense of loyalty and companionship with the others, you're also fairly sure you'd stepped away from the gang at some point. Somebody played a part in that decision. Who was it, and are the lingering feelings good, or not so much?

Your life has been nothing if not interesting, and full of independence. At one point, though, someone almost got you to settle down. Maybe they tried consciously, or maybe they just happened to be in your life at the time--whoever they were, they aren't around just now (so it isn't a fellow posse member). What were they like, and why couldn't they keep you there, wherever there was? Don't feel you have to get too specific or sentimental.

Drake Wilson:
You're good at what you do, but you're also more than a little reckless at times, and you feel like you've got something to prove to one of your fellow outlaws. Which of the posse is it? Maybe they know, or maybe they don't; you can let them know.

Living a criminal's life gets mighty risky at times, and everybody's had at least one narrow escape from the long arm of the law. You almost got pinned down and captured alongside one of one of the other members of the posse; who was it? Is someone to blame, or did your daring escape clear any potential hard feelings?

There's no doubt that a man as hard and dangerous as you has done plenty of killing. But we all start somewhere, and that starting point sometimes drives everything that comes after. Who was the first person you killed? Did they deserve it? How did you do the deed? You might not remember everything about them, all the specifics and details of the encounter, but you know enough. (If your Memento Mori was intended to be Drake's first killing, then instead think on another that had some impact on him.)

Father Murphy:
It's not every day you see a preaching man riding with a group of outlaws--although it's less uncommon than most folk might wager. Religion's a powerful influence, and criminals tend to be at least a tad superstitious and trepidatious about what comes hereafter, even if they aren't church folks by nature. Which of the other posse members did you comfort in their time of trial--and how do you feel about the state of their soul?

Plenty of folks like their drink. You just like yours a little more, although perhaps a bit too much for your own good. Another member of the gang once got dragged into your drunken shenanigans, but together you made it to morning alive. Who was it? Would you go on a bender with them again?

There's plenty you can't remember as you wake up from your impromptu dirt nap; most of your own history, for one. Still, amid all the years you can't recall, you have the nagging sensation that there's something important that you really ought to keep in mind--and it comes on strong at certain times. What's the sight, sound, taste, or smell that most reminds you of the thing you've forgotten--and what does it manage to bring to mind?

You might look back fondly on your years in the temple--although more likely, you curse them as a means to an end at best. Still, you can't spend that long in a place without some of the teaching sticking with you. Who in the posse have you spoken the most with about the ways of Shaolin? How much have you shared, and are you happy to talk about it, or begrudging?

Being an obvious Chinaman in the West isn't exactly easy. Slavery's a thing of the past--at least in the legal sense--but discrimination and the fear and hatred of outsiders doesn't die so easy. On at least one occasion, you got caught up in a pretty tricky spot thanks to some bigoted fools, and one of your fellows bailed you out in one way or another. Who was it, and do you feel you've repaid them yet?

Aside from your obviously foreign-styled clothes and the nasty new scar on your chest, the most striking part of your appearance is certainly the brilliant tattoo on your back. The style is perfect, the colors are fantastic, and the design is at once captivating and intimidating. But why that subject? What connection do you have to the idea of the phoenix, and is it a positive or negative emotion which fuels its concept of rebirth?

Kristophe Kristophson:
You're a simple man, which is by no means a bad thing, and you know that. But there's certainly something to be said for knowledge, and you've witnessed it coming in handy. Who of the posse members do you consider to have particularly useful knowledge (regardless of whether they're actually all that smart or not)? Do you look up to them for this, or just consider them a useful egghead?

You know you have a fear of heights--even thinking about and picturing being up somewhere high sends a queasy sensation through the pit of your guts. But you're also dead certain that at some point you braved that fear to help one of your compadres. Who was it, and would you face your fear for them again, or was it a one time deal?

You're big, you're tough, you're dangerous, you're more than a little scary. But all too often, folks like that are the ones who had the most to lose early on--and most of the time, they did lose it. Chances are good that you're no different. What was the thing, or person, that you first loved most in this world? Why don't you have it now? You probably don't recall all the little specifics, but the general sense of things is still with you.

