Book Mashup: Lost Ilium

Lost Citadel Fantasy AGE Conversion CodexSo, I was going to talk a little more about my Threefold setting Modern AGE campaign, but, uh, I didn’t feel like it. Instead, I got a sudden notion to take a few different things I worked on and combine them. I’m going to call this Book Mashup, because these are books, and you can mash them up. Will this be a series? Don’t know. This one is going to merge historical fantasy with our 5e setting, The Lost Citadel. I have to admit, this isn’t wholly original, as Steve Kenson was cool enough to explore using the world in the Mists of a certain well-known 5e setting.

Anyway, here we go:

Lost Ilium Campaign Setting

Ingredients: You need Fantasy AGE, Fantasy AGE Trojan War, The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, and The Lost Citadel Fantasy AGE Conversion Codex.

(Links to print or PDF as available in our online store. Titles also available in PDF at DrivethruRPG. You can also get The Lost Citadel Roleplaying 5e setting book and the Lost Citadel Fantasy AGE Conversion Codex in a discounted bundle in our store or at DriveThru.)

Genre: Greek mythology survival horror-fantasy!

The Setup

Offended by Helen and Paris’ flight to Troy, the greatest force of vessels in the world launch for that great walled city. Bronze-clad heroes—nascent demigods and mortals doomed to gloomy afterlives—come for blood and treasure, but fruitlessly smash against the walls, or must turn from Trojan arrows and blades, over and over, until…

…what Fate commanded did not come to pass.

Achilles was the key to Troy’s gates. His wrath at the death of his lover, Patroclus, was supposed to turn the greatest Greek’s sword and spear against Hector; his death was supposed to be a link in the chain of fate leading to the Trojan Horse, Greek victory, a legend.

But Achilles’ arrogance exceeds even his sorrow. He doesn’t come for Hector. Hector didn’t take Patroclus away. Death did.

Achilles hunts Death.Fantasy AGE Trojan War

He’s the son of a goddess, tutored by Chiron. He knows the blood ritual, the secret ways. He descends, god-forged panoply blazing, and assaults Hades, the realm and the god. Hades is immortal. He can’t be destroyed but he can be distracted, even frustrated. Hades is one of three brothers who rule the layers of the world. The ichor of a thousand mutilated Titan-born demons floods his palace hall, as Achilles cuts his way forward…and Hades lets go of his responsibilities. Thanatos sits idle, forgotten.

Death fails. Corpses reject stillness.

A thousand years later. Fate is a ragged, tangled string. Woe, the morose anger of Hades—the message I reject you as you rejected me—haunts all the world, except Troy, whose people Hades find blameless. Now the Greeks attack Troy for this special status. They do it for centuries—long enough for iron and steel to supplant bronze. Long enough for the half-immortals hidden in the world, such as the elven and dwarven descendants of petty deities, also shielded from Woe, to seek refuge. Even strange jackal-people from Egypt come. Troy expands in all directions, becoming a true sanctuary city for the living. Outside, on the plain of battle, the Dead eventually conquer the living. Greek corpses howl and assail the walls. Forays for resources grow ever more dangerous. Finally, the half-immortals agree to seek out the gods, and send an expedition of their kind to sacred places.

The elves return with broken spirits. The dwarves attempt to take over Troy but fail. They do not speak of what they found when they looked for the gods, but say They are angry. They wear different faces now. They are coming back.

The first manifestations of Woe blight Troy, and over decades, it adapts to this final threat. They dispose of corpses, build stronger, higher, and deeper, and await the terrible coming of the gods. They must. Troy is the last city.

The Campaign

The undead aren’t really part of Greek mythology, but what if they were? This setting takes the basic scenario of The Lost Citadel—an undead apocalypse against the last city in the world—and changes the final bastion of the living from dwarven Redoubt to a Troy that has stood long enough to adopt medieval technology. Elves and dwarves are descendants of demigods, nymphs, and other lesser or partial immortals, and have stumbled into the social positions they have in The Lost Citadel. The rising threat behind the Dead isn’t a mystery, and isn’t directly related, however. It’s the Greek gods, capable of manifestations as per Fantasy AGE Trojan War, unhinged by the breaking of Fate, and desperate to fix it.

Hades may be an exception. In this campaign, Woe is his anger, cursing mortals to restless (and as far as anyone can tell, mindless) death outside the proper land of shades. Is it possible to seek out and plead with the maker of Woe, and succeed where they other gods have failed?

The other point of Greek mythology to consider is strong immortality. Some heroes and monsters are not truly subject to death. Was Achilles reborn immortal? Does he walk the world he destroyed? What ageless monsters remain? Do they have mortal communities still? Without new inmates, does the kingdom of Hades still contain its shades and monsters, or have they wandered up?

Use Fantasy AGE Lost Citadel rules as a base, and add Trojan War elements, especially those related to the gods, to taste.

The Wrap-Up

I think this is a great Fantasy AGE option for running darker adventures using well-known mythology. Let me know if you want more of these, and maybe I’ll get to it?

