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

A minor re-organization

Jerry Stratton, September 10, 2006

There aren’t any major changes here. The next major change will be choosing to incorporate swash points in the main rules or not. Mostly this is just a re-org fixing some old terminology and adjusting the location of Adventure Guide stuff in response to seeing someone else Guide a game recently.

The introduction has been completely reworked to be more accessible. Also, besides swash points, there are three other semi-major rule changes coming up for testing: a simple skills system, the choice of treating any effort as either a contested action or as a conflict, and extended character creation. If I’m able to make these changes Gods & Monsters will be finished; it will then be just a matter of improving the layout for readability, and perhaps tweaking costs.


Players should choose one to three goals for their character, generally in conjunction with the entire group. Often, a group will decide that each character should share one goal so that they will have a reason to work together.

As part of this I added a section in the front of the character creation section titled “Why are we playing this game?” that outlines the initial group discussion. The discussion happens before rolling dice and determine specific character abilities. During the discussion, players will select goals, moral codes, archetypes, and perhaps specialties.

I’ve also added some guidelines on choosing a backstory.


The ability to specialize in weapons use is no longer automatic for Warriors. It is now a specialty, Weapons Specialist.


The need to make another tightrope skill check has been clarified: A player might be required to roll again if their character is hit by a called shot from an arrow or other missile attack.

Sorcerors, Prophets, and Monks

Sorcerors, prophets, and monks no longer receive a +1 bonus on saving rolls against their kind of supernatural ability. This is now covered, to an extent, by mojo points.


While updating Toromeen’s description to include goals and backstory, I noticed that his age was wrong. Dwarves now get 8x age rather than 4x. This also means that Toromeen has more skills.


Experience for using mojo in an archetypal manner during an adventure is gained immediately. If the character gains enough of this experience to go up a level, the level change occurs immediately. The benefits of the level change occur immediately only if the player has pre-planned them. If the player needs to ask for advice or assistance, the benefits are gained only after the current action completes.

Most mojo resources do not lose their rating as characters use them. Only static, limited resources such as books lose ratings as the character mines the resource for mojo. Players will need to thus track the mojo rating left in their own resources, but not in the larger resources that they have access to.

The costs for ability improvement and skill improvement have been changed so that they are based on the character’s current score rather than the next score. This matches such improvement to level improvement, which is based on the character’s current level. The actual mojo cost hasn’t changed.

Characters with high intelligence can more quickly use mojo resources. Characters with low intelligence will take more time to use mojo resources. A character’s intelligence, as a major contributor, shifts the Mojo bonus up or down on the Mojo bonus chart when the character is using at least one mojo resource. A character with an intelligence of 15, for example, studying from a book with a mojo rating of 5, will be able to mine that book at 3 mojo per time period rather than 1 mojo per time period. Below “1 per 4 time periods” are “1 per 5 time periods”, “1 per 6 time periods”, etc.

Injury points

There were several places in the rulebook that still talked about being “below zero survival points”. This has been changed to “having injury points”, since it is no longer possible to have fewer than zero survival points. What used to be negative survival is now injury points.

Falling more than thirty feet now possibly results in gaining injury points, rather than unconsciousness (of course, unconsciousness can result from gaining injury points). When falling more than thirty feet, an Evasion roll is required; if failed, half of the survival point loss goes directly to Injury Points.

Contested Actions

If both sides in a contested action cannot fail, double each participant’s final numbers (before any mojo are applied) and increase the time period to the next level.

Player characters can request a doubling of both final numbers if their opponent cannot fail.


Semi-conscious has been added as a movement rate, with a time base of endurance rounds, and a rate of movement yards per minute or half movement feet per round.

A player whose character is stricken unconscious because of injury points may choose to spend one mojo to bring their character to semi-consciousness.

A semi-conscious character is vaguely aware of their surroundings. They may not use any agility bonus to defend against attacks (agility penalties apply as normal) but are not at any bonus to be hit as unconscious characters are. They move and think very slowly.

A semi-conscious character may not initiate any action except movement. If directed to do something, the semi-conscious character may choose to follow that direction; if asked a question, they may choose to answer. In either case, the player must make a Willpower roll or take 1d4 rounds to react or reply.


