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Nine Powers title

Rules for the Economy and Magic

The 9P sample setting of Spyragia has fantasy and steampunk themes. Its economy and magic are intertwined.

These rules first describe how special items work, whether magical and technological. Basic special items modify skill ratings, and major special items have more powerful effects.

Then the technology skills are described: Alchemy, Chemstry, Machinery, and Transmutery.

There are four pairs of racial magical abilitiies: Tempering and Sapping, Musing and Fortunosity, Laboritry and Phantasmography, and Therianthropy and Semblancy.

Descritions are given for sample mundane items for those who wish to use them.

Finally, the design issues of genres and costs of heroism that guided the economic rules are discussed.

Discuss the 9P core rules at the Story Games forum.

The main reward for successful adventuring is increasing skill and talent ratings. These measure how capable a character is when following the rules. As a PC adventures, he or she becomes more generally capable.

Earning spendable wealth is a complimentary reward. Most PC wealth is spent on nifty equipment that allows characters to bend or break the rules. Adventures are even more fun when the PC has some tricks up his or her sleeves!

For the sake of simplicity, the 9P sample setting of Spyragia simply uses coins as the monetary unit: a small silver piece worth a half day's wages for unskilled labor.

During and after a successful adventure the PC usually gains wealth in coins about equal to 25 times the number of skills for which the PC has a skill rating of 4 or greater. (So a new PC probably earns 75 to 100 coins for finishing his or her first adventure.) The wealth reward is often partly found during the adventure as treasure and partly paid as a concluding reward for work done well.

Wealth Reward Example

A GM is planning an adventure for a PC who has five skills of skill rating 4 or higher. If the adventure is of average length and difficulty he PC will finish the adventure gaining wealth equal to 5 × 25 = 125 more coins.

The GM decides the adventure should include treasure worth 85 coins as well as 40 coins the quest's patron pays the PC for finishing the assignment.

More About Wages

Note that because the wage for unskilled labor is 1 coin per five hours of work then a full ten-hour workday pays 2 coins. Continuing the math, a six-day work week of unskilled labor earns 12 coins and a fifty-two week work year totals 624 coins.

In terms of game mechanics, "unskilled labor" refers to a skill rating of 1. Skilled labor is, of course, more expensive. Each skill rating above 1 earns another coin per five hours.

A typical trades-person would have skill rating 3 or 4 in his or her crafting skill. (Often a skill such as farming, logging, carpentry, or pottery that is not among the usual list of character skills.) This person would earn 36 to 48 coins per week.

So a beginning adventurer gains two or three week's wages for completing a dangerous quest.

Other Types of Wealth

An adventurer deals with many types of spendable wealth. Money is obviously the most common kind. But other commodities exist: favors from influential people, access to pieces of restricted knowledge, hours spent in the baron's personal alchemy lab, etc. The GM should include these in adventures without attempting to assign them a value in coins. They are "extra" wealth beside monetary income.

Special Items link to here link to tables of contents

In most "heroic opera" adventure games the main purpose of wealth is to allow the protagonist to purchase special items. In a fantasy setting like Spyragia a special item might be a magic potion, flying carpet, or dancing sword. In a science fiction setting a special item might be a nanotech restorative, a personal spaceship, or an electrified net launcher.

Special Item Bonuses

Many special items grant bonuses to skill use. These are almost always a special item bonus, a new type of bonus of either 1 or 2 points that can combine with the previously explained equipment bonus, situational advantage bonus, group bonus, talent bonus, and bonus from using Press or Provoke.

Many Bonus Example

A PC is fighting a ship full of pirates. The PC has a base Melee/Press skill rating of 3. Fortunately, this is boosted by an enchanted rapier (2-point equipment bonus), standing higher on the staircase to the forecastle (1-point situational advantage bonus), and the PC has activated her magic dueling gloves (2-point special item bonus). The PC thus has an effective skill rating of 8, and fares well against her numerous swarthy foes.

Special items that cause a penalty to skill use use a situational disadvantage penalty of 1 or 2 points.

Special Item Creation Costs

In Spyragia, special items are crafted with two of the Technology skills (Alchemy or Machinery) or three of the racial ability skills (Tempering, Musing, or Fortunosity). One other Technology skill (Transmutery) causes special item effects without creating an actual item.

Characters that know how to craft special items can create them for half the retail price.

Characters that know how to craft special items may sometimes recharge used-up special items for one-quarter the retail price.

No special items should duplicate the effects of talents or the gifts from the Powers.

These rules will eventually describe how each of the various types of special items with inexpensive recharge uses have a different restriction. They either require obtaining a recipe (alchemy batches), are succeptible to physical damage (machinery), cannot create continual effects that function passively (tempering), or if powerful inflict vices on their user (musing).

Magic and Technology

In Spyragia, special items created with alchemy, tempering, musing, and fortunosity are magical. The gifts given by the Powers are also magical.

Special items created with machinery and chemstry are not magical.

(The two other economic skills, Transmutery and Laboritry, do not create items.)

Basic Special Items link to here link to tables of contents

Basic Special Items Have Low Impact

Basic special items allow a person to do something he or she could already do (with typical resources) in a faster, better, or spiffier manner.

When a basic special item does something not describable by the rules of the game, the effect is mostly cosmetic. Anything it accomplishes can only have small economic value (less than one day's unskilled labor).

Concepts for Basic Special Items

Examples of basic special items would be biscuits that clean teeth, bandages that instantly stop bleeding on one wound, sandals that tie themselves when worn, a levitating fan that creates a small breeze, dust that mends a torn article of clothing, bread that cures a stomachache, a torch that lights itself when commanded, a toy top that changes colors as it spins, a waterskin that refills with water each sunrise, a deck of cards that shuffles itself when commanded, a hairband that braids long hair when worn, a goblet that releases a puffs of smoke when filled, silverware that becomes polished when touched lightly with a cloth, and a small piece of embroidery that becomes face-paint when touched to someone's cheek.

When used creatively, these effects might provide a special item bonus to skill use. For example, a helmet that sprays sparks might help its wearer act intimidating, or a sweet-smelling chair cushion might help a visiting diplomat feel respected.

Some basic special items have no cosmetic effect. For example, those magic dueling gloves might merely grant the PC a bonus to Melee/Press, without any noticeable effect. Or they could glow orange, release small puffs of smoke, and create a faint yet dramatic sound of drum beats.

Basic Special Item Prices

The standard basic special item has a retail cost of 10 coins. It only requires a skill rating of 1 to craft. It has the following eight limitations:

Changing these limitations makes the special item more expensive and difficult to craft. For each limitation changed, the skill rating required to craft the item increases by one. The cost also increases. Apply any additive cost increases before any multiplicative cost increases.

Ranged effects are still limited by line of sight. A magic wand could zap a foe standing on the other side of a portcullis or window, but not behind a stone wall.

Once a special item's elusion requirement's value is increased to 9, the effect instead has no elusion requirement (it cannot be avoided or resisted).

An item that can be used many times is said to have charges. A new special item with charges is not any less expensive than the same number of copies of a single-use item. However, special items with charges can be "recharged" at half the usual cost. All special items stop working completely when out of uses. Single-use special items are usually more expensive in the long run because they cannot be recharged.

CostChange to Limitation
+5provdes a 2-point special item bonus (or 2-point penalty)
+5provides a bonus or penalty to multiple skills
+5per increase of the elusion requirement value
+5per map square (2 meters) of range
×2non-instantaneous effects last hours, not minutes
×2everyone using it is affected
×ncan be used n times
×seffect fills square of side length 2×s map squares, s ≥ 2

Consider a standard basic special item that helps someone be win when wrestling. Perhaps it is a bag of "dust of weakness", that when sprinkled on someone causes a 1-point situational disadvantage penalty to their Wrestle skill for one minute unless they avoid the dust as it falls—an elusion requirement of [Acrobatics 1].

For an extra five coins, it could instead be "dust of super weakness" that provides a 2-point situational disadvantage penalty.

For an extra five coins, it could instead be "dust of heaviness" that causes a 1-point situational disadvantage penalty to Wrestle, Dodge, and Acrobatics/Climb. A special item that affects multiple skills should affect related skills through a sensible context.

For an extra five coins, it could instead be a "wand of weakness" that can zap a foe up to two meters away. For an extra ten coins, it could instead zap a foe up to four meters away.

For an extra five coins, the elusion requirement could increase to [Acrobatics 2]. For an extra ten coins, the elusion requirement could instead increase to [Acrobatics 3]. For an extra forty coins, it could instead be unavoidable.

CostMap Squares
×24-by-4
×36-by-6
×48-by-8
×510-by-10

For double the cost, it could be "dust of lasting weakness" whose penalty lasts one hour.

For double the cost, it could be a "drink of weakness" whose penalty applies to everyone who drinks part of it. (The drinkers must be using many straws, to be drinking simultaneousy and in the same location.)

The bag could hold a lot of dust, allowing it to be used many times. Each use costs as much as the single-use item did.

For double the cost, the dust could affect everyone in a 4-by-4 square of map squares. For triple the cost, the dust could affect everyone in a 6-by-6 square of map squares. For quadruple the cost, the dust could affect everyone in a 8-by-8 square of map squares.

Example of a Non-Standard Special Item

A merchant is selling a "wand of great slowness zapping". It zaps everyone in a 4-by-4 square of map squares, centered up to four map squares away from the wand's wielder, causing a 2-point situational disadvantage penalty to Acrobatics, Dodge, and Exit/Escape unless they dive out of the way [Acrobatics 4]. The wand has two charges, after which it becomes non-magical.

What is the wand's retail cost? Start with the standard 10 coins. Then add the additive costs: +5 coins for the 2-point penalty, +5 coins for affecting multiple skills, +15 coins for increasing the elusion requirement value by three, +20 coins for a range of eight meters (four map squares). A total value of 55 coins so far. Then double the cost for how it affects an area, and double that because it has two charges. The resulting retail cost is 220 coins. Expensive!

Furthermore, since six limitations were changed a skill rating of 7 was required to craft this wand! It is probably a rare item made by a famous NPC.

The GM could give an item this expensive and hard-to-make a more impressive name and backstory. Perhaps it is Prince Perly's Retreat Boon. Before Princy Perly began his famous crackdown on organized crime, he commissioned the famous crafter Hafold the Haughty to make this portable aid for fleeing from groups of assassins.

Major Special Items link to here link to tables of contents

Major Special Items Have Various Impacts

A special item's impact rating measures how intense and powerful an effect it produces. How much does this item allow its user to bend or break the rules?

The basic special items already described have an impact 1. They only allow a character to "cheat" slightly by using a new kind of skill bonus that stacks with the types of bonuses from the core rules.

Special items of impact 2 can do what basic special items do, and can also increase or decrease movement speed by half its normal amount.

