Three Made One – BROKEN TOYS

Three Made One Toy Boy

When children are playing alone on the green,
In comes the playmate that never was seen.
When children are happy and lonely and good,
The Friend of the Children comes out of the wood.

Nobody heard him, and nobody saw,
His is a picture you never could draw,
But he’s sure to be present, abroad or at home,
When children are happy and playing alone.

—From A Child’s garden of Verse, by Robert Lewis Stevenson

This week’s release of Astonishing Adventures: Three Made One concludes the NetherWar adventure series with a bang and brings back plenty of old friends and enemies the heroes have encountered over the last five adventures, including Sandstone, Medea, the Factor Four, Sallah, Seven, and more side characters than you can shake your character notes at. There are moving parts galore and possibly one of the toughest villain fights yet printed for Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition!

But one recurring face doesn’t make an appearance in Three Made One. The phantom toy elemental, Toy Boy, sits this one out. This isn’t incredibly unexpected—the heroes defeated Desmond Lettam pretty thoroughly at the climax of Broken Strings, potentially trapping the spirit villain in a legendary Orb of Ghormmuz where he can no longer hurt others. But Toy Boy was a fairly major element for three installments of NetherWar and depending on your group’s interactions with the villain, his absence in this adventure may feel like a glaring omission.

Una—the fawning Desmond’s “Dark Lady”—immediately turns her back on her failed agent upon his defeat. While he was eager and could communicate with Una directly, his work was complete and his usefulness drew to a close during the events of Broken Strings. Una has other agents she can turn toward destroying the last Eldritch Talisman, the Golden mask of Malador, and so Toy Boy’s absence means nothing to the ambitious would-be god. But Desmond Lettam has never taken rejection well.

Here are a few options for featuring Toy Boy in Three Made One:

The Boy in the Orb

If the heroes capture Toy Boy in the Orb of Ghormmuz, he remains their prisoner as the adventure opens and is drawn into Elysium with them, though the dimension’s magic shifts him from the heroes’ immediate possession to their headquarters’ trophy room (assuming he wasn’t there already). Desmond rails against the heroes, hurling insults and accusations, but doubt has begun creeping into the back of his mind. A part of him knows he’s been forgotten by the only person he cared about, and if the heroes play to that they can turn the villainous ghost into an information source.

You may decide that releasing Toy Boy from the orb is one way the heroes can escape Elysium. His powerful emotional ties to Una allows him return to Earth-Prime like Malador’s Mask once did, bringing the heroes along for the ride. Once back on Earth-Prime, however, he only remains with the heroes if they’ve treated him well during his imprisonment; Desmond hasn’t turned over a new leaf, he’s just angrier at Una for rigging the game, than he is at the meddling heroes who spoiled his fun.

Toy Boy knows only bits and pieces of magic lore, but he knows a lot about Una and her ultimate goals and can help the heroes by providing an Aid bonus to their checks to investigate Triune, and if the heroes have been extraordinarily understanding or can provoke Una into confirming Toy Boy’s worst fears about his abandonment, Toy Boy can even join their final showdown with the Dark Lord as an additional magical ally who helps delay Triune’s reunification.

Free Spirits

If the heroes never imprisoned Toy Boy during Broken Strings, the ghostly villain has finally escaped the Dungeon Dimension only to discover his Dark Lady has forgotten him and recruited Medea as her new favored agent. While happy to sulk for a time, Triune’s ascension is enough to snap Toy Boy out of it and either drive him to beg the newborn to accept him as a servant or else his bitterness drives him to seek out the heroes.

If Toy Boy seeks out the heroes to help them, he might be one element to help draw them out of Elysium or clue them in that the world isn’t what it seems. You can present Elysium as far more realistic, with only recurring toy-based elements seeming out-of-place until Toy Boy grows strong enough to approach the heroes on his own. Much like when he is trapped in the Orb, an independent Toy Boy can help the heroes investigate Triune upon their release or act as an incorporeal spy and go-between for the various factions, helping the heroes coordinate with their allies—not that Desmond is a completely trustworthy ally who won’t create new complications for the heroes to resolve. He may likewise serve as a mystic ally in the climax to help delay Triune’s re-assembly or he can play a similar role to Medea as an emergency back-up in case one of the established heroes is incapacitated.

A Toy Boy rejoining Una’s side becomes one of Triune’s dread guard, the Wings of Doom. Use the Terror Teddy statblock from Broken Strings to reflect the new doll body Triune creates for him, or use one of the existing villain archetypes from the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide, such as the Brute (an enormous toy dinosaur), the Composite (a toy box), the Hybrid (an Immature Radioactive Samurai Squirrel action figure), or the Robot (a transmorpher). This version of Toy Boy operates as a lone hunter tracking the heroes as they explore the city and investigate Triune.

I’m a Real Boy!