Keeping the Creative Panic at Bay (A Ronin Roundtable Guest Post by ’Nathan Burgoine)

Get your creative juices flowing with your own characters!

One thing about being a writer with one foot in queer romance and the other in queer spec fic is having two genres worth of Impostor Syndrome. I joke, but the truth is despite having published four novels, six novellas, one collection, forty-one short stories, and five pieces of nonfiction I’m not considered prolific in either the romance or the SF genre by any stretch. I’m not a fast writer, and that was before a husky-related injury ruined the tendons in my left arm, back near the start of the pandemic.

I’m not a proponent of the one-size-fits-all writing advice, and most especially not a believer in the “writers write every day,” so I thought I’d be fine when I suddenly found myself unable to type. Instead, what hit—and hit hard—was something I called “creative panic.”

At the start of my injury, when I could barely close the fingers of my left hand into a fist, I’d find myself lying in bed, anxious and unable to sleep over having made nothing. I’d been told not to type but am luckily right handed, so I could at least scribble in a notebook (something I already did, especially for noting the endless stream of other ideas that hit when working on a deadline), and somewhere around those early days of injury and creative panic, I bumped into Mutants & Masterminds via Joseph D Carriker’s fantastic Sacred Band.

In romance writing especially, for me everything comes from character. Similarly, whether or not I click with a new TTRPG is generally all about character creation.

Wow, did Mutants & Masterminds and I click.

In very short order, I’d begun a daily prompt-inspired run at M&M. Whether using the Story Engine Deck, or the incredible quick-build character tables, or randomly picking a Canadian city to explore, I’d flip open a journal, grab my pencil, and make a character (or two, or more), sketch out an origin and background, and share it with my nerdier and/or Superhero-loving friends. At the end of every day, those moments of creative panic abated. I’d flexed that part of my brain that needed to make things, and it was fulfilling.

Sacred Band by Joseph D. Carriker Jr.Before I knew it, I’d also gotten my all-author D&D group so intrigued by M&M I put together a short-and-sweet one-shot introduction, asked them for their character concepts—was wowed by their ideas and equally wowed by how a solution to every idea existed in the M&M system—and we were off and running over Zoom.

I couldn’t work on a novella every day, but I could scribble up M&M sessions. And it used so many of the same skills: like romance, a good M&M session seemed to mostly come down to character, but with the spec fic lens I love so much. Making antagonists someone my players wanted to stop upped the stakes, as did crafting sympathetic characters to protect. Last, of course, was a healthy dose of comic relief (not that I needed to worry about laughing with Marie Bilodeau, Brandon Crilly, Kevin Hearne and Evan May as players—four writers who are beyond creative, funny, and so incredibly talented at off-the-cuff remarks I cannot even begin to tell you).

These days, I’m almost back on track. After a year of squeezing tennis balls, TENS, and many other tedious exercises, slow progress has gotten me to the point where I can type about 800 words in a day before my left arm starts to seize, assuming I alternate writing days with scribbling days. I finished a YA novella—number seven!—and am working on a holiday romance novella—eight!—and after that I’m going to try delving back into novel-length works again.

But in the meanwhile? My scribble days remain devoted to M&M. The notebook is full of characters, adventure plots, and an entire campaign to come… because, as always, that “one-shot” with the author gaming group turned into a prologue.

I’m beyond grateful for Mutants & Masterminds. It’s not only an ongoing joy to gather and play with friends. It also keeps the creative panic at bay.

 


 

’Nathan Burgoine is a tall queer writer of mostly shorter queer romances and/or speculative fiction. His debut, the semi-superhero novel Light, was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award, and his YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks, about a gay high school student who develops a teleportation problem, was a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award. He’s also written two urban fantasy novels, six romance novellas, and dozens of short stories, including his collection of linked queer speculative fiction, Of Echoes Born. Find him at ApostropheN.wordpress.com. He lives in Ottawa with his husband, Dan, and their rescued husky, Max, who was forgiven for the tendon destruction.

When the Developer Plays: Miscellaneous Insights!

Over several articles in this series, I’ve talked about a few insights I’ve acquired playing a Threefold setting Modern AGE campaign in a bit of depth. Over the past while, however, things have become a bit more scattershot. So, think of this time around as a grab-bag of insights about Modern AGE and Threefold, and RPGs as a whole, that I hope you’ll find interesting.

Insights into the universe of Threefold in Five and Infinity!

Sometimes there are just too many damn universes. From Five and Infinity, Chapter 5.

I Got My Character Wrong

Last article I told you about my character…but I took a disallowed focus! Andrzej took Longarms for 8th level, but he’d taken Pistols at Level 7, breaking the rule that says you can’t take a focus for the same ability twice in a row. (You also can’t improve the same ability twice in a row.) Yes, I, the Modern AGE developer, forgot that. As a wise being once said, Pobody’s Nerfect. The reason for this rule is to encourage characters to develop in a balanced fashion. I took Fighting (Grappling) instead—still combative, but it doesn’t make me look like I only learned gun things for two levels.

