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

Experience points, armor, new spirits and spells, and more

Jerry Stratton, September 12, 2004

This is the first update since the last “stable” version. There are few major changes this time but lots of little additions. Starting characters gain a few more experience points if they have a high prime ability, and shields are made both more and less useful.

This is the beginning of changes I want to make for the 2005 version. By 2005 I expect Gods & Monsters will have expanded equipment descriptions in Arcane Lore, a more fully optimized experience system, and a more organized and better described skill list.

I also intend to make these “Rule Changes” articles useful as errata. If you have the printed version, you should be able to print out each of the “Rule Changes” articles and have the new rules. New items (such as spells or specialties) appearing in the Lorebooks will not appear here but will be listed; if they are important to your game, you can copy their info from the appropriate Lorebook.



The experience point bonus for having a high prime ability has been increased to 200 points. This will make it more useful when using a competitive experience system.

Thief Disguise

The thief’s disguise skill has been simplified. An automatic defense (saving roll) is allowed only once instead of multiple times in a geometric progression.


Armor costs and bulk have been modified in keeping with the additional information about armor in Arcane Lore.

A large shield has been added. It grants a bonus of two to defense, and may only be used by warriors of second level or higher. A small shield has also been added. It is lighter and less restrictive than a normal shield, but may only be used by warriors and will only protect against one opponent per round.

The agility penalties have been moved into the armor table, to make them easier to find. They have also been reduced slightly.

Maintenance costs have been aded to weapons and armor: 10% of the weapon’s cost per year, and 5% of the armor’s cost per month.

The new armor information is:

ArmorDefense BonusCostBulkWarrior LevelOther LevelAgility Penalty
Banded Leather3158113
Scale Mail445151-6
Chain Mail58015124
Splint Mail670202-6
Plate Mail7300253-6
Full Plate81000304-7
Ceremonial Plate92000405-8
Large Shield215182-2
Small Shield1 vs. one523-0
Full Helmet110 or 10%2 or 20%121

Equipment Sizes

Equipment in other-sized cultures uses the same bulk and cost rules as for weapons in different-sized cultures.


In the continuing quest to correctly place skills within the Gods & Monsters system, there are now “specialized” uses of skills and “non-specialized” uses of skills.

If the use of a skill is specialized and against an ability score, the ability score is halved if the character does not have the skill. For example, performing surgery is a specialized skill: only someone who has actually taken the surgery skill is likely to do well at it. First aid is not a specialized skill. It could be performed by anyone. Having a medical skill is just a bonus.

Also, Occupational Skills have been renamed Skills. Weapon Skills have been renamed Weapon Familiarities. Specific weapon usage is not a skill. Fighting itself is the skill. Specific weapons are just aspects of that skill, much in the same way that multilingual characters will be familiar with multiple languages but at the same skill level.

When a character advances a level, the bonus for learning a skill within their archetype’s listing is now 3. There is a penalty for skills outside of both the general listing and the archetype listing, of 1. And there is no longer any need to make two successive rolls to learn a skill outside of the archetype or general listing.

Poison Example

The poison example had Charlotte wanting to roll high, when saving rolls are now rolled low like everything else.


Surprise in subsequent rounds results in a penalty of one to defense, three to attack, and five to initiative. There is no cumulative per-round bonus to throwing off surprise.

If a character is removed completely from combat for two rounds or more, that character will no longer be surprised.

The bonus against unaware and non-defending opponents has been simplified. It is simply always a bonus of four, no matter how many unaware or non-defending opponents are available. High-level warriors will be able to take advantage of this, lower-level warriors and other archetypes will not.

Combat Example

The combat example with the Yeti still used negative survival points. References to negative survival points have been changed to positive injury points.

Mass Combat Example

The mass combat example had the two sides trying to roll high for initiative, when initiative is now rolled low like everything else.

Parry changed to Counterattack

Parry has two meanings: a counterattack or a defense against an attack. To avoid confusion, the parry special combat maneuver has been renamed “counterattack”.