Special items of impact 3 can provide an exception to the rules about one of turns, successes, or losses. These items can grant extra movement at the end of a turn, provide extra turns, cause skill use to have automatic success or failure, or make normally successful contested skill use automatically cause enough losses to defeat one opponent.

Special items of impact 4 can provide an exception to the rules about both successes and losses. A special item this powerful can make skill use automatically successful and automatically cause enough losses to defeat one opponent.

(For special items of impact 3 or 4, remember that dangerous special items have an elusion requirement. Sleep gas might automatically "hit" and defeat all enemies in the area it effects by knocking them unconscious. But unless it is costly enough to have no elusion, the targets still have a chance to dive out of the way, hold their breath, intuit its approach and find cover, or in some other specified manner elude the effect.

Special items of impact 5 allow a character to do something he or she cannot normally do, as long as this new ability does not trvialize the adventure. Many impact 5 special items allow new forms of movement, such as levitation, flight, wall-crawling, or webbed fingers and toes for speedy swimming. Effects such as invisibility, gaseous form, clouds of darkness, and spheres of silence also would be impact 5.

There are no special items of impact 6.

Special items of impact 7 allow the user to break the GM-Player contract. A special item that causes mind control is an example, since it could allow the Player to make decisions for an NPC or the GM to make decisions for the PC. Effects that completely dominate the encounter are other examples. (Sleep gas that defeats everyone in its area is impact 4. An intelligent sleep gas creture that prowls through the castle, putting everyone to sleep until it vanishes after an hour is impact 7.) A special item that summons a mystical helper for the PC is a third kind of example, since normally the appearance of NPCs is part of the role of GM.

Special items of impact 7 should be very rare, and their appearances should be foreshadowed. The GM and Player should discuss these items before they appear in the adventure to ensure that any potential threat to the GM-Player contract does not make the game less fun for GM or Player.

Teleportation is Impact 5

Teleportation magic can be problematic in role-playing games. There can be too many obstacles the PC can bypass, and too little the PC can do to be safe from a powerful or wealthy enemy.

However, all the special items of these rules have very short range and are restricted by line of sight. Teleportation in 9P only travels a few meters to a place you can see. This is an impact 5 effect that can seldom wreck an adventure.

Why Skip Over Impact 6?

Most special item creation involves unmodified skill use. The most powerful crafters, with a base skill rating of 8, are still limited to an effecive skill rating of 8.

This means they can combine an ultra-powerful impact 7 effect with only one changed limitation (usually lack of elusion requirement, functioning at a range, or effect filling an area). Because range and area are often crucial for ultra-powerful effects, most impact 7 special items will have elusion requirements and thus are not automatic "win buttons".

Avoid Divinations

The type of magic allowed by these rules that is most likely to cause problems is "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 this type of 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.

Major Special Item Prices

The standard retail cost of any special item 10 × impact in coins. The minimum skill required to craft an item is equal it its impact.

The standard duration of non-instantaneous special items is as many minutes as its impact.

The standard elusion requirement rating of special items is equal to its impact.

The same eight limitations discussed earlier apply to items of all impacts, with the same cost modifiers. Remember that for each limitation changed, the skill rating required to craft the special item will increase by one.

Cheaper Special Items link to here link to tables of contents

Lower Retail Costs

There are two ways to lower the retail cost of a new special item.

No special item can have a retail cost of less than five coins. If these modifiers would decrease the retail cost below five coins, keep the retail cost at five coins.

First, a special item costs ten coins less if it has a harmful effect that is easy to avoid because it develops slowly and is interruptible. The special item causes a noticeable and gradually growing action that is both easy to observe as it unfolds and easy to interrupt if noticed. The intended effect does not begin until the final tenth of the special item's duration of minutes or hours. (A bitter and slow-acting poison that must be put on food would be one example. If the intended victim ate for a minute despite the bitter taste, the poison would do its damage.)

Second, a special item's retail cost can be ten coins different if it causes a problematic impact 1 side-effect.

A side-effect could happen while the crafter makes the item, such as a tricky alchemical recipe whose potent ingredients cause side-effects. This might make the special item more expensive if purchased by the PC, to compensate the crafter for his or her extra troubles. Or it might make the special item less expensive if the PC crafts the item himself or herself, to reflect how the problematic ingredients are cheaper to purchase.

The side-effect could also happen to the person who uses the special item, such as a magical cloak that increases sneakiness but penalizes hearing. (As before, the side-effect must really be problematic. A magical cloak that increases sneakiness but penalizes etiquette probably does not count as having a problematic side-effect.)

Other Cost Reductions

Remember that a character who crafts a special item himself or herself only pays half the retail cost to create the item.

Remember that recharging a multiple-use special item (usually before its last charge is used) is a half-price way to get the item's power. A character who recharges such items himself or herself would only pay one-quarter retail price.

Some items are more flavorful by being purposefully limited in scope. As examles, a weapon might only provide a bonus to the Melee/Press skill when fighting dragons, or a whistle might only help use the Animals/Wilderness skill to control dogs. These limited items do not have a lower creation cost. But they might appear in stories as exceptions to the rule that the retail price is twice the creation cost.

Examples of Limited Items

An Ogre-bane sword provides a 2-point special item bonus to Melee/Press and Disarm, but only when fighting Ogres. It has an expected retail cost of 20 coins (10 impact + 5 two-point bonus + 5 multiple skills). Crafting the item costs half this amount: 10 coins. Because the sword is only special in rare situations, the person who crafted it sells it for 15 coins instead of 20 coins. Perhaps these swords are made in a city in which the king allows visitors to his castle to wear these swords but not other enchanted weapons.

A trap springer is a tool with many rods, loops, and wires that provides a bonus to Machinery, but only when disabling or bypassing a trap. It has an expected retail cost of 15 coins (10 impact + 5 two-point bonus). Crafting the item costs half this amount: 8 coins. Because the tool is only special for one type of Machinery skill use, the person who crafted it sells it for 12 coins instead of 15 coins. Perhaps these tools are sold in a town whose populace is distrustful of machinery, where people who build machines are scorned but adventures who explore trap-filled dungeons are respected.

Example Special Items link to here link to tables of contents

Many example special items are described (and priced) with the sample adventures.

Technology Skills link to here link to tables of contents

The technology skills are Alchemy, Chemstry, Machinery, and Transmutery.

These four skills seldom have any bonuses. Almost never does an equipment bonus or situational advantage apply, because using these skills at all already assumes a suitable laboratory or workshop. Group efforts never apply because "too many cooks spoil the broth". No talent bonuses are relevant. The GM should decide if the setting includes any special items that could grant a special item bonus.

Alchemy link to here link to tables of contents

The Alchemy skill is used to create special potions, gasses, and ointments. Most common are those which enhance a friend or incapacitate an enemy. Using alchemy requires a kitchen or laboratory. The products must be stored in glass containers. Throughout the adventure's perils the glass bottles, vials, and spheres must be kept intact.

Usually an adventuring PC creates or purchases all the alchemical items desired for an adventure before the adventure beings. Therefore investing in a PC's Alchemy skill allows the Player, based on rumors and guess about the upcoming adventure, to create a half-price "bag of tricks" to make the PC prepared for expected problems.

Alchemy is an old, diverse, and widely-studied art that many of its practitioners do not consider magical. However, the fact that semblancy ruins alchemical creations gives support to the claim that magic is somehow involved, even if unknowingly.

The history and recipes of alchemy have flowed together from many cultures. Alchemy itself is well-accepted everywhere. Yet some recipes remain carefully guarded secrets, and a few have effects considered illegal or taboo. However, alchemical healing has helped almost every family, and professional alchemists are respected unless their business practices are unethical or their prices are unusually high. Amateur alchemists are common: many folk know just enough alchemy to heal scrapes or help put a fussing child to sleep, and this knowledge provokes neither distrust nor stereotypes.

Alchemical healing has its limits. It must be applied promptly to be effective, and cannot cure disease, paralysis, broken bones, missing limbs, dementia, or other afflictions that are more serious and complex than wounds and burns.

Alchemical Recipes

All alchemy involves following a recipe. Characters should keep track of which recipes they know. There is usually no need to keep track of the ingredients required by the recipes.

An alchemical recipe fixes all the cost options except for the duration. Changing any other detail requires a new recipe.

Most new PCs with Alchemy skill will know only a few common, inexpensive recipes that make use of inexpensive and commonly available ingredients. During adventures the PC will find new alchemy recipes and gather rarer alchemy ingredients. Thus the Player slowly gains options about how the PC can be prepared at the start of a new adventure, and the PC gains a different type of power than measured by skill or talent ratings.

A skilled alchemist can experiment to invent a new recipe. The alchemist works at an effective skill rating two less. This creates a recipe with correspodingly reduced potential. The cost for the experimental items is tripled. If the alchemist has a sample potion or gas to "reverse engineer", a partial recipe, or other incomplete assistance then his or her effective skill rating is only one less.

Alchemy Rule Changes

Alchemy follows most of the rules for special item costs. But it changes these rules slightly in three ways.

First, all potions and gasses created with alchemy have a shelf life. They lose potency after a few days. Use them quickly!

Second, alchemical effect cannot happen at range. The effect always happens where the potion or gas is consumed or opened.

Third, all potions and gasses created with alchemy have only one use and cannot be "recharged". However, an alchemist can create a big batch of identical products and pay half price for all but the first.

As with any special item creation, an alchemist needs a higher Alchemy skill to create a higher impact item or change more item limitations.

Skill in Alchemy also measures:

Note that for any specific recipe, a more skilled alchemist can make an item with longer shelf life without increasing the cost in coins. More experienced alchemists know how to use better ingredients or use the same ingredients more effectively.

Alchemy Example

A character with a Alchemy skill of 5 wants to follow a recipe to create flash bombs that will dazzle nearby enemies when thrown and broken. The flash bombs will remain potent for five days because of the character's Alchemy skill. The Player and GM agree this is an impact 4 effect that will penalize Perception and other skills with a 1-point special item disadvantage, automatically affecting all enemies in a four-by-four square on the battlemap.

As an impact 4 effect, it has a duration of 4 minutes and elusion requirement rating of 4. The GM and Player agree the elusion requirement should be [Acrobatics 4].

The Player would like to increase the penalty to 2 points, but the PC needs more Alchemy skill before this can happen. An impact 4 effect with one changed limitation (effect fills an area) is all this PC can currently manage.

The retail price for one flash bomb is 80 coins = 40 impact × 2 effect fills an area.

However, the PC is crafting these with a recipe. So the cost is halved: 40 coins for the first item and 20 coins each for up to four other copies created at the same time.

The PC can create five coins worth of items per ten minute's work. So creating an entire batch of five would cost 120 coins and require four hours.