Among the rewards that you can hand out at the adventure’s climax might be a second chance at life for the troubled Desmond Lettam, whose disability and the sheltered life his parents forced on him only fueled his emotional problems. If the heroes go above and beyond to bond with an imprisoned or allied Toy Boy, Desmond might sacrifice himself to save a hero from an especially vicious critical hit from Una the Evolved during the final confrontation. Una’s magic allows her to shred spirits as easily as flesh and Toy Boy—with his innate +0 Toughness bonus—has little chance to resist the overwhelming force she can apply. Depending on the tone of your campaign, this might be a bittersweet end for a troubled soul, or the mystic shock and the transformative magic following Triune’s defeat might restore Toy Boy to life, either as his old self or as a young child with a second shot at life. Heroes might return him to his aging parents or turn him over to the state, or adopt the reborn villain as their own and hopefully give him a healthier environment in which to grow up as second time.

Astonishing Adventures: Netherwar part 5 Three Made One is on sale now, and also available on DrivethruRPG

Welcome to Aldea: A Blue Rose Primer

Blue Rose Adventurer's GuideWhether it is the announcement of the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide, the release of some recent Blue Rose products, or just general curiosity, if you are unfamiliar with the setting for Blue Rose, you may be wondering: What is this “Aldea” place and what is it like for playing games and telling stories?

Walk across its meadows, under the branches of its forests, or along its shores, and you would find the world of Aldea much like our own: with a day and night, a sun and moon, a cycle of seasons over a similar year, with much flora and fauna that would be familiar.

That said, you would also encounter magic and mystery under those forest boughs and in the watery depths. The sun, moon, and stars were placed in the sky by primordial powers worshipped during that cycle of seasons, and some flora and fauna are quite different indeed, from tree-spirits to faeries to beasts with minds as aware as our own. What’s more, you would find places, and creatures, touched by forces of corruption and evil, which have twisted them, making them inimical to life.

The Western Lands

Aldea is a world in many ways like our own several centuries ago, in others very different. The Blue Rose setting focuses on a region of the overall world of Aldea less than a thousand miles across, centered on the nation of Aldis, the Sovereignty of the Blue Rose. They are collectively known as the Western Lands, or the Old Kingdom Lands, although both terms are not in widespread use, since these lands don’t think of themselves collectively, for the most part. They have emerged only a few centuries ago from a vast dark age of corrupt rule, and parts of the world still remain touched by the power known to Aldeans as Shadow.

  • Aldis: Central to the Western Land is the Sovereignty of Aldis, once the heart of the Old Kingdom. Aldis is ruled by nobles who are trained and tested for their roles, including the magical test of the Blue Rose Scepter to verify their good intentions. It is ruled by a Sovereign chosen by the divine Golden Hart from among its people, and the current sovereign is Queen Jaellin. Aldis harnesses arcane power and potential to improve the lives of its people and to promote a culture of tolerance and prosperity for all.
  • Rezea: West of Aldis, across the broad Rezean Gulf, lie the plains of Rezea, hundreds of miles of open grasslands, fed by rivers flowing from the high northern mountains towards the ocean. These lands are claimed by the Clans of Rezea, semi-nomadic horse-riders descended from humans who escaped servitude in Drunac to the north and west and found their way onto the vast plains, led by the great hero Jessa. The Rezean clans are largely independent, and often competitive, united by their culture and their respect for the Khana, the wisest of their witches.
  • Jarzon: To the east of Aldis, across the expanse of the Veran Marsh, is the Theocracy of Jarzon. Jarzon’s history of struggle in throwing off tyranny and surviving in a corrupted world has shaped their culture and views. A deeply religious nation, Jarzon’s salvation was in the Church of Pure Light. The church preaches a strict life of vigilance against corruption. The practice of the occult is punishable by death, and the arcane arts may only be practiced by the church’s priesthood and those specifically under their supervision. Jarzon mistrusts neighboring Aldis for the Sovereignty’s embrace of arcana and the forces which the Theocracy feels corrupted the world—and have the potential to do so again.
  • Kern: To the north of Aldis, beyond the peaks of the Ice-Binder Mountains, lies the foreboding Thaumarchy of Kern, the last of the domains of Shadow. The Lich King Jarek ruled here for centuries until Queen Jaellin and the forces of Aldis brought his rule—and his dark tower—crashing down three years ago. A loose alliance of seven of Jarek’s lieutenants stepped quickly into the power vacuum, taking up the reins of power as a “Regency Council” until the succession could be settled. The so-called “Shadowed Seven” plot and scheme and maneuver for advantage in the inevitable conflict that will settle which of them sits upon Kern’s throne.
  • Lar’tya: A sea voyage to the south and west of Aldis lie the volcanic isles of the Matriarchy of Lar’tya. It is a prosperous, tropical nation with a trading partnership with the Western Lands, particularly Aldis. As its name suggests, Lar’tya consolidates political and social power in the hands of women, considering them more naturally suited to administration, business, and leadership. The nation also has a strict caste system, with limited social mobility and interaction between castes.
  • The Roamers: The traveling folk known as Roamers trace their lineage back to the lost nation of Faenaria, what is now the Shadow Barrens. The Roamers travel from place to place in small caravans of brightly colored wagons, trading goods and offering services, often visionary readings or small arcane works. They’re known for their love of music and dance, but also for a somewhat mischievous nature and a gift for stirring things up in places they visit.

