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Core Rules  •  Powers  •  Races  •  Character Sheet

Core Rules

Introduction and Summary

Table of Contents
Introduction and Summary
Example of Play
Numeric Ratings
Imagine your Character
Uncontested Skill Use
Target Numbers
Elusion Numbers
Equipment Modifiers
Situational Modifiers
Contested Skill Use
Defeat
Setbacks
Impairments
Maneuver Points
The Flow of Combat
Equipment in Combat
Taking Turns
Skill and Talent Descriptions
Numeric Ratings
Skill Descriptions
Talent Descriptions
Adding Battlemats
Economic Rules
Impacts
Treasure
Magic Item Qualities
Crafting Skill Qualities
Magic Item Examples

The people playing Nine Powers have different roles. One acts as narrator. The other (or others) play the role of one protagonist, making choices and developing personality for that protagonist. The narrator describes the setting and uses rules to adjudicate the successfulness and consequences of protagonist intentions. Together they develop an adventure story.

For historical reasons, this type of cooperative storytelling game is called a role-playing game, the narrator is called the Game Master or GM, and the other people in charge of the protagonists are called the Players.

Two other traditional acronyms calling the main characters Player Characters or PCs, as opposed to the characters controlled by the GM who are called Non-Player Characters or NPCs.

Nine Powers has no rules for the Player! The Player simply describes what he or she wants the PC to do, one intention at a time. The rules are only needed by the GM.

However, the Player is welcome to learn the rules. Here is a quick summary of the rules, for a curious player to reference.

The GM and Player take turns telling the story. This is a cooperative type of play. But the story becomes suspenseful and exciting when the PC must deal with difficult situations.

Numeric skill and talent ratings measure how well the PC overcomes these difficult situations. As the story unfolds, the PC accomplishes objectives and is awarded with increased ratings, and with wealth that can be spent to craft or buy special equipment.

Difficult situations have three classifications. They may be uncontested with a fixed difficulty, contested with opponents trying to actively out maneuver each other, or passive with a higher skill rating minimizing or avoiding the difficulty.

A clever Player will use circumstances and appropriate equipment to effectively increase his or her character's skill ratings.

Example of Play

Consider a short example of play. Notice that neither the GM nor Player ever mention any part of the game's rules. This allows the game to flow and feel like how authors write a story. Adventures are full of surprises! The plot is non-linear. Characters do unexpected things. Protagonists grow in unpredicted ways.

Boxley and the Giant Lizard

Player: Boxley grunts at the giant lizard and swings her sword. If only she still had her bow!

GM: The lizard tries to veer aside, but is scratched by Boxley's blade. Its right foreclaw cuts Boxley, knocking her off balance.

Player: Boxley recovers her balance. She is bleeding from a slash on her arm. She spits and uses her magic jumping boots to leap atop the boulder. Then she waits for an opportune moment, yells, and jumps down to stab the beast in its back. Hopefully the combination of elevation and a sudden, forceful blow will do the trick.

GM: The lizard is quick. Boxley does land on its back, but in the split second before the sword blade hits the lizard shakes violently and then rolls. She does stab it, but only a minor wound. The lizard gets to its feet slightly faster, and lunges.

Player: Boxley tries to jump aside.

GM: She does so easily. The lizard lunges again.

Player: This is going nowhere. Boxley jumps onto the boulder again. Can she notice anything about the lizard's behavior that might help her?

GM: The lizard pauses, panting and glaring at Boxley. It paces back and forth, swishing its tail. As you watch it you notice it is sniffing intently, even though it can still see Boxley.

Player: Boxley takes a stink bomb from her backpack and throws it at the lizard.

GM: The lizard hisses in anger and confusion when the stink bomb explodes.

Player: Boxley repeats her diving attack.

GM: This time Boxley connects. The lizard screams as Boxley's sword sinks deep into its shoulder.

Player: Boxley pulls her sword free. She tries to sneak behind the lizard and then charges it.

GM: The lizard is so disoriented from the stink and from its wound that Boxley is able to get behind it unnoticed. Her charge connects, wounding the creature by its left hip. The lizard crumples to the ground, defeated.

Player: Whew. Boxley removes her sword, but does not kill the beast. Perhaps it will recover enough to retreat to its lair where she might find something interesting?

During the story, the Player's job is to describe what the PC tries to do. Be daring, dramatic, and confident! Try to keep the pace of the story quick and exciting.

The rules are an aid to help the GM decide whether the PC and NPCs are successful in their intentions. The rules surround the story with an unobtrusive layer of structure that provides consistency and a shared understanding of what might reasonably happen.

On one hand, the GM's rulings are more important than what the rules say. A fun GM prioritizes helping a thrilling and dramatic story unfold, and does not always follow the rules. On the other hand, when the rules lead the action in an unexpected direction, a wise GM trusts that the story will naturally flow into places even more colorful and memorable than what was planned or predicted, and does not sidestep the rules to protect the prepared plotline.

Numeric Ratings

Base

Effective

Muscle

Perception/Escape

_____

_____

Versus groups ____ extra defense

Acrobatics/Climb

_____

_____

Reduce ranged attacks by ____

Shoot/Throw

_____

_____

Point blank range is ____ ×2 meters

Melee/Protect

_____

_____

Attacks injure ____ more opponents

Wrestle/Disarm

_____

_____

Can endure ____ more setbacks

Marvel

Stealth/Track

_____

_____

Shadow use of level ____

Identify/Lore

_____

_____

Herbs heal ____ times faster

Bargain/Wonder

_____

_____

Wondrous feats have ____ skill

Disguise/Etiquette

_____

_____

Vocal mimicry has ____ skill

Animals/Wilderness

_____

_____

Animal control has ____ skill

Intuition/Hearthwork

_____

_____

Fast talking lasts ____ hours

Crafting

Alchemy

_____

_____

Identifying alchemy has ____ skill

Machinery

_____

_____

Increase trap perception by ____

Musing

_____

_____

Identifying musing has ____ skill

Transmutery

_____

_____

Works at a distance of ____ meters

Nine Powers uses "skill-based" rules. As characters gain experience and power they increase in proficiency with any of the game's skills and talents. (This is different from a role-playing game in which characters instead advance through "levels".)

Skills and talents are rated between 0 and 8. New characters should have skill ratings that total 35, with no skill rating above 4. New characters have no talents.

There are only a few skills. This mimics the exaggerated prowess of protagonists in classic "heroic opera" pulp stories and films. In this genre, heroes and heroines demonstrate unrealistic expertise at broad categories of real-life skills. For example, Yu Shu-lien fights expertly with any melee weapon, James Bond uses all pistols with equal mastery, Benedict of Amber optimally leads any army on any battlefield, and Buckaroo Bonzai can expertly drive any vehicle.

Nine Powers includes a sample setting named Spyragia. It is very easy to replace this sample setting with any other setting. The skills that describe magical crafting describe how to modify them for modern or futuristic settings.

Because characters are described with only a few numbers, the GM can readily improvise NPCs. This helps the story go quickly and encourages a focus on creativity and exciting actions.

For purely aesthetic reasons the skills are sorted into three categories of Muscle, Marvel, and Crafting. These categories normally have no effect on game play.

These rules sometimes refer to half of a skill's name when doing so aids contextual clarity. For example, these rules will sometimes discuss "the Wrestle skill" instead of "the Wrestle/Disarm skill".

In these rules skill names are always capitalized. This helps differentiate situations from skills. For example, while bargaining a character will certainly use the Bargain skill, but could also use the Identify and Intuition skills to appraise the value of items.

The point of the previous paragraph deserves repeating. One situation can be approached with many skills!.

One Situation, Many Skill Options

Consider a PC who leaps off a ledge onto a monster. What is the hero trying to accomplish?

If the PC is trying to knock it over, that would use the Wrestle skill.

If the PC is trying to stab it with a weapon as he or she lands, that would use the Melee skill.

If the PC is trying to subdue it with the force of his or her personality, that would use the Wonder skill.

If the PC is trying to land unnoticed on a giant's backpack, that would use the Stealth skill.

If the PC is trying to ride it, that would use the Animals skill.

The rules about skills, talents, combat, and magic items are "core rules" both because they are almost independent of setting and because they are the general rules that get trumped by more specific rules. As one example, the core rules state that no character starts with any talents. However, the setting-specific rules about Spyragia's eight intelligent races provide an exception to that general rule: members of each race start with one point in a certain talent as part of their racial heritage and expertise.

Imagine your Character

The Player needs to have a mental image of what his or her PC is like. Some Players like to be creative and invent a very original protagonist, and pick the character's initial starting skill ratings. Other players prefer to ignore the numbers and consider an archetypical protagonist.

Three Example Character Concepts

"My hero is like Robin Hood in the Errol Flynn film. He is energetic, physical, and charming. He is the best archer, and a very good swordsman. He is pretty observant. He is not an acrobat, but he can swing from chandeliers or safely jump down from a high place."

"My heroine is like Kerowyn from the Mercedes Lackey stories. Maybe she even has some kind of magic sword. She works as a mercenary. She is a dangerous swordfighter and a capable team leader. She values honor and fair play. She could teach and inspire people. She rides a horse very well. I want her to be good with all animals, not just horses."

"My hero is a fantasy equivalent of James Bond played by Sean Connery. He always knows the right thing to say. He is good at fighting but not a champion. Actually, he is quite skilled with a bow but would rather wrestle than fight with a sword or dagger. He knows a lot of things, especially about people and society. And if he does not know something he knows who to ask. He is a little sneaky, but prefers to use a disguise and not need to sneak. He is very perceptive. If there is a bad machine he knows how to take it apart."

If you are a Player reading these rules, take a moment to imagine what type of fantasy character you would like to play.

As the story unfolds, the GM and Player will both want to look at the PC's skill ratings. Nine Powers is a paper and pencil game. Try using a character sheet with the game's important tables to also keep track of the PC's skill and talent ratings, as well as written notes about the PC's description, background, inventory, known recipes, friends and relations, special abilities, unusual qualities, etc.

If the Player did not pick all of the PC's initial skill ratings, the GM can help fill in the blanks by asking questions as the story develops. (For example, "You might be able to jump over that pit. How good is your character at jumping?") Remember that a new PC should have skill ratings that total 35. If the Player consistently describes the PC is capable at everything, the PC will soon run out of available points and the GM will set the remaining undecided skill ratings to the minimum of 1.

Uncontested Skill Use

Uncontested skill use quickly resolves whether or not a character is successful in overcoming a complication or obstacle. It simply compares two numbers, a quick process that does not slow down the story.

The GM knows or improvises the minimum skill rating required for success. The character succeeds if his or her skill rating is equal to or greater than this requirement.

Target Numbers

When the character is actively using a skill, the required number is called the target number.

Success with Appraising a Sword

GM: The blacksmith shows Boxley a display case with swords for sale. Which does she want to inspect?

Player: Boxley looks at her second-favorite. What does she think it is worth?

GM: Although it looks nice, and the metal seems high quality, it has poor balance. Perhaps 200 silver coins.

The GM knows that accurately appraising the sword requires a target number of 2. Fortunately, Boxley has an Identify skill of 3, which is more than enough for success.

A character who fails at uncontested skill use need not give up and go home! Often the character can often find another plan that allows success.

Often the character will attempt using a different but still appropriate skill. For example, if a character could not pick a door's lock using the Machinery skill, perhaps the character will try forcing open the door using the Wrestle skill, or hacking it down with an axe using the Melee skill? The obstacle would probably have different target numbers for such different approaches.

Uncontested skill use is not always about success or failure. A higher skill rating can provide superior results.

Better Results for Higher Target Numbers (without Dice)

GM: As you approach the rubble the rocks on its surface flow together to form a small, humanoid shape that blocks Siron's way.

Player: What does Siron know about this kind of creature?

The GM replies with information based upon Siron's Lore skill rating.

Siron has an effective Lore skill rating of 5, so he is told the first three pieces of information.

Note that most situations are uncontested and have trivial difficulty. Skill use is automatically successful and not even mentioned by the GM or Player. A PC does not need to formally use the Acrobatcs skill to jump a short distance, the Animals skill to calmly ride a pet horse, or the Perception skill to notice obvious features and items in a room.

Diceless game mechanics are very convenient for being playable almost any time. The pace is also quick and exciting as the in-game action is not interrupted by real-life dice rolling.

Yet dice have their virtues. Many people find allowing luck to play a role in the story's development increases the suspense and thrill of victory, and dice can steer the story in a surprising way that puts the GM and Player on more equal footing as improvisational storytellers. Also, some people really like the texture and sound made by colorful, polyhedral dice.

To use dice, first get a bunch of six-sided and twelve-sided dice. Your character's effective skill rating tells you how many dice to roll: roll both a six-sided die and a twelve-sided die for each point of skill rating. When you roll your dice, any die that rolls the values 5 or more counts as a success.