Chemstry link to here link to tables of contents

The Chemstry skill is used to create and control golems. It includes knowledge of golem construction and also the use of the papers (called chems) that give a golem animation and purpose. (Notice that there is no i in Chemstry!)

In Spyragia, chemstry is a science, not magic. Golems and chems follow specific rules, and part of the setting's willing suspension of disbelief is that those rules work without magic. The world is simply different from the real world. Effects that enhance or disrupt magic do nothing to golems and chems.

Because of the history of chemstry, people who use it and the golems they create are tolerated but not trusted. Golems were thought to be monsters that lived in ancient tombs and storerooms. But a few years ago archeologists discovered tablets under Arlinac Mountain whose inscriptions revealed the basics of chemstry. Golems quickly become a part of Arlinac Town's economy, helping with agriculture and industry. As explorers find more tablets, more chem symbols are understood (although most remain the secret property of an individual or organization).

As news of golem use and construction spreads across Spyragia, golems and chems have become trade goods exported from Arlinac Town. Within the town, golems are used cautiously. Still, rumors spread of golems with poor chem design ruining irrigation systems, furnaces, and doorways.

Chemstry Rule Changes

Golems are not "special items". The special item rules are not used for golems or chems.

No modern chems instruct a golem to aggression. Two ancient civilizations made warrior-guardian golems, but so far no one has been able to learn from their chems. (The chems of the first civilization use an ink that combusts when the golem is ruined. The chems of the second civilization use an ink that immediately fades when exposed to light.)

If anyone did learn how to make warrior-golems, then most people of Arlinac Town would quickly become opposed to all chemstry. However, people elsewhere in Spyragia might then take even more interest in purchasing exported golems!

Skill in Chemstry measures:

Golems link to here link to tables of contents

A golem is a hollow humanoid made from a single mass of material. Most golems, including all the ancient ones unearthed by archeologists, are made of clay. Only since the invention of thermometers for furnaces could sturdy metal golems be reliably created.

Golems are never intelligent. They have no creativity. Most are clumsy and not able to do any task requiring small-motor coordination. Talent with Chemstry is needed to make skillful golems.

Golems follow their instructions until they are destroyed, get stuck, or the ink of their chem fades with age (which may take centuries). Destroying a golem only requires enough damage to make it no longer humanoid (for example, loss of a limb) or no longer hollow (for example, filling it with water).

Due to limitations inherent on how a chem works, golems must be at least 18 centimeters tall. The smallest golems are usually "clockwork golems" used to power machines by turning cranks or pedaling.

Many modern golems open up so that the chem can be added or removed. The nature of this hatch depends upon the particular golem: many golems have small, locking doors to discourage tampering. Some modern golems are created without an opening. Note that the hatch is usually a second piece of material and thus not actually part of the golem. Damaging the hatch does not harm or disrupt the golem.

Within Arlinac Town, vandals called "hackers" make sport of using hacksaws to open golems working in public, such as those used to maintain public utilities, and replace the chem. The hackers are usually not intentionally destructive, but sometimes the sewer system is disrupted when golems that maintain it are instead found playing monotonous dice games or writing dreadful poetry with sticks of chalk.

Chems link to here link to tables of contents

A chem is a paper on which are painted certain symbols that give the golem step-by-step instructions. For example, a golem could guard a hallway with a chem whose symbols say, "Repeatedly walk straight forward. If you reach a wall, turn around 180 degrees. While somene who is not wearing a red hat is in view, stop walking and stomp loudly."

Golems become animated when a chem is put inside their hollow body. Putting more than one chem in a golem unanimates it.

Many chem symbols are carefully guarded secrets, requiring the golems using them to also be guarded.

Paintng a chem requires knowing the symbols and having the skill to paint them. To function properly, the symbols must be painted with a rare and expensive type of ink. Each chem symbol must be painted slowly and carefully: one second is required for each coin the symbol's ink cost.

Most known symbols provide one simple instruction. These all represent completely robotic commands: walk forward so many steps, turn so many degrees, raise your arms straight up, pick up the item in front of you, etc. The material cost for painting each of these chem symbols is 20 coins. (When designing chem commands, the word "and" usually means a new symbol is needed.)

More advanced symbols are part of a more complicated instruction. Two of these are required for a complete command. These all involve perception or comparison: walk until you reach a wall, pick up the largest item in the room, etc. The material cost for painting each of these chem symbols is 30 coins. (When designing chem commands, the words "if" or "while" show an advanced symbol is needed.)

The most advanced symbols are only a fragment of a very complex instruction. Three of these are required for a complete command. These all involve judgment: walk towards the most dangerous opponent you see, break the bar you expect to be most brittle, etc. The material cost for painting each of these chem symbols is 40 coins.

Small golems sometimes accompany adventurers, usually to carry lanterns or bags of equipment. Crafting an entirely new golem is usually impossible during the middle of an adventure, but an adventurer who knows chemstry can paint a new chem or add symbols to a chem if he or she has a little peace and quiet.

The word "chem" seems to be an invention of Terry Pratchett for his Discworld setting. I happily steal it to build an awful pun.

I think (but am not sure) that Pratchett also invented putting a golem's symbols inside the creature rather than writing the symbol(s) on its forehead.

I believe the programmable and re-programmable nature of 9P golems is a new twist on an old monster.

Yes, I had a Big Trak toy when I was a child.

Machinery link to here link to tables of contents

The Machinery skill is used to create clever clockwork and steam-powered devices, toys, vehicles, lamps, and weapons. It also is used to create or bypass mechanical locks and traps.

There are no recipes for machinery: machinists are tinkerers. Clockwork and steam powered contraptions come in all shapes and sizes. These have splendid variety because the secrets of their construction are carefully guarded.

Most people of Arlinac Town do not trust clockwork and steam-powered machinery because of its history, and because it is clearly useful for evil deeds. Originally only Frosty Kostkey and his followers created machines, which equipped their conquering armies of Winter creatures. Slowly the use of machinery spread as those peoples who successfully defended themselves from Frosty Kostkey experimented with captured working machines. It was the Kobalts and Dweorgs of Arlinac Town who most appreciated machinery's potential, and using its principles they developed the first machines not dedicated to Frosty Kostkey—the town's few wind-up toys, music boxes, electric lamps, and steam-powered vehicles. But the militant history of technology is still foremost in most people's minds, and machinists are usually shunned as unpredictable and perhaps even unstable.

Nevertheless, machines can be found for sale in Arlinac Town and machinists can be hired to repair machines. A few of the town's wealthiest families even contracted machinists to install electric lamps in their mansion's basement, or build robotic turrets to help guard empty halls at night.

Adventurers normally buy or build their machines before the expedition begins. The Machinery skill provides flexibility in advance planning. It also helps a PC deal with locks, traps, and run-down machines. Working machines that need recharging can be quickly repaired by a Machinist of sufficient skill who has a toolbox and is able to tinker without interruption for a few minutes.

Machinery Rule Changes

The Machinery skill uses the economic rules for special item costs. If the rules for mundane item costs are used, the special item costs is added to the expense of the machine's weight in metal, leather, wax, etc.

Working on a machine requires a toolbox weighing 1 kilogram per required skill rating to craft the machine. Thus most machinists carry a toolbox that weighs as many kilograms as their Machinery skill rating. Toolboxes are fairly simple because machinists have not yet invented either wet or dry cell batteries and thus do very little involving wires. Dynamos and capacitors have been invented, but are the closely guarded secret of military-minded machinists.

Many machines are actually combinations of multiple special items. Apply the rules for special items to each component separately. Each component also suffers damage separately, and must be bypassed separately.

The machines of 9P have the usual durations of special items. They actively function for only a few minutes or hours because their springs, valves, gears, and bearings wear out much more quickly than in real life. Half-cost repairs are necessary to "recharge" the device. Machines do break down completely when they run out of charges. A single-use machine can be recharged, but doing so requires the same amount of time as to first build the machine.

Machines take a little while to get going. A machine must "be set up" or must "warm up" for as many turns as its impact rating before it can do anything. Once thus prepared, the machine can start being active, or can wait idle yet ready to act at a moment's notice. Traps and complex locks are examples of machines that possibly wait idly for years before being triggered into active operation.

Machines can be set to react to the world around them. Examples include a trap triggered by a floor plate, or a turret that can sense movement. But no machines can autonomously make decisions. They can move and aim—their springs and engines might propel them across a floor or along a track, and their turret might follow a moving target—but they cannot be set to make comparisons or choices. (However, some inventors partially bypass this restriction by building machines powered or guided by a small golem.)

Each turn, a machinist can build an amount of new machinery equal to half his or her Machinery skill, in coins. A machinist can also each turn repair or disable an amount of machinery equal to twice his or her Machinery skill, in coins.

Machines with impact rating 4 or greater require a complete workshop for construction (but not repair).

Bypassing a Machine by Disabling or Damaging It

Picking a lock requires a Machinery skill at least as high as the lock creator's Machinery skill. Disabling or bypassing any other machine requires a Machinery skill at least as high as the impact rating of the machine.

Machines are destroyed after they suffer a certain number of major losses. The Machinery skill of the device's creator or most recent repairer determines the number of major losses required to destroy the machine.

Fully repairing a purposefully damaged machine costs the full original amount: the broken pieces are being replaced, not recharged. A machine partially damaged costs a proportional amount of the full price to repair.

Machinery Example

A machinist with a Machinery skill rating of 5 wants to build a defensive turret. When set up, it will sense movement in its room and respond with bells ringing loudly and launching caltrops in all directions.

The GM notes that this is actually three machine components: a sensor, a bell ringer, and a caltrop launcher. Each is considered separately.

The sensor is an impact 3 effect: it grants the machine an automatically successful use of the Perception skill. The machinist is satisfied with the default elusion requirement of [Stealth 3] to sneak past the sensor, and sets the range for a box eight meters per side (centered on the sensor). The retail cost is 150 coins = 30 impact × 2 effect fills an area.

The bell ringer is an impact 1 effect with very large area of effect: it grants everyone within a box sixteen meters per side a 1-point bonus on their Perception skill to hear a loud noise. The bell ringer must be have its elusion requirement value at least equal to the sensor's because it activates when the sensor triggers. The retail cost is thus 80 coins = ( 10 impact + 10 elusion increased by two ) × 4 effect fills an area.

The caltrop launcher is an impact 2 effect: the caltrops will halve movement, and any skill used while moving will suffer a 2-point penalty. The machinist decides that the caltrops will cover a box eight meters per side, and require an Acrobatics skill of 6 to move through without hindrance. The caltrop launcher also must be have its elusion requirement value at least equal to the sensor's because it activates when the sensor triggers. The machinist decides to give the caltrops an even higher elusion requirement of [Acrobatics 4]. The retail cost is 70 coins = ( 20 impact + 5 two-point penalty + 10 elusion increased by two ) × 2 effect fills an area.