There's been plenty strangeness in the world for some time, now. You ask some people, there's always been plenty strangeness to go 'round, but seems to me that goin' on twenty-some years now... Well, ever since Gettysburg, everything that came outta that hellish massacre, all the stories. Been more than our share of strange happenings since then. Preachers and nuns what can heal with a touch. New stories 'bout folks gettin' strung up for witchcraft, consortin' with dark forces, and even evidence behind it, some cases. Weird creatures goin' bump in the night and leavin' unsavory tracks come mornin'. The whole West feels on the edge of darkness.

Strangest of all, though, you ask me? Maybe the most common, too, if all the stories are true. Dead men walkin'. Just up and steppin' outta their graves, or up from where they was put down. Some seem thinkin', some seem just plain hungry. Sometimes it's the work of the Devil, or voodoo, something like that. But sometimes it don't seem like nothin' outside. Sometimes they're just so tough or nasty that Hell itself can't hold 'em down--or won't.

About This Game:
If you're reading this, the thread title and the blurb up top must have caught your interest, for which I'm right glad, partner. But now you probably want to know more, and I don't blame you for it! Just sit down a spell and let me explain a bit.

First off, the game itself is something I'm calling There Will Come a Reckoning: A Deadlands Megacampaign. If all goes well, this is going to be a massive and enjoyable undertaking in plumbing the depths of the Deadlands Reloaded setting from Pinnacle Entertainment. It's got the name I've given it because I ain't planning to just run a simple little game where we roll through some Savage Tales or one of the Plot Point Campaigns. This is about the whopper of all plot points, the Reckoning itself, and it's gonna have a scope and timeline to match. Those in the know might know what I'm getting at already: in some way, shape, or form, it's my hope for this game to weave through the four major Plot Point Campaigns, defeating the Reckoners and their Servitors across the Weird West. It won't be easy, and it won't be quick. But I'm hoping and thinking that it'll be a Hell of a good time.

On Systems and Books: I'll be running this game using the newest edition of the rules, Savage Worlds Adventure Edition, which just recently came out as a reworking of the older Savage Worlds rules. Don't worry if you don't have the new rules, or if you aren't familiar with the system on any level--I'm more than happy to guide people into it, and open to newcomers as well as old hands. Obviously in addition to this, we'll be using the various books from the Deadlands Reloaded line (all of them, in fact). I'm also open to using rules and options from other Savage Worlds books on a case-by-case basis, so if you're wondering about something being used, feel free to ask. At the moment the main other source I'm thinking of is the Horror Companion. Obviously, there'll be some kinks to iron out applying things to the new rules, but we'll deal with it as it crops up.

On The Number of Players: This ain't too much of a sticking point for me, to be honest. If there ain't much interest, I'll let things drop. If there's a small group of folks who want to play, I'm happy to run this as a solo game, or for a pair of players. Ideally I'm thinking three to five, maybe six on the outset. But without a hard limit in mind, I really can't say beyond, don't worry about it. I can fine tune my plans to keep up with the folks involved.

On Timelines and Such: I don't foresee this being a quick game, so I think it's only right that the recruitment may not go by quick, neither. I'd like to see that folks are interested in sticking around for the long haul, so consider the timeline between this post and the game start to be your first test. What with the holidays coming up and all, I expect other folks to be busy, as I myself will be; as such, I don't imagine I'll close recruitment before the new year rolls around. Even if I do, there's gonna be some additional groundwork to be laid between players getting picked and characters kicking off the game, so don't come in thinking we'll be starting within the week or some such.

On Expectations: I've mentioned already that I don't expect this to be a quick undertaking, right, partner? I try to keep a good pace, since nothing kills a game's momentum like long gaps, but this is a hobby and a pastime--real life and other obligations can, do, and will come first. Some days I get occupied with other business. Most days I have enough free time that I should be able to check in on things and keep it moving, but I make no promises I can't keep. On average I'd hope for a post a day on weekdays, and maybe a post over the weekend, but no guarantees--and I sure wouldn't put my money on any faster rate than that. As such, I have no idea when this game will end. Probably years from now.

On Content and Cautions: The West, for all its charms and legend, was not a nice place. People committed murder, robbery, assault, and worse--often consequently, consecutively, or simultaneously. Factor in actual demonic rituals, dark powers, and monsters, and it only gets worse from there. I don't intend to shy away from any of this in my portrayal of things, and I fully expect to explore a dark and dangerous vision of the Weird West, filled with mature themes and deplorable, wicked villains. That said, I don't want to unduly upset people, so we'll be using a take on the idea of the X-Card. If something crops up that is truly beyond the comfort zone of a player, they can shoot me a PM letting me know, and I'll steer the game away from that topic. This may actually allow for even deeper and darker forays into things, since we all know we can back out if it gets too deep. That said, I don't want this to be an easy fallback; a good exploration of darkness is going to make people at least a little uncomfortable.

