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

The big mojo update for 2005!

Jerry Stratton, November 26, 2005

The big changes include building on the injury point system that was added in the last update. Injury points are now used by the rules to knock someone unconscious and by the thief’s backstab ability. Dying has become easier to handle (it is now an ailment). We are beginning to use injury points to their full gaming potential.

Mojo are also being used for more. Mojo can now be used to modify archetypal rolls, and doing so gives characters an experience point bonus.

The movement rules have been expanded for use in combat. Along with the new rules on injuries, death, and dying, ailments have been expanded on and now include (besides dying) suffocation.

There have also been minor changes to jumping and psychic combat, and a few new spirit manifestations and spells have been added as well as old ones modified.

Night vision for underground creatures has been clarified, and larger creatures gain a bonus to their Fortitude rolls. There are also now guidelines for what to do when spells (and other paranormal effects) collide.

The fields of study rules have not yet been integrated into the main rules. I still don’t know quite how I want to handle them, except that it needs to be simple, and it needs to get rid of the niggling minutiæ; we don’t care if our characters know Milltown Ancient History, all we care is that they are experts in history. We don’t care that they can light fires, but that they are survival experts or wilderness experts. This is supposed to be Dumasian and fantastic, not double-entry bookkeeping.

The 2006 printed update will probably come late in the year. Rules changes have slowed considerably over the last year, and if there is a 2006 printed update, the print schedule will probably switch to every two years. Not because it is difficult to make them, but because I’m lazy.


There is no mojo bonus for intelligence. At each new level, the character gains ten plus level mojo. At second level, a character gains twelve mojo, for example.

Where intelligence matter, it will reduce the cost of items that cost mojo, but there were too many cool things done with mojo for which a high intelligence should not grant a bonus, such as:

Mojo for success

After the failure of any d20 roll involving any of the character’s archetypal rolls is announced, any player may choose to bid a specific number of mojo to change the outcome of the roll. If that amount as a bonus or penalty would change the roll’s outcome, the necessary mojo is lost (excess mojo is kept by the player) and the outcome is reversed. If the bonus would not alter the success of the roll, no mojo is lost.

When mojo is used in this manner during the course of an adventure, the character gains experience points: 25 experience points per mojo used. A character who uses five mojo in this manner will gain 125 experience points.

Archetypal rolls are rolls against the archetypal ability, the archetypal saving roll, a roll involving an archetypal skill, a roll involving a specialty, or a roll involving an archetype’s special ability: combat for warriors, picking pockets for thieves, casting spells for sorcerors, etc.

Practical mojo and specialties

If the character has a specialty that uses mojo, practical mojo may be dedicated to that purpose as well as to enhancing skills and learning or researching spells.


A dash movement has been added, which allows for faster movement within combat. This is the same as the unquantified movement that gave attackers a bonus of four against targets moving faster than normal combat speed.

Attack bonuses against characters moving at other than normal combat speed have also been added for speeds other than a dash or normal combat speed. Such higher speeds are only possible when outside of a combat area, but may be used (for example) for charging into a combat area. Opponents will gain an attack bonus against characters moving at those speeds.

Speedyards per minutefeet per roundtime basesaveattack
Combattwice movementmovementendurance minutes00
Explore4 times movementtwice movementendurance times 10 min04
Dash6 times movement3 times movementendurance minutes-14
Walk10 times movement5 times movementendurance times 10 min-37
Jog20 times movement10 times movementendurance minutes-88
Run30 times movement15 times movementendurance rounds-139
Sprint50 times movement25 times movementendurance seconds-2310


Some ailments are inescapable. An inescapable ailment is one which cannot be thrown off because there is no permanent defense against it and the character is continually in contact with it. Examples of inescapable ailments are suffocation, or being in an area that has poisonous gas. Until the victim somehow gains access to new air (to avoid suffocation) or leaves the area that has poisonous gas, they are not allowed rolls to “throw off” the inescapable ailment.

When affected by an inescapable ailment, there is a penalty of 1 to rolls to avoid its effects, each action time, cumulative. This penalty also comes into play if the character is repeatedly exposed to the same ailment during the ailment’s action time or before throwing off the ailment. Poisons, for example, can have such a cumulative effect. There is a penalty of 1 to the roll to contract and the roll to take effect for every other time the character has definitely imbibed or contracted the poison.