Stunts Can Be Minigames

Now that we’re a bit more experienced and are digging more deeply into the stunts, it becomes apparent that some stunt sets are, in effect, minigames within the larger Modern AGE rules. Grappling, Investigation, and some social stunts from Modern AGE especially tend to work this way, where there are various options and counter-options in the stunt list. For instance, Takedown has advantages (extra damage) and disadvantages (opposed test, you fall prone as well) over the simpler Knock Prone, and contextually, Human Shield may be a better choice than either, in some situations. In play, Knock Prone is generally a better idea with single, tough opponents a team can gang up on, Takedown is superior for one-on-one combat, and Human Shield works best for a larger number of ranged attackers. These are insights into an emergent property of the rules that I think will influence my future work in AGE games.

Five and infinity Chapter 5Strategically Omit Answers

Right now, the campaign revolves around plans by a rogue alternate-universe version of the Aethon’s plans to make their own timeline the “true” one, or primeline, instead of our Earth (well, minus the existence of everything in Threefold). What does that even mean? According to the GM, it would destroy the primeline and wreak havoc with every other plane of existence, and the secret to shifting which Earth is the primeline is an algorithm processed by a sufficiently large group of god-computers called Machinors. The great thing about these answers is even as the setting’s creator, I didn’t know that. I have opinions regarding various things, and the Five and Infinity adventure On the Threshold of Apocalypse presents one possible scenario, but I’m not really sure how that works. Inspiring ideas by not providing all the facts is nothing new, but this has given me an idea of the most effective ways to do this. In this case, we left a hook in Threefold indicating the primeline had changed before, and of course we talked about deleting alternate Earths, so these big structural ideas were just waiting for a bold GM to mix them together.

Clarifications Needed?

Long term play has also raised a few questions and options about Modern AGE and Threefold rules, but these are a bit out of step with the general tone of this article. Next time I’ll give them a go.

When the Developer Plays: Let Me Tell You About My Character!

(No wait! Come back!)

As many people know, telling random folks about your character is simultaneously the greatest temptation in RPG talk, yet the lowest form of discourse. However, since I develop Modern AGE I guess I can get away with it! Beyond that, there is honestly some broad relevance, since I ended up accidentally playing an iconic Threefold character based on…me. This was not entirely voluntary.

An Iconic character in Threefold

Andrzej Paterseki (Sword Dad)

The Story of Sword Dad

People who know me know I’m a parent, and a practitioner/sometimes-coach of historical fencing (late medieval Italian longsword, a bit of rapier, a smattering of other stuff), which is why that kind of stuff ended up in the adventure I wrote, Warflower, whose name alludes to a real-life fencing treatise. At some point, this produced the internal nickname “Sword Dad,” about which I have…mixed feelings.

Then in 2018, we were working on Threefold, and wanted some new iconic characters: folks who appear in examples of play and illustrations. H.D. Ingham created several of them, including, as a bit of fun, one Andrzej Paterski, a swordsman working for the Sodality faction, based on the Sword Dad joke. Andrzej is younger and handsomer than I am, of course, but this was less wish fulfillment than wanting a marketable iconic character. Thus, a guy with a sword and glasses became one of the faces of Threefold.

Accidentally Andrzej

Then in 2020, our group’s regular GM decided he wanted to run a Modern AGE game with Threefold, which I’ve talked about in a few past posts. I went for random character generation and ended up with a character with the Warsmith sword-maker profession in Threefold, along high Fighting and Strength. Dammit, I ended up with Sword Dad. I just admitted this was him, wrote down Andrzej’s name, and got playing. So, this is how I was used as the basis for an iconic character as a joke, and then ended up playing him.

In fact, I’ve been playing Andrzej for a year now, in our Pulpy-Mode game, and he recently hit Level 8. (Playing without GMing has taught me a lot.) The focus of the campaign so far has been tracking down demonic para-technology connected to intervention from an alternate Earth. This became entangled in an organized crime family that traded in souls, but ultimately circled back into a plot to destroy the primeline—the “true Earth” by some measures—and replace it with an alternate world. In the process we discovered that the original primeline itself replaced a previous “true Earth,” Eld. We explored its ruins in sealed powered armor, as one does, and briefly examined the wreckage of a giant robot built by some classical Greece-derived civilization before learning the reality-modeling algorithm required to shift primelines via a trapped transcendental quasi-AI. Then we leveled up.

(Yeah, this is the kind of stuff you can play in Threefold, and there’s even a series of five adventures to get you started.)

Now that I’ve set the context, here’s Andrzej at Level 8. I thought that, even leaving the above backstory aside, folks might be interested in seeing an organically developed Modern AGE character of this level.

Andrzej Modern AGE Threefold 8 PDF character sheet

So You Want to Play a Dimension Hopping Trickster God for Some Reason, Part 2: We Got Your Timelines Right Here

Last time on SYWtPaDHTGfSR, I chose an article series title that did not lend itself to a catchy acronym. I also explained how you could, if you were somehow moved by some unlikely situation that made the idea of a dimension hopping trickster god exploring timelines —such as Loki, say, if we were to look at Norse mythology and I assure you, nothing else—part of the zeitgeist, how to make such a character for the Modern AGE roleplaying game, using the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook, the Modern AGE Companion, and the Threefold campaign setting.