The turret has a total retail cost of 150 + 80 + 70 = 300 coins. The machinist decides to give all of its components two charges, so it is repairable. This doubles the retail cost to 600 coins. The machinist can build it for half price of 300 coins. After one charge is used, he can reset it for 150 coins.

The elusion requirement for bypassing the entire turret is [Stealth 3]. If the caltrops are launched, avoiding them has an elusion requirement of [Acrobatics 4].

Because the highest impact rating is 3, setting up the turret requires three rounds. Once set up it waits, idle and ready to act immediately when it senses movement.

Because of the machinist's skill rating, the bell ringer will continue for 5 minutes once the trap is triggered. (The caltrop launcher is an instantaneous effect.)

Consider two hypothetical intruders who are stealthy enough to approach the turret without activating it. The first intruder has the required Machinery skill rating of 3 to disable the sensor. Because the sensor has a retail cost of 150 coins, disabling it requires 150 ÷ (2 × 3) = 25 turns. The expense of that sensor pays off in its resistance to disabling. (The first invader need not disable the bell ringer or caltrop launcher, since they do nothing without the sensor to trigger them.) The second intruder decides to wreck the turret by attacking it. Because the machinist who created it had a Machinery skill of 5, each of the three components can suffer 5 major losses before being destroyed. The second invader must cause 7 losses (2 minor and 5 major) with one attack or that motion will cause the sensor to activate the turret!

Note that Machinery, unlike Alchemy, does not require paying extra or working at a disadvantage the first time something new is created.

Also note that Machinery is too expensive to use for creating devices that are always active. Someone who wants to create a clock or conveyor belt should use golems instead. (This is why the later economic discussion of raw material costs mentions golem labor but not technological assistance.)

In many ways Arlinac Town was inspired by the setting of the two Thief computer games created by Looking Glass Studios. Those games modeled well how a single protagonist could survive in fun adventures in a fantasy world. The flavor of steampunk I imagine in Arlinac Town strongly resembles that of those two Thief games, but I purposefully leave the details vague enough that other GMs could use a different flavor.

Transmutery link to here link to tables of contents

The Transmutery skill allows the manipulation of an elemental material (earth, air, fire, or water) using only willpower and mental command. Concentration is required throughout the effect's duration: a transmuticist can only maintain one transmutery effect at a time. Transmutery is considered an art, not magic.

With transmutery the four elements can be detected, created, stretched, shaped, heated, cooled, purified, duplicated, softened, solidified, made to move around unassisted, and many other effects.

When the duration of a transmutery effect ends, the elemental material reverts to its normal state and properties, although if a solid it retains any new shape. Material created with transmutery vanishes when the duration expires.

Transmutery cannot cause material to disappear (neither rendered invisible nor uncreated into nothingness).

Transmutery is even more ancient than alchemy, and is viewed by most people as comforting and respectable. Its roots are so far in the past that they have been lost, and all that remains of the history of transmutery are legends that differ among the the intelligent races. Transmutery is widely used, with many people learning enough transmutery to help kindle a fire or to check if water is safe to drink. But the techniques of transmutery are so difficult to master that few people know more than the basics, and master transmuticists are often venerated as calm and stable individuals who have conquered the mind's flightiness and needless worries.

Skill in Transmutery measures what kind of material can be effected:

RatingEarthAirFireWater
1rock and dirtclean airflameclean water, steam
2glassclear gaseous solutionssmokeclear aqueous solutions
3pure metals
(copper, tin, iron, etc.)
gaseous suspensionssparksliquid suspensions
4 gaseous colloids liquid colloids
5alloys
(bronze, steel, etc.)
any gas any liquid

Even though it normally does not create an item or cost wealth, the Transmutery skill uses the economic rules for special item costs in a special non-monetary way. The great mental effort of transmutery "costs" the transmutist mental fatigue called drain. The transmuticist suffers one-tenth the effect's retail cost in coins as a temporary penalty to transmutery skill that lasts for an equal number of minutes. (Round normally.) If the character's transmutery skill would be reduced below zero then he or she falls unconsciousness for those minutes and the intended effect fails.

Attempting to do great feats with transmutery quickly becomes exhausting! Skilled transmuticists know they can create minor effects repeatedly without strain but one large effect will cause problems.

As usual for special item creation, a transmuticist needs a higher Transmutery skill to create a higher impact item or change more item limitations.

Also as usual, the impact rating of a transmutery effect determines its duration and standard elusion requirement rating.

Because Transmutery does not create actual special items, the rules for making special items cheaper cannot apply, and there is no way to "recharge" a Transmutery effect.

Transmutery Examples

A character with a Transmutery skill rating of 2 and Survival skill rating of 1 wants to use transmutery to help light a fire with flint and steel.

The GM decides lighting a fire with flint and steel requires a Survival skill rating of 2 (it is not hard, but not something most people can do well). So the character needs to create a 1-point advantage to one skill: an impact 1 effect.

The effect is beneficial, so it has no elusion requirement. The cost is 10 coins = 10 impact (without any modifiers). That causes 10 ÷ 10 = 1 drain. The character successfully lights the fire, but has an effective Transmutery skill rating one lower (temporarily at 1) for the next one minute.


A character with a Transmutery skill rating of 5 is in danger during combat and wants to kock a foe off a cliff with a tremendous blast of air.

The GM and PC agree that the effect has impact 4 (it can be described with the core rules about successes and losses) and uses Dodge for elusion. The foe is eight meters away.

The effect costs 60 coins = 40 impact + 20 range of eight meters. That causes 60 ÷ 10 = 6 drain. The character successfully knocks that foe of a cliff, but because the drain exceeds the Transmutery skill falls unconscious for six minutes.

Transmutery is the Technology skill that requires no advance planning. The player's creativity is rewarded instead of his or her preparedness.

Clever transmuticists use transmutery frequently to provide a special item bonus to skill use. As examples, a character is more intimidating when using Wonder if streams of fire swirl around them, or a lock can be more easily picked by solidifying and twisting the air inside of it.

Racial Ability Skills link to here link to tables of contents

Every character has one "extra" skill for using the character's racial ability. This skill has no associated talent.

In Spyragia, these eight skills are all magical.

There are four pairs of racial magical abilitiies: Tempering and Sapping, Musing and Fortunosity, Laboritry and Phantasmography, and Therianthropy and Semblancy.

As with the Technology skills, the racial ability skills seldom have any bonuses. Equipment is not used with these abilities. Niether situational advantages nor group efforts apply to using these abilities more successfully. The GM should decide if the setting includes any items that would grant a special item bonus to these racial magical abilities.

Tempering link to here link to tables of contents

Tempering is a method of crafting a magically superior tool or weapon. Crafting the item with tempering does not take any extra time. A person using tempering is able to sacrifice his or her own morale to imbue an item with extra sturdiness, keenness, and minor magic. The crafter becomes gruff and grim, stuck in a state of grouchiness and depression for a number of days.

A person wielding a tempered tool or weapon gains a 1-point or 2-point equipment bonus to the appropriate skill.

Most crafters who know tempering only use it to create their personal tools of their trade. A generous person sometimess uses tempering to create a gift that he or she hopes will become a cherished family heirloom for the recipients. However, a crafter desperate for money will sometimes create and sell tempered items. Also, during times of war a great number of tempered weapons are forged.

A person with a heavy heart (from having used tempering, suffering from depression, in mourning, etc.) cannot use tempering.

Tempering Rule Changes

Tempering uses the rules for special item costs but the crafter has very limited options.

Only tools or weapons may be created with tempering. Any bonus to skills is an equipment bonus, not a special item bonus.

The effect must be beneficial and help the character using the tool or weapon. The effect may only happen while the tool or weapon is actively used for its normal purpose (not merely carried or worn). As with all beneficial effects, there is no elusion requirement.

The duration of the item is priced as if measured in "minutes", not "hours". However, the actual duration is measured in weeks instead of minutes. The duration is not fixed at the item's impact, but may be freely increased to the Tempering skill of the crafter who created or recharged the item The crafter becomes ill-tempered for as many days as the chosen weeks of duration: his or her effective skill ratings for Etiquette and Animals both drop to one.

The effect cannot have extra area of effect or range. None of the ways to lower to cost of a special item may apply. No tool or weapon can benefit from multiple tempering effects simultaneously.

The cost of special items crafted with tempering not increased. The value of the finished item must equal or exceed its per-use special item cost. As usual, charges may be "re-tempered" with the same effect for half the cost.

Special items crafted with tempering are magically sturdy and nearly indestructible.

Most special items crafted with tempering do not have multiple uses. Special items created with tempering do not vanish when their final charge is used. The original tempering and future re-tempering both take the same amount of time. But there are two benefits to having multiple uses. If the item is a gift to someone who cannot do tempeing it can be used for a longer time by its recipient. If the item is kept by its creator then its creator has flexibility about when he or she must recharge the item and beome ill-tempered.

Note that a special item can only be re-tempered with the same effect it had before. A hand-axe that was tempered to boost the Wilderness skill, after its final charge was used, could be "replacement tempered" to boost the Melee/Press skill, but this would not be re-tempering and thus would not receive the half-price discount for re-tempering.

Tempering Example

A crafter with a tempering skill of 5 creates a rapier with 3 charges that glows green while granting a 2-point equipment bonus to both Melee and Disarm. The crafter wants this bonus to last for 4 weeks at a time.

The retail cost is 60 coins = ( 10 impact + 5 two-point bonus + 5 multiple skills ) × 3 charges. The crafter must create the rapier with superior materials of that worth, and also becomes grouchy for 4 days.

The crafter can create the item for half its retail cost: 30 coins. After the rapier is he can re-temper it for one-quarter price: only 5 coins per charge restored (each charge had a retail cost of 20 coins).

Sapping link to here link to tables of contents

Sapping is a magical attack that drains the morale of a nearby enemy. A sapped enemy temporarily suffers a 1-point penalty on uncontested skill use and a 2-point penalty on contested skill use. The person using sapping becomes giddy for the same duration that the enemy becomes demoralized (this does not affect skill use).

Skill in sapping measures:

If someone who is already sapped is sapped again, he or she suffers no additional penalties but will remain demoralized longer.

When using a battlemat, a character using sapping may only move 1 map square that turn. A character using sapping may sap any target he or she can see (because battlemaps describe small areas—the range of sapping is large enough to encompass normal combat situations but not large enough to include very distant targets).

Note that sapping is almost the opposite of tempering. People using tempering give up their own morale to create items that boost skill attempts. People using sapping lower somoene else's morale to hinder skill attempts.

Also note that sapping costs no coins, creates no items, and does not follow the rules for special item costs.