Some ailments are immediate: they may take effect as soon as they are contracted, instead of after the first action time.


The current suffocation rules are both complicated and strange. The new rules are simpler and take advantage of the ailment rules.

Characters without an air supply may suffocate. Suffocation is an ailment with an action time of two rounds, whose effects are unconsciousness and the loss of 1d4 survival points.

If the character is prepared (is able to take a deep breath) they have a suffocation buffer of six rounds, modified by Endurance as a major contributor. Otherwise, they have a suffocation buffer of 1d4 rounds, modified by Endurance as a minor contributor. For characters with low endurance, it is possible to have no buffer.

During the buffer period, the character may act as normal.

Gaining injury points

Once survival points reach zero, any further damage adds to the character’s injury points. Whenever a character gains injury points, the character runs the risk of unconsciousness and death.

Large or larger creatures need only worry about unconsciousness or death if their Injury Point total is two or more (for large creatures), four or more (for huge creatures), eight or more (for gigantic creatures) and sixteen or more (for titanic creatures).


The character must make an immediate health roll, with a bonus of their warrior level and a penalty of the character’s current injury total (as normal).

If failed, the character goes unconscious in a number of seconds equal to 10 minus the amount the roll was missed. If successful, the character may continue acting as normal, but will have a penalty of their injury point total on all attack rolls, saving rolls, and skill rolls.

A character with injury points may at any time choose to go unconscious.

An unconscious character may awaken or be awoken as normal, except that any rolls to awaken a character that has injuries are at a penalty of the character’s injury point total.


Whenever a character gains injury points and their injury point total is greater than their current survival points, the character runs the risk of death. They have been exposed to the immediate ailment “death” and must make a health roll to see if it is contracted. If contracted, death has an action time of one hour (one minute if active, six hours if unconscious) with a strength equal to the character’s injury point total. The effect of death is to die. Warriors gain a bonus of their level on the roll to “contract” death.

Death rolls while unconscious are at a bonus of two. Characters that go immediately unconscious gain that bonus for the roll to contract death.

Death may be “thrown off” if done so before death takes effect. However, any injury points gained remain as normal. The character no longer runs the risk of dying directly from those injuries, but the injuries remain to increase the chance of death if the character is further injured.

Simple first aid (binding wounds, stopping bleeding) grants a bonus of 2 to the health rolls to survive. Caregivers with skill in medicine, herbalism, or similar skills can also (on a successful skill roll) grant their skill level as a bonus.

Healing injury points

For each night of rest, if the player makes their character’s health roll they can either regain level survival points or remove one injury point. For each day of rest, no roll is required.

Killing immobilized targets

Killing immobilized targets has been made easier. If the attacker makes a called shot to kill, the target takes half the damage (round up) as injury points; the rest goes to survival points as normal.

The bit about taking the maximum on low rolls has been removed.

Knocking unconscious

The rules for knocking an opponent unconscious have been modified to cause injury points, and result in unconsciousness that way, rather than having a special kind of unconsciousness.

Only unaware, surprised, or immobilized opponents may be subject to a knockout blow.

The attacker must make a called shot to the head. The target is allowed an Evasion roll. If the target is wearing any sort of head protection, there is a bonus of one to this saving roll. If the head protection provides a bonus to the target’s defense (magical or non-magical), this bonus also applies to the saving roll. Creatures whose defense is from tough skin will usually gain this bonus to their saving roll.

If the saving roll is successful, the target takes no damage.

If the saving roll is unsuccessful, there is a chance of a knockout blow. If the damage done is greater than the attacker’s attack roll, the attack was a knockout blow: one point of the damage rolled goes to the target’s injury point total and the rest to the target’s survival points. The character runs the risk of unconsciousness and death as normal for gaining injury points. If the attack roll does not indicate a knockout blow, all damage goes to survival points.

Warriors may allot two combat bonus points to the knockout blow, which will mean that up to two points of the damage rolled will go to the victim’s injury points.