Aethon has many agents who travel the Timelines

I didn’t just pick Threefold because of the character options, however. I chose it because if you want a dimension-hopping setting with an overarching theme to bind the infinite smorgasbord of varied realities, this is the setting to do it with. Threefold binds alternate worlds, fantasy realms, and hellish dimensions together in a common storyline. It’s so big, one of the main questions people have is, “How do I get started with so many options to choose from?”

Now we created the Five and Infinity adventure series to help answer this, but we also set it up in the setting book itself, by presenting two organizations that regularly travel the Metacosm—that’s Threefold’s term for the set of all universes. And I think one of them would be especially appropriate for those of you interested in the SYWtPaDHTGfSR play style: Aethon, the guardians of Earths various timelines and branches.

Aethon works out of a secret, super-scientific installation in Invindara, an obscure island nation between southern India and Madagascar, in the “primeline,” which is its term for the universe it prefers to cultivate. Parallel standard universes are typically defined by the presence of Earth. In the generally accepted tracking code use for other dimensions, it’s listed as EU-00004. E is “Earth.” U is “Uninitiated,” meaning most of its inhabitants don’t know about the existence of other universes. The number is the order in which it was logged compared to other dimensions. Yes, it’s a 4. Yes, you should get the book to find out why.

Things You Might Recognize from Somewhere

  • Aethon explores parallel worlds with the help of highly trained agents called operants in its missions in various timelines. Aethon maintains a higher technological base than the current present; operants have access to improved body armor and weapons. Of course, they also have access to powered armor, cybernetic augmentations, and canisters of cloned human neurons psychically attuned to stabilize natural laws on site, but if you want to stick with a SWAT outfit and a pointy stick that sends people to an undisclosed location, that’s fine too!
  • Aethon teams, called sections, possess devices allowing them to travel from world to world, these aren’t just portals hanging in the air—though in some cases those can exist. They use quantum arks: metal boxes that travel from one timeline to another. If you’re into retro interfaces, I’m afraid there’s no brass or wood paneling (though I guess you could decorate one that way), but you do throw a lever!
  • Aethon does “prune” timelines it deems undesirable. This is called deletion. Sometimes the reasons for this are obvious, such as when another timeline—an “Alt” in Aethon parlance, bases its technology on summoning demons and/or eating souls, something that has come up in the Modern AGE/Threefold game I play in, in fact. But other reasons are mysterious.
  • Many people have parallel universe counterparts called alters. Sometimes they can become problems. The culminating adventures in the Five and Infinity series deal with a series of alters who can be friends, enemies, and in one case, might destroy a universe after having become a kind of god.
  • Aethon is led by the Machinors, beings who have been described as both gods and transcendental artificial intelligences, but nobody ever meets them—well, not directly, anyway.
  • Yes, there is a “dumping ground at the end of the universe, it’s not a parallel Earth, but a hell-plane named Blattarum (NI-00099 in the standard index), described in the Threefold setting book and the final Five and Infinity adventure, On the Threshold of Apocalypse.

All that, from a setting released in 2019! Curious….

Things That Might Be New

  • Deleting an undesirable universe is…messy. The standard protocol involved eradicating all intelligent life and making the remaining world uninhabitable: a “Z class plane” in standard parlance. This isn’t that big a deal when a world has become totally corrupted—zombie apocalypses and insane supercomputers with nukes don’t inspire much second thought—but when Aethon decides an Earth needs to go for less explicable reasons, you might be tempted to rebel.
  • Aethon does not exist outside conventional time and space. This means, among other things, there absolutely are parallel Aethons. Many of these work in harmony with the primeline Aethon but others can be neutral or even belligerent. In the case of the last outcome, this often happens when an Aethon on an alternate Earth asks itself why it gets to be the “alternate” one, at risk of manipulation and deletion.
  • The Machinors—those mysterious machine gods that run Aethon—don’t always agree. Some of them work for those renegade parallel Aethons. Some of them manipulate timelines for their own ineffable amusements.
  • Remember what I said about fantasy worlds and hells? Threefold has planes of existence where the world is the scaly back of a dragon swimming through space, where people are exiled via catapult. It has a hell consisting of an infinite coiled ribbon of rock whose edges grind against each other, that was liberated from a demon prince.
  • The vast scope of the Metacosm means Aethon doesn’t work alone. These stranger planes beyond Earth are studied by the Sodality, who work with Aethon for stability across countless universes. The Sodality is a little nicer, too.

This gives your rebellious, adventure-prone trickster god a huge set of possibilities indeed, and that’s before you, say, make them a rhy-alligator by hacking in the rules for Blue Rose. When the GM goes that route, it’s better if you don’t question it.

So You Want to Play a Dimension Hopping Trickster God for Some Reason, Part 1: Making a God in Modern AGE and Threefold

Let’s imagine that somehow, the cultural zeitgeist has moved to the unlikely place of trickster deities jumping through alternate universes. How did this happen? Could it be that an exceptionally large media franchise owned by one of the largest entertainment companies in the world produced a show with this concept? But more importantly, do you want to play such a character in a coherent RPG setting, tailored for the needs of games? Modern AGE and the multi-planar Threefold setting have got you covered.

