Tales From the Fallen Empire
New TFE Rules
Cultural Traits & Idiosyncrasies
Each of the human cultures that populate the world of Urd is unique. Each region carries the traditions and rituals of those who had settled on the world thousands of years in the past. While most of the cultures still hold onto some of the traditions of the Atevans, most have broken off from the practices of the First Men and formed their own cultures, outlooks, and ways of life. When interacting with the different peoples of the world, there should be a distinction in beliefs, mannerisms, and the way they present themselves.
In game terms, this optional rule is an alternate way of deciding what abilities are applicable to the character other than an occupation. This method allows the player to choose aspects about their character based on the human (or demihuman) cultures that are chosen by the player. This system gives some flexibility to the overall character persona design and allows the player to be rewarded for acting true to character. This option can also be used as narrative reinforcement during play, giving the player a boon when all odds seem turned against him.
Each of the character racial descriptions that have a number of descriptors listed that may be chosen if the Judge chooses to incorporate these rules in his campaign. The player may feel free to choose from amongst the lists associated with his chosen culture, or with the Judge’s permission, choose a descriptor from another cultures list. The descriptors are simple words or statements that sum up a particular feature, behavior, strength, or weakness the character possesses.
The two narrative descriptors are:
Traits: Traits are used to define cultural characteristics of the character. Are the character’s people known for their strength, agility, endurance, or athletic prowess? Is the culture in which the character comes sneaky, untrusting, boastful, or ignorant?
Idiosyncrasies: What about the culture is negative? Are they snobbish, blood thirsty, or frugal?
During character generation, the player is allowed to choose two cultural traits and one idiosyncrasy that best fits his character concept. The player may choose one additional trait if an additional idiosyncrasy is taken. While adding additional descriptors should be encouraged to fill out the character concept, the Judge should limit the number of traits/idiosyncrasies to a reasonable amount.
How to Use Traits and Idiosyncrasies
As per Skill usage rules on page 66 (DCC RPG), traits are treated as having skill or familiarity in particular areas. Some applications do not initially require a skill roll (such as setting up camp or noticing mundane details), but some applications might require a die roll. If the player attempts to call upon a trait, the player rolls 1d20 (plus applicable attribute modifier) vs. a DC (set by the Judge to relate difficulty) to determine an outcome.
Example: Gorrath the Fair-Haired has the trait “Trustworthy.” During a visit to the marketplace, he spies a dagger on a merchant’s cart that he must possess. Thinking of a clever ruse, Gorrath runs up to the merchant, telling him his horse has been bitten by a poisonous snake a block away and he needs the dagger to quickly clear the poison. The merchant is no fool, but Gorrath has a trustworthy face. Gorrath’s player rolls a 17 on his d20 and adds Gorrath’s Personality bonus of +2 for a total of 19. The Judge decides that the merchant will “lend” Gorrath the dagger in his time of need, not knowing that Gorrath will be long gone before the merchant catches on. Idiosyncrasies are treated as an untrained skill. Whenever the character is faced with a challenge where their cultural idiosyncrasies might hinder the situation, the player will roll 1d10 (plus applicable attribute modifier) to attempt to beat the DC. Idiosyncrasies are considered a negative trait and should impose a difficulty for the character to overcome in situations related to the idiosyncrasies.
Sample Traits: Savage, Greedy, Civilized, Trader, Noble, Well-Traveled, Sultry, Mighty, Evil, Good, Neutral, Powerful, Chosen-One, Giant, Trustworthy, Decadent, Nomadic, Enlightened, Honorable, Worshiping, Peaceful, Fearful, Warring, Scheming, Lurking, Whore Sample Idiosyncrasies: Ancient, Civilized, Brooding, Enlightened, Degenerate, Fat, Cultist, Corrupt, Inscrutable, Drunkard, Brawler
Each of the descriptors can (and will) cross over categories. While in one culture, the term “Whore” might be an idiosyncrasy, in some it might be a trait. The Judge should not discourage the player to be creative in choosing or creating descriptors for their characters.