Better Results for Higher Target Numbers (with Dice)

GM: As you approach the rubble the rocks on its surface flow together to form a small, humanoid shape that blocks your Siron's way.

Player: What does Siron know about this kind of creature?

The GM replies with information based upon Siron's Lore skill rating. Siron has an effective Lore skill rating of 5. He rolls five six-sided dice: 2, 3, 5, 3, and 4. He also rolls five twelve-sided dice: 9, 4, 2, 6, and 11. Among all those dice, four rolled 5 or more. So Siron has a total of four successes for this skill use.

As before, he is told the first three pieces of information about oozes.

This way of using dice produces results close to the numbers used for playing without dice. That means the Players do not need to all agree about whether to use dice. Some Players can use dice, and others can play without dice, and everyone faces the same challenges.

This webpage has a secret dice roller!

On a computer, press the SHIFT key to show or hide it.

On a phone, press on the screen for 4 seconds in a blank area that will not highlight text or follow a link.

Elusion Numbers

When the character is passively using a skill the required number is called the elusion number. The character might not even be aware that any uncontested skill use happened.

Eluding a Dart Trap

Player: Loot! Vroy opens the treasure chest.

GM: The chest is trapped. A dart flies out from inside.

Player: Ack!

The GM knows that the trap has an elusion number of 4 associated with the Acrobatics or Escape skills. Fortunately, Vroy has an Acrobatics skill of 4 to equal that target number.

GM: Vroy's quick reflexes save him. The dart flies past his ear and sticks into a wall.

Elusion can be associated with many skills. The Wrestle skill can represent the bodily fortitude needed to resist a poison. The Wonder skill can measure the mental resiliance needed to avoid being magically charmed. The Etiquette skill can show the social graces needed to avoid a slandrous rumor. The Perception skill rates the passive awareness needed to notice a trap before it is triggered.

Some dangers cannot be completely avoided, and successful elusion only lessens the harm. For example, an avalanche might hurt all characters caught within it, but those with high enough Acrobatics or Escape suffer much less harm.

(Elusion replaces the concept of "saving throws" in some other role-playing games.)

Equipment Modifiers

An unmodified skill rating is called the base rating for that skill. But characters will often want to boost a skill's rating to a higher effective skill rating, which may be above 8.

Mundane equipment of exceptional quality will cost significantly more than normal, but will provide a 1 point bonus to appropriate skill use. Examples include a musician playing a notable instrument, a gladiator wearing extremely well-made armor, or a historian with access to the royal library for her research.

Magical equipment with a beneficial enchantment can provide a 2 point bonus to appropriate skill use. Examples include an archer using enchanted arrows or an spy wearing a magical disguise.

Similarly, inferior equipment can provide a penalty of 1 or 2 points. The equipment might be of terrible quality, broken, or cursed. The character might lack the right tool for the task and be improvising, such as trying to pick a door's lock with a knife.

Some characters habitually use equipment that grants this type of bonus, and mark the effective rating of appropriate skills on their character sheet.

Vroy and his Sword

Vroy has a Melee/Protect skill of 3. He normally carries an enchanted sword, which is his preferred weapon. So on the character's list of skills he has 3 for his base rating in Melee/Protect, and 5 for his effective rating.

Situational Modifiers

Characters often try to use cleverness or planning to earn a situational bonus.

The bonus can arise from features of the location, environment, or creatures, such as a foot race along familiar streets, fighting from higher ground, identifying a very familiar signature amidst forgeries, or scaring a very flamable monster by brandishing a torch.

The bonus can be a reward for past accomplishments, such as when a hero whom a village adores for recent deeds receives a bonus when bargaining in that village.

The bonus can come from character background, such as someone trained as a locksmith who uses Machinery to create or pick a mechanical lock.

The bonus can be based on what other people are doing, such as allies flanking an opponent, soldiers aided by their commander's superior tactics and inspiring shouts, or a highwayman abushing a surprised and unprepared target.

The GM decides whether each helpful factor represents a small (1 point) or large (2 points) situational bonus. Even if many factors are all working in a character's favor, the total situational bonus for skill use never exceeds 2 points.

Of course, situationals can cause a penalties. Note that a situational penalty does not come from the difficulty of the task or the quality of the opposition. Those effects are represented by higher taget numbers. (As examples, knocking down not a shanty's old door but a sturdily reinforced armory door, or fast-talking not a gullible hermit but a well-informed and suspicious auctioneer.)

A situational penalty is instead caused by hindrances and complications that penalize normal skill use. It is more difficult to sneak when encumbered, to win an archery contest with an injured arm, and to race on an unbroken horse than a trained one. Common sources of situational penalties are being exhausted, sick, dehydrated, numbed, weakened, slowed, ensnared, dazed, dizzy, nauseous, choking, overheated, freezing, phobic, befuddled, depressed, enraged, or misinformed.

The GM and Player should agree on which attempts at skill use receive the situational penalty. Perhaps the PC's raging headache impedes spellcasting, but makes charging into a cave of monsters with axes swinging feel like just what the character will do best right now.

A single situation should either give a bonus or a penalty, not both. For example, once the palace guard has been alerted that a burglar is in the building, the GM should either give the guards a situational bonus to their Perception skill or give the burglar a situational penalty to his Sneak skill. Which option is most appropriate might depend upon the details of the situation. Do the guards start searching in pairs along especially effective routes? Or do the guards behave the same as before, but their alertness forces the burglar to make riskier moves when crossing a room?

Note that both types of bonuses can apply at the same time. A character using impressive equipment or drinking a magic potion can also enjoy the situational bonuses from fighting from the high ground while an ally flanks the monster.

Both Equipment and Situational Bonuses

A PC is fighting a ship full of pirates. The PC has a base Melee skill rating of 3. Fortunately, this is boosted by an enchanted rapier (2 point equipment bonus) and standing higher on the staircase to the forecastle (1 point situational bonus). The PC thus has an effective skill rating of 6, and fares well against her numerous swarthy and confounded foes.

Contested Skill Use

Important struggles, obstacles, complications, and contests deserve more than a single comparison of numbers. A good story can slowly resolve situations, with a suspenseful accumulation of progress and setbacks.

Contested skill use happens over several turns. Each turn, two or more characters (secretly) choose skills and how to use them in a clever and tactical way. Then skill ratings are compared simultaneously and characters can make partial progress towards winning the contest.

Unfortunately, storytelling intrisically requires this progress to be framed in a negative manner. Linguistically, progress is too awkward to describe as characters accumulating comparative advantages as they get closer to winning. Instead we must describe characters accumulating comparative disadvantages as they get closer to defeat.

For example, imagine that an evil enchanter has charmed a wolf, parrot, and guinea pig and sent the trio to attack a hero. The wolf is a big threat, the parrot a smaller threat, and the guinea pig mostly an annoyance. The hero must deal with all three, and our language best describes his individual progress against each by the setbacks and impairments caused to each animal. A Player might say that the hero kicks the guinea pig far away, then swats the parrot with his shield, then nicks the wolf with his sword. Those events are easy to invent and picture. Reframing that progress as three benefits focused on the hero would require very awkward language and storytelling, especially if the hero started the combat with full health and morale.

So contested skill use needs three new types of rules: more about tactics, more about partial progress, and more about defeat. Yet it makes sense to introduce these new types rules in the opposite order.

Defeat

The victor usually chooses what defeat looks like in the story.

For example, a wrestler could say he securely pinned his foe, or that his foe was disarmed and became exhausted, or his foe was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head.

A swordsman could say she backed his foe against a wall with the sword point touching his foe's neck, or struck down her foe until the opponent was too beat up to rise, or slew her foe with a thrust through the heart.

However, the GM always has the option of deciding most of what defeat looks like. The GM has more detailed plans for how the story will develop, and is therefore allowed to use defeats to guide the plot in a desired direction.

Siron's Defeat

Player: Siron fires an arrow at the bandit.

GM: The bandit screams as the arrow hits. Unfortunately he is not alone, and his friend is both sneaky and wielding an enchanted mace. Does Siron do or say anything as he slumps to the ground, losing consciousness?

The PC was defeated by a stealth melee attack. Given that this happened, the GM has a strong preference for how the story should continune.

Player: Only "Oof!"

GM: Siron wakes up in a dark room. His feet are tied, and he has a huge lump on his head.

Perhaps Siron's circumstances would have changed if he had insulted, plead with, or sleep-gassed the nearby bandits as he lost consciousness.

After a character defeats a foe, that victorious character gains an extra turn. (This rule goes way back to Dave Arneson's similar rule named "Chop Til You Drop". Some more modern role-playing games call the rule "Cleave".)

A defeat should not abort or trivialize the story's development. It would be an awful story if the defeat of the first villanous minion let the PC learn all about the main villain's identity, plans, weaknesses, and secret lair. Similarly, it would be an awful story if the Player's first absolutely foolhardy decision caused the PC to die.

Memorable defeats make memorable stories.

Setbacks

Partial progress towards defeat is described first with setbacks and then with impairments.

Setbacks are temporary inconveniences. They show that someone losing but have no effect on game mechanics: they do not alter skill use, movement, or any other rules.

Examples of Setbacks

A setback in a debate could be speaking clumsily, being caught using a staw-man argument, going off on a tangent, or being laughed at.

A setback when fast-talking could be using an excuse the target immediately recognizes as false, or failing at name-dropping because the target knows the important person very well.

A setback in combat could be a minor injury or being knocked down, forced back, or loosely grabbed.

A setback when ambushed could represent being disoriented or unfocused.

A setback when encountering something horrific or startling could represent becoming shaken or sickened.

When contested skill use ends, all characters recover from all setbacks. In the "heroic opera" pulp stories and films that inspire Nine Powers no one cares about scratches, bruises, and slashed clothes. The story goes on!

During contested skill use, a character recovers from one setback each turn it causes a setback or impairment to someone else without itself suffering any setbacks. This represents who is benefitting from gaining leverage or initiative in the contest.

Impairments

A character that has already suffered two setbacks next suffers up to two impairments. These represent lasting effects that are likely to sway the conflict's outcome.

Examples of Impairments

An impairment in a debate could represent being proved ignorant and wrong, or speaking in a way that causes suspicion and distrust.

An impairment when fast-talking could represent saying something that triggers one of the listener's worst negative stereotypes.

An impairment when using social graces could be violating a taboo or accidentally causing a deep insult.

An impairment in combat could be a severe or crippling wound, having a weapon broken, being pinned while wrestling, or being backed up to a cliff with nowhere to move.

During each contested skill use situation, the first time a character suffers an impairment the opponent who caused it picks one skill, that suffers a 1 point situational penalty until the impairment is healed.

Impairments take effort to heal. The description of an impairment usually hints at the appropriate cure: getting first aid, visiting a physician, drinking a healing potion, apologizing to and doing a favor for the guildmaster, etc.

All impairments are healed while resting in between adventures. Each story starts fresh.

A character that suffers its second impairment during the contested skill use situation is defeated.

Maneuver Points

Contested skill use includes tactical thinking by using maneuver points. Each turn, the character's effective skill rating determines how many maneuver points that character may use that turn. All the same equipment and situational modifiers apply during contested skill use. If using dice, the dice that roll the values 5 or more count your maneuver points.

Maneuver points may be used in three ways:

Remember how a higher skill rating could sometimes provide superior results during uncontested skill use? (Siron learned additional facts about the ooze because his effective Lore skill rating was so high.)

During contested skill use having a higher skill rating is always benefitical!

Each turn begins with each participating character privately deciding which skill to use, and how to use the appropriate number of maneuver points.

Then the outcome is resolved simultaneously. For each character, total how many maneuver points were spent offensively against that character by all opponents, and subtract how many maneuver points were spent defensively by that character. That excess amount counts how many setbacks and impairments are suffered.

Contested skill use resembles a game of rock-scissors-paper with many extra options. Everyone decides what to do secretly and privately, but "goes" at the same time. Usually one participant succeeds more than the others.

Remember, each character will suffer two setbacks first, and then proceed to suffering impairments.

(There is an exception. The rules will later explain how the Wrestle talent provides a character with the toughness to suffer additional setbacks before suffering impairments.)

A character who is opposed by a group must choose which opponent to spend each offensve maneuver points against. More than one opponent can be targeted each turn if the character wishes to spread thin its offensive potential.

Let's revisit the start of the combat between Boxley and the giant lizard.

Boxley and the Giant Lizard

Player: Boxley grunts at the giant lizard and swings her sword. If only she still had her bow!

The GM has decided this lizard is huge but not very smart. It always uses the Melee skill, and always spends all its maneuver points offensively.

Boxley has a Melee skill rating of 2. She has 2 maneuver points to use. The Player and GM both assume that Boxley allocates her maneuver points half offensively and half defensively (1 point each) unless the Player explicitly mentions being aggressive or cautious.