Musing link to here link to tables of contents

Works of art can be enhanced with magical properities using musing. A person can only use musing to enhance a work of art that he or she owns. Musing can only put a single enchantment on any particular work of art. Musing cannot enhance uncompleted works of art.

The enchantments created with musing can do almost anything but must always be appropriate for the topic or theme of the work of art. Common examples include earrings that aid the wearer's hearing, clothes that protect the wearer from dirt and water, gloves that provide the wearer with immunity to cold or heat, musical intruments that keep another instrument in tune, and a painting of a desert or tundra that will warm or cool the room.

Creating a more powerful enchantment requires a more expensive work of art.

Musing Rule Changes

The person using musing enters a meditative trance involving both concentrated willpower and slow, dance-like gestures. Remaining in the trance is exhausting. The crafter must maintain the trance for as long as the total duration of all uses of the item.

Special items crafted with musing vanish after their last charge is used. Recharging a special item crafted with musing costs fewer coins (as usual) as the item is artistically enhanced, but requires the same amount of trance time (equal to the total duration of the recharged uses).

The process of musing does not cost wealth. But the artwork to be enchanted must be expensive (of value equal to the half-price crafting cost for the special item).

As with Machinery, the enchantment created with Musing may combine multiple effects. Apply the rules for special items to each component separately, then find the total cost.

When very powerful musing enchantments (with impact rating 4 or greater) are created the exhausting trance takes a further toll. The person doing such potent musing is beset by memories and regrets that highlight his or her most prominent vice or vices: most often vanity, greed, and over-confidence. Re-experiencing these vices taints the creation of the enchanted item. Whomever uses it (whether its creator or someone else) is plagued by the vice or vices for the duration of the enchantment as an unpleasant side-effect.

Items enchanted with musing are magically sturdy and nearly indestructible.

Musing Example

A character with a Musing skill of 4 wants to enchant a shiny gold ring to glow brightly when squeezed, with light that provides a 1-point special item bonus to Perception (an impact 1 effect). The character wants the light to fill an square area sixteen meters per side, and last for an hour instead of a minute. The character also wants the ring to have 4 uses.

The retail cost is 320 coins = 10 impact × 2 lasts hours × 4 charges × 4 effect fills an area.

To make this item, the crafter must obtain a ring worth at least half as much (320 ÷ 2 = 180 coins) and then spend 4 hours in an exhausting trance.

After the ring's final use it will disappear forever. (As it is used, it might be recharged to allow more than four total uses.)

Fortunosity link to here link to tables of contents

Fortunosity is the ability to sacrifice other people's wealth to create a magic statue that can turn into a monster.

Using fortunosity requires precious metals that legally belong to someone else, usually coins or jewelry. Most often this wealth is stolen, plundered or unearthed. But the wealth need not be taken away from its owner: sometimes a wealthy person hires someone who can use fortunosity to change some of his or her savings into magical statues.

Fortunosity is very quick to do. It only requires one second per 10 coins of cost. People who can use fortunosity can be unpredictable during combat.

When the statue is created, its creator imagines a kind of monster (often a fanciful, imaginary one) and also picks a single-use magical effect.

The magic effect works exactly the same as an effect created by musing, with the exception that it can only have one use. The statue vanishes if this effect is ever used.

The statue can also turn into a small monster when its owner throws it down onto the ground. The monster is more skilled if the statue is created with a higher impact. The statue can only change into moster form a few times before its magic is used up. After the final time in monster form, the statue vanishes.

Fortunosity Rule Changes

Like with Musing, special items crafted with Fortunosity are nearly indestructible. They vanish when their last use is complete.

Unlike with Musing, the single-use power of a special items crafted with Fortunosity may not combine multiple effects. Since they lack charges, they cannot be recharged.

Fortunosity Monsters

The impact of the item's single-use effect also measures:

The monster will fight its owner's enemies, focusing first on any other statue-monsters. The owner can also touch the monster to telepathically direct it to attempt other tasks.

If the statue-monster is defeated in combat it immediately reverts to statue form, unless that was the statue's last use of monster form (in which case the statue vanishes). The statue is not otherwise harmed by the defeat.

When using a battlemat, a character cannot move when using fortunosity to create a new statue. Fortunosity happens during the "reach effects" timing of resolving the turn.

Fortunosity Example

As an example, a character with Fortunosity skill of 5 wants to create a monster statue with a last-resort power of making a group of foes incredibly nauseous. This is an impact 4 effect (it automatically "hits" and causes enough losses to defeat all foes), so it lasts for 4 minutes. The character decides it should target a box 8 meters per side. The character decides the monster will look somewhat like an ugly, dog-sized rat.

The value of the item will be 80 coins = 40 impact × 2 effect fills an area. Since crafting costs half the item's worth, the character needs 40 coins worth of precious metals owned by someone else. Creating the statue will only take four seconds.

Because the single-use effect has an impact of 4, when the statue is thrown down, it will become the monster for up to 4 minutes, and the statue can become a monster 4 times before it vanishes. The monster will have a Melee/Press skill rating of 4. The character also plans to give the monster a skill rating of 2 in Perception and 2 in Stealth so the monster can be useful as a scout: this uses up its 4 other skill ratings.

The word fortunosity pokes fun at how the English word "fortune" describes both wealth and luck.

Fortunosity can add an element of unpredictability to an encounter with a lone enemy. Since enemies might owns statue-monsters then the Player cannot be completely confident about estimating how dangerous the foe is by studying his or her weapons, armor, and physical stature and behavior.

A GM who is careful not to abuse the plot device can have a statue's one-use ability provide a skill bonus Exit/Escape (or even automatic success). This helps the classic recurring villain to slip away to return and fight another day. Indeed, having some trick prepared can justify why a major villain would refuse to delegate and be personally present at the scene of the crime.

Note that fortunosity is almost the opposite of musing. Musing will eventually sacrifice a valuable work of art that the person owns. Fortunosity immediately sacrifices someone else's wealth.


Laboritry link to here link to tables of contents

A type of magic called laboritry allows multiple people who can use it to cooperate to accomplish a laborious task much more quickly than normally possible. Laboritry can only be used to create a gift or perform a service for others (for people besides the two or more who are participating in laboritry).

The Laboritry skill rating measures how many times per week a person can participate in laboritry. Also, when a group uses laboritry, the minimum Laboritry skill among them is multiplied by the size of the group to determine how much faster the work is done.

Each member of the team using laboritry sacrifices some of his or her age, becoming magically aged a week, month, or year. This corresponds to an additional multiplier of 1, 2, or 4 for how much faster the work is done.

Laboritry Example

Four travelers have Laboritry skill ratings of 3, 4, 4, and 5. Their journeys take them to a trading post threatened by bandits, and they decide to use laboritry to team together to build a wooden palisade around the trading post.

There are four participants and the minimum Laboritry skill rating is 3. Thus the team can do the work 4 × 3 = 12 times as quickly as normally possible. The Player and GM discuss the task and decide it would normally take four adults about three weeks to do this work, so the four travelers can complete the job in slightly less than two days. Each is aged one extra week.

If those four had all agreed to each be aged one month they could do the job in less than one day. If they all had agreed to be aged one year they could do the job in less than half a day.

Note that laboritry costs no coins, creates no items, and does not follow the rules for special item costs.

Phantasmography link to here link to tables of contents

There are three steps to use the magic named phantasmography.

The first step happens when the phantasmographer touches a sleeping person to initiate a connection. When this first touch happens the phantasmographer makes two decisions. First, will the the phantasmography keep the sleeper from waking on his or her own? The phantasmographer can decide to allow the sleeper to awaken normally, or enter an enchanted sleep that can only be ended by someone else waking the sleeper. Second, will the phantasmography keep the sleeper from aging? The phantasmographer can decide the sleeper will not age and will not need to eat or drink.

The second step happens when the phantasmographer touches that sleeping person again. The phantasmographer harvests the mental visual energy of their dreams, which provides one vision point for every hour between the two touches. The phantasmographer can store up as many vision points as he or she desires. However, contact with iron disrupts mental visual energy and instantly removes any stored vision points.

Note that a phantasmographer can harvest mental visual energy from multiple sleepers.

The third step begins when the phantasmographer spends any vision points. Now the storage of vision points becomes more fragile. Touching any creature that can dream while asleep now will disrupt the mental visual energy and instantly remove any stored vision points. (This means the phantasmographer cannot harvest more vision points without starting over at zero.)

Mental visual energy can be used by a phantasmographer to create illusions or to make himself or herself invisible. Both uses require spending one vision point per minute per eulsion rating for how much Perception skill is needed to notice that something is strange and fake. For example, an effect that lasts 3 minutes and has an elusion rating of [Perception 4] requires 3 × 4 = 12 vision points. Illusions created with phantasmography can fill a room, but not extend through doors or windows.

Someone who perceives an illusion and exceeds the elusion rating by 2 not only notices that something is strange and fake, but can also partially see through the illusion as if the illusion was semitransparent. Someone who perceives an invisible phantasmographer and exceeds the elusion rating by 2 can see faint glimpses of the phantasmographer.

Phantasmography does not cause initial drowsiness or sleep.

Note that phantasmography is almost the opposite of laboritry. With laboritry a team voluntarily sacrifices its own age to accomplish real work. With phantasmography someone else's time is stolen to create illusions or invisibility.

Phantasmography does not create an item, so it costs no coins and does not follow the rules for special item costs.

The details of illusion creation are intentionally vague. The GM should adapt the size, scope, and effects of illusions as appropriate for his or her setting and adventures.


Therianthropy link to here link to tables of contents

Therianthropy is the ability to change into the shape of a touched animal.

A person in an animal's shape has the animal's size and mass. Clothing and possessions are unaffected by the change: typically these are previously stored or hidden to avoid leaving behind an awkward and vulnerable pile of items. The shape-changer retains his or her own intelligence, mind, and memories but also gains the animal's abilities in perception and movement. However, these innate animal abilities are unpracticed unless the shape-changer has previous experience in a similar form. Therefore, many users of therianthropy keep one or more pets to provide easy opportunities for repeated practice in adopting those forms.

A person in an animal's shape may return to his or her normal form at any time, or may use therianthropy to change into the shape of a different touched animal without first returning to his or her normal form.

Using therianthropy causes temporary exhaustion. Special items may be used to alleviate this exhaustion. Someone who is already exhausted from therianthropy cannot use therianthropy again until he or she has fully recovered.

Skill raing in therianthropy measures:

Therianthropy only works with animals. It cannot be used to take the shape of a monster or person. Therianthropy also cannot copy the shape of an intelligent shape-changer in animal form.

Many stories warn about staying too long in animal shape. After a few days in an animal's form the shape-changer's own intelligence and personality begin to dwindle, being replaced by the animal's. Eventually the shape-changer becomes stuck in the animal's form. This is called becoming a Snag.