The Western Kingdoms of Aldea

The Peoples of Aldea

On Aldea, their term for “person” generally refers to any embodied soul: a living being born of the world, capable of thought and self-awareness. That said, not all cultures agree as to precisely who

Blue Rose: The AGE RPG of Romantic Fantasy

Blue Rose (Fantasy AGE)

is or isn’t a “person.” In particular some nations, like Jarzon, question whether or not rhydan are truly people, or whether the night people are deserving of the name, being creations of the occult, and therefore shadowspawn in their eyes. In Aldis and much of the world, however, the following five peoples are recognized:

  • Humans: The vast majority of people in the world are humans, who would be quite familiar to us. Aldean humans exist in all of the vast variety they do on our world, and then some.
  • Night People: Creations of arcana, the night people were made as brute laborers and soldiers. Many fought for and won their freedom and they are now found in many lands, although fully-accepted only in Aldis, as many others are suspicious of the night people’s origins.
  • Rhydan: The rhydan have the bodies of beasts, but possess souls just like any people, making them intelligent, self-aware, and gifted with arcane (particularly psychic) talents. Most rhydan arise—or “awaken” as they call it—from amongst mundane animals of their kind, and many in Aldis believe rhydan are proof of the Wheel of Rebirth: placing enlightened souls into animal forms close to nature.
  • Sea-folk: Sea-folk are an amphibious people, who can swim with great skill and hold their breath as long as a dolphin. They have green- or blue-tinted skin and hair and eyes of a similar shade. Sea-folk are androgynous and often gender-fluid. Because they depend on water more than land-dwellers, sea-folk live near rivers, streams, lakes, or the sea.
  • Vata: Descendants of the ancient and arcane vatazin, their heritage mixed with human ancestry, the vata are a long-lived people of arcane gifts and insights, but one that has been fading from the world for generations.

Before the souls of Aldea were embodied, they were timeless beings beyond physicality. Now in diverse forms, they retain some sense of their previous oneness. While men and women are the most common genders of Aldea, more exist beyond these two. While people in Aldis have no overriding romantic or sexual preference, placing the importance of the soul over the body, there are those primarily or solely drawn to their own gender, or to a different gender, as well as those not drawn to sex or romance in particular, or even at all. There are many sorts of families, based on many sorts of relationships between people, with love as the most common element.

A New World Awaits

This summary is just the barest taste of the magical world of Aldea. So much more awaits in both Blue Rose, the AGE Roleplaying Game of Romantic Fantasy (for the AGE System) and in the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide (for Fifth Edition fantasy roleplaying), as well as fiction set in the world of Aldea from Nisaba Press, such as the novel Shadowtide. Whatever venue appeals to you, welcome to the world of Aldea! Take the time to visit and experience its stories, and then create some of your own.

Under a Black Flag: Tales of Freeport

Under a Black FlagToday is Talk Like a Pirate Day, and in our newest anthology Under the Black Flag, the blood and salt of Freeport breeds a special kind of hero, one usually kicked out of all but the crustiest taverns and immortalized in bawdy songs. Ancient cultists lurk beneath the streets, unknown horrors prowl the depths, but the real trouble is the ne’er-do-wells who walk the city’s streets and alleys.

Under a Black Flag features nine rollicking tales of swashbuckling action centered around the City of Freeport, a fantasy pirate city unlike any other.

Under a Black Flag is available for Pre-Order in our Online Store as well as on DrivethruRPG.

About Nisaba Press

Nisaba Press draws the rich detail and excitement of collaborative storytelling from the world of roleplaying to create immersive fiction for all readers to enjoy.

We believe everyone should see themselves reflected in our stories. By actively seeking out and amplifying the voices of under-represented writers: women, people of color, and LGBT+, we strive to be inclusive of all readers.

While currently focused on exploring the richly detailed worlds created by Green Ronin Publishing, Nisaba Press’s vision extends to a future filled with speculative fiction set in all manner of places, times, and genres.

While you’re here… Would you like to know more about Freeport: The City of Adventure?