Special Combat Maneuver: Defensive Action

Defensive action has been moved out of the Acrobatics skill and into the main rules. Characters may attempt defensive action above and beyond normal. This will penalize their attack roll and possibly benefit their defense. A character attempting defensive action must make an Agility roll. This will grant them a bonus of two to defense. The character will have a penalty of two to attack regardless of success, and a penalty of one to defense if the Agility roll is failed.

Adventure Guide’s Handbook


The terminology for rituals was modified so that one person “prepares” the ritual (instead of “performing” it) and the other person “performs” the ritual (instead of “controlling” it). The previous terminology was so confusing that even the text had it confused. The person preparing the ritual is the one who draws signs and circles. The person performing the ritual is the one who recites the words and dances the dance.

Arcane Lore

New Specialties

A new specialty was added that affects each of the kinds of supernatural powers. Arcane Resistance, Closed Mind, and Mark of Glory provide saving roll bonuses against spells, psychic powers, and divine power, respectively.

Two new specialties can increase the power of sorcerors: Staff of Power and Seat of Power. A third new specialty allows sorcerors to learn Counterspells that negate other spells’ effects.

Two new specialties have been added for close combat: Parry, which allows negating incoming close combat attacks, and Riposte, which allows a continued attack on a successful parry.


Clarified that Pixies and Half-Orcs, while they have preferred archetypes, don’t generally get any benefit from them as their lifespan is too short.


Invisibility’s effectiveness reflected older level rules. It now affects up to forty pounds per level, not one hundred.

New Spells

Armor is a second-level spell that protects the target against any attacks which require an attack roll.

Control Mist is a first level spell that controls mist and vapors.

Dancing Wood is a second-level spell that allows the caster to animate and control wooden items.

Clean Slate is a first-level spell that can erase magical and non-magical texts, sigils, and glyphs.

Fan of Frost is a second-level spell that shoots frost from the caster’s hands.

Fire Blast is a third-level spell that causes an existing fire to explode.

Illusory Self is a third-level spell that allows the caster to alter their appearance.

Levitate is a third-level spell that causes the target to float into the air.

The spell Mutual Understanding and its reverse, Mutual Confusion was added as a third level spell. It allows caster and target to converse with each other, much like a two-way Understand Languages.

Slippery Surface is a second-level spell that makes any solid, uniform surface slippery and difficult to grasp.

Sulfuric Burst is a fourth-level spell that causes a gooey, acidic gunk to stick to the victim and burn for several rounds.

Divine Lore

Spirit Level vs. Prophet Level

Two spirit manifestations listed prophet level instead of spirit level as the basis for some effects. Fire Stone and Fresh Air have been fixed so that they refer to spirit level.

Divine Greatness was correctly listed as a third-level spirit manifestation, but was described under first level manifestations. Its description has been moved to the section for third-level manifestations.

Divine Favor should have also affected “any morale rolls”.

Several spirit manifestations had calling times that were off by one, and have been fixed.

New Spirit Manifestations

Divine Courier is a third-level manifestation that uses animals to send messages.

Divine Prowess is a third-level manifestation that enhances combat ability.

Durability is a third-level manifestation that grants partial invulnerability to the target.

Enthrall (and its reverse, Aversion) is a fourth-level manifestation that causes the target to trust (or not trust) the prophet.

Fair Weather Faithis a third-level manifestation that provides protection against inclement weather.

Just Sleep is a third-level manifestation that provides a full night’s sleep in just an hour.

Rigidity is a fourth-level manifestation that freezes victims in their tracks.

Serenity is a fourth-level manifestation that ends hostilities.

Spark of Life is a seventh-level manifestation that fans the flame of life in recently-dead creatures.

Speak in Tongues is a third-level manifestation that allows listeners to hear the prophet in their own language.

Summit is a sixth level manifestation that allows speakers of different languages to understand each other.

Understanding is a fourth-level manifestation that allows the prophet to converse with a group that speaks different languages.

Water of Life is a third-level manifestation that transmutes normal liquids into other normal liquids.

Encounter Guidebook

Two new creatures have been added: Orochs, under “Animals”, and Lesser Dragons under “Dragons”.

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