About The GM:
Thanks for clicking here to find out a little more about the fella offering to run this game, friend. Warms my heart, it does.

I go by the handle Helix Missionary pretty much everywhere these days, since I'm trying to build a brand for myself. I might look like a bit of a newcomer here, but looks are deceiving, pard. I used to be here under the name of Loup Blanc, under which name I had over 10,000 posts including my numerous aliases from games over the years. I played in plenty of campaigns, and ran a handful myself. I like to think I was always a pretty fine fellow on either side of the virtual table, and I hope others would say the same. Some time back I departed these forums due to personal life and times getting a little hectic, but I'm back and here to stay, assuming true disaster doesn't strike.

This ain't my first time running Deadlands or other Western games on here, either. I started up a game with some forum buddies running a Plot Point Campaign, and experimented with running a Western-themed game using D&D 5th Edition as well. I'm a big fan of the genre, hombres, so I'll do my best to do it justice. And I'm happy to chat about my feelings on it if that's all you care to do in this thread.

On My Expectations: I didn't always include details like these in my recruitment threads, but sooner or later it becomes apparent that spelling out what you're looking for can be mighty useful. As such, I highly recommend looking at the following if you haven't already:
Doomed Hero's Guide to Play-by-Post Gaming. This is like your gospel. The man's a legend in his own time for good reason. Learn it well.
Painlord's Advanced Play-by-Post Play Guide. This is like your study guide. The man's also a legend in his own time. This is good stuff.
Loup Blanc's RPG Virtues and Vices. I don't think I'm a legend in my own time, nor do I dare hope to be, but this is a guide I made up for my games, specifically for PbP here on the boards. Please give it a once-over so you understand who you're working with and what I expect.

In general, though, my advice is to pay attention, to really want to play, and to be a decent human being. If you show me those three things, it'll go a long way.

Hopefully, by now, you've read the above spoilers. If you haven't, I'd recommend doing so now. In any case, you're reading on cause you're interested in joining me on this endeavor, and I thank you for that. The following spoilers are very useful if you want to apply for this game. The first is really the only one you have to read; the others are for those folks who want to do some extra legwork right now. If you've got any questions about them, shoot. Otherwise, I hope to hear from you, one and all.

So, you want to stand up to face the Reckoners? You've got cajones, I'll give you that much, partner. But you'll need more than just that. To be considered a complete submission for this game, you'll need to offer up each of the following.

The Concept (and Considerations Thereof): This is the bulk of what I'm looking for, and it can take a lot of forms. At its core, this serves as a sense of your character and what you're bringing to the table, so to speak. Deadlands is a setting with a lot of options, in a system with a lot of options, none of which boils down to something so simple as a race-class combination. This is your opportunity to showcase the type of character you're bringing to the table. Maybe you're a wily charmer who could sell snake-oil to a snake-oil salesman; maybe you're a lean, mean gunhand with something to prove; maybe you're a lapsed priest who's trying to do right in his own way. There's plenty of opportunity here.

The main thing that's worth mentioning is that your character will be a member of an outlaw gang who's just had a life-changing (or life-ending, depending on how they view it) experience, come game start. To put it simply, you fought the law, and the law won--although that ain't really the case. Suffice to say you weren't exactly the most straight-and-narrow saint to walk the earth, although you weren't necessarily the meanest bastard to go six feet under, either. Outlaws come from all walks of life, and I'll accommodate plenty.

Another important consideration is that when you wake up, you're angry. As I'll detail a little more below, you were running with a gang, and doing pretty well, and then you were betrayed. You were gunned down like a dog (so to speak), killed unfairly and without trial or even a fair chance to defend yourself, and that's got you riled up something fierce. Your character doesn't have to be a bloodthirsty killer by nature, but I fully desire you to have vested interest in paying back your bushwackin' murderers tenfold.

In terms of how you present your concept, well, that's up to you. It can be anything from a short descriptor to a full-blown character sheet with complete mechanics. I'd recommend at least a paragraph or two describing what you're aiming for. Pictures and music go a long way, too, as does suggesting who might play them in a film version of the campaign.