Check out our recent updates to the classic Death In Freeport adventure, now available for Fantasy AGE as well as 5th Edition!Death in Freeport

20 years ago, Green Ronin made a name for itself with Death in Freeport, a d20 System adventure released at GenCon the same day as the 3E PHB. It went on to win the very first ENnie Award and the Origins Award for Best RPG Adventure. Return to those halcyon days with this 20th Anniversary Edition of Death in Freeport, now updated to the Fantasy AGE rules!

Chris Pramas—the designer of the AD&D Guide to HellWFRP 2E, and Dragon Age—created the city of Freeport for this classic adventure for low-level characters. Add urban sprawl, pirates, and a touch of cosmic horror to your campaign with the City of Adventure.

Death in Freeport has already kicked off thousands of campaigns. Be part of the legend with the 20th Anniversary Edition!

Blue Rose Blooms Again

Blue Rose Adventurer's GuideI seem to have a thing for writing Blue Rose announcements in June but, given it is Pride Month, and roses bloom in the early summer, that makes a certain amount of sense. I’m writing this one in June as well, although I don’t know exactly when you’ll see it, website and product scheduling being what they are.

The notion of returning Blue Rose to its d20-based roots in some form or another has been something we have discussed various times over the years, but it took a pandemic closing down printers, distributors, and game stores to prioritize it in the company’s busy schedule. Green Ronin is certainly no stranger to the Fifth Edition landscape, having designed and developed two official Dungeons & Dragons books (Out of the Abyss and The Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide) as well as publishing a Fifth Edition compatible edition of the Book of the Righteous and the hugely-popular Tal’dorei Campaign Setting sourcebook for the online streaming show Critical Role. With a Fifth Edition version of the Book of Fiends in the works, a large Fifth Edition audience and the opportunities available to us, it seemed that the Wheel of Rebirth had turned once again and it was time for the Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide to find its way into your hands.

The Blue Rose Adventurer’s Guide is a complete setting sourcebook for Aldea, the romantic fantasy world of Blue Rose, for Fifth Edition fantasy roleplaying. It details Aldea, its history and cosmology, and the Sovereignty of Aldis and its surrounding lands, all of the essential information you need to know about this fantasy world. The remaining third of the book covers the game information you need to play your own Fifth Edition campaigns in Aldea: unique ancestries (including the awakened animal rhydan), backgrounds, character subclasses (including the Peacekeeper martial archetype, the Way of the Spirit Dance monastic path, the Oath of the Rose for paladins, the School of the Psyche for wizards, and much more), modifications to spellcasting, rules for the corrupting power of Shadow, and details on Aldean monsters and magic items. All of it, of course, beautifully presented and wrapped in the gorgeous art of cover artists Stephanie Pui-Min Law.

We’re excited to offer a way to experience the world of Blue Rose using the world’s most popular tabletop roleplaying game, and to introduce fans of Fifth Edition to a romantic fantasy world where connection, empathy, and kindness play important roles, and where a diverse nation of good people work together to uphold and protect their society against the forces arrayed against it.

For Aldis, and the Queen!

Now On Sale: Feral Hogs for Modern AGE

Release the Hogs!

Was there an apocalypse, or is this a fever dream brought on by too many energy drinks? Or is Murica, a future nation of trucks, guns, mail order distribution centers-turned-fortresses, and most importantly, mutated feral hogs, truly a Utopia, where everyone can express themselves as the ruggedest of individuals? Find out by testing yourself against this brave new world of mutant Suidae, from running Squealers to the dreaded Hogferatu!

Hogferatu from Modern AGE: Feral Hogs

Feral Hogs is a new PDF adventure for the Modern AGE Missions series. Beyond nakedly exploiting the 30-50 Feral Hogs meme from the comparatively paradisiacal year of 2019, Feral Hogs started out as a one shot adventure for the Dice Priori stream. Watch the original session here (though you’ll be spoiled if you do!). We were so amused by it we asked Dice Priori’s Matthew Foreman and Chase Schneider to write it out as an adventure the rest of us can enjoy.

Consequently, it’s our duty and pleasure to announce that Dice Priori will be running a sequel to the adventure on September 23. Visit their stream, watch, and maybe win prizes! And when you’re good and ready, run Feral Hogs for your 1st to 4th level Modern AGE characters. Chug your BEAST energy drink, lock and load, and for Murica’s sake, shoot tens of feral hogs!

Get Feral Hogs

Modern AGE Missions: Warflower

The Modern AGE Missions series presents unusual or customizable scenarios for the Modern AGE roleplaying game that aren’t connected to any established AGE setting. The first adventure, Warflower, smashes characters against the problems caused by eccentric modern sword fighters, pretentious drug dealers, and a very weird CEO, where the Game Master decides upon its culminating secret.

