Role-playing design notes

Random notes on the design of Gods & Monsters, and maybe even Men & Supermen if I can remember what I was drinking when I wrote it.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Twenty Questions about Gods & Monsters

Jerry Stratton, February 25, 2012

I don’t normally follow the OSR blogosphere’s occasional viral topics, but Daddy Grognard and Rob Conley both gave great answers to Brendan’s twenty questions about game rules. They’re good questions and they inspired me to answer them, too.

Ability scores generation method?
4d6, throw out the lowest, arrange as desired. If you don’t like your rolls, you can use 15, 13, 12, 10, 8, and 7 instead.
How are death and dying handled?
Characters who lose all of their survival points, or who are hit by special attacks that bypass survival points, start taking injury points. Everything the character does, including attack, is penalized by their total injury points. Every time a character gains injuries they need to make a roll or fall unconscious. Also, if their injury point total exceeds their current survival (as it usually will if they are taking injuries because they ran out of survival), I roll against their injury total on d20. If my roll is less than or equal to their injury total, they must make an endurance (constitution) roll—at a penalty of their current injury total. If they fail, they die at the end of the scene; they get one last heroic effort to do something cool (other than not dying), and then they die.
What about raising the dead?
Prophets can bring someone back from the dead, but they must literally bring them back: Paths of the Dead allows the prophet and the prophet’s companions to enter the lands of the dead. Raising from the dead is itself an adventure for the group.
How are replacement PCs handled?
They start with half the experience of the lowest-experience person in the party who themselves are not a replacement PC from this adventure. This is left up to each game group, however.
Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
No initiative: everything happens at once. Players get to roll first, NPCs roll next, and then the results, such as death, are determined.
Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
Yes, but only if you’re wearing plate mail with a full helmet. For other armor, you are assumed to have headgear and are assumed to be wearing it.
Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
Those aren’t the only two choices. However, yes, you certainly can encounter things that are stronger then you are. Whether you use your ingenuity to defeat them, bluff your way past them, or run like crazy, you’ll need to do something other than beat them down.
Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
No. What would be level-draining monsters in D&D will cause direct injury points in Gods & Monsters. This does mean that creatures such as wraiths can cause unconsciousness very easily, because every time they gain injuries they need to make a roll or fall unconscious; and of course each additional injury reduces the character’s attack roll.
Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Not directly, in the sense of “save or die”. But yes, if the failed reaction roll means that the character gains enough injury points to kill them.
How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
Very strictly and not strictly at all. Rather than add up the encumbrance of every item, characters in Gods & Monsters can carry about seven items1. An “item” can also be a pouch or backpack. As long as each item weighs less than their strength in pounds, they don’t need to track anything else. So players who want to deal with specific encumbrance can do so, but most players just have a list of items and don’t worry about the total encumbrance.
What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
No training. Spells need to be learned, found, or researched. Experience is mostly only awarded at the end of an adventure, so leveling up isn’t likely to happen in the middle of one. It is possible however; if you start the adventure close to the next level’s threshold, and you use mojo during the adventure, you might level up. In which case, as long as you don’t have to ask questions about it you level up immediately. If you do have to ask questions, wait until the end of the session and then level up.
What do I get experience for?
Defeating monsters is by far the fastest and most effective means of gaining experience. Characters also gain experience for talking to named encounters, and they gain experience for treasure if they purposely lose it or give it away for no benefit. All three of those are gained at the end of the adventure. Characters also have a small amount of mojo2 that they can use to affect archetype-related die rolls or to gain new skills. For each mojo point used to affect an archetypal die roll, they gain 50 experience points immediately.
How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
A combination. If there’s a spring-loaded scythe behind the curtain, and they look behind the curtain, they’ve found the trap. Otherwise, they’ll make a perception roll which will be modified depending on their description of what and where they’re searching.
Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Retainers are not encouraged; they drain experience. However, there is a specialty that gives the character a “merry band” of followers. Morale for NPCs is a roll against charisma or against their leader’s charisma if they have one.
How do I identify magic items?
Research them. If you’re a prophet, ask for Divine Guidance.
Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
This is world-based. There’s nothing in the game to say yes or no. In our game, they’ve never run across anyone trustworthy selling potions.
Can I create magic items? When and how?
Yes. There are various specialties, such as Alchemy, Iconic Alchemy, Symbolic Alchemy, and rituals, that characters can use to create magic items.
What about splitting the party?
Gods & Monsters is meant to be a game where a group of adventurers head into unknown ruins. Splitting up is not encouraged, though it will happen naturally on occasion.
  1. The actual calculation is based on strength and endurance. The average character will gain five character for a ten strength, and two carry for a ten endurance.

  2. Characters get ten mojo, plus twice their new level, each time they gain a new level. They start the game with twelve (that is, ten plus two for first level).

  1. <- Outdoor hex maps
  2. Early dungeon lessons ->