The lizard has a Melee skill rating of 3. It allocates 3 maneuver points offensively and none defensively.

So Boxley's 1 offensive point has no defensive point to cancel it. The lizard suffers 1 setback.

Also, the lizard's 3 offensive points have 1 defensive point to cancel them. Boxley suffers 3 − 1 = 2 setbacks.

GM: The lizard tries to veer aside, but is scratched by Boxley's blade. Its right foreclaw cuts Boxley, knocking her off balance.

Player: Boxley recovers her balance. She is bleeding from a slash on her arm.

Notice how the GM and Player both contribute to what the Boxley's two setbacks actually look like.

At the end of that first, Boxley is suffering 2 setbacks, and the giant lizard is suffering 1 setback.

Boxley two setbacks were described as a slashed arm and being knocked off balance. Neither effect impacted the character's options or restricted the outcome of the contest. The Player was free to say that Boxley quickly recovered her balance, but just saying that does not actually heal the setback.

Some Players prefer when the GM makes public the tracking of setbacks and impairments. They do not mind when the story is interrupted by the GM saying "your character now has two setbacks" or "the opponent has suffered its first impairment, which of its skills will be penalized?"

Some items lack an associated skill to use them: pulling a lever, reading a magic scroll, drinking a healing potion, etc. A character that decides to that type of item does not get maneuver points. The item's effects instead determine what the character accomplishes that turn.

The Flow of Combat

A special case of situational bonuses is the combat cycle. This is a rule to make melee combat more interesting, and reward characters for having breadth of skill.

the combat cycle

There is a natural rhythm to combat. Initially the fighters will circle and test each other, which we will see is represented by spending most of their maneuver points defensively. After one fighter scores a good hit, he or she will often try to step closer to kick or push. That creates distance if successful, so a lunge or charge becomes effective. Closing the distance skillfully puts the opponent off balance, making room for another good weapon hit.

This natural flow of combat is represented in the game rules by three situational bonuses, as shown on the diagram.

The turn after success with the Melee skill, a Wrestle/Disarm attempt will gain a 1 point situational bonus.

The turn after success with the Wrestle skill, an Acrobatics/Climb attempt will gain a 1 point situational bonus.

The turn after success with the Acrobatics skill, a Melee/Protect attempt will gain a 1 point situational bonus.

Note that successful use of the other half of those three skills (Protect, Disarm, and Climb) does not continue the cycle. Protect, Disarm, and Climb do not grant an automatic situational bonus.

This is the only cycle of situational bonuses built into the Nine Powers rules. However, the GM and Player could agree to invent and use other cycles. For example, perhaps vehicle races are an important part of a setting about modern spies or futuristic starfighters. In such a setting the Musing skill might be replaced by a Piloting skill, and the game would benefit from a cycle of situational bonuses that involves Perception, Piloting, Intuition, and Machinery?

Equipment in Combat

Beyond the combat cycle, a few extra rules about equipment are optional but recommended to make combat feel more distinctly like combat. The GM and Players should, as always, feel free to work out any setting-specific rules they enjoy.

First, it is nice to be the more heavily armored combatant! Your unfortunately less-armored opponents will have a hard time with the positioning and timing issues often represented by setbacks.

In other words, at the very start of the contested skill use, a significantly more armored combatant gains the ability to suffer an extra one or two setbacks. (This combines with any extra they receive from the Wrestle talent.)

On the other hand, wearing armor that is not personally fitted is bulky, and causes a penalty to Acrobatics/Climb skill use.

Here is what the rules about armor might say for a fantasy or medieval setting:

Wearing only wool, linen, cotton, or silk clothing is being unarmored.

This offers no combat bonus or penalty.

Soft leather armor, a chain shirt, or boiled leather armor provides light armor.

When fighting only unarmored foes, you may suffer 1 extra setback before suffering an impairment.

Soft leather and a chain shirt are unfitted and cause a 1 point situational penalty to Acrobatics/Climb skill use.

Ringmail, scale, and plate provides heavy armor.

When fighting only unarmored foes, you may suffer 2 extra setbacks before suffering an impairment.

When fighting only lightly armored foes, you may suffer 1 extra setback before suffering an impairment.

Ringmail and scale are unfitted and cause a 2 point situational penalty to Acrobatics/Climb skill use.

More expensive armors, even within the same category of "light" or "heavy", also signify wealth, rank, or experience. That type of displays can provide a situational bonus or penalty in certain social situations.

The weapons a person uses also influences his or her fighting style.

Character may fight without weapons. The wuxia genre is an important part of "heroic opera" pulp stories and films. Unarmed characters may not use the Protect skill. After causing a setback or impairment with the Wrestle skill, he or she use may pull as well as push an opponent.

A character that fights without weapons may also grab onto an opponent after causing a setback or impairment with the Wrestle skill. This reduces both character's mobility. The wrestler picks a number, up to his or her Wrestle skill rating. Until the wrestling hold ends, both characters must allocate at least that many maneuver points defensively each turn. This represents the wrestler maintaining the hold and perhaps using his or her opponent as a shield. It also represents the opponent struggling to avoid being forced into an even more submissive wrestling position. The wrestler's allies may ignore these forced defensive maneuver points if they attack the held opponent.

A character that fights with a small, one-handed weapon and the other hand free receives a 2 point situational bonus to the Wrestle skill.

A character that fights with a large, one-handed blade and the other hand free may use the "half-sword" grip. Normally both participants in contested skill use suffer setbacks and impairments simultaneously. This character may instead grip the middle of the blade while trying to find a weakness in the opponent's armor. His or her blade has a reduced reach, which means the opponent causes setbacks and impairments first that turn. In exchange, the "half-sword" grip bypasses any benefits the opponent woud have gained from being more heavily armored.

A character that fights with two one-handed weapons does not suffer a setback or impairment when disarmed of one weapon.

A character that fights with a shield and one-handed weapon receives 1 extra defensive maneuver point each turn. A character that uses all Acrobatics/Climb maneuver points defensively also receives 1 extra defensive maneuver point that turn. (Both can happen if a shield wearer is also dodging.)

A character that fights with a long, two-handed weapon receives 1 extra offensive maneuver point each turn. A character that uses all Shoot/Throw maneuver points offensively also receives 1 extra offensive maneuver point that turn. (Both can happen if a spear wielder puts all of his or her focus onto aiming at an approaching opponent.)

Taking Turns

How long is a turn?

During contested skill use, the Player's part of a turn happens first and lasts until the Player describes the PC's intention to use a skill or item. The Player should be careful to describe intentions, not actions.

Usually the PC's plans or desires are immediately successful: they could just as well have been phrased as actions. But assuming success is actually crowding out the GM's turn. Describing intentions provides the GM with opportunities to inject details and complications. Furthermore, intentions are easy to word in exciting and realistic phrasing, and details often make plans more interesting.

For example, during an archery contest the Player expects the PC will use the Shoot skill.

An Honest Archery Contest

GM: It is Boxley's turn in the archery contest.

Player: Boxley politely smiles at her opponent as she calmly looses an arrow at the target.

But the GM has information that the PC lacks...

A Crooked Archery Contest (Part 1)

GM: It is Boxley's turn in the archery contest.

Player: Boxley politely smiles at her opponent as she calmly looses an arrow at the target.

GM: As Boxley sets the arrow to the string she notices her opponent is attempting to switch arrows unnoticed.

Player: Boxley lowers her bow and frowns at the cheater.

It is still the PC's turn. Boxley has not finalized an intention to use a skill or item. Using the Shoot skill that turn is no longer the obvious choice.

Similarly, the Player knows things about the PC that the GM does not. Since both the GM and Player have kinds of unique knowledge, they often ask each other questions. This does not end taking a turn.

A Crooked Archery Contest (Part 2)

Player: Does the new arrow appear enchanted?

GM: Boxley cannot tell. Does she have any experience with the different types of arrowheads used by the northern barbarians?

It is still the PC's turn. Time in the story is frozen as the GM and Player together flesh out current observations and background infromation. Boxley has not finalized an intention to use a skill or item.

Players often ask the GM questions about the PC's observations, hunches, and knowledge of the game world. The GM might not answer these questions, but it cannot hurt to ask.

"What does my character see?"

"Does my character remember if these creatures can climb trees?"

"What does my character think is a fair price for selling the gem?"

"Does my character think he could defeat both of them without getting wounded?"

"Does this merchant seem trustworthy?"

"What does my character think are his best options?"

Both the GM and Player should be intentional with verbosity. Even though only one skill or item is used during each of the Player's turns, the turn can include all sorts of details that do not affect the situation's outcome. This slows down the pace of the story, which can be done well to create a dramatic effect or done badly to only be annoying.

Archery without Details

Player: Boxley cautiously fires an arrow at the highwaymen from her hiding place behind the wagon.

Succinct and sufficient. There is nothing especially right or wrong about using few words.


Archery with Steps

Player: Boxley cautiously fires an arrow at the highwaymen. She readies an arrow, leans from her hiding place behind the wagon, selects a target, aims carefully, shoots the arrow, and ducks back behind cover.

Verbose but not boring. When the situation is suspenseful the Player often slowly states a series of steps to provide the GM opportunity to interrupt if the bad guys do something unexpected.


Archery with Extra Actions

Player: Boxley quickly looks at the highwaymen from her hiding place behind the wagon, hollering, "Head down, Friar!" She touches her lucky rabbit foot and prays for luck before drawing her arrow. "Your mother stinks of gooseberry!" she yells as she fires an arrow at the nearest enemy.

Many actions, but only the shooting really affected the situation's outcome. If those other actions did affect the situation then they would require their own turn.

Perhaps the insult could demoralize the enemy. Then it would need its own turn and a use of the Wonder skill.

Perhaps the lucky rabbit foot is not merely cherished but is actually enchanted and would grant a skill bonus to the archer's next attack. Then each time Boxley touched it would then require a seperate turn.

The Player's turn ends naturally. Using a skill or item usually means the Player cannot continue the story without information from the GM about what the PC perceives or what an NPC does.

If the PC is alone and in a familiar place, the Player's turn could be quite lengthy since the Player can continue the story without new information. For example, the Player might talk at length about how the PC is at home alone, selecting equipment to take into a dungeon, working at an alchemy table to prepare some useful potions, and packing everything carefully. The GM is not always needed to carry the story forward.

The Player can also keep going without the GM when the PC doing trivial tasks whose outcome is certain.

Icky Yet Trivial

GM: Vroy falls down the pit, and lands amidst a bunch of hungry giant snails.

Player: Has Vroy heard of such creatures? How dangerous are they?

GM: They are as long as his forearm, but move very slowly. He can easily avoid their bites.

Player: Ick. Vroy kills them all.

GM: Okay.

Notice that in most of our examples the Player does not mention which skill the PC intends to use. This is a big part of what makes Nine Powers an ideal role-playing game for an adult or child who has never played one before. The Player can focus on the story without worrying about the game mechanics. As was mentioned earlier, there are no "Player rules" that the Player must learn or keep track of. But if the Player prefers (and when the GM is uncertain) that choice can also be an explicit part of a Player turn.

Remember to only used contested skill use when there is a meaningful situation that involves genuine competition, contest or struggle. A character who wants to kill an unconscious or bound prisoner with a weapon can almost always do so quickly and easily. A customer at the shop can buy a backpack without haggling. A witty and honey-tongued princess can insult uncharismatic visiting nobles all afternoon without effort.

Some items may take a long time to use. Slow tasks such as picking a tricky lock, repairing worn-out machinery, setting up a trap, climbing a high wall, bandaging a hurt ally, or crossing a large pile of rubble could be one turn if the pace of the story is slow, or could span several turns if the story currently involves hectic contested skill use.

The GM's part of a turn lasts until the Player (and thus the PC) learns new information.

Often the information includes what PC perceives and how all the NPCs behave.

There could be a lot of information, such as when the GM provides a lengthy description after the PC enters a new place occupied by strange people. There could be very little information, such as when the GM briefly shares what the PC can tell about an opponent during the first few moments of a fight.

The skills are helpfully listed from quickest to slowest. The GM can go down the list of skills when describing the simultaneous resolution of that turn's skills.

Movement should happen before skill use. Sometimes characters move a long distance, which can take up their turn.

Many stories have places that stop the movement of anyone entering that place: dense underbrush, deep mud, piles of rubble, a fallen thick tree trunk, etc. These areas are called difficult terrain. A character might be able to use the Acrobatics skill to jump over difficult terrain instead of ending movement early.

Some actions about using items do not have an appropriate skills, such as drinking a potion. Those can either happen first if the item is in hand and ready, or last if the item is in a pocket or backpack.

Skills Resolved in Order, Quickest to Slowest

The PC is Brihn Honeyworth, a captain of the district watch. She received a tip about criminals planning something in the art museum. She is patrolling the museum with two NPC watchmen, Wilx and Bilx, whom the Player is also controlling.