Feral Hogs and Memes in Modern AGE

Not every Modern AGE adventure has to be deadly serious, and last year I was charmed when the streamers of DicePriori ran a one-shot based on the infamous “30-50 Feral Hogs” meme. It looked like so much fun that I asked DicePriori members Chase Schneider and Matthew Foreman to write the adventure out for me as a Modern AGE Mission:  next in a series of unconventional and/or setting-neutral PDF adventures for the line. The first in the series, Warflower (also available at DriveThruRPG) was a choose-your-own secret romp through medieval-style sword fighters, drug-dealing alchemists, and corporate perfidy. Feral Hogs’ claim to fame is that it was ripped from the headlines of…well, 2019 (stupid COVID-19 delays) and set in a post-apocalyptic fever dream of big trucks, guns, distribution centers turned fortresses, and nuclear reactors. If it had a genre, it would be “memesploitation.” Look for Feral Hogs this week!

Feral Hogs!

But speaking of memesploitation, how do characters in Modern AGE use memes? In a past Threefold campaign one of the PCs got their Twitter account verified, so I know from experience social media plays a part in contemporary campaigns. In most games the Click “Share” stunt in the core rules works well, The Modern AGE Companion’s Influencer talent and Communicator specialization are the power duo for social media, but anybody can make a meme (or grow one from an opportunity, like the original Feral Hogs Twitter blow up), and this being Modern AGE, the ability to make a meme naturally implies Meme Stunts!

Making Modern AGE Memes

A meme is an idea expressed in some rough form (an image, or a video, or…well, it’s 2020, we know what memes are) that people feel compelled to share. To make a meme on purpose requires a Communication (Expression) test, with a TN determined by the reach you want it to achieve:

Sympathy Likes—TN 10: You want to amuse your social media connections who will at least pretend to think the meme is clever.

Community Appreciation—TN 14: You want that meme to spread across a significant scene of people, like backpackers or miniatures gamers.

Mass Culture—TN 18: You want the meme to be known to a vast section of people.

You can also strategically share a meme (with good timing, a good venue, and maybe a witty addition or two) but this puts you on the periphery of its hottest social media action. Generally, sharing an existing meme has the TN and effects of creating a meme of one rank less, so piggybacking on a Mass Culture meme has the TN and effects of an original Community Appreciation Meme. Sharing a meme worthy of Sympathy Likes is useless. Sorry.

A meme’s main practical effect is to strengthen your social media reach by amusing and increasing the number of followers you have. This provides a one-step Attitude shift in the direction of your choosing about the target or subject of your choosing among the audience you aimed for, though this is short-lived, lasting just 3d6 days. Furthermore, you can use the following Meme Stunts!

Meme Stunts

1-3          Meme Economy: You’ve got a good format or idea. You can spend up to 3 SP on this stunt, with each SP adding +1 to your next meme.

2/4/6     Viral AF: Your meme’s effects last longer. Double its duration for 2 SP, then double it again at 4 (4x) and 6 (8x) SP.

3              Actual LOL: Your meme is sweet enough to provoke a real reaction. You shift your targets’ Attitudes an additional step up or down.

4              Cash Me: Your improved social media reach translates into money from a hustle you promote, or a simple appeal for money. You gain +1 Resources for 1 week for Sympathy Likes, 1 month for Community Appreciation, and 2d6 months for Mass Culture memes.

5              I AM the Senate: 1d6 weeks after your meme launches, an online community forms to talk about it and make related memes. If you contact this community it automatically confers 1 rank of Membership on you. The community is one size smaller that the scope of your meme, unless it’s a Sympathy Likes meme, in which case it’s just a handful of people.

Fantasy AGE Freeport

Death In Freeport for Fantasy AGELast month, in “Return to Freeport,” we talked a bit about the classic adventure Death in Freeport, which helped to launch Green Ronin Publishing twenty years ago, and the forthcoming anniversary edition of that adventure. Not only is Death in Freeport being offered for the fifth edition of the world’s most widely-played fantasy roleplaying game, we are also offering a Fantasy AGE edition for AGE System players who would like to experience the City of Adventure for themselves!

Just like the 5e version, the Fantasy AGE edition of Death in Freeport will be full-color and available in electronic (PDF) and print-on-demand (POD) formats, with the same exciting adventure, but designed for Fantasy AGE game-play. Since both Freeport and Fantasy AGE were designed by Green Ronin’s own Chris Pramas, their aesthetics fit together like they were made for each other! That includes some fun AGE System style touches, such as:

  • Roleplaying stunts while interacting with the various low-lifes and scoundrels of the city.
  • Exploration stunts while delving into the mysterious dungeons beneath Freeport.
  • Mechanics for the hazards of some classic fantasy traps found in the adventure.
  • The unique stunts of serpent people, skeletons, and other monsters the characters may encounter.

Death in Freeport introduces the player characters to the free city and pirate haven of Freeport, and entangles them in the mystery of a scholar who has gone missing, leading them to a much deeper threat, both figuratively and literally!