Currency in Urd
Narrative currency or “Coins” are a reward mechanism that encourages the players to use their descriptors as a narrative tool. Each time the player incorporates any of his character’s traits in the plot, and it enhances the story for both him and the other players, the Judge will give the player a coin. Coins can be represented by anything the Judge has on hand (real coins, beads, M&Ms, etc.) and can be used to help the character down the line when all hope seems to be lost. Coins may be saved up from session to session, but cannot exceed five at any time. If the player earns more before his current number is brought below five, the extra coins are lost. The use of the trait or idiosyncrasy has to be used during role-play and has to enhance the narrative.
Example: The Zhou Sorcerer Chen-Li has the idiosyncrasy “Civilized.” Because of this, he thinks anyone who is not from the Jade Empire of Zhou is a simpleton or barbarian. Chen-Li is lost in the City-State of Karthazar and needs to hire a ship to take him down river. The player decides this might be a more interesting encounter if his idiosyncrasy entered into the negotiation. After insulting the boatman by calling him a peasant, Chen Li is now stuck in the harbor, but has gained a coin for adding to the story.
Coins can be spent by the player at any time to gain the following boons:
1. Second Chance: By spending a coin, the player may reroll any one die roll. This may be used on a combat or spell check, but only one coin can be used per roll. The player must accept the result of the final roll (Thieves & Halflings may select any result rolled). The Second Chance boon cannot be used on natural 1’s or 20’s; such results are fated. Second chance can be combined with one other boon such as Dauntless Act or Battle Lust.
2. Battle Lust: By spending a coin, the player may add a flat + 1 bonus to any one combat check. This can be used with a melee, missile, or magical attack. Multiple coins can be spent to raise this bonus. This boon may be used after the roll was made.
3. I Have Just the Thing!: By spending a coin, the player can reach into a container and materialize one common piece of equipment. The equipment cannot be magical in nature, nor can a weapon be brought into play in this fashion. Example of using this boon include: having a coil of rope in your back pack, finding that lamp with a half night’s oil still in it, or finding shelter in a storm. The Judge may veto any requests if it would disrupt or change the outcome of the encounter drastically.
4. Dauntless Act: By spending two coins, the player can add a +5 bonus, +7 for Thieves & Halflings, to a single skill check. The skill check cannot be combat or magic related and must be announced before the roll is made. If the roll is failed, the boon is lost and a second boon cannot be used to perform a reroll.
5. Cunning Evasion: By spending two coins, the character will take half-damage from any one attack (Thieves & Halflings take no damage). The attack can be either melee, missile, or magical in nature. This boon can only be used once to halve damage taken in a single attack. This boon can be used again on subsequent attacks if the character is attacked again later in the same combat.
6. Paying the Ferryman: A painful and bloody demise is a reality accepted by most adventurers. Each day that she survives is another day that the gods were watching over her, but there is always tomorrow. This boon should be used sparingly and its use denied if the character’s death was brought about by the player’s carelessness or if the character’s death enhances the story. Once a character’s death has occurred, the player may spend two coins (a coin for each eye) to bribe death. During a campaign, the Judge should disallow this boon being used more than once. If allowed to be used a second time, the boon should only be allowed to temporarily buy off the grim reaper, and the character will later face his mortality after the quest, mission, or adventure is finished.
7. Peripeteia: While the Judge should always be the final Judge of the outcome of any actions taken by player, NPC, or otherwise, a well-placed plot twist can sometimes take the story to a place unexpected. This final boon is an expensive one to bring into play (five coins), but gives the player a chance to embellish on the Judge’s story to add a plot twist, alternate route, or red herring. The use of this boon is dependent on the Judge’s plot, the plausibility of the introduced element, and finally (and most importantly) the Judge’s approval. Coins spent in this manner are not lost if the Judge vetoes the plot twist.
8. Inspire Allies: By spending a Coin, a character can rally his comrades with encouraging rehetoric, appealing to their resolve in an attempt to rouse the ally’s courage. The player must make an actual speech of some sort to represent this. The targeted allies immediately recover from any breakage of morale or lapse in courage. At the Judge’s discretion, this may additionally dispel or weaken some mind-affecting spells or effects currently affecting the ally. In addition, the targeted allies are allowed an immediate Will save (free action) against a DC appropriate to the danger at hand (Judge’s call). If successful, that ally gains a +1 on all saves until the end of their next turn.