The criminals are three Ogres. The Ogre leader has a magic wand. Two other Ogre henchmen are in hiding places behind large statues on the hall's floor, crossbows ready.

Unknown to both the watch and the Ogres, a mysterious figure is hiding in the shadows in a corner of the room's eastern balcony.

That situation has seven characters! Yikes!

GM: The three members of the watch have just crossed the two-story main hall in the museum's stautary wing. Brihn has ascended the stairs to the room's western balcony. Wilx and Bilx are still on the ground floor, approaching those stairs. An Ogre steps out from behind the room's centerpiece: a huge statue of a cruel-looking Bergtroll. "Ha ha!" he laughs, surprising all five members of the watch. "Statue, show us your secret!" He then taps the statue with a short wand.

Player: Brihn shouts, "Attack!" She studies the Ogre, looking for how to advise the watchmen to fight.

GM: The Ogre is trying to stare down Brihn. Does she respond to its challenge by looking it in the eyes, or does she continue to study it?

Player: Brihn has been hunting this villain for a week. She will not diminish herself by acknowledging its petty challenge.

GM: The Ogre is really intense, even creepy. Brihn has a vague bad feeling. Brihn call also tell from the Ogre's stance and glances that he is protective of his wand. Attacks that appear to be trying to knock away his wand but actually veer to strike him might be especially effective. Wilx and Bilx run at the Ogre while drawing their swords.

The first turn is done. Brihn used the Perception skill, spending all her maneuver points offensively. The rules below will explain that this provides Brihn with maneuver points she or her allies can use later that combat.

The Ogre used the Wonder skill, spending all its maneuver points offensively. The rules below will explain that this provides a bonus after every turn it causes Brihn to suffer a setback or impairment.

Wilx and Bilx moved a lot, which took their turn.

Player: Hm. She can't really shout that to her men. She shouts, "Bilx, go for his wand!" and hopes Wilx gets the hint. The watchmen attack.

GM: Okay. What else?

Brihn has not yet stated an intention to use a skill or item. It is still the Player's turn to talk.

Player: Brihn ducks down behind one of the balcony railing's pillars, and draws her crossbow.

GM: As Brihn shouts "Attack!" and "Bilx, go for his wand!" loud chaos erupts. The first Ogre retreats, nimbling keeping the large statute between him and the Wilx. Two other Ogres lean out from hiding places as shoot crossbows at Wilx. Wilx dodges one bolt, but hollers as the other bolt sinks into his leg. The first Ogre laughs at Wilx, but cannot also avoid Bilx, who knocks the wand from its hand. The wand bounces across the floor to the far side of the room.

The second turn is done. The Ogre leader and Brihn both used the Acrobatics skill with all maneuver points spent defensively. Brihn also gave to Bilx the extra maneuver points she acquired the first turn. The Ogre henchmen used the Shoot skill with all manuever points spent offensively.

Wilx used the Melee skill, fortunately spending half his maneuver points offensively and half defensively. He depleted some of the Ogre leader's defensive points and was also able to avoid one of the crossbow attacks.

Bilx used the Disarm skill, spending two of her own maneuver points offensively and the two transferred by Brihn. The Ogre leader only had a single defensive maneuver point reamining, so Bilx caused two setbacks and an impairment.

The Player does not yet know about the mysterious figure, who spent the second turn recalling what it knows about magic statues, or maybe even that statue in particular, with the Identify/Lore skill.

Player: Yikes. How hurt is Wilx?

GM: Wilx is still standing. The last thing that happens that turn is that the huge statue awakens. Its eyes glow blue. It straightens up, and bellows "I was created to smash!"

Player: Uh oh.

As mentioned above, a good GM will alter the length of his or her turn to help the pace of the story. The GM will slow down the pace by providing more detail when the PC has the luxury of slowly looking around and thinking. The GM will foster a sense of urgency when the action is rushed by sharing less detail and concluding with phrases such as "What is your character doing?" or "How does your character react?"

Cooperative Story Telling

Player: Siron smiles at the thug. "I mean no harm."

GM: The thug draws his sword and rushes towards Siron. How does Siron react?

Player: Siron can't question a corpse. He wants to subdue this thug but not kill him. So he moves into a compact stance, ready to disarm. He hopes to gague his opponent's strength and skill, then disarm.

GM: The thug's swings are forceful but not skilled. Siron parries two blows, and on the third has an opportunity to disarm.

Player: Siron knocks away the thug's sword. "Who sent you? Why did they not tell you that I am the finest swordsman in the city?" He shrugs, a bit slowly, to show he is so unafraid of the thug that he can make that gesture during a swordfight.

GM: The thug looks down at his blade, then up at your eyes. He tries to grab at your arm. The thug is definitely less skilled but stronger than Siron. What does Siron do?

This was interesting and exciting. The GM and Player both used details to make the story more fun. They both gave each other enough to build off of.


Uncooperative Story Telling

Player: Siron smiles at the thug. "I mean no harm."

GM: The thug draws his sword and rushes towards Siron.

Player: Siron stabs him in the arm, causing the thug to drop his sword.

GM: Okay.

This was boring. The Player stole the GM's turn and weakened the story by doing so. Neither the GM nor Player are giving each other anything to build off of.

Nine Powers is designed to excel as introduction to role-playing games, and as a kid-friendly storytelling game. So it puts the burden of carrying the story forward on the GM, who hopefully has experience and maturity. The GM and Player could instead more equally share of the burden of carrying the story forward, with the Player describing PC actions (not only intentions) and even NPC actions. This requires both to have flexibility, initiative, and comfort in trusting the story to flow synergistically.

A Player Carrying the Story Forward

Player: Siron smiles at the thug. "I mean no harm."

GM: The thug draws his sword and rushes towards Siron. How does Siron react?

Player: Is Siron a vastly better swordsman?

GM: Definitely. That is obvious just from how the thug moves and holds his sword.

Player: Siron's smile broadens. "Oh, please!" he groans. He parries one or two of the thug's swings, then knocks away the thug's sword. "Who sent you? Why did they not tell you that I am the finest swordsman in the city?" He shrugs slowly, showing a lot of teeth.

GM: Okay. The thug is about to grapple, foolishly trusting in his greater strength. Fanaticism shines in his eyes. What does Siron do?

Player: Siron sighs. He stabs the thug in one knee. "I am losing patience." He stabs the thug in the other knee. "I am out of patience." As the thug falls to the ground, Siron holds his sword lightly against the thug's throat. "Who sent you?"

The GM never resolved skill use. The Player knew enough information to make those decisions, and "stole" that role from the GM. This works fine if both the GM and Player want that type of story telling.

Skill and Talent Descriptions

The rules so far have described how skills work without really describing what skills are. We twice mentioned the Wrestle talent without introducing what a talent is. Let's get into the details.

Skills measure how capable a character is at the most common actions in a fantasy story. A new PC should have skill ratings that total 35, with no skill rating above 4.

Talents are advanced ways to use skills. Talents set experienced characters apart from other people. Talents also have a numeric rating. A talent's rating may never be increased beyond the base skill rating of the corresponding skill. A new PC has a zero rating in all talents.

Having a talent allows the corresponding skill be used differently, achieving a distinct kind of benefit that can never be acquired through normal skill use. Because talents provide characters with such special flavor and abilities, the benefits of talents should never made availble from other means such as magic items.

(In most other role-playing games the primary differences between a knight, a woodsman, and a thief would a represented through a set of bonuses and restrictions called a "character class". In Nine Powers the talents serve the same function in a more natural manner.)

Numeric Ratings

Ability with skills and talents is normally rated between 1 and 8. The following table provides examples of who might have a skill rating, and an example of a target number of that difficulty when using the Hearthwork skill to do some baking.

The table below includes silly nicknames for the numerical ratings. Neither the GM nor Player should actually use those. They are only provided to help you now while reading the rules for a first impression.

RatingSkill or Talent ExampleExample Target Number
1 Wimpy - An inexperienced person mimicking what he or she has only watched Wimpy - Buttering toast
2 Unchallenged - Peons, pawns, flunkies, mooks, and expendable allies wearing red shirts Unchallenging - Following a recipe after someone else set out the ingredients and cookbook
3 Rough - Guards, thugs, laborers, and others who get frequent occasional training and practice Rough - Making a crumb crust cheesecake
4 Practiced - Veterans, diplomats, craftsmen, and others showing fine experience Practiced - Making a cake with jam between the layers, patterned frosting, and pretty piped icing decorations
5 Superior - Guard captains, bandit chiefs, master craftsmen, and other experts and leaders in their fields Superior - Making the wedding cake for a noble family
6 Elite - The local celebrity, someone who is the best in the local region at this skill Elite - Making the wedding cake for a royal family
7 Heroic - Most people only meet someone this skilled once or twice Superior - Making the wedding cake for an imperial family
8 Legendary - Most people never meet someone this skilled Legendary - From more than ten meters away the cake is indistinguishable from a real dragon

Notice the four pairs. Skill ratings 1 and 2 are for skills rarely or never practiced during stressful situations. Skill ratings 3 and 4 denote skills used almost daily, often as a professional to earn a living. Skill ratings 5 and 6 are special and elite, probably unique to any town or region, respectively. Skill ratings 7 and 8 do not appear in most adventures.

Skills in SPECTRE

Consider the novel On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

The common SPECTRE agents employed at Piz Gloria were easily fooled and fought by Bond (skill raing 1 in most skills, perhaps 2 in Melee/Protect).

Blofield is far more clever, perceptive, dangerous, and even athletic than these men (skill rating 4 or 5 in most skills).

Since Blofield does not employ a mercilessly tough or trained bodyguard like Odd Job or Jaws, the story lacks a villain who can match Bond's skill rating of 6 in Melee and Shoot.

Tracy does match Bond's skill rating of 6 in driving, as well as proving his equal in courage both before and during their brief marriage.

Probably no character has any skill rated 7 or 8, although it could be claimed that Bond developed such unparalleled skill in Perception or Intuition during the previous ten novels.

The GM may allow a rare skill of 0 that represents complete ignorance. For example, a NPC visiting from a distant town who has never seen a clockwork machine or seen the Machinery skill used could have a skill rating of 0 in Machinery. A NPC who grew up in a peace-loving commune might never have been in a fight, seen a serious fight, or studied martial arts, and thus have a skill rating of 0 in Melee. But it should be quite rare for someone to lack even second-hand experience with a skill or its products.

As the PC adventures, he or she develops greater skills and talents, and becomes capable of attempting greater challenges.

Adventures will contain many significant objectives: the PC finds an important clue, makes an important ally, reaches an important location, wins an important fight, etc. Whenever the PC successfully completes one of these accomplishments, he or she receives as a reward an advancement token. The GM may also reward unusually great moments of Player creativity or role-playing with extra advancement tokens.

Advancement tokens can be physical tokens or just a tally mark recorded on the character sheet. They are used to increase skill or talent ratings. They may be saved up, spent during an adventure, or spent between adventures.

Increasing a skill or talent to the next higher rating costs as many advancement tokens as the new rating. Remember, a talent's rating can never exceed the corresponding skill's rating.

When a group of PCs adventure together, they should share the advanement tokens. A solo PC who adventures with NPC helpers or assistants does not need to share the advanement tokens with the NPCs.

NPCs are like "partial PCs" and often described by a few dominant skills and talents, as well as other information important to the story. For the sake of brevity, everything else is improvised by the GM.

Caul the NPC Merchant

Caul the merchant is capable haggler, but might still be no match for an experienced PC. He has a booth in the small market square near the port. He sells potions: primarily antidotes for seasickness, hangover, scurvy, and "deckhand's fever". It is a rough part of town, but he finds the people-watching there amusing and relaxing.

Skills: Perception/Escape 3, Melee/Protect 2, Wrestle/Disarm 3, Identify/Lore 4, Bargain/Wonder 4, Disguise/Etiquette 4, Alchemy 3

Talents: Identifying potions has 2 skill

This description shows that the adventure's designer is not expecting Caul to be very significant in the story. The merchant is described with just enough detail to help the GM improvise the rest of the character.

Skill Descriptions

Perception/Escape

Perception measures alertness, awareness, and attention to detail. It is always used passively, to determine if a character who is not actively searching still notices something. Perception applies to all types of noticing, whether a tiny item carefully hidden in a room or a mystical plant growing somewhere in a large forest.

A character that is actively looking for an item is normally able to find it. A situation that would prevent success, such as a key hidden within the false bottom of a drawer, is better handled through role-playing than by consulting a numeric skill rating.

When a character uses Perception during contested skill use, each success sets aside a maneuver point that may be used later by the character or an ally. The character has noticed a foe's weakness and can share that advice (this Ogre has poor peripheral vision, this giant snake's scales are thinnest under its jaw, this diplomat just made a claim that can be easily disproved, etc.).