The adventure also includes Fantasy AGE versions of the four pre-generated player characters who were a part of the original Death in Freeport: Rollo (gnome warrior), Malevir (half-elf mage), Alaina (human rogue), and Thorgrim (dwarf mage and healer).

From Freeport to Lairs

Fantasy AGE Game Masters looking to expand things beyond the events of Death in Freeport can find inspiration in Lairs for Fantasy AGE, many of which can easily be situated on the islands of the Serpent’s Teeth:

  • Shifted to a jungle locale,The Valley of the Titans could be on one of the islands, possibly connected to Lost Valossa or another ancient, mythic civilization.
  • The Temple of the Stone Oath could be hidden on the slopes of the volcano at the heart of A’Val or in mountainous terrain on another island.
  • Madness Under the Sea suits Freeport quite well, with Coral Scar’s Island hidden amidst the Serpent’s Teeth.
  • The Night Market can appear anywhere, even just outside the walls of Freeport itself.

Other Lairs or published Fantasy AGE adventures can also be placed in and around the city of Freeport or on the islands of the Serpent’s Teeth, mixing-and-matching to create a fantastic setting for your swashbuckling AGE adventures!

Death in Freeport for Fantasy AGE, is now available in the Green Ronin Online Store, or on DrivethruRPG

Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law

Mind Control and Psychic Combat!

With last week’s release of Bound by Gold, Malador the Mystic once again seizes a mortal body with which to threaten the world. But this newest Astonishing Adventure adds a rub: The heroes are brought into the investigation to help rescue the young man Malador is currently inhabiting. Bodily possession and mind control are common elements in superhero media; they make for emotionally wrenching resolutions as the hero overcomes the domination or tearful reunions as the hero draws out the original host’s spirit to help fight the possessing villain through heartfelt pleas.

Mutants & Masterminds, 3rd Edition uses the same rules for mind control and possession, revolving mostly around the Compelled and Controlled conditions applied via the Affliction power. A Compelled character’s Standard Action and Free Actions each round are determined by someone else, with their Move Action lost to the struggle for dominance. A Gamemaster might allow them to shout out warnings to those around them, but otherwise their only role in the action is to slow the force controlling them. Controlled overrides a character’s free will entirely, leaving all their actions each round up to the controlling force with the original mind a helpless passenger. Because Compelled is a 2nd degree condition, a hero overcome by it can attempt a new resistance check at the end of each round to shake the effect and regain full control of themselves, but Controlled—being a 3rd degree condition—can only be resisted once every minute.

While mechanically appropriate, the Compelled and Controlled conditions sidestep the narrative drama that mind control and possession can offer, so let’s look at some other ways to handle these effects in ways at the table to get everything you want from this classic trope.

Narrative Mind Control

Not all mind control needs to be equal. As an alternative to short-term “combat” mind control, narrative mind control make influence over a character as total and long-lasting as you need, particularly with villains like Malador or Knightfire who take mortal bodies as hosts. In these cases, it’s assumed the host’s mind is overwhelmed either by one of the most powerful wills in the cosmos or by an evil they invited in willingly. But beyond even these exceptional cases, narrative mind control means that villains with a focus on mental domination can keep a cadre of loyally brainwashed agents around without re-applying their Affliction power every ten rounds.

While the example of Malador is very overt, narrative mind control may be subtle instead, barely changing a character’s behavior or only causing them to act strangely when no one might notice. In this situation, a controlled character may only act in the middle of the night—sleepwalking for all they or anyone else knows—or they might think they’re going through their daily work tasks while unwittingly funneling information, security codes, or resources to the villain. The controlled character doesn’t fight the unnatural control because they aren’t aware of any unnatural control; everything seems perfectly normal from their point of view.

Narrative mind control is effectively permanent until deliberately ended by an outside force: a mystic dispels the control spell, the heroes defeat the psychic villain, or a hacker purges the corrupted software from the android’s brain. In some cases, a character under subtle narrative mind control might be able to fight the effects once they’re aware of it, transitioning from this model to the traditional Compelled and Controlled conditions once a character is presented with obvious proof or the villain makes their control overt and clearly opposed to the character’s morals. Especially subtle mind control may even linger after the obvious “fix” as psychics leave post-hypnotic suggestions that won’t trigger for weeks or a possessing spirit leaves just enough of their essence behind to reach out to the victim in their dreams.

Narrative mind control works best when applied to NPCs because it takes agency away from a character indefinitely, sometimes overwriting them entirely with a new character in the case of possessing entities. Some players might find the role of double-agent fun, however, so be willing to ask if a perfect story opportunity arises. In this case, the control becomes a temporary Complication, allowing the GM to occasionally dictate or forbid a course of action for the hero in exchange for a Hero Point.

