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

Dying is easy, ailments are hard

Jerry Stratton, September 10, 2009

It was a good idea at the time: document changes to Gods & Monsters as I make them. But as we started playing more, I started documenting less. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice that I’ve been uploading a lot of changes since the last “rule change” post over a year ago.

I don’t even remember the specifics now; the main focus over the last year has been:

  • Removing rules that we have never used.
  • Simplifying rules that we do use.
  • Consolidating the various rules to use similar systems.
  • Knowing why every rule exists.

As we enter our own endgame, I’m also thinking more and more of the final layout. Eventually these will be re-uploaded to Lulu or some similar service. Don’t hold your breath, however.

Herewith follow the last documented changes to Gods & Monsters:


Saving rolls are now called reactions. Learning has been renamed reason. Reason is comprised of Intelligence and Wisdom; Perception is comprised of Charisma and Agility; there is no longer a special Surprise modifier to Perception, so surprise has been removed from character sheets.


Death is now a whole lot easier to handle: whenever a character gains injury points and their injury point total is greater than their current survival and verve, the player must make a contested Endurance roll against their total injuries. Their injuries are the acting side of the contest: the Guide rolls less than or equal to their injuries; if successful, the player rolls less than or equal to their Endurance (with normal penalties, including injury point penalties). Warriors gain a bonus of their level on the Endurance roll.

Player characters can also perform a “final roll” if they are dying; the final roll has some bonuses, but after it is made (or failed), the character will die.

Each action is a single roll

Each action is a single roll now explicitly applies to failures, with one exception: A failed roll cannot be re-rolled, not even by another character, unless the task is reframed as a different task. The only exception is that if an individual player character has attempted a task once, a group of player characters can also attempt the task once. If a group effort has been attempted once, then an individual can also try once.


Ailments are a lot simpler now: they’re just contests. Most ailments a player character will encounter are poisons, but they may also represent sickness, or the effects of recreational drugs such as alcohol.

Ailment strength

Each ailment has a strength. Players must make saving roll at a penalty of the strength of the ailment, or the ailment takes effect. Most poisons will have a strength of from zero to four.

If the character definitely imbibes or injects or otherwise takes the ailment inside, there is a penalty of four to the saving roll to contract the ailment, and the saving roll is vs. Health. Otherwise, the saving roll is a Perception roll (if the character can avoid the ailment simply by knowing it exists, such as drinking poisoned wine) or an Evasion roll (if someone else is attempting to do it to an unwilling victim, such as with a poisoned sword).

Ailment effects

Each ailment has an effect. This is what happens to a character if they succumb to the ailment. Poisons will usually have an effect of injuring the character by d2, d3, or d4 injury points. The effects take place after the action time of the ailment. Poisons often have an action time of one round: they take effect at the end of the round in which they were contracted.

Some effects are temporary. Once the ailment is gone, the effects go also. Ailments that affect concentration or cause unconsciousness are usually temporary. Most effects are permanent, in that they remain even after the ailment is gone and only disappear through the normal healing process. Injury points remain even after the poison takes effect, for example. The character must heal as normal.

Some ailments are chronic. Once the character ails, the ailment stays with them and continues to affect them until they can throw off the ailment. At each action time, the player makes a Health roll. If they succeed, they are no longer affected by the ailment. If they fail, they take the effects again, adding to any previous effects of the ailment. The strength of the ailment will fade over time: the strength is reduced by one for each action time. When an ailment is chronic, its effects are cumulative. For example, if a character has been affected by giant spider poison three times, they’ll be paralyzed for 3d4 minutes.

Some ailments are inescapable. The character can’t just succeed once, they need to keep succeeding for every action time of the ailment. Gasses in an enclosed space are often inescapable, for example. There is no roll to throw off an ailment that is inescapable: the roll per action time is only to see if the ailment affects the victim. The strength of a chronic, inescapable ailment will only start to fade once the cause of the ailment is removed (the gas is dissipated or the character is removed from the gassy area). The strength of inescapable ailments increases by one for every successive action time.

Multiple archetypes

The species specialty’s access to multiple archetypes has been modified: at any level advancement, the player may roll vs. the archetypal ability of any archetype to be able to choose that archetype. The roll has a penalty of the character’s current level in that archetype. As long as the character has only one archetype and their new level is also in that archetype, no roll is required to advance. Once the character has or will have multiple archetypes, any advancement not within a preferred archetype requires a roll.

This rule used to be a general rule, applying to both the Species specialty and the Multiple Archetypes specialty. Now it only applies to Species.

Players whose characters have more than one archetype can use their mojo to affect rolls for any of their archetypes. Their costs for gaining or improving things such as fields or skills are according to the archetype they gained their current level in. Verve can be used in place of survival if the damage is archetypal for any of the character’s archetypes.


See Parasite has been added as a third-level spell.

Web has been added as a fourth-level spell.


Obscuring Mist has been added as a second-level spirit manifestation. Council has been added as a fourth-level spirit manifestation.

Protection from Animals has been renamed Wildlife Sanctuary.


Holy thunder, dinosaurs!

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