Escape refers to noticing how to gain freedom from a diffiuclt situation. It could be escaping a physical confinement such as a trap or net. It could be escaping pursuit while fleeing down a busy street by noticing a timely opportunity to duck under a cart or through a doorway.

Some sources of confinement are not appropriate to the Escape skill. For example, a character stuck in locked manacles or a well-maintained wrestling hold cannot gain freedom simply by noticing something opportune.

The target rating for an Escape attempt might be the skill rating used to create the source of confinement: Wilderness for a snare, Machinery for a mechanical trap, Wrestle for a thrown net or a sloppy wrestling hold, Etiquette for a conversational trap, etc.

Acrobatics/Climb

This skill is used to safely and successfully jump, fall, roll, climb, etc. Acrobatics is used when moving along or onto horizontal surfaces. Climb is used when moving along or onto vertical surfaces.

Characters with greater skill rating can jump farther, fall safely from higher distances, and climb trickier surfaces. As a rule of thumb, at higher values a character can:

This skill is also used (actively and passively) to avoid threats or obstacles, such as diving away from an explosion, avoiding harm in a rockslide, or leaping from an out-of-control mount.

Compare Acrobatics skill ratings to find the victor when foot racing through a forest heavy with underbrush and branches, because coordination and strength are both required.

Shoot/Throw

This skill is used for distance attacks. Shoot is used for bows, crossbows, and handheld devices created with Machinery. (Seige weapons are operated with Machinery instead of Shoot.) Throw is used for throwing either sharp or blunt objects.

As a rule of thumb, the distance a character can shoot a projectile without penalty is ten times his or her skill rating (in meters). The distance for throwing without penalty is four times the skill rating. Beyond this distance the attacker suffers a situational penalty.

Normally a character uses Shoot while stationary. Moving while shooting causes a a situational penalty.

A character can use Throw but not Shoot when adjacent to an aggressive opponent.

Melee/Protect

Melee involves up-close combat focused on causing wounds. The skill can be used with punches, kicks, claws, bites, or stings as well as with sharp or blunt weapons.

Protect is used to intercept danger. A character using this skill can allocate maneuver points to boost an ally's defense, instead of his or her own defense.

Wrestle/Disarm

Wrestle is for attacks not focused on causing wounds, but instead attempting to restrain or reposition an opponent. It usually requires having at least one hand free, but can also used with weapons that ensnare, such as a net, whip, mancatcher, or bolo.

The Wrestle skill is also important as an estimate of the general physical strength of a character: a higher Wrestle skill rating denotes deeper reserves of physical endurance and greater ability to resist fatigue, poison, etc.

As a rule of thumb, a character can comfortably carry a backpack and other equipment weighing at total of fifteen times his or her skill rating (in kilograms) without penalizing physical skills such as Acrobatics and Dodge.

Compare Wrestle skill ratings to find the victor when foot racing on a clean track or street. Strength is much more important than coordination for those foot races.

Disarm is used with any attacks (with or without a weapon) that try to knock away what the opponent is holding.

When Disarm causes setbacks, describe something that does not actually hinder the opponent. Perhaps say you knock away a dagger, or bash their shield so mightily that their arm swings wide to the side leaving their body exposed. During the next turn the opponent can also say that he or she picks up the dagger, or repositions the shield.

When Disarm causes impairments, describe something that actually hinders the opponent. Now you can say the dagger is knocked off the cliff, or the shield is bashed so much its straps break and the shield clangs uselessly to the floor.

(The rules are purposefully vague about whether Disarm can be used at long distances. Perhaps the GM and Player favor the drama and plot device of a very skilled character being able to shoot a weapon or doomsday device from an opponent's hand. Or perhaps they prefer realism, realizing that even professional target shooters cannot reliably do such a feat in the face of danger.)

Stealth/Track

Stealth is used to hide, move quietly, walk tracelessly, use a disguise, or be physically sneaky in other ways. Stealth is also used for sleight of hand and pickpocketing. During combat, Stealth can add flavor to an unnoticed character saving up maneuver points for the next turn, and perhaps even grant a situational bonus to the next turn's action.

This skill rating determines the target number that other characters would need to notice the sneaker passively with their Perception skill.

(Normally the sneaking character will not know the Perception skill ratings of those who are searching. The sneaking character must use clues, intuition, and courage to estimate how quickly he or she can safely move.)

It is harder to be stelathy while moving. As a rule of thumb, moving at crawl causes a 2 point situational penalty, and creeping with barely any movement causes a 1 point situational penalty.

Track attempts to follow someone's trail, which often involves the same knowledge and tricks as Stealth. The target number for the Track skill is usually the Stealth skill rating that was used by the quarry.

A character whose Track skill equals the target numer can follow a recent trail at a speed of one kilometer per hour.

As a rule of thumb, for each point the tracker's skill rating is higher than the target number, add one more kilometer per hour to the tracking speed, and one more day or hour to the possible age of tracks that can be followed. (Days applies in relatively quiet places, such as a forest during a hot, dry week. Hours applies to frequently distrubed places, such as a town square or a forest during a rainstorm.)

Identify/Lore

Identify refers to appraising valuable items, recognizing famous cultural artifacts, recalling which nobility owns certain jewelry, verifying the authenticity of a signature, and other situations of recalling information about a particular item.

Lore refers to knowledge of general helpful facts and cultural information: details about history, society, laws, notable families, religious practices, and so forth.

Either can help a character fabricate reasonable-sounding falsehoods.

A character may use Identify/Lore during contested skill use in the same way as Perception: each success sets aside a maneuver point that may be used later by the character or an ally. The character has recalled some helpful technique or advice which can be shared (all dust spiders shun fire, the Kobalt spearmen of that clan favor their right side, merchants in this guild give discounts to people who know a password, etc.).

Bargain/Wonder

Bargain is used to haggle over prices or otherwise steer a conflict of interests to a workable compromise.

As a rule of thumb, for each point the bargainer's skill rating is higher than the target number, change the price 5%.

Wonder measures the ability to produce practical attitudes and understandings through feeling the grandeur and drama inherent in a situation. Awe and amazement can be a form of thinking, and insight and wisdom can spring from encountering the indescribable.

Wonder also measures how resistant a character is to harmful magical mental influences.

A character may use Wonder during contested skill use to startle, intimidate, or awe an opponent using impressive solidity, energetic charisma, and stunning force of presence. The number of success establishes an extra number of maneuver points that the character will receive each turn after they caused a new setback or impairment to that oppoent. (If a character tries this more than once against the same opponent, the new number of successes replaces the old.)

Disguise/Etiquette

Disguise measures a character's ability to impersonate someone else using a costume and mannerisms. This skill rating usually determines the target number that other characters would need to notice the disguise passively with their Perception skill.

Allow a 1 point equipment bonus when an unusually appropriate disguise being available, whether or not it is made of superior quality materials.

Impersonting a general type of person can provide a situational bonus or penalty. It is easier for a Therion to disguise itself as a generic Therion merchant than the specific merchant who owns a popular shop. It is harder for a Therion to disguise itself as Kobalt.

Etiquette is used to successfully navigate social situations. It includes clarity in conversations, ease in making a good impression, smoothly dealing with unfamiliar cultures, skill at getting attention at parties, and success when gambling.

Animals/Wilderness

Animals applies to training, riding, taming, misdirecting, or caring for any animals, as well as maintenance of a riding animal's tack and other gear. Compare skill ratings to find the victor when racing on mounts of similar speed.

Wilderness applies to swiming, fishing, locating food, setting snares, navigation, and other tasks related to surviving in the outdoors, both above ground and underground.

As a rule of thumb, the skill rating in Wilderness measures the number of people for which that character can provide decent food and shelter.

Intuition/Hearthwork

Intuition refers to confidently reaching correct conclusions despite having neither the facts for logical deduction nor an encounter with sublime grandeur to provide awe-inspired wisdom. A practiced intuition includes both experience with accurate hunches and well-developed habits of calming the mind, looking at the big picture, and acting purposefully instead of reacting to circumstances. The skill of Intuition can also be used to instill a false sense of intuition in someone else by subtly planting ideas that the victim will mistake for his or her own insights and hunches.

A character may use Intuition during contested skill use to intuit a helpful tactic. Each success counts as two defensive maneuver points saved for the next turn.

Hearthwork refers to skill in domestic situations, including cooking, sewing, child care, gardening, farming, and basic home repair and construction.

Alchemy

Alchemy is an old, diverse, and widely-studied art whose history and recipes have flowed together from many cultures. Helpful potions are well-accepted everywhere. Healing potions have helped almost every family, and professional potion makers are respected unless their business practices are unethical or their prices are unusually high. Amateur potion makers are common.

Although flask making is as old and diverse as potion making, flasks are more threatening, so most places have laws that restrict or prohibit the crafting, purchasing, and/or owning of flasks. Amateur flask makers are rare.

The magic items created using the Alchemy skill are either bottled potions to drink, flasks thrown to release gasses, or goo spread on items to enhance or damage them. The alchemist must prepare them in a lab and store them in glass bottles. Throughout the adventure's perils the glass bottles must be kept intact.

A potion only affects its drinker. A flask releases a cloud of gas where it breaks. The effect begins a few seconds later: after the potion is drunk, or after the gas spreads a bit. Harmful effects have an Elusion rating.

(In terms of later game rules, the area factor is always 0 and the convenience factor is always 0.)

Potions and flasks that heal or cure do so all at once. Alchemical items that cause an ongoing effect have a duration of 30 minutes. Skilled alchemist can divide this duration among a batch, so the same cost of materials can create 6 smaller potions with a 5 minute duration. These short-duration versions are used by their own crafter instead of being bought and sold.

Alchemical items have a one month shelf life, after which they lose potency and do nothing.

As with any magic item crafting, some recipes remain carefully guarded secrets, and a few have effects considered illegal or taboo.

Machinery

The magic items created using the Machinery skill are clever clockwork and steam-powered devices and vehicles. The Machinery skill is also is used to bypass magical locks and traps.

Trap building is as old as using tools to ensnare animals for food. Laws restricting the construction or sale of traps are very rare. The more general laws about public safety suffice to punish people who set up traps in places that threaten the public. Amateur trap makers are common, and many children learn a little Machinery as their first magical crafting skill.

The simplest mechanical devices are traps. The machinist use a toolbox to initially assemble the trap. If the trap is portable, no toolbox is needed to set it up in its intended location. Traps can wait indefinitely in a dormant state. Once triggered, they become active for 8 hours. A trap that has expended its active time can be repaired for half its original crafting cost.

(In terms of later game rules, the area factor is always 1. The convenience factor is 0 for traps that must be built in their location, or 1 for devices that can be used anywhere.)

More complex mechanical devices remain unintelligent. They can sense and react to their environment, and make rough comparisons involving size, weight, or color. But they only do what they were instructed to do when designed. No machine can use other equipment, nor act cleverly enough to benefit from a situational bonus.

Machines that cause harmful area effects can be deadly if the target is already slowed, weakened, or distracted. These machines cause an extra setback or impairment to targets who have already suffered two setbacks.

Musing

Characters use the Musing skill by holding completed pieces of artwork during a magical trance to enchant them. Enchanted artwork can be made to do just about anything. Its magical effects can affect a large area. They can happen at a distance, and magic wands are a popular type of enchanted artwork.

The enchanted artwork crafted using musing has "charges". Each charge creates an effect that lasts until the next midnight. The piece of enchanted artwork vanishes after the final charge ends.

The artwork must have a value equal to its impact multiplied by its number of charges.

(In some cities the criminals are especially bold shortly before midnight because law enforcement will be hesitant to inefficiently use expensive magic effects.)

Transmutery

The Transmutery skill does not always create items. It is used by the transmuticist to bond with an elemental spirit and use that spiritual link to mentally manipulate the elements.

(In terms of later game rules, the area factor is always 0 and the convenience factor is always 2.)

Talent Descriptions

Perception/Escape

Talent in the Perception/Escape skill shows defensive habits of positioning and evading that allow a character to better focus on a single opponent at a time when dealing with an enemy group. This character can physically or socially position a primary opponent in between himself or herself and the non-primary opponents, so the latter have a harder time being effective.

The character designates one opponent as his or her primary opponent each turn of contested skill use. This talent's rating counts the number of extra defensive maneuver points the character receives to distribute among the non-primary opponents.

Acrobatics/Climb

Talent in Acrobatics/Climb represents the quickness and alertness that allows a character to avoid ranged attacks, even while occupied with another activity. Any ranged attack directed against this character (except for a talented "point blank" shot, see below) has its skill diminished by this talent's rating.

(This is probably the most common talent in the genre of "heroic opera" pulp stories and films. Why else are Stormtroopers, SMERSH agents, and Prince John's bowmen unable to hit a heroe whose attention is focused on fighting, climbing, sneaking, or other tasks?)