Fighting Mind Control from the Outside

Mind-controlling afflictions come with a built-in mechanical solution: the target gets a new resistance check regularly to throw off the effect. But that solution isn’t necessarily satisfying in an emotional confrontation between a hero and a friend forced to do evil. Here are a few suggestions for ways the heroes can help an ally compelled against their will:


Heroes’ words of encouragement and love can help the target find their inner strength and throw off outside control. This functions like most Aid actions, with any heroes who help making appropriate PRE-based skill checks against a DC 10. A successful check grants the target a +2 bonus on their next resistance check against the control, while three or more degrees of Success bumps the bonus up to +5. Heroes will generally make Presence checks, but Deception, Expertise, or even Intimidate checks might be appropriate in different situations.

The Psychic Beatdown

Most mind controlling or possessing villains maintain a strong mental link to their target, so a hero with attack effects resisted by Will, such as a Mental Blast, might be able to target the controlling mind rather than the target themselves. At the Gamemaster’s discretion, this might require enough psychic sensitivity to tell the two minds apart (with a Sense like Psychic Awareness or Acute Detect Minds), count of a use of Extra Effort, or be a default ability of a Will-based attack.

An Incapacitated result immediately ends the villain’s mind control. A Dazed or Stunned result doesn’t, but allows the target a resistance check against the control if they haven’t already made one this round (making this tactic more useful against fully-controlled victims).

Challenge Sequence

For groups without a psychic warrior, appealing to the target’s human decency and compassion might help break them free as part of an optional challenge sequence. This option can be satisfying for roleplay-focused players who want evocative or dramatic resolutions to fights rather than just throwing bolts of energy. As with the Aid action, heroes can opt to make a skill check or appropriate power check as a Standard Action toward a challenge sequence to help the victim shake free of their unwanted control. The target DC is either the control effect rank +10 (more appropriate for mind control) or the villain’s Will rank +10 (more appropriate for villains possessing a physical host). The total successes needed varies, with a base of 1, plus 1 for every 5 ranks of the controlling power; shaking the mind control effect imposed by Affliction 10, for example, requires a total of 3 Degrees of Success. Increase the necessary successes by +1 or +2 if mind control is the villain’s primary power or somehow core to their existence (such as Malador’s psychic bonus to a host body), so ejecting Malador the Mystic (Will +14, possessing targets is key to his existence) from a host via a challenge sequence would require 5 Degrees of Success on DC 24 checks.

This avenue is strictly optional and not always appropriate, so check with your Gamemaster if its appropriate to an encounter before you begin investing time into the attempt. Some villains might simply need to be defeated before they can be excised from an someone’s mind. As a compromise, heroes might need to know intimate details about a character to try appealing to them, and may need to reveal personal information about themselves such as their secret identity.

Talking Points

Similar to the challenge sequence, a talking points solution to mind control of possession can be very satisfying and emotional, but turns the encounter into a roleplay scene rather than a challenge sequence. In this case a hero doesn’t need to roll dice at all; they must simply recall enough important details about the character to reach their mind and force out the unnatural control. Make a list of 5–10 important details abut the character and decide how many of them a hero must bring (generally half as many) up before finally breaking through the control to reach the target. This might include their name, their family, beloved pets, ambitions, favorite music, career, or fears—whatever feels relevant to a character and their life. Especially important talking points may even count as two points, creating a few vital elements to a character or a “power of love” moment. This solution obviously works best for freeing NPCs who are already close to the hero rather than strangers or random victims, but it can still work as the climax at the end of a long investigation where the heroes have to learn many details about the victim’s life. Heroes are limited to bringing up one talking point each per turn, but once they bring up enough, the target can automatically shake off the mind control.

Rather than a solution, talking points might instead buy the heroes some breathing room. In this case, each talking point isn’t a step toward freedom, but bringing one up imposes the Dazed condition on the victim for one round. Talking points that would count double instead leave the victim Stunned for one round.

Like the challenge sequence, talking points are strictly options, so consult your Gamemaster if you like the idea.

Fighting Mind Control from the Inside

the Mindscape where psychic battle becomes physical

One of the biggest criticisms against mind control at the game table is that it essentially takes on player out of the game until their character can shake the effect. Many players feel like they might as well run and grab a pizza or boot up a video game because they know it will be a while before they need to pay attention again. Much of the advantage of a mind control power is that it limits the heroes’ action economy—how often they are allowed to act in a round—while usually adding to the villain’s

Giving a mind-controlled player something active to do can help salvage their night and make the encounter more memorable for everyone.

Play Along

Some players relish an excuse to go toe-to-toe with their fellow gamers, pitting their build against their friends’. Others love the dramatic tension of their hero turning on their allies and unleashing both physical and psychological punishment. For these players, simply being told “You’re mind-controlled now. You have to attack you allies, but you can decide how,” is the start of a great scene. Let the player decide how they unleash their abilities against their friends and don’t underestimate the pathos of a player choosing story-based conflicts in this occasion, saying hurtful things or exposing their friends’ secrets rather than attacking physically.