Not the sort of place you'd expect to meet a Trickster God

Making a Trickster God

The Threefold Metacosm has many beings who might be called gods, but the ones most amenable to play are the Optimates: children of a prior generation of semi-retired deities. Some of them rule the Divine Empire, but others are free agents or exiles. To make our trickster, you’re going to need the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook, the Modern AGE Companion, and the Threefold setting book. The unusual part here is you want to figure out the trickster god’s powers first, to figure out what level character they need to be.

Naturally, we need the Master degree in Illusion Arcana (Modern AGE Basic Rulebook), which requires three talent advancements. Our deity needs to be a bit stronger and tougher than mortals too. Going by the guidelines in the Modern AGE Companion, a x2 multiplier to Strength (Jumping) and Strength (Might), along with 2 points in Vicious Blow as a favored stunt, requires four talent advancements and represents sufficient strength as portrayed in…let’s say some popular streaming program in which such a character might appear. We’ll add +2 to the character’s Toughness using a magical version of the Dermal Armor enhancements. This costs two more talent advancement “slots.” That brings us to 9 degrees’ worth of advancements. A 7th level Modern AGE character has this many talent advancements available, but it’s not just about the powers, so let’s make our trickster god 10th level.

With that settled, we need to devise the basic Level 1 character, then work our way up through these advancements.

For background, we’ll look at the Threefold rules for ancestries. Let’s say our trickster god is actually an Arvu, one of the magical varieties of humanity (these are elflike) found in the setting. Maybe this god was adopted, eh? In any event, we can swap one background benefit for the Arcane Education ancestral trait, providing a rank in the Illusion Arcana, and the Trickster trait, which provides social stunt advantages which fit the character. Grace provides a similar benefit for other stunts, so we’ll take that. That’s three out of four background benefits. For the fourth, we’ll go outside the available rules and wing it a bit. Optimates like our trickster typically have the primal being quality on p. 139 of Threefold, which gives them social bonuses with beings who know them and allow them to understand Shabda, the universal language. We’ll treat this as a fourth ancestry trait.

For profession, we’ll pick Planar Envoy from Threefold as something the god’s parents probably wanted them to do, and which they sort of still do, in a twisted fashion. That’s 15 + Con Health, Resources 8, a degree in the Inspire or Linguistics (we’ll choose Inspire—Shabda knowledge means they effectively know every language already) talent, and either the Communication (Persuasion) or Intelligence (Current Affairs) focus—we’ll take Persuasion.

What about drive, our tricker’s “glorious purpose?” Let’s go with Achiever—the trickster has grand dreams, but may not be sure of exactly what they mean. That lets us pick Expertise or Inspire talent degrees. We already have a degree in Inspire, so we’ll take Expertise in Communication (Deception) in the sub-field “supernatural trickery.” We also get a Membership, Reputation, or Resources improvement. We’ll take Reputation: “Trickster God.”

From this point onward, we’ll use the Buying Abilities option on p. 12 of the Modern AGE Basic Rulebook to give the trickster Accuracy 0, Communication 3, Constitution 0, Dexterity 4, Fighting 0, Intelligence 2, Strength 0, Willpower 3—but be aware this is for a young trickster at level 1, and not the full-powered deity we want to emulate. With 9 other levels providing another 9 points in abilities, we can make them fully glorious—and get the talent advancements, additional focuses, and specializations to perfect our trickster according to plan.


The Trickster—10th Level

Accuracy 0, Communication 5 (Disguise +3, Deception, Investigation, Persuasion), Constitution 2, Dexterity 5 (Sleight of Hand, Sabotage, Stealth +3) Fighting 3 (Brawling, Light Blades), Intelligence 3 (Cryptography, Illusion, Occultism, Security), Strength 1 (Might), Willpower 1

Speed: 15

(Stats separated by slash are for Gritty/Pulpy/Cinematic Modes, respectively)

Health: 17/35/50

Defense: 15/16/17

Toughness: 4/5/6

Power Points: 60

Talents: Dual Weapon Style (Novice), Illusion Arcana (Master; Force 13), Expertise (supernatural trickery using Communication (Deception), Master), Inspire (Novice)

Ancestry Traits: Grace (With a Flourish or Oozing Confidence stunts for -1 SP), Trickster (Taunt and Class Clown stunts for -1 SP), Primal Being (spoken and written Shabda; +2 SP in social stunts against beings who have heard of them, who also gain +2 to tests to find out about them)

Extraordinary Powers: Dermal Armor (+2 Toughness), Favored Stunt (Vicious Blow costs 0 SP and can be used at will), Force Multiplier x2 for Strength (Jumping) and Strength (Might) tests (double the usual effect)

Specializations: Agent (Master)

Resources: 8

Social Ties: Reputation: Trickster God, and 7 Relationship slots to be determined


We’re missing equipment, Relationships, and a few other options, but this character is reasonably trickster-god-ish, and about twice as strong as a human of the same build. They can summon illusions easily and have several advantages when it comes to lies, betrayal, and the rest of a trickster god’s habits. Perhaps, in an alternate universe, they might have focused on direct mind control, but in the end, you’re left with the treacherous hand history deals you—or at least, this history. Next time, we’ll be looking at what our trickster might do in the Threefold Metacosm. Perhaps they work with an agency that prunes undesirable timelines. Isn’t that a thought?