A shape-changer in an animal's form will revert to his or her own form if killed, but does not automatically change back if unconscious or asleep.

Therianthropy Example

A PC has a Therianthropy skill rating of 4. The Player picks Ursidae (bears), Corvidae (crows, ravens, and related birds), Canidae (dogs, foxes, wolves, and similar animals) and Muridae (mice, rats, and similar rodents) as the PC's possible animal shapes. If the PC is touching any animal of these four kinds, then it can assume that animal's shape.

When that PC uses therianthropy his or her skills suffer a 2-point penalty for 10 − 4 = 6 minutes, and then a 1-point penalty for 6 more minutes.

Once the PC uses therianthropy he or she cannot do so again until after all twelve minutes have passed.

When using a battlemat, a character cannot move the turn he or she uses therianthropy. Therianthropy happens during the "reach effects" timing of resolving the turn.

Note that a user of therianthropy is either in his or her natural humanoid form or in the form of an animal; there is no possible "halfway" form of a bipedal monster as seen in traditional werewolf movies. The change is physical, not illusionary.

The rules are purposefully vague about whether a user of therianthropy uses his or her normal skills or a new set of skills derived from the copied animal. It is simplest to keep the character's skill unchanged. However, if both GM and Player agree it can be sensible for some skills to change because of the new shape. For example, a weak person who adopts the form of a large bear could reasonably have increased Wrestle/Disarm skill and talent ratings.

Therianthropy costs no coins, creates no items, and does not follow the rules for special item costs.

Semblancy link to here link to tables of contents

Semblancy is the ability to change form to exactly resemble a touched humanoid. Semblancy only allows adopting forms of equal or lesser mass than the user's natural state.

Using semblancy drains the touched humanoid's energy: the humanoid becomes extremely fatigued and collapses, unconscious. A victim of semblancy will sleep for several hours before waking (unless woken earlier using magic).

A person using semblancy may return to his or her normal form at any time, or may use semblancy to change into the shape of a different humanoid without first returning to his or her normal form.

Skill raing in semblancy provides a maxmum for:

The same number must be chosen for both the hours of sleep and the days of impersonation. Using semblancy requires draining the magical power from a touched magic item (an item made with alchemy, tempering, musing, or fortunoisty) worth at least ten times that number. All the item's magical power is permanently lost.

As with therianthropy, semblancy is an actual physical change (not an illusion) that does not affect clothing and does not give the impersonator the habits, memories, or skills of the copied humanoid. If someone using semblancy is killed, the corpse reverts to its natural form. Semblancy is not ended by falling unconscious or asleep.

When using a battlemat, a character can use Semblancy while moving two map squares. Semblancy happens during the "reach effects" timing of resolving the turn. Simply touching an opponent is easier than wounding the opponent: the target does not benefit defensively from any equipment or group bonuses that turn, and perhaps the touch attack also receives a situational advantage.

Note that semblancy is almost the opposite of therianthropy. Users of therianthropy give up their own energy to copy the form of an animal. Users of semblancy take somoene else's energy to copy their form.

Semblancy does cost wealth, but creates no items and does not follow the rules for special item costs.

Sample Mundane Items link to here link to tables of contents

Many GMs and Players simply ignore the price of "mundane" equipment that does not use the special item rules. After all, the PC is a hero or heroine! In most fantasy stories the experienced adventurers do not struggle to afford a sword, suit of armor, lantern, or even a horse. But some stories do require a more detailed economy in which mundane equipment has prices. These rules include price lists for those stories.

The only standard rule about equipment involves encumberance. As mentioned in the description of the Wrestle/Disarm skill: "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." Beyond this guideline, an unusually bulky load (even if not especially heavy) could hinder skill use. The GM may impose a situational disadvantage for using physical skills such as Acrobatics/Climb, Melee/Press, Shoot/Throw, Wrestle/Disarm, Exit/Escape, or Stealth/Track when carrying an awkward burden.

The GM and Player should agree on how much detail to include about equipment choices creating situational advantages and disadvantages for skill use. For example, weapon and armor types can realistically affect combat: chain armor defends against cutting much better than impacts, and polearms are very effective against an enemy's mount. Some GMs and Players appreciate including more realism, whereas others desire simplicity.

Most fantasy settings have a few weapons or devices that do extraordinary damage (explosives, poisons, seige weapons, etc.). In 9P these are not "mundane" but are special items created with magic or technology. They are expensive and rare. Furthermore, extraordinary damaging items are probably illegal to own. Being seen with them triggers a cultural stigma that associates them with evil people who have no interest in survivors (hired assassins, butchering pirates, mad inventors, and so on).

Mundane Pricing link to here link to tables of contents

This section is provided for GMs and Players who are wondering how the prices below are determined. Feel free to skip over the math.

The retail price of any mundane item is based upon a formula:

retail price = [ material cost × (labor hours / 5) ] × [ 0.5 + (minimum skill / 2) ] × scarcity

The material cost is zero for animals, metals, and some trade goods. These three categories serve as materials for crafted items. Subsequent categories of goods use material costs.

The labor hours is divided by five because unskilled labor costs one coin per five hours of work.

The minimum skill to create the item is a multiplier, incrementing by 50% of the cost of unskilled labor.

The scarcity is either 1 (normally available), 2 (somewhat rare), or 3 (very rare). It can represent either a material that is difficult to find, an item whose demand exceeds its supply, or a crafting specialization only known to a few crafters.

The descriptions of mundane items below provide sufficient information to reproduce this formula for any listed item.

Note: I have very little personal experience with animal husbandry, mining, and medieval crafting. If you have the expertise to correct my inadequately-researched conclusions about how much time and skill is required for certain items, please contact me and correct me!

Animals link to here link to tables of contents

AnimalCoins
Lizard2
Songbird3
Goat20
Sheep20
Donkey or Llama90
Ox or Cow120
Horse450

Lizards and songbirds represent wild animals that are caught in a snare with a few hours (six and twelve, respectively) of effort. The listed prices for livestock are the price to buy healthy animals that have recently reached breeding age.

Goats and sheep require no skill to raise. Donkeys, oxen, cows, and horses require an minimum Animal/Wilderness skill rating of 2.

Goats and sheep only require about 100 hours of individual attention to raise. Cattle require much more time: 300 hours for a donkey or llama, 400 for an ox or cow, 500 for a horse.

The only scarce animal listed is the horse, which is very rare in and near Arlinac Town.

So far no one has been able to use golem labor to help catch or raise animals.

Mined Metals link to here link to tables of contents

Metal (per kilogram)Coins
Copper24
Zinc39
Cast Iron72
Tin533
Silver720
Gold5,040

Mining is usually unskilled labor. The only exception is producing cast iron, which requires a Machinery skill rating of 2. (In Arlinac Town there is no market for iron ore or pig iron. Mining businesses turn these into cast iron before selling the iron.)

Copper, zinc, and iron are not scarce. Mines for tin, silver, and gold are very rare near Arlinac Town.

Copper is the easiest ore to mine. Getting one kilogram of copper ore takes half a month's work (120 hours). Iron is as easy, but creationg cast iron requires additional smelting and refining for a total of a month's work (240 hours).

Zinc is more time-consuming to mine than copper or iron, requiring 80% of a month (192 hours) to mine one kilogram. Tin takes almost four months (888 hours). Silver requires five months (1,200 hours). Gold requires 35 months (8,400 hours).

Golem labor is becoming more popular for moving mining carts. But golems lack the intelligence to follow an ore seam or mine it well.

As I mentioned earlier, I have no idea how long it really takes to mine types of ore. I researched a ballpark for copper. Then I increased the time proportionally to how rare the minerals are in the earth's crust. Someone must have better estimates for mining times!

Trade Goods link to here link to tables of contents

Trade GoodCoins
Clay (1 kg)0.4
Wood (25 stove logs)1
Wine (1 liter)2
Flour (for 5 loaves)3
Wax (for 2 candles)3
Flax/Linen (for 1 shirt)4
Honey (1 kg)4
Paper (1 quality page)7
Wool (for 1 shirt)9
Soft Leather (for 1 shirt)21
Brass (1 kg)29
Wrought Iron (1 kg)109
Bronze (1 kg)126

No trade goods are scarce. All but two are made with unskilled labor. Creating wax requires a skill rating of 2 in Animals/Wilderness. Creating wrought iron requires a skill rating of 2 in Machinery.

Because Arlinac Town is near water, gathering pottery-quality clay only requires two hours. The nearby forests mean gathering and splitting enough wood to make 25 stove-sized logs takes five hours.

Golem labor helps with watering and milling grain, and with beekeeping. Flour for five loaves requires a total of fifteen hours of cultivation, harvesting, and milling. Wax for two candles requires ten hours. Honey requires sixteen hours of work per kilogam.

Grape vines and flax/linen are too delicate for golem labor. Making one liter of wine requires a total of ten hours work. Making enough flax or linen for one shirt (or one meter of thin rope) takes twenty hours. Similarly, paper-making cannot yet be done by golems, and takes thirty hours per page.

Wool is easy to work with. Shearing, carding, and spinning the wool from one-third of a sheep's annual fleece takes ten hours. Soft leather has a higher material cost (one-sixth of an ox, instead of one-third of a sheep) but only requires four hours to tan.

Brass is made with 70% copper, 30% zinc, and one hour's work. Wrought iron adds an hour's work to cast iron. Bronze is made with 80% copper, 20% tin, and one hour's work.

Food link to here link to tables of contents

FoodCoins
Tavern Meal with Wine1
Produce (5 kg)2
Poor Meals (5, cooked)3
Dried Rations (5)4
Mule Feed (weekly)5
Hard Sugar Candy (1 kg)9
Fancy Confections (1 kg)27

Most food preparation is unskilled labor. Candy making is an exception: hard sugar candies, made mostly of honey and flour, require an Alchemy skill rating of 2. Creating fancy confections require a skill rating of 3.

Only fancy confections have any scarcity: they are somewhat rare.

A basic tavern meal includes a quarter loaf of bread, half kilogram of cooked vegetables, and a quarter liter of wine. Some taverns use their flour to make noodles instead of bread. On cold days the taverns, inns, and restaurants in Arlinac Town will have soup and stew on the menu.

Poor meals suffice for bare sustainance, and represent what people eat in the slums. Most people in Arlinac Town spend about 1 coin per day on food, and cook their own meals.

Dried Rations are biscuits and jerkey. They provide unsatisfying nourishment for hunters who do not want to light campfires. They are also eaten in small portions as snacks by people traveling with merchant caravans.

Growing produce requires about two hours of active labor. Preparing rations requires one hour. Producing mule feed requires two hours. Making hard sugar candies requires about six hours, and making fancy confections requires ten.