Shoot/Throw

Talent in the Shoot/Throw skill allows making incredibly accurate point blank distance attacks. Double this talent's rating for the maximum range of point blank shots, in meters.

A point blank shot never suffers situational penalties. It no longer matters how fast the target is moving, what cover the target is attempting to hide behind, how windy it is, etc.

Melee/Protect

Talent in the Melee/Protect skill allows using one melee action to hit multiple opponents. This could be a flurry of quick blows or a powerful, sweeping attack that injures many foes with one swing.

This talent's rating determines the maximum number of secondary targets, assuming sufficient enemies can be reached.

Wrestle/Disarm

Talent in the Wrestle/Disarm skill denotes toughness and fortitude that allow a character to endure more hurt during contested skill use. This talent's rating grants the character that many additional setbacks before suffering an impairment.

Additionally, the character may hold a stationary "sanctuary pose" that temporarily doubles this talent's rating by focusing internal energy. This pose can be useful while being rescued by allies or to survive environmental damage such as a rockslide or collapsing building.

Stealth/Track

Talent in the Stealth/Track skill allows a character to blend into shadows with amazing ability. Four times the rating measures how many fewer centimeters thick a character appears to be when trying to hide in a shadow.

For example, if a character flattened against a wall is actually 20 cm thick, a talent rating of 3 would allow that character to hide in a shadow normally only able to hide something 20 − (3 talent rating × 4) = 8 cm thick.

Also, attunement with shadows becomes so advanced that "shadow stepping" is possible: teleportation from one shadow to another, with locations in line of sight. Each meter of stepping takes one minute of preparation while remaining stationary in a shadow. This talent's rating measures the maximum number of meters traveled.

Identify/Lore

Talent in the Identify/Lore skill represents knowledge of herbal medicines. Unlike healing potions, healing herbs are effective even after some time has passed since the injury, and only herbal healing is capable of curing disease or paralysis, or speeding the healing of broken bones or mental afflictions.

The talent's numeric rating is used as a multiplier, by which the body's natural healing rate is boosted if the rights herbs are available. (A rating of 1 allows a character to identify and administer herbal medicines but does not yet provide a multiplier for healing. This still allows stabilizing a disease or poison to prevent further harm, or temporarily soothing a mental affliction.)

Bargain/Wonder

Talent in the Bargain/Wonder skill shows development of wonder so advanced that the character can perform wondrous feats of physical prowess. These wondrous feats allow character concepts that do not otherwise fit into the Nine Powers core rules.

In the sample setting of Spyragia, there are nine flavors of wondrous feats, each corresponding to one of the nine Powers.

The Player and GM can also work together to create new flavors of wondrous feats.

Disguise/Etiquette

Talent in the Disguise/Etiquette skill measures ability to mimic sounds and impersonate voices. Because it does not grant magical or supernatural ability, a character could have sufficient talent to mimic a horse, but never all the noises made by a herd of horses.

Animals/Wilderness

Talent in the Animals/Wilderness skill allows a character to control tame animals. The rating measures three factors: the maximum length of a sequence of steps the animals will perform, the numer of animals that can be simultaneously controlled, and the maximum difficulty of any requests.

How difficult are requests? The optimal situation would have six characteristics:

An optimal situation has a difficulty of 1. The difficulty increases by one for each of the above six items missing from the situation.

For example, with a talent rating of 1, a character could ask his or her own pet mouse to go eat a visible piece of cheese in an empty, safe room. (The instruction has only one step. There is only one animal. The situation is optimal.)

With a talent rating of 4, the character could ask his or her friend's four pet mice (whom the character knows well) to each go to an empty and safe room, pick up some cheese, bring it back instead of eating it, and drop it in front of the character even though the mice will not get an immediate reward of food or positive attention from their owner. (The instruction has four steps. There are four animals. The situation has a difficulty rating of 4 because it is not optimal for three reasons: the animals have not done similar tasks for the character, are asked to do the unnatural behavior of giving up potential food, and will not receive an immediate reward.)

Intuition/Hearthwork

Fast-talking might use the Etiquette, Bargain, Intuition, Hearthwork, or Wonder skills. It normally fools someone for only a few minutes.

Talent in the Intuition/Hearthwork skill represents the kind of interpersonal intuition that allows more effective fast-talking, with the beneficial result that people who are fast-talked remain duped for hours.

In other words, the fundamental technique of fast-talking is a skill. But it is a talent to have the right hunch about whether the target will respond best to a rushed excuse, a call to honor and duty, an emotional plea, a haughty aristocratic attitude, an appeal to nostalgia or sentimentality, a request for a favor that enables saving face, a promise of future compensation, etc.

Alchemy

Talent in Alchemy allows the alchemist to identify magical potions and flasks whose impacts are equal or less than this talent rating.

Those potions and flasks are immediately seen to be magical. After a minute's inspection, the talented alchemist learns what the magic item does and may reverse engineer the alchemical recipe.

Machinery

Talent in the Machinery skill aids in noticing mechanical traps. This talent's rating is added to the Perception skill to passively discover mechanical traps.

Musing

Talent in Musing allows the character to identify enchanted pieces of artwork whose impacts are equal or less than this talent rating.

Those pieces of artwork and flasks are immediately seen to be magical. After a minute's inspection, the character learns what the magic item does and may reverse engineer the trance procedure used to create it.

Transmutery

Most transmuticists can only effect elemental material they touch. Talent in the Transmutery skill allows the transmuticists to use transmutery at a distance. The maximum range in meters is equal to the Transmutery talent rating.

Adding Battlemats

Some people prefer the more narrative feel and pace of playing a role-playing game without visual aids.

Other people appreciate the added clarity, detail, and tactical thinking provided by using miniatures on mats that have a square or hexagonal grid. (The classic battlemat is this vinyl version manufactured by Chessex.)

Either style of play works great with Nine Powers, whose rules already mention the ranges for the Shoot and Throw skills, and for jumping with Acrobatics.

Here are additional movement rules for people who use miniatures and battlemats.

Economic Rules

The sample setting of Spyragia uses two types of coins. Most common is a silver coin that weighs 2.5 grams. Merchants and nobles also use a gold coin that weighs 5 grams, and is worth 40 silver coins.

Gems are also used for trade. Jewelcutting has not yet been invented in Spyragia, so all traded gems are nicely polished cabochons (and pearls). The standardized weight is 24 carats. Most gems weight less, and have proportionately less value.

Without using the Bargain skill, a PC can sell items for about half their retail cost.

Impact Silver Coins Examples
0 2 wool belt pouch, arrow
1 10 cheap boots, wax candle
2 20 linen tunic, pick axe
3 80 short bow, cast iron pot
4 160 longbow, wool clothing
5 400 nice horse, one-handed sword, anvil
6 1,200 warhorse, chain mail
7 3,200 plate armor, noble's silks
8 8,000 warship, noble's estate

For the sake of simplicity, the costs mundane objects are generalized. Prices are sorted into nine categories called impacts that describe how impactful that purchase would be for a PC in the game. The actual cost of a specific item is usually within 30% of the generalized price for its impact.

A exceptional quality item that grants a 1 point bonus to appropriate skill use costs more: price it using the next higher impact.

Similarly, a low quality item that costs less. It might be a shield or bladed weapon lacking durability, with a chance to break after use. Or might might work poorly, causing a 1 penalty to appropriate skill use costs. Price those using the next lower impact. A really terrible quality item that causes a 2 point penalty would be priced two impacts lower.

(Historical records do show such dramatic price differences between normal and exceptional swords for knights, and for the swords used by peasants! In Spyragia, golem labor makes coal and metal ores less expensive than otherwise, and magical heat sources explain the early development of cast iron and drawn iron wire.)

The prices listed are for an item's retail price. For crafted goods, the crafter need only pay half that amount as a material cost.

Tangentially, a year in Spyragia has 400 days. Each lunar month has eight 5-day weeks that mark the eight phases of the moon. Ten of these 40-day lunar months make a year.

Impacts

Impact Zero items cost about 2 silver coins, which is also 120 of a gold coin.

The least skilled laborers earn 2 silver coins each week. An adventurer visiting any settlement can assuredly find a job with only slight danger to do in exchange for 2 silver coins.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are commonplace and cheap. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of garden produce, flax, hemp, flour, or cheap wine. A few silver coins also buys a day's prepared cheap food, a chicken or gander, a wool belt pouch, a pillow, a tallow candle, an arrow, or a crossbow bolt. This price range can also buy a small tool such as an awl or small hammer. The most commonplace cabochons, such as tourmaline or amber, cost 2 silver coins for a nice 24-carat stone.

Impact One items cost about 10 silver coins, which is also 14 of a gold coin.

The least skilled laborers earn 10 silver coins in two weeks. An adventurer visiting almost any settlement can probably find a job with some danger in exchange for 10 silver coins.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are commonplace and inexpensive. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of copper, zinc, brass, bronze, sugar, honey, almonds, rice, most spices, or good wine. This price range can buy a day's prepared common food, a goose or ram or wether, nice shoes or cheap boots, or a wax candle. This price range can also buy a medium-sized tool such as a knife, shovel, or hoe. The dullest rare cabochons, such as topaz and citrine, cost 10 silver coins for a nice 24-carat stone.

Impact Two items cost about 20 silver coins, which is also 12 of a gold coin.

The least skilled laborers earn 20 silver coins in four weeks (half a month). An adventurer visiting a large town or city might find a job with significant danger in exchange for 20 silver coins.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are commonplace but getting expensive. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of cast iron, dried tree fruit, milk, or butter. This price range can buy a day's prepared lordly food, a ewe, boar, or billy goat, a hat, a hemp apron, a linen tunic, or a quiver. This price range can also buy a large tool such as a pick axe, crowbar, or spinning wheel. Pearls cost 20 silver coins for a nice 24-carat one. Enrolling a child as a crafter's apprentice costs 20 silver coins.

Impact Three items cost about 80 silver coins, which is also 2 gold coins.

The least skilled laborers earn 2 gold coins in two months. An adventurer would need some fame in a large city to find a job with enough danger to pay in gold coins.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are expensive. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of salt, tree fruit, or dried berries. This price range can buy a week's good food for a traveler, a sow or nanny goat, a cart, a nice set of linen clothes, a cheap set of wool clothes, a backpack of waxed linen canvas, a dagger with a leather sheath, a shortbow, or soft leather armor. This price range can also buy well-crafted metal tools such as steel lockpicks or a cast iron casserole pot. Attractive cabochons such as garnets cost 2 gold coins for a nice 24-carat stone. Enrolling a child as a merchant's apprentice costs 2 gold coins.

Impact Four items cost about 160 silver coins, which is also 4 gold coins.

The least skilled laborers earn 4 gold coins in four months. An adventurer would need fame and luck in a large city to find a job with enough danger to pay 4 gold coins.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are getting rare and too expensive for some people. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of pepper or vivid red carmine dye. This price range can buy a commoner's wedding feast, a cow or ox or poor quality horse, a nice set of wool clothes, a longbow, a knight's shield, or hard leather armor. This price range can also buy very well-crafted tools such as a brass lantern, polished tin mirror, or thick wool blanket. Diamond cabochons cost 4 gold coins for a nice 24-carat stone. Joining a crafting guild costs 4 gold coins.

Impact Five items cost about 400 silver coins, which is also 10 gold coins.

The least skilled laborers earn 10 gold coins in one year. An adventurer would need to work for nobility to earn 10 gold coins for one assignment.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are rare and too expensive for most people. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of silver or saffron. This price range can buy a merchant's wedding feast, a nice horse, a cart, a fur-lined robe, a one-handed sword, an anvil, a vise, or a small cottage. Amethyst cabochons cost 10 gold coins for a nice 24-carat stone. Joining a merchant guild costs 10 gold coins.

Impact Six items cost about 1,200 silver coins, which is also 30 gold coins.

The least skilled laborers earn 30 gold coins in three years. An adventurer would need to work for royalty to earn 30 gold coins for one assignment.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are rare and too expensive for almost all people. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of silk, a common family's annual food budget, a warhorse, a war chariot, a two-handed sword, a suit of chain mail or scale armor, or a craftsman's house. Emerald cabochons cost 30 gold coins for a nice 24-carat stone. A year's stay (board, instruction, and clothing) at a university costs 30 gold coins.

Impact Seven items cost about 3,200 silver coins, which is also 80 gold coins.

The least skilled laborers earn 80 gold coins in eight years. An adventurer would need to be a royal's right-hand agent to earn 80 gold coins for one assignment.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are rare and too expensive for even some nobles. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of vivid purple shellfish dye, a noble's funeral expenses, a small merchant's ship or large barge, a fancy set of silk clothing, a knight's plate armor, or a merchant's row house. Sapphire cabochons cost 80 gold coins for a nice 24-carat stone. A year's stay for a noble (board, instruction, and clothing) at the leading university university costs 80 gold coins.