Biting Cold

Astonishing Adventures: A Cold Day in Midtown!Engaging setting details are one of the keys to producing exciting encounters and adventures in Mutants & Masterminds. Players will remember their epic fight atop a frozen crane which is buckling under the added weight of its ice, threatening to topple onto the streets below, a lot more than another battle in a 30 by 50 foot rectangle. A Cold Day in Midtown is one of those (astonishing!) adventures where the environment is as much an opponent as any of Madame Zero’s gathered rogues. GMs can lean into this frozen wasteland to really make this adventure shine and to increase the challenge facing their heroes.

The Gelid engine, Madame Zero’s newest doomsday device, is a constant obstacle for the heroes, and GMs should feel free to emphasize the damaging environment it is creating. In the adventure itself we call out these specific setbacks caused by the device:

  • In Scene 1 it only creates uncomfortable cold, but in Scenes 3 and 4 it generates intense cold and by Scene 5 it creates extreme cold.
  • The engine also impedes visibility, imposing a –2 circumstance penalty on Perception checks thanks to the driving snow and fog.
  • The icy roads impose a –5 circumstance penalty on Vehicles checks to control cars, Athletics checks to run or climb, and Speed power checks. You may call for a power check for a hero to run at full speed across the frozen streets of the city.
  • The violent winds impose a –2 circumstance penalty on Acrobatics checks, Vehicles check to control aircraft, and Flight power checks. You may call for a power check for a hero to fly at full speed in the turbulent atmosphere.

Consider just the first point here. That progressive cold can wreak havoc on an unprepared party. Basically it means that as the adventure goes on there are more and more chances for the heroes to become fatigued, then exhausted, then even incapacitated. That in of itself limits the amount of power stunting the characters can attempt, while increasing the amount of time it takes to accomplish their goals as their Speed ranks fall. All important factors when considering by the end they’ll be fighting as many as five assembled supervillains. It’s important to keep track of the passage of time in this adventure, as that determines how many Fortitude rolls the group will be making. Once per hour in Scene 1 and 2. Once every ten minutes in Scene 3 and 4 and once every minute in Scene 5.Madam Zero

The other setbacks, icy roads, high winds, and impeded visibility are also nothing to scoff at. These obstacles will affect everyone in the group, even those who are immune to the environmental cold. GMs seeking to challenge their groups further can come up with additional consequences of the Gelid Engine’s use. Perhaps snow banks build high enough throughout the city that regular land travel becomes next to impossible without Athletics or Acrobatics checks or Movement powers. Maybe the white out conditions provide a circumstance bonus to Stealth or outright Concealment for the VLPES Mercenaries moving throughout Freedom City. You could even have sporadic hail storms (Burst Area Damage 1-5) either produced by the Gelid Engine itself or from ice formations falling from skyscrapers add extra danger to failures on the various skill challenges throughout the adventure.

In summary, A Cold Day in Midtown is an excellent showcase of the ability for Environment (both as a power and as set dressing) can have on crafting memorable adventures in Mutants & Masterminds. Make that frozen wasteland as much of a character in the story as you can. With all of the tools at your disposal, even characters immune to cold will be hard-pressed to succeed. The more you lean into the dangers of the Gelid Engine, the more your players will feel the biting cold of Madame Zero’s Cold Front.

Astonishing Adventures: A Cold Day in Midtown is available now in the Green Ronin Online Store, and on DrivethruRPG!

Ships of the Expanse: Torpedoes Away!

Ships of the Expanse<Incoming transmission.>

<URGENT! Imminent contact detected!>

Ships of the Expanse is so close we won’t even experience any time delay on this transmission. Ty has signed off on the book, and it’s off to the printers. Since we’re so close, I thought now would be a good time to talk about combat.

Let’s begin with stunts. We added a bunch of new command stunts to the original list to allow for some even crazier maneuvers, including my favorite, Burn Them, which allows a ship to use its Epstein drive as a weapon. (I know I mentioned this in a previous RRT, but I think it bears repeating.) There is also Down with the Ship, which allows the commander to expend their own Fortune to remove damage taken by other characters (as the result of a Collateral Loss) onboard the ship. Or, Rapid Reload which lets you launch an extra torpedo. We’ve also added fleet command stunts and individual crew stunts, allowing the commander to give their generated stunt points to individual crew members to be used on their action. Crew stunts like Not My Ship! permit the engineer to sacrifice their own Fortune to protect the ship, or Steady as She Goes, which allows the pilot to lessen damage from a high-G maneuver.