As with all player-versus-player approaches, be careful pitting a mind-controlled hero directly against their friends, as it can lead to hurt feelings away from the table. It might be a better idea to turn a mind-controlled player character loose against the police or military or a rival villain, while the remaining heroes battle the villain while shorthanded.


In some cases, overt mind control or possession may force a character’s mind or soul out of their body while the villain maintains control, leaving the hero a bodiless ghost floating over the battle. The character gains Permanent Insubstantial 4 and Permanent Concealment 10 (All Senses), but may still be able to interact with the physical world using mental effects, abilities with the Affects Substantial extra, or by using Extra Effort. A hero in the midst of an “out of body” experience like this might instead explore nearby rooms to gather information or be ejected close to someone close to them, like a kidnapped lover whom they can comfort or try to learn the whereabouts of.

Mindscape Battle

Many superhero stories handle a psychic battle of wills as literal combat inside a mindscape or the Astral Plane, with the hero’s psyche donning idealized armor and battling the invader’s mind or hallucinations. In this case, a hero being mind controlled doesn’t remove their player from the action, it only relocates the action to the psychic plane. The hero must fight alone against a psychic copy of the villain (replacing their mental powers with more overt Damage or Affliction effects) or face off against hordes of minions that reflect the villain’s psychic control, such as the Tulpa (Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide, page 149). Alternatively, the villain’s psychic avatar might translate their mental mastery in the real world to be martial mastery in the mental worlds—use the same personality and description, but select a physically-oriented statblock like the Powerhouse or Weapon Master hero archetypes. If the hero succeeds in their struggle, they knock the villain’s control over them down by one stage—Controlled becomes Compelled, Compelled becomes Dazed, and Dazed becomes unaffected.

If you want to add more details to the mindscape battle, check out the War of the Minds sample scene from Chapter 6 of the Deluxe Gamemaster’s Guide.


However you choose to apply mind control and possession to your superhero games, the key is to provide fun and options to your players, not take options away. Be creative and willing to adapt, and encourage new ideas or unorthodox strategies. The end result might be different, but it’s likely to be an experience everyone remembers.

Bound By Gold: NetherWar part 4, Available Now!

Bound By GoldIn the latest installment of the NetherWar, Bound By Gold, the heroes efforts to stop Toy Boy’s rampage have inadvertently released the former Master Mage: Malador the Mystic, and now the dread Atlantean intends to bind the spirit of his dead rival, Adrian Eldritch, into an undead servant to aid his conquest of the world! With so much at stake, the heroes find an unlikely ally who has an agenda all her own. But the mysterious Dark Lady still works behind the scenes. It’s a three-way magic free-for-all of diabolical villains, with the heroes—and all of Freedom City—caught in the middle!

He’s Baaaaaaack…

Written by Kate Baker, Bound by Gold is a mystical adventure series for a team of four heroes of PL 10. The adventure continues the NetherWar campaign arc for Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition.

Astonishing Adventures bring exciting new adventures for Mutants & Masterminds, Third Edition to you every single month, complete with all the action and villains you need to bring the story to life!

Get Astonishing Adventures, NetherWar part 4: Bound by Gold at theGreen Ronin Online Store or DriveThruRPG 

Be sure to check out the rest of the NetherWar series, including the free Series Guide!

And finally, tune in to our Facebook Page each week for Mutants & Masterminds Monday! LIVE. Videos will also be made available after they air on our Youtube channel.

Midnight Gold Now Available: Five and Infinity Chapter 4

Midnight GoldDemetrius Bassei came to the Netherworld of Mar Saothair to win back his son’s lost soul at the Midnight Gold, the plane’s foremost casino. He never returned. Now it’s up to your heroes to dare this hell dimension of endless cities and spirit-flensing factories, where demons gamble over the souls of the damned and the merely unlucky alike. In Mar Saothair, bodies and minds crumble before the demands of endless urban toil, but debt is eternal. Who will you save, what will you win, and who do you owe?

Industrial Damnation and Infernal Fortune

Written by Crystal Frasier, Midnight Gold is an adventure for Modern AGE characters levels 9 to 12 in the Threefold setting, though with some adaptation it can be used for other Modern AGE campaigns. This adventure takes us to one of the Threefold Metacosm’s Netherworlds: hellish dimensions ruled by infernal overlords

For full use of the adventure, the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook and Threefold campaign book are required.

This adventure can stand alone, but it’s also the fourth part of Five and Infinity adventure series, which takes your Modern AGE Threefold characters from levels 1 to 16.

Save the Damned, If You Can Afford It

Get Five and Infinity Chapter 4: Midnight Gold at the Green Ronin Online Store or DriveThruRPG 

Previous Five and Infinity Installments