When one character attempts to chase or escape another character, this becomes an opposed action. The characters will generally make an agility roll, with appropriate skills modifying the roll. A success by one character and a failure by the other means that the chase has concluded: the escaping character has escaped, or the pursuer has caught up with their quarry.

If one character has a significantly higher movement than the other character, that player gains a bonus to their roll of one for every difference of three in their movements.

Groups chasing an individual will often use the group effort rules.


These movement rates are used only for tactical movement (such as characters maneuvering for position in combat) or for uncontested distances . In any case where one character is trying to chase or capture another character, ability rolls or saving rolls are more appropriate.

It takes one round to switch from one movement rate to another, if the character is currently moving at jog or higher or is switching to a movement of jog or higher. This round counts towards the time base of the higher movement rate.

If slowing down, the character will continue to move at the higher rate during that round unless the player makes an Agility roll, in which case the character will move at the next lowest movement rate. The difficulty level of this roll is increased by one level for each movement rate the character is going to skip over, with all speeds of walk or lower counting as walk.

If speeding up, the character will continue moving at their starting speed for that round, or walk speed, whichever is fastest. If the player makes an agility roll, replace walk with jog as the minimum speed. While speeding up counts towards the higher speeds time base, the player need not make a roll for that round.


Initiative has been renamed “Advantage”. Players now roll for the advantage in combat.

Aid, Counterattack, and Waiting Game have been removed. Warriors already have the ability to do this sort of thing without complex penalties, and non-warriors really shouldn’t. Also, I have never personally witnessed these rules in use. Waiting Game had the potential to be abused by characters with low advantage. Aid is handled well enough by Team Attack and Group Effort.

Group Effort

Mass Combat has been renamed Group Effort to more appropriately describe what I plan for it.

Characters with similar abilities can join together to focus their efforts on a single task.

The only addition to the rules for Group Effort over individual efforts is a morale check to ensure that the group stays together. The morale check occurs at the end of every set of actions that the group takes: the end of every round in combat, or the end of every roll-requiring action for non-combat efforts.

When engaging in group effort, the group is treated as an individual, and has full access to the rules for individuals.

Those who are completely outside of the group and who have no allies in the group to worry about may work with their own personal round or turn, squaring off against individuals within the larger unit. Characters who wish to engage the unit as a whole must abide by the longer turn.


Blind-fighting has been fixed so that the speciality is useful on taking blind-fighting, as well as every level thereafter.

The Multi-Type specialty has been renamed Multiple Archetype.

While in Ithaca in June I finally picked up a copy of The Burning Wheel, from Odyssey Games and Hobbies. The Wheel’s instincts inspired me to add reaction as a specialty. (If you’re familiar with Burning Wheel, reactions are not as powerful as instincts.) The reaction specialty allows the player to choose some event and always have their character react to it.

Weapons Master has been renamed Fighting Expert. The choice of a new fighting style or an increased bonus in a current fighting style has been removed. Because Warrior specialization has been made a specialty, the ability to use warrior specialization rules for free has been removed, although the Fighting Expert does have access to the new Weapon Specialist specialty. The advantage and extra attack bonuses for Fighting Expert have been clarified: Fighting Experts gain a bonus of one to advantage every odd level thereafter. They also gain one combat bonus every even level thereafter, which can only be used for additional actions. Both bonuses only apply when using a weapon within their fighting style(s).

The casting level bonus for seat of power and staff of power is the place of power’s level when in the place of power (which seats of power will always be).

Experience Points

I’ve changed the recommended average experience point award from 500 points to 400 points. This accounts for the use of mojo points in an archetypal manner.

I’ve also added a short rumination on why you would want to use the competitive experience point system rather than a straight award per session.

Creature statistics

The statistics for creatures—saving roll, survival, attack bonus, intelligence, etc.—have been moved from the Adventure Guide’s Handbook to the Encounter Guidebook. This is where most people other than me tend to look for that information.

A rule of thumb has been added for creature ability rolls: if you have a good estimate of the creature’s ability score and skill, you can use it. If you don’t, a good rule of thumb is that the combination of a creature’s ability score, natural skill bonus, and learned skill bonus, is 10 plus the creature’s level.


The poison manufacture rules have been removed from the Adventure Guide’s Handbook: they have been superceded by the mojo-using speciality in Arcane Lore.

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