Next up, the expanded electronic warfare section goes into things like hacking another ship’s systems or even wresting control of a torpedo that is being manually guided. The ship’s gunner gets a little love with systems for trick shots, firing weapons without an automated targeting system, and new rules for targeting specific systems. There is also an extensive section on all the different ways you can hide in space as well as more details on stealth technology.

But, who really wants to hide? Would you rather blow things up? We’ve got you covered with a whole section on alternative weapons. This includes flinging asteroids, making debris screens from shattered asteroids, and we get into the versatility of a torpedo. No longer are these just “fire and forget” weapons. We cover using torpedoes as mines, proximity torpedoes, and even using a torpedo as a point defense weapon. PDCs down? Fire a torpedo at that incoming torpedo! Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t revisit the nuke and get down and dirty discussing the absolute devastation these weapons can cause.

Torpedoes Away!

Information can often be the best weapon and now you’re armed with details about the expanded combat rules. The countdown has begun; deploy PDCs and get ready to make contact. Yes, that means the PDF should be out sometime THIS WEEK, with the print copies coming as fast as we can. As I’m sure most of you know, printing and shipping is still a little wonky due to COVID-19, but I promise we’ll have them in your hands as fast as we can.

Over and out!

< Transmission ends.>

If you pre-order a print copy, you can add a PDF for just $5 in our Online Store! You can also pre-order the book from your Friendly Local Game Store if shipping fees, or changing customs regulations has made getting the book difficult in your neck of the woods. We can even send $5 PDF codes to your local game store as well!

Redoubt in the Mists

The Lost Citadel RPG for 5th EditionI don’t know about you, but from the very start of my career as a Game Master, I would steal from find inspiration everywhere: novels, comic books, television, movies, and, especially, other games. I mixed-and-matched elements from multiple superhero game settings and comic books with my own creations in my campaigns. I transposed and stitched together parts of different fantasy settings. The player characters from Gamma World, the first RPG I ever ran, eventually ended up via dimensional rift in the World of Greyhawk, running rampant through the Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan.

So when I got my eager mitts on Van Richten’s Guide to Ravenloft and began exploring the Domains of Dread therein, I immediately thought: “Redoubt from The Lost Citadel would be right at home here.” With that dark revelation in mind, dear reader, I immediately opened a new file, began to write, and here we are….

When exactly did the Last City, the Final Redoubt, find its way into the Mists? No one knows for certain. Indeed, most of the survivors of the old world of the lands of Zileska don’t even know the rest of their world is gone, since few venture outside the protective walls of the Last Citadel, and fewer still find their way back. Beyond the lush forests surrounding Redoubt, the trees and hills fade into the mists in all directions. All that emerges from the mists are the restless Dead and the few travelers unfortunate enough to arrive in the domain outside of the protective walls. They rarely last long, and strangers are viewed with considerable suspicion when they appear on the outskirts of Redoubt.

The people of Redoubt do not question the fate of the world beyond their walls because they believe they know it: The Dead have risen to reclaim the world. All of the great empires of the elves, dwarfs, humans, and others have fallen to plague and war and chaos, with their Dead rising to prey upon the living. The civilization of the living has fallen, and retreated, again and again, until this: The Accord of the Last Redoubt, the sole island of living people in the world, under eternal siege by the Dead, and more adrift than even they know.

The Hidden Dark Lord

Is the Prince of Tears the Lord of Redoubt in the Mists?

Is the Prince of Tears the Hidden Dark Lord of Redbout?

Who, or what, is the Dark Lord of Redoubt? Who commands its Mists and may seal or open its borders? Who, ultimately, is trapped here? It is one of the great mysteries of the domain, one ripe for exploitation by the Game Master.

The most likely candidate for Dark Lord of Redoubt is the legendary Bone Father, the embodiment of Death itself, who cursed Zileska and brought about the Fall. Of course, to the people of Redoubt, the Bone Father is a god—or at least godlike—and seasoned wanderers of the Mists know the Dark Lords, while powerful, are not gods. Perhaps the Bone Father is some powerful form of undead, such as a lich-necromancer, whose legend has grown over time along with his army of the unquiet dead, to the point where people believe he is a god, and legends speak of him accordingly.

Another possibility is the dread Prince of Tears, certainly the most powerful creature described in The Lost Citadel, an undead monstrosity that feeds upon fear and despair. If not the Dark Lord, then almost certainly the Prince is the Dark Lord’s lieutenant, perhaps providing a useful stalking-horse for the real Dark Lord of Redoubt.

Whoever or whatever the Dark Lord may be, since the Mists have reduced the domain to just Redoubt and the leagues of forests and hills beyond its walls, this also means the Dark Lord is far closer to the Last City than anyone imagines. If the characters are from Redoubt, do they discover the existence of the Mists and that what is left of their world is adrift as a domain of dread? If they are travelers, do they dare reveal the truth to the desperate and hopeless people of the Lost Citadel? What will become of Redoubt and its people if they do?

