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

From harmless to mostly harmless

Jerry Stratton, April 24, 2008

I went to Forge Midwest this month, where I got to play a great game of Blazing Rose. On the drive to Chicago, it occurred to me that the game could be played with no role-playing-style narration at all, simply as a card game where the goal is to accumulate chips. And from there it occurred to me that role-playing games go out of their way to explain what role-playing is but don’t generally say anything about what a game is. So I’ve added one short paragraph to Gods & Monsters, just before talking about narration.

Gods & Monsters is a game. You roll dice to see if your character in the game is successful at doing adventurous things. Your character has resources. You will use those resources to gain more resources. Just like betting chips in poker, if you use too many resources (such as survival points) your character might die; use too few and your character won’t advance. You’ll use strategy in Gods & Monsters just as you would in Hearts or Yahtzee. You will maneuver your character into situations where their resources are most effective.

I’ve put verve into the rules so that more people can help me test them out. I may well revert back to the old way of handling survival points, however.

I’m also experimenting with a different page layout. It’s designed to print well at 9x7 as well as 11x8.5. I found that once I started using Traveling Books I stopped buying books from Lulu. The smaller traveling format was too useful. So I’ve been looking for a design that would make printing in a smaller format easier. The wider format also makes pictures easier to use, which is one of the reasons you see more graphics in the main rulebook.

You’ll also notice that the books all have a resources file you can download, with the Persistence of Vision source files for the cover, as well as the inner imagery (which is mostly all public domain).

Creating characters

The guidelines about which archetypes should be chosen have been turned into rules.

If there are four players, one will be the Adventure Guide, one will play a Warrior, one will play a Thief, and one will play one of the available mental archetypes. If there are only three players, one of the player characters must be a physical archetype, and one must be a mental archetype. If there are five players, the extra player can play a warrior, a thief, or one of the remaining mental archetypes (but not the same one already being played). If there are six players, the extra player can choose any archetype that isn’t already being played by two players.

This will help to ensure that each character has a major part in the game, even if their numbers are lower, someone else’s numbers are higher, or (most importantly from my experience) the players have differing levels of experience gaming.

As part of this change, the Species and Multiple archetype specialties have been changed to say that no archetype that is already being played in a player character can be chosen until two levels after the game starts.


Classical sorcery has been moved into the optional rules section of the Adventure Guide’s Handbook. You can easily copy it out and put it in the main rulebook if you’re going to use it. Since any particular group will only have one sorceror during initial character creation, it didn’t make a lot of sense to have rules for two kinds in the main book.


As promised, advantage has been removed.

There is no order to what happens in conflict. Everything happens at once. To make things easier, however, the Guide will show how the non-player characters are moving, the players will announce and determine their actions first, and the Guide will determine the actions of the NPCs.


Aging is no longer random, and it starts with injury point gains rather than ability losses.


Movement has been simplified. All that crap about speeding up and slowing down is gone. All of the movement periods have been increased, but the penalty for not resting is now an injury point. Daily movement can be increased by 50%, but this also risks minor injuries.


Staff of power and Seat of power mojo costs have been reduced to four and eight, respectively.

Three new specialties have been added: Spell Preparation, Spellhold, and Power Shift.

Fast casting has been removed, since all it did was grant a bonus to advantage.

Spirit Manifestations

Hound’s Breath has been added as a third-level spirit manifestation.

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