Characters can normally jump as high or as far as half their height. If they wish to jump further, an agility roll, with strength as a major contributor, and a penalty of the extra desired feet (for a long jump) or twice the extra desired feet (for a high jump) is required. Failure means that the jump falls short; the character jumps only as far as normal.

Characters who have a running start can jump further (but not higher). If a character has a running start of at least three times the distance they wish to jump, they may normally jump as far as their height. They can jump further as above, with a penalty of the number of extra yards desired.

Psychic Combat

Survival point loss in psychic combat causes stunning effects.

Psychic damage normally comes from mental fatigue, but if mental fatigue is gone, it comes from survival points. The defender may also choose to take psychic damage from survival points instead of from mental fatigue. However, any psychic damage that goes to survival points also stuns the victim. They lose all further actions that round and gain the damage done as a penalty to the next round’s initiative.

Thieves and backstab

Backstab: If the thief can attack an opponent with the opponent remaining unaware of the attack, the thief can carefully choose their method and target of attack and kill or incapacitate their opponent. While called ‘backstab’, it does not require coming up from behind. If the thief can somehow manage to come up from the front without being detected, a backstab may be performed in place of a normal attack. On a successful backstab, the thief does damage as normal for their weapon. Up to the number of points equal to a third of their backstab base (round down) will be directly applied to the target’s injury points. (The rest go to survival points as normal.) The target’s armor or other defenses apply, and situational bonuses also apply, to the thief’s backstab roll as normal for an attack roll. A thief is more vulnerable after a backstab attempt: during the next round, attacks against the thief are at a bonus of 2.

New Specialties

Provisioning has been added as a specialty and a new way to spend mojo.


Favored has been modified: characters gain twice level favor points, rather than just level favor points, each level.


Goblins have night vision with a penalty of 1, not 2. Half-Orcs have underground vision at a penalty of 2, not night vision at a penalty of 4.

Spirit bane

Divine creatures must make a willpower roll to attack the character marked with a spirit bane.


Indestructible Object should have offered a bonus of the casting level, not the sorceror’s level.

Mage Bolt and Sleep have been clarified: the target must be a creature.

The example in Magic Box was confusing: with a diameter of effect of only eight inches, a fourth level sorceror could not affect a robe unless they were a very short pixie. The description now uses a sash as the example.

Unravel Bonds has been added as a third level spell.

Spirit Manifestations

Wisdom is no longer a “Protection” spirit. It was listed in its description as a Trickster spell but wasn’t in the Trickster list. That has been fixed.

Divine Sanctuary has been clarified.

Rigidity has been renamed Spiritual Hold and has gained a special effect. Spiritual Torpor has been added as a sixth level manifestation.

Trickster spirits may manifest Helpful Hemp as well as Unhelpful Hemp.

Divine Guidance has been added as a first level manifestation.

Sheet Lightning has been added as a second level manifestation.

Sunder weapons has been added as a fourth level manifestation.

Sunder stone structure has been added as a fifth level manifestation.


Many monsters have underground or night vision, and are able to see as well--or better--in the darkness as in light. Unless otherwise noted, such monsters have underground vision and are at a penalty of only one in normal darkness.

Larger creatures gain a Fortitude bonus due to their size: +1 for large, +2 for huge, +3 for gigantic, and +4 for titanic.

When spells collide

When two or more spells, spirits, or psychic effects conflict, it’s really up to you what happens. In general, however, it helps to have a few simple guidelines:

Some effects don’t really conflict. A raging storm does not conflict with fair weather faith, for example. The one spirit calls a storm and the other protects an individual from the storm. If a target is under the effect of two fast friends spells, and the two friends start fighting, the target is likely to want to break up the fight, and this may trigger a saving roll, but there’s no need to ameliorate either of the effects.

If it is possible for the effects to mix, let them. Light and darkness can create a haze, for example, with the level of darkness determined by the difference in levels between the conflicting casting or manifestation levels.

For effects where saves are allowed because of tension or normal conflict, the save will probably be triggered. The target above under the effect of two fast friends spells is likely to get a saving roll against each of them.

Where the effects are numerical in nature, there isn’t really a conflict, just an adjustment. If both Indestructible Object and Brittle Object are cast on the same object, adjust accordingly: if one is at +4 and the other at -3, the total is +1.

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