Memento Mori: In lieu of a backstory (your posse won't remember much--see the Dead to a Man spoiler if you want to know a little more about why), I'd like for everyone to showcase a single memory their character has upon waking. This can be just about anything, and much like the concept, it can take many forms. You want to write a stream-of-consciousness page of descriptions? Great! Maybe a short scene with some pictures and music for effect is more your style? Fantastic. Even a very solid haiku can work.

The main thing here to keep in mind is: This is how you're telling me about your character. This is your chance to showcase your ability to play a fascinating character in a written format. Make no mistake, I'm about storytelling first and foremost, and I want your memory to tell a story. It doesn't necessarily have to be a powerful one to anyone else, including you or me--but it should be poignant to the character, and that's telling. Any old gunslinger will remember the first time the killed a man, although it can still be a riveting experience if well-written. But when someone's strongest memory is of an afternoon fishing in a stream, or eating a gooseberry pie with their second cousin--well, that says quite a lot.

On that topic, I don't have any strict requirements for the length or subject of your memory. Just keep in mind that it's a single focal point, one strong moment that's stuck with your character to Hell and back. It should be a scene, not an act, and certainly not the whole play. That might mean five seconds, or five months, depending.

As a matter of course, your character's aware of people in the memory, including what they look like and even what they're called--as in, what your character called them. (If you remember your sweet wife, Lily June, then you remember her name; if your memory is of some kid you gutted in the War, you probably don't remember his.) That said, you have no recollection of what became of them after the memory, nor how (or if) you knew or met them beforehand.

Greatest Fear, Worst Nightmare: These are probably one and the same on some level, but either way, I need to know it, so you do, too. Again, you can write this as a simple description: Roy MacArran has an unhealthy phobia of goats. But again, this is an opportunity for you to really present and portray a character. I'm giving you the opportunity to write your own Worst Nightmare: take that and run with it as far as you please. Make it visceral. Make it uncomfortable. Make it real.

In conjunction with your Memento Mori, your character may or may not recognize people, if any, who are involved in your Worst Nightmare. Do with this as you please, but keep it consistent. If I see you using a nightmare to add extra memories to your character, I'll comment on it and we'll change things as need be.

Death Wound: That's right, partner. As already hinted at, your hombre will have taken a dirt nap by the time the game kicks off--emphasis on nap, since this ain't exactly the Big Sleep we're talking about. Something put you down, and something in you wasn't ready to accept that just yet.

Coming back from the dead has advantages and disadvantages, and you can heal from a lot of things--you aren't the average walking corpse that people scream and run from on sight. But deaders of your type never fully recover from the wound that put them down, and I want you to tell me what that is. It can be just about anything that would reasonably befall you shortly before, during, or immediately after a violent fight, and beyond that, I'll leave it up to you. Personally, my short list would include shooting, stabbing, bludgeoning, poisoning, strangling (including from hanging), disemboweling, throat-cutting, and trampling, but I'm sure there's other options out there.

Character Creation for the Brave and Bold:
This is for you folks who have access to the rules and want to fully build a character for your concept. Like I said above, this is by no means necessary, but here's what we're working with, if you're interested. I'd definitely suggest looking at the other spoilers below this one, in order to fully flesh out your mechanics and make sure it's all correct.

Attributes: 5 points to spend on the five Attributes, as normal for Savage Worlds. However, seeing as you're all starting out Harrowed (see below), everyone gets a free d6 in Spirit. Believe me, you're gonna need it.

Skills: 13 points to spend on Skills, in addition to the free d4 in the Core Skills of Athletics, Common Knowledge, Notice, Persuasion, and Stealth. You get an extra point because I'm generous, because we're using Guts, and because it's an onerous number that fits this game. Obviously, some of the Skills won't be seeing much (or any) use--I won't stop you from sticking a d8 in Hacking but it sure as hell ain't gonna come up.
--Guts: We'll be using the Guts skill from Deadlands Reloaded to cope with Fear tests and other nastiness. The Weird West is a Hellish place on the verge of true darkness, and it takes a special something to cope with it.
--Mean Sonsab@~!#es: Seeing as you're playing outlaws and their ilk, it seems fitting that you'd have an aptitude for scaring folk. As such, you can trade out the free d4 in Persuasion for a d4 in Intimidation.