Grave Robbing

While the whole of The Lost Citadel setting and background is usable as a Domain of Dread, not all of the rules and options in the book are the same as the core 5e classes, ancestries, and spells. Game Masters will need to decide what parts of the graves to loot, as it were, and what to leave behind. Some possibilities include:

Ancestries: The ancestries from The Lost Citadel—dwarf, elf, ghûl, and the various human ancestries—can serve for characters from the domain and those travelers in the Mists meet there. Decide if the Woe system (following) from the setting applies only to those from the domain, to everyone there (including visitors), or is something you prefer to ignore in the context of the Domains of Dread—or even export to other domains.

Classes: Although The Lost Citadel offers a full set of unique character classes, you’re probably better off using the standard 5e classes for characters from the domain, and certainly for those visiting from outside of it. You can potentially mix-and-match character classes from Redoubt with the standard 5e classes, but they’re not particularly designed for that. In particular, the spellcasting classes are more limited compared to the standard classes.

Spells: Speaking of spellcasting, while magic is poor and limited in Redoubt, stay with the standard 5e abilities for spellcasters. Whether they are natives or visitors, it means they are extraordinary individuals, likely subjects of awe and trepidation, and perhaps no small amount of jealousy. They’re also certain to draw attention from the dread and woeful supernatural forces of the Dead. The magical limitations of the Domains of Dread still apply, of course.

Magic Items: The new magic items found in Lost Citadel suit the setting well and can be found in and around Redoubt. Some of them may have even found their way through the Mists to other domains in other hands; things like the potion of deathless steps or a rest-bringer weapon are likely to find use in many realms.

Monsters: As Lost Citadel notes, many 5e monsters are found in the domain and it offers some guidelines for customizing them. The new monsters in the book are found in and around Redoubt, and may appear in other domains or on other worlds as well. Heroes who visit The Lost Citadel and somehow manage to escape and return through the mists to their own world would do well to look for signs that the unquiet Dead have followed them, that the Fall that destroyed Zileska could be as contagious as the plague that first made the Dead rise….

Woe: The Lost Citadel includes a system of Woe, the creeping, spiritual corruption of the realm beset by the unquiet Dead. It is certainly a game system that would import well to other horror realms, or is something you could set aside in a Redoubt in the Mists, using 5e systems from the Guide to Ravenloft for fear, curses, and dark gifts and bargains in its place.

As it happens, The Lost Citadel Roleplaying, is DrivethruRPG’s Deal of the Day! You can get the PDF for 50% off for the next 24 hours! 

Ships of the Expanse: The Ships and Deck Plans

<Incoming transmission.>

Ships of the ExpanseAlthough they come in the final chapter, the deck plans are very much the centerpiece in Ships of the Expanse. It is also, in part, the reason this book took so long to get out. Although the pandemic can take most of the blame there, making all these plans involved an incredible amount of time. We know it took a while, but a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into this project. We apologize for the delay, but I think you’re really going to enjoy this book!

There are 28 ships detailed in this book, and we took a lot of time and care to get every one right. We wanted to make them useful for gameplay and make sure that they were as realistic as possible. You might be surprised how long it takes to figure out exactly what goes on each deck: how many crash couches are needed for the crew, how many bunks, where does the galley go, does this ship have a med bay, how many cargo holds, how can you access the cargo holds, and so on. Needless to say, it gets complicated.

Today, you get to see a preview of one of the deck plans, the UNN Monroe-class Light Destroyer, and I’ll break down what all you’ll find in the ships section of Ships of the Expanse. They are in the order of UNN, MCRN, Independents, and finally, a few unique ships such as the Anne Bonny from Abzu’s Bounty. Then they are then listed in alphabetical order. We debated organizing them by size class, but in the end, alphabetical seemed best for easy reference.

PDF PREVIEW for the Munroe-class Light Destroyer

Each ship opens with the ship’s specifications, which is very similar to how they are presented in the Expanse core rulebook, but these are a littleMunroe-Class Light Destroyer more detailed. They also feature the new qualities and flaws that are included earlier in this book. Following that are a few paragraphs that talk about the ship’s origins and history as well as its purpose within the military fleet or as a civilian vessel, followed by a story hook that presents how the ship might appear in an adventure. I think the story hooks will be especially useful for inspiration (and to give you an excuse to use your new deck plans) since it isn’t always easy to figure out how a group of PCs might end up interacting with some of these beasts.

Following the text, you get two silhouettes from different perspectives. One of these shows the actual decks as well as elevator or ladder shafts.  And then you get to the good stuff―the deck plans! For each individual ship you get deck plans for each type of deck. However, if there are four decks of crew quarters, we only provide one plan for that since they are going to be identical in most cases. There is also a key that indicates which decks are on which level.

So, let’s talk deck plans. One of the choices I can see being controversial is the decision to include cargo and the like on the schematics. We felt that it added visual interest and also gave a better idea of space and scale. If you’re using the deck plans on a VTT or the like, you can just ignore the cargo if you want your cargo bay to be empty. I know everyone is going to have their own opinions on certain details. In the end, we had to make our own choices, often with very little actual information to go on. Though, I think you’ll agree that these things look fantastic and will be a wonderful addition to any Expanse game, not to mention just being a lot of fun to pour over.

Over and out.

< Transmission ends.>