Impact Eight items cost about 8,000 silver coins, which is also 200 gold coins.

The least skilled laborers earn 200 gold coins in twenty years. For almost everyone this seems an amount of money difficult to imagine.

The items that can be purchased in this price range are owned or gifted by royalty. Goods at this price range include a kilogram of gold, the annual cost to feed an entire merchant's estate, a large merchant's ship, a warship, a royal set of clothing, the best plate armor for a noble, or a noble's estate with a courtyard. Ruby cabochons cost 80 gold coins for a nice 24-carat stone. A noblewoman's dowry costs 200 gold coins.

Treasure

As a rule of thumb, each major chapter in the story should reward the PC with wealth whose impact equals the average of the PC's most important and frequently used skill ratings. This wealth is usually a combination of treasure found while adventuring and a payment from a patron for the successful completion of a job.

This type of treasure is usually not carried by an NPC. It is the treasure pile in the back of Ogre's lair, the treasure chest in the bandit leader's tent, or the magic item found behind a secret door in the ruins of a watchtower.

In addition, each defeated enemy NPC might carry treasure worth the impact two less than that enemy's highest important skill rating.

As with retail prices, the GM should feel free to vary treasure's worth by at least ±30% from the generalized impact price.

For example, consider the treasure from a chapter in the story about dealing with a bandit camp. The PC needed to find the place, rescue a prisoner, and either fight or frighten the bandits so much they no longer were a problem for the nearby town.

First, the main treausre. The PC mostly deals with the bandits using Stealth/Track, Perception, Shoot/Throw, and Melee/Protect. The average of these skills is 4, so this chapter in the story rewards about 160 coins. This might all be in the main treasure chest in the bandit camp, or it might be divided between that treasure chest and what the PC is being paid by the local town to deal with bandits. (The PC also used a bit of Alchemy to prepare some potions in advance, a little Acrobatics during combat, and Wrestle/Disarm to capture one bandit for questioning. But those skills were only used once or twice, so they are not relevant.)

Next we consider the treasure caried by each NPC. The leader of the bandits has a Melee/Protect skill of 5. (Perhaps this is a base skill rating, or perhaps it is a base skill rating of 4 improved by a 1 point equipment bonus from an exceptionally well made dagger.) So this bandit's treasure is worth about 80 silver coins, appropriate for Impact 5 − 2 = 3. This treasure could be some recently looted merchant's clothing in good condition, a pouch of coins, and other items of little consequence. Or this treasure could be that used but exceptional dagger, and the leader has dirty clothing and only carries a few coins.

The leader's second-in-command has a Shoot/Throw skill of 4, a Melee/Protect skill of 3, and has treasure worth about 20 silver coins, appropriate for Impact 4 − 2 = 2. Or this treasure might be a recently looted quiver in good condition, 10 arrows, a pouch with a few coins, and other items of little consequence.

The bandit flunkies have both Shoot/Throw and Melee/Protect skills rated 3, and have treasure worth about 10 silver coins, appropriate for Impact 3 − 2 = 1. These bandits have worn out and dirty clothes and very used bows, but they carry useful arrows, a few coins, an occasional nice knife, bag of food or bottle of wine.

The children in the bandit camp have a Shoot/Throw skill of 2, and have treasure worth less than 2 silver coins, appropriate for Impact 2 − 2 = 0. Even their arrows are probably not worth claiming as treasure. Some of the children have a bit of food, a usable pouch, a wax candle, or a few coins.

Magic Item Qualities

A magic item is a fun piece of equipment with nifty powers.

Some magic items merely provide a bonus to skill use. Others dramatically change a scene and decisively determine how the encounter resolves.

In a fantasy setting a special item might be a magic potion, flying carpet, or dancing sword. In a science fiction setting a "magic" item might be a nanotech restorative, a personal levitation belt, or an electrified net launcher.

The same rules for pricing and crafting these items can be used whether or not the setting justifies their effects with magic, technology, or some other narrative hand-waving.

Magic items have four factors that determine how much they can impact the world. These are color-coded in their descriptions below, and in the following section with sample magic items. Possibility is pink, area is avacado, convenience is crimson, and setbacks are lavender.

With these rules the GM and Player can design any magic item they can imagine! Simply see how the four factors describe its effect and then total its impact.

Magic items cost as much as other items with the same impact. As always, the crafter of a magic item need only pay half that retail amount for materials. This means that characters who craft their own magic items only spend half as much for the benefts.

A harmful alchemical item's impact also determines how hard its effect is to avoid. For drinking a harmful potion or being cut by a poisoned blade, this Elusion rating uses Wrestle to signify the body's toughness resisting the toxin. For the gas released by a flask, this Elusion rating uses Acrobatics to signifty avoiding the cloud of gas. For artwork or machines that distract or charm a target, this Elusion rating uses Perception to signify noticing the ruse, or Wonder to signify resisting being enthralled.

Note that a normally priced magic item does one thing. A magic item that does multiple things is equivalent to multiple magic items merged together, and its crafting time and price should be equal to the totals for its components.

For example, a pair of magic glasses might allow the person wearing them to detect poison, or criminals, or Ogres. But if those glasses detected all three things, with separate color-coding for each, then that magic item is clearly doing three things. To be fair, that combination item should be crafted and priced as if it were three different magic items.

Magical Possibility

Add to Impact Possibility
0 inexpensive equipment
1 expensive equipment
2 paid labor
3 mundanely impossibe

The first quality of a magic item is its possibility.

The smallest effects only duplicate what inexpensive mundane equipment can do, but perhaps do it more rapidly or conveniently. These items might be used to quickly kindle a fire, befriend a domestic animal, spin wool into yarn, season firewood, provide a meal's nourishment, etc. Or these items might have an ongoing effect such as radiating as much light as a torch, whistling like the sound of blowing on a blade of grass, obscuring vision like a smoky campfire, or making a room smell like roses. These effects add 0 to the impact.

Other magic items duplicate what expensive mundane equipment can do, but again perhaps more rapidly or conveniently. The special item heals as well as the best mundane herbs or medicines, heats or cools as well as a stove or block of ice, protects someone as well as the best armor, or makes an area deadly like a spilled vat of boiling oil. Those effects add 1 to the impact.

Other magic items duplicate what not what equipment can do, but what labor could accomplish: lifting, carrying, searching, removing disguises, mimicking noises people make, delivering a message, etc. Again magic can allow these effects more rapidly or conveniently. These effects add 2 to the impact.

Effects that are mundanely impossible are the most dramatic, wondrous, and fun. These add 3 to the impact.

Magical Area

Add to Impact Area
0 no area
1 set up the area
2 fills area

The second factor that determines impact is the effect's area.

Many effects only affect the character using the special item, or a single object. These add 0 to the impact. (All transmutery effects are of this category.)

Some magic items effect an area, but only after the character using the item personally sets up the area. This could be assembling a device, arming a trap, drawing a magic circle, etc. That adds 1 to the impact.

Other effects immediately fill an area or volume. These add 2 to the impact.

The maximum radius of the effect depends upon the type of special item and the crafter's skill.

Magical Convenience

Add to Impact Convenience
0 not portable, no range
1 portable, delay, no range
2 portable, delay, can have range
3 portable, immediate, can have range

The third factor that determines impact is the effect's convenience, which is a combination of range, improvisatoinal potential, and speed of use.

The least convenient magic items must be created in advance at a laboratory, workshop, magic shrine, or other noteworthy location and are not portable. Their effects have no range. These effects add 0 to the impact. (This category includes traps that must be built in their location.)

Only slightly less convenient magic are portable (whether or not they must be created in advance at a special location), but still have has no range. Furthermore, their effect has a delayed start as a drunk potion slowly takes effect, a gas slowly spreads, a trap is installed in its new location, a handheld machine warms up, a piece of enchanted artwork is activated with a song or a long chant, etc. These effects add 1 to the impact. (All alchemy potions are of this category, as are portable traps.)

Magic items of medium convenience can be created anywhere, are portable, and the item's effect can have range instead of only happening at the user's location, but these items still have a delayed start. These effects add 2 to the impact.

The most convenient effects can be created anywhere, have range, and have an effect that begins immediately. Effects like these add 3 to the impact.

Magical Setbacks

Add to Impact Setbacks
0 no damage, or skill dependent
1 cause or cure 1 setback
2 cause or cure 2 setbacks
3 cause or cure all setbacks
5 cause or cure any affliction

The fourth factor that determines impact is how many setbacks are caused or cured.

Effects that do not cause or cure setbacks add 0 to the impact.

Some effects do cause setbacks, but only based upon the same skill use that mundane equipment would use. These also add 0 to the impact. They do not change how much damage a character can do. If someone prefers to craft or buy a wand that shoot icicles, instead of using a bow and arrows with the same effects, it is inexpensive to do so.

Some magic items causes extra setbacks with successful skill use, often by causing an attack to also trip, stun, burn, ensnare, slow, or befuddle the target. Others automatically cause setbacks to anyone who enters spends a turn in their area. These effects add 1 or 2 to the impact, depending upon whether they cause 1 or 2 setbacks. (If the wand of icicles was more threatening than a mundane bow and arrow, either because it froze whomever it hit or caused larger wounds, then it would have a higher impact.)

Effects that heal setbacks also add 1 or 2 to the impact, depending upon whether they heal 1 or 2 setbacks.

Some magic items can nearly determine the outcome of a situation. These cause enough damage to bring the opponent down to its final impairment, so one more successful attack will cause defeat. These add 3 to the impact.

The most potent effects decisively win the conflict themselves, and add 5 to the impact.

Similarly, magic items that cause or cure permanent harmful conditions such as blindness, paralysis, or being turned to stone add 5 to the impact.

Tangentially, it is advised that Nine Powers stories do not include "divinations". Many fantasy stories include objects or rituals that predict the future, or in other ways learn what is not normally knowable. Wizards scry with crystal balls, sages read the future in tea leaves, and necromancers make corpses answer questions. Although divination magic can work well in a story we read, it is difficult to do well in a two-person role-playing game. Plots about solving a mysteries or gathering information from an enemy stronghold get ruined by this kind of magic. It makes no sense to limit the kind of adventures the GM and Player can enjoy just because the PC has become highly skilled with magical crafting.

Crafting Skill Qualities

Often the four crafting skills can create functionally equivalent items. A character that wants to fly could drink a flying potion, use a backpack-helicopter machine, expend one charge of a cape of flight, or attach air-crampons to his or her boots.

Functionally equivalent magic items would all have an identical monetary cost per use. However, the crafting skill used to create them will make the items distinct in many ways.

Alchemy Machinery Musing Transmutery
Costly Materials alchemical ingredients lots of fragile springs, gears, and tubes expensive artwork (including artistic tools or weapons) to be enchanted acquiring a pet elemental spirit using gems and clothing
Duration 30 minutes 8 active hours until midnight concentration
Area Option radius 2 meters per skill rating radius 4 meters per skill rating radius 3 meters per skill rating radius 1 meter
Range Option flasks may be thrown to splash liquid or release a gas cloud machines can launch projectiles either no range
or line-of-sight
with talent
Multiple Uses duration may be shared among a batch of 6 items with 5-minute duration run-down machines may be rebuilt inexpensively artwork becomes magic items with charges prepaid with gems
Crafting Time 5 minutes per impact, needs a laboratory 1 hour per impact, needs a toolbox 10 minutes per impact, crafter enters a trance instant
Dangerous When targets fail their Elusion target already suffering 2 setbacks targets fail their Elusion circumstances are right
Fixed Factors 0 area,
1 convenience
traps have 1 area,
0 or 1 convenience
  never 3 possibility
Other Issues 1 month shelf life machines can be bypassed or destroyed item vanishes after last charge used the only magic done without following a recipe!

Crafting any magic item is uncontested skill use that requires a skill rating at least equal to the magic item's total impact (minimum 1). No bonuses can assist this skill use. The crafter must have both hands free, and constructs his or her creation by hand.

These rules assume magic item crafters using the Alchemy, Machinery, and Musing skills follow a clear recipe or procedure, either memorized on written down. If the crafter is improvising he or she suffers a 2 point situational penalty. This penalty is reduced to a 1 point situational penalty if the crafter has a prototype to reverse engineer.

Characters should keep track of which recipes they know. Most new PCs with crafting skills know only a few common, inexpensive recipes. During adventures the PC will find new recipes. Thus the Player slowly gains options as the PC gains a different type of power than measured by skill or talent ratings.

(Most GMs and Players do not find it fun to actually detail the recipes and keep track of required ingredients. We want nifty magic powers, not mundane bookkeeping chores!)