Hindrances: You can take 4 points, mixing and matching Major and Minor Hindrances at their usual value, as normal. Feel free to take extra for flavor, and for roleplaying for Bennies, but you won't get extra points for building your character.
--An Aside on Hindrances: With many Hindrances being roleplaying heavy, a question can crop up of when a Hindrance is a Hindrance? For example, just because your character comes back with an almighty hatred for the backstabbing bastards that put them down, does that mean you have to be Vengeful? I'd say no, and same goes for everything else. Take a Hindrance if you want it to be a powerful, driving aspect of your character's personality, something that defines who they are and how the world will see them. Just because you're sarcastic doesn't make you Mean; just because you like planning doesn't make you Cautious.
--Harrowed Hindrances: Since you'll be starting the game pushing up daisies (see below), you are allowed to take these Hindrances--although I'd recommend thinking long and hard about some of them.
--Wanted: Yeah, before you start thinking you can get mileage out of this, you're all probably gonna be Wanted off the bat. Not to say you can't take this, but be aware you're only setting yourself up for more trouble with the law if you do.

Edges: You get the free Edge for being Human, as normal, with an added bonus: your free Edge ignores Rank requirements, although it cannot be Legendary, and you have to meet all the other requirements. You can buy additional Edges as normal with Hindrance points.
--Arcane Backgrounds: There's a lot available here. I'll allow anything from the Deadlands Reloaded line, using their latest versions and matching mechanics to the new edition's rules where necessary--as a pertinent example, supernatural Martial Artists will work like Gifted, using Focus as their related skill. Additionally, if you want to play a Voodooist Blessed or a Whateley-blooded Huckster, you can do so, gaining the benefits and drawbacks of the related Edges for free. Finally, taking an Arcane Background Edge gives you a free d4 in its related skill, because I feel like otherwise it's a pricey investment.
--Harrowed: You're all gonna get this for free, plus an extra! See the spoiler below.

Gear: Everyone's got $250 to spend on equipment and belongings as normal for Deadlands Reloaded. Everyone's assumed to start with some clothes, and if you buy extra, it's considered a small wardrobe of like contents, enough that you're not wearing the same shirt and trousers day in, day out. This isn't to say you've got all this on you right when things kick off, but it's good to know what you have to your name. I'd strongly urge everyone to have a small weapon of some kind--you were outlaws, after all.

Grit: Grit is used as normal for Deadlands Reloaded. Characters start with 1 Grit for their Novice Rank, which can be raised or lowered by Edges and Hindrances.

Advances: Finally, once you've built your character as a normal starting-out Novice, apply two Advances. These can be whatever you want as following the normal rules.

Dead to a Man:
I've mentioned it, hinted at it, and beaten around it so far, but let me make it clear at this point, friends and neighbors: come the start of the game, your characters are dead. Well, they were dead. See, in the Weird West, folks who catch a ticket to Boot Hill don't always stay there. Your hombres, for better or worse, are among the undead brotherhood who've come back to tell the tale: the Harrowed.

Every character in this game effectively gains the Harrowed Edge for free, starting out as a reborn gunslinger with an unholy spirit along for the ride. For the most part, you're in control, living your life more or less as you see fit. Sure, there's some changes, but it's still you knocking around in there--although in our case, your personality may have changed something drastic sometime during the trip to Hell and back. It's only when things get real hairy that you lose control to the demon riding shotgun in your brain.

Additionally, you're set to gain more faculty over your new existence than most. At every rank, including Novice, you gain a free Edge from those available to Harrowed characters, representing your growing prowess as an undead compadre. This is a straight power increase, sure, but I figure you can use all the help you can get with what I'll be throwing at you--and besides, the Harrowed Edges are a lot of fun, and don't often see a ton of regular usage, so I'd like to see what you set up.

Obviously this means you'll start with a Harrowed Edge at game start, so if you're building a character, you can feel free to pick one. They all have their uses, but I'd certainly recommend any of the following: Dead Reckoning (never know when you might want to find a corpse), Death Mask (making yourself look like a living, breathing person certainly has its uses), Stitchin' (healing faster is always useful), or Supernatural Attribute (always useful to come back better than you were). It's worth mentioning that this Edge, and being Harrowed in general, is applied last in making your character, so any effects apply after Advances, and the Harrowed Edge has to meet Rank requirements as well as everything else.