Clothing link to here link to tables of contents

ClothingCoins
Cheap30
Common60
Soft Leather162
Fancy396
Elite660

No clothing is scarce. Cheap and Common clothing is made with unskilled labor. Making Soft Leather requires a skill rating of 2 in Animals/Wilderness. Creating Fancy or Elite clothing requires a skill rating of 3 or 4, respectively, in Etiquette.

Making an outfit of cheap clothing requires sixty hours of labor (one week) and enough wool for four shirts. Common clothing requires 120 hours of labor (two weeks) and the same amount of wool. Both include a shirt, hat, either pants or a dress, and either a vest, bodice, or apron.

Soft Leather clothing requires 120 hours of labor (two weeks) and enough leather for four shirts.

Fancy clothing requires 720 hours (three months) of labor and enough wool for six shirts.

Cheap clothing requires 960 hours of labor (four months) and enough wool for eight shirts.

Armor link to here link to tables of contents

ArmorCoins
Hard Leather, Unfitted198
Hard Leather, Fitted360
Ringmail669
Scale833
Chain943
Plate (Fitted)6,890

Normally armor does not effect skill use, except for providing an equipment bonus if of excellent quality or beneficially enchanted. However, if two combatants have equal skill but different types of armor it is fair to give a situational advantage to the person wearing better armor. Consider the list of armor types: use a 1-point the situational advantage bonus if the armor types are adjacent in the list, or a 2-point situational advantage bonus if the armors are more different.

No armors are scarce. There is so little demand for the more expensive types that armorers are able to avoid creating any unwanted surplus.

Hard Leather armor is by far the most common armor in and around Arlinac Town. Enough soft leather to make four shirts is cut, shaped, boiled in oil and wax, shaped again, and dried. A full set weighs 10 kilograms, and includes arm and wrist bracers, cuisse (thigh) and greave (calf) pieces for the legs, a brigandine (vest) and helmet. Most hunters and merchants wear Hard Leather armor outside of Arlinac Town as protection against bandits and monsters. An armorer with an Animals/Wilderness skill rating of 2 can make "unfitted" Hard Leather armor that is bulky (as encumbering as if it weighed 15 kilograms) in 240 hours. Wearing a set of Hard Leather armor fit for someone else also counts as "unfitted". An armorer with an Animals/Wilderness skill rating of 3 can make properly fitted Hard Leather armor in 480 hours.

Ringmail is soft leather sparsely covered with metal rings. It provides equivalent protection to Hard Leather armor while allowing slightly greater mobility. Ringmail is worn by most of Arlinac Town's guards, bodyguards, and mercenaries. Because it uses soft leather it need not be carefully fitted; its expense is from the time spent creating rings from two kilograms of wrought iron. It weighs 12 kilograms. (Unfitted, it is as encumbering as if it weighed as 18 kilograms.) Creating Ringmail requires a Machinery skill rating of 2 and 720 hours.

Scale armor is a soft leather backing covered with overlapping metal scales of various sizes. Very much like Ringmail, it is not carefully fitted, weighs 13 kilograms (and is as encumbering as if it weighed as 20 kilograms) and its creation also requires 720 hours and a Machinery skill rating of 2. It proves better protection, with more weight and price. Usually only elite guards, bodyguards, and mercenaries can afford Scale armor.

Chain armor is an entirely metal suit of linked rings worn over wool padding. It provides equivalent protection to scale while being more comfortable and expensive. (It feels "fitted" but is not. It weighs 5 kilograms, and is not extra encumbering.) It is made from enough wool to make three shirts, and four kilograms of wrought iron. It only requires a Machinery skill rating of 1, but takes 2,400 hours to create. It is worn by rich nobles who want to flaunt their wealth while participating in tournaments.

Plate armor is solid plates molded to the body, held together by leather straps which are covered by metal. This is the most protective of armor, but is incredibly expensive. All Plate armor is fitted: it is impractical to try fighting in Plate armor made for someone else. It weighs 25 kilograms (and is not extra encumbering), requires 3,600 hours to create, and requires a Mahcinery skill rating of 3. It is only used by a few gate guards.

Scale and Chain armor hinders movement enough that its wearer suffers a 2-point equipment penalty when attempting tracking, jumping, acrobatics, sneaking, unarmed combat, dodging, or projectile combat. In Plate armor those actions are impossible. Furthermore, someone wearing Plate armor suffers a 2-point equipment penalty when attempting hiding, escaping, or throwing.

Sleep is not as restful when wearing armor. A character who sleeps in armor suffers a 1-point equipment penalty when using the Acrobatics/Climb, Melee/Press, and Block/Dodge skills until he or she is able to sleep properly.

Genres link to here link to tables of contents

Special items in 9P function much different than magical items in other role-playing games. This is because of the literary genres appropriate for "heroic opera" solo adventures.

No further economic rules will be presented. But the following discussion might help an interested GM or Player brainstorm new special items.

Frontier link to here link to tables of contents

Frontier settings have many traits appropriate for fantasy adventures involving a single protagonist. The primarly location in the Spyragia sample setting is Arlinac Town, which shares many genre elements with locations set in the American West, Edo-period Japan, and other frontiers where a lone protagonist can make a difference.

On the frontier life is dangerous. Villages and towns are threatened by monsters and bandits. Nevertheless, most settled locations have a few loners living on the outskirts due to temperament, profession, or outcast social status. These loners are often in need of help from a single individual, or able to assist a single individual in efforts to clean up trouble in the nearby settled location.

Because of these dangers, most adults carry weapons. (Or perhaps only adults of one gender or social class.) Also, most people cannot afford the price or encumbrance of significant armor, and medical healing is expensive or rare. Thus a lone protagonist can often win a fight by being skilled enough to avoid being hit while injuring enough attackers to cause the remaining opponents to flee. A frontier hero often has special options for effective healing: rare medicines, foreign herbal remedies, or esoteric meditative practices.

Because so many adults are armed, society focuses on honor more than law. Mistakes are kept secret, and significant characters are haunted by one or more great mistakes from their pasts. Because is difficult to govern an honor-focused, armed society at the geographical outskirts, government does little. Big government is distant or nonexistent. Local governmen has insufficient money to do more than law enforcement and perhaps oversight of road building and utilities. When just and lawful leaders govern they are too busy dealing with intrigue to effectively promote social welfare. Most adults pay little in taxation and receive little in services. When big government does appear it interrupts normal life to install a trade route, chase a criminal, or claim a natural resource.

Because government does litte, other groups provide support in crisis situations. Clans, guilds, or religious congregations pool resources as insurance against medical problems, natural disasters, and urban fires. Families or gang members team up for protection.

Finally, because government is small and people are reliant upon social groups corruption can control a settled location. A social group that grows into a dominating organization can reign unchallenged until a wandering hero or heroine arrives.

Together, this means problems are obvious and local. A monster threatens a farming village, instead of an army of monsters threatening a kingdom. A tyrranical gang overtly runs the town, instead of a evil brotherhood secretly infiltrating every guild in the capital city.

Hardboiled Detective link to here link to tables of contents

The hardboiled genre, and its cousin the occult detective genre, are both refinements of the frontier genre. The story might happen in a big city, but that is merely window dressing. The real setting is life on the edge of society, where danger is imminent, government does little, and sometimes obeying the law is less important than honor, reputation, and who owes a favor.

Some aspects of hardboiled stories are not kid-friendly (gore, femme fatales, sexuality). But several of the genre elements refine the frontier genre in appropriate ways for a story with a lone protagonist.

First, corruption is pervasive. Enough influential people are corrupt that everyone has been hurt or helped by corruption. Everyone has short-term fears and long-term instability. Hopes and dreams are whispered, and goals and plans are kept secret. People have hidden agendas and contingencies. Trustworthy friends or contacts are rare and treasured. The need to protect secrets hinders clear communication and promotes misunderstandings.

Extensive corruption often makes people uncertain whether rumors, threats, or monsters are actually real. So the protagonist must shine by remaining pure despite the immoral and uncertain surroundings, and hold true to faith because nothing else is reliable. The protagonist's purity has real value in resisting corrupting influences and avoiding attracting the wrong kind of attention. When secluded or hidden evils make brief appearances to mock the hero, he stands strong and rebukes them. The advantages of remaining pure are often contrasted by the main villain, who was initially one of the hero's friends, employers, or loved ones, but who failed to remain pure and secretly becomes the villainous mastermind.

Much of the corruption stems from layers and layers of influence. In Spyragia, the central layer (which the PC may never actually reach) usually involves the Powers, who influence many things while being difficult to influence. A person who mistakenly believes that he or she is serving a Power can also be at the center of a plot. The middle layers involve entities that can be influenced, but more often or extensively do the influencing. These could be leaders in government or religion or business, a champion of a Power, the inner core who runs a cult or guild, or a powerful intelligent monster. The outer layers are only influenced, never an influencer. Examples are the servants and lackeys of political or criminal leaders, the devout followers of a religious authority figure, employees of a corrupt business, the innocent person who wears the public face announcing a guild's political decisions, insane low-ranking cultists, or unintelligent monsters. Most problems are still obvious and local, but their root causes turn out to be hidden and far-reaching.

So nothing is truly safe or secure. Old friends might become traitors. Respectable social groups might be corrupted. Monsters and violent criminals even lurk within the town or city walls. Powerful technology is unreliable or dangerous. The hero or heroine is never sure which characters are pulling which strings. Sometimes it seems as if every opponent is actually manipulated by someone else.

Chapters in the story follow a progression as each adventure's dénouement includes a clue about a deeper layer (not always the next layer, some clues foreshadow distant revelations). This makes most victories only limited successes. The hero or heroine has meaningful and satisfying accomplishments, but also slowly learns about the setting's most entrenched evils. Usually the core layer is revealed climactically after the hero arrives home after traveling to a distant ruin or ancient temple. The returning hero witnesses that corruption has spread to a previously unthinkable degree (usually including a new traitor among old allies). Then the hero finally progresses from the small victories of saving people to a climactic finale of saving the entire town or city.

Because of the extensive corruption, money is tight. The rich are very rich, and everyone else feels poor. Most people have inescapable needs for money. People unwind and relax through their favorite expenses. Influential magic has limited uses and then needs replacing orrecharging. Changes of fortune are frequent. But the nobles will always own all the land.

Because money is tight, architecture is functional, not fanciful. Most cities and towns are not run down, shabby, or gritty. But neither are their buildings tall, airy, or graceful. Buildings are solid. Statuary in parks and town squares are substantial and sturdy. All ornate artwork is inside the wealthy homes rather than publicly visible. Roofs are made of shingles or tiles, not gilded domes.

Technology is expensive. Very few towns or cities have an industrial district. Outside of industrial districts, only the wealthiest neighborhoods or streets enjoy the newest technologies (in Spyragia this would be heating or lighting produced by machinery).