(Certain stories might focus on a crafting task. For example, a very powerful recipe might be too tricky to create without a rare location that is the goal of a quest. Perhaps a potent alchemical gas can only be made in the royal alchemy laboratory, or a uniquely powerful musing item can only be made where research and obscure equipment have proven three ley-lines converge. In this special location, there is no penalty for lacking a recipe, and the crafter also gains a 2 point situational bonus.)

Magic Item Examples

Here are some sample fantasy magic items. Within an adventure most would have more interesting and fun names. But simple names are best for making a web page of rules searchable.


Impact Zero — 2 silver coins retail price

Fancy Fire Pit (Impact 0 = 0 possibility + 0 area + 0 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This fire pit has some mechanical augmentation. When active, it emits large sparks to help kindle a fire. It is not portable, but it is still an affordable convenience because its 8 hours of active use can be spread out over months or years.


Impact One — 10 silver coins retail price

Domestic Animal Friendship Potion (Impact 1 = 0 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This potion is given to a domestic animal, often by mixing it in food. For the potion's duration the animal becomes very fond of the person who fed it the potion, as if that person had been a kind and caring pet owner for many years.

Cooking Disk (Impact 1 = 0 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This practical device causes items placed on top of it to be heated. The change in temperature is not quick enough to harm a creature mobile enough to move off it.

Healthy Hearth (Impact 1 = 0 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Another practical kitchen device is this fireplace whose machinery will remove from food places within any parasites and diseases, quickly and without needing to change the food's temperature.


Impact Two — 20 silver coins retail price

Silent Shoe Soles (Impact 2 = 1 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This alchemical goo is spread on the soles of a pair of shoes. It hardens into a material that allows silent steps.

Pressure Plate Dart Trap (Impact 2 = 0 possibility + 1 area + 0 convenience + 1 setbacks)

This trap shoots darts when a pressure plate is triggered. The darts are small, and only cause one setback if they hit.

Alarm Wire (Impact 2 = 0 possibility + 1 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

When a creature steps on or across this wire device, a noise happens. Guards set up alarm wires to monitor seldom used doorways, and some adventurers use these devices to sleep more safely in a dungeon. Because such a low impact ward has such a low elusion rating, the wires are often hidden under dirt or a carpet.

Alchemist's Undervest (Impact 2 = 1 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This under-vest has internal pockets lined with hinged metal plates. It is designed to store flasks safely, yet enable smashing one against the body when needed.

Linked Gloves (Impact 3 = 0 possibility + 0 area + 2 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Two pairs of enchanted gloves are magically linked. The wearers activate their magic by flexing the fingers in certain motions. Then the gloves become useful for secretly signaling. While in range, when one pair is used to make intuitive certain gestures, the wearer of the other pair feels gentle taps on the hands in an understandable code.

Imperishable Sack (Impact 1 = 1 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Fancy embroidery and colorful drawstrings show this sack is special. When the drawstrings are tied a certain way, the enchantment activates and food within is prevented from spoiling. There is no temperature change, so the food need not be thawed like food stored in a normal icebox.


Impact Three — 80 silver coins retail price

Super-Stumbler (Impact 3 = 0 possibility + 1 area + 1 convenience + 1 setbacks)

Guards tasked with protecting an entryway can set up this device to cause anyone crossing the threshold to fall down (suffer 1 setback). It works like a tripwire, but is not broken by the first person to trigger it.

Footstep Faker (Impact 3 = 2 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Black market machinists prepare these devices wrapped in thick wool. A minute after being shaken, they begin to flex and crack. This causes taps and creaks that sound remarkably like footsteps. Burglars and spies use footstep devices to distract people. They drop them from the rafters into a shadowy corner, or throw them under or behind furniture. Few guards have enough experience with these items to recognize that the noise is not footsteps.

Automated Butler (Impact 3 = 2 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This primitive robot can fetch and carry.

Linked Earrings (Impact 3 = 1 possibility + 0 area + 2 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Two pair of enchanted earrings are magically linked. When two people each a pair, the enchantment activates the first time either person says the other's name. Then they can telepathically communicate while in range of each other. The sounds "heard" in the mind are distorted, as when talking across two tin cans linked by a taught wire.

Sparkly Searchstone (Impact 3 = 2 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

A ring with a gemstone is enchanted to sparkle with a radiant light after the gemstone is squeezed. The gleams of radience sometimes appear to bend if the wearer is looking for something, as if pointing the way. The effect bestows a 2 point equipment bonus to the Perception/Escape and Track skills.

Musing Sensing Miniature Settlement (Impact 3 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 0 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This table-sized replica of a town or city, made with colorful clay, is not portable after being constructed. When the proper phrases are spoken, the buildings on the replica glow if their corresponding actual buildings contains one or more items crafted with musing.

Honest Mirror (Impact 3 = 2 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

After a mystic phrase is uttered, this this ornate mirror begins to reflect people's true facts. It is appreciated by guards for its ability to penetrate both mundane and magical disguises. It is hated by vain noblewomen who do not want their face seen without its makeup. (The mirror does not reveal shapechangers, such as Ogres or Therions.)

Spy's Glass (Impact 3 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This mirror, permanently affixed to a wall, can be entered to create a temporary invisible copy of yourself. Your real self is trapped until/unless the copy returns.

Treasurehunting Compass (Impact 3 = 2 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This compass was made by a pirate to help find his buried treasure. When activated, it points the way to the most valuable other item it has ever touched.


Impact Four — 160 silver coins retail price

Anti-Magic Zone (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 1 area + 0 convenience + 0 setbacks)

No magic will function inside this circle. Some are made by spreading alchemical goo in a circle on the floor. Others are constructed with wires that emanate from a special device. Others are drawn with chalk and artistic symbolism.

Invisibility Potion (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

There are many versions of this potion. Many towns and cities have laws limiting their use, to help prevent crime. Most potions of invisibility also affect what the drinker is wearing. Some cause a limited invisibility that ends if the drinker is touched by sunlight or moonlight, attacks anyone, etc.

Shared Sight Potion (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This potion is shared by two people or animals. After a minute they can close their eyes and concentrate to see what the other is seeing.

Maleable Mickey (Impact 4 = 0 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 3 setbacks)

This alchemical potion is slipped into a victim's drink. After a minute the drinker becomes very agreeable to the next reasonable request he or she hears. Only one more success while fast-talking will dupe the drinker.

Acidic Gas Flask (Impact 4 = 0 possibility + 2 area + 1 convenience + 1 setbacks)

The chemicals in this flask react with air after the flask breaks. After a moment, they turns into a pink fog that causes 1 setback to any creature entering its area.

Flask of Blinding Cloud (Impact 4 = 1 possibility + 2 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

A moment after this flask breaks the area fills with dense, fragrant smoke. The smoke is so thick that it interferes with sound as well as sight, smell, and taste. Within the smoke, all ranged perception and combat skill use automatically fails.

Inquisitor's Watch (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

After this watch is wound a special way, the hour hand will point to the closest person telling lies and the minute hand to the closest person telling the truth, while the second hand ticks normally.

Rocket Boots (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Whee!

Wellness Zone (Impact 4 = 0 possibility + 1 area + 1 convenience + 2 setbacks)

This device fills the area with ethereal vibrations that makes people feel rested and confident (healing one or two setbacks).

Cloud Climbing Crampons (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

These crampons radiate a soft blue glow. When attached to any shoes or boots, the glow intensifies and the wearer can walk on air.

Ogre Detection Goggles (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

These goggles allow the wearer to see who is an Ogre. Vision is unaffected, except that Ogres appear to be glowing purple.

Cummerbund of the Careful Tongue (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Some nobles use musing to enchant a piece of their young children's clothing to help the children remember their manners while being introduced at parties. If the child is about to make an egregious mistake in etiquette, the piece of clothing constricts slightly as a reminder. The effect bestows a 2 point equipment bonus to the Etiquette skill.

Fair Dueling Enforcer (Impact 4 = 2 possibility + 1 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This banner, once unfurled and waved, causes a situational penalty to all nearby ranged attacks, whether mundane or magical.

Doctor's Pouch (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This ornate draw-string bag's magic is activated with soothing words. When touched to skin it magically applies the effect of the herbs within, without using up those herbs.

Telekenetic Gloves (Impact 4 = 2 possibility + 0 area + 2 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This pair of gloves allows its wearer to pick up and manipulate objects anywhere in range.

Locator Map (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This ornate map of a town or city begins to glow when the right phrases are sung. Then, when a person's hair or fingernail clippings are set upon it, the map reveals that person's present location if they are indeed in the pictured settlement.

Weapon Enhancement (Impact 4 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This is the classic example of a weapon with a 2 point equipment bonus from a magical source. The enhancement takes a moment to initiate.

Superior Quality versus Magical Enhancement

A magically enhanced weapon could be a sword on which alchemical goo is spread to enhance it for 30 minutes. Or it could be a beautiful sword enchanted with musing that is magically enhanced until midnight when its charge is used. Or it could be a mechanically augmented sword with 8 active hours of use. Either way, the 160 silver coin cost for enhancement is added to the standard price for the weapon (per charge if made with musing).

The economic rules above list a knife at 10 silver coins, a dagger at 80 silver coins, and a one-handed sword at 400 silver coins.

Those same weapons, made at superior quality for a 1 point equipment bonus, would be priced at the next impact level: the knife for 20 silver coins, the dagger for 160 silver coins, and the one-handed sword at 1,200 silver coins. This is an expensive but permanent improvement.

In contrast, a magic knife costs 170 silver coins, a magic dagger costs 240 silver coins, and a magic one-handed sword costs 560 silver coins.

The bonuses can be combined, so that the weapon provides a 1 point equipment bonus from its superior quality until its musing enchantment is used or while its mechanized effects are not activated. That would cost 180 silver coins for the knife, 300 silver coins for the dagger, and 1,360 silver coins for the one-handed sword.

In other words, small and concealable weapons tend to be inefficiently expensive to magically enhance, but by the time a knight is ready to purchase a superior quality sword he or she might as well also pay to magically enhance it.


Impact Five — 400 silver coins retail price

Handcrank Electro-Shock Knuckle Dusters (Impact 5 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 1 setbacks)

After these devices warm up, successful punches will also do electric damage, causing one extra setback.

Glasses of Forced Sharing (Impact 5 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 2 convenience + 0 setbacks)

After this pair of glasses is activated, you can switch your point of vision as if seeing from any other glass in range (windows, mirrors, glasses).

Pointy Hat of Protection (Impact 5 = 3 possibility + 1 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

After activation, this pretty pointy hat causes a situational penalty to all nearby magical attacks.


Impact Six — 1,200 silver coins retail price

Targeted Tiny Potion of Sleep Gas (Impact 6 = 0 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 5 setbacks)

Small vials of sleep gas can be thrown or used as arrowheads. Because they contain such a small amount of chemical, they only cause sleep with a well-placed hit to the face, represented by both a successful Shoot/Throw attempt and failing the potion's Elusion with the defender's choice of Acrobatics or Wrestle.

Deadly Pit Trap (Impact 6 = 0 possibility + 1 area + 0 convenience + 5 setbacks)

The ultimate trap, falling into this pit causes the intruder to die, impaled on sharp wooden stakes while instantly cooked in deadly scalding steam.

Liaison's Lantern (Impact 6 = 3 possibility + 2 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

This ornate lantern only sheds light for the person or people holding its handle.

Telepath's Tiara (Impact 6 = 3 possibility + 2 area + 1 convenience + 0 setbacks)

Fancy jewelry that, after activation, lets you hear thoughts in the area.

Perfect Projectiles (Impact 6 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 3 convenience + 0 setbacks)

These darts unerringly hit the person who last wounded you, anywhere in range. How well they hit depends upon how well you throw.


Impact Seven — 3,200 silver coins retail price

Sword of Deadly Risk (Impact 7 = 1 possibility + 2 area + 1 convenience + 3 setbacks)

This sword radiates an aura when unsheathed. Any wound inflicted in that area causes the injured creature to only have its final impairment remaining (a creature already down to its final major loss is defeated as always).


Impact Eight — 8,000 silver coins retail price

Untargeted Flask of Sleep Gas (Impact 8 = 0 possibility + 2 area + 1 convenience + 5 setbacks)

Breathing more than one breath of the cloud of soothing gas released when this flask breaks puts any creature to sleep. Sometimes these are crafted so the gas is invisible, to capture tresspassers.

Ultimate Handcuffs (Impact 8 = 2 possibility + 0 area + 1 convenience + 5 setbacks)

Once these warm up, the person they are put on is paralyzed for their duration.

Evil Portal (Impact 8 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 0 convenience + 5 setbacks)

A doorway that grants terrible power, but only after you lure someone else to be forever lost into its pocket dimension.

Life Insurance Sarcophagus (Impact 8 = 3 possibility + 0 area + 0 convenience + 5 setbacks)

An immobile marble sarcophagus with the image of its creator carved in bas relief on the lid. If someone living is inside when that creator dies, the creator's mind replace the other person's.