For simplicity's sake, here's the pertinent info on being one of the risen few:
Death Wounds: As suggested above, the wound that put a Harrowed down in the first place never really goes away. It's an eternal ugly scar, and while it isn't as horrible as it was at death, it sure don't look good. Most walkin' corpses cover these up as best they can.
Decay: Harrowed ain't your average walkin' dead, stumbling around with an obviously corpselike demeanor, but they aren't the image of health. Their skin tends to be pale and sallow, not always gaunt but leaning that way. They also don't smell too wonderful. Folks who get up close and personal with your average Harrowed can smell the stink of death on them with a Notice roll, unless the walker "pickles" themselves with alcohol--a quart or so will do the job for a couple days. It makes them smell like a drunk, sure, but a living one. Finally, it's worth noting that you are a walking corpse: your blood doesn't flow, and other bodily functions aren't really carried out. This does mean you don't need to eat or drink, and can't get drunk--although you do need meat to heal, and alcohol can help mask your stink.
Dominion: Your Dominion starts at 0. When the situation calls for it (GM discretion), you make an opposed Spirit roll against the manitou in your head, with your current Dominion as a modifier. On a success, you retain control and gain 1 Dominion, 2 on a Raise. On a failure, the manitou takes control and gets up to some mischief, and your Dominion drops by 1, or 2 on a Critical Failure. On a tie, you're Shaken as you fight off the influence. Dominion can't go below -4 or above +4.
Sleeping: Harrowed only need 1d6 hours of sleep each night, but that's the only real upside. They have trouble pushing to stay awake, since the manitou will just shut things down when it's bedtime: Harrowed have to make Spirit rolls every hour with a cumulative -2 penalty to stay awake, and if they fail, they just keel over on the spot. That said, the manitou keeps one eye open, so they're at least as likely as other folks to wake up if trouble comes knocking.
Undead: You do get some advantages thanks to your zombie-like state. You get a +2 to Toughness, +1 to Grit, and a +2 to Fear Tests (after all, you already lived through dying and your worst nightmare). You're immune to nonlethal damage, and even "death" from Wounds only puts you out of commission for 1d6 days, unless it's you're Incapacitated by a head shot. Finally, you're immune to poison and disease, seeing as you're already a corpse.
Unnatural Healing: In place of the normal healing options of just waiting it out or getting beneficial magic, Harrowed have to rely on their own faculties, which mostly consists of turning meat into their own. A Harrowed can eat a pound of meat, cooked or otherwise, in order to make a Natural Healing roll every five days; certain Edges can improve this rate. Healing rolls and beneficial miracles and tribal medicine don't work on them.

House Rules and Setting Rules:
This is a combination of suggested rules from Savage Worlds itself and a couple touches I've added in myself.

Buckets of Blood: As listed on page 20 of the Savage Worlds Horror Companion. In the dark danger of the Weird West, folk die in spectacularly gruesome fashion, spraying blood that calls for Fear tests and makes it more likely for folks to slip and fall.

Gritty Damage: As listed on page 139 of Savage Worlds Adventure Edition. Effectively, this means that any time you attack someone, you need to roll 2d6 to check where you hit them, and Wounds cause Injuries. I might tinker with this as the game goes on.

Sanity: As described in the Savage Worlds Horror Companion. Sanity starts at 2 + half a character's Spirit die, and goes up and down (usually down) throughout adventuring. My take on the Weird West may be particularly grating on a hero's mind, and the darkness characters face can have greater effects than a short-term shock.

EDGES: A pair of Edges from Deadlands are getting revamped, and a new one is being introduced.
--Hip-Shooting: Instead of letting you use automatic fire rules with your hogleg, this Edge interacts with the ability to take multiple actions on your turn. With this Edge, when you declare two or more attacks using a single-action revolver, you reduce the multi-action penalty on those attacks by 1. With the Improved version, you reduce the penalty by 2. So, for example, if Roy MacArran has the Hip-Shooting Edge and he draws his revolver (an action) and slaps off two quick shots (two more actions) on his turn, his Shooting rolls will take a -3 penalty each.
--Unflinching: This is a new Edge that requires you to be a Wild Card, and either be Harrowed or of Seasoned Rank. Your hombre has the air of having seen it all and done it all, and it shows in the way the carry themselves. You add your Grit to Intimidation and Persuasion rolls, as well as Smarts and Spirit rolls to resist such rolls and Tests in combat.

I believe that's everything, and I hope right truly that it all makes sense. If you've got any questions, please ask, as I'm happy to answer and clarify. Hope to see some fine folks willing to take the plunge and take the fight to the Reckoners!