All this means quest objectives can be simple. The long-term plot might involve solving a complex mystery. But each layer is usually straightforward: gathering some key information, removing some corruption, protecting an invidual, exposing fraud, etc. Usually blades are only drawn after someone's desperate plan has failed.

Lastly, it is interesting to notice how the archetypical corrupt leaders of the frontier/hardboiled genre mimic the famous creatures of the horror genre:

I first read about the similarities between intrigue and horror settings at the website Roleplaying Tips. The excellent book Heroes of Horror helped me see still more similarities.

Note that most features of the horror genre are inappropriate for a kid-friendly game. Few kids enjoy an ambience of constant, looming dread. When children are Players, PCs should not be forced into moral dilemnas and no-win situations. The PC will never need to do despicable acts to survive.

Wuxia link to here link to tables of contents

The wuxia genre adds a few more traits appropriate for fantasy adventures involving a single protagonist.

Foremost, cleverness trumps skill. In the climactic final battle of a wuxia story, the hero defeats the main villain because he has researched the villain's weaknesses, is more quick-witted when taking advantage of circumstances, and often has recruited the right group of allies to work together according to a plan. Some enemies are even invincible until their secrets or weakness is discovered: these might visit the hero earlier to bargain or taunt, flaunting an sense of invulnerability to make their eventual defeat more satisfying.

However, skill and talent trump equipment. A wuxia hero is capable no matter what weapons or armor he uses. Victory depends more on how the hero fights than what weapons people use. Superior equipment might provide a slight advantage, but ultimately success depends on using skill and esoteric talents.

The protagonist has clear character development. He or she grows in maturity and moral depth, as well as in skills and talents. This personal growth usually happens as a side effect while the hero is focusing on helping others.

Significant characters can exit a perilous situation. The hero can flee from any group of thugs. The main villain can always evade the constabulary.

The setting may have inexplicable wonders, much like a fairy tale. The protagonist will see or use the inexplicable, but will never need to tame or counteract it. (Why is a certain sword so powerful? Where did the ancient prophecy come from? Why does certain footwear not vanish at midnight? No one knows or cares.) Certain items are inexplicably useful or delightful. Enjoy them.

Many wuxia stories are frontier stories, so it is unsurprising that the genres blend very well.

Steampunk link to here link to tables of contents

Authors and illustrators are so creative that the phrase "fantasy steampunk" is nearly meaningless. Nevertheless, through the great diversity of settings that blend magic a technology a few themes are prominent.

Metaphorically, machinery and golems in a fantasy setting use urban contrasts to symbolize change, romantic scientific dreams, and tension between what is impossible and what is replicable. Some streets and machines are especially grimy and sooty, whereas others are proudly polished and spotless. Industrialization makes some buildings nearly lifeless despite their occupants, and other buildings almost alive despite being unoccupied. Everyone (even most criminals) exudes the genteel etiquette of Victoriana, valuing art and social propriety, yet the world is not prim and proper due to an undertone of zaniness: absurd gadgets stand beside (or fly circles around) stately machines of gleaming grandeur. The walls around the town or city have failed to keep out corruption, crime, and monsters—a new hope is created by symbolic walls of shining brass, rivets, boilers, gears, pipes, valves, and thin smokestacks.

Heroes must be more than warriors. Constructing or tinkering with technological wonders becomes an important method of problem-solving. Different types of technology each have their uses, and a solo adventurer should carefully plan, shop, and build. The hero develops a "bag of tricks" that includes both magical and technological special items, sometimes customized based upon rumors and guesses about the upcoming adventure. These special items have limited uses, to prevent the hero from being constantly so powerful that no conflict is challenging.

People need diverse help. Society needs help adopting, adapting to, or overcoming new kinds of technology. Economic issues can form the foundation of adventures. Specialist inventors allow any village to produce unique trade goods, allowing traveling merchants to thrive. (A hero might be an inventor or merchant, or help them by providing protective and diplomatic assistance.)

Buiding new technology focuses on skill not reverse engineering. New power is gained through apprenticeship and practice, not salvage. Also, technology does not scale. Villains cannot rise to power simply by making a bigger bomb, death ray, or golem. Significant examples of technology will be the private or pet projects of their creators, who are notable in having enough skill to maintain and direct such exceptional creations. (These truths make technology work like magic. Those who cast spells never can learn a new spell just by watching someone cast it, or simply decide to make a bigger fireball.)

The introductary chapter to the book Sorcery and Steam by Fantasy Flight Games (also reproduced at the end of the excellent City Works by Mike Mearls) was invaluable for writing the above summary of what "Steampunk" means. I have only minimal interest and experience with steampunk, and have not read many books nor seen many movies to personally gain an broad impression of the genre.

Not Fairy Tales link to here link to tables of contents

The 9P sample setting of Spyragia is not a fairy tale setting, except in the ways that fairy tales intersect with the genre elements already mentioned above.

Within fairy tales the plot is often illogical and unpredictable. Instead of the novelistic stages of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and dénouement, a fairy tale typically has a sequence of irregular episodes linked to a sequence of characters, challenges, or items. A role-playing game benefits from encounters with logical connections, so the Player can make meaningful decisions about where and how the PC will continue the story.

In fairy tale settings the protagonist can overcome all obstacles using observation, valor, cleverness, and the advice of good helpers. In a role-playing game, advice is less reliable so story remains focused on the PC, not the contributions of NPCs. The PC needs to also use planning, skills, talents, and decision about when to use valuable but limited resources. Being brave, perceptive, and shrewd might not be enough!

Finally, fairy tale characters usually fit into one of seven archetypes:

These seven roles are different in a role-playing game. Rumors often serve the role of patron. Companions are common but offer less significant help so the PC clearly shines as the story's main character. An NPC seldom gives the PC an unearned crucial item, since unearned help feels less rewarding. Fewer plots have a person as the prize.

The famous analysis of fairy tale character roles was done by Vladimir Propp. This list is strongly based upon his list, but reworded to be more accessible to role-playing game players.

Note that in many fairy tales a character fills more than one role. For example, a father could send his daughter on the quest and give her enchanted boots, acting as both patron and item-giver.

Many stories feature three villains of increasing power. The hero overcomes the first villain alone, and rescues the companion. The hero can then defeat the second vilain with the help of the companion, and this victory opens the way to the item-giver. With both a companion and gifted item the hero can finally overcome the third villain.

Brainstorming Questions link to here link to tables of contents

We can use these genres when brainstorming about the personality and history of a character.

What is a short phrase that would describe the character?

Pick two unusual features of the character's appearance: two details of smell, sight, sound, feel, or temperature.

Does the character have any false appearances? Does he or she suffer from any repeated misunderstandings?

What does the character habitually think about? What are his or her long-term dreams? What habitually motivates this character?

Which imminent events does the character think about or plan for? What are his or her immediate worries or fears? What is an upcoming cause for panic, despair, or desperation?

How has the character experienced sudden changes of fortune (quick gains or losses of wealth, status, or power)?

What was the character's greatest mistake? Is it secret? Does the character have other secrets to protect?

What is the character's source of income? Why is money tight? What are his or her inescapable needs for money?

Does the character pursue any particular recreational activity or hobby? What are the character's favorite expenses? Which vice or virtue does the character use to unwind? With whom?

How has the character been hurt and/or helped by corruption? Does the character have a hidden agenda, or unexpected contingency plans? How does he or she cope with commonplace violence?

Who are the character's trustworthy allies and sources of information?

Does the character own or yearn for a certain influential item?

The Costs of Heroism link to here link to tables of contents

What is Heroism? link to here link to tables of contents

What makes a deed heroic?

The dictionary gives us the qualities of a heroic deed: it is brave, noble, daring, extraordinarily, and altruistic.

In the 9P design philosophy, there is one more component to the answer. The PC's deeds are heroic when they help others at a cost to the PC. The cost might be peril: it is heroic to face dangers while helping another. The cost might be expense: it is heroic to use up your valuable special items while helping another. The cost might be hardship: it is heroic to accept suffering while helping another.

(Tangentially, fantasy stories often ask their protagonists to do deeds that are altruistic or extraordinary but are not heroic because they lack daring. On the road side a dying merchant asks, "The bandits got me: please, take the letter hidden in my shoe to my wife in Arlinac Town." Dancing around a campfire the Mad Hermit of Ythrul bargains, "Yes, I will give you the map of the abandoned Dweorg city of Karv-Vrakim that you need, but first you must shear all my eighty-three sheep!")

Here are a few types of costs to help a GM improvise how deeds can be made more heroic.

Three Heroic Occaisions link to here link to tables of contents

The GM shoud carefully ensure three kinds of deeds are always heroic.

Heroism After Failure link to here link to tables of contents

First, redeeming failure should always be heroic. When possible the cost of failure is a new mandatory task, combat, social obligation, or expense.

(No GM is infinitely creative with improvisation. The GM should consider this "rule" a guideline and not stress to much about it. Adapting the story to the unexpected can be a challenge!)

What happens when a villain unexpectedly defeats the PC in combat? The story would be ruined if the PC is killed. So every hero from James Bond and Frodo Baggins knows that the protagonist will instead be captured, confined, taunted, and/or humiliated and yet somehow find a heroic opportunity to escape, heal, regather resources, and eventually foil the villain's plans.

What happens when a PC fails in his or her attempts to gather information or do reconnaissance? The adventure might become too challenging if the PC continued blindly without a plan. Perhaps the guard the PC could not fast-talk says, "Well, I've always wanted an enchanted sword like that..." Perhaps the healers at a temple would allow the PC to visit someone who recently escaped from the enemy-occupied keep in exchange for a "donation" of several healing potions.

Heroism After Escalation link to here link to tables of contents

Second, escalating the tension should usually be heroic. Whether or not it is the right choice, it can be daring and costly to stand one's ground instead of backing down.

Often an NPC does the escalating. A merchant's misunderstanding causes harsh words. A bully stops shouting and throws a punch. An assassin mistakes the PC for her target and shoots an arrow at the PC. When this happens the NPC pays the cost. (Perhaps the PC leaves the merchant without a purchase, defeats the bully in combat, and pursues the assassin through the city.)

When the PC does the escalating it should also cost something.

Heroism in Activating Especially Powerful Items link to here link to tables of contents

Third, activating powerful special items should usually be heroic. The rules for magic and technology already include how using very potent items may have problematic side-effects.

Two types of powerful special items always cause problems. Devices made with machinery take longer to start up as their impact rating increases. Enchanted artwork created with musing, if very powerful, will cause the person using it to be beset by the vice or vices most prominent in the personality of its creator.

Also, someone who uses transmutery suffers drain, which usually prohibits high impact transmutery effects.